Three messiahs for the price of one


As I write, I’m just listening to the inauguration ceremony in Washington, as we bid farewell to the long dark night of W, and as Irish-American senator, son of Jor-El and all-round saviour of humanity Barack O’Bama takes charge of the United States. Yes, I know, it’s easy to be cynical. We know, after all, that O’Bama is basically a down-the-line New Democrat, who can’t be expected to do anything even vaguely radical. We know that he is staffing his administration with retreads from the Clinton administration, starting with Hillary herself, and taking in the likes of Rahm Emmanuel, and even that evil bastard Holbrooke, who seems hell-bent on restarting the Bosnian war. We know, too, that in the last analysis he will do whatever Wall Street tells him to do.

And yet, there is something positive there in terms of the grassroots movement, the Black mobilisation in particular, and the rejection of the legacy of the Bush-43 administration, where we can see some potential. O’Bama is going to disappoint his followers big time – even if it wasn’t for the economic crisis and the foreign wars he’s been left with, the extraordinary burden of expectations on him would by itself account for that. The big question will be whether the wave he rode to power can, in the context of the crisis, give rise to something we can be really enthusiastic about. There’s some relevant discussion here.

While we’re on the subject of messiahs, there have been a lot of them doing the rounds as the handover of power has been going on. Here’s a question – when was the last time you saw Will Smith in an enjoyable film? It must be several years, at least, while he’s been busy playing roles that almost require him to wear a halo. He’s there in Washington too, although thankfully not rapping as he did for the Clintons. Not surprisingly, that long-running story about the Fresh Prince playing Barack in the movies just won’t go away. And why not? You want a charismatic Black lead with a messianic streak…

Finally, just to do the hat trick, did you catch any of the big Lincoln Memorial gig the other day? A bit of a mixed bag, I’ll admit, and not everybody there was to my taste, although an event featuring Shakira can’t be all bad. Springsteen was expected, and at least has good progressive credentials; Beyonce doesn’t exactly have the progressive credentials (unless “I’m a liberated woman cos my man gives me lots of bling” is where feminism is at presently) but is such a big act that she was probably inevitable. No, the thing that got up my goat was the choice of an Irish act, to reflect the ancestral roots of the president-elect (and not forgetting Derry man Joe Biden). And, with all the musical talent in Ireland and in the Irish diaspora, who turns up? Those sanctimonious tax-dodging phonies U2. Ah well, you couldn’t expect Bono to miss a chance to suck up to the new boss.


  1. vicky said,

    January 20, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Holbrooke, eugh.

    There’s not that many things that could make me pity Obama massively, but having to listen to Bono is pretty high up the list.

  2. Craig said,

    January 20, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    “And, with all the musical talent in Ireland and in the Irish diaspora, who turns up? Those sanctimonious tax-dodging phonies U2.”

    Hey, at least it wasn’t Glen Hansard.

  3. January 20, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    I was going to boycott the whole thing until I learned that Robert Fisk and Manning Marable were giving running commentary on Al Jazeera. Naomi Klein was on as well. She has all kinds of faith in people who think like her moving Obama to the left. Bill Fletcher said that revolutionaries can get Obama to be a reformist by fighting for reforms themselves on Democracy Now. He did not answer the question of what revolutionaries should do if they wanted a revolution. No major gaffes which is really the sole reason I watched. If I can’t be consoled, I want to be entertained. Alas, not even entertained today.

  4. jc said,

    January 20, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    I’m not so sure about Springsteen’s progressive bona fides these days. He has a new greatest hits CD coming out that will be sold only in Walmart. Walmart is the largest employer in the US and does not have a single unionised shop, having successfully cowed its low-wage employees with a systematic policy of violating labor laws.

    Bill Fletcher is prominenet in a group called Progressives for Obama (P4O), which appears to consist mainly of current and former members of the CP, as well as aging Maoists. The main progenitor, apart from Fletcher, is Carl Davidson, a former SDS leader and member of the Communist Party Marxist-Leninist.

  5. Mike said,

    January 20, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    What musical talent in Ireland? Name one Japanese doom metal band from Ireland. Go on, I challenge you….

  6. Madam Miaow said,

    January 20, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Dammit, Rustbelt. Now that is the commentary I wanted, even if you know you’re gonna be experiencing your Blair come-down any minute now …

  7. organic cheeseboard said,

    January 21, 2009 at 8:13 am

    I thought I Robot was ok even if it was a load of bollocks at root. Ditto Hancock. Though neither was actually good

  8. skidmarx said,

    January 21, 2009 at 10:32 am

    The Rising is an awful whine, and even looking back on the bombastic sounding Born In The USA I’m not greatly surprised that Reagan mistook him for his kind of patriot.

  9. Der Bruno Stroszek said,

    January 21, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Did anyone hear Christopher Hitchens pontificating on the BBC’s live coverage about how Obama had this incredible presidential quality that you could just see from the start and was so obvious…

    …well, you bloody didn’t, Hitch, you spent much of the primaries trying to boost Giuliani!

  10. D. J. P. O'Kane said,

    January 21, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Was I imagining things, or did I see Pete Seeger on there for a few seconds?

  11. January 21, 2009 at 2:06 pm


    Yeah, a lot of ex-Maoists have been hovering around the Democratic Party for decades now. They not only have a faith in the Dems that seems to ignore all recent history, they have a theoretical justification for it! I wish ex-Maoists would just give up the theories and stick with faith, it is a lot more palatable.. As far as I know Fletcher is still a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (soft). My understanding is that they were not of one voice on supporting Obama, but given Fletcher’s minor celebrity status the group was never going to hold Flether to any kind of collective position on Obama.


  12. skidmarx said,

    January 21, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    I did see Naomi Klein point out 4 or 5 things Obama had already failed to do, which was refreshing.

    Off topic, is your final report on the dynamics of Big Brother going to be titled “Jag Har En Stor Kuk”?

  13. January 21, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    according to Max Elbaum’s Revolution in the Air (good book), a relatively large number of US maos and ex-maos (e.g. from Line of March, CWP, LRS) started working inside the Democratic Party via Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition in the mid-eighties and gained some influence … in Germany, many former maos joined the Greens, in Spain many the PSOE, etc. …

  14. January 21, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Mary J Blige played as well – altho’ I don’t know if she got beyond a version of “Lean on me” (I just saw that on the news) . She has a stronger claim to commitment thann Beyonce. “No more drama ” is a cracking song, which she made into an anti war song with the vidoe used to promote it .

  15. January 21, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    “thann” “vidoe” – oops

  16. D. J. P. O'Kane said,

    January 21, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Aren’t there conspiracy theories about the various Maoist parties in post-74 Portugal being CIA fronts, intended to disrupt the revolution?

  17. Phil said,

    January 21, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    DJP – almost certainly. Thing is, lots of Western Maoist parties in that period were well funded & had weirdly counter-productive policies – it came with the franchise. Is there anything more specific about the Portuguese Maoists?

  18. les said,

    January 22, 2009 at 12:16 am

    @d.j.p. o’kane–yes, you did see pete seeger. he and springsteen (with choir) sang the complete uncensored version of “this land is you land” with the verse

    “There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me/Sign was painted, it said private property; But on the back side it didn’t say nothing; That side was made for you and me. “

  19. January 23, 2009 at 9:29 am

    @ Phil: today’s EU commission president Barroso was a member of the “Partido Comunista dos Trabalhadores Portugueses – Movimento Reorganizativo do Partido do Proletariado” (PCTP-MRPP) in the 1970ies … but I don’t think, that they were funded by the CIA or etc. … having 1000-2000 members (not only students but also like in todays MLPD or PTB a large number of lawyers, doctors, civil engineers, etc.) who give 50% of their income to the “party” or some members who inherit plenty of money from their parents is sufficent for maintaining a (bad) weekly paper, a large number of fulltimers, a party headquarter, etc.

  20. PJ Callan said,

    January 24, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    entdinglichung writes that the PTB/Workers Party of Belgium weekly paper is “bad”.

    Little wonder when his website links to a website like the China Labour Bulletin. The latter is the modern equivalent of Solidarnosc. Its leader Han Dong-fang has his own program on the CIA sponsored short wave broadcaster Radio Free Asia.

  21. January 26, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    @ PJ Callan:

    Die Partei hat immer recht … and the pope is infallible

  22. skidmarx said,

    January 26, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Is the modern equivalent of Solidarnosc an independent trade union of millions of members that threatens the existence of the state capitalist tyranny in the state it is based in?

  23. erice said,

    January 27, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    For my money betty lavette was the best thing about the whole shoe, she is an incredible singer, i have to say i didn’t think Jon Bon Jovi was bad either…….

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