- Professor of political science and international relations at Purdue University
- Director of Purdue University's Peace Studies Program
- Longtime apologist for Communist Cuba
Born on January 30, 1940, Harry Targ holds both a B.S. and an M.A. degree from the University of Illinois, as well as a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. He is a longtime professor of political science and international relations at Purdue University, where he also serves as director of the school’s Peace Studies program. Moreover, Targ is a member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS), the Northwest Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO), and the Lafayette Area Peace Coalition. He co-founded the local Lafayette chapter of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), an organization created by Cuban intelligence to lend support to the Communist guerrilla movement in El Salvador during the 1980s. And in the 1990s, Targ was a co-editor of the now-defunct publication Marxism Today: Essays on Capitalism, Socialism, and Strategies for Social Change.
In an April 2003 email, Targ called for concerted opposition to “U.S. imperialism,” making it clear that he viewed the United States specifically, and capitalism more broadly, as the greatest threats to international security: “We need to clarify the connections between U.S. capitalism, global conquest, and visions of empire.” Targ also condemned the American-led war against Iraq that year as a “grotesque,” “inhumane,” and “criminal” endeavor, on the theory that its real agenda was to advance the “U.S. drive toward global hegemony.”
A 2003 video series organized by Targ's Peace Studies program, and orchestrated by Targ himself, included videos featuring speeches and appearances by such notables as Lynne Stewart, Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, and Cornel West.
In 2004 Targ wrote a review of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, in which he cheered the film's portrayal of the “brutal and bloodthirsty consciousness of young American fighting men and women at the outset of the [Iraq] war.” Moore's film, Targ added, had the potential to “help people understand that defeating [President] George Bush [at the polls] is a necessary but not sufficient condition to create a just society.”
In the early 2000s, Targ's Peace Studies program included a course titled “Experiencing Cuba,” co-taught by Professor Targ himself, where students were given an opportunity to tour Fidel Castro’s Communist state. For 18 days in May 2004, for instance, Targ – a longtime Castro supporter who hailed the Cuban Revolution as “a radical and deeply egalitarian socialist experiment which has raised the bar to new heights on questions of race, gender and class equality and international solidarity” – chaperoned students as they visited Cuban factories and farms to learn about socialist means of production. And while the professor remained silent regarding Castro’s political prisons, he denounced the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba as a “draconian” policy.
Another noteworthy course in Targ's Peace Studies program, titled “Classical and Contemporary Marxism,” includes the screening of two propaganda films that reflect course's leftist orientation. One of those films, according to a course catalog description, “illustrates the trajectory from Marx’s Manifesto to anti-globalization movements,” while the second lionizes the anti-capitalist Zapatista terrorists in Chiapas, Mexico, showing how their activities “intertwine” so-called “post-colonial” theories of liberation with “liberation theology.”
A third course in the Peace Studies program, titled “Persuasion in Social Movements,” offers a practical training curriculum for radical activists. As described in the course catalog, this class “focuses on six essential functions persuasion serves for social movements.” Among these are: “transforming perceptions of reality; altering self-perceptions of protesters; [and] legitimizing the social movement.”
In addition to his duties as a professor, Targ has served as the coordinator and administrator of Purdue’s “Committee on Peace Studies,” which offers counseling to students and commonly brings radical speakers to campus.
Over the years, Targ has been outspoken regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. Asserting that Palestinians suffer widely from “joblessness, land theft, food insecurity, and grotesque economic and political inequalities” as a result of Israeli oppression, he lamented in 2017 that “Israel, with United States support, opposes serious negotiations with what is now the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza.” Calling also for “the creation of a viable secular Israeli state in which all participate or a separate Palestinian state with land repatriation and guarantees of security from Israeli military attack,” Targ argued that “the United States should stop fueling the violence in the region by ending military aid to Israel.”
Targ has likewise been vocal regarding matters related to immigration and refugee policy. When scores of thousands of unaccompanied Central American minors flooded across the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014, for example, he framed the phenomenon as an inevitable consequence of “the history of United States imperialism in the Western Hemisphere and particularly the grotesque U.S.-inspired violence against the Central American peoples launched by the Reagan administration in the 1980s.” Thus, Targ advised, “progressives should demand that the children entering the United States be treated as refugees and provided safety and security.”
Since 2008, Targ has disseminated his political views via his Internet blog, “Diary of a Heartland Radical.”
In 2009 Targ was a supporter of Progressives for Obama, an organization that was later renamed Progressive America Rising.