[Marxism] The shifting ruling class mainstream

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Fri Dec 5 21:32:15 MST 2008

Dayne Goodwin writes, as if he were answering what I had said: "It seems to
me that if the Obama campaign was in fact a *movement* of the workers and
the oppressed it would be manifest in organizations on the ground, at the
grass-roots.  Where are the organizations of this movement and what are the
relationships of accountability between them and Obama?"

I will quote AGAIN exactly what I said. 

> "There is, in U.S. society, a *qualitative* difference between an 
> Obama, on the one hand, and a Gore, Kerry, Bush, McCain, Dobbs (either 
> Farrell or Lou) or Timothy McVeigh on the other. It is a difference 
> that has played a central role in the development of the U.S. social 
> formation. It is a difference that led to one of the bloodiest and 
> most significant civil wars in world history. It is a difference that 
> led to the most powerful social movement by any sector of working and 
> oppressed people in this country of the modern, post-WWII epoch.
> "Insofar as that difference is concerned, Obama's candidacy was a 
> result of the conquests of that movement. But it was more --it was 
> perceived and embraced by the overwhelming, crushing majority of the 
> protagonists of that movement, the Black community, as an expression 
> of and part of the movement."

Since you seem to have a hard time understanding fairly straightforward
declarative sentences, let me analyze it for you. 

First, there is my assertion that there is a qualitative difference between
Obama, on the one hand, and yes, a couple of white politicians of both
parties, but also others, everybody from terrorist Timothy McVeigh to racist
CNN anchor Lou Dobbs to a revolutionary proletarian leader like Farrel

What could that difference be, you wonder? Well I add a hint or two: it was
central to the development of the U.S., the civil war and the civil rights

If you guessed that the difference I was alluding to is the FACT that Obama
is Black, you win the prize.

Then comes the next paragraph. Notice especially the first six words:
"Insofar as that difference is concerned," in other words, NOT an overall
appraisal of Obama but just one aspect. And then comes what I think are
factual statements that I, at any rate, consider as sound as saying the
world is round and that human beings descended from apes. 

First, "Obama's candidacy was a result of the conquests of that movement."
That is, looking at the fact that a Black man was a leading contender for
the presidency, that would not have been possible without the gains won by
the Black Civil Rights/Liberation Movement, the Black national movement, the
movement of Blacks AS A PEOPLE.

And second, "But it was more --it was perceived and embraced by the
overwhelming, crushing majority of the protagonists of that movement, the
Black community, as an expression of and part of the movement."

In other words, not that you and me, but BLACK PEOPLE saw putting Obama into
the White House as a part of Black people's historic struggle for equality,
inclusion and liberation. And, since the election is now over, I can also
report that Black people saw Obama's victory as THEIR OWN victory and
specifically in the sense of a victory against white supremacy. That, again,
is just A FACT. That is the truth about how Black folks collectively related
to this election and evaluated its outcome.

I will say, in addition, that I AGREE with them, insofar as that aspect of
the campaign and the election are concerned.

This was not the ONLY, nor the OVERRIDING, nor the MOST significant thing
about Obama's candidacy. There were OTHER significant things, everything
from providing a vehicle through which many working and oppressed people
expressed their repudiation of the Bush regime and gave a spanking to Bush's
Party, to Obama being completely committed to U.S. imperialist interests
abroad and capitalist interests at home, to his campaign viewed as an
intervention in debates in ruling class political circles to cohere a broad
ruling class consensus around a different policy stance and tactical course
than that pursued by the Bush administration. And that is just a partial

You and the other Obamaphobes on this list are unable to recognize and
analyze a complex and contradictory social reality. You seek to construct a
schema where everything is either good or bad, proletarian or bourgeois. And
in your class-reductionist idealism, you simply deny, negate, the
protagonism of social forces that don't fit neatly into these categories,
specifically in this case, the Black community.

That is why I was so careful to go over what I ACTUALLY said. They were
factual statements *about the Black community and its attitudes.*  You
transformed them into statements about the Obama campaign and my attitudes
without even being aware of it. 

You say "if the Obama campaign was a movement" and then posit a completely
idealized version of what a movement should look like ("grass roots
organizations," "accountability" by Obama and so on) to demonstrate my
foolishness. But what I had ACTUALLY said is that it was seen and taken on
BY THE BLACK COMMUNITY "as an expression and part" of ITS movement. 

Blinded by this inability to see the Black community as a distinct social
force in this society, you go on to make various assertions AS IF they were
responses to what I said.

For example, "I don't think that the Obama campaign was "qualitatively" more
progressive than the campaigns of other mainstream bourgeois politicians."

The use of "qualitatively" here in quotes is outrageous. You make it seem as
if I had suggested that Obama was not just programmatically better ("more
progressive")  than other bourgeois politicians, but "qualitatively" so,
whereas, in fact, the statement where I use "qualitative" to refer to a
difference between Obama and the others PRECLUDES such an interpretation. I
said NOT JUST that there was a qualitative difference between Obama and
run-of-the-mill white politicos of various stripes, but that the SAME
"qualitative* difference separated Obama from racist windbags, right wing
terrorists and proletarian revolutionists.

How blinded do you have to be to interpret this as some sort of programmatic
pronouncement? MY POINT WAS PRECISELY that the difference was not
"programmatic" but SOCIAL. Obama is Black. The others I listed were all

Then we have this: "With your message on 'the shifting ruling class
mainstream' you now acknowledge that Obama is a *mainstream* bourgeois
politician but in your new rationalization that's because the mainstream
bourgeoisie has come over to support (the qualitatively more progressive)

That's three misrepresentations in one sentence. I don't "now acknowledge
that Obama is a *mainstream* bourgeois politician," as if I has anywhere at
any time said anything different. I've already dealt with the claim that I
view Obama as "qualitatively more progressive." As for my "new"
rationalization about the evolution in the "mainstream" bourgeois policy
stance, I've been writing about this for almost a year, and so have others
on this list, like Fred Feldman. 


"And apparently the 'movement' of the workers and oppressed that was
integral to the Obama campaign vanished when the campaign ended on election
day?  Or do you now see President-elect Obama's government-in-formation as a
developing political alliance between the workers and oppressed and the
mainstream bourgeoisie?"

Well, one good question deserves another:

Do you think slander isn't really slander if you put it in the form of a
question, or are you genuinely incapable of understanding the difference
between what you claim I say and what I've actually written?


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