On the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama

January 21, 2009

It gives every forward-thinking person in the United States some pleasure at the inauguration today of Barack Hussein Obama, Aretha Franklin of my own Detroit sang in the best part of the program, the part before Obama.  The mall was full of millions of people, many really hoping that a new day had dawned and that the future would be better for all people in the U.S.


In a way, it has, although not because of Barack Obama or the Barack Obama campaign. History always manifests itself through people, but the force that impelled Barack Obama into office is not one of his making only. The force is reawakened U.S. workers, although the reawakening in its very early hours. A reawakening which will lead ultimately to their historic role — to make a socialist revolution in the United States.


Obama also had support in the election from large sections of the middle classes, deeply frightened by the failure of what appeared to them to be an almighty ruling class that, whatever it other faults, could be counted on to make money.


Of course, a critical section of the bourgeoisie supports Obama. Otherwise he would not be president. Only a battle engaged between the lower classes and the ruling class can produce a president in the White House that is truly on the side of the people.


But the way in which the force expresses itself is shaped by people too. Barack Obama has much going for him.  He is a self-confident, professional African-American politician. He has committed no terrible political crimes in his lifetime, which every US president has done for generations. Even though he is a powerful politician, he has never tasted the true meaning of holding an important political position working for the most powerful and most dangerous ruling class in the world, the American bourgeoisie. He words and his face tell that story as well.


In that sense, he is much more like everyone else in American society in his age group. I think a lot of people have a lot of hope that Obama can really change things. But, his program and his administration are filled with the ideas and the people from the Clinton administration, serving the same ruling class. It is the class that is bankrupt on ideas on resolving the crises because their existence is its root cause. It will not be possible to make any serious progress in the US on the basis of his program. In fact his administration may play a role similar to that of the Clinton’s in forcing through key reductions in social services like the elimination of welfare or NAFTA, both ruling class victories of the Clinton administration.


In his speech he made the following references:


What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.


On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.


His cabinet, his advisers and his program are all from the “worn-out dogmas” and “stale political arguments” of the past.


The larger drama is the unfolding conflict between the working classes in and the ruling classes.  I say classes because I think there are so many gradations in a society so far advanced along the road of capitalism the class structure within the two most populous classes — the working class and the middle class — is filled with many gradations and a social pecking order that is remiscent of feudal times.


I hope that Obama, under the pressure of millions and the precipitous fall in their standard of living, does many things for the people — everything from extending unemployment benefits, increasing federal aid program for the poor and closing Guantanamo all the way to universal healthcare, a huge public works program and bringing all US troops home from Iraq, Afghanistan and ending all aid to Israel.


I just don’t think any of it will happen without a conflict with the Obama administration.  In that sense, he is, writ very large, another African-American Democratic Party politician.


When he gave his inaugural he spoke of “our collective failure to make hard choices,” and “putting off unpleasant decisions” and a “new era of responsibility — a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.”


I am concerned that the message of sacrifice is directed to the people who have sacrificed enough and who are already “giving their all to a difficult task” raising their families, taking care of themselves and their loved ones, trying to stay alive in the streets of Detroit.


Here are the lines from his speech on sacrifice (bolding is mine):


Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.


This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.


What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.


This is the price and the promise of citizenship.


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