RAY O’ LIGHT Newsletter
November-December 2009
Number 57 

Publication of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA

“American Exceptionalism” in the Obama Era:
The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize and Michael Moore’s Love Affair With Capitalism

The Soviet-led alliance ended World War II with the defeat of the fascist Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan. This “grand alliance” had featured unity of the Stalin and communist party-led Soviet Union with what was becoming the most powerful imperialist country of the time, the USA. Ever since then, the main manifestation of class collaboration from within the ranks of communist parties and organizations, as well as socialist and anti-imperialist activists and freedom fighters around the world, has been rapprochement with U.S. imperialism. The main rationale for such rapprochement has been “American Exceptionalism,” the idea that the USA, unlike all previous imperialist powers, was somehow able to avoid the striving for violent domination and oppression of the world’s peoples and could be reasoned and worked with.

The triumph of modern revisionism in the USSR in the late 1950’s and then in China in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, in particular, featured the opportunist plague of “American Exceptionalism” and the establishment of rapprochement with U.S. imperialism. The demise and dissolution of the Socialist Camp and the undermining of the powerful national liberation movements of the oppressed peoples of Asia, Africa, Latin America, Arabia and Afro-America followed.

With the end of the Vietnam War in the mid 1970’s, “American Exceptionalism” held sway internationally as imperialist globalization took root in the world capitalist economy. And, in all corners of the globe, capitalism, and especially U.S. capitalism, was touted as “a miracle worker.” People just had to be patient. Eventually, they, too, would get the globalization pay-off, was the conventional wisdom of the time.

Only in the new millennium, with the advent of the Regime of George W. Bush and its blatant unilateral wars and occupations of whole countries, i.e. Bush’s global war of terror, did the fact  become undeniable that U.S. imperialism was functioning precisely in accordance with Lenin’s classic teachings on imperialism, with its inevitable striving for violence and war. Indeed, George W. Bush, with the chauvinism, arrogance, brutishness and ignorance of an emperor, conducted a foreign policy of U.S. Empire, with less and less diplomacy and more and more military posturing and firepower.

The eight years of the Bush Regime ended ignominiously with military quagmire in Iraq and Afghanistan, increasing isolation of U.S. imperialism from its erstwhile allies, and, finally, a global capitalist economic crisis which began in the USA. It was in this crisis setting that U.S. imperialism allowed/selected a man of color, a man with charisma and strong mental faculties, to become the helmsman of the U.S. imperialist state. “Obama-mania” was the ultimate product of a two year multibillion dollar campaign to convince the people of the USA and the world that the naked imperialist violence and oppression experienced under George W. Bush was an aberration and that “America” was, and still is, “exceptional.” Indeed, this global deception is working thus far.*

*The Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index (NBI) survey on which countries are most admired (conducted annually since 2005) resulted, in 2009, in the USA topping the list for the first time and jumping from seventh to first place in one year. Mr. Anholt, in a press release on the survey, stated: “What’s really remarkable is that in all my years studying national reputation, I have never seen any country experience such a dramatic change in its standing as we see for the United States in 2009. The results suggest that the new US administration has been well received abroad and the American electorate’s decision to vote in President Obama has given the United States the status of the world’s most admired country.” (Christian Science Monitor, 10-6-09)

However, the need of international capital to defend and promote illusions about Obama and U.S. imperialism as well as the capitalist system of political economy itself has become even more crucial today in the context of what has already become the most severe world capitalist economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. For the previous fascination of the vast majority of the world’s peoples with capitalism has been broken.

The two articles that follow deal with prominent, recent efforts by U.S. and international capital and by opportunist forces seeking accommodation with capital, to keep alive bourgeois democratic illusions about the current U.S. imperialist state and the Obama-Biden Administration that is today leading this state and leading the effort to save the capitalist system.

The first selection is an article on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to U.S. President Obama. The Nobel recognition of Obama has been praised by “the usual suspects” of international social democracy from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to former prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa to former winner Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to last year’s winner, Martti Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland. It also includes U.S. imperialism’s notoriously corrupt puppet in Afghanistan, President Karzai, who hopes it helps lead to “[imperialist] peace and stability in Afghanistan and our region.” (Boston Globe, 10-18-09)

Unfortunately, praise for Obama’s selection also came from Fidel Castro. Such bourgeois democratic illusions about (“hopes for”) the Obama Administration on the part of Latin American leftist government leaders help explain why the military coup in Honduras (led by generals trained at the U.S. based School of the Americas) that toppled elected Honduran President Zelaya at the beginning of this past summer has been able to withstand the overwhelming opposition from the increasingly leftist movement across the South American continent for more than four months. Fortunately, we are not alone in opposing and exposing Obama’s Nobel Prize. Bruce A. Dixon, managing editor of Black Agenda Report, concludes his outstanding article, “Top Ten Reasons President Obama Should Give Back the Nobel Peace Prize,” with the following: “The Nobel Peace Prize … will hang around Obama’s neck like a millstone, a token of the vast gulf between the fiction of a progressive black president and the reality of just another imperial CEO minding the same old store.” 

The second selection is, basically, a critical review of the new Michael Moore film, “Capitalism: A Love Story.” Moore, an award-winning documentary film-maker, has effectively dealt with several important foundations of U.S. imperialist society in the past. This time, in the name of condemning the entire capitalist system in the USA, Moore nonetheless manages to promote bourgeois democratic illusions about Barack Obama, the current chieftain of the main bulwark of world capitalism. Michael Moore does pose a fundamental question, however. Is twenty-first century U.S. capitalism worth saving?

Taken in its entirety, this Newsletter helps to expose the role of cultural forces in propping up the most powerful reactionary force in today’s world ― imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism.

Nobel “Peace” Prize: Illusion Versus Reality*

*This brief article was originally written by Rose Brown, of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA for Northstar Compass, the Toronto-based organ of the International Council for Friendship and Solidarity with Soviet People.

On October 9, it was announced that President Barack Obama, chief representative of the leading imperialist power in the world today, the USA, had been chosen to receive the “Nobel Peace Prize.” How outrageous!! What a farce!! What confusion between illusion and reality!!

Some people believe that the Nobel Prize Committee’s decision was “premature,” while others, including the President himself, have called it a “call to action.” But let’s honestly examine some key actions already taken by new U.S. imperialist chieftain Obama, both in his Presidential campaign and since his inauguration, in relation to war and peace.

In January 2009, in a Ray O’ Light Newsletter entitled “The Inauguration of a new President – The Continuation of U.S. Imperialist Rule,” the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA (ROL,USA) noted that “Obama has selected a National Security Team of war mongers, connected to the military-industrial and finance capitalist complex. All have already proven themselves in the service of arch war criminal George W. Bush!” This team includes Bush’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who Obama retained; and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State “with her track record of six years on the Senate Armed Services Committee and strong support for Bush’s so-called war on terror.”

Only a few days after assuming the Presidency, Obama authorized the bombing of Pakistan. U.S. “drone” bombings of Pakistan have continued since then and resulted in numerous civilian deaths. During the Presidential campaign, candidate Obama advocated the expansion of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As chieftain of U.S. imperialism, Obama has almost doubled the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 32,000 when he took office to 62,000 today. Just last week, an additional 13,000 “support” troops were quietly deployed according to the Washington Post. Obama is currently “studying” recommendations of U.S. and NATO top military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, to further increase U.S. forces by up to an additional 45,000.

With regards to the war in Iraq, the top U.S. military commander, General Ray Odierno, recently testified that there are approximately 124,000 U.S. troops and more than 115,000 U.S. contracted [mercenary] forces still operating there – a far cry from the Obama campaign pledge to “end the war in Iraq,” but consistent with his plan to keep a permanent military force there. It appears that the present U.S. troop deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan combined is higher today than at any time during the Bush Administration!!

The Obama Administration has agreed to operate seven new U.S. military bases in Colombia where the U.S.-backed dictator Alvaro Uribe runs a country that leads the world in the assassination of trade union activists and where millions of peasants and indigenous people have been displaced from their land. The Filipino revolutionary movement has exposed the fact that the U.S. military is actively involved in combat operations there and recently sent thousands of U.S. troops to the Philippines to prop up the anti-people President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime under the pretext of a humanitarian crisis.

Unfortunately, due in large part to the global capitalist economic crisis and resulting massive youth unemployment in the USA, combined with large enlistment bonuses and the illusion that the Obama-Biden Administration represents “peace” and not “war,” all branches of the U.S. military have met their recruitment quotas this year for the first time since the so-called “voluntary” U.S. military was established 36 years ago! According to a Reuters report, the U.S. military started training a total of 169,000 new active-duty recruits and an additional 128,000 new reserve and national guard recruits during the fiscal year ending September 30.

From the above, it is clear that the reality today is that the U.S. imperialist government, with Democrat Barack Obama at the head, far from taking action to promote peace in the world, has continued to carry out the U.S. imperialist war policy of the internationally hated and isolated Republican George W. Bush in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world!!

ROL,USA warned in December, 2008, that “Obama’s outstanding personal qualities and the pacifist and social-democratic illusions that have been spread about him and thus about the U.S. imperialist state over which he will preside make his administration all the more dangerous for the U.S. and international proletariat and oppressed peoples as we struggle against the old, collapsing violent and unjust world dominated by monopoly capitalism and struggle for survival, human dignity and a new socialist world where all peoples can live in peace and harmony.” (Ray OLight Newsletter #51, “The Positive and Negative Significance of the Obama Election Victory”)

This is not the first time that the Nobel Prize Committee has awarded this prestigious “peace” award to an individual who has stood for the opposite of what the award claims to represent. Theodore Roosevelt, the U.S. President from 1901-1909 as the USA emerged as an imperialist power in the world, was granted the award in 1906. Roosevelt led the colonial takeover of Puerto Rico and Cuba and the U.S. imperialist ongoing bloody occupation and mass slaughter in the Philippines. In 1919, Woodrow Wilson, U.S. President from 1913-1921, was given the “peace” award. Wilson led the United States into World War I, an imperialist war over control of the world’s resources which resulted in the crippling and death of tens of millions of workers, farmers and their families.

More recently, in 1973, the war criminal Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State for U.S. President Richard Nixon, a key imperialist war strategist during the Vietnam war, leader of the four-year “secret” bombing campaign against Cambodia and architect of the U.S. imperialist coup against democratically elected President Salvador Allende of Chile, was given the “peace” award.  Finally, former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore (1993-2001) was given the award in 2007 for his work in defense of the environment. However, the use of depleted uranium weapons by the U.S. military in the U.S.-led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia during Gore’s term of office resulted in untold environmental degradation and cancer deaths.

Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the leading representative of U.S. imperialism in the world today helps to prop up the imperialist system and U.S. imperialism in particular, at a time when the system itself is in crisis. It furthers social democratic illusions about the Obama Presidency and U.S. imperialism. Peace and justice loving people around the world need to break with these illusions!! We need to fight together for true peace. The great Lenin taught that imperialism breeds war. The history of the last century has confirmed the truth of his teachings. The path to world peace is through the defeat of imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism, leading to the elimination of the capitalist system of exploitation of humanity and the establishment of Socialism.

Michael Moore’s Love Affair With Capitalism

A Movie Review and More

Award winning documentary film maker Michael Moore’s new film, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” exposes much of the criminal character of the current socio-economic system in the USA. And it does so, in his usual popular style. But the movie also reflects the fact that Moore has not gotten over his love affair with capitalism yet.

In “Roger and Me,” “Bowling for Columbine” and “Sicko,” Moore has demonstrated a real willingness to expose the greed of the U.S. auto company titans, the violence that permeates the very fabric of U.S. imperialist society and the barbarity of the U.S. health care system as compared with health care delivery in Canada, England, France, and most compellingly, Cuba.  Equally impressive has been his ability to portray these subjects in a manner that the people of the USA can understand and embrace. As the son of a retired auto worker from General Motors’ historic citadel, Flint, Michigan, Moore has an exceptionally good feel for what culturally keeps the working people of the USA loyal to their corporate masters. And his films have contained dramatic visual elements and political-social events that help to tear apart the ties that bind the U.S. population to U.S. imperialism.

Once again, in the new film, Moore picks out some outrageous examples of “capitalism run wild” in the USA. For example, he highlights the brilliant effort by U.S. Airways pilot, “Sully” Sullenberger, whose skillful leadership was key to saving the lives of his entire crew and all passengers with a bold landing in the Hudson River. Captain Sullenberger, a proud union man, is then shown using his new found fame to testify before Congress how airline pilots are having their training and their pay so drastically slashed that it is a growing safety problem in the airline industry. Moore provides proof of this, pointing to the poorly trained and poorly paid pilots whose plane crashed in Buffalo, New York a few months later, while the pilot and co-pilot were preoccupied discussing their financial woes.

Moore draws attention to the cozy relationship that existed for some years between a few Pennsylvania judges and the private company that runs the local juvenile detention center, from whom the judges received kickbacks. Privatization of this prison resulted in these bribed judges locking up innocent youth, for many months at a time, in order to keep the facilities filled and to maximize the company’s profits.

One of the most moving elements in the film is Moore’s providing human faces to a few of the hundreds of thousands now being evicted from their homes after mortgage foreclosures. Many families who have never lived anywhere else are being kicked out by bankers and the local police authorities with no regard to what will happen to them. What shamelessness driven by greed!

In the film, Moore wraps yellow crime scene tape around Wall Street headquarter buildings of financial companies complicit in the meltdown of the U.S. economy in 2008 which have been the beneficiaries of multi-billion dollar bailouts from the U.S. government since. He tries to make a “citizen’s arrest” of the criminal chieftains of these corporations. He also identifies a number of Democratic politicians and appointees who have been accomplices of the Bush-Cheney Republicans in this theft of the U.S. national treasure, “in broad daylight,” on behalf of their Wall Street billionaire bosses.

All these scenes are thought-provoking and provide some “fresh air” of truth to a U.S. population anesthetized by alcohol, prescription and street drugs and a stupefying TV-led monopoly capitalist mass media.

At the same time, Moore presents a number of dramatic images and situations which show some hopeful signs in the initiatives of working people. He promotes workplace democracy and successful worker-run cooperative businesses, after raising the fact that workers in the USA spend eight, ten or twelve hours a day under the dictatorship of their bosses. Moore also focuses much attention on the Sit-down Strike of Republic Windows workers in Chicago in December 2008. And he is supportive of their small but democratic union, United Electrical Workers (UE). He points out that the people of the USA, at a moment when their anger at the banks and corporations was at its height, were sympathetic with the Republic Windows strikers who won their demands for all their contractually provided severance benefits. All these reform struggles, highlighted in the film, are positive and worthy of support.

However, Michael Moore claims that he hopes his new film, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” arouses the people of the USA to abolish capitalism here. It is important to note that Moore falls seriously short of his stated goal.

During the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, our organization called for U.S. voters “to cast their vote against the twin parties of U.S. imperialism, Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Cast a protest vote.” One of the three alternative recommendations we made was: “Write in ‘Michael Moore’ in tribute to his ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ film that has helped educate more U.S. working class and oppressed nationality folks about Bush’s War than all of us on the U.S. left combined!” We did add, however, “But shame on him for endorsing Kerry.” (“The 2004 U.S. Presidential Election and the Question of Fascism,” Ray O’ Light Newsletter, September 2004)

It turns out that Moore’s endorsement of multi-millionaire John Kerry, the Democratic Party candidate, was more than a momentary or incidental political weakness. For, once again, in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Moore endorsed the Democratic candidate against the Republican. This time, the man he endorsed was a man of color, with some notable educational achievements, and with an apparently dignified and wholesome Black family; the candidate was also from much more humble origins than George W. Bush’s fellow Yale University Skull and Bones society member, John Kerry. All these personal attributes have endeared Barack Obama to Michael Moore.

Now, with Obama as the sitting President and with Moore’s persistent defense of Obama, how can Moore effectively call for the elimination of capitalism in the USA today? He cannot.

Among the inaccuracies, omissions and distortions of this film that render it a plea, not for the elimination but for the continuation of capitalism, albeit in a fairer, more peaceful form, are the following:

1.   Moore separates the politics from the economics of the capitalist system rather than recognizing that the heart of capitalism is dialectically interconnected political-economy. He claims to desire the elimination of the capitalist economic system; yet he buries the struggle for political power that it entails. Rather than recognizing the strategic role of the working class in the elimination of capitalism, through the struggle for workers power against the capitalist state, Moore’s film limits the role of the working class to the struggle for economic reforms such as worker-cooperatives.

2.   Moore separates the abolition of U.S. capitalism from the abolition of U.S. Empire, in contradiction to the teachings of Lenin that imperialism is the last, dying and highest stage of capitalism. His petty bourgeois conception of U.S. capitalism is a throwback to the earliest days of the United States two hundred years ago, or, even further, to the earliest days of new and rising capitalism in feudal Europe. He focuses entirely on the USA and its people, as if the U.S. economy is not totally interconnected with the rest of the U.S.-led global capitalist economy.  In the film, for example, the imperialist wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan are not explained as flowing from the essence of the U.S. capitalist system. They are addressed only in the way they affect the people of the USA, burying the impact that the capitalist system in the USA has on the workers and oppressed peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan and so many other lands. The Obama Regime’s expansion of the war in Afghanistan and into Pakistan is, of course, omitted. This is social-chauvinism.

3.   Moore never mentions the role of the Soviet Union, whose tremendous domestic accomplishments during the period of the last Great Capitalist Depression, leadership of the global alliance that defeated German fascism and its Axis allies in World War II, and leadership in the creation of a socialist camp, point the way to a socialist future for humanity. Instead, capitalist Germany, the current Chinese state, and a few other capitalist states, are held up by Moore as current models of a more efficient and less brutal capitalism than the USA in relation to the auto industry, etc. Indeed, more civilized, more democratic capitalism is the limit of Moore’s vision for the USA. When asked if he is a Social-Democrat, Moore replies that he is for democracy.*

*He is clearly a social-democrat by world standards. And his evasion of this label reflects his fear of the extreme political backwardness of the U.S. population after decades of U.S. Empire, i.e. of U.S. imperialist hegemony, and the consequent parasitic and corrupt culture of U.S. society. But this same backward cultural milieu is the very context in which Michael Moore’s films have such positive political significance and potential.

4.   Moore’s film never exposes Obama and the current Democratic administration. He does expose the fact that, in the current capitalist crisis, Democratic politicians as well as Republicans and the financial advisors associated with them, including Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner, have loyally served the corrupt finance capitalists of Wall Street who today rule the USA. But Moore omits the striking and crucial fact that Obama appointed these very Wall Street stooges to oversee the U.S. economy, causing a seamless monopoly capitalist transition from the discredited Bush Administration so as to continue “bailing the finance capitalists instead of jailing them!” Quite an omission!

In an interview with The Nation’s Naomi Klein, Moore says of Obama, “If he’s going to listen to the Rubins and the Geithners and the Summerses, you and I lose. And a lot of people who have gotten involved, many of them for the first time, won’t get involved again. He will have done more to destroy what needs to happen in this country in terms of people participating in their democracy. So I hope he understands the burden that he’s carrying and does the right thing.”

Klein, as gently and politely as possible, raises: “But he is the person who appointed Summers and Geithner, who you’re very appropriately hard on in the film. And one year later, he hasn’t reined in Wall Street. He reappointed Bernanke. He’s not just appointed Summers but given him an unprecedented degree of power ... Now it turns out they were just being brought in to keep stealing.”

In the face of Klein’s gentle but real exposure, Moore replies: “Right. So now it’s on him.” Two minutes earlier, Moore was hoping Obama “does the right thing.” Two minutes later, Moore admits “now it’s on him.” But that’s not in the film.

5.   Moore’s blind spot with regard to Obama is far from personal, however. At the end of The Nation interview, Naomi Klein praises Elizabeth Warren, the chief bailout congressional watchdog, who comes across as a woman of integrity in the film. Klein says, “She’s kind of like the anti-Summers. It’s enough to give you hope, that she exists.” Moore’s response: “Absolutely. And can I suggest a presidential ticket for 2016 or 2012 if Obama fails us? [Ohio Congresswoman] Marcy Kaptur and Elizabeth Warren.” (Our emphasis, ROL)

Thus Michael Moore, who supported John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008, is announcing ahead of time that he will support the Democratic candidate for President in 2012 or 2016 even “if Obama fails us.” So much for Moore’s call for the elimination of the capitalist system in the USA!!

Early in the same interview, Klein raises, “that most people favor universal healthcare, but they couldn’t rally behind it because it wasn’t on the table.” In response, Moore gently criticizes Obama for choosing “to take a half measure instead of the full measure that needed to happen. Had he taken the full measure – true single-payer, universal health care – I think he’d have millions out there backing him up.” Likewise, if Moore was not “half-stepping” on Obama and the Democrats, his stated intention of arousing and rallying the people of the USA to “eliminate capitalism” could have been quite effective.


Michael Moore’s latest film, “Capitalism: A Love Story” is not a proletarian revolutionary film; it does not rally the working class and the oppressed peoples within the U.S. multinational state to fight for the end of capitalism and the establishment of a Socialist USA.  However, the film does raise the fundamental notion of the “evil” character of the capitalist system and the idea of ending this system. Consequently, it is a valuable educational and organizing tool in the fight for justice for working people, for the abolition of the capitalist system and the establishment of a socialist USA.

On the eve of the inauguration of the Obama-Biden Administration last January, we concluded that, “Those proletarian revolutionaries, Marxist-Leninists, scientific socialists, who understand clearly that Obama has become the leader of the U.S. imperialist state, the chief bulwark of world capitalism, have a responsibility to help unite those working people who have illusions about Obama with those who do not,  in practical activities – tactically projecting petition campaigns, marches, strikes and solidarity strikes, sit-ins and sit-downs – making demands on Obama, channeling the mass mobilization into a fight for our own working class and mass interests in opposition to the interests of U.S. imperialism.” (“The Inauguration of a new President – the Continuation of U.S. Imperialist Rule,” Ray O’ Light Newsletter #52, January-February 2009)

Those of us who genuinely desire the elimination of the capitalist system from the USA and the world, and are willing to work toward that end, have a responsibility to utilize Michael Moore’s latest film, “Capitalism: A Love Story” in the revolutionary cause. As we struggle to win the hearts and minds of the workers and the oppressed for the revolutionary struggle for a Socialist USA and a socialist world, let’s invite our friends and co-workers to go see the movie with us. Let’s discuss with the workers and the oppressed the pros and cons of this agitational and educational film. In this way, we, and not Michael Moore, can, and should, make the film a vehicle for the elimination of the capitalist system.

Ray O. Light
November 1, 2009

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