Resist War, Registration and the Draft by Every Available Means
from Urgent Tasks Number 10
by Sojourner Truth Organization
Since Carter announced his intention ten months ago to register people 18 to 20 years old for a possible draft, massive opposition has arisen. Although demonstrations have not been as large as during the Viet Nam war, a smaller percentage registered in the first two-week period than did during that war. Carter, or his replacement, will have a hard time making this draft work.
Why does the ruling class need a draft? Of course they need an army, but aren't volunteers enough? What happened to the vision of a tough, professional All-Volunteer Army?
It sank in the tide of national liberation. One aspect of military recruitment generally neglected by the anti-draft movement is the economic coercion that persists with or without the coercion of the government. Young people are baited by the Department of Defense with promises of jobs and training. Despite the exposure of these promises as lies, unemployment (rather than patriotism) is the main motive for enlistment. An article in the Christian Science Monitor ("In a recession, U.S. armed forces have something to sell: jobs for youth," August 15, 1980) quotes military recruiters all over the country who say that the economic crisis has made it easy to overfill their quotas, whereas a year ago they couldn't meet them.
Of course, with unemployment among Black and Third World youth in the U.S. at a phenomenal 50 percent or more and always several times the rate for white youth the U.S. armed forces have a correspondingly higher percentage of Black and Third World people than the U.S. population. And an army with this makeup is not reliable for the main activity of the U.S. military: maintaining the law and order of exploitation and domination in the U.S. empire, both in the U.S. and outside in Puerto Rico, in Iran, in Miami, in Namibia, in Akwesasne Nation, in the Philippines, and in the hundreds of places where the rule of U.S. capital is threatened. The disaffection from the ruling class of the peoples of color in the U.S. has forced the government to turn to the usually more reliable white youth. The chauvinist hysteria whipped up by the bourgeoisie in response to the Iranian revolution gave them hope that now white youth would patriotically acquiesce in a draft.
This has not happened. Although most anti-draft actions over the past year have not been large, the low registration rate shows that hundreds of thousands, including many whites, are voting with their feet. Mass anti-Iranian hysteria is appearing at the same time as mass refusal to fight in Iran.
For this mass refusal to grow, it will have to break out of its single-issue character. As long as the motive for most resistance to the draft remains a desire to avoid government coercion, it will be in danger of being overwhelmed by a torrent of U.S. national chauvinism. A culture of resistance to the whole system that requires a draft must emerge, and its pivot must be anti-imperialist national liberation.
Resistance to the draft can grow only on the basis of an all-around rejection of the culture of the ruling class. Rejection of the legal bounds set up by the government is necessarily part of any serious alternative to the imperialist system. For that reason, Sojourner Truth Organization supports and encourages all opposition to the draft, both legal and illegal, as steps toward a comprehensive alternative to bourgeois rule. The anti-draft movement cannot allow itself to be restricted in its forms of opposition by the same legal system which legitimates the draft.
We welcome the attitude of some sectors of the movement in rejecting restriction to legal activity, and the massive failure to register by so many draft-age youths, as a break in the routine attitude of most people to the government. The spectre of mass illegality poses a serious threat to bourgeois legal hegemony, which must lead to a confrontation before long and certainly before a major war effort is underway.
Here we must speak briefly to one suggestion that has been raised. Based on an old position of the Bolsheviks, some believe that workers should be encouraged to enter the U.S. military to acquire training for use in future armed struggle against the bourgeoisie. Although we think that armed struggle is a necessary part of the struggle against U.S. imperialism both within and without current U.S. borders, we think this suggestion should be rejected. In Lenin's time, the proletariat had no interest in the success of any of the potential contending parties in war. Today, when the main opponent of U.S. imperialism is not other empires but rather national liberation movements wihin the U.S. empire, the proletariat has a definite interest, as a class, in the success of those movements. The harm to the empire from the victories of those movements, partly due to the refusal of U.S. workers to fight them, outweighs the benefit to the proletariat of military training by the imperial armed forces. Of course, this does not deny the duty of U.S. communists to use all available methods, including organizing inside the military, to disintegrate the U.S. armies.
In an effort to divert attention from the re-establishment of the draft, the Carter regime has raised the issue of conscription of both men and women. Most sectors of the women's movement have properly rejected this try at co-optation. In fact, the main response has been the creation of dozens of organizations of women against the draft. We support this response as the one most likely to contribute to the liberation of women from all oppression.
The new anti-draft movement must learn from the past. The anti-draft movement of the early seventies died when the economic draft was substituted for the legal draft, leaving open the path to reinstatement of the draft that the Carter government is now taking. Only by taking up the entire issue of imperialist war-making and its opposition from the national liberation movements can the anti-draft movement develop a sustained momentum toward a new society.
Following up on the struggles reported in our last issue, our Danish comrade wrote us on September 8:
The end of the Builder struggle so far is that after attempting for a week to block the work, we had to give up and the construction work is now going on. This month trials will begin in court against about 30 activists, whom the police want to give months and years in prison. Of course we will continue legal and political support work; about the result, I can't tell now.
Meanwhile similar eruptions have occurred in several European cities: Paris, Amsterdam, and Zurich most recently.