In 1961, the year of Barack Obama’s birth, it was still legal for the US government to discriminate against its citizens on grounds of race (the Civil Rights Act which formally banned such discrimination would be passed only in 1964). The nomination of Obama, the first black person to stand for president as the candidate of any major US political party, represents enormous social progress.
Such progress, however, does not suspend the laws of class struggle. Obama’s candidacy, like his party, is bourgeois through and through. Like his opponent John McCain, he represents government of the capitalists by the capitalists for the capitalists — only in a more liberal version, with a few extra crumbs for the workers and poor.
In this election, the US working class — including its still super-exploited and oppressed black section, and its huge and first growing immigrant minority — will be denied the chance to vote for representatives of its own. In such a situation, widespread hatred of the Republicans and disgust at their record will almost certainly express themselves — have already expressed themselves — in a surge of support for Obama and the Democrats.
In this situation, it will not be surprising if sections of the US left are pulled towards this tide. It is right to celebrate mass enthusiasm for kicking out the Republicans, and to want to relate to the thousands of new people Obama has drawn into politics, particularly among young people and in the US’s black communities. What is wrong is the temptation to seek a short cut by advocating support for his candidacy and, through it, the Democratic Party.
American workers need a party of their own: the question is how to get there. Those issues need to be discussed.