Saturday, July 22, 2017


National Executive Committee

Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)

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

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

United States Opposition to the Bolivarian Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017


National Executive Committee

Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)

Trump Cuba Policy

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

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

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

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

The United States end the economic blockade of Cuba.

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

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

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

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

Cubans Build Democratic Socialism

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

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

On Medical Diplomacy and International Solidarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 17, 2017


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



From September 7, 2013

Harry Targ

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

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

Victor Jara, The Voice of the People

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

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

The United States Crushes Revolution in Chile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Singout Magazine” 1975

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A radio interview on the privatization of higher education

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

Sunday, July 2, 2017


Harry Targ

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

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

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

The Capitalist System is a War System

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impacts of the Capitalist War System in Imperial States

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

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

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

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

Economic Consequences of the Capitalist/War System

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, June 17, 2017


Harry Targ

Trump Reverses Modest Improvements in US/Cuban Relations

With God’s help, a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve…I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.” (Donald Trump in “Trump Outlines New Cuba Policy in Speech in Miami’s Little Havana,” USA Today, June 16, 2017.)

With these words, President Trump announced the return to the almost 60-year Cold War against Cuba, a war that has cost the people on the island and their relatives in the United States dearly. The efforts to resume travel restrictions, limit trade and investment on the island, and to punish US citizens who travel to Cuba on their own seem motivated primarily by Trump’s promises to a dwindling sector of Cuban Americans in the Republican Party (and a few Democratic politicians as well). Although economics, geopolitics, and white supremacist ideology have shaped United States foreign policy, narrow and short-term political calculations seem to have motivated the reversal of modest US openings to Cuba that had been put in place during the Obama Administration.

Resistance to United States Global Hegemony Grows in the Twenty-First Century

The visible global political and military contests in the twenty-first century have centered in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. But significant changes have been occurring in Latin America. A continent pillaged by Spain, Britain, France, Portugal, and the Netherlands for hundreds of years has been doggedly moving towards political autonomy and economic independence. Colonialism came to an end with the Spanish/Cuban/American war in 1898. In its place, the United States established neocolonial control over the politics and economics of virtually every country in the Hemisphere.

At first, from 1898 until 1933, the U.S. maintained control through repeated military interventions There were over 30 interventions in 35 years with long marine military occupations of Haiti, Cuba, and Nicaragua.

From the 1930s until the 1980s, U.S. control was maintained by putting in place and supporting military dictatorships in such countries as Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. During the time Reagan, Bush senior and Clinton were in office, control was enhanced by so-called “neoliberal” economic policies. These demanded that countries, increasingly tied to international banks by crippling debt, create open markets, allow foreign economic penetration, and drastically reduce domestic spending for its own citizens.  

During the years of dictatorship and neoliberalism, the primary example of resistance to U.S. economic imperialism and militarism was Cuba. For that reason, the United States put in place a policy of diplomatic isolation, an economic blockade, and a fifty-year campaign to subvert and overthrow the revolutionary government. During the presidency of Barack Obama modest changes in Cuban policy were instituted including the establishment of formal diplomatic relations, increased abilities of US citizens to travel to Cuba, increased opportunities for investment and trade with the island, and collaboration on efforts to end drug smuggling from Latin to North America. Much more needed to be done but now the new president, Donald Trump, has begun to reverse the modest improvements in US/Cuban relations. And, it appears, the Trump policies seem to be motivated more by narrow political gain than US economic opportunities.

Scale of Significance for U.S. Imperialism

To help understand the attention U.S. policy-makers give some countries, it is possible to reflect on what is called here the Scale of Significance for U.S. Imperialism (SSUSI). The SSUSI has three interconnected dimensions that relate to the relative importance policymakers give to some countries compared to others.

First, as an original motivation for expansion, economic interests are primary. Historically, United States policy has been driven by the need to secure customers for U.S. products, outlets for manufacturing investment opportunities, opportunities for financial speculation, and vital natural resources.

Second, geopolitics and military hegemony matter. Empires require ready access to regions and trouble spots all around the world. When Teddy Roosevelt, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Vice President, and President of the United States, articulated the first warning of the need for global power he spoke of the development of a “two-ocean” navy. The U.S., he said, must become an Atlantic and a Pacific power; thus prioritizing the projection of military power in the Western Hemisphere and Asia. If the achievement of global power was dependent upon resources drawn from everywhere, military and political hegemony in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, and parts of Africa also required attention.

Third, as the imperial project grows, certain dependent political regimes and cultures take on particular importance for imperial policymakers. Foreign policy elites claim that the imperial power, in this case the U.S., has a special responsibility for the weaker nation. In other words ideology matters. If the dependent country rejects domination, the experience burns itself into the collective consciousness of the imperial power. For example, Cuba was seen by U.S. rulers as far back as Thomas Jefferson as soon to be part of the United States. Cuba’s rejection of this presumption of U.S. tutelage has been a scar on the U.S. sense of itself ever since the spread of revolutionary ferment on the island in the twentieth century.

Dependency Theory: A Bottom Up Perspective

Latin American social theorists and activists of the era of the Cuban revolutionary process (since the 1950s) defined the economic and political context of countries like Cuba, as a result of dependency. For example, Brazilian social scientist, Theotonio Dos Santos wrote about what he called “the structure of dependence.”

“Dependence is a situation in which a certain group of countries have their economy conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy, to which the former is subject.”

Andre Gunter Frank, looking at the broad sweep of history beginning with the rise of capitalism out of feudalism referred to “the development of underdevelopment.” During the fifteenth century the sectors of the globe now referred to as the “Global North” and “Global South” were roughly equal in economic and military power. But as a result of the globalization of capitalism and militarism, some countries, primarily in Europe and North America, developed at the expense of most of the other countries of the world.

Most dependency theorists included domestic class structures in their analysis of relations between dominant and dependent nations. In addition to dominant and weak countries bound by exploitation and violence, within both powerful and weak countries class structures existed. In fact, rulers in poor countries usually were tied by interests and ideology to the interests and ideology of the ruling classes in powerful countries. And, most importantly, the poor, the exploited, the repressed in both rich and poor countries shared common experiences, often a common outlook, and potentially a common culture.

Imperialism and Dependency: the U.S and Cuban Case

A detailed history of imperialism, colonialism, and neo-colonialism established by the U.S. and Cuban relationship would include discussion of the following topics:

-Spanish conquest between 1511and 1515

-Cuba as sugar producer

-Cuba as slave society. By 1827 over 50 percent of Cuban residents were of African descent.

-Britain’s economic and military penetration of the island beginning in the 18th century

-Revolutionary ferment, particularly slave revolts, permeating 19th century Cuban society

-The visions of U.S. leaders, including Thomas Jefferson, that some day Cuba would join the new nation to the North.

-U.S. investor penetration of the island, challenging the Spanish and British. By the 1880s over 80 percent of sugar exports went to the United States and large plantations on the island were owned by Americans.

-The Spanish/Cuban/American war of 1898 which led to a full transfer of colonial and neocolonial hegemony from the Spanish and British to the United States

-The United States establishment of full economic, political, and cultural control of the island from 1898 to 1959. Subordinate wealthy and powerful Cubans control the political system, benefitting from U.S. hegemony, while “the poor people of this earth” on the island make up the vast majority.

-Armed struggle between 1953 and1959 overthrowing the Batista dictatorship and the elimination of U.S. interests on the island.

From 1959 to the present Cuba haltingly, and confronting international and domestic opposition, has pursued a new society to achieve what Jose Marti called “wash(ing) away that crime” of long years of empire and dependency.  

United States/Latin American/Cuban Relations: the Ideological Dimension

The Scale of Significance for U.S. Imperialism (SSUSI) includes an ideological dimension. That is U.S. policymakers believe and/or propagate various illusions or rationales for United States foreign policy that become part of common political discourse. In relations with Latin America, and particularly Cuba, policy has been built upon economic interest, geopolitics, and ideology. The discourse justifying U.S. hegemony in the Western Hemisphere can be traced back to the nineteenth century. Its modern exposition is surprisingly similar to the first significant declarations by foreign policy elites.

For example, shortly after the U.S. victory in the Spanish/Cuban/American war, Indiana Senator Albert Beveridge articulated what was to become the new ideology of American empire linking economics to Godly purpose: “We will establish trading posts throughout the world as distributing points for American products.” “Great colonies, governing themselves, flying our flag and trading with us, will grow about our posts of trade, And American law, American order, American civilization, and the American flag will plant themselves on shores hitherto bloody and benighted.”

In a campaign speech in Indianapolis, Beveridge articulated a spiritual call and rationale for a global policy that transcended mere economic gain. America’s destiny required the U.S. “…to set the world its example of right and honor…We cannot retreat from any soil where providence has unfurled our banner. It is ours to save that soil, for liberty, and civilization. And in a speech before the Senate justifying the colonization of the Philippines he proclaimed a U.S. mission that transcended politics; “It is elemental…. it is racial. God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration. No! He has made us the master organizers of the world to establish system where chaos reigns. He has given us the spirit of progress to overwhelm the forces of reaction throughout the earth.” (Congressional Record, 56 Congress, I Session, pp.704-712).

Within a few years of the U.S. colonization of Cuba and the Philippines, President Theodore Roosevelt elaborated on the U.S. world mission. He spoke of the necessity of promoting peace and justice in the world; a project that required adequate military capabilities both for “securing respect for itself and of doing good to others.” To those who claim that the United States seeks material advantage in its activist policy toward the countries of the Western Hemisphere, Roosevelt responded that such claims were untrue. The U.S., he said, is motivated by altruism: “All that this country desires is to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous. Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship.”

Cuba was an example, he said: “If every country washed by the Caribbean Sea would show the progress in stable and just civilization which with the aid of the Platt Amendment Cuba has shown since our troops left the island, and which so many of the republics in both Americas are constantly and brilliantly showing, all questions of interference by the Nation with their affairs would be at an end.” He assured Latin Americans in this address to Congress in 1904 that if “…if they thus obey the primary laws of civilized society they may rest assured that they will be treated by us in a spirit of cordial and helpful sympathy. We would interfere with them only in the last resort….” (“Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine,” President’s Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1904). 

On January 18, 1909 to the Methodist Episcopal Church (“The Expansion of the White Races”) Roosevelt applauded the increasing presence--he estimated 100 million people—of “European races” throughout the world. The indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere have been assimilated with their “intruders” with the end result “that the Indian population of America is larger today than it was when Columbus discovered the continent, and stands on a far higher plane of happiness and efficiency.”

And to highlight the missionary message Roosevelt added: “Of course the best that can happen to any people that has not already a high civilization of its own is to assimilate and profit by American or European ideas, the ideas of civilization and Christianity, without submitting to alien control; but such control, in spite of all its defects, is in a very large number of cases the prerequisite condition to the moral and material advance of the peoples who dwell in the darker corners of the earth.” 

Before the reader dismisses these simplistic, racist statements, it is useful to examine more recent proclamations of the motivations for United States foreign policy particularly toward Latin America. It is worth remembering that recent U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama, quote favorably from the words of Theodore Roosevelt on various subjects.

For example, in March, 1961, and clearly as a response to the Cuban revolution, President John Kennedy announced the creation of a new “Alliance for Progress,” in Latin American, “a vast cooperative effort, unparalleled in magnitude and nobility of purpose, to satisfy the basic needs of the American people for homes, work, and land, health and schools.” The United States also pledged its assistance to those countries whose independence might be threatened. And, of course, the President proclaimed that the United States supports an alliance of free governments and will work to eliminate “tyranny”. JFK expressed “our special friendship to the people of Cuba and the Dominican Republic and the hope they will soon rejoin the society of free men….” Sixty years after the proclamations of Teddy Roosevelt the United States remained committed to offer the blessings of freedom and democracy to the peoples of Cuba. (President John F. Kennedy “Preliminary formulations of the Alliance for Progress,” March 13, 1961).

Twenty-two years later President Reagan again underscored the U.S. presumption of its special role in the Hemisphere, restating the U.S. role more in the language of Roosevelt than the subtler Kennedy. The speech was presented at a gathering of Cuban-Americans. Reagan praised assembled Cuban-Americans, such as Jorge Mas Canosa, who, he said, came to the United States motivated by a passion for liberty. Reagan spoke of descendants of pioneers and emigrants from various locales who started “fresh’ in the “New World”; people who “share the same fundamental values of God, family, work, freedom, democracy, and justice.” (“Perhaps the greatest tie between us can be seen in the incredible number of cathedrals and churches found throughout the hemisphere. Our forefathers took the worship of God seriously.”)

Reagan then warned of the “new colonialism that threatens the Americas.” This, of course, was represented by the revolutionary government of Nicaragua, the revolutionaries fighting against dictatorship in El Salvador, and the enduring threat to freedom, Cuba. In the latter, the independent labor movement was destroyed in 1959, churches suppressed, all free speech eliminated, and young Cubans sent to faraway places to defend unpopular regimes. And remembering the sacrifices of the United States in the Cuban war against Spanish colonialism, Reagan regretted that “Cuba is no longer independent.” He promised that “we will not let this same fate befall others in the hemisphere….”

After endorsing 1980s policies such as the Caribbean Basin Initiative and Radio Marti President Reagan reminded his audience of the perpetual burden Americans face in defending freedom. He quoted Teddy Roosevelt; “We, here in America, hold in our hands the hope of the world, the fate of the coming years; and shame and disgrace will be ours if in our eyes the light of high resolve is dimmed, if we trail in the dust the golden hopes of men.” And Reagan ended: “finally, let us pledge ourselves to meet this sacred responsibility. And let us pledge ourselves to the freedom of the noble, long suffering, Cuban people.” (“Text of President Reagan’s Speech on Threat to Latin America, New York Time, May 21, 1983).

President Obama’s opening remarks at the Summit of the Americas (April 14, 2012) were different in tone than those cited above. He celebrated economic development in the region, encouraged continued economic globalization, praised the growth of Latin American nations such as Brazil and Colombia proving that “a lot of the old arguments on the left and the right no longer apply.” The challenge for the future, he said, was to continue distributing the benefits of globalization to more and more people and “giving businesses opportunities to thrive and create new products and new services and enjoy the global marketplace.”

President Obama emphasized the connections between “clean, transparent open government that is working on behalf of its people.” These features, he said, were important for  business. “The days when a business feels good working in a place where people are being oppressed—ultimately that’s an unstable environment for you to do business. You do business well when you know that it’s a well-functioning society and that there’s a legitimate government in place that is going to be looking out for its people.”

The Obama comments at the opening Summit of the Americas in 2012, more paralleling the language of President Kennedy’s Alliance speech than the missionary statements of Beveridge, Roosevelt, and Reagan, still suggested that the United States, and some Latin American political and economic elites, reflected the interests and values of the masses of Latin America’s citizens. All the speeches offer a common standard to judge what is best for the vast majorities of the peoples of the Hemisphere; whether the region is moving toward or away from God, Democracy (defined in very selective ways) and Markets. And, whether stated or implied, the polar opposite of this standard is most starkly represented by the Cuban revolution.

And now we have President Trump’s evocation of God, as did Senator Beveridge, Theodore Roosevelt and others to assist the United States in freeing Cuba from the yoke of dictatorship with US-style elections and markets.

The Beginning of the End of Imperialism and Dependency

At its base, it is argued here, United States foreign policy toward the Western Hemisphere has been based on economic interest, geopolitics, and an hegemonic ideology that has remained largely the same since the industrial revolution. However, Latin America in the twenty-first century has rejected US diplomatic dominance. Despite recent setbacks, segments of the region still embrace the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), an organization promoting autonomous economic and political cooperation in the region. There is in place a trade regime, the Common Southern Market or Mercosur, which has a membership of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay (with membership of Venezuela in process) and associate membership status for Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Although Venezuela, a leader of ALBA, is in turmoil (with US covert support for counter-revolutionaries), Argentina and Brazil have shifted back to neoliberal regimes, the spirit of revolt continues in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and populist mass movements seeking a resumption of the Bolivarian Revolution exist all across the Hemisphere.

And Cuba in the twenty-first century still is the symbol of liberation from United States/Latin American hegemony. This is why Cuba remains the prime target of United States imperialism. It has resisted big power domination virtually throughout its history and particularly since the 1959 Cuban Revolution. President Trump is just the latest in a long line of US presidents who have tried to undermine the Cuban Revolution.

Monday, June 12, 2017


Harry Targ

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

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

Recent History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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