The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

A Politician like the Others

Nov 25, 2013

Officials and the news media used the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy to try to reinforce the old story about how Kennedy represented something different than other presidents before him. This Hollywood version of history has nothing to do with reality.

In fact, Kennedy “took up the torch” from the Eisenhower administration to try to smother in blood all challenges to U.S. domination around the world. One focus of the Kennedy administration was Cuba, since the mobilization led by Castro had not only overthrown a U.S.-sponsored puppet, but refused to bow down to U.S. dictates and instead had secured aid and support from the Soviet Union, against the U.S. The Kennedy administration first sponsored an invasion of the country at the Bay of Pigs, which turned out to be a complete fiasco. So, Kennedy followed up with Operation Mongoose, a campaign of terrorist attacks and assassination attempts. Kennedy even took the world to the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Confronting the growing social unrest and movements against U.S.-sponsored regimes throughout Latin America, the Kennedy administration bolstered the military machines in all those countries, and encouraged a rash of military takeovers and harsh repression – for example, 1962 in the Dominican Republic and 1963 in Ecuador – trying to secure the Western Hemisphere for continued U.S. capitalist investment and plunder.

The Kennedy administration also ramped up the U.S.’s Viet Nam War. Eisenhower had already sent a U.S. military force of 900 to Viet Nam. But Kennedy bolstered U.S. combat forces up to 16,732 – trying to cover it up with the lie that U.S. troops were merely “advisors.” Kennedy himself admitted to The New York Times’ Washington Bureau Chief, James Reston, late in 1961 after the failure of the U.S. Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, “Now we have a problem in making our power credible, and Viet Nam is the place.” Of course, what Kennedy meant by “credible” power was bombs, bullets and war.

On the home front, Kennedy was little more than a tool of business against workers and unions. The infamous Senator Joe McCarthy, who had spearheaded the anti-communist witch hunt that purged the unions of some of their best militants during the 1950s, was an old friend of the Kennedy family. As a U.S. Senator in the 1950s, Jack Kennedy himself had helped sponsor the anti-union Landrum-Griffin Act that, among other things, made several kinds of strikes illegal.

In 1962, Kennedy advocated slashing taxes for businesses and the wealthy – supposedly in order to stimulate the “sluggish” economy. In 1964, Johnson followed through on this “Kennedy legacy” by cutting the rate on the top tax bracket from 91 per cent to 70 per cent. For good measure, Johnson also cut the corporate income tax rate. No, the Republicans aren’t the only ones who cut the taxes for the “one per cent!”

Not surprisingly, Kennedy was never popular amongst ordinary working people when he was in office. But with his assassination, the news media and U.S. officials went into overdrive, blanketing the population with the Kennedy myth.

Kennedy was suddenly pictured as a friend of the civil rights movement. Malcolm X took this on immediately. Barely two weeks after Kennedy was killed, Malcolm X’s speech in Harlem dissected the real Kennedy policy. Throughout 1963, an important battleground had been in Birmingham, Alabama. As Malcolm X explained, “During the many long weeks when the police dogs and police clubs and the high pressure water hoses were brutalizing black women and children and babies ..., the late President did nothing but sit on his hands. He said there was nothing he could do. But when Negroes in Birmingham exploded and began to defend themselves, the late President then sent in Federal troops, not to defend the Negroes, but to defend the whites against whom the Negroes had finally retaliated.”

After the speech, Malcolm X explained to reporters that, “President Kennedy never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon ... being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they always made me glad.

In other words, Kennedy had fallen victim to the very same violence that he had helped to create.