Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama's Victory: A Marxist Viewpoint

By Sitaram Yechury/ The Indian Express

The remarkable ascendancy of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America brings to mind an ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”. When my generation was growing up, Hollywood, in late 1960s, captured the conflicts of American society in the film ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’, the dilemma of an all white family whose daughter invites her African-American boyfriend to dinner. Sidney Poitier poignantly conveyed the insecurities of racial prejudices. This film strengthened the resolve amongst many of us to fight discrimination of all sorts. On my first visit to New York in the early Seventies, it was common place to find an African American on the streets asking for change. Today, one has walked into the White House on a popular mandate for Change. In this sense, history is, indeed, being made.
Fidel Castro had described Obama as “the most progressive candidate for US Presidency” from the “social and human points of view”, but warned that it would be an illusion to presume that the character of US imperialism would undergo any decisive progressive shifts. Marx had once said, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past”.

Obama inherits a past: US imperialism’s hegemonic drive to impose a global unipolarity under its tutelage; US strategic doctrine of ‘preemptive strike’ against any sovereign independent country in the world; the US’s self-declared right to militarily attack and occupy any country in the name of the‘global war against terrorism’. He inherits the notorious history of ‘state terrorism’ practiced by successive US governments. He has declared to continue the criminal economic blockade against Cuba. He inherits the presidential sanction for torture in Abu Ghraib, or Guantanamo.

US support to Israel has denied the Palestinians their ‘home land’ all through the 20th century. Will this change now? Pertinent to us, in India, is that, with this unprecedented Democratic sweep in the US Congress and Senate as well, the pressures for resurrecting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty will mount. With the Indo-US nuclear deal’s attendant pressures on India, this has serious implications. Further, Obama has already displayed keen interest in resolving the Kashmir dispute when India has consistently maintained that there is no scope for any third party intervention in this Indo-Pak bilateral issue. Obama has declared this as a priority in order to have Pakistan’s undistracted attention in helping the US militarily to combat the Taliban.

Surely, on these and many other important issues, the official US position will be known once Obama assumes the reins of office. So also will the world know how the US administration, under him, intends to tackle the current crisis of global capitalism. A recession has already begun in the US and fast spreading to other industrialised countries. Definitive positions can only be taken subsequently.

The moot question, therefore, is: will any of this change? While there are expectations, the track record of US imperialism renders all such hopes illusiory. US imperialism’s earlier preoccupation with its ‘war on communism’ led to the unilateral aggression against Vietnam, will the pressures of the current ‘war against terrorism’ propel the Obama administration into more horrendous acts of ‘state terrorism’?

Obama concludes his book, The Audacity of Hope, by dedicating himself to the process that built the US: “those like Lincoln and King, who ultimately laid down their lives in the service of perfecting an imperfect union. And all the faceless, nameless men and women, slaves and soldiers and tailors and butchers, constructing lives for themselves and their children and grandchildren, brick by brick, rail by rail, calloused hand by calloused hand, to fill in the landscape of our collective dreams...It is that process I wish to be a part of.”

Indeed laudable. But will this process be confined to some 300 million people that account for less than 5 per cent of the world population? The fate of the remaining 95 per cent of humanity, war or peace, air that may be fit to breathe or not, their quality of life, as Fidel Castro said, will depend to a great extent on the decisions of the Empire’s institutional leader.

Return to the Chinese curse. It contains a belief that in every crisis situation, there is also the path for hope. Will this be used for creating a better world? The past experience of US imperialism, however, has shown that the leopard never changes its spots. If so, then the struggle shall continue for the triumph of hope over experience.

(The writer is Rajya Sabha MP and member of the CPM politburo)

Roger And Out

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