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George Clarke

Back of the Air Maneuvers

(June 1931)

The Young Vanguard, The Militant, Vol. IV No. 11, 1 June 1931, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Five hundred and ninety-seven army air machines soar over New York City in impressive war maneuvers, forming a spectacle which fascinated and thrilled thousands of onlookers. These maneuvers, in the words of chief of staff General MacArthur “are not a ‘circus’ but a test of preparedness of the air branch of warfare.” (N.Y. Times, May 25, 1931.) This air drill over the skyscrapers of N.Y. involving some six hundred planes and more than fourteen hundred men, cost the U.S. government the princely sum of $2,000,000. Aeroplanes are the instruments of the next war. The nations of the world realize this. In not one of their disarmament conferences, where the capitalist governments haggle and wrangle over the scrapping of obsolete and antiquated battleships, will they tolerate for a single moment the question of the reduction of air forces. The American capitalists are likewise well aware of the importance of the airplane. It has proclaimed a five year plan (!) for airplane building, whose provisions it is to increase the amount of service planes by 1,128, from 672 planes today to 1,800 planes in five years.

The political situation in Europe and throughout the world is extremely tense. War clouds darken the face of the whole world. France and her Little Entente are at dagger points with German-Austrian Anschluss. Italy looks with jealous eyes on France’s colonial possessions and every move it makes causes friction between the two countries. America breaks up conference after conference on economic questions, while it grooms itself greedily watching that vast unexploited territory, that is, Soviet Russia, and promoting one counter-revolutionary plot after another, in the hope that this will aid them in their plans to overthrow the first worker’s Republic. The capitalist nations are hopeful of solving their economic ills through a redivision of the world market and colonial spoil, which leads headlong into a new world war. Understood in this sense, the war games in the air assume an especial importance. That war looms in the near future is attested to not only by the feverish military preparations which the capitalist nations are engaged in, but also by the deluge of pacificism which is flooding the country and the world to-day. Pacifism (disarmament, “abolishing” war by treaties, laws, good will, etc.) is an inevitable concomitant of war. It is the barrage behind which preparations for war take place. Pacifism is the soft and soothing music that lulls the working class into a state of drowsy security while the capitalist politicians jockey for positions and intrigue for alliances.

How well the United States knows this! At the same moment that the government is completely and wholeheartedly bent on these openly militaristic and warlike air maneuvers, it institutes another maneuver known as army economy. It abolishes fifty-three obsolete army posts, and thus kills two birds with one stone. It gives the appearance that it is disarming by abolishing several army posts, and it makes a show of economy. It hopes by these methods to blind the working class to its war preparations and to appease the gullible and treacherous pacifists and reformists. But the very next day it gives the lie to its own deceitfulness! It runs a militaristic air show which not only disowns any pacifist illusions it might have created but even its pretences at economy. $2,000,000 at one stroke! And it turns down the demand for social insurance because it will be a strain on the government revenue and on the “citizen’s [read: capitalist’s] income”. The role of the socialists and their liberal allies is clear. Norman Thomas before a “War Policies Commission” congratulates the country (?) “on the conviction that when it comes to a real emergency like war the overblessed profit system won’t work without an immense degree of control”. Presumably meaning, that the capitalist class (Thomas calls it “the country”) is beginning to understand the usefulness of the “socialists” and when war does come, they will lend the “country” some of their ideas to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion, and to hold the working class in check like their worthy predecessors have shown themselves so capable of doing in the governments of the Kaiser, His Majesty Geo. V, the French Republic and other illustrious cabinets from 1915 to 1918 and thereafter.

The capitalist class is looking for ways and means to change the whole economy of peace in such a way that it may be transformed at a moment’s notice to meet the exigencies of war. Plans for universal conscription have been formulated. Elaborate details of war taxation are being devised. And on top of it all propaganda is being flung far and wide that the United States is preparing only defensive measures and will fight only if attacked. A picture of the future can already be seen, even down to the fake causes for which the capitalist class will attempt to make the American workers fight their English, French or Russian comrades.

For the working youth these air maneuvers have a great importance. Thousands of young workers are driven, into the army, navy, and national guard by the lash of the economic depression. In spite of all the indignation of the Charlie Chaplins, who want the “old men to fight the next war”, and of the pacifists who want the combatants to be capitalists and their lackeys, generals, politicians, etc., the working youth will be the cannon fodder of the next war. It therefore becomes ever more necessary to point out the true anti-proletarian character of capitalist militarism and imperialist wars. It is a thousand times more incumbent on the young Communist today than ever before, to bring this message to the young workers in the armed forces; to break down the illusions of pacifism, and to point to the proletarian revolution as the only way out of the catastrophe capitalism is preparing for society.

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