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International Socialism, Autumn 1964


Editorial 3

USA: Crucial Juncture


From International Socialism, No.18, Autumn 1964, pp.3-4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


With Barry Goldwater as the Republican presidential candidate a predictable state of panic has gripped the American liberal community and many elements on the left. Cries of ‘fascism around the corner’ have injected a certain amount of paralysis into even the militant civil rights movement. Major Negro spokesmen have demanded a ‘broad curtailment, if not total moratorium’ on demonstrations, picketing, and other mass actions until after the elections. Many civil rights activists agree, although nobody believes that Johnson is a liberal. Those disagreeing suddenly find themselves opposed by comrades who insist that attention be turned away from ‘rocking the boat’ and toward getting out the vote for Johnson.

Although the mechanics of Goldwater’s nomination are simple and not so ominous, his victory in November would be a disaster – because of what it would reflect. Ordinarily, the routine Republican Party worker is politically isolated. Even convention delegates are significantly to the right of the average Republican voter. Goldwater could not win with either his domestic social programme or his foreign policy. However, there is one point in his politics around which millions of white Americans can rally – and that concerns the civil rights question, the most crucial contemporary domestic issue. Goldwater symbolises for everyone the widespread reaction – or ‘white backlash’ – to the dynamic American Negro movement.

What the liberals working for his defeat refuse to face up to is the fact that Johnson’s election, too, would be a disaster. The politics of the Democratic Party are so bankrupt that they can’t make a fundamental appeal to the real loyalties of the white working-class voter who is fighting daily against black workers for the fewer and fewer available jobs. Full employment is crucial to the success of the civil rights movement, yet the Democratic Party has taken no steps toward this nor suggested any. Its campaign against the right has simply been one of calling for moderation. This is an indicator of the true state of American politics: the only significant criticism of the status quo comes from the right wing. The political centre of gravity shifts to the right in response to this criticism; Johnson, in a very real sense, follows in Goldwater’s footsteps. His party’s permanent strength lies in Northern urban areas, where its foundation is the reactionary city machine, welded to business and real-estate interests. These Democratic city machines today enjoy the overwhelming support of the Negro people, even though – as in Detroit, Chicago, and New York – they are characterised by a savage brutality against Negro citizens.

The liberals are asking white workers to vote for a party which has done nothing to solve the problem of increasing unemployment due to automation. They are asking Negroes to vote for continued police brutality, continued ghetto life with all its miseries, and continued high unemployment. They are asking everyone to vote for a war candidate – one fully committed to the maintenance of American imperialism. True, the Democratic Party has been moved to a certain extent by the civil rights movement. The same Johnson who while in Congress consistently opposed every civil rights measure has now pushed through a civil rights Act. But, the pressure for this came from outside the Democratic Party. In the same way, further efforts to dislodge the political centre of gravity and pull it leftward must come from outside the party. The forces for progress cannot afford to be captured and smothered by the Democratic Party, which long ago became the graveyard of the trade union bureaucracy and now threatens to become the same for the civil rights leadership.

This is a critical juncture in American politics: the building of a new force which can bring together white workers and black workers to implement programmes essential for achieving the first solutions to their problems must begin now. The energies required to construct an alliance between the civil rights movement and the labour movement can’t be dissipated in an effort to get out votes for Johnson and the Democratic Party. They, along with Goldwater, are the enemies of social progress.

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