Re: The Guardian on a New US Civil War

Bradley Mayer

Wow, this thread is still going...on William Appleman Williams, in Contours of American History he characterized the 1787 Constitution as "feudal".  That is a gross overstatement based upon my own historical research.  He also characterizes the early Anglo-American bourgeoise as a "gentry", perhaps based upon the need of slaveowning planters to also own land as means of production.  This is wrong:  The early US bourgeoisie, planters, carry-traders and back-country storekeepers all, were an early modern merchant (commercial) bourgeoisie, merchant capitalists, the first such merchant bourgeoise to free itself of most of the fetters of deeply decayed, but still substantial, relics of a Western European feudalism.  As such, the former British-Americans were the ultimate cumulative product of the general crisis and decay of that feudalism, in a process that began in the 14th-15th centuries and spanned hundreds of years.

In overturning British imperial-colonial rule, they eliminated the most substantial of those feudal relics:  The autocratic rule of monarchy and of the London Parliament in the colonies, also a feudal relic, and with it, of the actual English landlord gentry.  But they left behind other feudal relics: Counties and their courthouses and sheriffs ("shire reeves" first appear in the 9th century).  Organized religion. Courthouses refer us to the judicial system, and that points to the present nemesis: The Supreme Court. 

The very word, "court" refers to its origins in the literal courts held in the halls - Old English heall "spacious roofed residence, house; temple; law-court," any large place covered by a roof, from Proto-Germanic *hallo "covered place, hall" - of the feudal nobility, from the king's courts to that of the shire lord holding only one manor court.  Prior to the appearance of the English Parliament, this only at the end of the 13th century, the feudal court acted as both a judiciary in deciding particular cases, and as a legislature pronouncing what amounted to statutory law covering an entire territory, in the monarchy's case covering all of England.  Hence the king's courts were the law common to all England, and hence were the common law courts that only developed in the mid 12th century.   Parliament and therefore the whole "legislative/representative tradition" developed directly out of the English feudal courts system in the course of the 13th century struggles between the "baronage" and the monarchy of Henry III, taking the form of two "baron's revolts", the first over Magna Carta, the second producing Parliament by the end of that century.  Mediated by baronial councils, Parliament was in origin but an expanded feudal court, but one whose members were elected by their peers in the shires and towns (hence also including the politically weak feudal merchant bourgeoisie of the English towns, the origin of the early modern "rotten boroughs" after some feudal towns withered away in the feudal crisis), who also got to vote on whether the monarchy could tax them.   

This is the origin of the eventual separation of judicial from legislative state functions, only consummated by the English bourgeois revolutions of the 17th century, accomplishing with the end of Royal prerogative also the subordination of judicial functions of the monarchal courts to the Parliamentary legislative.  Coke and Blackstone then rationalized the legacy common law courts as the repository of "custom from time immemorial", propagated for the future on the basis of "stare decisis", covering up their origins as autocratic instruments of monarchical prerogative.   The landlord gentry and merchant bourgeoisie of 18th century Britain could continue to propagate the King's law without the King's arbitrary autocracy.

In this light the creation of the Supreme Court was a step backward, combining again judicial with "negative" legislative functions.  Striking down decades of campaign finance law, for example is a form of legislation.  Exercising this combined power was clearly the Virginia slaveowner James Madison's intent in support of the creation of a "Supreme Tribunal", precisely to kill State legislation on debt, but was only realized under the Virginia slaveowner John Marshall, general council for the Tidewater planters who were arch-Federalists before they became "old Republicans" a la "Tyler too" as he plotted the predatory war on Mexico with "Young Hickory" James Polk in the early 1840's.,year%20tenure%20as%20chief%20justice.

Of course in striking down their own prior rulings, exposing the fraud that are the pretentions to English common law "stare decisis procedure", the Supreme Court flirts with illegitimacy as it exposes itself as the arbitrary, autocratic, quasi-monarchical institution that it is.   "A republic, if you can keep the quasi-feudal-monarchical  bits we cleverly embedded in it, madam.  As otherwise, we the bourgeoisie will have to overthrow it", to paraphrase Franklin.  That is where the far right is headed now.

On another note, correct me if I am wrong, but Peter Greens comments on BLM/George Floyd uprising strike me at best as a reductionism:  BLM was supported by big corporate capital and Davos Man, ergo BLM/George Floyd  was but an instrument of this sector of capital in its struggle against Trump; Ukraine is supported by NATO, ergo Ukraine is but a proxy instrument of NATO policy against Russia.  This reductionism at worst defines the slippery slope to Brown-Red-Think.  In either case it exposes a profound cynicism.

For myself, I wholeheartedly supported the BLM/George Floyd uprising as a glorious and much needed smack in the face and bloody nose to Trumpism. Slava! The George Floyd uprising correlates with the first real blow to Trumps approval ratings, check out the before and after poll data!  It was obvious at the time that the liberals saw its anti-Trump uses for their own class purposes, and gave favorable coverage in their media outlets. I could give a squat what they thought their intent was, the George Floyd uprising was a 100% righteous event, period.

It is just as obvious that the Far Right will act to drown the next uprising in blood in an American Tiananmen Square, if they can just get their hands on the Executive in 2024.  Their immediate short to medium term goal is to totally smash the actually existing Left.  They aim to do that with Tom Cotton's "101 Airborne", and not with the piddling little groups of Proud Boys fascists, thus reviving the long tradition of the USA deploying Federal troops against "its own people".

Like Schindler, the big capital liberals can live with all of that as well as with George Floyd uprisings.

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