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Julie Falk

Youth Conscription Plan Is
Step Towards New War

(9 June 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 1 No. 23, 9 June 1947, pp. 1 & 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Six months ago President Truman appointed his Advisory Committee on Universal Training. The committee was a chosen assortment of industrialists, war-cabinet members and atomic-age churchmen and professors.

The formation of this committee was the opening gun in a capitalist offensive to incorporate peace-time conscription into “the American way of life,” It was the beginning of a drive to inflict infinite hardships on teenage youth and to gear the American people and industry to defend America’s imperialist interests.

On June 1st the President’s commission – an example of select breeding in capitalist politics – did the expected. It delivered a report which unanimously recommended compulsory military training for all male youth reaching eighteen years of age or on being graduated from or leaving high school. From this source the commission expects to collar nearly one million conscripts a year.

Committee’s Findings

The committee compiled its “findings” and “recommendations” in a voluminous report which, except for several fragmentary quotations, has not as yet been made freely available to the public. However, the committee’s “summary letter” to the President was printed, and from it we can gather the essential features of a vast plan to put the entire nation on a war footing.

Any sugary illusions about the character and purpose of the proposed universal training is dissipated by the committee’s “findings.” The committee emphatically dismisses the idea that the military angle to Universal Training is only “incidental.” President Truman tried to sell conscription to the American people by peddling it off as a health and mental fitness program. The committee’s letter, in its typical blunt manner, makes it clear that compulsory training is to accomplish “essential military objectives.”

The commission proposes a six-month basic training period for all physically and mentally fit of the above described age categories. After this period the conscript has an “option” of one of the following alternatives:

  1. Remain in camp or aboard ship for another six months.
  2. Join the regular army.
  3. Attempt to win an appointment to Annapolis or West Point.
  4. Take a civilian job provided he join the National Guard.
  5. Attend college if he joins ROTC and agrees to accept a reserve commission on graduation.
  6. Join the enlisted reserves for the current enlistment period which is now six years.

The committee recommends “only” six months of basic training. But from the above alternatives we can see that the proposed regimentation of youth is for at least twice that period of time. Also, we know from experience with wartime conscription that six months can be extended indefinitely if Congress sees fit.

The committee didn’t slip up on any point. The report makes a recommendation on pay allowance, too. However, this must have been a minor consideration as evidenced by the very minor recommendation of $25 a month pay for the peacetime draftee.

That Isn’t All

The recommendation of compulsory military training was but one proposal in an eight point program designed to insure “national security.” These proposals, if effectuated, would directly and indirectly reorganize just about every phase of American life in consonance with the declared military needs of American imperialism. Practically all industrial and scientific activities in America would be integrated in the vast military program as proposed by the President’s Advisory Committee.

Highlights of this all-embracing program other than conscription are:

  1. Unification of the armed forces which would be prepared for “long range operations of great destructive power ..."
  2. Establishment of a "national science foundation" which would direct its knowledge and energies toward "providing potent new instrumentalities of warfare."

It is this objectively written point, which is perhaps the most calloused expression of an imperialist world gone mad. A world where scientific progress loses its socially progressive character as it increasingly becomes an intimate and exclusive instrument of a destructive war machine.

  1. Industrial mobilization. The summary letter stresses the need for applying America's industrial apparatus to the needs of an atomic war. Decentralization of industries and construction of underground factories as safety measures against atom bomb attacks are proposed.

Under this plan for the total mobilization of industry for war, a concerted effort to regiment labor and break the back of the union movement is implied. The union struggle for better working conditions cannot be reconciled with a program to completely reorganize American industry to match the production needs of a war economy. This program cannot afford to brook the interference of an organized working force fighting to better its standard of living.

The plan for industrial war mobilization is a direct challenge to labor.

New War A-Coming

The Advisory Committee doesn’t even attempt an estimate of their program’s cost. According to them the expense is so “staggering” that it can only be viewed “with horror,” and is too great to be calculated. But why worry over such trifles? The cost will come out of the pockets of the working people.

The commission makes little pretense about the ability of the United Nations or other such frauds to peaceably solve the imperialist conflict between America and Russia. On the contrary the report has as its point of departure the very high degree of probability of an atomic war between four and ten years.

Without so much as a verbal blush the commission warns the nation that an atomic attack is quite possible after 1955 and proceeds to give a graphic picture of the destruction that might follow a 24-hour “sneak attack.”

This is a confession of capitalist bankruptcy and hypocrisy. The same committee members and the capitalist class they represent were the very forces which promised a higher, peaceful civilization if only the “war-loving nations” were crushed in the Second World War.

That war ended in a decisive victory of the Allied “peace-loving nations” two years ago, but instead of the promised “new world,” the capitalist politicians are stretching every muscle In an armaments race which can only be consummated in a civilization-destroying atomic war if not put to a halt by the decisive action of the labor movement.

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