Revolution #243, August 21, 2011
Barack Obama and the "If Only" Blues
"If only the Czar knew." This was the myth that Russian peasants repeated to each other when some village official would draft their son into the army, or order the police to repossess their land for debt. Of course, the Czar knew full well what his officials did—he presided over a system that could not run without the exploitation and oppression of the peasants. But the peasants could see no possible source of deliverance other than the mercy of the Czar. The prospect of challenging the whole system was beyond the scope of the thinking of most peasants—and the prospect of taking on everything was too frightening to contemplate even if they could conceive of such a thing.
"If only King Richard knew." This was an underlying theme of the Robin Hood stories of England—that because King Richard was away at the Crusades, the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham ruled in his stead, driving peasants off their lands. Thus Robin had to rob from the rich and give to the poor, until the rightful king returned. In fact, the enclosure acts in England—through which the budding capitalists of England seized lands that had traditionally been set aside for peasants for their personal needs and turned them into privately owned sheep pastures and during which the Robin Hood legend arose—were done at the will of the English ruling class, with the King at its head, and enforced by the sheriffs. The peasants of those times could also see no source of deliverance other than the mercy and goodness of the King. They too invented the myth that their sufferings took place without the King’s knowledge and even against his will. But the kings of that time presided over a system in which new forms of exploitation were being developed that necessitated intensifying the misery of the peasants—and the decisions that kings made were based on what they thought that system needed to survive and thrive.
"If only the REAL Obama would step out and stand up." Today there are literally millions of people who voted for Obama and are heartsick over what he has—and what he has not—done. The escalation and spread of the murderous illegitimate wars begun by Bush... the continued and even worse violation of people’s most fundamental rights... the refusal to speak out against the greatly intensified oppression of Black and other oppressed peoples within the U.S. and the studied ignoring of even the word poverty, let alone the reality... the continuation of policies which are disastrous to the environment... the constant finding of "common ground" with outright fascists, racists and anti-woman and anti-gay fanatics... and now the brutal austerity measures put in place to deal with the debt: all these have angered people.
But still, even with the criticism and righteous anger, we hear: "when will the REAL Obama do what he knows is right—what he deep down believes in? When will he stand up and FIGHT?!"
The real Obama IS fighting—against you, and the fundamental interests of humanity. He IS doing what he thinks is right—right for the system over which he presides, the system of capitalism-imperialism. And he is doing what he believes in—which is the continued defense and expansion of that system.
The daily functioning of this system requires not only the exploitation of millions in this country, but even more the extension and deepening of its domination all over the world. Today this system is facing its most serious economic crisis in generations. The political arrangements in place for many decades are enmeshed in severe problems. The person chosen to lead it—Obama—is leading that. And right now, the consensus of the ruling class of this system—the capitalist-imperialists—is that the measures being taken by Obama are the measures that are needed in these extreme times to keep their system going. Yes, there is fierce infighting among different sections of the rulers—but that is the point: it is among sections of the rulers, over how best to further clamp down on the people.
There are alternatives. There is a path forward. It is not painless and it requires sacrifice. It is the path of fierce struggle, of revolution.
But the first thing that must be done: face reality as it is. The Czar knows what he is doing and the human cost of it. The Czar knows better than anyone.
"Liberals have an Oedipal complex: It's not that they want to sleep with their mothers—it's that they willfully blind themselves."
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