Where have I been? Here it is November and the country I know of as America is a much different [changed] place. For me survival in a tough retail environment became ALL.
The recorded music biz is NOT what once was and realignment became the order of the day, requiring nearly all my energy

We are now faced with a uncertain future led by a man anointed as the next big thing by the American people. Republicans are out, Democrats are in. But what does this really mean? Sara Robinson offers one view, wherein progressives have won an ally who generally shares their view of the world. Larry Pickney, a former Black Panther and a contributor to the Black Commentator, offers a starkly different perspective in his essay More Of The Same, Only Worse .

I find myself somewhat in the middle, or muddle, as it were. I really  want to believe that the future IS going to be better due to  the leadership of this man, Barrack Obama.
I am of the 60’s, a disillusioned Vietnam Vet remembering and recognizing the ongoing collusion of the national [ and state and local] Democrats with conservative and  right wing forces. Yes there has been progress, but at what cost. How any Democrats voted for the Bush tax cuts, for the Iraq War authorization,  for the Patriot Act? The list is long and disgusting.

I am a democrat, small d. That does not mean being blind to reality.
We shall see whether the new shaman can pull it off, whether he can actually mobilize the American people in a new populist & progressive direction. I am waiting with bated breath…

The two articles cited follow:

All good movements turn into organizations turn into businesses turn into rackets.
—Old organizers’ saying

I don’t think any of us expected to get so far so soon.

Back in 2003, when Bush was southern-frying the Dixie Chicks and the Iraq War was propelling millions into the streets and progressive blogs consisted of a small handful of folks writing in their pajamas under esoteric banners like “Eschaton” or “Orcinus” or “Daily Kos,” anybody who suggested that America might someday return to its liberal Enlightenment roots was right up there on the wack-o-meter with those who dreamed that the country might someday abolish private property and adopt socialist utopianism. Nobody serious thought it was remotely possible. Amongst ourselves, we told each other that ousting the conservative juggernaut would probably be the work of a couple of decades. Or maybe even a whole generation. Or maybe it was a fool’s errand that wasn’t even possible at all any more.

At the same time, we had the sick feeling in our guts that the republic simply didn’t have that much time left. We would probably fail; but we had to try. Fighting back was the only thing that seemed to quell the queasiness, so we fought for all we were worth. In 2004, we organized the country. In 2006, we used the lessons learned to do better—and took back the House. Along the way, we pioneered Internet fund-raising, built or revived an entire infrastructure of liberal organizations, and took our message to every county in the country—some of which hadn’t seen a proud liberal in decades.

And so it came to pass that this fine November morning, we are waking up—to our own unutterable surprise—to find ourselves in power, in undisputed control of two of our government’s three branches. We did it. We actually pulled it off. The country survived President Bush (by the skin of its teeth: that urgency we felt was fully justified); and the permanent one-party rule of the GOP is over. Our fighting spirit, combined with a series of disasters that deeply undercut people’s faith in conservative free-market happy talk and the structural strengths inherent in our system of government, have transformed the political landscape of America. And we did it all in just five years.

Go ahead. We’ve all earned the right to spend a few days basking in this well-earned glow. But the moment will be over soon enough. The very fact that we won has brought us to a fresh moment of reckoning. We are no longer the loyal opposition; we are now the people in charge — and our next act of transformation will be to come to terms with that fact. Our movement is about to morph into something else—and the quality and duration of our leadership will greatly depend on what new form we choose.

The opening quote describes the way this has usually gone down in the past. Time passes; goals shift. Effective movements start out with the goal of creating change. When they succeed, they ossify into organizations, and the goal becomes self-perpetuation. Big, powerful organizations need money to survive, so then the goal becomes finding a workable business model. Invariably, the business devolves into some kind of scheme in which they trade their major asset—power—for money. In other words, a racket. At this point, another movement will usually rise to challenge their corrupt status quo and seize their power for other ends.

That’s what happened to Democrats in the 1970s. We’re in power now in no small part because it happened just that way to the conservatives, too. The bad news is that, some time in the future, this is most likely what awaits us as well. The good news is that we do have some choices here—and between now and the inauguration, we should be talking about how we can structure ourselves to forestall this fate for as long as possible.

From Movement to Community
Recently, I discussed this looming dilemma with a group of friends—one of whom suggested that, rather than repeat the past model of creating a progressive order dominated by a set of big organizations that will inevitably become change-resistant and ultimately corrupt, we might choose to think of this transition as the transformation of the existing progressive movement into a large and diverse “progressive community.”

What does that mean? We came up with a short list of critical distinctions:

Movements are essential for gathering and directing the energy for large-scale change effort. However, that same energy and transformative power also makes them unstable and volatile. Achieving their goals requires members to conform to a set of tightly-coordinated beliefs and behaviors; and they often become ideologically dogmatic and socially exclusive as a result. Furthermore, making a big impact requires people with big visions—and often, big egos and a big appetite for drama to match, which in turn fuels the rise of personality cults and power-hoarding leadership. These inherent instabilities explain why many movements don’t outlast their founders.

Also, as the conservatives learned the hard way, in the heat of battle, it’s easy to lose touch with your own principles. You can justify anything if you’re doing it “for the cause.” So far, our movement has shown tremendous discipline in resisting this impulse, because we understood that our progressive principles were our core source of moral strength in opposing the conservatives. Everybody understood that compromising those principles was a fatal error, because it would make us just like them.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be much too easy to relax those standards as our opposition wanes, and our group identity no longer depends highlighting the sharp contrasts between us and the conservatives. And things could devolve very quickly once the infighting starts over who’s going to actually wield our newly won power. (Don’t be too surprised if those fights start breaking out within a matter of days.)

It’s not uncommon for movements to fall prey to the old Zen principle, “What you resist, persists.” We’re all familiar with lefties whose battles against The Man eventually left them every bit as authoritarian and paranoid as the power structures they worked to overthrow. The eternal tendency to become that which we most despise makes permanent opposition an inherently unsound way to organize a group for the long haul.

Communities have a different purpose, and different internal dynamics—and this model may be better suited to the new environment we find ourselves in now. Like organizations, they’re built to last. But where organizations are founded to achieve goals that they too often outlive, communities are living, renewable, organic entities that are held together by a workable social contract, a common cultural identity, complex social and family structures, dependable bonds of trust, and a strong set of shared values. They’re about inclusion, not exclusion; and exist for mutual support and survival, not status. They are an end unto themselves, not in opposition to anyone. And they can endure for centuries, if not millennia.

A good community is a creative shared space in which we can work out practical ways to live out our values in every area of life, and plan together for our common future. Communities are more about people and the environment than they are about money. They perpetuate themselves by raising and educating children, looking after their elders, and caring for the sick and disabled. They create spaces and rituals where they can share in celebrations and life passages together. They support artists and businesses, and make collective decisions about security, investment, and infrastructure. The flexibility of the community’s boundaries and agenda allow it to take a more holistic view that transcends the narrow organizational preoccupations of power and money. The community provides a larger context in which organizations can form, re-form, and disband as they’re needed to get the work done; and stands ready to hold those organizations accountable against corruption and entrenchment.

Street Prophets’ Pastor Dan Schultz, who was also part of this conversation, blogged his take on this idea:

Communities…are focused on persons and the relationships they manifest. Movements succeed when they accomplish their objectives, but communities succeed when they nurture the members they have – and when they expand their circle. Movements are short- (or at least limited-) term and transactional, communities play the long game and are transformative.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that communities are particularly better than movements. We need both.

Nor am I going to pretend that I’ve always been some sort of communitarian advocate. I have happily rejected the idea of creating a bipartisan political consensus as a false and unjust community, for example.

I’ve always been in this thing for the community, and willing to put up with the movement for its sake. My patience with that movement has always had its ebbs and flows. Now, in the midst of a high-stakes presidential election where everybody is tense and grumpy and throwing sharp elbows at their political opponents and one another, it’s definitely ebbing. It took some time to put a finger on that change, and that’s what’s had me gobsmacked.

Still, I wouldn’t say that it’s time to reject the progressive political movement as such…But the context of all our struggles—emotional, spiritual and political—is the community, [to quote Paul] “striving side by side with one mind.”

The abstract community of progressives that I am trying to bring into reality along with many others has also been pushed to the side for too long. Too many of my friends and colleagues seem to have forgotten that we are seeking more than a political win in November. At heart, we are looking for a new way of doing business, perhaps even a new way of being…Now that I am reminded of my priorities, it’s much easier to keep my eyes on the prize and do the work I am called to do.

What America wants, more than anything else right now, is to recover its larger sense of itself as a national community. (Fortunately, we elected ourselves a community organizer to help us do just that.) Yesterday, we gathered together to overwrite the old conservative fiction that “you’re on your own” with a new message that “we’re all in this together.” The best kind of leadership leads by example; and reinvesting our formidable energies into the task of building a vibrant national progressive community will be an act of leadership that reminds the whole country how it’s done.

How do we do this? What will it look like? That’s the stuff of a long conversation that can be had on these pages, across the blogosphere, and everywhere else progressives gather. The most important thing to bear in mind right now is that the organizations and institutions we’re about to build are not the end-all and be-all of who we are. They are simply tools that express the shared ideals and goals of a large and diverse progressive community.

The first rule of navigating the transition ahead is this: Every decision we make, from here on out, needs to be made with the deeply-held values and the long-term viability of that community front and center in our minds. Our time in power will last exactly as long as we do that. And our season will end the day we allow anything else to come before those priorities.

H/T to Dave Neiwert, Nicole Sawaya, Rev. Dan Schultz, and Jesse Wendel

and, from  a wholly different perspective:

An Obama Presidency

More Of The Same Only Worse

By Larry Pinkney

“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice, and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think it will be based on the color of the skin…”
-Malcolm X

November 05, 2008 “BlackCommentator” — -If the masses of people in this nation knew or had known the pertinent facts pertaining to the war mongering “we can fight the war better,” pro-apartheid Zionist, corporate Wall Street-backed, slippery tongued Barack Obama, it is doubtful they would have been so thoroughly bamboozled and hoodwinked to their own detriment and that of the world. Wall Street and the corporate media, however, have, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, engaged in a relentless, ruthless, and absolutely unprecedented campaign of corporate branding and marketing on behalf of Barack Obama, with the peoples of the United States as their targets.

Assuming that the corporate Wall Street elite and its concomitant opinion-forming, omission, and misinformation machinery of the U.S. corporate media successfully installs their favorite choice – Democratic Party Republicrat Barack Obama – as the first colored President of the U.S. Empire, the majority of people in the United States are in for a rude awakening in the form of increased economic austerity, internal political repression, deepened racial disharmony, external U.S. military adventurism, and an endless stream of misleading disinformation from the corporate government. The peoples of the world will face intensified imperialistic and military assault and attempts at U.S. hegemony. This time, however, the imperialism of the U.S. Empire will be conveniently spearheaded, condoned and rationalized by its newest and most potent weapon: the dangerously double-talking “Emperor” in black face – Barack Obama. Moreover, in one fell and foul swoop, the corporate / military elite of the U.S. Empire intends to utilize Barack Obama as the “messiah” (created by none other than corporate America and its corporate media) to neutralize and destroy the ongoing Black liberation struggle for justice and equality in this nation, and in people’s liberation struggles throughout the world.

In relative short order – inside the United States itself – under a Barack Obama presidency, the living conditions of the majority of Black, White, Brown, Red, and Yellow peoples will continue to steadily and massively deteriorate while the corporate Wall Street barons prolong their glut of the every day people’s finances, resources, hopes, and dreams. Under an Obama presidency those non Blacks who stand in opposition to Barack Obama’s de facto pro Wall Street backers and their blood-sucking policies will be branded as racists and traitors, while those Blacks who oppose Obama’s policies will be ignored and/or branded as fringe radicals and traitors. Thus, the horrors of the U.S. Empire will continue unabated, and in many respects, under Barack Obama, actually worsen. The blame for the deteriorating economy and continued war will of course quickly be laid by the Obama / Biden regime and the Democratic Party Republicrats on the previous Bush / Cheney regime, despite the fact that it was the complicity of the Democratic Party itself with the Bush / Cheney Republican Republicrat regime that facilitated the despicable policies and practices of the Bush / Cheney regime. The fact is that the Democratic and Republican Parties are de facto Republicrats with the objective of exploiting the majority of people and maintaining U.S. Empire abroad.

After the Democratic Party Republicrats so-called election euphoria and celebrating is over, the Obama / Biden Republicrat regime will get down to the business of placing the ongoing exploitation of the every day people of this nation on fast track. The masses of Black Americans, along with the oppressed and exploited Brown, Red, Yellow, and White peoples of this nation will learn first hand that, notwithstanding the deceptive Obama rhetoric, exploitation nationally and internationally will be intensified. The “clash between those who want freedom, justice, equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation” about which Malcolm X referred, will be intensified under Barack Obama, with Obama representing the interests of the oppressors. The political contradictions in this regard will also be increasingly obvious.

Those so-called leftist and progressives who were and are collaborators with U.S. Empire will, for a time, try to pretend that their support of Barack Obama was not a sell out, and that they simply need more time to persuade the U.S. Empire’s colored corporate emperor to do the right thing. Meanwhile, Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, and White peoples will be enduring an unprecedented rate of economic and social suffering. The anger of the people will ultimately peak and explode, as a result of having bought into false hope and raised expectations. This is precisely why the U.S. corporate government has already made military contingency plans to contain and massively quash dissention within the United States. Barack Obama will serve to provide his corporate / military masters with colored political cover for political repression in this nation; and he will have already provided a small respite of wiggling room for them in this regard. Nevertheless, as brutal reality forces the proverbial scales of blindness to drop from eyes of the masses, it will become crystal clear that the supposed “change” to which Barack Obama referred in his campaign rhetoric, was nothing more than a vicious ruse of double-speak by him, backed by his corporate and military handlers. Indeed, the emperor will be shown to “have no clothes.” But what of the fate of millions of Black, White, Brown, Red, and Yellow peoples inside the U.S.? How many horrible sacrifices will have been, and will yet need to be made by the people in order to get the boot of economic blood-sucking and political repression off their / our necks?

The “clash,” to which Malcolm X referred, “between those who want freedom, justice, and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the system of exploitation” will deepen, as will repression and systemic contradictions. The “clash” will have, by necessity, as Malcolm X suggested, gone beyond “the color of the skin.” Notwithstanding his double speak rhetoric, it will become clear to people that a president Barack Obama supports and wants to “continue the system of exploitation” at home and abroad. Despite continued double speak and corporate disinformation and misinformation, it will be become undeniably clear that a president Barack Obama is the servant of the corporate/ military / prison apparatus of U.S. Empire, and a key facilitator of exploitation and political repression inside and outside the United States.

Building a real, grass roots peoples’ movement inside the United States will then, in some respects, be more challenging but by no means impossible. Notwithstanding the political repression and incessant disinformation that for a certainty will be emanating from the Obama / Biden Democratic Republicrats and their cronies, a genuine peoples’ movement will be, of necessity, the order of the day.

It is no mere coincidence that Democratic Party Republicrat, Barack Obama, had the unheard of amount of approximately 600 million dollars in his political campaign coffer compared with fellow Republican Party Republicrat, John McCain’s, approximately 100 million campaign coffer dollars. This fact alone should give some crucial insight into the despicable financial role played by corporations, and their outrageous, unacceptable, and massively inordinate amount of influence and control over the electoral system in this so-called democracy. Most of this money is blood money, based upon exploitation from the corporate Wall Street and military corporate elite. This fact alone gives yet another good indication as to what to expect under an Obama presidency. It is totally reprehensible and unacceptable and an utter mockery of democracy.

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board Member, Larry Pinkney, is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In connection with his political organizing activities in opposition to voter suppression, etc., Pinkney was interviewed in 1988 on the nationally televised PBS NewsHour, formerly known as The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. For more about Larry Pinkney see the book, Saying No to Power: Autobiography of a 20th Century Activist and Thinker, by William Mandel [Introduction by Howard Zinn].


1 Comment »

  1. They are both right, and we know little about what Obama will actually do. America has rejected Bush and his party for the mess they have made. More accurately a voting electoral college majority, about 54% rejected Bush’s party and 46% did not. That is a lot compared to the average election but not a lot in the general scheme of things. And less than 2/3 voted.
    Obama, despite all the namecalling from the right is not a progressive, let alone a socialist or Marxist. He was eminently acceptable to big buck contributors. He is a cautious centrist who will now have to translate his broad message of hope and unity that everyone loves into the reality of policies to deal with real problems. His mandates are to deal with the economy, the wars, the mortgage mess and to help the middle class. He, if the Congress goes along, may distribute some wealth in the sense of returning to say the tax rates of the Reagan era from the tax rates of the Bush era. He has not campaigned on issues of poverty, including the poverty of African Americans. Mostly he has avoided these in his campaign, and for good reason. He is obviously aware of them from his community organizer days. Unfortunately John Edwards’ monogamy failings may have eliminated the possiblity that Obama would have him run with an issue of reducing or eliminating poverty. And unlike the last time there was a serious war on poverty, we now have a global economy in which the needed wealth and investment has a whole world in which to seek profit.
    Obama has a mandate to change the culture of Washington, where both parties have served the rich on the economy and served power on issues of national security and civil liberties. He has committed himself to engage more in Afghanistan even as he has promised to engage less in Iraq, even though many of the same propblems exist with trying to occupy either place. It is not clear how he will find the money for health care reform, education and infrastructure given the wars and the economy. It is not clear that he will be able to marshall public support to win over Congress in the face of special interests and a hostile class of pundits and bloggers. And all presidents follow rather than lead movements for progressive social change. One positive thing has been the way he has given the people ownership of his movement. We will see if he is so Democratic when the chips are down and the contributors need to be served.

    Comment by Stan — November 6, 2008 @ 4:56 am

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