The Third International after Lenin

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Barack Obama and the Rhetoric of Anticommunism
by Barbara Foley

The subject of my talk today is the rhetoric of anticommunism that is both explicit and implicit in the writings of Barack Obama.

In the short time available, I plan to examine, first, Obama’s forthright statements about communism; second, some of the rhetorical maneuvers by which he caricatures radical alternatives to mainstream ideology; and third, his outright occlusion of leftist history when it is not amenable to dismissal. This talk is a much abbreviated version of an article forthcoming in Cultural Logic, in which I indicate the usefulness of Louise Althusser’s notion of interpellation and Pierre Macherey’s theorization of structured silences to a Marxist analysis of political rhetoric.

Before I begin, a few provisos.

(1) While it might be objected that the current absence of significant left-led movements makes this focus on the discourse of anticommunism a rearguard enterprise, I believe that the world’s rulers and their apologists remain acutely aware that their policies arouse intense and potentially revolutionary discontent among the world’s dispossessed. As a glance at most issues of the New York Times Book Review reveals, anticommunism remains alive and well, ready to be deployed as needed.

(2) In my discussion of Obama’s obfuscation of his family’s past radical connections—point three in this discussion—I will adduce pieces of information that have been trumpeted in the right-wing blogosphere as evidence of Obama’s plans to take over the United States in a dark-skinned-led communist conspiracy. I only wish! While I am aware that many of the attacks on Obama—like the current “birthing” movement—are deeply reactionary, xenophobic, and racist, I think it crucial to demonstrate that Obama’s purposes are anything but anticapitalist or on the side of the exploited of the world—quite the opposite. So I will be going where mainly only right-wingers have thus far dared to tread.

Read the full text here.

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