Thursday, February 22, 2018

On Democracy: A Repost


Harry Targ :
On democracy: ‘Can we talk?’ A Repost

The discussion of Russian interference in U.S. elections should raise questions about other, perhaps internal, forms of interference in a fully matured democratic process. This essay, written before the 2016 elections, reflects on the various impediments that are characteristic features of the electoral process in the United States. Given the realities of concentrated money, power, media access, and the instrumentalities of the government, there is much to talk about in reference to saving or advancing democracy in the U.S. before worrying about foreign interference in the electoral arena. ht

Posted on The Rag Blog October 21, 2014

The United States’ political system, we are told repeatedly, is the gold standard for the world.
By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | October 21, 2014

Through her decades of entertaining on stage and screen, [Joan] Rivers developed numerous classic bits and catchphrases, but three small words stand above the rest: “Can we talk?” (Kelli Bender @kbendernyc, 09/04/2014, also at People.com)

I never liked comedienne Joan Rivers who died recently. But her famous one-line introduction to talk show interviewers and stand-up performances is a powerful reminder that certain subjects might be dangerous to discuss in polite company. Whether the United States’ political system is a democratic one is such a subject.

Everything we Americans have learned since infancy suggests that the United States is a democracy. In fact, the United States political system, we are told repeatedly, is the gold standard for the world.

Distinguished data source Freedom House claims that freedom can only exist in democratic political systems. Democratic systems are those in which governments are accountable, the rule of law exists, and associations and speech are guaranteed to all. Polity IV, another data-based source of information about governments, has a more refined definition of democracy: there are procedures by which citizens can express their preferences about leaders and policies and there exist both constraints on executive power and guarantees of civil liberties. University of Iowa Political Science Professor William M. Reisinger prepared a chart summarizing the key components of democracy reflected in the writings of political philosophers (such as Aristotle), politicians (John C. Calhoun), skeptics (H. L. Mencken), and a variety of contemporary political scientists. He appends to his chart 25 quotations that illustrate variations in the understanding of the concept “democracy.” Reisinger identifies five emphases in most writings on the subject.

“1) it is a dangerous form of government; 2) it includes genuine competition for power; 3) it permits mass participation on a legally equal footing; 4) it provides civil and other liberties that restrict the sphere of state power within the society; or 5) it promotes widespread deliberation about how to make and enforce policy so as to promote the common good.” (William M. Reisinger, “Selected Definitions of Democracy,” uiowa.edu)

The United States does not meet broadly endorsed criteria for a democracy.

Reflecting on these five elements of democracy might lead to a more sober understanding of the United States’ political system than what most people learned in school (from kindergarten through graduate programs in political science). Particularly, looking at Reisinger’s last four features might suggest that the United States does not meet broadly endorsed criteria for a democracy.
Does the political system afford “genuine competition for power?” The answer is no for a variety of reasons. Campaigns for office from local through federal positions require enormous amounts of money. Supreme Court decisions have enshrined the right of the wealthy (often the one percent) to pour unlimited financial resources into elections. Koch Brothers affiliates have even invested in local school board elections to influence school curricula and give support to the privatization of education.

Funding of elections is reinforced by rules and regulations limiting political participation to two parties. Also states, from Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan to the South and Southwest, have imposed rulings making it harder for citizens to vote. Some voter suppression laws, sometimes overturned by courts because of their egregious violation of constitutional principles, have survived serious challenges (such as the Supreme Court decision to allow the Texas disenfranchisement of an estimated 600,000 minority voters) at least for the next election.
In the end money, institutionalized procedures, state laws, and judicial decisions have undermined the possibility of competition for political power.

Money, power, institutions, and media propaganda conspire to limit
political participation.

Everything that has been said above limits equal and mass participation in politics. Money, power, institutions, and media propaganda conspire to limit political participation and the entire weight of the political system works to impair workers, minorities, young people, and the elderly.
In the 1970s, Political Scientist Samuel Huntington wrote a paper for the then influential foreign policy organization, The Trilateral Commission, warning of the “danger of democracy.” The danger he identified all across the globe was the “excess of democracy.” In other words, in the 1970s, (and one would only surmise the condition is worse today) too much participation in politics would challenge the status quo and stability.

Reisinger pointed out that some definitions of democratic states (on his chart six of 25 entries) highlight “civil and other liberties that restrict the sphere of state power within the society.” There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that in the United States local police have garnered vastly increased power to arrest, charge, kill, and incarcerate more citizens on a per capital basis than most countries in the world. The most overrepresented targets of the expanding police state are young, African/American males but the class character of the criminal justice system has been prevalent as well.
In addition federal government surveillance, criminal conduct by the National Security Agency, and long-standing practices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to undermine and crush dissent have been significant features of the historical landscape.

Fewer than 10 media conglomerates control most of the information consumed
by the citizenry.

Finally, Reisinger has found some references in discussions of democracy to “deliberation” on public policy to “promote the common good.” Fewer than 10 media conglomerates control most of the information consumed by the citizenry and think tanks generating “expert” analyses are bought and paid for by corporations, government agencies, billionaires, and political parties.
Two recent stories have been ignored in the mainstream media. First, the German government has decided to provide free college education to all its citizens (thus eliminating crippling student debt). This is a policy that should warrant discussion. Second, Cuba has transported a delegation of 160 Cuban health care professionals to Sierra Leone and expects to provide another 260 for Liberia. The first delegation was sent before President Obama announced a U.S. program of medical aid to West Africa.

It could be that if Americans were aware of the special training received by medical personnel in Cuba, particularly in Third World settings, they might suggest that United States and Cuban collaboration would increase the effectiveness of ending the threat of a spreading Ebola epidemic in Africa. These are just two policies worthy of conversation in the United States. (To its credit The New York Times, on its opinion page on October 20, 2014, published an editorial entitled “Cuba’s Impressive Role on Ebola.”)

In sum, the Joan Rivers one-liner is critical now. We need to talk about the reality that the United States is not a democracy. And as a few commentators have pointed out, democracy is dangerous. It is dangerous because the people will be able to participate in the decisions that affect their lives; class, race, and gender will not exclude participation in politics; and the whole reason for democratic institutions is to “promote the common good.” As Pennock put it the ideal democracy is one characterized by:
“Government by the people, where liberty, equality and fraternity are secured to the greatest possible degree and in which human capacities are developed to the utmost, by means including free and full discussion of common problems and interests.” (J. Roland Pennock, Democratic Political Theory, Princeton Press, 1979, 7)

To be clear, the United States is not a democracy. Progressives who believe it is fool themselves at the peril of the country. BUT, rather than disengagement, they should struggle all the harder “inside and outside” conventional political processes to achieve it. And struggles for equality, justice, and a sustainable environment are also struggles for democracy.
[Harry Targ is a professor of political science at Purdue University and is a member of the National Executive Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. He lives in West Lafayette, Indiana, and blogs at Diary of a Heartland Radical. ]


Thursday, February 15, 2018

THE PURDUE/KAPLAN DEAL: A Repost

Monday, June 12, 2017


THE NEXT PHASE OF THE KAPLAN DEAL: DEFINE THAT UNIVERSITY

Harry Targ

As you've heard, Purdue President Mitch Daniels has announced plans to create a new, Purdue-affiliated
institution to address the needs of adult learners. To
do this, Purdue will acquire Kaplan University, which
has extensive experience in online learning.

I’d like to ask for your input as we think about how to
develop the name and identity of this new institution.
(An e-mail from the Senior Vice Provost for Teaching
and Learning sent to the faculty on June 9, 2017,
requesting completion of a survey by June 13, 2017).

Recent History

On Thursday, April 27, 2017,  President Mitch Daniels, Purdue University, announced to the university community a dramatic new program that he and the Board of Trustees had been fashioning in secret for months. Purdue University, a self-proclaimed world class university, would be acquiring Kaplan University, one of several controversial for-profit on-line universities that have emerged over the last twenty years.

The campus community was stunned by the announcement which it learned about through a hastily called special meeting Daniels assembled with selected faculty and an e-mail announcement to the faculty.  One week later, Daniels defended the secret deal before a special meeting of the University Senate. He criticized those who had written about complaints and lawsuits by former Kaplan students who paid enormous tuitions and upon graduation were not able to secure the jobs Kaplan advertising had claimed they would obtain. He also proclaimed that the Purdue/Kaplan connection would serve the millions of non-traditional students in the United States who now would be able to get on-line college degrees.

Among the concerns registered by Purdue faculty were whether professors would have input on educational policy matters concerning degrees granted by the new Purdue/Kaplan partnership. Faculty raised questions regarding the academic integrity of entire degrees offered on-line. Many more questions involved staffing, tenure and promotion, admissions, state expenditures, and the bypassing of the state’s technical and community colleges, and regional campuses. Virtually no answers were given to these questions and the administration has proceeded to seek official approval from a politically-appointed state higher education oversight board. Meanwhile President Daniels claimed that the Purdue/Kaplan venture will cost Purdue nothing, no tax dollars would be used, and the collaboration might bring in profits from the online venture.

The dramatic developments at Purdue University highlight a number of issues that bear upon the mission and purpose of Purdue, a land grant university. The state chapter of The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) expressed many of the concerns faculty and others raised about the new arrangement with Kaplan:
The Indiana Conference of the AAUP objects strenuously to the recently announced Purdue/Kaplan deal, on the following grounds:

1. No faculty input was sought before this decision was made.
2. No assessment of the impact on the academic quality of Purdue was made.
3. No transparency was demonstrated in this process.
4. Faculty governance at what will become the “New University” is practically non-existent.
5. Non-profit institutions serve the public good; for-profit private institutions serve corporate interests. The two should not mix.
The AAUP maintains that: "institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition."

Defining the New University: Soliciting Faculty Input After the Decision Was Made
In the midst of lingering questions about the connections between Purdue and Kaplan Universities and growing skepticism about the impending relationship, articles have appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education and elsewhere about Kaplan’s failure to meet the needs of and promises to students. And with an almost total lack of transparency by the Daniels Administration, the faculty is now being asked to identify the special characteristics Purdue can offer this new, as yet ill-defined entity.

A memo was sent to faculty asking their input, not on the arrangement as it has been announced but how to characterize this entity that has never been clearly defined. A three-day window of opportunity to respond was given, again with little or no clarity on what the new academic venture is likely to be. The survey was sent by e-mail to faculty on June 9 (when most faculty were not on campus because of the summer break) with a title, “Purdue Stakeholders Survey, Trade Secret Information, Advisory and Deliberative.”

The survey had eleven questions. The first three asked about the respondent’s location in the university system, her/his college, and length of employment at the university. The substantive input solicited of “stakeholders” began with the fourth question: provide a series of phrases the respondent feels address the value a Purdue/Kaplan education will have for adult learners. Question five asked the respondent to identify a key word from a list of eight that represents the most important task of the new university; such as developing leadership skills, lifetime learning, good citizenship, or access to knowledge.
The questionnaire then briefly asked for the respondent’s degree of support for the new venture including whether the announced arrangement is consistent with Purdue’s land-grant mission and how the connection with the land grant mission can be achieved. The questionnaire asked if the time was right for this venture and what opportunities does Purdue provide for achieving the mission as it was described. It ended with a question about which goals should be uppermost in Purdue’s Kaplan partnership.

The criticisms that have been raised throughout the university community and around the state and nation, have never been addressed. In fact, the specific questionnaire, allowing little room for evaluation of the plan (two questions) presents the Purdue/Kaplan arrangement as already completed. What remains utterly bizarre is that the “stakeholders” questionnaire makes it clear that the Purdue/Kaplan arrangement is a “done deal” but the stakeholders now are being asked what the new university should do, what should be criteria for success, and how it should be “branded” in upcoming public relations announcements.
The only laudable part of the mysterious public discussion of the Purdue venture with an on-line for-profit university with a questionable past is the declaration by the university president that Purdue wants to serve non-traditional students; workers, parents, low-income wage earners, and older persons who want feasible access to education. However, a public discussion of the multiplicity of ways such a goal could be achieved has never taken place. Indiana has branch campuses of its two flag-ship universities; a technical college system; community colleges; existing on-campus and off-campus educational programs, credit and non-credit, in agricultural extension and labor studies. And various colleges and departments at Purdue University offer varying online educational experiences. None of this has been discussed by faculty, students, alums, state legislators, or other citizens of the state of Indiana. (In fact, the Indiana state legislature inserted a provision in an unrelated bill that precludes citizens from inquiring about deliberations concerning Purdue and Kaplan Universities. In other words, while all other public institutions in the state are subject to public scrutiny, the Purdue/Kaplan agreement is not).

In addition, there has been no discussion of the efficacy of on-line education; the appropriate mix of computer-based and on-site education and what subjects would lend themselves to various pedagogies. And since the arrangement was announced there has been no public discussion of whether non-traditional students have access to computers and the internet.
Finally, there has been no discussion of whether the land grant mission of public universities can be fulfilled by for-profit universities. Traditionally public universities have been assigned the task of educating the citizenry for the public good. The survey of “stakeholders” is designed to illicit information about “branding,” or how to sell the Purdue/Kaplan deal to a potentially interested public. That is not about the public good.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

OPPONENTS OF GMOs ARE NOT IMMORAL

Harry Targ

In a guest column in the Washington Post, December 27, 2017, Mitch Daniels, former president of the Hudson Institute, senior vice-president of Eli-Lilly, governor of Indiana, and currently President of Purdue University castigated those who, he says, are against “modern agricultural technology” and “are worse than anti-scientific. They’re immoral.” He also condemns the “deep pockets campaign” that has “persuaded a high percentage of Americans and Europeans to avoid GMO products.” These sizable populations, he suggests, have been duped by special interests to buy non-GMO products or what he calls “organic” foods (the quotation marks are his).

In the column Daniels proceeds to condemn the anti-GMO movement as “self-interested” and embedded in rich societies which can afford to “indulge” in “this kind of foolishness.” The bottom line, he argues, is that there are billions of people to feed and only agricultural technology, “miracles in plant production and animal husbandry,” can provide for the needs of an exploding global population. In fact, he argues, agricultural technology, since the dawn of the Green Revolution, has already impacted on the world, reducing poverty and malnutrition.

If the guest column were framed as a debate among scientists and political activists with different points of view it might have made a contribution to the discussion that is going on in higher education, even at his own university. Instead the column was a blanket indictment of those with whom he disagrees without addressing the issues in dispute.

More important than the dismissive attack on those with whom the author disagrees is the absence of any discussion of the economic, political, and cultural ramifications of the new technologically-based agriculture for the majority of the world’s farmers and food consumers. 

For example, new agricultural technologies have been forced upon millions of people whose ancestors built a variety of food systems over thousands of years. Even in the twentieth century, food was still primarily produced for local and domestic consumption. Since the end of feudalism and slavery, systems of small farms have provided modest but acceptable levels of food for local populations. Newer technologies, such as farm implements, when affordable, increased productivity, and reduced labor. Over time agricultural societies became integrated into colonial and neo-colonial systems of production and distribution, systems that were based on the exploitation of the agricultural population by national elites or foreign powers. In the modern era of neoliberal globalization virtually the entire world is interconnected in one massive global food system with disproportionate profits from agriculture accruing to a small number of multinational corporations.

In addition, as the world became more connected, global economic institutions (such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization) largely created by the United States and its allies after World War II imposed trade and investment policies on the world. These maximized the wealth and power of the wealthiest countries at the expense of the poor countries. The Green Revolution, for example, initiated a global system of food production for export. Local farmers had to produce more for global markets and less for domestic consumption.

The globalization of agricultural production and distribution has increased dramatically since the 1970s. With the massive increase in the amount of debt that poor countries incurred in the 1970s due to a spike in oil prices, international financial institutions imposed new rules involving trade and investment in debtor countries. These led to the consolidation of farmlands, the shift from small agricultural production for local consumption to production of singular crops for sale worldwide, imports of subsidized food commodities from the rich countries, and increased marketing of GMO seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, in addition to machines. As a result, the world food production system was radically transformed.

By the late twentieth century, agriculturally exporting countries continued to produce commodities, not for home consumption, but for sale on the world market. US consumers buy avocados grown in Honduras, strawberries grown in Mexico, asparagus from Peru, and processed foods from basic fruits and vegetables grown in Asia and Africa. To facilitate mass production of export crops, small landowners become deeply indebted to purchase the new seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides to compete in the world food market. Farmers are forced off the land and agricultural holdings become “factories in the fields.” The former tillers of the soil who cannot compete become the mobile workers who traverse the globe desperately looking for work.

Therefore, while the details and complications of this narrative need to be investigated further by social scientists and experts on geographical regions, the point here is that the problems of the global food system and the provision of nourishing food for more people goes beyond single applications of new technologies. In fact, many social scientists and other policy analysts have argued that the problem of hunger is not a production problem but a food distribution problem. Wealth and income inequality within and between countries has been growing qualitatively for decades. GMOs and other technological fixes cost too much money for the poor farmer and their adoption forecloses cheaper ways to grow food (such as using naturally reproduced seeds), Modest improvements in the reduction of absolute poverty on a global basis has been limited to a few countries such as China, Vietnam, and Cuba while malnourishment still figures prominently in many parts of the world, even in areas where the Green Revolution has had its greatest impact.

In sum, the debate among scientists and concerned citizens continues about GMOs and other technologies. These discussions must include history, economics, culture, politics, and society if we are ever going to reduce hunger, food deserts, malnutrition, and grotesque economic and political inequalities in the world. Given these broader issues, which must be part of the analysis, arguments that superficially dismiss critics of various agricultural technologies do a disservice to the development of solutions to the problem of hunger.

  

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The FBI Ordinarily Is Not Our Friend: a Reposted Book Review

Socialism and Democracy


Red Scare: FBI & The Origins of Anti-Communism in the United States



Regin Schmidt Red Scare: FBI & The Origins of Anti-Communism in the United States (University of Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press, 2000).
The young lack a sense of history-of the Cold War, of anti-communism, of the vibrancy of progressive movements in the United States. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, older activists discoursing on their history at first engaged in long needed self-criticism. The self-criticism then shifted, however, to blanket rejection of our progressive pasts-our victories as well as our defeats, our brave and honorable moments, and particularly a recollection of the hegemonic power of the U.S. state as a primary cause of our defeats. Plainly, the horrific record of state repression in America is being forgotten by the older radicals and is unfamiliar to the younger ones.
Regin Schmidt’s book can help enormously in revisiting and reconstructing the role of state repression in manipulating, subverting, jailing, deporting, and killing leftists in the twentieth century. Schmidt has provided us with a data-rich account of how the Federal Bureau of Investigation took on its special role in crushing the left in America. His book is about the origins of the FBI in the old Bureau of Investigation in 1908 and its transformation into a state weapon in the struggle against perceived Bolshevism, anarchism, and communism in the aftermath of World War I. It is also about the continuity of state repression from the era of the Palmer Raids to Cold War America.
Schmidt argues that recently declassified information points to new explanations for the FBI’s rise to prominence. Some researchers view the agency’s rise as a response to mass hysteria, placing the root cause of anti-communism in the public at large. Schmidt, however, shows how popular attitudes about the Bolshevik/communist/anarchist threat emerge only after Attorney General Palmer and the FBI launched their campaigns of harassment, arrest, and deportation. In short, anti-communism as a public ideology was the creation of state institutions.
Another body of scholarly and journalistic literature places primary, indeed sole, responsibility for FBI misdeeds on the shoulders of its long-time director, J. Edgar Hoover. While Schmidt sees Hoover as the major protagonist in the FBI drama, he grounds Hoover’s conduct in the context of state policy and bureaucratic interest.
Further, most studies of the FBI emphasize its role in shaping anti-communism after World War II. Schmidt, however, takes the reader back to the first Red Scare and the Palmer Raids for the origins of anti-communism. And, he claims, the campaign was constant from then through the Cold War period. The FBI and anti-communism are less visible from the mid-1920s until the depths of the Great Depression only because of the diminution of radical activities.
Schmidt clearly states his central thesis early in the book and demonstrates its accuracy through historical examination.
Just as the mushrooming federal agencies, bureaus, and commissions were employed to regulate the economy and ameliorate the most severe social consequences of industrialization, urbanization, and immigration, [so also] the state during the first decades of the century increasingly used its resources to control, contain, and, in times of crisis, to repress social unrest and political opposition. Thus, the institutionalization of the FBI’s political activities from 1919 was at bottom a part of the federalization of social control in the form of political surveillance.
This book provides an engaging, rich, detailed history of how the FBI served the social control functions of the state: harassing the left, supporting federal, state, and local politicians in their anti-communist campaigns, and responding with sympathy to corporate requests for assistance. It covers the campaign against the IWW, the 1919 strike wave, the Palmer Raids, the Seattle General Strike, and the deportation of radicals.
Red Scare is an important book. It should be read by older progressives to refresh their memories of real state repression in the United States. The book should be passed along to young activists, most of whom were not old enough to remember FBI harassment of Central American solidarity activists in the 1980s. And this book should be included as supplementary reading in university classes on U.S. history, American politics, and social movements.
Finally, the book makes crystal clear an important reality of struggles for social change. Social movements do not fall apart solely because of ideological rigidity or factionalism or egotism. The errors that come from our ranks have to be understood in the context of a continuous pattern of state repression. The sorry record of the FBI in the United States must not be forgotten. Red Scare will help us remember.
Reviewed by Harry Targ
Department of Political Science
Purdue University

Thursday, February 1, 2018

THE "WE MARCH ONWARD RALLY:" Some Remarks


County Courthouse, Lafayette, Indiana, January 27, 2018
Harry Targ

Threats to Peace Today

We are here to reflect on movements for social and economic justice one year into the administration of Donald Trump.
What caught my attention a few days ago was a press conference that was organized by science editors of the esteemed journal, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. This journal began publishing shortly after the end of World War II. Among its most visible tasks has been tracking the probability of nuclear war.

Using its metaphoric Doomsday Clock scientific experts estimate each year how close the world is moving toward nuclear war. The scientists last week moved the dials two minutes closer to midnight (to a dangerous two and one-half minutes to midnight). In other words, over the last year the United States and the world, the scientists say, have moved ever closer to nuclear war.

Reflecting on the policies of the last year that have led to this symbolic prediction of increasing possibility of nuclear war, we can reflect on several developments:

The recently issued National Security Strategy document issued by the Trump Administration indicates US policy would shift from the war on terrorism to homeland security. This shift would be complemented by the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons and a strategy based on the primacy of threats from Russia and China.
The Trump Administration in conjunction with Congress (with support from both parties) has approved a military budget for the coming year in excess of $700 billion, 68 percent of federal discretionary spending.

The Trump Administration is continuing the trajectory of maintaining US troops and private contract armies in 1,000 military installations in anywhere from 70 to 170 countries. The US continues to expand its military presence on the African continent.
The Trump Administration over the last several months has been engaged in a rhetorical war with North Korea, while US and South Korean military forces engage in simulated military exercises. The US has constructed a new provocative anti-missile installation in South Korea as well.

The Trump Administration has threatened to withdraw from the nonproliferation treaty with Iran, has announced its intention of expanding troop strength in Afghanistan, and has placed thousands of US troops in Syria.
The United States has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement, begun to reverse improved relations with Cuba, and continues to escalate its efforts to destabilize governments such as in Venezuela and Bolivia.

And, President Trump announced that the US embassy was moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a position not only condemned by the Palestinian people but by virtually every country in the world.
All of these historical developments in United States foreign policy are occurring in the context of an international system that is shifting away from United States hegemony to a multipolar world. Countries such as China are experiencing economic development that challenges the economic domination that the United States has held over the global political economy for 100 years. To overcome this declining relative economic power, the United States is pursuing greater advances in military power. This combination of economic decline and military advance makes the world a more dangerous place.

The Historic Role of Women in Peace and Justice Movements
As women and men organized politically during 2017, and come together in January, 2018 to celebrate this mobilization, it is critical to reflect on the centrality of women in the struggle for a peaceful world. Campaigns for social and economic justice and women’s movements, and particularly women’s peace movements, are inextricably connected.

In 1915, 1,200 women from diverse backgrounds met in the Hague to create what became the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). They opposed World War I and would continue to oppose war in the over 100 years of their existence. They also demanded that women play a role in decision-making about all matters of foreign policy, including decisions concerning war and peace.

WILPF, the oldest peace group in the United States was led for many years by Jane Addams, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.
In 1961 another women’s peace group, Women Strike for Peace, organized a day-long national strike of 50,000 women in 60 cities demanding nuclear disarmament. They opposed nuclear testing, increased radiation in the atmosphere and marched to the slogan, “End the Arms Race: Not the Human Race.” Women Strike for Peace became early opponents of the escalating Vietnam war. Among its prominent spokespersons was soon-to-be Congresswoman Bella Abzug.

Code Pink is a grassroots women-led organization opposing war and militarism. It was organized in 2002 and includes militant activists such as Medea Benjamin and Colonel Ann Wright. Code Pink advocates peace, a human rights agenda, and demands conversion from military spending to spending for health care, green jobs, and the general welfare. They have been active in campaigns for justice for the Palestinian people and in opposition to United States support for violence perpetuated by Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.
The writing and activism of Jane Addams has been an important inspiration that runs throughout the educational, advocacy, and militant peace activity of women for the last 100 years. Addams’ classic essay, “Newer Ideals of Peace” was originally published in 1907 and reissued with an introduction by Berenice Carroll and Clint Fink in 2007 by the University of Illinois Press.

In this essay, Carroll and Fink indicate that Addams postulated that the tasks of peace activists must go beyond just stopping war. According to Addams,  achieving what peace researchers later called “negative peace,” ending wars, must be coupled with “positive peace.” Positive peace includes transformations of the societies that engaged in warfare. These transformations must include the end of hierarchies of all kinds including patriarchy, paternalism, the criminal justice system, and systems of domination and subordination at the workplace. Addams wrote that there needed to be a theoretical and practical shift from individualism and property rights to community. The spirit of nationalism must be replaced by internationalism. In sum, advocating for social and economic justice was needed along with demanding an end to shooting wars.
We move ahead in these troubled times inspired by the great fighters for racial justice including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Angela Davis.

We are also inspired by those who struggled for workers’ rights: Joe Hill, Mother Jones, Paul Robeson, A. Philip Randolph, John L. Lewis, and Sidney Hillman.
And, as the Doomsday Clock ticks toward midnight, we desperately need to reacquaint ourselves with our foremothers whose ideas and activism have been central to movements for peace and justice throughout the world.