Towards 2012, Retrospect and Prospect

haley barbour in 2012 2
The election in 2008 of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States, a long overdue event in the life of the country, was an event of historic importance. This despite the mixed bag of policies and legislation and derrings-do that have occured so far. And let it be said at the beginning of this presentation: racism is alive and well, and many racists are using the troubles of this country to distribute their poison. The election of the first black president has likened the behavior of these white supremacists to the behavior of a rat trapped in a corner. And so in all of our struggles, as has always been the case, the struggle against white supremacy must be brought forth, front and center.
The election underscored an on-going end of an era of US domination over much of world politics, and the beginning of an era of struggle for a possible multilateral world of relations between countries based upon mutual benefit, non-interference in each other's internal affairs [the publication of the Wiki Leaks documents clearly pointed out this need], the need to settle affairs by diplomatic initiative and in accordance with international law and not saber- rattling. To repeat: this is the beginning of possibilities. The events of the so-called Arab Spring and Obama Administration tactical fo democratic struggle in some countries; drones and missiles elsewhere; platitudes still elsewhere; and outright assasination......all point out that this beginning of possibilities is off to a rough start.
The elections of 2008 have also bequeathed to the winner the worst economic roller-coaster ride since Black Thursday in October of 1929. Fingers point everywhere as to who was responsible for the mess. Madoff and others are packed off to jail. Too-big-to-fail corporations are given tons of cash to fix the situation...and for the most part, these corporations squander the money on the same practices that got the economy into trouble in the first place. And job creation has been way lower than projected, and promises to remain so for years to come. The only thing we can be sure of is that the ongoing crises will assume the name of whatever president is in office for some time to come.
Nor has there been far-reaching audacity based upon the hope that was engendered amongst masses of people in 2008. Many are disappointed, many others feel betrayed. Somewhere along the way, it was forgotten that progress gets made only when there is street action; that meaningful legislation and policies occur only when masses of people, in the tradition of the CIO drives of the 30s and the civil rights creative tensions of the 60s, come out into the streets, and like the singer said, shake the windows and rattle the halls. And so we have healthcare de-form that will be slowly implemented, probably watered down more than it has been, and federal appeals courted out of existence, for lack of active millions saying enough. We have immigration de-form held hostage by the likes of Arizona's Governor Brewer and the attorneys general of some 20 states who want to introduce legislation modelled upon her example. We have the governors of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio who started out destroying the collective bargaining rights of labor. and now they want to allow only those with picture identification cards to vote. My understanding is that the Republican Party is waging a multi-pronged, systematic, stonewalling campaign to not only limit President Obama to a single term, but to use Baraka's defeat to roll back the social gains of this country to at least before the New Deal. And popular responses such as the Walkerville in Wisconsin, the passing of state legislation to allow in-state tuition to the children of undocumented workers in Illinois and Connecticut, the continued struggles for more, better teachers....are just a small sampling of the resistance and combativity that our class needs to develop in the coming period. The emergence of Occupy Wall Street and its first-response-911 expressions in over 700 cities and towns, as well as internationally, is the most recent dramatic expression of resistance to our desperate situations from which we can expect to see more, and possibly sterner, stuff.
The elections of 2008 took place at a time in a time when ecological concerns and eco-environmental disasters, both natural and man-made have confronted humanity with a choice in which we hope the opportunity hasn't passed. That choice is the survival or the extinction of the human species. We have got to get clear: we cannot survive without the rest of creation and nature. But nature and creation can certainly do without us. The British Petroleum episode in the Gulf, the meltdown of the nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan. The continued desertification of large parts of the world and the resultant struggles against starvation and thirst will lead to warfare over resources.
We are now again at a moment, whether it be the Middle East or the less developed countries of Europe, where the delay of redistribution of the world's wealth means the reaffirmation of revolutionary politics. Events in the Middle East and the poor countries of the Mediterranean have shown that revolution is no longer "off the table". And once that process gets rolling, all of the drone bombings and assasinations in the world will not be able to stop it.
These are snapshots of the past three years. Pictures of what the world looks like to a lot of people. In 2008, some of us knew on the first Tuesday, that on the morrow...Wednesday ...we would have a struggle on our hands, no matter who won. Others of us were totally mesmerized by being in the historic moment in which we found ourselves. And all of us were...and are...part of a movement that will have to hold together in the coming years, if our hopes were to be translated into power...the energy, knowledge, courage, the juice, the ability...the gravitas to change reality to our needs to our liking.
The mid-term elections of November 2010 were an accounting of the extent to that which we wanted to do was in sync with reality. It was a moment in which our do-ability was reexamined. It was a moment when the political costs were placed alongside the political gains.  
So what do we know after all of this? Maybe this question rests upon an old saying, viz. it's not what we don't know, it's what we do know that ain't so. November of last year drove this point home in some bitter ways.
First, a number of Democrats learned the hard way that you cannot hold office by sounding like your Republican opponent. Like Harry Truman warned in the 1940s: if a voter is faced with one Republican, and then another Republican...that voter will vote Republican every time. Repeating the Newt Gingrich episode of 1994, most Democratic conservatives were replaced by Republicans with similar politics, thus driving home the fact that Republicans represent their politics much more faithfully than Democrats who play at being Republicans.

The voters are not stupid. The Democrats took a trouncing not because the voting public was fickle, not because they found a sudden love for the Republicans. The Democrats took a trouncing because in the eyes of the voters, they were not living up to their principles, their political platforms, etc. Now some of this was clearly about the Democrats inability to line up enough votes in the Senate even when they bent over backwards to compromise. But much of this compromising was seen as totally useless, as well as lacking in principle. The public was not involved in the discussions around the legislation in any meaningful way.For many voters, the political behavior of the Democrats...the party of the spineless, married to the shameless GOP...was just plain business as usual.
This was glaring in the struggle around healthcare legislation. Some saw the final results on a scale of adequate to excellent. Other voters saw things going from nowhere to worse. All kinds of political actors and their e-blasting, e-mailing armies were contacting everyone with an email address in range. But computer-literate or not, few people were being contacted about the legislation itself. Most people were being bombarded by lots of name-calling, character defamation and assasination...and little content about the issues at hand.
It is no surprise... we've been through this throughout this country's history... that when black people have historic moments, or gain benefits that are beneficial to others as well, there has been an accompanying groundswell of white people who get excited and all worked up in some very negative thoughts and could almost call these folkways. In this instance, populism has raised its head in the form of the Tea Party, angry about healthcare reforms, angry about immigration, angry about taxes.All this and other sources of anger is expressed as anger at the perceived lack of concern by the government, or the perceived hostage- status of the government by special interests. This mixed in with a coming to political grief over the fear of a black presidency. This upheaval in one ironic way could be seen as a source of gratitude: it put to rest any notion that a black presidency signifies the end of white supremacy in this land. 
We know now that militarism dies hard, and that the current wars that are being waged are likely to be territorially supplemented and protracted time-wise. They will also be asymmetric..... Euro-Americans stuck in the Afghanistan quagmire are  in a hurry to end conflicts fighting those who have been engaged in conflict against one empire after another, since the time of Alexander the Great, and forward to the Great Games of the 19th Century to those being played by the likes of the Bushes, Clintons, and Obama.
Whatever one wants to call this economic crisis, however one wishes to spin their politico-economic punditry, the reality in which increasing numbers of us live is that of immiseration and the growth of all forms of oppression both legal and defacto. In one way or other, if you are not making over $500,000 a year, then one or another violation of the United Nations charters and conventions on human rights are paying you a visitation.    And we don't need the pundits to know that our gut feelings are true...that it isn't going to end very soon, that whatever positive results come out of this time, they will be no thanks to those those who threw gasoline on the fire of a capitalism that is pretty capable of turning in on itself without much help. Those who made the present debacle possible are still at the helm. and short of revolution, there is nothing so permanent as things temporary.
So what have we learned these past three years?
We have first and foremost learned, in the words of the African revolutionary Amilcar Cabral, to "tell no lies, claim no easy victories." Because what is now clear is that those of us who thought that election night 2008 and the subsequent Inauguration Day, were going to produce a concoction...just add water!...of progress and justice in housing and healthcare, in quality education, in just immigration policies, in an expansion of the rights of labor, in the creation of high-speed rail routes, in the reconstruction of rotting superstructures, in the bringing under control our country's financial institutions and mega-corporations and the havoc they've wreaked.....those of us who thought that these things would have all happened by now, amidst fanfare by all, Aaron Copeland fanfare music in the background....have endured three years of a much longer time of the biblical weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The attempts by the Obama Administration to work with the Republicans have come to naught. The GOP's idea of hands across the aisle is to reach out and slap a Democrat in the face. And with the access of 60-plus Republicans to the House and a barely controlled Democratic Senate, we can expect to see soft or hard gridlock for the next period of time, as well as collusion and contention between moderate, conservative, and Tea Party GOP factions.
But despite these collusions and contentions, we have learned that the GOP is well-organized, tightly-disciplined, well financed, and possess a high sense of targetry: trashing workers collective bargaining rights in the Midwest, orchestrating anti-immigration legislation in upwards of 20 states, experimenting with photo-identification cards in order to be able to vote, and thinking out loud about the repeal of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.
We have learned the hard way that the GOP and their paymasters [the same paymasters of the Democrats when they're in control] have engaged in a lot of wierd financial campaigns put together by Dick Chaney and Karl Rove. This includes the provision of seed money to launch the Tea Party.
On this financial foundation, they launched an outright, fear-based campaign of lies. The stimulus is another bailout they cried, where in actuality the stimulus of Obama created 2 to 4 million jobs, depending on whom you talk to, and in any case inadequate by the Obama Administration's own admission. They were working to dig out of the bailout of the last year of the Bush Administration, with which Obama got stuck. Obama created the deficit, the rightists scream, when in actuality the deficit is the product were created by the Bush Administration as a result of the previous 8 years of their reign, and the wars created during that time.
Death panels are a part of healthcare. Viagara is made available to sex offenders. Obama isn't a citizen. Obama is a hidden Muslim, whose foreign policy is channeled through his late father's anti-colonialism, atheism, and [horrors!] Mau-Mau terrorism.
Despite the racial-based and reality fed [pimping real issues] histrionics of the Tea Party and that resurrection of Nazi propagandist Goebbels..i.e. Fox News...the core elements that put Obama over the top...labor, the racially/nationally opressed, women, and young people...emerged from the mid-term congressional elections, bloody but unbowed. They got out an admittedly diminished vote, but they did not destruct and therefore they remain a core around which to build for 2012. These forces sometimes work through Democratic Party structures, and sometimes outside and around them. In California, not one Congressional or Senatorial seat was lost to the GOP and it was the organized forces of independence that made this happen. Plus the governor's seat was reclaimed from the GOP. One had to wear hip boots to wade through the down and dirty on both dirty coming from both major parties, in the campaigns of 2010, as in any election year up to the present. And 2012 promises to call for both hip boots and shovels.
And now it's some 17 months away from November 2012. We have an opportunity to cease licking our wounds, cease feeling bad or "betrayed" by what Obama supposedly would not/could not do, and get ready for the next round of struggle. And this time, if we haven't figured it out already, let's get clear: on the day after the elections we still have a fight on our hands, no matter who wins. That means that if the GOP wins, then we don't shut down, especially individually, into a funk. If the Democrats win, then we don't sit on our laurels of unwarranted hubris, high expectations. 
Finally, three items that we have got to actively and effectively get across to the people over the next period of time, even if they sound like impossible dreams. We should see them as a field of dreams. If we build on it, the people will come! But we need to use our Marxist eyes to observe these dreams in the lenses of Dr. Sigmund Freud, who characterized dreams as reflections in our sleep of unresolved realities.
First, we must leave Afghanistan and all of the other places on this planet where we are causing misery for untold millions, thereby recruiting the next generation or two for the world jihad being waged. The wars are unwinnable, and they will bring down what is left of an aleady shaky economy. It will also bring down this bourgeois democracy we live in and bring on fascism.
Second, if we want to accomplish an agenda of hope...and note, I said WE, and not HIM...then we have got to bring on the audacity and stop giving passes to those who have proven beyond reasonable doubt that they mean us harm. This means taking the experiences of Wisconsin and other points of resistance, taking the inspiration of Tunisia and Egypt, and Greece and Spain......and going to the people, calling for full mobilization, not only for the elections but for the streets. It's about time that we learned the lessons of every great social change in this land. These changes became legislative only after they were politically won in the streets. And in order not to lose what we win, we always have to be ready, willing, able to remain in the streets, as well as go to the election booth.
Third, like Obama said way back's about US...and how badly we want the things we want, and to what lengths we are willing to go to attain these things. We must carry on our own struggles and fight our own battles. No savior or messiah can do this for us.

Post your comment

Comments are moderated. See guidelines here.


  • Sounds like Obama's speeches... much identification of the problems. ...much standing on the sidelines describing them. It's said here that after the elections there'd still be work to do. What work - maybe...? something able to be grasped to do ...? not just identification of the problems...
    Meanwhile mourn the death of - nay, the slaughter of the adverb: Like Obama said - vs. As Obama said.

    Posted by Norma J F Harrison, 12/27/2011 1:55am (11 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments