From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 19, 19 August 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The tilt in the Senate last week between Senators Holt and Minton, and the spirited defense of Col. Adler, of the New York Times, by Senator Lucas, raises some interesting questions in connection with capitalist war, conscription and the Roosevelt “defense” program.
Holt revealed that the conscription bill was fabricated at a meeting in the swank Harvard Club in New York by a group of rich men and the stooges of the rich. Col. Adler and the present Secretary of War Stimson were present at this conspiratorial meeting. Stimson had not entered the cabinet at the time of this meeting.
The draft of a conscription bill drawn up by these conspirators found its way to Senator Burke (who admires Hitler) and Representative Wadsworlh. Mr. Stimson later became Secretary of War. This means that the wealthy conspirators had two direct representatives in Congress and one at the head of the War Department in the New Deal Cabinet. Of course the Head New Dealer in the White House is not supposed to have known anything about the dark deeds carried on in the luxury and calm of the Harvard Club.
Holt, who is a sort of young man on a flying trapeze, let the cat out of the bag. He exposed this conspiracy of the rich to conscript the young men and send them to death on any old imperialist battlefield. He mentioned the fact that Col. Adler of the New York Times was a prime mover in this conspiracy.
The day after the Holt-Minton fracas, which was dignified by such pleasantries as “rat,” “louse,” and “slacker”, Senator Lucas took the floor for a spirited defense of Col. Adler and his war record. Lucas said the colonel is a brave man. He got the Distinguished Service Cross, as they say, for “unusual and heroic action above and beyond the line of duty.” It seems that the colonel and another officer captured 50 Germans in the last world war. The argument of Lucas was that the colonel should not be criticised for framing the conscription bill: he and his friends are not cowards, for they too serve in the army.
To make the matter of personal bravery or cowardice the point of departure in any discussion of conscription is to distort the question for the purpose of fooling the workers. Whether or not an individual is or is not a brave man and willing to fight in the army is a question of no relevance or importance. We do not charge the members of the ruling class with personal cowardice. We do not attack them in this foolish way. This kind of argument has no point. This is a trick of the capitalists to throw dust in the eyes of the workers and make it difficult for the workers to see where their interests lie and how they are different from the interests of the bosses.
War to the ruling class is a method of defending their interests. They know how to do this. Watch them at work today. They are patriots but how does their patriotism express itself? In fighting for guaranteed big profits. They won’t let a wheel turn on the war orders until their government agrees to pay for expanding their plants, reduces taxes and increases their profits. Added to this they want the workers to toil longer hours and be satisfied with present or lower wages. They want the Wagner Act, the Walsh-Healy Act and the Wages and Hours Act scrapped. They want to junk the WPA. The New York Times, managed by Col. Adler, was one of the earliest leaders in this movement. On top of all this the bosses want the workers to fight in the army to protect the bosses’ property and profits.
The bravery and the physical courage of the ruling class is used in defense of their class interests. They will perform great feats of bravery to defend and perpetuate their ownership and rule. They will join the army and fight to hold on to their property, privileges and power. That is the meaning of Plattsburg and all their officers training camps. They are preparing to defend their class interests, their property and their government. They learn military tactics and strategy so that they may be competent to protect their lands, factories, mines, mills, castles, polo fields, yachts and banks. This is what patriotism means to them, this is what they mean by “our country.” And this is all they mean: me and my property and my privileges. “God Bless America” to the Adlers, Morgans and all their class means bless my dividends, my interest and my profits.
The workers however when they go into the army and fight in the wars made by the capitalists are not fighting in the interest of their class. They are fighting for the perpetuation of low wages, poverty. long hours, and horrible death on imperialist battlefields. In the army they place themselves under the command of the rich and the lackeys of the rich. The ruling class runs the show and the workers dance to the tune called by those who profit from capitalism and capitalist war.
The bosses know their class interests, they are very class conscious. That is what they were talking about that night in the Harvard Club when their representatives met and conspired to put conscription over. They know that workers do not want to go to war. They know too that the reason is not that the workers are cowards. They have had experience with the bravery and sacrifice of the working class at a thousand factory gates, a thousand mine pits and on a thousand waterfronts.
Yes the bosses are class conscious. They act together, in their chambers of commerce, security leagues, “save America” groups and at the Harvard Club. It is in these places that they make their decisions. In order to enforce them they have their thugs, gunmen and strikebreakers. If these are not enough they call on their government to send in the national guard and the army. This same national guard and army that they want the workers to join. The bosses don’t believe that the conflict between them and the workers can be settled by peaceful means.
The bosses of the United States say that they want to fight against Hitler to save democracy, to save civilization. They want the workers to help them. They have to have the workers help because the bosses are only a very small part of the population. If the workers refuse to help them, if the workers decide that they will only fight in a workers’ army under a workers’ government, then the bosses would be in one hell of a fix.
Of course the bosses will fight against Hitler. They’ll fight like hell to stop Hitler and Mussolini from taking their property or interfering with their profits. They don’t want the German and Italian capitalists to get the profits that come from the exploitation of the workers in the U.S. and Latin-America. That is true of the bosses of every country. They fight among themselves for profits, for colonies, for domination of the colonial people and for world markets. But they will always get together in a love feast if any section of the ruling class is threatened with the power and the might of the working class.
The workers want to defeat Hitler too. They don’t want to live under fascism. Neither do they want to live under the terror organized by their present bosses. The only road for them is the defeat of Hitler and their own bosses right here in the United States. They cannot accomplish this end in the bosses’ army. The workers have fought in many a battle against the bosses on the picket line. They must go on with this fight today. Their battle cry must be:
Last updated: 23.9.2012