Is Barack Obama an Alternative for U.S. Workers?

Original article by Shane Jones via Socialist Appeal.

After years of Bush’s open-ended war on working people at home and abroad, many on the “left” are desperate for an alternative. For many, that alternative is Barack Obama, a Democratic Senator from Illinois. Obama, who is very careful with his words and actions, has done a good job so far of portraying himself as a “sensible progressive”.  However, far from being a “progressive” alternative, Obama is at his core a typical representative of the bosses’ political parties. Despite presenting himself as a candidate of “change”, Obama is a defender of capitalism and imperialism, and hence of exploitation and oppression. On all fundamentals, he is far closer to Bush than he is to being a genuine alternative for working people.

Fundamental change requires changing the economic system which we follow.  This does not mean an abandonment of some form of marketism (if we were to admit that some form of mixed economy is probably going to be most flexible and successful in meeting the needs of the people, I’d be happy).  I do think that capitalism, in the form which we use, is doomed to repeated failures at it’s worst, and at it’s best it just shovels the money to the rich:  This is no way to run a successful economy for all members of the society.  That said, on the political front it looks like what we would call the far left democrats (notice no capital D) are offering some of the best analysis as to what’s going on in the world right now, and are offering some strong alternatives as to where we’re headed.

Which brings us to Mr. ‘Hope’ and ‘Change’ himself.  Is Obama really that good alternative for the society as a whole, or is he in bed with the bosses?  Well, he’s a successful politician on the national stage, isn’t he?

Far from seeking the end of class exploitation, Obama is a true believer in the capitalist system. Along with the likes of Joe Lieberman, a political and financial supporter of Obama whom Barack considers to be his “mentor”, he makes it clear that the Democratic Party is a party of the bosses: “The last I checked John Kerry believes in the superiority of the U.S. military, Hillary Clinton believes in the virtues of capitalism…”

There are a few good Dems out there, but far fewer than the servile masses realize.  I think that most of us here at DD do realize that.  The question then becomes are we to be wedded to their candidate simply because he’s not a Republican.  Those of us who have been accused of being ‘purity trolls’ on this issue say as resoundingling as we can “NO” and continue to shout louder.  We see Obama as nothing more than a fresh coat of paint on the same old rotten structure that our current economic and political systems has become.

Obama even criticizes the Democratic party from the right: “…Democrats are confused. There are those who still champion the old-time religion, defending every New-Deal and Great-Society program from Republican encroachment, achieving ratings of 100 percent from liberal interest groups. But these efforts seem exhausted, a constant game of defense bereft of energy and new ideas needed to address the changing circumstances of globalization or a stubbornly isolated inner city.”

Obama may well be better than McCain.  That does not make him good.  That does not make him the answer.  If he supports the current economic and political system (ie the American Capitalist/Corporate/Military-industrial/Surveilance empire), then he will continue bad policies.

Obama, who earned just under $1million last year, is a supporter of the Hamilton Project, a group founded by Robert Rubin, former Secretary of the Treasury and current chair of Citigroup (the world’s largest company, with total assets of $2.02 trillion). As a Senator, Obama opposed a bill that would place a 30 percent interest rate cap on credit cards, which would help relieve high interest payments for many U.S. working families.  Yet he voted for a “tort reform” bill that rolls back workers’ ability to seek redress and compensation if they are wronged by their employer.

Supporting the system makes sense, if you’re a big-time politician, doesn’t it.  You raise lots of money from those monies interests.  Obama’s genius is that he’s fresh enough that he’s inspire millions to donate in small amounts as well.  Of course, when the party you have the nomination of has no real basis of thought, and I would argue that the Democratic party nationally doesn’t, you can seem to be a ‘reform’ agent without really offering any real reform for the betterment of the society as a whole.  W’s skewed politics so badly in this country that the Dems are nominating someone who would fit nicely in what used to be thought of as Moderate Republicans (though there aren’t very many of those left).

On the question of health care, Obama is opposed to national single-payer health care, on the grounds that it would leave workers in the private health care industry, such as Kaiser and BlueCross BlueShield, unemployed! This is a smoke screen of the worst kind. He is attempting to appear pro-worker, while he is really defending the interests of big business against working people. Instead, he is in favor of “voluntary solutions” as opposed to “government mandates”. Yet as every worker knows, the bosses never “volunteer” to give us raises or benefits. The super-profitable health care industry is not going to sacrifice its profits. Obama is merely evading the question.  He might as well state the truth: he is not for any fundamental change.

An interesting point is that a good portion of business is probably ameinable to a national health care plan.  Many business owners actually want what’s good for their workers (perhaps not a majority, but enough to add weight toward passing Universal Health Care).  If Obama really wants ‘change’ in a fundamental way, wouldn’t he be pushing Single-payer?  Wouldn’t his charisma add more weight to the movement for single-payer?  Then why not?

Like all good big business politicians, when the capitalists come with money and gifts, Obama becomes their political guardian angel. For example, he is a loyal defender of the leading U.S. nuclear power company Exelon, which has given more than $74,000 to his campaign. Exelon is the parent company of ComEd, the energy company currently price gouging Illinois consumers. Agro-capitalists Archer Daniels Midland have reportedly lent him the use of private jets for his campaigns. A few months after entering the Senate, Obama bought more than $50,000 worth of stock in AVI BioPharma, a pharmaceutical company that would have benefited from legislation that he backed. George Soros, the prominent billionaire and master of capital speculation, supports Obama, although he said he would support Hillary Clinton, if she won the Democratic nomination. In either case, he feels confident that his billions of dollars will be safe.

Surprise!  Well, Obama is a Chicago politician, after all!

Obama has called for a “phased withdrawal” of U.S. troops and an opening of diplomatic dialogue with Iraq’s neighbors, Syria and Iran. In other words, he understands that the best U.S. imperialism can do is soften the blow of a defeat; outright victory is now an impossibility.  Like other slightly more far-sighted leaders of the ruling class, he approaches this from the perspective of preserving the cohesion and readiness of the military – so it can be used in other imperialist adventures such as Afghanistan and beyond. Far from calling for an immediate withdrawal of occupying forces in Iraq, Obama has the perspective of further  interventions in the region, with one possible scenario involving U.S. forces remaining in an occupied Iraq for an “extended period of time”, acting as a launching pad.  This would call for “a reduced but active U.S. military presence” that “protects logistical supply points” and “American enclaves like the Green Zone,” which would send “a clear message to hostile countries Iran and Syria that we plan to remain a key player in the region.” U.S. troops “remaining in Iraq” will “act as rapid reaction forces to respond to emergencies and to go after terrorists.”  Above all, Obama wants a “pragmatic solution to the real war we’re facing in Iraq,” and to “defeat the insurgency.” These, of course, are mutually exclusive aims. The insurgency is the popular uprising of an occupied people. The only solution is the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. and “coalition” troops from Iraq.

And lest we forget, he’s voted to fund the Iraq war through the continuing resolutios every time except once (last Octoberish, before the primaries: He voted for the latest).

In short, Obama is trying to be everything to everyone, both for the continuation of the war for one sector of the ruling class, and posturing against the war for another sector, all while demagogically trying to win votes from genuinely anti-war working people.

Maybe he’s actually playing everybody!

Obama, who could well be the first black U.S. president, has attempted to make benign the malignancy that is racism in the United States. American capitalism relies heavily on the oppression of minorities as a means of exploiting and dividing the working class. But Obama believes that “cultural issues” are at the core of black poverty – an argument also embraced by many right-wing racists. Even a cursory look at the history of oppression that black workers and communities have been faced with shows that this has little to do with “cultural issues”, but rather, has everything to do with the social structure of U.S. capitalism.  

Notice he talks about how the black community has to take more responsibility for it’s actions.  The problem, of course, is that broken families are not a black community specific problem.  Let’s see him give a ‘take more responsibility’ speech to a mostly white church in, say, Spartanburg, SC, and let him make it clear that he’s talking to the white community!  That would be some change which I think many of us would support.

When it comes to immigration, Obama has sought to lump immigrant workers with terrorists in the drive to militarize the border. Obama took an active role in the Senate’s drive for further border security linked to new immigration laws. Beginning in 2005, he co-sponsored the “Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act” introduced by Sen. John McCain. He also supported the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act” sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter, which did not pass the House. In 2006, Obama supported another related bill, the $7 billion dollar “Secure Fence Act”, which authorized the construction of 700 miles of fences, walls and other security measures to be built up along the U.S.-Mexico border. President Bush signed it into law in October 2006, calling it, “an important step toward immigration reform.” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, whose appointment Obama approved, said the bill would “make substantial progress towards preventing terrorists and others from exploiting our borders,” directly implying immigrants and terrorists are one and the same.

And we wonder why Bill Richardson might make a strong VP choice for Barack!

Bush and his circle are certainly an extremely hawkish section of the ruling class, with plans for imperialist conquest based on their specific economic interests: oil and other energy holdings, armaments, construction, and other contract companies that benefit from military interventions, such as Halliburton. But the distinction between Bush and Obama is not principled. Obama, along with the more far-sighted strategists of the ruling class, seek only to curtail the excesses of the Bush clique, which are a threat to the stability of U.S. capitalism as a whole. In this sense, Barrack Obama actually more faithfully represents the interests of the capitalist class at this point in history than Bush. So is Obama really an alternative for working people? The facts speak for themselves.

There are alternatives to Obama, and those alternatives are not tied to the rotten core of our current political and economic systems.  Can real ‘change’ be had by someone who’s in lock-step with that system?  Can we afford to wait to find out?

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  1. just as it always is. McCain is part of the mad dog end of the ruling class. The only advantage I can see for McCain winning is that it might break apart the country faster. Obama will just drag it out, and make it more difficult to see what is going down.  

  2. on dkos arguing with the Obamatons about his latest shift which is to support off shore drilling. Jeez it’s like if he slapped his wife around on stage they would all say what a clever pol, he’s just beating her because he has a secret plan, a trap for the Republicans, he has too because wife beaters in pols favor Mccain.! Lord help us it’s not the pols it’s us. Why can’t people stop enabling this shit?

    • kj on August 3, 2008 at 4:39 am

    a vote for Obama. not a popular opinion here, i understand that.  even more, i’ll be smiling when i cast the vote… whether that makes me a happy idiot to some, or not.  🙂

    • kj on August 3, 2008 at 4:44 am

    mattered nothing what any pol says in any campaign.  but then, i’m old and jaded.  

  3. it’s in their best interest to keep the playing field reduced to the same pool of voters. It serves their interests to have this perpetual dead heat, and low participation. Less expectations and resistance to the agenda both parties share. Co-opting is/was the main downfall of all political resistance and change in our system.

    Control via perceived ‘self interest’, splinters and makes movement impossible. They did it in the 60’s and a whole generation went from idealism straight into what’s in it for me. Their most effective tools are co-opting, and division. Obama is a talent and has managed to snare the young who are more resistant to political bs. Will he keep them? Who knows?

    I suspect that once again we will end up hearing the same old song and dance about the mythical center and the impossibility of change due to fictional splits and dangers from out and in. Seems like the way were headed as a society/world would make it harder for these ‘leaders’ to maintain this fiction. Hope won’t halt the train wreck were headed towards.          

    • banger on August 5, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    … I guess what I’m envisioning is a movement with many leaders not one–yes, most are sheep and, to an extent that is ok and normal–those of us who have vision and some personality need to step up and obviously you are doing that. So how can we help each other thrive? That ultimately is the question–we each need more support. For example a good wiki to keep track of the facts that make up our narrative. Another is a fund to help us during hard economic times, another is a program for boycotts and actions which if thought out well  could go viral.  

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