Today, a year after Obama's inauguration and the euphoria that accompanied it, what assessment can we make of the "change" that Obama was supposed to deliver? There's been plenty of change but not much of it for the better. The government still dreams up more bail-outs for the banking and auto industries, while unemployment is still going through the roof and has risen officially above 10 percent (in reality if we count discouraged workers, who have given up looking for jobs that don't exist, and underemployed workers who are forced to accept part-time employment, it is close to 20 percent), foreclosures and evictions continue unabated, and slow, partial withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq has begun to enable Obama to escalate the war in Afghanistan and unleash a virtual civil war in Pakistan (some bourgeois media pundits now call it the "Afpak" war. President Obama even became the first Nobel Peace Prize winner in history to deliver an acceptance speech justifying war.
At this time last year the ruling class enjoyed a great ideological victory and basked in the glow of the after-election euphoria and rejuvenation of the democratic mystification, which led to a lull in class struggle. At the time, we predicted that the euphoria would be short-lived, perhaps a year or a year-and-a-half until it wore off. As we noted in Internationalism 149, "the failure of the Obama administration to bring the promised ‘change' for the better will lead inevitably to disenchantment and seething discontent." This has proven correct. There has been considerable inroads into Obama's support, as his promises of "change" are increasingly revealed as demagogic rhetoric lacking substance. Even the bourgeoisie's own polls show that Sarah Palin's approval ratings (48%) are higher than Obama at 44%!
We have not yet reached the point where workers have returned to open struggles to resist the attacks on their standard of living on a large scale, but one year after the inauguration, the reality of the crisis and the current US imperialist orientation have increasingly exposed the vacuity and hypocrisy of the promises made for ‘change' and ‘peace', while the total inability to do anything at all vis-à-vis the environmental crisis has demonstrated the complete bankruptcy of the capitalist system. Today, if any dancing in the streets occurs at all, it is not over Obama's victory or speech at any summit about global warming, but for rejoicing over having found a job. As the economic crisis deepens and spreads, the bourgeoisie is more and more forced to frontally attack the working class with unprecedented brutality. Obama's strength rested on his charisma and his ability to galvanize, mesmerize, and mobilize the masses, especially the youth, behind the electoral mystification, with his empty promises, but that was the extent of his power. As we said in Internationalism 145 more than a year ago, even before Obama's victory:
"No matter who wins, no matter who occupies the White House, the situation for the working class will be the same:
-our sons and daughters will be called upon to shed their blood for American imperialism, which will be forced to resort to more and more military interventions throughout the world
-the economic crisis will continue unabated attacking our wages, our standard of living, our health care, our pensions, our housing conditions, and social services
-the social divisions that exist in the U.S. will continue to worsen; the rich will get richer and the poor poorer
-unemployment will continue to grow the future will continue to look bleak."
Why so? The difficulties the US ruling class has experienced on the international arena and the unpopularity of the previous administration among the working masses at home were not the result of Bush's idiosyncratic stupidity, but rather of capitalism's historical crisis as a social system, its failure and inability to address the enormous problems humanity is faced with on all levels of social life. This historical crisis is most clearly expressed in the current economic crisis, which is neither a passing one, nor one of those crises ‘of growth' which the system experienced in its ascendency. It is rather a crisis of ‘senility'; its character is irreversible and its trajectory is toward a deepening and spreading of all the ills which ails it, like an old man dying of an incurable disease. This is the essential reason why, regardless of who wins the election at any time, the promises for improving working and living conditions are a total lie aimed at buying social peace and trust in the democratic mystifications.
For the working class, the onslaught of the present, most serious economic crisis in the history of capitalism has shattered any illusion it may have had regarding a ‘change' for the betterment of its economic conditions. Reality has shown to be quite different from the mythology of the electoral mystification. In the context of this crisis, the Obama administration will be unsurpassed in the ferociousness and determination it will use to pass the most draconian attacks against workers' economic and working conditions, and social wage.
The intensification of exploitation, accompanied by further layoffs as companies try to protect profits, is on the agenda for the foreseeable future. This will be compounded by the impoverishment of the masses as state capitalism continues to escalate austerity attacks. For example, the bail outs of a few months ago, but also of the ones to come, will engulf the masses in trillions of dollars of debt for generations to come, while not improving the present fragile situation of the world financial markets. Slashes in social programs and state and local budgets also add to the impoverishment of the conditions of life and the list of the millions of unemployed. The perspective for the working masses is not of improved working, social, and environmental conditions, but of a deepening and intensification of misery never seen before.
Despite the urgent need to address the looming environmental catastrophe, the latest ‘summit of the greatest' on global warming held in Copenhagen has done nothing but repeat what the previous such international gatherings have done: accomplish nothing other than getting bogged down in controversies which will be irresolvable as long as capitalism is the dominant system. By reason of the competitive nature of capitalism, the bourgeois governments of this world are incapable of the level of cooperation necessary to deal with the environmental crisis. The relentlessness of the economic crisis has also silenced the talks about ‘green jobs' that were supposed to sprout from investing in ‘green technology'. It is clear that the ruling class has reached an impasse here too, as its system of exploitation has reached its historical limits and can no longer provide answers to the burning issues of humanity.
Regarding war and peace, as we said in our press at the time, the American bourgeoisie desperately needed a break with the Bush administration's disastrous imperialist policies in order to restore its status on the international level. Obama's promise to pursue a more ‘multilateral' approach appeased the European powers. In this way, the US hoped it could redress the isolation it had found itself in during Bush's years and thereby re-gain its worldwide authority. This approach, however, has only given mixed results: the US is currently, if only temporarily enjoying greater popularity among the European powers. Also, greater diplomatic ‘openness' results in smaller imperialisms taking advantage of the present US flexibility to advance their own interests. This means that there will be no ending to imperialist barbarism.
Obama was not a "peace" candidate. We knew this at the time of his campaign, but if anyone had still any doubts, the recent decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan certainly should dispel them. His criticism of Bush was that the latter got bogged down in Iraq, spread the troops too thinly, and left American imperialism incapable of responding adequately to future challenges to its dominance. That the current US imperialist policy is a continuation of Bush's is best demonstrated by Obama's very words at the speech he gave upon accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, in December 2009: "We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason. So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play."
Here are the words of a true war monger! And not so different from Bush's words themselves, either! As Obama himself admitted, we can only expect the continuation of militaristic interventions for decades to come, as the US defends its dominance as the world's only remaining superpower. This is why the US current policy, rather than resulting in ‘peace', aims at a far-ranging re-assessment of what geo-political realignment and diplomacy can best help it achieve its goal of recuperating the terrain lost by a decade of policy damage wrecked by the Bush administration. This is the meaning for the cessation of military operations in Iraq, which, while still allowing the US to occupy the area with 100,000 troops stationed outside the major cities of this country and in the Persian Gulf, gives the US both a respite from the criticism by the working class at home, and an opportunity to better deploy in Afghanistan and, above all, Pakistan. This is a strategic area that can allow the US to confront Iran to the West, the Caucasus and Russia to the North, China and India to the East. It is particularly because of China's rise as an imperialist power that the US sees the need to adjust its policies regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan. So much for ‘peace'!
Bourgeois elections are the most sophisticated swindle devised by a ruling class. The promises Obama made were the result of a very well orchestrated campaign which aimed at refurbishing democratic mystifications. They also aimed at helping the US regain credibility and authority in the international arena. The actions taken by the Obama administration since it has taken power prove that the working class cannot trust the falsehoods concocted by any presidential candidate, whether black, white, male, or female. Capitalism has reached its historic limit and lies, falsehoods, and untruths will not be able to reverse its chronic path of decay.