By William Bowles
16 August 2009
I contend that ever since the first slave ship left the shores of Africa, the ideology of racism has been central to the success of capitalism. Without it and the wealth that slavery produced, Europe and its bastard offspring, the United States, would never have accumulated the capital that made today’s world possible. And if the corrosive and utterly destructive effects of the ideology of racism were not apparent to you before the election of Barack ‘Hope & Change’ Obama, then surely by now they should be, and especially its effects on the ‘left’.
And in all likelihood, the inner sanctum, those who selected Obama in the first place were fully aware of what would happen when they put up a black man to front a white, racist United States. Obama was, and is fully intended to be the whipping boy of that there is no doubt, exploiting his own ambitions and hubris. Whether Obama has failures or successes, matters not one iota for if failures, well play the race card and if successes, well play the race card.
The elite are fully aware of the role of racism, and given not only the history of the US, a country literally founded on genocide and slavery, but also the ongoing treatment of Black Americans, surely they must have calculated that Obama would be a ‘one hit’ prez and, having served his purpose (namely preserving the status quo, at least as the power elite hoped he could), he can be safely relegated to the position of front man for the ‘man’. Of course, unlike Ralph Ellison’s ‘The Invisible Man’, Obama is far from invisible, he stands as the personification of ‘blackness’ (whatever that is) at least in the eyes of those millions of Black Americans (and youngsters) who voted for him.
Of course, as far as his Masters’ see things, this means discounting ten million or so really pissed off Black Americans who saw in Obama some kind of salvation for their condition. But what the hell, it’s just back to business as usual, at least that’s the plan.
As Tim Wise pointed out in his essay, ‘Socialism as the New Black Bogeyman – Red-Baiting and Racism’, Black-Baiting has turned into Red-Baiting (but when was it ever different?). The ‘Left’ are afraid of attacking Obama for fear of being called racists (and hey, what do I know?) and the right are calling him a Commie!
‘This noise is about race. It is about ‘othering’ a President who is seen as a symbol of white dispossession: dispossession of white hegemony, white entitlement, white expectation, and white power, unquestioned and unchallenged from the darker skinned other. This is what animates the every move of the angry masses, individual exceptions notwithstanding. Unless the left begins pushing back, and insisting that yes, the old days are gone, white hegemony is dead, and deserved its demise, and that we will all be better off for it, the chorus of white backlash will only grow louder. So too will it grow more effective at dividing and conquering the working people who would benefit–all of them–from a new direction.’ — ‘Socialism as the New Black Bogeyman – Red-Baiting and Racism’
The problem with Wise’s analysis is that it doesn’t go far enough, ‘white hegemony’ isn’t dead just because a ‘black’ man got elected to be president, that was never the intention. Would Wise say that had ‘Hellfire’ Hillary gotten elected, patriarchy was dead (the gender counterpart to racism)? And in any case, when Wise says that ‘it’s [Obama’s election] seen as a symbol of white dispossesssion’, who is he talking about? The ‘old days’ haven’t gone, they’ve just gotten a sun tan and, like all sun tans, it’s already wearing off.
Race is a state of mind, which is why, for the ‘left’ it’s so difficult to deal with from a ‘socialist’ perspective. Racism on the other hand is an ideological construct, four-five hundred years in the making (damn, the Roman Empire had Black Caesars!), and it needs to be dealt with the same way; deconstructed and demolished in the same way the banksters have been. But the white left lives in fear of its own demons and unfortunately, white privilege whether of the left or the right is so deeply embedded it distorts all analysis as the ‘confusion’ on the ‘left’ concerning Obama so clearly demonstrates.
The ‘noise’ isn’t about race, the noise is about protecting white, capitalist privilege, the race noise comes from the Rottweiler’s of capitalism, the Lou Dobbs’ et al, that is after all, their role in the scheme of things. Likewise all the noise about ‘socialism’ is again aimed at protecting corporate privilege.
Thus the ruling elite have (and surely that was also part of their game plan) exploited the deeply rooted racism of a society that still hasn’t acknowledged that it’s founded on the extermination of an entire culture, the real Americans and nourished by the blood of twenty million Africans.
For the Empire getting Obama elected was seen as a win-win solution, it salved the aching heart (for awhile anyway) and in the long run, if he got too ‘uppity’, well, brand him a Black Red, that’ll take care of things (‘uppity’ in this case means any proposal somewhat to the left Adolf Hitler as Obama’s half-baked and utterly compromised ‘health care’ proposals reveal).
What I think Wise underplays is the fundamental and intrinsic reality of race to the nature of US capitalism, nay, not only US capitalism, though it expresses itself differently under different circumstances. For example in the UK it is smothered in a layer of hypocritical crap about ‘tolerance’ and ‘fairness’, but the end-product is essentially the same.
Comrades (can I call you that?), it’s not rocket science, the Brits have been doing this for centuries, admittedly in the far-flung corners of their former Empire, not up close and personal but it amounts to the same thing; using a Black front man, Nigeria is a good example, during the ‘independence’ process, thus making sure ‘our man’ got elected (see ‘Hidden Histories’ and, ‘Hidden histories confirmed: So much for the ‘Mother of Parliaments’).
Obama got elected precisely because of the racist nature of the capitalist system. Yes, I know it sounds like a contradiction and indeed it is, and it’s a contradiction that is now playing itself out. Effectively, from the point that Obama got elected, he was past his usefulness, all that counted was that distance (or the appearance of it) was put between the ‘new’ government and the old. We now see the real players, Hillary Clinton et al, emerge. Surely it’s obvious that Obama is a puppet on a string?
And anyway Obama is in too deep, trapped like a fly in a spider’s web. Having sold his soul to the devil (something he clearly did well before being selected as presidential candidate) he will play out his allotted role, he has no choice, until the next ‘election’ that is. And no doubt, he will go down in history replete with a (corporately funded) library, don the mantle of ‘elder statesman’ and retire gracefully, having done his bit for the Empire.
Barack Obama on Dandelion Salad
“There really are lots of Americans, white and black alike, who take pride in Barack and see it as true progress, there’s not a thing wrong with that.”
That’s precisely the problem! After eight years of Bush, of course Obama has the appearance of having descended from heaven, who wouldn’t, and at the risk of repeating myself, surely that was the point!
In the UK, after nineteen years of Tory rule, ‘new’ Labour had the same effect on the voter as Obama had, but it was all smoke and mirrors, it was and is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Obama was elected on the biggest lie of all, in some respects even bigger than Bush’s lies, the lie that he would bring (progressive) change to the US when nothing of the sort was intended and even the totally compromised health care ‘reforms’ are revealed as yet another Big Lie.
I can’t remember where I read it but someone wrote that the simplest solution to the health care crisis is to simply extend Medicare to everyone. Instead, Obama plays by the ‘man’s’ rules, and predictably, the ‘debate’ revolves not around the richest country on the planet extending health care to everyone but on whether it’s ‘socialism’ or not!
And given the latest cave-in to the vested interests of the combined forces of the ‘healthcare’ and insurance industries, even the semblence of some kind of universal health insurance coverage has now vanished.
Whether Obama was aware of it or not, his ‘blackness’ has become a fifth column for capitalism, damned if you do and damned if you don’t! My own feeling is that Obama actually doesn’t give a damn, and even if he does, he is, in every respect, wholly owned (and I mean this literally) by those interests who propelled him into the presidency. As the saying goes, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’
I think Chris Floyd summed it very well when he wrote, ‘There is apparently no path blazed by George W. Bush that Barack Obama will not eagerly follow. Surges, assassinations, indefinite detention, defense of torture, senseless wars and rampant militarism — in just a few short months, we’ve seen it all.’ — ‘Tons of Imperial Fun: Hellfire Hillary Pours Oil on Somalia’s Fire’
The role of racist ideology is abundantly clear, it divides and rules, exploiting every fear and insecurity felt by people, whether black or white. Seeing beyond Obama’s skin colour takes an effort of extreme will even when not clouded by prejudice and ignorance, so powerful is the ideology of racism.
A parallel might be drawn here with the situation in South Africa, something I have some personal experience with: here we had Communists (both black and white) in the ANC government, who in the interests of ‘national unity’ participated in the continued exploitation of the Black masses, Blacks who now find themselves actually worse off under ‘democracy’ than they were under the Apartheid regime!
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It was quite apparent from Obama’s cabinet and advisor selections exactly how Obama would govern …
His position on the banks alone, trillions of bailouts (gifts), should have left no doubt that he was in the pocket of the elites. It hasn’t gotten any better. Time after time he has sold out the progressive agenda. War, environment, privacy, torture, Gay Rights etc etc etc …
You can’t be a Progressive and Pro-Obama …
I’d love to see folks chime in on these ideas:
1) The Republicans stole 2000 and 2004 with modified versions of Jim Crow in Florida and Ohio, Greg Palast has written extensively on this…could it be the Dems needed a massive Black turnout to override that?
2) There really are lots of Americans, white and black alike, who take pride in Barack and see it as true progress, there’s not a thing wrong with that.
3)Barack is probably a compassionate and decent guy personally, a guy who is also a total opportunist and tells himself he’s cool because he has brought this ‘progress’ even as he seeks ‘balance.’
That’s what he would call being the shill for the plutocracy, ‘balance.’ A good front man seeks ‘balance’.
So take health care reform…we know single-payer is just and right. We all know it. The world knows it. He knows it. But he must ‘balance.’
So there will be improvement of some kind but no true reform.
Nothing changes. NOTHING CHANGES!
He will make nice speeches, stage nice town-hall meetings.
Probably several million poor Americans will get some basic medicaid-style govt-option health care that’s weak and non-threatening to the health insurance and drug company extortionists….
Paid for far more by the middle class than the rich, but they’ll have to cough up a little too to ‘make this thing finally go away’….
And yes everyone likes kids, the poor may be able to manage their children’s health better–it will be’ better than nothing’…but not much…lots of good speeches about kids, good material for speeches….
And yes small business owners who now cant buy a nice car because they have to insure their employees with private insurance may get some tax breaks, something nice….
And yes the insurance companies may not be able to use this ludicrous criminal ‘pre-existing conditions’ nonsense as often, throw fewer sick people into the street to die or go bankrupt, they’ll still do it but not as much, there will be improvement….Barack will say to himself, ‘hey there’s improvement, I’m cool….”
In the meantime, he’s already assured the drug companies no imports from Canada, they’ll have to slice a few bucks off the top (80 billion is it?), peanuts over ten years in their world, they’ll get it back some other way….but they’re ‘in line’…balance…..he’s ‘met with them’…..
The big insurance companies will live with this, successfully managing this ‘reform stuff’ with their Dem and Rep friends alike….
And nothing will really change.
The insurance companies will stay rich, their CEO’s keep the mansions, profits..Wall St adjusts but the cow keeps a milkin’…
The lobbyists and lawyers still get to drive German cars and have summer homes….everybody coughs up 5 grand a plate when Barack’s reelection (or their crony Congresspeople’s reelections ) comes up….
And nothing changes really….and the improvement will help the President and his allies feel cool, they ‘balanced opposing forces’ successfully, like good opportunists do…
and the Repub scream machine will talk about how they ‘staved off evil socialism!!’ to their fans….
And NOTHING REALLY CHANGES!!!!!