As President Obama takes his last lap around the governing field before turning it over to Donald Trump LLC many liberals and some deluded “leftists” have taken to thanking him for his eight years of service to the 1%. The best that can be said from a Marxist perspective is that there have been worse presidents (we are about to get one) and we had four years of hope followed by four years of resignation leaving behind a disillusioned electorate who rejected the establishment presidential candidate in such numbers that even an almost three million popular vote lead could not prevent the White House from falling into the hands of the ultra-right.
Part of the problem was that Obama failed to put forth a program to seriously challenge the power structure that sustains the Right, Racism and Sexism and the Democratic Party, of which he is the nominal leader put up a candidate agreeable to the 1% when they had a popular leader in Sanders that might have beaten Trump. Anybody who has understood Marx understands that capitalism fosters the Right, Racism and Sexism and that the Democratic Party is controlled by the ruing capitalist class. We can thank Obama and Clinton for the loss of the industrial states whose electoral votes should have gone to the DP, for the destruction of Libya, for the prolongation of the war in Syria, for the coup in Honduras, the death of hundreds if not thousands of women and children throughout the middle east due to drone warfare and support of jihadist groups in Syria and the Saudi attacks on the civilian population of Yemen.
It wasn’t that long ago when liberals who said ‘Thank You” to LBJ for his domestic policy — the war on poverty and the civil rights laws — had to be reminded by MLK that LBJ was also the president of the most violent and oppressive country in the world. Leftists used to vociferously protest the oppression of third world people by US imperialism (“Hey, Hey, LBJ how many kids have you killed today?” In today’s “Thank You President Obama” blogs and tweets dead kids don’t seem to bother many people who call themselves “progressives.”
His legacy has left the 1% as solidly entrenched as ever and resulted in an ultra-right take over of the government. He also leaves behind a scandalous misuse of the intelligence services of the US in an attempt to engineer a false narrative of Russian election hacking to justify an excuse to start up a new cold war. Whether history will treat him kindly and thank him will depend upon who will be around to write it — the imperialist state he served or the masses of the third world it oppressed and exploited.
Obama is not totally responsible. He is after all a capitalist tool. The objective conditions are that the Democrats as well as the Republicans are organic parts of the monopoly capitalist system and contribute to its functioning and maintenance. The context of the political fight, from a class narrative, is that different factions of the ruling class are not agreed upon the best way to maintain dominance over the working people and to what degree concessions have to be given or to what degree they can be revoked. Both parties serve the interests of Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex. Marxists understand this (at least some do or used to understand) but the masses of working people do not due to the information monopoly of the ruling class. When we are politically active we are supposed to be engendering higher levels of class consciousness in working people and this is not done by deluding people about Obama and Clinton, for example, some how being “progressive” and on the side of “democracy” when they are really just lesser evils from whom we hope to get more open space to organize and get concessions. Thanking Obama for trying his best to further the interests of US Imperialism (TPP, unproven Russian election hacking narratives, military escalations in Africa, Syria and Yemen) and making some reforms to strengthen DP prospects domestically is actually a case of abstracting the entire fight against the ultra-right out of context and prevents people from properly understanding objective reality; this contributes to the victory of the very reactionary alt-right forces we want to defeat and censoring and removing critiques of our tactics, which sometimes happens even in leftist publications, rather that promoting more discussion and analysis and self criticism, only weakens the struggle for democracy.
Thomas Riggins is a philosophy lecturer in NYC and former assistant editor of Political Affairs online.