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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(23 August 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 34, 23 August 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Youth Opposes Training for War

American youth does not want to go to war; it does not even want to train and prepare for a possible war. This is the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from the fact that the Roosevelt administration could muster only a majority of one vote in the House of Representatives for such an important measure as the bill providing for an extension of eighteen months in the period of service of drafted men.

There is no argument necessary to convince one of the importance of this measure from the point of view of the imperialist interests of the American capitalists. In spite of this, however, almost a majority of the representatives of capitalism voted against the bill. This astounding fact can be explained only on the assumption that the overwhelming majority of the people was against the measure and the pressure from the voters back home was too great to permit the average democratic Congressman to vote for the bill.

Obviously the greatest opposition to the bill came from the men who had been drafted and who would be compelled to serve in the army another eighteen months. They have already served almost a year; they are sick and tired of it and they want to go home. This is confirmed from every source. An article in the magazine Life, a magazine which can hardly be called isolationist, plainly states the bitter hostility of the soldiers to the idea of serving another eighteen months in the army.

What conclusions can be drawn from the unwillingness of the youth to serve in the army and how should revolutionary Marxists utilize those conclusions?

Capitalist Class Unable to Furnish Ideal

One thing is certain. The attempt of the war-like “democrats” to convince the people that this is a war for democracy against fascism and that the United States must be prepared to enter the war to save democracy from destruction at the hands of Hitler has failed to a very large extent. It is hard to believe that American youth would not be willing to sacrifice several years of their lives in training if they were convinced that this war vitally affects their interests and is really a war for democracy against fascism. To the extent therefore that American youth has not been taken in by the propaganda of the interventionists, it is all to the good.

Only the isolationists and pacifists, however, can stop at this point. Revolutionary Marxists must proceed from this point and attempt to convince the American working-class youth that there is a grave danger of a fascist victory not only by virtue of Hitler’s armies but also through the activities of the fascists within our own country. To ignore the fascist danger because the pro-war democrats are making the false claim that this war is a war for democracy against fascism, is to fall into the trap set by fascists. In the first place, therefore, it is essential for advanced workers to convince the American working youth that there is a real danger of fascism, not so much from Hitler as from the economic and social conditions that gave rise to Hitler in Germany and will give rise to fascism in this country. It is absolutely essential to prepare to fight fascism, but the only effective method is to prepare to substitute a socialist government for a capitalist government.

That the capitalist democracies are at a tremendous disadvantage in the struggle against the fascist powers where the vast majority is compelled by brute force alone to do the bidding of the fascist masters is evident from the fact that the American ruling class has not succeeded in creating the necessary idealism required for a victorious struggle against the fascists. The youth will gladly prepare to fight fascism and to sacrifice their lives in the fight only after they are convinced that they are fighting for a new world which will give them the opportunity to live as they want to live. Only a socialist regime inspiring the youth with the greatest idealism can succeed in forging an invincible army that will smash any fascist power.

Our Military Policy Applicable

And in this connection also it is necessary to bring before the workers our military policy. It must be understood that the unwillingness of the working-class youth to remain in the army is due not only to the fact that they have not been furnished with an ideal in which they believe and for which they are being trained. The incompetency of the officers, the severe and stupid discipline, the lack of democracy in the army make service hateful to the youth. Even if they were not convinced that this is a war for democracy, they understand well enough that they will have to fight whether they like to or not, and their common sense would tell them that it is better to be adequately trained. Modern war requires great skill and much training. The soldiers know it and are anxious to get the necessary training. But the regime in the army is so hateful to them that they are beset by only one idea and that is to get out as quickly as possible.

But the fact is that training is necessary and for any advanced worker not to realize that and to fail to convince his fellow-workers of that is to commit a serious error. This is the opportunity for us to convince the workers that their unions should undertake to train them in the use of modern arms and in the tactics of modern warfare. Military training under union control will be totally different from training in an army under the control of men hostile to everything that the working class stands for. Military training under Union control means democracy for the men. They will have their own committees to organize things in the interests of the men; they will control their officers; the stupid discipline of the regular army will be done away with; union activists will be trained. as officers and these will have the interests of the men at heart. The trade unions can mobilize the misses for an effective struggle against fascism; if they would only do so they can give the working youth an ideal and a goal to fight for. They have the task of preparing the working masses to struggle to the death against any and all forms of fascism, whether coming from within or from without.

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