Something to learn from Tea Party

Submitted by Matthew on 9 October, 2013 - 8:43

The Republicans in the US Congress seem set to take the US budget deficit up to the wire on 17 October.

And possibly beyond, to the point where the US government not only sends workers home unpaid, but fails to pay its bills. If president Obama and the Democrats campaigned boldly for the principle of universal health insurance — which is what the Republicans want to destroy — then the Republicans could not get away with it. Or even if the Democrats were bold about using unusual financial expedients.

But the chief political lesson is on how politicians who are militant and determined can use legislative assemblies to do much more than the usual point-scoring or polite opposition. The tactic of deliberate parliamentary obstruction was pioneered in Britain, by Irish nationalist MPs led by Charles Stuart Parnell in the 1870s and 1880s, when all Ireland was ruled by Britain. Their activity helped win many concessions for Ireland, including, eventually, the principle of Home Rule.

Labour should follow that model.


Submitted by Barry Finger on Wed, 09/10/2013 - 17:35

Sure, Labour should use militant parliamentary tactics to extract concessions from the ruling class. One might only wish that the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party would demonstrate similar backbone and discipline in the cause of a real reform agenda. They might have demanded an end run around this entire debacle by employing financial expedients that educate the public to the fact that the federal government cannot “run out” of money, that its budget is self-funding and that this entire debate is a sham. They may have used this crisis to expose wasteful corporate and military spending. Then again, this would assume a modicum of political independence from the Democratic Party’s donor base, which liberals now rarely show the capacity to have.

But I think this advice also misses something that speaks to the concrete circumstances of this Tea Party “revolt.” The Democratic and Republican party leaderships have been working on a “grand bargain” to cut entitlements (Medicare and Social Security) for several years, using the supposed unsustainability of public spending as its pretext. The politically inert American working class, particularly its rural white component, has been so demoralized by the constant bombardment of propaganda to this end that it has all but resigned itself to future benefits cuts and – in its minority – actually swallowed whole the entire Tea Party message. In this minority, a sizable section of our class has aligned itself with the even more socially reactionary and primitive main street millionaires against the Wall Street billionaire elites.

The Administration is allowing this to play out, with its ever ramified scare tactics warning of a looming debt default, to do three things: demonstrate to the ruling class that it is the sole responsible steward of capitalism; to exact further concessions from a working class grateful to have avoided the full Tea Party program; and to attempt to splinter and diminish the short term viability of Republican Party.

This Tea Party’s mindless militancy may very well play into Obama’s hands. This is also a lesson that should be learned. Militancy without a sustainable strategy can be fool's errand.

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