- Eli Boulton
Much has been made about Barack Obama’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the last remaining Democratic primaries of the United States election year. Numerous capitalist media outlets hailed the outcome as a “tremendous step” for civil rights, while right-wing smear attacks centred on his supposed links with communism or radical Islam (due to his Arabic middle name). Many newspapers have said how Obama’s candidacy has given hope not only to Americans, but to many people all over the world, since Obama is “for the people”.
However, if you go scrape away his populist rhetoric, you will find a very different image of the man.
He obviously isn’t for the Palestinian people, as was shown in his speech for AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) where he wore a lapel pin with the American and Israeli flags and spoke of his “clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel”.
He is not the anti-war candidate some more optimistic liberals are painting him as, and he often remarks at speeches, “I’m not against all wars, I’m just against dumb wars”. He stated in a speech back in August 2007 that he would use military force “against Al Qaeda” if necessary in Pakistan without the government’s consent – exactly as the Bush administration has been doing in many north-western Pakistani border towns, usually killing more Pakistani civilians than Taliban or Al-Qaeda fighters, if any at all. Obama’s foreign policy would be just as imperialistic as not only George W Bush’s but that of every US President since the early 1800s. He’d just be a much more efficient and smart imperialist, as well as putting a charismatic face to it, like JFK or Reagan.
But what of the “tremendous leap” for black civil rights that both Obama and his supporters claim he represents?
Just because the leader of the American capitalist state will have a different skin colour, this does not mean anything for the average African-American family, which is still struggling to survive after all these years. The net worth of the average white family is ten times the net worth of the average black family – $67,000 to $6,166. This is the same as the ratio in 1990.
Yet Obama claims that measures that directly challenge and target racial oppression of blacks are counter-productive. He has chastised black legislators who, Obama claims, “focus too much on the oppression of black people”, and he also runs what commentators have called a “post-racial” campaign, which means he avoids talking about race as much as possible on the campaign trail. Obama’s candidacy is very much a token gesture of the American ruling class to pretend that blacks in America are no longer a racially oppressed minority.
How about his supposed links with communists? These arguments are very weak. His “links” with “communists” are nothing more than statements by left groups in the USA who were caught up in his romanticised populist rhetoric and humble upbringing, with no clear analysis of his actual policies. Obama often speaks approvingly of “free markets”, and one of his leading economic policy advisors is Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago professor who advocates “free-market” policies.
Eighty per cent of Obama’s campaign funds last year came from donors associated with big business. Rich campaign donors don’t pay up unless they’re sure of getting looked after when their man is elected.