"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Nov 1, 2010

The Smallholder "Revolt"

I'd intended an essay on becoming an earnest leftist by becoming a disillusioned teenage Randian, who then found Jesus, lost him, got himself a red card and finally ended up a cynical and aging anarchist.

But fwoan wrote something concise and eminently more interesting:

"But how else are the Democrats, a party built on sustaining and profiting from the status quo, to convince the cowering masses that their reformative hands are tied by the evil Republicans? In truth neither the Republicans or the Democrats have any interest in helping you. Any change provided by either party in the past has been by organized and fierce demand by the people...

...It’s with this knowledge that we begin to understand why the Democrats are counting on losing this election. Once the Republicans seize control of the House any attempt to further campaign Hope and Change will be neutered. Immigration reform? Blame the racist Republicans. Ending our global war mission? War-mongering Republicans’ fault. True Healthcare Reform? Corporatist Republicans wont have it! The excuse is too good to be true. The inverse is true of Republican voters’ demands."

Having astroturfed into mediated existence a "movement" of  angry crackers and Christian reconstructionists, the GOP is on the verge of giving Barack Obama the opportunity to complete his marching orders under the cover of the bogeyman of "government shut down." You will notice, I hope, that the "small government" Republicans never manage to make useful noises about shutting down the DoD or dismantling the Joint Chiefs proconsular occupation armies, leaving that argument to notably racist friendly gold standard guy, Ron Paul, and his "libertarian" get, the latest Assklown of Kentucky.

I don't want to suggest that there's anything particularly new about this season of febrile White rage. There isn't. Any time the shit gets comparatively shittier for the credit-slurping lawn order Muricans, with their personal Jesus and his legion of corporate prayer warriors, they vote up whatever gaggle of electoral Pinkertons promise to make life even harder for brown people, since the oft-unstated standard for poverty in this country is whatever Jerome Typical Negro has to endure. I say "typical negro," because anyone who has ever lived in a majority black community knows that there's nothing particularly typical about it, except that most of the White folk have moved on. The type is entirely a media invention, hauled out every two years and in nearly every movie produced in a Hollywood Brando understood perfectly well...

So, this is what we have. We have a bunch of smallholders - petit bourgeoisie - pissed off that the gig is coming to an end. They know it, I think. Thirty years of repeated promises of prosperity, and the debt keeps piling up, and the television keeps showing shit getting worse. They also have friends and neighbors who are starting to lose their livelihoods, and their homes.

I imagine the guy with a metal shop and 36% labor costs honestly thinks it's wages which keep him from holding down his fief. He probably really likes most of his guys, and would love to pay them more, but he's got it in his head (in my experience, and recently) that he owns his three bedroom house, fair and square, that his shop was made entirely from the sweat and blood of his effort, and that the schools he pays for (either in property taxes, or in tuition) are really interested in churning out competent adults. He watches the telly and he sees his "country going to hell" on the watch of the first black imperialist corporate running dog President, and he sees how all those places where black and brown people live are full of grifters, welfare queens, and drug addicts. His world is orderly. Or, so he believes. It's not the bank, it's not the very concept of private property, it's not the idea that some should rule and the rest should obey, which comes to his mind. What he sees is his own smallholding, and how soon and how easily he could lose it.

This is his reality. It's his faith - he believes, very sincerely, that all this wealth is made right where it's enjoyed - that he himself has done it. It's a matter of deepest faith that his work and effort and labor always equal some sort of reward, some legacy he'll leave to the world and his children. If he isn't getting the reward he expected (and frankly been raised to expect) and he's put in all the effort, and done what the bank asked, and gone to Church, and hoisted up his flag, then it must be someone else's fault that he feels so insecure.

That reward - let's be clear - is security and the expectation of consumption satisfied. If he cannot feel secure in his possessions, and continue to enjoy them, he rightly believes that something is wrong with the world.

The problem, of course, is that he's wrong about the cause.

Which is the entire political* purpose, at this stage of late order capitalism in the US of A, of the GOP. Their job is to spend millions of dollars (money which represents labor stolen from workers, by corporations, and given to politicians and marketers) blaming the poor and the brown for the all the problems faced by smallholders, middle class professionals and the dependents of the bourgeoisie.

It's an easy sell - because the divide between the smallholder/middle class and the the poor and brown has always been extreme, on the North American continent. It's always been clearly marked by race, geography and culture.

The GOP's purpose, again, is legerdemain. Point to the poor, the brown, the laboring - and blame them for the conditions which first allow the smallholder to exist, and then undo his security, his wealth, and his property. In other words: blame the poor and the non-white for capitalism's discontents.

The Democrats, on the other hand, have only one job themselves - keep the state afloat in any way possible, so long as the capitalists who most benefit from its operation do not have to absorb the costs. And this is why, tomorrow, the GOP's successful rebranding effort will allow them to give Barack Obama what he needs and wants: a Republican cover for the enactment of those measures which will preserve the viability of the State as an enforcer of property, obedience and resource control.

This is what the Tea Party - a smallholder "revolt" against an imaginary State in the service of an actual one, if ever there was - was supposed to do; and this is what it has actually done.

The problem lies not in its failure, or its success - but in the expectations of its rank and file. Because, and I think this is the rub, they aren't going to become leftists if they feel disappointed. They aren't leftists because they aren't proles; they're smallholders. They have no class interest with labor.

And since their expectations for restoration and cultural rebirth cannot be satisfied - this segment of the population (in my estimation) presents the likeliest and most immediate breeding pool for the development of actual, political, militant fascism.

Whether their fake revolt becomes an open one, as capitalism fails them too, and then they fail to understand this, remains to be seen...

UPDATE: * - they serve other functions, of course...


fwoan said...

Thank you for the quote and bravo! An awesome explanation of the smallholders' plight.

Anonymous said...


The ideas you offered here are a more thorough explanation of what I was saying in summary here at points 2 through 4:


Landru said...

Jack, you're not the guy who I thought would end up successfully explaining this to me. But you were that guy, and I thank you very kindly. We will not agree on the substance or the implications, but it's much more clear to me than it was four hours ago, and I am grateful.

And Heh!: the magic word is "dedly." Effing awesome, that.

Randal Graves said...

Swanky stuff. I don't know too many (any?) "tea partiers" but I know plenty of goopers (and dums, to an extent, in addition to the typical The State Loves You types), and they've certainly expressed the ideas here.

Did you have to say 'lawn order' though? I hate those fuckers out at 8am on a Sunday using their leaf blower.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

It's an easy sell - because the divide between the smallholder/middle class and the the poor and brown has always been extreme, on the North American continent. It's always been clearly marked by race, geography and culture.

Meanwhile, the divide between the smallholder/middle class and their corporate overlords increases to "Ivory Coast" levels and they fail to see the problem in this.

They are blinded by their silly aspirations, and the country passes on to "Banana Republic with Nukes" status.

Jack Crow said...


Easy shout out. You wrote a succinct truth.


I don't believe I could see your fine sit in August...:) Nicely said, even in retrospect.


Glad to be of some use.


"Lawn order" I owe to Alan Watts. I don't much abide by Vedanta, taoism or mysticism any more, but that stuck with me all these decades. I think, as a term, it neatly encapsulates those who call the cops for the slightest "threat" and slave out to the much smarter grass in their yards.


That's why - unlike some of my other leftist blegher comrades and friends - I think the Tea Party could provide the seed stock for an overtly fascist movement. They aren't going to see their corporate paymasters as the bad guys, because they are willingly deflected to scapegoats.



Duncan Mitchel said...

You lost Jesus? Again?

To lose one Jesus might be counted a misfortune. To lose another seems like carelessness.

Will Shetterly said...

(Apologies if this is a double-post. Something blipped in my browser.)

Good rant, but you might read up a bit more on the white poor and the Tea Party. The Tea Party polls as being richer than average. The white poor, even in the South today, tend to vote Democrat, 'cause that's the closest they can get to their class interest. And keep in mind that there are twice as many poor white folks as black or Hispanic ones, so if things are ever going to change, the white poor, the people snobs dismiss as rednecks and crackers and trailer trash, can't be ignored.

Jack Crow said...

Thanks, Will.

I try to differentiate between the poor whites and small holders. If I was unclear in my characterization, the onus is on me.

I don't mean to imply - when discussing a shop holder, such as in the example above - that these people are working class, or poor.

Assuming a terrible possible future, where the GOP fails to deliver a captive electorate of small holders, and we get a period of fascist interregnum*, these smallholders and petit bourgeoisie are the likely shock troops of that order. The poor and working poor - the proletariat, such as still remains - will go along in so much as the alternative is death.



* - I do not think national and political fascism can last. It is in my estimation always a phase transition.

Will Shetterly said...

Jack, thanks for clarifying that. I was reading a bit fast, and your use of "cracker" threw me off--I think of crackers as white folks who work for the holders, both large and small. But on reread, your use is clear.

And, yeah, I'm afraid the Tea Party could become the shock troops, too, if they don't come to see beyond the Duopoly.