Wednesday, August 29, 2018

THE CHANGING POLITICAL ECONOMY IN THE UNITED STATES AND FLORIDA: a repost after the primary victory of Andrew Gillum

Harry Targ
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)

A Presentation at Fort Lauderdale, Occupy Labor Outreach, March 15, 2014

The hatred of the poor, is it guilt gone rancid? That the rich have so much and still conspire to steal a baby's medicine, a woman's life, a man's heart and kidney. When those Congressmen talk of people who are counting their last change for gas or eggs choosing between cold and hunger they snarl. How dare we exist? (From Marge Piercy, Who has little, let them have less, Monthly Review - January 2014)
Economic Change in the United States

Fred Magdoff recently published an article in Monthly Review (January, 2014) aptly titled “The Plight of the U.S. Working Class.” In it he describes the historic process of capital accumulation of the wealth produced by workers. He points out that since the industrial revolution numerous ways have been developed to expropriate more and more of the value of what workers’ produce. These methods included cutting wages, increasing hours of work, paying workers just enough to have energy to return to the workplace to produce more, speed-up on the line, and using technology to get more labor out of fewer and fewer workers. Over time exploitation has included the use of police power to crush demands from workers for increased public services, including education, health care, housing, and transportation, that would “cost” the wealthy taxes, and the right to form trade unions. During the worst of times workers’ ability to resist increased exploitation was compounded by the existence of a desperate pool of unemployed and underemployed workers who would be forced to accept lower wages and unhealthy working conditions just to get employment.
As this process unfolded historically rates of profit grew, capital accumulated, corporations and banks expanded, economies became more concentrated in fewer hands, and corporate/banking political influence grew. Periodically workers and their allies organized, traditional sources of division around race and gender were broken down (particularly in the 1930s), and the working class broadly defined gained some political power. For a time reforms (such as the New Deal in the 1930s and the Great Society in the 1960s) were carried out to lessen the pain and suffering of workers. As movements grew, they inspired others to make demands on the economic and political system that began to change the fabric of society. The most radicalized workers, often through socialist organizations, talked about worker controlled economic and political systems which were likely to improve the human condition for the vast majority of the population.

Magdoff argues that workers in the United States are currently under the most extreme pressure since the Great Depression. Since the imposition of the neoliberal agenda during the 1980s--deregulation, promotion of markets, cutting government programs for the many, establishing global trade agreements, and increasing financial speculation--“capital has squeezed labor ever harder.”
Magdoff presents data which describes major features of the U.S. economy:

-a decline by more than half the average rate of growth per year of GNP (from 4 percent in the 1950s and 1960s to 1.8 percent today) 
-a decline in job growth from about 2 percent per year in the 1970s and 1980s to 0.3 percent per year over the last decade  

-a dramatic increase in joblessness among those 25-54 from 5 percent in 1968 to 18 percent in 2013  
- a jobless rate for women 25-54 from 31 percent in 1990 to 27 percent in 2000 to 28 percent in 2012

-for 18-24 year olds joblessness has risen among men from 28 percent in 1990 to 44 percent in 2012 and from 38 percent to 46 percent among women
-in all worker categories there has been an increase in part-time over full-time work and growing numbers of discouraged workers who have given up looking for work  

-to reach a full-employment economy an additional 29.2 million jobs would be needed
-approximately 18.9 percent of Hispanics are unemployed and 22.4 percent of African Americans

These long-term trends are correlated with deteriorating health, stagnating wages, and rising poverty (46 million people, 15 percent of the population, lived below the poverty line in 2013)
And for the ruling class Magdoff says:

During the economic recovery from the Great Recession the top 1 percent of income earners in the United States has captured 95 percent of the total growth of income in the economy. In 2002-2012 the bottom 90 percent of the population saw their average family income (excluding capital gains) drop by 11 percent, while those in the top 0.01 percent, that is, one in every ten thousand people, enjoyed a 76 percent increase in average family income (excluding capital gains).
Today’s War on the Working Class

Robert Reich has been a visible observer of the “war on poor and working families”. Recently, he extrapolated from his new film, Inequality for All, the claim that the “war has been prosecuted across seven political fronts.
First, politicians in both state and national governments have opposed extending unemployment benefits for those who have experienced joblessness for long periods of time.

Second, these same politicians oppose raising the minimum wage.
Third, in several states governors have rejected federal resources to support Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Fourth, Republicans, with Democratic co-conspirators among Democrats, have passed legislation (signed by the President) to cut food stamp payments.
Fifth, at the federal level the Congress has been unable to make decisions to invest in education and expanded job training programs.

Sixth, in addition, Congress has rejected proposals to invest in rebuilding the American infrastructure (roads, bridges, transportation facilities, and green energy manufacturing).

Finally, in Red states and Congress there has been a sustained campaign to destroy the labor movement. After a thirty year attack on unions in the private sector, Congress, Red States (and in some cities like Chicago) campaigns are underway to destroy public sector unions.
Along with fight backs against these attacks the expanding Moral Monday movement has added to the critique the attack on democracy itself; that is reducing and eliminating the rights of groups of people to vote.

In addition, others have added to the calculus of reactionary political forces at work today a “war on women.” This war includes redefining rape; cutting access to food assistance for low income women, including pregnant women and children; cutting funds for pre-school programs such as Head Start; reducing aid for senior citizens; working to eliminate Planned Parenthood and other health centers for low income women; and finally, eliminating the right of women to control their own bodies.  
The Florida Political Economy

Historically, the Florida economy was built on land theft; the Spanish, the British, and later North American occupiers of the land of Native Peoples. Also escaped slaves traveled to Florida before the Civil War, before Florida joined the confederacy and after embraced Jim Crow segregation.
After the Civil War, the Florida economy was stimulated by growing citrus, cattle raising, transportation, and early tourism. Over the 150 years since the Civil War, through cycles of growth and decay the Florida economy and population has expanded. Tourism, real estate, finance, and agriculture have become the mainstays of the economy. Governor Scott now tauts the fact that 94 million tourists visited Florida in 2013.

Florida is a right-to-work state. Data shows that right-to work states have less union density and consequently lower wages, less benefits, worse working conditions and lower wage levels for service workers, and lower wages for women, Latinos, and African Americans. As Bruce Nissen wrote in 2009 (“Benefits of Unionization in Florida: Facts and Figures,” Research Institute for Social and Economic Policy):
Even though unions are commonly associated with manufacturing, with the decline of that industry and the rise of service sector work unions have become an important way for service sector workers to maintain a standard level of wages and benefits. Unlike many manufacturing jobs, service jobs are harder to offshore and so will continue to be an important source of employment in places like Florida which depends on low-wage service jobs for a significant portion of its economy.

The Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University (FIU) recently published an updated report “State of Working Florida, 2013. The report compiles a broad array of data examining changes in the economic circumstances of Floridians since the dawn of the new century as to employment, income, and inequality, living costs, and poverty. In total, the authors indicate that the living standards of most Floridians have declined over the last twelve years. They report declines in employment rates (4.99 percent), median hourly wages (4.34 percent), and hours worked (3.11 percent). They point out that over this period of time poverty rates, inequality, and consumer prices (including housing, food, and transportation) have increased significantly. While Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) have increased, the decline in wages and increased living costs more than overshadow the gains in state benefits. Critically they underscore the impacts of the primacy of service sector employment (and implicitly low rates of unionization) on declining living standards for workers.
Florida’s main employers, private sector service-providing industries such as retail trade, accommodation and food services, and administrative and waste management services are contributing to the decline in the standard of living due to an overall decrease in the wages and work hours offered.

RISEP declares that this is so “despite increases in labor productivity.” They conclude that declining real wages lead to reduced consumer spending and overall declining economic growth in the state. Low wages, high un and under-employment and growing inequality all translate into economic stagnation for the many and the accumulation of enormous wealth for the few. In other words, the Florida economy needs more jobs at higher wages. This would include increased investment in “more sustainable industries like wholesale trade and health care and social assistance.” They could have added federal and state allocation of resources for a green jobs agenda and investments in rebuilding the infrastructure and threatened environment of the state. RISEP advocates in the short run a significant increase in the minimum wage (beyond Florida’s inadequate boost to 7.93 cents per hour), laws requiring coverage of workers’ sick leave, and new stringent laws to prevent wage theft.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Theory of the “Deep State”

ALEC was founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich and noted conservatives such as Senator Jesse Helms to raise money and coordinate the creation of a counter-revolution in the American political system. Its vision was one of deregulation, privatization, weakening workers rights, and the facilitation of the unbridled accumulation of private wealth. The  achievement of these goals required the abolition of public commitment to positive government; the idea that for societies to function public energies, resources, and commitments are needed to create and maintain  institutions to serve the people. This is so whether the topic of concern is national security, public safety, education and infrastructure, and/or providing for the needy.
ALEC established a network of prominent politicians at the national and state levels, created well-funded lobby groups,  funded “research” to justify reactionary public policies, supported conservative political candidates running for office virtually everywhere and at all levels of government. ALEC creates “model” legislation that is introduced in legislative bodies everywhere on subjects like right-to-work, charter schools, and privatization of pensions. While politicians pay dues to join ALEC, over 98 percent of ALEC’s bloated budget comes from corporation contributions from such economic and political influential as Exxon/Mobil, the Koch brothers, the Coors family, and the Scaife family. ALEC claims to have 2,000 legislative members and over 300 corporate members. Corporations who have benefited legislatively from their affiliations with ALEC include but are not limited to Altria/Philip Morris USA, Humana, United Healthcare, Corrections Corporation of America, and Connections Academy

One of ALEC’s prominent projects is the creation of the “State Policy Network,” a collection of think tanks in every state (funded up to $83 million) to generate research “findings” to justify the rightwing model legislation generated by ALEC. SPN studies have been disseminated on education healthcare, worker’s rights, energy and the environment, taxes, government spending, and wages and income equality (Center For Media and Democracy, “Exposed: The State Policy Network,” November, 2013, p.6)
Of particular concern to workers are the ALEC model bills that have been introduced in states attacking workers. These include:

-right-to-work legislation
-rules increasing the right for governments to hire non-union contractors

-changing pension rights for government employees

-repealing minimum wage laws

-eliminating prevailing wage laws for construction workers
-encouraging so-called “free trade” to outsource work

-privatizing public services
-gutting worker’s compensation

The role of ALEC, the Koch Brothers, and the largest multinational corporations and banks in America suggest that politics increasingly occurs at two levels. First, at the level of transparency, we observe politics as “games,” largely about electoral contests, gossip and frivolous rhetoric. News junkies like myself avidly consume this first level, glued to the television screen or the social network.
However, Mike Lofgren, a former Republican Congressional aid has introduced the idea of another level of politics, what he calls the “deep state.” Lofgren defines the “deep state” as  “… a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern in the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.”  (Mike Lofgren, “Anatomy of the ‘Deep State’: Hiding in Plain Sight,” Online University of the Left, February 23, 2014).   Others have examined invisible power structures that rule America (from C. W. Mills’ classic The Power Elite, Oxford University Press, 2000 to Robert Perrucci, Earl Wysong, and David Wright, The New Class Society: Goodbye American Dream? Rowman and Littlefield, 2013).  

The distinction between politics as games vs. the deep state suggest that the power to make critical decisions reside not in the superstructure of the political process; the place were competitive games are played for all to see, but in powerful institutions embedded in society that can make decisions without requiring popular approval. In domestic politics, the “deep state” apparatus such as ALEC and its network of organizational ties has initiated a resource-rich campaign--from the school board and city council to the state and nation--to destroy the links between government and the people. Recall Marge Piercy’s reference to “war on the poor.” And the public face of the deep state include the selective and manipulative character of experts, pundits, and major sources of news in the media. This includes what news consumers are told and what they are not told.
A report from Progress Florida and the Center for Media and Democracy, November 13, 2013, identified two “front’ groups who have advocated ALEC policies, the James Madison Institute (JMI) and the Foundation for Government Accountability ((FGA). Mark Ferrulo, Progress Florida executive director, said that “…ALEC relies on conservative ‘think tanks’ like JMI and FGA to insulate themselves against increased public scrutiny and widespread exposure of the controversial corporate-driven policies they promote…Be it the economy, environment, education, workers’ rights or access to health care, State Policy Network member groups promote policies that are not only designed to fatten the bottom line of their corporate funders, but are consistently harmful to Florida.”

Florida Politics Today
Florida politics is a lot more complicated than my home state of Indiana. Emigres from the North and diverse populations of the Southeastern part of the state and urban pockets such as in Tampa and Orlando provide a base for Democratic Party and sometimes liberal politics. Rural areas, the Florida panhandle up north are more conservative. One source referred to a slogan about Florida politics: “If you want to go South go North and if you want to go North go South.” While registered voters by a small margin identify as Democrats (40 to 35 percent with 25 percent as other), 60 percent of the state legislature is Republican and the Governor, Rick Scott, is one of the Tea Party favorites. (Sixty of 160 state legislators are members of ALEC).

For outsiders Florida is famous for stealing the 2000 election for George Bush, “stand your ground legislation,” and the targeting of young African American men for assassination. However, outsiders also are familiar with Democratic Party spokesperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and more significantly progressive Congressman Alan Grayson. Looking to the future one progressive website indicated that “the state’s demographics are swinging to a more progressive future. Minority populations are growing, and more young people are choosing to stay and raise their families in Florida.”
One website called “Irregular States” listed some 20 progressive groups around the state engaged in campaigns about peace and justice, the environment, government accountability, transportation, abolition of the death penalty and civil liberties. Over the last two years mass Occupy mobilizations have occurred in various cities and some still survive. In addition outraged Floridians, particularly young activists, the Dream Defenders, have protested the so-called Stand Your Ground legislation and the killings of young Black men such as Trayvon Martin. In Southern Florida today are small but active political organizations and union locals concentrating on peace and justice issues, homelessness, the prison-industrial complex, and improving wages and working conditions. However, as in most states there does not exist a sizeable “left” to challenge reactionary forces in the electoral arena and/or in the streets.

The most exciting social movement development occurring over the last two years is here in the South. In North Carolina the determined, passionate, and constant protest against a reactionary Koch Brothers-like legislative agenda has brought thousands of activists to the state capital in Raleigh for almost a year. Throughout the spring legislative session activists have engaged in civil disobedience, leading by last June to over 1,000 arrests.
The leadership of Moral Mondays includes Rev. William Barber who has argued that we are in the midst of the “third reconstruction.” The first reconstruction, after the Civil War consisted of Black and white workers who struggled to create a democratic South (which would have impacted on the North as well). It was crushed by white racism and the establishment of Jim Crow segregation. The second reconstruction occurred between Brown vs. Board of Education and candidate Nixon’s “Southern strategy.” During this period segregation was overturned, Medicare and Medicaid was established, and Social Security was expanded. Blacks and whites benefited.

Now we are in the midst of a third reconstruction. Twenty-first century struggles are based on “fusion” politics; that is bringing all activists—Black, Brown, white, gay/straight, environmentalists—together. Fusion politics assumes that only a mass movement built on everyone’s issues can challenge the Koch brothers numerically. Also, each issue is interconnected causally with every other issue.
Moral Mondays has been gaining more and more visibility; from North Carolina to South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, soon Arizona, and up to the Midwest. The movement is based on organizational pragmatism and leadership, a multi-dimensional fight back strategy, and fusion of class, race, and gender.   

Building a Better Political Future: Fight Backs, Fusion Politics, Intersectionality, and Moving Beyond  Finance Capitalism
The growing economic devastation and political marginalization of the working class broadly defined is the centerpiece of the crisis of our age. Magdoff is correctly suggesting that the profit system, competition and capital accumulation, the appropriation of the value of all goods and services by corporations and banks, political systems that inevitably reflect the needs and interests of the economically powerful, dramatically constrict the capacity to create a humane society, one where the maximization of human possibility is achieved. The analyses of the U.S. economy and polity and the particular case of Florida raise fundamental questions of how to resist, fightback, and create the possibility of better world.

Of course, there are no simple roadmaps. Transformation from the grim realities of today to a more desired future cannot occur over night. AND tentative answers to the fundamental question of how to achieve significant social change requires a sober assessment of where we are today. What are the basic parameters of economic life in the nation and the community? Who governs our political institutions? What are the realistic forces of resistance? What are the relative merits--given power, skill, numbers of people, levels of organization and traditional values—of electoral work, mass mobilizations, and constructing alternative institutions in the intersections of existing society.
Six general points can be raised now:

First, given the varied attacks, as articulated by Robert Reich, on wages and income, on jobs, on healthcare, on education, on transportation, reproductive rights, and basic environmental survivability, fightback movements are justified on all fronts. The assault on the vast majority of humankind occurs in multiple areas, in multiple ways, and across policy areas.

Second, as opposed to the capacity to mobilize masses of people around single issues-the right to form unions, anti-racism, peace—in the twentieth century, twenty-first century movements require what Reverend William Barber calls “fusion” politics. Grassroots and national campaigns around single issues need to be cognizant of and connect with the multiplicity of issues that shape human concern. Dr. King engendered enormous criticism when he connected the struggles for civil rights with the efforts to abolish poverty and end war. Twenty first century movements should be built on the proposition that these struggles are inextricably connected.
Third, it has become clear today that what the great progressive movements of the past knew intuitively but not theoretically is that the intersection of class, race, gender, and environmental consciousness constructs our problems and how we are going to resolve them. Workers, people of color, and women, with different gender preferences and concerns about the physical survival of the planet are all in the same fight and must recognize it.

Fourth, in countries that have long traditions and institutions that regularize political competition, particularly elections, it is necessary to recognize that for lots of people those institutions matter. In the United States when most people talk about “politics” they are talking about elections. And as we see in critical moments in our history, elections matter. But, at the same time, the electoral arena is very much affected by unconventional politics: mass mobilizations, protest rallies, civil disobedience, shop floor and beer hall conversations. The history of social change in America confirms that these kinds of politics matter and matter profoundly. These assumptions lead to the proposition that the politics of reform and revolution require “inside” and “outside” strategies, often at the same time. And recent history suggests that the power of money which increasingly has shaped inside strategy usually can only be challenged by the mobilization of people, the outside strategy.
Fifth, while social movements have always been international, given twenty-first century technology they are increasingly so. Paul Robeson, W. E. B. Dubois, George Padmore informed worldwide audiences about the great movements to destroy the colonial systems in Africa and Asia. These struggles also informed and inspired struggles for liberation in the United States as well. In our own day, Arab Spring, mobilizations of workers in the Heartland of the United States, occupy movements, student protests in Quebec and Santiago, and open rebellion in Greece and Spain were increasingly seen as part of the same struggle for human liberation. Now, a modest protest in one geographic space somewhere in the world becomes a global event within a matter of hours. And the concerns are often the same even if the historical contexts vary. The old IWW adage, “an injury to one is an injury to all,” for reasons of the new technology, has been transformed from a slogan to a reality.

Finally, often what animates a movement is the embrace of an issue: access to healthcare, raising the minimum wage, ending fracking, eliminating racist laws. And, as we return to our own communities, we see that what gets people motivated to act is often that single issue that most immediately affects them. From there, the job of progressives is to promote fusion politics; highlight its relevance to class, race, and gender; develop inside/outside strategies to fight back; and to connect grassroots struggles to national and international struggles.
The specifics of this are terribly difficult but the basic outlines are clear. Now we need to act.

(And elections in 2018 in Florida and elsewhere afford progressives an opportunity to reverse the recent reactionary turn in America politics and society.) 


Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Harry Targ
Since 2016 we have been deluged with a variety of empirical studies that should give us some sense of the political and economic realities of life in the United States. The data makes clear what progressive strategies should be as well, at least over the next two years.

First, time after time, reputable economists, think tanks, and international financial institutions have demonstrated that globally and nationally, income and wealth have become more and more unequal. Capital accumulation over the last thirty years has dramatically shifted to the top 200 multinational corporations and banks.

Second, the shift of wealth and income has been coupled with stagnant wages and income in the United States. While the numbers of people around the world living in abject poverty have declined, still more than two billion people live below modest estimates of a livable wage. In the United States, United Way sponsored studies show that one-third to 45 percent of households in American states live below a livable wage. At every data point the wealth, wages, and income of people of color and women are substantially less than that of white workers.
Third, the combination of growing inequality in wealth and income in the United States is correlated with government programs--such as military spending, tax cuts, and support for private prisons, and charter schools for example--that benefit the rich minority at the expense of the poor and marginalized. Studies suggest that in most societies, including in the United States, political elites are sponsored and supported by or constitute representatives of the wealthy minority. Political scientists have demonstrated that politicians act in the interests of their economic class and their financial supporters, not their constituencies.

Fourth, as wealth and power is concentrated, investments in the public sector in the United States, have declined as a percentage of total government expenditures. The visible indicators of this include crumbling infrastructure such as roads and bridges, pollution of air and water, inadequate and non-affordable housing for the many, and declining public institutions such as schools, health care facilities, libraries, parks, and centers providing increasingly needed social services. The old and the young, minorities, women, the disabled and others with a lesser political voice suffer most.
Fifth, the dominant economic class, political elites, and prominent intellectuals at universities and think tanks have developed a theory of market fundamentalism to justify the decline in public institutions. The key policy outcome of their approach is referred to as “privatization.” It is characterized by a shift from programs based on a “mixed economy,” a combination of programs supporting both a public and private sector, to so-called “free markets” popularized during the Reagan Revolution. It was Reagan who said: “Government is not the solution. Government is the problem.”

Every administration since the Reagan years (recognizing of course that elements of this agenda have always been part of United States government policy) has moved the nation’s economic policy toward the full realization of the privatization of every government activity except military expenditures. At the federal and state levels institutions and programs have been privatized, government regulations have been eliminated, politicians through tax cuts have reduced the obligations of the rich and powerful to society. The very idea of a public sphere has been challenged and narrowed.
This policy agenda within the United States has paralleled policies worldwide referred to as “neoliberalism.” The ubiquity of neoliberal policies has suggested to some that neoliberalism now constitutes the latest stage of capitalism.  And neoliberalism which has fully engulfed the industrial, capitalist countries was initiated in the 1970s by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the General Agreements on Trade and Tariffs or GATT (later World Trade Organization). Virtually every country in the Global South, the former Socialist Bloc countries, the industrial capitalist countries, and Social Democracies have been affected by this neoliberal policy environment.

Sixth, poll after poll has indicated that the majority Americans reject part or all of the neoliberal agenda. They want the rich to pay some share of the costs of government. They support the right of workers to form unions. They support living wages. They want single payer health care, free college tuition, the continuation of public schools, access to water free of cancer causing agents, fresh air, accessible housing, and reduced cost transportation systems. And they are angry about most of the political leaders who, on the whole, oppose  these  policies.  And while the history of white supremacy and patriarchy have been used to distort the vision of many, most people would prioritize the policies above to supporting candidates who advocate the denial of rights to everybody.
Finally, in the context of the historic shift from welfare state capitalism to neoliberal capitalism, masses of eligible voters in the United States continue to vote “no” by refusing to participate in elections. Voter participation in 2016 was below 2012 and 2008, particularly in states critical to the Democratic Party candidate for president. Similarly, low voter turnout (of course, coupled with new voter suppression laws and the insertion of huge increases in money from the super-rich) in state and local elections since 2010 have led to draconian shifts in the policies of most of the 50 states.

What does this mean for progressives?
Progressives need to organize around and campaign for economic justice.

Progressives need to make it clear that as the old IWW slogan suggests, “An Injury to One is an Injury to All.” There can be no justice if racist, white supremacist, homophobic, and patriarchal policies continue, dividing the one big working class.

Progressives need to campaign around economic justice and not get sidetracked by relevant but secondary issues: computer hacking, sexual dalliances, and psychoanalyzing political leaders. 

In addition, progressives must doggedly work for economic justice in ways to challenge old, worn-out, and historically inaccurate “theories” about “human nature,” “free markets,” the evils of public institutions, rugged individualism, and American exceptionalism.

Another world is possible but it has to be fought for.

Friday, August 10, 2018


Harry Targ

David Harvey has written about a “co-revolutionary theory” of change. In this theory Harvey argues that anti-capitalist movements today must address “mental conceptions;” uses and abuses of nature; how to build real communities; workers relations to bosses; exploitation, oppression, and racism; and the relations between capital and the state. While a tall order, the co-revolutionary theory suggests the breadth of struggles that need to be embraced to bring about real revolution.

Harvey’s work mirrors many analysts who address the deepening crises of capitalism and the spread of human misery everywhere. It is increasingly clear to vast majorities of people, despite media mystification, that the primary engine of destruction is global finance capitalism and political institutions that have increasingly become its instrumentality. Harvey’s work parallels the insights of Naomi Klein, Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Reich, Noam Chomsky, and a broad array of economists, historians, trade unionists, peace and justice activists and thousands of bloggers and Facebook commentators.

Of course, these theorists could not have known the ways in which the connections between the co-revolutionary theory and practice would unfold. Most agreed that we are living through a global economic crisis in which wealth and power is increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands (creating a global ruling class). Human misery, from joblessness, to hunger, to disease, to environmental devastation, to state violence, is spreading. And as events since Ferguson have pointed out, the links between class exploitation, structural racism, and patriarchy are inseparable.

But history has shown that such misery can survive for long periods of time with little active resistance. Even though activists in labor, in communities of color, in anti-colonial/anti-neo-colonial settings are always organizing, their campaigns usually create little traction. Not so since 2011. Tunisians rose up against their oppressive government. Larger mobilizations occurred in Egypt. Protests spread to Yemen, Algeria, Oman, Bahrain, and Libya.

Assuming that working people, youth, women, and various professional groups would remain quiescent in the United States, right-wing politicians saw the opportunity to radically transform American society by destroying public institutions and thereby shifting qualitatively more wealth from the majority to the minority. In North Carolina, Wisconsin, and later in Ohio, Indiana, and around the country a broad array of people began to publicly say “no, enough is enough.” Even those with criticisms of President Obama continued their mobilization to secure his reelection and the defeat of the right-wing. Youth, particularly African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, and Native Americans, have risen up angry all across the United States, increasingly deepening their understanding of and demands for fundamental institutional changes.

The resistance in the Middle East launched in 2011 was about jobs, redistribution of wealth, limiting foreign financial penetration, and democracy. In the United States the issues have been even more varied: the right of workers to collectively bargain, Right-To-Work laws, defending public education, free access to health care including the defense of reproductive rights, and greater, not less, provision of jobs, livable wages, and secure retirement benefits. Police accountability, mass incarceration, and an end of the “schools to prison pipeline” have been increasingly prioritized in mass movements.

Where do progressives go from here? I think “co-revolutionary theory” would answer “everywhere”. Marxists are right to see the lives of people as anchored in their ability to produce and reproduce themselves, their families, and their communities. The right to a job at a living wage remains central to all the ferment. But in the twenty-first century this basic motivator for consciousness and action is more comprehensively and intimately connected to rebuilding trade unions, opposition to racism and sexism, and support for education, health care, sustainable environments, and peace. All these motivations are part of the same struggle.

It is fascinating to observe that the reaction to the efforts of the economic ruling class and political elite to turn back the clock on reforms gained over the last 75 years have sparked resistance and mobilization from across an array of movements and campaigns. And activists are beginning to make the connections between the struggles.

It is too early to tell whether this round of ferment will lead to victories for the people, even reformist ones. But as Harvey suggests, “An anti-capitalist political movement can start anywhere…The trick is to keep the political movement moving from one moment to another in mutually reinforcing ways.”

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Excerpt of Interview in American Herald Tribune on Neoliberalism, Trump, Social Movements, Envisioning Socialism

Harry Targ interviewed by Mohsen Abdelmoumen, American Herald Tribune,” March 25, 2017: excerpts

You are a Marxist economist. How to live Marxism today?
I am a political scientist who came to Marxist analysis in my thirties. I started my academic career in the late 1960s and began to shift my thinking on international relations, social movements, racism etc. before I read Marx. In terms of those around me, particularly in Indiana, I was seen as a Marxist, even though I wasn’t. I am a member of a national socialist organization, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism CCDS. I joined in 1992. Associating with many people who had long histories of involvement in various US movements, labor, civil rights, and peace, helped me become more of an activist and helped me refine my educational work. I am among the few workers who can legitimately interconnect my academic work with my political activism. Before my affiliation with CCDS I had been active in the peace movement, a bit in the local labor movement, and was involved in Central American solidarity work.

Gramsci said: « The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born; now is the time of monsters« . In your opinion, what is the viable alternative to the late capitalism, neoliberal globalization and militarism? We see a capitalism in permanent crisis and the absence of a revolutionary framework for the working classes. How do you explain that?

I have addressed some of my thoughts on this subject. I have been excited by the Bolivarian Revolution in Latin America. I worry that that vigorous movement of people and states now is in deep crisis. I remain inspired by the determination of the Cuban people to keep their revolution.
In the US and elsewhere around the world, data suggests that there has been increasing protest activity over the last decade. And there has been an enormous upsurge in activism in the US since the election of Donald Trump. This upsurge is exciting and inspiring. Much of this is coming from young people and youth of color. Women are taking the lead. However, these movements often do not have a class perspective and the working class is not involved as much in them. Also, in my community there has sprung up a plethora of groups and a kind of frenzy that suggests too much and too fast. In my community the left is miniscule but elsewhere in the US some activism is being led or encouraged by a left. The idea of socialism has been given legitimacy by the Bernie Sanders campaign. But all this is a work in progress.

Gramsci talked about “the militant minority” in a progressive majority. Maybe that is our role at this time; introduce ideas about class and class struggle and envisioning a twenty-first century socialism.
Some politicians and media mainstream argue that the divisions today are not ideological, that is to say between a Right in the service of the ruling class and a fighting Left. Don’t you think that the Apostles of big capital and their media relays create a diversion by asserting that the only divide is the globalization against sovereignty?

Let me say something about the media. About six media conglomerates control about 50 percent of what Americans read, see, and listen to. The media created Donald Trump because it was profitable. The media then demonized him because it was profitable. The media marginalized the Sanders campaign. Now we are living with the mendacity largely created by the mainstream media.
In the twenty-first century the struggle for what Johnson used to call the “the hearts and minds” of the people is greater than ever before. Electronic media, the internet, and the profusion of propaganda constitute much of the political battlefield today. In this way Gramsci’s ideas about ideological hegemony are terribly important.

Recipe after recipe, the capitalists have difficulty in reforming this system which only engenders exploitation, impoverishment and wars. Can we say that capitalism has multiple faces but only one matrix and that it is outdated or even dead clinically?
Capitalism is coming apart. All the contradictions Marx wrote about are true. And the environmental contradictions, which he probably did not address enough, compound the problem.

Is not the fascism manifested by scourges such as racism, Islamophobia, etc. the direct consequence of capitalism and at the same time its most hideous face?
Yes. And we in the United States have to come to grips with the rise of a white supremacy that is deeply embedded in US history. And narratives of ethnic conflict so often highlighted in the media and academia create a new need for ideological struggle. Paul Robeson wrote about the pentagonal chord structure that underlay the folk music of all people. I don’t know music but he was using it as a metaphor to describe his belief in human oneness. Celebrate diversity but recognize the commonality of the human race. This recognition is an essential tool in the struggle against capitalism.

In one of your recent articles « Foreign Policy: The Elephant in the Room« , you mention a rapprochement between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Do you think the CIA has lost its influence, particularly in Europe? What do you think of Trump’s criticisms of the CIA?
In a more recent blog I have argued that there is a factional dispute going on now within the foreign policy elite between the neoliberal globalists who emphasize a so-called free trade, financial speculation, neoliberal agenda. They have dominated United States foreign policy making for generations, particularly from Reagan to Clinton to Obama. In political/military terms, they seek to push back challengers to neoliberal capitalism: Russia, China, populist Latin American countries, and they advocate advancing US economic interests in Asia and Africa. Many of the institutions of the neoliberal globalists, sometimes called the “deep state” include the CIA, NSA, and other security agencies.

The other faction represented by President Trump and some of his key aides prefer economic nationalism, restricted trade, building walls, avoiding diplomacy, and they are driven by a deeply held white supremacist ideology. They believe, as political scientist Samuel Huntington argued, that we are engaged in a civilizational conflict with Islam, a fourth world war. The neoliberal globalists undermined Ukraine, put more NATO troops in Eastern Europe and want to depose Putin and weaken Russia. This is not on the Trump agenda.
While both factions support US Empire, they have different priorities and are driven by different theories, neoliberal globalization vs. white supremacy. I think influence is tilting toward the neoliberal globalist and their “deep state” institutions such as the CIA. Concretely, the deep state institutions are more committed to the idea of war, if necessary, with Russia, and escalated military involvement in the Syrian civil war. The dangers of war and the tragedy of continuing violence in the Middle East remain high.

Can we assert that FBI keeps shaping the politics American as at the time of Edgar Hoover?
I would not regard the FBI or CIA as independent drivers of US foreign and domestic policy but they have a powerful institutional presence. Some political scientists correctly talk about bureaucratic politics. By this they mean that large institutions take on a life of their own and are hard to control. In foreign policy, presidents barely control the creation and implementation of foreign policy. The FBI went wild from its birth in the early part of the twentieth century until the death of Hoover and their power lingers. The CIA has been instrumental in undermining and overthrowing governments. So these institutions are semi-autonomous and have some significant role to play in foreign policy but the parameters are set by the economic and political elites.

I find very interesting another of your articles « World domination: « Neoliberal globalization » versus « the clash of civilizations »». Do you think that the neocons who survived several presidents will keep intact their ability of nuisance under the era Trump?
The labels I use sometimes make the analysis more confusing. The neoconservatives have been well placed in each administration since Nixon. The paradigmatic neocon is Dick Cheney. In 1997 they established the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). They believed that the US should use its military superiority to create a world of nation-states in our image. They rejected diplomacy and international organizations and saw force as the primary tool of the US. The neoliberals, such as the Clintons and Obama, also sought US hegemony but they believed force should be used selectively and that the US should use diplomacy to achieve our goals. This could sometimes include negotiating with enemies.

I would say now that the neoliberals and the neocons are working together to undermine the new Trump administration. Again, the Trump faction is not a peace faction but one driven by economic nationalism and white supremacy. The differences between these factions is not great but at this point there seems to be disagreements over Russia, how high a military profile the Middle East should have, and whether the US should insult its neighbors by building a wall.
Has the hope of the victory of the progressive movements in Latin America disappeared with the death of Castro and Chavez and the various political defeats in some countries, as well as the coup in Brazil?For the empire-resistant we are, the experiences of the progressive movement in Latin America could have been models for all the countries of the world. How can we learn from both their successes and their failures?

The Bolivarian Revolution is in trouble. Argentina and Brazil have experienced a political shift to the right. Venezuela is in economic crisis. But Bolivia hangs on as does Ecuador. A meeting of nations who built a regional organization of populist states (CELAC) recently met. The commitment to the Cuban revolution by its people seems strong. And China has developed a major economic presence in the Western Hemisphere. In sum, the Bolivarian Revolution is under threat but may survive. The experiments in alternative political institutions in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba are still models for other countries in the region.
One enduring problem, it particularly bears on Venezuela, is the dependence on extractive industries for the generation of scarce foreign exchange. Dependence on the sale of oil for example is very dangerous. Countries of the Global South need to develop economies that depend more on production for domestic needs. During the era of Import-Substitution Industrialization in Latin America from the 1940s to the 1980s, the region experienced higher rates of growth; lots of problems with military dictatorships and over-bureaucratization of economies but autonomous development nevertheless.

Do not you think that the defeats of the world’s resistance to ultra-liberalism and imperialism are only temporary and that the struggle has only just begun?
As I suggested, data I have seen showing a growth in protest activity over the last decade and the recent mobilizations against Trump in the US give me hope. The world of capitalism and the environment are not sustainable. More and more people are coming to realize this.

Do you think that the battle for information is decisive against ultra liberalism, imperialism and their media relays? Are not the alternative media an important asset in bringing down the capitalist beast and those who wear it?
As I suggested earlier a significant “battlefield” between reactionary capitalism and human emancipation is occurring in the media. The internet can be a source for education and mobilization but its use must be crafted. Other alternative media are still relevant: alternative papers, independent low frequency radio programs, public lectures, protests etc.

Do not you think that a season of hope is a historical requirement? Utopia or not, to resist is to live. Can we swear that it is not too late for change?
Someone told me the other day that they had heard a Trump aide indicate that they expected protesters to get tired. The view of elites is that they can withstand protest. Just ignore it. I endorse the so-called “inside/outside strategy” for US politics. Activists should continue to work in the electoral arena, advocating progressive and left policies. Try to elect good candidates. And also continue to hit the streets, engage in alternative messaging, and other non-traditional activities. As best as possible link the two.

And both the inside and outside strategies should be inspired by and articulate for others a humane socialist alternative. This is the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution. A lot of progress has been made since 1917 in the improvement of peoples lives. We just have more work to do.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Trade Frictions and China-US Ties: China Plus World News Analysis (radio)

Panelists: Harry Targ, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University; Zhang Baohui, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Asian Pacific Studies, Lingnan University in Hong Kong; Xu Qinduo, Senior Fellow, Pangoal Institution