From the January 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard
Judging by the ubiquitous media-generated euphoria that greeted the Barak Obama victory in the US presidential election, you could be forgiven for thinking that the class struggle had ended in the USA. Across the globe, the world’s media intimated that this was the dawn of a new age and hundreds of millions of workers breathed a sigh of relief, convinced President Obama will now undo all the wrongdoing carried out by President Bush and generally improve the quality of their lives and the safety of the planet.
The first thing to note, however, is that this had been the most expensive American election so far. The pooled cost of the Republican and Democratic campaigns was a cool $1 billion. The McCain camp raised $340 million whereas the Obama team secured $640 million.While Obama’s team boasted that most of their money came from small $100 and $200 donors, in truth the great bulk of his financial support came from Wall Street and the US corporate elite and was way in advance of that given to John McCain, suggesting the US capitalism plc feels its profits are best protected via Obama. The US power elite bankrolled the Obama campaign and for no other reason than that they know he will have to repay their loyalty.
An estimated 64 percent of the US electorate turned out to vote – a record by all accounts - 62.3 million votes. The majority of the extra voters were Blacks and Latino, not only drawn to the ballot box by the longing to oust a reactionary Republican regime, or by Obama’s promise of ‘change’ but, moreover, because Obama was non–white. Socialists could only watch on and comment that this election was not a race issue, but a class issue and lament their selective amnesia. One time Secretary of State Collin Powell rose through the ranks covering up the My Lai massacre and famously presented false evidence to the UN in furtherance of the US justification for the invasion of Iraq. Consider too his successor Condoleezza Rice, the zealous maid-servant to Bush’s imperialist strategy.
To be sure, Obama was not breaking any mould, despite his hope-fused rhetoric. The vast majority of voters, indeed workers the world over, were heartily fed up with Bush’s wars, his imperialist conquests, the US disregard for international law and the increasing pariah status this had earned America and sincerely wanted to see the back of it. The signs, however, that Obama was more of a wolf in sheep’s clothing were already there, not least in the Senate where he sanctioned every increase in funding for the Iraq war that George Bush requested.
Furthermore, like Bush, Obama is a supporter of the death penalty. He is pro-pollutant nuclear and coal industries and, whilst the Guardian could optimistically run a headline “Obama will move to veto Bush laws” (10 November), has not mentioned eradicating repressive legislation such as the Patriot Act, homeland security, the Military Commissions Act, internet control, and wiretapping and spying on the US populace.
It certainly looks like the Bush administration’s imperial ambitions will continue under Obama. He has already spoken about building up US military power by 20,000 troops and has declared his intention to cut troop numbers in Iraq and transfer them to a surge in Afghanistan and indeed spread war to nuclear armed Pakistan. All of this will be, as under Bush, carried out to further the interests of a profit-hungry corporate elite and veiled in pompous patriotic oratory about spreading democracy and American values and fighting the “war on terror.” Undoubtedly, Obama will soon be using the hackneyed theme of social unity to wage the class war internally and abroad on behalf of a small power elite.
He also undertaken, to “isolate Hamas”, elected in democratic elections that were verified by an international team of observers and, picking up the baton from Bush, used his first press conference as president-elect to likewise cock a snook at the US National Intelligence Estimate and evidence presented by the IAEA on Iran’s nuclear intentions, and accused Iran of the "development of a nuclear weapon" and vowed "to prevent that from happening."
If Obama apologists think President Obama will put a halt to the blood letting they are going to be sorely disappointed. Make no mistake; whilst the left are fond of castigating Republicans as the masters of war, the truth is that historically the Democrats have started far more wars than the GOP. More recently, under the last Democrat to hold office, President Clinton, one million Iraqis are said to have died under US enforced sanctions, 500, 000 of them children. Sorties over Iraq were flown every single day Clinton was in power. Yugoslavia was mercilessly bombed and a much needed pharmaceutical plant in Sudan was bombed on the pretext that it was manufacturing Chemical weapons, and villages in Afghanistan were flattened because Bin-Laden was presumed to be living there. And who could forget the US invasion of Somalia, with troops storming the beaches live on prime time TV!
Who will make up the Obama administration is at the time of writing speculation, though we do know his Chief of Staff is Israeli army veteran Rahm Emanuel, popularly viewed as Likudist hawk and that his National Securtiy Adviser will be architect of the Mujahedeen Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Not only is Obama incapable of ushering in significant change, bar a few miserly reforms, but neither is there anyone he can bring to his administration capable of bringing the change that was so promised in his election campaign for no other reason that changers do not get confirmed by the Senate. There exist quite influential interest groups – the AIPAC, the military security complex, Wall Street etc to hinder the advancement of such undesirables.
The hope many have in Obama to implement policies that will benefit the class that matters is misplaced. His political rawness means he will be manipulated by more experienced advisers, little different from the neo-cons, maybe even key figures from the Bush administration, and pressured by a corporate elite who funded his victory to execute policies that fit in with their own agenda.
The outcome of US elections carries one truth: namely that whichever candidate becomes president, he has but one remit once in office – to further the interests of the US corporate elite. It’s just not a feasible option for any newly elected president to entertain any idea other than guaranteeing a safe playing field for the domestic profit machine and doing what’s needed to try to ensure the US maintains its global hegemonic status.