Eshu’s blues: Obama won. Now whatcha gonna do?
by BAR columnist michael hureaux
The more things are supposed to change, the more they stay the same. Barack Obama seeks "economic counsel from the old Clinton and Carter machines," perhaps based on "the same tired argument that ‘we have to become more like the right wing dogs in order to defeat the right wing dogs.'" The Surge is now deemed to have been successful, a sign of progress. Obama boosters claim a progressive social movement surrounds their hero - so why do they "rely on the same old "democratic party insiders" to run the show?
Eshu's blues: Obama won. Now whatcha gonna do?
by BAR columnist michael hureaux
Romance without finance is a nuisance.--Charlie Parker
This first morning after the electoral victory of Barack Obama, Henry Louis Gates declared in the MSN website the Root that Obama's win is "the crossing of the ultimate color line." Well, if the ultimate color line is being the front man for the banksters of the empire, there's no denying Obama has breached it. But, like the hopelessly compromised lefty Robert Redford played in The Candidate said, "What do we do now?" Obama won. Now whatcha gonna do?
Obviously a good many people were moved politically in this election, but whether they continue to move as the corporate state reality beckons their new president to the right is a whole other question. It has taken no time at all for the spin meisters of the so-called middle to urge patience, practicality, and if we're permitted the phrase, "all deliberate speed" upon the incoming Obama regime. Obama has chosen Democratic Leadership Council ghoul Rahm Emanuel as his White House Chief of Staff. Beyond a doubt, this is the same sort of "Herald of Change" insight that prompted Obama's earlier choice of the Zionist Bomber Joe Biden as his Vice President, insight which is now beating the bushes for economic council from the old Clinton and Carter machines in his fiscal policy.
Just yesterday, one of my professional colleagues assured me in all earnestness that Obama would be filing his cabinet with "names we've never heard before." And the names which have been bandied about, from Paul Volcker to Warren Buffet to John Kerry, are certainly names many of the Obama supporters may have "never heard before." but then, as my dear old fourth grade teacher Mrs. Townsend used to put it, there's a world of difference between having heard what is said and having listened to what is said.
"It seems awfully peculiar to me that a ‘social movement' of the depth and breadth Obamaniacs claim they've built is already so weak it has to rely on the same old ‘democratic party' insiders."
Those of us who've been around this same god damn rock with the "democrats" a few dozen times in the last 40 years are unsurprised at the reappearance of the meisters of the old "democratic" party. The need for the power brokers is the same tired argument that "we have to become more like the right wing dogs in order to defeat the right wing dogs." And the strategy has been so productive up to this point, who am I to quibble? It's brought us the "Successful Surge" the President-elect supports which has created an Iraqi refugee population of four million, a civil war that has wiped out between 650,000 to a million people by all credible accounts, and the maiming of thousands of both Iraqi citizens and U.S. soldiers. Not to mention an economic black hole that we'll be throwing what's left of the public sector into in order to save capitalism from itself for the next few years. So I have to say that if what we're looking at in Iraq is success, failure ought to be a real joyride.
At any rate, we've now entered that phase in the post-election political process in which we are asked to "Give the brother a chance". Give him a chance? It seems awfully peculiar to me that a "social movement" of the depth and breadth Obamaniacs claim they've built is already so weak it has to rely on the same old "democratic party" insiders that have stymied the anti-war movement for the last two years. Or maybe there's something I'm missing here, aside from the fact that it's pretty strange that if the Obama mass movement actually exists, I've yet to have had a single Obama canvasser show up on my personal doorstep in the entire two years of the Obama campaign. The handful of strangers who show up at labor council meetings and community meetings during election years don't count. A real mass movement would be a steady presence in between voting seasons. That's what mass movements for social change are. They ebb and they flow, but not solely in conjunction with the political fortunes of a single candidate at the national level.
So, word to the Uncannily Prescient Deans of the New Social Revelation: if you have the levels of mass support you're claiming you have, you don't need the Bidens or the Emanuels to advance your agenda. You've got the masses of the active public out in the streets. What are your grassroots mobilizations doing now, as your victorious candidate with his "mandate of history" picks a cabinet? If you're going to influence his policy, wouldn't it be good to work to prevent him from insulating himself with the same old crocks who've led this country up to this point?
"President-elect Obama continues to advance the idea of the sacrifice at home for a capitalist imperialism the Banksters want us all to believe in."
I think the truth is bigger and scarier then the Obama people can handle. Already the initiative has been taken from them, whether they choose to acknowledge it or not. President-elect Obama continues to advance the idea of the sacrifice at home for a capitalist imperialism the Banksters want us all to believe in. His task will be to sell his followers the possum in the bag and from the appearance and tone of the victory celebrations, led by the usual culty-mulcheral vanguard of the same old song in tired refrain, the buyers are lining up.
Now, if that perception makes us of the old Black liberation movement cynical and wrong, well, then, I guess we'll just have to be cynical and wrong. But we do have confidence in the overall social struggle. We just believe that if any pressure can actually be exerted upon the new order, it will come from those who fight for the whole prize, not those who are willing to accept freedom in dibs and dabs as their entire strategy. The social contract favorable to the working class majority, as both the CIO and the Black liberation movement knew in their high tide of mass struggle, is created by struggling for everything, not just settling for what the ruling class says it can afford. If the ruling class claims it cannot afford to pay for the social infrastructure which a civil society perceives that it needs, then inverting this claim is where we will find the actual truth: the civil social infrastructure cannot afford to pay for the perceptual "needs" of the ruling class.
The movement of the working class majority has to always declare its political and social independence from ruling class "partners" who want to set all the terms of engagement all the time. If we are indeed standing at the high tide of struggle that the Obama "movement" claims we are, then it is contingent upon that social movement not to wait for the corporate padrones to set the terms. If Obama is the transmission belt for social change they claim he is, then the movement they claim they have built must issue demands. If the Obama forces are actually leading the mass numbers they claim to lead, they must use their social forces to their maximum strength right now. And if they allow the first trick to be taken from them, by taking the lead of the Emanuel's and the Bidens, they won't have any mass base of support they may have built for very long.
"If Obama is the transmission belt for social change they claim he is, then the movement they claim they have built must issue demands."
Capitalism, come boom or bust, will always cry poor mouth. As anyone who works for a living this last three decades knows, business cried poor mouth even as it screamed hosannas to itself for building the richest economy in history just a few short years ago. And now, capital cries poor mouth after it allowed yet another gaggle of speculators and pirates to bankrupt the world economy. Capital will cry poor mouth throughout Obama's presidency, and already, Obama has begun to answer their call. Anyone who actually listens to what he is saying and watches what he is doing can see this plain as day.
President-elect Obama's endorsement of the "war on terror" is his acceptance of an act of systematic barbarism. The "war on terror" is in reality nothing but a war led on behalf of big capital against the poor of the world, an extraction of blood and flesh to attain surplus product overseas that is reinforced with every piece of public infrastructure sold off to speculators here at home. Every dogged insistence that the "war on terror" in the Middle East and Africa is fought on behalf of "our democracy" is a direct negation of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 1 said in Where Do We Go from Here?:
"The West must enter ... with humility and penitence, and a sober realization that everything will not always go our way. It cannot be forgotten that the Western powers were but yesterday the colonial masters. The house of the West is far from in order, and its hands are far from clean.
"We must have patience. We must be willing to understand why many of the young nations will have to pass through the same extremism, revolution and aggression that formed our own history."
Or, in effect, that all this nonsense about the "war on terror" is a load of a-historic horse manure.
King continued with his analysis, which held a dialectical content that applied to both the struggles of the "developing" world and the mass Black freedom struggle as it manifested in Black community leadership in the United States:
"Every new government confronts overwhelming problems. During the days when they were struggling to remove the yoke of colonialism, there was a kind of preexistent unity of purpose that kept things moving in one solid direction. But as soon as independence emerges, all the grim problems of life confront them with stark realism: the lack of capital, the strangulating poverty, the uncontrollable birth rates and above all, the high aspirational level of their own people. The postcolonial period is more difficult and precarious then the colonial struggle itself."
Here, then, we have the central observation that Pastor Jeremiah Wright in his own no nonsense way was attempting to raise before the President-Elect and his friends in the boojwah press shouted him down, which is the following:
For better or worse, the so-called "third world" and we ourselves as a people are still in the midst of the trauma of the post-colonial, or post slavery and post Jim Crow struggle. Countries like Palestine, Pakistan, Iran, Venezuela, Bolivia, Sudan, are attempting to inch their way forward under the guns of western imperialism and empire. Masses of Black people, other folks of color in the United States and working poor folks everywhere who did not have the same levels of field independence in their schooling and upbringing that Barack Obama had, are attempting to inch our way forward in this country under the armed force of institutionalized racism and a class dictatorship which is disappeared from political discourse. And so long as the United States hierarchy is allowed to deny the endemic race and class contradictions of capitalism, it will be ever so.
"Obama and many of his followers at this point are attempting to further the idea that it is the conscious recognition of this race and class dictatorship that causes division."
If the Obama "movement" indeed has the social clout it claims it has, it must force upon the President-Elect the truth that it is race and class dictatorship, steeped in the power of the dollar that is the real source of discord between our peoples. Obama and many of his followers at this point are attempting to further the idea that it is the conscious recognition of this race and class dictatorship that causes division. Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney are derided as crazy because the truth of what is happening in this world has been denied as lunacy or "old school thinking." That's how a ruling class depicts people who attempt to raise consciousness of a truth which the ruling class wants to keep unheard or acted upon. The revolution will not be televised. And so long as the dictatorship of race and class, in all its cultural variation, is denied, the dragon's teeth of intertribal warfare, religious fundamentalism, infrastructural decay and global war are sewn. Keep the truth or walk away from it; it will follow us wherever we go.
Henry Louis Gates tells us that Obama is a man of cosmopolitan background, a "race man" who embraces his African heritage but has transcended the old school definitions of Black experience, and as such, he is a postmodern thinker. The problem is that the world that Obama and the United States will be dealing with is not a world that can be adjusted to fit the abstracted tropes of the postmodern ideological construct, that is to say, the idea that the truth is only what we take in on a subjective level. The race and class dictatorship of capital is a reality. The actual history and practice of the western empire and U.S. imperialism must be dealt with, both at home and abroad. And thus far, there is nothing in the public utterances or practice of the Obama "movement" that suggests that it is up to such a task. The struggle of the next period will indeed be an uphill struggle, as the President-Elect says, but for very different reasons than he - and most of his supporters, thus far - are willing to countenance.
michael hureaux is a writer, musician and teacher who lives in southwest Seattle, Washington. He is a longtime contributor to small and alternative presses around the country and performs his work frequently. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
1 I'm aware the online journal the Root cautioned Black folks against quoting Martin Luther King the other day since "we're not John Hope Franklin." I'm hip. But like the man in the movie said, I don't got to show them no stinkin' badges.