Anti-Imperialism vs. Barack Obama
Obama, a millionaire Ivy League lawyer, built his original base among Chicago's slum lords and became a cog in the Democratic Party machine. Now he has become the chief representative of the exploitative, racist and imperialist U.S. bourgeoisie.
SAIC---Statement on the election of Barack Obama as president
In 2008 the ruling class threw its support to the Democrats as its best hope for solving the international and domestic crises that the despised Bush Administration could not. Wall Street literally showered them with money. Barack Obama's picture with vague slogans about "hope" and "change" were everywhere. The corporate media gushed over him. And he and his party swept the elections.
Now, in January, Obama is being treated to a four-day made-for-T.V. inaugural love-in, and he'll dance at 10 official balls. But kept away from the gala affairs by an army of heavily armed police, the homeless people of the capitol of the U.S. empire will shiver in the cold; others will be waiting to be foreclosed on; others will be exhausted from work; and still others will be worrying about being laid off or deported. These people---who represent the masses of the people in the country---belong to a different world than do the politicians, generals and rich parasites who will be dancing the nights away, and toasting their new hero: Barack.
But Obama is not going to bring progressive change to the masses of people. Such change will only come as a result of their own initiative, organization, and struggle. And this is going to have to be done without and against Obama and the Democrats. Let's look at why.
A government of the rich that will squeeze the workers and poor
Obama is packing the new administration with former members of the Clinton Administration, and even some former Reagan officials. Since leaving government, most of these people have made fortunes in Wall Street and corporate worlds---where many have taken advantage of the deregulatory policies that they supported while in government. And some have personally profited from the $700 billion Wall Street bailout that was voted for by their new President. Obama has even brought on board the dinosaur Paul Volcker as an advisor! (As the Chair of the Federal Reserve under Democrat Carter and Republican Reagan, Volcker implemented policies that devastated the workers and small farmers in order help the capitalists get out of the economic crisis that had developed in the 1970s.)
This is not change. These personally wealthy people will be representing the interests of the capitalist class as they work out and administer Obama's economic policies. And in this new time of financial and overproduction crises, Obama has already given us an idea of what this is going to look like: he and the Democrats have been fully behind the government commitment to give (now) 7.8 trillion dollars to the richest capitalists in the country. Obama is even backpedaling on his campaign promise to repeal Bush's 2003 tax cuts for the rich. In comparison to the trillions doled out to the wealthy, only pittances are being proposed for the masses of people.
The Democrats' plan is to shift the burden of the economic crisis onto the backs of the workers and poor, while bailing out the capitalists. This is justified under the same old "trickle-down" economic theory that both parties have been promoting for decades. But under this theory nothing good has ever trickled down to the masses. They've only gotten poorer.
A new regime of imperialism and war
As chieftain of U.S. imperialism, Obama will viciously fight for the interests of this same U.S. capitalist class globally.
Even while campaigning as an anti-war candidate, Obama repeatedly voted to fund the Iraq and Afghan wars. And his highly advertised Iraq withdrawal plan always included keeping tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for many years to come. In fact this plan just represented the growing consensus among the ruling class and military brass that they couldn't dominate Iraq through military might alone, and also occupy Afghanistan, and still have the military forces to threaten or attack other rivals.
Now, as president, Obama will struggle to save what can be saved of the U.S. imperialist project to dominate in Iraq and the oil rich Middle East. He'll also escalate the war in Afghanistan---on December 20th the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mullen, said that the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan could be doubled to 60,000 by summer. Obama also plans to continue the expansion of this war into Pakistan, and to continue threats against Iran. And to ensure that the United States remains top world bully, he'll work to fulfill his promises to add close to 100,000 troops to the military, and to "rebuild" a war machine that already has a bigger budget than that of all other countries combined.
To implement this militarist program, Obama is putting together a White House team and cabinet that the bloodstained war criminal Dick Cheney himself has praised. There's no wonder why.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is being kept on. An inveterate cold-warrior, Gates has boasted of his involvement in the funding and training on Mujahedeen "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan in the 1980's, the same people who later became the Taliban the U.S. now fights.
The National Security Advisor for Bush Sr., Brent Scowcroft, has been advising Obama on national security, and Obama has chosen Marine General James Jones to be his own National Security Advisor. Since retiring from the military, Jones sat on the board of directors of both Boeing and Chevron, and was president and chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy. Moreover, last year he was Condoleezza Rice's special envoy on Middle East Security. He's a personification of the military-industrial complex.
Obama has selected warmonger Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State.
Obama's representative to the G20 summit, Madeline Albright, is a long-time Obama advisor and will probably play a significant role in his administration. Under Bill Clinton she infamously declared that the deaths of 500,000 children due to the genocidal Iraq sanctions regime were "worth the price".
Rahm Emanuel, a leading advocate of instituting mandatory "national service" for every youth between the ages of 18 and 25, is Obama's White House Chief of Staff. Emanuel is also a hard-line supporter of Israel's terrorist apartheid policies against the Palestinians, a stand that Obama himself has supported by saying, "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." (But the capital of Israel is Tel Aviv, and half of Jerusalem is internationally considered to be Palestinian territory, which has been militarily occupied by Israel since 1967.) This places Obama to the right of both Bush and the official position of every other imperialist country in the world.
Continued police statism
As a Senator, Obama voted for the renewal of the fascistic PATRIOT Act, and for the expansion of FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), including granting immunity to the telecom companies that broke the law in co-operating with the Bush Administration program of spying on U.S. citizens. Now, Obama's nominee for Attorney General, Eric Holder, argued shortly after the September 11th attacks that it is legitimate to hold prisoners of the "war on terror" indefinitely, and that they are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention. This dovetails with Obama's position that he won't shut down Guantanamo right away, and certainly won't immediately release any of those prisoners picked up in battlefield sweeps who have been held without charge for years. Instead, he will transfer them to prisons in the U.S., and probably set up a new U.S. court system to try them. Meanwhile, his new Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has called for building yet another new domestic spying organization.
Racist attacks on immigrants
Following in Bush's footsteps, Obama supports militarization of the border with Mexico, and extending the border fence. He has offered a "path to citizenship" that includes a decade-plus waiting period, fines that will prove prohibitive for any but the most well-off of undocumented immigrants, and a requirement for continued employment---forcing applicants to put up with whatever terrible conditions the employers dish out.
Obama's choice to head the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, criticizes immigration policy under Bush from the right. She has called the current situation---ICE raids, semi-permanent incarceration while awaiting deportation, and so forth---"silent amnesty". (Opposing "amnesty" is a favorite battle cry of the right-wing fear mongers, including the Minutemen vigilantes!) Napolitano also boasts that as Governor of Arizona she declared an immigration state of emergency and called out the National Guard to toughen border patrols.
Racial discrimination, and repression of the Black masses
Obama, a millionaire Ivy League lawyer, built his original base among Chicago's slum lords and became a cog in the Democratic Party machine. Now he has become the chief representative of the exploitative, racist and imperialist U.S. bourgeoisie. The attitude his administration will have toward the Black masses was exemplified by his notorious (and sexist) Fathers Day speech, in which he fanned the racist stereotypes against Black fathers. He berated them for "acting like boys instead of men", called them "absentees" and "irresponsible", and implied that they are criminals and lazy.
Meanwhile, Obama supports the death penalty, knowing full well that it is disproportionately applied to African Americans. And Attorney General nominee Eric Holder is another death penalty supporter, as well as a militant supporter of the "War on Drugs"---which for decades has meant a war on African Americans and youth.
Destruction of the ecosystem
A global environmental catastrophe is building that is going to require direct environmental regulation, infringement on the profits of capital, and mass involvement to stop. But, following in Bush's footsteps, Obama is a neo-liberal who seeks to avoid regulation, and to work through market incentives and subsidies. This path is leading to ecological disaster.
So Obama talks a lot about relying on "clean coal," but there is no existing technology to make it with, and even if there were, the coal mining would still be environmentally destructive. (And he talks of developing "low carbon coal" to justify giving money to the worst polluters.) He's a big champion of environmentally destructive (and dangerous) nuclear power---so much so that the nuke industry showered his campaign with money. He has backed subsidies to agribusiness for producing corn ethanol---the production of which is also environmentally destructive, and which takes land out of food production. And the centerpiece of his plan to supposedly reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 is a "cap and trade" system, a system of selling pollution permits that has already proven to be a disaster in Europe and Japan. It doesn't work.
Obama's nominee for Secretary of Interior, Senator Ken Salazar, is a front man for big mining, ranching, and other corporate interests, who hailed his selection. Moreover, as a Senator he time and again voted against bills that would protect the ecosystem, while voting for subsidies to big ranchers
The working masses must step up the class struggle!
With Obama at the helm, the bourgeoisie will strive to implement a program that will result in mass impoverishment, more wars and repression, and ruin of Earth. This is not change.
But the monopoly-capitalist bourgeoisie and its Republicrat political servants aren't the only political force in the country. During the Bush years the masses repeatedly rose in struggles against racist outrages: police murders; attacks on the poor and working masses of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina; the attempted legal lynching of the Jena Six. A giant movement for immigrant rights developed in face of the bipartisan legislative attacks being debated in Washington, and it continues in the form of resistance to the fascistic ICE raids. With ups and downs, the anti-war movement continued throughout. And, with the capitalist economy going into another crash, resistance is developing on this front of the class struggle too: struggles against foreclosures; struggles of the homeless in Seattle; the hard-fought American Axle strike in earlier 2008; the sit-down strike at Chicago's Republic Window and Door in December.
During the Obama years all of these struggles, and others, are going to have to be further developed if there is going to be change in favor of the masses. Yet Obama is a smooth operator, and the Democrats are the favorite ruling-class party for deceiving the workers, oppressed nationalities, immigrants, women and youth. Thus, an important task in further developing the mass movements of the oppressed during the next period will be to expose that we have no friends in Washington. This includes tearing the mask off Obama.
In conjunction with this, we're also going to have to deal with reformist and opportunist misleaders in all of the mass movements.
Yesterday, the reformists told us to vote for the Democrats (perhaps as a "lesser evil") as the way to bring change. Today, they say that Obama is being pushed to the right by various forces in Washington, and they restrict "legitimate" political activity to pushing him back to the left (where he never was to begin with) through lobbying, persuasion, or perhaps protests. Meanwhile, various opportunist political trends or groups that say they're anti-imperialist and revolutionary shamelessly say the same thing! For example, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) circles call for the Seattle January 20 demonstration includes the following:
"But we don't accept that just CEOs, military generals, or lobbyists should be the only ones to make demands on the President-elect....
"We can best celebrate the end of the old era by making our voices heard and letting President Obama know what the real changes that we want and deserve are... Bring your organization, friends, and enthusiasm to let President Obama know the changes we want."
(A variation on this reformist theme is that the object of building movements is to "hold Obama's feet to the fire.")
Such people fear revolutionary politics, and, like the avowed liberal reformists, they set themselves against such politics. In fact they're belly-crawling before U.S. imperialism, and doing dirty work for its new chief gangsters, Obama and the Democrats. For example, the flyer and Internet calls that Seattle ISO circles are using to advertise the January 20th demonstration promote it as an inaugural "Celebration," and feature pictures of Barack Obama with "Hope" written underneath!
But for the oppressed, hard times like these are fighting times. During the great depression of the 1930s the working class made its greatest historical advances through mass struggles that began to break free from reformism and the two capitalist parties. Similarly, during the 1960s the struggle of African American people---for whom times are always hard---scored its greatest victories when it began to break from reformism and the two capitalist parties. Nevertheless, as great as these struggles were, and despite the victories they won, they didn't have the ideological and organizational strength to overthrow the system at the root of the problems they confronted. Hence, today we head into a new depression; racism continues; the attacks on immigrants are an outrage; "our" government is fighting two wars, threatening others, and fully backing the Zionist slaughter of the Palestinians; the police state continues to be expanded; and Earth itself is being destroyed.
Thus, these are indeed fighting times. During the Obama years, let us use all of the lessons of history to advance the mass movements of the oppressed toward the common goal: overthrowing the imperialist system. Life and liberation demand it.
Seattle Anti-Imperialist Committee
January 12, 2009
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