October 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard
Before commenting upon some of the things being presented as issues in the American Presidential election, it is important to clarify a few basic questions which will never be asked by the contending parties. For Ford and Carter the objective is power, but why such power exists and whether its continuation serves the welfare of the majority of society are other matters.
Why the need for the Presidency? What is the Presidency? It is a particular form of political power structure, resting upon a private property foundation. The military, legislative and coercive superstructure is based upon the dominance of one class and the subjugation of another. The President is the head of State. The ultimate political authority over the armed forces. The number one national leader in a hierarchy of wealth and privilege. He is the top Political Executive of the capitalist class as a whole. The state represents the interests of the national capital. The Presidency is a political cloak for the operations of big business capitalism. Politics in general and government activity in particular, provides the capitalist class with the shield of anonymity. The capitalist is removed from direct responsibility for his system. The state can be regarded as above the fray.
The turmoil of capitalism, economic crisis, unemployment, poverty, bad housing and wars can thus be blamed on the ineptitude of the President or erroneous government policies. When dissatisfaction boils over, the President and the government can be changed, posing no threat to the system. The falsehood that capitalism can work without creating social problems is kept going by the appearance of making a fresh start. A new President? A new government? Now things will change! Socialists reject these assumptions which are promoted by the mass media and accepted by the majority of the working class. We reject the political trickery of capitalism because we see behind the façade of “a fresh start” the ownership of the means of production by a profit-motivated minority, whose commercial operations engulf the entire world. No solutions to basic problems can result from changing leaders, since they are products of the system, who advocate its continuation and therefore necessarily serve its ends.
To make judgements and form opinions on the basis of personality—the alleged attributes of Carter against those of Ford—is totally futile and irrelevant. To think in terms of “liberal” versus “conservative” is really not to think at all, but to swallow the cut-and-dried concepts of the pundits. Capitalism sets the limits within which they can move.
Two US officers killed in Korea. The north claims previous weeks of provocations. Ford sends in the fleet. Demonstrates military power. Show of force is good for prestige in this mad society.
It turns out that 41,000 us troops have been in Korea since 1953 when the war “ended”. Korea is mineral-rich and strategically important in relation to both China and Japan. The Guardian headline of 23 August read: “Korean flare-up stops rot in metal prices”. The prospect of a new war in Korea could add one hundred pounds a tonne to the price of copper and three hundred pounds to a tonne of tin.
Is Ford saving face by showing no weakness with the election coming, or can we expect renewed warfare in Korea when the election is over? Certainly, war sometime, somewhere, while capitalism lasts.
Carter Foreign Policy
Asked about his lack of experience in international affairs, Carter said:
I’ve been a student of foreign policy, and I understand it. There’s no mystery about it—its simply a matter of decency, judgement, common-sense, and intelligence.
He has been briefed by dozens of “experts” (we are left to wonder who briefed the experts.) He would insist that Russia refrain from irresponsible intervention in other countries such as Angola, or he would consider an economic embargo of Russia, including the “total with-holding of trade”. This, no doubt, in his common-sense and intelligent judgement, would be the “decent” thing to do. And if the Russian capitalist class took counter-measures that led to a major war, we assume it would be a “decent” war! Carter like Ford would increase the US defence (read war) budget, but not by so much. He would negotiate with Russia to reduce nuclear weapons and insist on overall parity. With a firepower capable of wiping out all life on earth several times over, talk of “reduction” is meaningless. He would withdraw us troops from Asia—except those necessary to fulfil us commitments to Japan and, yes, Korea.
Under Ford and Kissinger, last year America sold more than eleven thousand million dollars’ worth of war-making hardware around the world. Carter wants a ceiling on the yearly amount sold, and a case-by- case review to see whether sales further American objectives.
The Guardian, 23rd August, ventures the comment that if elected Carter “would be forced to bend to the realities of congressional opinion and of other nation’s needs and demands.” In other words, capitalism would run him while he went through the motions of running capitalism.
Carter in New York
In his nomination speech, Carter said:
It’s now a time for healing. We want to have faith again. We want to be proud again. We just want the truth again.
This platitudinous drivel can mean anything or nothing. “Healing” is taken to mean recovery from Watergate; Bad-guy, Republican Nixon, let everybody down. Inference? The American workers should rally to good-guy Carter. “Faith again”? Faith in Nixon made Watergate possible. Faith and leadership mean continuing jingoism and ignorance. “Proud again”? The working class have nothing to be proud of in the performance of the ruling class. It is implied that Watergate shamed America. This is of no concern to workers. A far greater shame is continuing poverty and millions unemployed in the world’s richest country. “Truth again”? Truth has never been the strong point of capitalist politicians. The last Democrat President was Johnson. He told so many lies, particularly about Vietnam, that they coined the phrase “credulity gap” to cover the distance between what was really happening and the White House handouts.
On TV Carter (briefly) spoke the truth. His first words were:
Hello, I’m Jimmy Carter and I’m running for President.
A sad reflection on working-class awareness, rivalled only by Gerald Ford running for President.
To be continued