Tom Buffenbarger Is Talking Like A Fool!

Living in a dream world

The only explanation I can conjure for the kinds of crazy things that are being said in public about President Obama by otherwise smart and savvy people is that the prolonged economic crisis, plus the protracted class war that is beating the working class down to the ground and robbing them of their dreams, is driving some people crazy!  A poignant case in point is the comments of Tom Buffenbarger, leader of the powerful Machinist Union, who spewed his anti-Obama invective on the Kieth Olberman show on MSNBC, Thursday night.

Part of Mr. Buffenbarger’s problem is that he was a passionate Hillary Clinton booster, and he has never accepted that the fact that Barack Obama defeated what looked like an invincible candidate.  But for him to continue to argue that Hillary in the Oval Office would have solved all of our problems is retarded.  He says that President Obama hasn’t accomplished anything for the working people of America.  And he conveniently forgets that Hillary was tasked with devising a solution to the nation’s health care ills, and even with her husband in the Oval Office and a Democratic Congress she got nowhere!

Barack got his health care bill passed! What Buaffenbarger and other cry babies on the left – who think it is sufficient to have temper tantrums in public because they didn’t get everything they want – should be doing is organizing mass demonstrations in support of health care as the states try to get it repealed in Federal Court.  Instead they are still sitting around whining about not getting the “public option.”  William Wimpensinger, who was the progressive leader of the Machinist union for many years, once remarked that the greatest mistake made by the labor movement was when the AFL-CIO decided to discontinue using the term “class struggle.” Perhaps that’s why American workers don’t understand the nature of the struggle they are in – and based on the way they voted in the recent elections they are clueless.

The only way anybody could arrive at the conclusion that President Obama has “done nothing for the working class,” especially a labor leader, is if they have had their head buried in their ass for the last two years!  Everything Mr. Obama has done has been directed at helping working people.  That’s why the plutocrats hate him!  Who, pray tell, was Mr. Obama trying to help when he expended so much political capital to pass health care legislation?  And who was he trying to help with the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Act, making equal pay for women the law? When he saved 1.4 million industrial jobs by rescuing the auto-industry, a major employer of Tom’s union members, in whose interests was he laboring?

And who was the President helping when he got credit card reform passed, or ended the parasitic role of banks in the student loan process?  Was he working in behalf of the rich when he brought about the most stringent laws regulating financial activities on Wall Street?  If so, why did all of the Wall Street types rush to the ranks of the Republicans bearing gold in the last election?  And who was the President helping when he passed a 7oo billion dollar stimulus package that kept thousands of public sector workers employed.  The working people of America has never had a better friend in the white House during my lifetime.  And when the progressive United Auto Workers union met recently in Detroit, they gave the President an high marks for his efforts.

Anathema for anti-labor zealots

A constant target of right-wing hatred

But then, the UAW has a worker education center at Black Lack Michigan.  Here workers are primed on the issues by an amazing array of authoritative teachers.  When I was an editorial page columnist for the Daily News I once ran a seminar at Black Lake for Editorial writers and columnists who worked for newspapers published by union locals.  During my stay there I got a first hand look at their program for politically educating workers.  They spared no effort.

The workers got to hear first hand from many professionals who explained the complex issues facing them. For instance there was a corporate lawyer whose father had put him through law school as an auto-worker.  He talked of the ironic class treason that led the children of union workers to represent corporations in their efforts to undermine unions. They also got to hear from a member of the Mexican parliament, who was also an economist. Her take on NAFTRA, “North American Free Trade Agreement,” contained insights not to be found in either the utterances of American politicians or the coverage of most American media.

Clearly Tom Buffenburger could profit from such a course of study – assuming that he is a damned fool rather than a shameless charlatan. I cannot say which he is but he is certainly one or the other…and I fear he may be a bit of both.  Although he has to be swift on the cap to get where he is in the rough and tumble world of organized labor, it is clear that what passes as analysis from his mouth these days is baseless and irresponsible nonsense!

Mr. Bffenbarger has been called “a prophet,” because of the following 2008 statement: “”Hope? Change? Yes We Can? Give me a break! I’ve got news for all the latte-drinking, Prius- driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust fund babies crowding in to hear him speak!  This guy won’t last a round against the Republican attack machine. He’s a poet, not a fighter.”  Those who champion Mr. Buffenbarger’s prophetic powers now believe that they are witnessing the manifestation of his prescience.  Not the least of whom is the self-styled prophet himself

But I beg to differ. As is generally the case, Mr. Breffenburger takes his role models from his narrow Eurocentric view of the world.  For the history of Black people is full of examples of poets who were also warriors.  The most impressive examples of warrior poets in history are the leaders of the armed resistance against the Portuguese colonial empire in Africa.  A serious scholarly book has been written about their exploits: Poets and Guerillas.”  Hence we have a precedent for the warrior poet who is our Commander-In-Chief.  However Barack Obama is a results oriented commander; he is not into either symbolic or Pyrrhic victories.

Although he has chosen the Stateman’s role over that of the General, President Obama is very much at war: with reactionary racists at home and Muslim Jihadists abroad.  And despite compromises, and even setbacks, he is winning on both fronts!  If Tom Buffenbarger is the model for union leadership however, it is no wonder organized labor has taken such a beating at the hands of the anti-labor Tea Party Crowd!   For the kind of talk that he is engaging in can only further confuse the workers and aid the cause of the far right, who is dedicated to making Barack Obama a one term President and take back the White House.  These people make no pretense that they will not repeat the blunders of George Bush…in fact we have every reason to believe that this time they will be worse.  Woe be unto the workers then!



P.G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

December 20, 2010

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