Saturday, January 12, 2008


Thomas Riggins

Juan Gonzalez (Amy Goodman's co-anchor on Democracy Now) has broadsided the Obama campaign in a Daily News column: "I smell Obama baloney: Behind his smooth talk & giant 'Change' banners there lies a lot of the same old political nonsense" (1-11-08).

Gonzalez's problems with Obama boil down to this: While he proclaims "change" and leads youth as the Pied Piper of a new order, he is financially tied to the same old plutocrats who control the present system.

Obama has raised almost $100 million (a little less than Clinton) and three of his biggest funders come from the big shots at Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.. He also is getting cash from the nuclear power industry since he is open to the proposal to start up new construction of nuclear plants. Gonzalez wants to know what type of "change" is that. To him it's the same old, same old.

He might have mentioned that Obama's refusal to commit himself to a total military withdrawal from Iraq and his declaration that he would unilaterally bomb Pakistan (shades of the disastrous Nixon Cambodia policy) if he had "actionable intelligence" that al-Queda militants were using the border area as a sanctuary, is a "change" but for the worse!

Gonzalez thinks that it is admirable to "champion the downtrodden" but you can't really do that when your money comes from "corporate titans."
From the Marxist perspective it is true that there is a contradiction between Wall Street and Main Street and, unlike what Obama is preaching, it is an antagonistic not a nonantagonistic contradiction. But when reality is bourgeois liberalism vs reaction what is the point of attacking a progressive candidate?

If it is just as a reality check-- ok. We don't want to get carried away and start to believe that Obama represents some real qualitative change in the nature of monopoly capitalism, but he is a step in the right direction (as are the other Democratic candidates).

Being a member of Gonzalez's generation, 60s street demonstrations, radical marches and manifestations, state repression (Kent State, Birmingham, the FBI killings of Black leaders, etc. ) it certainly resonates when he says "real social progress requires enormous personal sacrifice" and that it won't happen "with Facebook networks, BlackBerries, a big 'Change' banner and phone banks."

And what Marxist would disagree with his conclusion that "In a nation suffering from the greatest wealth disparity in its history, those who tell us we can all get along are selling snake oil."

Fine. But when all is said and done you can't jump over the consciousness that the mass of the people have. Obama may be only the best of a bad lot but the consciousness he represents is a necessary stage for the progressive movement to pass through. Nader proved to be too advanced (his recent endorsement of Edwards shows that he has become a realist) and Kucinich, within the Democratic Party, has proved to be too advanced as well.

If we follow the recommendation of Fidel Castro (he supports a Clinton/Obama ticket according to the Daily News), that will be, for US politics, a revolutionary advance!

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