Saturday, January 02, 2010

It's been almost one year on, and the sheen is starting to fade from the 'Obama Golden Boy' belief. the man receives an embarrassing 'Nobel Peace Prize' while overseeing not one but two wars. Nothing much happens domestically except a continuation of the massive bailouts to corporate America begun under the previous Administration. The only serious domestic reform-health care ie joining the civilized world- is gutted in the service of the usual special interests while the President sits Buddha-like as the dead is done.
If it was not apparent before it should be apparent now that America's political culture suffers from an illness that goes beyond the left/right divide. The illness is that image has become all, and that there is no substance in the pronouncements of pretty well any politician. Certainly other countries also suffer from this disease, but the USA has travelled furthest along the road. Obama is basically a triumph of image over substance. To be quite frank he said very little in terms of real policy while running for the post of Emperor, aside from the promise to close Guantanamo which has yet to be fulfilled. If it is it means merely transferring the whole atrocity, lock stock and barrel, to Illinois. People on the "progressive side" of the political divide were, more often than not (unless they had an 'ideological halter' such as anarchism), swept up in the romance of Obama's campaign, especially as the alternative was so unappealing.
Now the gloss has fallen off, and it will continue to fall in the years to come. Here is an article written by Naomi Klein for The Nation about another aspect of the Obama failure ie how his "green rhetoric" has not risen to the point of deeds.
For Obama, No Opportunity Too Big To Blow:
posted by Naomi Klein
Contrary to countless reports, the debacle in Copenhagen was not everyone's fault. It did not happen because human beings are incapable of agreeing, or are inherently self-destructive. Nor was it all was China's fault, or the fault of the hapless UN.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but there was one country that possessed unique power to change the game. It didn't use it. If Barack Obama had come to Copenhagen with a transformative and inspiring commitment to getting the U.S. economy off fossil fuels, all the other major emitters would have stepped up. The EU, Japan, China and India had all indicated that they were willing to increase their levels of commitment, but only if the U.S. took the lead.
Instead of leading, Obama arrived with embarrassingly low targets and the heavy emitters of the world took their cue from him.

(The "deal" that was ultimately rammed through was nothing more than a grubby pact between the world's biggest emitters: I'll pretend that you are doing something about climate change if you pretend that I am too. Deal? Deal.)

I understand all the arguments about not promising what he can't deliver, about the dysfunction of the U.S. Senate, about the art of the possible. But spare me the lecture about how little power poor Obama has. No President since FDR has been handed as many opportunities to transform the U.S. into something that doesn't threaten the stability of life on this planet. He has refused to use each and every one of them. Let's look at the big three.

Blown Opportunity Number 1:
The Stimulus Package
When Obama came to office he had a free hand and a blank check to design a spending package to stimulate the economy. He could have used that power to fashion what many were calling a "Green New Deal" -- to build the best public transit systems and smart grids in the world. Instead, he experimented disastrously with reaching across the aisle to Republicans, low-balling the size of the stimulus and blowing much of it on tax cuts. Sure, he spent some money on weatherization, but public transit was inexplicably short changed while highways that perpetuate car culture won big.
Blown Opportunity Number 2:
The Auto Bailouts
Speaking of the car culture, when Obama took office he also found himself in charge of two of the big three automakers, and all of the emissions for which they are responsible. A visionary leader committed to the fight against climate chaos would obviously have used that power to dramatically reengineer the failing industry so that its factories could build the infrastructure of the green economy the world desperately needs. Instead Obama saw his role as uninspiring down-sizer in chief, leaving the fundamentals of the industry unchanged.
Blown Opportunity Number 3:
The Bank Bailouts
Obama, it's worth remembering, also came to office with the big banks on their knees -- it took real effort not to nationalize them. Once again, if Obama had dared to use the power that was handed to him by history, he could have mandated the banks to provide the loans for factories to be retrofitted and new green infrastructure to be built. Instead he declared that the government shouldn't tell the failed banks how to run their businesses. Green businesses report that it's harder than ever to get a loan.

Imagine if these three huge economic engines -- the banks, the auto companies, the stimulus bill -- had been harnessed to a common green vision. If that had happened, demand for a complementary energy bill would have been part of a coherent transformative agenda.

Whether the bill had passed or not, by the time Copenhagen had rolled around, the U.S. would already have been well on its way to dramatically cutting emissions, poised to inspire, rather than disappoint, the rest of the world.

There are very few U.S. Presidents who have squandered as many once-in-a-generation opportunities as Barack Obama. More than anyone else, the Copenhagen failure belongs to him.

Research support for Naomi Klein's reporting from Copenhagen was provided by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.
Klein is, of course, a 'left social democrat' with all the illusions that follow from that position. Like most people in her ideological camp she makes genuflections to "self-managed socialism" while, at the same time, harbouring illusions about both the power of and the realism of massive state action to "direct this grassroots democracy". All that being said, her criticisms of the Obama Administration have just as much force as if they were advanced from a more libertarian position. In other words, all that she has said is true. It's just that I, as an anarchist, am not surprised at the choices that Obama has made. A lot of "the left" feels betrayed. That is unrealistic. The Emperor is, after all, the Emperor, and it is not unexpected that he continues policies that benefit the ruling strata of the Empire. It would be surprising if the converse was the case.


Larry Gambone said...

After seeing her film "The Take", I am sure it is more than genuflections to self-management. I am sure she is as sincere about it as you or I. Anyway, it doesn't take much experience or knowledge to see that top-down, centralized management produces lousy results. People could be naive about it years ago, but it has been tried and found wanting. Even the CPC admits that the reason the USSR fell back into capitalism is due to a lack of self-management. For people like Naomi, the problem is attempting to mix state ownership and self-management. It is an oil and water mix for as long as the state bureaucracy is involved it will try to colonize whatever national industry it is involved in at the expense of workers and community power. I advocate that left-social democrats consider this alternative: A form of national ownership proposed by the French CGT back in 1919. More to the point since the nationalized industry would be hived off to an independent body, the 18 member Board of Directors composed of 6 workers, 6 consumer reps and 6 government broken down into 2 national, 2 departmental, 2 local reps. At the factory level, day to day operations under workers management. There is no way the state bureaucracy could take over in this situation.

opit said...

It's a rather theoretical discussion about what could be done as long as the collapsing edifice maintains its power to harm.
Obama's obeisance to AIPAC before the election should have set off danger signals. People were too upset over open Fascism to realize that 'Bait and Switch didn't work just for retail sales.
I've been writing about the NPT for a while now and didn't realize I was independently tracking LaRouche's path. Dec 4 I wrote on how I discovered a hoax that included using the NPT to snare nations into poverty and energy deprivation ( the location of Iraq and Iran in oil country being total coincidence, of course - snark ). Once I had a look a science writer I had quipped with for months gave me startling links...and things absolutely snowballed. I have so much it's hard to know where to start - I still haven't blogged all my leads! - but Climategate blew the lid off a decades-old fraud.
No kidding. Check Global or CFACT for a sample of 'scientific consensus'....satire again.

mollymew said...

I guess that you're right Larry. I shouldn't accuse somebody like Klein of bad faith. The converse, that she actually belives wholly in what she advocates, is almost certainly the case. my paleolithic time in the NDP I met people higher up in the party who were not just consciously lieing, but were goddamn proud of it. Of course the "opponents" that they were manipulating were hardly believers in self-management, merely the general leftist types who thought that the NDP was a suitable vehicle for their leftism.
I'm very interested in what you say about the CGT proposal. I don't know enough about it to say I agree or disagree. Have you written anything about it yourself ? Are there references you can direct me to ?

Larry Gambone said...

I wouldn't trust the soc dem leaders any farther than I could throw them! Individual militants like Klein or Avi Lewis are a different matter however.

As for the CGT non-statist nationalization, unfortunately the only article on it that I know of was written by me - see the URL below - (in fact you might have a copy of the pamphlet in question.

The references describing the concept- which I have appended below - are quite obscure. I found these works burrowing around in the musty shelves of McGill and Concordia Universities back in the early 1990's.

60. Georges, Bernard. Tintant, Denise, "Leon Jouhaux", Vol.1, Presse Universitaires, Paris, 1962. p.330
61. ibid, p.102
62. ibid, p.105
63. ibid, p.104
64. Lafranc,Georges. "Le Mouvement Syndical Sous la Trosi‚me Republique," Payot, Paris, 1967, p.229
65. CGT, "La CGT ce qu'elle est ce qu'elle veut", Gallimard, Paris, 1937 p.105
66. Lafranc, p.230