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International Socialist Review, Fall 1964



Goldwater and the American “Left”


From International Socialist Review, Vol.25 No.4, Fall 1964, p.99.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The 1964 election campaign has given rise to some strange phenomena not the least of which are the antics of the American “left” under which term are subsumed those tendencies who, to one degree or another, consider themselves socialist. In some instances the Goldwater bogey has been seized upon to refurbish shopwarn concepts to justify the gross violation of principle involved in “socialists” supporting capitalist candidates. In others, especially among the ultra-left sects, verbal radicalism reaches its apogee in the policy of abstentionism.

Each of these tendencies reinforce the other. The unabashed opportunists of the American Communist Party, for example, have resurrected the discredited theory of the “lesser evil,” to proclaim: Goldwater must be defeated at all costs! With slight variations the fellow travellers and “progressives” who revolve in the CP orbit echo this refrain.

The Social Democrats and their camp followers see in the Goldwater candidacy a confirmation of their policy of “realignment.” That is, the reshuffling of the coalition forces which will align all of the “liberals” in one party and the “conservatives” in another to form a “genuine” two-party system. In practical political terms the policy of “realignment” is summed up in the slogan: Drive the Dixiecrats out of the Democratic Party.

The only rub is that the political bosses who dominate and control the Democratic Party machine want no part of any such “realignment.” Already chafing under the “liberal” label they are wriggling into the more respectable posture provided by the designation “moderates.” They need the Dixiecrats in the coalition as a necessary counterweight to the Negro and labor contingents. With no counterweight from the right to balance the pressure from the left the politicians of the golden mean would be seriously handicapped in playing the role of mediator between the conflicting forces that now comprise the Democratic Party coalition; a role in which the threat of punitive action from the right is always used to extract compliance from the left for the damaging compromises that serve to limit, curb, weaken and undermine the civil rights and labor struggle.

Nor are the Dixiecrats at all eager to accommodate the practitioners of realignment. They have too much at stake to lightly abandon the Democratic Party monopoly of political power in the South. As Democrats, enjoying a privileged position in Congress by virtue of the seniority system, they exercise a disproportionate power in the determination of national policy; first, as chiefs of the most important Senate and House committees; second, as a powerful bloc occupying the position of balance of power in the legislature. The periodic “revolts” of the Dixiecrats against the national leadership of the Democratic Party have always been strictly circumscribed and limited to a very narrow framework.

The Dixiecrat “walkout” in 1948 in protest against the civil rights plank of the Democratic Party platform in which they ran a candidate against Truman, was carefully fabricated to preserve Democratic Party control of the deep South. No less is the care exercised today by the unreconstructed Dixiecrat insurgents to preserve their political power structure. They know that after the “shooting is over” they will be welcomed back into the fold as errant prodigals temporarily gone astray.

The policy of realignment is no less a hoax than the lesser evil theory. In fact, none of its proponents today even so much as hint that it would be desirable for the “loyal” Dixiecrats to take a walk. For, you see: Goldwater must be defeated at all costs! And to defeat Goldwater the Dixiecrats become an indispensable part of the coalition.

To lend credence to their “lesser evil” line, the CP leaders loudly blazon that Goldwater Republicanism and Fascism are twins. The term “fascism” is used as a scare word to frighten the doubters into line. The ultra-lefts, with virtually no exceptions, join in equating “Goldwaterism” with fascism, thus contributing their bit to bolstering the CP “lesser evil” line.

The political decline of the so-called American “left,” spearheaded by the degeneration of the Communist Party and the Social Democrats, both of whom long ago abandoned the Marxist class criteria in their approach to politics, has made it even more significant that the Socialist Workers Party, with its limited forces and resources, is today holding aloft the unsullied banner of revolutionary socialism by running its own candidates in the 1964 presidential election campaign: Clifton DeBerry for president and Edward Shaw for vice-president.

The only real alternative for those who have a shred of socialist integrity left is to support the SWP candidates against the candidates of the capitalist class. That the proponents of “lesser evil” and “realignment” politics refuse to do so is not surprising.

What may give rise to a lifted eyebrow is the news that a small group of ultra-leftist intransigents in far off Great Britain, who still call themselves “Trotkyists,” have also come out against supporting the candidates of the SWP. Writing in the weekly Newsletter, organ of the British Socialist Labour League, the editor takes the SWP to task for not properly conducting the fight against “Goldwaterism.” Under the circumstances, declares ye editor, “a vote for the SWP candidates is meaningless.” This will undoubtedly reduce the SWP vote (in Britain) to virtually nil – at least in that section of London known as Clapham Commons in which the SLL resides.

Oh, well! The SWP should feel flattered that the Newsletter would condescend to take note of its role in the American election campaign. For there is an election campaign now going in Great Britain in which the Newsletter constantly warns its readers that the greatest calamity that could befall the British workers would be for the Labour Party to take power. This, sadly, is a manifestation of political dementia praecox (defined by Webster as a form of insanity developing usually in adolescence, characterized by incoherence of thought and action) or as aptly defined by Lenin: the infantile disorder of ultra-leftism.

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