|[This was originally published in The
Barack Obama is creating a buzz on the political scene such as we have
not seen in a long time - particularly among Black voters and youth. He
is forging an electoral grassroots movement that is channeling a lot of
the discontent by the American people with the powers-that-be.
Speaking in San Antonio, Texas, on the eve of that state's primary election,
Obama sharply denounced the “Bush-McCain course, which threatens a century
of war in Iraq, a course where we will spend billions of dollars a week
that could be used to rebuild our roads and our schools, to take care
of our veterans and send our children to college.”
Obama went on to decry “four more years of tax breaks for the rich, with
the argument that we should give more to those with the most and let the
chips fall where they may ... in a course that further divides Wall Street
from Main Street.” He compared
Hillary Clinton to John McCain, and said that both are good at “giving
speeches but not at providing solutions.”
Responding to Hillary, he said, “There is nothing empty about the call
for affordable healthcare, or jobs at a living wage, or secure pensions,
or ensuring the birth-right of every child in this country to live a full,
healthy and safe life.” And echoing the Rev. Jesse Jackson, he concluded,
“Our task is to set the country on a new course, to keep hope alive, to
keep promise alive!”
All this sounds fine and good and many people across the country are
buying into it. Obama is viewed as an outsider, a new kid on the block,
someone who just might be able to shake things up. Working people and
the poor are hurting; they are anguished. They are hoping against hope
that Obama will make a difference.
What Are Obama's Policy Solutions? Obama's message for change is compelling,
but the question people need to be asking is: how does Obama expect to
do all these wonderful things when all his actual policy solutions point
in the opposite direction?
Take the question of rebuilding our roads and schools, taking care of
our veterans and sending our children to college: How can this be done
without drastically slashing the war budget and redirecting our priorities
toward meeting human needs? It can't. Is Obama proposing cutting the war
budget or curbing the militarism and interventionist policies of the U.S. government? Not for a
Obama is a hawk when it comes to Israel,
Iran and U.S. policy in the Middle
East. His big objection is that Bush did not go after the “real terrorist
states.” Obama called for a nuclear attack, if necessary, against Iran and supports U.S.
intervention in Pakistan,
if necessary, to dislodge Al Qaeda and to prevent “rogue states” from
building nuclear weapons. His statements, public and widely distributed,
were praised highly by major sectors of the military-industrial complex.
Obama simply wants to shift Bush's “endless war” to other hot spots around
the world. How about providing jobs for all at a living wage? Can this
be done without breaking with all the corporate “free trade” and privatization
agreements? It can't. Is Obama proposing to break with these agreements?
Not at all.
Obama, like Clinton, is a supporter
of NAFTA, CAFTA and “free trade.” Both Clinton and Obama talk about including
workers' and environmental rights in these “free trade” agreements - which
is nothing more than a sweetener to get working people to swallow the
bitter pill of “free trade.” Such clauses do not change the anti-worker
and anti-environment character of these treaties. Obama walked out of
the room during the U.S.- Peru FTA vote in Congress
last summer - so as not to upset his labor constituents - but he praised
the bill in the media, just as he praised “free trade” in his private
meetings with Canadian political leaders prior to the Ohio
primary. On this score, there is no difference between him and Hillary.
How about providing healthcare for all? Can this be done without removing
the private insurance companies from the healthcare equation and instituting
a single-payer healthcare system? It can't. Is Obama proposing to do this?
Not at all.
Obama calls for a “free market” solution that keeps the HMOs in the driver's
seat, maintaining the exorbitant administrative costs and profits in an
industry that is sicker by the day. He does not propose “individual mandates,”
as Hillary does, but his “universal message” would barely place a band-aid
on a system that needs fundamental reform - through a Canadian-style,
single-payer system. And how about the “birth-right of every child in
this country” to have a decent future? Should this not also apply to all
immigrant children (and to their parents) - whether legal or “illegal”?
Yet both Obama and Hillary voted to extend the Wall of Shame along the
border. They support militarizing the border, employer sanctions and other
such repressive measures against undocumented immigrants. They are strongly
opposed to full and immediate legalization/amnesty. And how about closing
the gap between Wall Street and Main
Street? Can this be done without making the rich pay their fair share
of taxes (not simply ending the Bush tax cuts) and radically redistributing
the wealth in this country? It can't.
Obama says we have to go beyond race and class, but he offers only a
general promise for change, in partnership with Corporate America. But
can this corporate-dominated economic and political system be “humanized”
by pleas from Obama for change? Can racial oppression and class exploitation
be overcome in alliance with the bosses, in the framework of the two-party
system, and with vague pleas for change? Obviously not.
How Can We Promote Real Change?
Many prominent political activists have gotten behind Barack Obama, arguing
that giving “critical support” to Obama is the best way to hold him accountable
and push him to the left.
We disagree. The Democratic Party, as history has demonstrated time and
again, is the graveyard of all social protest movements. Pointing working
people toward the Democratic Party, however “critically,” is to foster
dangerous illusions in the institutional framework of U.S. imperialism and to mislead
folks as to how progressive change can be brought about.
If the Democrats don't self-destruct at their upcoming Denver convention
over the issue of “super-delegates” or what to do about the Michigan and
Florida primaries - and if Obama is actually the Democratic nominee and
is then elected president - one cannot exclude the possibility that he
could be forced to go further than his program or even intentions would
suggest in addressing some of the concerns of the American people.
But this pressure won't come from folks caught up in the workings of
the Democratic Party. The only possibility of pushing Obama to address
some of the people's needs is if - and ONLY if - there is an INDEPENDENT
movement built to advance consciously the issues that are on the front-burner
for the people of this country - particularly for the Black people and
youth, who are Obama's main constituency.
It was the Civil Rights Movement, after all, that won the Civil Rights
Act - not LBJ, as Hillary would have us believe. We even won this with
a Republican Chief Justice.
If Obama is elected president, this electoral movement, with its heightened
expectations and illusions, is bound to come up against, and clash with,
the realities of the policies implemented by Obama. Supporters of the
Democratic Party will no doubt tell us - as they have done countless times
in the past with other Democratic Party presidents - to give Obama more
time and a wider political space to act, and not to push him prematurely
(so as not to awaken the Republican sharks waiting to attack him).
We will be told - including by many of Obama's “critical supporters”
- to be patient, and then more patient, while at that very same time Obama
puts into place the corporatist-type structures used so craftily by the
ruling parties and institutions in Europe in the recent period (both of
the right and of the so-called left) to co-opt, silence, demobilize and
ultimately demoralize the working class and social protest movements.
Central Importance of Cynthia McKinney Campaign
This is why Cynthia McKinney's “Power to the People” candidacy so important
today? Brother Larry Pinkney, an editorial board member of Black Commentator,
explained it this way:
“Sister Cynthia McKinney has both the credibility and the capacity
to truly excite the people in a substantive vs. superficial fashion;
and can inspire people to see that they themselves / we ourselves are
the only viable solution to the Republicrats and their flawed and corrupt
electoral system. We must move the people from being excited about meaningless
superficialities that do nothing to address systemic change - to being
excited about substance that is the catalyst for systemic change.”
McKinney's independent campaign
is needed to lay the groundwork for building an independent political
movement for real change - a movement that needs a political instrument:
a Reconstruction Party.
This sentiment was expressed concisely by Washington, D.C., activist Netfa
Freeman on his blog:
“We need to be about the business of thinking and acting outside the
box and building political parties that are outside the box, parties
that serve the economic, social, and political interests of the masses
of people. This is precisely why the candidacy of former U.S. Congresswoman
Cynthia McKinney for President and the Power To The People Coalition
is of such enormous importance for the present and for the future. This
coalition is all about collectively laying the foundation for systemic
change - which is the only way that we can enjoy real change.”
On January 26, a meeting of the National Organizing Committee for a Reconstruction
Party took place in New Orleans with the participation of delegates from seven states,
mainly from the South. The meeting produced a powerful Draft Manifesto
for a Reconstruction Party that can be accessed by visiting the website
of Sister Cynthia McKinney at www.allthingscynthiamckinney.com.
This Draft Manifesto, which is still a work-in progress, puts forward
very clear solutions to the front-burner needs and demands of the people
in this country - particularly for African Americans and all other oppressed
sectors of society.
The time is now. We urge all unionists and political activists to:
- read and distribute widely this Draft Manifesto for a Reconstruction
- get behind the Cynthia McKinney “Power to the People” presidential
- contact the coordinators of the National Organizing Committee for
a Reconstruction Party in New
Orleans by writing to - The
Editors of The Organizer Newspaper.