History comes from class struggle, not the Supreme Court

By Terry Evans
October 12, 2020

Dire forebodings about Senate confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the U.S. Supreme Court fill the pages of the liberal media. Liberals insist she would cement a conservative majority on the court that would form an impenetrable barrier to social progress and destroy workers’ access to government-funded health care, Social Security and the right to have an abortion.

But whether it is filled with liberals or conservatives, the high court will continue doing what it has always done — defending the class interests of the ruling capitalist families.

The attitude working people should take towards the Supreme Court was taken up by Socialist Workers Party leader James P. Cannon after then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937 moved to greatly expand the number of Supreme Court judges and stack it so they would rule as he told them. This is something Democratic Party leaders say will have to be done if they win both the presidency and the Senate.

“We are 100% against the ridiculous illusion that the addition of a half dozen more exponents of the capitalist system to that judicial body will do away with the class struggle or materially affect the relationship between the workers and their exploiters in any way whatever,” Cannon wrote.

“The Supreme Court, like all other political and judicial institutions in modern society, is a class instrument, pure and simple,” he said. Its rulings are shaped by “the nature of its essential function as a protecting barrier of the system of private property and private profit.”

Working people cannot win concessions “without the most determined struggle,” Cannon said. “And a genuine rectification of the gross inequalities and injustices of capitalism is to be attained only by the development of these struggles to their logical and inevitable climax — the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. A ’liberal’ Supreme Court can’t and won’t aid these struggles. And a ‘reactionary’ Supreme Court can’t stop them.”

Cannon wrote these words as the class struggle was on the rise and millions of workers were building and using unions in strikes, sit-ins and other battles. That made it easier for workers to see that continuing on this course was the road forward.

Today, horror stories about what will happen if the Republicans win the presidency and fill Supreme Court justice seats that arise is stock in trade for liberals looking for any way to get workers to hold their nose and vote for the “lesser evil.”

“The development of the workers’ power to attain their historic aims — the abolition of capitalism and all its institutions, including the Supreme Court — that is the real business of the intelligent workers,” Cannon said.

Working people have no stake in the outcome of Barrett’s confirmation. As Cannon points out, what is key for us is strengthening our own struggles and learning to rely on our own forces — not arguing over how we can turn the black-robed robbers for the ruling class that sit on the court into an ally of the working class.