Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Harry Targ

An article appeared recently on the internet announcing a public conversation to be held January 19, 2018 at Duke University between Senator Bernie Sanders and Rev. William Barber. The discussion, “The Enduring Challenge of a Moral Economy: 50 Years After Dr. King Challenged Racism, Poverty, and Militarism,” will be moderated by Duke University Chapel Dean Luke A. Powery.
As prior dialogues between them suggest, this conversation will not be a debate but an articulation of parallel theoretical and practical insights about politics by two of the most compelling progressive leaders today.

At root, but not in so many words, Sanders offers a narrative about a class society in which one class, the one percent, exploit and oppress another class, the 99 percent. Implicitly this dynamic is driven by the pursuit of profit. For him the antidote to this system is democracy and socialism.

The Sanders vision draws from the Marxist theoretical tradition but more importantly it is infused with the historic US tradition of populism and the socialism of such prominent and diverse political leaders as Eugene V. Debs, Jane Addams, and Dr. Martin Luther King.
Sanders prioritizes in his analysis, the capitalist system, autocratic political institutions, “false” ideologies that only recognize individuals, not communities or society, and institutionalized greed and immorality. Change, he believes, requires the mobilization of the 99 percent in the electoral arena and the streets to transform societal institutions.

Rev. Barber’s Moral Mondays movement, begun over a decade ago, was inspired by the dramatic rightward shift in North Carolina (and later national) public policies which effectively increased poverty, diminished access to health care and education, suppressed the right to vote, and in other ways attacked workers, people of color, women, and gays. Moral Mondays catalyzed a variety of groups who were morally outraged about the substantial increase in varieties of pain and suffering of vast majorities of people. And Rev. Barber realized that while groups and communities were angry over a variety of particular issues, their concerns overlapped. He was convinced that various angry constituencies could be brought together to collectively challenge an immoral system that hurt everybody; workers, people of color, women, LBGTQ individuals, and people of spiritual or secular traditions. Thus, the idea of “fusion politics” was articulated.
Moral Mondays was initiated by the spiritual community and it was motivated by the basic proposition that what was happening to people’s lives was immoral. Rev. Barber, therefore, built a movement based upon ethical systems derived from constitutional and/or theological premises that promoted social justice, human rights, and human dignity.

The Sanders campaign was grounded in material reality: economic exploitation, profit seeking at the expense of human development, and the maintenance of an economic system based on institutionalized avarice. Rev. Barber’s campaign was based on an ethical reality; that is that exploitation, poverty, racism, sexism, and homophobia were morally wrong. Although the basic constituents of each campaign varied (Sanders supporters tended to come from the working class, labor, and young people interested in socialism while Barber’s constituencies included leading civil rights organizations, faith communities, and issue-oriented advocacy groups) the constituencies overlapped.
At the dawn of 2018, most human beings, workers, people of color, women, gays, and almost everyone alive who lives in a physical space threatened by environmental change, have a stake in resisting the shift toward an apocalyptic economic, political, cultural, militaristic, and environmental universe. They could support a vision of a new society that prioritizes community over individualism, participatory democracy over authoritarianism, and human solidarity over hate.

Consequently, the movements coming out of the two currents (Our Revolution out of the Sanders candidacy and the New Poor People’s Campaign out of Moral Mondays) should join hands in a common struggle. Analyses of public troubles can begin with stances on political economy or public immorality but they cover the same ground AND they propose the same solution; a caring, participatory, just society.
So the vision of this latest dialogue between Senator Sanders and Rev. Barber should be inspirational. It should stimulate both communities to act in unity. That is the political task of 2018.

For an early 2017 conversation between Rev. Barber and Bernie Sanders see:

For another rendition of the theme of unity see the speech below by Nina Turner, President, Our Revolution: https://youtu.be/PXF5lb_2Tj4

Saturday, January 13, 2018

"THIS MADNESS MUST CEASE;"a repost from January 15, 2010

Harry Targ

At a critical juncture in the escalation of the Vietnam War, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 describing the fundamental connections between war overseas and poverty at home:

“Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. 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.”

It is useful to reflect on the historic motivation for United States foreign policy, what Dr. King called "this madness," yesterday and today. And, in the spirit of Dr. King, it is incumbent upon us to continue to reflect also on its impacts on people abroad and at home. Such reflections should encompass venues such as Iraq and Afghanistan where the contemporary impacts are the result of war and countries such as Haiti where the structure of economic and political relations have been as devastating to the people as military occupation (though marines occupied Haiti from 1917 to 1934).

First, according to historians such as William Appleman Williams, the United States has pursued dominant influence in the world ever since the 1890s. After conquering the North American continent and all but exterminating its inhabitants, U.S. policy has been shaped by the pursuit of markets, investment opportunities, cheap labor, and vital natural resources. With the expansion of industrial capitalism, securing access to cheap oil became particularly important. Oil figured prominently in agreements with the ruling oligarchy in Saudi Arabia during World War 11, the 1953 overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, the severing of relations with a radical Iraqi regime in 1958, and the wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003.

Historian Loren Baritz has argued that U.S. policymakers have defined these economically driven global and interventionist policies in moral terms. For example, President Truman spoke of the threat of totalitarian communism to the free world in his famous Truman Doctrine speech of March 12, 1947. However, one week earlier, in a less familiar speech at Baylor University, he asserted that economics and foreign policy were inextricably connected and that the United States was committed to creating a global market economy in the post-war world. Thirty-five years later President Reagan repeatedly referred to the Soviet Communist system as an historical aberration and at the same time borrowed from our Puritan ancestors, declaring that the United States was a “city on a hill.” We were destined by God to transform the world. President Clinton also mixed economics and morality repeatedly reiterating his commitment to create “market democracies” around the world.

The impacts of this century-long search for what Williams called, “the Open Door,” the drive to economically penetrate the globe has meant pain, suffering, and waste for peoples everywhere including the United States. The U.S. sent marines to invade Central American and the Caribbean 25 times between 1900 and 1933. During the fifty years since World War 11 the U.S. threatened to use force or sent troops on at least 40 occasions, spent $3 trillion on the military, participated in wars between 1945 and 1995 in which 10 million people died, and lost at least 100,000 of its own soldiers killed in action with 10 times that number becoming casualties.

It was in this historical context that President Bush responded to the terrorist attack on 9/11 by launching a new global crusade, replacing communism with a “war on terrorism.” He justified “preemptory” attacks on any country or people we would define as a possible threat to U.S. national security. The Pentagon defined an “arc of instability” running from the northern parts of South America through North Africa, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, and East Asia. They said the United States had to develop small, mobile military bases all across the globe (Chalmers Johnson estimates some 700 bases exist in 60 countries) with new technologies that would make the U.S. fighting force more capable of quickly intervening in self-defined trouble spots. Successful operations in Afghanistan and Iraq would solidify the presence, power, and control of strategic resources and institutionalize this strategy of “the last remaining superpower.”

Clinton Administration policies toward Iraq differed in tactics but not in substance from his successor. Clinton sought to increase the U.S. presence in the Gulf by starving the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Economic sanctions led to a 60 percent decline in the GDP of the country and the economic embargo cost the lives of about one million Iraqis, mostly children under the age of five.

However, supporters of the lobby group, Project for the New American Century (PNAC), including Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Scooter Libby, and other Bush policymakers, demanded that Clinton do more. As soon as 9/11 happened, these neo-conservatives convinced President Bush to attack Iraq even though the latter had nothing to do with 9/11 and everyone knew that Iraq, after a decade of US and British bombing, economic sanctions, and rigorous inspections, had no weapons of mass destruction.

The war on Afghanistan began in October, 2001 and the war in Iraq in March 2003. The impacts have been devastating to these war torn countries.

What can be done about this “madness?” Despite President Obama’s recent decision to escalate the U.S. war in Afghanistan progressives must continue to demand that the United States deescalate and withdraw all U.S. troops from there and Iraq. U.S. military bases all across the globe must be shut down. This process should be done in conjunction with negotiations with relevant nations and peoples to transform international relations. Americans must pressure their leaders to embrace foreign and domestic policies that promote peace and justice. At the time of his assassination Dr. King was organizing a Poor People’s Campaign, a mass movement to end war, racism, and economic misery. That project still needs to be completed.

Thursday, January 4, 2018


Originally appearing in:

The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Harry Targ, Professor, Political Science, Purdue University, West Lafayette.
Hurricane Harvey touched down on the coast of Texas on Aug. 25.

On Aug. 31, Indiana leaders – government, the corporate sector and higher education – issued a statement announcing establishment of the Applied Research Institute: “ARI will facilitate and manage collaborative research teams to pursue major federal grants and contracts and perform corporate-sponsored research that will generate technology transfer and commercialization in military defense and other sectors of Indiana's economy.”

ARI will have access to research facilities and personnel valued at $1 billion: laboratories and personnel from corporations, the military and the two major public universities, Indiana and Purdue.

The board of directors of ARI include the governor, the presidents of Indiana and Purdue, the president of Defense Aerospace at Rolls-Royce and the technical director of the Naval Surface Warfare Center. The project was launched in 2015, according to the article, with the help of a Lilly Endowment Grant of $16 million. The Lilly Endowment chairman said he was pleased ARI “...has assembled a board of directors of this caliber and distinction.”
The ARI announcement emphasized development of computer technology, products that would have commercial value and advances in military security. The news release listed initial projects including “trusted microelectronics technology and security; multi-spectral data fusion and security (cyber); high density power storage and management; and advanced material science.” ARI research will accelerate “technology commercialization that supports economic prosperity.”

In a related development, in a letter to the Purdue academic community, President Mitch Daniels celebrated the university's developing research collaboration with Microsoft, Eli Lilly, Rolls-Royce, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division and Infosys. He also praised Purdue's acquisition of for-profit online Kaplan University and the creation of the new so-called “Purdue New U.”
Indiana workers

The Indiana Institute of Working Families issued its Labor Day report on Sept. 1. It found that there were parallel declines in union membership and Hoosier workers' income in the 21st century. Indiana workers' real income peaked in 1999 and has been in decline ever since. The Institute cited Advisor Perspectives, a market advisory firm, which called Indiana a “21st Century Loser.”
Compared to the other 49 states, Indiana has experienced the ninth-largest drop in mean income. Lowered incomes and wages have been exacerbated by declining union membership, passage of a right-to-work law in 2012, and the end to the common construction wage in 2015. The report said “Indiana's median household income grew so little compared to other states that our income ranking dropped from 34th to 36th in the nation. Indiana now has the lowest median wages of any of our neighbors, including Kentucky. If there are benefits to undercutting Indiana's labor standards, they aren't showing up in the average Hoosier's paycheck, or even in employers' ability to find a skilled workforce.”

Who benefits
These disparate reports were distributed while Texas was experiencing one of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history. Hurricane impacts were linked not only to climate change but also to unregulated growth in Houston. In addition, the announcement about ARI was made at a time that:

Gaps between rich and poor grow and smaller numbers of corporations and banks control more and more of the economy.

Major universities, such as Indiana and Purdue, have become extensions of big corporations and the military.
Racism and white supremacy have been fueled by opportunistic politicians and ignored by the rest. The tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia are just one recent example.

Massive wealth and power have become ever more concentrated in economic and political elites.
And all of these changes in American society are going on below the radar screen while the media and mainstream politicians concentrate on the follies of politics in Washington. To borrow from Naomi Klein's idea of the shock doctrine, the Trump presidency is the shock, while new institutions like ARI, mostly invisible, are creating a new American reality that does not address the real needs for economic and social justice in Indiana and the nation at large.

In sum, Hoosiers might conclude that the beneficiaries of projects such as ARI, are big corporations, universities and the military – not Indiana workers.