US revolution and counterrevolution: Turns, twists and zigzags

Published on Pambazuka News, by Horace Campbell, Nov. 4, 2010.

As the US rounds up its mid-term elections, Horace Campbell stresses that there must be renewed efforts to organise in response to the country’s right-wing oligarchy and educate people that ‘fighting wars overseas cannot be the basis for economic reconstruction’.

Revolution is not an overnight event. In revolutionary moments, political institutions and the law are all caught in the tumult. This tumult comes from the fact that there are earthquakes and seismic shifts in economic relations, gender relations, military relations and class or power shifts. Institutions such as the legislature or the banking institutions may be thrown into topsy-turvy … //


On Wednesday morning (3 November), it became clear that many white workers in the heartland of America fell prey to the deception and mind control of the corporate conservative media. From Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois to Wisconsin and Michigan, what was once the industrial heartland of the US, the conservative Republicans swept the board. The conservatives captured the US House of Representatives, with Democrats barely holding on to the Senate. The Republicans won the governorship races in key states such as Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania. The Republicans also captured over 600 legislative bodies at the state and county levels across the country. The Republican ruling class celebrated while the liberals wrung their hands about the future.

There was no shortage of advice to Barack Obama on what he should do. For those who perceived of Obama as a messiah, there were different suggestions on the ways forward. The New York Times stated that: ‘Mr. Obama has a lot of difficult work ahead of him. The politics in Washington will likely get even nastier. Before he can hope to build the minimal bipartisan consensus needed to move ahead, Mr. Obama will have to rally more Americans to the logic of his policies.’But the liberal ruling class cannot have their cake and eat it. It is not just up to Obama to decide the future. It is up to an organised progressive force that will determine the direction of the politics of the US.


In the book ‘Lords of Finance: The Bankers who Broke the World’, Liaquat Ahamed spelt out the recursive processes that emanated from the rapacious activities of the bankers in the 1920s. The author quoted John Maynard Keynes, who said at that time: ‘[W]e have been involved in a colossal model, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand.’ What the author did not properly connect was how this blundering was also manipulated by fascist forces that brought fascist leaders to power in Germany and Italy with the strengthening of fascist parties all across the world of white supremacy.

It should be remembered at this present time that the financial entanglement of the Wall Street speculators are far more profound than that of the 1930s. It was only last week that we spelt out the interconnection between finance capital, fraud and foreclosure. We highlighted the fact that what is called the foreclosure crisis might be throwing a section of the legal structure in the US in disarray. The insolvency of the banking system means that the capitalists will need another bail-out. One day after the elections (on 3 November), the Federal Reserve poured another US$600 billion into the banking system through what was called ‘quantitative easing’. Quantitative easing is another fancy word for the devaluation of the dollar. Many citizens of the USA forgot that it was the same competitive devaluations of the 1930s that plunged the world into the quagmire of misery and unemployment. Some sections of the Republicans are saying that the only way to get out of this depression is through war. Hence there will be more drumbeats for war against Iran. During the elections, the same conservative forces were calling for steps against China.

It is this reality of the massive bail-out of the banks with this new injection from the Federal Reserve that ensured that although Obama did everything to save the capitalists, they are still insecure in relation to the potential mobilisation of the working people. We must restate the fact that in this revolutionary moment, the future direction of peace and social reconstruction is not up to Obama.

The peace movement should be self-critical to ask itself why is it that the war that has gone on for years was not one of the issues in the mid-term elections. It is here important to remember that at the height of the crisis in Germany before Adolf Hitler came to power, the Communists, Socialists and Social Democrats were bickering amongst themselves as to the direction to take. The left in the US cannot afford the luxury of bickering at this time. The left must be clear and focused on how to secure a progressive front to stand up, reorganise and to develop a strategy to beat back the wave of counterrevolution. We must remember the words of Karl Max: ‘[M]en and women make their own history, but they do not make it as they please, they do not make it under self selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.’

Marx wrote these words in the context of the farce of the second Napoleon. The mid-term and the results was a re-enactment of the nightmare of the past history when representatives such as Benjamin Tillman and Jesse Helms could proudly display overt racism in order to win elections. Jim Crow, sexism, homophobia and militarism dominated this election cycle. It is like history is threatening to repeat itself in the second major depression in the USA. We agree with Marx that ‘history of great importance in the world occurs as it were, twice. The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.’ In this counterrevolution, we are witnessing the farce of a ruling class and financial oligarchs who have not yet been reconciled to their newly diminished standing in the world. Hence, they continue to promise a recovery of the US economy based on the 20th-century model of accumulation. The working peoples of the Midwest who have seen their jobs disappear are angry and anxious. It is the task of the progressive forces to work harder to organise these workers to educate them to the reality that fighting wars overseas cannot be the basis for economic reconstruction.

The revolutionary moment requires that the progressive forces sharpen their understanding of revolutionary ideas, revolutionary organisation and revolutionary leadership. And I would like to restate what I stated in my book, ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’, that the future does not depend on Obama being perceived as a messiah. It is up to us.

There will be many more turns, twists and sigzags in the revolutionary moment in the USA. (full text).

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