Saturday, June 28, 2014


Harry Targ

I have been teaching courses on United States foreign policy since 1966. I came of age politically during the Vietnam War and the modern civil rights movement but was not born into a left-leaning political environment.

My formative college experiences of foreign policy came from articulate professors who had embraced the skeptical but limited vision of the United States role in the world shaped by the theorists of “political realism.” I was exposed to a later edition of Hans Morgenthau’s classic international relations textbook, Politics Among Nations, which declared that politics was about the struggle for power. Big or small nations, powerful or weak political actors of all kinds, were engaged in the pursuit of power for purposes of material gain or just to achieve more power. The vision of political philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, that life was a struggle between each and all, metaphorically a brutal state of nature, best captured the practice of international relations.

My professors also assigned George Kennan’s classic collection of lectures, American Diplomacy, 1900-1950. Kennan, too, was a realist. He, like Morgenthau, inadvertently became a critic of United States foreign policy because he argued that it was the reality and necessity of the pursuit of power that should guide foreign policy, not universalistic and apocalyptic visions of struggle among nations and peoples with diverse ideologies. 

Although Kennan was a significant contributor to the rise of anti-communism in America, he, paradoxically, critiqued twentieth century U.S. foreign policy for declaring itself committed to democratizing the world. Our utopian visions of the world, he said, could never be achieved and our promises to the citizenry about our pursuit of a new world order would generate cynicism. Both Morgenthau and Kennan were critics of the Eisenhower/Dulles call for the “liberation” of oppressed peoples living under communism. In addition, neither realist approved of the 1950s version of anti-communism, what was called “McCarthyism.”  

From 1964 to the 1970s, as a graduate student, then a new professor of international relations, an “older” activist against the war in Vietnam, and a participant observer in the exciting debates about the causes of imperialism, racism, and exploitation, my understanding of the United States role in the world began to change. Before reading Marx, Lenin, various theorists of imperialism and dependency, I started reading Gabriel Kolko’s dense The Politics of War: The World and United States Foreign Policy, 1943-1945 which described in infinite detail international diplomacy between what I would later call “the unnatural alliance,” the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain. His analysis also addressed the rich, detailed complicated politics of nations all across Europe and Asia. I followed this reading by examining the work of Joyce and Gabriel Kolko, The Limits of Power, 1945-1954 (Joyce Kolko died in 2012 and Gabriel Kolko May 19, 2014). 

These works would shape my thinking about the United States role in the world, why the theory of imperialism provided a better explanation of contemporary politics than the prevailing realist theory, why history mattered, and how domestic politics and class struggle were intimately connected with foreign policy and international relations.
I gleaned from these works important insights about the international relations of the Second World War and the foundations of the Cold War.

For example, Gabriel Kolko made it clear that what drew the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union, the “unnatural alliance,” together was a common fear that global fascism would conquer the world. For that reason, the United States put its vision of constructing a global capitalist order in abeyance until fascism was defeated in Europe and Asia. Great Britain postponed its desire to reconstitute the shrinking British Empire. And, the former Soviet Union, sought desperately to save itself and “socialism in one country.”

Kolko pointed out that by 1943 it became clear to leaders of the three countries that fascism would be defeated. As a result of this realization, the early collaboration became more troubled as each member of this alliance began to pursue its own interests while struggling to defeat the enemy during the last phases of the war. For the western nations, the question of positioning themselves to maximize the chance to reestablish imperialism became incorporated into relations with the Soviet Union. The high point of lingering collaboration between the unnatural alliance was the last wartime conference at Yalta in the Crimea in February, 1945. However, the first postwar conference at Potsdam (in Germany) in July 1945, with acrimony between the leaders of the three countries, more accurately reflected the emerging Cold War between East and West to follow. 

In short, the politics of war was about defeating fascism but in a way to maximize the interests and vision of each country. That meant for the United States that each diplomatic and military decision, each outreach to leaders and parties in countries formerly occupied by the Nazis, and each diplomatic and military move to end the war in Asia was shaped by plans to expand empire in the post-war world.

The Limits of Power (co-authored with Joyce Kolko) continued the narrative about the United States role in the world into the post-World War II period. It powerfully demonstrated that the United States was committed to expanding its capitalist empire across the globe. When that failed a foreign policy was created to constitute a capitalist world order in Europe, parts of Asia, and in Latin America. To achieve these goals, U.S. policymakers used carrots and sticks.

The carrot, which would be a tool used ever since, was foreign assistance. The Truman administration proposed a modest aid package for Greece during its civil war and Turkey in 1947, arguing that these countries were under threat from “international communism.” More importantly, under the guise of humanitarianism, the United States provided a then huge $14 billion aid program for the anti-communist parts of Europe, the Marshall Plan. Aid would be given to countries which rejected then popular communist parties in elections. In addition, funds would go to countries which would shape their economies in keeping with demands from Marshall Plan administrators. Both the politics and economics of the Marshall Plan created a post-war capitalist order that would evolve into the European Union of the twenty-first century. The Marshall Plan would also become the model for the imposition of the neoliberal policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank many years later to create pliant “market” economies.

The stick, the Kolkos reported, was the creation of a military alliance system, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was to protect “the free world” in Europe from the threat of “international communism.” Because the initial threats of international communism came in Asia, the Truman Administration, with its allies, launched wars on the Korean peninsula and in Southeast Asia. “Our forgotten war,” journalists today call the Korean War, was not only about North Korean army attacks as the U.S. claimed. It was also about a civil war struggle between landowners, a minority ruling class, and a largely peasant population all across the Korean peninsula. The Kolko’s narrative of the U.S. role in Korea made it clear that the commitment to fight there would be a model for brutal militarism against peoples of the Global South ever since. In addition as subsequent research has pointed out, the Korean War legitimized the 1950 recommendations in National Security Council Document 68 (NSC 68) which called for military spending to be the number one priority of the federal government.

I always end my lectures on the history of the Korean War quoting from Joyce and Gabriel Kolko:

“UN combatant deaths were over 94,000, 34,000 of whom were Americans. Wounded came to over four times that figure, and American sources estimate Communist military casualties as over a million and one-half. Over a million South Korean civilians died, and probably a substantially larger number of civilian died in the North, for almost a decade after the end of the war the North Korean population was only equal to its 1950 level. Half the South Korean population was homeless or refugees by early 1951, and 2.5 million were refugees and another 5 million on relief at the end of the war.     

Much of the narrative written by Joyce and Gabriel Kolko about 1943 to 1954 can be applied to the military violence, quagmires, losses of life, and misplaced resources reported in today’s news.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


June 20, 2014

Harry Targ

The university is a site for intellectual excitement: debate about new theories and hypotheses; rigorous examination of competing ideas; and research, teaching and community service. Most men and women who pursue such a career are inspired by intellectual curiosity, the prospect of educating and inspiring students, and serving diverse communities. 

Moreover, the Morrill Act passed by Congress in 1862 committed the United States to construct and support state universities that would serve the people. Great state-funded public universities grew over the subsequent 150 years to facilitate the education of a growing population and helped build a more vibrant democracy.

But there are darker truths about the growth of the modern university. First, higher education is stimulated by, and financially beholden to, governments, political processes, corporations and banks. These institutions affect what research is done and what is taught. 

Second, conceptions of disciplines, bodies of knowledge, appropriate methods, ideas accepted as unchallengeable truths, and the basic principles of whole universities are shaped by economic interests and political power.

Third, professional associations, journals, forms of peer review, and general procedures for validating the quality of academic research and teaching are also affected by the same interests.

Serving status quo

Therefore, in the main, the university as an institution is, and has always been, designed to serve the status quo, a status quo again that is governed by economic and political interests.

The following examples are from Purdue University. Similar examples can be found at virtually every large and prestigious university in the country. David Smith and Scott Bauer of The Lafayette Journal and Courier reported on Purdue President Mitch Daniels’ attendance at a conference of the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. Daniels said he attended to learn and to touch base with one of Purdue’s biggest donors. 

The meeting was populated by presidential candidates and conservative governors from Michigan and Florida. Other attendees included former Vice President Dick Cheney; former CIA Director David Petraeus; former Amway President Dick DeVos; and current or former CEOs from TD Ameritrade, Apple and Google. Republican operative Karl Rove also attended. Inadvertently highlighting the connection between corporate and political power and the university, Daniels said: “I considered this a trip of use to Purdue.”

Academic advocates for large-scale government and corporate commitments to increased space exploration, such as Daniels, who served as co-chair of the National Research Council, can be seen as serving the economic needs of research universities. The NRC issued a 286-page report in May, suggesting that a huge and redefined commitment would be needed to land on Mars by the 2030s. Despite the document’s skepticism about the possibilities of achieving new goals in space, Daniels said “human space exploration remains vital to the national interest for inspirational and aspirational reasons that appeal to a broad range of U.S. citizens.” 

The report outlined a range of steps that would be needed to achieve long-term goals in space. These multi-billion dollar research-based programs could occupy the research agendas of academic departments in universities such as Purdue for decades and enrich the biggest corporations in America.

Daniels was not the only university-affiliated spokesperson of note who recently made news. Purdue Board of Trustees member Don Thompson, president and CEO of the McDonald’s Corporation, weighed in on the debate about raising the minimum wage for fast-food workers after a nationwide set of protests against McDonald’s on May 22.

Thompson at a shareholders’ meeting declared that “McDonald’s is often a first job for many entering the work force. About one-third of our employees are 16 to 19. We are proud that we open doors to opportunity,” according to USA Today. Thompson praised his corporation for being a worker-friendly employer and added that it was the largest employer of veterans in the nation. Later he hinted at the possibility of raising the minimum wage at McDonald’s. Protesters argued that the median age of fast-food workers is 29, most work at today’s minimum wage, and economic survival on McDonald’s wages is virtually impossible.

Finally, the Purdue news service has announced increased collaboration of the university with the notorious Duke Energy Corp. most recently in the news because of its responsibility for a coal ash spill in North Carolina that coated 70 miles of the Dan River along the North Carolina and Virginia border with 60,000 tons of toxic sludge. A North Carolina judge ordered Duke Energy to immediately eliminate the source of groundwater pollution from company coal ash dumps. A criminal investigation of links between the spill and Duke Energy and state government officials in North Carolina is still under way.

Purdue News reported that the university would collaborate on the expansion of an education program to create the Duke Energy Academy at Purdue, a six-day instructional program to inspire high school students and teachers to work in STEM-related disciplines related to energy. The article erroneously claimed that “the amount of students entering the STEM fields is declining.” Other co-sponsors of the six-day educational experience include Bowen Engineering, General Electric, Kidwind Project, Siemens Energy and Windstream Technologies Inc.

Which path?

Higher education is at a fork in the road. One path is to maintain its traditional mission to educate and inspire students while sharing knowledge with communities at home and abroad. Another path is to expand the needs of special interests, political and corporate, at the expense of the traditional role of higher education. Growing social movements should include demands that universities continue to serve the needs of the people, rather than politicians and corporations.

Harry Targ is a political science professor at Purdue University. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014



Harry Targ

The new Indiana Moral Mondays’ Working Group will kick off the formation of a statewide grassroots activist organization on September 19-20, 2014 in Indianapolis, hosting faith community meetings with Reverend William Barber from North Carolina; workshops on organizing, and a major mobilization featuring speeches by Barber and leaders from around the state. Organizers are inviting activists from around the state who are committed to building a new moral movement to improve the lives of workers, women, people of color, the young and old, gays and straights, and immigrants.

Civil rights, labor, environmental, religious, women and other activists have been meeting since March in Indianapolis to develop this Indiana statewide network inspired by the North Carolina “Moral Mondays” movement.

The Hoosier network will challenge reactionary policies adopted by the Indiana legislature and supported by Governor Mike Pence. Activists want to reverse efforts at voter suppression and the weakening of worker rights. They demand Medicaid expansion, legislation raising the minimum wage, the closing of coal powered plants that pollute communities, and increased support for public education.

At its June 14 meeting attendees representing the NAACP, labor unions, and environmental and women’s groups approved a Mission Statement that will guide the work of the new network. It includes calls for equal justice, an end to disproportionate incarceration of minorities, the right of workers to organize, well-funded public education, environmental justice, full voting rights, and immigrant rights. Of particular relevance to Indiana history the Mission Statement calls for the transformation of the “history of racial bigotry in Indiana to one of racial and ethnic equality and unity.”

The Emergence of Moral Mondays in the South

Moral Mondays refers to a burgeoning mass movement that had its roots in efforts to defend voter rights in North Carolina. Thousands of activists have been mobilizing across the South over the last year inspired by Moral Mondays. They are fighting back against draconian efforts to destroy the right of people to vote, workers’ and women’s rights, and for progressive policies in general.

Moral Mondays began as the annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street People's Assembly (HKonJ) in 2006 to promote progressive politics in North Carolina. Originally a coalition of 16 organizations, initiated by the state’s NAACP, it has grown to include 150 organizations today promoting a multi-issue agenda. In 2006, its task was to pressure the state’s Democratic politicians to expand voting rights and support progressive legislation on a variety of fronts. 

With the election of a tea-party government in that state in 2012, the thrust of Moral Mondays shifted to challenging the reactionary policies threatening to turn back gains made by people of color, workers, women, environmentalists and others. Public protests at the State House weekly in the spring of 2013 during the state legislative session led to over 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience and hundreds of thousands of hits on MM websites. Similar movements have spread throughout the South (Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida) and in some states in the Midwest and Southwest (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Missouri). Moral Mondays in North Carolina resumed in February with 80,000 activists in attendance.

Rev. William Barber, a key organizer of the movement, has grounded this new movement in history, suggesting that the South is in the midst of the “third reconstruction.” The first reconstruction, after the Civil War, consisted of Black and white workers struggling to create a democratic South (which would have impacted on the North as well). They elected legislators who wrote new state constitutions to create democratic institutions in that region for the first time. This first reconstruction was destroyed by white racism and the establishment of Jim Crow segregation. 

The second reconstruction occurred between Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 and President Nixon’s 1968 “Southern Strategy.” During this period formal segregation was overturned, Medicare and Medicaid were established, and Social Security was expanded. Blacks and whites benefited. Dr. King’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign envisioned a defense and expansion of the second reconstruction. However, the Nixon presidential campaign encouraged appeals to racism and began the process of reversing reforms in the region and the nation at large.

Now we are in the midst of a third reconstruction, according to Barber. Political mobilizations today, like those of the first reconstruction, are based on what was called in the 1860s “fusion” politics; that is bringing all activists—Black, Brown, white, gay/straight, workers, environmentalists, immigrants—together. Fusion politics assumes that only a mass movement built on everyone’s issues can challenge the billionaire economic elites such as the Koch brothers and their Wall Street collaborators with masses of people (the 99 percent). Fusion politics, he says, requires an understanding of the fact that every issue is interconnected causally with every other issue. Therefore, democracy, civil rights, labor, women’s, gay/lesbian, immigrant, and environmental movements must act together.

The Indiana Moral Mondays Working Group has created committees to organize the September events and to build the organization. In addition Indiana Moral Mondays Working Groups are being constructed in cities around the state.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Ruby Dee with Ossie Davis and their children.

Statement from the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism

I have longed to see my talent contributing in an unmistakably clear manner to the cause of humanity. Every artist, every scientist, must decide NOW where he stands. He has no alternative. (Paul Robeson, Royal Albert Hall, June 24, 1937).

It has been one of my great blessings in life to work with two of the finest artists and activists. Ruby and Ossie served as a living example that one could be an artist and an activist, too: that one could be an artist and still deal with what it means to be a Black woman and a Black man in these United States. (Spike Lee quoted on NPR, June 12, 2014).

We used the arts as part of our struggle. (Ruby Dee in Jackson, Mississippi, 2006, cited in Mark Kennedy, “Ruby Dee’s Legacy of Activism, Acting Mourned,”, June 12, 2014).

A powerful link in the chain of great African American scholars, artists, and activists from the twentieth century, Ruby Dee died June 11, 2011. Dee was born in Cleveland Ohio in 1924 and as a child was moved to Harlem. Growing up she studied romance languages at Hunter College, gravitated toward the American Negro Theatre in Harlem and began long collaborations with fellow actors such as Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and her husband of 57 years, Ossie Davis.

She appeared in 50 films, 40 television shows, and 35 stage performances. She received numerous awards for these performances and as recently as 2008 was nominated for outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture, “American Gangster,” She was recognized by nominations for Screen Actors Guild and Image Awards in 2009 and 2010. Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis received Kennedy Center Honors Awards presented by President Clinton in 2004.

Ruby Dee came from that generation of artists who. inspired by Paul Robeson, believed that she had to take a stand for human liberation. She was an active supporter of anti-colonial struggles abroad and civil rights struggles at home. She was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She and her husband, Ossie Davis, were friends and collaborators in the struggle for the freedom of African Americans with both Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King. Dee was a contributing editor to the great journal of African American thought, Freedomways.

Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis’ participation in peoples’ struggles were life-long. As recently as 1999 the couple was arrested at the New York City police headquarters protesting the brutal police shooting of Amadou Diallo. In addition, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were members of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) advisory board.

Ruby Dee, her husband, Harry Belafonte, and their mentor Paul Robeson articulated often their beliefs that there was a connection between the arts and politics and that the arts could serve as a weapon for social justice. In addition, these artist/activists believed that their engagement required combining struggles against the exploitation of the working class, the sexism of the patriarchal system, and institutionalized racism.

During her lifetime Ruby Dee was a participant and supporter of movements for human liberation. CCDS and all progressives everywhere will miss her determined activism and her artistry as an actress and poet.