Revolution #203, June 13, 2010

Obama and the BP Oil Catastrophe:


The Gulf of Mexico oil disaster is like a murder in progress. Birds caked in oil, waiting to die…all kinds of species, big and small, being poisoned and killed… wetland grasses, the heart of the coastal ecosystems soaking in oil and withering away…the lives of fishermen ruined.

Millions of people are anguished and furious at the prospects of many more months of millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf, of the government’s continuing failure to protect the fragile shore lands, and even more devastation to all kinds of marine life and birds. Some people hope Obama and the U.S. government will somehow come to the rescue and do the right thing. But the Obama government is directly and criminally culpable in this disaster:

These crimes are not simply the result of a “scandalously close relationship” (in Obama’s own words) between officials of federal regulatory agencies and the oil companies, or of the government being caught flat-footed and being too passive. Yes, there is plenty of greed and corruption and incompetence to go around. But there is something deeper and systemicat work.

Obama is the head of a state that represents the interests of the capitalist/imperialist system, which exploits and squeezes the lifeblood out of billions of people around the world. This system bases its entire functioning on the extraction of cheap and extremely profitable energy sources from “fossil fuels”—oil, gas, and coal—despite the fact that the use of these fossil fuels has been tremendously destructive to the environment and has led to potentially catastrophic climate changes on a global scale.

For the U.S. rulers, their position as the top imperialist power is inextricably linked to access to and control of massive amounts of fossil fuels (which is one reason for the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the support for Israel as the U.S. attack dog in the Middle East, and the threats against Iran). The U.S. military is, in fact, the largest single institutional purchaser of oil. With more easily extractable sources of oil drying up, this has become an era of “tough oil,” with capitalist mega-corporations and countries rushing—and competing with each other—to drill in more dangerous and harder-to-reach places, and for even more polluting sources of oil, with heightened potential for catastrophes. This deeper imperative is what has been driving the drilling in the Gulf of Mexico at depths of a mile and more.

And the reason this government will not, and can not, really mobilize the masses of scientists, technical experts, and ordinary people is because of the private nature of capitalism. Capitalism can’t confront this problem and mobilize humanity to deal with it because any such mobilization could undercut its necessity to defend the “sanctity of private property” and to maintain masses of people in a suppressed and subordinate position. This is a sharp example of how the interests of the capitalist class and the interests of humanity as a whole are in antagonism.

It will take a whole new system—a revolutionary socialist society that is moving toward a world free of all exploitation and oppression—to deal with such disasters in a radically different way. A revolutionary state can and will mobilize, rely on, and lead the masses of people in dealing with such disasters and other social contradictions—unleashing the creativity and energy of the people, seeking out all kinds of ideas and using the best ones, bringing out people’s highest aspirations, and applying all that to genuinely creative and cooperative solutions.

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