April 15th was “Taxed Enough Already” Day for thousands of right-wingers, ultra-rightwingers, and assorted confused radicals across the United States. Images of Ayn Rand book covers on poster boards and people dressed up like the “founding fathers” flooded the media, particularly outlets such the Fox News Network. Promoted by right wing pundits such as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh as a “grass roots movement against socialism,” the true origins of the protest were probably best described by Lee Fang of the “Think Progress” blog:
“[Despite] attempts to make the ‘movement’ appear organic, the principle organizers of the local events are actually the lobbyist-run think tanks Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works. The two groups are heavily staffed and well funded, and are providing all the logistical and public relations work necessary for planning coast-to-coast protests… Freedom Works staffers coordinate conference calls among protesters, contacting conservative activists to give them ‘sign ideas, sample press releases, and a map of events around the country’ …Freedom Works staffers apparently moved to ‘take over’ the planning of local events in Florida… Freedom Works provides how-to guides for delivering a ‘clear message’ to the public and media …Freedom Works has several domain addresses – some of them made to look like they were set up by amateurs – to promote the protests… Americans for Prosperity is writing press releases and planning the events in several states …This type of corporate ‘astroturfing’ is nothing new to either organization.”
The Republican Party is, for obvious reasons, looking to spruce up its image lately. One way has been to speak at many of the Tea Party events. This, however, may have some unintended consequences for the party itself. While most signs carried by protesters could easily be slogans of the right-wing of the Republican Party, such as “Just Say No to Socialism!” and “Stop the Spending,” others were clearly much further to the right. “The Republicans are Bad Too!” “Today’s Pitchfork is an AK-47,” “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery,” and other signs in a similar vein were peppered throughout the protests. The Republicans are helping unleash a wave of right-wing populism that, to a large extent, is focused directly at them.
Having been the ruling party for most of the last thirty years, the Republicans are presently absorbing much of the blame for the present crisis. The illusion of stability and prosperity through “Chicago-school capitalism” has led to a very different reality. In most people’s minds, there are two ways to approach the problems confronting us: either to the left or the right of the present course. Most of America has clearly shifted left, as evidenced by the “Obama-mania” that has gripped the nation. Within the narrow limits of the mainstream political spectrum, illusions in Obama are a healthy rejection of the more openly right wing policies of Bush and co.
At least in words, Obama has been pushed slightly left-of-center by the economic crisis and fear of the masses. As one economist put it, he has become a “preschool Keynesian.” That is, he is trying to solve the economic crisis through a program of massive corporate welfare attached to small giveaways to the working and middle classes, paid for by a massive increase in the money supply and federal debt. The Republicans, having no real strategy, but remembering the hyperinflation of the Carter era, feel that Obama could ultimately cause more harm than good to capitalism.
Underlying everything are the cracks emerging in the long-stable alliance between the capitalist and middle classes and within the capitalist class itself. There is no more room for Keynesianism. The past thirty years have been years of increasing austerity for workers precisely because capitalism is no longer riding a post-war boom that they can derive concessions for the masses from. This vacuum has gradually been filled with credit. As credit became more and more just another commodity on the market, its massive proliferation became the fuel for so much of the purely consumptive spending in the United States. With the credit freeze, the working and middle classes’ standard of living has plummeted. Credit lines are losing available balances, people are losing their homes and jobs, and wages are driven down by unemployment. As a result, the polarization of society is deepening. The capitalists have no idea how to solve the crisis and, having lost much of their social base of support, are reaching out to them in a demagogic, populist way. In despair over losing their customers, businesses and positions, many in the middle class are beginning to develop their own increasingly radical ideas, which are not always in line with the capitalist class.
These ideas are equally incapable of ending the crisis. They are largely emotional expressions of rage at the loss of livelihood. The blame is placed on individuals who stole from “the people,” immigrants who “take jobs,” nefarious conspiracies hatched by “elite foreigners,” and the slightest government intervention having made it “hard for business,” instead of where it belongs, on the capitalist system itself.
This explains the contradictory and dangerous nature of the Tea Parties. Only the working class can chart a course out of the economic crisis. The working class is the one class that has the same basic class interest everywhere: an end to exploitation and oppression. This is why fighting for a mass Labor Party is so important. Only when the system that inherently generates these conditions is replaced with one run by working people themselves will artificial crises like the present one be an artifact of history. Forget the phony “Tea Party” of the rich…we need a real Labor Party, based on the unions and armed with a socialist program to solve the problems facing working people!