From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Communist Future-As We Head Into Another Dead-End American Presidential Election Season- Once Again, Out In The Be-Bop Night-See Jack Run- The Kennedy-Nixon Presidential Elections of 1960, A 50th Anniversary, Of Sorts
Click on the headline to link to a Huffington Post entry on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's victory in the 1960 American Presidential Elections.
A couple of years back (2010) I mentioned, in an entry that amounted to a nostalgic 1960s Boston kid time trip down political memory lane, the following that linked into this entry posted under the sign of the 50th anniversary of Jack Kennedy’s presidential election victory election over one Richard Milhous Nixon, the arch-political villain of the age, my political coming of age:
“During the course of the afternoon that event [President Barack Obama had come to Massachusetts to campaign for the re-election of sitting Democratic Governor Patrick at the Hynes Auditorium in Boston], and the particular locale where it was staged, brought back a flood of memories of my first serious organized political actions in 1960 when, as a lad of fourteen, I set out to “save the world.” And my soul, or so I thought at the time, as well. That was the campaign of one of our own, Jack Kennedy, as he ran for president against the nefarious sitting Vice President, one Richard Milhous Nixon. In the course of that long ago campaign he gave one of his most stirring speeches not far from where I stood on this Saturday.
Although gathering troops (read: high school and college students) for that speech was not my first public political action of that year, a small SANE-sponsored demonstration against nuclear proliferation further up the same street was but I did not help to organize that one, the Kennedy campaign was the first one that hinted that I might, against all good sense, become a serious political junkie. Ya, I know, every mother warns their sons (then and now) and daughters (now) against such foolhardiness but what can you do. And, mercifully, I am still at it. And have wound up on the right side of the angels, to boot.
The funny thing about those triggered remembrances is that as far removed from bourgeois politics as I have been for about the last forty years I noticed many young politicos doing their youthful thing just as I did back then; passing out leaflets, holding banners, rousing the crowd, making extemporaneous little soapbox speeches, arguing with an occasional right wing Tea Party advocate, and making themselves hoarse in the process. In short, exhibiting all the skills (except the techno-savvy computer indoor stuff you do these days before such rallies) of a street organizer from any age, including communist street organizers. Now if those young organizers only had the extra-parliamentary left-wing politics to merge with those organizational skills. In short, come over to the side of the angels.
But that is where we come back to old Jack Kennedy and that 1960 campaign. Who would have thought that a kid, me, who started out walking door to door stuffing Jack Kennedy literature in every available door in 1960 but who turned off that road long ago would be saying thanks, Jack. Thanks for teaching me those political skills.”
And not just that thanks for heralding the break-out, or at least the attempted break-out of my 1960s generation from the Eisenhower-Nixon cold war death trap. See, at the time of the great attempted break-out from the confines of bourgeois society and the tracked career path all kinds of people seemed like they could be allies, and Jack Kennedy seemed a kindred spirit. I will not even mention Bobby, that one still brings a little tear to my eye. But enough of nostalgia we still have to fight to seek that newer world, to hear that high white note before everything comes crashing down on us.
Below is an American Left History blog entry, dated, Thursday, August 23, 2007, entitled ON COMING OF POLITICAL AGE-Norman Mailer's The Presidential Papers to give a little flavor to the above commentary.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
ON COMING OF POLITICAL AGE-Norman Mailer's "The Presidential Papers"
Click on the headline to link to a "The New York Times" obituary for American writer Norman Mailer article, dated November 10, 2007.
THE PRESIDENTIAL PAPERS, NORMAN MAILER, VIKING, 1963
At one time, as with Ernest Hemingway, I tried to get my hands on everything that Norman Mailer wrote. In his prime he held out promise to match Hemingway as the preeminent male American prose writer of the 20th century. Mailer certainly has the ambition, ego and skill to do so. Although he wrote several good novels, like The Deer Park, in his time I believe that his journalistic work, as he himself might partially admit, especially his political, social and philosophical musings are what will insure his place in the literary pantheon.
With that in mind I recently re-read his work on the 1960 political campaign-the one that pitted John F. Kennedy against Richard M. Nixon- that is the center of the book under review. There are other essays in this work, some of merely passing topical value, but what remains of interest today is a very perceptive analysis of the forces at work in that pivotal election. Theodore White won his spurs breaking down the mechanics of the campaign and made a niche for himself with The Making of a President, 1960. Mailer in a few pithy articles gave the overview of the personalities and the stakes involved for the America of that time.
Needless to say the Kennedy victory of that year has interest today mainly for the forces that it unleashed in the base of society, especially, but not exclusively, among the youth. His rather conventional bourgeois Cold War foreign policy and haphazard domestic politics never transcended those of the New and Fair Deals of Roosevelt and Truman but his style, his youth and his élan seemingly gave the go ahead to all sorts of projects in order to ‘‘seek a newer world.” And we took him up on this. This writer counted himself among those youth who saw the potential to change the world. We also knew that if the main villain of the age , one Richard Milhous Nixon, had been successful in 1960 as he graphically demonstrated when he later became president we would not be seeing any new world but the same old, same old.
I have been, by hook or by crook, interested in politics from an early age. Names like the Rosenbergs, Joseph McCarthy, Khrushchev and organizations like Americans for Democratic Action and the like were familiar to me if not fully understood then. I came of political age with the 1960 presidential campaign. Mailer addresses the malaise of American political life during the stodgy Eisenhower years that created the opening for change-and Kennedy and his superb organization happily rushed in. These chances, as a cursory perusal of the last 40 odd years of bourgeois presidential politics makes painfully clear, do not come often.
The funny thing is that during most of 1960 I was actually “Madly for Adlai,” that is I preferred Adlai Stevenson, the twice defeated previous Democratic candidate, but when the deal went down at the advanced age of 14 I walked door to door talking up Kennedy. Of course, in Massachusetts that was not a big deal but I still recall today that I had a very strong sense I did not want to be left out of the new age ‘aborning’. That, my friends, in a small way is the start of that slippery road to the ‘lesser evil’ practice that dominates American politics and a habit that took me a fairly long time to break.
Mailer has some very cutting, but true, remarks about the kind of people who populate the political milieu down at the base of bourgeois politics, those who make it to the political conventions. Except that today they are better dressed and more media savvy nothing has changed. Why? Bourgeois politics, not being based on any fidelity to program except as a throwaway, is all about winning (and fighting to keep on winning). This does not bring out the "better angels of our nature." For those old enough to remember that little spark of youth that urged us on to seek that "newer world" and for those too young to have acquired knowledge of anything but the myth Mailer’s little book makes for interesting and well-written reading.