Hal Draper

Mobilization Day Draft
Plans Are All Prepared

(April 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 24, 14 April 1939, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The draft is all prepared. We refer to the draft of men’s lives for the battlefields of Europe.

The War Department reports that “if hostilities should start tomorrow 300,000 trained soldiers could be put into the field immediately. Thirty days later we would hope to have available a force of 500,000. At the end of four months we would expect 1,230,000 men to be in uniform and under arms.” (Assistant Secretary of War Johnson in the Coast Artillery Journal) :

Behind the backs of the people, the draft machinery has been set up and oiled.

Over a year and a half ago, while Roosevelt was “hating war” in speeches, Colonel Sanford Jarman made a speech to the National Guard Association (reported in the Army and Navy Journal). He undertook to rejoice the hearts of the assembled doves of peace with an account of the War Department plans for “selective service,” which is the War Department euphemism for the draft.

New Deal Efficiency

“The plans for selective service are complete,” he said. “The Committee [special committee of seven representing the army, navy and marine corps – H.D.] has prepared the draft of a selective service law to submit to Congress if the emergency shall arise; it has prepared regulations to carry the proposed law into effect; it has the necessary forms for printing ready. It has reduced the problem of printing 50,000,000 copies from weeks to days.”

Who said the New Deal isn’t efficient?

The colonel went on to say that 95 reserve officers have seen given special training to operate the central mechanism, and provisions made for a national draft headquarters. “Forty-eight state plans are now on file with the joint army and navy selective service committee.”

Colonel Jarman continued:

“To enact the selective service laws, to set up the necessary selective service organization of some 150,000 men and women, to register millions of men, classify them and induct those selected into the army of the U.S. will require time – probably from 45 to 60 days.”

New Deal Democracy

It is your guess what portion of this time is allowed for discussion and action by Congress – not to speak of the people! War Department officials have made no bones about their attitude toward Congress: when the draft law is introduced after the declaration of war, any Congressman who thinks it calls for at least as much consideration as a Supreme Court appointment will be denounced as a traitor. Last October there took place a regional conference of army, navy, marine and National Guard officers of the Midwest, the first regional conference of:the kind. The New York Times reported:

“Army officers rehearsed on paper today the national set-up of a civilian-operated selective service act, and estimated that it would cost between $6,000,000 and $10,000,000 to mobilize 300,000 men in the first month of a war ... State election machinery would be utilized for the registration of citizens in war-time and the possible induction of 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 able-bodied fighting men.”

The War Department sees no irony in the use of election machinery for the draft registration. Newton D. Baker, Wilson’s War Secretary, who conceived the idea in 1917, thought it was a brilliant stroke to sweeten the pill of conscription. “Just like going to vote, you see ...” Presumably the Negroes in the South should be enthusiastic about the prospect of getting into a poll-booth at last.

Nobody Safe

According to the War Department’s plans, all men between 18 and 45 will be subject to the draft. But don’t be relieved if you’re over 45 – you will be required to register anyway. Why? Well, in the third year of the World War, Germany drafted all men 17–60 for “auxiliary service,” and the Roosevelt Junkers are not missing any tricks.

Perhaps the reason was given by the President of the British Institute of Chemical Engineers when he said:

“A middle-aged man can drive a tank as well as anybody. In the next war the oldest people Should drive the fastest mechanized units. Graybeards should constitute the storm troops ... Science has made war a much more suitable occupation for middle-aged people than it was in 1914.”

There will be no exemptions from this draft. There will only be “deferments” for those who are considered to be more useful at home. The local draft board – appointed by the Governor and to consist of “leading citizens” of the town – will consider each man.

“It will then be the task of a board of local citizens in, six thousand communities to decide whether their neighbor shall serve his country as a soldier or a sailor, or whether he is of more value to the Government as a munitions worker or a farmer ... Plans for the installation of this system are ready ... One thing alone is lacking – the law.” (Asst. Sec’y of War Johnson)

A worker who insists on higher wages to meet the skyrocketing cost of living, and who is so foolish as to organize his fellow-workers for this unpatriotic objective, will discover that he has ceased to be of industrial value to the Government. His boss on the local draft board will be the first to so inform him. The same threat can be used even for Congressmen – as during the war Germany sent into the army Karl Liebknecht, member of the Reichstag, because he voted against war credits and told the workers that their main enemy was at home.

General Peyton C. March has said: “It is one of the heartening experiences of the (World) War that the system of obtaining men by draft in a major emergency of this character has come to stay.”

When the draft was before Congress in 1917, Senator James Reed, with his ear close to the ground, said: “The streets of Missouri cities will run red with blood before the people will submit to such a law.” Other Congressmen said: “Conscription is another name for slavery,” and “It will destroy democracy at home while fighting for it abroad”; and the House passed the draft by the close vote of 199 to 178.

General March is probably right in thinking, that these voices will not be heard again on Capitol Hill. “Progressives”’ like LaGuardia and Lehman have already publicly endorsed conscription. “Progressive “-in-chief Franklin D. Roosevelt was yelling for universal peace-time conscription for the United States as far back as the World War and the post-war years.

Voice of Revolt

But in 1917 there were other voices raised against the draft.

In Oklahoma and Arkansas an organization was formed of tenant farmers, Negroes and Indians to resist the draft. The country was scoured for high-powered rifles. This isolated movement was eventually crushed, though not without difficulty.

“Uncle Lige” Harp spoke for these working farmers: “We didn’t have no right to send folks over to Europe to fight; ’taint a free country when that’s done.” And his neighbor Frank Sturdgill was likewise reported in the Kansas City Star as saying:

“It’s war for the benefit of them silk-hatted fellers in New York. We don’t want our boys fightin’ them rich fellers’ battles and gettin’ killed just to make a lot of money for a bunch of millionaires. Why, they own most of the country now.”

Before the draft comes to stay, the workers and farmers of America have still to speak.

Last updated on 17 January 2016