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Political Parties -
Origin of the Party System other objects, to prevent party domination, no
matter how noble its purpose be.
Political parties are indispensable for the Yet, within a few years of the career of the
working of a democratic government. \Vithout Union, party divisions and party spirit were suf-
them, says Maciver, "there cC!n be no unified ficiently evident. In fact, hardly had Washington
slatement of principle, no orderly evolution of taken the oath of office that he noticed the signs
policy, no regular resort to the constitutional of an emerging party split. To give "the fledgling
device of parliamentary elections nor o f course government" a sense of unity and to rise above
any of the recognized instituti ons by mean s of faction and party, Washington included both Al-
which a party seeks to gain or to maintain exander Hamilton, the leading federali st, and
power." If there are no parties, politics would Thomas Jefferson, the most influential anti-fed-
be a sheer babel of tongues and th e power of the eralist, in his Cabinet. But Jefferson resi gned as
people, termed as popular sove rei gnty, would Secretary of State in Washington's second ad-
dissipate itself into numberless channels and be- ministration to devote full time to the job of
come quite ineffecti ve and futile . A disorganised welding together a great party following. Wash-
mass of people can neither fannulate princi- ington deplored the emerging state of affa irs a nd
ples nor can they agree on po l icy and th e ob"ious in his Farewell Address he warned hi s country-
result is complete chaos. Political pani es pro,'ide men against " the common and continuous mis
necessary leadership and direct re seryoi r of chie f ofthe spiri t of party arc sufficient to make
popular sovereignty. They bring order out of it the interest and duty of a wi se people to di s-
chaos by putting before the peopl e for what they courage and restrain it.lt serves always to di strac t
stand and educate them with their programmes. the public councils and enfeeble the pu blic ad-
The people 3PJ'TO VC the programme of J party ministration. It agitates the community with ill
which they de~m best and return it to power. The founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the
party returned in majority [onTIs the GO\"ernment animosity of one part against another ..... ' But
and pursues its programme vigorously. The pri - Washington was no political philosopher and he
mary business of a political party is, in brief, to did not see the inevitability of parti sanship. In
educate the electorate and mould the public opin- the Presidential election of 1796, the third under
ion, to win elections and to Conn the government. the Union and the first in which Washington was
But the men who framed the American not a candidate, there were two national parties,
Constitution shared the common opinion Ihat one supporting John Adams and the other sup-
political parties were highly detrimental to na- port ing Thomas Jefferson. By 1800 the party
tional solidarity as they encouraged strife, divi- system had settled itself quite firmly in the gov-
sion, chicanery, and personal manipulat ion . ernment, even to the extent of necessitating the
Planning as the Fathers were forth e United States addition of the Twelfth Amendment so as to
as a whole, they sought to provide a mechanism make the Electoral College method workable.
of government which would be free from all It scarcely need be added that since that
"violence of the faction," as Madi son called it. tim e political parties have played a very vigorou s
They apprehended that their youn g republi c, too, role in the United States. Sometimes th ey ha ve
might meet the fate of the republics of the ancient been more vigorous than others. National emcr
world and of medieval italy, if the system of gency may cause their temporary eclipse or an
government they were establishing permitted independent President may be able to transcend
the growth of factitious spirit. The Philadelphia them for a time, but the party system has never
Convention had, therefore, to transcend party and received a setback. It has grown from generation
the device of division of powers and the system to generation, and today this extraconstitutional
of checks and balances were designed, among growth fonns the hub of the political life of the

328 The Government of the United States of America

nation. UBu t for the appearance of a national directed to strengthen the mercan tile class with-
party system, " as Professor Brogan realis tically out any consideration of the interest of the yeo-
po m ts out, "the election of a President really manry. Devoted as hc was to the ideal of an
enough oCa national figure tocarryouthi s duties, agrarian democracy, he concluded that whole
might have been imposs ible.And it is certai n that Fede rali st program me would result into the crea-
th ~ greatest breakdown of the American consti- ti on.of an .oligarchy, the mle of the propertied
tutiona l system, th e Civil War, came on ly when few m th e mterests of a propertied few . He could '
th o party system collapsed. "I think of no other means to remedy it, except to
Basis of A merican Party System plead for State ri ghts and a narrow construction
The basis of the American party system is of the constitutional powers of the Central Gov-
110t the same with which political parties are
tradi tionally assoc iated . , Amer ica n parties have It may appear rather confusing that Jack-
never been bodies armen united on some general son, Po lk, Cleve land, Wilson and Franklin
pr inc iples. ofgovemment and united [0 put these Rooseve lt d iffered fro m the founderoftheirparty
princ iples into conc rete form by leg islation and and depend ed on the ex ten s ion of th e authority
ad m inistration." The lineofdivision in the Phila- of the nJti onai gove rnment and a broad interpre-
delphia Convention was between large and small tati on of the Const ituti on. But Jefferson's attitude
States with s la very issue lJoming large in the of mind cannot be divo rced from the context of
background. II was in interests and reactions o f th e "extrapolitical conditions of the early
an eco nomic and sec tiona l nature that the parties d ays". T.hc ~ <lck of commun icat ion and transport,
s t(111ed on t.heir ca reer in early years of the repub- the provincI al values, the absence of a national
li c. The Fedcrali st party relied upon the cohlmer- s pirit and of an idcntity of the people with the
c ial, financial and industrial elements of the New new nation, all these factors retarded the growth
England an31lie Middle States, whereas the back- of natio nal se ntiments and th e Ce ntral - Govern'-
bune of Jefferson ' s Party were agrarian interests. ment bcill g regarded as the custodian of the in
planters and fanners, of the Sout h and ntrJI terests of th e nation. Jefferso n, consequently, felt
that on ly by reserving a great body of rights solely
BOlh Hamilt on and Jcffason were gen u to the Sw tes could mean protec tion of the inter-
indy prom pted by th e ir keen dc sire to build a es ts of tile people, "There was, therefore, no
stro ng, vigorous and free nat ion and they conce n- essent ial co ntrJd ic ti on in his historic position as
trated their best energ ies in achieving th at v irtu - the founder of the Democratic Party and his overt
ous purpos e. But' 'each had a distinctive road to de fen ce of state rights against national encroach
me nL"2 .
stre ngth , vigour and freed om." Hamilton be
licvcd in a strong Federal Govemmcnt and he The two grl!a t American parties were and
attempted to build it, enjoying an advantageous arc combination o f interests and their strength is
positio n JS \Vashington's Secretary of the Treas- local. Roughly speaki ng, United S tates may toc
ury, on real and sound financial bas is. He caused day be divided into four groups. The manufac-
the nat ional bank to be founded , passed excise turing North-Eastem group is in the main Repub-
taxes and extended in general the authority of the lican; the agri cultural south is overwhelmingly
nati ona l governm ent within the framework of Democratic. The support of the central farming
the Constitution in order to make the people of States is so light by bo th the parties. Another
the United States feel that they re ally m ade a development of the present century is the political
nation and the national governmen t represe nted importance of the sti ll mainly agricultural and
the nation; it was no confederation of States. grazi ng but rap idl y industrialising West. 11 is the
Thomas Jefferson took a se rio~s objec tion constant endeavour of both the parties to go
to Hamilton's methods and there was a rift in the beyond th eir citadels of strength and secure the
Cabinet. Jefferson resigned and devoted his po- ' support of e ithe r of the two uncertain groups, or
litical talents to building a party to combat preferably both. These two g roups are, in fact,
"Hamiltonians, " as Hamilton and his followers the detennining factors of Presidential and Con-
came to be nicknamed. Jefferson's irritatio n was gressional majorities and to enable the Republi-
that all the m eas ures qf the government an! can and the Democ rats 10 bank upon their support

I. Brogan, D. W ., An Introdu ction to American Politics, p. 45 .

2. Tourtcllol, A. B., An Anatomy of America'J Politics, p, 168.
Political Parties 329

means. bigh degree ofpolitical organization. But more piquant situation arises when the Senate is
so long as Nonh remains Republican and South of onegarty and the House of Representatives of
Democratic, locality will continue to embrace another'and the President necessarily divided in
the party politics of the country. his altitude towards Congress.
The Two-Party System Under the two-party system the parties be-
Throughout its history the United States come moderate and compromising bodies highly
had, barring a few minor parties, two major po- se nsitive of their responsibility. Each party en-
litical parties. Various explanations for such a deavours to rally round as many interests as it
development have been offered. First, the peoplc possibly can to win power. And as e.a ch parry is
belonging to tbe English-speaking countries are a t a ll times either the government or the opposi-
less doctrinaire and more inclined to compro- tion it remains in touel) .with realities and can
mise. Second, tbe problems of race, nationality ill-afford to make wild and irresponsible state-
and religion are not so prominent to divide them ments of policy. Finally, multiple party system
into different factions as compared with Con- wou ld make continued functioning of the elec-
tinental countries of Europe. Third, the Iwo- toral college virtually impossible.
pany system is a legacy of the Colonial regime It does not, however, mean that minor par
and it has since then perpetuated. Fourth, the ties ha ve never existed in the United States. From
two-pany system is the consequence of the early times, dissatisfied elements have launched
American voting system, especially the Electoral "third" parties; totalling at least a score. But the
College and the single member district plan of one redeeming fearure is that third parties have
electing legislative representatives. II is true that come and gone and during the last 150 years none
the electoral method of electing the Presidcnt except the Republican Parry has ever gained
would lie very undemocratic if a strong third sufficient strength to displace an existing major
pany should emerge. If no majority wins in the parry, Several times minor parry candidates for
Electoral College, the House of Representatives the Pres i- dency have polled sufficient votes to
clects the Chief Executive head of the State from hold the balance of power between the two
the highest three, each State casting one vote. The' majors, but they have been unable to keep their
single member district scheme of clecting repte- separate identity or strength for lon~ On six
senta- tive also disc~rages the development of different occasions since Civil War, third parties
minor parties. have played respectable roles and the most reccnt
Two-parry system has cenain important one was that of Robert M. La Follette, the
results. Under the parliamentary system, one progressive candidate for Presidency in 1924,
party which carries the mandate of the electorate who polled 4i million votes.
fonms the government and with its legislative The role of the minor parties in the Ameri-
majority has the power to carry out that mancate. ca n politics cannot be discounted.)They are gen-
But under the presidential system, the separation erally the innovators of policy, ifnot holders of
of powers, upon which hinges the framework of o fficC'. "The old parties have not hesitated to
government may, occasionally create conditions take plank after plank from Populists, Green-
of deadlock between the Executive and Legisla- backers, Socialists, and Progressives and install
tive departments, though nonmally it results in a them in their own pJatfonns." Minor parties are
situation where the President has a Congressional almost invariably radi cal than the old line organ-
majority of his own parry. In the event of joinl isations and much of what these left-wing parties
Congressional majority being of one pany and advocated rwo or three decades ago may be found
the President of another, th e nation suffers be- in the Democratic and Republican platforms of
cause of the fricti on and critical role which both today. There may not be a future for the third
play. During the last two years of Truman 's first parties in the United States, but those who pro-
administration, the Republican Congress enacted mote th em have the satisfaction to see their pro-
legislation not liked by the President and Presi- g rammes, for which they worked, become the
dent Truman spent a good deal of time criticising law of the land under the auspices of old parlies.
it. At the same time, the President was conducting HISTORY OF AMERICAN PARTIES
the government through the execution of his
constitutional and statutory functions and Con- The, Democratic Party
gress spent a good deal of time criticising him. A The Democratic Party is nearabout two
3. For the influence of third parties, see John D. Ilicks. The Third Parry Tradition in American Politics.
330 The Government of the United States of America

century old and was established under the lead- eralist Party led by Hamilton, which had cham-
:;hip of Thomas Jefferson during Washington's
" 1 pioned strong national government and a liberal
administrJtion . Known under various names, construction of the Constitution, had expired
including Anti-federalists, Republicans, Dcmo- after making tactical errors during th c War of
cratic Republicans, and Democratic, the party has 18 12. It appeared first as Nati onal Republican
survived under the most difficult circumstances. and thcn Whig during Jackson 's time. The Re-
Early in history it took a stand aga inst protected publican Party was founded in 1854 and nomi-
tariffs, ship subsidies, imperial ism, and the ex~ nated Jobo C. Fremont as Presidential candidate
tension of the powers of the national govcmment in 1856. lt took a strong stand on slavery. Fremont
through " constructions" of the Constitution . Its lost to a Democratic coalition still strong enough
historic centre of gravity was long in the agricul- to win. Four years later Lincoln gained victory
tural interests of the counrry , although a large on a Rcpublican platform th at proposed abol ition
proportion of importing merchants and urban of slavery and favoured internal improvements
mechanics were soon brought into its fold. After including a "satisfactory homestead measure for
the extinction of the Federalist Party around farmers," and "liberal wages for working men
18 16, the Democratic Party enjoycd a pcriod of and mechanics." From 1860 down to 1913, it
virtua l politica l supremacy. During the Jack- controlled the Executive department of govern-
sonian era, however, considerable spl it appeared ment continuously with exception of eight years
and the party now known as Democratic soon whcn Grover Cleveland was President (1885-
faced a fornlidable Whig opponent. It receded to 1889; 1893- 1897). It was, however, not a smooth
opposition after the Civil War and continued a sai ling for the party. It suffered from the exposure
minoriry for decades together, but at intervals of the cormption during Grant's administration.
spirited up wi th vigour in Congress and captured It was al so shaken by internal divisions' 'between
the Qresidency tv,.ice with Grover Cleveland, East and \Vest, between conservative business-
twice with Woodrow Wilson, and four times with men and nOI-soconscrvative farmers and work
Franklin D. Roosevelt. John F. Kenn edy occu ers, between reform minded Liberal Republicans
pi ed the White House with a comfortable Can and stond-patters, between party regulars (Stal-
grcssional majority of his Pany an d Lyndon warts) and not-so-conservative fanners and
Johnson in the 1964 election secured the bigges t, workers, bct\vecn many different combinations
popular majo rity in the United States history. of th cse." In spite of these divi sions and shak-
Jimmy Carter unseated in 1976 Gerald Ford, a ings, the party could stand abreast and succeed ,
persona ll y popular President, but in 1980 he lost " becausc by design or by chance" its Icadcrs
to Rona ld Reagan. Republican Reagan again "coul d assuage thc different elemcnts." William
winning in 1984. A noticeable trend is that a Mckinley saved the party from collapse when
greater proportion of young and new voters important labour and rural elements were on the
support Republican candidates. It is also apparent vcrgc of dcserting the party towards the end of
that the more education a person has the more the century. When in the fo llowing years rcfor-
li kely he is to support Republican candidates. mists against the conservatism of the party policy,
Jimmy Carter, who became the 48th Presidcnt, Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive Republican,
had a solid backing of Southern States but Vir- reori ented the party's appeal.
ginia. The rest of America's States were divided The Republican party capitalised upon
between the two candidates. Carter defeated the popUlarity of a military hero, Dwight D.
President Gerald Ford. Ford was thc first incum- Eisenhower to win the Presidency in 1952, and
ben t President to be turned out of office since to retain it in the election of 1956, despite a
President Herbert Hoover's bid for re-election Democratic victory both in the Senate and the
during the 1932 economic depression. Jimmy House of Representatives. The Democratic
Carter was also defeated in 1980. He was the fi/st Party lost the Presidency in the election of 1960.
Preside~..t from the more rural and more iI1lPOi~; The Party itselfwas badly divided overthe policy
erished South since President Zachaty Taylor.' s towards the war in Vietnam. "Waste, overlap-
election in 1848 . . -' " ping programmes, and rank inefficiency had
The Republican Party .... '. caused the public 'to be disillusioned with Prcsi- ,~
The Republican party of today is in essence . dent Johnson's Great Society and alleged war on
successor of two earlier major parties. The Fed- poverty." Richard M. Nixon won the Presidency
in 1968 and retained it in 1972. But his ouster as
Political Parties 331

a result of Water- gate Scandal brought the party party are not so sharply divided due to the' 'na-
to disrepute. The Party came back to White House tionalisation" of politics and if this process con-
with Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election. He tinues the seotionalism is sute to disappear from
was re-elected in 1984 to be followed by George the American party system.
Bush in 1988, his Vice-President. Another important characteristic of the
The party has stood for a liberal interpre- American parties is their reluctance to become
tation of the Constitution, especially those parts tied to any rigid ideological doctrine. The party
relating to the powers"Of the national govern- division is rather blurred and no distinct line of
ment, and has shown less sympathy than the demarcation can be drawn to separate their pro-
Democratic Party for the rights of the States. It grammes. Agriculture is not now the predomi-
is the champion of the protective tariffs, ofinter- nant occupation of the Americans, and the greater
nal improvements under federal auspices, of CO~ part of the annual wealth does not come from the
Ionia I expansion, liberal pensions for veterans, soil. Large sections of the Middle West and the
subventions for the merchant marine, Negro suf- South, once the strongholds of agrarian democ-
fnige, and gold monetary standard. racy, have become industrialised and there is a
Features of the Party S~' stem corresponding change in the attitude of the peo-
ple. Their needs have also' changed and so they
One of the most significant features of
look towards government with changed specta-
the American political parties is their decen- cles. Then, the interests of industry. trade and
tralization. Although the Republican and the agriculture overlap ahd dovetail in many ways.
Democratic parties are t\vo national parties,
There can be no 'divorce between them. Within
much of the power in the party system is concen -
industry itself there is a sharp difference and
trated in the State capitals and rooted organi za- different points of views are put forward to rem-
tionally in the county and municipal levels. Apart edy their disabilities. For example, automobile
from the selection of Presidential and Vice-
and allied industries are not inclined to protective
Presidential nominees and the preparation of na-
tariffs; in vestors of capital abroad and bankers
tional platforms, the Party's central agen cies are favour low tariffs .
virtually powerless. Conrrol remains with State
These complexities in the economic life of
and local leadership in conducting the campaign
the coun try have made the Democrats to shift to
and in deciding upon ca~idates for office . .. A
new grounds. They_have .abandoned their old
sense of discipline to higher authority is almost
slogan to "tariff for revenue only" and stand for
unknown, and, ifpressed. doubtless would be met
protection, if somewhat modified by reciprocal
by indignation and resistance on the part of the
trade agreements. The RepUblicans, too, extend
local units concerned.' 14 Professor Key says that
considerable support to this programme. The
the national party is little more than "gathering result is, as Professor Beard says, "that the cleav-
of sovereigns (or their emissaries) to negotiate
age between the right and left wings of each is
and treat with each other"" greater than the gulf betwe'e n the parties them-
There is , however, evidence of a counter- selves, especially in the Senate where agrarian
trend in the direction of a greater concentration
states have a disproportionate weight. ".
of power and this is essentially due to the cen- James Bryce, after a deep study of the
tripetaltendencies ofa modem government. This Ameri can system, observed that these two great
is a universal phenomenon and American party
parties were like two bottles. Each bore a label
system cannot escape therefrom. For example,
denoting the kind of liquor it contained, but both
the Presidential party increasingly has come to
wt,;;'rc empty. It is not true, according to Beard,
be identified as national in outlook no matter
"that the two parties are exactly identical except
whether the occupant of the White House is a as to their labels. "7 There are two important facts
Repub licon or a DemocratOn the other hand,
to be observed in this connection. The first is,
localism still remains strong in the Congressional loyalty to tradition which makes the strongholds
party. The result is a wide gap between the Presi- of both the parties to continue in their support to
dent and Congress in the formulation of policy.
the parties concerned. Secondly, the old senti-
But the reality is otherwise. The two wings of the
4. Barker, Benjamin and Fiedelbaum, Stanley, H., Govemmel1l in the United Slales. p. 147.
5. Key, V.O., Politics, Parties and Pressure Groups. p. 363.
6. Beard, C. A., Amen'cafl Government and Politics, p. 67.
7. Ibid.. p. 68.
332 The Gove rnm en l of the United States of America

ments and opi nions s till dete nnine the attitude of st. nll y adjuSled to social, technolog ical and eco-
different interests and characterise the divi sions nomic changes. it may perish o f its own inflexi -
among [he voters. This ca n be illustrated by a bililY. In international politics the Democrats
s ample po ll taken by the American In stillltc o f play (h e ' ' s trange role of the party of nationalism ,
Pu b'lic Opinion and c ited by Professor Charles stru ng arm ies and navies, internat ional interve n -
Beard. According to thi s sample po ll th e Demo- tion and war leaving to the Repub lica ns- at any
cratic candidate. Pres ident Rooseve lt, . ' received rate for the li me being-the less glamorous and
28 percent of the VQ[cs in th e upperin<.:olllc group ralher u nfam ili ar role o f advoca ting caut io n. re-
of citi zens, 53 per cent in the middle inCOl!lC stra int and e ven isola tionism." But Reaga n and
g roup, and 69 per ce nt in the lower inco me group. George Bush di s proved it.
while his Republic an oppo ne nt, We nde ll Wilki e, An important featu re ofthe America n party
fc-ce ived 72 pe r ce nt of the vo les in the upper sy stem is its non -ideological charac te r. In
group. 47 per cent in Ihe midd le g ro up. and 31 Europe. p arties are organised on ideolog ica l basis
per ('elll in the lowe r gro u p." A s imil ar poll was where conse rvative partics support capitali s m
ag:1ill lakt:n in 1943 and identical results were and labour, sociali st and communi st parties crit-
obtained , except fo r so me min or ch ange s in the ic ise.! ca p itali s m and propose various degrees of
percentages. re fom1 in the soc ial system. In America. there has
T o sum up . the maj o r parties in th e Un ited bee n no labo ur. socia list or communist party of
States are deep -roo ted in capitali sm . The on ly nn y nati o na l rel e va nce. Both the leading national
diffaence between the (\\10 is that the Republi- parties in America are firm supporters of the
c an s think that the more governme nt lea ves cap it ali :;; t s ys tem and co nsider sociali sm of any
cap it a li sm alo ne the more it fl ouri s ht:s. The variety as un -Ame ri can and anti national.
Dem ocrats maintain that unl ess cap itali s m iscon -


Beard . C A. : A m ef ll'WI G Ol'f' mmt'm and Politi cs. Chap Me rriam. S .E. and Gosnell. H.F. : The Amt'rlcun PlIrlY
III. S; 51<' III.
Bone . H. A. Am a icwl Policics and th, Part) S.I fI,m. t\l ilnor. A. (cd .) : COmpafalj ~'e Political Partie!.
Chaps. I- X. Pell ninun, H .R. : Amt'rican Punies anti Elt'ctions.
Brog:ln . D.W. All /mrodlictiOlI t o AmaicGlI Po liti cs. Rohlfin g. c.c. and Charlesworth. J.e. PllrlieJ alld Poli-
Ch ap~ . II- V. tiCJ.
Broga n. D.W. : Tht, Am erican Pv /ithal Sy.ftl'm. Pa rt T,:o. Sindlcr. A.P. : Political Punies in the United Stutes.
Chaps. I- I V.
Stannard. T. : The Two ConstituriofLJ. Chap. VI.
Bruce. H.R .: Americull Pnn ies and Politics.
Tourtellol. A.B . : The Anatomy 0/ Amen'can Politics. Chap.
Duve rgcr. M . : Political Pa rties. VIII
Key. V.O. Political Partie.f and Pre.fSurl.' Gro ~jps.
Z ink. H. : A Su rvey 0/ American Govt'mmt!llt. Chap ~.
Mackenzie. C. W. : Pa rry GO\'u nment in the UniTed S'alE'S. VIII- X I.

The American Political System

Concentration of Economic Power . corporations provided about 10 per cent of all

In the United States, Professor C. Kaysen employment in manufacturing, mining and trade.
notes, "there are currently some 4 .5 million Four corporations accounted for about 22 per
business enterprises ... Corporations formed only cent of all industrial research and development.
13 per cent of the total number. "I The political Three hundred and eightyfour big corporations
history of the United States would have been accounted for 55 per cent of these expenditures,
di.fferent if the concentration of economic power but 260,000 small fims accounted for only 7
had been as rapid as Marx throught it must per cent.
become. In fact as Professor E.S. Mason says There is every reason to believe that this
about the United States, "the largest corpora- domination of America's economy by giant
tions have grown mightily, but so has the eco- corporations has become even more marked in
nomy. "2 Ralph Miliband dissents and regards recent years. State intervention itself tends to
advanced capitalism "all but synonymous with expedite this process despite its professed desire
giant enterprise "which dominates key sectors to curb monopolies and safeguard the interests
of its industry, commerC'e and finance . In regard o f small business. The enormous political sig-
to the United States, Carl Kaysen admits," J\ nificatio n of this concentration of private eco-
few large corporations are of ove rwhelmingly nomic power on the American polity is a major
disproportionate importance in our economY t concern of this chapter. M oreover, it should be
and especially in certain key sectors of it. noted Ihat this growth of the giant enterprise is
Whatever aspects of their economic activi ty we not merely a national phenomenon. A growing
measure - employment. investment, research number of the largest America n finns 3rc as-
and development, milita ry supply - we sec Ihe suming morc pronounced transnational charac-
same situarion.") 0 tcr, both in terms of ownership and managemell t
Professor Galbraith says: " In 1962 the Much of this has been brought about as a
five largest industrial corporations in the United consequence "of the equation by American
States, with combined assets of S 36 billion, corporations of a rapidly e xpandi ng stake in the
possessed over 12 per cent of all assets used economic life of other advanced capitalist coun-
in manufacturing. The fifty largest corporations tries, often to the point of actual control of the
had over a third of all manufacturin g assets. latter'S -major enterprises and industries". But
The five hundred largest had well over two American capitalism is international also in
thirds corporations with assets in excess of another, morc traditional, sense as "large-scale
$10,000,000, some two hundred in all acco unt ed capitalist enterprise is deeply implanted in the
for about 80 per cent of all resou rce s used in under-industrialised areas of the world ... in
manufacturing in the United States ... In the Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and
first half of the decade (June 1950 - June 1956), Asia. "s
a hundred firms received two thirds by val ue What is the political significance of these
of all defence contracts, ten firms received corpor.nions from the p oint of view of power
one-third. ,,' According to Galbraith twentyeight stru cMes? C. Wright Mills explains : "Not

I. The Corporation if! Modern Society, p. 86

2. Ibid. p. to
3. Ka),scn, Ibid, p. 86
4. 1.K. Galbnaith. The Nrw Industrial Stale, pp. 74-75.
S. Ralph Miliband. "The Slale in Capitalist Society. pp. 14-15

334 The Government of the United S tates of America

great fortunes, but great corporations are the kind of fascism. Such a breakdown of liberal
important units of wealth, to which individuals democracy may occur fo r other reasons such
of property are variously attached. The corpo- as war, economic crisis or political instability.
ration is the source of, and the basis of, the Laski has argued in the American Democracy
co~tinued power and privilege of wealth . All th at a fascist solution is not unthinkable in the
the men and the families of great wealth are American political system in a period of intense
now identified with large corporations in which economic or political crisis.
their property is seated. "6 lt should be empha- In genera l, the moneyed oligarchy of the
sized that the location of power inside rather United States prefers democrati c rule to any
than outside the typical giant corporation renders type of authoritarian government. The stability
anachronistic the theory of the ' interest group' of the system is enhanced by periodical elections
as a fundamental unit in the structu re of capitali st which give legitimacy to plutocratic rul e. Popu-
society. A who le series of developments have lar ratifications of capitalist, oligarchic rule
loose ned o r broken the tie s that formerly bound enables it to avoid certain very real dangers of
the great interest groups together. personal or mi litary dictatorship which plague
Nature of American Democracy the presidential political regimes of many Latin
American countries. Hence in the United States
Except in times of cri sis, the nonna l po- and other advanced capitalist democracies,
litical system of capitalism, whether competitive wealthy oligarchies as a rule do not resort to
or monopolistic, is liberal democra cy, which authoritarian method in dealing with opposition
Marxists may call bourgeois democ racy. Votes movements. They devise more indirect and sub-
are the nominal source of political power, but tle means for ach ieving their ends.
money is the real source. The politica l syste m , The capitalists make c oncessions to
in other wo rds. is democratic in fonn, but wea ken and sofien trade-union militancy and
plutocratic in content. Thi s was e\cn reco gni zed political radica lism of the working-class. They
by Lord Bryce who talk ed about the enonno us bu y off their leaders with money, nanery and
power that mo ney wielded in Ame ri ca n elec- honou rs. \Vhen such leaders acquire power, thcy
tions. All the polit ical activities and function s, rema in within the limits of the system and try
which charac teri ze thi s system such as indoc- to win a few more concessions to keep th eir
trinating and propagand iz. ing the "oting publi c. cl~ctoral supporters content. They never chal-
organising and mJ inta ining politi cal panies. run- lenge the real bastions of oligarchic power in
ning electoral campa ign "are managed only by th e economy and in the coercive branches of
means of m o ney, in fact. lots of money." And the state apparatus. The oligarchy also shapes
since in monopoly capitalism the big corpora- and alters the machinery of government in order
ti ons are the source of big money, they are to check the deadlock s and stalemates which
also the main sources of political power. " 7 might lead to breakdown of democrati c proce-
It is true that the re is an inherent con tra- dures. For example, the numbe r of political
diction in this system . The "oters, who do not parties is deliberately limited to prevent the
own much property but constitute an over- emergence of government by unstabl e coa.li-
whelming majority of the popUlation, moy fonn tions.
their own mass organisations, such as trade By these methods, democracy is made to
union s, political parties etc .. raise funds through serye the interests of the capitalist o ligarchy far
subscriptions and .thereby become an effective more effectively and durably than authoritari-
political force. If they win formal political power anism. However, the possibility of a shill to
and then threaten the economic power and authoritarian rule remains embedded in the con-
privileges of the wealthy oligarchy, the system stitutional system. Indeed, the American con-
wi ll face a crisis unless the oligarchy gives up stitutional system, like other democratic
peacefully. Since no privileged closs has be- constitutions, makes provision for such auto-
haved thi s way in history, we can di scount this cratic rule in times of emergency. However.
possibility. It is more likely that it will abandon thi s is not the favoured fonn of government for
democracy and adopt coercive ways of ~oni~

6. C. Wright Mills, " Th e Po .....er Elite. p. 116

7. Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy: Monopoly Capital. p. IS7

The American Political System 335

normally functioning capitalist socIetIes. The Governmenls refers in its title to the number of
United States also preferably maintains a system separate govemmental!tuthorities that are op-
of liberal democracy. "In constitutional theory, erating within the New York .metropolitan area.
the people exercise sovereign power; in actual Each of these authorities is the repository and
practice, a relatively small moneyed oligarchy representative of vested interests. There is no
rules supreme. But democratic institutions are over all authority to co-ordinate and control
not merely a smoke- screen behind which sit a their policies. It is ridiculous to talk of'planning'
handful of industrialists and bankers making in such circumstances.
policies and issuing orders. Reality is more The system of political representation and
complicated than that" In fact, the nation's the absence of responsible political parties has
founding Fathers were conscious of this " latent given an effective veto power to short-tenn and
contradiction in the democratic form of gov- long-term coalitions of vested interests. Mon-
ernment , as indeed were most political thinkers eyed classes in America are united only on one
in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth cen- programme i.e. extension of territorial sover-
turies" 8 eignty (that is how thineen original colonies
Many writers such as Charles Beard, expanded into fifty contemporary states through
Harold Laski andD.W. Brogen recognised the war, purchase and conqu'cst and protection of
possibility that the propertyless majority might the interests of American investors and traders
use its power to vote to tum its nominal sov- abroad (U .S. economic imperialism). In fact
ereignty into real authority and thereby the these two activities have been the first concern
security of property, which the capitalists con- of the federal government throughout the na-
sidered as the basis of civilised society. The tion's history. R.W. Van Alstyne, in The Rising
framers of the constitution therefore devised the American Empire. highlights this aspect of
well-known system of checks and balances. Its America's developing capitalist democracy.
purpose was to make it as difficult as possible Social Structure and Class Distribution
to suhven the existing system of property rela-
tions. The common economic features of devel-
America's capitalist democracy later de- oped capitalist systems such as the USA,
veloped in a context of several con~ts among Britain, France, Canada, Japan etc. provide
various groups and segments of toe wealthy these countries with a broadly similar 'economic
classes, which unlike Europe, had never united base' . But this commonality of their economic
by a common struggle against feudal power base is also responsible fo r creating many sig-
because the United States had no feudal class nificant similarities in their social structure and
to contend with for the reasons, the state insti- class distribution. We find therefore in all these
tutions in the United States have been terribly countries, including the United States a relatively
anxious to protect the privileges of the prop- small number of people who own a markedl y
erty-owning minorities against the people. We di sproponionate share of personal wealth and
know "how the separation of powers was written whose income is predominantly derived from
into the Constitution, how states' rights and ownership of private propenies.
local autonomy became fonresses for vested Many of these rich persons also control
interests, how political panies evolved into vote the uses to which their assets are put. But some
gathering and patronage-discussing machines wealthy individuals may own a small pan of
without programme or discipline. The United those large assets which they control and manage
States became a son of utopia for the private in reality. It is these owners and controllers,
sovereignties of property and business. ,,' taken together, who institute the ruling class of
The very structure of the polity prevented the United States and other capitalist countries.
effective action in many areas of the economy Whether this usage is correct for a democracy
and social life. City planning is the worst casualty will be examined in this chapter later. At this
of the chaotic number of authorities that rule stage, we may just note the existence of eco-
American cities. Robest C. Wood in his 1400 nomic clites which through ownership or control
do command the most imponant sectors of all
8. Baran and Sweezy : MOItOpoIy Capitol. p. 159
9. Ibid. p. 160
336 The Government of the United States of America

developed capitalist economies. system -then we have a middle c lass associated

AI the other end of the soc ial scale, we with small and medium-sized enterprises, which
find in all these countries, a working class cannot be ass imilated into the upper class of
mostly composed o f industrial work ers wit h the corporale rich. Finally, a capitalist society
agricultural wage-earners a steadily diminishin g includes a large number of ' cultural w o rkmen-
element in the work fo rce. writers, poets, critics, journali sts, priests and
This implies th at th e main rorm assumed intellectuals.
by the 'relations o f productia n' in the Un ite d The brief enumeration of c lasses and strata
States is tha t betw ee n capita list employers and g ive n here is not exha ust ive. We have disre-
indus tria l w age-earners. Like other soc ia l ga rded the lumpen and criminal elements and
classes. the worki ng c lass of the United States also exc luded those who actually run the state
is highly di versified, it is a di stinct and speci fi c as politicians, civil scrvants, judges and military
soc ial foml atio n due to its charac teri sti cs as men. Their role will be taken up separately a
di stinguished from th ose o f other c lass<s. Ralph lillie later, one point may be no ted that classes
M iliband says "The most obv ious of these may exist and yet they may no t be consc ious
characteristic s is that he re arc the people who, o f their class positions and actual re lat ions
generaIly, 'ge t least o f wha , .thcre is ta ge", between classes. As C. Wright Mills says, " The
and who have to work hardes t fo r it. And it is fact that men are not 'class conscio us, at all
also fro m th e ir rank s that are recru ited th e ti mes and in all places does no t mean th at 'there
unemployed, th e aged poo r, the chronica ll y are no classes' or th at ' in America everybody
destitute and the sub-p ra letariat of capitalist is middle class'. The economic a nd soc ia l facts
societyHI O are one th ing. Psycho log ical fee lings mayor
While apo log ists of capi talism talk of its may not be associated with th em in rati o nall y
"c1asslessness" , "th e proletarian cond iti on re- expec ted w ays. Both-are importa nt , and if psy-
main s still harsh in the work process. in leve ls chological feelings and po litical outlooks do
of income , in lac k of opportunities and in the not correspond to economic or occupational
socia l d efinition of e xis tence. Th e economic class, we must try to fi nd out why, rather than
and political li fe of a ll capitalist soc iel i" in- th row out the econom ic baby w ith the psych o~
cluding the Uni ted States is chie ny shaped by log ical bath, and so fail ta understand how
the relation ship , dctc rrnined by th e capitalist e ithe r fits into the natio nal tub." I I
mode of product io n, between I h~sc two classcs- In his Introduction to Democracy ill Amer-
the owners of property on the one hand and ica. Ale xis de Tocqueville says Ihat thi s book
th e workers on the o ther. The confrontation of was wrinen "under the impression of a ki nd
these two opposite soc ial forces powerfull y of re ligions dread produced in the auth or's mind
delermines th e po litical systems of developed by th e c ontemplati on of thi s irresistible revo-
capitalism and the Un ited S tates is no exception lution which had advanced for so many centuri es
to this gene ral rule. The pol itical process is in spite of all obstacles. "tl He was here speaki ng
virtua lly co ncerned \vith thi s antago nism. It is, of the progress in the direction of de mocratic
in fact, inte nded to legi tima.r:e the terms of thei r ega lita rian ism. Since then many writers ha ye
un equal re lali o nsh ip . echoed de Tocquville 's sentiments. J. 4 . M e isel
However, it w ould be wrong to ass ign a spoke about the 'myth of the most potent so-
merely nominal role to o ther social classes and cia-polit ical solvent of modem times . Theo ri es
strata in capita list America. In fact, thei r exist- have been advanced about the 'mass socie ty,
ence and aClivi!} greatl y helps to preve nt the the 'end of ideology', the 'end of history' and
political po larisation of a capitalist soc iety. In ' c lasslessness' .
the United States, a large and growing class of However, Professor Kolko maintains that
professional people - lawyers, doc tors,. scien- there was "no significant trend towards income
ti sts, admini strato rs, tec hnocrats etc. plays a equality" in the United States between 19 10
significant economi c and I?o litical role in the and 1959". H .P. Miller al so notes that "in the

10. Miliba ~d. R. The Stale in Capitalist Society. p. 161

11 . I. L. Horowitz (ed) Power. Politic.f and People. p317.
12. A. de Tocque ville, Democracy in America. Vol 17 p.4
13. G. Kolka, Wealth and Power jn America p. IJ

L \
The AmeriCan Political System 337

absence of remedial action, this nation may not true because the corporate managers are
soon face with an increase in the disparity of seldom free from the direcA pressures of the
incomes" 14 owners and also because they themselves are
Professor Meade has drawn our anention usually part of the owning fraternity. In the
to 'a really fantastic inequality in the ownership United States, according to Kolka, "the mana-
of property' and equalisation is a myth in the gerial class is the largest single group in the
context of significant econOmic inequalities that stockholding population, and a greater propor-
exist in all developed capitalist countries in- tion of this class owns stock than any other."'
cluding the United States. For the United States, Thus modem managerial class is an indivisible
RJ. Lampman notes that the share of wealth component of the ruling capitalist class and the
accruing to the top 2 per cent of American work process under both remains one of domi-
families in 1953 amounted to 29 percent (instead nation and subjection.
of 33 per cent in 1922):" and that one per cent v-nfessor Kolka concludes: "The signal
of adults owned 76 per cent of corporate stock, fact 0 1 American business history is the con-
as compared with 61.5 per cent in 1922.16 This sensus among businessmen ... that the capitalist
hardly justifies the belief in ' People's Capital- system is worth maintaining." It may tolerate
ism; "decisive innovation in the economic sphere",
This shows that despite tall claims about but is opposed to radi ca l economic programmes
the levelling process, there continues to exist a that mi ght, in the process of altering the con-
relatively small class of people who own large centration of economic power, also undermine
amoun ts of property and also receive very large Ihe sterility, if not the very existence of the
inc omes derived from that ownership. On the status quo. ' O The question now is whether this
other end, there is a very large class of people economically dominant business elite is also a
who own very linle or no property, whose ruli ng class in the sense that it exercises a
income depends on the sale of their labour decisive degree of political power; whether its
power and who live a life of actual poverty. control and ownership of the industri al-com-
The findings of an official conference on mercial complex enables it to dominate the state
Economic Progress in the United States which in the political environment of developed capi-
reported in 1962 are; "thirtyfour million roople talism.
in families and four million unattached indi- The State System and the State Elite
v iduals lived in poverty; thirty-seven million Acco rd ing to Pa ul Baran, Paul Sweezy
people in families and two million unanach ed and Ralph Miliband, the ruling class of a capi-
indi viduals lived in deprivation. The total of talist society is th at class which owns and
seventy-seven million comprised two-fifths of controls the means of production and which lOis
the U.S population in 1960." " able by virtue o f the economic power thus
The phenomenon of managerialism does conferred upon it, to use the state as its instru-
not significantly alter the class and social po- ment for the domin ati on of society." The theo-
larisation of the American society. "In prac- ri sts of liberal democracy a nd often of social
tice", Adolf Berle writes about the United democ racy, on the oth er hand, "have denied
States, "institutional corporations are guided by that it was possible to speak in a really mean-
tiny, self-perpetuating oligarchies. These in tum ingful way of a capitalist class at all , and that
are drawn from and judged by the group opinions such economi c power as cou ld be located in
of a small fragment of America-its business capitali st society was so diffu se, fragmented,
and financial community."18 But this view is competitive, and so much subject to a multitude

14. H.P. Miller, Rich Man. Poor Man. p. 54

15. RJ. Lampman, The Share of Top Weallh Holdl'rs in National Wealth, p. 26
16. Ibjd .. p. 209.
17. H. Magdorr. "Problems of United Stales CapitDli sm" in The Sodalisl Register. 1965, p.
18. A. A. Berle, The XXth Cent"')' UJpilalisl Revolution. p. 180
19. G. Kolko. Weoltlr tmd Power in America. p. 67
20. G. Kolko. The Triumph 0/ Consen'Otism, p. 12
338 The Government of the United States of America

of countervailing checks as to render impossible A second element of the state system is the
its hegemonic assertion vis-a-vis the stale or administrative one, which now extends far be-
society. "21 Y ou may find, therefore, in a capi- yond the traditional bureaucracy of the state. It
talis! country like the United States, a plurality includes a wide variety ministerial departments,
of competing economic, political and other public corporations, regulatory commissions,
elites, whi ch are, by the very fact of their central banks. etc ., which are concerned with
pluralistic competition, their lack of common the management of economi c, social cultura l
purpose and absence of cohesi on is capable of and other activities.
fonning a dominant class that can wcild effective Fonnaliy, bureaucracy is at the service of
state power. the political executive, its tool and instrument.
It may easily be conceded that therc does Actually it is a part of the political process.
exist a plurality of economic and other clites Karl Mannheim noted that "the fundame ntal
in a deve loped capitalist society like the Unitcd tendency of all bureaucrati c thought is to tllrn
States. Despite the integrating trends of its all problems of politics in to problems of ad-
capitalism, these elites do from distinct interests ministration. "23 Administrators cannot divest
and groupings, whose complction greatly influ- themselves of their ideological convictions when
ences th e political process. However thi s elite they tender their advice to ministers or when
plur:alism cannot obstruct the various elites of they are in a position to take independent de-
the USA's capitalist society from integrating cisions. Professor Meynaud correctly points Ollt,
into a dominant economic class. showing great "The establishment of an absdute separation
solidarity and cohesion beca use thei r comIllon between political and adm inistrative sectors had
interests and shared objectives transcend their never represented much more than a simple
specific disagreements and differences. juridical fiction of which the ideological con-
Bur the most important question in this sequences are not negligiblc."2-'
context is whether this dominan t class in the These considerations apply to all other
economic sense also constitutes the mling class element s of the system. They equally apply to
in the political sense. Of course, no one can a third such elemcnt, namely, Ihe armed forces,
dcny that this economically dominant class docs to which may be added the para-military, se-
wield substamial political power and influence. cu ri ty and police forces of the state. They
The que stion is a different o ne altogether, together constitute that branch of the state system
namely \vhcther thi s dominant class also exer- which is concerned with the 'management of
cises a much greater degree of power and violence' . In the United States, this coerci\'c
influence than any other class, whether it ex- apparatus has developed, since the second world
ercises a dec isive degree of political power; war, into a vast, resourceful and expanding
whether its o\\o'nership and control of crucially establishment. Its professional leaders, a new
important areas of economic life also ensures race of warlords. 25 arc persons of high status
the control of political decision-making in the and extra-ordinary infl.uence, inside state system
particular environment of advanced capitalism22 and in society, similar increase had occurred in
The first element of the state system is its the forces of internal security. In no other
government. It is surprisi ng that government capitalist state, except in Nazi Gennany, police
and state should often appear synonymous. The repression and militarization ever reached a
assumption of governmental power is not grander scale than in the post-war Uni ted States.
equivalent to the acquisition of state power. The fourth element of the state sys tem is
When the Republicans or the Democrats win the judic iary, which is also non-elective as the
an election in the United States, they form a administrative and coercive apparatuses are. But
government which in Weber's words, can "suc- unlike them, it is not the constitutionarobligation
cessfully plan the monopoly of the legitimate of the judges to serve the government of the
use of physical force" within U.S. territory. day. They are constitutionally independent o f

21. Ralph Miliband, The Slate in Capitaljst Society. p. 21

22. Ibid.. p. 4S ,-
23 . Karl Mannheim, Ideology and UlOpia. p. 105
24 . Meynaud. La Technocratie. p. 68
25 . See C. Wright .Mill s, The Power Elite, Chapter 8.
The American Political System 339

the political executive and protected from it by which is broader and includes many institutions
security of their tenure and other guarantees. such as political parties and pressure groups.
In addition, they are expected to defend citizens' They influence the political process and vitalW-
rights and freedom against any encroachment affect the functioning of the state system. It
by the political executive. Even then, the judi- further includes such non-political institutions
ciary is an integral part of the state system as giant 'corporations, churches. the mass media
which profoundly affects the exercise of state etc. Obviously the men who lead and govern
power. them wield political pOwer but they should be
Various units of sub-central or local gov- distinguished from the state elite which exercises
ernment constitute the fifth element of the state state power as a distinct and separate entity.
system. For all the centralisation of power, In the case of the United States, it is
which is a major development in all capitalist necessary to analyse the relationship of the state
countries," sub-central organs of government, to the economically dominant class. It may well
notably in federal systems such as that of the be discovered that this "relationship is very
United States have continued as power-struc- close indeed and that the holders of state power
tures in their own right, and therefore able to arc, for many different reasons, the agents of
affect very markedly the lives of the population private economic power, that lhose who wield
they have governed"26 that power are also, therefore, and without
Representative assemblies of developed unduly stretching the meaning of words, an
capitalist counters constitute the sixth element authentic 'ruling class;, "28
of their state and, as an elective element, can From this point of view, "the phrase 'what
be viewed as the most democratic segment. is good for General Motors is good fo r America'
Their life revolves around the government. In is only defective in that it tends to identify the
the United States, they are formally independent interests' of one particular enterprise with the
institutions of political power. Their relationship national interest. But if General Motors is taken
with the executive is one of conflict and co- to stand for the world of capitalist enterprises
operation. Opposition parties cannot be wholl y as a whole, the slogan is one to which gove rn-
uncooperative. By taking part in the work of ments in capitalist countries do subscribe, often
the legislature, they help the government's busi- explicitly"29 The Americall gove rnment like
ness. Government parties are seldom single capitalist &governments elsewhere, does so be-
minded in their support of the political executive: cause it accepts the view that the economic
Dissenters "must be persuaded, cajoled, threat- rationality of capitalism provides the best pos-
ened or bought off." Both sides, thus, reflect sible set of social arrangements for human
this duality. Ralph Miliband says: "It is in the welfare and progress. Representing the view of
constitutionally-sanctioned performance of this the state elite in America, President Eisenhower
cooperative and critical function that legislative said: "I believe in our dynamic system of
assemblies have a share in the exercise of state privately owned businesses and industries. They
power. That share is rather less extensive and have proven that they can supply not only the
exalted than is often claimed for these bodies"" mightiest sinews of war, but the highest standard
It is through these six components of the of li ving in the world for the greatest number
state system that presidents, prime ministers and of people .... But it requires someone to take
their ministerial colleagues, high civil servants these things and to produce the extraordinary
and other state bureaucrats, top military men, statistics that the United States with 7 per cent
judges of superior courts, some eminent parlia- of the world's population produces 50 percent
mentary leaders, political and administrative of the world's manufactured goods. If that some-
leaders of sub-central government exercise their one is to be given a name 1 believe that his
political power. These are the people who to-
gether constitute the state elite. But the state
n'arne is the American businessman."30
Bureaucratic, Military and Judicial Elites
system is only a part of the political system
Top civii servants in the United States,
; 'i'-'
26. Ralph Miliband. 17re Siale in Capitalist Society, p. 49
27. {bid. p. 50
28. Ibid.. p. 5 I
29. Ibid.. p. 69
30. S.B. Harris., "7ltt Economics of Political Parties, p. S
340 The ,~overnmen t of the United States of America

specialists at upper levels of established career sense that it is finaly committed to protect and
services, "have almost unlimited reserves of maintain capitalist values and purposes. Profes-
the enormous power which consists of sitting sor HUlltiogtion says: "Few developments more
still" in defence of the status quo. Bureaucracy dramatically symbolised the new status of the
works as the conscious ally of the business cl ass mil itary in the post-war decade than the close
in all capitalist countries with the United States association which they developed with the busi-
in the lead, candidates to and members of the ness elite of American society .... Professional
civil service are subjected to sc reening proce- officers and business men reveal ed a new mutual
dures in order to eliminate men and womell respect. Retired generals and admirals in un
suspected of any radi cal orientation. But th e precedented numbers went into the executi ve
most important factor thil t reinforces the con- staffs o f American corporations; new organisa-
servative outlook of higher civil servants that tions arose' bridg ing the gap between corporate
turns them into finn supporters o f the in t~ re s t s management and military leadership. For the
of corporate capitalism is th e ir closeness to its mil itary offi ce rs, the business represented the
environment. epitome of the American way of lifc"J2
Furthennore, bureaucracy and large enter F.J . Cook has given a well-documented
priscs arc now increasingly rel ated in tenllS of analysis of thi s process in his book The Warfare
an inte rchanging personnel. Thi s is p articu la rl y Stale. C. Wright Mills has forcefull y argued
true of the new breed of 'tec hn oc rats' who man that in the United States, the steady militarisation
both national and supe rannua ti on institut ions. of life and the abnormal growth of the 'military
The same is a lso true of independent rcguli.1tory domai n' has produced a situation in which the
agenc ies in th e United States. They may be mil itary must be regarded as a power group
inde pe ndent of the political exec ut ive, bu t ideo coequal with th e corporate e lite and the 'political
10g iIJIlly and politica lly, they are integrated into direclO mte ' . The military elite is their trusted
the world of corporate capitali sm , Labo ur, on all y "against striking workmen, left-wing po-
the other hand, does not possess any links or liti cal activi sts, and other such di sturbers of the
advantages in the bureau crat ic world. Ameri can status quo " 33
civil servants are not neut ral in class confl icts Judicial e lites are mainly drawn from the
but, in fac t, the allies of capital against labot!(. upper and middle laye rs of society. In the United
Miliband, therefo re, conc ludes, "The state Stalts. they arc men of a conservative disposi-
bureaucracy in all its parts, is not a n im personal ti on. in rega rd to all th e majo r economic, politica l
un-ideological , a-political elemen t in society. and soc ial arrangements of their society. The
above the conflicts in whic h c l a s s e~ , in tr:rests Suprelllt! COlirt, by assuming the role of a third
and gro ups engage. By virtue of its ideo logica l chamber, has used its judicial di scret ion to
dispositions, re inforced by its OWI1 in krc s(s. determ ine soc ia l policies though one judge enun
that bureaucracy, on the contrary, is a cruciall y c iated th e view in 1824 that "public policy is
important and committed clement in the ma in- an unruly horse and dangerous to ride. " 34 But
tenance and defence of the structure of power many judges of the Supreme Court have nev-
and privilege inherent in advanced capitalism. erthclcs; been compelled to ride that ho"e, for
The point applies at least as much to econo mic good or bad reasons. Judges have taken a rather
technocrats ... In thi s li ght, contemporary capi poor vi ew of radical dissent and even connived
talism has no more devoted and more useful in th(' erosion of civil liberties in the conditions
servants than the men who he lp administer thc of a long-tern 'Cold War' . They have consis
state's intervention in economic life. "31 tently di splayed a bias in favour of privilege,
Similarly, the notion that the military clites property and capital. The history of trade un-
in America are ideologically ncutral is mani- ionism in America is also a history of continuous
festly false. As in th e case of civil servants, struggle against the courts' attempts to curl the
military conservatism is al so specific in the ri ghts of th e working-class.

31. Ralph Mi liband : "The State i ll Capitalist Society. pro I loS ! 16

32. S. H unti ngton, The Soldier al/d the Stare pp. 361-362 .
)3. R. M iliband, Th e State ir; C(lpitalist Society. p. 12J
34. Quoted in Miliband 's The State in Capitalist Society. p. 125
-The American PoHtical System 341

Legitimation and Imperfect Competition preclude adYer.;e criticism of all views opposed
. The claims of democratic diversity and to this bi-party consensus. Radical views are
free poiitical competition which are made on specially marked for hostile condemnation. So- '~
behalf of capitalist democracies like the United cialisrn for them has always been a devil in-
States appear valid in the field of communica- carnate. Similarly, the press and other media in
tions - the press, radio, television, education the United States remain a deeply committed
etc. The value of this freedom and opportunity anti-trade union force. Since 1945 the U.S.
of expression cannot and should not be under- media was virulently hostile not only towards
estimated. "Yet the notion of pluralist diversity international communism but also national lib-
and competitive equilibrium" Milliband points eration struggles and revolutionary movements
out," is here as in every other field rather everywhere.
superficial and misleading for the agencies of Conservative, pro-capitalist attitudes of the
communication and notably the mass media are, mainstream media are derived frOln the own-
in reality, and the expression of dissident view ership and control of the 'means of mental
notwith-standing, a crucial element in the le- production.' The mass media in the United
gitimation of capitalist society'J5 In the context States are overwhelmingly in the private domain
of the United States, the freedom of expression which is dominated by large-scale capital ist
mainly means the free expression of ideas which enterprises. "The Hearst empire, fOT instance,

assist the established system of power and privi- " includes twelve newspapers, fourteen maga-
lege. zines, three television stations, six radio stations,
Even P.F. Lazarsfeld and R.K. Merton, a news service, a photo service, a feature syn-
two mainstream sociologists, have admitted this dicate, and Avon paperbacks"; and similarly
regarding the United States, "Increasingly the "in addition to magazines, Timt:. Inc., also owns
chief power groups, among which organised radio and television stations, a book club, paper
business occupies the most spectacular place, mills, timber land, oil wells, and real estale".l7
have come to adopt techniques for manipulating The ideological dispositions of the owners
mass public through propaganda in place of of the capitalist mass media oscillate between
more direct means of control Economic power soundly conservative to utterly reactionary ,
seems to have reduced direct exploitation and Newspaper proprietors closely control the edi-
turned to a subtler type of psychological ex- torial policie~ftheir newspapers as well. James
ploitation, achieved largely by disseminating Wechsler, the editor of the New York Post said,
propaganda through the mass media of com- uThe American press is overwhelmingly owned
munication ... These media have taken on the and operated by Republicans who fix Ihe rules
job of rendering mass publics con formative to of U.S. political debate. And I use the wo rds
the social and economic status quo."36 ' fix' advisedly ..,It is a press that is generally
The ideological function of the media is more concerned with tax previleges of any fat
obscured in the United States by the absence cat than with the care ,and feeding of any
of state dictation, the existence of debate and underdog ... It is a press that is far more forthright
controversy and the looseness of the conserva- and resolute in combating Communist Iy ranny
tive doctrine allowing variations within its in Hungary than in waging the fight for freedom
framework. Yet the fact remains that the mass in the United States" J8
media in capitalist democracies are mainly in- In capitalist democracies, there are certain
tended to perform a highly 'functional' and political parties which are the chosen instruments
legitimising role, both as the expression of a of the business classes and of the dominant
system of domination and a means of reinforcing classes generally. In most countries, one major
it. The press radio and television may preserve party perform that role, though a second or third
fair degree of impartiality between the Repub- party may also enjoy a similar patronage. Thus
lican and Democratic parties, but this does not the Republican Party in the United States is

35. R. Miliband, The Slate in Capitalisl society. p. 197

36. B. Rosenberg and D.M. White (cds.), Mass Culture - The Popular A,.,s in America. p. 451.
31. G.W. Domhoff. Who Rules America. p. 81.
38. Quolcd in J.E. Gerald, The Social Responsibility of the ~n::.s' p. 108
342 The Government of the United States 01 America

pre-eminently the " party of busi ness" and of 'di ssident' groups, labour, government, or aca-
businessmen, but the Democratic Party, for that demics, all seek to accommodate their proposals
reason, is not denied necessary business support for social change to the limits of adaptability
or corporate funding of its electoral compassion. of the prevailing business order. There is no
H.E.' Alexander had made th i's point clear in attempt to press (or goals that might exceed the
his book, Financing the 196, Election. As a powers of adjustment o f th at order. Indeed, all
pressure group vis a vis the state, business these groups recoil from sllc h a test. ... thus, it
enjoys a vast degree of superiority ideological , falls to the lo t of th e business ideology, as the
political and cultural hegemony on society. This only socia-econom ic doctrine of consequence,
hegemony includes influence on the Republican to provide for no n-bu si ness groups and in par-
and Democratic party machines, th e mass media, ticular, for the intellectual comm unity the sense
other agenc ies of political socialisation. and of mission and dest iny that is the part usually
various organs of government. emanated from ri val ideolog ies. "40
America may be suitably described as a The presidency of John F. Kenn edy pro-
'business civili zation' pem1catcd by a business vides an illumi nat ing example of the power
culture and a business ethos. Business has set wielded by big corporations on the American
up and financed 'promotional groups' to di s- government. President Kennedy found him self
seminate free enterprise propaganda in defence engaged in a .. spectacular power struggle" with
and calibration of the capitalist economic sys- the Business Advisory Council, "an ex.clusive
tem. A concerted effort for ideological indoc- and sc lf-perperuating club of top corporate ex-
trinati on has gone furthest in the United ecutives that had enjoyed a private and special
States: ... "The attitudes, opinions arguments, relat ionship with the government since 1933"
va lu es and slogans of the American business and which "from Admini stration to Admini-
com munity are a familiar part o f the landscape stration ... ha~ continllous pri vilege to partici-__ _
of mo st Americans. In ~enl yea rs, the business pate in government decisions with no public
point of view has found abundan t expression reco rd or review .. .l l When the Commerce Sec-
in every kind of medium: placards in buses on retary, Luther H. Hodges, wanted to include a
the economics of the ' miracle of America'; the broad cross-section of American business--big,
newspaper and magazine ad\'enisemenls on the medium and small-sized in the BAC, it severed
pe ril s of excessive taxation, speeches of business its official connec tions and renamed itself the
executives on the responsibil ities and rights of . Busi ness Council. In fact, Hodges had even
management; editorials depl oring th e size of thought of broade ning the Council to include
the national debt; textbooks sponsored by busi- representa tives of labour, agriculture and edu-
ness associations, explaining the work in g of cat ion.
free enterprise economy; pamphle ts exposing The confrontation resulted in the with-
the dangers of unwi se politi cal interven tion in drawal of all plans for reform. A rapprochement
bus ine ss affairs; testimony by business spokes- \vas made and small committees of the Business
mcn before Congressional comm ittees o n a host Council were assigned to each of various gov-
of specific issues of public policy. "39 ernment departments and agencies, and to White
Political competition between labour and House itse lf. On the other hand, "labour leaders
capital is imperfect and most unequal in the complained about the Kennedy campaign
United States. One obvious reason for this is against 'in fl ation ary wage increases' , itself part
absence of an authentic working-class party of Kennedy's assurance to business that he was
which 'c ould have become the vehicle of a rival playing no favourites. But the President wanted
ideology and po litics. In these circumstances, to restore a good working relationship with
as an American writer, Professor Heilbsoner Business Council regardless of labour's con-
points out," The striking characteristic of our cerns. "42
conter.1porary ideological climate is that the In the light of the strategic position which
39. Sunon, el al, The American Business Creed, p. 11 -12
40, R.L. Heilbroncr. "The View from the Top-
Reflections on a Changing Business Ideology",
-- in Cheif.,. The Business ESfablishment, p. 2
(italics in text)
4 t. Rowe'n, The Free Enterprise. Kennedy. Johnson and 'he Business Establishment, pp. 61-62
42. Ibid. p. 73
The American Political System 343
as a 'veto group' on par with labour. For labour internal and external influences that erode its
has nothing of the power of capital in the will and strength. American governments have
day-today decision-making of capitalist enter- generally felt it unnecessary to treat labour with
prise. A firm's policies regarding production, that respect which they have invariably accorded
export, investment etc. are determined by the to capital.
capitalist owner. In this sense, labour lacks a The most important political fact about
firm basis of economic power, and consequently the United States as an advanced capita list
has much less pressure potential visavis the socie ty is the continued existence of ever more
state. ]n the international sphere, there is no concentrated economic power. The assumption
labour equivalent of the World Bank, the In- that the United States has long ach ieved political
ternational Monetary Fund, or the O. E. C. D. equality, whatever may be the case- in regard
and the G-7, to ensure that governments do not to economic and social equality. constitutes one
take anti-labour measures in order to please th e of the great myths of the epoch. Political equal-
business elites .Whil e international solidarity of ity. save in fonnal lenns. is impossible in th e
the working-dass is a hallowed rhetoric, the conditions of advanced capitalism. Economic
unity of world capitalism has become a conc rete li fe cannot be separated from political life .
and permanent reality. The outstanding charac- Unequal econo",ic power. ..... inherently pro
teristic of trade union movements in the United duces political inequality .... whate ve r the con-
States has been divi sion, not unity. Labour, as stitution may say."43
a pressure group, is extremely vulnerable to
Charles A. Beard. American Government and Politics. Eckstein H.. and Apter, D. (eds) Comparaliw Politics.,
Paul Baran. Th~ Political Economy af Growth. Finer. S.F. Th~ Man on Horseback.
_ PauLBaran-lUld Paul Sweezy. Monopoly Capital. Hun~lon. S.P. TM .Soldiu and the SiaN:.
A.A. Berle, Th~ XXth Cl.'ntu r)' Capitalist Re\'ofurian. Kolka. G. Wealth and Powu in Am~rica.
D.C. Blaisdell. American Delliocracy undu Prrssure. Laski, H.J ., The A.m~ricOll Democracy.
A .R. Brady, Business as a System of P OHU. Mason. E.S. Th ~ Corporation in Modem Society.
F.J. Cook, The Warfare State. Mills. C. Wright. Power Elite.
R.A. Dahl, Wh o Governs? Democracy amI P OH'U ill all Miliband, R. The Stat~ in Capitalist Society.
American City . Tocquevillc, Alexic de. D~m ocracy in America.

. 43. Ralph Miliband, Tht State in Capitalist SOCiety, p. 237