Sunday, May 03, 2009

Torture, Obama , and the Left

In case you missed it there was an anti-torture rally outside the White House last week in which over 100 participants were arrested, The above clip is from Russia Today of all places.
Meanwhile much discussion goes on in progressive-left circles as to what to think of President Obama. Andy Zee writes on the website of The Revolutionary Communist Party of the U.S.A. of a litany of shortcomings:

"A grievous, shameful and dangerous state of affairs permeates the movements of opposition in the U.S. Their outlook and politics have collapsed into passive acquiescence and even overt criminal complicity with the policies and actions of the ruling class, and are doing so by promoting the deadly illusion that the election of Barack Obama is bringing progressive change.

This is bullshit, it’s knowable, and it must change.

Some basic reality of Obama’s first 80 days:
Obama has escalated the illegal war in Afghanistan with an additional 21,000 troops.
Obama has expanded the war into Pakistan areas, using troops and unmanned drones.
Obama has extended the deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq to 2010—and even that date may be extended by the Pentagon.
Obama said he plans to leave 35,000-50,000 troops plus 50,000-100,000 mercenaries in Iraq after that, effectively continuing the illegal occupation.
Obama said he would close Guantanamo within 1 year, yet prisoners there are still being force fed with tubes shoved down their throats.
Obama approved $60 million to double the size of Bagram prison in Afghanistan.
Obama’s Justice Department has defended the Bush policy of illegal warrantless wiretapping and asserted far broader claims of executive branch immunity than even the Bush regime."

Obviously not only Obama but the anti-war movement in general is not immune from criticism:

"In an act which concentrates the treachery of this collapse, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the largest anti-war coalition, at their national meeting in December 2008, voted to oppose organizing demonstrations on the 6th Anniversary of the Iraq War on March 19 and 21, 2009. In opposition to mounting a determined struggle to end the wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and instead of calling people into the streets to stand with the people of the world, they decided “to mobilize a new base of people who have been inspired by Obama” in a four month campaign in commemoration of Martin Luther King titled, “Beyond War, A New Economy Is Possible: Yes We Can!”

The practical results: first, the protests that were actually held by others to coincide with the Iraq War’s Anniversary on March 19 and 21 were not as large as they needed to be—which mattered. Then, on Saturday April 4, UFPJ led a dull routine walk through the deserted financial district of NYC with a couple of thousand people revealing their capacity for sapping the life and spirit out of a movement—egregious, but not the heart of the matter."

While the RCPUSA has a few axes to grind other critics are making their thoughts known. John Stauber at the Center for Media and Demococracy takes on for its apparent shifts in emphasis and policy. He too is disturbed with the now subdued approach to the Wars of America and the loss of focus on economic issues that matter to the vast majority of Americans:

"The main online activist efforts that elected Obama -- his own Organizing for America and the liberal lobby MoveOn -- have become cheerleaders and lobbyists for his legislative agenda, policies that in many instances betray his rhetoric of change. I am referring to Obama's refusal to quickly end the war in Iraq; his military escalation in Afghanistan; his support for Wall Street bailouts; his endorsement of tax subsidies for the coal industry ("clean coal") and the nuclear power industry (saving us from global warming). Obama is about to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on health care subsidies that cater to the insurance industry and undermine the only real solution to the current crisis, the adoption of a single payer health care system such as that enjoyed by the Canadians and most other western democracies.

Yet my email box is filled with missives from MoveOn and other liberal online campaigns that spin these dismal policies as "real change," or ignore them entirely to dampen criticism from the Left of the Obama Administration.

What are grassroots activist organizations to do to avoid marginalization? Peace and justice organizations at the local and state level need to learn and adopt the new media tools of MoveOn and Obama, but use them to give birth to fundamental change that empowers people rather than seeks accommodation with powerful corporate interests. Rather than organizing for an agenda determined by a handful of partisan Democrats at the top, this new organization should work to empower and represent people from the bottom up.......

"In early 2007, I began publicly criticizing MoveOn for co-opting the peace movement on behalf of the agenda of Congressional Democrats. The Democrats gained control of the U.S. Congress in the fall of 2006 based primarily on public revulsion over Bush's war in Iraq, a war that was endorsed from the start by leading Democrats including John Kerry, Tom Daschle, Hillary Clinton, and many others. In early 2007, the Democrats had an opportunity to cut off funding for the war, but blinked. MoveOn, an organization considered by the mainstream media the leader of the peace movement, sided with Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an effort that marginalized the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus and gave Bush all the funding he wanted to continue the war.

The peace movement has never recovered. Although Obama was elected as the peace candidate, his Iraq withdrawal plan is anemic and would leave 50,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely, while he has ramped up the U.S. war in Afghanistan. MoveOn has declared Obama's Iraq strategy a success, even as the war continues, and is refusing to oppose Obama on Afghanistan. Meanwhile the grassroots peace movement that consists primarily of the hundreds of groups that make up the United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) coalition are disorganized and dispirited and UFPJ is in danger of going broke.

It's likely that all these groups that comprise UFPJ have among their own existing email lists a total number of peace activists in the millions. Yet they have never figured out how to mobilize these lists to create the sort of mega-list that is wielded by MoveOn. Hopefully down the road a network of non-partisan, web-based local and state activists will come together and create state and national email lists of millions of mobilized activists. Until these grassroots local and state groups learn the tricks of online activism and marry it to powerful grassroots organizing campaigns, real change will be deferred."

Mr Stauber is quite right to suggest another level of organizing is needed in this country to actually reflect the the beliefs and aspirations of Americans who have tossed off Bush-Cheney and don't wish to be coopted by those who at heart have more in common with the usual centers of power in this country. Vigilance is eternal as Che Guevara once said.

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