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Mary Bell

Conscription Guarantees a New World War

(January 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 4, 22 January 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The President’s proposal for peacetime conscription, slipped into his annual message to Congress calling for a National Service Act, is a confession of failure and a further move toward totalitarianization.

What kind of confession of failure is it? We were told that we were one of the democratic, peace-loving nations, and that fascism, the brutal aggressor nations, started the war. We are supposed to be fighting to rid the world of fascism and war. If what we were told were true, the victory over fascism should mean the end of war and hence the end of the necessity for armaments, armies and soldiery. (Let us forget, for the moment, that the First World War was also a “war to end wars”.)

Sending our youth, to army camps, drilling and training them in the arts of warfare, means to do what Hitler did with the German youth. Those who argue that peacetime conscription is the best preventive measure against war can be dismissed out of hand. Its existence in the European countries did not prevent war. Conscription merely meant that the war-makers were guaranteed trained armies to send to death on the battlefield. It meant that the Merchants of Death continued their profiteering in peacetime, too.

Listen to some of the arguments being used in behalf of peacetime conscription of young men.

Wadsworth at it Again

Representative James W. Wadsworth, who headed the Senate Military Affairs Committee from 1919 to 1927, said as part of his argument that the United States “will undoubtedly take a leading part in the formation and maintenance of an international organization whose chief objective is the maintenance of world peace.”

What a contradiction! The implication is that we are going to maintain peace, therefore we have to be strong militarily to guarantee that peace. If some other country, doubtless with its own trained reserves, also for the purpose of “maintaining peace,” breaks the peace, then we mobilize our trained youth to fight to keep the peace. (Peace, in the minds of our capitalist rulers, is something for which you go to war every so often to maintain.)

“Our motives cannot be questioned,” said. Mr. Wadsworth, and added that there is “no brutal or aggressor spirit in the American people ... we can lead the world along paths of decency but merely to be decent is not enough.”

We agree that there is no brutal or aggressive spirit among the American people, save where it has been implanted by false propaganda of the capitalist overlords. But to omit for the present the brutality and aggressiveness of the United States in the Philippines, and Cuba and Puerto Rico, let’s look at its role in the present war. How was the peace-loving, unaggressive, democratic nature of our administration shown in Greece, where one of our allies, Britain, turned its guns on the Greek people, who had fought against the fascists? Or how could the Belgian people, demonstrating against their collaborationist leader, Pierlot, make a distinction between the “peace-loving” American shells that were fired on them and the ”brutal, aggressive” shells of the Nazis?

Equality and Health

Another argument Mr. Wadsworth uses for compulsory military training is that “poor boy, rich boy would sweat and sympathize together, and that it would bolster the democratic spirit of this country.” That is a laughable argument to a socialist. To propose a totalitarian measure to “bolster the democratic spirit”! The democratic spirit might be bolstered a bit more effectively if the system of inequality were eliminated which creates “poor boy, rich boy.” If private monopoly, whose interests wars are fought to defend, were eliminated.

Wadsworth and others use the time-worn argument that military training would strengthen public health. “The cause for rejections would become known,” he stated, “and medical authorities would be able to seek out the sore spots and correct them in early youth.” Selective Service records revealed the appalling state of American health by the tremendous percentage of rejections for the Army. If a fraction of the money poured into war and military training were spent for public works to assure full employment and public medical service available to all, this physical condition of the American youth could be largely eliminated.

The key argument of Wadsworth is the “bitter experiences” of the first eighteen months of the present war, during which times our Allies were “holding down the trenches”’ while the U.S. “was in the throes of building an Army and Navy.”

Preparing for Another Slaughter

There it is! When the THIRD WORLD WAR comes, Mr. Wadsworth is saying, we shall not be unprepared, if we have an army of trained youth.

How bitterly ironic! Our statesmen and public officials talk in the same breath about “international co-operation for world peace” and propose getting ready for the next world slaughter!

And the Third World War is just around the corner, unless the common people, the workers and farmers in their organizations, the vast majority of the population, assume their responsibility. Their responsibility is to take over the leadership of society in which they are the majority, through their own party, through their own government, to eliminate the root cause of war – private ownership and profiteering.

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