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Marx and the Bottle

The Electiongoer

By Peter R. Kann

It took Stuart Hughes 72,514 votes to enter the senatorial lists. A State elections law of 1950 guarantees two minor parties a place on the ballot if in the three previous gubernatorial elections their candidates polled one tenth of one per cent of the votes cast. The beneficiaries of this system are Lawrence Gilfedder an intent, wiry worker from the industrial suburb of Watertown, who is running on the Socialist Labor Party ticket, and the Rev. Mark Shaw, a white-haired clergyman from Melrose, who is representing the Prohibition Party.

Like Stuart Hughes, Gilfedder and Shaw are running to raise neglected issues and educate the voters. Unlike Hughes, who sporadically quotes Newsweek on miracles, Gilfedder and Shaw do not even smile about their chances for victory.

Gilfedder campaigns to represent the interests of the working class. An honest candidate, he admits there is presently no working class vote. His job as SLP candidate is to make Massachusetts workers aware of their class identity and of the class struggle. Given a society in which ditch-diggers consider themselves lower middle class and house painters claim status in the professions, Gilfedder will probably not top his 1960 total of 5,735 votes.

The SLP is dogmatically Marxist, but fiercely, and defensively, anti-Russian. The party offers only one plank, "unconditional surrender of capitalism." Unlike the Socialist Party of Norman Thomas ("a petty, bourgois reform party," says Gilfedder) the SLP refuses to compromise with capitalism in the quest for social reform. As a senator, Gilfedder would not vote for social security, unemployment compensation or Medicare. For to the SLP, social welfare is only a means of bolstering the capitalist order.

To the SLP candidate the Democratic and Republican opponents are mere tools of the exploiting class. Since Marx never worried about political inexperience in Massachusetts, the problem is irrelevant to the SLP. Hughes, while not an implement of the Kennedy-Lodge variety, is termed a "dreamer with fatuous hopes" as well as a phony socialist. Gilfedder sees no threat from the independent. "Hughes will take the liberal vote from Kennedy, but the liberal vote is not one we get or seek."

If Gilfedder proceeds unswervingly down the Marxist SLP path, his prohibitionist opponent is a liberal who just cannot walk the straight conservative line of his party. The Prohibition Party platform is rather a parody of classic midwestern conservatism. The platform advocates a free market farm economy, states rights and racial equality, anti-trust laws covering labor and complete laissez-faire. It opposes, among other things, the legalized trade in alcoholic beverages. Shaw is anxious for a second prohibition but feels that "law is only ten per cent of the answer."

Shaw is linked to a past in which social protest really did focus on prohibition. He admits that public interest has since turned from banning bottles to banning bombs, so he presents a liberal program for peace. He styles himself a Stuart Hughes liberal and proposes abandonment of Guantanamo, cessation of military foreign aid, and U.S. disarmament initiatives beyond the Hughes proposals. Domestically, he combines a clergyman's humanitarianism with his liberal faith and crusades for civil liberties and equal rights.

Shaw got about 2,000 votes for senator in 1960. He recognizes that Hughes may capture some protest votes which normally fall to him. Shaw does not seem particularly worried. Neither should the Harvard Pro.

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