Phoney Obama Exposed by Ferguson Black Struggle
The balloon of illusion in Barack Obama is bursting. It was inevitable that the election of America’s first Black President would lead to a temporary dampening down of struggle by Blacks and working class people more generally against capitalism and its effects. That was the reason Obama was handed the Democratic nomination in the first place. After the extreme repression, warmongering, rampant venality, and finally near-economic collapse of the Bush years, US capitalism desperately needed a more attractive face to head off the likelihood of a social explosion.
Obama more than fitted the bill: as not only a liberal, but a Black liberal to boot, he was the ideal man to do this job for the bourgeoisie. His progress through a two-party political system that is both thoroughly stitched up and fundamentally still intact – no real challenge has been made to the twin parties of US capital for many decades – was a reflection of the fact that he was the rulers’ man for the job. And he temporarily succeeded in co-opting many previously very angry Black and other working class people to accept that his administration was the only thing realistically on offer. A historically very weak US left that had begun to sense that things were beginning to swing to the left in the late Bush years, with rising anti-war activism and accelerating Black and working class anger over atrocities like the attacks on the victims of Hurricane Katrina, was abruptly becalmed by Obama.
His presidency was supposed to signal to Blacks and working class people that progress is possible under capitalism in the direction of equality and social advance. In particular, Obama was supposed to symbolise that the historic ‘problem’ of savage racial oppression and inequality, directed primarily against American Blacks – the population descended from slavery – could be addressed while maintaining the capitalist ruling class in power. Indeed, the very election of a Black man to the Presidency seemed a radical departure that ‘proved’ this could happen. Not so many years earlier, in the 1980s when Jesse Jackson tried his luck in the primaries, it had seemed unthinkable that a Black man could run for President even for the Democrats.
But it was a false dawn. Obama is a phoney. He did not come to power to change anything; he was not raised to power by being part of the leadership of a struggle for real change. There have been some changes in the specific configuration of who calls the shots at the top of US capitalism, that created the opening for an Obama to take the reigns of office for a while, but they most certainly do not involve any elevation of the mass of Black people to a position anywhere near social and economic equality.
On the contrary, working class people have taken the brunt of deprivation and economic suffering from the economic depression that resulted from the Credit Crisis in 2008-9, and as usual, Black workers are at the bottom of the heap, Obama or no Obama. As before, the oppression of Blacks is a crucial weapon of US capitalism to keep the American working class divided and politically crippled. The US ruling class is not going to concede real equality for Blacks, these divisions are just too valuable to them.
The most significant shift in US ‘race-relations’ that has taken place over a period of decades, gradually since the 1960s, but has emerged as a major issue since Bush, 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’, does not involve Black people. It is the change in the position of Jews. Although Jews have had a presence among the bourgeoisie, disproportionate to their relatively small numbers within society as a whole, for more than a century (very different to Black people, who are massively under-represented in the same ruling class), they were until relatively recently an insecure layer, still subject to discrimination and bigotry themselves, which somewhat restricted their power.
Since the late 1960s, they have risen up the hierarchy of ‘race’ in US politics to joint first place with the WASP elite, both in terms of general wealth and economic power, and political clout in Washington. Their influence has in ‘foreign policy (i.e. international politics) meant the rise of AIPAC and similar organisations with the power to make and unmake careers of politicians in both political parties, depending on whether or not they refrain from criticising Israel’s atrocities in the Middle East, or promise US support for Israel’s agenda of destroying nearby states like Iraq, Syria or Iran. Remember even Obama, the great ‘anti-racist’, endorsing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2008, as he was seeking his first election, seeking the support of AIPAC. Almost his first act as President was to appoint the rabid Zionist Rahm Emmanuel as White House Chief of Staff.
That is what is behind the shift in US politics that allowed Obama to rise to office, while Black people are as far from real power as they ever were. This contradiction is the result of the enhanced role of Jews in the US ruling class. For obvious reason, Jews are not keen on overt displays of racism, it opens up some very deep wounds. But having risen to joint first place in the pecking order of ‘race’ in American politics, the last thing the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie want to do is to abolish racial hierarchies.
They can, through their newly enhanced social and political power, compel the old fashioned white supremacist types in the ruling class to clean up their language and talk the talk about anti-racism and all that jazz. They can even ease the way for a tame Black career politician to give capitalist politics a makeover. But at the base of society, the racial hierarchy remains.
For the new co-rulers, for the new synthesis at the top, Blacks have to stay in their place just as in the old days. The index of this is, not just the usual economic suffering, the deprivation, the malnutrition even in the richest country in the world, but also the fact that the cops are still 20 times more likely to shoot you dead if you are young and Black as compared to other youth.
That is the explanation for the stark contradiction between a Black President, now in his second term, and the palpable fact that the old racial hierarchy is intact and the cops are just as murderously venal as ever. This is not some novel point, but a political issue of the highest importance. Because the change in language of the politicians, the state and its agents, is not an index of real social change, but a deception and a hypocrisy.
Everything else flows from that, really. There is nothing really new to be fought for. The old aims of the working class movement, seeking to mobilise the power of Black and other workers in struggle to win equality, to win jobs for all, to win working class control of the commanding heights of the world’s most powerful economy, that was built by the sweat of the workers over the last couple of centuries, remain just as necessary as in the 1930s, in the heyday of the US working class struggle (so far). What is required is to learn to use these weapons, that of the class struggle, in the modern political context, and to see through the sugar-cyanide hypocrisy of the ruling class, with its idelogical shift and its modified composition.
For all its abstract models where everyone’s money is in theory as good as the next person’s, irrespective of color and origin, capitalist needs racism, and divisions in the working class that it brings, to survive.
In immediate terms, Black people and their allies in the working class generally need a counterweight to the cops. They need to collectively, and on a mass scale, exercise their constitutional right to bear arms and create a well-regulated, popular working class militia, to defend their own communities from the cops, as well as to act as a stabilising force within the communities themselves that unlike the cops, would do so without being tainted by systematic and murderous bigotry.
To do away with racism, workers have to take power for themselves off all wings of the ruling class, and plan the economy on a national and international scale, in the interests of the working class collectively everywhere. That is the lesson of the renewed struggle for equality, against the new ruling class synthesis that Obama signifies, flowing from the events in Ferguson.
Important point, the role of the “Jewish” bourgeoisie in fostering a shallow multiculturalist orthodoxy.
No doubt their history makes them suitable for this role. But it didn’t create it! The need to smooth out racial tensions derives from the exigencies of mass immigration and the thirst for multinational superexploitation.
Racism remains a significant part of mass capitalist ideology, and the cops practice it blatantly, but it is becoming less significant. There’s no question that the cops and the white masses are both less racist than they were 30 years ago. Racism has become less useful to the bourgeoisie, and its trajectory is downward. The new “bigotry” is toward the impoverished masses regardless of race. Over-emphasizing race by leftists helps the ruling class’s policies look progressive.
The Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie are indeed the driving force of multiculturalism, but that has little or nothing to do with immigration per se. Why should it have? The days when Jews were migrants in significant numbers are long over. What they are interested is in modifying the discourse to outlaw overt displays of racial bigotry, which obviously can rebound against any minority.
I see no evidence that the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie are any more in favour of ‘mass immigration’ than other sections of the bourgeoisie. There are divisions on migration among all section of the bourgeoisie. Some significant Jewish bourgeois figures in the media, certainly in Britain, are supporters of the anti-immigration populist UKIP, and France, where Marine Le Pen’s Front Nationale has significant Jewish support. Some of the most vicious anti-migrant media agitation in Brtiain, for instance, has come from Jewish owned media, for instance the current anti-migrant rantings of the Daily Express, which prompted a loud dispute with the leader of the Labour Party over the scapegoating of the children of ‘foreign-born’ mothers and their British-citizen children. The Daily Express is owned by the Jewish media baron Richard Desmond, a stalwart of the Conservative Friends of Israel, and has also publicly supported the fascist, anti-Muslim English Defence League.
As to the alleged decline of racism, I don’t agree. It has mutated into a more cryptic and hypocritical form, but that does not mean it has improved, or that things have changed on the ground. Maybe in popular consciousness there has been a decline in overt bigotry, as some have taken the hypocrisy as good coin and some social attitudes have genuinely liberalised in the population, but in terms of the state, I don’t believe this is true. The fact is that young black men in the US, for instance are still 20 times more likely to be shot dead by the cops than young white men. Even though blacks are only around 12% of the population. This shows that state racism is still running riot, in my opinion, despite the rhetoric of the bourgeoisie and even Obama being in his second term.
In Britain, there is not the gun culture and hence less in the way of shootings, but other indicators – for instance the composition of the prison population – point to a similar reality.
In that sense, opposing state racism and exposing the fact that bourgeois multi-culturalism is actually camouflage for the same old crap is the correct position for communists to take, not buying into the anti-immigration demagogy of the Gentile and Jewish right and far right. The current mass upsurge by Black Americans over Michael Brown, and now Tamir Rice, speaks eloquently of that, and any American communist organisation worth anything would regard supporting and deepening this breach of angry Black people with the Black front man for racist capitalism in the White House, as a crucial political task and a test of its integrity.
You say the Jewish bourgeoisie drives multiculturalism but not immigration. This doesn’t make sense to me. How do you get multiculturalism without immigration?
Blacks are more intensely bullied by the cops than are poor whites, but poor whites, too, are assaulted and mass-imprisoned. One thing the “Jewish” left brings to the table is an exclusive focus on minorities.
The purpose of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie’s favoured form of multiculturalism is … to institutionalise tolerance of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie. Regarding other ethnic groups, it is a cynical exercise in public relations and co-optation. As a result of this, the only formerly oppressed (at least in part) ethnic group that has escaped by climbing up the pecking order are … Jewish people.
It is merely conventional wisdom to equate immigration with multiculturalism. It is worth noting Israel, where the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie has exclusive and unshared class power, is certainly not multicultural. Though it does boast of a liberal attitude to gay rights. However, gays are not an ethnic group and no threat to any system of racial hierarchy, so that is good for PR – a propaganda bonus. In the West, this unique imperialist formation has only a share of power, and so needs a shallow pretence that all are equal or heading that way, as ideological camouflage.
Addressing questions regarding minorities is not just something for the ‘Jewish left’, but something that communists have to do as matter of priority. Not least to draw real lines against the left that ignores Jewish chauvinism and thus turns a blind eye to the fraudulence of official ‘anti-racism’. This is a key part of freeing the proletariat from chauvinism, and thus opening the road to united class struggles involving both workers of the dominant ethnic groups and those from oppressed minorities. This is a key part of the Marxist tradition, witness some of Marx’s most striking statements on the subject (e.g. “Labour cannot be free in the white skin while it is branded in the black”, or “A nation that oppresses another cannot be free”). Lenin, in his turn, had some pretty outspoken views on such things, as in the call for communists to be ‘Tribunes of the Oppressed’.
Addressing these questions in no way means ignoring political and strategic questions involving the mass of workers who are not among the oppressed minorities. It is true that increasingly it is not just minorities who are being abused and subjected to violence by the state. In the UK at least, this has led to a significant breaking down of racial barriers in struggle when such things have erupted – this was very notable in the 1984-5 Miners strike, as well as the fact that this country has had more than one nationwide waves of integrated youth riots (most recently in 2011).
But things can also go the other way, at the moment there are major and quite effective ruling class campaigns, focussed on immigration and the war on terror, that are deepening divisions.
These need to be analysed and effective answers given by socialists – not in the interests of separatism or any kind of identity politics, but of working class unity. I am also seeking to address the way the Jewish question interacts with these questions and reinforces these strategies to foster and maintain divisions in the working class. I think this has become absolutely strategic, in a way comparable to what used to be the ‘Russian question’ in the cold war – it affects almost everything. It is a modification of the ‘classic’ circumstances that much of the Left was brought up with, and indeed the broader labour movement also in the advanced countries.
Some of it is counter-intuitive, at least at first glance, like Stephen’s question about “how do you get multiculturalism without immigration?”. But without working through and solving these problems, I don’t think the left will be in a fit state to lead anyone.
I don’t question that it’s possible to support open borders and yet be against multiculturalism. You, Ian, yourself prove the point.
Then, I ask for a counter-example to my claim that every multiculturalist supports mass immigration. [Which means the “Jewish” bourgeoisie supports mass immigration.] The Israeli prohibition of Arab mass immigration to Israel completely comports with the absence, there, of multiculturalism.
The government of Germany is both hostile to multiculturalism, and one of the main guarantors in Europe of the regime of free movement of labour, along with France. The Sarkozy government in France, very much neocon, upheld a similar ideology, and engaged in repression specifically aimed at Arabs and Muslims, provoking riots in immigrant areas, and outlawed some forms of Muslim dress. Hollande still follows these laws and policies.
Multiculturalism has several meanings. It can just mean a recognition that there are progressive and reactionary elements in all cultures, and the aspiration to create conditions where the progressive elements can merge into a universal culture. There is nothing wrong with that. Reformist variants of this are prone to co-optation, but apart from that, the sentiment itself is progressive and in essence internationalist.
It can also mean a desire to preserve ‘separateness’ in principle. Such ideologues seek economic benefits from immigration, but at the same time seek to marginalise the immigrants’ culture, and protect the dominant culture from ‘pollution’ by elements they consider dangerous. In the past, this could be communism, today, it is likely to be Islamic radicalism. But it is the same concept to them.
That is not a real universalist position, and easily turns into anti-immigrant demagogy. This kind of ‘multiculturalist’ can either support or oppose immigration dependent on concrete circumstances. They can also flip over and proclaim that multiculturalism has ‘failed’ (as with Merkel). That is even more the dilemma of the Zionist bourgeois elements in the West, who are very much in favour of multicultural tolerance for themselves, but are quite capable of joining anti-immigrant agitation.
In some ways, it is a extension of the attitude of semi-assimilated Jews in Western countries to the influx of East European Jews in the early 20th Century. Many of them were very hostile to the immigrants, and even joined in anti-immigrant agitation.
So I think that the likes of Desmond is quite representative of this form of Jewish bourgeois politics..
If ‘multiculturalism’ is a cipher for internationalism and anti-racism, then no ‘multiculturalist’ can join anti-immigrant agitation. But the type I am attacking certainly can, and do.
I asked for an example of a multiculturalist who doesn’t favor mass immigration, and you give me examples of mass immigrationists who don’t favor multiculturalism!
You can’t be a multiculturalist without supporting mass immigration because multiculturalism requires mass immigration. You don’t get multiple cultures without immigrants representing those cultures.
You denied a “Jewish” bias for mass immigration, while agreeing on the bias for multiculturalism. This is untenable. Multiculturalists are always mass immigrationists. Without mass immigration there is not only absent a justification but even the possibility.
[Perhaps I ought to explain putting “Jew” in scare quotes. Where Ian thinks there’s a Jewish semi-people, I think the modern “Jew” is a Zionist fraud, and self-styled “Jews” are playing Zionist identity politics. There is no material basis for a “Jewish” people remaining. Ian disagrees.]
“You can’t be a multiculturalist without supporting mass immigration because multiculturalism requires mass immigration.”
The real question is: what do you mean by ‘favouring mass immigration’? Do you really mean ‘advocating mass immigration’? Because that seems to be the thrust of the argument. I am neither for, nor against, ‘mass’ immigration. I simply consider that migration is an inescapable part of modern capitalism, given that the productive forces long since overflowed the barriers of the nation-state, and those who seek to stop migration are therefore engaged in, at best, reactionary utopianism.
It is more accurate to say that the kind of multiculturalism that I cited as positive as a spontaneous position is an attempt to deal with this social and economic reality in a progressive manner. I am all in favour of that because it is the ante-chamber to a genuinely internationalist position. This does not involve ‘advocating’ mass migration as a solution to the inequalities of the existing capitalist order, but it does involve advocating the complete freedom of people to migrate to the imperialist countries if they want to, and opposing all restrictions by the imperialist states against people who are largely their victims. For me this is a question of principle, no support to imperialisms immigration police any more than support to their armed forces when they intervene elsewhere.
What I am opposed to is the official, hypocritical ideology of the renewed racial hierarchy in the imperialist countries, which includes the Jewish/Zionist bourgeoisie. See my detailed article on this published earlier. That is, the neo-liberal variant of multiculturalism, which is actually designed to preserve racial inequalities.
As to my views on the Jews, I have a parallel position to Shlomo Sand and Gilad Atzmon on this. I have no antipathy to the Jewish religion, any more that to Islam, Christianity, or any other, apart from the general materialist, Marxist view of religious illusions. But the secular Jewish identity is inherently exclusive and chauvinistic, and therefore I advocate that secular Jews, i.e. atheists, should renounce that chauvinist attachment and embrace internationalism
Atzmon in particular would differ with this, he advocates that such Jews should adopt the ‘normal’ national identities of whichever country they live. He is basically right about this regarding Palestine; he defines himself as a ‘”Hebrew speaking Palestinian” and much of his material aims to win support for that course of action among other Jews. But while this is a very radical and progressive position regarding Palestine (the kind of thing Marx and Lenin would have endorsed, I think – see my earlier citations in this discussion), it is not a good thing for Jews to do the same thing in Britain, France or the US. These nationalisms are also chauvinistic and reactionary, if often not completely exclusive. even though GA thinks egalitarian variants are possible in the manner of Orwell (or Billy Bragg?). I disagree.
Apologies for not answering your questions in the straightforward yes-no manner which you appear to want, but as I see it there are some assumptions behind your questions that are mistaken, and therefore I have to frame my answers in such a way as to point this out.
What does whether you favor mass immigration have to do with the question we’ve been discussing: whether the “Jewish” bourgeoisie favors mass immigration? You wrote in your first response, “The Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie are indeed the driving force of multiculturalism, but that has little or nothing to do with immigration per se. Why should it have?” I tried to supply the answer: a driving force for multiculturalism is necessarily a driving force for its precondition, mass immigration.
This doesn’t have to do with our positions on immigration, only with that of the “Jewish” bourgeoisie. It has no direct relevance to communist policy on immigration. But it is curious, isn’t it, that you are so resistant to the very idea that the “Jewish” bourgeoisie, in pursuit of multiculturalism, is also in the vanguard of pro-immigration policies.
On immigration itself (changing topics here), immigration was progressive in America as late as the 1920s because the economy could absorb immigrants. What is the source of mass immigration to Greece, with 60% unemployment? This is natural to capitalism?
The bourgeois economists are clear on the reasons the ruling class should institute open borders (or close). Long-term demographics require it. Translated: imperialism needs immigrants as future cannon fodder.
Except that I answered that rhetorical question myself immediately afterwards: the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie favours ‘tolerance’ of … the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie … everything else is just PR spin, and expendable. Empirically it is not true that it is that part of the bourgeoisie that particularly favours liberal policies on migration. Some of the worst anti-migrant demagogues in Western countries are Jewish. I mentioned Richard Desmond.
I could also mention Melanie Phillips, once a liberal Jewish paragon of the Guardian, now a rancid anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant demagogue whose book ‘Londonistan’ drips with hatred of Muslim immigrants – for that it might appeal both to Dusty/Track and Neil Masterson, Galloway’s assailant. I regard it as a proto-fascist tract, a modern-day Mein Kampf or Protocols. This kind of people favour keeping the laws that make ‘illegal’ immigrants into pariahs, and indeed cracking down further, with more repressive laws. All such laws make it easier to exploit those without documents. Which is a well-known consequence of immigration controls in general, and of ‘crackdowns’ in particular.
I am indeed very ‘resistant’ to the nonsensical allegation that immigration is some kind of ‘Jewish plot’. In my view, those that put about that thesis have as their main target of hatred, not Zionist racists, but immigrants. My hatred of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie is because of their organised racism and the free pass that this racism gets from the left. Whether Jewish or not Jewish, those who abuse and target the oppressed are the enemies of everything communism stands for.
Incidentally regarding Greece, the main irrationality there is that Greece has an overvalued currency that is crippling its already backward economy, and making its membership of the entire edifice of the EU problematic. The converse is that Germany, in particular, has an undervalued currency – the same currency – which is sucking the life out of backward EU members like Greece. As I pointed out earlier, the main people pushing to maintain the free movement of labour within the EU are far from being multi-culturalists. Greece’s geographical position means it is inevitable, given its membership of the Shengen zone, that it would be a staging point for people trying to get into the EU’s borderless zone.
Whether or not the EU is rational from the point of view of capitalism is a moot point. It is a mainstream project of capital, with broad bourgeois support , certainly not confined to the financial sector. It does reflect the fact that the productive forces have outgrown the nation-state, but it also causes major convulsions for some nation-states involves in it – particularly those with semi-colonial economies that join in an currency bloc with imperialist powers like Germany. This seems to me an argument for an anti-imperialist struggle, not a struggle against immigrants.
I disagree with the analytical point that the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie are a force for liberal policies on immigration. In my view, they are often the source of anti-Muslim reaction. Also, I do think that the communist attitude to immigration and the bourgeois state’s immigration apparatus is of primary importance. Principles come first, questions of analysis are important, but ultimately secondary.
“Also, I do think that the communist attitude to immigration and the bourgeois state’s immigration apparatus is of primary importance. Principles come first, questions of analysis are important, but ultimately secondary.”
I strongly agree with the second sentence. Thus any policy regarding immigration must comport with communist principles. But what are those principles?
The most relevant is that communists are against the imperialist state apparatus. Not a penny, not a man *applies* to the border patrol.
Part of the problem in discussing immigration is that the problem of the state hasn’t been separated from that of mass super-exploitation. Communists don’t support the activities of capitalist cops. But they can demand that capitalists who super-exploit immigrant labor be expropriated. They can demand an end to guest worker programs and work permits, which create a permanent lumpen mass.
In America today, the most important demand is negative: end the guest worker programs! They are a tool for superexploitation.
[On the strict issue of border control, I favor abstention.]
Actually, I am all in favour of expropriating employers that exploit migrant labour. And ‘guest worker’ programs are indeed about superexploitation. As long as these demands do not morph into a chauvinist attack on migrant rights, fine by me. Guest worker programs should be ended because guest workers have very few rights if any, full rights for all should be the demand. Ditto for work permits that limit the rights of those with these working visas. Full civil and political rights for all migrants, and an end to state restrictions on all workers rights: trade union rights, residency rights, and labour rights. That would put an end to such schemes pretty effectively, I think.
I was pleasantly surprised to see a letter in the Weekly Worker advocating this position (and claiming some historical support for it): http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1039/letters/
The letter is the one by comrade Nick Tan.
Interesting, but this demand seems to me to be non-supportable. It reminds me a little of the stratagem of some feminists who pose as the defenders of the rights of sex workers, while advocating the criminalisation of their clients. Thus they claim not to be attacking the sex workers themselves, but protecting them from an abuse. But everyone knows that the aim of this stratagem is to make it impossible for them to earn their living.
The same is true of this proposal. It just creates another layer of pariahs, and another law to be broken, driving those with ‘irregular’ status deeper underground to safeguard their meagre employment. The progressive answer to super-exploitation of those with restricted rights to employment for immigration reasons is to abolish the restrictions.