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Posted by: Doug Henwood | June 20, 2011

Breaking news: robed ghouls act in character

So the Supreme Court handed down its decision on the Walmart (né Wal-Mart) sex discrimination case. It can be summarized in three words of Brooklyn dialect: “get outta here.” I will defer to my wife, Liza Featherstone, who wrote the book on the case, for detailed analysis. But I am overcome with the need to denounce, so please indulge me.

Liberals will anguish endlessly over this decision, parsing it in that tediously fetishistic way that has become all too familiar. But really, the Supreme Court is a fundamentally reactionary tool of bourgeois power. Liberal opinion still seems to think that the Warren court was something other than a 15-year anomaly in its mostly awful history.

Why this boring and annoying obsession with The Court? Is it because liberals think that the people are fundamentally dolts, and turn to unelected judges to accomplish what democratic agitation can’t? This seems to be the strategy of the reproductive rights movement, which does little but litigate and lobby while access to abortion dwindles, and popular opinion moves in unpleasant directions. And the labor movement looks to have been doing similar things: when you can’t organize, file suits. But for most of American history, judges have done the work of elites—which isn’t surprising, given their social origins and professional training.

Give up on the courts. They’re hopeless.

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Responses

  1. For the same reason Yglesias and others were recently obsessed with the Fed as the solution to unemployment (I’m serious): they believe in government by neutral expertise, where brilliant technocrats pursue the common good, unmolested by popular prejudice. As David Rieff said:

    In this Gates/Obama vision of the world, all the fundamental ideological questions have been solved (this may also help explain why, domestically, the president has seemed so helpless in the face of the anger of the Tea Parties–aren’t we all liberals now?). There are no great ideological contradictions, just issues of “empowerment,” “good governance,” “transparency,” and “accountability.” The world as a global Seattle, a global Cambridge, Massachusetts: What an idea!

    http://www.tnr.com/blog/foreign-policy/77932/altruists-in-wonderland-united-nations-millenium-development-goals-david-rieff

    In short, they believe technocracy not democracy.

  2. But really, the Supreme Court is a fundamentally reactionary tool of bourgeois power. Liberal opinion still seems to think that the Warren court was something other than a 15-year anomaly in its mostly awful history. ///////////// Amen

  3. And fifteen years is less than half the length of the Lochner Era, which the right seeks to restore:

    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/R/bo5971869.html

  4. We have the best justice money can buy.

  5. Law is politics – Lenin ( member of the bar of czarist Russia)

  6. But really, the Supreme Court is a fundamentally reactionary tool of bourgeois power. Liberal opinion still seems to think that the Warren court was something other than a 15-year anomaly in its mostly awful history.

    Here’s WSWS on the Warren Court:

    The Miranda decision itself is a monument of a bygone era, when the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren (1953-1969)—a Republican appointed by President Eisenhower—issued a series of precedents outlawing racial segregation, prohibiting government sponsorship of religion, curtailing the use of illegally seized evidence and permitting civil-rights lawsuits against governmental entities, among other things.

  7. Source:

    http://wsws.org/articles/2010/jun2010/supr-j04.shtml

  8. Re: Doug’s rant on LBO New to “give up on the courts,” which I put more long-windedly (being a professor) and with qualifiedly (being a lawyer) on my own Facebook page, people might recall that in 1932, progressives rammed through Congress the Norris–La Guardia Act (also known as the Anti-Injunction Bill) that, among other things, barred federal courts from issuing injunctions against nonviolent labor disputes. The sponsors (including the LaGuardia after whom the airport is named, also the subject of the musical Fiorello) believed, along with the rest of the labor movement, that the federal courts were so unrelentingly hostile to labor that they wanted to take away their power to intervene in peaceful labor conflicts, in which the federal courts almost without exception issued orders for the union organizers and workers to lie down and play dead. The NLA is still law, but its effect was considerable diminished by the Court’s interpretation of the NLRA (the basic law governing private unions, and giving jurisdiction mistly to a federal agency, the NLRB), codified in the amended statute, allowing for law suits in federal court, including requests for injunctive relief, against unions for violation of their duty of fair representation. But the main point is that historically progressives recognized that The Courts Are Not Our Friends. The fact that for a brief interlude of social upheaval in the 50s and 60s the federal courts frequently (not always) made progressive law (oops, I forgot, federal courts don’t make law, do they? They just interpret it. :-) My bad.) shouldn’t mislead us. Fiorello got this one right. So, to but a twist on a statement of the one labor union president who was also a U.S. President (Ronald Reagan, former head of the Screen Actors’ Guild) (no kidding), “Sue, but organize.” (Some folk may recall that while U.S. President, Reagan said, in the context of arms negotiations, “Trust, but verify.”)

  9. […] From Doug Henwood: […]

  10. […] Breaking news: robed ghouls act in character from LBO News from Doug Henwood by Doug Henwood […]


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