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Mary Bell

Daily Worker Whooping Up Conscription

(February 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 8, 19 February 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

That weathercock for the Bureaucrat of All the Russias, the Communist Political Association, has endorsed and is beating the drums for universal military training.

Their attitude could have been predicted. It was natural, inevitable, foreseeable, ineluctable. Just as they labelled the war aims of the U.S. government “imperialist” and opposed all preparations for a war against the Stalin-Hitler combine in 1939–40, now they are the loudest yea-sayers for any measure – the no-strike pledge, the May-Bailey slave labor bill and peacetime conscription – which will aid the Russian-Allied combine.

There is nothing new in their arguments in behalf of conscription. They wish to train all the young men, not merely of the United States, but of Britain and Russia as well, in the arts of killing in order to assure – peace!

A Mental Conscript Writes

“After the experiences of the last decade it should be clear to all thinking people that this United Nations organization will need the backing of military organization,” writes Robert Thompson in the Daily Worker of February 4. “In fact,” he continues, “it will require the support of an effective monopoly of the world’s military strength and it will require this until such a time as the last vestige of fascism has been wiped out and the peace is so firmly established that there no longer exists danger of its being broken.”

Military preparedness never guaranteed anything but war. Look at Germany and all the European nations which had compulsory military training for their youth. Observe the effect of military training on German youth. Yet the Communist Political Association would Prussianize all youth of every country.

Militarism is not a curative for war. It is one of the causes. In a class society the army is used to protect the interests of the ruling class. Today the ruling class is the capitalist class – the profiteers of big business, including the armaments manufacturers and the munitions makers, the direct beneficiaries of war.

Our conscript army will be used to further the interests of the capitalist class – abroad and at home. Abroad, to secure and hold other people subject to our economic domination. At home, to send against striking workers or bonus marchers.

The Communist Political Association is in the van of strike-breakers today. And if it were to occur that the permanent no-strike pledge advocated by one of their spokesmen, Harry Bridges, were enacted, they would no doubt call for the sending of the army against all strikers.

The “Goosestep” – Mental And Physical

The “goosestep” is the symbol of the bodily slavery that goes with militarism. When the commander calls “Attention!” the conscript straightens. When the commander says “Forward!” the conscript advances. When he says, “Fire!” the conscript shoots. All young men are trained in the same way – to act like robots, to take orders, to act without thinking.

More serious than the physical slavery of military training is the mental slavery which accompanies it. It induces in all the spirit of unquestioned obedience, so aptly expressed by Tennyson:

“Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason, why,
Theirs but to do and die.”

It is fitting that the Communists, who have induced in Russia .and throughout the Communist International an attitude of blind, unquestioning obedience, should not hesitate to proclaim universal compulsory military training.

The labor movement, however, even the official leaders of the AFL and CIO, have taken a stand against peacetime conscription. That is fortunate, since the working people are the victims of military training. They are the ones who are killed at home by their brothers in uniform in labor disputes. They are the ones who are sent abroad to kill their working class brothers of other countries.

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