A positive, robust grassroots campaign for Obama's jobs and tax-the-rich measures will put the wind in the president's sails, give people hope and improve the prospects of a people's victory next year.
We won't like everything the president proposes, especially cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, and should mobilize to make sure such ideas are dropped. But at the same time that shouldn't be an obstacle to getting behind the American Jobs Act and the millionaires' tax in a full-blooded way.
The left should not set the perfect against the possible. It's counterproductive. And let's not "damn" Obama's jobs and tax initiatives "with faint praise" - an approach that has been employed too often to no good effect.
This is the same ghastly clarion call we heard in 2004 and 2006: be proud of bending every effort to elect capitalist politicians pledged to defend capitalism by any means necessary.
This will be the line of every radical and "progressive for Obama" for the next 14 months. But communists and socialists would do a disservice to ourselves if we thought this was as bad as the opportunism and "Nobody but Obama" logic could get. Unimaginable pressures will be brought to bear in the next 14 months to present the choice as "Obama, or national suicide." Every working class organization, coalition, and group will face this pressure at every turn: the demand that long-term, steady work based on proletarian principle be overthrown to pursue the chimera of "defeating the ultra-right at all costs."
I saw this first-hand as a tyro in 1984, and older comrades will remember the 1964 election, in which only the Socialist Workers Party and Malcolm X did not shill or prevaricate for Lyndon Johnson, the Peace Candidate. For those activists loathe to endorse a Democrat, time and energy are usually spent focusing on the growing danger of nativism or home-grown Christian Fascism. Every time a communist or socialist publication tells us the "main danger" is from the Tea Party or Perry or Bachmann or Palin or Glenn Beck, a stampede to Obama and the Democratic Party is being prepared.
So let me be clear: the "main danger" today to working class self-activity, self-confidence, and organizational independence is a vote for the Democratic imperialism of Barack Obama in 2012. Historic illusions in the Democratic Party among workers and oppressed peoples in U.S.cannot be confronted and discussed honestly, and eradicated through common political activity and patient discussion, unless this fact is acknowledged.
Most workers, indeed most socialists, will not vote for Obama because they want to. They will vote for him because they are whipped into a hysteria that the ultra-right barbarians are at the gates. But when we compare the Bush and Obama regimes, I think it is a toss-up which has been more barbaric.
Rebuilding a movement for world socialism, rebuilding a tradition of independent working class political action, will only suffer another setback by fostering illusions, even hard-headed reformist illusions, in the Democrats and their leader. The greater-and-lesser-evil game the Sam Webb's of the world promote is an unprecedented attack on our class and its allies worldwide. It is an assault against us by the ruling class in a deflected and half-disguised form, and we will do well to remember this.