by AndrewMc | 4/15/2009 08:01:00 AM
Today is the day that millions upon millions of Americans will spill into the streets, follow the throng down to the local street corner, drop an envelope in a box, and file their tax returns. Well, except for those who filed online, I suppose.

Some smaller subset of Americans will also gather to hold what they are calling modern-day tea parties.





I'll refrain from making crass sexual innuendo (I will, seriously.), and I will refrain from pointing out the pseudo-spontaneous nature of these protests.

I'm not going to get into how this is really not a populist movement, but rather something being fed and promoted by the GOP, and the same people who screwed the country for the past eight years. And I won't point out that despite what Republican mouthpieces say, populist organizing isn't new (except maybe to them).

I'll not mention the nascent racism of the movement, or how most Americans aren't much bothered by their current tax burden. I'll also steer clear of pointing out the crass hypocrisy of Republicans protesting government spending.

After all, it's not OK to make fun of crazy people (free subscription required).

I won't do all that because it's all been done, quite competently.

So, what's left?

Well, there are some historical parallels. After all, the original Boston Tea Party wasn't exactly spontaneous. It was prompted by a group of elites angry at being out of power in the then-colonial structure. In particular the Tea Act was intended to drive smugglers out of business, and those smugglers were New England elites. So, in some ways the corporate masters pimping the modern "tea protests" aren't much removed from the smugglers of the 18th century.

A colleague, perhaps given to hyperbole--perhaps not--said to me the other day that the new far-right movement reminded him of the Nazis. Bracing myself for a weak "them damn fascists" kind of thing, I was surprised at his comparison, which harkened back to the early 1930s. In the early days both were regarded as kind of nutty, they only appealed to a small portion of the population, and both had the backing of some wealthy patrons. They also controlled some portions of the media. Like any analogy it has its limitations, of course, but let's remember that we cannot dismiss the current tea party as not having historical precedent whatsoever. Only time will tell what that precedent is, though.


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17 Comments:


Blogger elle on 4/15/2009 12:03 PM:

Thanks for those links, Andrew.

 

Anonymous paulie on 4/15/2009 1:40 PM:

The Tea Parties were started by Libertarians, not by Republicans.

Rick Santelli took the idea from the Illinois LP, without credit.

Libertarians have been doing anti-tax protests on April 15 for many years.

Illinois LP chair Dave Brady has documented how Santelli got their idea from them.

 

Blogger Ahistoricality on 4/15/2009 9:16 PM:

Yawn. Paulie, learn to read: he didn't say "started by"; he said "fed and promoted by."

I'm afraid I missed our local gathering -- family stuff intervened.

You're right about the historical precedents, of course, and about the difficulty of making substantive predictions based on their diversity. The plethora of traditions being invoked here makes me wonder if there's anything at all original to it, and if that unoriginality is a strength (no challenging new ideas to absorb; accessible) or a weakness (unlikely to catch on due to derision and lack of interest).

 

Blogger mark on 4/16/2009 10:59 AM:

"most Americans aren't much bothered by their current tax burden."Almost 50 % of Americans do not pay any income taxes and another decile or so pay a very modest amount relative to their actual income. Of those that pay nothing, some actually receive checks from Uncle Sam, either by virtue of EITC or stimulus measure tax-rebates extended to non-taxpayers. Understandably, they like the status quo. ;)

"A colleague, perhaps given to hyperbole--perhaps not--said to me the other day that the new far-right movement reminded him of the Nazis."Nazis? Americans who want lower tax rates, and thus disagree with the policy positions of the Democratic Party and express their opinion through peaceable assembly and political speech, are now to be compared with the German Nazi Party?

That's not "hyperbole" it's a knee-jerk, totalitarian, intolerance of any political disagreement whatsoever.

 

Blogger Ahistoricality on 4/16/2009 11:19 AM:

Your first point is a frequently debunked talking point -- you're focusing on income taxes, while the survey focuses on tax burdens including payroll and sales taxes -- and your second ignores the actual history of the (pro-business, anti-internationalism, etc.) Nazi party, not to mention the reality of the current protests.

 

Blogger AndrewMc on 4/16/2009 1:52 PM:

It's not intolerance of political disagreement, it's a comparison of tactics and the beginning of two movements. Leave what you know of Nazi ideology aside, and the two movements might be seen as quite similar in nature. Only time will tell.

 

Anonymous Paulie on 4/16/2009 2:28 PM:

"pseudo-spontaneous, fed and promoted"...you clearly create the impression that these are Republican events, and while the one I attended unfortunately was, I've read varying reports about others.

As for the comparison with German national socialism, the Nazi Party was centered around messianic faith in a Great National Leader, a semi-nationalization of the economy while retaining nominal private control of industry, and demonization and eventual criminalization of opposition to their government.

Sound familiar?

Finally, as to all those folks who think their taxes are too low: what's stopping them from sending in more?

 

Anonymous paulie on 4/16/2009 2:59 PM:

By the way, lest anyone think that only right wing opposition is being demonized - see

http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2009/04/homeland-security-fusion-centers-targeted-cynthia-mckinney-as-a-potential-threat-as-well-as-supporters-of-ron-paul-bob-barr-and-chuck-baldwin/

 

Blogger mark on 4/16/2009 8:28 PM:

Ahistoricality and AndrewMc

It's not debunked. Many ppl who pay no income taxes also pay no property taxes either, except indirectly via rent. It's not a very visible taxation to them. Neither are payroll taxes to non-taxpayers. Sales taxes, I concede, are very visible to them, especially in states that levy the same rate on food as on other goods.

Secondly, the comparison with the Nazis, early or late-model, is factually ludicrous. About on par with calling members of Emily's List "Stalinists". The tactics and are nothing alike, neither are the economic policies. The Nazis began as radically anticapitalist, and ended up as state autarkists who permitted private property and cartels but not market economics.

 

Blogger Ahistoricality on 4/16/2009 10:25 PM:

yeah, debunked.

What the Nazi's "were" depends on when you start and stop telling the story. I don't think their autarky was ideological, except perhaps in that conventional 19-20c imperialistic ideal sort of way, but a result of their tactical limitations and the desire to overcome them.

 

Blogger mark on 4/16/2009 11:14 PM:

2004 was five years ago.

What's the 2009 percentage likely to be -or at least what was it in 2008 ? Nor did I ever state "all taxes". I was clearly discussing the income tax.

Re: Nazis

I don't know about you, Ahistoricality, but in terms of analysis, I like to start at the begining and stop at the end.

The argument that the Nazis were the creations of big German capitalists was a line pushed by orthodox Marxists starting in the 1930's, back when they were still calling the German S.D.'s "social fascists". It wasn't a credible argument then and it is much less so now. Check the historiography. German big business signed on to the Nazi bandwagon financially very late in the day, when Hindenburg's presidential cabinets were failing.

 

Blogger Ahistoricality on 4/17/2009 8:19 AM:

I like to start at the begining and stop at the end. Look up "fallacy of origins" sometime, mark.

 

Blogger mark on 4/17/2009 12:48 PM:

Or Ahistoricality, you might try admitting you don't really know what you are talking about.

 

Blogger Ahistoricality on 4/17/2009 1:31 PM:

On the internet?

Never!

(Seriously, though, part of what makes the Nazis so hard to talk about is that they do change tactics over time -- there's a core of rabid nationalism there all the way through, it's safe to say, but almost everything else is tactical. That said, they take a fairly strong pro-small business stance in their early years [once Hitler becomes involved; they were a Socialist Worker party before that, though I've never been sure what they meant by it], and a corporatist approach to industry once their in power; I really don't see how you call that "radically anticapitalist" without conflating capitalism with Friedmanesque libertarianism)

 

Blogger mark on 4/17/2009 2:46 PM:

Now you have said something I can agree with ! The Nazis present difficulties when trying to shorthand them into standard categories. There's a similar problem with the Napoleonic state in France which deliberately drew on heterogeneous social and political groups, without really reconciling their competing agendas.

The Nazis had a popular base in the lower middle class ( a mix of artisans, small shopkeepers, white collar) and the peasantry, but they succeeded in attracting a significant of workers. There was a sizable exchange of membership between the Communists and Nazi Brownshirts, the two most extreme and violence-prone parties competed for the loyaties of rowdy, unemployed, young men. The Nazis had radical and conservative wings with "radical" and "conservative" each having several meanings. Hitler liked to tack on policy between the two wings until the very end ( one reason for the big debate over his being a "weak" or a "strong" dictator back in the 80's/90's)

 

Anonymous paulie on 4/17/2009 7:37 PM:

; they were a Socialist Worker party before that, though I've never been sure what they meant by it

Stasser Brothers and others in the "left wing" of the NSDAP continued to push the socialist part of national socialism for a long time, but were increasingly pushed aside and purged as the nazis took and consolidated power.

 

Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/17/2009 10:58 PM:

I'm late to this discussion as usual, but I'll say that I don't read Paulie's first comment as contradicting anything in the body of the post, but rather as an attempt to provide additional information. For those who don't know, Paulie is a slightly left-leaning Libertarian who posts at Independent Political Report. I've never found him particularly combative (and, on the contrary, he's often been particularly informative).