Comrades. Capitalism is tapdancing on my balls, and the dull compulsion of the economic, as Engels put it, is forcing me to engage in the most alienating of labour rather than hurling myself into creative, Thee Faction-based, labour. Yes, even members of Thee Faction are subject to the rule of capital. That’s why we’re in Thee Faction.
So there is little time for blogging today. All I can do is hurl a handful of things in your direction, and you can turn them into a coherent political argument. Do this, and by the end of today, you will have all the ammunition you require to dismantle the Tea Party. You need an analysis. Under normal circumstances we would give you one. Today is DIY analysis day.
So, Exhibit A:
I know I bang on about Thomas Frank a lot, but that is largely because Thomas Frank is as good as it gets in today’s world of political, economic and cultural criticism. The Baffler was (is?) the New Left Review or Neue Rheinische Zeitung for our generation. Thomas Frank is its Marx. Anyway, I have no time to explain this – I’ve blogged about Frank before. Point is, if you want to understand why the Tea Party movement does, undoubtedly, contain huge numbers ofworking class people who consider themselves to be seekers of a radical solution, and who are ready to work for a vision of a better tomorrow, then you could do a lot worse than read What’s the Matter with Kansas? Because these people are genuine working class radicals. It’s just the radical solution on offer isn’t one that is ultimately going to be better for them. Their vision of a better tomorrow has been orchestrated and designed by the ones who really stand to benefit from it.
Which brings us to Exhibit B: George Monbiot’s piece in today’s Guardian. Now, I don’t always have time for George Monbiot. But recently he has become much better, particularly since he accepted the lunacy of some of the numbers he has been hurling around for years about how much food and water it takes to produce animals for eating (I keep meaning to alert Billy Brentford to this piece). So, the new improved George Monbiot begins his piece on the Tea Party movement todaay with these three sentences:
“The Tea Party movement is remarkable in two respects. It is one of the biggest exercises in false consciousness the world has seen – and the biggest Astroturf operation in history. These accomplishments are closely related.”
What’s the link between this and Frank’s book? What looks like a grassroots movement, emerging from hotbeds of working class radicalism (like Kansas) is, in fact, just astroturf; grass with no roots. Monbiot goes on to show that “the biggest company you’ve never heard of” – Koch Industries – is bankrolling and orchestrating the whole thing. And they’re doing it in the interests of the Koch brothers who run it, and their cronies within big business. Surprise surprise, comrades.
Monbiot finishes with this:
“Astroturfing is now taking off in the United Kingdom. Earlier this month Spinwatch showed how a fake grassroots group set up by health insurers helped shape the Tories’ NHS reforms. Billionaires and corporations are capturing the political process everywhere; anyone with an interest in democracy should be thinking about how to resist them. Nothing is real any more. Nothing is as it seems.”
As always with Monbiot, he offers superficial observation, but no depth of analysis. So you need to read Thomas Frank to understand how and why, and Monbiot to see what is going on right now.
But for what to do, we have to go to Exhibit C: Karl Marx’s On the Jewish Question. This is an often massively misunderstood piece of work (read it in full here). It is a response to Bruno Bauer, I think, who had been arguing for civil rights for Jewish people in Germany, so long as they dumped their religion. Marx wrote his piece to make it clear that civil rights are, to a great extent, a bourgeois sham, and that the only emancipation that counts is real emancipation. He was making a point about the nature of civil society, and its possibilities as a battlefield (see Gramsci for the extension of this metaphor into the mid-20th Century). There is also ten tons of stuff on the separation of church and state in the US and beyond – perhaps Christine O’Donnell should have read it? Now, a lot of people shy away from this piece of work – Marx’s finest in my opinion – because of rumours of anti-semitism. You will find no anti-semitism here. Instead you will find a glorious description of the relationship between state and civil society, and a dismissal of the state-based route to freedom. It is economic inequality that forms the greatest barrier to our freedom, whether we are an oppressed minority, as the Jews were in 19th Century germany, or part of the ‘majority’ which organisations like the Tea Party or the EDL claim to represent. We are only going to be free when we destroy what stops us being free. Capitalism.
So your project for today is to read Thomas Frank’s book, George Monbiot’s article, and Karl Marx’s essay. In that order. By the end of which you will have the analysis you need. Apply this analaysis to all situations – that’s the beauty of marxism as a critical tool. And while you’re doing your reading and forming your analysis, you’ll need a soundtrack. Can we humbly suggest At Ebbw Vale by Thee Faction? Buy it here – for £8.50 you get a beautiful piece of vinyl, a CD, and postage and packing. Not owning At Ebbw Vale is bourgeois. Fact.