Scalia, SCOTUS and democracy


Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, known for his reactionary, racist, anti-woman, anti-gay and anti-working class decisions, which he disguised as erudite, strict interpretation of legal text, died suddenly on Feb. 13. Recalling his 1986 appointment to the court, some may say that his death came 30 years too late. Taking into account the adage that one should say only good of the dead or nothing at all, we say nothing.

We do have something to say about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Initial political reactions to Scalia’s death suggest there will be a battle royale within the ruling class — in this case between the two big capitalist political parties — about the next appointment. Upcoming SCOTUS votes are expected to be 4-4. The battle may be as bitter a conflict as that for the next presidency, although one with no popular vote. The question is: Can the working class jump into this internal ruling-class battle with independent demands?

Of the three branches of the U.S. government — the legislative branch, Congress; the executive branch, the president; and the judicial branch, the Supreme Court — SCOTUS is the most undemocratic. Its members are unelected, appointed for life by the president and approved by the Senate composed of millionaires, and it has been the most stable bulwark of class oppression and exploitation. SCOTUS defended the slaveholders in the 19th century and the big capitalists and bankers against the working class and oppressed peoples in the 20th and 21st, with only a few exceptions in times of great mass struggle.

In a July 20, 1989, article, Workers World Party chairperson Sam Marcy wrote that despite the process extending voting rights to African Americans, women and youth since the Constitution was written, “there has been a simultaneous social and economic process which is superior in strength. That is the process of the concentration of power in undemocratic bodies. It comes from the concentration of the means of production in the hands of a ruling class which holds the power and distributes it in areas most conducive to them. So it’s not an accident that power should ultimately be exercised by the Supreme Court. That’s most reliable to them, most conservative, responsive only to those who have appointed them.” (For complete article, see

With the Democratic and Republican parties clashing over whether SCOTUS should be a flexible or a rigid obstacle to social progress, working-class and oppressed people should use the opening this conflict creates, expose the anti-democratic nature of the court and demand an end to its role as an appointed body that defends the class rule of the super-rich.