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Some remarks about Obama & Co.
north america / mexico | miscellaneous | opinion / analysis Friday January 23, 2009 19:17 by Kevin S.
For anarchists, in particular, his administration represents little more than a “change” (!) of the guard which, in every other respect than his skin, is 100% typical of U.S. politics. What is extraordinary is not so much Obama himself—Obama as a politician—but rather the unusual political context.
Some remarks about Obama & Co.
I only have a few short words about the new president (!) Barack Obama. The inauguration of Obama signals a “new era” in American and world politics, certainly, and a definite improvement for everyone from the last eight years of Bush. (I personally voted Democrat for that very reason, given it did not exactly compromise the Revolution and anarchist abstentionism is rather irrelevant in the absence of a popular anarchist movement.) For that matter, he is better so far than anything the Democrats have thrown up since Kennedy, in which respect it is highly interesting to watch from outside. No question, Obama is an impressive politician who appears to be sincere. Nevertheless, he is a bourgeois politician like any other one, and it is foolish for “revolutionaries” to think otherwise. For anarchists, in particular, his administration represents little more than a “change” (!) of the guard which, in every other respect than his skin, is 100% typical of U.S. politics. What is extraordinary is not so much Obama himself—Obama as a politician—but rather the unusual political context. Obama stands out less for his personal virtue than for the unusual “movement” that gave his campaign so much power and appeal—Obama as a phenomenon.
That “movement” has been getting more and more ridiculous ever since he won the Democratic nomination, as people who only a few months ago hated Hillary Clinton as much as any Republican now “change” tone to accept as Obama packs his new cabinet full of old Clintonites (including Hillary herself). Despite such facts, the last couple months have seen such a gush of mass enthusiasm that one is even threatened with political “irrelevance” for not excitedly joining in on their sudden patriotic love-affair. What criticism does occur (even from some anarchists!) consists of “warning” followers that Obama must be “reminded” to keep his promises, as he is, in fact, fallible and needs some gentle nudging along the way to Change.
All that said, I have nothing personal against Barack more than any other bourgeois politician, and despite the ludicrousness of recent euphoria, there is no getting around the historical significance of Obama’s election, and the profound effect of the Obama movement. In many ways it is a typical case of political populism, but it is no less important for that, as it has inspired fresh political enthusiasm focused on the “new” direction of the country. In the present context of economic crisis and general reaction against free-market economics and Wall Street finance capital, there is a definite opening for popular pressure to put big business “back in line.” Furthermore, despite the super-enthusiasm for Obama, Americans (naturally cynical anyway, especially the youth who form the hardcore of Obama’s base) should have more than a healthy dose of skepticism about “our leaders” after the long Bush regime. Anarchists should be clear that this administration is fundamentally like any other—that who manages the bourgeois State is the bourgeoisie’s problem, and “the People” (i.e. the popular classes) should focus all their energies on our own struggles against the bourgeoisie (not pathetically “reminding” them to “keep his promises”).
There are lessons to be learned from the election as well. Most notable has been the youth mobilization, a factor which Democrats have long been trying tap into with only mediocre success. Obama, through a formidable mixture of personal style, rhetorical power and organizing skill, powerfully appealed to young people (some Democrats and many before non-voters), not only pending the election but during the nomination contest, drawing unprecedented numbers to the Democratic primaries in his support. Also unprecedented was the level of small-donations from lower-income people, in a campaign system traditionally funded by big corporations.
All this has led young and working-class voters who support Obama to think of him as one of their own, and even an illusion that they themselves are now in power or that a vote for Obama was a vote for them. In reality, he has simply perfected populist political techniques that have always been used in some degree by politicians, including ultra-reactionaries like George Wallace (or for that matter, going back to Andrew Jackson!). Regardless of how sincere an individual politician may be or of certain improvements they make, they are swindlers luring the masses into support for the ruling class of big business and political bureaucrats. Anarchists must work tirelessly to separate these politicians from their popular supporters, in order to build a popular anarchist movement against the capitalists and their State.
Article written for Anarkismo.net.