The decision by New Democratic Party officials to feature Barack Obama's director of communications, Anita Dunn, at the NDP federal convention, reveals a major misconception.
The Democratic Party, USA, is no friend of working people anywhere. The invitation to Dunn only clouds the horizon and compromises the independence of the NDP from the corporate rulers on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.
While the election of Obama was a blow against racism, he is a willing captive of Wall Street and the Pentagon. That much is clear seven months into his presidency.
Although Obama promised to end the occupation of Iraq, close the Guantanamo prison camp, take steps to reverse global climate change, help working people overcome the economic crisis, and extend health care coverage, his actions belie his words.
Obama accepted George W. Bush's policies on military tribunals and indefinite detention. He repudiated torture, but he won't prosecute any torturers. Gitmo remains open. His 'cap and trade' bill allows corporate polluters to exceed limits on carbon-based emissions by buying government-backed credits to compensate. According to the Wall Street Journal's David Wessel, 85 per cent of the energy credits would be given away to business through 2026. In any case, the market-based gambit will not reduce emissions.
The bail-out of the banking system is an extension of Bush's Wall Street rescue plan -- a huge transfer of wealth, involving trillions of dollars, from working people to Capital.
Obama's health care 'reform' spares the venal and all-powerful health insurance industry. His plan, like Hillary Clinton's earlier version, will force individuals to buy insurance. At best, it will offer a 'public option' that would compete with private insurance. Excluded from consideration is a government-run, single-payer health care system, like the one in Canada and virtually every other industrialized country.
In terms of foreign policy, the U.S. President is simply re-booting the imperial project that will plunge America and southwest Asia into a multi-year commitment even more disastrous than the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Obama sent 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Some 130,000 U.S. combat soldiers remain in Iraq, re-classified as non-combatants and trainers, entrenched in massively fortified bases and airfields. In addition, 150,000 or more U.S.-paid American mercenaries perform their deadly deeds unimpeded, the largest privatized army in U.S. history. In June, Congress approved $100 billion in “supplementary” funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- contradicting the claim that stability and victory of the U.S. and its puppets is imminent. The 10,000 more troops requested by U.S. General McKiernan could soon be on their way to the Pakistan border.
'Af-Pak' is already Obama's war, like the Vietnam quagmire belonged to the 1960s liberal Democrats Kennedy and Johnson.
How can one explain these moves?
Obama is a cagey opportunist who campaigned to the right of his Democratic primary opponents. His bail-out of the banks, while forcing insolvent, unionized auto companies into bankruptcy, and compelling workers to sacrifice wages and benefits, shows the Democrats are the party of Wall Street, not of Main Street.
American big business gave millions of campaign dollars to Obama and the Democrats to offer cosmetic change, to introduce modest and temporary reforms if necessary, and to preserve corporate rule and the private profit system at any cost. The Democrats want to replace the Republicans as the preferred party of the business class for the foreseeable future, and they act accordingly.
Is Obama the same as Bush? Clearly not. But he and his party do not represent the change most Americans want and need. Moreover, the Democratic Party has proven itself, for nearly a century and a half, to be the graveyard of social protest movements in the U.S.
As the global capitalist crisis deepens, it is evident that working people need an independent political voice -- a labour party based on the unions and popular organizations of the oppressed. In English-Canada, working people made a class break with the Liberal Party and the Canadian establishment by founding the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation in 1932, and the NDP in 1961.
Regardless of Anita Dunn's putative 'insights' into campaign techniques and media manipulation, Obama's spin doctors and handlers have no business at an NDP convention. Labour unionists, social change activists and New Democrats should confront the tools of corporate rule, expose their rotten policies and practices, and fight for working class political independence from the parties of Capital, north and south of the 49th parallel.
Barry Weisleder is a Co-Chair of the NDP Socialist Caucus, and Canada editor of the monthly North American newspaper Socialist Action.
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