Tag Archives: The Left

Once Again: Obama, The Left and the Crisis

A week after the Obama administration has pushed through the Bush era tax cuts for the rich, it is a good time to again reflect on the meaning of Obama and the role of the Democratic Party.

The 2007-2008 election campaign of Obama was unique in that it took on a popular character, which ultimately helped him win the Democratic primary and the general election. Under the slogan of “change we can believe in” Obama promised a new type of bourgeois politics to answer the country’s pressing problems.

However, after two years of economic crisis the capitalists and ruling class have responded by successfully attacking the living standards and the remnants of the political power of the working classes and oppressed people. Arguably, general social and political polarization is the greatest it has been in generations.

How do we explain the discrepancy between the promises of Obama’s election victory and this reality? What is the nature of the Democratic Party? How can we historicize its current character? What is its relationship to the need to find the political forms within the new content among the American oppressed and working classes that seems to be emerging in response to the crisis?

Meanwhile, a new dust up within the Left is going on between supporters and critics of Obama and the Democratic Party.

One side, led by the trade unions, the Congressional Black Caucus, The Nation and the former Progressives for Obama, argues for a popular front against finance capital and the white populist right.

The other side urges direct opposition to Obama and the Democratic Party and the call for some kind of political alternative.

We are reposting some of that analysis below.

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Protest Obama, An Open Letter to the Left Establishment

Bill Fletcher, Responding to the Letter to the Left Establishment regarding Obama

Glen Ford, Psycho-Babbling Obama

Paul Street, Note to “the Left”: Obama Hates You

New Beginnings for a New Time

The crisis today is not just one of capital; it is integrally one of the Left, as well.  After a recent series of expulsions and resignations from the International Socialist Organization, a layer of cadre have staked the claim that, today, not only is more necessary from the Left, but more is possible in struggle.

Brian Kwoba, after spending 6 years in the ISO has, with others, recently inaugurated The New Socialist Project.  We welcome their insights and contributions to the immense tasks before us in the cause of working class revolution.

Why a new socialist project?

by Brian Kwoba

One feature of the US political landscape in 2010 is that despite all the war, poverty, and oppression that our society is dispensing every day, there is a historic opportunity for the growth of a socialist politics and organization. This task has particular urgency right now for two basic reasons:

(1)   The biggest economic crisis of US capitalism since the great depression is combining with the long-term crisis for US imperialism (from the Middle East to Latin America to Asia) to create a generational radicalization and opening for revolutionary politics like that of the 1930s or 1960s.

(2)   Because of the pace and trajectory of capitalism’s rampant and potentially irreversible destruction of the environment, this may be the last generational radicalization remaining in human history within which to build successful revolutionary movement to transform the system. The question is not “socialism or barbarism.” It is socialism or extinction.

These facts alone place the question of a radically different economic system—socialism—on the front burner. But in 2010 we find ourselves not only with the urgent  necessity, but also a historic opportunity for building a socialist movement in the US. Consider the following statistics.

  • A Rasmussen poll (April 2009) found that 20% of Americans prefer socialism to capitalism and among Adults under 30, the number was 33%.
  • An international BBC Poll (Nov 2009) asked a more sophisticated question about the system. They asked whether capitalism (a) “works well and efforts to reform it will result in inefficiencies,” (b) the “problems generated by capitalism can be solved through reform and regulation,” or (c) capitalism is “fatally flawed, and a different economic system is needed.” In the US, 13% agreed with the latter statement.
  • A Gallup poll (Feb 2010) found that 36% of Americans view “socialism” positively.

Continue reading New Beginnings for a New Time

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded

revolution_not_funded

By fatima and Alma

The role and rise of the non-profit sector has long been a critical debate among the Left. INCITE!’s 2007 anthology, The Revolution Will Not Be Funded, takes up these questions more comprehensively than ever before. As two women who have worked for NGOs, we have both struggled with the relationship between these organizations and our revolutionary politics.  For fatima, working in a social service domestic violence nonprofit, primarily with women of color, helped her make the connections between the problems with social service and reform-based work and the need for revolutionary organization. She recognized the bandaid nature of the nonprofit system, which did not provide the possibilities for liberation in the way organizing does. For Alma, her relationship with NGOs is less clear.  She recognizes the profound ideological problems presented by NGOS, yet at the same time feels they often provide alternatives that revolutionary organizations currently do not.  She has largely worked in legally based non-profits, and feels these organizations are often successful in directly attacking massive civil liberties violations, such as Guantanamo and illegal surveillance.

One important observation we have made is that the forced implementation of neo-liberalism throughout the world beginning in the 1970s is directly linked to the rise of NGOs. Continue reading The Revolution Will Not Be Funded

Critique of Liberal Anti-Racism: A Way Forward or Regression on Race?

The following essay by Walter Benn Michaels appeared in the London Review of Books.

Here are some excerpts:

“My point is not that anti-racism and anti-sexism are not good things. It is rather that they currently have nothing to do with left-wing politics, and that, insofar as they function as a substitute for it, can be a bad thing. American universities are exemplary here: they are less racist and sexist than they were 40 years ago and at the same time more elitist. The one serves as an alibi for the other: when you ask them for more equality, what they give you is more diversity. The neoliberal heart leaps up at the sound of glass ceilings shattering and at the sight of doctors, lawyers and professors of colour taking their place in the upper middle class. Whence the many corporations which pursue diversity almost as enthusiastically as they pursue profits, and proclaim over and over again not only that the two are compatible but that they have a causal connection – that diversity is good for business. But a diversified elite is not made any the less elite by its diversity and, as a response to the demand for equality, far from being left-wing politics, it is right-wing politics.”

and

“Thus the primacy of anti-discrimination not only performs the economic function of making markets more efficient, it also performs the therapeutic function of making those of us who have benefited from those markets sleep better at night. And, perhaps more important, it has, ‘for a long time’, as Wendy Bottero says in her contribution to the recent Runnymede Trust collection Who Cares about the White Working Class?, also performed the intellectual function of focusing social analysis on what she calls ‘questions of racial or sexual identity’ and on ‘cultural differences’ instead of on ‘the way in which capitalist economies create large numbers of low-wage, low-skill jobs with poor job security’. The message of Who Cares about the White Working Class?, however, is that class has re-emerged: ‘What we learn here’, according to the collection’s editor, Kjartan Páll Sveinsson, is that ‘life chances for today’s children are overwhelmingly linked to parental income, occupations and educational qualifications – in other words, class.’”

Read the essay over at the London Review of Books.

The Ecology Movement, Climate Change & US Empire

There has been a lot of excitement by the left and the ecology movement lately, particularly around the G20 protests in Pittsburgh, the climate bill proposed by the House and recently amended by the Senate, and finally around the upcoming UN climate talks in Copenhagen.  But it’s worth noting how the broader political terrain today forms the hot topics of the ecology movement if we’re to effectively plan our campaigns and strategies.

This past spring, despite the hopes of environmentalists that lined up behind Obama’s presidential campaign, the EPA okayed over 40 mountain-top removal coal-mining projects without scrutiny. This form of coal mining is one of the more the ecologically destructive methods of coal mining.  The process dumps tons of chemicals and unwanted material down the sides of the mountain. burying wildlife and vegetation on the sides, and contaminating local water supplies.  It also allows mining companies to lay-off workers and cut labor costs because less people are needed than traditional forms of mining.

But just before labor day the EPA released a letter that indicates that the Obama administration and the EPA are seeking to block one of the largest mountain top mining permits issued, citing violations of the Clean Water Act.

Around the same time, the NYTimes began a series on water pollution noting violations of the Clean Water Act by coal mining companies.  The piece sites the lack of oversight and enforcement as a major problem, with companies dumping as much as 1000% of the allowed chemical concentration into local water systems in W Virginia.

So why the about-face?  Is Obama finally fulfilling his campaign promises to the environmental movement?

Continue reading The Ecology Movement, Climate Change & US Empire

Balance Sheet on Obama and the Left

election-nightIt’s 8 months into the Obama administration and approaching two years since the national debate began about Obama and the left. The images and feeling of election night, being on the street when thousands of young people spontaneously came out, are now only a powerful memory of the deep desires and frustrations of a new generation growing up in America where social conditions and oppression are only getting worse.

In many ways that night was a confirmation of the essential character of the Obama phenomenon. While Obama was New Democratic-Clintonian politics, he was so in new language and form that made visible for a moment something new in the U.S. Tens of millions expressed a desire for a break with the slogans and programs of ruling class politicians that have overseen a broadening and deepening of social polarization the last 30 years. What seemed like a break for many, Obama’s election and the Democratic Party victories since 2006 only raised expectations that couldn’t be met. Obama has overseen and implemented the capitalist offensive, taking advantage of the crisis, and has proven to be no protective umbrella from the return of white supremacist populism of the Right.

Discussions about Obama and the Left take on a new urgency given these realities. No longer are discussions about what might happen–we are now living perhaps at the end of a long list of Obama’s “betrayals” with his abandonment of the so-called “public option” in health care. Where are all those millions of people who are learning from this experience? How are we to understand Obama and the progressive Left? How are revolutionaries to move forward in linking reform and revolution? What are the forms of struggle and new types of organization that are emerging and are needed? These aren’t new questions on the blogosphere, and the past and contemporary break-outs of struggle are a guide.

With this in mind, here is an article by Charlie Post that appeared a couple months back via Solidarity

Post writes:

“Historically, attempts to simultaneously build an alliance with Democratic Party centrists and build social movements have led the disorganization and decline of the movements and a shift to the right in politics. Time and time again—from the CIO upsurge of the 1930s, through the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s and 1970s, to the movements against the Vietnam War — the decision of the leaders of powerful and potentially radical social movements to pursue an alliance with the Democrats have derailed these struggles.”

and

“The same pattern is and will be repeated by the leaderships of the labor and social movements in the age of Obama. Not wanting to alienate Obama and the Congressional Democrats, the leaderships of both the AFL-CIO and CTW have done little to publicly oppose the Democrats back-pedaling on the EFCA—with Andy Stern of the SEIU, as always, leading the retreat. The labor officials and many mainstream immigrant rights groups are abandoning the struggle for universal amnesty and a direct route to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in favor of the Obama-McCain plan. Proposals for a single-payer insurance system appear dead in the water, leaving the Democrats and Obama free to implement their “universal health care” program based on massive subsidies for private insurance companies. The list can, depressingly, be multiplied across a wide variety of popular reform issues.”

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How should the left relate to Obama? A response to Linda Burnham

by Charlie Post

There is a broad consensus on left—from those who actively campaigned on his behalf, through those who sat out the election, to those of us who supported the independent candidacies of Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader—that the election of Barack Obama represents an important opening for anti-capitalists and radicals in the US. The election of an African-American to the highest elected office in a republic founded on white supremacy was, in itself, an important symbolic blow against white supremacy. Even more importantly, Obama’s victory was a political and ideological defeat of the right. The 2008 election has raised popular expectations of the possibility of gains for working and oppressed people—national health insurance, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a renegotiation of NAFTA, the expansion of civil rights for queers, women and people of color, and an end to the imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Continue reading Balance Sheet on Obama and the Left