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50 Years Ago: Death of a President

Who would have dreamt, on the morning of that fateful November day, that within a matter of hours, the thirty-fifth U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, would be dead, as well as his assassin and a Texas policeman? Yet this was the news which burst upon an astounded world, and sent all the capitalist politicians into huddles.

Kennedy's death was a tragedy for his family and friends, but at times like these it is as well to get the whole business into some sort of perspective and try to dispel some of the concentrated nonsense to which we have been subjected since the event. It was The Observer for December 1st which said that the shot which killed Kennedy ‘. . . must change the course of the world.’ But this is really just another repetition of the ‘great men make history’ theory, and has precious little evidence to support it.

The more sensible remark was that overheard between two young men in a London street the following morning. ‘Assassinations don't really make a lot of difference,’ said one. ‘Things go on pretty much the same as before.’ Probably he was not a Socialist, but he certainly hit the nail on the head, for this is precisely what the newspapers were hastening to tell us a few days later. President Johnson would continue the Kennedy policies, said Richard Scott in The Guardian of November 28th. He could have added (but of course he didn't) that these would as usual be a reflection of the needs of contemporary American capitalism. They were ably expounded by the new President thus:

‘. . the unswerving support of the United Nations . . . the honourable and determined execution of our commitments to our allies . . . the maintenance of military strength second to none . . . the defence of the strength and stability of the dollar . . . the expansion of our foreign trade . . . our programme of assistance and cooperation in Asia and Africa. . . ’

There have been two Democrats and one Republican at the White House since Roosevelt and any one of them could have uttered those words. For American capitalism has become a giant in world affairs; its days of isolationism are well and truly over.

(from The Passing Show, Socialist Standard, January 1964)