Tariq Ali appeared on the BBC's This Week last night in conversation with Andrew Neil, Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo. Debating ideas that were originally published in Tariq's book, The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad, they discussed that, despite appearances to the contrary, very little has actually changed since Bush has left the White House.
Asking at what price democracy when both political parties operate in exactly the same way, Tariq questioned the deeper problems facing the current political climate in America:
One of the most striking things about Obama’s period in office so far is the continuity with the Bush administration not simply in terms of foreign policy but in keeping a security state at home, and carrying on with Guantanamo, and the attacks on civil liberties and the economic policies. American liberals were drooling when Obama first entered the White House, less so now. In Iraq, despite the promises, American troops are going to stay on the ground confined to six huge military bases for eternity, or unless a new insurrection gets rid of them. In Afghanistan, Pakistan the war has actually been escalated. Under Obama there have been more drone attacks on Pakistan than there were in the preceding five years of the previous admin. The recent attack on Libya shows an addiction to war that is extremely unhealthy but once again marks continuities.
I'm particularly fond of the following quote from Socialist Party of America leader Eugene Debs:
I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.
It truly encapsulates the notion that socialism cannot be constructed from above but rather through actions and ideas of ordinary people. This idea, and Debs as a monumental figure in US history, informs John Nichol's attempt to revive interest in US socialism and rescue it from the red-baiting of the right in his new book The "S" Word: A Short History of An American Tradition...Socialism. In Paul Buhle's (a remarkable historian in his own right) review of the book he suggests that socialism is a historical undercurrent in progressive US politics:
Roger D. Hodge, former editor of Harper's and author of The Mendacity of Hope, delves into Ross Perlin's Intern Nation for the Summer 2011 issue of Bookforum. Describing the book as "vigorous and persuasive," Hodge is quick to locate that which most concerns Perlin, namely the state of labor rights in the US and beyond, and the "deeper class logic" inseparable from an internship model which reinforces "the overwhelming bias of our political system in favor of the wealthy."
The problems Perlin identifies go deeper than the failure of the Wage and Hour Division to do its job. The more fundamental issue, as he argues in his final chapters, is the growing contingency of the global workforce. Over the past decade, a loose coalition of labor activists, chronic interns, immigrants, downsized workers, migrant laborers, artists, and others trapped in temporary work arrangements have begun to define "precarity," the precariousness and insecurity of being without permanent or stable work, as the labor issue of our time ...