A socialist perspective on Obama presidential victory
Published Nov 12, 2008 2:00 PM
The following is based on a talk by Abayomi Azikiwe at a Workers World
Party public meeting in Detroit on Nov. 8.
An alliance of African Americans, [email protected], large sections of the working class,
youth and women of all nationalities led to the victory of Sen. Barack Obama on
Nov. 4. In electoral votes earned, which actually determines the presidential
winner, Obama defeated Sen. John McCain by a margin greater than two-to-one.
Obama won over 52 percent of the popular vote.
In addition to Obama’s victory in the presidential race, the Republican
Party lost more seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The
turnout of voters in this election surpassed the percentage of participation of
many decades before. People stood in line at polling places throughout the
country even days prior to Nov. 4.
The most burning issues identified in the corporate media through exit polls
and other data collected leading up to the elections, indicated that people
were most concerned about the economic crisis, the ongoing wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan and the lack of quality health care or any medical coverage at
It is very clear that the Democratic Party, which has a different social base
than the Republicans, is still a political organization of the ruling class.
The Democratic Party leadership is beholden to the international finance
capitalists, the industrialists and landowners, who also control the Republican
Consequently, our focus is to shed some light on the real significance of the
Nov. 4 election and the future prospects for fundamental transformation in the
U.S. and the world.
The Obama victory and the national question in the
With the election of Sen. Obama, many people have concluded that this political
development represents a whole new phase in race relations in the United
States. Even before the elections it was quite obvious that Obama had sparked
the interests of not only African Americans, but many whites, particularly the
youth, women, [email protected], Asian Americans, Arab Americans, Native people and other
In the Obama campaign, African Americans saw the potential for exercising their
right to self-expression and self-determination. The potential of having an
African American as the Democratic presidential nominee and eventual president
fired the imagination and national pride of all classes within the
This sense of national pride has been reflected in the plethora of T-shirts,
posters, artwork, music, poetry and other forms of cultural expression that
flourished during the spring and summer of 2008. Many of the works of art
displayed on the T-shirts, garments and posters placed Obama within the
historical context of other notable African-American and African leaders, such
as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela.
Expectations grew considerably after Obama’s victory in the Iowa
caucuses. When he later won a series of state primaries and caucuses in various
parts of the U.S., the Illinois senator’s stature within the
African-American community reached iconic levels. In response to Obama’s
victories during the primaries, the Hillary Clinton campaign reverted to some
of the most virulent racism exemplified in modern U.S. electoral politics.
Notions of “who is qualified” to lead the U.S. political system and
whether Obama was really loyal to the ruling class and its bourgeois state
began to surface. Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Chicago, who had brought Obama into
the African-Christian church, became a scapegoat for the racist corporate
media, the Clinton campaign and the Republican candidates as well.
Rev. Wright, who is well known and respected in the Black church throughout the
U.S., reflects the theological approach of a section of the progressive
religious community. In the aftermath of the hijackings of Sept. 11, 2001, he
sought to answer the questions that arose among broad sections of the people as
to why these attacks occurred.
Wright looked to the historical legacy of settler-colonialism, slavery, Jim
Crow and modern-day imperialism. He was shown out of context on national
television through news reports and Republican campaign ads saying “Not
god bless America, but goddamn America.”
Consequently, Obama was compelled to distance himself from Rev. Wright. In
fact, a number of people criticized the Obama campaign for not raising
questions of national oppression and racism. Obama ran a campaign that
de-emphasized racial and class oppression. Yet his speaking style and content
reflected some aspects of the legacies of Frederick Douglass, Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr., Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
To any seasoned observer of U.S. society and history, the election of an
African American to the presidency is a monumental accomplishment not to be
minimized. Nonetheless, until the last vestiges of capitalism are eliminated,
U.S. society will not be able to overcome its racism and consequently the
national oppression of the African-American people.
The racist power structure is not willing to make amends for the crimes
committed against Africans, Native peoples, Asians and [email protected] during the
course of the last 400 years. This elimination of racism and national
oppression requires a revolutionary movement led by the working class and the
Impact of the Obama victory on domestic policy
Winning the presidency in 2008 required that a candidate would, at least in
form, break with the political thrust of the Bush/Cheney administration of the
last eight years. Initially the campaign of Obama emphasized his opposition to
the invasion of Iraq. Since the overwhelming majority of people in the U.S. and
the world oppose the U.S. occupation of Iraq, such a position would win over a
huge section of the electorate to Obama.
Also the economy is in the deepest crisis since the Great Depression of 1929 to
1941. Many people would vote against the McCain-Palin ticket just on the basis
of sending a message to the current administration.
Yet it will be a mass movement of working people and the poor that will serve
as the engine for real social and economic change in the U.S. The very same
elements that came out in the millions to vote for Obama can play an even
greater role in building the struggle to take control of the banks, factories
and other centers of economic power in this country.
During the campaign, the right wing threw all of its ideological weapons
against the Obama campaign. He was called a terrorist sympathizer, a
Muslim—as if that is to be disdained—disloyal to the military, and
connected to the Weather Underground, Black nationalism and socialism.
Interestingly enough, these attacks did not stick.
Most of Obama’s supporters and even some Republicans rejected this
slander. In fact more people, especially youth, are trying to find out more
about socialism and what it really means for addressing the current crisis. As
a result of this renewed interest in socialism, revolutionaries in the U.S.
have a role to play in this political development.
The need for a new foreign policy orientation
In the international arena there is an immediate need for major changes in U.S.
military, political and economic policy. Obama will be expected to withdraw
U.S. troops from Iraq. The Iraqi people—from the nationalists and
revolutionaries to many of the U.S.-backed puppet leaders—want the swift
evacuation of occupation troops and bases.
The military contractors must leave as well since they constitute a
considerable portion of U.S. military expenditures for the occupation.
Obama has advocated the drawing down of troops from Iraq and their redeployment
in Afghanistan. This policy would be disastrous for the U.S. Some British
military officials are calling for their country’s withdrawal from
Afghanistan because the war is unwinnable. The resistance in Afghanistan is
escalating against the U.S./NATO occupation.
The struggle in Africa is also heating up against U.S./EU intervention in
Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe as well as other parts of the continent. Opposition
to the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) is overwhelming on the
continent and throughout the world.
In Latin America the movement is clearly towards the left. There are political
parties in power in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile and Ecuador that
advocate socialism and anti-imperialism. In other states, there are parties and
labor unions that are challenging U.S. hegemony and international finance
In Europe, the working class and the nationally oppressed have engaged in many
labor and protest actions over the last several months. The way forward for the
working class and nationally oppressed in the U.S. will involve an alliance
with all these social forces throughout the world.
U.S. workers’ struggles and the global economic
In Michigan, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions
has raised the demand for an immediate freeze on home foreclosure seizures, a
popular demand in direct response to the worsening economic crisis in the U.S.
and the world. This demand has spread throughout the country and has
subsequently drawn the interest of various news agencies from around the U.S.
and the world.
The Moratorium NOW! Coalition has received journalists from many media outlets
based in Korea, France, Latin America, Britain and Canada. The city of Detroit
and the state of Michigan represent one of the hardest hit areas of the country
in the crisis of capitalist overproduction and are suffering from the
incapacity of the state to respond to the people’s needs during the
current economic meltdown.
This struggle for a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions must be linked up
with the overall plight of the working class and the nationally oppressed in
the U.S. It has been working people and people of color who have been
disproportionately affected by the housing crisis and its concomitant impact on
the financial markets and consequent rise in unemployment, with over one
million jobs being lost in the U.S. over the last year.
The economic crisis has also had a tremendous impact on the status of women
since many of them were subjected to subprime mortgages and the decline in
wages so prevalent in the current capitalist labor market. In the Moratorium
NOW! Coalition in Michigan, women have played a leading role in the fight
against foreclosures and the decline in living standards.
The Moratorium NOW! Coalition has also reached out to the immigrant rights
struggle. The Coalition has strengthened contacts with the [email protected] community
since this nationally oppressed group has also been negatively affected by the
The only real long-term solution to the current crisis in capitalist
overproduction, however, is the struggle for socialism. Under a socialist
economic system, the production of goods and services will coincide with the
needs of the majority of people. There will be employment, health care,
education, housing and social services for all. This will represent the new
phase of the peoples’ efforts to win genuine human rights and social
justice for the working class and the oppressed.
Articles copyright 1995-2012 Workers World.
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