Obama’s Ascension to Power
As Barack Obama assumes the presidency, he is contending with the deep crisis of legitimacy in which the U.S. ruling class is mired. Obama spoke to this crisis at his inauguration and in speeches preceding it. On Inauguration Day, after emphasizing the deepening economic crisis and problems facing the people, such as job losses, foreclosures, lack of healthcare and public schools, Obama said, “These are the indicators of crisis. Subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable and that the next generation must lower its sights.” Similarly on January 8 he said that “Many, many Americans are both anxious and uncertain of what the future will hold.” He emphasized that there has been “a devastating loss of trust and confidence in our economy, our financial markets, and our government.”
How to restore this “trust and confidence” in a situation where there is broad rejection among the people of the crimes of government and government attacks on rights, at home and abroad, is a problem Obama is contending with. Americans and peoples worldwide are concerned about the danger of increasing war and aggression, including the possibility of world war. This concern was sharpened by the massive U.S.-Israeli war crimes carried out against Gaza. A vast discontent could be seen in actions worldwide defending Palestine and more generally demanding an alternative to all that is inhuman.
Obama has the task of contending with the rejection by Americans and all the world’s peoples of more war and war crimes, collective punishment and torture, growing poverty, hunger, global warming and governments that refuse to submit to the will of the people. He must contend with a situation where the U.S. and world monopolies and oligopolies through governments under their control are unable to claim legitimacy for their rule and credibility for their plans.
Obama is attempting to transcend this reality, indeed to transcend history, by attempting to maintain the status quo of the U.S. imperialist empire and the whole system of imperialist states in a situation where reality has shown it to be a failed and outmoded system. He is doing so in part by presenting his plans as making “a clean break from a troubled past, and set[ting] a new course for our nation.” His inability to succeed in actually setting such a new course lies in part with the refusal of the ruling circles to face the necessity of the times for a modern economy and modern democracy that puts the peoples and their rights at the center — including their right to govern and decide such vital matters as war and peace and having a war economy or an economy organized to meet the rights of the peoples here and abroad.
In attempting to draw Americans into supporting U.S. empire building, Obama is emphasizing that the working class and peoples share a “common purpose,” with the rulers. As he put it in Philadelphia, January 17, as he embarked on his “Inauguration Train” to Washington, DC, “Our future is our choice and if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together — Democrats, Republicans and independents, north, south, east and west, black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American, gay and straight, disabled and not — then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process…No matter who we are or what we look like, no matter where we come from or what faith we practice, we are a people of common hopes and common dreams, who ask only for what was promised us as Americans — that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.” He then cautions the people to be prepared for yet worse conditions saying, “We recognize that such enormous challenges will not be solved quickly. There will be false starts and setbacks, frustrations and disappointments. And we will be called to show patience even as we act with fierce urgency.” He then again refers to the founding fathers and emphasizes “The American Revolution was never something to be won only on a battlefield or fulfilled only in our founding documents. It was not simply a struggle to break free from empire and declare independence. The American Revolution was — and remains — an ongoing struggle “in the minds and hearts of the people” to live up to our founding creed.”
At his inauguration he quoted George Washington and echoed this same content and took it a step further, now calling for all to be loyal to this creed: “Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility.”
Obama is expressing the tendency of the ruling circles to essentially lie down with the dead, with the founding fathers, who would best be left buried in their graves. It is well known that the founding creed of the U.S. was that of slavery, genocide of native peoples and might makes right. It is a founding creed that continues to this day, with U.S.-organized genocide on a world scale, as witnessed not only in Palestine, but Iraq, Puerto Rico, in the blockade of Cuba, and still today against African Americans, with their mass incarceration only one example.
The American Revolution took place at a time when the bourgeoisie was rising against feudalism and the rule of Kings. The bourgeoisie put forward a conception of trust by which authority would be legitimated by the consent of the governed, and on this basis nation-states were built in their image, the U.S. being one such state. But today the nation state, once the jewel in the eye of the bourgeoisie, is seen as a hindrance to the rule of the monopolies and oligopolies. The existence of nations and peoples is being threatened and sovereignty and independence is being disregarded by the bourgeoisie.
And the rulers are being challenged, here and worldwide by peoples demanding their right to govern and rejecting the return to rule by kings, in the form of executive rule and dictate. The existence of a polity and political association is compelling people to demand a say so on the questions of war and peace. Facing the fraud of U.S. elections, and the genocidal character of U.S. style democracy not only inside the country but in Iraq and elsewhere, Americans are questioning the legitimacy of those in power who ask for trust.
Obama is hoping to overcome this by simultaneously calling on people to trust not government but him — as president — and to put aside their demands for an alternative. The role of the public is to be transformed from a force fighting for rights and for the public good as a whole, into a force loyal to Obama and the centuries-old “creed” of the founding fathers. As Obama put it in his Inaugural speech, the “price of citizenship” will be loyalty to this “creed” of war, aggression and the “promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”
Across the country and worldwide the peoples are expressing their demand that today in 2009 the old creed of the founding fathers has no place. Progress demands not more promises of equality from a system that enshrines inequality but the reality of the rights of all being guaranteed and economies organized to do so. Obama represents the hope and prayer of the ruling class to salvage their empire and do so by blocking the demand of the people to themselves govern and decide. Progress cannot come from a return to Kings with their arbitrary rule and impunity to commit untold crimes. Progress lies with the American working class and people fulfilling their duty of rejecting U.S. imperialism and advancing the struggle today to come to power themselves and to organize a new society that guarantees the rights of all and contributes to the fight for rights worldwide.
No to Condescending Saviors!
Let Us Together Fight for New Arrangements Which