Saturday, June 17, 2017

THE STRUGGLE OVER THE FUTURE OF CUBA IS A GLOBAL STRUGGLE


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

THE NEXT PHASE OF THE KAPLAN DEAL: DEFINE THAT UNIVERSITY

Harry Targ

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

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

Recent History

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, May 28, 2017

REMEMBER THOSE WHO PROTESTED WARS TOO! A repost

Monday, May 30, 2011

Harry Targ

"In a society where it is normal for human beings to drop bombs on human targets, where it is normal to spend 50 percent of the individual's tax dollar on war, where it is normal...to have twelve times overkill capacity, Norman Morrison was not normal. He said, 'Let it stop.' "(a gravesite speech by John Roemer at the funeral of Norman Morrison quoted in Hendrickson, Paul. The Living and the Dead. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1996).

On November 2, 1965, Norman Morrison brought his daughter with him to the Pentagon. Outside the office of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Morrison set himself on fire to protest the escalating war in Vietnam. His daughter, Emily, somehow was passed to others and survived the flames. Morrison, however, died as he had lived, protesting the bombing of villages in South Vietnam, killing innocent men, women, and children.

I was part of an educational tour to Vietnam last March. We were taken to a powerful museum, known as the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. On the second floor an exhibit featured images of international solidarity with the Vietnamese people during the American war. Included there was a framed copy of an American newspaper account of Morrison’s self-immolation. Earlier, in Hue, we had seen an exhibit of the automobile used by a Buddhist Monk, Thích Quảng Đức, who killed himself in protest of the brutality of the Diem regime in South Vietnam. Presumably this act inspired Morrison’s tragic protest.

I had forgotten Morrison’s dramatic act, and the acts of several others who bravely sacrificed their bodies and lives to oppose the murderous war in Vietnam. Today, Memorial Day, 2011 I thought about Morrison, the exhibit at the Vietnamese Museum, and parallel acts of self-sacrifice.

First, on reflection, I am in awe of the courage and self-sacrifice of the acts of these brave and principled people. Yet, I wish they had not made the ultimate sacrifices they did and had put their courage and willingness to sacrifice to the long-term struggles of the peace movement to end war.

However, I believe we must “take back” Memorial Day from those who celebrate war, see sacrifice only from those who kill and die, and ignore the bravery of the men and women everywhere who fight to end war. We mourn those who were sent off to fight in ignoble wars in the name of the United States. Also we must declare Memorial Day as a day to remember all the Norman Morrison’s who have said “no” to war and empire.

Monday, May 22, 2017

TWO STATUS QUOS AND A LEFT YEARNING TO GROW: The Political Time of Day

Harry Targ

May, 2017

The rift within the Democratic Party was on full display at the California Democratic Party Convention on May 19 in Sacramento, California. Progressives joined members of National Nurses United, protesting the Democratic Party establishment’s refusal to support (a) single payer health care system. Rather than follow through with Democratic rhetoric that health care is a human right, establishment Democrats have responded to voters by scolding and attacking them. (Michael Sainato, “Tom Perez Bombs Speech, California Dem Chair Tells Protesters ‘Shut the F* Up’” Observer, May 20, 2017).
The new Trump administration is embroiled in a series of crises, with new ones emerging on almost a daily basis. The president is bombastic, ill-informed, and narcissistic. In response to his critics he engages in dangerous and unconventional efforts to transform the dominant narrative about his incompetence. He has authorized ruthless bombings in Syria and Afghanistan and threatened war against enemies such as North Korea. More recently, in his diplomatic trip to the Middle East and Europe, he has reached a deal to sell $110 billion in weaponry to a Saudi Arabian regime which supports terrorism throughout the Middle East and a devastating bombing campaign against Yemen. And at home he has appointed cabinet members and advisors with long histories of white supremacy and anti-Semitism (almost in defiance of accepted minimal qualifications for public office).

Trump’s core constituency all along has been sectors of finance capital, insurance, real estate, the military/industrial complex, and drug companies whose profits have come from domestic investments or sales and speculation overseas. It also includes portions of small and medium sized businesses whose viabilities have been threatened, not by big government, but by the further monopolization of the economy.
In addition, some workers displaced by the underside of neoliberalism, including capital flight, automation, and trade, have supported Trump because they saw no positive economic future in a Clinton presidency. Finally, the Trump constituency includes a percentage of voters who are ideological legatees of white supremacy.  

Therefore, the Trump coalition consists of fractions of capital who will gain from a more muscular and economically nationalist policy agenda, marginalized portions of the so-called “middle class,” sectors of the working class, and portions of all of these whose political learning has centered on the history and consciousness of white supremacy (“make America great again”).

Trump’s major adversaries come from a core sector of the ruling class that has dominated the policy process at least since the 1980s, the neoliberal globalists. In response to the squeeze on profits of the 1970s, the capitalist elites began to promote a dramatic shift in the character of the economy in the direction of “neoliberalism.” Drawing upon an economic ideology with a long history from Adam Smith, to Milton Friedman, to mainstream neoclassical economists of the late twentieth century, every administration from Carter to Trump has engaged in deregulation of economic life, reducing government programs that help the poor and working classes, reducing the rights of unions, and privatizing virtually all public institutions. They “went global,” that is developing a network of economic ties via trade agreements, the globalization of production, and integrating corporate boards. Capitalist elites from every continent began to develop common approaches to national policy via such informal organizations as the Trilateral Commission, meetings of the G7 countries, and the annual World Economic forum.

Debt poor countries were the first to be forced to embrace neoliberal policies, followed by the former Socialist Bloc countries, then the Western European social democracies, and finally the United States. A significant portion of this qualitative change in the way capitalism works has involved increased financial speculation (as a proportion of the total gross domestic product), dramatic increases in global inequality in wealth and income, and increasing economic marginalization of workers, particularly women, people of color and immigrants.
Candidate Donald Trump orchestrated a campaign against the neoliberal globalists who dominated the political process in the United States since the 1980s. While he epitomized finance capital, albeit domestic as well as foreign, and represents the less than one percent who rule the world, he presented himself as a spokesperson of the economically marginalized. He attacked the capitalist class of which he is a member. In addition, he blamed the marginalization of the vast majority on some of their own; people of color, women, and immigrants.

Resistance May, 2017
Since the November, 2016 election masses of people have been mobilizing in a variety of ways against the threatened agenda of the newly elected president. The women’s marches and rallies of January 21, 2017 and International Women’s Day on March 8 were historic in size and global reach. There have been huge mobilizations to reduce the use of fossil fuels and prevent climate disaster, to support immigrant rights, and to provide basic health care. Many of these manifestations of outrage and fear have occurred as planned events but also there have been numerous spontaneous acts at Congressional town hall meetings and even in airports challenging Trump directives to refuse people entry into the United States.

A multiplicity of groups have formed or increased in size since January: former Bernie Sanders supporters; anti-racists campaigns; those calling for sanctuary cities and defending the human rights of immigrants; progressive Democratic organizations; and women’s mobilizations. Traditional left organizations, such as the Democratic Socialists of America, benefiting from the Sanders campaign, tripled in size. And organizations such as The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood have reported large increases in financial contributions. The mobilization of millions of people has bolstered the spirits of progressives everywhere. They feel that at this point in history a new progressivism is about to be born. But the story is made complicated by the nature of the opposition to Trumpism.
Oppositions to Trumpism: Neoliberal and Progressive

Paradoxically, while this is a teachable moment as well as a movement building moment, progressive forces are struggling to be organized. In and around the Democratic Party there is a conflict over the vision and the politics it ought to embrace at this time and in the coming period. The Sanders supporters, inside and outside the Democratic Party, have marshalled much support for a progressive agenda: single-payer health care, a green jobs agenda, protecting the environment, tax reform, building not destroying immigrant rights, defending women’s rights, and cutting military spending. With the brutal policies advocated and already instituted by the new Trump administration, progressive democrats and their allies on the left are struggling mightily to articulate a program, and create some organizational unity to challenge Trumpism.

However, on almost a daily basis stories have appeared in the mainstream media about Trump’s incompetence and irrational and ill-informed statements. Most importantly, allegations of the connection between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian spying, have dominated the news. As a result, the neoliberal globalist Democrats, activists in the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and leaders of the Democratic Party, have consciously embraced the Trump/Russia connection as the real reason why their candidate lost the election. By implication, they deny that there was anything perceived negatively about mainstream Democratic Party policies on trade, health care, mass incarceration, bank regulation, jobs and wages, and other neoliberal approaches to policy in the years when Democrats were in the White House. Clearly, Hillary Clinton was identified with this neoliberal agenda. But understanding the election outcome through the lens of Russiagate is a recipe for disaster.
The dilemma for progressives is that opposition to Trumpism and all it stands for has been and must be a key component of reigniting a progressive majority. But if it does not address the fundamental failures of the neoliberal agenda, including challenging neoliberal globalization, the current stage of capitalism, Trump’s grassroots support will continue. Working people who ordinarily would vote for more liberal candidates for public office need to believe that future candidates are prepared to address the issues, often economic, that concern them.

Therefore, the fundamental project for progressives today includes mobilizing against Trumpism while articulating an alternative political and economic analysis of the current state of capitalist development. In concrete terms, this approach means challenging the legitimacy of the Trump administration and its allies in Congress while articulating the perspective that mainstream Democrats, the neoliberal globalists, are part of the problem, not the solution.

This alternative analysis requires a bold challenge inside the electoral arena and in the streets that calls for radical reforms: single-payer health care; cutting the military-budget; creating government programs to put people to work on living wage jobs in infrastructure, social services, and public education; addressing climate change: and fiscal and regulatory policies that reduce the grotesque inequality of wealth and income which has increased since the 1980s.
The tasks are challenging but another world is possible.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

THE THREAT TO PUBLIC EDUCATION CONTINUES


Harry Targ
May 20, 2017

The new Secretary of Education, Betty DeVos, will be speaking in Indianapolis, Monday, May 22, 2017, at the American Federation for Children, National Policy Summit. As a former chair of this Federation she has been instrumental in marshalling resources in support of school vouchers, charter schools, and shifting public resources to private schools. According to the Indianapolis Star, DeVos and her organization played a pivotal role in making Indiana the state with the largest private school voucher program in the United States. She is expected to unveil a new round of proposals for federal legislation to support the further privatization of education.
The essays below, posted in November, 2015 and January, 2016 provide some information on the impacts of the school privatization movement on education, particularly as it impacts African American and other minority and working class communities.

NEOLIBERALISM, PRIVATIZATION, AND THE CRISIS OF EDUCATION
Harry Targ

Introduction

In August, 2015 12 parents in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago launched a 34 day hunger strike to protest the closing of a neighborhood high school. Their demands, along with its reopening, included the establishment of a green jobs oriented curriculum that would train young people for the needs of the 21st century.

In Seattle, Washington in September, 2015 teachers went on strike to demand fair wages and working conditions in their new contract.

In the summer, 2014 again in Chicago, the teachers union went on strike to push back against school closings, stagnant teacher wages, and closed-door policymaking to consciously limit the influence of parents in the community. This strike had the support of teachers, parents, and children.

During the spring, 2015, parents all around the state of Indiana were keeping their children home during school days as a mark of their resistance to painful, frustrating, ill-conceived, and misused batteries of tests that state/federal policymakers were imposing on young people.

These are just a few examples of rising anger at the threat to the tradition of public schooling, big corporate efforts to privatize schools for profit, the denial of communities of parents any influence over educational policy, and campaigns to destroy teachers unions. A key component of the struggle to save our schools has been to defend the rights of all children to quality education not limited by race, class, gender, or ethnicity.

The neoliberal design

In the 1970s powerful economic and political elites began a sustained campaign to shift more of the wealth of society from the many to the few. A new policy agenda, sometimes called neoliberalism or austerity, was initiated that called for a variety of attacks on government policies that had been instituted over the prior thirty years.

In general, the neoliberal policies called for downsizing government (except for the military), cutting public services and programs to provide for the human needs of the population, deregulating banks and corporations, and privatizing public institutions. Roads, libraries, parks, prisons, and particularly schools were being shifted from public ownership and control to private corporations, mostly to make a profit. While these policies have encountered public opposition and have not been fully implemented, they have dramatically affected the quality of our public life and our communities.

The Threat to Public Schools

Since the dawn of the twentieth century the anchor of most communities in the United States, has been its public schools. Schools help raise, nourish, mentor, and educate the youth of America. Parents, as best they can, participate in supporting school systems and provide input on school policy. Teachers and school administrators sacrifice time and energy to stimulate the talents of young people. And teachers through educational associations and trade unions organize to protect their rights in the workplace, always mindful of the number one priority; serving the children and the community.

Beginning in the 1970s, various special interest groups, many well-funded, began to advocate for the privatization of education. Looking at aggregate data showing some failing school performance, they argued that private corporations, charter schools, could educate children better. They blamed the lack of marketplace competition for waste of taxpayer dollars for poor performance. The arguments ignored the fact that failing schools were schools underfunded by state legislatures and were often in communities where resources were scarce because of inequalities of wealth and income. Most often under-performing schools were underfunded schools: underfunded because of racism and patterns of segregation.

The neoliberal answer was to shift public funds, formerly from public schools, to private corporate charter schools. Along with the creation of charter schools, voucher systems were established by state legislatures and school districts allowing parents to place their children in any school they could find; often difficult to access and sometimes far from the child’s neighborhood. The introduction of charter schools and vouchers began the process of shifting resources from public education to private schools. 

Shifting resources from the public to the private sector served to destroy adequately performing public schools and weakened nearby communities.

The data on the shift from public schools to charters is shocking. For example in Detroit between 2005 and 2013 public school enrollment declined by 63% and charter school enrollments rose by 53%; in Gary the decline in public schools was 47% and the rise in charter school enrollment rose by 197%; and in Indianapolis the decline in public school enrollments totaled 27% and the rise in charter schools was 287%. 

This historic transfer of public funds for education to privatization would often be sped up by local crises. The biggest crisis in an American community in decades occurred in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck that city in August, 2005. In its aftermath 100,000 citizens were forced to leave the city because their homes were demolished. Over 100 public schools were destroyed in the disaster. Subsequently virtually all those schools were replaced with charter schools, run by private corporations for a profit, devoid of teachers’ organizations and parental participation in the revitalization of educational institutions. Commenting on the New Orleans experience President Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan suggested that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to the educational system of New Orleans. 

The human tragedy of Katrina was also a metaphor for what was to follow all across the nation: powerful forces swept away vibrant publicly controlled and accountable educational institutions, replacing them with new profit-driven, non-transparent, non-union, corporate schools that did not serve the needs and desires of the remaining members of the community. Public education is being uprooted, transformed, and destroyed all across the United States. 

To facilitate the privatization of schools, cities everywhere have begun to close public schools. Detroit, New York, and Chicago have closed over 100 schools per city in recent years. Several cities have closed at least 25 schools in recent years. In Philadelphia, municipal funds for a prison came from the closure of 50 schools. The impacts of school closings is reflected in the essay “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” produced by the Journey for Justice Alliance: “Closing a school is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a community; it strikes at the very core of community culture, history, and identity and…produces far-reaching repercussions that negatively affect every aspect of community life.” www.empowerdc.org/uploads/J4JReport-Death_by_a_Thousand_Cuts

IMPACTS OF THE PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Harry Targ
The political economy of public sector failure is wholly ignored when schools are declared failing and threatened with closure. Further, parents, guardians, community members, educators, and youth are systematically excluded from decisions to close schools and plans to redesign their replacements. The cover story about saving communities from educational crisis grows a bit suspect when the very communities presumably being saved are kept out of the process--and their children are often denied admission to the replacement schools. (Michael Fabricant and Michelle Fine, Charter Schools and the Corporate Makeover of Public Education, Teachers College, Columbia University, 2012, p. 98. These comments were made about New York but are relevant almost everywhere. ht).

In a prior essay, I discussed the connections between the neoliberal agenda characteristic of the changing political economy since the 1980s, the move toward privatization of public institutions, and the threat to public schools.

In this essay I discuss some impacts of these policy changes in the United States and proposals for mobilizing for policy change in Indiana. 
First, the shift of scarce state budget funds from public to charter schools has meant a significant decline in resources to maintain and improve public schools. If funds for new charter schools and increased money for vouchers are transferred from adequately performing public schools to under-performing charter or religious schools the changes in educational policy would lead to a decline in the quality of education provided to all students. For example, in the 2014-2015 Indiana budget, $115 million was diverted by the state legislature from public education to the growing voucher program.

Therefore, as money is withdrawn from K-12 public education the traditional schools have reduced resources with which to do their job. This leads to declining performance. Then privatization advocates call for further reduction as well as school closings, rather than increasing resource allocation to public schools. 
Second, a high percentage of school closings occur in poor and Black communities. These closings create what the Journey for Justice Alliance calls “education deserts.” Parents have to find adequate, affordable schools elsewhere in the cities in which they live. Oftentimes charter schools refuse to admit particular students because of biased estimates of their probability of success, disabilities they may have, insufficient English language proficiency or other reasons. “Charter schools use a variety of selective admissions techniques, such as targeted marketing strategies, burdensome application processes, imposing academic prerequisites, and the active discouragement of less-desirable candidates.” (Journey for Justice Alliance, Death By a Thousand Cuts, May, 2014, pp.11-12). In some cases parents cannot find adequate schools for their children anywhere near their community. 

The closing of schools, the struggle for admission to new schools, the increased class sizes of new schools, the adjustment to a new school culture, along with the inexperience of new teachers, all impact in negative ways on the educational experience of children. Education writer, Scott Elliott reported that of the 18 charter schools operating in Indianapolis in 2015, half of them had test scores in 2014 that registered a “fail” in state examination of their children. The failing charter schools served children from poorer backgrounds and/or were children with special needs such as language training. Several of these failing charter schools had been operating for several years and some had been part of national charter networks.
The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability summed up studies of the impacts of voucher programs on educational performance: ‘None of the independent studies performed of the most lauded and long standing voucher programs extant in the U.S.--Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Cleveland, Ohio, and Washington, D.C.--found any statistical evidence that children who utilized vouchers performed better than children who did not and remained in public schools.”

Third, as parent and student protests in Chicago, in various cities and towns in Indiana, and elsewhere suggest, there is an inverse relationship between the spread of charter schools and voucher systems and citizen input into educational policy-making. Historically, while many parents chose not to participate in school board decision- making, the prerogative existed for parents, and even students, to provide input into educational policy. It was assumed that members of communities had the right and the responsibility to communicate their concerns to school administrators, elected school boards, and teachers. Most school districts have active parent organizations. 
The documentary Education Inc. demonstrated cases in which the frequency of public school board hearings was reduced and meetings were summarily adjourned to avoid debate on controversial issues. And legislatures, such as in Indiana, have prohibited state executive or legislative bodies from regulating the “curriculum content” of private schools that accept vouchers.

Fourth, the neoliberal design referred to in the prior essay is based upon the proposition that institutional and policy success is best measured by the profit accrued to the corporate bodies involved. In the field of education, neoliberal policies seek to shift accountability from the public to the private sector; from professional skills to market skills; and from participation by the professional and union organizations of teachers, parent groups, and engaged students to corporate executives of private corporations. The neoliberal design regards educational professionalism and training and teachers advocacy associations as impediments. 
Therefore the full force of state educational policy includes transferring status, respect, adequate remuneration from long time public school teachers to marginalized, under-trained new workers in charter schools. Also, the charter school movement is avowedly an anti-teacher union movement. 

Documentaries on education such as Rise Above the Mark and Education Inc. illustrate that career teachers find demoralizing the repeated and dysfunctional testing of children, declining resources for their schools, and repeated public statements devaluing and demeaning teachers. Educational spokespersons in these films speak in the most glowing terms about the passion to teach, commitment to children, and talent of staffs under their leadership. School superintendents in these documentaries also speak about the contributions which teacher unions make to the enhancement of school performance.  
The sum total of the thirty year effort to transform the educational system under the guise of “reform” are the following: the tradition of public education is being destroyed; access to quality education is becoming more difficult and more unequal; transparency and parent input into policy making is becoming more difficult; and the attack on professionalism and teachers unions is making it more difficult to teach.

How to respond?
The November 14, 2015 essay and this one only begin to tell the story about the attacks on the educational process and quality education. Other issues need to be discussed including testing, evaluations based on dubious metrics, charging parents for text books, inequitable access to school supplies by district and by public versus private schools, inadequate funding, the development of curricula appropriate for a twenty-first century educational agenda, and the need to combat the “school to prison pipeline” that seems to undergird much of urban education. Responses to protect and enhance the quality of educational life for children require the following:

Create an educational movement in the state of Indiana that says “enough is enough” to those advocates of so-called education “reform.” That means developing inside strategies that include running and electing legislators and executives who believe in public education. It means lobbying at the State House during the legislative season. It means launching litigation when politicians and educational privateers violate the Indiana constitution’s guarantee that all children have a right to a quality education.

The educational movement must also embrace an outside strategy, building a social movement. It should include education, agitation, and organization. Pamphlets, speakers, videos, and other public fora need to be organized all around the state. Educators and their supporters need to rally and protest so that the issue of quality education is discussed in communities and the media.

And organizationally, an educational movement should draw upon the militancy, passion, and expertise of educational organizations around the state that are already engaged in this work. Strengthening the movement for quality education is more about bringing existing groups together than creating new ones. That is the vision of Indiana Moral Mondays and the idea of “fusion politics.” Assemble those who share common values and a vision and build a mass movement such that as the old slogan says: “The People United Shall Never Be Defeated.” 

What Specific Policies and Programs to Support?
1.Increasing, not decreasing, federal, state, and local funding of public education.

2.Prioritizing the funding of traditionally under-funded schools in economically disadvantaged communities. Resources should include salaries to encourage experienced teachers to remain in disadvantaged communities. Funds should provide equal technologies, including libraries, computers, and other tools, for schools in lower income communities equal to those provided for wealthier communities. Resources should provide for language training, math education, and programs in the arts.
3.Policy-making bodies in all branches of government should be open and transparent so that parents, teachers, and students can observe and participate in decision-making.

4.In school districts where teachers choose to form unions or other professional associations these organizations should be recognized partners in the policy-making process.
5.Assessments of school performance should be determined by teachers, school administrators, and parents, not politicians or educational corporations. Teachers should not be forced to “teach to the tests.”

6.The goal of the educational process should be the full development of the potential of each and every student irrespective of race, gender, class or other forms of discrimination.