Saturday, June 07, 2008

Reality Check

I appreciate the perspective of the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) as it often provides me with what I consider a “reality check” on current political events.

Take for instance the writings of WSWS contributor Patrick Martin on the recent clinching of the Democratic presidential nomination by Barack Obama. In all the hoopla that took place just four days ago when Obama claimed victory here in St. Paul, I guess I chose to ignore an obvious reality, one that Martin unapologetically articulates: Obama (like Clinton) is a “political representatives of the American ruling elite, the small financial aristocracy which controls all the economic and political levers within US society, including the two officially recognized ‘major’ parties and the mass media. . . . The purpose of [his] campaign is to refurbish American capitalist politics without touching its rotten foundations.”

Still, I find myself going back and forth. Yes, Martin raises some fundamental truths. Yet given the flawed US political system, and the unlikelihood of a socialist (eco-socialist, preferably) evolution occurring within the US anytime soon, what are the alternatives? There comes a point, surely, when one must be pragmatic and go with the best that is offered – even if this “best” is far from what’s truly needed or desired. Is not awareness of the need for such pro-activism in less-than-favorable circumstances, also a type of “reality check”?

Anyway, following are excerpts from Martin’s commentary on Obama. I welcome any feedback that readers of this weblog may care to offer.


Excerpts from
Obama Clinches Democratic Presidential Nomination
By Patrick Martin
World Socialist Web Site
June 5, 2008

. . . Obama’s campaign was not in any genuine sense an “antiwar” campaign, although he appealed to popular hostility to the war in Iraq and constantly linked Clinton and Bush with his refrain that Iraq was “a war that should never have been authorized and never been waged.”

The Illinois senator represents a section of the American ruling elite that has concluded that the invasion and conquest of Iraq was a strategic debacle and that a significant change in posture and personnel is required to salvage the interests of American imperialism in the Middle East and internationally. These layers do not oppose military action as such, but regard the Bush administration’s single-minded focus on winning a military victory in Iraq as unwise and ultimately disastrous.

Long before Obama became a household name, filling stadiums and attracting small contributions by the millions over the Internet, his candidacy had attracted the support of a significant section of the Democratic foreign policy establishment, including figures like former Carter national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and former Clinton national security adviser Anthony Lake.

They were drawn to Obama not so much by his critique of the Bush administration—which was not particularly vigorous, even by the toothless standards of the congressional Democrats—as by the symbolic effect that the election of the first African-American president would have in terms of reviving illusions, both internationally and within the United States, in the democratic pretensions of American capitalism.

With Obama’s nomination effectively secured, the American media has now gone into overdrive to peddle such illusions. The television networks have devoted endless hours to glorifying the great achievement of American democracy in nominating an African-American to lead the presidential ticket of one of the two major bourgeois parties for the first time in US history.

. . . [Yet] despite the incessant claims of the media and of their Democratic Party supporters and apologists, Obama no more represents the interests of black and minority people than Hillary Clinton represents the interests of all women.

Both Obama and Clinton are political representatives of the American ruling elite, the small financial aristocracy which controls all the economic and political levers within US society, including the two officially recognized “major” parties and the mass media.

. . . The Obama nomination is not the product of a popular insurgency against the Democratic Party establishment or of a mass movement from below, as some of Obama’s more self-deluded supporters on the liberal left now proclaim. The role of the masses in the Obama campaign is best demonstrated by the rallies like that held Tuesday night in St. Paul, Minnesota—the people serve as extras in a well-developed, highly skillful marketing campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to refurbish American capitalist politics without touching its rotten foundations.

Obama attacked his presumptive Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, over his “stay-the-course” policy in Iraq, but he couched his critique of the war in nationalistic terms. The Bush-McCain policy, he said, “asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians,” as though it was Iraq exploiting the United States, and not the reverse. He cited the cost of the war for the American people, but not the far greater cost inflicted upon the Iraqi population by the American invasion and occupation, which has virtually destroyed Iraq as a functioning society.

At the same time, the Democratic candidate further parsed his supposed commitment to bring an end to the war, declaring—in implicit rejection of any rapid pullout of troops— “I won’t stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq.” He added, “We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in, but start leaving we must.” At some points in the campaign, Obama has suggested that all US combat troops would be pulled out in his first year in the White House. This has been whittled down to a vague pledge to “start leaving,” a formulation that opens the door to an occupation of essentially indefinite duration.

Obama continued this emphasis on revived and renewed American militarism in his speech Wednesday morning to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the principal pro-Israel lobby in Washington. He declared that he would never negotiate with Hamas and other Islamic and nationalist groups that refuse to recognize the state of Israel.

. . . As for Iran, the Toronto Globe & Mail correspondent at the AIPAC meeting commented, “Sen. Obama seemed almost as hawkish as Sen. McCain or current President George W. Bush.”

Obama told AIPAC, “The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.” He added, in language that was vague but undeniably ominous, “I will do everything in my power—everything, everything—to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

An Obama presidency would not represent a fundamental break with the politics of American imperialism, but rather its continuation in a new form. The first black president will prove as determined to uphold the interests of the US ruling elite as the first black secretary of state, Colin Powell, and his successor Condoleezza Rice, who is also African-American.

It is not skin color, but class position, which is the decisive political criterion. It is necessary to reiterate this fundamental Marxist truth under conditions in which all manner of left liberals will seek to reinforce illusions in Obama and, through him, in the Democratic Party and the profit system as a whole.

. . . The truth is that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are both instruments of the American ruling elite, whose differences are tactical rather than fundamental.

Driving an Obama administration will be the ongoing and ever-deepening crisis of American and world capitalism, and the efforts of the US ruling elite to defend its world position and its dominance at home by every possible means — from the honeyed words of the Democratic presidential candidate to police-state spying and war.

To read Patrick Martin’s commentary in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Historic (and Wild!)
R.I.P Neoclassical Economics
Capitalism on Trial
John le Carré’s Dark Suspicions
Richard Flanagan Wants a “Gentler, More Generous” Australia
Let’s Also Honor the “Expendables”
Amy Goodman and the “Sacred Responsibility of Listening”
John Pilger on Resisting Empire


Anonymous said...

This kind of rhetoric is over my head, Michael. Can you make it clear?

Is there a successful model for a classless, democratic socialist republic?

Does the organization Martin belongs to know how to get from where we are to where he wants to be?

Anonymous said...

F. v. Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" should qualm any socialist idealism. No collectivist system has ever "permitted" the freedom of expression, because it lacks efficiency, that only the socialist model presumes to correct. Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, are all collectivists, along with Fidel in Cuba (who quarantined HIV, since it was "efficient," which not even Ronald Reagan could sanction).

The "markets" work, but only within the "sphere of regulated parameters," and outside of government dominance of the particular producer. Look at what damage the Keynsian Farmer Model of Richard Nixon has wreaked. Sure, we can feed the masses on corn, simple carbs that a single ear or maize turns into "fuel" of our Priuses, but then starves humanity, and pollutes the environment with "shit," toxic waste, and "bottled water."

The market works beautifully, BUT only within parameters. The ONLY politician in recent memory who understands this dynamic is Obama. Hilary sought to "tax and spend," dominate and dictate, while the Republicans went back to their CATO Institute of "unfettered markets" of Blackstone, Blackwater, Haliburton, and Wall Street went half cocked with subprime. War is efficient, just not very moral, whatever the economics.

The basic question is whether humans have a CHOICE, or whether all choices are to be made for them, as ALL socialists insist necessary. Socialists prefer to allocate the choices according to their calculus, like Fidel, who thought HIV too pricey for his totalitarian government to tolerate, so he quarantined HIV gay men in camps (if he did not kill them).

Not even Ronald Reagan, the so-called "conservative" liberal, could embrace his own Right Wing's call to quarantine. But why not? The socialists are right. It's efficient. Alan Greenspan, the former Fed Reserve Chair (and NBC spouse to Andrea Mitchell) insisted 'efficiency" is what is best.

Just as Mao, Stalin, Hitler -- ALL SOCIALISTS, Michael -- thought themselves efficient. You bet, gulags, Auschwitz, quarantine, subprime, Wal-mart, are all terribly efficient -- TOO EFFICIENT. Guess who is "inefficient?" Slavs, Jews, Homophiles, and HIV. But then you may prefer they rule over all hope of your choices, and they will gladly accommodate you. You are as disposable to collectivists and child labor is to unfettered capitalists, and New York Governors play both sides against each other.

Freedom is meaningless without CHOICE, and SURVIVAL in a gulag ain't any better than in a gas oven. But when bureaucrats of the Federal Reserve (Greenspan), or of the Congress (whose "expertise will fit us in next years Mao clothes"), or of "experts" in knowledge establish the a priori, not by parameters, but by their Utilitarian (Socialist) Calculus, that the greatest good is achieved by the greatest number, don't be surprised when Gays, Lesbians, Blacks, and Slavs are just "inefficient" and expendable as any "inefficient" group.

You may praise Jesus, but we curse him, Marx, Mill, and all collectivists.

kevin57 said...

Barack, I fear, is much more of a symbol and an illusion than a "savior." His principal theme is "change" and "reform" of politics as usual, but as the Rezko conviction in Chicago suggests, Mr. Obama denounces insider influence only in places (like Washington) where he does not have a stake. Curiously and sadly, he has never denounced and disassociate himself from corrupt Chicago politics.

I fear that his election will lead only to deeper disillusionment and cynicism.

Frank Partisan said...

This is a good discussion. Thank you for informing me.

I'm associated with the Int'l Marxist Tendency, also a Trotskyist group.

Gay Species: You are using the word collectivist to muddy up the discussion. Fascism is an outgrowth of capitalism, under certain unique circumstances. Hitler hated Bolshevism.

Cuba was incorrect about its position towards gays. It changed its position. One can get a sex change surgery there free of charge.

Often after a revolution, people tire and reaction sets in. Stalinism is a nationalist, conservative reaction. Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenov opposed the Bolshevik revolution. Stalin put himself in the middle between Lenin and Trotsky who led, and Zinoviev and Kamenov who hid.

I'm not sure why I'm talking seriously to someone who is telling me Franco and Hitler are socialist.

Every system has the possibility of dictatorship.

You can't have a classless society until capitalism is gone. Both capitalism and socialism are international systems. Those who think capitalism can be national are like Pat Buchanon and Ron Paul. Socialism in one country is the root of Stalinism.

A good example of democracy and socialism, is in Barcelona at the start of the Spanish Civil War. In Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil there are movements of occupied factories, after the bosses desert the properties.

The fall of the East Europe states, was not the fall of socialism. It was the fall of Stalinism, just as Trotsky predicted. Now with more abundance, there is no reason for a system as Stalinism to exist.

On to the topic. I agree with the analysis of the WSWS article. In addition at my blog there is an older post about Obama's economic team being disciples of Milt Friedman. Obama is in some respects to the right of Hillary.

I agree generally with WSWS analysis. That group isn't the slightest bit activist. They offer no alternative. For now I'm supporting Cynthia McKenney of the Green Party and the Power To The People campaign. I don't agree with her on everything, or expect her to win. I'm using her campaign as a tool to talk to people.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Reinaldo Arenas' Before Night Falls either in print or on film, might shake reality into romanticism of Fidel. Until 1989, the U.S.S.R. and China denied either had homosexuals, much less HIV.

But if one can get a "free" sex change, what more can someone want? Forced sterilization by voluntary means?

Anonymous said...

The only thing more depressing than wackos like Larry Kudlow are wackos who are deluded by "Marxist truth[s]" (I remember being one of those, say, 30 years ago). How, well, quaint.

Socialism is an ownership system. It pretends to be a stewardship system, but it's has all of the problems of an ownership system with insufficient redeeming benefits. It's an illusion that it resolves the problem it ostensibly cures.

Socialism is beyond irrelevancy now.

Frank Partisan said...

The Gay Species: Cuba acknowledged they were wrong, and changed their policy. It's not a static society, just like capitalism is not static.

Liam: Socialism is relevant, not Stalinism.

Anonymous said...

Well, golly gee whiz. Free sex change operations in Cuba. I suggest you go for it. Never mind all Cuba's "technology" was paid by non-socialist research in "market economies." That's the expensive part. Stealing is cheap. So go to Cuba and steal away. Fidel did. May Arenas' ghost of Fidel's crimes past greet you, help you across the troubled waters, and give you what others must pay for. SOMEONE MUST PAY, nothing is free. Not even in socialism.