Last night Susie and I went to dinner at Antinea, a little pizza restaurant directly across the street from our apartment. When we entered, every eye was fixed on the large TV screen, watching France play Nigeria in the Round of Sixteen of the World Cup. We sat down at the 79th minute, with the score 0-0. Six minutes later France scored on a little header, and the restaurant erupted. Down the street I could hear the cheers from The Long Hop, a bar favored by young folks who spill out onto the sidewalk most evenings. In the third minute of the five minute extended play period France scored again, knocking Nigeria out of the tournament. After France's disastrous World Cup last time around, the whole country has been electrified by her success thus far. Tonight the U. S. plays Belgium.
When we got back to our apartment, I turned on my computer to check the news, and learned of the pair of decisions handed down by the Supreme Court. That both decisions are disastrous goes without saying, but I think they have quite different significances.
The Hobby Lobby decision granting to certain businesses the legal right to claim protection of their "religious beliefs" against The Affordable Care Act is by any measure the more grotesque of the two, and Justice Ginsburg is clearly correct in warning that the majority has opened the door to an endless series of meretricious claims of conscience by those fictional persons we call corporations. Only someone with Marx's mordant satirical bent could fully appreciate the decision to confer personhood on corporations while robbing actual persons of the elementary right to medical protection. But despite the grotesquerie of the Court's behavior, I am convinced that they are in this instance fighting a losing battle. Capitalism does not need modern women to stay at home barefoot and pregnant while their husbands command a "family wage" from their employers. Capitalism needs well-trained, educated women in the workplace receiving a fraction of the wages paid to comparable men and thus lowering the cost of labor. The religious obsessions of the devout are an impediment to profit, and hence will in time give way to capitalist rationality.
The decision concerning labor union agency fees is quite another matter. That decision is manifestly in the interest of capital, and will therefore stand unless there is a tectonic shift in the composition of political forces in the United States. The full-scale assault on unions is now thirty-five years old, and there is very little evidence even in the Democratic Party of a will to reverse it. Surely no serious effort to re-invigorate collective bargaining will issue from a Clinton presidency.
There have been times during my life when progressive forces could look to the courts to advance our cause beyond what we were able at that moment to win through elections, but this is not one of those times. There really is no alternative to large-scale mass organization [violence being no more than a late-night fantasy, regardless of want we might imagine.]
I await reports of today's USA-Belgium game with a heavy heart.