The following article was first published in Proletarian Revolution No. 73 (Winter 2005).


Why “No Draft” Is No Answer

Military Crisis Triggers Talk of Conscription

As the U.S. becomes increasingly bogged down in Iraq, America’s rulers are getting more concerned that their armies lack the manpower not only to defeat the Iraqi resistance but to intervene elsewhere around the world. In September, the Defense Science Board, a panel of national security advisers to the Pentagon, concluded that inadequate numbers of troops mean that the U.S. “cannot sustain our current and projected global stabilization commitments.” That is, the dominant imperialist power has to be able to wield more military muscle against national struggles and mass eruptions. During the presidential campaign, George W. Bush and John Kerry both made warlike threats toward several countries, including Iran, Syria, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela.

For years, Washington has had to maintain an army combining hard-core volunteers with working-class youth recruited out of economic necessity. Now, stretched thin in Iraq, the military has sent into battle Reservists and National Guard troops who never expected to fight abroad. Re-enlistment is down, and “stop-loss” orders have forced thousands of soldiers into involuntarily extended tours of duty -- a “back-door draft.” Repeated assurances by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Bush that they have sent all the troops that commanders in Iraq requested have been exposed as lies. And although the Pentagon insists that it prefers to stay with the present semi-volunteer hybrid army, it clearly lacks enough troops to meet the U.S.’s imperialist needs. A hybrid army is inevitably transitory.

Given this reality, rumors have circulated that a draft would be re-instituted some time after the November election. Bush and Kerry both had to make explicit promises not to do so, and Congress went out of its way in October to vote against reinstating the draft. But the crippling gap -- and the rumors -- remain. With good reason: both ruling-class parties are prepared to bring back conscription should the needs of U.S. imperialism demand it.

At the same time, they fear to do so. Throughout the history of capitalism, conscripted armies have proved to be a double-edged sword, especially during times of social crisis. For example, the massive revolt of drafted troops in Russia during the First World War was key to the success of the Bolshevik revolution. And the U.S. ruling class is well aware that its draft had to be ended during the Vietnam war, because of the explosive build-up within the ranks coupled with struggles breaking out at home. Today, Washington is also aware of the seething anger now developing at home over unemployment, low wages and the lack of health care. Discontent is rising in the military ranks in Iraq, including the recent refusal of troops from South Carolina to follow orders for a dangerous mission in unsafe trucks. The ruling class is caught between its need for conscription and the fear that a drafted army could get out of hand.

The Marxist Position on Conscription

Many anti-war activists and left groups have been discussing a campaign to oppose a draft. The League for the Revolutionary Party has long argued against an anti-draft campaign: we say that opposition to the capitalist military machine will be weakened by focusing on opposition to the draft specifically. Calling for “no draft” is no answer to the deadly power of imperialist militarism.

Our basic attitude on the military is that we oppose any and all bourgeois armies -- drafted, mercenary or hybrid. We are for a workers’ militia, an army totally independent of and opposed to the capitalist state. However, until it is overthrown by revolution, the capitalist state must retain a military force. If there is no conscripted army under capitalist rule, there has to be a mercenary army. As Lenin stressed, only absurdly utopian pacifists can imagine an imperialist state without an armed fist. For that reason, a campaign against the draft within the context of reforming capitalism amounts to a campaign in favor of a mercenary army.

When workers’ struggles become powerful they inevitably come up against the military power of the capitalist state. To win, workers must defeat or divide the army. Revolutionaries therefore prefer the capitalist state to have to deal with a potentially rebellious conscripted army rather than a mercenary force. A mercenary army trains an elite corps of professional soldiers relatively isolated from the masses, even though many come from layers of the working class itself; in many respects it serves as a police department for the imperialized sectors of the world, just as the National Guard often does at home.

A conscripted army, on the other hand, is more susceptible to the moods and attitudes of the masses and more accessible to revolutionaries. In a drafted army, as the U.S. rulers found out during Vietnam, the class distinction between the lower ranks and the officer corps becomes sharper and the discontent of the working-class ranks accelerates, even to the point where officers have been “fragged” (killed or injured) by their own troops. Moreover, a drafted army allows the workers to receive essential military training, crucial for the defense of their class struggles and for the success of revolution in the future.

Since Leninists oppose all bourgeois armies, the LRP does not favor an anti-draft movement, which would objectively stand for a mercenary army. Instead we work to educate workers and soldiers about the imperialist and class character of the bourgeois military as a whole and the need to overthrow the capitalist state through working-class revolution. We presented and fought for the Marxist position in 1980, after President Jimmy Carter had re-introduced draft registration and triggered a new student-based anti-draft campaign. We produced articles, leaflets and the pamphlet “No Draft” Is No Answer, which also included numerous analytical statements by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, the now hidden history of the communist position.

Virtually the entire left in the U.S. today stands for the opposite course, embracing the pacifist sentiments rife among middle-class liberals in their opposition to draft renewal. Thus in actuality the left supports the maintenance of the mercenary/ hybrid military the ruling class fields today. We face the same battle that the Bolsheviks fought during World War I, against the social-pacifists (“socialists” who called for disarmament) who undermined the fight against the social-patriots (“socialists” who supported the bourgeois government’s war).

Another Distorted Attack

When we briefly re-stated our position in Proletarian Revolution No. 66, we were attacked by a number of leftists for allegedly calling for a revived draft, despite our explicit statements to the contrary. The most extensive response came from Tim Hall of the Detroit-based Communist Voice Organization (CVO) in the May 2003 issue of their magazine. Hall tried to argue that Lenin’s legacy, as well as the experience of the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960’s and ’70’s, proved the correctness of the anti-draft position. He also claimed that the Congressional bill to revive the draft “received acceptance” from the LRP, an outright lie that we exposed in our reply, “The Leninist Position on Conscription,” in PR 69.

Hall responded with a new article, “The LRP Surrenders to Militarism and the Threat of a New Draft.” (Communist Voice, March 2004.) He begins by objecting to the polemical tone -- “strident” and “factional” -- of our reply, complaining that we called him “dishonest” and that we said that the CVO group “descends from the Stalinist tradition that has its own notorious devotion to fabrication.” (He protests that the CVO broke from Stalinism years ago.) Well, our tone was appropriate to Hall’s fabrications. And like Lenin, we take life-and-death issues seriously. Hall still doesn’t acknowledge that he misrepresented our position, although he no longer repeats the initial lie. That’s progress, but it’s not yet honesty.

Hall characterizes the “gist of the LRP’s reply” this way:

To oppose the resumption of the draft is to support the imperialist mercenary (non-drafted) military. The only way, according to them, to bring about the overthrow of the bourgeois war machine is to accept militarization, remain silent about the resumption of the draft, go into the military and from there organize the soldiers for revolutionary class struggle.

The first sentence of Hall’s summary is accurate. Significantly, he never replies to our charge that he and others with his position objectively support keeping the ruling class’s mercenary army. And Hall is also right that we call for revolutionaries who are drafted to go with their class, join the military, learn its lessons and work within it to advance class struggle and revolutionary consciousness.

But Hall’s “gist” also states that we remain silent about conscription and implies that we support imperialist militarism. Not true: once again, we openly oppose all capitalist armies. The militarism we endorse is proletarian militarism. We oppose every imperialist war, and as we have reported in PR, LRP comrades have achieved some notoriety in the media for publicly blaming U.S. imperialism for the terrorist attacks and for solidarizing with the Iraqi resistance against U.S. occupation. (See our reports in our Winter 2002 Supplement and PR 71.)

Lenin on Militarism

Hall’s major criticism is that we abandon the struggle against militarism, and his chief method is to try to enlist Lenin on his side. But Hall has a hard time dealing with the real Lenin. Given the evidence we have produced of Lenin’s true views, he comments about our “voluminous quotes” that they “obviously raise the question of what was Lenin’s stand on militarization and conscription.” He goes on to say, formally correctly but with a hint that he will choose very selectively what he cites from Lenin, “We are Leninists, but we are not Leninists because we accept every phrase of Lenin’s writings like religious people do the Bible, the Koran or the Talmud.”

Dogmatism is indeed foreign to communist thinking. We have learned much from and are inspired by Lenin’s writings on raising workers’ consciousness through revolutionary work in the class struggle, methods which were instrumental in the victory of the Russian workers’ revolution; the Bolsheviks’ work among soldiers helped produce the troop revolts in World War I. Nevertheless, in several articles and in our book on Stalinism we have explained differences we have with some of Lenin’s positions on other questions. Hall, in contrast, never gets around to specifying just what in Lenin he disagrees with. Moreover, there is a difference between rejecting particular ideas and rejecting the essence, and Hall’s argument comes out against the essence of Lenin’s position on capitalism and its war machines.

Hall spells out what he calls “both aspects” of “Lenin’s stand on militarization and conscription”:

He saw them as horrors that had to be resisted by the workers and as inevitabilities that could not be prevented or eliminated until capitalism was overthrown. Similarly, he called for resistance to capitalist exploitation as absolutely necessary for the militant organization of the working class, but he also held that exploitation could not be prevented or eliminated until capitalism was overthrown. More, he held that the faster the development of capitalism, the nearer the day of socialist revolution.

Hall claims that the LRP sees only the second aspect of these “horrors” -- the inevitability, not the need to resist.

But Hall is dead wrong about Lenin. First, it is simply false that Lenin saw conscription as something that “had to be resisted by the workers.” Lenin spent decades as a leader of Russian communists, and there is not one example of his party ever calling on workers to resist the draft. Nothing Hall cites or could cite gives any evidence of Lenin ever supporting draft resistance, and there is overwhelming evidence of just the opposite, summarized in our pamphlet and in PR 69. As Hall himself wrote in a lucid moment in his first article, “Lenin said the workers should not recoil in horror at compulsory military service but should utilize it to acquire military training that will help them overthrow the bourgeoisie.”

Hall gets around his lack of evidence by sleight-of-hand. Since Lenin opposed any support for the bourgeois military, he was opposed to a drafted bourgeois army; therefore he must have been for resistance to conscription.

Here is how Hall puts it:

In my article I illustrated Lenin’s opposition to a bourgeois standing army with a quote from 1916: “On the question of a militia, we should say: We are not in favor of a bourgeois militia; we are in favor only of a proletarian militia. Therefore, ‘not a penny, not a man,’ not only for a standing army, but even for a bourgeois militia, even in countries like the United States, Switzerland, Norway, etc.” The LRP conveniently ignores this resolutely anti-militarist quote because it firmly establishes what I call the first aspect of Lenin’s attitude towards militarization and conscription.

Of course, even in the “not a penny, not a man” sentence (which comes from his article “The Military Program of the Proletarian Revolution,” Collected Works, Vol. 23), Lenin indicated his resolute opposition to any bourgeois army, not just a drafted militia. Resistance to conscription is not part of Lenin’s vocabulary here any more than anywhere else. (As for the LRP “ignoring” this excellent sentence, it is reproduced in its full context in our “No Draft” Is No Answer pamphlet.)

Hall goes on:

The statement clearly shows that Lenin did not abandon the fight against militarism once he had developed his analysis of imperialism. But the LRP is blind to this. In fact, the quotation of “not a penny, not a man” for a standing army comes from the same Lenin article from which the LRP takes their lengthy quote which includes the words “full speed ahead!” I guess if you want to be just a tad dishonest about Lenin’s views you can quote the part of Lenin’s article that seems to agree with you and ignore the part that refutes you.

As for imperialism, from World War I on Lenin saw imperialism (advanced capitalism) as the biggest barrier to socialism, rather than pre-capitalist formations. His attack on capitalist militarism now stressed the danger of imperialism and its magnified militarism and wars. In this context, his “full speed ahead!” likens bourgeois militarization to bourgeois development of industry through brutal factories and trusts, as well as to the forced movement of women into industry. The passage, which we previously cited in full, concludes:

We do not want a return to the handicraft system, pre-monopoly capitalism, domestic drudgery for women. Forward through the trusts, etc., and beyond them to socialism!

With the necessary changes that argument is applicable also to the present militarization of the population. Today the imperialist bourgeoisie militarizes the youth as well as the adults; tomorrow, it may begin militarizing the women. Our attitude should be: All the better! Full speed ahead!

Lenin neither demanded nor supported bourgeois militarism. But he obviously insisted on taking advantage of it to enhance the revolutionary position.

In PR 69 we also reprinted Lenin’s early article, “Anti-Militarist Propaganda and Young Socialist Workers’ Leagues,” which describes how revolutionary Marxists in the early 20th century carried out educational activities aimed at young soldiers. Hall thinks this article undermines our position because it shows that Lenin hated bourgeois militarism. In fact we reprinted it for that very reason, and because it shows how revolutionaries approach newly-called-up soldiers -- not by advocating draft resistance but through class-conscious revolutionary propaganda that will help “the troops become increasingly less reliable” for the bourgeoisie.

Hall obviously has trouble understanding what he can only see as a contradiction in Lenin’s writings on militarism. He sees Lenin’s support for anti-militarist propaganda, on the one hand, and, on the other, his “voluminous” statements in a militarist spirit like the ones we cited. But there is no contradiction, only a dialectical connection. Lenin hated imperialist militarism, but he also saw that the bourgeoisie’s inevitable militarization in wartime was a route through which the proletariat could acquire military training and weapons and could strengthen its class consciousness and rebelliousness. Unlike Hall, Lenin understood that bourgeois militarism had to be fought with militaristic, not pacifistic, methods.

In another work that we have not previously cited, a speech in 1917 about the 1905 Russian Revolution, Lenin sums up his opinion in a passage that almost appears to be aimed at Hall:

... the history of the Russian revolution, like the history of the Paris Commune of 1871, teaches us the incontrovertible lesson that militarism can never and under no circumstances be defeated and destroyed, except by a victorious struggle of one section of the national army against the other section. It is not sufficient simply to denounce, revile and “repudiate” militarism, to criticize and prove that it is harmful; it is foolish peacefully to refuse to perform military service. The task is to keep the revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat tense and train its best elements, not only in a general way, but concretely, so that when popular ferment reaches the highest pitch, they will put themselves at the head of the revolutionary army. (“Lecture On The 1905 Revolution,” Collected Works, Vol. 23.)

Although the CVO claims to be “Marxist-Leninist,” its approach is far from Marxist and Leninist. Hall sees a contradiction in Lenin but does not have the guts to say so openly, referring only to the “two aspects” that he claims to agree with. But he is left asserting without any evidence that Lenin’s “fundamental outlook” was anti-militarist, pure and simple. For “communists” to talk about something like militarism without asserting its specific class content is a sure giveaway. There is a fundamental difference between bourgeois militarism and proletarian militarism. Hall’s arguments are consistent not with Leninism but with social-pacifism, the outlook that tries to deal with war and militarism by calls for peace and abstention from military service. In all his dueling with quotations from Lenin, it is telling that Hall never once cites Lenin’s continuous venomous hostility to the social-pacifists. With good reason, as we shall see.

CVO Neutral toward Iraqi Resistance

For an organization that prides itself on learning from Lenin, the CVO has a nakedly social-pacifist position on a live issue directly related to imperialist militarism today: the Iraq war and occupation. Lenin, of course, stood with every oppressed people in their struggles against imperialism. In this spirit, the LRP does not just call for the U.S. to get out of Iraq. We side with the armed resistance to imperialism and stand for the military defeat of the imperialist forces.

And that is something the CVO does not do. For all their talk about overthrowing the imperialist military machine, when it comes to an actual war where the imperialist military is under fire, the CVO in effect calls down a plague on both houses. In opposing both the U.S. occupation and the armed resistance, it fails to offer “military support” to the Iraqi fighters harassing and administering political defeats to the imperialists.

When the Iraq war was looming in 2002, Communist Voice ran the headline “Opposing both sides in the war crisis” -- that is, both the imperialist invaders and the Iraqi forces. And under the current occupation they denounce both the imperialists and the armed resistance, who “fight the occupation to impose their own brutal rule.” (CV, August 25.)

It is true that the resistance is currently led by reactionary bourgeois and Islamist forces who often compromise with the imperialists, oppress the masses -- women especially -- and are reckless with the lives of Iraqi civilians. But even the CVO admits that “the Iraqi workers and poor are boiling with rage at the U.S. occupation, and the more the occupation has tried to crush their opposition, the stronger the revolt has grown.” Proletarian revolutionaries have to participate in the armed revolt as an independent force and find tactics to win the anti-imperialist fighters to a working-class leadership.

The CVO observes that the resistance is largely led by reactionaries and correctly calls for building independent working-class organization and a revived class struggle in Iraq. “We need to support the workers in Iraq getting organized in their own interests,” they say, specifying “their own unions, revolutionary political parties, unemployed organizations, women’s rights groups, etc.” But they say nothing about how these organizations should relate to the guerrilla struggle, which has mass support. They do not advocate that workers should organize their own armed militias to fight, even temporarily, alongside the bourgeois-led resistance. Talk about “remaining silent” in the fight against imperialist militarism!

In contrast, Lenin and the Bolsheviks gave military support to Kerensky’s counterrevolutionary bourgeois Provisional Government in 1917 in Russia, when it was confronted by a military putsch led by the counterrevolutionary bourgeois general, Kornilov. At the same time, the Leninists maintained their independence and conducted a blistering political attack on Kerensky’s reactionary regime.

This approach was generalized by Bolshevik-Leninists as a tactic for temporarily siding with bourgeois nationalists on the battlefield to resist imperialist repression. While communists never abandoned their internationalist condemnation of nationalism of any kind, this tactic enabled them to align themselves with the colonial masses and to support their right to self-determination, even when the masses fought under bourgeois leaderships. They fought the main enemy, imperialism, rather than maintaining a shameful neutrality. (For a full discussion of the Marxist method of “military support,” see PR 59.)

Neither the CVO nor the LRP can now do much more than state positions on such questions. However, the CVO’s line is similar to that of the Worker-Communist Party of Iraq, which also justifies its neutrality on the scene in Iraq by citing the reactionary political programs of the insurgent leaders. As we wrote of the WCPI in PR 72, “their abandonment of the anti-imperialist struggle in the name of socialism can only drive the masses away from socialism and into the arms of the reactionaries.”

Anti-Draft Activities in the 1960’s and 1970’s

After making a hash of Lenin, Hall devotes the rest of his article to “scenes from the 60’s anti-war and anti-draft movement.” In his first article, Hall had claimed that the anti-draft movement during the Vietnam War proved that the LRP is wrong to refuse to build anti-draft campaigns. Our reply argued that Hall falsely identified the anti-draft activities as the height of the movement’s anti-imperialist consciousness. We showed how the anti-draft activities in the 1960’s reinforced the middle-class leadership of the anti-war movement and objectively worked to the detriment of developing a revolutionary current based in the rebellious working class in the ghettos and in industry.

Instead of answering us, Hall argues against positions we don’t hold. Hall falsely claims that the LRP has an “Archie Bunker” view of the 1960’s: “In the LRP’s 60’s only middle-class boys, not workers, hated and resisted the draft.” This is hardly our view, since we wrote: “As the war went on, working-class opposition to the war became more and more massive. It was greater among Black workers but also grew rapidly among white workers. But it did not translate into significantly greater identification with the anti-war protests.” Nor did we say that only middle-class youth opposed the war. Instead we noted that “Aiming at the draft re-enforced the barrier between the middle-class anti-war activists and the workers, who as the war dragged on shed their illusions in the imperialist cause.” Draft resistance was possible for some individuals, mainly middle-class and upper-class. But it was not and could not be an option for the great majority of working-class youth.

Hall attempts to disprove the Archie Bunker straw man by presenting some “scenes” from the work of the Cleveland Draft Resistance Union in the 1960’s, which he participated in. “We advertised and conducted draft counseling, which attracted mostly proletarian youth, Black and white, who came through in a constant flow.” These accounts are intended to prove that there were many working-class youth who were open to talk about draft resistance. But anecdotal assertions are no answer to our argument that workers in general saw anti-draft activities as out of the realm of their possibilities.

In our article we discussed the impact of anti-draft agitation on the working class, because for us the key to both ending the war and turning the imperialist war into an offensive against capitalist rule was the consciousness of the workers as a whole. Small-scale recruitment of a few working-class contacts to an anti-capitalist study group could very well have occurred. But anti-draft actions had a negative impact on the direction of the consciousness of the mass of workers in the U.S., at the time that workers were becoming increasingly hostile to the war and to the American ruling class. We wrote:

Most working-class youth who were drafted saw no other option. In the beginning of the war, patriotism spurred their acceptance. That soon wore off as reality set in, but young workers saw no alternative. The draft protesters were often seen by working-class draftees and their families as incomprehensibly naive or spoiled and cowardly rich brats. Those who concentrated on draft dodging deepened the gap. The anti-draft program pointed to no way out, had no content relevant to workers and was therefore not revolutionary.

For all his “scenes,” can Hall deny that the anti-draft movement as a whole appealed to middle-class students far more than working-class youth?

Hall also sneers at the LRP’s acknowledgment of the most famous draft resister, Muhammad Ali, who risked going to jail rather than submit to the draft. “The LRP implies in their article that draft resistance was a white thing. Amusingly, they are then forced to admit the example of Muhammad Ali’s draft refusal, while treating it as isolated.” But of course it was, as we said, “exceptional in more ways than one.” Ali’s status as an outspoken black militant, who also happened to be the world heavyweight boxing champion, prevented the authorities from imprisoning him because of what he symbolized for Black people. In the end, a Supreme Court decision granted him conscientious objector status.

Ali was extremely courageous, but his choice of conscientious objection to the war did not open up an option of draft resistance for the vast majority of poor working-class Black draftees. Can Hall seriously deny that working-class youth, including Black and Latino workers out of proportion to their numbers in society, were used as cannon fodder in the war -- in contrast to the substantial numbers of middle- and upper-class students, like George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who were able to find ways to avoid military service?

Social-Pacifism in the Anti-War Movement

Grasping at straws, Hall claims that “Like the SWP of the 60’s, the LRP today ridicules militant anti-draft actions as ‘confrontationalist.’” This too is breathtakingly dishonest. We opposed small group macho tactics that merely disguised the pacifist moralism behind much of the anti-draft activities; we advocated instead mass militant anti-war protests and taking the anti-war struggle into industry. We supported the mass “confrontationalist” ghetto revolts, which didn’t even put forward a conscious anti-war program but had an enormous impact on the war. The uprisings frightened the bourgeoisie, which also knew that it dare not use its draftees to try to quell them.

The Socialist Workers Party of that era, on the other hand, organized large passive demonstrations dominated by bourgeois liberal Democratic Party politicians. It policed them politically, to keep them within the bounds of a single-issue anti-war campaign that their bourgeois friends could accept. The anti-war struggle was thus subordinated to the leadership of liberals who opposed the losing and unpopular war only in order to maintain imperialism itself.

Yes, the SWP wanted nothing of class confrontation. It was the true heir of the World War I social-pacifists, whom Lenin denounced for their effective alliance with ruling-class patriots who opposed the war. The social pacifists, he wrote, were “much more harmful and dangerous to the labor movement, because they hide their advocacy of alliance with the former under a cloak of plausible, pseudo-‘Marxist’ catchwords and pacifist slogans.” (This quote too comes from the article “The Military Program of the Socialist Revolution.”) The “Marxist” social-pacifists called for peace and disarmament, whereas for Lenin the idea that a bourgeois state could possibly disarm created dangerous illusions which could only disarm the working class. That is exactly the same argument Leninists have with the anti-draft social-pacifists of today.

As to Hall’s claim that the SWP’s views on the draft in the 1960’s were similar to the LRP’s today, by the 1970’s under Jimmy Carter the SWP was in the thick of the anti-draft campaigns. (See our article “Marxism and the Draft: A Reply to the Social-Pacifist SWP” in Socialist Voice No. 9.) That is, on the draft issue the SWP ended up in the same camp as the CVO. Hall’s left social-pacifism -- he and his comrades counseled draft reisstance to working-class youth -- bred the same illusions as the SWP’s right-wing version, which was directly in league with imperialist patriots.

Class and the Anti-War Movement

In concluding comments, Hall says that the LRP downgrades the importance of the anti-war movement altogether. He says that for the LRP “the positive elements of the movement are overlooked and the movement often belittled” as a result of “the non-materialist, philosophically idealist nature of the Trotskyist outlook.” (For someone who objects to “factional” rhetoric, the charge of philosophical idealism is thrown in without the slightest evidence or explanation.) “The LRP measures the movement against certain abstract, dogmatic yardsticks, finds the movement wanting, and condemns it arbitrarily,” he complains.

In fact, we pointed to the immense opportunities that were missed in the 1960’s because the movement failed to develop a revolutionary leadership. Fundamentally, Hall objects to our class characterization of the anti-war movement as “middle-class.” He claims in effect that insistence on the absolute centrality of the working class for revolutionary change is a rigid, idealist attempt to force history into pre-conceived forms.

Hall’s phrase-mongering about philosophical idealism reflects his hostility to Trotskyism, part of the ideological baggage the CVO has not discarded from its Stalinist past. Hall not only shows disdain for Marxist principles learned through over a century of class struggle; he also evades our discussion of the real material shifts in class forces -- the rising strike wave and the ghetto upheavals. Because the leadership did its best to keep the anti-war movement within the limits acceptable to the Democratic Party liberals, thousands of young people newly won to subjective opposition to capitalism and imperialism were trained in reformism and social-pacifism, not revolution.

Hall and the CVO are dodging the proletarian revolutionary tasks they claim to stand for. They are part of the soft social-pacifist left that is horrified by the Iraq war but seeks a way out without challenging the roots of the bourgeois military machine. Just as they find excuses to avoid calling for an imperialist defeat today in Iraq, they also take the position -- nominally held by most imperialist politicians today -- of flatly campaigning against a drafted army. As well, they are neutral in an anti-imperialist military struggle and in effect supporters of an imperialist mercenary army. Some “communist” voice!

The American ruling class will soon need a more massive army and National Guard, both for its aggressions abroad and for use against the inevitable upsurges that will arise in response to its harsh anti-working-class attacks at home. A military draft is indeed in the picture. If revolutionaries follow Leninist rather than pacifist lessons, we will be able to repeat what Lenin said in his fine article on anti-militarist propaganda:

As time goes on, there are more and more Social-Democrats [i.e., communists] in the army and the troops become increasingly less reliable. When the bourgeoisie has to confront the organized working class, whom will the army back? The young socialist workers are working with all the enthusiasm and energy of the young to have the army side with the people.

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