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Obama wins four more years – what does it mean for workers?

By Peter Main

Barack Obama has got his “four more years”. That there was any doubt, shows the contrast to four years ago. Rather than maintaining the momentum of his campaign against George W Bush, Obama disappointed his supporters on virtually every issue since.

Guantanamo is still open, there are more troops in Afghanistan and the war has been extended into Pakistan. When the people of Egypt rose, Obama’s first instinct was to back the dictator, Hosni Mubarak.

Back home, the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler ensured the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. The Employee Free Choice Act, which would have strengthened union recruitment, was not passed. Universal healthcare provision was dropped in favour of enforced purchase of private insurance.

Unable to appeal to voters on the basis of his record, Obama relied on superior organisation to “get the vote out”. This extended to using cable TV viewing records and Yahoo’s analysis of programme audiences.

The campaign also benefited from fears of a Republican victory. Having gained nomination by pandering to the Tea Party, Romney then revealed his arrogant class prejudice against the “47% who don’t pay taxes” and called for “illegals” to “self deport”.

Is it any wonder the Republican voter demographic is increasingly white, male and aged? In fact this could lead to bitter clashes between the Tea Party crazies of the right and those who want to compete for Latino, Asian and younger voters with the Democrats.

Add to that the advantages of being the incumbent when the hurricane hit the East Coast, and it would be easy to see the outcome as a foregone conclusion, without any greater significance.

That would be wrong. Obama still had the support of the urban working class – white, Latino and black – as well as a majority among women. If one term was enough to dispel euphoria, it was not enough to remove all illusions.

However, the 14,000 votes (27 per cent) that Kshama Sawant received in Washington state when she challenged the speaker of the House as an Occupy-inspired Socialist Alternative candidate shows the potential for anticapitalist politics in the US.

And indeed history has shown that until there is an independent working class alterative, bold enough to target capitalism and to present a socialist alternative, illusions in the Democrats will not be shattered.

Some think Obama will be more radical in his second term because he will not be seeking re-election. We disagree. In his second term, Obama will have the same priorities, beginning with his solution to the “fiscal cliff”: already promising $4 trillion of cuts in state spending and “a little more taxation of the wealthy”.

Since he has to undertake a bipartisan stance with the reactionary Republican dominated House of Representatives it is likely we will see even bigger cuts in already meagre social programmes that mean the “richest nation in the world” has one of the most shamefully inadequate welfare systems among the older capitalist countries.

With unemployment numbers climbing once again, and union funds drained again by the $400 million thrown away on Obama’s re-election campaign and the Democrats, American workers will have to pick themselves up an organise the fight back including against the “friend of labour” in the White House.

This will have to include a struggle against the union bureaucrats on their eye watering salaries, who tie labour to the Democrats. These bureaucratic fat cats are also willing to sell their members wage levels and workplace rights as they claim to preserve jobs – in fact to cheapen labour power for US capital to aid it in its increasing rivalry with their fellow exploiters in Asia and Europe.

In the fight against Obama, a working class party has to be built so that disillusion in him does not benefit the Republicans or forces even further to the right, as the global crisis of capitalism grinds on.

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