Obama’s recent decision to commit 30,000 more soldiers to the
occupation of Afghanistan has angered folks who thought the promised “change” would include change in the US government’s imperialist foreign policy. Anti-war, semi-socialist ex-Democrat Cynthia McKinney puts the cumulative effect well in a recent editorial:
“…there is deep disquiet today within the ranks of the President’s own base in the Democratic Party, with independents, and with middle-of-the-roaders called “swing” voters. In unprecedented numbers, voters in the United States of all previous political persuasions went to the polls and invested their dreams and, most importantly, their votes in the “hope” and “change” promised by the Obama campaign. But in light of the President’s defense of Bush Administration war crimes and torture in U.S. courts, the transfer of trillions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars to the wealthy banking elite, continued spying on environmental and peace activists as well as support for the extension of the Patriot Act, and removal of Medicare-for-all (single payer) as a central feature of proposed health care reform, Obama voters are rethinking their support.”
The resulting uproar from the liberal/progressive wing of Democratic Party voters doesn’t result from simple naïveté about the nature of the US political system; many up-until-recently disillusioned US residents were bamboozled by Obama’s race and rhetoric. The Black electoral base, which is generally the most progressive section of US society, has been especially victimized by the assumption that racist, imperialist politics radiate from a white, racist chief executive. The Obama administration PR team, and the Democratic Party in general, have encouraged this image through Obama’s constant appropriation of Black political heroes like MLK and most recently Muhammad Ali. As Dave Zirin observes in his recent article “Message to Obama: You Can’t Have Muhammad Ali”, this is a cynical bastardization of one of the most famous war resisters in the 20th century.
McKinney also notes that the war in Afghanistan is all about controlling oil pipelines and geo-political positioning. She and others have been noting this for 6 years, so what’s different now?
Now the economic crisis, unprecedented since the Great Depression, has shone a harsh spotlight on exactly how much Democratic Party pro-worker rhetoric, from Obama and others, gets backed up by action – not at all. When the valueless capital of the financial sector evaporated and needed to be replaced, a choice had to be made: who’s gonna pay for this? The overwhelming answer has been, as always, the working classes of the United States, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
In the United States, this has meant massive evictions, cuts to social services, reductions in government wages, layoffs, etc. etc. that are overwhelmingly racialized. In the occupied countries it has meant an increasingly vicious US push to ensure control over the government of those countries and thus the regional oil supply, a vital ingredient to keep the economy growing at the current precarious economic moment.
The structural readjustment (government budget cuts) in the US, and the wars in the MidEast, are united by these common threads: both are fueled by the desperate capitalist need to increase the amount of value in US (and to lesser extent worldwide) markets, and both overwhelmingly impact black and brown people at home and abroad. These commonalities are the material basis for uniting the previously separate anti-war and anti-budget cut movements (although anti-war organizing has reached an extremely low level and can hardly be called a mass movement.)
The programs currently being destroyed were created by class struggle on a massive scale. From a ruling class perspective this was the working class “misbehaving”. Now that the gains of struggle are being revoked, the disciplining of the working class in anticipation of resistance is becoming central. Immigration raids, police brutality and the expanding prison-industrial complex have been fixtures of the capitalist attack on the working class for decades, but have not met with any effective resistance. The economic crisis has intensified the age-old class conflict between exploited and exploiter; the terrain of struggle is broadening and the stakes are getting higher. It’s time to overcome the separation of these different movements. It’s time to break discipline.
Hopefully the above analysis makes it clear why and how imperialism abroad, state violence at home, and the ravaging of the US public sector are strategically fused for the capitalist class, and should be for us as well. The greatest opportunity presented by this economic crisis is the material basis for uniting what used to be so many atomized single-issue campaigns. In short, the opportunity is for us to finally compose a broad movement that will completely reverse the priorities of society as they are today. This revolutionary socialist reorganization of society has always been the “change we need.” As some of us have been arguing from day one, Obama is every bit as racist, imperialist, and incompetent of an economic manager as any US president has ever been. This is because all US presidents preside over a country fundamentally structured around and firmly committed to upholding the most basic contradiction of capitalism: the irreconcilable antagonism between capital and labor.