Amiri Baraka speaks on Obama

A good friend sent me the following article written last month by Amiri Baraka in his letter to the ‘left’ encouraging them to support Barack Obama and attacking many of the arguments presented by those radical leftists and progressives who view Barack as too much of an accomodationist. Some have even suggested that Obama supporters are, in a sense, being duped  and that he offers little more than more of the same except in blackface.
While I do respect their concerns, I couldn’t possibly disagree more strongly. I believe in the man, and I believe in what he’s trying to do and the change he represents just by virtue of who he is and  the origins of his name. I believe those who would prefer to tear down Obama, claiming that we might as well settle for McCain because Obama isn’t going to be as progressive as we need him to be, are making a serious, serious mistake. I am thankful that Amiri Baraka feels the same way, and is willing to shout those views out loud and in print.
Here is.
The Parade of Anti-Obama Rascals
We certainly know the animals of the right, the US Reich, the Foxes and Klan in Civilian clothes, e.g., O’Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh & Co., and certainly a coon or two. Tavis & Andy. Some people even came up with the slogan “Strangle Rangel”. Happily, w/the departure of Bonnie & Clyde, more of these Negro retainers will replace their “ HillJig” buttons with the shit-eating grin of exposed Toms as they try to ease painlessly into at least the margin of the masses who support Obama .
But I’m talking about another substantial pimple of soi disant, dare I say, intellectuals & self advertised radicals who are quite audible & wordy in opposition to Obama. You might say, ‘but how is that, since now there is only the prisoner of war, McCain , who proves every time he opens his mouth that he is still a prisoner of the Viet Nam war’ that Obama faces. McCain’s major campaign plank is that Americans need to keep dying in Iraq and our tax monies need to keep being fed to Halliburton and the other oilies and cronies. McCain also holds that we continue the Bush-type savaging of the US constitution by denying habeas corpus and the legal rights of prisoners in Guantanamo. Keep it open as a Bush-Cheney concentration camp. McCain also wants to maintain the widespread hatred of the US by the world, as well as making Bush’ giveaway tax cuts for the super rich permanent.


Here’s a charming character who on returning from Vietnam soon dumped his 1st wife who had been severely crippled in an automobile accident, to run off with, among others, a beer brewery heiress who could support his political barn storming. Here’s a man, who for all the media clap about him being “an independent” is the spiritual follower of the man whose seat he sits in as Senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater.
I mention all this because it is criminal for these people claiming to be radical or intellectual to oppose or refuse to support Obama. I hope we don’t have to hear about “the lesser of two evils” from people whose foolish mirror worship would have us elect the worst of two evils.
For those who claim radical by supporting McKinney or, brain forbid, the Nadir of fake liberalism, we should have little sympathy. As much as I have admired Cynthia McKinney, to pose her candidacy as an alternative to Obama is at best empty idealism, at worst nearly as dangerous as when the Nader used the same windy egotism to help elect Bush.
The people who are supporting McKinney must know that that is an empty gesture. But too often such people are so pocked with self-congratulatory idealism, that they care little or understand little about politics (i.e. the gaining maintaining and use of power) but want only to pronounce , to themselves mostly, how progressive or radical or even revolutionary they are.
Faced with the obvious that McKinney cannot actually do anything by running but put out lines a solid left bloc should put out anyway, their pre-joinder is that Obama will be running as a candidate of an imperialist party, or Imperialism will not let Obama do anything different or progressive…that he will do the same things any Democrat would do and that the Democrats are using Obama to draw young people to the Democratic party. Also that there is a sector of the bourgeoisie supports Obama to put a new face on the US as alternative to the Devil face Bush has projected as the American image.
Some of these things I agree with, but before qualifying that let me say that no amount of solipsistic fist pounding about “radical principles” will change this society as much as the election of Barack Obama will as president of the US. Not to understand this is to have few clues about the history of this country, its people, or the history of the Black struggle in the US. It is also to be completely at odds with the masses of the Afro-American people, let us say with the masses of black and colored people internationally. How people who claim to lead the people but who time after time tail them so badly must be understood. It is because they confuse elitism with class consciousness.
And at this point, the US body politic has been taken too far in this present election campaign to easily dissolve this heavy challenge to its historic race & class exclusivity. The positive aspect of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and commitment to work in the Obama campaign has certainly shredded some of the gender exclusivity as well, so that there is in reality a prospect that some substantive change can be made. Obama is the democratic nominee. Only repeats of the outright election theft of Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 can put McCain in the white house. In 2 weeks, since the Democratic Party primaries ended, McCain’s poll numbers have dropped from a dead heat w/ Obama to trailing by 18 points.
It is up to revolutionaries and progressives and radicals of all stripes to make it difficult for another larceny in November. We should agitate for serious disruption across this country and internationally if such a criminal attempt to steal the US presidency is mounted.
For the so-called left and would be radicals (and some grinning idiots who say they don’t even care about politics) the McKinney gambit is to label oneself “Quixote of the loyal opposition” to pipsqueak a hiss of disapproval at the rulers while being an enabler of the same. Neither McCain nor McKinney will help us. Only Obama offers some actual help.
Even the dumbest things Obama has said re: Cuba and the soft shoe for Israel must be seen as the cost of realpolitik, that is he is not running for president of the NAACP and not to understand that those are the stances that must be taken in the present political context, even though we hold out to support what he said about initiating talks with the Cubans, the Palestinians . After years of Washington stupidity and slavish support for the Miami Gusanos and Israeli imperialism, there is in Obama’s raising of talks with the US Bourgeois enemies something that must be understood as the potential path for new initiative. It is the duty of a left progressive radical bloc to be loud and regular in our demands for the changes Obama has alluded to in his campaign. We must take up these issues and push collectively, as a Bloc, or he will be pushed inexorably to the right.
Some people were grousing about the father’s day address and the stance he took lecturing Black men to actually become fathers not just disappearing sexual partners. But can anyone who actually lives in the ‘hood, and has raised children there, really claim that what Obama said is somehow an “insult to half a race”? We need to take up that idea of making Black men stand up and embrace fatherhood (a lifetime gig) as men and quit winking at the vanished baby makers that litter our community with fatherless children. This is where a great deal of the raw material comes from for the gangs that imperil our communities.
As I answered one irate e-mailer who was pissed off at Obama for leveling that challenge, a Negro man killed my only sister, a Negro man killed my youngest daughter. I can’t give no mealy mouth slack about that. We need to Stand Up!
Obama has addressed the Israeli lobby and the Gusano (anti Cuba) lobby. But where is the Black left and general progressive, radical and revolutionary lobby? That is the real job we need to address. We must bring something to the table. It is time for the left to really make some kind of Left Bloc to support Obama. I was at the Black Left meeting in North Carolina and had to argue with a group of folks who want to be revolutionary as heck with a Reconstruction Party supporting Cynthia McKinney. Though there was some good discussion, nothing concrete has been offered especially around the Obama campaign.
There were even a few badly disguised nationalists, posing as part of the left who think such posturing somehow more revolutionary than getting Obama into the Oval Office and dealing with getting him there and the rocking and rolling that will go on in this country whether he makes it or not. We ought to be putting together a left bloc document that can be circulated as soon and as widely as possible and in Denver and depending on the circumstances, beyond. Using this as a means of drawing the excited masses to the left.
We always knew that the Obama campaign had the potential to do this. And the closer we get to the convention and then the election even more excitement will be generated. We should not let our role be to stand on the sidelines and mumble how hip we are, we can’t be so hip we let this cross roads of US history pass us by and possibly even let the lobotomized Robocop of right wing Republicanism serve us up more Bush’ it. I am sending this document right after I finish writing it to the Black Radical Congress who is meeting in St. Louis this weekend. I would hope it could be circulated.
Amiri Baraka 6/21/08

~ by Keith A. Owens on July 21, 2008.

8 Responses to “Amiri Baraka speaks on Obama”

  1. With the desperation of the GOP, all I got to say is watch out for snipers on the roof tops, they mat blame it on muslim extremist but many have been blinded by the Obamafication of America to even see such as a possibility

  2. Keith, you know I’m one of those critics. When I read this:

    I believe in the man, and I believe in what he’s trying to do and the change he represents just by virtue of who he is and the origins of his name.

    …I don’t see a single bit of logic there. I do see religious fervor, and devotion to charismatic authority. THIS IS A TRICK BAG KEITH. No way around it. The sooner you can get out of this trick bag, the better. I’d suggest you reread this Obama piece, along with Adolph Reed’s “Where is Obamaism Going?”

  3. Rawdfawg, I hope you’re wrong about the snipers, but we do have some crazies out there, no joke.


    OK, I’ll grant you my phrasing leaned a lot more on fervor and semi-poetry than on hard facts and analysis, which I know is what you traffic in, and I can respect that.

    So here’s the thing with me and Obama and why I support him. First of all, I’m not dumb enough to get caught in a trick bag, so give me a little credit. If I’m wrong in my support, then I’ll see it eventually and I’d like to think I’ll own up to it. But my reasons for supporting him aren’t because I haven’t paid close enough attention, or checked out his positions. I believe it’s because we (you and I) have just come to different conclusions about the man and what he represents. Which is fine.

    I want you to understand I don’t see Obama as savior. I do have problems with some of the rightward tilt he’s taken recently, even in the name of the political game. And no, I don’t think he’s going to suddenly become Mr. Super Progressive once he gets in office, should he become elected. My guess is that he will probably closer somewhere closer to center-left. Which is far away from my more leftward leanings, and I can tell that’s even farther away from yours.

    But to say that Obama may be better in the short run but that McCain will be better in the long run, as one of the articles you referenced on your blog suggested (sorry, I can’t recall who that was right now) I think is way, way off the mark. On the war alone we can’t afford that kind of thinking. And when you factor in that McCain has virtually no domestic policy worth considering, let alone urban policy, then to me the choice becomes even more clear and more urgent. When you look at the fact that folks like Phil Gramm – even though he was finally cut loose – are the kinds of folks who McCain holds in high enough esteem to be his top advisors? The home foreclosure crisis is one of the most destructive things facing this country right now, and it’s single-handedly ripping up Detroit. In my job I see that first hand up close. And Gramm was one of the folks that helped to craft legislation that helped to create this fiasco.

    My point being, without dragging this answer out too long, that we simply cannot afford McCain. After 8 years of Bush, 4 years of McCain, and God forbid 8, would do untold harm to this country both domestically and internationally. And yes, I truly do believe that.

    Anyway, having said all that, it’s always good to have you on the site. You get my gears going. Take care, Lester.

  4. Oh yeah, one more thing, Lester. I did read that Adolph Reed piece as soon as I saw it on your blog awhile back. It’s good to read what Obama’s detractors think and their reasoning – and I understand some of his arguments – but he hardly makes enough of a case for me to reconsider my support of Obama. For one thing, I believe Adolph is somewhat guilty of picking and choosing his targets without taking the full picture into consideration. His attack on Obama’s fatherhood speech to me is a good example of that. I think to point to that speech as an attack on the black poor is a distortion of what he said. And to point to it as a prime reason for why Obama is bad for Black America is to ignore some of his broader policy objectives that I believe would definitely help urban areas, such as his stated plan to redirect thye money from Iraq toward the rebuilding and retraining that so many out-of-work folks need in economies like Michigan. And Detroit. No, it won’t happen tomorrow. But it’s an objective for economic revitalization that lays out a much better direction for tax dollars than keeping the soldiers in Iraq for another 100 years until we’re so bankrupt that we can never recover. Hell, China damned near owns us already.

  5. one of the things adolph takes care to do is to note that he isn’t actually arguing for not voting. BUT he makes two comments worth considering:

    1. he notes that voting is almost purely symbolic at the individual level.

    he’s right here, but we’ve got an attachment to the vote given what we had to do to get it.

    2. he notes that without some type of movement obama will veer even further rightward while cloaking his move in the language of limited possibility.

    vote for obama if that’s your thing. but we’ve got to have conversations with people for the express purpose of getting them to rethink the possibilities of government.

  6. Hey Lester.

    I won’t disagree too much with voting being symbolic so long as we’re talking about the national level. The Electoral College is definitely problematic, not to mention the perverted influence of money, moneyed interests, etc. But on the local level I would take issue with that assessment. Your vote most definitely is not symbolic in a mayoral or city council election.

    As for “rethinking the possibilities of government” and the need for a movement to keep Obama from veering too far right, I have very little problem with either of those points you raise. From my perspective, that movement you bring up is simply having Obama’s back, if you will. We the people have to give him what he needs to stay on track, which means keeping the fire on and not becoming apathetic. We can’t simply leave it up to the brother once he gets in, assuming he will do the right thing as a brother. You’re absolutely right. So keeping him in check is, in a very real sense, doing him – and us – a necessary favor.

    Getting Obama into office is not the end. It is only a small first step toward what’s needed. The significance is huge, and the impact is potentially huge.But it is certainly not the Promised Land.

  7. […] I’d also like to provide a link over to a post by “The D Spot” back in 2008 –  Amiri Baraka speaks on Obama, which includes a letter written by Mr. Baraka. The Parade of Anti-Obama Rascals We certainly know the animals of the right, the US Reich, the […]

  8. Learning a ton from these neat arceltis.

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