Joseph Hansen

Brass Hats Push Legislation
to Militarize American Youth

(23 June 1945)

Source: The Militant, Vol. IX No. 25, 23 June 1945, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2018 by Einde O’Callaghan.
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Wall Street’s spokesmen continued this week to press for peacetime conscription in their drive to Prussianize American youth. The real purpose of the proposed legislation was apparent in the testimony of a number of the militarists who appeared before the House Committee on Post-War Military Policy.

The capitalists want huge “peacetime” armies to put down working class revolutions and colonial rebellions. Maj. Gen. William P. Tompkins, for instance, advocated that “the trainee should be put in a reserve corps for five years” after completing his year of training. Thus out of a six-year stretch, a youth would spend only one year “training” but five years “serving.”

War Unending

Wall Street has no other perspective but unending war. They want peacetime conscription as part of their preparation for the Third World War. Secretary of War Stimson admitted as much in his testimony June 15: “We have no right to gamble on the hope that our country for the third time will have even the little breathing space she has had in the last two wars.”

The ultra-reactionary Chamber of Commerce backed up the warmongers with the declaration June 14 that “a year of compulsory military service for America’s young men would be good business.” The Chamber of Commerce, looking at the practical side of waging war, believes that the annual cost of “maintaining say 1,000,000 young men training would be far less than that of the alternative necessary standing army and navy of several million men.”

In a letter to the House Committee, June 15, General Eisenhower marshalled arguments in support of the legislation along two lines. One is the benefit of military training to a soldier thrown into battle. The General, naturally, explained these benefits from the viewpoint of Wall Street in addition to the “individual’s chances of survival in war.”

Army Pattern

“The great forces necessary in war,” he said, “must he produced through a citizen military training system in time of peace. Pay must he nominal. There must be no attempt to compete with industry in the matter of wages ... Psychological indoctrination and moral training requires the longest time – but fortunately it is never completely forgotten.”

The indoctrination forced on the trainees by the military caste has a reactionary character. Race prejudice, hatred of labor, training in strike-breaking, blind, unthinking acceptance of the ideology of predatory capitalism is one of the greatest dangers in peacetime conscription.

Eisenhower’s second line of argument concerns the need for large numbers of troops in “peacetime.”

“There would no longer seem to be any reason for arguing the need for numbers in war. In a serious war the quicker the maximum potential can he converted into tactical power the surer the victory and the less the cost. The whole purpose of military preparation ... is to develop this maximum, properly balanced and fully efficient, at the earliest possible moment.”

Thus does the general underline Wall Street’s perspective of a Third World War.

Weak Answer

The opposition of the AFL and CIO to peacetime conscription failed completely to answer Wall Streets arguments. Lewis G. Hines, speaking for the AFL, attacked the purpose of the legislation. If, he said, the objective is preparedness, “may we not in all fairness ask: Preparedness for What?” In place of conscription he called for a program of medical care for “the children of the nation, in order that they may be fit to serve their nation’s need upon reaching the age of maturity.”

Hines, however, betrayed the interests of the labor movement when he conceded in principle the demands of Wall Street. He advocated the maintenance of an “army”, an air force and navy adequate to make our views on national and international policies respected, to safeguard our possessions and to perform our responsibilities as a member of any world-wide organization that is dedicated to peace.” This is precisely what the militarists want!

The opposition voiced by Nathan E. Cowan for the CIO was just as weak. He worried over the fact that peacetime conscription would be a “confession” the United States does not “believe it is possible to create a world free from war.” Such a confession does not bother the militarists in the least. The most outspoken of them have openly declared this to be their belief and from this deduce the necessity of the legislation.

Cowan further pointed to the cost of conscription, saying it would run from “one and one-half billion dollars to four billion dollars a year.” The militarists answer succinctly that this method of war is cheaper than any other.

Utopian Demand

The CIO spokesman called for a “reduction in world armament.” He asserted “we cannot have both collective security and overwhelming national armaments.” This Utopian demand has been exploded a thousand times by events. The worst militarists normally begin preparations for war by calling for a reduction in armaments.

The fat-headed proposals of the AFL and CIO bureaucrats deserve nothing but condemnation by class-conscious workers. The militarists cannot be answered by Utopian proposals to reduce arms, give up military training. The real answer to the militarists is first of all ruthless exposure of their real purposes. They want armies to put down revolutions. They want armies to maintain Wall Street’s plunder and profits.

In order to achieve emancipation the working class needs military training. But it is the duty of labor’s representatives to demand that military training – at government expense – be placed under control of the trade unions. “Psychological indoctrination,” etc. cannot be left to labor-hating Jim Crow Wall St. servants. The unions need control to make sure military training does not become training against unionism.

There is no other effective answer to the Wall Street militarists.


Last updated on: 7 November 2018