Saturday, January 10, 2009

The SWP on Obama’s Victory

By Ben Trott

The latest issue of the Socialist Workers’ Party’s quarterly journal,
International Socialism, contains an article on Obama’s electoral victory.

The article argues that the campaign was able to galvanise energy and momentum generated by the anti-war movement and the (primarily Hispanic American) movement for immigrants’ rights. The economic crisis also helped hammer home the desperate need for change. However, ‘Electoral “revolutions”’, the article argues, ‘sometimes share something in common with the real thing.’ It continues,
‘Different forces come together out of a common sense of grievance against an old order, even though they have diametrically opposed class interests - and some committed supporters of the old order jump on the bandwagon in order to influence its course. This was true of the Popular Front election victories in France and Spain in 1936, the Labour victory in Britain in 1945 and, for that matter, the Roosevelt victory in the US in November 1932.

‘Important sections of the US ruling class were involved in the Obama campaign. Their disagreements with George Bush and John McCain were not over maximising the profitability of US corporations or reinforcing US global hegemony, but over the Republicans’ military adventurism in Iraq that had damaged these goals.’
The piece calls into question, however, the extent to which those assembled within the Obama team, to deal with the twin crises of the economy and Iraq (amongst other issues!), will be in control of or controlled by events – before going on to discuss the role the left should play.
‘Rubin, Summers, Geithner and Orszag have no real idea how to deal with the [economic] crisis in a way that keeps all the rival interests happy. Nor do Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates have any notion of how to deal with Iraq without strengthening Iran, or how to deal with Afghanistan without further destabilising Pakistan and the whole subcontinent. This is a recipe for an administration that will be whirled round by events rather than controlling them. And that potentially provides leeway for the immense popular bitterness below the surface that gave Obama his victory to find further ways to express itself and to gain some victories for itself.

‘This will not happen through the Democratic Party’s networks. However deep seated the feelings Obama tapped during the election campaign are, his party’s structures have an immense capacity to incorporate and neutralise those who would fight for real change. They did this at the time of the huge upsurge in union strength in the mid-1930s and they did it in the aftermath of the civil rights and anti-war movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They are trying to do it again. That is why the many thousands of radicals, socialists and anti-war activists who reject the Democratic Party are right to do so. But it is also why they now have to relate to the aspirations of black, Hispanic and white workers who voted Democrat because they wanted the very change the Democrats will not give them.’
The December 2008 issue of another of the organisation's publications, Socialist Review, also carries several articles on meaning of Obama's victory.

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