is the concluding section of a three-part series - Read
moments and revolutionary ruptures
a revolution is defined as a sudden overthrow of the existing
social, economic and political order. But these revolutions (such
as the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Iranian Revolution of 1979,
the Chinese Revolution of 1949, the Russian Revolution of 1917,
the French Revolution of 1789 or the Haitian Revolution of 1804
etc) arose out of moments when the ideas supporting or propping
up the old order had become unsustainable. Usually there are events
that mark the maturation of a revolutionary process but this process
begins in the womb of the old society. The maturation to the critical
break from the old takes place when the ideas, organization and
leadership of the new rising forces can decisively remove the
old order from political and social power.
example, in the case of the French Revolution, the principal ideas
of feudal absolute monarchy based on the total centralization
of power in the hands of the Bourbon kings had been overtaken
by the accumulation of capital and the rise of egalitarian demands
from below. This process gave rise to the ideas of liberty, equality
and fraternity. There were theoreticians articulating the ideas
which for that moment were revolutionary. The bourgeoisie and
the working class temporarily unified to overthrow the outmoded
feudal structures and leaders. Because of the weakness of the
working classes (and their theoreticians), the revolution was
hijacked by militarists such as Napoleon and channeled into imperialistic
pursuits. The most outrageous aspect of this imperial pursuit
in the name of revolution was the failed attempt to re-establish
slavery in Haiti. Scholars in Europe who celebrate the revolution
in France failed to link this weakness of the French revolution
when it came to Africans and the crimes against the peoples of
second but more profound example of the revolutionary moment is
from Cuba. The old ideas of semi- feudal land ownership (latifundia),
white supremacy, cultural repression through the church in alliance
with imperialism had been overtaken by the demand for real independence
in Cuba since 1933. Though the outmoded ideas of the plantation
owners had worn thin, a brutal dictatorship was kept in power
by the military (with the support of the government of the United
States). From 1955, with the assault on the Moncada barracks,
Fidel Castro sought to clarify the ideas of independence and reconstruction
in Cuba. His speech, “History Will Absolve Me” served as the intellectual
and ideological marker for consolidating the revolution and defeating
the landed property owners in Cuba. Che Guevara deepened the theory
of revolution and independence by linking the fortunes of Revolution
in Cuba to a world wide revolution.
its temporary extension into the Soviet orbit in the period of
the cold war, the ideological commitment to revolutionary change
had such deep roots in Cuba that the Cuban leadership and the
Cuban experiment survived to serve as the forerunner for the modern
revolutionary moment in the Americas. Che Guevara had advanced
and supported one of the central principles of Ubuntu when he
declared that, “the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings
years after the victory of the Cuban revolution, the peoples of
the Americas are at the cusp of a different revolutionary moment,
one moment where there are new political movements in the Caribbean
and Latin America which are again raising the question of revolution
and revolutionary change. The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas
(ALBA) is only the embryonic form of this new movement towards
revolutionary rupture. In these discussions from Venezuela, Bolivia
and other parts of Latin America, there is an entirely new feature
that has been brought into the discussion. That is the role of
the ideas of the indigenous peoples in shaping the new political
cultures that can emerge out of the challenges to the old ideas
of domination over nature and dominion over other human beings.
In these discussions, it is no longer possible to write and deliberate
on revolution as if the indigenous and former enslaved are non-persons.
The debate on revolution involves a fundamental transformation
in people’s consciousness about the worth of all humans and radical
feminist consciousness has deepened the understanding that revolutionary
ideas must challenge patriarchal ideas about the state and human
proposition is that we are not speaking of revolution in the traditional
sense today; we are talking about fundamental transformations.
These are transformations at the levels of consciousness, transformations
at the level of material organization, transformations at the
level of gender relations and transformation at the level of our
relationship to the planet Earth and the Universe. Already in
the case of traditional politics, the new networking technologies
(Web 2.0) has empowered new social forces. This new form of self
mobilization and self organization from the bottom is transforming
the political process and the nature of political struggles. These
transformations in consciousness are taking place at the same
time when the old ideas that legitimated capitalist exploitation
are now in disarray.
can be stated that, globally, the collapse of capitalist ideological
hegemony is taking place in slow and imperceptible forms. Inside
the United States the conjuncture is still dominated by the counter-revolutionary
ideas and the counter-revolutionary impulse outlined in the first
part of this three part series. The peace and justice activists
have punctured the chokehold that was held by the neo-conservative
forces. Briefly, there are numerous areas in the US political
and economic life where one can discern the exhaustion of the
old ideas. There are many but we want to highlight five.
in September 2008, Alan Greenspan testified before Congress that
the old monetarist ideas were wrong, it was a public admission
of the failure of the neo-liberal economic mode of organization.
Both liberal ad neo-liberal economic thinking and organization
are now going through a deep crisis. The stimulus package of the
Obama administration is a profound acknowledgement that only massive
state intervention can save capitalism in the United States. Gone
are the ideas of the supremacy of the freedom for unlimited accumulation
by the capitalists without regulation (called Reageanomics and
practiced to the hilt by Wall St.) This has collapsed like a house
of cards and the financial bubble is having a cascading effect
on all aspects of social and economic life. There is now a desperate
attempt to save capitalism through nationalization without accountability
and control by workers, communities and the mass of producers.
and tied to the first is the idea that the US society can consume
the wealth and resources of the planet by the militarization of
the planet earth (with a promise of domination from space – Star
wars) and the unlimited expansion of wars and military bases.
(This expansion had been justified in the name of rolling back
Communism in Reagan’s time and in the name of the ‘war on terrorism’
in the Bush era).
Third is the restriction on scientific research and creativity
by Newtonian concepts of hierarchy and conservative religious
values. The choices for the US citizens in this Newtonian hierarchy
led to the bottling up of the vast potential offered by grasping
complexity and nuances of quantum mechanics. In its crudest forms,
the government imposed a choice on the citizen to pick ‘good over
evil’ (Ronald Reagan) and the slogan of ‘you are either with us
or against us’ (George W. Bush) The emphasis on finance, Insurance
and real estate reinforced the belief that science and scientific
appreciation was secondary to greed and speculation.
fourth is the end of the fordist consumer-led economy that is
destroying the planet earth. Millions of citizens are aware that
there must be a fundamental break with the US “Affluent Society”
model that is exacerbating global warming. In 1959, economist
John Kenneth Galbraith argued that the power of advertising and consequent over-consumption had created an artificial
demand for goods and services above the individual’s basic needs.
realization that the existing ‘American way of life’ is unsustainable
is at the pivot of the breakdown of the old order. It is here
where the youths are being most creative in their opposition to
environmental racism and environmental destruction.
justice and green consciousness are challenging old ideas of those
who trumpet the development of the productive forces. The linearity
of certain Marxists has also been challenged by this moment.
fifth element of the old order was the effort to entrench the
most sexist, racist and eugenic ideas to support masculinist and
racist government policies at all levels. This primordial ordering
principle of US society precedes the above four and there are
pressures from everywhere to shatter the chauvinistic assumptions
embedded in US philosophies of democracy and freedom. The election
of Barack Obama has not changed the racist or sexist structure
of the US society, but it demonstrated that the permanent division
between the working peoples cannot be supported to maintain the
hegemony of the capitalist class.
elements of the revolutionary moment have not reached the climactic
stage in the society. But these challenges are apparent to the
working peoples and the contradictions are breaking out at a pace
where the old media and instruments of psychological warfare and
mind control cannot control the information conveyed to the citizens.
What is missing so far is the clarity of the revolutionary ideas,
the new forms of organization and the resolute leadership that
can mobilize the energies of the youth for a prolonged popular
struggle for a fundamental break with the old politics, economics
and militarism that is associated with U. S exceptionalism.
tapped into the deep yearning for change away from the counter
revolutionary period and a glimpse of the revolutionary energy
was seen on the mall in Washington on January 20. Obama himself
dug deep into the revolutionary memories and ideas of Tom Paine
in order to inspire the millions who wanted to make change real.
Obama was being pushed by the momentum of the demands for peace
Is the old left old?
of the many limitations of the US left in their discussion
so far is that they do not completely relate the complexities
and multi-dimensional layers of the collapse to the unsustainability
of capitalism as a system. While making very good statements
on the nature of the sub-prime crisis, there has not been a direct
challenge to the hegemony of the capitalist class over the ideology
and politics of the white working class. Racism had been the weapon
of choice of the ruling class and the Obama campaign has opened
one new possibility for all workers, black whites, Latinos, First
Nation and Asian to see that they have a common goal in challenging
capitalism. Without a historic base in the white working class
movement, this old left do not see themselves as agents of change
and have become the fiercest critics of the Obama transition,
even before Obama was inaugurated. Moreover, while championing
class struggles there are some sections of the left who have been
blind to the historical consequences of white nationalism and
institutionalized racism. By accepting the determinism of the
idea of historical materialism, some internalize the idea that
European stages of growth are necessary for revolutionary transformations.
Implicit in this worship of Europe is the reverence for aspects
of white supremacy. These progressive forces from the white left
forgot the adage of Marx written at the time of the US Civil War,
“Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin when in the
black it is branded.” Will the white left combat whiteness and
the new slavery-like conditions in the twenty first century? At
the same time, will the black revolutionary move from developing
a black agenda to the point of building an inclusive revolutionary
and anti-racist agenda?
role of the anti-capitalist forces in this period is to be able
to build new politics, new ideas and new networks, building on
the ideas of self-organization and self-mobilization that had
grown inside the Obama campaign for change. It is here where the
alliances between the peace movements, the workers movement, the
environmental justice movement, the Transgender movement, the
anti-racist movement, the women’s movement and the reparations
movement have room for building new militants and new sites of
politics beyond elections. Such an alliance will be necessary
to hold the Obama administration accountable, building as a new
force inside the USA while aligning with the peace movement globally.
This movement must continue to champion the call for the reduction
of the US military budget and the dismantling of the offensive
military planning of the war on terror. The US working class has
no stomach for the kind of patriotism that supported the Patriot
Act and the illegal invasion of Iraq. There must be intensified
work in the peace movement for the United States to withdraw from
of the weakest aspects of the old left is their failure to embrace
the call for repair and reparation. In the United States, the
white left has consciously distanced itself from the reparations
movement. Reparations involve atonement, healing, justice, reconciliation
and the repairing of what has been broken. In essence, the reparations
movement requires a break with past crimes of capitalism and racism.
Like the Civil Rights movement of 40 years ago, this reparations
movement is broad with a progressive wing working for the overthrow
of capitalism and one wing that consider reparations in relation
to monetary compensation. In reality, monetary compensation is
only one form of repair. The others are restitution, rehabilitation
and guarantees of non-repetition. It is on the question of the
guarantee of non-repetition where the left and revolutionary forces
of the African descendants have joined with indigenous peoples
and other oppressed peoples to redress the crimes of colonialism,
slavery, imperialism and occupation.
ruling class in the United States has cut off the people from
the international discussions of the World Conference against
Racism. It is significant hat no section of the white left in
the United States has supported the call for the United States
government to re-engage the forthcoming second round of the World
Conference against Racism to be convened in Geneva in April 2009.
In the absence of a large call from the US left for this new
revival of anti-racism globally, the conservative forces in Congress
is seeking to block US involvement in this important meeting.
Desmond Tutu of South Africa called on Barack Obama to apologize
to the people of Iraq for the illegal invasion and occupation.
Tutu is calling on decent humans in the USA to embrace the politics
of truth and healing, basically calling for the politics of ubuntu.
As if in a response to Desmond Tutu, Obama declared in his inauguration
address that, “we will not apologize for our way of life nor will
we waver in its defense.” It is the position of this author that
the revolutionary moment is held back by the absence of healing
in the US society. This healing will only be possible when there
is public recognition and apology for the genocide of the first
nation peoples and the enslavement of Africans.
Ubuntu and the revolutionary
and repair are elements of the philosophy of Ubuntu especially
in relation to atonement, healing, justice, reconciliation and
the repairing of what has been broken. The call by Archbishop
Tutu for reparations joins with the world wide campaign of the
reparations, peace and justice movement to accelerate a new vision
of politics that is based on human cooperation and solidarity.
It is important here to reiterate the core principles of Ubuntu.
These are forgiveness, willingness to share, reconciliation and
love. Earlier, we acknowledged both the contribution of Che Guevara
and Martin Luther King to the principles of Ubuntu.
exists in all languages and cultures but was suppressed by the
individualistic creed of ‘modernity.’ Ubuntu is now needed to
halt the headlong rush to deepen the hierarchies and divisions
between humans in the era of artificial intelligence and biotechnology.
Martin Luther King Jr. had warned against the deepening of materialism
in US society at the time of the Vietnam war. In his speech Beyond
Vietnam he had warned,
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the
glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation,
it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists
of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and
South America, only to take the profits out with no concern
for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This
is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed
gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just."
The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach
others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution
of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war:
"This way of settling differences is not just." This
business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our
nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous
drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending
men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped
and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom,
justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to
spend more money on military defense than on programs of social
uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world,
can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There
is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from
reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will
take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing
to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised
hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
is the brotherhood and sisterhood of all that is at the heart
of the principles of Ubuntu. How can the revolutionary ideas of
Martin Luther King be mobilized to heal the society from spiritual
death? Ubuntu seeks to inspire spiritual renewal that is based
on a sense of community among human beings. Ubuntu is also based
on the principles of revolutionary non-violence. The violence
of capitalism on a day to day basis has alerted revolutionaries
to the reality that the past revolutions that were based on armed
struggles consumed the revolutionaries. Violence in the revolution
can now only be supported in the realm of self-defence. Ubuntu
is breaking out, but at the economic level, the ideas of sharing
and cooperation has not yet reached the old left that believed
in the need for the development of the productive forces so that
the class contradictions can become clear.
Whose Stimulus and whose
Obama has no organization at the moment that is independent of
the electoral machine. Currently there is no revolutionary movement
in the United States that can politically challenge the old ruling
classes. But in the case of the financial crisis, even before
his inauguration on January 20, there was unprecedented state
intervention. Newspaper headlines are now routinely using the
term nationalization. On Sunday January 25, the principal mouth
piece of the ruling class the New York Times noted in the article,
“Nationalization Gets a New, Serious Look,’ noted that,
The argument in favor of nationalization, even a brief nationalization
of a few months or years, is straightforward: It might be the
only way to pull America’s largest financial institutions out
of the downward spiral that makes it enormously difficult to
raise the capital they need to keep operating.
Right now, many banks are reluctant to write off their bad
debts, and absorb huge losses, unless they can first raise enough
capital to cushion the blow. But they cannot attract that capital
without first purging their balance sheets of the toxic assets.
Japan’s experience proved the dangers of that downward swirl;
the economy stagnated, new lending ground to a halt and the
country’s diplomatic clout shrank with its balance sheets.
Nationalization could pull the banks out of that dive, at
least temporarily, as the government injected capital, hired new
managers and ordered a restart to lending. But some Republicans
who bit their tongues when President Bush ordered huge interventions
in the market would charge that Mr. Obama was steering America
there are disputes between sections of the governing classes about
the merits of nationalization there is not yet the discussion
among the progressive forces about accountability, transparency
and control of the nationalized entities by the working peoples.
Even though the large scale financial institutions have been global
in their operations, these corporate entities survived under the
military and political umbrella of the UN national institutions.
financially institutions had developed a model of risk, speculation
and ‘profit making ‘that sought to lead citizens to believe that
these entities were ‘too big to fail.’ In terms of an economic
system, the thinking behind the financial oligarchy was for
a model for profit making, that while using the real economy’s
assets, actually separated itself from the real economy. It is
as if the banks were no longer satisfied with making profits by
being linked to the real economy. They wanted higher profits and
developed a model of profit making that separated its growth,
from the growth of the real economy, but still allowed it to use
the assets of the real economy. Now that their profit model has
collapsed, because of the weight of it was too heavy for the assets
of the real economy, the separate nature of their model prevents
them from being able to go backward in time and use a model for
profit making that reconnects them to the assets of the real economy.
economic crisis offers an opportunity to bring the financial sector
under the control of the working people so that there is a clear
relationship between the financial services sector and the real
needs of food, clothing, shelter, health care and relevant education.
Banks and financial instituitions must be controlled by democratic
representatives to serve the needs of society, not for society
to serve the needs of bankers. State intervention and nationalization
in and of itself can strengthen the capitalist classes unless
there is a vigorous demand from below for control by those with
a vested interest in the reconstruction of society for the needs
of human beings.
Summers and the current crop of economic advisers want to steer
the policies of the Obama administration in ways to perpetuate
the very same structure and profit models used by the banks..
But like Robert Rubin, Henry Paulson and Geithner, this vision
is limited and short-sighted. It is a vision that places currency
trading, asset backed securities, and derivatives above the health
and wellness of millions of human beings. The Economic Recovery
Plan of over US $800 billion (called a stimulus package) being
proposed by Obama for the regeneration of the economy cannot be
successful without confronting the entrenched power of the very
same capitalists that created the crisis. Liberal economists
and democratic operators have been working with the think tanks
of Obama to elaborate the planning for the stimulus. Michael Hudson
has pointed out how real estate capitalists would be the principal
beneficiaries of this plan if there were no new political bases
to strengthen the most exploited section of the urban poor.
to the media reports, the stimulus plan developed by Congressional
Democrats in partnership with President Barack Obama, includes
huge increases in federal spending on education, aid to states
for Medicaid costs, temporary increases in unemployment benefits
and a vast array of public works projects to create jobs. Legislation
before Congress under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill
of 2009 would invest billions of dollars in the infrastructure
to jump start the economy. Informed analysis on the impact of
the old plans of urban renewal pointed to the reality that the
black and poor urban workers suffered the most after World War
II. It is the opinion of this author that the Black and Hispanic
communities must begin to ask questions on what is the meaning
of infrastructure for the Black and Latino communities, as well
as for poor whites. The calculus for power has changed into the
hands of the Democratic Party with its coterie of senior committee
chairpersons from the industrial Northeast. Their seniority with
the Democratic Party has given leaders such John Conyers and Barbara
Lee a central place in the post counter-revolutionary period.
These leaders along with Hilda Solis (proposed Secretary of Labor)
have a social base with the black and Latino working peoples who
voted massively for Obama and rejected the Republicans.
the capitalist class, infrastructure is for the rebuilding of
bridges, roads, sanitation systems, light rail and other large
projects to revive the economy. This vision of a revival of the
economy has a sense of returning Wall Street and the financial
services industry to its former place in the world (1945-2002).
This is an illusion. What is not an illusion is that in the short
run, the United States can expend 1 trillion dollars on infrastructure
projects. In its present form of conceptualization, the stimulus
package of the Obama administration is the 21st century plan for
urban renewal and for the displacement of the most exploited in
the US society.
working peoples (especially black and brown) now occupy the most
important and reliable spaces in the city, (in their language,
prime real estate areas). In the aftermath of the full understanding
of the stresses of commutes, there is a big push to retake the
cities. After the suburbanization project of the 1950’s and 60’s
to weaken the political clout of blacks in the cities, the US
bourgeoisie have awakened to the reality that the suburban project
did not engender a better quality of life. Struggles over space
are now interwoven with the struggles for re-segregation.
infrastructure projects, in its present conceptual phase, will
displace millions of blacks and poor folk and create more racialized
spaces. The black bourgeoisie who are junior partners and who
have small real estate enterprises will support the infrastructure
projects as long as they receive their small share of the construction
deals. It is the same mindset that is in place for the reconstruction
and revitalization of New Orleans without the mass of Black people.
David Harvey, who worked on questions of the accumulation by dispossession,
has been raising the issue of the right to the city by the poor
and dispossessed all over the planet. A genuine infrastructure
project that places humans before profits will require a new political
alliance in the USA and internationally.
of the most urgent debates is for the progressive forces to work
to reverse and fight the re- segregation of the urban spaces that
is embedded in the forms of city planning now being rolled out
across the United States. Black people must be the priority in
the reconstruction of New Orleans. Progressive environmentalists
have defended the rights of the people, but the planners and engineers
want to engineer a new city for tourists and where working peoples
will not be able to afford to live. Workers must have the right
to live, to have decent schools, to have decent jobs, to have
environmentally clean neighborhoods, to have health facilities,
and to have the support of the agencies of the state to facilitate
the life chances for the youth. The gentrification of urban spaces
and the displacement of poor people will no longer be justified
under eminent domain, but will be fueled by a logic which is more
powerful, the need for our people to support economic recovery.
many poor people lost their land and their neighborhoods when
interstate I-95 was built in the period of the Eisenhower administration?
If the society is not doomed to repeat these experiences of displacement
and dispersal, there is need for a different debate to defend
the rights of peoples. Mayor Bloomberg in New York City epitomizes
the kind of billionaire developer who will want a stimulus to
return the power of the real estate developers in New York city.
This is a New York for tourists and a New York for the upper classes.
If we study what Bloomberg has done to destroy the educational
system and the public schools in New York City, then we will see
the linkages between real estate, politics, education and political
power. The fall of Wall Street banks and the scandals of Bernard
Madoff have induced panic in the ranks of the ruling classes.
They cannot legitimate themselves.
we in a discussion about corporate fraud and for Madoff to be
behind bars? Corporate fraud, investment fraud, corruption and
graft are the skills of the old political bosses who now call
themselves investors. Will we call for putting the real criminals
in jail? When Robert Moses was displacing the people of the urban
spaces, Tammany Hall was dominated by gangsters. These gangsters
went into the Investment banking business.
Obama: A Great President
or a Disaster
will have to fall back on his own progressive instincts in less
than one year and bring in a new team. Such will be the outcry
from the ranks of the unemployed and those small businesses in
the Democratic constituencies who will go under as the crisis
deepens. Obama has two roads. His administration can either move
from crisis to crisis hoping to revive the US military power along
with the power of the US financial services industry or the administration
can move to reconstitute the nature of democratic engagement by
supporting peace, reconstruction and international justice. The
latter road opens the way for the Obama Presidency to become part
of a new political direction for the twenty first century. The
revival of US militarism will pave the road for greater disasters
for humanity. It is in these choices where the comparisons between
Obama and Abraham Lincoln have meaning. Lincoln wanted to save
the union but the combined efforts of the militant abolitionists
such as John Brown, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman forced
the issue of emancipation from slavery.
this period, the left cannot look to Obama but must learn from
the militant abolitionists and the sons and daughters of Ella
Baker, Tom Paine and Harriet Tubman. It is the left and progressive
forces who must determine which path the Obama administration
should take. The left must move from being by-standers. The international
capitalist crisis is real. Capitalism wants to reconstitute itself
on the bodies and backs of peoples in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
This recomposition faces the limits of capitalist competition.
The center of this competition is now between France/Germany on
one side and the US on the other side. In the case of the US,
the consumer-led form of capitalism has been exhausted.
other models of economic organization but these will only
arise when there is a strong movement of working peoples.
All of the political leaders in the United States are writing
and speaking about the future based on the Green Collar Economy.
Thus far, it is from the sector of the environmental justice
movement that is grounded in the anti-racist movement that is
giving the clearest understanding of what these green collar jobs
could mean for the United States. Van Jones, in his book, The
Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest
, defined the green collar job as,
“A family-supporting career track job that directly contributes
to preserving or enhancing environmental quality.”
Jobs will range from low skill entry level positions to high-skill,
higher paid jobs and include opportunities for advancement
in both skills and wages.
……an economy with millions of workers installing solar panels,
weatherizing homes, brewing biofuels, building hybrid cars and
erecting giant wind turbines. Labor unions view these new jobs
as replacements for positions lost to overseas manufacturing and
outsourcing. Urban groups view training in green jobs as a route
out of poverty. And environmentalists say they are crucial to
combating climate change”
is instructive that Van Jones noted that there must be the dismantling
of the prison industrial complex and the building of a new educational
system to tap into the energies of millions of youths who are
presently incarcerated. Thus far, the Universities cannot help
to kick start the green technology revolution that is needed to
sustain the next bubble. The Universities and the structures of
higher education have been most complicit in their servile relationship
to the financiers and their philanthropic fronts that beefed up
the endowments of these colleges. There can be real change if
there is a reduction of the Pentagon budget, reigning in the military
industry complex and dropping the plans for building offensive
weapons and star wars capabilities. As a start, the Obama administration
must drop the planned Africa command. Black workers who have suffered
the most from the exploitation and murder have the biggest stake
in building new organizations and new coalitions.
the United States, one hears people asking, when are we going
to create our own Obama? This call for a new Obama in places
as diverse as France, Nigeria, Colombia, Brazil and Indonesia
was forcing political activists and peace organizers to think
of new ways to mobilize supporters and build new forms of organization.
Rebellions and popular uprisings in places such as Latvia, Greece,
Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain and Hungary in the last few
months point to the potential for alliances between workers, students
and youths who want to forcefully challenge counter-revolutionary
violence and repression.
forces inside the United States were being challenged by the political
moment to grasp the fundamental shift in the politics of the society.
Commentators such as H. Orlando Patterson and Imamu Baraka commented
on the revolutionary conjuncture in the United States. It was
a revolutionary moment without revolutionary ideas, organization
it was from the ranks of the most oppressed women in the society
where there were new voices for new organization and innovation.
The peace and justice movement faced a crossroad. How could the
peace movement move to the next level by confronting the realities
and consequences of the “White Nationalism” that was documented
by Professor Ronald Walters and the fig leaf of Liberalism as
analyzed by Samir Amin? At the crucial moment of the transition,
the Israeli militarists demonstrated their chokehold over the
neo-conservative forces within the US body politic. Would the
peace and justice movement support the rights to self-determination
and peace for Palestine?
Melman had sought to move the US Congress to adopt a clear position
on conversion of the military industrial complex and the dismantling
of the military. There has been hesitation in the ranks of the
peace movement over the questions of Palestine and over the question
of conversion, but already within the Congress there were representatives
who conceded that the military budget must be reduced. The immediate
demands for jobs, saving ordinary home owners and for a universal
health care system were educating the majority of the workers
of the need to transcend the old ideas of individualism and the
need for a big military machine. From Chicago, the takeover of
a factory by workers reopened the discussion of worker control
over business enterprises and new models of organizing economic
greed and corruption of the financial moguls had discredited the
old ideation structures that held the society together. In-fighting
among the rulers over which faction of capital to bail out served
to educate large sections of the population while the competitors
of the US followed the debates among the rulers about the fictional
instruments that were called credit default swaps and collateral
debt obligations. Internal opposition to the model of capitalism
merged with the international opposition to unilateralism and
hegemony. While the Obama team is fixated on building a strategy
to win Texas in the Congressional elections in 2010, those progressive
forces who engaged electoral politics must continue the engagement
to weaken and isolate the counter revolutionaries while removing
the conservative forces within the Democratic Party. The victory
of Donna Edwards in Maryland is but one example where conservative
democrat members of Congress can be challenged.
The substance and symbolism
is unusual for the words revolution and happiness to be used in
the same sentence, but all over the world there were those who
termed the electoral victory of Obama ‘revolutionary.’ There was
happiness and joy on the day of January 20 when millions celebrated
the inauguration. Earlier we drew attention to the call by Alice
Walker for a society freed from fear. John Lewis, a veteran freedom
fighter who bore the scars of the Civil Rights Revolution in the
United States called the victory, ‘a peaceful revolution.” Speaking
on television the morning after the victory of Obama, John Lewis
who had spoken on the platform with Martin Luther King at the
massive Civil Rights march in 1963 went to the ideas of King to
revolution of values, a revolution of ideas. I've been saying
over and over again -- that the vote is the most nonviolent instrument
that we have in a democratic society. And the American people
used that vote ... to make Barack Obama the next president of
the United States of America."
Lewis was not the only commentator adding the prefix revolutionary,
before the description of the victory. One writer in the mainstream
political blog called the election, the Obama Revolution. This
the symbolism of Barack Obama’s victory, the reality of power
in Washington changed more profoundly than meets the eye. Nov.
4, 2008, was the day when American politics shifted on its axis.”
to be out done in this labeling of the elections, H. Orlando Patterson
from Harvard termed the Obama victory a component of the eternal
revolution. Falling back on his exposure to C. L. R James, Patterson
invoked the traditions of American democracy and called the victory
the triumph of the intervention of blacks, women and the youth.
After lauding the vision of the framers of the US constitution,
Patterson observed that,
groups, in particular, were excluded from the process: blacks,
women and the young. The history of American democracy can be
read in good part as the struggle of all three to become fully
included in the process. The 2008 campaign was remarkable in the
way all three groups worked together to realize, finally and fully,
the ambivalent vision of the founders.”
was more than charitable when he called the vision of the founding
fathers of the United States, “ambivalent.” This term was meant
to neutralize the reality of enslavement, the genocidal wars against
the first nation peoples, the military invasion and theft of the
land of the Mexican peoples along with the brutal exclusion of
the working poor from the political process. Patterson was straddling
the historical divide between revolution and reaction in his rendition
of the meaning of the victory of Obama. No such straddling was
evident in the commentary of Mumia Abu Jamal. From death row,
Mumia properly summed up the historic meaning of the victory.
Calling on progressives to continue organizing to put pressure
on Obama, Mumia differed from those scholars who called Obama’s
victory, symbolic. Mumia noted,
beyond symbol is substance, and substantively, some scholars have
defined Obama as little different from his predecessors.”
noting the substantive implications of Obama’s Presidency, Mumia
symbols are powerful things. Sometimes, they have a life
all their own. They may come to mean something more than
first intended. History has been made. We
shall see exactly what kind of history it will be.”
those who simply noted the revolutionary moment, Mumia was pointing
to the historical possibilities unleashed by the laws of unforeseen
circumstances. This author is of the view that the quantum leap
in the politics that will emerge from the new political life under
the Obama administration will fundamentally shake the society
from its genocidal past. The history will emerge from the processes
of self emancipation and self organization that first appeared
in the peace activities, in the environmental justice forces and
are now maturing in the midst of the crisis.
other commentaries are worth noting. These are the commentaries
of Grace Lee Boggs and Imamu Baraka. Baraka termed the election
of Obama the 4th American Revolution and separated
himself from those where bent on being critical before the inauguration
of Obama. I would like to close with the words of Grace Lee Boggs,
the veteran revolutionary from Detroit.
explaining why she voted for Obama despite the fact that her politics
was closer to Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader, Grace Boggs looked
to the future of a new world where the old ruling class is diminished
and where the counter revolution is finally defeated in the body
politic of the USA.
"...my support for Obama was never based on his policies or promises which, with
few exceptions, are not that different from those of other Democrats.
From the outset my eyes were on the people at his rallies, especially
the youth who, inspired by his persona and his eloquence, shed
the fears instilled by the Nixons, Reagans and Bushes since the
60s and, imbued with a new hope, began organizing on his behalf.
For me, not just Obama's victory but that transformation of "we
the people" from Fear to Hope, from passivity to activity,
from looking on as spectators to participating as citizens was
what was so historic about this period."
the youth will move ‘from passivity to activity’ in this era
will be dependent on the strengthening of the alliances of the
forces that have the most to gain from reparations, peace and
justice. We must be prepared for the battle ahead. But we can
succeed as we build on the long tradition of struggle that preceded
us. Our brothers and sisters that fought to end colonialism, slavery,
those that struggled to achieve civil rights, as well as those
who fought and still fight the KKK, sexism, homophobia inspire
us as we move forward. This is where the oppressed must organize.
cook can govern
that the celebration is over, it is possible to note that it is
the very nature of the racism of the society that elicited the
kind of celebration at the inauguration of Obama on January 20
. Thus, it is necessary to reassert that while representative
democratic participation (as manifest in the electoral struggle
to elect Obama) is an important component of change, the central
aspect of change is not in the contest for positions. Democratic
transformation is more than voting every four years years. This
is part of the neo-liberal or ‘low intensity democracy.’ That
is the democracy where there is no accountability once a person
is elected. C. L. R. James had written extensively about a new
democracy, a democracy where every cook can govern.
“The over-riding idea was to organize the mass of the people not
just to vote, but to govern - to govern through organs in village
and town. To govern through Councils on Trade and Foreign policy,
which would bring business, unions and the people to discuss the
initiatives their Parliamentary leaders were pursuing, or to propose
new initiatives - to govern by way of over-sight committees in
every ministry. That way for sure, government would be of the
people. By the people could come later when the people in councils,
in their own self-movement, would take back from the State, the
remaining power vested in the State. And then proceed to a new
and unparalleled democracy which would make even ancient Greek
democracy look pallid by comparison.”
is the new revolutionary place that we are in at this moment,
in this new century, when popular forms of expressions are breaking
out as peoples develop new techniques at self-organization.
This revolutionary moment requires new revolutionary ideas and
forms of organization to draw a line of steel between the traditions
of revolution and counter revolution. At the same time, the slow
awareness of the strengths of self organization would break down
the vanguardism and leaderism of the left that looked to Europe
for guidance and intellectual leadership. It is also now possible
to enrich the observations of C.L. R James by not only looking
at Greek democracy (which was limited) but also at the social
collectivism of the African village community, the cooperative
institutions of the Indigenous peoples in Latin America as well
as the Iroquois concept of democracy. It is now possible
to draw on the memory of these forms of democratic participation
to inform this revolutionary moment . It is this new basis for
democracy that is informing the Zapatistas. And the Zapatistas
of Mexico, who I see as being the forerunner of the new revolution,
are already practicing what they say are new organizational aspects
of self-emancipation and self-organization wherein the people
can be the basis for new political relations. This self organization
for revolution is very different from self organization for representative
politics. It is the self organization where the people take themselves
from one level of consciousness to the next. At the same time,
one of the most profound aspects of the Zapatistas have been the
ways in which they have deepened the mobilization of positive
cultural values from their history. It is not by accident that
informed observers have identified the home- grown concepts associated
with the revolutionary project in Mexico. Another important aspect
of this revolutionary approach is the need to build community
power so that the power shifts to the people away from the old
state machinery of violence and domination.
must take Obama at his word. The change must begin with us.