Beyond the Rhetoric of an Audacity to Hope for Change

Is Being Black Enough?

Greg Palast advocates a questionable electoral stance. He says, “We must vote for Barack Obama because he’s Black.”

He bases his stance on the sordid United States history of slavery, racism, segregation, and assorted crimes against the Blacks.

US history is steeped in the exploitation of Blacks. This is undeniable, unredressed, and shameful that it has persisted to this day.

But Palast is touting a silly electoral posture that is readily exposed.

First, since voting Black is the basis of Palast’s electoral strategy, then if John McCain had been Black and Obama White, Palast would, presumably, have been advocating a vote for McCain. Or if George W. Bush had been Black, then Palast would have been advocating a vote for Bush — regardless of their electoral or party platforms.

Second, Palast says, “Obama is a Black man.” Yes, he is, but Obama is also a White man. Obama is half Black and half White, so if Blackness is the reasoning behind his voting, then the votes should be directed to presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, born of two Black parents.

Third, Obama’s policies, largely, represent the status quo of protecting elitist and corporatist privilege — predominantly White. Palast opines that voting in Obama will “cleanse the wound that will not heal.” But how does voting in a person who will, presumably, perpetuate the racial divide — the income and power gaps between Blacks and Whites — serve to cleanse any wound except through the vicarious pleasure derived of one Black man reaching a station through a path cleared by preponderantly White largesse?

Finally, speaking of unhealed wounds, I never heard Palast urging the electorate to vote for presidential candidate Leonard Peltier (Gwarth-ee-lass, “He Leads the People”) in the 2004 presidential election. Peltier has long been suffering a grave miscarriage of justice in the US.

The Original Peoples of Turtle Island have endured the centuries old theft of their land, a wound predating the wound on Black America.

Yes, wounds must be treated immediately — all wounds. However, advocating the rule of establishment candidates on the stolen territory of other peoples is not social justice.

A Black president would be breaking down a barrier and should be applauded in this sense. But a Black who serves at the behest of White money, to which he feels beholden, is purely a guise for status quo power alignments that does little for Blacks other than audaciously offer illusory hopes for change.

McKinney, Nader, and other “third party” candidates campaign on policy with substance that addresses racial inequality by lifting the working families out of poverty and thereby challenging the status quo.

In the end, voters must decide whether to vote for a Black man backed by White money or seek a candidate whose principles will challenge the White corporatist maintenance of the status quo power configuration where Blacks (Original Peoples and other minorities) are, preponderantly, on a lower rung of the economic ladder.

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.

48 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 4th, 2008 at 9:51am #

    yes kim,
    let us not personalize events of enorm significance and illeffects for so many nations around the world.
    it is an ancient ruse by clerico-political class of life not only to personalize events but also to simplify complexities or portray complexities as a simplicity.
    eg, “vote for lesser evil” is not only a simplicity but a conclusion. beware of conclusions and simplifications.
    a conclusion is not a fact.
    it’s just our (dis)ability to make them.
    and when they are as careless as depicting future events that no one can know as “lesser evil” it is just so sad.
    in add’n i wonder how many people may have evaluated the “lesser evil” as a fact and not as it seems to be wishful thinking.
    which is easy to do since no amer will be killed/maimed except mercenaries. thnx

  2. Max Shields said on November 4th, 2008 at 10:41am #

    Good piece, Kim.

    It seems, to sum this up, that America is not ready for a President of color who is truly capable of challenging the status quo.

    Unlike South Africa, with it’s majority of black South African indigenous people faced with the undoing of apartheid, we have no Mandela.

    At this time, and I think black progressives like Glen Ford understand this in the very fiber of their being, African Americans do not have the freedom of real power. A black man running for office must be a white (only more sot) power proxy; and he must govern even more evasively than most white presidents have the luxury to do. African Americans will not obtain “power” through a black president in a very white house – metaphorically speaking.

    Nothing is “corrected” with an Obama president. This is not Jesse Owens. This is not Michael Jordan/Obama setting up for the last second 3 Pointer. That tragedy will dawn….eventually.

    In the meantime, there is real progressive work to be done.

  3. Ramsefall said on November 4th, 2008 at 1:39pm #

    DV’s co-editor/author summarizes with coherent simplicity that racially motivated “voters must decide whether to vote for a Black man backed by White money or seek a candidate whose principles will challenge the White corporatist maintenance of the status quo power configuration where Blacks (Original Peoples and other minorities) are, preponderantly, on a lower rung of the economic ladder.”

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed that these voters are ready to decide on posing a challenge. One big problem for the scenario that Kim illustrates though, is that Obama clearly represents the prior, and there is no one else to represent the latterly proposed candidate description in this year’s election. Once again, where’s the &%#@ing choice!?

    Max, I like your metaphorical prose.

    Best to all.

  4. Cariboo said on November 4th, 2008 at 1:43pm #

    Great piece Kim.
    I think we owe Greg Palast a huge debt of gratitude for his pioneering investigations and reporting of the massive vote fraud that has surrounded the last two American elections. Judging by his most recent report, it looks like this go around will also be shrouded in controversy.
    That said, Palast’s claim that Americans should vote for Obama because he is “black” is outrageous and an insult to African Americans. Why not vote for the candidate that will best address the problems facing African Americans? The Obama fantasy haze that many progressives are enjoying will quickly disappear if he is, in fact, (s)elected. The global domination project, as Richard Falk calls it, will continue with force, and the African American masses will not be its beneficiaries.
    For the record, I live in Canada (your northern colony) and if I could vote today, I’d vote McKinney. I would not vote for her because she has black skin, nor would I vote for her because she is a woman, but because she speaks truth to power, has political experience, and offers a platform that I generally support. Nader is a close second. The two should form a coalition, create their own party, and come back alive and kicking in 2012.

  5. Angie said on November 4th, 2008 at 2:36pm #

    Excellent article, Kim. Well done!

    I am relieved that Greg has been taken to task for his outrageous and most astonishing suggestion that Americans vote for Obama because he is black. That is hardly a reason to vote, or not vote, for anyone.

    What a piece of racist blathering, though! Had he urged the American voting public to vote for McCain “because he’s white”, there would be such an outrage!! Why isn’t there a similar outcry about this?

    Each election the people of America are faced with such God-awful choices. I am astonished and bewildered that this is all there is? The sameness exhibited by the Democrats and Republicans on important issues such as foreign policy, domestic policy, economy, human rights, and so on is frightening..

    Regardless of who wins today, there won’t be anything new or anything dedicated to making a real and lasting change at home and abroad. The parties are different, the candidates are different, but they speak the same language, and once they get to where they want to go — the White House — they will have to remember always the money that got them there. The constituents are but an incidental, easily forgotten when victory is declared.

    I agree Cynthia McKinney would be a wonderful candidate, not because she is a woman or because she is black but because she is not beholden to anyone, speaks the truth on all issues of import, and has character and courage to do the right thing. What a novelty that is in American politics!

  6. Deadbeat said on November 4th, 2008 at 2:54pm #

    The rhetorical question being asked by Kim … Is Being Black Enough? is a very simple to answer. The answer is no. Just being “Black” is not the reason to vote for Obama. And being Black is not the reason why African Americans will overwhelmingly vote for Obama either.

    As I stated yesterday if Clarence Thomas was running for the office he would received a small minority of the African American support. So clearly there has to be MORE than just being Black.

    Greg Palast remarks are easy pickings since he is justifications are just as hyperbolic as some of the arguments not to vote for Obama have been. Both lacking nuance are just as uninformative and provides little to no rational analysis of the current conditions.

    Kim also writes …

    Finally, speaking of unhealed wounds, I never heard Palast urging the electorate to vote for presidential candidate Leonard Peltier (Gwarth-ee-lass, “He Leads the People”) in the 2004 presidential election. Peltier has long been suffering a grave miscarriage of justice in the US.

    That is fanciful if we are talking electoral strategy. The problem once again has to do with the nature of the electoral system. Why should Palast advocate throwing one’s vote away especially since Palast has written incessantly about voter suppression of African Americans in 2000 and 2004. Let’s be honest and say that voting for Peltier represents a protest vote.

    Had Kim wrote that “I never heard Palast in 2004 advocate that Nader and the Greens work together as a united front so that the Green Party could achieve the 5% threshold” then I would be in perfect agreement with him. Nader received ~2.5% of the vote in 2000 and in 2004 the Green Party and Nader needed to work together to achieve the 5% threshold. I needn’t repeat what occurred in 2004. However had they worked together and achieved the 5% threshold and ballot lines in ALL 50 states the “complexion” of the 2008 election would be much different and much further to the left.

    Even the poster Cariboo from Canada says the following…
    [Nader] and [McKinney] should form a coalition, create their own party, and come back alive and kicking in 2012

    If they couldn’t do that in 2008 it is doubtful that will occur in 2012. Unfortunately the discussion missing from many of the DV articles has been the DISTINCTION between Nader and McKinney and why that distinction prevented the two from forming a coalition. Having the two on the ballot only splits the Left votes and creates more confusion leading voters who feels that this election has a lot at stake to move in Obama’s direction.

    As I have trying to get across:

    The strategy of the Left has been to weaken the Democrats. However missing in this election year has been a tactical strategy by the Left to achieve this goal. They had one in 2004 but squandered that opportunity. In order to weaken the Democrats you’d think a major aspect of that strategy is be to find solidarity with the group who is the MOST loyal voting block with the Democrats — African Americans — in order to woo then away from the party.

    In order to do that one must understand that African Americans are “lesser evil” voters. They will continue to vote for the Democrats until they can see that there is a VIABLE alternative. Clearly this year the Left failed to provide this voting bloc with such a viable alternative and Rosa Clemente, in her Democracy Now! appearance, provide some clear distinction between McKinney/Clemente and Nader/Gonzalez.

    Therefore under these circumstance I take issue with Kim’s hyperbolic conclusion where he writes…

    In the end, voters must decide whether to vote for a Black man backed by White money or seek a candidate whose principles will challenge the White corporatist maintenance of the status quo power configuration where Blacks (Original Peoples and other minorities) are, preponderantly, on a lower rung of the economic ladder.

    I would love to see Kim in the middle of many of these African American enclaves throughout the country spew such hyperbolic rhetoric should McCain win the election.

    IMO what this election is about is what the Left needs to do going forward. The first place they need to start is with SELF-ASSESSMENT and figure out why there is little solidarity among the factions representing the Left and why there is little to no solidarity among oppressed groups with the Left.

  7. Ramsefall said on November 4th, 2008 at 3:01pm #

    I just read Greg’s piece on voting for Obama because he’s black. While it is reassuring to hear of enlightening educational experience with a qualified and influential teacher, being black likely had little to do with it. Voting black on that basis is about as logical as voting McCain because of stimulating conversations you’ve had with an elderly neighbor.

    While Kim integrated Greg’s information effectively for her piece, reading the link has a more staggering impact.

    Best to all.

  8. Cariboo said on November 4th, 2008 at 3:08pm #

    “Each election the people of America are faced with such God-awful choices. I am astonished and bewildered that this is all there is?”

    Angie, I live in Canada, and I beg to differ. I remain ASTOUNDED that “progressives” south of the border don’t wake up and smell the fair trade organic coffee. McKinney and Nader are both running this time, and folks like Solomon, Chomsky,and Zinn seem to be encouraging the left to vote for Obama. Unbelievable.

    Otherwise your comments are spot on.

  9. rosemarie jackowski said on November 4th, 2008 at 3:10pm #

    Who would Malcolm X vote for? Who would best serve the interests of the black population? NADER is the one.
    I also like Brian Moore. In a perfect world he would have received more Press.

  10. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 4th, 2008 at 3:29pm #

    correction ab my statement ab simplifying complexities. i shld have said that it is an ancient ruse that people make simplicity out of complexity and complexity out of simplicity. thnx

  11. Ramsefall said on November 4th, 2008 at 3:46pm #

    Cariboo,

    your Canadian perspective is appreciated, the US is always in desperate need of its reflection from international mirrors.

    The reason those analysts you mention are endorsing Obama, is that they understand that without an organized movement behind the alternative candidates, the victor will emerge from the duopoly as history demonstrates. That they are cognizant of the two candidates’ slight differences in this corporate spectacle is precisely why they make their recommendation. Without a movement, alternatives will never take the reigns from the Republicats.

    Besides, critics and historians/activists are not mainstream in the United States of Amnesia; they’re reviewed predominantly by persons undertaking research or personal interest, not a large demographic. On the outside, it’s likely a different story.

    In short, when movements (not the Obama phenomena) begin and gain momentum, they and their alternative candidates will be a historic and unstoppable force. Maybe in 2012, maybe not, time will tell.

    Best to you.

  12. Deadbeat said on November 4th, 2008 at 3:49pm #

    In fairness to Palest and to the discussion here’s the Palest article…

    ****
    Vote for him – because he’s Black

    by Greg Palast

    No question, Mr. Bruce was my favorite teacher in junior high.

    I went to this Loser-ville school in the San Fernando Valley. It was all Chicano kids and working class white losers like me. Everyone had to take ‘metal shop’ so we could work the bottom-end jobs in the Chevy plant.

    My brain was dying – until Mr. Bruce showed up, the new science teacher. DOCTOR Bruce, actually – the only Ph.d teacher in the place.

    At lunch hour, instead of hanging out in the teachers’ lunchroom, Mr. Bruce would invite me and my friends into his classroom. Over coffee made on a Bunsen burner, he would talk about topics from Einstein to Buddha while munching on this strange stuff called “organic” food.

    He was simply like no adult I’d ever met – an exceptional guy who could make us dull-brained students sizzle.

    My parents had him over for Sunday brunch and he talked about his work as a ‘honey-dipper’ in the Deep South where he grew up. The honey-dipper was the guy who hunted for lost glasses and whatever else was dropped in outhouse cesspools. Dr. Bruce said he enjoyed the work because it taught him pleasures of quiet grace, of dignified acceptance.

    The kids were crazy about him, but not all the parents. Some called to complain about the school hiring him.

    So he left. Months later, Mr. Bruce mailed me a letter from Japan where he’d taken a university post.
    It’s odd, but it was only this year that I put it all together: his exclusion by the other teachers, his job as a honey-dipper, his need to escape America.

    Dr. Bruce, of course, is Black.

    So, I’m going to do something that Dr. Bruce would think little of. I’m going to vote for the Black man.

    Because he’s Black.

    The truth is, I’m wary of Barack Obama. His cozy relations with the sub-prime loan sharks who funded his early campaign; his vote, at the behest of his big donor ADM corporation, for the horrific Bush energy bill.

    But there’s one thing that overshadows policy positions, one thing he cannot change once in office: the color of his skin. The same as Mr. Bruce’s.

    I’m going to say something that I know the Obama campaign will just hate; but that many others are feeling but won’t say out loud. We must vote for Barack Obama because he’s Black.

    For four centuries, our nation has poisoned itself with the corrosive venom of racism. From the slave trade, to our still-segregated schools, to the Bush family stealing the White House by cynically, and sinfully, calling Florida Black voters felons; to the exile of a brilliant science teacher four decades ago.

    The time has come to cleanse the wound that will not heal.

    ********
    Greg Palast’s investigative reports appear on BBC Television and in Rolling Stone Magazine. Palast is the co-author, with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., of “Steal Back Your Vote,” the investigative comic book available for no charge at StealBackYourVote.org and http://www.GregPalast.com

    Palast is a Nation Institute/Puffin Foundation Fellow for investigative reporting.

  13. David said on November 4th, 2008 at 3:52pm #

    I ‘m pretty sure when Greg Palast said something like “Vote for him cause he’s black”, he wasn’t laying out exactly what people should do but rather that they should question where they get their ideas..

    Certainly i believe very strongly in NOT revealing your votes when debating votes, as its the merits and stances of the person/party that counts. That is to say, debate the issues not the people and let others find their own path. I know its strongly un-american but its how most people in the countries i know carry about their debates.

    On Palast, if you’d read any of his stuff or watched a talk you would have picked up a certain level of satire sarcasm and toungh-in-cheek humour.

    I have no aim to be an appologist nor interpreter but I do dislike single sentences being taken out of context.. I would suggest reading the whole article (and to the auther, a reference or two always go down a treat. Thanks for the well written article also)

    And on that Mandela quote, as a south african I can say that if America had a “mandela” (born in my hometown) he would have been assassinated already, seems to be the patern at least :/
    (did someone mention Mr X?)

    Heck, I’m gonna throw the towl in…
    vote John Lennon cause we’ve never had a Beatle president!

  14. Max Shields said on November 4th, 2008 at 3:54pm #

    Deadbeat why would any Dem voting block vote for a right-wing Republican? Get real.

    Let’s just stop it with “if Nader would build a movement or coalition/party.” Nader is on his last trip. I think he’s one of a tiny handful of truly great Americans. He’s not a pol. He’s a real community organization; unlike Obama who played one for 3 years to get his foot in the Chicago political door. Nader’s not using his community organizational experience to run for office as much as the other way around.

    Look for a movement elsewhere. Hey, here’s an idea Deadbeat – why not start one yourself instead of expecting someone else to do it all for you.

    Rosemarie, I suspect Malcolm X would have some choice words for Obama. X didn’t mince words. I rather think Glen Ford provides as close a look at what Malcolm would be saying as anything we get anywhere else.

  15. Deadbeat said on November 4th, 2008 at 3:58pm #

    Rosemarie Jackowski writes…

    Who would Malcolm X vote for? Who would best serve the interests of the black population? NADER is the one. I also like Brian Moore. In a perfect world he would have received more Press.

    That’s extremely debatable. He might go for Cynthia McKinney especially since Rosa Clemente is closest to the community that Malcolm X served. He might also support Obama since many in the African American community supports Obama and McCain ran a blatantly racist campaign. The truth is we just don’t know. Therefore it is pure conjecture to try to determine who Martin or Malcolm would support. This is 2008 not the 1960’s.

    What needs to be the focus is the current conditions and apply strategies that are useful for the current times. What is useful is for the Left is to admit defeat due to its squandering of a golden opportunity four years ago and the failure to take advantage of that opportunity is why the Left is ill-prepared to offer a viable alternative to the Obama candidacy. In other words — SELF ASSESSMENT.

  16. Timber said on November 4th, 2008 at 4:01pm #

    Deadbeat–

    I live in the South, in a working-class neighborhood. I think the reason that poor and working-class folks don’t associate with the left is quite a bit less of a mystery than we often act like it is.

    I would attribute it to religion, ignorance/anti-intellectualism, and a worship of material wealth and those who possess it, demonstrated by the idolatry of celebrities (regardless of their character) and obsessions with status symbols like luxury SUVs and jewelry.

    Because the left is generally associated with rationality, criticisms of consumerism and pop culture, and intellectual curiosity, it probably seems like a very foreign and even hostile perspective on the world to many oppressed and exploited people.

    You could also ask why so many poor people choose to participate in the exploitation of other poor people around the world by wearing Nike sweatshop apparel or by shopping at WalMart. I’m sorry to say it, but I think a lot of them just don’t care.

  17. Deadbeat said on November 4th, 2008 at 4:02pm #

    Max it is you who needs to get real. All your complaining about lesser evil voting goes against how the most loyal voting bloc of the Democrats have been voting for the past 40 years. You and the Left need to alter your strategy.

    And Max in order to create new strategies YOU MUST DO self-assessment in order to figure out what went WRONG. You are the resident “historian” Max. If you DON’T LEARN FROM HISTORY you are DOOMED to repeat it.

    Therefore the Left has to do self-assessment. The Obama candidacy was not in the Left’s equation for 2008. Therefore the Left MUST go BACK and figure out how they got out maneuvered and WHY!

  18. Ron Horn said on November 4th, 2008 at 4:46pm #

    I think too many of you take corporate sponsored elections far too seriously. Nowadays instead of cake, the ruling class lets them have elections. If their elections could produce real change, they would be illegal. I think the only “hope”, so to speak, is for the US to sink into its swamp of debt and all the social misery that this would entail–a very real possibility. Then maybe people would wake up and produce real change by organizing against the owning class and its terribly destructive system.

  19. Angie said on November 4th, 2008 at 4:57pm #

    I think you misunderstood that comment of mine you quoted, Cariboo. I was referring only to Obama v. McCain (Democrats v. Republicans) because, of course, the amount of media coverage given to other candidates is so minimal as to be indiscernible. Ask the average American (or Canadian for that matter) and who will even know that McKinney is running, or for that matter, who she is. How much media coverage has either she or Mr. Nader received?

    And, incidentally, I am also in Canada.

  20. Max Shields said on November 4th, 2008 at 5:02pm #

    Deadbeat I didn’t “make up lesser evil” you do know that – don’t you?

    The only viable strategy is localism. Nader is right on the issues, but wasting time at the national level is a distraction.

    Representative government – particularly non-proportional – is highly problematic and gives you what we have – an unresponsive duopoly.

    But with a land mass of nearly 2 m square miles and over 300 m people, participatory democracy is not possible. It is only at the local, human-scale level that we can affect real change; that direct democracy has a chance.

    Strategies begin and end their – I’ve agreed that such localism requires solidarity on a regional and global scale.

    There is a place for regional and federal government; but the power of the federal gov’t must be greatly reduced. Not because I say so, but because it is out of step with how life began and has been sustained.

    The Feds should be providing broad support; but should be mostly subordinated to regional requests; it should help ensure that human monopolies are eliminated wherever they creep in. Non-monopolistic senterprisea and culture should be nutured at the local level. Corporations should NEVER be allowed personage.

    Regions should be strengthened, but local should have the strongest political power becasue it is there where it affects people; where people know what is needed and for the most part how best to achieve those ends.

    New partnerships need to be forged, ending unsustainable hierarchical structures like the outmoded/dated US government.

    This is a vision, shared by others, aligned to the natural emergence of life. What we have today, is anti-life in many respects. It is an old worn out imperialistic empire; fashioned after the equally anti-life affirming Roman Empire.

    None of the candidates will go this far, but Nader senses it, and Rosa Clamente is radical enough to envision it. Just to give it a little political context.

  21. Ramsefall said on November 4th, 2008 at 5:53pm #

    Max,

    I consistently enjoy your replies and the rationals that you present in defense of your views, please keep it coming.

    I’d like to offer an observation in regard to which you stated:

    “There is a place for regional and federal government; but the power of the federal gov’t must be greatly reduced. Not because I say so, but because it is out of step with how life began and has been sustained.”

    The theory of micro-democracies with inherent power that are community based and which promote 100% participation on every issue is much more analogous to the equilibrium established among various natural communities and their niches. If mankind were to align with and mimick nature instead of opposing and abusing her, especially with today’s technology, we could actually begin evolving again as a species. We have a lot to accomplish before that happens, but experiencing the manifestation of this vision is in the realm of possibilities.

    That nail must be screaming after getting hit on the head so hard, as you identify that the current system is “anti-life”.

    I’ll continue along that line of thought in that it is an inverted synthetic replication of the true flower of life present throughout the universe and being the blueprint for all life according to numerous ancient civilizations and contemporary teachers of sacred geometry. The synthetic system will eventually disintegrate in proportion to its present power, it has already begun.

    Best to you.

  22. Cariboo said on November 4th, 2008 at 6:17pm #

    Ramsefall:
    You’re right, “when movements (not the Obama phenomena) begin and gain momentum, they and their alternative candidates will be a historic and unstoppable force.” The same holds true north of the border.

    As for Team Chomsky’s recommendations to average voters to lean towards Obama because of the “slight differences”, I understand the sentiment. But, in my opinion, it is the likes of Chomsky, Zinn,and Solomon who are adding fuel to the Obama phenomenon by not-unconditionally-speaking out against it. I just read that Chomsky voted McKinney/Clemente (according to an email he sent to the party), and one can only wonder why he hasn’t been a more vocal supporter of the McKinney/Clemente ticket from the get-go.

    Ron Horn makes a useful comment about being cognizant of this (and any) corporate sponsored election. Perhaps, in the future, as America continues to crumble and the world continues to go to shit, a truly progressive movement will gain momentum and establish a more prominent force come election day. But the larger issue, in my mind, is for that movement to be vocal 24/7, regardless of whether or not their candidates are allowed on televised debates, regardless of how many votes its candidates receive, and regardless of what corporate mascot wins the presidency. People can only be humiliated for so long, and as long as finite resources are chanelled towards a bogus war on terror, and away from social programs (i.e. homeless shelters, universal healthcare) there will be no choice but to embrace alternatives.

  23. Deadbeat said on November 4th, 2008 at 6:32pm #

    Timber writes…

    I live in the South, in a working-class neighborhood. I think the reason that poor and working-class folks don’t associate with the left is quite a bit less of a mystery than we often act like it is.

    Timber I appreciate your comments and your assessment of why the poor and working class folks do not associate with the left. I agree that part of it is ignorance. However if the Left are as intellectual as they purport to be then the Left should be able to develop strategies to reach these people. I recall however when Ralph Nader attempted to reach out to the former Perot voters he was ridiculed by the Left (particularly the ISO) for do so.

    This is why I am making the point that the Left needs to do self-assessment. The Left needs to determine how they plan to really get a mass movement going. IMO the Left squandered the ant-war energies of 2003-2004 in order to build that movement. There were many working class people who got involved in the anti-war movement against the war on Iraq. Had that energy been harnessed it could have altered the nature of this election and put the Left in a more powerful position. Alas that didn’t occur and the Left now finds itself in a rather impotent place for this current election cycle.

    The real question is what does the Left have to do from here.

  24. Ramsefall said on November 4th, 2008 at 6:34pm #

    Cariboo,

    I’m glad to see accordance in these discussions, and as you indicate, it takes 24/7 vocalization in order to get movements initiated. The profit factor has to be eliminated in elections as they are suppose to be about people as well.

    As to Chomsky’s choice, I’m not surprised. Why he didn’t advocate McKinney’s campaign, who knows? Your guess is as good as mine.

    Some of us here need to collaborate and put our ideas together and get something going, that’s the only way a movement will get going.

    Best to you.

  25. Deadbeat said on November 4th, 2008 at 6:40pm #

    Deadbeat I didn’t “make up lesser evil” you do know that – don’t you?

    Max you like to bait and switch and then profess that you didn’t make various statements. Yesterday you argued that Clarence Thomas is “black” due to his “lineage”. Now today you argue that he is “not” because he is a right wing republican. That is exactly my argument against your premise from yesterday.

    Now you say that you didn’t make up the lesser evil argument yet yesterday you recklessly argued that “lesser evil” voter should for John McCain because he would not “pretend to be a progressive”. Apparently Max this is why your arguments and faulty logic has been all over the map because you’ve been duplicitous and inconsistent in your arguments.

    I’ll state again my observations:

    THE LEFT LOST THIS YEAR because of their failures in 2004. I needn’t repeat why. The problem I see with the Left is its inability to formulate a UNITED FRONT. Its inability to generate solidarity with oppressed groups. Its inability to recognize nuance. Its inability to be honest with the current conditions. Its inability to express empathy for the average working class citizen/voter.

    The real question is what does the Left need to do to overcome its weaknesses. You can continue to blather and condemn the “lesser evil” voter but that won’t win you converts. Especially in your case Max since you’ve been extremely inconsistent and duplicitous on the real issues and the problems inherent on the Left.

  26. Ramsefall said on November 4th, 2008 at 7:13pm #

    Deadbeat,

    you’re correct in the assessment of what the left must do, the same as struggling members of the less-affluent right need to do; that is to collaborate and organize which will initiate, as you and others have mentioned, a movement. I’m sure that if the financially afflicted members of society, whether left or right, who feel screwed and violated by their leaders were to unite, they would be able to create representation that was beneficial to the majority, not the controlling elite represented in today’s election.

    Weakness, complacency, laziness and unrealistic hopefulness all need to be overcome if civil victory is to eventually be had.

    Best to you.

  27. Max Shields said on November 4th, 2008 at 7:14pm #

    Ramsefall
    Yes, you get my drift. There is a powerful intuitive drive to human scale our existence.

    A number of States have constitutions which allow for referendum by citizens. California is one significant example. The problem with these referenda, while they appear to represent a participation of the electorate is that they frequently do just the opposite. A state the size of California (but perhaps with the exception of Rhode Island, all other states are really too large to make this “participatory”) cannot provide direct democracy. Scale is important to democracy, and I would say that it is vital to day to day existence.

    Nature abhors monopolies. Monopolies are perhaps the essence of “evil” in moral terms. Nevertheless monopolies are a natural phenomenon created by universal needs (in some cases they are not needs but need-satisfiers; transportation is not a need but satisfies the need to acquire the means to pay for food and clothing, etc.). All monopolies are created directly or indirectly through control over a primary need.

    Resources are a perfect example of a need which can be readily privatized and monopolized – limiting access and use to but a few.

    It is the role of government to dissolve this tendency toward monopoly by groups/oligarchies/corporations and the like. By doing such it puts these natural monopolies in the public domain.

    But localism provides the natural order of existence. On a scale of 50 – 100,000 people we can readily affect our lives in ways that keeps a relatively constant stasis. It generates culture, behavior, and transactions. It grows, spreads and contracts. Here, locally, the closest thing to pure natural democracy can exist. Beyond that it is impossible to have much more than proportional representation. Such representation has to be kept in check because it drifts from the centers of community or localism. Representatives go to the State’s capital or DC where mischief has its day.

    The way to keep the broader State and Federal governments from becoming preditory (as the USA has) is to turn it on its head. Power emminates from local centers. Federal government serves the needs of regions and localities. Optimal democracy can only exist locally. Regions are large enough to sustain a robust ecomomy of trade (States within the US are too weak to provide this as a general rule). Solidarity through trade, culture, language and economics is promoted on a global scale.

    Empires create war. Localism disassembles empires. The corollary: endless wars are diminished if not extinguished as long as this stasis is maintained.

  28. Max Shields said on November 4th, 2008 at 7:16pm #

    Deadbeat, I think if I’ve been inconsistent it’s because I refuse to see this as you do – a simple game of left and right.

  29. Brian Koontz said on November 4th, 2008 at 7:45pm #

    In reply to Timber:

    “You could also ask why so many poor people choose to participate in the exploitation of other poor people around the world by wearing Nike sweatshop apparel or by shopping at WalMart. I’m sorry to say it, but I think a lot of them just don’t care.”

    No – it’s that downtrodden people enjoy lording over those even lower than themselves – the vast majority of people in the world are both below someone else and above someone else. By wearing the work of terrible slave labor they can constantly remind themselves that there are people in the world of a lower social caste than themselves – sweatshop apparel is a status symbol.

    The poor of the world are by and large not more moral than the rich. They simply have less power and thus less ability to fuck things up.

    This is how capitalism works – divide and conquer. It creates innumerable striations of social classes – one populous class of which is mini-lords who either directly control bottom-feeding slaves or who have some access to the output of low slaves (poor Americans wearing sweatshop gear).

    The vast majority of Americans support worldwide slavery because ALL Americans, even indigenous Americans living in concentration camps (reservations) are mini-lords, who reap imperial benefits derived from slaves lower on the power rung than themselves.

    This is the truth about abuse that few on the left have come to terms with – the abused become abusers themselves (think Zionists as a result of the Holocaust in their treatment of Palestinians) in order to paper-over their own feelings of impotence. Jews were impotent during the Holocaust so they are “potent” now, and Walmart shoppers are impotent in the social construct of America so they are “potent” with respect to sweatshop workers.

    Marxists are deluded in that they treat the world as a dual construct of capitalists/workers. This utter travesty of extreme over-simplification has mind-fucked the left into abandoning the world’s poor – since they treat all workers equally, as “slaves of capitalism”.

    Many of the supposedly downtrodden workers are mini-lords, with slaves below them who toil endlessly to provide benefits to themselves. Low slaves in Africa and Asia serve the needs of their “poor” masters in America, Western Europe and Japan, personified by a member of the “working class” wearing Nike apparel.

    The global power structure is not capitalist/worker – it’s a ladder with many rungs. Unless you’re on the very top or the very bottom, you’re BOTH a slave and a master.

    Marxism and it’s many “errors” have prevented the overthrow of capitalism. Marxism is a belief held by masters who pretend to be slaves. Anyone serious about destroying capitalism has had just about enough of that.

    Marxism supports capitalism since it’s constituency (First world workers) benefits from it – the output of low slaves feeds their material well-being.

  30. Ramsefall said on November 4th, 2008 at 8:06pm #

    Max,

    I appreciate the response and the elaborated train of thought.

    While nature evolves along constantly maintained lines of balance and harmony through perpetual competition, our extraction has produced a diametrical effect in human society; thus the natural tendency for monopolization to take such root. And yes, they are the essence of evil, most particular in terms of collective sustainability.

    We see it everyday; a need for information, a monopoly on media; a need for fuel, a monopoly on petroleum; a need for products, corporate monopolies, on down the line.

    Localism disassembles empires, I like that, good stuff. That’s something to work toward.

    Best to you.

  31. Max Shields said on November 5th, 2008 at 5:04am #

    Our civilizations, our empires (primarily Western) are simply asymmetrical forces fueled by blood.

  32. JN said on November 5th, 2008 at 3:56pm #

    Brian Koontz,

    As a Marxist, I completely agree with what you’re saying about the nature of capitalism. It centralises wealth both within states (from the working classes to the ruling class) and between states. Thus, while we are being robbed by the capitalists and government, we are simultaneously benefiting from the looting of the ‘3rd world’ & its people. Capitalism both benefits and harms the western worker. We are complicit in the exploitation of workers in other countries, as we are complicit in capitalism’s wars: because we do not do enough to stop it.

    However, it is precisely committed Socialists who are most likely to actively oppose exploitation & imperialism. The problem is there are not enough of us (plus we are disorganised, etc)

    Marxism is internationalist & anti-imperialist. The goal of any real Socialist/Communist (as opposed to reformists, Stalinists, etc) is to end ALL forms of exploitation & injustice. It makes no sense to oppose the exploitation of western workers but not that of workers in other parts of the world.

    Your assertion that “anyone serious about destroying capitalism has had enough of that” is absurd. Are you “serious?” If so, what is your better suggestion? Maybe you should share it with us “deluded” Marxists? There are a lot of us, and we are everywhere, not just in the west (ever heard of the Naxalites, for example?)

    Not only is capitalism in crisis, capitalism IS crisis: it IS war, famine, poverty, disease. It is effectively genocidal. So what is the solution? The forcible overthrow of the existing system. There is no other way, & it has to happen in the west above all. OUR responsibility is to MAKE it happen, to BUILD strong, radical, committed movements. ORGANISE! ACT! ESCALATE!

  33. Ramsefall said on November 5th, 2008 at 5:42pm #

    JN,

    I’d like to add that your last paragraph is precise, bullseye, at least the first three sentences.

    As for the rest, which comes across very aggressively, it’s the ‘forcible’ context that makes me wonder if you’re organizing around violent force, as that would be battling one immorality with another, fighting fire with fire.

    The organization should revolve around non-violent, strategical, creative and intelligent solutions which contain the potential to not only discard this pathetic discordant and unsustainable system that we call reality, but also produce abundance — the yang of this yin so to speak. And beginning locally, of course.

    But my supposition is that you already knew that.

    Best to you.

  34. Brian Koontz said on November 5th, 2008 at 9:35pm #

    In reply to JN:

    “Your assertion that “anyone serious about destroying capitalism has had enough of that” is absurd. Are you “serious?” If so, what is your better suggestion? Maybe you should share it with us “deluded” Marxists? There are a lot of us, and we are everywhere, not just in the west (ever heard of the Naxalites, for example?)”

    If Marxism is radical the poor would be Marxists, but with rare exception they are not. It’s primarily Western academics as well as Western “poor” who are Marxists. Therefore Marxism is not radical, and it supports the status quo, simply requesting a transfer of wealth from capitalists to (first world) workers.

    It’s important to listen to what the poor want. The poor want populist democracy and they want socialism. Marxism is not populist democracy – it’s top-down socialism where bureaucrats run the state. Populist democracy is anarchic in nature, with local communities in control. Marxists are elitists who believe a philosophy should be followed by the people – that the philosophy (as pronounced by such figures as Marx, Engels, and Gramsci) should be in control and the people have the choice to either be beholden to the philosophy or be punished. Populist democracy puts the needs of people rather than the needs of philosophy first.

    Since you asked what I want rather than what the poor want, I want something different. I want global socialism as well as a classless global society – the elimination of class as well as a fairly narrow difference between people’s incomes. Most of the world’s poor do not want global socialism – they have a local outlook.

    I’m examining primitivism as well, which is definitely not supported by the poor.

    My preference for the future is to enact populist democracy and if that goes well stick with it – if more is needed to save the world a move to primitivism (destroying civilization) becomes necessary.

    The people who save the world will not come from the West – they might come from Africa, or Asia, or South America, but not from the West. They will come from colonized countries, not colonial ones.

    The belly of the beast dissolves what it contains. That includes virtually everyone on Dissident Voice, including myself. I’m as serious as any Westerner, which is to say I’m complicit in imperialism, and I enjoy the material benefits derived from genocide.

    So are any of us serious? Intellectually maybe, but spiritually no. We are all corrupt.

  35. Joseph Anderson, Berkeley, CA, said on November 6th, 2008 at 12:57am #

    -

    Just a quick word for now — more later (although I hate to right and run).

    As an African American progressive political activist, and one who has written articles (some available online) on national Black issues I say, great commentary Kim.

    Palast’s argument would also be like saying that Blacks should support Clarence Thomas (and his Supreme Ct decisions) or Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell (and their foreign policy decisions) because they are Black.

    Three short reason that Blacks voted for Obama in such overwhelming %’s:

    (1) Blacks figured that if whites could have a premature senile in the White House for 8 years, and an obvious *idiot* in the White House for 8 years, then why not an obviously intelligent Black person (who’s policies, as a Black version of Clinton or Blair, I nonetheless oppose) who’s not some Black conservative overtly adverse to Black-America — Blacks having failed to learn the contemporary lesson that just “a Black face in a high place” (like any number of Black mayors and police chiefs still beholden to white power) is not per se a positive answer — in the White House (or, as Chris Rock said, things are *so* bad in the U.S. that most white-Americans just figured, “Aww shit, let’s just let a *Black* guy try *his* hand at it: he certainly can’t be any worse!”).

    You know, I just blanked out on the 2nd & 3rd reasons because I’m watching to see what Leno and Letterman have to say in their late-night monologues since we get more truth from comedians and satirists in America than in mainstream corporate media pundits (like the ones, Repub *and* Dem, who *lavished praise* on Sarah Palin for merely surviving her debate with Biden).

    More later…

    -

  36. Joseph Anderson, Berkeley, CA, said on November 6th, 2008 at 2:39am #

    OBAMA REALITY CHECK:

    “I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice, and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think it will [ultimately] be based on the color of the skin…” — Malcolm X

    I hope it’s not a faux pas to reference other non-DV articles (that nonetheless indirectly reinforce Kim Peterson’s criticism of Greg Palast):

    “More of the Same — Only Worse”
    http://www.blackcommentator.com/297/297_kir_obama_presidency_pt1.html

    “Those so-called leftist and progressives [and Greg Palast is a staunch Zionist and anti-Palestinian racist anyway, so Obama (who intimated that he would even nuke Iran –“do anything/everything”– for Israel) and Biden are right down Palast’s ally] who were and are collaborators with U.S. Empire [including Zionist Israeli colonialism] will, for a time, try to pretend that their support of Barack Obama was not a SELL OUT [having the grandiose self-delusion and greatly inflated self-importance that they “would have Obama’s ear” anymore than they had Bill Clinton’s (or, respectively, Tony Blair’s for that matter)], and that they simply need more time [like the *8* years under Clinton or the full *decade* under Blair] to persuade the U.S. Empire’s colored corporate emperor to do the right thing [I guess like with Clinton and Blair]. Meanwhile, Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, and [middle-class and poor] White peoples will be enduring an unprecedented rate of economic and social suffering [as is already occuring, since the WWII & its recovery era, in Britain!].”

    “Will President Obama feel the pressure? (LOL)”
    http://onlinejournal.com/artman/publish/article_3969.shtml

    -

  37. Lloyd Rowsey said on November 6th, 2008 at 6:54am #

    I voted for the Big O because I anticipated it would feel good to win. And it DID!

    I have’t read all of Petersen’s aticle, much less perused the comments, but for months radicals have been saying we have to keep this person or that person’s feet to the fire. We HAVE TO KEEP PRESSING FOR THE IMPEACHMENT OF THE Son of a Bush. We can’t just believe he’s all nicey nicey now, and forget about his personality and lies, and the still-present posibility that martial law (whatever that means to Bushco) will be in effect next January 20th.

    There are numerous websites devoted to continuing the battle for Impeachment. Cindy Sheehan pledged to do so long ago regardless of the Nov 4 outcome. Elizabeth Holtzman did too. As did JFK’s (?) Attorney General Ramsey.

    So let’s keep at, ladies and gentlemen. The fight has just continued.

  38. Lloyd Rowsey said on November 6th, 2008 at 6:55am #

    *Clark.

  39. Ramsefall said on November 6th, 2008 at 8:34am #

    Brian,

    in an attempt to bury the hatchet with you, I’d like to say that I admire your honesty as we are all corrupt and I imagine that most of us on DV do enjoy the derivatives of genocide. As unfortunate as that is.

    I, too, would like to see a classless society with a homogenization of incomes. Would you mind elaborating on this vision of global socialism?

    Best to you.

  40. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 6th, 2008 at 9:13am #

    ramsefall,
    we may always have classes even in socialisms. ie, people may for long time or even forever look up to doctors, professors, musicians, et al.
    however, econo-military-political power of the classes wld in a well-developed socialism be similar or same.
    in a socialism, kids wld be given the right to obtain higher education.
    this too wld further errode our admiration for artists, doctors, scientists, et al

  41. Ramsefall said on November 6th, 2008 at 9:43am #

    bozhidar,

    aspiring to people of prestigious positions is inherent in society, no doubt. But, if kids are given the opportunity to obtain higher education, which is often absent in our demoligarchy, then it’s likely that those kids have the potential to attain one of those positions. I agree with you and trust that they would want to attain that ‘status’ based on interest and accumulated knowledge in that field instead of prestige, as earnings would no longer be the motivator, but who really knows? Theoretically what you say makes sense.

    As for my request to Brian, it’s not so much the idea of global socialism as a structure, but more so how to implement such a system, the transition thereof. That’s the vision I’m interested in, how do we go from our dysfunctional fascocracy to functional global socialism that eliminates poverty and establishes society on more of a level playing field where people are contributing to the overall improvement of the society they represent instead of competing like blood thirsty animals for dollars and the products they purchase?

    Best to all.

  42. bozhidar bob balkas said on November 6th, 2008 at 10:00am #

    ramsefall,
    thnx for reply and support.

  43. Ramsefall said on November 6th, 2008 at 10:54am #

    bozhidar,

    you’re welcome and thanks in return.

    Now, the real issue is, how do we create this change? Can it feasibly even occur with our present level of consciousness? Having lived abroad now for three years, I am contemplating a return in order to organize and become more active in our redirection, but I am not convinced that my effort would see results. I’m not sure what the public pulse is, if enough people are motivated with a fire in their belly for change.

    I talk to people back home who are convinced that voting for Omaba was enough and that he alone will bring about this miraculous change…I think it’s a bunch of bs and complacent behavior. Easier to just cast a vote a have blind faith in the new leader. I think they’re unaware of the powerful forces to overcome in Washington, I don’t even think most are aware of the disintegration of their civil rights in the past decade, especially since Bush. Many are convinced that this phenomena was indeed a movement, obviously unaware of what movement really entails, ignorant to the historical instances.

    Lots of questions, many factors.

    Best to you.

  44. Brian Koontz said on November 6th, 2008 at 8:27pm #

    In reply to Ramsefall:

    “in an attempt to bury the hatchet with you, I’d like to say that I admire your honesty as we are all corrupt and I imagine that most of us on DV do enjoy the derivatives of genocide. As unfortunate as that is.”

    There’s no hatchet as I see it. The way in which I write is partly derived from my continued attempt to move the left to a more militant position. Much of the Western left is based on total pacifism, which severely injures the things they claim to be working toward.

    “I, too, would like to see a classless society with a homogenization of incomes. Would you mind elaborating on this vision of global socialism?”

    Your question brings up another major difference between us – I don’t believe vision matters, at least not much. Global socialism will emerge not from a vision but from the anarchic structure of linked local communities. Consciousness doesn’t create reality – reality creates reality. We don’t lack consciousness right now – we lack the reality of anarchism. Rather than build consciousness, we need to build anarchic structures and destroy capitalist structures.

    There’s nothing wrong with building consciousness (unless the time spent doing that prevents more useful actions), but when consciousness runs up against a SWAT team, the SWAT team wins.

    It’s not Gramsci, or Chomsky, or Parenti, or Albert who will create a vision that will lead the world to overthrow capitalism – it’s billions of poor people who will become organized enough and determined enough to overthrow it. It will be feet, and hearts, and fists, and guns, which will overthrow it – not ideas.

    The Western left just can’t get over the idea that they are the ones who will save the world. However enlightened they suppose themselves to be, they can’t shake centuries of history of the West believing indigenous and colonized peoples to be less than human, especially intellectually. So the West ignores the lives and struggles of the world’s poor, preaching to them and telling them their “visions” of how they can live better lives. By doing this they can tell themselves they “care for the poor” while actually doing harm to the poor, insofar as the poor listen to their visions instead of listening to themselves and their neighbors.

    The core of Western intellectualism contains a fatal flaw – it believes itself to be limitless. This fantasy of the unlimited potential of the mind means there is always hope in mental processes – and if some genius or some lucky madman simply thinks the *right* thought, devises the *right* system, dreams the *right* vision, everything will be different – everything will be better. “I think, therefore I am”.

    The West, left and otherwise, has never taken Harry Callahan’s (Dirty Harry) best advice – “A man’s got to know his limitations” – to heart.

    So the West thinks, thinks, and thinks some more, and the world wastes away. The autopsy will read “Death by thinking”.

  45. Ramsefall said on November 7th, 2008 at 11:25am #

    Brian,

    glad to hear that their is no hatchet, any resemblance to “there is no spoon”?

    I may shoot over to your blog page and discuss our differences on taking a more militant position, anarchy and consciousness.

    Enjoyed the Dirty Harry quote, you’ve reminded me that I need to download a few of his older pictures.

    Thanks for your take on things.

    Best to you.

  46. Lloyd Rowsey said on November 8th, 2008 at 9:31am #

    I don’t think musicians should be equated with artists. And I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m just tooting my own horn, but I’ve been posting a series of “Protest Art” articles at OpEdNews. Hopefully, the following link works to connect the reader to my stuff at OEN:

    http://www.opednews.com/author/author19172.html

    Even watching the superficial biographies of musicians on TV proves that many musicians — and especially pop musicians – were self-taught for long periods of time. Which is to say, they were enormously popular before or while they were learning to play.

    And…I ask you, what is protest music and where is it learned?

  47. Ramsefall said on November 9th, 2008 at 7:21am #

    Lloyd,

    musicians aren’t artists? Interesting take on that one. Art is the process of creation, whether it be a poet, a sculptor, a painter, a chef, an architect, a dancer, a musician, etc. I don’t suppose you’d see nature as the greatest artist?

    Being self taught disqualifies one from the category of artist? Self taught indicates an innate ability to learn without guidance; nobody taught Dali, is he not an artist? Maybe your idea wasn’t expressed clearly, seems like an attack on musicians, and the world could use more of them.

    You stated, “they were enormously popular before or while they were learning to play.” How is a musician popular before they learn to play?

    Protest music is the expression of a societal member, known or unknown, who vocalizes his/her disgust with societal problems; Dylan, Baez, Lennon, Marley, none of which are artists in your eyes.

    Strange take, Lloyd.

    Best to you.

  48. Sunil Sharma said on November 9th, 2008 at 11:47am #

    Lloyd Rowsey said on November 8th, 2008 at 9:31am: “I don’t think musicians should be equated with artists.”

    Well, as a working musician with a degree in music and who has played with far superior musicians who were self-taught, I can honestly say you don’t have a clue what art is. And sorry, but posting articles with OTHER people’s art and photography does not make you an artist. Every serious artist spends years studying, honing and refining his/her work. To even equate posting a web page with arrangements of other people’s art work as being in the same league is both insulting to artists and beyond lame.

    — Sunil