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Barack Obama is not a Communist, a fascist, a Muslim, a Marxist, a Progressive (in the pre-1920s’ meaning of that word, before it just became a cover for Communists and other leftists), or even a socialist. Obama and those who control much of America’s academia, mass media, and entertainment industry—plus a number of trade unions and hundreds of foundations, think tanks, and front groups—are believers in a new, very American form of leftism. It is very statist, very dangerous for freedom, and economically destructive. But we first have to identify what “it” is. Our difficulty in doing so has been a huge reason why we have not persuaded more people–though goodness knows a lot of people have woken up that there is a huge problem here.
Yet calling Obama those various names doesn’t persuade a large portion of the American population because they sense that these definitions aren’t accurate and can come up valid counter-arguments or be fed by schools and media with phony ones. And all of those who rage in the talk-back columns of websites aren’t persuading anyone anything except, perhaps, that Obama’s opponents are delusional. You may not like hearing that but it’s the truth.
I’m amazed and amused by people who say that Obama cannot be a leftist because he–gasp!–appointed people from Wall Street to his cabinet and favors certain specific companies and banks. Excuse me, you are merely saying perhaps that by engaging in corruption and getting some big favored capitalists to give him big campaign donations in exchange for favors that Obama isn’t an “honest” leftist. If the left can get support from some such people it would be foolish to throw away the chance. Refusing to act like that was how the Old Left and the 1960s’ New Left behaved and we saw what happened to them.
We are in a totally new era. The nineteenth and early twentieth century debates and categories no longer hold. Indeed, when the New Leftists climbed out of the wreckage of the 1960s-early 1970s they realized this and successfully built something very new. (If you are looking for a “prehistoric” founding document in terms of some important themes, albeit very much altered, read the original Weatherman Manifesto and then delete all the hysterical parts. Dress it up in a suit and tie and seat it behind the desk of a professor, foundation director, reporter, or politician. I don’t have the space here to explain this point in detail.)
Let’s start with the word “socialist.” The European socialist, or social democratic, movement was strongly anti-Communist. Did they hate their countries? Remember, these were the people who remained patriots during World War One, that’s one of the main reasons they first broke with the Communists. The European Socialists gave up the idea of abolishing capitalism many decades ago. While some parties were further to the left (notably in Spain and Sweden), most had settled into relatively moderate positions. When was the last time they nationalized anything?
Moreover, remember that European statism is as much of conservative as of socialist origin. Consider France, a country whose high degree of centralization goes back to feudal times and Napoleon, not to mention the Gaullists. America is very exceptional all right, but because it broke with both European conservative and leftist models. The welfare states there were the results of multi-partisan efforts.
Have European socialists—I’m not talking here about left-wing academics and journalists—fallen in love with Barack Obama? Not at all. They might like Obama more than George W. Bush but they liked Bill Clinton better than either one. Not only do they not see Obama as a comrade but they could probably give him good advice about why his policies will inevitably fail. They may not have the answers for their own countries but they understand capitalism and how to make it work—and want to make it work—far more than he does.
So here’s a key point: Obama and his ideological comrades—let me call them the New New Left (NNL)—are to the left of almost all of the European Socialist parties.
Is Obama and company a Marxist group or a bunch of Communists, (referring to the movement begun by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and run thereafter by Joseph Stalin). Well, certainly there are parallels and ideas taken from that movement. But in many ways they have turned Marxism on its head. Let me give one critical example. Marxists held that material conditions were primary and would determine the course of history. The NNL rejects this and argues that it can use ideas and modern methods of advertising, educational indoctrination, a takeover of most media, and so on to bring about the fundamental transformation of America. They draw mainly from a deviant form developed by such people as Antonio Gramsci and the Frankfurt School. But they have learned the most by taking mainstream American techniques and putting them at the service of radical ideology.
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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