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George Breitman

Our Military Policy – And the FBI’s False Version

The Lessons of Two World Wars Dictate Our Party’s Program
for Military Training, Government-Financed, Union-Controlled

(26 July 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 34, 23 August 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The key charges in the indictments handed down against the Socialist Workers Party last week revolve around our party’s anti-war stand and the concretization of our anti-war stand in our proletarian military policy.

It would not serve the purpose of Roosevelt’s Department of Justice to present our real military policy, as it was actually adopted at our national conference last September and as it has been presented, countless times in our press, in our public meetings and in the election platforms of our candidates for office.

For the truth would completely discredit and disprove the Roosevelt Administration’s charges.

An examination of these charges in the indictment, numbered 7, 8 and 9, – supposed to describe our military policy – clearly demonstrates the purpose of the prosecutions. Because what they accuse us of is not the policy we really advocate, but a falsified and distorted version, cooked up for the purposes of a frameup.

Number 7 of the indictment charges that:

“The defendants and their co-conspirators would endeavor by any means at their disposal to procure members of the military and naval forces of the United States to become undisciplined, to complain about food, living conditions, and missions to which they would be assigned, to create dissension, dissatisfaction and insubordination among the armed forces, to impair the loyalty and morale thereof, and FINALLY TO SEEK TO GAIN CONTROL OF SAID NAVAL AND MILITARY FORCES so that the enlisted personnel thereof would revolt against its officers, thereby enabling said defendants to overcome and put down by force and arms the constitutional government of the United States.”

Paragraph 9 makes substantially the same charge.

Our military policy has nothing in common with the police-mind version fabricated by the Department of Justice. Here is what we advocate:

We recognize in this period of universal militarism and the deadly advances of fascism, the need for military training of the workers. We never succumbed for a minute to the fatal ideas of pacifism. On the contrary we pointed out that workers could overcome fascism only by fighting it, and that pacifism would only disarm the workers.

But the experiences of both the first and second World Wars have taught us that the best interests of the workers cannot be entrusted to the bosses or their agents on the military field any more than in the factories. The downfall of France, we have pointed out, contained a great lesson for American workers. There the government had built a great army in the name of a war against fascism. But instead of carrying this war through, the army bureaucrats capitulated and delivered the French workers to Hitler.

The way the U.S. Army is constituted, we said, offers us no assurances that the same thing that happened in France will not happen here.

The Anti-Labor Military Hierarchy

The army is run by a hardened bureaucratic caste that is distinguished, as a result of its background, training and traditions, by the following characteristics:

  1. It is anti-labor and anti-democratic.
  2. It is composed almost exclusively of men drawn from that part ot society that is most alien to and separated from the needs and interests of the working class.
  3. It bases itself on a harsh barracks discipline that tends to destroy the independent thought and initiative of the worker-soldiers.
  4. It is conservative in its military thinking and strategy.

No informed person would dispute these characterizations. As a matter of fact, they are openly admitted by many “liberal” supporters of Roosevelt’s war, and program, and even by some of the more observant sections of the army bureaucracy itself, who are trying to effect some reforms in order to make the army regime more satisfactory for their own purposes and more acceptable in the eyes of the masses.

There is no question, either, but that the workers look with suspicion and distrust on this military caste. Nor is there any question about the existence of a wide spread dissatisfaction with it among American workers. The war mongers may attempt through this frameup of the Socialist Workers Party to attribute this dissatisfaction to our activities. But everyone knows that we are not responsible for these conditions. We did not “create” them we only discuss them. They were created by Roosevelt and his class.

Our Program for Militant Training

We told the workers: If we are forced to depend on such a set-up what may result, in spite of all the workers’ sacrifices, is the definitive victory of fascism and the establishment of an American Vichy regime by the very forces that today tell us there is no other way to fight fascism than by joining the army and supporting the Roosevelt war program and everything that goes with it But there is another way. It is briefly expressed in the slogan raised by our party:

“Military training of workers, financed by the government, but under control of the trade unions. Special officers’ training camps, financed by the government but controlled by the trade unions, to train workers to become officers.”

Our program of military training under trade union control is to be achieved, not by gaining control of the existing governmental armed forces, but as a result of independent pressure on the government for appropriations to be used to train the workers and to train worker-officers in special camps, to be set up for this express purpose and to be operated by the trade unions.

We recognize very well that only a disciplined armed force can successfully fight off fascist attacks. But lack of discipline does not arise from “agitation” or “propaganda”. It arises, in the armed forces as in industry and everywhere else, only as a result of rotten conditions and the lack of machinery for correcting them. It is precisely the fact that the nature of the present military regime prohibits correction that ends weight to our argument for the establishment of a system of military training, which by its nature will be democratically operated, will permit the handling and satisfaction of legitimate grievances, and will thus automatically build and create the kind of discipline which no fascist army, itself chock full of barracks discipline and dissatisfaction, could possibly withstand.

What We Do When We Are Conscripted

Paragraph 8 of the indictments charges that:

“When the Selective Service Act was passed, the members of said Socialist Workers Party would be urged to willingly accept service, but after being inducted into the army of the United States, to do everything in their power to disrupt, hinder, and impair the efficient functioning thereof, and when the appropriate time came to turn their weapons against their officers.”

The indictment does not err in stating that we advised class-conscious workers not to seek an individual solution of their problem by refusing to go when drafted. But it falsifies from beginning to end what we advise workers to do after they were drafted.

One quotation from many in the record will prove this. In our official Resolution on Proletarian Military Policy, we said:

“Under conditions of mass militarization the revolutionary worker cannot evade military exploitation any more than he can evade exploitation in the factory. He does not seek a personal solution of the problem of war by evading military service. That is nothing but a desertion of class duty. The proletarian revolutionist goes with the masses. He becomes a soldier when they become soldiers, and goes to war when they go to war. The proletarian revolutionist strives to become the most skilled among the worker-soldiers, and demonstrates in action that he is most concerned for the general welfare and protection of his comrades. Only in this way, as in the factory, can the proletarian revolutionist gain the confidence of his comrades in arms and become an influential leader among them.”

Obviously, far from urging the class conscious worker to follow a policy of “disrupting, hindering and impairing” – a policy which could only place his fellow soldiers as well as himself in the greatest danger, especially in time of combat – we urged him to become “the most skilled” among the soldiers.

We tell the workers to learn the military arts because they have to learn them if they do not want to be crushed by fascism, of either the foreign or domestic variety.

We tell them to demand training under trusted leadership so that not only will they be able to defeat foreign fascism, but also to prevent an American capitulation and the establishment of fascism from within. In other words, we are serious about this business of fighting fascism.

Thus, we see, the government is preparing to suppress us on charges that we are trying to impede and interfere with a war against fascism, when actually it is preparing to suppress the only party with a program that will really guarantee the defeat of fascism of all kinds!

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Last updated: 24 May 2016