The 2008 Elections and the Prospects for Struggle

Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST) statement–Nov. 4, 2008

The election of Sen. Barack Obama as the first Black U.S. president is historic. No amount of cynicism can erase that fact.

Even more historic were the great throngs of people who stood outside in large crowds and in packed arenas, churches, bars, community centers, union halls and homes. In Chicago , hundreds of thousands flooded Grant Park. In Harlem , N.Y. , thousands cheered as they watched the election results on a massive screen. After the victory was announced the crowd erupted in applause and cheers. Cars honked, children ran and yelled, “We have a Black president! We deserve this! We deserve this!”

And, indeed, after hundreds of years of oppression– from when the first slaves were brought to the shores of North America, shackled in chains, after having survived for what must have seemed an inexorable amount of time cramped together as cargo in the holds of a ship, having witnessed other Africans tossed overboard, whose remains still litter the Atlantic Ocean–the oppressed Black masses deserve a Black president.

After years of oppression and repression– de facto slavery, U.S. apartheid, lynching, the assassination of leaders, poverty and disenfranchisement, up to the current state of racism and repression– and only three years removed from Hurricane Katrina, this symbolic victory and the tears of joy and relief, the smiles and exclamations of Black people young and old, cannot be denied or simply dismissed.

How must anti-imperialists and revolutionaries interpret the Obama phenomenon and the congressional gains of the Democratic Party?

It is the duty of revolutionary Marxists to analyze any rising of the oppressed and workers. It is Frederick Engels, a companion of Karl Marx and co-writer of “The Communist Manifesto,” who wrote that universal suffrage is “the gauge of the maturity of the working class. It cannot and never will be anything more in the present-day state.”

The reality is that the Obama phenomenon and the Democratic Party gains are buttressed by two contradictory set of expectations- -those of the imperialistic, capitalist ruling class, and those of the oppressed Black masses, other oppressed nations and the working class as a whole.

The oppressed and working masses want an end to the Iraq war; jobs with a living wage; health care; housing, including a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions; access to education; an end to raids and deportations; an end to police brutality, police occupation of oppressed communities and the railroading of oppressed youth into the prison industrial complex.

The U.S. ruling class needs a smoother image around the world after eight years of ineloquence and right-wing reaction. Their expectation is for more corporate welfare, cheaper access to resources and more markets.

U.S. imperialism is unchanging. What does it matter if a hearty handshake and smile precede a knife in the back? This is what the Democrats offer.

History, however, belongs to the masses and it is the masses whose demands will prove to be the strongest. Though some in the Democratic Party may have intended the words “hope” and “change” to be slogans void of content, the expectations of the masses is that these words bear substance.

The economic crises will deepen. The housing market is glutted; the automobile market too and there has already been a slowdown in construction, which has led to huge layoffs. The credit crisis and decreased consumer spending have led to more layoffs. Every sector is being hit around the world and the stock markets continue to vacillate. It can only be expected to get worse; the capitalist crisis may eventually eclipse the Great Depression and lead to a general crisis of overproduction.

For workers and the oppressed, this spells more misery. For anti-imperialists and revolutionaries, this presents great opportunities to exert broader influence and raise the bar of struggle. We can bring up what imperialism is and show solidarity to our worldwide class–from Harlem to Iraq , from Palestine and Afghanistan to Africa, Latin America and Asia; to show workers and the oppressed in the U.S. their commonness with workers and the oppressed around the world and to raise workers demands.

Struggle will come and the millions who took to the streets in celebration of an historic event, and the millions more who watched with gleams in their eyes, will not disappear, but will take to the streets as conditions intensify.

As the capitalist crisis plunges deeper, the prospects for struggle and for socialism are looking up.


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