‘Left’ Obamites Prefer Kool-Aid to Struggle March 19, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Uncategorized.
Tags: anti-capitalist left, anti-obama, black agenda report, bush administation, capitalism obama, Clinton, clintonism, democratic party, demoocratic leadership, glen ford, hillary clinton, left obamites, linda burnham, non-obama left, Obama cabinet, obama iraq, Obama presidency, paulson, political left, pro-obama, progressive politics, radical politics, Robert Gates, roger hollander
BAR executive editor Glen Ford
www.opednews.com, March 18, 2009
Ford answers Linda Burnham’s recent assault on the non-Obamite Left, whom she sneeringly refers to as victims of “Left ‘anticipatory disillusionment’” and assorted other “psycho-babble.” Burnham sets up Left straw men, to knock them down, all in an attempt to justify her cohort’s capitulation to Power. “One great tragedy of the current episode,” writes Ford, “is that the [economic] crisis occurred at a moment when the remnants of the Left and Black movements in the U.S. have been neutralized by imperialism’s Black champion.” Hilariously, Burnham credits Obama with having “wrenched the Democratic Party out of the clammy grip of Clintonian centrism” when, in actuality, “Obama’s government IS Clintonian. And the new president is as skilled and ruthless a triangulator as Bill ever was.”
“Burnham’s definition of ‘motion’ does not involve confronting Power, but rather, attaching oneself to it.”
Lots of folks on the left, it is now apparent, no longer seek anything more than to bask in the sunshine of Barack Obama’s smile. No matter how much national treasure their champion transfers to the bankster class, and despite his exceeding George W. Bush in military spending, so-called progressives for Obama continue to celebrate their imagined emergence as players in the national political saga. Having in practice foresworn resistance to Power, they relish in bashing the non-Obamite Left.
Burnham launches immediately into a denigration of non-Obamites, claiming Obama’s election “occasioned some disorientation and confusion” among those on the Left who “have become so used to confronting the dismal electoral choice between the lesser of two evils that they couldn’t figure out how to relate to a political figure who held out the possibility of substantive change.”
“Burnham’s article is nonetheless littered with sneers at those who ‘are stranded on Dogma Beach.’”
Burnham outlines what she says is the “active conversation on the left about what can be expected of an Obama administration and what the orientation of the left should be towards it.” We will have to take her word for it, although her mischaracterization of Left Obama critics (certainly those at BAR) makes us less than confident that the “conversation” is as she describes. Below are the “two conflicting views” on Obama, on the Left:
“First, that Obama represents a substantial, principally positive political shift and that, while the left should criticize and resist policies that pull away from the interests of working people, its main orientation should be to actively engage with the political motion that’s underway.
“Second, that Obama is, in essence, just another steward of capitalism, more attractive than most, but not an agent of fundamental change. He should be regarded with caution and is bound to disappoint. The basic orientation is to criticize every move the administration makes and to remain disengaged from mainstream politics.”
The first viewpoint is no doubt held by Burnham. It is essentially mooted by the reality that most Left Obamites only weakly “criticize” and virtually never “resist” Obama’s rightist policies and appointments in the crucial military and economic arenas – which was, first, the fear and, later, the main complaint of the non-Obamite Left. The Obama Effect is to neutralize Blacks and the Left (Blacks being the main electoral base of the American Left) by capturing their enthusiasm for Obama’s own corporate purposes. Obama and his Democratic Leadership Council allies (and their corporate masters) monopolize the “motion,” all the while shutting out even mildly Left voices (as in the recent White House Forum on Health, from which single payer health care advocates were initially barred). Blacks and the Left have not been in any kind of effective forward “motion” since Election Day. As we shall see, Burnham’s definition of “motion” does not involve confronting Power, but rather, attaching oneself to it.
“Whatever kind of ‘evil’ Hillary and Bill are, Obama is.”
Policy-wise, Obama no more “represents a substantial, principally positive political shift” than his political twin, Hillary – again, color aside.
But Burnham would have you believe the Left opposition are nothing but nitpickers, inflating executive pinpricks into major assaults. Thus, she seeks to make the opposition look silly, as if we “criticize every move the administration makes.” In truth, her argument is designed to excuse her and her Left allies failure to “resist” or confront Obama in any meaningful way.
“The new president is as skilled and ruthless a triangulator as Bill ever was.”
Burnham reveals inklings of her own emotional state when she gratuitously urges “those who missed interacting with the motion of millions against the right, against the white racial monopoly on the executive branch, and for substantive change,” to re-examine their political orientation. In addition to her condescending tone, which seems to assume that her targets have no experience with the “motion of millions” in actual political movements, rather than a corporate-shaped and funded presidential election campaign, Burnham appears to think of the non-Obamite Left as people who didn’t RSVP for the best party of the year, and are now resentful.
In the last hundred words of the piece, we discover that her idea of “building the left” requires folding up the tent in or near the Obama camp. Examine this extraordinary passage:
“The current political alignment provides an opportunity to break out of isolation, marginalization and the habits of self-marginalization accumulated during the neo-conservative ascendancy. It provides the opportunity to initiate and/or strengthen substantive relationships with political actors in government, in the Democratic Party, and in independent sectors, as well as within the left itself – relationships to be built upon long after the Obama presidency has come to an end. It provides the opportunity to accumulate lessons about political actors, alignments and centers of power likewise relevant well beyond this administration. And it provides the opportunity for the immersion of the leaders, members and constituencies of left formations in a highly accelerated, real world poli-sci class.”
This sounds uncannily like Obamite Prof. Leonard Jeffries’ admonition that all Black folks “study Obama-ism.” Burnham’s gushings are remarkable for their abject surrender, not just to Obama’s persona and mystique, but to the institutional trappings and annexes of corporate-tethered rule. She wants us all to take lessons from the corporate-bought structures – to better serve the people? No. Burnham is telling us that now that she’s seen the Big Party, she doesn’t want to leave. She’s tasted that vintage wine, drank the good stuff, and is determined not to go back to movement rations.
I do agree that Burnham can use some political education. “For the anti-capitalist left,” she writes, “this is a period of experimentation. There is no roadmap; there are no recipes.” Maybe, but there are abiding truths that she has willfully forgotten: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”
Those elements that refuse to make demands of Power ought to stop calling themselves part of the Left. Unless the Left is in power, it is a contradiction in terms.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford [at] BlackAgendaReport.com.