Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Notes on the Inauguration

It's official. History has been made. But it's far from over.

Now starts Obama's challenge in walking the line between the hopes of those who elected him and the expectations of those who funded him (and yes, they are two different groups of people).

One can already hear it in his speech: calling out the greed of Wall Street while also saying the recession has come through our collective unwillingness to sacrifice. How he spins that into tangible legislation is anyone's guess. But his campaign speeches, where he invoked the legacy of the civil rights movement, the workers' movement, the abolitionists, and the often hidden bottom-up history of this country, won't be forgotten. They have stuck in people's minds, and if the new president doesn't deliver, then the pandora's box will be opened.

Jeff Chang posted his "Notes on Day Zero" today, where he sums up the hopes of the Obama campaign, as well as the hopes for ordinary people to win what they deserve:

"Onto this body of Barack Obama we have projected all possibility, and the faith that we are moving toward answers. And yet Obama also materializes the same question that has haunted people of color on American soil—the lands of native peoples—since long before W.E.B. Dubois articulated it over a century ago: how does it feel to still be a problem? Does our desire for hope and change and progress lead us further from the actual thought and practice of justice, or closer?

And yet if we really care about these questions, we will
never have the luxury of doing nothing.

This moment will not mark the end of our struggles over questions of nation and race, nor will it mark the end of our Duboisian double consciousness. It's the beginning of something—I'm not sure what—but it's something that we, the new majority, must write."

Maybe we're already writing it. Not to sound like a broken record, but we've already seen a vibrant movement willing to fight for gay rights, large protests against Israel's slaughter in Gaza, and victories for working people in this country that, though small, are the kind we haven't seen in a long time.

Historic moment? Yes. End of history? Far from it.


1 comment:

Krisna Best said...

Good post, Alex.

One of the things we've been talking about lately that has shaped the strategic orientation of much of the progressive left is the "popular front" around Obama.

We see this theoretically and strategically from folks like Carl Davidson and Eric Mann, tactically in the "movement cops" we've seen in the recent Gaza marches where liberal, middle class white coalition leaders and even some middle class Arabs are telling the militant youth of color to "maintain unity" and not chant in Arabic, don't march without permits, and cooperate with police. They are becoming a fetter on a emerging militancy that the revolutionary Left better be able to orient to or they will be left in the dust.

Part of the popular frontist analysis is a somewhat valid critique of ultraleftism and sectarianism, but within it is an implicit critique that we can't move faster than Obama, we have to make sacrifices (we don't know anything about that, right?), and make sure that the Right doesn't regain state power. Where is the working class in all of this?

You hear within this popular frontism calls for progressives (not workers, of course, they have no subjectivity) to maintain their independent activity, but this merely means continuing with their electoral campaigns. What we have to do is encourage people of color and working class self-activity and for them to follow their radical instincts and go further than the liberal and white supremacist straightjacket forced on them. This is a moment where layers of the class are moving quicker than much of the progressive left and even that of the revolutionary left.

Good sections of these folks are going to tell the workers when they begin to ramp up their REAL independent activity to cool out, go back to work, and that the time is not yet ripe.

Fuck that. We must leap past the popular frontists and movement cops. Fuck the middle class and their vacillations. The time is now.