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Some Cyanide to Go With That Whine? Obama's Victory and the Rage of the Barbiturate Left

My political entry into the left (and by this I mean the real left, beyond the Democratic Party) came a little more than twenty years ago in New Orleans, when, as a college student I became involved in the fight against U.S. intervention in Central America. In particular, the groups of which I was a part sought to end military aid to the death squad governments in El Salvador and Guatemala, and to block support for the contra thugs our nation was arming in Nicaragua, who by that time had already killed about 30,000 civilians in their war with the nominally socialist Sandinista government.

It was the first place where I came into contact with folks who defined themselves as radicals (I had grown up in Nashville, after all, where at that time, even finding "out" liberals was sometimes a challenge), and where I got to experience all the fascinating permutations of Marxism that the left had to offer. In addition to unaffiliated socialists (which I considered myself to be at the time), there were Trotskyites, old-line Leninists, Maoists, and even some bizarre Stalinists in the bunch. Excluding from consideration those among this number who turned out to be FBI spies, there were still plenty of real and interesting ideologues who had valuable insights to offer, even for those of us who didn't swallow their particular party line.

But despite being interesting, these folks also managed, at least for me, to demonstrate one of the key problems with the left in the U.S. Namely, for the sake of ideological purity few within the professional left expressed any joy about life, or any emotion whatsoever that wasn't rooted in negativity. They were like the political equivalent of quaaludes: guaranteed to bring you down from whatever partly optimistic place you might find yourself from time to time.

This was never so evident as the day I hopped into a car with one of the Stalinoids (a member of something called the Albanian Liberation League, which viewed the brutal regime of Enver Hoxha as a worker's paradise), and headed downtown for a rally to protest Contra aid. Once in the car, I asked about the music playing from his stereo. What was it? I wanted to know. He quickly explained that it was Albanian folk music, and the only music he listened to. I made some joke about how strange it was to be living in one of the greatest musical towns on Earth and yet to restrict oneself to a single genre of music (especially that favored by Albanian sheepherders), to which my revolutionary friend responded with a grunt and a scowl. Of course, because Comrade Stalin never much liked jazz.

The humorlessness of the far left--to which I remain connected ideologically if not organizationally--has always struck me as one of its greatest weaknesses. People like to laugh, they like to smile, they like to be joyful, and an awful lot of hardened leftists seem almost utterly incapable of doing any of these things. It's as if they have all taken a pledge that there should be no laughter until the revolution, or some such shit. No positivity, no hope, no happiness so long as people are still poor and exploited and being murdered by cops, and victimized by United States militarism, or performing as wage slaves for global capital, or eating meat, or driving cars. And they wonder why the left is so weak?

Now, in the wake of Barack Obama's victory these barbiturate leftists are back in full effect, lecturing the rest of us about how naive we are for having any confidence whatsoever in him, or for voting at all, since "the Democrats and Republicans are all the same," and he supports FISA and the war with Afghanistan, and all kinds of other messed up policies just like many on the right. Those of us who find any significance in the election of a man of color in a nation founded on white supremacy are fools who "drank the kool-aid," unlike they, whose clear-headed radical consciousness leads them to recognize the superior morality of Ralph Nader, or the pure "scientific wisdom of chairman Bob Avakian," or the intellectual profundity of their favorite graffiti bomb: "If voting changed anything it would be illegal." Yeah, and if body piercings and anarchy tats changed anything, they would be too, and then what would some folks do to be "different?" (Note: there is nothing wrong with either type of adornment, but getting either or both doesn't make you a revolutionary, any more than voting, that's all I'm saying).

These are people who think being agitators is about pissing people off more than reaching out to them. So they pull out their "Buck Fush" signs at their repetitively irrelevant antiwar demonstrations, or their posters with W sporting a Hitler mustache, because that tends to work so well at convincing folks to oppose the slaughter in Iraq. But effectiveness isn't what matters to them. What matters to them is raging against the machine for the sake of rage itself. Their message is simple: everything sucks, the earth is doomed, all cops are brutal, all soldiers are baby-killers, all people who work for corporations are evil, blah, blah, blah, right on down the line. It's as if much of the left has become co-dependent with despondency, addicted to its own isolation, and enamored of its moral purity and unwillingness to work with mere liberals. In the name of ideological asceticism, they spurn the hard work of movement building and inspiring others to join the struggle, snicker at those foolish enough to not understand or appreciate their superior philosophical constructs, and then act shocked when their movements and groups accomplish exactly nothing. But honestly, who wants to join a movement filled with people who look down on you as a sucker?

If we on the left want those liberals to join the struggle for social justice and liberation, we're going to have to meet people where they are, not where Bakunin would want them to be. For those who can't get excited about Obama, so be it, but at least realize that there are millions of people who, for whatever reason, are; people who are mobilized and active, and that energy is looking for an outlet. Odds are, that outlet won't be the Obama administration, since few of them will actually land jobs with it. So that leaves activist formations, community groups and grass-roots struggles. That leaves, in short, us. Just as young people inspired by the center-right JFK candidacy in 1960 ultimately moved well beyond him on their way to the left and made up many of the most committed and effective activists of the 60s and early 70s, so too can such growth occur now among the Obama faithful. But not if we write them off. 

At some point, the left will have to relinquish its love affair with marginalization. We'll have to stop behaving like those people who have a favorite band they love, and even damn near worship, until that day when the band actually begins to sell a lot of records and gain a measure of popularity, at which point they now suck and have obviously sold out: the idea being that if people like you, you must not be doing anything important, and that obscurity is the true measure of integrity. Deconstructing the psychological issues at the root of such a pose is well above my pay grade, but I'm sure would prove fascinating.

The simple fact is, people are inspired by Obama not because they view him as especially progressive per se (except in relation to some of the more retrograde policies of the current president, and in relation to where they feel, rightly, McCain/Palin would have led us), but because most folks respond to optimism, however ill-defined it may be. This is what the Reaganites understood, and for that matter it's what Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement knew too. It wasn't anger and pessimism that broke the back of formal apartheid in the south, but rather, hope, and a belief in the fundamental decency of people to make a change if confronted by the yawning chasm between their professed national ideals and the bleak national reality. 

In other words, what the 60s freedom struggle took for granted, but which the cynical barbiturate left refuses to concede, is the basic goodness of the people of this nation, and the ability of the nation, for all of its faults (and they are legion) to change. Look at pictures of the freedom riders in 1961, or the volunteers during Freedom Summer of 1964 and notice the dramatic difference between them and some of the seething radicals of today--whose radicalism is almost entirely about style and image more than actual analysis and movement building. In the case of the former, even as they stared down mobs intent on injuring or killing them, and even as they knew they might be murdered, they smiled, they laughed, they sang, they found joy. In the case of the latter, one most often notices an almost permanent scowl, a dour and depressing affect devoid of happiness, unable to appreciate life until the state is smashed altogether and everyone is subsisting on a diet of wheatgrass, bean curd and tempeh.

Hell, maybe I'm just missing the strategic value of calling people "useful idiots," or likening them to members of a cult, the way some leftists have done recently with regard to Obama supporters. Or maybe it's just that being a father, I have to temper my contempt for this system and its managers with hope. After all, as a dad (for me at least), it's hard to look at my children every day and think, "Gee, it sucks that the world is so screwed up, and will probably end in a few years from resource exploitation...Oh well, I sure hope my daughters have a great day at school!" 

Fatherhood hasn't made me any less radical in my analysis or desire to see change. In fact, if anything, it has made me more so. I am as angry now as I've ever been about injustice, because I can see how it affects these children I helped to create, and for whom I am now responsible. But anger and cynicism do not make good dance partners. Anger without hope, without a certain faith in the capacity of we the people to change our world is a sickness unto death. It is consuming, like a flesh-eating disease, and whose first victim is human compassion. While I would never counsel too much confidence in far-right types to join the struggle for justice--and there, I think skepticism is well-warranted--if we can't conjure at least a little optimism for the ability of liberals and Democrats to come along for the ride and to do the work, then what is the point? Under such a weighty and pessimistic load as this, life simply becomes unbearable. And if there is one thing we cannot afford to do now--especially now--it is to give up the will to live and to fight, another day.

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Agreed, But No Pandering

Agreed, Tim. Elitism, snobbishness (especially when it's tinged with racism: yes, all you black folks, you're wrong about oppression, Obama's candidacy really doesn't mean anything), anger, hopelessness, prudishness, and a lack of fun are major problems with the Left and a major source of our "stickiness problem".

That having been said, while we shouldn't meet people where Bakunin would like us to be, we also should be loathe to form coalitions with people who say, "Well, I think affirmative action is reverse racism, even though I'm okay with class-based affirmative action" or similar actively counter-productive liberal bromides. Reaching out to not just liberals but libertarians, conservatives, nihilists, and whomever is obviously a good thing. But we also have to be willing not to temper our viewpoints for it. Sure, we can EXPRESS those viewpoints constructively, tolerantly, pleasantly. But to say to an Obama supporter, "Well, Obama's OKAY I guess..." is to be pandering to them, and that's not needed either.

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Yes

Tim, I always very much enjoy your posts but have left it to others to comment. I had to respond this time, as this piece struck a deep chord in me. Why bother to fight, or work, for change without idealism?

There is a pervasive cynicism that has eaten its way into the American Left, and it is nothing but destructive. To have a belief in a more beautiful and better tomorrow, was, until extremely recently, something to be laughed at, and nothing made me more frustrated.Maybe it was because of too many idealistic leaders assassinated, or because the people who we've looked to to lead the nation ended up resigning under clouds of impropriety or were embroiled in scandals of violence or sex. It is a shock, a welcome one, to have a President whom I can truly respect.

I currently have no great insight or observation, nor do I have your eloquence, but I wanted to thank you for what you write.

-Max Sindell, Red Room

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threatened much?

You need to put your extra-wide brush away, Tim. I'm sorry there are people out there who don't think Barack "We Have a Very Tightly Wrapped Message" Obama is anything but a shill and they challenge your sense of righteous victory, but you're gonna have to deal. I'd say you're gonna have to deal pretty soon, too, but if you haven't seen what's going on already, I'm sure you'll put up the same defenses the right does when their positions are challenged.

 Yes, it's awesome we finally elected a black man. Almost unthinkable, in fact. But to look at it as anything but a symbolic gesture is ridiculous. Real power comes from the people, and Obama has never, and likely will never, represent them. He will tap your phone, he will consolidate even more power in the executive, he will continue to murder Iraqis in uncountable numbers, and he will continue to make way for a police state of gargantuan proportions.

 The problem is that people like you eat his raw bacon and call it filet mingon under the guise of lesser-evilism nonsense. "But Bush was feeding us shit for eight years," you say, "and raw bacon is at least a little nutritious."

 Obama being elected is all the more reason for the left to be on their toes, because he was brought in specifically to placate us. And that's apparently fine by you, because, zomg, the symbolic gesture! 

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Good Job, Pal

"

You need to put your extra-wide brush away, Tim. I'm sorry there are people out there who don't think Barack "We Have a Very Tightly Wrapped Message" Obama is anything but a shill and they challenge your sense of righteous victory, but you're gonna have to deal. I'd say you're gonna have to deal pretty soon, too, but if you haven't seen what's going on already, I'm sure you'll put up the same defenses the right does when their positions are challenged.

 Yes, it's awesome we finally elected a black man. Almost unthinkable, in fact. But to look at it as anything but a symbolic gesture is ridiculous. Real power comes from the people, and Obama has never, and likely will never, represent them. He will tap your phone, he will consolidate even more power in the executive, he will continue to murder Iraqis in uncountable numbers, and he will continue to make way for a police state of gargantuan proportions."

If you think he will do this at exactly the same rate as a hypothetical McCain presidency or the Bush presidency, you're not paying any attention.

Tim's point here actually has almost NOTHING to do with Obama's merits. He's pointing out that, no matter how bad Obama is, his SUPPORTERS are not necessarily lost causes and deserve respect and attempts to recruit and reach out to them. The fact that your kneejerk response was a) high-order cynicism, b) bashing an ally and c) ignoring attempts to reach out to a broader circle is as much proof of Tim's point as anything else.

" Obama being elected is all the more reason for the left to be on their toes, because he was brought in specifically to placate us. And that's apparently fine by you, because, zomg, the symbolic gesture! "

Yeah, the elites totally care about you and your insular circle of neo-Leninist-quasi-Stalinist buddies, enough to run a candidate with scary progressive talk. You're such a cutting edge critic.

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Wow, you miss the point,

Wow, you miss the point, while actually making it at the same time...if you think you can build a movement by telling people that Obama is NO DIFFERENT than Bush, and that he will continue to murder Iraqis and usher in a police state...well, good luck with that. This is why the left is so pathetic: a bunch of whining, irrelevant folks who think yet ANOTHER big protest march is gonna matter...I agree of course that real power comes from the people, but the people will not mobilize with those who basically call them idiots, or suggest that they don't mind being placated, or can't tell the diff between bacon and filet...see, I probably agree with your policy views on most everything, and I already think you're a prick just for the way you present your more-radical-than-thou bullshit...good luck with that movement building thing

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Movements under Rugs

I think movements should be built on the truth. That doesn't mean Obama is no different from Bush, but on a number of substantial issues (some mentioned previously), he will not be substantially different - in fact, there is good reason to think he will get away with shit Bush never could. Why you think it's reasonable to call that whining is beyond me. Trying to silence that critique comes off as, "Just shut up with the facts already, you stupid whiner, before I kill you myself."

For some odd reason I've had a hard time stomaching your behavior this last month. I'm sure that's just me being a pathetic waste of oxygen, though.

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Not Silencing, Altering

"I think movements should be built on the truth. That doesn't mean Obama is no different from Bush, but on a number of substantial issues (some mentioned previously), he will not be substantially different - in fact, there is good reason to think he will get away with shit Bush never could. Why you think it's reasonable to call that whining is beyond me. Trying to silence that critique comes off as, "Just shut up with the facts already, you stupid whiner, before I kill you myself."

But he's NOT silencing that critique.

Tim never said, "Don't say those things".

He said don't say those things ad nauseum, with no hope, no music, no fun, no engagement, no attempt to discuss and explain WHY and be accessible, and no explanation of alternatives and discussions of tactics.

There is a large movement behind Obama, with women, young folks, all sorts of people who may not have been accessible before. If we tell them that they were idiots for voting for the guy, then they'll just go off and do their own thing, probably better off without us. If we say, "Okay, a black man is President now, but watch as things don't improve as much as you thought they would. Now we need to keep pushing to accomplish change, but it needs to be done in a more revolutionary way". 60s youth movements moved from Kennedy to resistance to the war in Vietnam, and by the 70s we had Black Panthers, a second wave of feminism, etc.

So, make a choice. Want to be irrelevant and ideologically pure, or meet people half way and actually get SOMETHING done? Coalitions require respect for, if not agreement with, other members of the coalition. 

Tim and I are undoubtedly just as radical as you, but I'm able not to come off as a douche. That's a big difference. I can talk, respectfully, to people who voted for Obama or even McCain, explain my viewpoints, offer reasoning why, and change some minds. People don't change their minds without respect for them being part of the equation. It's not WHAT you say,  it's how you say it.

"For some odd reason I've had a hard time stomaching your behavior this last month. I'm sure that's just me being a pathetic waste of oxygen, though."

Maybe because the critiques are hitting too close to home.

It's tempting to say that Tim's selling out, but the problem is that this is not only kneejerk and sectarian, it's just ludicrous. Michael Albert, Noam Chomsky, and hell even BOOKCHIN see structural problems with the Left in the same veins as Tim.

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Couldn't agree more

I really appreciate your latest post, Tim, particularly as a new father. I'm equally radical in my views, but perhaps also similarly pragmatic in my activism. I desperately wanted Obama to get elected, and gave his campaign a lot of money (for me) and a decent amount of time. Now that Obama has won, I believe it's time to focus on how we progressives (for I count myself as one) can help our new president to address the issues we see as most crucial. But we can't expect Obama to do everything we want--at times he'll choose not to for purely political reasons, at other times perhaps because his beliefs legitimately differ from ours. I think we leftists need to perhaps step back a bit from our all-or-nothing view of the world and accept that getting some of what we want is actually a good thing. With Obama in the White House, things are certain to be more favorable to our interests than they have been for quite awhile. Let's celebrate that fact. Maybe even smile a little.

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I'm stoked about Obama

Thanks for his post, Tim, I think you hit the exact spot. For a "token gesture," electing a black man president of the whole country is pretty significant. The emotinal significance of it is important. The symbolic significance is imporant. I mean, that's the whole reason racism has existed in the first place--that symbolism could be chosen to be significant--and now that same symbolism has been reversed in a very powerful way. It's true what some conservative said on TV recently, it would be like France electing an Algerian. We did do something pretty cool, and we're allowed to celebrate, and it will help us to celebrate. And if Obama does continue all of Bush's policies, that's only because the people haven't taken enough responsibility for making it possible for him to do otherwise. He wants to do the best he can, but his job is not to fix the thing that the people have created (and we have crated many) or the ones that we've allowed ourselves to be duped into (fool me twice, we really have to wake up, no one else can wake up for us--I mean, if Obama waved a magic wand and all the manipulation just dried up and vanished, it would be just as easy for it to come right back agian).  His job is an adminstrative one, to keep the country somewhat organized, which is an honest job as any other, and, if he can, to inspire us, to model for us calm, relentless constructiveness and good self-care.  Even Freire points out that the oppresssed need to be inspired to rise up, not guilt-tripped into it--hope is a very powerful thing for revolution, and without it, without any acknowledgement when you've made a significant amount of progress, you may as well not make progress at all because it ulitimately will feel exactly the same. Feelings count--this is radical idea, a revolutionary idea. Yes. And so if we've only taken a baby step in the right direction, we can take another. But this isn't a baby step--McCain would have been the baby step, forgetting Palin for the moment (and VP is basically irrelevant); we got soemthing a whole lot better than HIllary's politics. What Obama is trying to do is to give everybody everything they want--including the radical left--and maybe he can't do it, or maybe he goddamn can. He already did one freaking miracle.  Yes, maybe he can.  If we do our part of hte work too.

 The whole being-grim thing on the left's part is the heir of Puritanism, plain and simple, it's the Protestant work ethic disease, it's AMerican over-seriousness. It needs to be treated with compassion. I am a recovering grim person myself. Being told to not be grim never helped me, but once in a while kindness did.  The world really does look black when you are in that place, and it's only out of a desire to do right and to be compassionate that people go there. But I believe the answer is not "activist-harder," it's activist with more hope and more inspiration and more play and more theater, and, yes, more symbols.  Yes, I've been letting msyelf feel things and express them a lot more since Nov.4 and  that makes change too.

It's the first time in history this has happened. Not in Athens, not in Rome, not in England, France, Spain, or any other world power. Not among the whales, not among the dolphins. Have the rocks elected a tree their leader?  

It's OK to believe, people, believing, feeling, is going to make us stronger, not weaker.  We can think too, the two things don't in any way exclude each other.

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Some Corrections

A few corrections, Joshua.

I strongly doubt that Obama is trying to do ANYTHING for the radical left. Correct me if I am wrong, but I doubt you can identify one policy that would be a concession to the radical left and no one else. Meanwhile, his reactionary, to-the-right-of-American-opinion policies are manifold: Being willing to use force against Iran, standard reactionary tripe about the Palestinian conflict, etc. Paul's assessments of Obama's campaign are still spot on: Obama will be a liberal candidate, nothing more.

If Obama were to continue all of Bush's policies, that would be monstrous. First of all, people are responsible for their actions. A leader who does bad things is just as accountable as a murderer. Second, he would not even have the excuse that he was forced to by the constraints of the system, since there is enough systemic room to do things better than what Bush did.

Friere would remind us strongly that hope generated from the top is fundamentally illusory. That hope, if thusly generated, must be recaptured and made authentically of the peoples' to be useful. This is something I think the Left has to do: Make sure this hope is channeled productively, not curdled into apathy, complacency or frustration.

The President's job is far from administrative. It is quite executive and legislative now, thanks to the imperial Presidency that has been expanding for decades. But even without this change, the President's job is to serve the true constituency of American power, the corporate elites who run the dominant institutions of the society.

"But I believe the answer is not "activist-harder," it's activist with more hope and more inspiration and more play and more theater, and, yes, more symbols."

Absolutely agreed.

"It's the first time in history this has happened. Not in Athens, not in Rome, not in England, France, Spain, or any other world power. Not among the whales, not among the dolphins. Have the rocks elected a tree their leader?"

This is not the first time in history a previously oppressed minority ascended to a position of power, electoral or otherwise.

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Not a deficit of hope and joy, rather a paucity of vision

Tim,

Thank you for so eloquently expressing what many others feel when they encounter the rote cynicism of some who claim a small corner of the Left (and by no means do they represent the majority of the Left).  

There are all too many humorless leftists, but where I might take exception with your critique is that I believe the problem is not that they lack hope and joy (which, no doubt, some do), but rather that they lack vision.

I think US Labor Against the War put it well:

"We want Barack Obama to be a truly great president. We intend to help him be that by holding him and the Congress accountable to meet the needs of millions who cast their votes inspired by the hope his campaign created and their aspirations for a decent life in a nation at peace.

"We know that democracy may be exercised in the voting booth, but the content of democracy is created at the grass roots of society, in neighborhoods and communities, churches and union halls, and in the street. We will educate, agitate and organize for him and the Congress to fulfill the people’s mandate for change and to reject once and for all the failed, destructive and exploitative corporate agenda.

"It is our continued mobilization and organizing, our continued determination to press for enactment of a people’s agenda for change that will give Barack Obama the opportunity to be a great president. We welcome that challenge and commit to meeting it."

The point some on the left miss is that WE (the people, the masses, the working class) have the ability and opportunity to write the next chapter based on what we do (or don't do). 

Throwing bricks at the Obama administration for failing to measure up to a radical standard may give sustenance to one's self-righteous certainty that you have command of the truth, but it does virtually nothing to build a movement that can put demands before the administration and Congress to deliver - not on their empty or not-so-empty promises and campaign speeches - but on the expectations the campaign created that the needs of the people will be met. 

It's up to us to make Obama a great president because left to his own devices, that will not happen.  Anyone who is shocked that Obama is a centrist hasn't been paying attention. 

FDR was no flaming leftist when he got elected.  It was the movement that pushed him to be more than he ever intended to be.  He may not have changed his stripes.  But who cares.  We got Social Security, WPA, the Wagner Act and a host of other concessions because working people organized to achieve their hopes for a better life.

That wasn't the Revolution, but it certainly represented an improvement in the lives of millions of people who were suffering mightily.

Any leftist who still claims that piece of the political spectrum ought to listen carefully to the admonition of Joe Hill: Don't mourn. ORGANIZE! 

Or if that doesn't make the point, listen to Frederick Douglass:

"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation…want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

But let's do it with a sense of humility and pause periodically to celebrate our little victories, for if we do not, there will be no big ones.

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Tim Wise Piece

The SDS was boring. The Yippies were fun. As Abbie Hoffman recognized so long ago: Isms get schisms and go to wasms pretty quick.

The purity of Nader brought the terror in Iraq. The newly born optimism and hope: not bad things. It really is better to win. Our role remains the same: push for our agenda. Better Obama than George Wallace/Sarah Palin. Unless you prefer the righteousness of powerlessness. 

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Nader?

Tim actually had a piece years ago about the Nader bit. Turns out, he didn't cost Gore the election, not even if we accept the maxim that it's irrelevant that the election got stolen in the first place. A lot of Nader's votes were taken from Buchanan or Bush voters. Putting that aside, Nader's purity didn't cost ANYTHING, not directly. Bush invaded Iraq. What could have stopped him is an interesting question. Certainly, a unified American public could have. Which begs the question: Why attack Nader's moral purity when it's really the apathy and hopelessness of many American voters?

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Tim and and the Obama rope-a-dope

Malcolm X often articulated to his (Black) audiences, when he declared (specifically in relation to things he knew were very controversial with them): “I know you don’t like me telling you these things—but I didn't come here to tell you what you like, I came here to tell you the truth, whether you like it or not.”  

As for Tim's ridicule of the snarky dismissal and ridicule of Bob Avakian and many others who are standing on principle and are determined to struggle for people stop thinking like Americans, and fight in the interest of humanity, I challenge them to read what Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party are actually saying and doing at www.revcom.us and specifically:

 http://revcom.us/a/149/avakian_on_election-en.html#001 

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Preaching to the Choir

First off, D'Andre, what exactly do you have at issue with Tim? Do you agree or disagree with his assessment?

Second, Avakian's opening quote reads like this:

"The more that life—and specifically the contradictions marking the world under the domination of this imperialist system—assert themselves (within the U.S. and internationally) and things unfold with Obama's presidency (and even now with his "transition" to the presidency), the more there will be a basis for further exposing what he is, and is not, all about and for demonstrating the kind of radical, fundamental change that is really needed…once again provided that we consistently approach all this in the way and on the basis emphasized here."

I'm an ANARCHIST and my eyes glaze over. Words like "contradictions", "imperialist system"... they might have a rich meaning for Marxist and Communist clubs, but they are misinterpreted by most outside that narrow circle. I know what Avakian means, but the average Obama supporter doesn't. Not because they're dumb or undereducated, but because these terms mean something very specific to a very small group.

That's Tim's entire point. Not that the ruling class isn't playing a rope-a-dope with Obama: Of course they are. But they played the same rope-a-dope with Clinton, and Kennedy, and so forth (though Avakian does make a good argument that this is a bit larger of a phenomenon). What matters isn't what the elites do, but how movements respond to their moves. Obama supporters could either become coopted and made into Democratic party hacks, which would be bad; or they could become apathetic if they see Obama not following through on a better society, which would be worse; or the Left could get its act together, drop the Marxist double-speak and embrace them, and get a new generation of Leftists.

There's nothing wrong with what Avakian is saying, right or wrong. But how he's saying it is only meant to be circulated among a tiny, insular circle. Something more like this might be more appropriate:

"Millions of voters tried to achieve a better society when they voted for Obama. I think they saw not only how bad it had gotten under Bush in particular, but had an idea that there was a more systemic problem here. That American empire had cost them too much, not to mention others too much, in Iraq and Afghanistan. That they were no safer. That the economy was still failing and always would fail until it was fixed. To those voters, I say: Voting for Obama was not a bad thing. But it was only the start."

And proceed in that vein. One could say exactly the same things: Anti-corporatism, anti-capitalism, propose a revolution against capitalism, etc. But doing so in a way that will appeal to the average rank-and-file Obama supporter instead of just preaching to the choir...