Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L)

The choice that isn’t: A communist view of the election

First Published: Unity, Vol. 3, No. 19, October 10-23, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Next month the elections or the presidential office will be held. By the time it actually takes place, tens of millions of dollars will have been spent in the campaigns and uncountable amount of overage carried on the TV, radio and in the newspapers for this most important political event in the land. There are major issues that confront the U.S. today: the deteriorating economy, the worsening standard of living and conditions of life in the U.S., the threat of war in the world, among others. The questions confronting the working class are: what should its position be to advance its interests in this year’s presidential election? Do any of the candidates offer anything that will help the working class and the fight for socialism?

The experience of most workers and oppressed peoples in the U.S. is that the outcome of recent presidential elections has meant little in affecting their lives in any positive and basic way. This is one of the main reasons why worker participation in the elections has dropped steadily during the past 15 years, and it is predicted that the November election will have the lowest percentage of voter turnout in history. Tens of millions of people will not vote for any presidential candidate, as they know from the past that neither the Democratic nor Republican parties today have any fundamental differences.

Both of the two big political parties are the parties of big business, and their presidential candidates, while mouthing concern for the problems confronting the people, inevitably offer solutions that basically benefit the monopolies. Big business decisively influences the selection of the candidates, finances and directs their campaigns, and once in office, big business makes sure that their interests come first.

Neither of the big business parties will ever bring fundamental change for the working people – this is something only socialism can do. But do any of the major candidates this year offer any program or trend that can help the working class in its immediate struggle or be used by the working class to help build the long-term struggle for socialism?

This year, if one wishes to vote, there is the choice of casting a ballot for one of the major candidates: Carter, Reagan or Anderson. This decision would be based on the assessment that one of the bourgeois candidates will make an important difference in office compared to the other candidates and that working people should choose among those most likely to actually win.

Another choice is to vote for an alternative candidate, of which there are several this year. One would vote for an alternative candidate because he or his party might help the working class’ long-term struggle for socialism, offering either a socialist program or a progressive united front program, even though he has little chance of actually winning this year.

In this article we will discuss Carter, Reagan and Anderson and why the working class should not tie itself to voting for any of them. In our next issue, we will cover the alternative candidates and other options open to the working class this year.

* * *

There are some who say the working class should vote for Carter because he is more progressive than Reagan, or at least not as anti-worker, anti-minority or warlike as Reagan. According to this view there is a substantial difference between Carter and Reagan and it is therefore important for the working people to throw their support to Carter.

If there were an actual substantive difference, then the working class possibly should vote for Carter.

The working class needs to establish workers’ rule with socialism, and in order to achieve this end the working class must break from the two bourgeois parties. But there may be instances when the working class may vote for a bourgeois candidate. In the event of an extreme crisis (war, depression, domestic upheaval), different sections of the ruling class may hold very different opinions as to the solutions for these problems.

These may be expressed by the two bourgeois parties, which would put forward platforms that, if implemented in office, may be either very helpful or very detrimental for the working class. While such a platform would still basically represent a section of the ruling class, the working class may have a real stake in seeing one of the trends be elected or defeated. Making use of elections, even the presidential race, must be included in the working class’ arsenal to achieve socialism.

But the question is today, do appreciable differences exist between Carter and Reagan? In our view, there are none. While there are shades of differences between the two on international and domestic matters, they have many more similarities and represent generally similar approaches to running the U.S. government. Many of the supposed differences between the two actually are just fabricated campaign controversy and posturing.

This becomes evident in examining the two candidates and parties more deeply.

Reagan – is he a “fascist”?

First, Reagan. Is he really such a reactionary that we should vote for Carter?

This line is being actively fanned up by Carter. But Reagan must not be looked at simply as an individual but what trend in the ruling class he represents. Reagan in fact represents the mainstream of the Republican Party today, which at this stage is not advocating any radical departure from the current way the U.S. is being run. Reagan’s main advisers include numerous Wall Street and corporate executives who served under the Nixon and Ford administrations, men like George Shultz, former treasury and labor secretary; Alan Greenspan, chief economic adivsor to Ford; William Simon, former treasury secretary; Casper Weinberger, former HEW secretary; William Casey, former president of the Import Export Bank and chairman of the Security Exchange Commission; Richard Allen, former member of the National Security Council under Kissinger, and others.

These men are the main ones shaping Reagan’s policies. Fortune magazine noted that the Shultz-Greenspan group has the “upper hand” in policy making, and quoted economist Milton Friedman as describing Reagan as a pragmatist, “not a rigidly principled man.” What Fortune means is that Reagan is not any wild fanatic, but from the mainstream of the Republican Party. Fortune goes on to review Reagan’s record as California governor and his cooperation with state businessmen during his tenure. Contrary to his campaign pledges, Reagan did not beat back “big government,” but actually raised taxes three times, increased the state budget by 120% and added nearly 50,000 employees to the state payroll. State business interests deemed such measures necessary at the time to manage California’s growing industry and population.

A case in point is the Kemp-Roth Bill, which Reagan once made the centerpiece of his economic policy. Kemp-Roth supporters argue that cutting taxes by 30% will stimulate the economy so much that there would actually be an increase in government revenues. Most economists scoff at the theory, stating that such a huge tax cut would increase the federal deficit and fuel inflation, or else result in total fiscal chaos. Reagan’s advisers strongly oppose Kemp-Roth, and as the campaign progressed, it all but disappeared from Reagan’s speeches.

The Taiwan issue

Similarly, foreign policy in the Reagan administration would be dictated by the current conditions and the general interests of U.S. imperialism as a whole. It would be extremely unrealistic, for example, that Reagan would be able to establish official relations with the Taiwan regime, something he stated he would do in August.

Within U.S. ruling circles there is strong support for normalized relations with China. The U.S. knows that its previous anti-China policy, and then its “two China” policy which advocated recognition for both China and Taiwan, are no longer possible or viable. China’s emergence as an important factor in world affairs cannot be ignored by the U.S., and normal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China promote stability in Asia and the world.

Reagan thus came under heavy pressure to clarify his stand on the Taiwan issue. Within a few days he issued a formal statement (which his foreign policy adviser, Richard Allen, explained was “precise” and “definitive”) in which Reagan pledged to pursue the development of U.S.-China relations and recognized that the Taiwan issue is an internal matter for China to resolve. He said he would stick by the Taiwan Relations Act, which Congress passed to regulate dealings with Taiwan, and that under the terms of the act, he would support arms sales to Taiwan – something the Carter administration also supports. (China also is dissatisfied with the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the U.S. has maintained a form of official recognition of Taiwan.) In effect, Reagan was forced to bring his China position in line with the consensus within the bourgeoisie.

Similar policies

Carter and Reagan’s policies on domestic and foreign policy are actually quite similar. Carter and Reagan’s economic policies both center around “revitalizing” or “reindustrializing” American industry by helping business invest more and boost productivity. Both Carter and Reagan advocate tax breaks to business and eliminating or easing government regulations on industry, such as pollution standards and health and safety regulations. Carter has already implemented such a policy with his auto and steel program of tax breaks and pollution control exemptions; and the Democratic Congress has already taken steps to kill OSHA.

To fight inflation, Carter and Reagan both say they will balance the budget by 1985, something which will be possible only by massive cuts in social welfare programs, since both also want an increase in military spending.

Though Reagan advocates an immediate 10% tax cut and Carter currently opposes a tax cut as inflationary, it is widely agreed in Washington that some tax cut will be necessary early next year in order to help pull the economy out of the recession. Carter’s opposition to a tax cut is actually campaign posturing that he is holding the line against inflation.

On social issues, Carter appears to support minorities and women more than Reagan, but he has done little in reality. Carter backed the Bakke Decision, which attacked affirmative action quotas, and his budget cuts have all been in areas which the minorities the hardest, like CETA jobs, youth job training, aid to the cities, welfare, food stamps and so on. While Reagan says he opposes the ERA, Carter has not done anything to help pass the ERA. Carter’s support for the right to abortions too is hypocritical since he backed legislation which wiped out public funding for abortions. And while Carter rails about Reagan’s “backwardness,” he also conciliates with the religious fundamentalists who want creationism taught in the schools along with evolution. Carter stated that “science and religion (should) work together to explain the existence of an on the Earth.”

Same foreign policy trend

In foreign policy matters, both Carter and Reagan represent the same general trend in U.S. ruling circles away from detente and towards a more confrontational approach to the Soviets. Though Carter previously tended more towards appeasing Soviet hegemonism, the Carter Doctrine, announced following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, declared the Persian Gulf a sphere of U.S. influence to be defended with military intervention if necessary. Reagan, of course, vigorously advocates defending U.S. imperialist interests through the use of force.

Both advocate stepping up U.S. war preparations. Carter has already implemented plans for the MX missile, the 100,000-man rapid deployment force for quick intervention in the third world, and military draft registration. Though some believe Carter represents more accommodationist approach towards the third world while Reagan represents a more interventionist or hostile approach, in reality both candidates will make concessions when intervention is considered untenable. Carter, for example, continues to back the bloody south Korean regime, finances the right-wing regime in El Salvador, and backs Israel and its continued expansion onto Arab land. At the same time Reagan states he will honor the Panama Canal treaties.

The actual differences between Reagan and Carter are only shades of difference. Reagan does not represent a “fascist” trend which necessitates the formation of an “anti-fascist front,” including Carter, to oppose him.

To mistakenly analyze Reagan as a “fascist” actually underestimates the dangers of the conservative trend which both Carter and Reagan represent – a general trend in the ruling class towards granting more concessions to business, tightening the screws on working people and stepping up war preparations.


What about John Anderson? Does he represent an alternative to Carter and Reagan and the conservative trend which they represent?

Anderson’s economic policies are similar to Reagan and Carter’s – tax breaks for business and budget cuts. He also favors a lower minimum wage for youth and a 50t per gallon gasoline tax.

Anderson like the other candidates supports an increase in military spending and building up the U.S. arsenal. Where he differs on foreign policy, however, is that he favors more of a detente approach towards the Soviets. But far from being a “peace policy” as he claims, detente and appeasement of Soviet expansionism has only heightened the danger of war by fueling more Soviet aggression.

Though Anderson supports a few social reforms such as public funding for abortions and opposing the death penalty, taken as a whole his policies represent the interests of big business and are not beneficial to workers and minorities.

Overall trend

U.S. capitalism today is faced with many problems: the energy crisis, declining profits, competition with other capitalist countries, the challenge of the Soviet superpower, and the decline of U.S. corporate strength in the third world. These problems have all severely aggravated a faltering economy, while massive social problems like racism, pollution, and cultural decay keep piling up.

The U.S. ruling class is in a quandary about what to do about this situation, but it generally has found common ground in promoting a conservative economic and political trend.

The working class gains nothing by voting for Carter or Reagan, who both represent this general trend, or Anderson, whose policies differ only in some minor respects, but which are also detrimental to the working class.

All three candidates represent the continuation of monopoly capitalism’s assault on the living standards of the masses and increased war preparations. The working class this year should not vote for Carter, Reagan or Anderson. Instead, it should expose the Democrats and the Republicans as the parties of big business and show the similarities in their programs and what they mean for the working people. This non-support for any of the bourgeois candidates will be a clear sign of rejection of their policies.

The working class and masses of people need to break with the two bourgeois parties and forge their own political trend. This requires much work – to establish socialism as a national force and forge a united front with other progressive sectors of the population. Obviously this has yet to be achieved, but encouraging a vote for one of the bourgeois candidates this year given their similarity will only weaken the working class’ efforts to develop its own force. This is why all working people should cast no vote for any of the candidates of big business.