Revolution Online, November 6, 2008
The Morning After the Elections:
The Promise of Change…and the Change We Need
You couldn’t miss it on Election Night. People actually pouring into the streets to celebrate the election of a president. Emotions ran high, and tears flowed.
And in the days after: people talking to friends and strangers alike of hope. Hope for a coming era of change from the horrors of the Bush years. Hope for overcoming racism. Hope for a new era of service to the common good.
Hope—hope that is founded on the real possibilities for fundamental change in this world—is indeed precious. Dedicating your life to something higher than the ethic of “I-want-mine” is so vital that the future of humanity actually depends on it. And overcoming—truly overcoming—the divisions of society based on inequality and oppression must be at the heart of any real movement for social change.
But now, in the dawn of the morning after, one must ask and honestly grapple with some basic and very serious questions.
Hope for what?
Service to what?
Unity around what goals and what values?
And victory for whom?
The Change He Has Promised
“I am new enough on the national political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” —Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope
Most of those who celebrated in the streets oppose the string of wars that Bush has launched and the threats of more war. Yet Obama through his campaign promised to send more troops to Afghanistan. He floated the idea of attacks on Pakistan, threatened Iran, and pledged to back Israel—which to this day continues to torment the people of Palestine—to the hilt. He established his reputation by opposing the launching of the war on Iraq—but has already backtracked on this during his campaign, with talk of “listening to the generals” and determining when Iraq was “stable” and its troops “sufficiently trained.”
Most of those celebrating in the streets hate the fascism of the Bush years: the spying, the evisceration of fundamental legal rights, and the torture. Yet as a senator, Obama voted for the renewal of the Patriot Act (which abolished or seriously cut key legal rights), and for immunity for telecommunications companies which illegally spied on people at White House behest.
Most of those celebrating in the streets yearn to see an end to racism, and to the oppression of Black people and other oppressed nationalities. Yet Obama did not speak in his campaign of ending the discrimination and oppression that continues in a Black unemployment rate that is more than double that of whites, discrimination in housing and health care and the legal system, and an incarceration rate of Black and other minority people that is the scandal of the world. No, instead he spoke against his former minister, Jeremiah Wright, because Wright had “a view that sees white racism as endemic.” Obama in that speech went on to say that such thinking is “divisive” and draws people away from the problems of “two wars, a terrorist threat, a failing economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change”—thereby, in a phrase, covering over how systematic discrimination is embedded in every problem in America and negating both the bitter ongoing oppression of Black people as a people and the deep structural problems in American society that sustain this.
Many of those in the streets also see Obama as sharing their values on ending the oppression of women and of gay people. Have they noted that Obama routinely characterizes abortion itself as a bad thing, even if he does not oppose the right to abortion, or how rarely he even mentioned defending this right? Or how Obama, at a time when the right of gay people to marry was being attacked in electoral referendums, said that while he did not support that referendum, he at the same time opposed gay marriage itself—on the basis of his own religious beliefs?
Obama has said he is bringing change. He has called on you—most recently in his victory speech on election night—to both put your efforts behind him and to be patient with his administration. The question is this: judging from Obama’s actual statements and not from what you think he must believe deep down, is the change that he is promising and trying to enlist you in the change we need?
Or are you being enlisted in something that will end up actually opposed to your best aspirations and a morality based on the common good of humanity?
Redeeming the Dream?
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.” —Barack Obama, in his victory speech
Well, many things certainly are possible in America. It is possible in America for European settlers to commit genocide against the Native American Indians who lived here and to then declare themselves to be builders of a “shining city on a hill” and “the last best hope of mankind.” It is possible in America to kidnap over ten million Africans and hold them and their descendants in slavery for 250 years, exploiting them as the foundation of the great wealth of this country, and then maintaining their descendants in new forms of oppression and super-exploitation, and to simultaneously brag that “the dream of our founders” is based on the principle that “all men are created equal.” It is possible in America to wage and sponsor wars and military coups over the past 150 years that have taken a toll on humanity unmatched by any of the fabled monstrous empires of the past, and to then routinely declare, as Barack Obama did in his speech, that this same country is the world’s great guarantor of “peace and security”—even as he preceded that by assuring anybody who opposed what he called the “new dawn of American leadership” that “we will defeat you.” It is possible in America to subordinate the economies of entire nations to the demands and dictates of U.S. capital; and it is possible to then both super-exploit impoverished people from those countries who then desperately seek work in the U.S. and at the same time to demonize them and scapegoat them as the cause of everyone else’s hard times. It is possible to torture in the name of “safety,” even as you assure the world you don’t.
But apparently, other things are NOT so possible in America. It has NOT been possible in America to actually do away with the structures of white supremacy and the oppression of entire peoples. It has NOT been possible in America to desist from sending troops, CIA spies, and commandos all over the world—nor has it been possible to avoid things like killing 40 civilians at a wedding party in Afghanistan on the day before the election which installed a man who has promised to send more troops to invade that tortured, beleaguered country. It has NOT been possible in America to actually overcome the subjugation of women in every sphere of life, or to end the demonization and systematic discrimination against gay people. It has NOT been possible for America to refrain from the heedless plunder and spoliation of the very planet on which we live. It has NOT been possible in America to overcome the deadening alienation of everyday life for most people, or the despair of seeing your best efforts come to naught for many of those who want to dedicate themselves to making things better.
What has been proven to be possible—and what has proven to be NOT possible—has nothing to do with “human nature” and everything to do with the system that was put in place to ensure the “dreams of our founders.” The name of that system is imperialism—a stage of capitalism in which the majority of humanity are consigned to short, bitter lives of almost indescribable exploitation, humiliation and degradation. . . in which entire nations are subjugated to deepen and extend that exploitation. . . and in which the entire world is divided up amongst a handful of big imperialist powers (with the U.S. currently at the head of that).
That is the system which actually determines what is, and what is not, possible. That is the system Barack Obama is now stepping in to head. That is the system to whose service he now summons you.
Stop Thinking Like Americans! Start Thinking About Humanity!
Imperialism has an ideology—a systematic way, even if unacknowledged, in which people are trained to view every event in the world. When Barack Obama sings songs of praise in his victory speech to the greatness of America—he is training us in a way of understanding the world. When he goes so far as to not just send best wishes to his opponent, but to gushingly praise this unrepentant war criminal who dropped bombs on civilians over and over again in Vietnam as a “brave and selfless leader”—he is doing that training in a particularly nauseating, and frankly horrific, way. When Barack Obama tells us to “summon a new spirit of patriotism” and overcome divisions—same thing.
This has to be called out for what it is: American chauvinism. This accepts as a given the existence of imperialism. Many of those who celebrated on election night are in effect hoping that Obama will lead to a "better" imperialism. But there is no such thing– there is no "better" imperialist USA, no "good" imperialism of any kind. What we need is to sweep away imperialism, and all relations of oppression and exploitation.
Stop chanting USA, USA—and start thinking about what is really facing humanity and what must urgently be done. Stop waving those flags, and start resisting the crimes of that system, including the very real crimes of the Bush regime that Obama not only is not going to prosecute but, yes, is determined, in large part, to continue. STOP THINKING LIKE AMERICANS—and start thinking about, and trying to proceed from, what humanity needs.
A Better Way
Does this mean, then, that there is no hope? That there is, in fact, nothing one can do? Are we counseling cynicism or despair?
Far from it. In place of false hope, we offer hope based on a real foundation. We offer hope based on the vision of a different society that draws on the fact that humanity could today accomplish great things—starting with the elimination of hunger and disease and homelessness—but is only held back by the economic relations of exploitation in which it is fettered, and the machinery of oppression that backs up those relations. We offer, in short, the hope of revolution.
We offer hope evidenced in the accomplishments of the Russian and Chinese revolutions—before those revolutions were reversed. Those revolutions made leaps in the very things that are NOT possible in this system: the elimination of exploitation and a rupture with the imperialist relations that strangle the world; the uprooting of the subjugation of women, and of oppressed nations and nationalities; the opening up to the oppressed of the spheres of running society and working with ideas—spheres which they are today kept out of by both the normal workings, and conscious policies, of capitalism; and the provision of health care, education and many other basic needs to all of society, in ways that narrowed and did not widen inequality.
We offer hope founded on the scientific work of Bob Avakian, the leader of our Party, who has both upheld the achievements and fundamental lessons of these revolutions, while criticizing and rupturing with significant errors and shortcomings of that first wave of revolution. On that basis, he has revived the REAL dream of emancipating all of humanity from exploitation and oppression, and shown the way forward to do that.
In place of a “service” which can only end up reinforcing the very things you oppose, we offer something which corresponds to your highest aspirations: making revolution.
For there IS work to do—work that urgently cries out to be done. There is the work of fighting for your best ideals and hopes for change. There is the work of actually digging into how the world really works, into America’s real place and role in that world, and into what revolution is all about and how it might be possible. There is the work of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution.
Let us break, finally, with deadly illusions and let us set about that work—the ending of imperialism, and of all relations of exploitation and oppression, and NOT their reinforcement, in a different package. Let us truly bring about a new day.
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
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