Born in New Jersey in 1950, Kevin Danaher earned a Ph.D. in sociology at UC Santa Cruz in 1982, and was an adjunct professor at American University in Washington, D.C. from 1979-83. In 1984 he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to work as a senior analyst with Food First. That same year, he married the activist Medea Benjamin. Also in the Eighties, Danaher served as an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.
In 1988 Danaher and Ms. Benjamin co-founded Global Exchange, through which they sponsored an ongoing series of “reality tours” designed to give Americans a first-hand view of the harm that “U.S. foreign policy was doing” to populations overseas. The most popular destination for these tours was Fidel Castro‘s Cuba, which Danaher in 2000 praised effusively as follows:
“Contrary to what theories of ‘totalitarian’ society would lead us to believe, the strongest institution in Cuba is not the Communist Party, it is the family. Whether a Cuban family’s politics are left, right or center, you will find the typical family to be strongly bonded, affectionate and loyal…. Elderly people in Cuba are respected and not tossed on a scrap heap once they are too old to produce at maximum efficiency…. School attendance in Cuba is extremely high. Students do not abuse or attack their teachers; they hardly even sass their teachers. Cuban teenagers do not think carrying a knife or gun to school is a cool thing to do.
“Drug abuse — at epidemic proportions in our own country — is virtually unknown in Cuba…. There is very little street crime in Cuba…. You can walk Cuban streets at night in greater safety than you can in any major city in the United States….
“In the past, conservatives criticized Cuba for restricting free enterprise. But in recent years Cuba has done more to open up its economy than many of the eastern European countries that are recipients of U.S. government aid.
“The skeptical may be thinking, ‘But what about Cuba’s human rights abuses?’ Let’s be frank. The Cuban government does restrict freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, and freedom of the press. Many Cubans would argue that the other half of human rights — the economic rights such as health care, jobs, housing and education — are better provided for in Cuba than in most other countries.
“But that still leaves the nagging problem of restricted political rights in Cuba. Think of the double-standard of U.S. foreign policy. In the case of Mexico and China and every other country with human rights problems where we trade openly, the U.S. government argues that increased contact will liberalize these countries and increase their observation of human rights. But somehow this argument does not apply to Cuba. Overall, Cuba meets many of the social criteria of the conservative agenda at a much smaller price in human rights restrictions than do right-wing regimes that can’t come close to matching the social cohesion of Cuba. President Clinton’s recent normalization of relations with Vietnam shows that he knows the difference between being a politician and being a statesman. The president should now demonstrate that we really are ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ by ending the U.S. embargo of Cuba and establishing normal relations with our island neighbors.”
Danaher and Benjamin were key organizers of the 1999 anti-globalization, anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, which devolved into violent riots. When Danaher was later asked, in a March 2001 interview, whether violence could ever be justified as a form of political expression, he replied that “in the larger context,” it was indeed an appropriate response to the “structural violence” that the “capitalist system” was inflicting on people around the world—in the form of “hunger and hunger-related diseases.” He accused capitalism’s “global market economy” of carrying out a form of “genocide” that was “on a scale with slavery, colonialism and the Holocaust.” “In order to protect the people who are perpetrating the policies that produce that violence,” Danaher elaborated, “the capitalist state sends the police and sometimes the military out into the street to commit violence against us. So you have the structural violence of the capitalist system, then you have the violence of the capitalist state, and then within the opposition movement, the movement for change and for progress, occasionally there is a very small section carrying out some kind of property destruction–sometimes out of frustration or some kind of theoretical justification–but it is relatively small, such as windows being smashed. So we have to keep this in perspective.”
In a separate interview in April 2000, Danaher blamed the violence in Seattle on the police, not the protesters: “[T]he violence in Seattle was started by the police, police started shooting us before 10:00 AM…. [T]hey fomented a lot of anger in people…. They were doing violence against human beings…. [W]e had a guy in our team get shot right in the face, busted his face open with a rubber bullet.”
In the same interview, Danaher warned that if people worldwide failed to dramatically cut back on their use of fossil fuels, “you can kiss the planet’s ass goodbye; it’s over.” “The hole in the ozone layer is over twenty-six million square kilometers,” he elaborated. “… The oceans are expanding more rapidly than anybody had guessed before, whole island nations out in the Pacific are being inundated. The oceans contain 50 times as much carbon dioxide as the entire atmosphere. If those oceans start giving off carbon dioxide, instead of being a carbon dioxide sink, forget it, we’re cooked.”
In a January 20, 2001 article that appeared in the Socialist Worker, Danaher condemned “the top-down globalization promoted by the big corporations” and their “constant drive to maximize profits.”
In an interview with Socialist Review two months later, he suggested that capitalism’s excesses and its disregard for human well-being would inevitably sow the seeds of its own destruction: “It’s almost like when Marx talks about capitalism having a strangely progressive effect in bringing workers off the land together into the factories, and that sets the objective basis for trade union consciousness.”
On a later occasion, in 2008, Danaher portrayed “the mindset of the traditional property developer”—who, as a capitalist, seeks to “grow, grow, grow” without any concern for how the natural environment may be impacted by such growth—as “the ideology of the cancer cell.”
According to Danaher, capitalism encourages people to “pursue an unsustainable pattern of resource consumption” and ultimately results in “grotesque levels” of “social inequality.” To address these issues, Danaher urges fellow socialists “within the progressive movement” to “get involved” in “corporate accountability campaigns” designed to promote “a systemic critique that seeks to end corporate rule, rather than simply make corporations less destructive.” “Our task,” he says, is “to prevent the biosphere and millions of people from being destroyed by the built-in rapaciousness of global capitalism.”
In the aftermath of 9/11, Danaher exhorted Americans not to view the Islamic terrorist attacks “as an act of war” or a “crime against humanity,” lest they succumb to the type of “nationalist sentiment” that “separates us from the people of other nations.” Rather, he urged the United States to work for the establishment of an international criminal court to deal with such cases as legal rather than military matters. And he suggested that to effectively abolish international terrorism, America would have to do more to alleviate global poverty—so as to win the hearts and minds of the world’s people. “You don’t fight fire with fire,” Danaher explained, “you fight it with water. And you don’t fight hate with hate, you fight it with love.”
During the August 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, Danaher endorsed an anti-“Bush Team” protest that was organized by Not In Our Name, an organization closely linked to the Revolutionary Communist Party.
In October 2004, Danaher signed a “911 Truth Statement” calling for an “immediate inquiry into evidence that suggests high-level government officials may have deliberately allowed the September 11th attacks to occur.” Fellow signatories included Ed Asner, Medea Benjamin, Richard Falk, Randall Hayes, Michael Lerner, Cynthia McKinney, Mark Crispin Miller, Ralph Nader, and Howard Zinn.
Urging communities nationwide to create “sustainable local economies,” Danaher is a founder and executive producer of numerous so-called “Green Festivals,” two-day events that bring together hundreds of so-called “green economy” companies, many social-justice and environmental organizations, and tens of thousands of like-minded attendees who desire a transition away from a fossil-fuel-based economy. In November 2008, for example, Danaher spoke at a Green Festival in San Francisco, promoting renewable energy and a diminished reliance on oil and coal. He shared the stage with, among others, the revolutionary communist Van Jones.
Over the years, Danaher has spoken on energy- and environment-related topics at hundreds of universities, and for many community organizations, throughout the United States. Most notably, he has emphasized the “need to push capital into” green-energy investments to help America move away from “a single-bottom-line economy that is all about money,” and toward “a triple-bottom-line economy that balances social equity, environmental restoration, and financial sustainability.”
Danaher has occasionally blogged for the website Alternet.