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Walter Jason

Marshall Report

What Kind of an Army Gen. Marshall Wants

(12 November 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 46, 12 November 1945, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Compulsory military training is the key question around which the entire Marshall document revolves. For everything in his military program rests on acceptance or rejection of this fundamental issue. Unless the brass hats can find a way to force its adoption, the peacetime army will not be the big instrument of class power and foreign policy contemplated by Marshall and his colleagues.

The American General Staff finally has come around to a public recognition of the profound truth of Von Clausewitz’s dictum, “War is a continuation of politics by other [i.e., forcible] means.” Marshall even misquotes the German theoretician to that effect. And this same criterion is applied to the question of military training.

“The timing of our decision on the question of military training is urgent. The officials of the State Department have been strongly of the opinion that a decision in this matter prior to the final peace negotiations would greatly strengthen the hand of the United States in securing acceptance of genuine organization to handle international differences.”

Compulsory military training, therefore, is to be, first of all, a club in foreign policy. Small wonder that some newspapers refer to Marshall’s program as a plea for a “Big Stick” policy. Marshall expresses his cynicism about any world conference and peace treaties, and certainly the London Conference should help remove any illusions about the “United” Nations and the “peace” of tomorrow. For the world today is only in a state of armed truce! And everywhere oppressed millions in India, the Indies, China, Africa and other countries are trying desperately to revolt against their tyrants and foreign rulers in Washington, London or Paris. General Patton’s phobia about a war with Russia is not unshared among the American brass hats.

To accept compulsory military training is to give the American brass hats the go-ahead signal in preparation for a Third World War, which they believe is inevitable! It means also to support the use of armed power to extend and retain the gains of American imperialism on a world scale, be it oil lines in the Near East, rubber plantations in the Indies, the markets of Europe or the raw materials of South America. It means to support the desperate efforts of American capitalism to prop up a dying capitalism in Europe and a host of reactionary regimes throughout the world, dedicated to the same purpose.

Turning to the domestic or military questions involved, there is little time wasted in Marshall’s report on the alleged blessings of compulsory military training. Marshall knows that too many citizen-soldiers know that talk of education in the Army is just plain bunk. One year’s compulsory technical school or university training for American youth would provide ten times the benefit of any Army “educational” course.

A higher standard of living for the American people would do more for the health of the youth than any army program. The reports of the selective service boards show that. And the reports of the Surgeon General’s office show what army life does to the health of an individual. No longer does the Army center its recruiting around the slogan, “The Army Builds Men.” Too many millions have been living on Army chow and under. Army conditions to believe that nonsense now.

The GI’s Anti-Militarism

Certainly the neatest intellectual performance of the year is Marshall’s rebuttal to the argument that compulsory military training might militarize the youth. “I submit the evidence of our present armies,” he replies. Yes, the Army certainly is anti-military, but not because the brass hats wanted it so. Rather, all the efforts of the brass hats to indoctrinate the citizen-soldiers into a love of the military failed completely.

But not through lack of effort: it was the bitter experience of the GIs in this ruthless organization in which the enlisted man was forever at the mercy of the officers that brought the anti-military feelings to the surface among millions of soldiers. The GI campaign against slow demobilization is an expression of this hatred of the military. The blasts at MacArthur and Patton by returning veterans speak volumes on this score. The popularity of Bill Mauldin’s cartoons is further evidence.

The “domestic” purpose of conscription is twofold: its adoption would be a deadly blow at democratic rights and ‘traditions of America because it would give dictatorial control to the brass hats over an important segment of the population; and it would furnish the means by which the big wartime military bureaucracy would entrench itself permanently and remain a powerful vested interest in American politics.

The deadly disease of militarism would become an inherent feature of American capitalist society. The instrument for retaining class power, for military machinations, for providing fertile soil for fascist plotters would be created.

The adoption of the Marshall program would be a signal to the world that the U.S. has taken the road to permanent military life and it would be a challenge for a world armament race. It would hang around the necks of the American people the curse and yoke of militarism. It would be a vote of approval of the ruthless imperialist policies pursued throughout the world.

It should be rejected in total.

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