US-amerikanska vänstern och Obama

Charlie Post har skrivit en intressant artikel, bl.a.publicerad på Solidaritys blogg om hur den amerikanska vänstern bör förhålla sig till Barack Obama. Artikeln är ett svar till Linda Burnhams artikel om vänstern och Obama som bland annat publicerats på Z-net. I Linda Burnhams artikel menar hon att Obama har tagit det demokratiska partiet fler steg vänsterut. Så här skriver Burnham om Obamas presidentvalskampanj:

– Revealed the contours, composition and potential of a broad democratic coalition, demographically grounded in the (overlapping) constituencies of African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, youth across the racial groups, LGBT voters, unionized workers, urban professionals, and women of color and single white women, and in the sectors of organized labor, peace, civil rights, civil liberties, feminism, and environmentalism. Obama did not create this broadly democratic electoral coalition single-handedly or out of whole cloth, but he did move it from latency to potency and from dispirited, amorphous and unorganized to goal oriented, enthusiastic and organized;

– Busted up the Republican’s southern strategy, the foundation of their rule for most of the last forty years, and the Democrat’s ignominious concession to this legacy of slavery;

– Wrenched the Democratic Party out of the clammy grip of Clintonian centrism. (Although he himself often leads from the center, Obama’s center is a couple of notches to the left of the Clinton administration’s triangulation strategies); and

– Rescued political dialogue from its monopolization by hate-filled, xenophobic, ultra-nationalistic ideologues.

Hon menar vidare att vänstern har tre uppgifter den närmaste tiden:

Our first job is to defend the democratic opening. This is a job we share with broader progressive forces and with centrists. Obama won big and retains the favorable regard of a sizeable majority. And meanwhile the Republican Party is in glorious disarray. But in no way should we take this situation for granted. The new administration faces daunting challenges and outright crises on every front. And while the right is disoriented and weakened, it has not and will not leave the playing field. The principal players and institutions of the right are, at this very moment, plotting how to undermine the administration, challenge every initiative that moves in the direction of democracy, progress and peace, and regroup to seize control, once again, of the state apparatus.


Our second job is to contribute to building more united, effective, combative and influential progressive popular movements. This places the highest premium on strengthening and extending our ties with broader progressive forces, both inside and outside the Democratic Party, with an eye towards building long- term relationships and alliances among individuals, organizations and sectors. Anything that thickens and enriches the relationships among left and progressive actors in labor, religious institutions, policy think tanks, grassroots organizations, academia etc. is to be supported in the interests of strengthening the capacity of the left-progressive alliance to influence policy, to encourage and shore up whatever progressive inclinations might emerge from within the administration, and to resist administration tendencies to accommodation and capitulation to center-right forces.


Our third job, and perhaps the trickiest, is to build the left. First let it be said that unless we are able to demonstrate a genuine commitment and growing capacity to take on the first two jobs, the third is a non-starter, and a prescription for political isolation. In other words, defending the democratic opening in conjunction with the center and building long-term relationships between the anti-capitalist left and broad progressive sectors in the context of the struggle over administration policy must be understood as critical tasks in their own right, not simply as arenas in which to advance an independent left line or to recruit new adherents to an anti- capitalist perspective. Realizing the progressive potential of the Obama win requires the most committed involvement with the twists and turns of politics on the most pressing issues on the administration’s agenda. This same engagement is critical to rebuilding the left, a long-term process that can be advanced significantly in the context of Obama’s presidency if, and only if, the left can skillfully manage the relationship and distinction between its own interests, dynamics and challenges and those of broader political forces.

Charlie Post uttrycker de tre ståndpunkterna på ett lite mer koncentrerat sätt och menar att Linda Burnham är fel ute:

1.    The left needs to defend “the democratic opening” created by the Obama victory. This will require a bloc with “centrists against the right” through Democratic Party electoral campaigns. Those leftists who have traditionally rejected participation in the Democratic Party’s electoral activity need to abandon their sectarian purity, and work to ensure an increased Democratic Congressional majority in 2010 and Obama’s reelection in 2012. This will require the left’s participation in voter registration and mobilization and actively campaigning for any and all Democrats in the coming four years.

2.    The left cannot abandon the task of “building more united, effective, combative and influential progressive popular movements.” The gap between Obama inspired rising expectation of change and a deepening economic crisis “will likely spark new levels and forms of population resistance.” The left needs to continue to organize, educate, and agitate against US imperial policies in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, for national health care and pro-working people solutions to the economic crisis, and for a real answer to the looming environmental crisis.

3.    We need to build the anti-capitalist left while simultaneously engaging in alliances with centrists in the Democratic Party, and rebuilding vibrant, progressive social movements.

Burnham’s claim that Obama has moved the Democratic Party “several notches to the left” of Clinton’s administration is very questionable. Even more importantly, Burnham’s strategy for left in the age of Obama is self-contradictory. Her first strategic priority—an alliance with centrists in the Democratic Party to ensure a Democratic Congressional majority in 2010 and Obama’s reelection in 2012—is incompatible with her second and third strategic priorities—rebuilding movements of social resistance and building an anti-capitalist left.

Förutom att Burnham anger prioriteteter som står i strid med varandra (jag delar Posts uppfattning om detta) så har hon enligt min uppfattnng också fel i att Obama fört det demokratiska partiet till en position som är till vänster om den tidigare Clintonadministrationens. Charlie Post uttrycker detta så här:

The record of Obama’s first “hundred days”  only confirms Obama’s fundamentally neo-liberal politics. Obama’s cabinet not only includes re-cycled Clinton administration figures, but important representatives of major Wall Street investment houses and big Information Technology capitalists. The list of Obama’s proposals to revive US capitalism at the expense of working people, people of color, women and queer people are too numerous to catalogue completely. Among the highlights:

•    Obama’s plan to restructure the auto industry on the backs of auto workers.
•    The administration and Congressional Democrats waffling on EFCA.
•    Outsourcing the torture of “suspected terrorists” from Guantanamo to other countries.
•    The refusal to discuss revising NAFTA, and backpedaling on global environmental regulations.
•    The embrace of John McCain’s proposal for immigration reform, including guest worker programs.
•    The Obama “national health insurance plan” which will provide massive subsidies to private insurers.

As the world economy either continues to stagnate or grows at extremely slow rates in the coming years, we can expect even more pro-capitalist, anti-working people policies from the Obama administration. In the absence of significant movements from below—built independently, and if necessary, in opposition to Obama and the Democrats—any hopes of a new “New Deal” will be sorely disappointed.

Han menar också att man inte samtidigt kan samarbeta med demokraterna och bygga upp rörelser som kritiserar politiken. Det går inte att nå framgångar genom att välja det mindre onda. Framgångar för arbetare och vanliga människor kan bara nås genom sociala rörelser, inte genom att man väljer ”rätt personer”:

Burnham strategy of campaigning for the Democrats, and building social movement and the left is impractical. The idea that the left should work to elect pro-corporate Democratic politicians is based on the mistaken notion that electing liberal politicians is the key to winning reforms and fighting the right. This position mistakes cause and effect. It is not the election of “lesser evil” liberals
to office that opens the possibility of reforms and progressive politics. Instead it is effective social movements that can force the ruling class and its political spokespersons—both Democratic and Republican—to grant reforms. The experience of successful struggle grows the audience for left-wing, radical politics.

Den position som Charlie Post intar i förhållande till demokraterna är samma linje som exempelvis franska NPA har gentemot det franska socialistpartiet och Enhedslistens inställning till en vänsterregering.

Läs mer:
Bruce Dixon, “Obama’s First 100 Days—The Black Agenda Report Card” (April 29, 2009)
Dan LaBotz, “Obama, The Crisis & The Movements” (Solidarity Working Paper, 2009)
Kim Moody, “Socialists Need to Be Where the Struggle Is”, The Nation (March 23, 2009)
Dan LaBotz, “Militant Minorities”, The Nation (March 26, 2009)


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  • Jan Wiklund

    Man kan ju märka att även en centrist som Paul Krugman är otålig över Obamas konservatism, eller kanske snarare ovilja att göra något som på minsta sätt stöter sig med någon som har makt.

    Men en annan opportunist i en annan tid, nämligen Roosevelt, var ju i högsta grad påverkbar för rörelsemobiliseringar.