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Enough of 'Barbituate' Left Cynicism, Obama Is a Victory over White Supremacy

We don't need the "everything sucks" analysis; Obama has mobilized millions of activists and that energy is looking for an outlet.


My political entry into the left (and by this I mean the real left, beyond the Democratic Party) came a little more than twenty years ago in New Orleans, when, as a college student I became involved in the fight against U.S. intervention in Central America. In particular, the groups of which I was a part sought to end military aid to the death squad governments in El Salvador and Guatemala, and to block support for the contra thugs our nation was arming in Nicaragua, who by that time had already killed about 30,000 civilians in their war with the nominally socialist Sandinista government.

It was the first place where I came into contact with folks who defined themselves as radicals (I had grown up in Nashville, after all, where at that time, even finding "out" liberals was sometimes a challenge), and where I got to experience all the fascinating permutations of Marxism that the left had to offer. In addition to unaffiliated socialists (which I considered myself to be at the time), there were Trotskyites, old-line Leninists, Maoists, and even some bizarre Stalinists in the bunch. Excluding from consideration those among this number who turned out to be FBI spies, there were still plenty of real and interesting ideologues who had valuable insights to offer, even for those of us who didn't swallow their particular party line.

But despite being interesting, these folks also managed, at least for me, to demonstrate one of the key problems with the left in the U.S. Namely, for the sake of ideological purity few within the professional left expressed any joy about life, or any emotion whatsoever that wasn't rooted in negativity. They were like the political equivalent of quaaludes: guaranteed to bring you down from whatever partly optimistic place you might find yourself from time to time.

This was never so evident as the day I hopped into a car with one of the Stalinoids (a member of something called the Albanian Liberation League, which viewed the brutal regime of Enver Hoxha as a worker's paradise), and headed downtown for a rally to protest Contra aid. Once in the car, I asked about the music playing from his stereo. What was it? I wanted to know. He quickly explained that it was Albanian folk music, and the only music he listened to. I made some joke about how strange it was to be living in one of the greatest musical towns on Earth and yet to restrict oneself to a single genre of music (especially that favored by Albanian sheepherders), to which my revolutionary friend responded with a grunt and a scowl. Of course, because Comrade Stalin never much liked jazz.

The humorlessness of the far left -- to which I remain connected ideologically if not organizationally -- has always struck me as one of its greatest weaknesses. People like to laugh, they like to smile, they like to be joyful, and an awful lot of hardened leftists seem almost utterly incapable of doing any of these things. It's as if they have all taken a pledge that there should be no laughter until the revolution, or some such shit. No positivity, no hope, no happiness so long as people are still poor and exploited and being murdered by cops, and victimized by United States militarism, or performing as wage slaves for global capital, or eating meat, or driving cars. And they wonder why the left is so weak?

Now, in the wake of Barack Obama's victory these barbiturate leftists are back in full effect, lecturing the rest of us about how naive we are for having any confidence whatsoever in him, or for voting at all, since "the Democrats and Republicans are all the same," and he supports FISA and the war with Afghanistan, and all kinds of other messed up policies just like many on the right. Those of us who find any significance in the election of a man of color in a nation founded on white supremacy are fools who "drank the kool-aid," unlike they, whose clear-headed radical consciousness leads them to recognize the superior morality of Ralph Nader, or the pure "scientific wisdom of chairman Bob Avakian," or the intellectual profundity of their favorite graffiti bomb: "If voting changed anything it would be illegal." Yeah, and if body piercings and anarchy tats changed anything, they would be too, and then what would some folks do to be "different?" (Note: there is nothing wrong with either type of adornment, but getting either or both doesn't make you a revolutionary, any more than voting, that's all I'm saying).

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