Monday, December 27, 2010

50 Years Ago: Kennedy to run U.S. capitalism (2010)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Kennedy’s victory at the American polls came as the culmination of years of patient ambition and at the end of a campaign of open cynicism, such as we have come expect from capitalist political parties.

When he started his attempt to win the Democratic nomination, Mr. Kennedy had several question marks against him. The principal of these was whether he could unite the trade unions, the industrial cities and the backward Southerners into supporting him. We now know how skilfully he did this, by the careful choice of his Vice-Presidential candidate and by the promises and opinions which he uttered. Such was the success of these tactics that, long before election day, many on-the-spot correspondents were prophesying that Kennedy's campaign would be irresistible.

Mr. Nixon showed a similar determination to win the presidency. Here is a man with an established reputation for single-minded ambition which has led him into some unsavoury actions. Many people will remember Mr. Nixon introducing his pet dog into a television programme in which he was offering evidence of his integrity as a servant of the American public.

Mr. Kennedy based some of his case upon an appeal to the patriotism of American workers, alleging that United States' influence abroad has steeply declined during the Eisenhower presidency. Nixon's reply—similarly an appeal to patriotism—was that it was insulting even to suggest that U.S.A. is a second-rate power.

This, then, was an election campaign of by no means an unusual kind, in which members of the working class were asked to vote on issues of personality, nationalism and capitalist power politics, none of which has the slightest effects upon their basic interest (…)

It is depressing that American workers should be impressed by—indeed be part of—slick, high pressure salesmanship and cynical drives for power. For after the shouting and the ballyhoo have died, capitalism, in America and the rest of the world, remains unscathed.
(From editorial, Socialist Standard, December 1960)