Who are our Friends, Who are our Enemies?

A famous 20th century political figure said that that was the central question of politics: if you are confused about that, nothing else really matters.

So in Madison Wisconsin, how would we analyze the role of the Obama administration? The Communist Party of the USA has publicized two statements, one by Obama, and one by Secretary of Labor Solis, supporting the union rights of workers. These statements were published in Political Affairs, the CPUSA’s theoretical journal, so we may assume that this reflects the party’s political analysis.

Here are some extracts from Sec. Solis’s statements:

I’ve been following the developments in Wisconsin, and Ohio, and many other states across the country.

We know that many states are facing tough budget decisions. We know that there’s room for shared sacrifice.

And we’ve seen our brothers and sisters in the public employees unions willing to give there share, and to negotiate in good faith to help their states get through tough times.

But the governors in Wisconsin and Ohio aren’t just asking workers to tighten their belts, they’re demanding that they give up their uniquely American rights as workers.

These are our neighbors, our friends, our family.  They teach our kids and risk their lives to keep us safe.  And all they’re asking is to be treated with respect.

All these workers want is the opportunity to sit down at the table, like grown ups, and work together to solve problems.

That’s what collective bargaining is all about.

We know that sitting down together and working through problems doesn’t cause budget problems.  In fact, that’s how we solve budget problems.

In every family in America, that’s what they do when times are tough.  They talk.  They negotiate. And that’s what these Governors ought to do.

Note the emphasis on “shared sacrifice”, “tough budget decisions”, tightening belts, etc. This is essentially what used to be liberal Republican rhetoric. And note the criticism of the Republican governors: they are demanding the workers give up their “uniquely American rights as workers”. This absurd appeal to US chauvinism turns the truth on its head: the only thing “uniquely American” about workers’ rights in this country is the lack of them, in comparison with every other industrialized country.

Is Obama any better? In his statement addressing governors yesterday morning, he said:

“I believe that everybody should be prepared to give up something to solve our budget challenges. In fact, many public employees in your respective states have already agreed to cuts… We need a conversation about pensions and Medicare and Medicaid and other promises that we’ve made as a nation, and those will be tough conversations.”

When I hear statements like this, I almost want to shout out along with the Tea Party “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”. And my Social Security I might add!

So back to my earlier question: who are our friends, who are our enemies? Is Obama “on my side”? Well, generally we ask this question about people in the “middle”, who we used to tag as reformists (speaking as a hard-core Marxist here): i.e. they believed that the capitalist system could be modified so as to promote increased living standards and well being of the US’s working people. Today such views are represented by the Progressive Caucus in Congress, by people like Rep. Grijalva, and Dennis Kucinich. Clearly presidents who destroy “welfare as we know it”, or who threaten to weaken Social Security, are not on our side.

By any objective standard, Obama is a right-centrist. Despite how he positioned himself in the 2008 election, he is no liberal. The recent Newsweek issue about Reagan’s 100th birthday had an article about Obama’s deep admiration for Reagan: this is apparently well-known among his inner circles, though not widely publicized for obvious reasons. Many of us had hoped we were getting a new FDR in the 2008 election, but instead it looks like we elected Herbert Hoover.

A related political question is: at any point in time, who is the “main enemy”? Clearly right now it is the ultra-right and their corporate and billionaire backers. But relying on Obama to lead the fight against them is a recipe for disaster.

So what does the CPUSA think about any of this? They reprinted the two statements with very little commentary, in Political Affairs, their theoretical journal. One would think that a Marxist political party would have opinions about the role of the Obama administration, although it is not clear based on some internal discussions if they still consider themselves a “political party”. The liberal left has not been bashful about criticizing the Obama administration (Paul Krugman, Robert Reich etc). They printed the statements Tuesday morning, there are no reader comments yet, but it would be worth seeing if any discussion develops (http:politicalaffairs.net).

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