The U.S. presidential election—A NEW POLITICAL SITUATION

Rife with potential for working class solidarity and workers’ struggle

Larry Holmes, Workers World, Nov. 6, 2008

There is a new political situation in the U.S. and in the world. Even though Barack Obama’s sweeping electoral victory was not entirely unexpected, now that it has happened—the reality of it—the way in which it demonstrated to the world that something big has changed about the working class in the U.S., is so stunning that many still find it hard to believe.

The long history of racism in the U.S. seemed to preclude for the foreseeable future the election of an African-American president. The meltdown on Wall Street and the gravest capitalist crisis in 75 years beat back the bigotry that could have stopped Obama’s victory.

A record-breaking turnout on the part of African-American and Latin@ voters, and a tidal wave of young voters, cemented the multinational electoral coalition that made history.

True, much of the U.S. ruling class had concluded that Obama might be the radical makeover that their government needed to deal with the crisis ahead. But that fact cannot negate the role or the feelings of the masses in this phenomenon.

In the African-American communities from Chicago to Harlem to the still Katrina-devastated New Orleans there is elation over the outcome of this election, even a feeling of liberation from a measure of the racism born out of slavery, then cultivated into an unofficial second-class status, enforced by terror at the hands of the police, prisons or the KKK.

Indeed hundreds of thousands of people everywhere, for the most part spontaneously, took to the streets after Obama was declared the winner and the first African-American president of a country built on African slave labor.

And the celebrating was by no means exclusive to the African-American community. Everywhere, both within and beyond the borders of the U.S., people of every race and nationality poured into the streets crying, yelling and embracing strangers as if a long terrible, reactionary, life-stifling occupation, exemplified by the Bush regime, had finally come to an end.

Will this election restore people’s faith in the U.S capitalist system and government at the very time that exposing the system and government is so critical to forging the mass struggle against capitalism? Perhaps for a little while, but it won’t last long.

In the coming days and months, the mass suffering brought on by the deepening of the worldwide capitalist economic crises, and the reality of the continuing U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, will betray the truth of what has or has not changed as a result of the presidential elections.

The inevitable revelation of how much change the incoming U.S. government represents, and how the mass of working and oppressed people in the U.S. and everywhere react to that revelation, will to a large degree provide the content of the world struggle against U.S. imperialism over the next period.

In lieu of that revelation, something has already changed. Only time will tell how deep and meaningful that change is. The people by the tens of millions have awakened and they have desperate expectations. The people want the U.S. capitalist government to end its wars abroad, stop layoffs and home foreclosures, provide healthcare and education.

Will the new government end the wars? Or will it withdraw troops from Iraq only to send them to Afghanistan?

Will the new Democratic Party government, with an even larger majority in Congress, bail out the workers who are losing their homes and jobs? Will it take the side of labor against capital?

One of the issues that is likely to come before the new Democratic government is a long-standing, simple, proposed law that would require a majority of workers at a workplace to sign union cards in order to get union recognition. The labor movement has been waiting for this law to pass. Will it be signed?

The people want the government to come to their rescue instead of Wall Street’s. It’s a dangerous thing to wake people up and arouse the expectations.

Now that the people are awake they may organize and fight for what they want and need. More than anything else, it is this potential that portends a new political situation in the U.S. and the world.

The feeling on the streets of cities large and small across the U.S. on election night was that now, anything is possible, and it is.

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