President Barack Obama visited Trish Kahle's hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina recently.
Despite a promise to bring 'change' and improve the lives of ordinary American's, things continue to get worse in Obama's 'New America'.
Official unemployment stands at just under ten percent of the working population. Over 15 million Americans were jobless in November.This doesn't’t include those who are working part-time but would prefer to work full time. Nor does it include a record 1.3 million who are too discouraged even to look for work.
According to a US Government report released in November 17 million Americans are are going without food at least once during the year. Stephen Quinn, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Wal-Mart Stores, recently told a conference that families are 'literally lining up at midnight"' at Wal-Mart stores waiting to buy food when paychecks or government checks land in their accounts.
Trish Kahle's says ordinary Americans must organise to fight the austerity policies of Barack Obama and that inspiration can be drawn from the struggles now occurring in Britain and Europe.
President Obama's visit to Winston-Salem, NC at Forsyth Tech Community College was just another piece of evidence of the "state of the nation."
It's a little bit confusing, because when we showed up to demand that Obama end the wars and tax the rich, there were more than seventy people huddled onto the one corner the cops would allow them, clutching their plastic yard signs from the 2008 presidential election.
We should ask ourselves why Obama's supporters still have to cling to those signs which are wrinkled and warped by water.
Perhaps because they have nothing new to hold. After two years, things haven't gotten better; they've gotten worse. Obama's supporters--most of whom genuinely wanted real and substantial change--are left with the memories of "hope," and the yard signs are a tangible reminder of that.
A small group of five people--myself and four Obamanites--were separated from the rest on the other side of a bridge by the cops. These were ordinary people: working class people who had scurried away from their job during lunch hour (one was still wearing her scrubs from the hospital two blocks away), but the class difference between Obama and his ruling elite and these people trying to scrape a living seemed lost on them--even as Obama rolled by in his long, shiny motorcade that took dozens of cops to protect, even as I stood next to them, handing out flyers for the International Socialist Organization and our "Fight the Right" campaign, even as I held a sign that said "WE won't pay for YOUR crisis!"
That being said, we can't become cynical about these people and their politics. Austerity--just like we've seen in France, Greece, the UK, and elsewhere in Europe--has come to the US, and we must fight back.
We cannot win without the fellow members of the working class, so we must win them to our arguments. This is, of course, made harder by the people like the one today who told my comrade that she "wanted to kill" him after he told her he was with the ISO. But it must be our goal to expand the political organization. Individual actions like those planned today are good, but very limited. They are inherently reactionary--only responding to things that happen.
Going on the offensive will not only be more effective, but it will draw people to us. They will feel empowered. They will feel solidarity. These things will win them more quickly and more strongly than years of theoretical arguments.
It is a daunting task, but it can be done. As the Rasmussen poll earlier this year shows, people are now more open to socialism than at any time since the Cold War. Especially interested in the socialist alternative to capitalism are young people: people under thirty who have no direct memory of the Cold War and who do not directly emerge from the legacy of Stalinism. We have instead grown up under the massive expansion of American empire and the assertion of the US as a world military hegemon.
These cuts aren't going to fight themselves out of existence, and if we don't organize, we won't survive cuts to education funding, social security, Medicare and Medicaid, and pretty much every other social service that is minimally provided by the state.
We should look to the French example, the example of British students, the Spanish air controllers. Bringing the American system to its knees would not only fight austerity here, it would cripple capitalism around the world. A general strike by American workers--backed by students, the retired, and the unemployed--would present a threat that American capitalism hasn't felt for a long time.
Of course, a general strike doesn't happen overnight, so I leave you with part of Marge Piercy's poem The Low Road:
Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organisation. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.
It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.
How many are you?
This column was first posted on Trish's blog, I Can't Believe We Still Have To Protest This Shit