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. Obama: The times they are a-changing? . Will President Obama feel the pressure? . What Obama means for Anarchists . We're Still Proles: Their Elections Are Never Our Victories

Obama: The times they are a-changing?

by Anarcho

It is hard not to be moved by the sight of a black man becoming President of the United States. Nor is it possible not to feel hope at the sight of so many people taking a keen interest in their society, expressing joy at the prospect of change. Nor is seeing the Bush Junta finally get a (limited) comeuppance without some pleasure. Equally, it is hard not to be optimistic about an American election result in which someone labelled by his opponents as a “Marxist” and “socialist” gets the majority. Sure, most people (correctly) would have dismissed this as the nonsense it was, but it suggests that after decades of “socialism for the rich” (neo-liberalism) the prospect of social democratic reforms have lost much of their fear.

In those senses, this is a historic result. However, as anarchists we are aware of the limitations of change via the state. That is why we are anarchists, after all. Obama represents the more progressive (and more sane) wing of the American Business Party so any “change” that may be coming will not challenge the power of capital has over the state. Equally, the powerful economic, political and social interests which ensured 8 years of Bush will not disappear. As with Clinton, that pressure will be placed on Obama to implement “reforms” similar in content and aim (if not quite as extreme) as those that would be implemented by a Republican President. We should not forget that it was Clinton who “reformed” welfare, repealed key regulations on financial markets, presided over record increases in inequality, backed NAFTA and so on. And, of course, if economic pressures do not work there is the state bureaucracy with its network of permanent institutions and officials who can hinder and delay any serious reforms which the capitalist class opposes.

This is not to suggest that the parties are identical. They are not, as can be seen from some of the policies suggested and rhetoric used. Yes, they are both capitalist parties but there are differences which it would be foolish to ignore or deny. This does not mean we need support the Democrats (or Labour in Britain, and so on), it means we need to address the reasons why people did vote for Obama and have hope he will change things for the better when we explain the anarchist case for social transformation from below, by the people themselves.

The audacity of McCain trying to portray himself as the candidate for change was staggering. Yet it is representative of a general disgust of the way America has been heading, something which the 8 years of the Bush Junta has crowned with a particularly incompetent, authoritarian and corrupt reign (which is why Joe-the-Plumber was lauded by McCain while George-the-President was ignored). Looking back, Kerry’s defeat in 2004 did have the advantage of allowing the Republicans time to really expose the bankruptcy of their ideas, agenda and the raw capitalism which they idolise. Not that the party of individual responsibility did not try to blame everyone else (Clinton, poor people, banking acts from the 1970s, etc.) for the problems facing America! Luckily, you cannot fool enough of the people all the time.

Obama, of course, got significant endorsements from many elements of the ruling elite while, of course, appealing to the general population. The latter is unsurprising, given the alternative. The former is equally unsurprising, given the mess the Republicans have significantly helped to create and the fact that the Democratic Party is, for all its quasi-populism, a bosses’ party. As in the 1930s, many in the ruling class are seeking ways to save capitalism from its worse excesses. In elite circles, the difficulties in having a regime committed to the rhetoric of “laissez-faire” in the face of economic crisis should be obvious. Having any bailouts and other interventions delayed because of that rhetoric is problematic in the extreme, given the possible depths which the implosion of neo-liberalism could reach – for “socialism” is always on the cards, as long as its primarily for the rich…

In that sense many of the American elite make the same mistake as many on the reformist left. The state acts to defend the interests of the capitalist class as a whole, to keep the system going. That means it needs to be a power above individual companies and individuals and be willing to control them in the wider interests of the system. This task creates the illusion that the state is above classes, that it could be used to further social reform. For those elements in the elite, this fear makes them subscribe to anti-government rhetoric while, of course, seeking government power and influence. Yet just as state action was needed to create capitalism in the first place, so it is required to keep it going. Problems always arise when the ruling elite starts to believe its own rhetoric and the ideological nonsense of economics textbooks about capitalism being self-regulating and stable. At times like this, anti-government rhetoric just gets in the way of a more sensible approach.

So, given the economic context, we can expect an increase in the respectability of Keynesianism at the expense of “laissez-faire” rhetoric. What of popular reform, the social-Keynesianism and popular policies most of Obama’s supporters seek? That depends on what people do now that they have voted. A key element of the anarchist argument against radicals using elections is that it places the focus for change in the hands of the elected representative rather than the people themselves (another, that it de-radicalises the party in question and turns it reformist is not applicable here as the Democrats are a capitalist party). Change is apparently coming, but only when Obama is able to provide it. Yet the nature of that change will depend on the pressures that his government is subject to.

That big business and the Republican smear-machine will be gearing up to ensure their agenda and interests are respected goes without saying. The question is: what will the American people do? Will they return home, waiting for Obama to implement his actually quite vague mandate for change? Or will they use the optimism and hope that his historic win has generated to act for themselves? Will they be able to impose from the streets and workplaces the kind of change which will benefit them? If not, then the hope and joy experienced by many will quickly turn into disappointment, cynicism and apathy. If so, then a genuine alternative to capitalism could be created and anarchists should be at the forefront in advocating the basics of any real change and real alternative – direct action, solidarity, mutual aid and social movements rooted in our workplaces and communities. This is not impossible, it happened amazingly quickly in Argentina when its neo-liberal experiment collapsed.

By so doing, we can not only fight for improvements today but also create the possibility of a new world. Ultimately, if the last 30-odd years of stagnating working class income shows, not acting is a guarantee for rising inequality, falling social mobility and soaring insecurities and stress. Change can come, but only if we act to achieve it. Electing Obama is historic for many reasons but real, fundamental, change comes from below. Our task as libertarians is to build the social movements required to turn hope about change into its reality.

Anarchist Writers.

από Tar 07/11/2008 4:38 πμ.

November 5, 2008

Do you ever get the feeling that the voting booth is a lot like those buttons you find on some big city street corners? You know, the ones you push so you can obey the law while pretending to make the light turn green more quickly?

From high profile veterans to the suddenly energized young folks brandishing Obama bumper stickers on their fuel efficient (sic) vehicles, the Left—in almost all its guises—drank the Kool Aid again. Not just the lesser evil fairy tale but also the “Democrats can be pressured by popular movements” fabrication. No demands are placed on Democratic candidates for fear any hint of leftist tendencies would make them unelectable. Instead, we hear: “Let’s get them in office and then pressure them with our time-honored and battle-proven protest methods.” Sheer, unadulterated fantasy. Not a shred of evidence to back it up but it’s put forth every time America elects (sic) another president.

Question: Was any pressure exerted on the last counterfeit lefty, Bill Clinton?

Answer: Token, at best.

Question: Did such activist pressure – as wretchedly feeble as it was – have any impact on Bubba?

Answer: NAFTA; the repeal of welfare; the bombing of the Balkans, Iraq, the Sudan, etc.; Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act; Defense of Marriage Act, abandoning his pledge to consider offering asylum to Haitian refugees; backing away from his most high-profile campaign issue: health care; reneging on his promise to "take a firm stand" against the armed forces' ban on gays and lesbians; the invasion of Somalia; increasing the Pentagon budget by $25 billion; firing Jocelyn Elders; dumping Lani Guinier; renewing the sanctions on Iraq; ignoring genocide in Rwanda; passing a crime bill that gave us more cops, more prisons, and 58 more offenses punishable by death; the passage of the salvage logging rider; continuation of the use of methyl bromide; weakening of the Endangered Species Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act; lowering of grazing fees on land; subsidizing Florida's sugar industry; reversing the ban on the production and importation of PCBs; allowing the export of Alaskan oil; the telecommunications bill; unconditional support for the Israeli war machine, and not pardoning Leonard Peltier.

I could go on for hours but either you get the idea by now or you just don’t wanna hear it. And don’t forget: much of this happened while Mr. Bill was enjoying the “advantage” of a Democratically-controlled Congress in 1993-4.

Ain’t democracy swell?

Besides, what makes us believe in some imaginary left wing pressure (which, if it even existed, we already know will not be aimed in Obama’s exalted direction) that has the strength to influence presidents?

While the savvy strategist/activists of the Left harbor their delusions of grandeur about their ability to sway the Prince of Hope, here’s a tiny bit what they—and all of us—have allowed to happen without exerting our “influence”: epidemics of preventable diseases; the poisoning of our air, water, and food (including mother’s breast milk); global warming, climate change, animal and plant extinctions, disappearing honeybees, destruction of the rain forest, topsoil depletion, etc.; one-third of Americans either uninsured or underinsured in terms of health care; 61% of corporations do not even pay taxes; presidential lies, electoral fraud, limited debates, etc.; the largest prison population on the planet; corporate control of public land, airwaves, and pensions; overt infringement of our civil liberties; bloated defense budget, unilateral military interventions, war crimes committed in our name, legalization of torture, blah, blah, blah...

Before you know it, the US government will start spying on American citizens and detaining prisoners without charges while allowing corporations to ravage the earth in pursuit of profit, wiping out entire eco-systems in the process. Oops...sorry: they’re already doing all that and the mighty Left is fighting back by supporting Obama?

Everywhere I went on Election Day, I was asked by friend and stranger alike: “Did you vote?” Once the polling booths closed, I could be 100% certain I’d not be asked another politically motivated question by such people for another four years. No one would be rushing up to me and demanding to know if I was planning to do anything about, say, FISA, the death penalty, the PATRIOT Act, homelessness, or factory farming. The election is over. Obama has won. For 99% of the Left, that means their work is done until 2012. It’s time to gloat and reap all the rewards, right?

My prediction: The only pressure that will be consistently exerted by those on the Left will be the pressure of their soft butts on their couch cushions as they sit back to smugly watch Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher.

My advice: Take up yoga, lefties, because you’re gonna need an awful lot of flexibility to perform the contortions necessary to explain and justify President Obama’s actions over the next four years.

by Mickey Z.
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.

από Tar 07/11/2008 4:41 πμ.

Never before have I seen such an outpouring of political support by my generation. That could be a good thing, right? Time will tell. The important question, and one we should all be asking ourselves now, is what does the election of Barack Obama mean for anarchists, our allies and potential allies.

One of the most obvious aspects of Obama’s rise to power is, of course, his race. As a bi-racial ‘black man’ in American society, Obama is a political anomaly. While I would be quick to point out that Obama’s ‘blackness’ offers no real evidence as to how his politics will affect traditionally oppressed communities of color, I think that the perceived importance of his race, as viewed by both whites and people of color, will have a real, tangible effect on race relations in the United States. This could be a positive change, but it could just as easily be a negative one. The run-up to the election brought to the surface the racial tensions which exist in this country, and we have no reason to assume that this will now change. We have already seen the attempts of Neo-Nazi racists to register their anger over the rise of a prominent black politician and, should another attempt occur and succeed, it is likely that race relations could reach an unprecedented low point in recent history.

The question becomes, then, how should anarchists reach out to potential allies in the black community at time when their perceived inclusion the ‘democratic process’ seems to be at an all time high. Obama is clearly supported by a diverse range of blacks across the country. Middle and upper class blacks, some of Obama’s most vocal and visible supporters, now have more faith than ever in the Capitalist State. Black rap artists, while traditionally taking an adversarial stance to party politics, are turning out pro-Obama anthems by the fistful. Somehow ‘Go Obama’ has become the modern day equivalent of ‘Fight the Power’. This is, no doubt, a change that white-owned record companies are all-too happy to accept.

Despite the love for Obama espoused by those blacks who have been integrated into the American white-supremacist capitalist patriarchal State, the majority of blacks continue to be marginalized, are kept in economic and educational ghettos, not to mention those in prison, and suffer from worse health conditions than their white peers. Despite the current mood of jubilation, it should be obvious to all anarchists that black communities offer a wealth of potential allies. Anarchists need to affirm their belief in change made on the ground level and not some mystical change which will be willingly offered by the gods of the political and business elite. Just a few decades ago groups like the Black Panthers provided a real threat to the State and we, as anarchists, need to support the notion that revolutionary organizations based in, and with strong support from, the community are the only effective agents of change. I, personally, want to see Black Panthers, not black politicians.

As for the younger generation, the college-aged and predominantly white kids who supported Obama and elevated him to near God-status on the celebrity hierarchy, only time will tell how they will react to an Obama presidency. Despite all the rhetoric about change, it is my expectation that Obama will continue to support the status quo as he has done throughout his political career. Should Obama fail to address even the most moderate concerns of his broad youth-base of support; is it likely that these former-Barackistas will be radicalized? No, it is very unlikely. Most will continue to ‘support’ their chosen leader, numbing the slow, but inevitable, slide into apathy with can after can of Papst Blue Ribbon. It is equally inevitable, however, that a small percentage of these former supporters will not only be disillusioned with party politics, but will be radicalized, becoming potential allies of the anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian movement.

Today we should all take a deep breath. The quasi-fascist McCain/Palin ticket did not rise to power and this is a good thing. Now, with Obama directly in our sights, we can begin the fight to address the grave problems facing both our neighborhoods and communities across the globe. The recent near-collapse of capitalism has planted seeds of doubt in those formerly assured of the logical and inevitable dominance of global capitalism. We need to focus our efforts on watering those seeds of doubt while at the same time using direct action to attack agents of ecological destruction, banks and bankers who seek to kick tenets out into the street, the warmongers in both parties, and the state powers which harass us and lock up those among us who continue to resist. We need to run with the momentum of the past eight years and not let people’s anger turn into complacency with the election of a so-called lesser of two evils. So fight like hell and don’t talk to the pigs.


by crudo
Modesto Anarcho Blog

Last night I watched with several other anarchist friends as Obama became the next President of the United States Government. As someone who battled drug addiction and worked as a community organizer, counter poised to someone like McCain and Palin who own several houses and planes, (while claiming to be ’just like us’), it's easy to get excited about things changing in this country. After all, just the idea that a half African-American President will be in office is enough to make many people think that the fundamental nature of the power structure in this country will change in a significant way. Some even believe that the very essence of their lives will change in the country. After all, that's what Obama sold us on. Yes we can, change, hope...

But our lives have changed in the past year, even with Obama already in office. Let us not forget he has already served in the halls of power, as the government launched wars into other countries, increased repression against US citizens, deported migrants, and as the prison population within this country continues to grow and grow. Even Obama's platform for election offers threats against Pakistan and Iran, calls for more corporate mercenary groups like Blackwater to go into Iraq, the buildup of a ground war in Afghanistan, new 'clearer coal' and nuclear energy (ha!), and continued attacks against immigrants. While many were excited by the fact that a person of color would possibly be heading the government, many failed to look past Obama's color themselves and see that he still represented the interests of the rich and not the working class.

Here in the Central Valley of California, things have only been getting worse for us. We lead the state in poverty. We lead the nation in foreclosure. We face problems with drugs, pollution, air quality, jobs, police brutality, racism, and more. We have been hit hard by the California budget crisis and the economic recession. The Governor of this state repeatedly launches attacks on unions and workers. We are the front line of the attack by the rich against the rest of us. At the same time, 'our democracy' locally has been hard at work - against us! In the past year or so, as regular readers of Modesto Anarcho know very well, local governments in the Central Valley have managed to criminalize dumpster diving, shoot down needle exchange programs, further criminalizing squatting, shut down medical pot co-ops, beef up surveillance technology and police weaponry with grants from Homeland Security, round up and deport immigrants, launch attacks against the homeless, and so on. Of course, none of these things have been done with our say or even our vote. The landscape of our lives is not our own. Our terrain is decided upon largely by outside forces made up of people of a higher class than us. They make the laws, the put them in place, they own the police, courts, and prisons, and they own everything else. We work for them, we go to war for them, and we are killed by them. But every four years we seem to forget all that, and instead believe that we are somehow participating in a system that allows us to really change this society, albeit in a small, symbolic way.

But, on the tips of many people's tongues will come the cry, "but if we don't vote, we have no voice!" This is a confusing statement, because voting in it's essence takes away your voice, and give it first to the electoral college and then to the candidate that it puts in power. You have no voice, only a free pass to the rich person of your choosing. Besides, even if you voted for the leftist, most liberal candidate, you’d still be a wage slave. You can’t vote against being forced to sell your time, energy, and labor in order to survive. Under capitalism, a system where the rich control every aspect of our lives and livelihoods, elections only change some of the bosses on the top, not the system that is bellow them. After Obama is sworn into office, people will still rot in prison. The bombs and bullets in Iraq and everywhere else will keep exploding. The planet will keep getting hotter. Immigrants and the poor will still be targeted. People will still be harassed and attacked by pigs. People will still lose their homes. Capitalism needs poverty, destruction, and war to continue - but it also needs presidents and people willing to give them power. Isn't it time we stopped being the passive voters that they want us to be? Let's stop validating their system and believing in it. From the bailout to the horrors of everyday life - we know that their democracy is nothing by slavery to capitalism.

The alternative to electoral politics has always been direct action. We must organize as a class of people against the ruling class. We must break the divisions within ourselves such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. Our true power lies in our ability to suppress and destroy class society, to gain space and territory for ourselves. We have felt this power on the streets of Modesto and elsewhere during the May Day marches and walkouts that involved tens of thousands and brought the city to a standstill. We have seen it in the ongoing occupation at DQ-University, where poor people of color have lead a struggle to take back the land. We have experienced it in the community struggles to shut down the Tallow Plant, the Covanta Incinerator, and also stop racist groups like Save Our State. We have watched it in the rent strikes in Ceres, homeless tent cities in Fresno, riots against the police in Stockton, and the Copwatch programs against police brutality in Modesto.

Now, more than ever, the system of capitalism wants us to feel good about the election. That "we the people" have elected one of our own, we have brought change to America. We can forget about the past 8 years and go back to our lives as passive workers, consumers, debtors, and renters now. Our eyes, ears, and thoughts will be filled with a thousand empty slogans about how a great victory has been reached and obtained for us as a people. But it is not our victory, it is a victory for the elites and the rich. If we believe that it is a victory for ourselves, then we are living in a fantasy land. We have to understand that the system is trying to manufacture a belief in ourselves that we have something in common now with the power structure. Hopefully, we will see that this is bullshit. The rich want nothing more than to hold hands with us and gallop into the sunset, despite the fact that a economic and ecological disaster lies just on the horizon. Our victories will always be when we drive the police out of our neighborhoods and set fire to the prisons. When we take over the means of production and share the resources as a community. When we take back what has been stolen from us, day after day. These are our victories, we need only start to make them real. 

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