It took an entire term for President Obama to catch up with the majority of Americans (7 out of 10) who support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (Gallup, 2/5/13).
Policy makers are at least pretending to listen now because of one thing—pressure. Pressure because they can no longer dismiss public anger over Obama being on track to deport as many immigrants as all U.S. presidents in the last century combined (Huffington Post, 1/31/13), or over how frequently border patrol and “concerned citizens” gun down unarmed migrants crossing the border.
Pressure because the immigrant rights movement has resuscitated itself since the last time immigration reform was debated in Congress. Obama did not speak concretely about the issue until immigrant rights activists occupied his 2012 campaign offices in Denver, Oakland, and Detroit, some on hunger strike.
Although policy makers from both sides can no longer evade these burning forces pushing them to act fast, the Obama-endorsed bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators tasked with formulating a reform plan can at least give reform a non-threatening, pro-corporate cast. This is why Obama and the Gang of Eight’s pillow-soft reforms will fall light years short of guaranteeing hard legal rights for immigrants.
In an era when the gap between establishment politicians, who defend big business and the super-rich, and the masses seems to widen inexorably Chavez stood out. In fact in the age of austerity the measures he took to alleviate poverty stood out like a beacon.
The workers and youth in Venezuela will be joined by many around the globe who have been inspired to support Hugo Chavez’s regime as offering an alternative to imperialism, neoliberalism and capitalism.
Meanwhile the most pernicious right-wing capitalist commentators have wasted neither time nor ink in their outpourings of hatred of his regime.
The mourning of his passing and anger at these attacks must be channelled into a new stage of working class struggle for socialism in Venezuela and internationally.
American Marxists have always been ambivalent about electoral formations arising to the left of the Democrats and Republicans. On one hand, they view such third parties as a necessary alternative to the two-party system; on the other, they inevitably regard them as rivals. Even when Lenin urged support for reformist electoral parties, he couched this in terms of the way a rope supports a hanging man. Needless to say, this outlook almost condemns Marxists to irrelevancy when a genuine electoral initiative like the Nader campaign emerges.
Unless revolutionaries are committed in their heart and soul to grassroots movements, electoral or non-electoral, such begrudging tokens of support are bound to lead to missteps.