Saturday, November 22, 2008

Some Cyanide to Go With That Whine?

Anti-Racist activist, writer and provocateur, Tim Wise, has penned a new essay: "Some Cyanide to Go With That Whine? Obama's Victory and the Rage of the Barbiturate Left" I'd be very interested in any responses other folks have to Wise's critique of the American Left...

Here is his basic point:
... one of the key problems with the left in the U.S. Namely, for the sake of ideological purity few within the professional left expressed any joy about life, or any emotion whatsoever that wasn't rooted in negativity. They are like the political equivalent of quaaludes: guaranteed to bring you down from whatever partly optimistic place you might find yourself from time to time.

Be sure to check out the whole essay. There is much food for thought there. And the comments are interesting, too.

What do you think about Wise's analysis?

UPDATE: Wise has posted a response to some criticism he has received on his article from lefties, titled, "ARE WORDS (AND HISTORY) THAT HARD TO UNDERSTAND? A FINAL RESPONSE TO THE MORE-RADICAL-THAN-THOU CRITIQUE OF OBAMA SUPPORTERS"


  1. I'm glad he talks about linking anger with optimism, and doing the actual work. I've been talking an activist friend involved with far-left groups in Chicago, and he says he stand almost alone in trying to work with Obama supporters to make a broader movement.

    Factionalism and arrogance definitely define groups like Bob Avakian's (at a conference on Marxism in London a number of them showed up and talked about getting guns and storming the White House). I think it's unfortunate, therefore, that Nader and Avakian are lumped close together in this article. I didn't vote Nader because of moral superiority, although of course there were those who did. But these people aren't "Maoists", and many are currently taking a similar approach to Tim Wise in their outlook regarding the future.

    Regardless, Tim's point here is right on, even if I disagree with some of the specifics (which are probably meant to be humorous anyway?). It reminds me of a Murray Bookchin article I read once, where he talked about the conflict between cigarette smoking proletarians and joint token hippy students.

  2. I appreciate Tim Wise as a reliable ally in the struggle to end white supremacy. In the case of speaking out as an unaffiliated leftist he is no revolutionary thinker. He doesn't get the need for organization and the strategic activities of educating and agitating to get to organization. We are seeing the bankrupt political system shaped by capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy and white supremacy. Obama has been clear that he's in it, of it and about keeping it. Since Obama is clear that he's no revolutionary, no socialist- those of us who are should be truthful and not be caught up in the celebration of the referendum on race that elected Obama. Time for celebration is over. Time for accountability is now. We must make Obama do what he promised. What he's doing will not result in the change people voted for. I proudly voted for Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente in the context of a movement building strategy. And I will continue talking with and working with activists who voted for Obama. Some Obama voters are already clear that Obama must feel the push from the bottom. Let's hit the streets!

  3. Wise has posted a response to some early negative reaction to his article. You might want to check it out here:

  4. I read Wise's response to the criticism and I think he had many interesting points about the balance between left and right in US history.

    Conservatism in America was revitalized thanks to Reagan's victory in 1980. The enthusiasm from that moment still reflects on the level of the grass roots on the right. Yet many of those activists are vocally against some of the things Reagan actually did and supported as president.

    Some commentators like to see Obama's victory in 2008 as a similar transforming moment as Reagan's victory in 1980. If it will be such a moment, it may not be so much about what Obama actually does and says but the symbolic meaning of the event to liberal activists.

    What will follow of Obama's victory to America and to the world is something future historians will be able to determine. Nobody knew in 1980 what all things Reagan would come to mean to different people in different parts of the world. We don't know yet what the meaning of Obama will be.

    But politicians who inspire hope in their supporters tend to have more far reaching consequences than those who simply come up with a negative agenda. I guess that's what Wise is trying to say in his way of comparing Obama to JFK. Yet the consequences may be unforeseeable and people see in their political heroes what they want to see. This I guess is true about Lincoln, TR, FDR, JFK, Reagan and any president who has inspired their supporters. But it's important that so many people turned out to vote.

    We in the rest of the world often tend to look down on the US political system because of the lack of enthusiasm in political participation compared to at least many European countries. But right now the trend of people caring about politics is upward in the US while here in Europe it's not so clear what's going to happen and there aren't too many inspiring figures on the European stage right now.