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Vol. 72/No. 15      April 14, 2008

‘Americanism,’ Barack Obama, and Malcolm X
(As I See It column)
In his March 18 speech on race relations, Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama repeated the words “we” and “American” numerous times. He presented everyone living in the United States—workers, farmers, shopkeepers, and capitalists—as having common interests. But they don’t.

Obama said the task of his campaign is to bring about “a more just, more equal, more free, and more caring and more prosperous America.” He talked about “the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.”

The America he was talking about is not the same one that the vast majority of Blacks and other working people live in. U.S. workers have nothing to be proud of in the record of wars waged by Washington around the world, wars that have taken a disproportionate toll on soldiers who are Black.

The day after his speech on race relations, Obama gave a foreign policy talk in which he proposed sending at least two additional combat brigades—as many as 6,400 troops—to Afghanistan. He said that by reducing troop levels in Iraq, his administration would be in a position to “start fighting the battles that need to be won on the central front of the war against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Obama’s foreign policy is an extension of his domestic outlook. “We need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems,” he said, pointing to the wars in the Middle East, the unfolding financial crisis, and lack of health care. He said these are “problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.”

But there are no problems that exist above classes and class conflicts. Skyrocketing fuel prices have devastating consequences for independent truck drivers. High fuel prices are a profit boon for the energy monopolies.

Obama promised to build “ladders of opportunity” to overcome pervasive discrimination against Blacks. Such ladders do exist. But it’s only a very small percentage of workers and members of oppressed nationalities who are able to climb up them and carve out a place for themselves in bourgeois society. As long as capitalism exists, the overwhelming majority of working people will maintain their class position as workers, their children will be workers, and their children’s children will be workers.

Life for Blacks in the United States “is not an American dream, it’s an American nightmare,” the revolutionary leader Malcolm X said in 1964. “I’m from America, but I’m not an American,” he explained. “[I’m] one of the victims of Americanism, one of the victims of democracy, one of the victims of a very hypocritical system that is going all over this earth today representing itself as being qualified to tell other people how to run their country.”
Related articles:
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‘We need a labor party based on fighting unions’
Vice presidential candidate brings socialist campaign to farmers
McCain proposes shift from Bush foreign policy  
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