Monday, October 29, 2018

DEEP STRUCTURES, HATE, AND VIOLENCE: The Long Road to Societal Decay

Harry Targ

We are mourning again. Violent deaths continue: African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Gays and Lesbians, Women, Youth, Jews, and the list goes on. And the media pontificate about root causes: guns, a divided society, hate speech, the internet, and politicians. Analysts usually lock onto one explanation and deduce one or two cures. But there are other analysts, for example “realists’ and religious fundamentalists, who say there will always be violence. There are no solutions.
The reality that undergirds the killing of masses of people on a regular basis is not easily discovered. That is, there are “deep structures” that have created a brutal and violent world. And movements to transform these deep structures, although complicated, can have some substantial success.

First, and I write this at the risk of being dismissed as an ideologue, the contemporary state of the capitalist economic system must be examined in rigorous detail. What might be called “late capitalism” is an economic system of growing inequality of wealth and poverty, joblessness, declining access to basic needs-food, health care, housing, education, transportation. The increasing accumulation of wealth determines the ever-expanding appropriation of political power. In the era of late capitalism, economic concentration resides in a handful of banks, hedge funds, medical conglomerates, real estate developers, technology and insurance companies, and media monopolies.
Second, late capitalism continues to marginalize workers of all kinds. Agricultural and manufacturing work, the staple of two hundred years of economic development, is disappearing. Highly skilled electronic workers and others with twenty-first century skills are employed as needed by corporations, with little or no job security. Once secure workers who have lost their jobs live in communities with declining access to food, growing environmental devastation, and limited connection to information and the ability to communicate with others. And, of course, conditions are worse for workers of color, women, the young, and the old.  A new working class has emerged, the “precariat,” with skilled but insecure jobs; the service sector, workers in health care, home care, fast food and other low paid and overworked occupations; and workers in the “informal sector,” desperate people who take short-term jobs or are forced to sell drugs, peddle products on the street, engage in prostitution, or engage in other activities so they and their families can survive. In addition, the most marginalized are homeless and hungry. Late capitalism has increased the marginalization of majorities of working people, in core capitalist states and the Global South.

Third, the history of capitalist development has paralleled the development of white supremacy and patriarchy. If capital accumulation requires the expropriation of the wealth produced by workers, what better way to increase profits can be found than marginalizing sectors of the working population and setting them into competition and conflict with each other by creating categories of difference. Racism, sexism, homophobia, the demonization of immigrants, Anti-Semitism and Anti-Muslim hysteria all serve, in the end, profit and the accumulation of wealth and power.
Fourth, systems of concentrated wealth and power require the development of political institutions, institutions that enhance the control of the behavior of workers. From monarchies, to constitutional democracies, to institutionalized systems of law and custom, such as segregation, voter suppression in our own day, the behavior of the citizenry is routinized and controlled. In most political systems electoral processes create some possibilities for modest, but necessary, policy changes. However, as Nancy MacLean points out in Democracy in Chains, economic and political elites use their resources to restrict and limit the influence of democratic majorities.

Fifth, this economic and political edifice requires an ideology, a consciousness, a way in which the citizenry can be taught to accept the system as it is. This ideology has many branches but one root, the maintenance and enhancement of the capitalist economic system. The elements of the dominant political ideology include: privileging individualism over community; conceptualizing society as a brutal state of nature controlled only by countervailing force; acceptance of the idea that humans are at base greedy; and, finally, the belief that the avariciousness of human nature requires police force and laws at home and armies overseas.
Sixth, a prevalent component of the political ideology is the idea that violence is ubiquitous, violence is justified, and violence is to be applauded. The trope of living in a violent world pervades our education system, our toys, our television and movies, our sporting activities, and our political discourse. Violence is tragic (we pray for the victims) but it is presented in popular culture as liberating and justifiable. And to survive in this world of evil and strife, everyone needs to be armed.

These are the backdrops, the “deep structures,” that frame the contemporary context. And this context includes a politics of economic super-exploitation-destroying unions, fighting demands for economic justice, shifting wealth even more to the super-rich, and taking away basic rights and guarantees, such as healthcare, education, water, and even the air we breathe. And to justify the growing immiseration of everyone, the Trump Administration, most of the Republicans and some of the Democrats justify their policies by a racism, sexism, homophobia, and virulent rightwing nationalism not seen since the days of racial segregation in the South. And Anti-Semitism, long a staple of political ideology in Europe, reached its most virulent form in the United States in the 1930s, when Father Coughlin’s nationwide Anti-Semitic broadcasts found their way into many households. As late as the 1950s, property deeds included “restrictive covenants” forbidding the sale of homes in specific neighborhoods to Jews or people of color. Local political initiatives led to whole communities excluding African Americans from living there (“sundown towns”) and racial segregation exists today in virtually every United States city.
Given these deep structures is it any surprise that brutal violence flairs up against sectors of the population? Is it any surprise that targeted groups feel intimidated, threatened, and angry? Is it any surprise that volatile and life-threatening cycles of economic insecurity facing most people create fears leading some of them to follow false prophets? Is it any surprise that the economic and political institutions in which we were born and raised, justified by powerful ideologies about the “realities” of life develop in us a propensity to be taken in by arrogant, racist, classist, sexist, and ignorant politicians? In addition to national politics, people at the state level and in their local communities accept unquestioning leadership in economic, political, and cultural institutions that in subtler ways promote the agenda of the rich and white.

The problem is historical, structural, political and cultural. Identifying the “deep structures”- economic, political, ideological, and cultural-masses of people can begin to mobilize around change. Social movements may begin by addressing political ideology, or addressing public policy concerns, or participating in the electoral arena. Each is of vital importance. However, progressives need to recognize that the violence and poverty today, the racial hatred, the environmental crises are connected to the deep structures. They must work today on what is possible to change right away. In addition, progressives must organize, over the long run to radically restructure society, challenging the capitalist system and the political institutions that maintain it.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


From STRATEGY OF AN EMPIRE IN DECLINE; COLD WAR II (a 1986 book downloadable free) :

Harry Targ

Reestablishing U.S. Hegemony in the Western Hemisphere: Central America and the Caribbean
The Reagan administration took the offensive in the Central American and Caribbean area shortly after assuming office. The first priority in terms of stopping social change in the region was to thwart the growing mass movement in El Salvador, a movement so broad-based that even the Salvadoran church and the hierarchy of the U.S. Catholic Church opposed Reagan policy.

El Salvador

El Salvador has experienced repressive military rule for most of the last fifty years. During this entire period the military represented the interests of an economic oligarchy made up of what Salvadorans referred to as the "fourteen families. " While somewhat larger than fourteen families, the size of the Salvadoran ruling class can be inferred from the fact that two percent of the population owned sixty percent of the land.

Within the context of massive wealth and power in the hands of the very few and poverty and powerlessness among the majority, Salvadoran political history has been characterized by extreme conflict, violence, and repression. For most of its citizens, the modern period of Salvadoran history began with the mass movement for revolutionary change led by the Marxist Farabundo Marti in the early 1930s. After a failed revolutionary uprising in January, 1932, against dictator General Hernandez Martinez, thirty thousand peasants were slaughtered. General Martinez ruled for thirteen years, serving the interests of the coffee-growing first families.

In 1944 a coup against Martinez led to the seizure of power by more "reformist" army officers, who were interested in promoting industrialization and diversification of the economy. The most reactionary coffee growers opposed any economic policies that would reduce their landholdings and increase their taxes. While policies were created that encouraged foreign investment, the industrializers among the ruling class (and their army representatives), avoided changing patterns of land ownership.

Under military rule in the 1950s and 1960s, El Salvador increased industrialization and economic integration with other Central American republics. Over one-half of all foreign investments in El Salvador in the twentieth century occurred in the 1960s. El Salvador became the site for investments in food products, textiles, chemicals, petroleum, paper products, and pharmaceuticals, as an array of U.S. multinational corporations established manufacturing in the country.

While the interests of the coffee growers and industrializers were served by state policies, peasants remained landless and workers were underpaid. By the mid-1970s conditions in the cities and countryside had deteriorated. For example, one analyst estimated that a family of six—the average size—needed $704 per year to cover basic needs for food, shelter, and clothing. Eighty percent of the population earned less than this figure. Democracy fared no better. The 1972 election, which led to an electoral victory by Christian Democrat Jose Napoleon Duarte, was overturned by Colonel Armando Molina, who seized power and forced Duarte into exile.

During Molina's regime from 1972 to 1977, more foreign investment was encouraged and cheap labor was guaranteed—workers earned about $4 per day. Roads, ports, and airports were modernized, Laws guaranteed that multinational corporations could take large percentages of their profits out of the country. To help thwart rising militancy among workers, peasants, and students, the Molina government revitalized paramilitary organizations to spy on the mass organizations. These paramilitary groups, often called death squads in Latin America, had the clear sanction of the government. As the 1970s wore on, these groups engaged in more violence and terrorism against the Salvadoran population. Despite the extreme repression of the Molina years, the fourteen families grew dissatisfied with his calls for very modest land reforms to reduce rural discontent. The oligarchy replaced Molina in 1977, as General Humberto Romero gained power in corrupt elections. Romero was closest to the most extreme reactionary sector pf the coffee growers. He set about crushing the growing worker and peasant opposition to the entire system of exploitation and oppression. Laws were passed forbidding open meetings of the regime's critics. Paramilitary squads began killing priests, terrorizing peasant villages, and shooting into demonstrations.

On October 15, 1979, a group of young officers overthrew Romero and pledged reforms in the years ahead, including land reform. The junta created after the 1979 coup included some more moderate sectors of Salvadoran society. They were soon forced out of the government, as the ruling class and their military strongmen reneged on plans for reform and continued to carry out violence against the people. The ruling junta had been reshuffled four times from October, 1979, to January, 1981. Each change resulted from the withdrawal of support from the junta by centrist politicians, who no longer could accept rising government and paramilitary violence against the Salvadoran population. In the spring of 1980 Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador was gunned down in a church while saying mass. He had recently declared his support for guerrilla groups in the countryside and had written President Carter pleading with him to stop the flow of arms to the junta.

In 1980 many mass organizations, ranging from guerrilla groups to trade unions, joined forces to carry on the struggle against the junta. The political arm of the struggle, the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR), was headed by Social Democrat Guillermo Ungo, who had run as Duarte's vice-presidential candidate in 1972. Ungo described the process of unification of the diverse groups:

Early on under the junta, the view that the progressive democratic groups like ours were caught in the crossfire between right and left was true. But as the right gained more military control, we came to see that regardless of what we or the left did or said, the military would go right ahead with its plans to exterminate the guerrillas. These groups are so close to the popular and democratic organizations that the repression fell on all of us—even the Archbishop... We had to face the fact that we were being propelled from a battle of resistance into a war of insurrection (Armstrong and Shenk 24).

Independent sources estimated that ten thousand Salvadorans were killed in acts of political violence in 1980, the government bearing responsibility for at least seven thousand of these. In November, 1980, six leaders of the FDR were assassinated by government-supported killers, and in December four U.S. Maryknoll nuns were killed by government forces. President Carter temporarily suspended U.S. military aid to the junta after the nuns had been killed. After Jose Napoleon Duarte, the Christian Democrat, assumed the presidency in January, 1981, the Carter administration claimed that the Soviet Union and Cuba were supporting the guerrillas, The aid was resumed. 

  When President Reagan entered office the first major foreign policy he endorsed was  to provide over $30 million in military assistance to El Salvador. This was followed by the dispatch of over fifty U.S. military advisors to the junta. To bolster his claim that ssupporting the Junta (then headed by Duarte) was in keeping with the needs of the SSalvadoran people and the security interests of the United States in the hemisphere, the State Department prepared its so-called white paper, which alleged that the guerrillas, tthe Farabundo Marti Forces of National Liberation (FMLN), of which the FDR was the political arm, were receiving large quantities of arms from the Soviet Union through Cuba and Nicaragua. Reagan representatives traveled throughout Europe and Latin America with the documents hoping to convince U.S. allies  that the civil war was the result of Soviet machinations. The Europeans and the Mexicans especially found the documents less than convincing, and European Social Democrats began a worldwide campaign to pressure the Duarte junta to engage in negotiations with the guerrillas for a cease-fire and fair elections. Reagan opposed all such efforts of compromise and encouraged the junta to continue the government-supported slaughter in the countryside.

As well as alleging Soviet instigation, the junta and its U.S. supporters praised the land-reform program that had been proclaimed with great fanfare in March of 1980. This program was intended to redistribute the bulk of the land in the countryside, make every peasant a small landowner, and break the back of the powerful coffee growers. Analysts of the program found that no significant changes had resulted from the first two phases of the program, and the final phase, which would have affected the large landowners, was canceled. Despite the praise by junta and U.S. figures alike (Roy Prosterman, a U.S. advisor to the junta on land reform, had also been an advisor on land reform in South Vietnam in the 1970s), no more than fifteen percent of the poorest quality land had been distributed. Several stories surfaced of peasants being slaughtered by government troops when they appeared to take control of land that was said to be theirs.

As a groundswell of public opposition to U.S. intervention in El Salvador increased, congressional critics of U.S. policy secured legislation requiring presidential certification of progress in democratization, human rights, and land reform before additional military and economic aid could be sent. In January of 1982 the administration certified progress, despite the fact that by all accounts (except the State Department's) at least eleven thousand Salvadorans had been killed, mostly by the army and right-wing death squads, in 1981.

. Finally, as a result of U.S. efforts to sanitize the worldwide image of the junta, elections were held on March 28, 1982. Parties of the left and center could not participate because they would have been exterminated by government forces or death squads. To ensure the high turnout which is traditional in El Salvador, Defense Minister Garcia appeared on television and radio to remind Salvadoran citizens that, if they did not vote and get their identification cards stamped, they would be deemed subversive. The paychecks of government employees were withheld until proof of voting was presented. In this climate of fear, Salvadorans voted in large numbers, although studies later showed that the vote totals had been exaggerated by the authorities.

Because of this fear, the discredited policies of the Christian Democrats, and the naive hope that perhaps change would bring peace, right-wing parties won a majority of the seats in the new Constituent Assembly. This assembly elected as its leader Roberto D'Abuisson, a man former Ambassador Robert White called a “pathological killer." The Christian Democrats, who did get forty percent of the vote, lost what little influence they had had in the junta.
President Reagan then reversed himself on support for the far-right parties. After the election, policy makers indicated that the United States could support any government in El Salvador, even one led by a man who called for the use of napalm against Salvadorans, an invasion of Nicaragua, and the trying of ex-junta leader Duarte for treason. Despite the propaganda barrage, conditions in El Salvador remained the same after the elections. The guerrillas were winning the war in the countryside. The new government still represented the interests of the fourteen families. With more U.S. aid and incursions by the Honduran army in support of the Salvadoran army, the systematic slaughter of workers and peasants continued.

In 1984 elections were held for a permanent legislative assembly and for president. Again, the opposition could not safely participate. This time the CIA funneled money to the Christian Democrats, who won a majority in the new legislature. Jose Napoleon Duarte was elected president. During the fall of 1984 Duarte initiated dialogue with the opposition by scheduling two historic meetings between the government and the FDR, which had long called for dialogue. The call for negotiations achieved its goals —increased support for Duarte, particularly for the 1985 municipal elections around the country. After the second meeting, the military indicated that it no longer would support dialogue.

In the six years to 1985, fifty thousand Salvadorans had been killed. Death-squad killings had declined, but massive indiscriminate bombing of the countryside was causing death and destruction. US. advisors and aircraft were leading the bombing campaign. Despite the enormous firepower, the FDR and the FMLN held thirty percent of the country. Institutions of popular power, such as local assemblies, health clinics, and schools were in operation in the zones of popular control. Even with dramatically increased U.S. arms, advisors, and personnel—$400 million in U.S. aid for 1985—the Salvadoran army and oligarchy could not crush the seeds of the new society.


U.S. policy makers became concerned about the civil war in neighboring Guatemala in 1981 as well, The Reagan administration began to talk of the need to provide renewed military assistance to the military junta there, reversing the Carter policy of ending such assistance because of human-rights violations. Repression and exploitation were as severe in Guatemala as in El Salvador. Over twenty-five thousand people had been killed in acts of political violence there over the last fifteen years. Seventy-six top officials of the centrist Christian Democratic party of Guatemala had been killed between July, 1980, and May, 1981.

 Vinicio Cerezo, head of the Christian Democrats, claimed in 1981 that "the [right-most] people in Guatemala are the rightest right-wing in all of Latin America. They want to remove us because they know that the United States cannot accept another leftist government in Central America after Nicaragua, and that will leave them as the only alternative. For this they kill us" (Hoge 8). Cerezo claimed that while the Christian Democrats endorsed the electoral process, the military junta in power and its support of right-wing death squads made it impossible for any reformist parties to participate in the electoral process.

Christian Democrats were not the only targets of repression by assassins from the right. University faculty, students, labor leaders, and church people have been among the thousands that have been tortured and killed in recent years. Government-supported terrorists slaughtered Indian villagers in an attempt to frighten the country's Indian population—fifty-five percent of the total population—from joining guerrilla groups in the countryside.

Repression and poverty went hand-in-hand in Guatemala, as one-fourth of the population earned 66.5 percent of the national income and another quarter earned 6.7 percent. The top 1.5 percent alone accounted for twenty-three percent of the national income in the mid-1970s. Seventy percent of the population lived on an average income of $74 per year: These disparities were even worse in the countryside, where almost half the population worked as agricultural laborers on large estates.

Politically, this gross inequality had been associated with years of assassinations of opponents, rigged elections, and military governments. It had its modern roots in the U.S.-supported military coup against the reformist government of Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 by Colonel Castillo Armas. Despite the extreme repression, various trade unions and peasant organizations began to struggle for changes in the lives of Guatemalans in the 1960s. A guerrilla movement began operating with some effectiveness in the countryside. This provoked a counterinsurgency movement, "Operation Guatemala," patterned after the Phoenix program in Vietnam. As in Vietnam, slaughter in the Guatemalan countryside was led and logistically supported by the U.S. government. Paramilitary squads became the vehicle for officially sanctioned killings.

The most recent phase of institutionalized violence, according to many sources linked to the army, police, and right-wing death squads, began in 1978 with the election of General Lucas Garcia. Despite the cancellation of military assistance and sales by the Carter administration in 1977 for what they called gross human rights violations, the Guatemalan government received adequate supplies from Israel, France, Argentina, and elsewhere. Proposals for renewed U.S. aid were discussed by Reagan policy makers in the spring of 1981. In March, 1982, shortly after Lucas Garcia won a rigged election, General Rios Montt seized power in a military coup. Within a month of the coup, the Reagan Administration was again calling for military assistance for Guatemala. Despite increased slaughter of Indian peasants by the army, the human rights situation was allegedly improving. Rios Montt escalated the war against the peasantry even further. In 1983 he was ousted in another coup led by different army officers. The violence continued, even though elections were promised for 1985. In January, 1984, the government announced it would be purchasing $2 million in helicopter spare parts from the United States. The U.S. State Department denied that this sale violated the congressional ban on military sales to Guatemala.

The rationale given by the administration for this support of the junta was Cuban support for the guerrillas. No evidence was needed because the white paper on El Salvador had "proven" the claim that nefarious outsiders were the cause of Central America's problems. Of course, the Soviet Union was ultimately behind it all. As Acting Assistant Secretary of State John Bushnell told Congress: 'It is hard for any small country to withstand a major assault with assistance from one superpower and its friends without the help from another superpower" (New York Times 5 May 1981: 14).

The Caribbean: the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grenada

The carrot was being proposed by the Reagan administration for the region as well. Small Caribbean islands, long ignored by U.S. policy makers, had gained importance for the crisis-ridden imperial system. Grenada, an island country in the English-speaking Caribbean, had experienced a revolution in 1979 against a repressive government. The new government, headed by Maurice Bishop, had begun to construct a socialist society, In the Bahamas a socialist party, the Vanguard party, was gaining support against the U.S.-dominated government. Michael Manley's government in Jamaica had tried to build "democratic socialism" in his country against the combined efforts of U.S. aluminum companies, the IMF, the U.S. government, and covert action of the CIA. Manley had been vocal in support of the Third World demands for a New International Economic Order and hemispheric ties with Cuba.

The Carter administration followed the October, 1980, Jamaican elections with intense interest. Because of the long-term effort by outsiders to undermine the Manley government and the consequent worsening of the economy, right-wing candidate Edward Seaga was victorious in the national election. Soon after Seaga assumed power he began to dismantle nationalized industries in Jamaica and declared his full support for foreign investment in the country. Given the fact that Seaga's political and economic philosophy was virtually the same as President Reagan's, it was no coincidence that he was the first foreign head of state to meet with the Reagan administration in January, 1981. As a result of the Reagan-Seaga talks, the United States began to call for a Caribbean Marshall Plan. After the president of Mexico visited the United States, plans were begun to support private investment in the region. For the United States, at least, the new Caribbean Basin Project of economic and military assistance and encouragement of private investment was designed to thwart the social ferment that seemed to be spreading throughout the Caribbean as well as Central America. In fact, the scheme had been designed largely to shore up shaky regimes like that in El Salvador.


A final element of the evolving Reagan policy in the region was to confront more directly the socialist or socialist-leaning governments in the area. The president, the secretary of state, and others began a campaign to isolate, intimidate, and threaten the Cubans. Hemispheric countries were encouraged to break ties with Cuba, because the Cubans had been defined by U.S. propaganda as behind every insurrection in the hemisphere. Shortly after a Cuban official stated his country's willingness to discuss outstanding issues with the United States in the spring of 1982, Reagan ended all tourism to the island. He also endorsed a plan to beam radio broadcasts to the island so that Cubans could learn the ' 'truth" about their country.

The Reagan administration began a sustained campaign against the Nicaraguans as well, claiming that they had materially supported the guerrillas in El Salvador. Reagan canceled the final installment of an economic assistance package that had been granted under the Carter administration. Military support for the Honduran army was also being used to give material aid to former Nicaraguan national-guard supporters of Somoza to carry on a border war against Nicaragua. Reports surfaced in the spring of 1981 that right-wing Nicaraguans were training in the swamps of Florida to invade their former homeland and depose the Sandinista government. Florida had become the site for expatriate Cubans, Salvadorans, and Nicaraguans to plan for counterrevolutions and right-wing coups in their home countries and in the interim to organize sabotage against the popular governments and movements that they opposed.

In response to Mexican President Lopez Portillo's call for negotiations between the United States, Nicaragua, and Cuba, the Nicaraguans publicly offered to begin such talks on a whole range of issues in 1982. Despite the communication of proposals for discussion, President Reagan preferred destabilization of Nicaragua rather than negotiation with it. Military threats directed against Nicaragua increased in 1982. Support for former Somoza national guardsmen continued. Military aid to hostile Honduras increased. Nineteen billion dollars was authorized in 1982 for covert CIA activities against the Sandinistas. U.S. naval aircraft were sent to waters adjacent to Nicaragua. Finally, when the Sandinista government, justifiably fearing a U.S. invasion, put its country on a war footing, Secretary of State Haig and others charged them with moving toward totalitarianism.

During the second half of Reagan's first term, the war against the Nicaraguan government escalated. An army of fifteen thousand, led by former Somoza national guardsmen, called contras (short for counterrevolutionaries), was created by the CIA in Honduras with U.S. public and private funds. A smaller contra force in Costa Rica also was formed to attack the Nicaraguan government. The U.S. government thoroughly militarized Honduras with air bases, military support facilities, training schools for Honduran and Salvadoran soldiers, staging areas for U.S. overflights of El Salvador and Nicaragua, and constant military maneuvers with thousands of U.S. troops. The CIA mined Nicaraguan harbors and aided contras in their bloody raids inside Nicaragua. By 1985 the United States had provided $80 million in aid to the contras, leading to the deaths of some seven thousand Nicaraguans. Peasant villagers, teachers, doctors, and farm workers were special targets of the U.S.-supported slaughter.

While the effort to destroy the new government proceeded, Venezuela, Columbia, Mexico, and Panama—the Contadora countries— sought to begin a peace process in Central America. The Nicaraguans endorsed it, but the United States sought to scuttle it at every turn. When the Nicaraguans held elections in November, 1984, which established a multiparty parliament (Sandinistas won two-thirds of the seats), the Reagan administration dismissed them as "Soviet-style sham elections. ' It was quite clear by 1984 that the goal of the Reagan administration was the ouster of the Sandinista government, a government that had effectively redistributed land, provided free health care, cheaper food, and a literacy campaign for its people. Even U.S. government officials had to admit that the Sandinista regime was overwhelmingly popular. The Reagan lies did not fully convince the U.S. public either. Polls showed consistent opposition to U.S. military activities in Central America. In 1984 and 1985 Congress voted to halt military aid to the contras.

The most overt act of U.S. aggression in the region occurred in October, 1983, when U.S. forces, with a token contingent from. neighboring Caribbean islands, invaded Grenada. The popular leader, Maurice Bishop, had been ousted in an internal dispute with several adventurist members of his New Jewel party. The internal struggle in this island nation of 110,000 people provided the pretext for a U.S. military assault. It was alleged that six hundred U.S. medical students on the island were endangered. Most evidence suggested this was nonsense. The United States was using the bad judgment of Grenadian ultra-left adventurists as an excuse to crush a budding socialist state that had begun the long arduous processes of economic development, job creation, education, and political participation, sorely needed by its people. In the months following the invasion, the United States expunged every vestige of progressive institutions and policies installed by Maurice Bishop's New Jewel Movement.

History Matters

Consequently, during the Reagan administration major steps had been taken by the United States to reestablish U.S. control in Central America and the Caribbean. No single country in the area was vital to U.S. capitalism, although there were rumors of major supplies of untapped oil in Guatemala. Cuban socialism, however, had been a continual symbol of people's power and social justice in the hemisphere, with obvious appeal to workers, peasants, and students. Further, the region seemed in the throes of large-scale ferment, with guerrilla movements and socialist political parties gaining more and more support. Reagan's concern for El Salvador and Guatemala, therefore, was of a regional character and involved the long-term implications of more Cubas or Nicaraguas on the historical agenda. Because of the historical forces that were moving these countries away from the U.S. empire, the Reagan administration developed a coordinated policy to support military aggression, violence, political repression, and poverty in the region and to forestall the inevitable coming social changes.

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Harry Targ

An Associated Press story posted on October 8, 2018 announced that Purdue Global, the new Purdue University online university which was purchased from the discredited Kaplan University, was launching a new degree in “cloud computing.”  As with the general Purdue Global project, there has been little transparency, including consulting the faculty and providing information about it to the public. And the degree is to be partnered with ManTech, “a global leader in technology solutions, to offer the cloud computing program to its employees, supporting ManTech’s portfolio of mission-focused solutions for national security, intelligence community and federal civilian agencies.” The article emphasized that by 2020 fifty-nine percent of the world’s internet consumers will be using cloud storage (“Purdue University Global Introduces New Cloud Computing Degree Program,” AP News, October 8, 2018,

 Dr. Jeffrey Buck, who is identified as the “Dean of Purdue Global School of Business and IT,” pointed out that this new cloud computer curriculum will be “developed with real-world requirements and input from experts at ManTech,” and “will help students master the foundational goals of cloud computing.” ManTech CEO Kevin M. Phillips applauded the “synergy” between this new program and other “cyber certification training.” ManTech employees, he said, will be able to take advantage of “online and self-directed” programs of instruction. The article points out that the needs of non-traditional students, which are being provided for by Purdue Global’s other courses, will fit this program as well. ManTech’s Chief HR Officer pointed out that it “enhances our tradition of helping ManTech people leverage their experience, build on it and advance their careers in new ways that help safeguard America.”
This story, as with all the publicity surrounding Purdue Global ever since it was unveiled in the spring of 2017, raises more questions than it answers. Who are the students? Who are the faculty? What does the curriculum look like? What role does Purdue University have in the program aside from the use of the Purdue “brand?” How does Purdue University benefit from this it? And, of course, what is ManTech?

Searching the internet (not the cloud), one can discover that ManTech is the Department of Defense Manufacturing Technology Program which is the DOD “investment mechanism for staying at the forefront of defense-essential manufacturing capability.” ManTech was established by law in 1956 and its mandate has been revised periodically. Its current charge includes: the pursuit of the economical acquisition of weapons systems and components; connecting research, development and production; promoting capital investment and industrial innovation; disseminating research and technology throughout the industrial base; promoting worker training; and meeting “other national defense needs with investments directed toward areas of greatest need and potential benefit.” In short, under the ManTech label, the “cloud computing” educational program, run through Purdue University, is really a collaboration between Purdue Global and the Department of Defense.
The Purdue Global and ManTech cloud computing plan parallel’s many of the research activities of Purdue’s Discovery Park. Discovery Park was launched in 2001 with a grant from the state of Indiana and expanded by a $25 million Lilly Endowment as a nanotechnology center. Today it is a $1.15 billion research and learning complex that combines Purdue’s expertise in science, engineering, technology, and biology, with connections to the corporate world. As its website suggests: “Leveraging Lilly Endowment’s investment, Discovery Park has created an innovative environment where major global challenges are examined objectively, generating new ideas and directions for future generations.”

One of Discovery Park’s core strengths is “Global Security.” Key research on this subject is designed to respond to security threats, global instability, defense needs, terrorism, nuclear deterrence and proliferation, basically responding to “the most pressing security and defense challenges facing the nation and the world.”
To describe one of Discovery Park’s core missions, global security, Chief Discovery Park scientist, Professor Tomas Diaz de la Rubia posted an essay entitled “The New Future of Warfare.” In it he addresses the emerging salience of new military technologies based on artificial intelligence (AI) and war. De la Rubia speculates that future wars will not be fought on battlefields but rather in cities or in cyberspace. New AI weapons of war in the hands of presumed enemies could constitute an existential threat to the survival of the United States. Discovery Park, he indicated, is already engaged in vital research on biomorphic robots, automatic target recognition for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, automatic targeting for drones, and other technologies. In short, a core Discovery Park mission includes the preparation for and implementation of war. And this is necessary because as Professor de la Rubia argues:

“It has become apparent that the U.S. is no longer guaranteed top dog status on the dance card that is the future of war. In order to maintain military superiority the focus must shift from traditional weapons of war to advanced systems that rely on A.I.-based weaponry. The stakes are just too high and the prize too great for the U.S. to be left behind. All the more reason to call upon Purdue University and its inestimable capacity to weave together academia, research, and industry for the greater good. We’re stepping up to secure our place in the future of our country, and there’s much more to come!”
These articles suggest that Purdue increasingly commits its skills to research, development, training, and the production of the instruments of war. Such commitments have been made with little discussion in the broader university community. Important theoretical questions are not being raised. For example, is war inevitable? Are other countries a threat to the United States? Should the United States commit itself to remaining the number one power in the world, however that is defined? Should research prioritize human development and conflict resolution rather than “security? Is there a relationship between poverty, hunger, environmental devastation, the spread of weapons and war and violence? One wonders if more of government and corporate resources should be allocated to these many issues, rather than to particular, and, perhaps, ill-conceived, notions of national “security.” And, finally, does a Purdue Global training program in cloud computing best serve the needs for non-traditional students and the society at large or just students or employees of ManTech?

President Eisenhower in 1960 warned about an unwarranted growth of the influence of the military/industrial complex in American society. Today he would characterize the danger as the military/industrial/academic complex. It includes the skewing of research, largely in non-transparent decision-making ways about university priorities. In addition, the military/industrial/academic complex tends to defend its  existence by articulating problematic assumptions about the inevitability of war.

For more on the concept of the military/industrial complex see:

For a discussion about competing paradigms in the study of international relations see:

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


Harry Targ :
SPORT | The Cubs, struggle, and social change

The Cub’s victory teaches us that if people try hard enough and long enough, they can win.

The last time it happened: 1908 World Champion Cubs. Photo by
George R. Lawrence / Public Domain.
By Harry Targ | The Rag Blog | November 3, 2016
Chicago’s iconic journalist, columnist, pundit, and Cubs fan, Mike Royko, once ruminated on what he learned from his years as a Chicago Cubs baseball fan: “It taught a person that if you try hard enough and long enough, you’ll still lose and that’s the story of life.”
He lived through a lot of history of Cubs defeat. Sometimes the Cubs got close to World Series play only to let errors or faulty complaints about how a fan interfering with an outfielder’s catch of a foul ball led to a playoff game loss. Or going back further to Royko’s youth, the Cubs acquired a colossally slow home run hitter to play one outfield position along with another great home run hitter who was even slower; or the trade of a future Hall of Fame outfielder/base stealer for a washed up pitcher.
While railing with vigor against the corruption, racism, and authoritarian rule of the first Daley machine in Chicago, Royko followed with sorrow and despair a baseball team that was in Steve Goodman’s words, “the doormat of the National League.” In fact, Goodman, the author of the powerful song about Middle America, “The City of New Orleans,” despite his disappointed love affair with the Chicago Cubs, sang about wanting to be buried in Wrigley Field.
Chicago’s love affair with its failed baseball teams prompted a disagreement between Royko and his friend and the other Chicago hero, Studs Terkel, on what the Cubs and the Chicago White Sox stood for. Studs correctly pointed out that the Southside White Sox were the working class team coming from a part of the city where there used to be “stockyards and steel mills.” And in contradistinction, Cubs fans “…are from the suburbs, brought in by big buses. It’s like going to an air show or ‘Cats’—something tourists do.”
Studs Terkel said, ‘it’s not about baseball. It’s about having been to a place to be.’
Terkel pointed out in his New York Times October 28, 2005 op-ed essay that for attendees at Cubs games “…it’s not about baseball. It’s about having been to a place to be.” He goes on to compare Wrigley Field, the “hallowed” ball park, with U.S. Cellular Field, “a dump.” The White Sox park only surpasses the Cubs venue in its toilets, “…the cleanest I’ve ever seen in a public place.”
Royko, Terkel (and Goodman) are Chicago heroes (in the same tradition as the Haymarket Martyrs and Lucy Parsons). But they are both wrong. The history of struggles, workers, women, African-Americans, gays, suggest just the opposite of Royko’s despondency. In fact, if groups of people try hard enough and long enough they can win. In Cubs history, great stars planted the seeds of victory — Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins, Ron Santo.
Can social change ever occur if Royko’s defeatist consciousness predominates?
They raised the possibility of victory that, while not experienced in the short term, has to be seen as part of a historic process that led to the 2016 season. This is even more clear as we look at the social movements of today. Where does the passionate rejection of the reactionary politics of the Trump campaign come from if not from past struggles? What about the Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter, and movements for climate change? Can social change ever occur if Royko’s defeatist consciousness predominates?
And although Terkel’s baseball “class analysis” of the Cubs and Sox is historically correct, baseball like life changes. Transformations can occur. The Chicago Cubs have become the City’s team: for workers, men and women, and more people of color than before. In fact, as a metaphor, the Cubs have transcended their upper class roots. In addition they have become a national phenomenon.
There is something about the inspiration that traditional “down and outers” in the sports world have for most of the citizenry. Perhaps sometime in the future, progressives will look back to 2016, and remember that an older, Democratic Socialist, Jewish politician inspired young people to think about building a better society. And they will remember also that the Chicago Cubs won the National League championship and won the World Series.