I met Dick Barnet about 34 years ago and got lost in his smile and the twinkle in his eyes. I had already stolen ideas from Intervention and Revolution and Roots of War, and read his articles in The New Yorker. I worked with him for twenty-five years at the Institute for Policy Studies, which he had co-founded and co-directed with Marcus Raskin. He joked how a Soviet academician visited him at IPS after he had just completed his 1974 book about multi-national corporate expansion, Global Reach. “Ha,” barked the Soviet scholar contemptuously as he glanced at Barnet’s less than corporate style office, “you write of Global Rich and you live like global poor.”
Dick wrote Global Dreams, with John Cavanagh, now director of IPS, a cutting edge book that described the corporate globalization process before others articulated the horror. He foresaw the environmental mess in The Lean Years and then used his superb writing skills to author The Youngest Minds a book with his doctor wife Ann on children’s brain development. He wrote other books, scores of long articles and spoke to audiences around the world.
In 1962, when Dick, 33 (a Defense Assistant Secretary) and Marc, 30 (a White House staffer) discovered that no serious peace and security dialogue was possible inside the Kennedy administration, they left government and founded IPS, where it has taken place ever since. These gutsy and brilliant men played violin and piano as a metaphor for their intellectual dialogue, a creative conversation in notes and words that led to the establishment of a place where thousands of young, middle aged and downright senior oddballs, progressives and anarchists have educated each other and our word for four plus decades.
I became an IPS fellow in 1972. Since then I have participated in the most enlightening and weirdest–sometimes downright painful — dialogues, conversed with leaders and activists in a myriad of important social movements from civil rights and anti-Vietnam War through women, gays, environment, liberation of various third world countries up until today where IPS addresses the key peace and global justice issues of the time.
I loved Dick, his sense of humor and infectious laugh–which he even used against himself when he would forget someone’s name or commit a foible of protocol with some visiting dignitary. He was a generous man, a Christian in the best sense of the word, a guy I trusted to do the right thing in the most difficult circumstance.
In September 1976, when Augusto Pinochet had our colleagues Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffit assassinated in the streets of Washington, Dick and Marc went to the hospital with Isabel, Orlando’s widow and Michael, Ronni’s widower to oversee the details of gruesome death. When they returned to IPS, weeping and clutching their stomachs with grief and fear they held a press conference and named Isabel Letelier to assume Orlando’s position–their answer to Pinochet’s terrorism. That took guts and integrity.
I will miss my friend. His lessons, in his books and in his interaction with those who knew him, will live on. He leaves behind his wife, Ann, his kids Julie, Beth and Michael and their kids and spouses–and so many friends who will miss him.
SAUL LANDAU teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University, where he is the director of Digital Media Programs and International Outreach, and is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He is also the co-author of “Assassination on Embassy Row,” which is about the Letelier and Moffitt murders. His new book is The Business of America.