November 27, 2016

Obama's Silence on Standing Rock

by Caitrin Smith

Democrats and socialists have fundamentally different ideas of how American democracy works, how change comes about, and who makes that change happen. Democrats seem to understand it as an interplay of policies, laws, treaties, and courts that come together to form what many agree is an American democracy.

Socialists argue, that "American democracy" is really unfettered capitalism, oligarchy, and a system which bends all those polices, laws, treaties, and courts to benefit the ruling class (those with capital/and those protecting it). It will be challenging for us to come to an agreement on Obama's response (or lack thereof) to Standing Rock if we have fundamentally different understandings on how the system operates. They argue that the bureaucratic process is "how our system is designed to work" and that change comes from "courts and congress."

What we argue, through a careful look at history, political theory, and practical experience in struggle, is that sweeping social movements are what pressure and make those laws pass, not the slow process of Democrat sanctioned reform.

To compliment the suggestion that working class solidarity/struggle pushes change, we argue that capital is the opposing force that makes these same laws bend. What we see at Standing Rock is a dance between oppressor and oppressed; the protectors of water push the laws in our favor and the protectors of capital push them back against us. In other words, there are two things that pressure our government: the working class's ability to organize and capital; our task is to make the former more powerful than the latter.

Standing Rock will continue to mount this pressure. Obama's complacency is an admission of allegiance to the protectors of capital rather than the protectors of water. If you are interested in exploring the effectiveness of reforming capitalism/the democratic party, to read Lance Selfa's "The Democrats: A Critical History" and Howard Zinn's "A People's History."

Selfa lays out, quite convincingly, the faults of the Democratic Party as being a pro capitalist, neoliberal, reformist party that has actually been detrimental for working people who have dedicated their lives to the black freedom struggle, LGBTQ rights, immigration reform, native american sovereignty, the list goes on.

Zinn argues that social change in these areas has not come from Democrats and the "bureaucratic process" but pressure of mass movements in the street and pressure from the people. Those who continue to have faith in the system (and the elected leaders who protect that system at our expense) that created and spawned the conditions for something like standing rock to occur, are digging their own graves: history teaches us to look elsewhere for real, social change.

That being said, it is not mutually exclusive to understand the working class as the agent for social change AND argue for the president of our country to at least offer a statement of support or admit that native american's are treated like absolute garbage historically and currently in the US. He hasn't done that, and they deserve that. They deserve something beyond, "We will get to addressing your oppression later, when the courts and congress and the bureaucratic process allows it."

Native American women are more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other race (and not by Native American men- mind you), Native American men are more likely to be murdered by police than any other race. Native Americans have some of the worst healthcare, highest poverty rates, and hardest living conditions than any other subgroup in the US. They demand to be heard and they should be.

Its deplorable that Obama hasn't even bothered to acknowledge this reality and they are only asking for clean drinking water. "I'll get around to it when the system allows" is an inexcusable response to oppression that will only worsen in his complacency.

I am not a Democrat, I have no faith in the two parties of capitalism. I am a socialist, which means I doubt the Democrats will agree with us; they wont until they see our system through a similar lens.

As Lenin once stated, "...'Full freedom' means election of officials and other office-holders who administer public and state affairs. 'Full freedom' means the complete abolition of a state administration that is not wholly and exclusively responsible to the people, that is not elected by, accountable to, and subject to recall by, the people. 'Full freedom' means that it is not the people who should be subordinated to officials, but the officials who should be subordinated to the people."

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