Thursday, November 06, 2008

On Obama

I've resisted so far.

Two quick points. I explained to one of my friends last night that whilst I am pleased Obama won - on the level of it representing an amazing change in circumstance for African Americans in less than fifty years, and a change in the perception of race the world over (I think Socialist Economic Bulletin had some interesting thoughts about this); I'm also pleased that Obama may have some policies that, as Chomsky notes, will tendentially benefit the working class stateside more; I'm also pleased more people were drawn to the polls (64% according to Wikipedia, which, whilst not through the ceiling by other countries' standards, is high for stateside); but I still would not have voted for Obama had I been a yanklander myself.

Howard Zinn seems, as ever to spell it out beautifully:

I CONFESS I am excited by the thought of Obama becoming president, even though I am painfully aware of his limitations–his smooth, articulate intelligence covering up a quite traditional approach to domestic and foreign policy, aided and abetted by a group of advisers recycled from the Clinton administration and other parts of the Establishment.

Does he really think Robert Rubin will come up with a bold approach to the economy? Or that Madeleine Albright will carve a new path in foreign policy? (It was she who ran around the country in 1998 to defend Clinton’s bombing of Iraq, warning of “weapons of mass destruction.”)

If Richard Hofstadter were adding to his book The American Political Tradition, in which he found both “conservative” and “liberal” presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, maintaining for dear life the two critical characteristics of the American system, nationalism and capitalism, Obama would fit the pattern.

His obsequious joining with McCain in approving the $700 billion “bailout” for the financial giants is a sad sign. See my article (I say arrogantly) in a recent issue of the Nation about the bailout, as a futile “trickle-down” act, instead of using the money directly for the people Obama claims to represent.

So it will take a revivified social movement to do for Obama what the strikers and tenant organizers and unemployed councils and agitators of the early 1930s did for FDR, pushing him into new paths, so angering the super rich that FDR, in one of his best moments, said, “They hate me, and I welcome their hatred!”

Obama needs such fire. It is up to us, the citizenry–and non-citizens too!–to ignite it.


Obama is most emphatically not a socialist, and whilst a level of public engagement by the population would be welcome and would open minds to more socialistic ideas, I doubt even he could be lurched leftwards. Still, the SPGB's height was during a period of reformist hope, and socialism is bred from promise not despair. After all, building such a movement can lead to a genuine socialist movement being built, why ask them in power when you can begin to do it yourself?

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1 Comments:

Blogger stuart said...

Hi Bill,
I agree with you (mostly, I probably would have voted for Obama). And I take back most of what I've said in the recent past (and on your blog) about democracy. I wondered whether you'd read the book by Marcos I mention just above the Chomsky interview you link to? Besides reading a few boring marxist theorists (Cleaver, Holloway), I'd never investigated the Zapatistas much, but I have now and I think they are wonderful and inspiring. I wonder what you make of their insistence on creating a new democratic space as a precondition for any kind of revolution?
Cheers

12:10 PM  

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