Nov 24, 2008

Discussion on, A Call: Build Popular Power Bloc at Obama Inauguration

this is taken from the Kasama site. the posting of the "Call" and discussion is not an endorsement of the Call. This is being posted in the spirit of discussing analysis and approaches of activity under the emerging Obama era. 3 excerpts. The first, from the actual call:

"Perhaps, as people working to build a world from below without electoralism or statecraft, we also need to listen on January 20. It is neither the time nor the place to critique hope or excitement on the part of people who have engaged in grassroots struggles in so many ways and won a substantial victory. The inauguration marks a watershed event in the often cruel history of these United States, and the whole world will be watching, hoping that we’ve done just a little to grapple with the legacy of slavery, lynching, segregation, displacement, and racism in general, both of the personal and institutional varieties.

There’ll be a true rainbow coalition on the streets of DC, made up of exactly those people who the libertarian Left has always aligned itself with and always should: those who are not radicals but who have been exploited, oppressed, and relegated to powerlessness. So instead of breaking things, if we’re serious about building visionary social movements, doing meaningful anti-racism work, and honoring those who have resisted and dreamed before us, we should break bread with those millions globally who will feel moved by Obama’s inauguration—many of whom were also moved enough to participate politically (well beyond voting) for the first time in this election."

The second from Chuck Morse:

"To set the context, the anarchist movement is diverse, heterogeneous, and politically divided between social democrats drawn to anarchism because they see protests as an effective means of influencing social policy (as a form of lobbying) and revolutionaries seeking to reconstruct economic, political, and social relationships along egalitarian lines. The conflicts between these two wings rarely occur openly: indeed, the differences are mostly fought by proxy, especially in debates over vocabulary and symbolism (remember the endless kilobytes spilled over the relative merits of “diversity of tactics”?).

As I see it, this call is a quite transparent attempt to strengthen the social democratic tendency within the movement by leading anarchists to passively participate in the inauguration–which is a major symbolic event in the constitution and reproduction of the American nation-state–and to celebrate Obama’s assumption of power. The Call puts this pretty clearly: the purpose is to join in the “celebratory spirit of the day . . . rather than protest.

And how could anarchists possibly take this stand?"

The last from Mike Ely who administers Kasama:

"We need to “divide things in two” about Obama: the fact that a Black man can become president does mean that some thing have changes, profoundly, through struggle over the last hundred years. It would have been unthinkable to have a Black president — for many people even a year ago! And people can celebrate that change (in consciousness, in civil society, in the objective norms)…. and they will. But there are class differences in that celebration: because for some more educated and bourgeois sections of the people this means a further removal of “glass ceilings” — while for those at the bottom it does not touch most of the most difficult oppressions they face. (I.e. there is still a border, there are still no jobs, there are still the murderous police, there is still the U.S. cruise missiles landing in villages etc.)

So while there is celebration of the progress over a century, it is quite another matter to have (or promote!) illusions about the policies and nature of this new government — all the talk of hope and change really goes over into dangerous territory.

And this is especially true when we look at everything (as we must) from the point of view of the planet, from humanity as a whole. And in that regard, i am struck by how little this Call has any sense of a SYSTEM dominating the world that is brutally oppression literally BILLIONS of people (grinding their lives and hopes to dust). Where is the imperialism of the US? The empire? the profound inequalities between nations, enforced by the global military?

Isn’t that a vision we need to bring to the fore: rather than a focus on a highly selective and perhaps-misunderstood presentation of “peoples history”?"

read the whole discussion


Negative Potential said...

I see the main advantage of the Obama presidency consisting in the fact that the more regressive/reactionary sectors of the left have been robbed of their favorite bogeyman, George W. Bush.

Having an intelligent, charming, and sympathetic individual like Barack Obama at the head of the world's most powerful capitalist nation-state will force the few remaining intelligent people on the left to reconsider their understanding of how capitalism functions and force them to grapple with the nature of capitalism as a form of impersonal mediation of social activity through abstract social forms (the value-form, the state, the nation, gender, race) rather than simply a conspiracy of capitalists.

In the North American left, you have a spectrum that seems to range from critically intelligent but ultimately abstentionist tendencies like the people around Platypus, and then utterly idiotic, regressive, anti-theoretical professional activists like the Left Turn collective. An Obama presidency might force the great "middle" to sit back, actually do something advisable like set up _Capital_ study groups, and ruminate a bit about why the shitty state of the world cannot be attributed to the character flaws of the individuals populating Washington and Wall Street.