From the October 1932 issue of The Socialist Standard
The two great burlesque shows recently held in Chicago are now things of the past—the conventions of the two major political parties in the United States to nominate their respective candidates for the offices of President and Vice-President, and to frame their respective platforms with which each party hopes to capture political power in the coming elections in November.
An important reason why these conventions were held in that city is that the business organisations of Chicago, through their Chamber of Commerce, offered both the Democratic and Republican parties an inducement of 100,000 dollars to defray expenses. This was done because the business interests of the city of the “Jungle” saw in these conventions a means of increasing business for themselves. The city fathers of Chicago decided to make doubly certain that their investment would reap profit by asking both parties to prolong their gatherings as long as possible.
The shows opened, like most shows, with lots of previous publicity. Nothing was missing, brass bands, bathing beauties, and, of course, the spellbinders, religious as well as political. ‘
The conventions followed each other within an interval of a few days, both introducing their business with the aid of an attendant sky pilot who, as the agent of the Lord, did solicit this ubiquitous but invisible party to lend his divine wisdom to those convened for the important mission they were about to perform. But, according to some reports, the sky pilot’s request could never have reached the heavenly abode, for it is said that the chairman at one of these gatherings stated that he could not see how God would be able to do his part of the job “with such a hell of a noise among the delegates.”
In selecting their nominees for office and framing their political platforms, besides the incidental catch-cries, the delegates keep their eyes fixed on the political horizon and size up the prospects of capturing political office. The nominees selected for President and Vice-President are individuals whom the delegates believe will capture the most votes on the strength of their “personality” and reputation.
The Republicans selected Herbert Hoover and Charles Curtis, the present incumbents in office, whilst the Democrats chose Franklin D. Roosevelt, Governor of the State of New York, and Nance Garner, Representative from Texas and Speaker of that House, to fill these two jobs.
When the parties had selected their standard bearers the next task was to rally the voters around them. A platform had to be drawn up on the “bees and honey” principle of selecting the issues which are already troubling the minds of the electorate.
The question of how to bring back “prosperity” is foremost in the minds of the electorate, and both parties frame their platforms accordingly.
To a large section of the working class “prosperity” means being able to get jobs again. For the capitalist class it means the promise of more profit.
Another reason why the various capitalist groups are so anxious for political power is their desire to have a say in raising taxes.
With millions of wage slaves without means of selling their energies, and thus being deprived of the necessaries of life, there is always a danger that these hungry hordes might attack capitalist property. The capitalists realise this, and are compelled to make some sort of provision for these potentially dangerous slaves, by taking part of the wealth they have stolen from the slaves and giving it back to them in the form of bread-lines, soup-kitchens, doles, and the like. The New York Daily Mirror brought out this aspect in the following:—
“Huge food reserves ordered for needy,” “Governor plans loan funds for idle,” “Preachers demand cure for idleness,” “ $6,000,000 drive for idle.” These items are spread over the front pages of many newspapers in the country. And they are only a meagre indication of the misery and unrest that millions are experiencing.
Few people of wealth should give now “until it hurts.” They should give as a matter of self- preservation.
When private charity proved insufficient, the authorities had to step in and make provision, out of resources already depleted owing to the declining yield from the existing taxes—a feature of every trade depression.
Consequently many of the capitalists and their political representatives turn to the “liquor question” and see in this the “magic fluid” which will turn to gold. Many of them who only a few years ago saw in alcohol “the degeneracy of a nation,” now see in it life-giving properties. But they are not unanimous in their acclaim for “light wines and beer.” There are among them some who, whilst they would like to see a revival, of the liquor business for the revenues that can be obtained from it, yet, being professional politicians, see also the danger of jeopardising their sinecures by antagonising the “drys.” This is very noticeable in the Republican Party, and as a result of such a condition, the party’s attitude on the liquor question resulted in a “straddle ”—State Option.
This was the most important part of the Republican Party’s convention, and the rest was devoted to oratory and some horseplay. There was much talk about the need for a “new spiritual awakening,” and the “realisation of new values,” besides lots of other equally empty abstract talk which will soon be forgotten in the heat of the election campaign.
The Democratic convention came out almost solidly for the repeal of the 18th Amendment (which was expected from the party who in the Northern and Eastern states has long been “wet”). They expect to draw from the other major party many votes of those who are dissatisfied with that party’s straddle on this question.
The Democrats dealt also with the problem of taxation, and agreed unanimously that the repeal of the 18th Amendment and consequently the legalisation of beer and wine-selling was the way out of this capitalist difficulty. “Make the brewers pay,” is the Democratic slogan, and with the brewers paying, part or the burden of taxation will be put on to their shoulders. Also, we must not forget that with the legalisation of the sale of light wines and beer, the expenditure of the government on its army of “snoopers” and “stool pigeons” who are now engaged in attempting to enforce the 18th Amendment, will be wiped out. After much jubilation, much singing, and we suspect, a little passing of the “cup that cheers’’ within the seclusion of hotel bathrooms, the convention of the Democratic Party ended.
For the workers there is nothing to choose between these two parties. They both stand for capitalism. It has been shown that many capitalists support both parties, and evidence has been offered in the press that both parties draw finances from the same sources. The capitalists who finance both parties at the same time wish to be doubly certain that whichever party gets political power, their particular interests will be looked after.
The ruling class know that to obtain political power they must have the aid of the working class, as this class is numerically the strongest. These conventions, with all of their publicity, are part of the means to stir up in the working class a certain interest in political activity. So the capitalist politicians bring up at such conventions the different issues—some of importance to workers—and then with the aid of their professional spell-binders and writers, attempt to sidetrack and enlist the sympathy of the workers—and get their votes.
The conditions of the working class arise out of the social relationships in modern society. This class is forced by necessity to enter into a certain definite relationship with the capitalist class. As the latter class own the means of production— the means of life—the working class is compelled to sell its energies to the owners in order to gain access to the means of life. In exchange for their energies the workers get wages. It due to this condition that poverty and misery exist among the workers.
The control of the machinery of government, including the armed forces, is essential to the capitalist or property owning class to enable them to deal with the problems that confront them.
There is, for example, the need for the capitalist class of the United States to protect themselves from the encroachments of capitalists of other countries who may attempt to “muscle in” on the preserves of our masters’ country. Again, new markets are sought in which to sell the surplus products that the limited purchasing power of the American workers will not enable them to buy. This struggle for markets is keen among the various capitalist national groups throughout the world. Who shall get the markets often resolves itself into which group can muster the strongest force, and when the trickery of diplomacy fails, the force of armaments decides.
Then, again, there is the struggle between the workers and the capitalists over the division of the wealth produced by the workers. The more the capitalist system develops, the clearer become the contrasts between the two classes, and with it the likelihood of periodical outbursts of industrial strife.
As the workers’ understanding grows, the difficulty of stifling their discontent, correspondingly increases. To deal with this there are, apart from the regular army and navy and air force, also such organisations as the “National Guards,” the “Citizens’ Military Training Corps,” etc. Besides these we have the police departments, and private agencies such as the “Burns” and “Pinkertons,” all of which are used to suppress any of the smaller uprisings of workers, and which are also used as spies and stool-pigeons to weed out and fire those workers who desire to organise against their oppressive conditions.
Still another capitalist problem is the existence of the “criminal” elements which this social system breeds so freely. The uncertain conditions of the working class, and even of some of the smaller fry of capitalists, demoralises many into trying to live by means that are contrary to capitalist property laws.
What has been written above shows that the capitalists, in order to run their system, must needs have a government to enable them to enforce their kind of order, so that the conditions essential to the exploitation of the slave class can be continued. Thus it is that they are prepared to spend large sums of money running into many millions of dollars for the purpose of winning elections. Yet we know that no matter which capitalist party obtains the powers of government, their supreme interests as a class will be served. Individual and group differences there are, but basically all of these differences are as nothing when the difference between capitalist and worker comes into prominence. Then the common aim of the capitalist class is shown, and that is, to maintain the present social system.
It should be clear to all workers that the working class, if they are to escape from the misery of capitalism, must first understand their class position, and must then build up a Socialist political party for the purpose of capturing the powers of government in order to introduce Socialism.
This is the only solution of the economic problems of the working class. All else will leave them wage-slaves still.
Taffy Brown (Workers’ Socialist Party of the United States)