[Marxism] Cubans see hope for change in Obama

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Mon Jun 16 18:02:31 MDT 2008

Eli writes:

There are bosses who believe in forcing strikes, and breaking the back of
unions, there are others who believe in making some concessions and buying labor
peace. Both are after extracting the maximum value from their workers, they
simply have different strategies for doing so. Should I side with the latter
type of boss because I think he's "better"? People like McCain think the best
way to overturn the Cuban Revolution is through the hardest possible approach,
maybe even eventually involving military action (probably, in the short term,
not directed against Cuba but quite possibly against Venezuela). Likewise with
Iran. Others, like Obama, think it can be done using more subversive methods,
and the "civilized" method of economic warfare rather than military warfare. The
Cubans, or the Iranians, may well prefer the latter, and that's certainly their
right. *I* will not be party to choosing the method by which the U.S. chooses to
dominate the world.

*  *  *

On the bosses, while it is a completely bizarro construct to call it
taking the "side" of a certain kind of capitalist, I'm going to try,
every chance I get, to work for the ones trying to buy labor peace and
therefore offering better terms and conditions to purchase my labor
power. Of course I am.

As to the ringing declaration, "*I* will not be party to choosing the
method by which the U.S. chooses to dominate the world," this is hot
air at best, sectarian abstentionism. This is *precisely* what antiwar
protests, denunciations of Guantanamo, opposition to the blockade of
Cuba, etc., etc. etc. try to do. YES, socialists can, and should,
fight to put certain "methods" of imperialist domination beyond the
pale, out of reach. It is not a matter of indifference to us whether
the U.S. gets Venezuelan oil by paying $130-some dollars a barrel of
by invading the country and confiscating it.

This sort of thoughtless sectarian outburst is what comes from
approaching the purely tactical question of voting in a bourgeois
election as if it were some big principled question about which class
should rule.

The plain fact is there isn't a choice about that in THIS country at
THIS time. There isn't even a possibility to elect genuine workers
representatives to city councils, state legislature or the federal
Congress, because there is no *genuine workers movement* for them to

Some socialists will cast a strictly lesser-evil vote for Obama, and I
think this is is a perfectly respectable and principled position for a
socialist to take in this election. My own belief is that there is a
clear difference between the two capitalist candidates that are
intertwined with the reality that one them is Black and the other
isn't just white, but comes from family traditions of being colonial
settlers in Chicano lands and armed enforcers for U.S. imperialism.

The argument that such a lesser evil vote fails to educate working
people about the need for independent political action and so on is, I
think, attenuated in weight under our circumstances because there is
no self-conscious movement of the workers as a class to address this
to, and this is the sort of lesson that can't be imparted by preaching
but only learned through practical, collective experience. What it
means is that this argument is mostly addressed to layers of the
intelligentsia, especially the youth, and a relative handful of the
most advanced activists in the Black Liberation Movement and others.

I think the audience for such an argument this year is going to be
especially narrow because of what I view as the undeniable fact that
the election of a Black person --even one with a plain vanilla
moderate-liberal program-- to the office of the presidency would be
viewed, and correctly, as a blow to racism and a victory for the right
of Black people to be politically included and represented.

I give a great deal of weight to this because historically and I
believe it is still true today, Black people as a people have been in
the vanguard of struggles for progressive political and social change.
This has been reflected in the electoral arena overwhelmingly in and
through the Democratic Party, which carries with it a cost and not at
all a small one.

But it does mean that the situation we face is not where a class
movement is trying to grope its way to political independence, nor one
where there was a big divide in the Black movement between those
seeking to achieve a greater degree of participation and
representation by going independent and those who view themselves as
using the Democratic Party. Historically, over the last 40 years,
Black people have sought to vindicate their right to inclusion and
representation in and through the Democratic Party, overwhelmingly, I
believe, because in practice they had no other choice, or put a
different way, because the only options historical development had
made available were within the bourgeois two-party system.

But this means that Obama's campaign is in no way seen by the Black
community as an attempt to derail the independent thrust of the
community's push for inclusion and representation. That fight took
place, and was lost, decades ago, and for masses of Black folks it
simply isn't posed right now.

>From the Black community's point of view, Obama's campaign is one more
challenge to the denial of the political rights of Black people, and
in a sense, a culmination of that fight. This does not go against the
historic thrust of the Black struggle but rather, is quite firmly
rooted in how that struggle has been waged, including, electorally,
overwhelmingly, well-nigh exclusively, within the confines of the
bourgeois two-party system.

The question then becomes whether these advances in Black
representation are in the least bit meaningful, or whether the fact
that they take place within the confines of the two-party system gut
them of all meaning. My judgment is that it does make a difference
from the point of view of Blacks. Not all the difference in the world,
but some. Otherwise the actions of Black folks for the last four
decades would be completely inexplicable. The most conscious, most
combative, most radicalized, most progressive layer of the population
overwhelmingly and consistently votes Black every time there's a
serious chance of a Black person getting elected to office -- that is
simply not credible UNLESS it did make some difference.

With labor not being a factor --because there is no real class
movement-- and this history among Blacks, who have been the most
advanced social layer in the country, arguing *against* helping Obama
to get elected for the sake of promoting political independence is a
relatively weak argument because it doesn't have a subject, a
protagonist. The class movement is MIA, and for all sorts of
historical reasons, the Black movement not only did not achieve
political independence in the electoral arena, but actually focused
huge amounts of effort in fighting for inclusion and representation in
and through the Democratic Party, and the Obama campaign fits squarely
in that tradition.

Those are some of the tactical/political considerations as I see them.

Of course, those are completely unavailing against comrades who insist
that Obama is "really" just one more bourgeois candidate (and not even
all that radical even within the bourgeois spectrum), that he is
committed to the defense of U.S. interests, which are really
imperialist interests, that his whole "only in America" rap about his
own life story is only the exception that proves the rule that masses
of Black folks are no better off today than 20 or 40 years ago and so

My point is that participation in THIS election on THAT axis is going
to be even more of an exercise of preaching in the wilderness than we
are accustomed to.


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