ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialism, Winter 1964/5


Editorial 3

USA: Victory Celebrations?


From International Socialism, No.19, Winter 1964/5, p.3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Charles Leinenweber writes: Sixty per cent of America’s eligible voters marched to the polls in what was billed as ‘the most important election in 100 years’. Johnson, of course, soundly thumped Goldwater; in the final tally he held a 16-million vote edge and Democrats were nearly everywhere swept into office. Negro American voters played an important role in this landslide. While fairly evenly divided in the Kennedy-Nixon contest, they were solidly behind Johnson. White trade-unionists also backed Johnson – perhaps attracted by the prospect of a former labour hero as Vice President. Traditionally Republican midwest farmers switched parties for this election. Goldwater gained a majority in just a handful of states – his own, plus those of the deep South.

The Republican Party is today a small wreck. It is split by internal feuding while everyone – big business, labour, farmers, Negroes and many white collar sections – squeezes into the Democratic Party. The GOP listens gloomily as Johnson delights over the size of his family and announces the spectacle of a ‘government that serves no special interest – no business government, no labour government, no farm government – but a government that is a servant of all the people.’

And now the show is about to begin. The programme is familiar stuff: enforcement of the Civil Rights Act passed some months ago; another try at medical care for the aged; the ‘War on Poverty’; a bi-partisan foreign policy; prosperity for all ‘without dramatic new concepts’.

The Civil Rights Act, as everyone should know, means very little to the Negro in the North, where many states already have stronger ones. It certainly does not alter his economic plight – tremendous unemployment, slum housing and the worst of jobs when available. But Johnson now promises to get at the root of the Negro’s problems – through his little ‘War on Poverty’. The War on Poverty is a sort of domestic Alliance for Progress. It aims especially at chronically depressed areas which have suffered catastrophic unemployment as the nation’s technology has advanced. It also seeks to retrain workers thrown out of jobs by automation. This War so far has been as disastrous as the Alliance for Progress. Areas like the Appalachians are as poverty-stricken as ever, and their future is dim. The number of workers retraining is appallingly low – and jobs to retrain for don’t exist. Domestically, the Johnson administration shows no thrust toward the ‘great society’ which it envisions – at least not for the Negro, the white worker, the younger retired, the aged, and the poor.

On foreign policy, the question of Vietnam is paramount. Despite the attempts of Liberals to cloak Johnson with a ‘peace’ disguise, the only gestures he has made in Vietnam have been toward expanding the war. Expansion will be northward – into North Vietnam, once bombed by Johnson, and perhaps China. In Europe, Johnson will of course maintain the Bonn-Washington axis.

Somehow, when American liberals and some radicals panicked at Goldwater they translated this into a sensual embrace of Johnson and his programme. So, the liberal Americans for Democratic Action call the election a ‘major victory for American liberalism’. Civil rights leaders who demanded a moratorium on direct action during the campaign are now hopeful that Johnson will go hard on the deep South.

Still, these liberals and radicals recognise that Johnson isn’t even a piecemeal reformist. He won’t begin to solve the civil rights crisis or those of unemployment and automation. He will continue to intervene in labour disputes to halt strikes, will continue heavy war production and imperialism in Vietnam. Yet they proclaim victory! For whom? Certainly not for those Negro and white workers who will suffer increasingly under ‘more of the same’. Certainly not for those who want peace. But indeed, a great victory was won – for the notorious urban machines which become even more ascendant as Southern rural elements are cut adrift from the Democratic Party, and for the giant corporations which swung into Johnson’s camp. The progressive elements which rallied around the Democrats were thoroughly defeated. They will continue to be until they present their demands through a new, totally independent party. Then they will discover that the political arena is not a dead end.

Top of page

ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 4.9.2007