- History professor at Rutgers University
- Member of the Communist Party USA
- Admirer of the late Marxist historian Howard Zinn
- Longtime defender of the Communist atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
A member of the American Association of University Professors, Norman Markowitz has been a history professor at Rutgers University since 1971.1 His work centers around twentieth-century U.S. political history. He regularly teaches courses titled History of Socialism and Communism; History of Imperialism; United States History, 1914-1945; United States History, 1945-Present; History of Radicalism in America; American Culture in the 1950s; and American Culture in the 1960s.
Markowitz has been a member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) since about 1978, and he writes and teaches from what he calls “a Marxist perspective.” As such, he has been a contributing editor for Political Affairs, the theoretical journal of the CPUSA. His writings have also appeared in such forums as the Encyclopedia of American National Biography and the Encyclopedia of Social Movements.2
In 2008 Markowitz enthusiastically supported the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, whom he hailed for his “progressive views,” his commitment to “substantive progressive change” and his “clear, focused and eloquent call for unity and active commitment to a progressive program.”
After Obama’s election, Markowitz wrote an article in Political Affairs outlining the kind of “change” he expected the new president to bring to America. Specifically, Markowitz predicted that Obama would: (a) focus on “ending the post-World War II policies that led to the long-term stagnation and decline of the labor movement”; (b) expertly “handl[e] a national debt which has increased 10 times since Ronald Reagan became president in 1981”; and (c) create a long-overdue “national public health-care program more than 50 years after it was established in other major industrial nations.” “A ‘single payer’ national health system … should be an essential part of the change that the core constituencies which elected Obama desperately need,” Markowitz wrote.
Markowitz also expressed his hope that Obama would sign the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which he said would make it easier for workers to form and join labor unions. In reality, the EFCA would deprive workers of the right to vote for or against the unionization of their workforce by means of a secret ballot, thereby making them vulnerable to coercion, intimidation, and harassment by union organizers.
Markowitz predicted that the newly elected Obama could win the hearts and minds of many Republicans and conservatives by “creat[ing] important new public programs and improv[ing] the social safety net.” Most notably, he urged Obama to advance an agenda that included “national health care, significantly higher minimum wages, support for trade union organizing, [and] aid to education.” Because “these programs will improve the quality of our lives directly,” said Markowitz, “… that will bring reluctant voters into the Obama coalition. That is how progress works.”
In addition, Markowitz wrote that “the right-wing propaganda machine” would inevitably “scream” that Obama’s policies were rooted in “socialism.” But this, the professor said, would be “a good thing” because “the more socialism comes to be identified with real policies that raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life for the working class and the whole people, the more socialism will be looked at seriously.” “A stronger left that follows the tradition of the Communist Party in its unbreakable commitment to a socialist future and to educating people about the value and necessity of socialist policies in the present could follow,” Markowitz expanded.
Markowitz has been a longtime defender of the Communist atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who in 1953 were both executed for their crimes. In 1983, when historians Ron Radosh and Joyce Milton published The Rosenberg File demonstrating conclusively that Julius Rosenberg had indeed been a Soviet spy, Markowitz turned a blind eye to the evidence and accused the authors of “apologizing for anti-Semitism” and defending “the capitalist class.” Similarly, in his American National Biography (ANB) entry on the Rosenbergs, Markowitz ignores new evidence from Moscow and the Venona decryptions that proved Rosenberg’s guilt beyond any doubt.3
2 In the Encyclopedia of American National Biography, Markowitz contributed entries on Jimmy Hoffa and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In the Encyclopedia of Social Movements, he contributed entries on “The Civil Rights Movement from 1930-1953” and “Poor Peoples’ Movements in American History.”
3 In ANB, Markowitz smears those who disagree with him as “conservatives and anti-Communist or Cold War liberals” for whom “unquestioning belief in the Rosenbergs’ guilt” is “a kind of loyalty oath.”