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George Breitman

The Generals and the Admirals

(21 September 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 38, 21 September 1946, p. 6
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Generals and admirals are used to having their own way. That fact, and the fact that they are surrounded with yes-men who do not

dare to dispute their stupidest remarks, account for their often saying what they think. In this respect they are a little different from politicians, who are trained generally not to say what they think.

“It’s nobody’s damn business where we go; we will go anywhere we please.” That’s what Admiral Halsey said last month, and that’s exactly what he meant. He was answering the criticism about the U.S. Navy’s fleet going to Greece. He meant it was not the Soviet Union’s business – or Greece’s; he also meant it was the business only of the U.S. government and the brass hats. That is, it wasn’t the business of the American people.

The same idea was expressed by General Eisenhower a few days later. Former War Production Chairman Donald P. Nelson had just published a book revealing that the Army had tried to take over the country’s economy during the war. Eisenhower denied this, adding as a clincher: “The Army wants no domination of anything but its own affairs.”

When Eisenhower says “the Army,” he of course means the big brass. But since when has the brass got the right to “dominate” even the affairs of the Army? Isn’t Congress alone supposed to have that right?

Yes, Congress is supposed to, but more and more the brass hats are taking over. Long before Congress voted to authorize the Bikini atomic bomb maneuvers, the admirals had picked the men, the ships and the place, and had the project three-quarters completed.

Congress adjourned without acting on the “Inter-American Military Cooperation Bill” to integrate all of Latin America into the U.S. military machine. But Eisenhower has just returned from a Latin-American tour where he made arrangements for executing this plan despite Congress’ failure to approve it.

The generals and admirals sincerely think that the military way of life is the best. All they have to do is issue commands, and millions of people have to execute them. No fuss, no bother, no back-talk, no “labor trouble.” Could anything be more efficient? No one had more admiration for the way Mussolini “made the trains run” than the brass hats. They would like to “make the country run” that way too. And the world.

The labor movement had better open its eyes and see what is going on. The brass hats who tried to take over the country during the war have not changed their colors. The danger of military dictatorship remains – and will grow as the threat of a Third World War grows. Either labor will curb the expanding power and arrogance of the generals and the admirals, or all of labor’s rights and gains will be threatened.

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Last updated: 18 June 2021