The Three Big Questions of Obama's New Term

The reelection of Barack Obama to a second term raises many questions.

from Revolution Newspaper

Will he stop the American bombing from pilotless "drones" that he has ordered to be rained down on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and who knows where else? Or will he continue this practice and others like it—and worse yet, will he now follow through on his threats of war against Iran for getting in the way of America's imperialist objectives in that part of the world?

Will he revoke the executive power, that he has declared, which enables him to order the assassination of anyone he deems to be a supporter of terrorism, without any chance for that person to legally defend themselves, even if they are a U.S. citizen? Or will he do as he has done in his first term: adding more people to his "kill list" (and yes, that is what they call it), and perhaps even trying to invoke more unprecedented extralegal powers?

Will he stop the persecution of people like Bradley Manning, who is accused of blowing the whistle on U.S. war crimes and ended up confined in conditions of torture as a result, and who faces life imprisonment? Will he cease the persecution of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and the prosecution of a record number of whistle-blowers in his administration? Or will he continue enforcing strict and illegal cover-ups by the most extreme means?

Will he do anything at all about the horrific system of mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth—of treating these youths as "suspects" everywhere they go, with harassment, brutality, and all too often outright murder by the police or vigilantes? Will he even point to this as a systemic problem? Or will he do as he has done in his first term, blaming the victims and at the same time stepping up the "war on drugs" (which has been the pretext and trigger mechanism for this whole genocidal policy)?

Will he stop the deportations of immigrants who have been driven here in a desperate search for work by the plunder of their economies by the U.S. and other imperialist countries? Or will he do as he did in his first term, when he set the all-time "record" by deporting over one million immigrants (and then hypocritically at the last minute granted temporary amnesty for a small minority of those who are here "illegally")?

Will he take action to stop the destruction of the environment? Or will he do as he did in his first term, encouraging and extending the production of oil and other forms of polluting energy, and going so far as to brag about all the new pipelines and drilling that he's OK'd—including some in ecologically delicate and previously untouched territory?

Will he actually DEFEND a woman's right to abortion and birth control—the right to decide if and when she will be a mother? Or will he continue to half-step and double-deal at a time when this right is under unprecedented attack on the state level, doing just enough to pacify people and string them along while making concession after concession to the anti-abortion troglodytes—as he did when his health care plan did NOT make provisions to cover abortion, or when he had his Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare overrule the Food and Drug Administration on the sale of the "morning after" birth control pill to girls under 17 (and on making the pill more widely available to all women), and saying that he did so "as the father of two daughters"—thereby reinforcing the same patriarchal logic of the Republicans that the sexuality of young women must be under the control of their fathers?

Will he actually propose a bill legalizing gay marriage, or even throw his support behind the referendums that have been launched to secure those rights? Or will he continue to pay halting, finger-in-the-wind lip service to those rights, even saying that they "should be left to the states"—a position hauntingly similar to the position of Republicans and segregationist Democrats who opposed federal bills to guarantee civil rights for African-Americans during the 20th century?

Will Obama reverse the steady and often violent suffocation of dissent and protest? Or will he continue what was done in his first term, when he signed the National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA] which enables the president to detain people without trial or other legal due process; and when the mainly Democratic mayors of the big cities launched coordinated and repeated violent police attacks against the Occupy movement?

Will he reverse housing and finance policies that have propped up banks and mortgage companies but which have brought very little relief to the many facing foreclosure and eviction? Or will he use the election as a mandate to "reach across the aisle" to enforce vicious cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and other crucial elements of what masses of people must rely on for survival?

But you already know the answers to those questions: No. The three big questions we're raising are these:

1) What will you accept?

During Obama's first term, all too few people spoke out against any of the above crimes. Really ugly shit that if done by Bush would have evoked howls of outrage went by without comment when Obama did them—or, at most, a tut-tut. Yet the outrage, if anything, should have been even greater. Those who voted for Obama in hopes that he would reverse the most horrendous crimes of the past, only to see him put a new face on them, should have been in the forefront of calling this shit out. But that was all too rarely the case. Indeed, all too often people who had denounced Bush found themselves apologizing for and making excuses for Obama when he did the same things—or even worse. Some even celebrated these crimes! Bob Avakian has made the point: "If you try to make the Democrats be what they are not and never will be, you will end up being more like what the Democrats actually are." (BAsics 3:12)

 So Obama's reelection re-poses the question: What will you accept? And what will you become?

 2) What will you resist?

 There are people and forces speaking out and moving against all of the crimes laid out above, some at great risk and sacrifice. But as yet this resistance is neither large enough nor vocal enough, neither militant enough nor thoroughgoing enough. People need to step forward and say NO to these outrages on a much more massive scale. If not, these horrors will get worse.

 One very negative effect of the Obama presidency has been that what were seen as crimes under Bush have now become the "new normal." So you will be told that you are being naive by those who have begun identifying with power. They will say that if you tell the truth too forcefully or with too much acuity that you may make it even worse. You will be told to be quiet by those who have grown used to those crimes and no longer wish to be reminded of them—or worse, have come to favor them. The smugly ironic commentators will question your motives while they trivialize your arguments. Then, if you do follow your conscience and act, you will find yourself facing batons, arrest, surveillance and worse from the powers-that-be.  That is when you must remind yourself that the alternative to resistance is not just acquiescence—it is complicity.

Up against criminality so pervasive and yet so normalized, resistance is a moral imperative. But it is more than that.

 Resistance—"fighting the power"—is key to people raising their heads. As Bob Avakian has said, when people rise up in resistance "...the conditions become much more favorable for them to begin to see the world in a different way–to transform themselves, in terms of their understanding, and in terms of their feelings–in terms of their orientation toward society, toward the world, toward other people, and what kind of relations there should be among people." (What HumanityNeeds, RCP Publications, 2012) In that dimension, resistance is not only the refusal of evil and the demand for justice—essential and invaluable as those are—it can be a step to a whole new world.

 3) What will you engage?

 The real truth is this: Things do NOT have to be this way. There is a radically different analysis that lays bare the real problem we face, and the real solution. There is a Constitution that concretizes the vision of a truly emancipatory society and how that would work (Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), RCP Publications, 2010)... a statement on strategy that guides how such a movement could be built, right now ("On the Strategy for Revolution," Revolution #224, February 11, 2011)... and a strategy for winning when the conditions emerge for the all-out struggle for power. ("On the Possibility of Revolution," Revolution #102, September 23, 2007) All this work has to be engaged, seriously.

 In fact, we do NOT have to live in a society ruled by a class that arrogates to itself the right to exploit the entire world and to use the most destructive and murderous military force in history to enforce that exploitation. We do NOT have to live in a society that constantly reshapes its white supremacist core to find new and ever more insidious and vicious ways to oppress those whose ancestors came here in chains, those whose land was stolen, and those who have been driven here today from the oppressed nations in a desperate quest to survive. We do NOT have to live in a society that not only finds itself paralyzed in the face of ever more disastrous global climate change and even the possible destruction of the ecosystems that make human life viable, but that actually makes things worse due to the destructive demands of capital. We do NOT have to live in a society which finds new and uglier ways to demean, subordinate, and suppress women. We do NOT have to live in a society where gay people still do not possess fundamental rights and where gay youth in particular find themselves rejected, demonized, and bullied at every turn. We do NOT have to live in a society where people are trained to see everything—including themselves and their own most intimate feelings—as commodities. These practices and institutions are neither eternally ordained nor are they "in our DNA"—they arose with (or were repurposed for) and serve a specific set of economic relations (capitalism). They are kept going by a specific class: the handful of capitalist-imperialists that sit atop the world and use its state power and massive military might to keep humanity in a hammerlock.

 The very elections, which we are being told give expression to "our rights," actually serve to perpetuate these power relations. The whole framework of the elections—the ways in which issues are either deemed to be important or else ruled out of order and the terms in which they are framed if they are even debated... the manner in which people are drawn in and lined up behind this or that candidate, only to find their higher aspirations and initiative increasingly channeled into something far lower and then finally turned into their opposite... the ways in which people's capacity to resist, to think critically and even to imagine something better is hemmed in and suffocated and finally perverted into either a weary and complicit cynicism or a mindless enthusiasm by the very act of involvement... and the way in which the worst crimes of the system are then given the stamp of validation and legitimacy by the very fact of people's participation in this—serves to keep this system going. And while Obama and Bush bear responsibility for what they've done, the crimes outlined in the first part of this article are most fundamentally crimes of this system.

Yes, a different world actually IS possible. That is not just rhetoric. But this new world will not just create itself. It will not somehow spring up behind the backs of the rulers of this system by creating alternate institutions, or "changing ourselves." All those can play a part, in a certain context. That context is this: the change that is really needed requires a revolution. And revolution means something very specific: the dismantling of the oppressive institutions that keep this system running. While such a revolution faces heavy odds, there IS a path that can be taken, a strategy that can be applied, a goal that can be reached.

Because of BA and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal.

We'll close this piece with a challenge and an invitation.

Our challenge: Will you engage, seriously engage, this?

Our invitation comes from BA himself:

"Let's go on a crucial journey together—full of unity against oppression and lively struggle about the source of the problem and the solution. Pursue your own convictions—that the outrages that move you are intolerable—to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated. And if this, as well as learning about other outrages, and ideas about how this all fits together and flows from a common source—and how it could all be ended, and something much better brought into being—leads in the direction of seeing not only the need for bold and determined resistance, but also the need for revolution and ultimately communism, then don't turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone, challenges what had been your cherished beliefs, or because of prejudices and slanders. Instead, actively seek to learn more about this revolution and its goal of communism and to determine whether it is in fact the necessary, and possible, solution. And then act accordingly." ("An Invitation," Revolution #265, April 8, 2012)

This article originally appeared on revcom.us on November 12, 2012.

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