Obama's election: the emperor has new clothes

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The deafening propaganda blitz of the electoral campaign has finally come an end after almost two years. The ruling class media mouthpieces tell us that this has been the most important election in American history, demonstrating yet again the power of "democracy." This propaganda holds that not only do we have an African American president for the first time in American history, but also, above all, the Obama victory embodies the desire for change.

We are told that the "people have spoken," and that "Washington has listened," thanks to the "wondrous" workings of the ballot box. We are even told that America has now overcome racism and has become a land of true brotherhood.

So now Obama is president. But what does it mean? Obama promised to deliver change, but this promise was nothing but ideological sophistry. The whole campaign was a hypocritical lie, that captured the hopes of a population, and above all of a working class increasingly fed up with misery and war, but still unclear as to its own role in society and as yet unable to dispel the ruling class's mystifications.

The real victor in this election was not the fictitious "Joe Blow" of middle America, not the African Americans who are part of the US working class, but rather the ruling class. It is clear that more of the same and worse will be dished out to the workers, increasing the weight of misery. Obama was not a "peace" candidate. 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. Obama plans to send more troops to Afghanistan and to be ready to strike back against threats to America's imperialist interests. He was fiercely critical of the Bush administration's inability to respond to the Russian invasion of Georgia last summer. Such a peace-nik, is he!

During the presidential debates, Obama explained that he supports strengthening education in America, because an educated workforce is vital to a strong economy and no country can remain a dominant militant power without a strong economy. In other words, he sees education spending as pre-condition for imperialist domination. Such idealism!

For the ruling class this election has been a success almost beyond its wildest dreams.

It has managed to rejuvenate electoralism and the democratic myth, which has taken so many hits since 2000, especially amongst the younger generation, and left so many people disenchanted with the "system".

The post-election euphoria - the literal dancing in the streets that greeted Obama's victory - is testimony to the extent of this political victory. The impact of the election is comparable to the ideological victory that occurred immediately after 9/11. Back then the bourgeoisie benefited from a surge of nationalist hysteria, binding the working class to the bourgeois state. Today, hope in democracy and faith in a charismatic leader, binds large sectors of the population to the state.

Within the black population the weight of this euphoria is particularly strong; there is now a widespread belief that the oppressed minority has now been empowered. The bourgeois media even celebrates America's overcoming of racism, a ridiculous claim if ever there was one. Almost overnight, the black population in the US has gone from being one of the most alienated, disenchanted sectors of the population, to one that is firmly behind the state, through the persona of the new president-elect.

On the international level, the bourgeoisie has benefited almost immediately from a successful distancing of the new administration from the failures of the Bush regime on imperialist policy and the opening up of opportunities to reestablish American political authority, credibility, and leadership in the international arena.

On the level of economic policy, the new Obama admnistration's ability to carry out necessary state capitalist measures to shore up the system of oppression and exploitation will be unsurpassed. Its rhetoric will be that of providing "relief", whereas what will be provided is the highest debt in US history, and a trillion dollar budget deficit, which is placed on the back of future generations of the working class. Local and state governments are already planning to slash social services and programs because of the economic crisis, at the same time that Obama advocates yet more "bailouts" for major corporations and banks and insurance companies, to be financed out of the sweat of the working class.

Almost startled by its own success, aware that it will not and cannot deliver the changes promised in the campaign, the ruling class is already developing a rhetoric that will help "temper the enthusiasm". We have already heard things like "Obama can only try to straighten Bush's crooked policy" "There's a legacy of mistakes." "Change will not come immediately", "sacrifice will be needed."

In the face of all of this, we stand on the historic positions of our class:

  • democracy is the dictatorship of the ruling class
  • the working class needs to fight and organize on its own for its own interests
  • only the worldwide communist revolution can put an end to capitalist exploitation and oppression.

The euphoria cannot last long. The coming austerity programs, initiated in a decentralized manner through local and state governments, will serve as an inescapable impetus to class struggle. The failure of the Obama administration to bring the promised "change" for the better will lead inevitably to disenchantment and seething discontent.

Internationalism Nov. 11, 2008


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