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Julius Falk

Youth Corner ...

New Threat of Conscription

(30 December 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 52, 30 December 1946, p. 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

President Truman has fired the initial volley in a new drive for universal military conscription. Last Thursday, the President appointed a nine-man committee, dubbed it the Advisory Commission on Universal-Military Training, with the responsibility of “studying the basic needs as well as various plans for universal military training in relation to overall planning for the national security.”

More than half of the commission is composed of capitalist politicians, advisors and an industrialist. The rest of the committee consists of an editor and three educators, including the notoriously reactionary Rev. Edmund A. Walsh from Georgetown University and Dr. Compton, president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who played a key role in the recent atom bomb tests at Bikini Atoll. Men like Charles E. Wilson, president of General Electric who represents Big Business and whose company police slugged dozens of veterans in the recent GE strike in Philadelphia are “studying the basic needs” and “various plans” for American youth!

Sugar-Coated Draft

As socialists we are against union leaders participating in plans to conscript youth in a capitalist army. Nevertheless it is significant that Truman hasn’t seen fit to name one representative of America’s sixteen million organized workers to a commission studying the conscription plan “in relation to overall planning to national security” – perhaps because many unions have come out in opposition to military conscription.

The tentative plan for universal military training is in a sense a retreat for the American capitalist class. It is a watered down and sugar-coated version of the suspended draff laws. Opposition to the draft among the people is so. strong that the capitalist politicians as a matter of expediency suspended the draft laws before election time. They decided a volunteer army was after all the best thing. But American youth didn’t flock to the recruiting stations as expected. The bunk about “education in the army” and the flag-waving campaign to suck in volunteers failed.

Now, however, that the votes have been collected and the next election is still two years off, and the volunteer method is obviously inadequate, the capitalist politicians have assumed the offensive again. They know that the suspended draft laws will be a bit too much to push down the people’s throats, so their offensive is limited. Instead of an 18-month draft, the tentative army proposal being studied by the commission is for a minimum of six months training.

An attempt to make conscription even more palatable motivated the president’s informal talk Friday to his advisory commission. With a liberal dosing of hypocrisy, he emphasized all the moral “needs” for conscription. The plan, we are told, is to teach young people how “to get along with one another, informing them of their physical makeup (!) and what it means to take care of this temple which God gave us.” As if this isn’t enough, early in his speech Truman injected the following:

“I have been interested in the physical development and the mental and moral development of young people ever since I was graduated from high school. I have been somewhat of a student of history, and I have discovered that great republics of the past always passed out when their peoples became prosperous and fat and lazy and were not willing to assume their responsibilities.”

Who can doubt the President’s talents as a historian or his good intentions to keep us from becoming “prosperous, fat and lazy”? However, there doesn’t seem to be much danger of 60 million American workers and their families becoming “fat or lazy” and certainly not “prosperous.” As a matter of fact, if the proposed plan were directed against those sections of the population which actually fitted the description, no socialist could strongly oppose it. For who but men like the Charles E. Wilson Family would be affected by it?

War Department Elated

Then to make conscription really savory, the President noted with his usual graceful style, “I want that word military left out” as “incidental to what I have in mind.” As the saying goes, Mr. Truman, we come from Missouri. The military aspects of the training program are so “incidental” that the War Department is reported as elated with the plan, and will probably drop its plea to continue the draft.

At the end of the speech, Truman lets the cat out of the bag when he tells us what “we” want in this world. “We do want an interchange of ideas and of merchandise and of everything of that sort.” At last we find something in the speech with which we can agree. It is not clear to us where the “ideas” come in, but it is easy enough to see how and why men like Truman and Wilson are interested in universal military training as it relates to an “interchange of merchandise and of everything of that sort.”

The new program will, and can only be, old garbage in new pails.


Distribute Leaflet at AYD Rally

Despite rain and snow, about fifteen members of the New York SYL distributed leaflets at a city-wide inter-racial rally of American Youth for Democracy. The leaflet took the AYD to task for its avowed support of the “Roosevelt policy” pointing out that Roosevelt never disassociated himself from his Jim Crow party brethren. The leaflet also indicated that it was necessary for unions and progressive organizations to organize independently of either capitalist party to conduct an effective struggle against Jim Crow.

A number of very excellent contacts were made. We wish to inform those AYDers who were so greatly agitated by our leaflet, that they will see us again.

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