Obama’s victory and the people’s struggle for social change

Barack Obama’s victory in the US elections is a big step forward for the American people. It is a historic achievement that the Americans chose their first black president despite lingering racism. It is likewise welcome news to the world’s peoples that Americans soundly rejected the continuation of Republican rule that is marked by plunder and war. It is thus no surprise that many non-Americans welcomed Obama’s candidacy and were elated by his election.

Progressives in the US and elsewhere have much to learn from Obama’s campaign. Obama’s raising of the clarion call of change captured the imagination and support of people, especially the workingpeople, the minorities and the youth. Even the conservatives were so attracted by the call for change, they left the tight embrace of their political party afters years of fealty and loyalty. Obama also used technology to advance his campaign, be it to expand his organization or to garner financial support mostly from common people who pitched in small amounts. He expanded the political map in favor of the Democratic Party, thanks to his huge organization and the enormous resources that his supporters donated to him, dime after dime.

Those organizations who joined the broad Obama coalition have gained added prestige and know-how, and enlarged their memberships and networks. They must be congratulated for seeing the opportunity provided by Obama’s pro-change campaign, the opportunity to reach thousands and millions of people with the gospel of collective action. They joined Obama in debunking the myth that the youth have abandoned their progressive role in society, the role of pushing for change beneficial to the marginalized and oppressed peoples.

Of course, let there be no illusions that Obama’s victory heralds fundamental change in the world (dis)order. Obama is expected to uphold monopoly capital’s leading role in business. His party is no revolutionary or progressive party. What we could perhaps expect at the very least is for Obama to take the US government away from the far right, where George W. Bush and the neoconservatives have brought the US for the last eight years.

It is for Americans and for us to discover our roles in effecting social change. We cannot depend fully and entirely on leaders like Obama. The moment we lose sight of the role of mass movements, we lose our power to effect changes. For instance, it is up to Americans to make sure Obama fulfills his promise to withdraw US troops from Iraq. Ditto for ensuring that regulations are put in place to address the problems brought forward by the excesses of world monopoly capitalists. The same is true with human rights in the US and elsewhere. If we stop hoping, standing up and fighting for our interests, no one else will.

For Filipinos, let us draw inspiration from Obama’s victory. Let us raise the call for change this early (Obama started his campaign two years ago; the next elections here will be in less than two years!), challenge the political parties, and make our issues the central issues in the presidential campaign. Of course, the Philippine political system is a totally different animal compared to the US system. But that should not be an excuse to throw out the whole Obama experience. There are plenty of lessons to learn and perhaps to also apply in our own situations.

The most tragic thing that may result from Obama’s victory is for Americans to lose track of their role and withdraw back to their personal lives. Tragic, because they may repeat what we did after our own Edsa 1 and 2. After discovering our immense power as a people, we give up afterwards everything to our leaders and stopped thinking and moving as a people to make sure the country seeks to attain our national and democratic aspirations.

In his victory speech, Obama told the numerous people who greeted him that he owes them, each of them, for his triumph. Perhaps the lesson is inside this message from the new US leader. Without the people, no real change is possible. Without the people, we cannot make sure change comes to the US or to the Philippines for that matter.

(To be continued.)


  1. Michael

    Well said; during the debates everyone on the Conservative side said that being a community organizer or talking about “Hope” and asking for “Change” was never going to win elections and was a stupid rallying cry. I guess theyw ere wrong…two-to-one wrong.

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