Barack Obama has offered some advice to the protesters flooding streets across the United States. Not that anyone asked him, mind you. But he was the First Black President™, so people better shut up and listen.
In an article published at Medium, he starts with a classic play – distinguishing between good and bad protesters. The good ones are the ones who are motivated by horror at the inequality and injustice that plague American capitalism. Their grievances are just, and their demands should be respected. The bad ones are those who break a few windows, loot a department store or two, maybe even burn down the odd building. “Let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it”, Obama says.
You could reply that violence – usually as self-defence, but not always – has been part of every mass movement in history. You could point to national liberation struggles, the US civil war, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, or even the small-scale confrontations that happen on most union picket lines. You could also point to the structural violence of the status quo, which has killed 100,000 Americans in just a few months – disproportionately Black and Brown folk – because the US ruling class cares more about dollars than lives.
Or you could just scream with rage at the hypocrisy.
Barack Obama is a mass murderer. In just the final year of his presidency, he authorised more than 26,000 airstrikes, overwhelmingly in impoverished countries such as Pakistan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. He is also the guy that made drone use an artform, deploying them 10 times more frequently than his predecessor, George W. Bush. He loved these killing machines so much that he actually made a joke about using them on his own kids.
Obama spent eight years as commander-in-chief of a military involved in multiple illegal wars. He was responsible for tens of thousands of deaths across the Middle East and North Africa. He backed Israel’s deadly assaults on the Gaza strip, which killed more than 1,000 people on three separate occasions. “Israel has the right to self-defence”, he said, despite the unprecedented massacre of Palestinian civilians.
In response to the Black Lives Matter movement that erupted under his watch, Obama defended police by pointing out that the problems they face dealing with African American communities are beyond their scope.
Obama made it clear that he’s prepared to participate in, rationalise and excuse any number of horrific acts of violence and repression. What’s important to him is not peace in general, but peace for the ruling class.
It’s why the other main goal of his article is to convince activists to abandon the streets – because mass, collective action opens the possibility for achieving real change. Instead, he offers the alternative of electoral work, which is where real change supposedly gets enacted. If this demobilising argument is accepted – and it is the dominant one under capitalism – the requirements of fundraising, “coalition building” and parliamentary arithmetic will do the work of taming young radicals.
Obama, and the ruling class he represented faithfully, are terrified of this enormous multiracial rebellion. They’re worried that if the movement continues maybe society will have to change in a more fundamental way than just electing the Next Black Lawmaker.
To avoid that, they’re using every trick in the book to try to shut it down, including novel scenes of police officers discovering how to kneel without using a Black man’s neck as a cushion. None of it worked, so now we’ve got Obama the war criminal offering tips on non-violence.
African American scholar and activist Cornell West gave a cracking speech on CNN last week, in which he attacked neoliberal Democrats and the specific strategy of getting “black faces in high places”. That includes many hundreds of Democratic sheriffs involved in the racist law enforcement apparatus, mayors who drive people out of their communities, congressional representatives who vote against improving social services, and yes, the first black president who did all that and more. Fuck them all.
“I’m exhausted”, declared West Australian Premier Mark McGowan when announcing his resignation at a press conference on 29 May. So too are the state’s 40,000 nurses, who, under McGowan’s government, have confronted daily staff shortages, declining real wages and attacks on their union.
Wildfires are tearing through the Canadian province of Alberta, the heart of Canada’s lucrative oil and gas industry. The images of orange and black skies from the thick smoke—which is now billowing across the US border, causing air quality warnings in several northern states—are dystopian yet familiar.
While most of us are being hit hard by the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation, Australia’s “big four” banks—Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ and NAB—have had a record-breaking start to the financial year, posting a combined half-year profit of $17.1 billion. That’s a 19 percent increase from the equivalent period in 2021, and $1.3 billion more than the previous record of $15.8 billion in 2015.
“You’re just a performing fucking monkey”. A racist barb, and one of many pointed moments in Jacky, a Melbourne Theatre Company production currently playing at the Arts Centre. Jacky is about the politics of performing monkeys. It is about racism and exploitation, hypocrisy and resistance.
Academic workers at Rutgers University in New Jersey have achieved a stunning victory with a serious campaign of industrial action, centred on an open-ended strike. Their approach is a model for unionists in Australia.
NTEU Fightback, a rank-and-file union group of the National Tertiary Education Union at the University of Sydney, is calling on staff to vote No in the upcoming ballot on the proposed enterprise agreement. The campaign was launched at a forum on 25 May, attended by over 50 people. A members’ meeting on 13 June will consider the agreement. This week will probably be the first time that members are provided with a full list of proposed changes to our working conditions.