Notes From The Overground

Hip Hop, Revolution, the Elections, and the Black Community Podcast

Will the Real Barack Obama Please Stand Up? Hip hop, Revolution, the Elections, and the Black Community by Bojah

As we approach Nov. 4, 2008, which some figures in the Black community like Alton H. Maddox, Jr. describe as important for Black people as the Emancipation Proclamation (!) and the 1963 March on Washington, it is important to clearly understand what we are voting for so we can have no illusions on what we are going to get. Barack Obama is the clear choice of the Black community and even a passive onlooker realizes the symbolism of a Black family entering the White House. On that basis alone, millions have hinged their hopes upon an Obama presidency. Some, like conscious rapper Talib Kweli, have even called the Illinois senator a “revolutionary”. For millions of young people, especially Black youth, they see this moment as an opportunity to make history and bring change to the country. The truth, however, is far different than they realize.

It has become the fashion of the Obama campaign to lay all the problems that the country is facing from the war in Iraq, to the economic crisis, to the mortgage crisis at the feet of the Bush administration and the Republican party. Forget the fact that the war in Iraq was overwhelmingly supported by both sides of the aisle, forget the fact that the deregulation of Wall St. speculation through the combining of commercial and investment banks was carried out during the Clinton administration and a Republican congress, and forget the fact that for the last two years the congress has been in the hands of the Democratic Party. The fact is that this has been a bipartisan war and economic policy. Obama banks on a short memory and for millions of young people that look to him, they have no memory at all.

There is a perception that Obama is against war and is for defending democratic rights. Much has been said about how Senator McCain has supported the policies of the Bush administration 90% of the time. Obama points out how as a State senator of Illinois, he opposed the war in Iraq. Facts, however, are consternating things, they have a way of not going away, and eventually you have to deal with them. The fact is that Obama will be a war president, will continue the trampling of democratic rights and, on many key issues, will continue the policies of the Bush administration.

On the war in Iraq, Obama has always maintained that while he is for redeploying the troops stationed in Iraq, he is committed to maintaining a smaller force there to carry out “anti-terrorist” missions. At the same time Obama calls for raising the troop levels in Afghanistan to intensify the war there, as well as to carry out pre-emptive and unilateral strikes into Pakistan. Sounds like Bush to me…

Obama recently voted for the FISA bill, which authorizes warrant-less surveillance of US citizens telephone and email communications (all the while calling himself a “community organizer” from Chicago, where government spying was responsible for the 1968 assassination of Black Panther members Fred Hampton and Mark Clark!). He also voted for the martial-law, Gestapo legislation also known as the Patriot Act when it came up for re-authorization in 2005. Here he voted 100% with Bush…

Obama and McCain both voted 100% with Bush recently when they came out in support of the $700 billion bailout, a government giveaway to billionaire bankers. While the right-wing attacks Obama for palling around with Bill Ayers, whose ultra-left tactics should be denounced and have nothing to do with a revolutionary perspective, progressive-minded folks should be more concerned that he has been palling around with the likes of billionaire Warren Buffet, and his right hand man Senator Joseph Biden. No billionaire on planet earth has the interests of working people at heart. He can’t be his pal and yours and mine too…

Senator Joseph Biden has distinguished himself by co-authoring the “Patriot Act, jr. bill” also known as the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty act. Under this act permanent resident aliens arrested under this law have to prove they should not be held in jail before trial. The President can label organizations -- without any appeal or review -- as "terrorist", and criminalize fundraising for humanitarian aid even remotely related to such groups. Permanent resident aliens can be deported or indefinitely jailed for their affiliations or political activity, with no judicial review. The law further restricts the Bill of Rights' habeas corpus protections for state prisoners. Prisoners are limited to one federal appeal within a short time of exhausting state appeals. Secret evidence can used in the detention hearings and at trial that only the judge could see, not the defendant. Sounds like Bush to me…

Malcolm X long ago warned us of the folly of lesser evil-ism. He called Black people political chumps for supporting the Democratic party. The Democrat is like a fox he said and they put the big bad wolf (the Republicans) in front of you so you reach for the fox, but in the end they’re both are after the chicken. He called for Black people to stop being chicken, and break away from the influence of the Democratic party. For four decades we have not heeded his warning and for four decades we have suffered. How long will we continue?

It is now acknowledged by Barack Obama himself that we are entering the worst economic crisis the US has faced since the Great Depression. What he won’t say, what Ben Bernake and all of the kings and horses and men also won’t say, is to get out of the Great Depression, FDR didn’t implement special policies that fixed the economy – He entered World War II. Only by slashing working people’s wages and working conditions with calls for “sacrifice” and by destroying the productive capacity of half the planet, not to mention to slaughter of tens of millions of working people, did the rulers of the US revive their economy. Already you hear Obama telling us that we need “tighten our belts.”

The generation which wanted to “party like a rockstar” was born about 10 years too late to participate in the excesses of the credit bubble of the mid-90’s “bling” era to the mid 2000’s real estate hustle. That’s over. That period will be looked upon as the roaring 20’s were looked upon by subsequent generations. This generation unfortunately is coming of age in the midst of a worldwide economic depression.

What Barack Obama wants you to believe and why the ruling rich have their money on him and his billion dollar campaign (internet contributions notwithstanding!) is that we are all in this together. But you and me are not in the same boat as Obama’s pal Warren Buffett and his class. When Obama says tighten our belts, he is not talking to Warren Buffet. They’re bailing out the billionaires, you have as much chance as a family stranded on top of a New Orleans rooftop, with the water rising around you. Despite Obama’s rhetoric, the truth is that there is not one America, there is an America of the haves and an America of the have-nots. Obama has picked his pals, you don’t qualify, but he’ll sure take your vote! McCain, he’ll take it too!!!

Such a period of economic crisis will be accompanied by a political crisis. Ultra-rightist movements will grow and immigrants, “thugs”, “criminals”, “drug dealers”, and other labels to scapegoat Blacks and Latinos will be blamed for the economic and societal problems. We should reject the racist attacks on Obama and the terrorist baiting, which creates a witch-hunt atmosphere and emboldens ultra-rightist forces. But this doesn’t mean we must accept an austerity police-state by voting for him!

Reactionary legislation which tramples upon the Bill of Rights like the Patriot Act should be repealed. In fact killer cops like those who just gunned down Julian Alexander in Anaheim, California should be indicted and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The brunt of this crisis should not fall on the shoulders of the workers and the oppressed, and Black people are overwhelmingly working-class. Instead of bailing out billionaire bankers, $700 billion could be used to create a massive public works program to build needed housing, schools, levees, and other infrastructure and put millions to work right now! We don’t have to accept the austerity, let Warren Buffet tighten HIS belt, and the rest of his class!

Some, like Talib Kweli, say that just the symbol of a Black president alone is enough. He says that since he has kids that seeing this symbol will give them the belief that they can achieve anything. Well I wonder if Mr. Kweli and other like-minded think what a symbol like this is for your children - someone who supports a course of government intrusion and continued imperialist plunder and killing of civilians against the will of a sovereign people. Sounds like Bush to me… I wouldn’t want my kids growing up thinking like this!

In this case far from a “revolutionary” Obama is just, some argue, the lesser of two evils. Here I rest with Talib Kweli’s own earlier words. “I knew that our ancestors fought and died for the right to vote, but I didn't feel like voting for the lesser of two evils in a broken system was the proper way to honor them. It was pageantry, and I wasn't with it. I wasn't with Vote or Die, because I knew that voting itself, with no real knowledge of who is paying these candidates to run million dollar a day campaigns, is far from a revolutionary act.”

True, far from revolutionary, voting for Obama will get you exactly what you voted for – the first Black President who also happens to want to continue Washington’s imperialist war abroad and continue the trampling of democratic rights at home - him and his pals - billionaire Warren Buffet and “Patriot Act, jr.” Senator Joseph Biden.

Some hip hop artists like Dead Prez support the Green Party ticket of Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. Unfortunately for them, in Sept. 14, 2001, presidential candidate McKinney, while Democratic party representative of Georgia, voted to support House Joint Resolution 64 to Authorize the use of United States Armed Forces Against Those Responsible for the Recent Attacks Launched against the United States, specifically to wage war against Afghanistan for its alleged role in the attacks in New York City and Washington, DC on September 11, 2001.

Running on a 10 point Power to the People Program the ticket, McKinney now calls for bringing home all troops stationed abroad. She issued a 14-point plan to deal with the economic crisis and proposed several ways to make this billionaire bailout bonanza better serve the people. These measures however, fail to go at the root of the crisis – the capitalist system itself. She seeks several ways to curb speculation on Wall St. But speculation is inherent in the capitalist system, especially now that it is in decline. Stiffening competition on a world scale makes the capitalists seek profits through massive speculation in the stock market. Capitalists can only change this situation to get the rate of profit they are seeking by destroying their competitors and making workers pay with their blood and toil. Heavy taxation, inflation, slashing of benefits and wages, layoffs and world war are their answer, all backed up by their military, cops, courts, and prisons.

I support Roger Calero, the Socialist Workers Party candidate, he’s a meatpacker and his running mate Alyson Kennedy is a coal miner, and they have the only realistic view of confronting the coming depression. They call for the formation of a labor party based on fighting unions to fight in the political arena for the interests of working people. They call for the shortening of the workweek with no cut in take home pay to spread around the available work. They call for a moratorium on all home and farm foreclosures. They call for the immediate legalization of all workers without documents. They call for the cancellation of the Third world debt to give much needed relief to semi-colonial countries devastated by decades of imperialist plunder. They call for the jailing of killer cops. They call for the immediate withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Europe, Guantanamo, and anywhere else they are stationed!

If companies like GM and Chrysler say they have no money and say they have to layoff thousands of workers or can’t give pay raises, Calero and Kennedy say they should be nationalized and run under workers’ control, their books should be opened so that their real profits can be determined. They call for the immediate nationalization of the energy companies, which should also be run under workers’ control and the setting up of price committees of workers and consumers to police the price gouging rates charged by the energy companies. Calero and Kennedy call for a cost of living escalator so people’s wages can be pegged to the rate of inflation. They call for a socialist revolution in the US which would relieve Warren Buffet of his hoard of billions and wipe his class from the face of the Earth.

Calero and Kennedy explain that everyone could be put to work right now with federal legislation organizing massive public works to build much needed housing, schools, levees, and other infrastructure. But Obama and McCain are more concerned with paying the billionaire bondholders than addressing the economic hardships created by the super-rich’s unceasing driving for greater and greater profits. We need a revolution “a complete overturning of the system” as Malcolm called it, a true inspiration and future for the children. Only then will we see real change – BELIEVE IT OR NOT!!!
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