Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Commentary: Build a broad movement to stop the draft

First Published: Unity, Vol. 3, No. 5, February 29-March 13, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In the past month, tens of thousands of people have marched, picketed and rallied against selective service registration for the draft. A new generation of youth – one that never carried a draft card or faced military induction – is being told they must fight for U.S. imperialism’s interests in the Persian-Gulf. But young people in the U.S. are opposing the Carter administration’s war preparations, and a new anti-draft movement is > spreading across the country.

Stop the draft before it starts

Dozens of new anti-draft groups now exist on college campuses and are joining groups like the Coalition Against Registration and the Draft (CARD) that have been organizing nationally for nearly a year. Youth, veterans, peace groups, revolutionaries, intellectuals and religious groups have all been active in organizing teach-ins, petition drives and rallies.

The immediate focus of the anti-draft movement is aimed at resisting registration. In the coming months, the House Armed Services Committee and the entire Congress will debate and decide on Carter’s proposed legislation. One proposal calls for revitalization of the Selective Service System to register men. The other seeks authority to register women. According to Carter’s plan, all 19- and 20-year olds would be required to register for the draft.

Anti-draft activists have identified three focal points for draft related action: 1) the opening of Congressional debate and the actual vote on Carter’s legislation and budget proposals; 2) the implementation of registration at local post offices possibly this summer; and 3) the beginning of actual military induction. National attention will be focused on the draft issue during these periods, and anti-draft organizers are preparing for mass actions in Washington, post offices and military induction centers to highlight their resistance. A major focus is the upcoming March 22 Mobilization Against the Draft that will bring forces from the Midwest and East Coast to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Many groups are already gearing up for a massive boycott of registration. Draft counseling and legal services are being established by student governments, legal groups and anti-draft organizations. Massive registration resistance like that of the Viet Nam War era, when an estimated one million people refused registration or military induction, can be a powerful tactic that would weaken the U.S. war drive, but will require widespread, mass participation in order to succeed.

Build a broad anti-draft movement

The anti-draft movement has already galvanized many people into action, particularly among white college students. The movement also needs to expand its ties among broader sectors of people in order to maximize its power and effectiveness. This is especially true for oppressed nationalities, working class youth and women.

Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans have always been hardest hit by the draft. Conditions of poverty, unemployment and national oppression force them into the military with fewer options for exemption, and they invariably wind up on the front lines. During the Viet Nam War, Chicanos made up only 5% of the U.S. population, but comprised 20% of the combat deaths. Special efforts are needed to fully involve oppressed nationality people and organizations into the leadership, planning and development of the anti-draft movement. At times, conditions may call for Third World coalitions, caucuses and contingents in order to build ties with the ongoing struggle against racism and national oppression, and to maximize mobilization in oppressed nationality communities.

There is potentially a large constituency for the anti-draft movement among working class high school and junior college students, and young workers of all nationalities. While the draft affects all youth, the young people drafted in every previous war have been from poor and working class backgrounds. Particular outreach must be developed to build the anti-draft movement in working class schools, neighborhoods, factories and unions.

A major new force has joined the anti-draft upsurge – the women’s movement. Women have been among the leading organizers of the anti-draft actions around the country, and many women’s groups are taking up anti-draft work. Women and women’s groups should be integrally involved in building the anti-draft movement.

Unite all that can be united

There is also a need to build greater unity among the various political tendencies in the anti-draft struggle. Peace groups oppose forced military induction under any circumstances based on their general opposition to war. A number of liberal and social democratic forces such as the Campaign for Economic Democracy have spoken out against the draft as “Carter’s policy,” and want to link the anti-draft struggle to Brown or Kennedy’s election campaign. There are also groups who opposed draft registration as part of their overall critique of U.S. imperialism, while others oppose both superpowers – the U.S. and U.S.S.R. – war preparations and contention for control of the world.

While there is a diverse range of political opinion, there is common opposition to the draft, military aggression and war preparations. Marxist-Leninists should work to unite all who oppose the draft, and actively seek cooperation and joint work among the various groups. They should strive to root their work among the masses, and aim the anti-draft movement directly at the imperialist system.

Education about the international situation is also an important task. Marxist-Leninists should promote solidarity with the third world countries and peoples, and provide active support for their independence and national sovereignty. This stand should become a cornerstone for the anti-draft movement, and any intervention, aggression or invasion – by the U.S. or Soviet Union – must be opposed.

Currently, the predominant sentiment in the anti-draft movement targets U.S. war preparations as the main enemy. The movement quickly organized against Carter’s threat to use military force in the Persian Gulf and U.S. bases and warships in the region. But there is growing concern about the Soviet’s massive invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Some anti-draft groups have compared the Soviet’s actions to U.S. aggression in Indochina of the 1960’s, and denounced Russian imperialism. Some youth opposed to the Soviet aggression are wondering if they should support the draft. Their concern about Stopping Soviet expansion should be united with, but education must be done to show that the solution is not to strengthen or support U.S. imperialism. The third world countries are not interested in being dominated by either superpower.

The anti-draft movement is just beginning, and will continue to grow in the period ahead. UNITY fully supports the upcoming March 22 Mobilization Against the Draft, and encourages everyone to organize and build contingents on the campuses, communities and work places. Much work must be done to establish the anti-draft on a solid footing that unites the vast majority of people against registration and the draft. By connecting the anti-draft movement to opposition to the war preparations of the two superpowers, the anti-draft movement can become a powerful force combating world war and advancing world peace.