Friday, July 28, 2017


Harry Targ


The twenty-first century economic reality has created a new class society with a dominant class of concentrated wealth at one extreme and a growing class of economically insecure in the other.  More and more of those in the latter have become political activists, particularly among the young. This new class society in the United States parallels similar economic changes in both rich and poor countries. As a result of the changes in global and domestic economies social movements have arisen everywhere. From Cairo, Egypt to Madison, Wisconsin, from Greece to Chile, from Syriza and Podemos to the Sanders campaign, the cry for change, often a demand for socialism, is spreading. The outcome of this new activism is unclear but for the first time in a long time, the prospects for positive social and political change look promising.
The New Class Society

In 1999, Robert Perrucci and Earl Wysong published the first of four editions of a perceptive sociological analysis that identified what the authors identified as “the new class society.” They employed a Marxist and Weberian analysis of class that combined workers’ relationships to the means of production with their organizational position.

Using data reflecting their synthetic definition of class, these authors concluded that the popular portrait of a U.S. class system consisting of a small ruling class, a large “middle class,” and a small percentage of economically and politically marginalized people was, by the 1970s, no longer an accurate way to describe society. The class system of the days of relative prosperity from the 1940s until the late 1960s, which looked like a diamond with a broad middle, had become a class system looking like a “double diamond.”

In the new class society, the first diamond, the top one, consists of the “privileged class” composed of a “super-class,” “credentialed class managers,” and “professionals.” All together these representatives of privilege constitute about 20 percent of the population. All the others constitute a “new working class,” some living in relative comfort but most engaged in wage labor with the constant threat of job loss and wage stagnation, some modestly self-employed, and a large part-time labor force. This is the second diamond representing 80 percent of the population.
In short, the political economy that emerged nearly fifty years ago is one in which a shrinking ruling class that owns or controls capital has accumulated enormous wealth and dominates today’s economy. At the other end an increasingly insecure working class in terms of jobs and income has grown exponentially.

Peter Temin, an MIT economist, confirms the earlier sociological work in his new book “The Vanishing Middle Class.” This book also identifies an emerging two-class society with wealth and power concentrated at the top and poverty and powerlessness at the bottom. In what Temin calls the “dual economy,” the ruling class consists of the finance, technology, and electronics sectors (FTE), representing the top twenty percent as opposed to “the low wage sector;” clerks, assemblers, laborers, and service workers who provide the comforts and profits for the top twenty percent.
In summary, both volumes suggest that in terms of wealth and power conflicts of interest have to be seen not between the one percent and everyone else but between the twenty percent who own/control/ or administer the capitalist system and the eighty percent who constitute increasingly marginalized labor serving the interests of the wealthy and powerful.

The Precariat
Guy Standing, a British economist, has written about the “precariat,” a growing portion of the worldwide work force, Temin’s “ low wage sector,” who live in economic insecurity. The term, precariat, refers to a synthesis of the idea of the proletariat, workers who sell their ability to provide labor to a capitalist for a wage, and precarity, or economic existence that is unpredictable, marginal, and insecure. Job scarcity and wage stagnation increasingly is experienced by workers with professional skills and credentials as well as the traditional working class.

Standing argues that all across the globe workers, particularly young workers, live in situations of economic insecurity and unpredictability, irrespective of credentials, that in the past guaranteed jobs and living wages. Of course, the precariat do not have any of the guarantees of union membership and their skills leave them often working on a part-time contract basis and in isolation from fellow workers. In addition the precariat include workers in the “informal sector.” These are workers who often will do anything to survive from day to day: for example, day labor, street vending, drug dealing, petty crime, or prostitution.
Accumulation by Dispossession

David Harvey, a Marxist geographer, revisited Marx’s description of primitive accumulation in his book, “The Seventeen Contradictions of Capitalism.”  Capitalism was created on the backs of slaves, the slaughter of indigenous people, and the expropriation of already occupied land. In other words, through kidnapping, forced labor, slaughter, and occupation, capitalism was born. The expropriation of resources, people, and land led to the accumulation of wealth that spurred development and growth.
Harvey then argues that the primitive accumulation of the fifteenth century is similar in outcome to the “accumulation by dispossession,” of the twenty-first century. Today workers lose their property and their personal income in a debt system that sucks their scarce earnings and property. Examples include defaults on mortgage loans and bank repossessions and governmental decisions to confiscate property for purposes of urban redevelopment. Accumulation by dispossession, while not as violent as in the era of primitive accumulation, has the same outcome: expropriating the value of the work of the many for the riches of the few.

Growing Economic Inequality and Urban Decay and Gentrification
Virtually every study of the distribution of wealth and income in the United States demonstrates a dramatic increase in inequality. Also studies sponsored by international organizations report that despite declines in worldwide absolute poverty, the trajectory of growing inequality in wealth and income is a central feature of the global economy. In addition, declining inequality between countries, such as that between China and the countries of the European Union, have occurred while inequalities within these countries have widened. In the United States income and wealth inequality which declined from the 1930s until the 1960s has returned to levels not seen since the 1920s.

The patterns of inequality are visible in geographic spaces as well. As more and more people are forced to migrate to cities, what Mike Davis calls “global slums,”  demarcations of areas of opulence and poverty become visible. Members of the top twenty percent are consumers of expensive living spaces, elite schools, and vibrant recreational facilities. They also lobby for public funds to create recreational attractions that entice tourists to bolster local economies. Gentrified city spaces are protected by fences and police.
On the other hand, the bottom eighty percent live in varying degrees of poverty. Housing stocks crumble, neighborhoods are overcrowded, public services are increasingly underfunded, and populations are left to lead lives of quiet desperation and intra-community violence. In the new class society different sectors of the population live in isolation from each other, except when political conflict and violence spread across communities.

Also in the new class society youth become pessimistic about their futures. Despite the fact that media and academic studies claim that upward mobility is tied to scholastic achievement, the schools they attend are underfunded. And the cost of higher education, the main source of credentialing the young, has become prohibitively expensive. For those who accumulate massive student debt the experience feels like a modern-day variant of indentured servitude. Jobs for those who do not attend college are scarce and reside primarily in the low-wage service sector. And so-called STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are not as plentiful as college promotional brochures suggest. Along with the precarity of the traditional working class is a rising precarity of a new working class of highly educated but unemployable young people.

Manning Marable published a perceptive essay in 2006 entitled “Globalization and Racialization.” In it he adapted, based upon the twenty-first century global political economy, the prophetic statement by W. E. B. Du Bois that the problem of the twentieth century was the color line. Marable suggested that the new global political economy was based upon capital flight, as well-paid manufacturing jobs left the United States for sweatshops in the Global South. Unemployment  increased in the United States. Downward pressures on wages and benefits paid workers in poor countries reduced the economic conditions of US workers. The decline of organized labor in the United States and the Global South weakened the bargaining position of workers everywhere.
Marable suggested that the people most vulnerable to the massive changes in the global economy were the already marginalized people of color. Unemployment rates in poor and Black communities skyrocketed, particularly among youth. The new gentrification and shift in politics from welfare state capitalism to austerity led to declining public services in poor communities. This has had particularly devastating impacts on educational institutions.

With declining economic opportunities, a growing sense of hopelessness, draconian government policies such as the wars on drugs and crime, literally millions of African Americans, and other people of color, have become victims of mass incarceration, what Michelle Alexander calls “The New Jim Crow.” Finally, many states have laws that prevent former felons from voting. The Marable framework, which he refers to as “global apartheid” and “the New Racial Domain,” thus links globalization of production to racism; particularly growing unemployment and urban decay, criminalization, mass incarceration, and voter disenfranchisement.
Neoliberalism: the Latest Stage of Capitalism

The so-called “golden age of the US economy,” 1945 to 1968, may have been an anomaly in American history. The United States emerged from World War Two as the economic and military hegemonic power. The war led to a fourfold increase in United States trade compared with the late 1930s. In 1945 it produced about 2/3 of all the industrial goods manufactured in the world and US investments constituted about ¾ of all the world’s investments. With fears of stagnation accompanying the war’s end, the Truman Administration launched a massive program of military investment to forestall declining demand for US goods and services.
In terms of international relations, the United States played an instrumental role in establishing powerful international economic institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. It helped rebuild an anti-communist Europe through a massive financial aid system. It later established foreign assistance programs for newly “independent” countries requiring their commitment to the maintenance of a global capitalist system.

At home a United States economy was created that stimulated high mass consumption. People were socialized to believe that their self-worth was determined by the quantity and quality of goods and services they consumed. The new communication medium, television, educated viewers as to the products that were available (as well as the enemies overseas who were the threat to the domestic consumer society).
However, by the late 1960s, markets were glutted and demand for goods lessened even though wages and benefits for some workers increased. Federal and state governments had been increasing services such as education, health care, and transportation. Both profit rates and consumer demand declined. Growing political protest against the Vietnam war and racism across the country added to emerging economic stagnation.

By the 1970s, the squeeze on profits and reduced demand, was exacerbated by Middle East wars and large increases in the price of oil, which made some corporations and banks richer while economic stagnation, including both high inflation and unemployment, ensued. At this point, the United States economy began a shift to what David Harvey calls “financialization.” A small number of banks and corporations, mostly US but also European and Japanese, began to shift from encouraging manufacturing growth to financial speculation. A “new” debt system was encouraged, one in which oil-poor countries borrowed more and more money from bankers to pay for continued oil imports. In exchange debtor nations would promise to carry out new economic policies at home: cut government spending, privatize public institutions, deregulate domestic economies, and shift economic activities from production for domestic use to production for sale in the world market.
Thus, the new era of “neoliberal globalization” was initiated. The new system was driven by financial speculators, declining autonomy of nation-states, and the downsizing of wages and benefits everywhere. At the same time rates of profit for speculators increased and smaller numbers of banks and other financial institutions increasingly dominated the global economy. This system was initiated in the Global South, spread to Western Europe and after the fall of the Soviet Union and its allies to Eastern Europe. In the 1980s neoliberalism was embraced by Prime Minister Thatcher in Great Britain and President Ronald Reagan in the United States. The best way to characterize policy in the age of neoliberal globalization is “austerity,” reducing the economic opportunities of the many for the benefit of the few.

Neoliberal globalization is the systemic source of the new class society (or the dual economy), the rise of the precariat, accumulation by dispossession, growing inequality and urban gentrification, and the expansion of racism.
A Revitalized Interest in Socialism in the Twenty-First Century  

As history has shown, the accumulation of wealth and power by ruling elites, or dominant classes, never goes unchecked. The drive for domination breeds resistance. And resistance takes many forms: traditional revolutionary practices, building alternative economic and political institutions, non-violent refusal to obey the institutions that support economic misery and political repression, and where practical, participation in electoral processes. Social change is many-sided and several strategies together are most likely to bring positive results.
History shows also that struggles for change are broadly political, require organization, mass mobilization, and education. Change requires analyses of the causes of the problems needing solution and a vision of what a better future might look like. And there is an inextricable connection between the causes of the problems, the tactics needed to change the situation, and a vision of a better society.

The analyses above highlight the changing character of the global political economy, emerging class structures, and the growing vulnerabilities of literally millions of people: young and old: Black, Brown, and White; female and male; gay and straight; and at all levels of education and training. At the root of the problem is the capitalist system, a system whose reason for being is the maximization of profit. People today are talking about a new society, a socialist society. Socialism implies a political economy in which people contribute their talents, their labors, for the public good and share equitably in the product of their labor. And socialism presumes democratic participation in work places, the political system, and the community.  

Robert A. Perrucci and Earl Wysong. The New Class Society, Rowman and Littlefield, 1999 (the first of four editions).
Peter Temin, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, MIT Press, 2017.

Victor Tan Chen, “The Dual Economy,” Working Class Perspectives,

Guy Standing, The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, Bloomsbury Academic, 2014.
David Harvey, Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism,  Oxford University Press, 2015.

Mike Davis, Planet of Slums, Verso, 2017.
Harry Targ, Challenging Late Capitalism, Neoliberal Globalization and Militarism,, 2006.

Manning Marable, “Globalization and Racialization,” ZNET,, March 2, 2009.

Various articles on political economy, social movements, peace and justice in Harry Targ, Diary of a Heartland Radical,

Saturday, July 22, 2017


National Executive Committee

Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)

End the Interference in Venezuela
The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) joins with people all over the world to demand that the United States stop interfering in the internal affairs of the sovereign nation of Venezuela. This interference is intended to embolden the political right and to cause such internal turmoil as to destabilize the current democratically-elected government until it is overthrown.

We demand an end to US efforts to isolate Venezuelan diplomats from normal international interaction, stop efforts to blockade and weaken the Venezuelan economy, and end support for internal opposition elements who are engaging in violence and physical destruction in the streets of Caracas. We applaud and support the efforts of Pope Francis to launch a negotiation to end the violent conflict between the Maduro government and opposition factions.

United States Opposition to the Bolivarian Revolution

Senate Bill S-1018 (Venezuelan Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act of 2017”) introduced in May, 2017 is designed to escalate interference in the internal politics of Venezuela. The Alliance for Global Justice indicates that the proposed legislation includes provisions that construes criminal conduct in Venezuela as political repression, provides “humanitarian assistance” to opposition groups, urges the Organization of American States to ostracize Venezuela for violating democracy, isolates Venezuelan diplomats from participating in international organizations because of charges of drug dealing or corruption, and expands an economic embargo to increase the misery experienced by the majority of Venezuelan citizens.

The Senate Bill is just one of the most recent examples of a twenty-year strategy to undermine and overthrow the populist Venezuelan government launched by Hugo Chavez. This United States effort at regime change included supporting a military coup against him in 2002. After the untimely death of Chavez in 2013, his replacement, Nicholas Maduro, has been subjected to escalated US subversion of the government and support for wealthy Venezuelans who have launched a civil war against the democratically elected government. What Chavistas call the Bolivarian Revolution, an historic project of the Latin American people to gain their national sovereignty from imperial control of the United States, is now threatened with a violent civil war against the regime. The majority of the population of Venezuela now experience food shortages, inflated prices, and reduced resources for maintaining newly created grassroots institutions including health care and worker cooperatives. While the root causes of the crisis are many, including an over-reliance on an oil-based export economy, the problems the country face are inextricably connected to US-based subversion and efforts to overthrow the government by the Venezuelan wealthy class.

What is taking place in Venezuela is a right-wing reaction to a popular revolution

The revolution began with the Bolivarian movement conceived under the presidency of the late Hugo Chavez. Since the untimely demise of Chavez, the movement has pressed forward, expanding and consolidating its gains, discomforting the Venezuelan affluent classes and their allies in Washington, DC. Historically revolutionary resistance to big power dominance invariably generates violent backlash from those who cling to wealth and power in the international system and their partners within societies.

The long-standing subversion of Venezuela is virtually a repeat of what happened in Chile during the early 1970s. The Popular Unity government headed by Salvador Allende was successful in promoting revolutionary goals until a U.S. backed coup killed him and overthrew the legally-elected Allende government. Thousands were tortured and murdered, and Chilean society was set back for decades, a trauma from which it has been taking years to heal.

With popular movements rising everywhere in the twenty-first century, it is imperative that progressives support revolutionary change in other countries first and foremost by staunch opposition to our own government’s imperial foreign policy aims. The struggles against racism at home, for single-payer health care, and economic justice for workers are parallel to and connected to the struggles proceeding all across the globe. “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

l Krehbiel
Rafael Pizarro
Harry Targ
Janet Tucker
Co-Chairs, CCDS

Thursday, July 20, 2017


National Executive Committee

Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)

Trump Cuba Policy

On June 16, 2017, President Trump gave a speech before an audience of far-right Cuban Americans condemning Cuba for alleged human rights violations, supporting terrorism and human trafficking, and engaging in other nefarious international activities, without a shred of evidence. Trump announced he would use his authority as president to resume restrictions on the basic right of US citizens to travel which might include increasing prosecutions of violators of travel restrictions. He would impose restrictions on US investments on the island, exports of US goods, particularly agricultural commodities, and US airlines and hotels. Trump was willing to sacrifice the interests of tourists, investors, and traders because, as he claimed, no progress on US/Cuban relations could occur until there were fair elections and ending what he claimed were human rights violations. Ironically the reversal of Obama policies could also hurt the small entrepreneurs in Cuba US policymakers claim they want to encourage.

The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism Join With People All Over the World in Demanding an End to the Violations of Cuba's Right to Determine its Own Destiny

We in CCDS, in conjunction with millions of people all across the globe reject the Trump reversals of United States/Cuban relations and demand that:

The United States maintain full diplomatic relations between itself and Cuba, including respecting Cuba's national sovereignty.

The United States end the economic blockade of Cuba.

The United States abolish all laws that restrict the rights of its citizens to travel to Cuba.

The United States end its occupation of Guantanamo Bay which is in Cuban territory.

The United States promote the resumption of the rich, textured, and mutually beneficial relations between North Americans and the Cuban people that have occurred over the last 100 years.

And more generally, the United States halt efforts to interfere in the political and economic affairs of other countries, such as Venezuela, as they too seek to achieve their own national sovereignty and maintain their own independence.

Cubans Build Democratic Socialism

The Cuban government, in consultation with literally hundreds of thousands of Cubans, decided in 2011 to begin shifting the Cuban economy from one dominated by the state sector to the non-state sector. The non-state sector consists of two elements: small entrepreneurs and workplace cooperatives. 

While Cubans differ on which directions the economy should pursue, many Cubans are beginning to participate in cooperative forms of enterprise ownership and decision-making in the cities as well as the countryside. Some regard the work cooperatives as the centerpiece of a 21st century socialism. They expect cooperatives to continue the successful revolutionary project launched in 1959; creating economic equality, political participation, and continuing the society's commitment to access to health care, education, adequate housing, sensitivity to the environment, and combatting existing racism and sexism. The United States, on the other hand, is far from achieving these goals. It might learn from the Cuban experience policies that could be adapted to circumstances in the United States.

On Medical Diplomacy and International Solidarity

Along with the international reputation of the Cuban health care system, people all over the world know of the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). Since 2005, 23,000 students graduated from ELAM mostly from poor countries around the world. Currently there are 10,000 medical students at ELAM, with small numbers from the U.S. Students participating in the free medical training are encouraged to return to their home country and apply their skills to treat underserved populations. One newly credentialed U.S. doctor trained in Cuba has committed herself to provide health care for African American males in Cook County jail in Chicago.

Visiting ELAM, observers report on the youthful enthusiasm, commitment, and international solidarity. ELAM is one excellent example of Cuban international solidarity. In addition, Cuban doctors are sent to many countries in Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean to address local healthcare emergencies.

Cubans Demand the Right to Self-Determination and Non-interference

At the huge Plaza of the Revolution, a vast open space that sometimes holds a million Cubans, there is a building posting a several story image of Che Guevara, the iconic altruistic hero of the Cuban Revolution. Across the plaza a statue of the nineteenth century revolutionary Cuban poet Jose Marti stands boldly in front of a museum honoring him. Many rallies over the years have protested efforts by the United States to overthrow the Cuban government, led so passionately by Fidel Castro.

The United States still engages in an economic blockade of Cuba. And only in July, 2015 have the two countries reestablished diplomatic relations after a 55-year period of non-recognition. While limited in scope President Obama embarked on a modest policy of reversing the US efforts to isolate the island nation. He used some of his executive authority to allow for increased tourism, investments, remittances, and regional cooperation even though the economic blockade remained in place.

The Cuban government issued a statement in response to the Trump reversal of the modest improvements in US/Cuban relations: "The US President, ill-advised once again, issues decisions that favor the political interests of an extreme minority of Cuban origin in the state of Florida, who driven by petty motivation, do not desist from their objective to punish Cuba and its people for exercising the legitimate and sovereign right to be free and for having taken the reins of their own destiny."

While we would use different gendered language today, Jose Marti's basic principle still stands:

"Everything that divides men, everything that separates or herds men together in categories, is a sin against humanity."

Paul Krehbiel
Rafael Pizarro
Harry Targ
Janet Tucker
Co-Chairs CCDS

Monday, July 17, 2017


As we read of rising tensions in Venezuela and growing class and race war, from a mainstream media that provides a narrative of failed economic populism, the story of the role of US imperialism in overthrowing the Popular Unity government of Salvador Allende in Chile comes to mind. Times and circumstances are different, but the needs and struggles of the Venezuelan people for a better life bind them to the peoples’ histories of Latin America.



From September 7, 2013

Harry Targ

The Chilean Song Movement had become so identified with Popular Unity, it had been such a strong factor, emotional, cohesive, inspiring, that the military authorities found it necessary to declare ‘subversive’ even the indigenous instruments, whose beautiful sound had become so full of meaning and inspiration. Together with prohibiting even the mention of Victor’s name, they banned all his music and the music of all the artists of the New Chilean Song Movement….

It was a mystery to me how Victor was remembered. Since the coup his very name had been censored, his records prohibited. But in spite of that I heard his songs being sung in poor community centres, in church halls, football clubs and universities, with whole audiences of young people joining in the singing as though his songs had become part of Chilean folklore (from Joan Jara, Victor, An Unfinished Song, Bloomsbury, London, 1998).

Victor Jara, The Voice of the People

In a powerful biography of the life of Victor Jara, his wife captures the deep political and cultural roots her husband planted in the soil of the working people of Chile. He committed his life to celebrating and popularizing the songs and stories of the Chilean people, recognizing that his cultural project had to be intimately connected to the political project of Salvador Allende’s socialist and democratic Popular Unity coalition. Allende in October, 1970, was the first elected socialist president of a Latin American country. 

The Nixon Administration and the Chilean military found the people’s choice unacceptable and set about undermining Allende’s government. On September 11, 1973 the military launched a coup, killed Allende, rounded up thousands of his supporters, and brought them to a huge soccer stadium, and tortured and shot their cultural icon, Victor Jara.

The United States Crushes Revolution in Chile

The United States had supported the Christian Democrats in Chile with official assistance and CIA financing since the 1950s. The Christian Democratic candidate in 1970 was opposed by Marxist Salvador Allende, who, as the head of a coalition of six left parties, won a plurality of votes.

From the time of the election in October, 1970, until September, 1973, when a bloody military coup toppled Allende, the United States did everything it could to destabilize the elected government. First, the United States pressured Chilean legislators to reject the election result. When that failed, energy and resources were used to damage the Chilean economy and build a network of ties with military personnel ready to carry out a coup.

Allende developed policies to redistribute land, nationalized the vital copper industry, and established diplomatic relations with the former Soviet Union, China, and Cuba. Popular culture stimulated by artists such as Victor Jara flowered and grew. All these moves exacerbated tensions with the United States, since its investments in copper, iron, nitrates, iodine, and salt were large.

The Nixon administration formed a secret committee, “the 40 committee,” headed by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, to develop a long-term plan to destabilize and overthrow the Allende government. The CEO of the International Telephone and Telegraph Company, a major foreign influence in Chile, was enthusiastic about the Nixon plan.

Among the policies utilized by Washington were an informal economic blockade of Chile, termination of aid and loans, International Monetary Fund pressure on the government to carry out anti-worker policies, the engineering of a substantial decline in the price of copper on the world market, fomenting dissent in the military, and funding opposition groups and newspapers, particularly the influential Santiago daily, El Mercurio. Despite growing economic crisis and  protests by the rightwing spurred by U.S. covert operations, the Allende-led left coalition scored electoral victories in municipal elections throughout the country in March, 1973. 

Since Nixon’s directive to make Chile’s “economy scream” had not led to Allende’s rejection at the ballot box, the Kissinger committee and the right-wing generals decided to act. On September 11, 1973 the military carried out a coup that ousted the Allende government, assassinated him in the Presidential Palace, and established brutal rule under the leadership of General Augusto Pinochet. A year after the coup, Amnesty International reported that some 6,000 to 10,000 prisoners had been taken. The new regime banned all political parties, abolished trade unions, and initiated programs to assassinate pro-Allende emigres, including former Foreign Minister, Orlando Letelier, who was blown up in an automobile in Dupont Circle in Washington D.C.

The spirit of the brutal U.S. policy in Chile was expressed by Kissinger in 1970 when he declared: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people.” One year after the coup President Ford (who replaced the discredited Richard Nixon) defended the it as being in the “best interests of the people of Chile and certainly in the best interests of the United States.” A different assessment was provided by a distinguished diplomatic historian, Alexander De Conde who wrote that the United States “had a hand in the destruction of a moderate left-wing government that allowed democratic freedoms to its people and to its replacement by a friendly right-wing government that crushed such freedoms with torture and other police-state repressions.” 

Chile is one example of the way the United States has sought to control and influence the internal affairs of nations. But the spirit of resistance planted in so many different ways in so many places by cultural performers and revolutionaries such as Victor Jara lives on. 

As long as we sing his songs,
As long as his courage can inspire us
to greater courage
Victor Jara will never die.

“Singout Magazine” 1975

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A radio interview on the privatization of higher education

Harry Targ: An Education Worth Fighting For - MR Live - 7/10/17 The Majority Report with Sam Seder. ... The Majority Report with Sam Seder 37,652 views. New; 5:43.

Sunday, July 2, 2017


Harry Targ

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.

And here let me emphasize the fact and it cannot be repeated too often that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace. Yours not to reason why; Yours but to do and die. Eugene V. Debs, June 16, 1918, Canton, Ohio.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. Dr. Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, New York.

The Capitalist System is a War System

Marx and Engels declared in their famous 1848 manifesto that capitalism was a world system.  Due to cutthroat competition every corporation, every bank, every small business would need to expand or it would be defeated in the marketplace by more successful competitors. Therefore, competition would lead to consolidation, a shift from many economic actors to declining numbers of them. This process of capital accumulation extended to the entire globe.

Lenin argued that by the dawn of the twentieth century, competition had led to monopolies within countries. States driven by monopolies expanded all across the globe. Competing states often engaged in war. Their expansion also generated resistance, rebellion and revolution around the world. In sum, the capitalist system by its very nature was a war system.

In addition, capitalist economies, particularly imperial powers such as the United States, required natural resources, cheap or slave labor, land, customers for products, and opportunities to invest accumulated profits in overseas corporations, and banks. In the post-World War II period, capitalist expansion even required the establishment of a global debt system that would increase the possibility of penetrating the economies of countries that incurred debts.

The realities that Marx identified in the nineteenth century are relevant today in two ways. First, given technological advances, what economists call neoliberal globalization is the logical extension of his insight that capitalism needs to “establish connections everywhere.”

Second, given episodes of resistance to capitalist expansion, conflict and violence in the global system are likely to occur from time to time among capitalist states (each seeking to enhance their own monopolies), between capitalist states and emerging socialist states that reject the very premises of capitalist economics, and between capitalist states and marginalized people who rebel against capitalist/imperialist intrusion.

In the twentieth century hundreds of wars and covert interventions resulted in deaths exceeding 100 million people. Between 1945 and 1995 the United States alone was involved in wars, civil conflicts, and covert operations that cost more than 10 million deaths. Most of this violence was justified as a response to a demonic Soviet Union and “international communism” threatening “the free world.” The defense of the “free world” usually was fought out in the Global South. In fact, in the twentieth century the vast majority of victims of the capitalist war system were people of color, primarily non-combatants. And adding to the direct human cost have been the devastation of the land, the extraction of basic resources, and the destruction of viable communities and self-sustaining social systems.

Impacts of the Capitalist War System in Imperial States

Foreign policy has always been inextricably connected to the struggles for social and economic justice; including worker and human rights. And, as a consequence, foreign policy has always been used as a tool to distract, divide, and cloud the consciousness of working people everywhere. Eugene V. Debs, leader of the Socialist Party and four-time candidate for president of the United States, was jailed for his speech in Canton, Ohio decrying United States participation in World War I because of its profoundly negative consequences for the working class at home.

Debs pointed out that American “democracy” allowed no real opportunity for workers, the people who fought its wars, to determine whether to go to war or not. Workers were not allowed to hear and read all about the consequences of military participation. Before and during World War I, the United States government created a propaganda arm, The Committee on Public Information, to disseminate information to the citizenry promoting the United States entry into the war in Europe. Opponents of the war, such as Debs, were silenced. It was during the war that the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia and began to establish an alternative to the capitalist war system. President Wilson and his Secretary of State Robert Lansing warned of the danger of this threat to “democracy” and “freedom.”

As Debs implied, the capitalist war system needed impressionable military recruits to fight the wars in the name of a higher good while banks and corporations expanded their presence on a worldwide basis. But the capitalist war system which recruited foot soldiers also required the accumulation of money capital to pay for the wars and the capacity to develop “connections everywhere.” And after the second world war, during the Cold War, trillions of dollars have been wasted on the establishment of a worldwide network of military bases and outposts; troop deployments; space, drone, aircraft, and nuclear technologies; and a security apparatus that has its electronic and personnel tentacles in virtually every other country.

In addition, the development of a military capability to maintain and expand the capitalist system became a profitable business in its own right. What President Eisenhower called “the military-industrial complex” is a dense network of profitable connections between huge corporations, banks, universities, think tanks, and manufacturing facilities in virtually every city, town, state, and most importantly, Congressional District. The United States after World War II created what Andrew Bacevich, international historian, called a “permanent war economy.”

Economic Consequences of the Capitalist/War System

Dr. Martin Luther King, in his famous speech at Riverside Church in New York City, spoke of the devastating consequences of the Vietnam War on the Vietnamese people and the poor and oppressed at home. To him, the carnage of war not only destroyed the targets of war (their economies, their land, their cultures) but the costs also misallocated the resources of the nation-states which initiated wars.

Every health and welfare provision of the government, local, state, and federal, was limited by resources allocated for the war system. Health care, education, transportation, jobs, wages, campaigns to address enduring problems of racism, sexism, homophobia, environmental revitalization, and non-war related scientific and technological research were reduced almost in direct proportion to rising military expenditures. Over half the US federal budget goes to military spending past and current.  And the irony is that the money that is extracted from the vast majority of the population of the United States goes to military budgets that enhance the profits of the less than one percent of the population who profit from the war system as it exists.

“I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam.” Since 1967 when he made that speech, Dr. King would surely have added a long list of other wars to the Vietnam case: wars in Central America and South America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. and the more than 1,000 bases and outposts where US troops or hired contractors are fighting wars on behalf of capitalist expansion. Meanwhile the gaps between rich and poor people on a worldwide basis have increased dramatically with some twenty percent of the world’s population living below World Bank defined poverty lines.

The Meaning of the Capitalist/War System for Today’s Progressive Movements: Bringing the Peace Movement Back In

Paradoxically, the left and progressive forces in the United States are intuitively aware of the points long ago proclaimed by Marx, Debs, and King. Libraries are full of analyses and data that corroborate the basic arguments made above. But the recent resurgence of a new socialist left and an energized progressive majority, have not developed analyses and programs that make the necessary connections between capitalism and human misery at home and the war system abroad.

First, discourse on the left has been derailed by an overzealous concentration on alleged connections between Russia and the outcome of the US election. Mountains of hyperbolic allegations about the alleged source of evil, Vladimir Putin, have led the media (and many progressives) to channel foreign policy discussion away from military budgets, bombings of Syria, sending more troops to Afghanistan, covert operations in Latin America, reversing steps toward normalization of relations with Cuba, to a renewed Cold War with the successor state to the Soviet Union.

Second, many grassroots activists, seeing the need to target their energies to local and state politics, and single issues nationally, have taken the view that adding foreign policy to the agenda, complicates movement building. In fact, the exciting campaign of Bernie Sanders also dealt only marginally with foreign policy. And Sanders mostly spoke of foreign policy when his opponents, including the Hillary Clinton campaign, raised questions about his visits to Nicaragua and Cuba in the 1980s. In retrospect, it seems obvious that progressives should link the possibility of a financially sustainable health care system or free tuition for college to reductions in military spending.

Third, progressives have tactically avoided pressing and necessary conversations about the past and present, and how a progressive United States government could participate in the future international system. For example:

There needs to be a serious discussion of twentieth century socialism: both governments and movements. Sectors of the left in the United States have been unwilling to have a textured analysis of the strengths as well as the weaknesses of socialist regimes, what some refer to as “really existing socialism,” and how distortions of those systems were connected to US imperialism.

There needs to be a serious conversation about twenty-first century developments in Cuba, Vietnam, China, the state of Kerala in India, and what remains of the Bolivarian Revolution in Latin America. As long as such conversations are avoided, the progressive base will be diverted by the twentieth century trope about the “evils of communism.”

There needs to be detailed analyses of military spending. Much of that work is being done by the War Resisters League, The Cost of War Project, and others, but little of it finds its way into grassroots campaigns for progressive politicians or campaigns in support of single-payer health insurance.

Finally, there is a need to address important questions not often discussed. Two stand out: first the doctrine of the inevitability of war which cripples everyone’s political consciousness; and second, the celebration of grotesque violence in popular culture. These are not abstract issues that belong only in the classroom or the church sermon. They need to be highlighted. And the writings and speeches of Marx, Debs, and King would support the view that assumptions about the inevitability of war and the glories of violence are intimately connected to the capitalist/war system.

In short, the emerging socialist movements, the burgeoning progressive campaigns, and the peace movement must reconnect in fundamental ways: theoretically and practically. War, the preparation for war, and human misery everywhere are inextricably connected.