DISCUSSION MEETING OF INTERNATIONALIST PRESPECTIVE IN PARIS ON “OBAMA, THE BANKRUPTCY OF THE PROVIDENTIAL MAN

March 16, 2010 at 9:49 pm (Uncategorized)

 Text for IP public meeting at AGECA 177, rue de Charonne, Paris 11ème, beginning at 3:15, Saturday March 20 2010.

During several discussion meetings, we focused on the economic crisis, its depth, its roots and its consequences.

 Today, we want to come back to the assessment of the Obama government, not because we would have imagined that anyone in our milieu would be astonished by the current assessment, but to approach an aspect which we did not sufficiently address due to not enough time: its ideology.

Indeed, the economic crisis constitutes a factor that has an impact on the proletariat. This impact can be that of the abatement, the discouragement and a turning in on itself. But, if it is accompanied by a questioning about the reasons for the crisis, a refusal of the acceptance of its logic and its effects, this impact can then contribute to the development of class consciousness. Thus, after questioning the economic crisis, it was logical to reconsider the way in which the ruling class was going to try to defuse the possibility of a questioning by the proletariat. And for this reason, the themes of the Obama campaign and his election even were going to make of him a providential man on the ideological level. Moreover, it also should be stressed that this ideological impact largely went beyond the borders of America. The election of Obama impassioned and mobilized indeed all the desperate petits-bourgeois throughout the world.

The Bush era had been marked by the fight against terrorism and its effects, namely, the engagement on the military terrain of many American troops. And if the invasion of Iraq had seemed to confirm American supremacy, the management of the presence of the troops on the Iraqi and Afghan ground had been transformed quickly into an inextricable quagmire. Coffins of G.I’ s returning to the country, as well as the pharaonic sums absorbed in the military budget has made dissatisfaction swell. In the same way, if the American nation were found united against a common enemy after the attacks of September 11, the priorities of daily needs quickly rose to the top and the lack of attention and means devoted to dealing with the increase in unemployment, to impoverishment or to the disaster victims of New-Orleans contributed to this wave of dissatisfaction vis-a-vis the comprehensive policy led by Bush. A change of discourse thus was essential in an urgent way.

Obama is the man we all awaited: he promised us a world where imperialists tensions would be more regulated by diplomacy rather than military engagement; an economic crisis which would be taken in hand, which would punish the greedy and corrupt bankers, or the incapable economic leaders who would be summoned to render account (GM); the financial world “would be regulated”; greater attention would be devoted to the most disadvantaged, to the victims of the crisis, a plan of social coverage would be finally set up and, on which Clinton had broken his teeth, Obama would manage to overcome the resistances of Congress and the Republicans; the image of America broken by the detention conditions of Guantanamo and the scandal of Abu Grahib would be restored by the punishment of the bad elements and the closing of the prison at Guantanamo. And finally, the supreme and delicious promise: all would become possible again, through the famous slogan “Yes, we can,” that splendid distillation of the burning American dream and of an infantile illusion of absolute power. The persona of Obama himself, of black race, was only the confirmation that all is possible. In short, Obama promised another capitalism, the kind that we all dreamed of: a clean and reasonable, controlled and tolerant capitalism. To the faultfinders who started to wonder where the world went, torn by its economic and warlike contradictions, to the revolutionaries posing the question of the historical perspective and the emergence of a new society, Obama came to give this answer: Yes, another capitalism is possible. And the proof was the response that we had all awaited, which was that Obama was elected, both in the United States and by the enthusiasm of segments of population throughout the world.

Obviously, from discourse to practice, things are not so easy. But Obama does not separate his goodwill and his determination. Simply put, he added a little water to his wine; he has to take more time, he must face the resistance of political enemies.

Because, as regards the regulation the banking system and finance, we can recall the warning statements of the new guru of American finance in connection with the fact that the bankers have once again returned to “their bad habits.”

On the economic level, Obama had been committed to restarting the US economy and reducing the budget deficit. Let’s remember, this deficit had reached the record level of 10,6% of the GDP and is supposed to be brought back to 8,3% within the framework of the next budget. The US president also wants to reduce the federal deficit by half from by the end of his first term in 2013: all that being made possible by an economic recovery and a rise in tax revenues. Alas, the economic indicators remain well below the hopes of Obama, and unemployment went beyond the 10% threshold last October.

On the imperialist level, the promise of military disengagement has only entailed a transfer of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, this latter constituting a quagmire about which one can only wonder how America will arrive at disengagement without too much of a humiliation. In addition, the American troops also seem to be always short-sighted, continuing to make mistakes in their targets, and thus increasing the opposition of the local populations and so, risking still more the possibility of political solutions. The new American policy is thus always put on hold: no settlement is in sight in the Near East where Israelis and Palestinians are currently no longer interested in the larger world context. The humdrum routine continues – of course more gently than in the Bush era – with Iran, regularly summoned to accept control of its production of uranium; and the Obama government simply seems to wait until the internal tensions will make the Iranian president fall like ripe fruit. On the terrain of human rights, the charismatic US president had the “audacity” to privately receive the Dalaï Lama. Nevertheless, his audacity is replaced by a greater pragmatism when he is reinforcing commercial agreements between the United States and China, two nations closely dependent on one another on the commercial and financial level. Lastly, to come back to Guantanamo, some prisoners were indeed paroled to certain countries that volunteered to take them, but that has been very limited. In short, the “Yes, we can” has come up against the limits imposed by the capitalist system, and the regulated and pacified capitalism that Obama promised has little by little given way to a more global questioning of its real perspectives.

For several years now, IP has stressed that the use of the ideological weapon is no longer done through grand themes of mobilization that would divert the populace from real concerns, but rather as a response to facets of daily life, and the concerns that arise from it.

Therefore, what we must denounce, as a contribution to the ongoing political reflection, is that today ideology consists in taking into account all the questions that are posed by the proletariat, and providing them with answers that do not question either the logic of the functioning or the thinking of capitalism. Thus, vis-a-vis ecological concerns, Obama – like the majority of the leaders of the planet – makes the commitment to invest in alternative energies and to subject themselves to international conventions. In front of the social grumbling arising from the degradation of conditions of work, from the increasing opposition to military engagement, there too, the ideological speech is not to divert attention, as was the case before, but to give “answers” about the very source of the dissatisfaction. And this way of responding to the questioning about the perspectives for the future, if it has materialized today in the election of Obama, is not new. For a number of years, the ruling class has resorted to such a formula. One such example was capital’s response to the alter-globalization movement. Born in a nebulous anti-globalization and anti-capitalist mélange, the alter-globalization-movement was a response to this questioning about the need for another world. Other currents, like that of a “green” capitalism, have constituted an ideological effort to respond to real concerns about the functioning of the economy, again within the logic of capital. Similarly, the development of “fair trade,” which has really taken off, and which is a mix of ecological preoccupations and the good conscience of the petits-bourgeois, has taken center stage to replace any questioning about the ferocious exploitation exercised by capitalist production. There is thus a particular use of ideology that is no longer a mobilization on themes of diversion, but rather ideological adaptations (and sometimes practices, since “fair trade” constitutes a truly new commercial niche as does renewable energy, a real windfall for the creation of new markets) to respond with to questions about future perspectives. It is in this context that it is necessary to situate the discourse of the Obama campaign and the enthusiasm that it generated throughout the world.

But there is also a double potential for the intervention of revolutionaries. Too often, we were satisfied, either to look with contempt at certain tendencies like those of fair trade, or to limit ourselves to just denouncing them as false alternatives. Nevertheless, insofar as they indicate concern and the ambient questioning, we have to take them into account and to show why they represent only a better management of the system and thus, not a real perspective for any change in its functioning. In addition, these alternatives show their limits more or less quickly. There too, the situation contains a potential for revolutionaries: to put on the agenda the question of overall functioning of the capitalist system, its uncontrollable tendencies and the perspective for the emergence of another kind of society.

 It is to resituate this double potential, and to examine how we can concretize it in a credible and comprehensible way in our intervention, that we wanted to again take up these issues from the angle of an assessment of the policy of Obama.

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