The Positive and Negative Significance of the Obama Election Victory

A Statement by the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA

(Formerly the Ray O. Light Group)

November 2008

On Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, for the first time in the approximately two hundred and twenty year history of the United States, a black person was elected to preside over the U.S. government. News of Barack Obama’s victory was greeted with spontaneous celebrations in the streets of cities and towns throughout the USA, especially by young Afro-American people. Likewise, throughout the world – from Europe to Africa to Asia to Latin America and almost everywhere else – there was much elation. Hundreds of millions of people, probably billions, felt that the Obama-Democratic Party victory was their victory as well. Is it?!

From the standpoint of the interests of the international working class and the oppressed peoples, including the workers and oppressed nationalities within the U.S. multi-national state, there is both a positive significance to this election result as well as an even more important objectively counterrevolutionary significance.

POSITIVE SIGNIFICANCE

For more than one-third of the country’s entire history, most Black people in the USA were slaves. Ever since the emancipation of the slaves with the military victory of the Union Army (including its heroic Afro-American troops) over the Confederate Army in the Civil War in 1865, the Afro-American people have suffered, up to the present time, from blatant discrimination in virtually every field of endeavor in U.S. society. This discrimination has been manifested in legal (until recently) as well as ongoing unofficial segregation and outright exclusion – from housing to jobs to politics and education. In this context, Barack Obama’s elevation to the Presidency represents a new step forward in the long road toward Afro-American justice, freedom and equality. The fact that millions of white U.S. citizens, including many white workers and especially white union workers, voted for a black man in this still white supremacist society underscores this advance. The fact that the majority of Latino voters also supported the black, Democratic candidate is also significant.

Furthermore, the enthusiasm surrounding the Obama campaign, “Obamamania,” within the USA itself, has a positive side. Tens of thousands of previously apathetic young people and old have, for the first time, been mobilized and involved to one degree or another in the political arena. At the same time, under the pressure of the economic collapse, the “dirty tricks” campaign against Obama was largely rejected. Finally, on the surface at least, the Obama election victory represented a repudiation of the past eight years of the Republican Bush Regime, arguably the most brutal, tyrannical and bloodthirsty presidency in all of U.S. history. The vote thus reflects some mass sentiment for progressive, pro-people change among the electorate.

NEGATIVE SIGNIFICANCE

While the United States Empire is crumbling quite rapidly, especially economically, U.S. imperialism is still, for now, the hegemonic imperialist power globally. The U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist ruling class will never allow any election by itself to diminish, let alone eliminate, U.S. imperialist super-profits reaped from the exploited and oppressed of the USA and the entire globe.

Since the 2006 Congressional Election, in direct contradiction with the clearly expressed will of the U.S. voters, Republican President Bush and the Democratic Party-controlled Congress directed a “surge” of thirty thousand more U.S. military forces in Iraq. The interminably long 2008 Presidential election season was aimed at convincing the working class and oppressed peoples of the USA and the world as well as U.S. imperialism’s partner-rivals, in direct contradiction to our actual experience, that the monopoly capitalist and imperialist system of rule in the USA can be fundamentally altered through the ballot box and that we have no need to fight against U.S. imperialism by any means necessary.

As we pointed out last February, “The international proletariat and the oppressed peoples, including the oppressed and exploited within the USA itself, have been the object of an epic propaganda event, a gigantic deception, the so-called ‘race for the presidency,’ a flimflam perpetrated by the U.S. imperialist ruling class.” (“The 2008 Presidential Election, the Barack Obama Campaign, and the Need for Afro-American National Liberation,” Ray O. Light Newsletter Number 47, February-March 2008)

The political role of Barack Obama and the Democratic Party during the almost two full years of the 2008 presidential campaign serves only to underscore these truths. Here are highlights of the record.

ON ENDING THE U.S. IMPERIALIST WAR OF TERROR ON THE PEOPLES OF THE WORLD: Much to the chagrin and embarrassment of petty bourgeois pacifists, social democrats, revisionists, etc., Obama wants to leave a permanent military force in Iraq, shift combat troops to Afghanistan, and, in the tradition of Bush’s “pre-emptive war” doctrine, claims the right for the U.S. military to unilaterally invade Pakistan, even if unprovoked. Obama has already threatened the Iranian government, demonized Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro (staking out the traditional U.S. imperialist stance on Latin America as the special property of the USA), and welcomed the state visit to the USA of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Philippine dictator and Bush’s most loyal ally in Asia, praising her as a democratic force, while even the United Nations Organization has condemned the human rights abuses of the Arroyo Regime. Obama’s very first presidential appointment, his chief of staff, former Congressman Rahm Emanuel, is a staunch supporter of the Zionist Israeli settler state and an implacable foe of the Palestinian people. When the Russia-Georgia military conflict erupted over South Ossetia, Obama claimed there was no justification for Russia’s actions while even Bush’s own Assistant Secretary of State inadvertently admitted there was! Obama stood with McCain, Bush and Cheney in promoting fast track entry for Georgia into the World Trade Organization and making other threats against Russia. No wonder the brilliant and shrewd Obama was endorsed by General Colin Powell and much of the U.S. military establishment, despite McCain’s impeccable military pedigree and connections. Furthermore, Obama’s ascension to the Presidency may well undermine the current widespread Afro-American resistance to military recruitment and retention of Afro-American (and Latino) youth as cannon fodder for U.S. imperialism in wars against the peoples of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

ON THE POLITICAL MONOPOLY OF THE SO-CALLED TWO PARTY SYSTEM: A dramatic reflection of the interchangeable parts that the Democratic and Republican Parties really represent for the U.S. imperialist ruling class is the case of Senator Joseph Lieberman, a key representative of the Israeli settler state alliance with U.S. imperialism. In 2000, Lieberman ran on the Democratic Party ticket as Al Gore’s vice presidential running mate. In 2006, based on his outspoken support for the Bush Regime’s so-called war on terror, Lieberman was defeated in the Democratic Party primary contest for his Connecticut Senate seat. In the general election, Lieberman ran as an independent and was returned to the Senate with the help of the national Democratic Party bigwigs who refused to come into Connecticut to campaign for “their” anti-war candidate. In 2008, Lieberman so strongly supported Republican presidential candidate John McCain that he was McCain’s personal choice to be his vice presidential running mate. In the 2008 election, he thus came very close to being the Republican vice presidential candidate only eight years after he was the Democratic vice presidential candidate! Now, in the first few days after the Obama election victory, one of President-elect Obama’s first acts has been to urge his Democratic colleagues who control the Senate to allow Lieberman to remain the Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, despite the fact that he was one of the strongest and most important campaigners for John McCain in the election!

When the capitalist economic crisis on Wall Street became grave, every effort was made by the Bush-Paulson-Pelosi plan, supported by both Democrat Obama and Republican McCain, to keep these failing monopoly finance capitalist firms private with regard to profits, while making the public shoulder their debts. Subsequent bailouts have all featured “nationalization” of private company losses with the minimum of “nationalization” of future profits. In this crisis situation, Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin felt compelled to raise the idea that “now is no time to experiment with socialism.” Yet the Democratic-Republican political monopoly of the U.S. imperialist ruling class so thoroughly dominates the U.S. political landscape that there was no significant voice, in the climactic month of the countrywide election campaign, answering Palin with the obvious fact that a time of capitalist economic crisis and collapse, when the government bailout of banks, insurance companies, and big U.S. corporations with public money has already reached a trillion dollars is “an excellent time to experiment with socialism,” at least for the working people of the USA. Similarly, when the Republican candidates raised the specter of “sharing the wealth” in this time of growing ranks of unemployed and needy people, no serious Democratic Party candidate could be found to defend this noble idea.

Finally, the monopoly capitalist global media conspired to prevent any popular awareness of so-called “third party” candidates throughout the entire 2008 Presidential election season. For example, former six term Georgia congress-woman Cynthia McKinney, an Afro-American, had courageously spearheaded congressional investigation of the stolen Florida electoral votes in the 2000 election. She filed impeachment charges against President Bush, Vice President Cheney and key presidential adviser Condoleezza Rice for war crimes and stood with the dispersed and deserted Hurricane Katrina survivors. Perhaps most courageously, she “declared her independence” from the Democratic Party when she realized that it was tied so completely to the Republican Party and U.S. imperialism. Obama’s record as a politician could not have stood the comparison with McKinney’s. Not surprisingly, candidate Obama never protested the exclusion of McKinney or any of the third party candidates from the televised presidential debates, worth hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign advertising. Carefully controlled and restricted to the two parties of U.S. monopoly capitalism and imperialism, the debates between McCain and Obama were a “tweedledum-tweedledee” charade conducted by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a front for the Democratic and Republican national committees.

ON IMMIGRATION POLICY: Obama and McCain were both in agreement with George W. Bush (and Ted Kennedy) on a fascistic, corporatist path for immigrant workers in the USA. At odds with many right wing Republican congressmen and much of Bush’s openly chauvinistic mass base that wants to keep out immigrants, Obama and Bush are both in favor of a combination of vicious attacks and repressive federal government repression of immigrant workers with a regulated semi-slave path to U.S. citizenship. Obama’s large Latino vote may serve as a vehicle to disarm much of the resistance to this draconian plan for a time.

ON NATIONAL SECURITY AND POLICE STATE MEASURES: During the campaign season, Senator Obama not only voted for the new FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) law, providing unprecedented surveillance powers over its citizens to the federal government, but even supported amnesty for the monopoly telephone companies which had already provided FISA type information on the people of the USA to the Bush Regime, while it was still clearly illegal to do so. Will fighters for civil liberties within the USA and internationally, during Obama’s “honeymoon period,” cut him some slack, allowing U.S. imperialism to carry out even greater repression?!

ON THE FIGHT AGAINST WHITE SUPREMACY AND THE RIGHT OF THE AFRO-AMERICAN PEOPLE TO SELF-DETERMINATION: Exultant in his first primary victory, in South Carolina last spring, Obama and his campaigners chanted that “race doesn’t matter!” in the face of the fact that it had indeed mattered there. This pattern of rallying the Black vote while aggressively denying the need for Black unity characterized the Obama candidacy all the way to his acceptance speech addressed to his thousands of jubilant supporters gathered in Grant Park in Chicago as well as the tens of millions watching it on TV. In a sometimes moving and compelling speech, Obama plagiarized or borrowed a passage from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last speech about getting to the “promised land.” But when King referred to how “we as a people” will get there he was talking about the Afro-American people; Obama was referring to the entire U.S. population. In opposition to Black unity, Obama has continued his effort to rally a “national unity” of all U.S. people, rich and poor, etc., including the Afro-American people, to the banner of the U.S. Empire, the banner of U.S. imperialism.

In fact, the election results indicate that white supremacy, if not as strong as it used to be, is still alive and well in the USA. In the historic Black Belt territory of the Afro-American Nation in the Deep South, McCain basically won all the state electoral votes, despite the fact that Obama won over 90% of the Black vote in those states. Even in the few Southern states won by Obama, the tremendous impact of “race” was still clear as a bell. In Virginia, for example, while Obama beat McCain by a 52 to 47 count, the white Democratic Senatorial candidate, Mark Warner, won by a 64 to 35 margin. Despite a sitting Republican president with the lowest approval rating ever, with 72% Virginia voter disapproval, Republican McCain still received 61% of the white vote in Virginia, according to exit polls.

Of course, if Obama were correct, there would have been no real significance to his elevation to the Presidency (other than the repudiation of the Bush Regime, similar to the 2006 Congressional election). But the truth is that the Afro-American people still suffer from national oppression at the hands of U.S. imperialism and this was the basis for the massive outpouring of Afro-Americans and others into the campaign and into the streets. The question now arises: how big a price will the Afro-American people be willing to pay to prop up the Obama Presidency?

ON THE U.S. CAPITALIST ECONOMIC COLLAPSE AND THE WALL STREET BAILOUT: “Race” remains such an important factor in the day to day life of U.S. society that, despite the disgrace in which the Republican Bush Regime is now overwhelmingly viewed, were it not for the rapid and drastic economic collapse of Wall Street and U.S. big business in the month leading up to the election, it is likely that Republican McCain would have prevailed! McCain’s gambit of declaring the interruption of his campaign so that he could go back to Washington, allegedly to help engineer the bailout, blew up in his face when the House of Representatives (all of whom faced an election that was only weeks away) defeated the initial plan. This was because so many citizens registered their outrage at the open aid being offered to the very financiers whose greed had led to the collapse in the first place. The defeat of the initial $700 billion dollar bailout plan occurred despite the fact that not only Republican President Bush and his Secretary of the Treasury Paulson but also Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had twisted arms to try to get it passed and that Obama as well as McCain had publicly endorsed this multi-billion dollar giveaway to the criminal finance capitalists who should have been jailed instead of bailed. The outraged U.S. electorate thus had no mainstream candidate with any chance of winning the Presidency to vote for. Wisely having been the largest “investors” in both campaigns, Wall Street owned both McCain and Obama.

It is not surprising that the seventeen economic experts assembled by Obama to address the economic crisis a few days after his election included the multibillionaire Warren Buffett and other monopoly capitalist CEO’s as well as former Secretary of the Treasury Rubin and other important representatives of U.S. finance capital and imperialism but not even one token representative of the U.S. labor movement or the Afro-American or Latino community-based movements or even consumer groups, all of which had played such a large role in Obama’s election. Given Obama’s stand on the Wall Street Bailout during the last weeks of the campaign and first few post election days, there is no doubt that he will continue to be a loyal supporter of this rotten, decadent system in the difficult days ahead for the U.S. and international working class and oppressed peoples.

SOME CONCLUSIONS

Barack Obama and his campaign strategists are now meeting with representatives of the ruling class to determine ways that the several million young and old people who have been drawn into politics by the Obama campaign can be used on an ongoing basis. From Obama’s stand on the economic collapse and the bailout of Wall Street, on the bailout of the U.S. auto industry, and on his selection of economic experts, to the so-called “war on terror,” including the U.S. imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his selection of military experts – on virtually every question, Obama and U.S. imperialism will require that the workers and oppressed within the US multinational state be “patient” and “willing to sacrifice.” For example, if part of the price for bailing out the huge auto industry corporations turns out to be ripping up the union contracts with the United Automobile Workers Union (UAW), what a boost for the imperialists if they have an already mobilized force in place to enforce support for “President Obama’s policies” on the internet, in the streets, at the union hall, etc. Thus, there is a dangerous side to “Obamamania.”

But there is also a real positive opportunity. Hundreds of thousands of Obama supporters in the USA are now in a position to learn through their own experience that their expectations about the abilities of an Obama-Democratic Party Administration to meet their needs and aspirations are largely illusory. On this basis they constitute a mass political force out of which a serious proletarian vanguard movement both internationally and within the U.S. multinational state (when one emerges in the USA) could mobilize a serious revolutionary movement for “the change” we really need – workers rights, national minority rights, immigrant rights, national and regional autonomous rights for oppressed nationalities, decent job opportunities, universal health care, an end to the militarized warfare state and imperialist war, the brotherhood of man – in short, for workers power and socialism in the United States.

Meanwhile, the international working class and the oppressed peoples, led by whatever proletarian internationalist vanguard organizations exist internationally, need to sober up to the class realities of the incoming Obama Administration, an administration faced with the decline and fall of the U.S. Empire in the context of a world capitalist economic crisis. In less than two months, Barack Obama will become the commander-in-chief of the chief bulwark of world capitalism, U.S. imperialism. And indeed nothing has changed the fact that U.S. imperialism remains the World’s Number #1 Exploiter and the World’s Number #1 Terrorist.

In stark contrast to George W. Bush, Obama’s brilliance, knowledge, ability to work cooperatively with others and to listen to their views, as well as the social-democratic illusions that have been spread world-wide about him, will serve to significantly strengthen U.S. imperialism as it desperately attempts to cling to its hegemonic position in the world capitalist camp; it will make him a formidable adversary for U.S. imperialism’s big power and imperialist partner-rivals in Western Europe, Japan, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, and the Middle East.

Likewise, Obama’s outstanding personal qualities and the pacifist and social-democratic illusions that have been spread about him and thus about the U.S. imperialist state over which he will preside make his administration all the more dangerous for the U.S. and international proletariat and oppressed peoples as we struggle against the old, collapsing violent and unjust world dominated by monopoly capitalism and imperialism and struggle for survival, human dignity and a new socialist world where all peoples can live in peace and harmony.

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