The Way I See It - Some Observations on President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Speech
January 24, 2009
Don Currie, Chair, CPS [CPS- Canadians for Peace and Socialism. CPS is in solidarity with the Communist Party of Canada. This article is reprinted from the journal Focus on Socialism.]
President Barack Obama’s January 20th inaugural speech reflected the deep unresolved divisions between far right US reaction, class privilege and wealth, racism and war, versus a popular movement of the democratic masses of the USA demanding an end to US violations of international law, for racial equality, jobs, peace, medical care, affordable housing and a better life.
President Obama appealed for US society in the midst of war and economic depression to reconcile and unite in a common purpose. He said the USA is ready to lead again without defining what that meant. Past US leadership, by President Obama’s own admission, has been deep into the quagmire of US imperialist war and a global capitalist depression.
A similar appeal is being widely promoted in Canada by the far right and the faint hearted Parliamentary opposition. Appeals for grand coalitions imply an equivalence of responsibility between the victims and the perpetrators, the oppressed and the oppressors. Workers, the impoverished and exploited do not cause wars and economic dep ressions.
The source of war and economic depression is systemic. What the people of the USA confront is what the people in all class ridden societies confront. Capitalism in the imperialist stage is the source of war and economic depression. It is incapable of redemption and further progressive development and must be replaced. The full realization of that fact has not as yet captured the imagination of all people, but it is gaining ground.
Movements for progressive change are underway everywhere in the world. They arise independently of US politics. The USA is part of history. It is not the sum total of history. In fact the reality is quite the opposite. The more the masses struggle to break free from the global system of capitalism the more likely will it be for the people of the USA to eventually change their own country for the better. They cannot do it alone.
The people of the USA will achieve their aspirations with progressive humankind and against their own oppressors, but never with their own oppressors against progressive humankind. No country can oppress others and itself remain free.
There was an echo of the “with us or against us” Bush rhetoric in the Obama speech with references to “open hands and closed fists” that is in contradiction to the ideals of the movement he represents. The notion of the imperial prerogative of rewarding friends and smiting enemies runs deep in US society. It was particularly grating to hear newly confirmed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pander to the Bush policy on the alleged nuclear threat posed by Iran and to sabre rattle with the discredited “all options are on the table” which everyone knows means all out war.
It was disturbing and discordant to hear President Obama equate fascism to communism. The Soviet Union, a Communist State, stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of the USA and other countries of the anti-fascist alliance in World War Two, sacrificing 20 million of its people in the struggle to defeat Hitler fascism. The people of the USA and Canada owe a debt of gratitude to that sacrifice.
China, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Viet Nam and North Korea are socialist states with mass Communist Parties. Many other countries are considering socialism as the way forward for their societies. They will not ask the permission of the USA to do so.
The reference of President Obama in his speech to Khe Sanh bears scrutiny. Khe Sanh was a major battle launched by the US Marines against the People’s Army of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam that extended from January to April of 1968. The Viet Nam Liberation forces imposed a near defeat on US forces in that battle before finally defeating and expelling the US invaders in 1973. There is a lesson from Khe Sahn for the USA and it is not one of military heroism. Khe Sanh contains a more sober lesson. A sovereign people resisting foreign invasion can never be defeated.
Sovereign peoples are not seeking a US solution to their problems. Sovereign peoples are fighting for the right to their own solutions in accordance with their own history and their own resources, needs and aspirations.
The articulation by a US President, however compelling and attractive he may be, of what constitutes universal ideals, acceptable global progress and development, may resonate well in the USA but fall on deaf ears outside the USA. The phenomenon of Obama mania now sweeping the world, unaccompanied by a profound change in the global aims of US imperialism will soon die out.
Countries not favoured by US imperialism will look askance on pronouncements of a change in US global policy until President Obama acts to lift the US embargo of Cuba, releases the five Cuban heroes incarcerated in US jails, and not only closes the US prison at Guantanamo Bay but returns the whole occupied territory of the base to the sovereignty of the people of Cuba.
The Obama Presidency will fall far short of its promise for real change, until the USA ceases to support the criminal acts of aggression and occupation of the Government of Israel against the Palestinian people and their homeland. And unless the US not only leaves Iraq and Afghanistan but brings to justice the US and NATO leaders that have caused the deaths and misery of millions of Iraqi and Afghan people.
President Obama will soon visit Canada. He is reported to be planning to draw down US troops from Iraq and redeploy them to Afghanistan, as many as an additional 30,000. That means a widening of the war with the danger that it will be spread to Pakistan and Iran. Today the US is reported to have again bombed civilians in Pakistan. That is not a decision that only affects the USA, that is a decision that also affects Canada.
The President has already stated that he will be calling upon US “allies” to do more to help out in Afghanistan. Canada will be under pressure from the USA to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely and to deploy more Canadian full time and perhaps even reservist soldiers to the combat zone. When was the last time the Conservative minority government refused a US request for military support?
There is a clear threat that Canada will be caught up in a widened US war in the region involving Iran and Pakistan. President Obama must be sent a clear message by the Canadian peace movement that his appeals for a widened war are in lock step with the Bush doctrine of regime change and it will be condemned and rejected with the same vigor shown the Bush policy.
The Globe and Mail on January 20th reported that Prime Minister Harper is seeking to discuss with President Obama a deal that will provide Canadian government financial guarantees for US pipelines that will send Alaskan and Canadian natural gas to US markets as well as linking Canadian hydro electric grids to export clean Canadian hydro electricity to US markets. This will be done even as Canadian long term energy needs are threatened.
The Stelmach Conservative Government of Alberta is sanctioning and promoting the transport by pipeline of Tar Sands bitumen to the USA where it is being upgraded and refined in US facilities creating jobs in the USA at the expense of energy sector workers in Canada.
The sell-out of vital Canadian natural resources continues regardless of who occupies the Presidency of the USA or who is Prime Minister of Canada. The affront to Canadian sovereignty by successive US administrations has not been made less because the Presidency in the USA has changed.
2009 marks the 60th Anniversary of the 2nd edition of Tim Buck’s famous work, “Canada – The Communist Viewpoint.” This work was the first exposure of the dire consequences for Canadians of the integration of the economies of Canada and the USA and the subordination of Canadian Independence to the plans of US imperialism for global hegemony.
2009 is also the 53rd Anniversary of the Labour-Progressive Party’s (Communist) Submission to the Royal Commission on Canada’s Economic Prospects. The Submission outlined a detailed plan for the independent economic development of Canada based on the processing in Canada of its rich natural resources utilizing Canada’s abundance of cheap energy.
Anti-communism and the cold-war prevented the Canadian people from considering these proposals.
Decades later many are discovering the fundamental truth of what the Communists said at another time. The struggle to gain Canadian independence and control over its own energy and natural resources is the first step in halting the de-industrialization of our country and the restoration of its economy. The main obstacle to peaceful economic development is not President Obama, it is the complicity of Canadian finance capital and its record of betrayal of the national interest for the fast buck.
What a sell-out Conservative Government will never say to a new US President the left-patriotic and democratic forces of Canada must!