Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Some quick thoughts on Obama's win and what it means

Some immediate random thoughts on the momentous events that transpired today, in no particular order:

1) Needless to say, I am extremely glad not only to see Obama elected as the first African American president in history but also to see the end of the Reign of Terror of George Bush and the neoconservative fringe lunatics of the past eight years... The economic crisis and hypocritical response of world leaders marked the death blow to neoliberal ideology, and the ousting of the Republicans from the White House marks the death blow to the extremist far-right ideology of neoconservatism which has held sway since the end of the Cold War. For that I am happy.

2) One thing to keep in mind is that Obama is not the creator of change, but rather a SYMPTOM of changes that have already been underway for some time. I am happy that he won the election, not so much because of him as one man, but because America has changed enough to have made his election possible. If this is possible (and many people thought it wasn't), just imagine what else is possible.

3) Through this election, ordinary people have said enough to extremist neoconservativism and unfettered neoliberal economics. One way in which they expressed this is voting for Obama, but they will express this in many other ways too.. Time for social movements to sieze the moment.

4) Obama is not left by any means - he is a centrist with progressive rhetoric... but there is no denying the fact that there was been a leftward swing in the attitudes of the American people.. this is good news for radicals, who can work to deepen and extend this leftward progression and capitalise on it to raise more radical critiques. The environment within which social movements operate is now much more conducive.

5) Obama himself will be limited in the change that he can implement in Washington; If change is going to happen it will be because of a groundswell of ordinary people at the grassroots, not because of Obama as just one man... at the same time, however, I wouldn't under-estimate the symbolic power that Obama's election has on the psyche of African Americans.. Obama's presence in the White House will alter the way in which African Americans and other minorities see themselves.. This is huge. A crack in history has opened.

6) This is huge for the Iraqi people too. Finally they are going to see the end of the occupation. Obama won't change the world as much as some of us would like, but his election will have real material effects.. Iraq is just one example. This is one small victory for the anti-war movement (yes there is still the issue of Afghanistan, but that's where grassroots accountability comes in), as well as a belated victory for the civil rights movement all those years ago.

7) What Obama's election means is a radical change of context. It is that context - the sum of the myriad interconnected relationships of millions of people across the world - through which change will take place, but this change cannot come from any single centre - not even Obama himself. Obama has merely been the catalyst. Just think of Gorbachev's modest reforms in the Eighties, known as Glasnost and Perestroika. They were modest reforms, but after Gorbachev opened that crack in history, the floodgates were open, and he was soon overrun by revolutionary upheavals which didn't stop until the entire Soviet bureaucracy was overturned. It is up to us to exploit the crack that Obama has now opened, and turn it into a floodgate.

8) With regards to the economic crisis, we know that all Obama will do is to try desperately to save capitalism. I am certain that he will try to pacify/contain any unrest with a Roosevelt-style New Deal (a new contract between capital and labour).. Americans will probably be too busy worrying about not being able to afford their decadent consumerist lifestyles anymore to push for more radical changes..

9) Lastly, I just want to say that even though I'm a revolutionary Leftist, I do not think that being extremely happy about this election win compromises my revolutionary integrity in any way (as some of my more cynical comrades would have it). Any sophisticated analysis must take into account the potential for change inherent within the CONTEXT in which Obama's win was made possible, and not just the potential of Obama as one person to make that change. It is this new context - a veritable paradigm-shift - that I'm most excited about.

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