Obama and the New Sinophobia?

What can we say about Obama’s most recent address to Congress?

Firstly, it’s an attempt to consolidate the bourgeois centre parties against the working classes and in favour of an austerity policy that will inevitably hit the poorest the hardest – despite a smokescreen of talk about maintaining support for education and stopping subsidies to oil firms.

Second, that in this context his comments about China strategically deploy a steadily heightening sinophobia. His choice of analogy – “this is our Sputnik moment” – makes this abundantly clear. Need we add to this the situation of North Korea?

“National unity”, though, is the key theme of the day, with unabashed talk of the “national destiny of our people”. In the context of austerity, the “we” here is obviously a false harmonization of very real class conflicts.

Whether or not these conflicting interests develop into actual sustained protest remains to be seen. Many of those who should form this bloc will instead be integrated into the anti-statism of the right-wing populist opposition. Others will be integrated by other means, or worn down by the appearance of inevitability that is settling like so much choking dust across the “west”. Still: at the moment the contradictions are so apparent and palpable that something may yet happen.

A further question: are these the conditions for fascism to re-emerge? The consolidation of the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois against the working classes at a time of economic crisis; the abjection of social conflicts onto a racial other, seen as an economic and military threat; the rise of a right-wing populist movement; the (re)creation of nationalist myths….? Perhaps. One thing is absent from the schema, though: the “enemy within” – a left-wing movement that would further consolidate the bourgeoisie and justify a “state of emergency”.

It seems there’s a limit to such parallels, then; situations retain a specificity that it is far beyond my present ability and scope here to delineate. Nevertheless, the situation remains deeply troubling.



~ by Wit on January 26, 2011.

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