Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Final Post

By Ben Trott

This will be the last post to this blog. A few quick words before shut down, however…

This project began in September 2008. The idea was to try and provide a space in which to discuss and debate the meaning of Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy from the perspective of the global left. It was originally intended to run until election day on November 4. Original texts were commissioned from political activists, intellectuals, academics, journalists and others. News and opinion by, about, or likely to be of interest to the left was aggregated from elsewhere on the web.

As a number of people pointed out at the time, however, the period of transition which began with Obama’s election and came to a close with his inauguration on January 20, provided an important opportunity for the left to build pressure on the then president-elect to start delivering on his promise of ‘change’. The transition was also, it was thought, likely to serve as an indicator of the directions his administration might take. The blog, then, tried to reinvent itself as a location in which these processes were tracked and debated.

Of course, the policy decisions the administration is likely to take remain open for contestation now that Obama has entered office. It is the domestic constellation of forces – to Obama’s left and right; in Congress and on the streets – as well as the economic, military, social and political transformations taking place on a global level, which will largely determine what the administration can or cannot achieve. Whether or not, for instance, Obama is able to deliver a ‘New New Deal’ will depend in large part on the force with which it is demanded; its form and content determined by the competing interests that seek to shape policy and influence the direction of social development.

Throughout Obama’s election campaign, the period of transition, and the first few days of his Presidency, numerous comparisons have been drawn with those who have occupied the office before him. JFK’s often ‘professorial’ style, his ability to enthuse the country’s youth, and his promise of generational change; and Obama’s own series of nods towards the governing style of Abraham Lincoln have all been widely discussed. And while the parallels between both the current economic crisis and that of the Great Depression, as well as between Obama and FDR, have been overstated, the left can nevertheless draw a few lessons from the 1930s. In response to the demands placed on him by the left, Roosevelt has often been paraphrased as saying, ‘I am convinced. Now go out and make me do it.’

The real question which this blog has sought to address, then, and which the global left needs to continue asking itself, is not really how progressive, liberal or leftwing is Barack Obama? It is rather: How can those of us on the left, in the US and beyond, develop a means of building pressure on the incoming President to push policy radically to the left – whatever his own ‘natural’ inclinations may be? This is, of course, a question to which this blog – and its contributors – have certainly not found any definitive answer; and it is one, I suspect, which will continue to be asked elsewhere. I hope, however, that these pages have made some small contribution to this important debate.

On which note, I would like to thank all of those who - directly and indirectly - contributed to this blog, and whom I imagine will continue to address this and other questions in the future.

First and foremost, my thanks go out to all those authors who contributed texts either to this blog or the magazine:
Doug Henwood, Gary Younge, Jo-ann Mort, Betsy Reed and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Graeme Chesters, Rayyan Mirza, Tadzio Mueller, Stefano Harney, Keir Milburn, Sue Katz, Raffaele Sciortin, Imran Ayata, Ewa Jasiewicz, Geoffrey Whitehall, Immanuel Wallerstein (also, here), Valery Alzaga, Patrick Bond, Rob Augman, Bill Fletcher Jr. (also, here), and Peter Tatchell.

Secondly, I would like to express thanks to all those columnists, bloggers and commentators on whose work I drew and to whom I often linked. I hope readers of this blog will continue to follow them. They include: Michael Tomasky at Guardian America, Gary Younge at the Guardian, Naomi Klein, Scott Horton at Harper’s magazine, John Nichols and Katrina Vanden Heuvel at the Nation, and Tom Engelhardt at TomDispatch.com.

Last but not least, I would like to thank Tadzio Mueller, Manuela Bojadžijev, Imran Ayata and Dont Rhine for numerous conversations (and endless forwarded emails!) which have somehow influenced this blog.

And, naturally, thanks to everyone who has been reading!