Thursday, November 27, 2008

Crisis Update: Thursday, November 27, 2008

This week was a very critical one. In many respects, the true depth of the crisis is beginning to be revealed with the “official” acknowledgement that the US FED has committed close to 8 Trillion in the attempt to resolve it. According to the NY and Financial Times this amounts to nearly half of the US economy. I share the opinion that this 8 Trillion figure is actually a conservative one, perhaps a very conservative one.

The announcement by the US Treasury and Reserve on Tuesday, November 25th (see “US details $800 Billion Loan Plans” below) demonstrates that the bourgeoisie still does not have a grasp on this crisis. But, it also demonstrates that elements of this class are willing to spend to no end to try and resolve it. How much can the US bourgeoisie pledge to spend to address this crisis and how much paper they can print to cover it remains to be seen. What is clear is that their short term measures are primed to create many long-term contradictions – stagflation being perhaps the least of them.

Obama’s appointments this week continue confirm his right political orientation. They also demonstrate his administrations commitment to neo-liberal economic polices - thus challenging many progressive allegations that neo-liberalism has been thoroughly discredited.
On the fight back side, the “Which Way Forward for the Left in the Age of Obama & the Economic Crisis” forum held by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) and Revolutionary Work in Our Times featuring Chokwe Lumumba; Bill Fletcher, Jr.; Kate Griffiths; and Aijen Poo on Sunday, November 23 in NYC was a good example of the types of revolutionary multi-tendency discussions that have to take place during this period. An audio recording of the program can be found at of-which- way-forward/. Many more of these types of discussions must to be held. And they need to probe deeper and deal with programmatic proposals that revolutionary anti-imperialists can collaborate on in the much needed effort to create a “Peoples' Plan” to orientate our work and struggle during this next period.

Be on the lookout for the next installment of “Navigating the Storm” within the next week as I attempt to consolidate a number of strategic demands and programmatic proposals.

Republican Committee keeps the heat on Obama”, by Peter Baker, November 27, 2008. NY Times.

Adding to the Stimulus”, November 26, 2008. The Economist.

Obama picks Volcker to head new economic panel”, by Jeff Zeleny, November 26, 2008. NY Times.

New efforts for stimulus in Europe and China”, by Keith Bradsher, November 26, 2008. NY Times.

Workers face painful wage cuts”, November 26, 2008. BBC News.

New White House and Congress hope to have bills ready for inauguration”, by Carl Hulse and David M. Herszenhorn, November 26, 2008. NY Times.

Common Ground for Defense Chief and Obama”, by Thom Shanker, November 26, 2008. NY Times.

Save the Economy, Save the Planet”, Editorial, November 26, 2008. NY Times.

US details $800 Billion Loan Plans”, by Edmund L. Andrews, November 25, 2008. NY Times.

Data shows sharper US contraction”, Tuesday, November 25, 2008. BBC News.

First World Said to Face Protracted Slowdown”, by DAVID JOLLY, November 25, 2008. NY Times.

US pledges to top $7.7 Trillion to Ease Frozen Credit”, by Mark Pittman and Bob Ivry, November 24, 2008. Bloomberg News.

On the Nov. Elections and the Next Steps in Building the AI movement in the US

On November 4, 2008, millions of new voters stepped into political life with the hope that the traditional (as many put it) rich-white-male-Christian cultural monopoly on political power would no longer determine the conditions of life in the United States. These millions who stepped forward to be counted -- young, poor, women, people of color, the wronged and abused, the falsely accused, sick and disabled, atheists, Moslems, Buddhists, and progressive Christians, displaced, evicted, and laid-off, and other “outcasts” and have-nots -- were repelled by that de facto oligarchy, which had, they felt, excluded them. The Bush regime had arrogantly and unsuccessfully led that traditional elite for 8 years of widening wars and monstrous economic crises, which drew widespread domestic and global anger and condemnation. With high hopes, the millions of new voters were joined by millions of others who were trying to find a way out of the mess that this system has been making of their lives and of the world. Black people, Latinos, other people of color, workers, and youth stepped out of the shadows of solitude and “making do” and into political life, albeit within the confines of a presidential election.

By and large, these millions are responding to the promise of access, of open doors. They bring with them the worries and concerns and angers of their lives—of the wars being waged on false pretenses, of the worsening conditions of life. These are the issues they bring with them, though solutions to these issues were not on the electoral table.

On the night of November 4, hundreds of thousands in cities around the U.S. celebrated their success in electing the first Black president and the fact that millions of whites moved past the racist fears and codewords that have habitually set the boundaries of political life.
But to move forward, celebrations must turn to sober, straight talk.

The interests around which Barack Obama and the Democratic Party leadership have coalesced, despite the campaign banner of “change”, are the interests of the rich and the privileged, even as more wars are looming and the economics of the capitalist system here and worldwide are dragging the lives of millions into deeper crisis.

In January, Barack Obama will become the 44th Commander-in-Chief of the U.S government, which controls and protects an empire of corporations, banks, military bases and occupying armies all around the world. Obama has reached this position by loyally serving this bipartisan system in the U.S. Senate and by being vetted, tested and auditioned over the past two years in running for the presidency. In the course of this, Obama convinced the majority of the U.S. capitalist class (his campaign contributions from Wall Street were twice as big as McCain's) that he was the best candidate to take the reins of empire at a time when the U.S. is bogged down in two wars in the Middle East, and is in the midst of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, with the worst effects on the lives of working people here and around the world yet to come. For them, Obama is a reliable and safe bet to protect their interests. The fact that Obama will be the first Black president is an undeniable asset for the rulers of the U.S. It symbolizes a shift in the overtly racist practices of the country, but not one substantive enough to overcome the built-in tilt and nature of the system.

In fact, while millions have stepped forward under the banner of “Change”, these millions have the challenge to shape the political terrain for the period ahead. Because if left to Obama and the Democratic Party, the base of support for imperialism will not be challenged, but broadened.

What can we expect from an Obama administration? Will Obama be a new face on the same old stuff, or will there be substantial differences?

The capitalist system requires more than a new face. From it’s new CEO and Congress, the system will require more regulation, more government intervention, more international coordination and multilateral, not unilateral, aggression and occupations. It needs more “partnerships” with compliant regimes in semi-colonies and dependent countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Therefore, we should:
Expect a U.S. military surge into the killing fields of Afghanistan to protect a government of US-backed warlords from rival fundamentalists, and another surge across the border into Pakistan. This is one promise that Obama is not likely to break.
Not expect the return of US troops from Iraq, though there will be “redeployments” and further privatizations of the military. Barack Obama has backtracked from his anti-war promises early in the campaign. He will keep tens of thousands of military advisers, trainers, contractors and bases in Iraq, with large numbers of combat troops stationed in neighboring countries. Obama will send US troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Not expect the withdrawal of U.S. troops, advisers and military
bases from the Philippines, Colombia and other global hotspots where
the U.S. imperialists have important economic and strategic interests.
Expect an Obama presidency--as he pledged to AIPAC-- to continue all-out U.S. support for the state of Israel and its brutal military occupation of the land and people of Palestine.
Not expect the dismantling of the newly formed U.S. military command for Africa (AFRICOM), which is headed by a Black general. Expect expansion of this invasive hegemonic re-colonization program.
Expect that even with a Black president at the helm, there will be no high level assault of the myriad forms of white supremacy that are woven into the capitalist system. Police brutality and the criminalization of Black youth, unemployment rates of 20% and higher in Black communities, re-segregation of schools, ICE raids and deportations aimed at Mexican and other immigrant communities--all of this will continue and even worsen no matter who is president. During his campaign, Barack Obama even denied that the system of white supremacy exists. In an attempt to prevent severe disruptions and the unraveling of the imperialist political-economic-social order, President Obama will promote a seemingly “post-racial” "multi-cultural-ism" that dismisses the profound oppression and exploitation of millions of Black and Latino people as a thing of the past—or as a product of their own making and failings. And he will couple this with a xenophobic appeal that “we’re all in this together”, and blame the crisis that “we Americans” suffer, on the people of the world.
Expect continued class polarization. Obama's support for the $700 billion bailout of banks and financial institutions is a clear indication of where his class loyalties lie. More multi-billion dollar bailouts for banks and big corporations lie ahead. With foreclosures, evictions, credit card defaults, unemployment and poverty on the rise, Obama and the Democrats are talking about palliative measures that will not even begin to address the depths of the crisis.
Expect austerity programs and cuts in social spending in the years ahead. It will be Obama's job to sell them to Black, Latino, Asian and white working people in the name of national unity and shared sacrifice.
Not expect strong support for same sex marriage or women’s rights. Barack Obama is opposed to same sex marriage. Obama supports Roe v. Wade but is trying to find "common ground" with anti-choice activists. We cannot expect Obama's nominees to the Supreme Court to be jurists who take a firm stand for a woman's right to an abortion unless there is a determined mobilization by pro-choice and progressive forces to make him and the Democrats do so.

On the positive side, this presidential campaign has swept a new generation into political life and has remade the political stage in many ways. Particularly among this new generation, the Obama campaign and election has generated great hopes and expectations, but inevitably the orientation of the new administration toward politics acceptable to the privileged will heighten the burden on the broad masses of Blacks, Latinos/Chicanos and whites, workers and youth.

As this happens, those who have indulged in uncritical exuberance at the election, will come to realize that the “Obama checks” they have written are being returned for “insufficient funds.”

In the meantime, anti-imperialists must resolve to not give the new administration a pass or a honeymoon. The times require us all to focus and develop the People’s Agenda for educating, organizing and mobilizing in the period ahead, including these issues:

The struggle against War and Empire—from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Philippines and Colombia, to ending the thousand US military bases around the world, ending the occupation of Palestine, and upholding the sovereignty of all indigenous and colonized peoples. Support people’s struggles against displacement & for the right to return—in the Gulf Coast, the inner cities, and around the world!
The struggle for Justice—from demanding privacy rights, to demanding full rights for immigrants and organizing to stop ICE raids, to ending the criminalization of youth and the massive imprisonment of millions, to defending the reproductive rights of women, the human rights of LGBTQ communities (people with all sexual orientations), and ending forever the policies of torture, indefinite detentions and rendition. Stop police abuse and racial profiling! Free All Political Prisoners!
The struggle for decent lives—demand complete and universal health care, education, housing, and decent jobs for all. Fight all layoffs, deportations, evictions, foreclosures and utility shutoffs. Demand rollbacks in the price of food, rent, and fuel. Fight for unhindered rights of access to technology, to people’s history, people’s culture, and complete and unrestricted rights to organize, to associate, to protest, to travel--and for the right to organize for self-defense against the rising “backlash” and ongoing tide of racist attacks.

Tremendous challenges and opportunities await struggling people throughout the United States. We must join together to overcome the challenges ahead and seize the opportunities to create the just world we need.

Another World Is Possible Without Imperialism!!

Collision Course Media
(a member organization of the International League of People’s Struggle)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Demand Development Documents: Compiled Monday, November 24, 2008

The Financial Crisis: Notes on Alternatives
Sam Gindin
The Bullet, Socialist Project (Canada)
November 24, 2008

Over the last quarter century, the left in most of the developed world has been marginalized as a social force. The 'culture of possibilities' for left alternatives has correspondingly narrowed. But historic changes, above all the discrediting of neoliberalism, hold out the potential of at long last reversing that earlier defeat. With the continuing financial turmoil and the global economy about to enter the worst downturn since the great depression, the desperate need
for alternatives is clear enough; the question is whether we can develop the capacity to once again be a relevant social actor.

To this point, this opening for the left has been primarily polemical. Its true of course that in the recent elections, politicians - in Canada no less than in the U.S. - continued to insist on their allegiance to lower taxes and to run from significant redistributions in income, let alone wealth or power. In the U.S., an affirmation of American patriotism remains the condition for raising even moderate criticisms of foreign policy. But neoliberal ideology is reeling and the delegitimation of freer markets as the solution to everything has already made the right more defensive on economic issues than it has been for a generation. They can no longer get away with calling for the freeing of corporations and financial institutions from regulation to 'unleash the creativity of markets,' or rejecting out of hand state involvement to address social needs.

Moreover, the depth and global scope of the downturn will leave the state with little choice but to introduce massive public expenditures. Working families, experiencing the frightening erosion of their effective savings - their pensions and home values - have already started to cut back on consumption in order to rebuild some future security. Private investors, seeing few opportunities and reacting with caution and uncertainty toward the future, are not investing. For the immediate future, neither private incentives nor freer markets, neither the easy hand of more credit nor the promise of more exports, will end the news of failing companies and rising unemployment. Only public investment has a chance of leading an economic revival.

All this is important to account for: it may even mark the end of an era. Yet, we need to be sober about how far the crisis and responses to its can, in themselves, take us. Even if the rhetoric and some of the practices of neoliberalism are modified, a good deal of the structures, power, and logic of that earlier period remain firmly in place. Globalization and free trade are not going away. The recent G-20 meeting accomplished little, but it did confirm a commitment among the participating states to avoid 'protectionism.' Barring a complete breakdown, finance will certainly have a new institutional look, but the new regulations will serve to revive and strengthen the role of a smaller number of larger private banks domestically and internationally.

Nor is the intensified competition and restructuring that has destroyed jobs and undermined workers' confidence going away. The pressures on autoworkers, for example, are about to get worse and structural adjustment programs in the third world - though they may now be more contested - will continue. And while the subprime crisis had to some support against
foreclosures, this remains narrowly separated from the roots of the problem in decades of wage restraint, poverty and the refusal to make housing into a right rather than a commodity.

As for the American state, it has certainly lost some of its sheen. But here, too, the reality is not an imminent end to the American empire and reversal of its postwar leadership role. The centrality of the American state continues: no other state can (or even wishes to) replace the U.S.; the crisis has reconfirmed the world's dependence on the U.S. financial system; and the resolution of this now international crisis rests fundamentally on the actions of the American state in leading a more or less coordinated response. Thinking About Alternatives

In trying to come to grips with what needs to be done, it is useful to begin by acknowledging our limited capacities at this time. We can challenge some of the details surrounding the resolution to the financial crisis, but we can't play much of a role in solving that crisis; our focus must be elsewhere. Abstract calls for 're-regulation,' with their assumption that states and markets stand in opposition to each other, can further confuse rather than politicize those we're trying to mobilize. As the most recent state interventions make clear, given the current balance of social forces, regulation is about finding a technical way to preserve markets in the face of their volatility, not about any fundamental reordering of relative power in society to conform to social needs. Even where the government's involvement has allowed particular capitalists to fail, the content of state intervention has revolved around reconstituting and thereby preserving, the power of financial capitalists as a class.

Similarly, looking for the answer in some broader return to the good, old, pre-neoliberal days misunderstands the connection between then and now. Neoliberalism was a response to the unsustainability of the earlier period. The crisis of the 1970s was rooted in working class pressures on corporate profits, which led corporations to slow down their investment and
threaten to shift capital abroad. At the time, some sections of the left presciently saw that the options were polarized: if there wasn't greater control over banks and corporations, along with a move towards democratic planning, then workers would be crushed in order to restore corporate power and profits - as they in fact were. To go back to that earlier period would therefore only reintroduce the previous conflict, and restore its underlying question: whether corporate power would be restored to solve the crisis, or whether a fight could be made for a democratic alternative.

There is another factor that must be integrated into our thinking about alternatives: the extent to which the working class has been integrated into financial markets. After the 1970s, with wages held down, workers of necessity turned more and more to credit as the form through which they accessed consumption. As well, they looked to a rising stock market to boost their pension funds, and those with homes cheered rising house prices because the increase in their wealth reduced the need for savings and so allowed greater consumption. In terms of class formation, this further fragmented the working class; while the struggle for wages and public
benefits depended on and built class solidarity, looking to credit (and lower taxes) to sustain their private lives led to an atrophy of collective capacities. In the current crisis, the implications of that relationship to financial markets became all too clear: in spite of popular anger over the bailout of Wall Street, there was in the end a general - if reluctant - acceptance of the bailout's necessity to 'save the system' they had become dependent on.

No less important in undermining the working class as an oppositional force is the stratification that developed over the past three decades inside the working class. That internal inequality has tended to cause resentment and divisions from both those who
seemed to be doing relatively well and those marginalized. The former were more easily isolated when corporations demanded concessions since even with concessions they would still be ahead of most workers; the latter were often blamed as the cause of rising taxes on those working hard to support those who were not.

The strategic question we now face might be restated as follows. All alternatives must begin with people's needs, but can we also structure our responses so they strengthen the capacity of the working class to act independently of the logic of capitalism, while also restricting to at least some degree the power of capital? Assuming that the financial crisis does stabilize, there will still be a major recession and a period of slower growth as the aftermath of the crisis 'unwinds.' In that context, two questions will come to the forefront of politics: who will pay for the aftermath of the crisis, and what form will the solutions to reviving the economy (and not just finance) take?

Immediate Demands

Given the impact of the housing crisis on so many Americans and the extent of the delegitimation of the financial sector, it is rather amazing how little direct resistance has occurred. No marches, no community takeovers of foreclosed homes, no mass expressions of frustration and anger. Since the financial volcano erupted in the midst of election campaigns in the U.S. and Canada, it might have been expected that the electoral process would become a catalyst for widespread discussion of dramatic alternatives, but this too has been remarkably muted. In Canada, one indicator of the popular political malaise is that voter turnout in the recent election was the lowest in a hundred years; this could not be said of the American election yet in putting so much hope in an Obama victory, foreclosure victims waited rather than acted. The first point is therefore that any specific actions in defence of working people's
homes or savings, jobs or social programs, should be actively encouraged and supported.

But what of more general demands we might raise at this potentially radicalizing moment? Three such demands which were raised by the American left in the period preceding the bailout seem to address both popular concerns and hold out the possibility of carrying a larger strategic weight: universal health care (currently being eroded though still very legitimate in Canada), the development of the public pension system, and the building of public infrastructure.

Each of these demands reduces working class dependence on markets and the private sector. In the U.S., universal health care means not losing your benefits if you lose your job and a consequent lessening of the internalized pressure to strengthen 'your' corporation, through concessions if necessary, in order to hang on to your family plan. Public pensions mean less dependence on the returns your pension or mutual fund get from growth in the stock market and security against the increasing trend on the part of corporations to gut union pension plans. Public infrastructure, especially if that includes addressing the environmental crisis, provides jobs and shifts the focus from depending on market incentives to possibly do the right thing, to directly doing it.

But more than that, each of the above reduces private control over our lives - whether that be health insurance companies, the managers of institutional funds, or the corporations that are otherwise expected to drive economic stimulus through further tax breaks and a favourable 'climate' (which generally means less favourable to popular rights). And most important, because of their focus on universal rights and collective needs, such demands tend to overcome the divisions within the working class and contribute to building class unity and solidarity.

A fourth demand, public housing, raises another crucial dimension of universal rights and gets to the contradiction that triggered the financial crisis: policies that kept people in poverty limited their ability to make mortgage payments and this could only be hidden for so long. The answer here is not only to move away from the market as a solution for the poor, but to demonstrate the broader potentials of the public provision of services: can we imagine a kind of housing that in addition to being innovative and affordable includes a new sense of community and relationship to the surrounding city - that is housing that is exemplary of the potentials of public intervention?

As for the ever-present question of who will pay, there's no better place to start than 'make the rich pay', all the more so given the fortunes that were made on the way to the present disaster. This has generally focussed on income taxes, but it should include wealth since it is wealth above all that is so monstrously distributed in both Canada and (especially) the USA. But targeting the rich is not enough. To be effective, the reach of tax increases will also have to extend into the working class, and this will mean challenging populist anti-tax sentiments which reinforce a particular kind of individualism that damages class solidarity and any vision of collective needs (It also undermines basic self-interest in that tax cuts are generally sold on the basis of passing on a few hundred dollars to workers while the bulk of the tax breaks go the rich, and the cutbacks to pay for all this fall heavily on the working class.)

Yet, redistribution alone won't solve the crisis: savings will have to be mobilized to support the major infrastructural programs. This can be financed through government bonds, much as such bonds were mobilized to pay for World War II. In today's case, given the current fear within the business community of investing in anything because of the present uncertainty, it is in fact primarily government bonds that could provide a secure outlet for their money.


Because any such reforms would be attempted in a society that is still capitalist, they would come up against inevitable limits. Growing social programs depend on a growing economy, but if growth depends on the private sector, how can you both challenge and keep private capital at the same time? Won't they refuse to invest if they aren't happy enough or leave the country for greater profitability and freedom elsewhere? In addition to asking why people are in poverty in the first place, innovative housing can't be separated from rethinking the urban spaces the housing is part of (including the need for accessible transportation, especially if the housing is outside city centres).

For social democrats, such contradictions have meant retreating into more moderate demands. This has failed and the lesson is not to lower our expectations but the need to think bigger and prepare to go further. If democracy is a kind of society and not just a form of government, the economy - which is so fundamental to shaping our lives - will eventually have to be democratized. This will have to include nationalizing the banks and turning them into a democratically run public utility that supervises the rest of the financial system and allocates national savings. If domestic or foreign-based capital threatens to move (as they will do earlier rather than later) we must be ready to put capital controls on the agenda. But if we want to channel society's savings to meet social needs - and this is of course the main reason for controlling the social surplus - the controls will have to be on domestic capital flows as well as internationally.

This ultimately raises the question of planning. If, for example, we take the environmental crisis seriously, then it's not enough to tack on some environmental projects to rebuilding the public infrastructure. Addressing the environment will mean transforming everything about what we produce and how we produce it and this can't happen through haphazard market decisions by individual businesses, which are only moved by profits and won't act if they don't know where others will ultimately go). The crisis in auto reinforces this point. A bailout alone, even if it modifies the kinds of vehicles being built, will not overcome the reality of excess capacity. Rather than closing productive facilities, why can't they be converted to produce the new or modified products an environmentally conscious economy will need? As well,
given that auto is generally concentrated in certain communities, the issue is not so much a crisis in auto as a crisis in these communities. In Windsor, for example, where thousands of autoworkers have already been laid off before the latest crisis, what's needed is a revival plan that includes auto, but also extends to public infrastructure and the range of social services that give a richer meaning to the notion of 'community.'

These issues of planning raise all kind of technical and democratic questions that should not be underestimated, but the most important issue it forces us to address is the question of power. The precondition for thinking about social change is that we develop the capacity to transform the distribution of power in our society.

It's in this context of developing individual and collective capacities that the question of work-time, which has faded from lists of working class demands, must somehow be revived. The labour movement has long advocated reduced work time as a way of sharing the better full time jobs and therefore opening up new jobs, or at least preserving existing ones. This can be very important in particular sectors and is also a valuable solidaristic principle. But its greatest
significance lies in another working class perspective that goes back to the earliest days of trade unionism: the recognition that full citizenship and political participation demands the time to do so - the time to read, think, learn, attend meetings and events, debate,
take part in strategizing, and engage in organizing others.

From Alternative Policies to Alternative Politics

There are three final points that need to be emphasized. First, the triad of immediate resistance, developing policies for broader cross-country mobilization, and raising the 'big' questions such as nationalizing the banks, are not to be understood as stages of activity. The point is not to take one step first and another more radical step later but to find ways of trying to integrate all three simultaneously. Local resistance, for example, is part of all stages; its success is both dependent on and a condition for mobilizing around larger national issues. Similarly, it would be a mistake to postpone the call for transforming the private banking system into a democratically run public utility 'until we are ready.' We will only become ready if we place it on the agenda from the very beginning and integrate it into other demands and struggles.

Second, the greatest contradiction confronting 'the movement' today lies in the gap between good ideas and the capacity to fulfil them. The main barrier we face is not so much the absence of alternative policies (though these still need a lot of filling out) as the weakness of our alternative politics. This is not simply about pooling our diverse strength. Rather, it involves recognizing that in light of past failures, a dangerous future and potential new openings, each section of the movement needs to rethink what it does and how it does it as a precondition for coming together in an entirely new way.

Third, it is difficult to imagine an alternative politics that can match what we are up against without an organization whose focus is on building the essential relationships and political capacities across sections of the movement and within them. There should, for example, be hundreds if not thousands of meetings taking place every week across the country to discuss what we currently face and what to do about it. But this simply can't happen spontaneously. How we build this kind of capacity is what the question of 'alternatives' is ultimately about.

Sam Gindin teaches political economy at York

Has Working Class Consciousness Collapsed? The "crisis of the working class subject"
by Phil Hearse
International Viewpoint undated

The crisis of working class representation is a familiar theme in the left internationally, the idea that because of the shift to the right of mass social democratic and Stalinist parties, or because of their collapse, the working class lacks a political force that can defend its interests in the national political domain.

Class consciousness: "The awareness of individuals in a particular social class that they share common interests and a common social situation. Class consciousness is associated with the development of a 'class-for-itself' where individuals within the class unite to pursue their shared interests." --Online Dictionary of Social Sciences

In many countries efforts have been made to create, or begin to create, broad left parties that can begin to resolve this crisis. However the idea of the "crisis of the working class subject" takes the analysis one step further, saying in effect that class consciousness has declined to such a degree that the overwhelming majority of working class people have no consciousness of themselves as part of a class that has its own interests other than those of the ruling class; using Lukacs' distinction the working class is a "class in itself" but no longer a "class for itself". If this is correct of course then it has big implications for socialist analysis and strategy.

We argue here that the idea that the working class is no longer a "class for itself" is an exaggeration, but like most caricatures is based on aspects of reality that socialists have to identify and integrate into their strategy and tactics. Consciousness, especially mass consciousness, is a dynamic factor that is subject to change and sometimes, in periods of crisis, is subject to abrupt shifts. So any attempt to capture and interpret mass working class consciousness is likely to be partial and one-sided. Before we get into the detail of that we have to say something about the changing structure of the working class, in Britain and internationally.

John Major in 1996 argued that "we are all middle class now"--in other words working class living standards have risen to such a degree that the difference with middle class people have become blurred. However Cumbria University academic Phillip Bond has recently argued the precise opposite-- the "middle classes" are being forced into the working class (1).

He argues, "The middle classes are no longer earning a living wage while a new global super class has over $11 trillion in off shore tax havens...Forty years ago a single skilled manual wage was enough to provide a living for a working-class man, his wife and family. Now even a middle-class couple with both partners working can't bring in enough to make ends meet.

"The golden age for the salaried worker across all the OECD countries was between 1945 and 1973, when ordinary working people gained their highest percentage share of GDP. Since then the real wages of the middle and working class have stagnated or fallen, while income for the rich has rocketed and that of the super-rich has hit the stratosphere.

"The facts are astounding. Contrary to the delusions of the free-market fundamentalists, the Thatcher/Reagan revolution has come at a great cost to the working and middle classes. In the US, the top one per cent have seen a 78 per cent increase in their share of national income since 1979 with the bottom 80 per cent of the population experiencing a 15 per cent fall.

"Far from being a tide that raises all boats, neo-liberalism has undermined the wealth and security of the majority of the working population. In Britain for example, the liquid wealth of the bottom half of the populace has fallen from 12 per cent in 1976 to just one per cent in 2003, while the top 0.01 per cent in Britain are taking a larger share of national income than at any time in modern history and have seen their incomes rise by more than 500 per cent in under a generation.

"Wage earners have coped with this structural shift by taking on unprecedented levels of debt, working more and asking their partners to join the workforce. Family life has suffered; children see less of their parents than at any time in the last 100 years and since nobody has any time, civic life has virtually vanished.

"But there are signs that the general population across the globe has had enough of this rampant inequity. According to a recent FT/Harris poll, huge worldwide majorities consider income inequality to be too great. The percentages against this global shift to the rich are remarkably consistent: 87 per cent in Germany consider income inequality to be too great, 76 per cent in Spain agree. Even in Britain 74 per cent of people believe the rich should be taxed more and the poor less. What is most striking is that 80 per cent of the Chinese concur."

While outrage at the excesses of the super rich are important and point to the likelihood of future growth in class consciousness, it is not necessarily an indication of a "class for itself" now. Indeed the very economic and social changes that Phillip Bond points to have been responsible for a decline in class consciousness. In our view the fundamental factors driving this have been:

* The experience of defeat of working class struggles in the 1980s and 1990s, which has undermined confidence in collective action and solutions, and with it greatly reduced trade union membership. In Britain the key turning point was the defeat of the 1984-5 miners strike and the Wapping strike that followed.

* As a result of these defeats and as a consequence of the restructuring of the workforce associated with them, a decline in the percentage of the working class involved in manufacturing, and thus a sharp decline in the number of large, factory-based workplaces with a tradition of working class organisation and their replacement with generally smaller service-based work places.

* In Britain especially, through the semi-destruction of the social housing stock by Margaret Thatcher, forcing people into an immense economic effort to find somewhere to live and forcing people to rely on their own capital, generally in the form of a house, to find resources for their old age.

* As a consequence of these defeats and declining confidence in collective action a general ideological retreat that finds its expression in the "dumbing down" of popular culture and the absurd cult of celebrity and the dreamworld of fame. This aspect is particularly important among young people who are likely to be apolitical and have no experience of trade unions, although there are important counter-examples, most importantly the involvement of young people in the environmental movement.

Where has the working class gone?

The basic answer to this question is: nowhere. The restructuring of production internationally has shifted the focus of manufacturing industry south and east so that China is now the "workshop of the world" and countries like India and Indonesia are increasingly industrialised. But that doesn't mean that the vast majority of the population in countries like Britain aren't working class. The latest available figures of workers by industry in Britain show this, as can be seen from the following table:

Occupation Percentage of the work force

Manufacturing 14%

Construction 9%

Public administration, education and health 27%

Agriculture 2%

Banking, finance, insurance etc 15%

Distribution, hotels and restaurants 21%

Energy and water 1.5%

Transport and communication 7%

Other services 7%

Source: Nasima Begum, Office for National Statistics: Labour Market Trends

The same study shows that something like 14% of the workforce has some managerial or supervisory role--everything from directors to checkout supervisors.

In each of these categories the overwhelming majority of the workforce are proletarians, ie people whose labour contributes to the production and reproduction of surplus value. But the subjective experience of the working class is now very different to what it was in the 1930s or even the 1960s. The "massification" of the working class has ended, with many people working in smaller work units. In larger workplaces like call centres, the workers are likely to be low paid, highly regimented and un-unionised. Working class organisation depends on struggle and the building up of organisation and consciousness over time. It would be incredible if call centres and the like had emerged fully unionised from the beginning. So the decline in unionisation is striking: from just over 13 million workers in 1979 to just over 6 million today.

But do these people, unionised or not, consider themselves to be working class? According to a survey published by the National Centre for Social Research in January 2007, 57% of people said they considered themselves to be working class, a figure that the Centre itself said was "staggering". In the light of the ideological bombardment through the media telling us we're all middle class, that someone with a mortgage and a car is middle class, 57% is an amazing figure, even if it's down about 10% since the 1960s.

Interestingly the number who consider themselves working class is far in excess of those who work in "blue collar" manual jobs. According to a BBC report of the survey, "...only 31% of people are actually employed in what are categorised as traditional 'blue collar' occupations, according to the survey. The number who consider themselves working class far outstrips this" (2). In other words, large numbers of those who work in call centres, warehouses, banks and hairdressers still consider themselves to be working class, even if they're not in a union.

So it seems that, in Britain at least, the working class still exists as an objective category and that very large numbers of them consider themselves to be working class. But does this amount to a "class for itself". Clearly consciousness of being part of a class is just a spit away from recognising that that class has its own interests but a much bigger step away from finding the means for fighting for those interests.

However two factors need to be taken into account here. First is the economic crisis which is likely to be prolonged. Like all economic crises this is a huge assault on working class living standards and conditions. Probably unemployment will be in the millions within a year or two. Price rises at something over a real figure of 10% for poorer working class families (who spend more of their income on food and energy) are catastrophic for workers whose wage increases have been held at 2% or thereabouts for several years. While growing unemployment is likely to be a disciplining factor it is highly likely that we shall see in the next period a big increase in strike action, particularly in the public sector. Already we've seen important strikes of local government workers and others this year. The likelihood is that trade unionism will grow in this period and not decline, and struggle naturally leads to an increase in levels of class consciousness not their decline.

The second factor, alluded to in the Phillip Bond report quoted above, is the growing anger many ordinary people at the huge disparity between the super-rich and everyone else. Neoliberalism has meant the ascendancy of finance capital and the swiveling of production to priotise high profit luxury goods (3). What ordinary people see is that the super rich are rewarded for incompetence and idiocy and working class people are punished for the mistakes of the rich.

The Northern Rock example is very eloquent. Former chief executive Andy Kuipers who pioneered the "lend money we don't have" business model that led the bank to become bankrupt was given more than £1m in "compensation" for having to go. Northern Rock meanwhile is making 1,300 workers redundant and leads the market in house repossessions for those who are falling behind with their mortgage.

More generally the massive profits of the energy sectors and supermarkets are obvious to everyone as is the fact that the super rich generally pay little or no tax while enjoying luxury lifestyles. An amusing take on this was the popular response of Italian holidaymakers. According to Alexander Chancellor:

"As other people have to tighten their belts, do without luxuries, and scrimp on their holidays, one wonders for how long they will put up with the arrogant ostentation of the super-rich, and when they will start to insist that they take some of the pain as well. There are signs, indeed, that the worm is already beginning to turn. Fat cats arriving in dinghies last week at Sardinia's Emerald Coast were pelted with wet sand by resentful holidaymakers trying to stop them disembarking. The flotilla of celebrities from a luxury yacht moored out at sea was led by Flavio Briatore, co-owner of QPR football club and manager of Renault's formula one team.

"Briatore, accompanied by his new showgirl wife, Elisabetta, who now spends a lot of time shopping in London, had come to inaugurate a new beach restaurant that he recently transformed from a popular bar into a heavily protected retreat for luxury yacht owners and their guests, the daytime equivalent of the nearby Billionaire night club that he also owns. Briatore and his VIP guests arrived in three motorised dinghies to a storm of protest by holidaymakers already crowding the Capriccioli beach. They screamed and swore and shouted, 'Louts, go home.' They drenched them with water from their children's buckets. They hurled wet sand at them." (4)

This little incident is indicative. As the crisis deepens impatience with the super rich and celebrity culture will grow enormously reinforcing a developing class consciousness.

The real issue: strategy and tactics

Nonetheless, anger and resentment, and the possibility of future struggles, do not a "class for itself" make--not necessarily. A huge job has to be done to rebuild working class combativity and organisation, something that will take a whole historical period. What implications does that have for socialists? Tactics are born of overall strategy and since the working class remains the only social force capable of effecting a transition to socialism, its struggles remain at the centre of socialist concerns. However at this time there is a dispersal of fields of struggle, of campaigns and issues that do not necessarily find their focus in the organised working class. But it is not, and cannot be, a question of getting involved in 101 campaigns and "waiting for the working class" to achieve a higher level of organisation and consciousness at a future time. On the contrary both in terms of issues and fields of struggle a working class orientation is immediately relevant.

Let's take first of all the issue of community struggles. Many issues of course present themselves first and foremost as a concern of the local community, for example hospital closures or post office closures. Campaigns on these issues are legion. But the leadership of them is contested or potentially so. Tories and even the BNP frequently involve themselves in these fights or give them demagogic support as a way of attacking New Labour. The answer to this is not just active socialist intervention but linking up with the local labour movement in general and in the first place with the trade unions involved--something that happens spontaneously on many occasions. Building alliances including the unions promotes trade unionism in the wider community.

Moreover taking central political campaigns into the labour movement both strengthens those campaigns and helps politicise and radicalise the movement. The environment is an obvious example here. This is a central political issue that needs the kind of social weight behind it that can only be eventually supplied by the organised working class. Here and now activist groups play a vital role and something like the climate change camps couldn't function without them. For socialists it is a question of forging alliances which centrally involve the labour movement.

Revolutionary socialists are not trade union fetishists and understand full well that a "labour movement orientation" can degenerate into getting labour movement bodies that only activists attend to pass worthy resolutions that have no implications for action. Many campaign activists are sceptical about the labour movement and understandably so. Even so, unions and working class struggle remain central to our long-term strategy and the tactics of alliance building that we pursue today.

Dangers of lumpenisation

Because of the death of social democracy as a force fighting for any kind of reform, sections of the white working class where de-industrialisation has taken place--the so-called "sink estates"--are prone to lumpenisation and the growth of the BNP. Of course the BNP is building a classic fascist alliance involving sections of the petit bourgeoisie as well as luimpensised workers. But key areas of BNP support include areas like Barking and Dagenham, Stoke-on-Trent and towns in the Manchester conurbation that are precisely areas of extreme deprivation with high unemployment, high levels of crime, drug abuse and general despair. It is becoming increasingly obvious that traditional "anti-fascist" activities of the ANL type, while remaining important, will never crack this issue in the long term. Only a rise of working class struggle and the building of a mass working class political alternative can challenge the BNP's attempt to monopolise the political vacuum the collapse of social democracy has left in these areas.

Once again however the left cannot adopt a spontaneist, wait and see attitude, hoping for a working class upsurge and the appearance by some magical process of a broad left alternative. Class politics, of the kind provided by Respect, aids the development of class consciousness and trade union struggle.

Global working class

Neoliberal globalisation has created a new, global working class. The decline of the peasantry and the rise of the proletariat globally creates the basis for a new class politics on a truly global scale. As Paul Mason documents in his book Live Working or Die Fighting (5) the emergence of a new class consciousness will be a long and complicated process. In China massive struggles happen daily, largely hidden from view, but the development of a working class consciousness and organisation is proceeding slowly. In Vietnam this year dozens of strikes (6) have occurred in factories owned by the transnational corporations and this is indicative of the likely development in many countries.

Class consciousness may have declined in Western countries, but a decline does not denote an absence. To truly become a "class for itself" the working class, in Britain and elsewhere, has not just to fight for its immediate interests but to fight for an historical alternative. This is a work in process. Socialism is not inevitable but only the working class can develop the consciousness and organisation to bring it about. That certainty remains at the heart of socialist strategy and tactics.




3. See M. Chossudovsky, The Globalisation of Poverty,


5. See:

6. See "Vietnam labour strikes scare foreign companies"

This article will appear in a future issue of Socialist Resistance.

[Phil Hearse writes for Socialist Resistance in Britain. He is the editor of Marxsite (]

Obama's Election: Lessons for Defeating White Supremacy and Rebuilding Revolutionary Resistance
by Michael Novick,
Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror (ARA-LA/PART)

The election of Barack Obama has been greeted in a variety of ways: elation and relief (tempered by fear of a racist backlash or assassination attempt) by supporters, particularly US Africans; predictions of enhanced recruitment opportunity by organized white supremacists; doomsday predictions by conservatives. On the left there have been "exposes" of Obama's Zionism, militarism and dismissal of the particular needs of Black people or the working class. A group of DC anarchists has called for a disruption of his inaugural.

But any analysis needs to start from this reality: masses of people in the US feel they have helped make and change history by electing Obama. His victory is indeed historic in many ways. It required the largest voter turnout ever, and the highest percentage of registered voters to vote in decades. Obama gained a clear majority, the highest percentage by a Democrat since FDR except for Johnson's landslide after the JFK assassination. He ran the most expensive campaign in history. He is the first "bi-racial" (called Black or African-American) president-elect, and incidentally the first child of an immigrant, the first Hawaiian-born, one of the youngest, and by far the least "embedded," president. Moreover, his was the first victory by a self-proclaimed 'anti-war' candidate in the midst of a war. But Obama's victory hardly signals that we are a "post-racial" society, as evidenced by the self-contradictory self-congratulation of those who proclaim that "by electing the first Black president" we have shown that we are "color-blind." Exit polls showed that about a fifth of 'white' voters acknowledged that "race" was a significant factor. Interestingly, of those, 30% voted for Obama. One explanation of this is the fact that Obama's race made his intellect acceptable. US voters would never have elected a 'white' candidate as obviously intelligent as Obama. Yet they accepted and understood that a 'Black' candidate would have to be twice as smart, twice as cool, as any 'white' to have a chance to succeed.

Paradoxically but perhaps most essentially, Obama's election is also a manifestation of the extent of the radical left's weakness, irrelevance and inability to communicate. Over the past eight years of Bush misrule, what effective strategies or serious ability to develop a countervailing force or consciousness has the left or the anarchist movement manifested? In that vacuum, people made a judgment that Obama represented the best hope for the kind of change that could be achieved through electoral means. This was not merely because he was 'Black,' but because he was intelligent, calm, organized, and an effective and reassuring campaigner. McCain's charges of 'inexperience' didn't stick because Obama was attractive specifically as a relative outsider not deeply corrupted by long tenure in Washington, DC or in office. His mild centrist critique of the Iraq war made 'sense' in a context in which the anti-war movement had proven incapable of making a dent or marshaling an extra-parliamentary opposition and resistance to the war. Within the Democratic Party spectrum -- and the anti-war movement has been tailing the Democrats for years-- he was the electable 'opponent' of the Iraq war.

To imagine that a proclamation of opposition to Obama's inauguration as a capitalist, imperialist and statist will do anything to overcome the left's weakness, irrelevance and inability to communicate -- in fact, that it will do anything other than deepen and intensify those failures -- is the height of arrogance. I have a different take on what we have to do or learn in response to Obama's victory. It starts with the perspective that the greatest on-going weakness of the left strategically and politically is a refusal to recognize the nature of this society as an Empire based on white-supremacist settler colonialism. Related to that is our greatest tactical flaw, an inability to practice authentic self-criticism, through which we learn from our errors and defeats in order to eventually overcome them and win. Our failure to do that has engendered a deep defeatism in masses of people
-- manifest as accommodation to Empire and unwillingness to struggle against or even make a sharp break with the system.

One thing this election has demonstrated is how far into the past the revolutionary militance of the civil rights and Black power movements and the mass anti-imperialist opposition to the Vietnam War and domestic colonialism have receded. McCain's inability to make the Bill Ayers smear stick to Obama was because not only Obama but most of the electorate was no older than 8, or perhaps not yet born, when Ayers was an armed-propaganda radical. That period of revolutionary optimism, when the Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army or the WUO were the tip of the iceberg of a massive upwelling of rebelliousness and armed resistance, is now ancient history. (Speaking of white privilege and class, Obama never would have associated with ex-BLA members, nor would any have been on the board of an Annenberg charity.) No amount of posturing could "Recreate 68" (or even 2000) in Denver for the DNC or in DC for the inaugural. 47% of high school seniors in the US today were registered to vote in time for the election, and I suspect an overwhelming majority of them cast their first ballots. They were born while the first George Bush was president! Who better to speak to them than Anti-Racist Action, which has historically been an attractor of high schoolers? Yet ARA's current ability to do outreach, education, agitation and organizing in high schools (or prisons, factories, community colleges or the military) is miniscule.

The DC call relates that anarchists opposed and disrupted the last two inaugurations, and therefore should do the same again. This flawed reasoning lacks a material analysis of the consciousness of masses of people in relation to the electoral process and the presidency. Bush's two stolen victories undermined the authenticity and legitimacy of the electoral process and of the imperial presidency. For his first inaugural, he was anointed president by the Supreme Court after having lost the popular vote. For his second, he was plagued by an unpopular war and evidence of vote flipping and vote suppression. Protesters and disrupters were speaking for millions when we denounced the inaugurals and the presidency, and our message fell on receptive ears.

The current situation is far different, and blaming it on the voters is another example of the left's lack of self-criticism and ability to grow. Obama's victory signals a new lease on life for the presidency, electoral politics and the two-party system. Obama won by a clear majority, in which voter suppression was a negligible factor and in which all minor parties together barely hit 1% of the vote, including McKinney, Nader, Barr and Baldwin combined. His inauguration, even apart from the historicity of his "Blackness," is being welcomed by the overwhelming majority of the US population as proof of the "mystery and majesty" of electoral democracy. In that context, a disruption wouldn't express the unease of the general population in a radical and uncompromising way, but would be taken as an alienating slap in the face. It wouldn't be seen as a call to a higher form of direct democracy, but as a rejection of the popular will expressed through a peaceful, honest and democratic election and transfer of power.

Now is the time for a sober reassessment of how to grapple with these new realities. Obama did not merely collect millions of dollars from hundreds of thousands of people -- he established a relationship with them. He organized effectively tens of thousands of volunteers, and turned out tens of millions of people to vote. Why has the left or the anarchist movement been incapable of inspiring, stimulating or organizing anywhere near that level of support, involvement, voluntarism or participation? How can we start to do so?

Obama accurately read the demographic, technological and ideological changes that are taking place in the U.S. and effectively offered himself and his campaign as a vehicle for implementing or realizing some of the aspirations those changes have generated. Obama seized on the opportunity of the latest and deepest capitalist economic crisis to develop a compelling narrative of how a lack of regulation, a lack of attention to the 'middle class,' and an arrogant unilateralism in 'foreign policy' weakened the economy, national security and the fiscal stability of the state. Neither the statist left nor the anarchists are anywhere close to having the intellectual, political or organizational capacity to challenge that narrative or that definition of "change."

Unless and until we engage in a thoroughgoing self-criticism and re-orientation towards an anti-colonialist politics of decolonization as the basis of an effective anti-capitalism, we will be playing with ourselves on the sidelines of history.

We need to put forward and undertake effective organizing strategies, not merely demands, for self-determined direct action against economic and environmental devastation, mass incarceration, militarism, occupation and anti-immigrant hysteria. We need to participate in building self-reliant communities of resistance. It is only oppressed and exploited people who can make revolution, and save the planet by saving ourselves. Go to the 25% of 'homeowners' who owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth and unite them with the homeless. Go to 30% of "War on Terror" veterans who report no earned wage income, and who have massive unemployment rates, and help unite them with GI resisters, with teens resisting recruitment, or with millions of prisoners and their families. Then we can begin to make some history of our own.

The editorial above appears in the November-December 2008 issue of "Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education," Volume 21 Number 6. A free sample copy of the entire issue is available by writing ARA-LA, PO Box 1055, Culver City CA 90232, emailing, or calling 310-495-0299. (Give us your postal mailing address, please.) Subscriptions are $18 a year in the US, $28 institutional/international, payable to Anti-Racist Action at the above address. Comments and responses are most welcome. PDFs of recent back issues are available on-line at

Theses on Hegemony and Imperialism
by Michael McIntyre
Monthly Review/MR Zine
November 15, 2008

1. Hegemony requires a durable historic bloc in control of a state.

2. Different factions of the historic bloc can compete to control a government (bourgeois democracy).

3. Regimes can change (locus of sovereignty, constitution, bureaucratic institutions) without change of historic bloc (passive revolution).

4. A historic bloc can also gradually mutate without change of regime (molecular transformation).

5. Passive revolution and molecular transformation do not necessarily preclude hegemony, but they index flaws in the historic bloc.

6. A stable historic bloc requires both material and cultural hegemony.

7. Material hegemony requires economic sacrifices of a corporate kind by the dominant class in favor of other members of the bloc.

8. Material hegemony constructs a bloc that includes the dominant class, core allies, and disposable allies.

9. Material hegemony can only be sustained if it is able to incorporate new, rising class fractions without losing core old ones.

10. Cultural hegemony is not to be confused with ideological domination, the naturalization of power, or legitime Herrschaft.

11. Culture is not to be confused with a set of agreed-upon propositions (orthodoxy) or unexamined assumptions (doxa)

12. Culture is the set of differences that make a difference, or differentiating differences.

13. Cultural hegemony is primarily a relationship within the historic bloc, not between the dominant and dominated.

14. Cultural hegemony buttresses the historic bloc's concrete phantasy of its fitness to rule.

15. Cultural hegemony requires the absence of invidious or stigmatizing differences within the historic bloc.

16. Gramsci is therefore not a theorist of dominant ideologies.

17. Nor is Gramsci a theorist of superstructures.

18. Least of all is Gramsci a theorist of the revolution manqué.

19. Hegemony is a regulatory, not a statistical norm.

20. Italy very clearly not a case of hegemony.

21. The Jacobins, against whom Gramsci measures the Risorgimento, were not successful hegemons either.

22. The Prison Notebooks appear to contain no sustained historical analysis of a successful hegemonic regime.

23. Hegemonic projects therefore usually fail. The question is how do they fail and how does that failure matter?

24. Imperialism denotes a pact of domination that asymmetrically incorporates a foreign elite or class into the pact of domination.

25. "Pact of domination" is a broader term than "historic bloc." The latter at least implies a hegemonic project.

26. "Foreign" is the trickiest word here.

27. Symmetric incorporation of a transnational dominant class is not imperialism (Robert Cox).

28. Transnational rule through capitalist institutions is not imperialism (Hardt and Negri).

29. "Imperialism" incorporates both formal and informal empire, but this distinction elides some more important distinctions.

30. The locus of sovereignty is the sine qua non of the distinction between formal and informal empire.

31. The source of political initiative is not the same as the locus of sovereignty.

32. It would be difficult to imagine the political initiative resting with the dominated country in a formal empire.

33. But it is not hard to imagine the political initiative resting with a dominant class from the periphery in the informal empire.

34. The dominant class in an imperial pact of domination need not come from the metropole.

35. In a formal empire, the imperial state always extracts revenue from the local populace, but neither the imperial state nor metropolitan capitalists necessarily exploit the local population directly through production.

36. A pact of domination is not a historic bloc when the state is nearly absent and the pact exists only to stabilize a regime of extraction.

37. A thin pact among elites to maintain a state does not incorporate a historic bloc.

38. When imperial pacts of domination include a historic bloc, they can achieve material hegemony, but not cultural hegemony.

39. Imperialism cannot exist without invidious or stigmatizing differentiating differences between the metropole and periphery.

40. Those invidious differences cut right through the historic bloc.

41. Race is the basis for imperial difference.

42. When race can no longer be spoken as the basis for imperial difference, a reified form of "culture" takes its place.

43. The most successful form of imperialism, therefore, is still a form of "failed hegemony": material hegemony without cultural hegemony.

44. Such a historic bloc can last for decades and survive regime change.

45. Such a historic bloc finds it much more difficult to recreate itself in response to changes in class formation.

46. Non-metropolitan members of this historic bloc are cast as culturally subordinate members of the bloc.

47. Their membership is justified on bases that are ad hoc, reified, and mystified.

48. This mystification draws sharp lines around the provisionally included and the reified exclusion of all others.

49. That reified exclusion cordons out new rising class fractions.

50. Old members of the bloc embrace and defend their own mystification.

51. A mystified historic bloc gives rise to a mystified resistance.

52. That resistance, conventionally called millenarian, is in fact sacramental.

53. A sacrament is a sign that accomplishes what it signifies.

54. Sacramental resistance is therefore a resistance that relies on the power of performatives and quasi-performatives.

55. Sacramental resistance can always be trumped by brute force.

56. A fundamental shift in resistance occurs when that resistance becomes rooted in the world of production.

57. The protagonists of such resistance replace the sacramental idiom with the idiom of instrumental action.

58. Resistance rooted in the world of production cannot simply be eliminated.

59. If an imperial pact of domination achieved both material and cultural hegemony, we would stop calling it imperial.

60. Nonetheless, the distinction between imperial domination and national expansion is not post festum (i.e. too late).

[Michael McIntyre is Assistant Professor of International Studies, DePaul University. "Theses on Hegemony and Imperialism" was prepared for the conference "Rethinking Marxism 2006," Amherst, Massachusetts 27 October 27, 2006 and posted on the Morbid Symptoms blog on 2 November 2006.]
Various statements of various Communist and Workers Parties of the World prior to the 10th International meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parities

Crisis Update: Monday, November 24, 2008

Obama names his US Treasury Team”, Monday, November 24, 2008. BBC News.

Another crisis, another guarantee”, by Floyd Norris, Monday, November 24, 2008. NY Times.

Shares up 10% on crisis measures”, Monday, November 24, 2008. BBC News.

Home prices plunge in October”, by Michael M. Gyrnbaum, Monday, November 24, 2008. NY Times.

Bush says Citigroup deal needed to protect system”, by Jennifer Loven, Monday, November 24, 2008. Yahoo News.

APEC upbeat over global downturn”, Sunday, November 23, 2008. BBC News.

APEC leaders make free-trade vow”, Sunday, November 23, 2008. BBC News.

This is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neo-Cons to watch for in Obama’s White House”, by Jeremy Schahill, Thursday, November 20, 2008.,_clintonites_and_neocons_to_watch_for_in_obama's_white_house/ ?page=entire

Taiwan to shop through the blues”, Tuesday, November 18, 2008. BBC News.

Barack the Savior of Capitalism?”, by Michael Hirsh, November 13, 2008. Newsweek Magazine.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Critical Reference Material

Barack Obama and the New Afrikan “National Question”. Are We Free Yet?

Written by Kali Akuno
Saturday, May 24th, 2008

*In Honor of the 83rd Birthday of Malcolm X and the clarity he brought to the New Afrikan revolutionary movement

Since the stunning Iowa victory of Senator Barack Obama in January, a great deal has been said and written about the declining or ongoing significance of “race” and “racial prejudice” in US society and the prospect of a person of Afrikan descent being its President as proof of its substantive social transformation. While this discussion must be regarded as an advance over the conservative moralistic and race-coded discussions that have dominated political debate in the US since the 1980’s, we must acknowledge its critical limitations.

In the main, these discussions individualize the issues and only engage the behavioral and subjective aspects of inequality and oppression. What is fundamentally missing is a critical discussion of the structural and systemic nature of oppression and exploitation within the US and how the Obama campaign “phenomenon” relates to these structures and dynamics.

This paper seeks to investigate the strategic relationship of the Obama campaign to the structural dynamics of oppression and exploitation within the US. In particular, it will focus on the question of New Afrikan or Black national oppression within the US and how the Obama campaign addresses this oppression. It also seeks to address certain strategic questions that progressive forces within the national liberation and multi-national working class movements must struggle with over the course of the next six months in order to ensure that our demands and interests are advanced – regardless of whether Obama wins or loses the Presidential election in November.

Some of the strategic questions this paper seeks to address are:
1. What is Obama’s organic relationship to the New Afrikan or Black nation?
2. What class position, alignment and program does Obama represent?
3. How does Obama’s campaign strategy and program relate to the historic interests and demands of the Black nation?

What is the “National Question”?

In summary, from a dialectical materialist framework, the “national question” refers to a) the unequal structural relationship of colonized and oppressed peoples to international capital, oppressor nations, imperialism, and white supremacy and b) to the historic struggles of colonized and oppressed peoples to liberate themselves from these oppressive systems and forces, either in whole or in part (as not all of these “peoples” or “national liberation” struggles have sought to remove themselves from capitalist relations of production).

The inequalities between peoples produced by capitalism are historic. They are rooted in the development of the capitalist world system through the colonization and/or subjugation of the globe and its non-European peoples by the ruling classes of the western European states (i.e. Portugal, Spain, France, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Italy) beginning in the 15th century.

In order to facilitate the process of capital accumulation they initiated on a world scale, the ruling classes of Europe developed a social system and ideology that divided world production along several lines, some of which predated capitalism, some of which developed specifically to suite capitals historic needs. The pre-capitalist social divisions that were exploited were religion, ethnicity, nationality and patriarchy. The new and fundamentally principal divisions developed by and with capitalism are race and state-bound nationality.

The purpose of exploiting and/or developing these inequalities is a) to facilitate the control of the land, labor, and (material and immaterial) resources of the subject and oppressed peoples and b) to foster competition between and amongst these peoples for the material and social rewards conferred by this exploitative and alienating system.

In the United States the “national question” specifically addresses the structural relationship of colonized, oppressed, and subject peoples to the European settler-colonial project and the imperial national-state apparatus that reinforces it. This project is premised on the genocide and dispossession of indigenous peoples (the First Nations); the enslavement and colonial subjugation of Afrikan peoples and their descendents; and the dispossession and colonial subjugation of Xicanas/os.

The New Afrikan National Question

Throughout the history of the US settler-colonial project New Afrikans have fundamentally been concentrated in the southeastern portion of the projects possessions. The foundation of this concentration was historically premised on the utilization of enslaved Afrikan labor to produce cash-crops like tobacco, cotton, rice, dyes, and sugar, for international consumption. During the early mercantile stages of capitalist development the climatic conditions, soil quality, and strategic location of these possessions facilitated them being incorporated into the world-capitalist system as a zone of mono-crop commodity production. This population concentration and the relations of production exercised in this zone facilitated the formation of the New Afrikan people as a colonized diasporic Afrikan nation subject to will of the European settler-colonial project and its capitalist-imperialist regime between 1619 and 1865.

The mechanization of agriculture in the Southeastern portion of the settler-colonial state in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, combined with an intense program of labor control and repression during this period, displaced millions of New Afrikans. In the search for refuge and jobs, displaced New Afrikans re-concentrated in the urban industrial centers of the East Coast, Mid-West, and West Coast between the 1910’s – 1960’s. In the process of this resettlement, millions of New Afrikans joined the ranks of the industrial working class. However, they did so fundamentally on an unequal structural basis. Exploiting the subject status of New Afrikan people, capital, the labor bureaucracy, and the various European settler communities relegated New Afrikans to the lowest strata’s of the working class, where they were concentrated in the lowest paid and most hazardous occupations that restricted their ability to earn and accumulate. This process of development established the social and economic terms of New Afrikan national oppression throughout the entire expanse of the US settler-colonial project.

Simultaneously, the vast majority of New Afrikans who remained in the New Afrikan national territory (i.e. the Southeastern portion of the settler-colonial project) became subject to a new regime of accumulation and distorted national development. Reacting to the gains made in the industrial “north” by the multi-national working class movement between the 1930’s – 50’s, industrial capital “outsourced” production to New Afrika to exploit the subjugated status of the New Afrikan working class. Although the New Afrikan working class was kept from effectively organizing itself into labor unions, this development did expand the overall circuit of capital within the New Afrikan nation, which helped stimulate the rise of the civil rights movement and its petit bourgeois program of civil inclusion within the legalistic confines of the settler-colonial project.

The limited social and economic gains of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements set the present terms of national development for the New Afrikan nation. New Afrika, like all nations and nationalities, is a class stratified social formation. Like all the peoples and nations subjugated and colonized by the European colonial powers, capital and capitalist social relations have articulated New Afrika’s social development. Throughout it’s nearly 400 years of development, the overwhelming majority of New Afrikans have been and are members of the working classes (either as chattel slaves, peasants, or proletarians). However, a very limited New Afrikan bourgeoisie has existed since at least the mid-19th century. Throughout much of New Afrikan history, this extremely small, typically service based petit-bourgeoisie has tended politically to be more progressive than reactionary in its political outlook and program. In the main this bourgeois class has provided leadership to and support for the primary historical demands of the New Afrikan national liberation movement. In summary these demands have been and are:
1. Land for self-determining or autonomous development and accumulation.
2. Equal treatment before the law of the settler-colonial state.
3. Equitable distribution of the social surplus distributed throughout the settler-colonial state.
4. Self-determining political power.
5. Self-reliant and self-sustaining economic development.
6. Reparations.

However, the accumulation gains (meager as they were) of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements combined with major shifts in the relations of production on a worldwide scale, transformed the relationship of the New Afrikan bourgeoisie to the whole of the New Afrikan nation from the 1970’s to the present. The two dominant features of this process of transformation are a) the phenomenal rise of the comprador bourgeoisie in the 1970’s and 80’s, and b) the rapid transformation of this comprador bourgeoisie into a trans-national bourgeoisie from the 1980’s to the present. As will be argued throughout this paper, this transformation not only changed the overall structural composition of the New Afrikan bourgeoisie, it has forever altered its political worldview and program.

Part 1 – The Interrogations

Interrogating the “National” Question

Barack Obama has asserted on several occasions a) that race doesn’t matter and b) that there is only “one” America.

The implication of these statements, even if only stated for strategic affect, is that the national contradictions within the US settler-colonial project have been negated and resolved. Even a cursory glance at the socio-economic inequalities between the various nationalities in the US reveals that these assertions are blatantly false. However, the unprecedented success of Obama’s campaign and the ground it has broken as it relates to a “Black” candidate appealing to white voters on a national level reveals that something qualitative has changed in this country. The question is what is it?

I argue that the source of the qualitative change lies in the changing composition of class throughout the US settler-colonial project. The advance of global capital and its transformation of production and accumulation throughout the capitalist world-system generated this compositional shift. I posit that the process of transformation popularly called “globalization” has created a trans-national bourgeoisie and growing multi-national or “cosmopolitan” trans-national service and working classes. It is my position that Barack Obama is a member of and represents the political and economic interests of the trans-national bourgeoisie and the social interests of the growing trans-national classes. More specifically, Barack Obama is a product of the New Afrikan trans-national bourgeoisie, which emerged in the main from the comprador or neo-colonial sector of the New Afrikan bourgeois class between the 1970’s to the present.

The fundamental question regarding this new class composition for progressive and revolutionary forces within the New Afrikan national liberation movement is how to strategically relate to Barack Obama and this trans-national bourgeois class? Is this class (or class fraction) a friend or a foe of the New Afrikan national liberation movement? I argue three things:
1. That the material basis for the traditional class collaboration theory of the united and/or national liberation front strategy of oppressed peoples and nations in general, and of its historic application to the New Afrikan national liberation movement in particular, no longer applies.
2. That the left has not developed a general or particular theory of how to strategically relate to these new class forces.
3. As a result, we are presently ill equipped theoretically and programmatically to address the Obama phenomenon and seize the historic opportunities it presents to advance the interests of the national liberation and multi-national working class movements.

How does the trans-national bourgeoisie differ from other bourgeoisie classes, particularly amongst oppressed nations like the New Afrikan nation? The general theory of national liberation maintains that there are two primary fractions of the capitalist or bourgeois class (that is the class that owns and controls the means of production). These are 1) the national, progressive, or “anti-imperialist” bourgeoisie and 2) the comprador or “sell-out”, “Uncle Tom”, or neo-colonial bourgeoisie.

The national or anti-imperialist bourgeoisie is theoretically a progressive force drawn from the organic, inner driven life of the oppressed nation that is materially compelled to promote the development of the productive forces of the nation for its own self-interests and to resist the incursion of imperialism and its suppression of this autonomous national development for these self-same interests.

The comprador or sell-out bourgeoisie is theoretically a reactionary force also drawn from the organic, inner driven life of the oppressed nation, which is conversely compelled to collaborate with imperialism to retard the autonomous or self-determining development of the oppressed nation.

The fundamental difference between these two bourgeois fractions and the transnational fraction is their organic relationship to the oppressed nation. The national and comprador bourgeoisies are dependent upon relations of production within the social and political life of the oppressed nation. Meaning they are both dependent on the working masses of the oppressed nation for their very existence, and hence can be held accountable to the working classes within it in various ways. The trans-national bourgeoisie on the other hand, even though it emerged primarily from the comprador fraction in New Afrika and elsewhere, is not dependent for its existence upon the oppressed nation and its relations of production. The trans-national bourgeoisie, as its name implies, is not a national or national-state bound entity. Its basis for existence lies in exploiting the peoples and working classes of the globe, and it is generally only accountable to or held in check by its fractional partners and rivals (largely through their financial control of various capital markets as exhibited by their deflation of various national-state markets like Mexico in the early-1990’s; Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Korea in the late 1990’s; and Brazil and Argentina at the turn of this century).

Now, while I posit that this understanding of Obama’s positioning helps us to understand his relationship with the New Afrikan nation and its historic demands, I argue that we still do not completely understand at this point, how it relates to his mass appeal to white voters in many instances who are not part of this trans-national formation. This I argue, we as progressives and revolutionaries, have to interrogate further to gain a deeper understanding of its strategic potential.

Interrogating the Campaign

Despite what one may personally think of Obama and the principle merits of his campaign, what we have to acknowledge is that his actions and his campaign are deeply rooted in a particular analysis of how to address national oppression in the US. This analysis is rooted in the “integrationist” and “beloved community” narratives of the New Afrikan petit bourgeois leadership of the Civil Rights Movement and its white liberal bourgeois patrons. The strategy behind this narrative appeal is to highlight the commonalities between the oppressor and oppressed peoples, rather than address their contradictions and differences.

This strategy is rooted in the reality that the road to victory goes through the white electorate and its sheer numerical strength. Based on this reality, I argue there are two historical dynamics that have fundamentally shaped the Obama campaign and its strategy.
1. No Democratic candidate has won a majority of white voters since 1964. For a Democratic candidate to win, they are going to have to win a sizeable portion of, if not the majority of, the white settler vote.
2. The Jesse Jackson campaigns of 1984 and 1988. These two campaigns serve as the primary negative examples for the Obama campaign. They illustrate what NOT to do as an Afrikan candidate running for President, which has determined key aspects of his strategy, particularly his methods of appeal to white and Jewish voters in particular.

Based on these realities, the Obama campaign made a deliberate and strategic choice NOT to base his candidacy in the institutions (like the Black church, civic organizations, unions, and the media) or historic demands (see demands) of the New Afrikan nation. In order to give himself the opportunity to win, Obama must avoid being viewed as a “Black” candidate by any and all means. This explains in part, why he has distanced himself from the likes of Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, and Jeremiah Wright – the “traditional” representatives of the “progressive” New Afrikan bourgeoisie.

However, his campaign has also relied upon the staunch support of the Democratic Party by New Afrikan people. New Afrikans have been the most consistent base of support for the Democratic Party since the 1964 election of Lydon B. Johnson. In fact, New Afrikans have voted consistently for Democratic Presidential candidates in the range of 80 – 90% since 1956. This fact however, should not be surprising. Democratic candidates can and do take the New Afrikan vote for granted because in the main, New Afrikans have no other genuine political option to represent their interests. Knowing this, Obama and his campaign know that they have to make few special appeals to New Afrikans and most of the other oppressed peoples within the “traditional” Democratic Party coalition to garner their votes (certain “Latino” populations it can be argued might constitute exceptions).

Interrogating the Popular Forces

Regardless of how marginalized New Afrikan demands and institutions are to the Obama campaign, the fact is that since Obama’s Iowa victory in January, New Afrikans have turned out in near record numbers to support his campaign for the Democratic nomination. How do we explain this outpouring of support despite his lack of engagement with New Afrikan demands and institutions?

Further, how do we explain his victories in states like Iowa, Kansas, Oregon, Colorado, Connecticut, Nebraska, Vermont, and Wyoming where the vast majority of the electorate are white settlers who are not substantively incorporated into the trans-national nexus of production?

Part of the answer I believe lies in the trans-national class developments spoken of earlier. The other part of the answer I believe lies in the popular response to the last 7 years of the Bush regime. As a direct result of the failed occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the accumulation of unprecedented debt, the partisan management of the economy, the exposed lies and deceit, and the hostile, belligerent, and dictatorial “style” of management, this election is in many ways serving as a popular anti-Bush referendum.

The popular, multi-national, multi-class forces engaging the Obama campaign are clearly clamoring for a change of management. This was first evidenced in the elections of 2006 and has been further illustrated in several off-term Congressional elections in Illinois, Louisiana, and Mississippi where Democrats took elections in long-held Republican districts. Barack Obama, for reasons of personal history (including his newness to Capital Hill), style (particularly his cultivated charisma and flair for the optimal, however programmatically empty it may be), and strategy (including a tacit exploitation of cultural stereotypes about New Afrikan people being good listeners and empathizers) has thus far demonstrated that he would be a profoundly different manager than either of his remaining Democrat or Republican rivals.

What I think progressives and revolutionaries have to be clear on in relating to these popular forces is that a clamoring for a change of management does not equate to a clamoring for a fundamental change of program. It is on the question of program that I would argue that the national question strongly reenters the fry and could perhaps fracture the broad multi-national, multi-class alliance thus far mobilized by the Obama campaign.

For instance, the historic demands of New Afrikan people are not going to go away without a revolutionary transformation of the US settler-colonial state. In fact, as the mortgage crisis deepens over the course of the next 2 to 4 years, some of the demands, like economic development and reparations perhaps, are only going to become stronger.

Likewise, the trans-national capital interests supporting Obama’s campaign have no intentions of stopping their accumulation mission. Rather, they are trying to expand it through the application of a friendlier management approach of their primary regulating instruments – namely the US military, treasury, and Federal Reserve Bank. And further, many of the white service and working class voters who are supporting Obama are not demanding an end to imperialism and globalization, but a return to the high standards of living they are accustomed and feel entitled to as settlers, i.e. “Americans”.

Interrogating the Moment

This is an extremely unique moment in human history, one that should not be slept on by progressives and revolutionaries anywhere, let alone in the US.

There are three general things that make this moment particularly unique:
1. The rapid collapse of the ecological systems that support human civilization as a direct consequence of the capitalist world-systems need for constant growth and expansion and its dependence on a petro-chemical driven system of mass industrial production to stimulate and sustain this growth.
2. The declining hegemony (in both its geo-political and Gramscian connotations) of the US imperial state and the shift to a multi-polar geo-political world order.
3. The comparative weakening of the US national economy and the deepening of trans-national production and accumulation.

In order to be properly contextualized, the Obama campaign and corresponding “phenomenon” must be situated as a direct response to this unique moment in history. As has been argued earlier, his campaign is clearly a factional response, one fundamentally serving the interests of the trans-national bourgeoisie and its means and instruments of accumulation and rule. The two fundamental questions stemming from this assessment are, 1) is this class and the alliance of forces it has amassed strong enough to contain the contradictions it has unleashed and 2) can it continue its accumulation program and political project without a major transformation away from petro-chemical dependent production?

I argue that the answer to both questions is emphatically, NO. Returning to our focus of analyzing the Obama campaign in relation to the New Afrikan national question, there are several examples that clearly illustrate why.

The trans-national program of accumulation is fundamentally driven by a finance driven post-Fordist, intelligence dominated system of production. The intense mechanization of this production regime is rapidly dislocating millions, if not billions, of workers, worldwide. The New Afrikan working class was one of the first and most devastated sectors of the international proletariat hit by this accumulation regime. Since the 1970’s, millions of New Afrikans have been economically dislocated and physically displaced by this transformation, which is only set to worsen with the crisis of finance (witnessed with the mortgage crisis that robbed millions of New Afrikans of their merge capital equity) and the deepening of global production. What is also clear is that the options of absorbing this surplus labor into the low-wage service economy or warehousing (i.e. incarcerating) it, is reaching its political and financial limits. The likely outcomes of the escalating crisis are:
1. More intense economic dislocation
2. More intense physical displacement and forced relocation (New Orleans being a clear precedent)
3. More intense and concentrated New Afrikan resistance
4. An escalation of the demands made on the state and capital by New Afrikans

As a representative of the trans-national bourgeoisie, its production regime, and the US imperial state, how would Obama be compelled to address these contradictions? I argue that he would fundamentally have to exercise the Nixon option as it related to the New Afrikan nation (and other oppressed nations within and beyond US national-state boarders). Plainly stated the Nixon option is the calculated employment of “carrot and the stick” stratagems. Obama’s carrot would be to ameliorate or buy off a sectors of the New Afrikan bourgeoisie and working class by offering a set of concessions, primarily in the realm of loan forgiveness (for the mortgage crisis) and job training programs (more than likely for “Green Jobs” and the like). The stick would be the strategic application of state repression against resistant and non-compliant forces within the New Afrikan working class. The purpose of the Nixon option now, as during his Presidency in the late 60’s and early 70’s, would be to fracture the political unity of the New Afrikan nation against the trans-national bourgeoisie and its program.

Staying with our analysis, it is also clear that the Green transformation option is a dead end for the trans-national bourgeoisie and its program. Although elements of the trans-national bourgeoisie are clearly leading the charge for the development of “green” capitalism, it is not, and in fact cannot, advocate for the transformation of scale needed to curb the production of greenhouse gases to stall or reverse climate change without bankrupting itself. As a result, it cannot and will not generate enough “Green Jobs” to reincorporate the millions of New Afrikans that have been economically dislocated by trans-national production.

Yet in still, what we can posit with confidence at this moment is that capital is going to go to extreme lengths to extend its life and barbaric domination over human civilization. Conversely, as the events of the last 7 years have illustrated, we should also expect to see an escalation and diversification of resistance.

Part 2 - Outlining a Framework to Seize the Moment

So, how should the New Afrikan and multi-national liberation and working class movements strategically engage this historic campaign and critical moment?

One of the first priorities of engagement is theoretical development. One of the principle things the New Afrikan and multi-national left movements must figure out is how to engage the trans-national bourgeoisie. As stated earlier, as of now, our movements do not have a general, let alone united, perspective on this question. In fact, I would argue that most of our forces are still utilizing the traditional united or national liberation front theory to determine their positions and courses of action.

I argue that because the trans-national bourgeoisie cannot be easily pressured by the national liberation and working class movements within the US settler-colonial project, these movements should not invest the majority of their time and energy engaging an “inside” strategy of critical engagement with the Obama campaign. I argue that thinking strategically, these forces should concentrate their energy on building autonomous political movements and institutions (like the Reconstruction Party) within the US national-state that seek to build a broad multi-national united front of oppressed peoples and workers that makes a principle of building strategic links and alliances with the autonomous national liberation, international working class, global justice, and environmental movements throughout the world. As the trans-national bourgeoisie thinks and acts globally, we must also think and act globally to advance our own interests.

However, as the vast majority of our peoples and forces are going to support the Obama campaign and potential Presidency, in the short-term we tactically have to invest a critical degree of time and energy engaging them, if only to try and win a considerable portion of these forces to a left perspective and program. And it is here that we need theoretical clarity. How do we offer a radical critique of Obama, his class position, interests, and program without alienating ourselves from the popular masses? How do we move these forces to engage in autonomous self-determining action outside of the Democratic Party? How do we educate and move the white settler forces mobilized by Obama to actively engage an anti-racist, anti-imperialist perspective and program?

To these ends, a hard-pressed counter campaign against Obama I would argue is not the most effective or productive way to engage these popular forces from this point forward. Rather, I think the multi-national left must seek to highlight the contradictions of Obama’s campaign and program through a combined “outside-inside” strategy that seeks to advance a coherent set of principle demands and push him and the forces he has mobilized sharply to the left. Again, I think the formation of an autonomous “outside” political force should be primary. However, what is perhaps most tactically critical is that both the “outside” and “inside” forces aggressively promote and propagate these common demands; vigorously dialogue and debate in a principled, non-sectarian manner; and openly communicate and collaborate whenever and wherever possible.

Some of the primary strategic demands that must be raised are drawn from the historic demands of oppressed peoples, particularly New Afrikans, combined with the demands of the multi-national working class, women’s, and environmental justice movements. The combination of these demands will expose not only the limits of the trans-national bourgeoisie and its production regime, but of US imperialism itself and its inability to make good on its democratic promises, either at “home” or abroad. Some of the most critical of these demands include :
1. The full and immediately ending of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
2. The full and unqualified support for Palestinian self-determination and the Right to Return.
3. The full and immediate Right of Return for the more than 250,000 New Afrikans displaced from their homelands in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
4. The repeal of the “war on drugs” and mandatory minimum sentencing that has resulted in the imprisonment of more than 2.5 million people, the vast majority of whom are New Afrikans.
5. The full support for the rights of women and the LGBTQ communities, including full support for initiatives like the Equal Rights Amendment and “gay” marriage.
6. The full and immediate repeal of the various Patriot Acts and other undemocratic anti-terror laws and Executive Orders.
7. The full, complete, and unconditional amnesty for the millions of migrant and displaced workers in the US.
8. The full and unqualified commitment to reduce the carbon imprint of the US by 80% or more by 2016 to stem the production of climate changing greenhouse gases.
9. The commitment to the public financing of alternative solar, wind, aquatic, and organic energy to sustain the economy, and the elimination of all nuclear energy and hard metal extraction.
10. Reparations for Indigenous, New Afrikan, Xicano, Puerto Rican, Hawaiian and other peoples and nations colonized by the US (including Guam, Alaskan natives, etc.).

By Way of Conclusion

Although the road ahead may not be clear, and the outcome of our actions far from certain, the New Afrikan national liberation movement, and the movements of all oppressed and exploited peoples, must seize this critical moment. The survival of humanity demands that we must act, and act in our own interests. Barack Obama nor any other bourgeois messiah is going to liberate us. We must liberate ourselves.

Reference Materials and Resources

1. “The New Imperialism: Crisis and Contradictions in North/South Relations”, by Robert Biel. Zed Books, 2000.
2. “Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Peril of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice”, by Christopher Alan Bracey. Beacon Press, 2008.
3. “We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century”, by Rod Bush. New York University Press, 1999.
4. “Locked in Place: State-building and late industrialization in India”, by Vivek Chibber. Princeton University Press, 2003.
5. “Reviving the Developmental State? The Myth of the ‘National Bourgeoisie’”, by Vivek Chibber. Printed in Socialist Register 2005, edited by Leo Panitch and Colin Leys. Published by Monthly Review Press, 2004.
6. “A Brief History of Neoliberalism”, by David Harvey. Oxford University Press, 2005.
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11. “Transnational Conflicts: Central America, Social Change, and Globalization”, by William I. Robinson. Published by Verso, 2003.
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14. “Double Trouble: Black Mayors, Black Communities, and the Call for a Deep Democracy”, by J. Phillip Thompson, III. Oxford University Press, 2006.
15. “A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka and Black Power Politics”, by Komozi Woodard. University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

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