President Barack Obama called on the American people to dream and to hope for change. His election signaled a major shift in what Americans want and expect from their government. At a time when we are confronted with overwhelming problems, too big to solve on our own, we heard a promise to get us through hard times.
But no matter how much Americans respect President Obama, no matter how long we’re willing to "wait and see", sooner or later we have to confront the reality that no administration can bring about the change he promised. Does this mean that we should give up our dreams? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that we cannot rely on the President or any other government leader to bring about change, that a new society can only come through the struggle for political power over control of the state. There are many stages to this political struggle, and we are only at the beginning. Our task now is to understand what needs to be done at each stage.
Revolutionaries go beyond appearances and perceptions to analyze underlying causes and effects. Most people observe that Obama is not implementing policies of change they hoped for. Many criticize him for it, but this leads nowhere.
The state is much more powerful than the President. It is an apparatus for the systematic application of force by which one class exercises control over another. Presidents come and go, but as long as the capitalist class controls the state, the state is the means to dominate the workers in the interests of the capitalist class.
Obama, like Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him, all the way back to the first administration, is subordinate to the state whose primary instruments of control are the military and police and intelligence agencies – such as the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – by the many administrative agencies and all the Federal agencies, each of which enforces a program and policies in favor of the ruling class.
Even more so than other forms of government, the U.S. Constitution ties the President more closely to the state than to the people who elected him by establishing the President as both the head of state and the head of government. In countries, like England, Parliament can call for new elections through a vote of no-confidence and bring in a new Prime Minister to reorganize the government, while the Queen remains as head of the state. In our country, the electorate has no means to change the government during the President’s four year term.
We saw this in Bush’s final years when, despite his dismal approval rating, the American people were powerless to prevent him from carrying out the will of the corporate state. Power rested, not in the electorate, but in powerful people who have served as loyal servants of the corporate state for decades. Former Vice-President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, architects of extreme violations of human rights – secret prisons, torture, indefinite imprisonment without charges, and unrestricted surveillance – were merely extending policies and practices they forged during the Ford administration in the 1970’s.
Obama’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, whose autobiography is entitled, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, was also Secretary of Defense in the Bush administration. Previously, he was Director of Intelligence for both Bush Jr. and Bush Sr. and Deputy Director of Intelligence for Ronald Reagan.
By more subtle, but equally effective means than FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s blackmail of leading politicians and government officials, such key figures and their numerous underlings in the state apparatus exercise control over the elected administrations of today.
What we can hope for from the best of our elected leaders, such as Cynthia McKinney, is that they use their office as a bully pulpit to expose what is really happening and to rouse the American people to a vision of a new society. This was Abraham Lincoln’s strength. He changed the way the American people thought about freedom, slavery and the American nation and thus was able to make history.
The combination of the economic situation, American's aspirations for a better life, and the opportunity opened up by Obama’s oratory are rousing the American people to embrace new ideas. A recent poll found that many Americans are thinking favorably about socialism. As the Obama administration continues to offer trillions of dollars in bailouts to banks and financial institutions, the American people are calling for bailouts for schools, for victims of predatory lenders, for housing and health care. As the government moves toward considering nationalization in the interests of stabilizing corporations and financial institutions, the American people are beginning to call for nationalization in the interests of the people not the corporations.
The transition between the Bush and Obama administrations gives only the appearance of stability. The underlying reality of the capitalist system is one of great economic instability, however, which will inevitably lead to political instability. The political reality of every administration is their role in guiding the government to conform to the changing conditions and demands of the corporate state.
In their move toward fascism the ruling class is promoting and using the rise of neo-Nazi and white supremacist hate groups to disarm and disorient the growing popular struggles. In the fight against fascism, revolutionaries must educate the American people to fight for a communal economic system with goods distributed according to need. There are no reforms, no waiting for Obama, no half way measures. The next step on the path to power for the people is to take up the fight for nationalization in the interests of the people not the corporations.
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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