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George Breitman

Senate OKs Peacetime Draft,
But Bars War-Profits Ceiling

Bi-Partisan Gang Kills Civil Rights Amendments

(16 June 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 25, 21 June 1948, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

JUNE 16 – For the second time in American history the U.S. Senate has voted to establish a conscription system in peacetime. This happened first in 1940, when Washington was making active preparations to enter World War II. The 1948 conscription system is a similar proposition: a step toward war and the further militarization of the country.

Under the terms of the bill adopted by the Senate, all men between the ages of 18 and 25 will have to register for the draft, with the 18 year olds having the “privilege” of volunteering for one year’s service, and the others subject to a two year draft. For this, the young men and their families can thank both the Republican and Democratic servants of Wall Street, who passed the bill by a vote of 78 to 10.

This bi-partisan coalition 19 ready to use the youth as cannon-fodder, but they take an entirely different attitude to the employers.

When William Langer (R.-N.D.) proposed the payment of “fair and just compensation, but not to exceed 10% on invested capital” for articles, materials, plants and other facilities received or used by the armed forces, he was overwhelmingly defeated on a voice vote.

“Abnormal” Profits

The second amendment, offered by W. Lee O’Daniel (D-Tex.), proposed the suspension of the draft until Congress passed a law putting a 100% tax on “abnormal” profits from contracts between employers and the armed services. This was beaten down by a vote of 81 to 8. Big profits never seem abnormal to Big Business and its political hired help.

The over-all reactionary nature of the bill was underlined by a number of other actions taken by the Senate:

It defeated by a standing vote a proposal to put the general management of the draft into the hands of civilians, rather than the brass hats. One section of the bill provides for setting up an American Foreign Legion, to be composed of 25,000 aliens enlisted here and abroad, for occupational and other services abroad. The use of mercenaries in legions of this kind has long been a hallmark of imperialist policy.

The defeat of the Langer civil rights amendments (except the relatively harmless one against the payment of poll taxes by servicemen) was a demonstrative stub in the back to the Negro struggle for equality in the armed forces. Spokesmen of both parties claimed that these amendments should be considered separately from the draft bill itself. But such claims dripped with hypocrisy because neither party made any effort to consider such proposals separately, or any other way.

The House of Representatives is now considering a conscription bill similar to the one passed by the Senate, although it has tentatively reduced the draft period to one year. Its passage in the House would increase the armed forces from about ½ million to 2 million persons, and the organized reserves from about 1 million to 1½ million.

The duration of the draft measure, as set in the Senate bill, is two years. But actually, it is intended as the beginning of a permanent conscription system, and will surely be extended at the end of the two years if the capitalist parties remain in control. That has always happened in all countries resorting to peacetime conscription.

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