In the run-up to the 2008 election for President of the USA there are two dignified and articulate Black candidates. Both served in the Halls of Congress as members of the Democratic Party. Barack Obama is a one-term United States Senator with previous experience as a state Senator in the Illinois legislature. Cynthia McKinney is a former six-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the state of Georgia. Both have espoused the need for change to more ‘progressive’ politics than being offered by the Bush Administration of war criminals (and Republican presidential candidate John McCain), including the need to bring U.S. troops out of Iraq and to improve the lot of the poor and working class within the USA.
Given these facts, the ‘realistic’ Afro-American voter might jump to the conclusion that Obama is the clear choice for President, since he is the apparent nominee of the Democratic Party, which, along with the Republican Party, has a real chance to win the Presidency in November 2008. We believe, however, that upon closer examination of the situation, the Afro-American people as well as the other oppressed nationalities within the U.S. multinational state and the multinational U.S. working class as a whole can serve their own interests not by supporting the Democrat Obama but by supporting Cynthia McKinney and her Power to the People Coalition. Why?
Reason #1: On War, Peace and Empire: In the 2000 Presidential election, then Democratic Presidential candidate Al Gore ‘pledged to increase the defence budget by $50 billion more than his Republican opponent’ and was ‘unafraid to use military power,’ according to his running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman. (Wall Street Journal, 5-21-08) George W. Bush, by contrast, says Lieberman, criticised U.S. peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and promised a ‘humble foreign policy.’ Following the events of September 11, 2001, the two parties switched positions, says Lieberman, who is basically telling the truth about the 2000 election. These revelations would lead one to conclude that voting for either a Democratic or Republican candidate for President is ‘a crap-shoot’ at best, or, more accurately, ‘a lose-lose proposition’ for the Afro-American people and the international working class.
In the last Presidential election, in 2004, the multi-millionaire John Kerry, the Democratic Party nominee, ran on the promise that he would do a better job of defending and expanding the U.S. Empire than did the arrogant and ignorant George W. Bush. In 2008 Obama is running on the same basic platform as did Kerry, his principal Democratic Party sponsor. Obama’s small circle of foreign policy advisers includes such imperialist war-mongers as: Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser in the Carter Administration; Anthony Lake, top intelligence operative who masterminded the U.S. invasion of Haiti in the Clinton years; Dennis Ross, top U.S. adviser on Israel-Palestine issues both in the Clinton and the two Bush Administrations, and Sarah Sewall, a former Defence official, who wrote the introduction to General Petraeus’ Marine Corps/Army counterinsurgency handbook now being used world-wide in various killing operations.
In reality, Obama’s rationale for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, like that of Hillary Clinton, is to reposition them in Afghanistan/Pakistan as well as to be in a better position to invade Iran, Syria, etc. This position of the Democratic Party standard-bearers is consistent with the role of the U.S. Congress under their Party’s control since the 2006 election during which time they have collaborated with the Bush military ‘surge’ in Iraq and with every increase in the Bush military budget.
By contrast, a few weeks ago, in a May 16th speech at the United Nations, Cynthia McKinney stated, ‘On my birthday last year, I declared my independence from a national [Democratic Party] leadership that, through its votes in support of the war machine, is now complicit in war crimes, torture, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the peace.’ While a Democrat, McKinney, almost alone in the halls of Congress, had exposed the corporate profit motive behind the Bush-led drive to war in Iraq. This included the Carlyle Group big business alliance of the Bush and bin Laden families! She stood up to the frightening war hysteria and called for the repeal of the USA PATRIOT Act and the police state acts that have followed. She introduced articles of impeachment for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice. She stands for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East and seeks to bring home all U.S. troops from Europe, Asia and Africa.
In a letter to the exemplary ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union), Congresswoman McKinney expressed her commitment to a serious mass struggle to end the U.S. imperialist war and occupation in the Middle East. She stated, ‘I want you and your members to know that at least one 2008 Presidential candidate is proud to stand up publicly in full and unqualified support of your resolution to celebrate International Workers Day by protesting the war and occupation where it counts: at the point of production. My campaign, the Power to the People Campaign, will stand with you on May 1st, all along the West Coast, and anyplace where working people take up your call to resist the war. We’ll be with you on the picket line.’ And she has kept her word.
Given the above, any Afro-American citizen or other lover of justice and freedom who is concerned about the use of Afro-American and other working class and poor youth as cannon fodder for U.S. imperialism and wants to end the U.S. military occupation of Iraq should support the Cynthia McKinney Campaign for President.
Reason #2: On the Fight Against White Supremacy and in Defence of the Right of the Afro-American People to Self-Determination: Everyone would agree that the historic aspect of the Obama candidacy lies in the fact that he is a Black man who has already come closer to winning the U.S. Presidency than any other man of colour in the two hundred and twenty year history of the white supremacist USA. Obama’s first decisive primary election victory took place in South Carolina in the area of historic Afro-American concentration, the Black Belt South territory of the Afro-American nation. In South Carolina, in a record turnout, more than half of the voters in the Democratic Primary were Afro-American. Eighty percent of the Afro-American voters supported Obama. It was on the basis of this Black electoral solidarity, this Black Power, that Obama won an overwhelming victory – 55% to Hillary Clinton’s 27% and Edwards’ 15%. Yet Obama did nothing to encourage the hard-pressed Afro-American people of South Carolina.
Exultant in this decisive South Carolina primary victory, Obama and his campaigners chanted ‘Race doesn’t matter!’ in the face of the obvious fact that ‘race’ had indeed mattered there. The Afro-American people of South Carolina had demonstrated overwhelming political support for Obama in the hope that he would help alleviate their suffering. Instead of expressing appreciation to the Black masses for the victory and dedicating himself to representing their interests, Obama distanced himself from the very people who had provided his victory.
This pattern of rallying the Black vote while aggressively denying the need for Black unity has characterised the Obama candidacy ever since. This point was driven home around the person and politics of Obama’s longtime minister and mentor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, once the monopoly capitalist-controlled mass media stopped its honeymoon with Obama (virtually unprecedented treatment for a Black politician in the USA!).*
*This occurred after the Black candidate seemed to have neutralized the woman candidate, Hillary Clinton. Quite a feat of monopoly mass media manipulation considering that Clinton had begun the primary season as the prohibitive favourite to win the Democratic nomination in an election year with a highly unpopular lame-duck Republican president.
Reverend Wright has been one of the most important Black ministers in the country. His Trinity United Church of Christ mega-church had attracted Oprah Winfrey as well as Obama and other ambitious Black personages eager to latch onto a mass base in Chicago’s Afro-American community. In Obama’s case, Reverend Wright provided this half-African, half-U.S. white Harvard graduate (who had been raised outside of the continental USA) with his entrée into the Christian religion observed by most of the Afro-American people and into the Afro-American community itself. Steeped in the Afro-American church, Reverend Wright preaches a Black Liberation theology that tells much of the truth about the U.S. imperialist empire and its war on oppressed peoples such as the Palestinians in the Middle East and the South Africans of Azania, as well as on the oppressed Afro-American people themselves. The monopoly capitalist attack on Reverend Wright, as the Reverend correctly observed, was an attack on the Black Church itself. And the Black Church is arguably the most important mass self-defence institution in Afro-American society.
Under immense pressure from the media, Obama immediately repudiated Reverend Wright’s political stand against the U.S. empire and in defence of the Black community. Shortly thereafter, Obama ended his personal friendship with the man who not only presided at his marriage and the baptism of his two daughters but who had largely provided the springboard for his political career! As Mumia Abu-Jamal profoundly observed regarding this controversy, ‘Barack, the son of a continental African, cannot be seen calling for Black Liberation; for he seeks not to become leader of the Black Nations, but the world’s leading White Nation.’ (‘The Politics of Denunciation’, 4-8-08)*
*In this context, an Obama presidency would result in as little uplift in the status of the oppressed Afro-American people in the USA as did the elevation of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to the top of the Executive Branch’s foreign policy hierarchy under the brutal, white supremacist George W. Bush Regime. Similarly, the fact that Indira Gandhi in India and Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan both attained the presidential rank of Prime Minister in their respective countries did virtually nothing to uplift the status of women in their male supremacist, patriarchal, semi-feudal Hindu and Muslim states on the Indian subcontinent.
The Afro-American people face a serious choice. On the one hand, there is the dilemma involving the opportunity to try to elect the first Black President of the USA. For seizing this opportunity involves accepting Obama’s political assessment: a. the Afro-American people face no special repression at the hands of U.S. imperialism; b. the legacy of the past – slavery, sharecropping, Jim Crow, legal segregation, a criminal justice system, widespread and growing hate crimes, systematic land-stealing by federal and local courts, police, sheriffs etc., – no longer have any important impact on U.S. society, culture, mores, education, etc.; c. ‘race’ no longer matters in the USA and we have entered or are entering a ‘colour-blind’ society and world. According to this logic, Afro-American people should not struggle and strive for Afro-American unity, for to do so is to practice the politics of ‘divisiveness!’ In opposition to Black Unity, Obama is attempting to rally a ‘national unity’ of all U.S. people, rich and poor, etc., including the Afro-American people, to the banner of the U.S. Empire, the banner of U.S. imperialism. As Malcolm X observed, ‘integration’ of two unequal groups, one powerful and the other powerless, merely serves to keep those with the power on top.
Of course, if Obama were correct, there would be no real significance to his possible elevation to the Presidency. No compelling reason to vote for ‘the black candidate’ over ‘the woman candidate’ who has many of the same policies and credentials (and is even married to the so-called ‘first black president’). But the truth is that the Afro-American people still suffer from national oppression at the hands of U.S. imperialism. And it is this fact that explains the largely spontaneous rallying of millions of Afro-American people to ‘black candidate’ Obama’s banner!
The recent court decision freeing the killer cops responsible for the blatant murder of Sean Bell in New York City underscores once again the need for Afro-American national minority rights in the U.S. North based on a free and independent Afro-American nation based in the Black Belt South. The continuing efforts of the federal, state and local governments to keep the Afro-American Hurricane Katrina survivors of New Orleans dispersed, unable to return home, and in limbo, the effort to legally lynch the Jena Six in Louisiana, the outrages perpetrated against Megan Williams in West Virginia, the unprecedented number of Afro-American men and women now behind bars, the extremely unequal access to health care, the extra burden of the subprime mortgage crisis on Afro-American (and Latino) families with the prospect of rapidly increasing homelessness – all these things point to the need for increased Black political unity, for Black Power. Such Black Unity is a necessary condition for effectively struggling for justice and freedom. It is a pre-condition for forging effective alliances with Puerto Rican, Chicano, Appalachian, and other oppressed nationalities within the U.S. multinational state and building genuine multinational working class unity based on mutual respect.
Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign stands in opposition to Black political unity. Fortunately, the Afro-American people have a second option – to actively support the Cynthia McKinney Campaign for President.
In all these important crises facing the Afro-American people, Cynthia McKinney has stood up for and with the people. And the Cynthia McKinney Campaign for President, with its mass demands serving the interests of the Black masses as well as other oppressed and exploited sections of U.S. society, can become a powerful vehicle for mass political mobilisation which can help unify these sectors in the just struggle against U.S. imperialism. Such mass initiatives and political unity can provide a stepping stone to Afro-American national liberation in the Black Belt South and to socialism in the USA. Then, at long last, we will have the opportunity to help bring about a colour-free society in which human beings will be judged by the content of their character.
Ray O. Light Newsletter, May-June 2008, Number 48
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