Sunday, October 6, 2013

Take A Trotskyist To Tea

The opening sentence of Jeff Mackler's article in Socialist Action displays all the faults of Leftist thinking.
In the old days—very old days like the last Great Depression of 1929—most people understood the term “economic stimulus” to mean some form of government investment in the economy aimed at directly producing jobs for working people through various kinds of public works programs.
He actually believes that government make-work programs create jobs. They do nothing of the sort--all they do is redistribute the jobs from one place to another. Robbing Peter to pay Paul does make Paul richer, but it makes Peter poorer. Taxing money away from thriving businesses to pay for corrupt, politically-inspired, welfare projects makes society poorer.

The Tea Party understands this. We believe that government is an expense, not a benefit. Prisons, police departments, firemen, welfare social workers, tax collectors, soldiers and spies all cost money. They may be a necessary expense--I wouldn't want to live in a world without policemen, public streets, or parks--but they create no wealth.

Workers create wealth when they produce quality products at affordable prices that consumers want to buy. I can buy a car from honorable people like Gregg Shotwell or Diane Feeley but I can't buy a public street, a welfare case load, or the 5th Armored Division. Accordingly, we Tea Party types are pretty sanguine about the government shutdown. In particular, if non-essential government employees are laid off, so much the better. Why are we hiring non-essential employees in the first place?

Mr. Mackler cites an example of economic progress as if it were a great evil. About the newly booming American textile industry he writes
“This wasn’t some patriotic quest,” [textile CEO] Winthrop insisted. And indeed it wasn’t. Like all capitalists his loyalty was to the dollar, not to the working class. In addition to the savings in transportation costs, the turnaround time, and other technical matters, what interested this capitalist the most was the fact that, according to the The Times, “wages aren’t that much more overseas.” 
Mr. Mackler doesn't understand that the savings are sought to compete with rivals, and therefore to lower prices for consumers. The extra money will not be pocketed as additional profit for Mr. Winthrop. Instead it makes us all richer.

When American capitalism fails to make us all richer, Mr. Mackler calls that a crisis, and perhaps rightly so. But his solution is odd--he proposes instead that we go the full North Korea. Now it is true--North Korea has no economic crises, mostly because it has no economy. Their goal, far from making everybody richer, is to maximize poverty. That's a completely different goal from that most Americans share.

David Finkel, over at Solidarity, publishes an article with an extended update entitled Is the Ship of State Headed for a Shutdown? This gets into the weeds about the shenanigans in Congress in a way that smacks of reformism. Instead of demanding the full North Korea, Mr. Finkel is simply asking that the government stay open so that people can continue to receive benefits. In other words, he's sane.

The downside of sanity is that the article no longer reads like a Trotskyist wrote it. Instead it comes across as just another Progressive point of view, very similar to what you'd read in The Nation or In These Times. It's boring. And like those journals, he takes swipes at the Tea Party.

Here are some examples:
Defunding “Obamacare” or delaying it a year (a delay which could obviously be repeated over and over) would cripple the Obama presidency beyond hope of repair. That’s precisely why the racist-fuelled Tea Party is forcing the issue, and why the Democrats cannot give in even if they’re ready to viciously slash Social Security and Medicare for decades to come.
The Tea Party was largely created by a section of the ruling elite--the billionaire Koch brothers and the like--for this purpose, exploiting the paranoia and racism among white Americans as leverage against the Obama presidency.
A commenter with the handle Redchuck4 (yes, unlike other Trotskyists, Solidarity allows comments) takes issue with Mr. Finkel, remarking that
The Tea Party, while supported by political outliers in the capitalist class like the Koch brothers, is a political phenomena that is INDEPENDENT of capital. It reflects the growing racist/nativist, anti-working class hysteria of sections of the white middle class-- both professionals and managers and small business people. Again, while capital may find these yahoos useful in their battle against working people at home and abroad, the Tea Party has and is often on capital's "wrong-side."
Now I consider the accusation racist to be a slander--it's just an epithet. But lets take it seriously for a minute and see where it gets us.

All political movements are tribal to some degree. Sharing the same political platform implies speaking the same language and sharing the same culture. American whites and Blacks are different tribes and therefore belong to separate political parties. This is similar to English and French Canadians or Muslim and Hindu Indians, etc. So I can agree with Redchuck4 about the ethnic and "class" characterization of the Tea Party, though I'd probably phrase it a bit differently. But that doesn't mean that we're racist any more than the fact that 90% of Blacks vote Democratic means that they're racist.

The Tea Party is not about racial purity. Instead it is a radical Libertarian group. In the cause of Liberty, we believe in limited government and Constitutional order. Congress (and hence the federal government) deserves no more power than that delimited by the Constitution. The extension of the federal government into things like health care is very much against the spirit of the Constitution, John Roberts' messy compromise notwithstanding. In our federal system the states are sovereign, and if government has a role in health care (a separate debate), then it has to come from the states.

Though few Blacks are members of the Tea Party, those that are have played a very important role. Two of our leading theoreticians, Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, are African-American. Tea Partiers have adopted Martin Luther King as one of their own (see here). And all of us thrilled to the message of Herman Cain, who used the beautiful, eloquent and musical language of his culture in the cause of Liberty. I actually contributed money to his campaign, and was sorely disappointed when he turned out to be a deeply flawed candidate. There is the more recent example of Paul McKinley.

Indeed, cultural barriers notwithstanding, African-Americans should be the strongest supporters of the Tea Party. Who has suffered more from government tyranny than they? Who benefits more from strict equality under the law? Who suffers most from absurd nanny-state regulations that make many Black occupations illegal? (E.g., it's illegal to operate a Jitney cab without a city license, or braid hair without a beautician's diploma.)

So if you believe in Liberty, join us. And then, please invite a Trotskyist out for a cup of tea.

Further Reading:

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