Taking Obama to task

Eric Stoner adopts this project in his recent article for AlterNet, and he rightly does so. Consider these statements by this supposed radical socialist: When recently asked if a younger Barack Obama would have taken to the streets of Pittsburgh as a protester of the G-20 Summit, he replied: "Probably not." His answer was a characteristic response to a question of this sort, one that a system politician would make in most instances. What was truly astonishing was Obama's defense for his position:

"I was always a big believer in — when I was doing organizing before I went to law school — that focusing on concrete, local, immediate issues that have an impact on people's lives is what really makes a difference; and that having protests about abstractions [such] as global capitalism or something, generally is not really going to make much of a difference."

Stoner has no trouble demolishing Obama's silliness:

It would not have taken an incredible investigative feat [for Obama] to discover that the protesters descending upon Pittsburgh were doing so for very "concrete" reasons that touch their daily lives in very real ways.

They came to advocate for greater assistance for everyday people during these tough economic times, for more serious government action on global warming ahead of the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, and for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have already taken such a staggering human and financial toll.

In fact, as a general rule of thumb, most people — whether they are diehard activists or not — don't normally travel great distances to face ominous riot police firing rubber bullets, pepper spray and deafening sound cannons, unless they have been deeply, personally affected the issues being protested.

And given the global financial meltdown that has hit working people so hard, can anyone really say that those who critique the entire capitalist system don't have a point?

Stoner could have added the presence in Friday's march of single-payer health advocates and Tibetan exiles who addressed China's imperialistic control of Tibet. Moreover, one can be both pro-capitalist (prefer an economy coordinated by a market system) and pro-single-payer (because of its efficient and fair allocation of goods when compared to its competitors). Likewise, environmentalists need not be anarchists or socialists because of their environmental concerns. It would be a sad ending indeed for humanity if it had to successfully make the transition to socialism before it could tackle climate change and other environmental catastrophes!

Stoner continues:

Obama's dismissal of mass nonviolent action was disingenuous for other reasons as well. Behind his desk in his Senate office, Obama prominently displayed pictures of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

In an interview last year, he explained that the portraits were there "to remind me that real results will not just come from Washington, they will come from the people." And only weeks before the G-20, during his "controversial" address to school children, the president brought up Gandhi, calling him "a real hero of mine."

Could anyone possibly argue with a straight face that King, who was killed while planning the Poor People's Campaign, would not be on the streets with those calling for economic justice? Would Gandhi not oppose the diversion of $700 billion this year from meeting people's basic needs to fund the Pentagon and the military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Of course, King would have been in Pittsburgh in spirit if not also in the flesh. Gandhi will celebrate his 150th birthday tomorrow (10.2); the world, for its part, will celebrate Gandhi by marking his birthday as the International Day of Non-Violence. Obama, on the other hand, will spend the day as the Commander in Chief of the greatest military apparatus the world has ever known.

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