Barack Obama and Twenty-first Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA

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Barack Obama has been called a transformative and transcendental figure, and this book shows just how significant the movement behind him was for the politics of the United States.

Horace Campbell examines the networks that made the electoral victory possible and discusses the importance of self-organization and self-emancipation in politics. Situated in the context of the agency of new social forces galvanised in the 2008 electoral season, the book develops a theory of politics that starts with the humanist principles of ubuntu, healing and reparations for the 21st century. It argues that key ideas like quantum politics and a 'network of networks' move away from old forms of vanguardism during a period in history that can be characterised as a revolutionary moment.

This book is an essential undergraduate guide to new forms of political organization in the US.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This book helps us recognize that we are living in a revolutionary moment. ... We need to develop new consciousness ... and become active in new political sites where people are creating a participatory democracy in struggles for life, education, health and community.” -- Grace Lee Boggs, author, anti-racist activist and feminist

“Barack Obama's presidency provides a rare opening for change. Whether we make use of it as we should is up to us. ... Campbell's book is a bracing reminder of all the threads of history woven into this extraordinary moment, a warning about the military and financial forces trying to keep things as they are, and an inspiration to work for the very different world that could be within our grasp.” --Adam Hochschild, writer and journalist, co-founder of Mother Jones magazine and author of King Leopold's Ghost (2006)

“Scholar-activist Horace Campbell has given us a provocative new perspective on the United States' first Black president. The book is a 'must read' for those interested in Black American and American politics and the shifting global realities of the 21st century. It is sure to spark animated debate.” -- Barbara Ransby, Associate Professor of African American Studies and History, University of Illinois–Chicago

“Horace Campbell probes the campaign of Barack Obama and finds a revolutionary potential vested in the use of new strategies and in its agenda for progressive social, economic and political change that would be historic if successfully affected in governance and accepted by a society truly ready for change.” -- Ronald W. Walters, former Director of the African American Leadership Institute of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745330075
  • Publisher: Pluto Press
  • Publication date: 10/26/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Horace G. Campbell teaches at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. He has been involved in the peace and justice movements for decades. His most important book, Rasta and Resistance From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney, is going through its seventh edition. He is also the author of Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of Liberation.

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Table of Contents

Preface and aknowledgments

1 Revolutionary Moments and Ruptures 1

Revolutionary Moments: Lessons from the French and Cuban Revolutions 3

New Concept of Shared Humanity 6

Ubuntu 8

Elements of the Revolutionary Moment 10

Beyond Vanguardism in the Twenty-First Century 15

Classical Music meets Jazz 20

Reparations and Revolution 23

New Militants and Sites of Politics 25

Conclusion 26

2 The Political Training of Barack Obama 29

Ubuntu and Non-Racial Democracy 34

Lessons in Ubuntu 36

Toots and the Dignity of Work 38

Training as a Community Organizer in Chicago 40

Searching for Life Purpose and Healing in Kenya 48

Redemption 50

Michelle Robinson: The Personal is Political 52

Conclusion 55

3 Confronting Racism and Sexism in US Politics 58

Phase I The Electoral College and "Three-Fifths of a Human" 63

Phase II The Civil War and the Struggle for Democracy 67

Phase III Autonomous Organizing and the Harriet Tubman Principles 69

Reconstruction and the Third Phase 71

Counter-Revolution 72

Benjamin Tillman, Sexualized Violence and the Consolidation of Racism 73

Long-Term Legacies of the Third Phase 76

Eugenics and the Ideological Victory of the South 77

Eugenics and Technological Singularity 80

Conclusion: Democratization as a Process 82

Racism and the Old Left 84

Beyond the Limitations of Liberal Thought 85

4 Grassroots Organizing Confronts the Machine 88

Revolutions by Ordinary People - the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party 94

Obama's Learning from the Ella Baker Principles 95

Beyond Vanguardism 100

The Conservative Counter-offensive in the US before the Rise of the Obama Phenomenon 101

The Attempted Intervention of Jesse Jackson 104

The Democratic Party and the Hierarchy of Power 106

Leaderism, Vanguardism, and the Party Boss 111

Technocrats, Bosses, and Political Advantage 112

From Bosses to Political Consultants 113

The Clintons Inherit the Party Machinery 114

Conclusion 118

5 Fractal Wisdom and Optimism in the Primary Campaign of 2008 120

Campaigning as a Human Being, not a Black Candidate 121

Hope and Change 123

Scaling, Self-Similarity, and Recursion in the Campaign 125

Ubuntu meets Ubuntu 126

Proving Ground in South Carolina 130

Building a National Presence and Bottom-Up Fundraising 135

Obama's Amazing Money Machine 136

The Struggles in the Primaries 138

The Centrality of Economics and Politics 139

The Intervention of the Youth Vote and the Grassroots 141

The Iowa Caucus 142

The Centrality of Racism in US Politics 144

Internal Collapse of the Vast Clinton Apparatus 147

Conclusion 148

6 Between the Past and the Future: The Democratic National Convention 153

Burdens of the Past 153

New and Old Forces at the Convention 155

Shadows of the Past and the Denver setting 156

The Promise of a Green Convention 158

T. Boone Pickens and Forgiveness 160

Insiders and Outsiders in Denver 164

The Clinton Brigade in Denver 166

Michelle Obama and the Caucuses 169

The Latino/Hispanic Caucus at the Convention 172

Who are the Latinos? 173

Roll Call and Nomination 174

Acceptance Speech and Marketing the Candidate 175

Conclusion 176

7 Ground Operation for Victory: Challenging the Ruthlessness of the Wounded Corporate Bankers 179

The Moment of September 186

Ruthlessness and Recklessness 188

The World of Derivatives, Politics, and Ruthlessness 190

Financialization as Economic Terrorism 193

Henry Paulson and the Drama of the Moment of September 195

Elements of the Coup 196

Speechless and Politics 197

Obama and the Presidential Campaign 199

The Legacies of Jesse Helms in North Carolina 202

Respect, Empower, Include - Observing the Ground Operation at First Hand 205

Youth Activists and the Wall of Hope 205

Tolerance and the Networks 206

Rowan County and Salisbury Town 208

Mecklenburg County and Crossing into south Carolina 209

The Nerve Center in Raleigh-Durham 210

A Divided Military 211

Conclusion 212

8 Beyond Messiahs: Networks for Peace and Transformation in the Twenty-First Century 215

Introduction 215

The Trap of Messianism and Militarism 219

Liberalism, Missionism, and the Long War 224

War as Peace 226

Would Obama End Up Like Toussaint? 227

Networking and Solidarity 229

The Peace, Anti-Racist, and Reparations Nodes of the Revolutionary Process 232

Peace and the Meaning of Work 234

Revolution and the Tipping Point 239

Peace and the Inheritance of Black Liberation 241

Progressive Women and the Peace Movement 243

Building a New Democracy 244

Conclusion 247

9 Ubuntu and Twenty-First-Century Revolution 249

The Setting and the Challenges 249

Ubuntu, Quantum Politics, and the Revolutionary Moment 255

Environmental Justice, a Fractal Outlook, and Quantum Leaps 259

Ubuntu, Self-Organization, and Self-Mobilization 263

Abraham Lincoln and the Second Revolution in the United States 265

Ubuntu, Self-Organization, and New Leadership 268

New Leadership and Optimism in Society 269

Optimism as a Political Act 272

Notes 276

Further reading 302

Index 309

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