1970s >> 1977 >> no-871-march-1977

Dispatch from America

It has become pretty much of a cliché among Socialists in America — as is the case wherever there are members of the World Socialist movement — to declare that there is little, if any, difference among the parties of capitalism. When you get right down to bedrock, how can there be any difference? Capitalism is, essentially, the wages, prices, profits system and whatever designation the candidates in the 1976 Presidential Elections ran under — Republican, Democratic, Independent . . . yes, even Socialist Workers (Trotskyist) and the US Labor Party (“Marcus”-ists) — none advocated the immediate, or even the future, abandonment of the relationships of wage labor and capital. All argued for a better operation of the present social structure.And yet there are superficial differences that bear examination if only that they indicate the bankruptcy of capitalist and pseudo-socialist ideologists. For example, there was that different approach between President Ford and Jimmy Carter on the question of jobs for the unemployed. Carter took the stand that American working people want work, not welfare checks, and promised a huge Government program — or implied it, at any rate — to create jobs. Ford, on the other hand, argued that such jobs are dead-end affairs without a future, that meaningful jobs must come from the “private sector” and that, if elected, he would concentrate upon stimulating the private sector.

Interestingly: Camejo, SWP, took a stand similar to that of Carter only with even more emphasis on Government-created jobs, a sort of revived Works Project Administration (WPA) while LaRouche (US Labor Party) spent his time (and a lot more than the $90,000 his party raised to purchase a half-hour of prime time on the NBC Network the night before the election) arguing that a vote for Ford would save us from a major depression by Christmas 1976, and an all-out nuclear war by June of 1977. The election of Carter, he contended, would surely bring these twin catastrophes to the world. Such were the positions of America’s two major self-styled Marxist parties.

Now, what was the difference between the Ford and Carter approach in the campaign? Ford, of course, was being more pragmatic than Carter because it has long since become obvious in America that it is cheaper to keep unemployed on welfare than to create unproductive Government jobs. The wages from such work must come from tax money and it costs more to keep workers on jobs than it does to mail them a check. (One needs more food, better clothing, transportation, etc., on a job). A program such as Carter implied would bring a huge increase in taxes (if not sharply increased inflation) and it remains to be seen how much of such a program will be instituted by the new régime.

But the problem with the Ford philosophy is that, basically productive industry does not exist for the purpose of providing jobs. The motive is production for profit not the provision of “dignity” for unemployed workers.

As Socialists, we must look at the question from a different angle. Why, in the face of the stupendous achievements of capitalism (in whatever form) must jobs be considered a be-all and end-all? It is more than just a case of needing a job to exist. Today that is a sad fact. The depressing aspect of the matter is that liberals and radicals, generally, ascribe a therapeutic value to spending 8-hours per day, plus travel time, at a machine or whatever, in return for the money needed to function properly and raise families to carry on! And despite industrial disease, accidents and even deaths that are part of the warp and woof of capitalism!

Come off it, you self-styled progressive-minded humanists, or whatever. Is it so difficult to picture a society in which the work needed to produce enough for all will be minimized and the end result a maximum of freedom to live one’s life according to one’s natural desires? Not that mere picturing is enough! It will take organization and action to bring about such a society. But visualizing it would be a beginning. There has not been a solitary instance, in American politics, of a candidate entering the arena to advocate such a society — world socialism. It is truly time for a change!

Harry Morrison (Boston)
World Socialist Party of the United States