by David Shankbone
The federal government has been shut down, and the Tea Party crowd (who make no bones about wanting to both shrink the fed until it's small enough to fit in a bathtub - to paraphrase Grover Norquist - and to drown it in there as well) is thoroughly enjoying the situation. Indeed, for Tea Partiers, among the many other minions of the business class, it's a veritable dream come true. All those regulatory agencies that interfere with business (yet, in quasi-dialectical fashion, preserve them all the same) are now out of the way. With the EPA and OSHA shut down, worker safety and the environment, among other aspects of the common good, will no longer interfere with the accumulation of private goods (not that these agencies were such effective impediments to begin with). Furthermore, and in demonstration of the fact that the market only functions with the aid of state force, "essential services" (which, in turn, confirm that the essence of the state is not security, per se, but security in the sense of force) are still very much in effect. As such, the business class can work its workers and drill and mine and otherwise ransack the planet as much as it likes.
Insofar as it relates to the ostensible elation of Tea Party types, it is interesting to reflect upon Barack Obama's recently articulated plan to neither budge nor otherwise give in to Tea Party pressure. For if the Tea Party is enjoying the present situation, and if their constituency is pleased - which they all appear to be - it is difficult to see why the Tea Party would have any interest in budging either - especially when they can "drill, baby, drill." Indeed, rather than persuading the Tea Party to relent, intransigence on the part of Obama would result, it would seem, in little more than mutual catatonia.
Defenders of Obamacare will object. Important reforms have been made, they will argue. Obamacare in fact ameliorates some of the grosser inequities of the insurance industry (allowing people with pre-existing conditions, for instance, to secure care). And look at how the Health Exchanges are being gobbled up.
Bandwagon fallacies aside, the putative popularity of Obamacare derives less from its merits (unknown and untested) than from the fact that people in the US have been starving for access to health care for generations. As is well known, starving people will not only eat rotten cabbages, or boiled shoes, they will be grateful for the opportunity of feasting on such rubbish. What's more, they'll even pay for it. D eprivation (either real or imagined) does this to people; treatment that might otherwise elicit disgust elicits praise. And with the health exchanges open for business, and some seemingly able to receive care, it is only one irony that the government shutdown provoked by Obamacare should threaten the larger Order Obamacare was designed to reinforce. Another one is that this order - insofar as it is based on varieties of exploitation that systematically reproduce all types of disease (from sleep deprivation to cancer) - is itself a grave threat to the health of the people of the world.
That said, it is worth considering how public opinion would respond, say, to a government shutdown, and/or a general strike, that aimed to secure, for instance, a single payer health care system, or an end to the wars. Not merely the wars in Afghanistan, among other places, mind you, but the so-called War on Terror in general, and the War on Drugs as well; one whose goal included not only shutting down Guantanamo, among other black site prisons, but sought to shutter our extensive domestic prison system, too, and shutdown the government to do so. One can already hear the predictable, pseudo-working class argument that this would destroy jobs. And indeed it would. Moreover, these jobs should be eliminated, for a just society should neither reproduce such practices, nor have an economy that is dependent on them. When confronted with the follow-up that asks how people would pay for rent, among other necessities, one could envision such an imaginary party responding by remarking that the transition to a just society (in which positive rights to not only housing and health care, but education, and leisure, among other conditions, would be realized) could proceed by way of the institution of a Guaranteed Livable Income, not to mention a ten-hour work-week. Further, one could add that student, consumer, and other debts would be eliminated, too. To be sure, the decrease in production involved in this is not only necessary to combat global warming and environmental degradation, but for the sake of well-being. In other words, not only would the War on Terror and the War on Drugs be concluded, but the Class War itself - which subsumes these lesser wars - would be ended. Along with other systems of domination, capitalism (the sine qua non of which is domination and exploitation) would be phased out; and p olitical and economic power, as well as political and economic rights and duties, would be redistributed according to the demands of justice.
While people criticize the Occupy movement for not congealing into such a party - providing a counterweight of sorts to the Tea Party - such criticism betrays a deeply flawed analysis of the Occupy Movement. Notwithstanding the problem that inheres with parties in general (which is a problem of dogma, and hierarchy, among other things, and is found even in consensus-based organizational approaches), among its other weaknesses the Occupy movement could not fully embrace such positions owing to a fundamental split between its anarchistic, emancipatory elements, and its very large contingent of pro-business libertarians and liberals - libertarians and liberals whose fundamentally reformist, pro-market sensibilities were, and are, not only at odds, but irreconcilable, with the critical requirements of a genuinely emancipatory politics. In spite of the good intentions of many in the Occupy movement (and the Tea Party, too), this inability to not only fail to recognize the need for, but the reasons for, decapitating capital (as well as the state) brought OWS to a theoretical and practical impasse.
As the federal government remains shut, and the NSA, among other "essential" agencies, continues to function, and Fukushima continues to release its lethal radiation, and the September jobs report, when corrected for population growth, will most likely show virtually no sign of jobs, and global warming continues apace, and the distribution of wealth polarizes ever further into extremes of rich and poor, it seems as vital as it seems unlikely that a "party" championing the above positions will arise; which means that, should it appear, it would come as something of a Surprise - a Surprise Party. Don't tell anyone.