[Marxism] The Substance Of Obama's Liberalism

bauerly at yorku.ca bauerly at yorku.ca
Sat Jun 7 10:04:32 MDT 2008

By John Pilger

02 June, 2008
New Statesman

In this season of 1968 nostalgia, one anniversary illuminates today. It is the
rise and fall of Robert Kennedy, who would have been elected president of the
United States had he not been assassinated in June 1968.

Having traveled with Kennedy up to the moment of his shooting at the Ambassador
Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, I heard The Speech many times. He would "return
government to the people" and bestow "dignity and justice" on the oppressed. "As
Bernard Shaw once said," he would say, "'most men look at things as they are and
wonder why. I dream of things that never were and ask: Why not?'" That was the
signal to run back to the bus. It was fun until a hail of bullets passed over
our shoulders.

Kennedy's campaign is a model for Barack Obama. Like Obama, he was a senator
with no achievements to his name. Like Obama, he raised the expectations of
young people and minorities. Like Obama, he promised to end an unpopular war,
not because he opposed the war's conquest of other people's land and resources,
but because it was "unwinnable."

Should Obama beat John McCain to the White House in November, it will be
liberalism's last fling. In the United States and Britain, liberalism as a
war-making, divisive ideology is once again being used to destroy liberalism as
a reality. A great many people understand this, as the hatred of Blair and New
Labour attest, but many are disoriented and eager for "leadership" and basic
social democracy. In the U.S., where unrelenting propaganda about American
democratic uniqueness disguises a corporate system based on extremes of wealth
and privilege, liberalism as expressed through the Democratic Party has played
a crucial, compliant role.

In 1968, Robert Kennedy sought to rescue the party and his own ambitions from
the threat of real change that came from an alliance of the civil rights
campaign and the antiwar movement then commanding the streets of the main
cities, and which Martin Luther King had drawn together until he was
assassinated in April that year.

Kennedy had supported the war in Vietnam and continued to support it in private,
but this was skillfully suppressed as he competed against the maverick Eugene
McCarthy, whose surprisingly strong showing in the New Hampshire primary on an
antiwar ticket forced President Lyndon Johnson to abandon the idea of another

Using the memory of his martyred brother, Kennedy assiduously exploited the
electoral power of delusion among people hungry for politics that represented
them, not the rich. "These people love you," I said to him as we left Calexico,
California, where the immigrant population lived in abject poverty, and people
came like a great wave and swept him out of his car, his hands fastened to
their lips.

"Yes, yes, sure they love me," he replied. "I love them!" I asked him how
exactly he would lift them out of poverty: Just what was his political

"Philosophy? Well, it's based on a faith in this country and I believe that many
Americans have lost this faith, and I want to give it back to them, because we
are the last and the best hope of the world, as Thomas Jefferson said."

"That's what you say in your speech. Surely the question is: How?"

"How?... by charting a new direction for America."

The vacuities are familiar. Obama is his echo. Like Kennedy, Obama may well
"chart a new direction for America" in specious, media-honed language, but in
reality, he will secure, like every president, the best damned democracy money
can buy.


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