PRESIDENT Obama’s inaugural address was Churchillian in tone, but lacking in concrete content, limiting itself to spelling out that the US ruling class was threatened and was at war, at a time when many saw the decline of US imperialism as being inevitable, and that very tough decisions would have to be taken.
It was also cowardly in that the battles ahead were hinted at but the enemies left un-named, and the deeds to be done left to the imagination.
He did not spell out that the US working class would have to settle for big cuts in its jobs, wages and conditions, and giving up its right to strike in the major industries.
Also in a speech that sketched out a world crisis, he did not say a word about the slaughter of the Palestinian people in Gaza by Israel, which had shocked the entire planet, but had ended on cue, that Tuesday morning, so that his inaugural ceremony would be undisturbed by the bloodletting and the screams of the injured.
He told the vast two million strong crowd, that was celebrating the USA’s first black president, that ‘every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.’
He added: ‘Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices. . . .’
He spoke of a ‘nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.’
He lauded the ‘risk-takers’ and the ‘doers’, saying: ‘Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. . . . Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.’
Getting to the point he declared: ‘The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act’, but proceeded no further in outlining the necessary action. He added: ‘But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions, that time has surely passed. . . . For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.’ The nature of the work remained under wraps.
He did declare his loyalty to capitalism: ‘Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched . . . .’
Touching on foreign policy he said that: ‘We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan.’
The reality is that he is planning to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, and has not disowned the Bush policy of hot pursuit into Pakistan.
He added: ‘To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.’ The Muslim world remains unconvinced by these few words, especially since there was not a word said about Gaza.
He concluded: ‘Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.’
This is the hope. However, the battle against the US working class and the oppressed nations with the stepping up of the Afghan war and intervention into Pakistan, lies ahead.
With the election of the first black president, the US ruling class has bought itself a certain amount of time.
However, directly ahead the US working class will discover that Obama cannot keep his pre-election pledges to the trade unions that organised his victory. Workers will reject his policy that they must sacrifice their jobs, wages and living standards and right to strike, to save US capitalism.
This will hasten the break of the US trade unions with the Democratic party and see the emergence of a Labour Party. The struggle for a socialist USA will begin.