Take a Stand Against the Draft -- Say NO to Militarism

Take a Stand Against the Draft -- Say NO to Militarism

"I have determined that the Selective Service System must now be revitalized."

-- Jimmy Carter

Once again, the American people are being told they will have to serve as cannon fodder for U.S. imperialism. Once again, we are being told to make economic sacrifices to facilitate the Carter administration's turn to international aggression.

These are among the broader implications of President Carter's decision to reactivate compulsory draft registration. They carry with them the still larger implications of nuclear catastrophe that are almost too horrible to even contemplate.

There should be no mistaking these greater implications of Carter's announcement regarding the resumption of draft registration. Some politicians, aware of the widespread public aversion to military conscription in the wake of U.S. aggression in Vietnam, argue that registration is a long way from sending American troops to wage war on foreign soil. But U.S. imperialism's determination to impose its economic and political will at gunpoint is, by now, unmistakable.

RESURGENCE OF MILITARISM

Carter's announcement should come as no surprise. Ever since the induction of draftees ended in 1973, repeated efforts have been made to reinstitute conscription. The more rabid militarists on Capitol Hill repeatedly introduced new bills calling for compulsory service. And each year such proposals have received more legislative support, with more and more politicians determined to resurrect the draft -- with as little fanfare as possible.

While the draft has been dormant for the last seven years or so, U.S. militarism has, of course, continued to run rampant in every corner of the globe. "Peace-loving" Jimmy Carter presides as commander-in-chief over military forces already numbering 2.1 million. About half a million U.S. armed forces are already stationed abroad or at sea. Through mutual defense treaties, executive agreements, arms sales and military grants, the U.S. capitalist class exerts direct military influence over 92 nations. And to enforce its will, U.S. imperialism has over 1700 nuclear-armed ICBMs plus assorted nuclear weapons stationed in at least a dozen foreign countries.

Such facts belie Carter's claim that the resumption of draft registration is a reluctant response to foreign threats.

To be sure, Soviet militarism in Afghanistan has added another dangerous dimension to the international situation. As such, it, too, must be condemned and opposed. But in doing so, working people must lend no credence to the claim that the U.S. military is "defensive" in nature. Soviet military adventures are only being used by the U.S. ruling class as the excuse to pull out all the stops in fashioning its own new policy of heightened international aggression.

CAPITALIST PRIORITIES

The call for renewed draft registration, and for an upsurge in militarism generally, is clearly antagonistic to the needs and interests of the American people. Capitalist politicians continue making a concerted effort to whip up patriotic hysteria. They hope that doing so will divert workers' attention from the long list of economic and social problems capitalism has no solutions for. But such attempts cannot mask the insane and antisocial character of a profit-motivated system that can always find billions more for armaments while telling already hard-pressed working-class families to tighten their belts even further.

The media continues to report that there is overwhelming support for draft registration. But the Carter administration is aware that, contrary to such reports, calls to make economic sacrifices for militarism will be rejected by millions of Americans. This is why Carter hopes to implement the draft in a way that will circumvent widespread public opposition.

Toward this end, emphasis is being placed on a "passive" registration system that will -- for the time being -- forego draft cards, physical exams, draft classification and other trappings of conscription that could fuel public protest. Even Defense Department studies have concluded that up to 20 percent of all 18-year-olds would simply ignore active registration. Accordingly, current plans call for post offices to gather data for computerized conscription lists.

Bearing all the characteristics of a "Big Brother" government, such plans only emphasize the totalitarian aspects of ruling-class schemes for conscription. Arrogantly presuming to present its own profit interests as the vital interests of all Americans, the capitalist class is obviously prepared to bring the draft back in through the back door. Clearly, it has no compunctions about trampling over individual liberties to send workers packing to defend capitalist investments on every continent.

MASS OPPOSITION NEEDED

Such plans also emphasize the need for working people to promptly fashion mass opposition to the militarist designs of the U.S. capitalist class.

In fashioning such opposition, workers must reject efforts to divert public debate over the draft into a discussion of whether a particular draft scheme is "fair" or "equitable." Though military conscription schemes have, in the past, certainly mirrored the racism and sexism that permeate capitalist society, working people must reject, without reservation, any scheme to force them into service on behalf of imperialist profit interests. The "issue" of whether women should be drafted, for example, is being deliberately cultivated by the media in an attempt to obscure the fact that conscription is inherently anti-working class.

As it has done throughout its history, the Socialist Labor Party calls upon all working people to join us in the struggle against efforts to implement conscription. Workers have no interest in sacrificing their living standards, already ravaged by inflation and unemployment and further threatened by a deepening recession, to the designs of militarism. Workers have no interests in sacrificing their civil liberties to the altar of continued imperialist aggression. Workers have no interest in lining up behind the same policies that brought the horrors of genocide in Vietnam.

CAPITALIST ROOTS OF MILITARISM

The impact mass opposition had on U.S. involvement in Vietnam has already demonstrated that the capitalist class cannot implement imperialist aggression with impunity when workers join together to oppose it. At the same time, however, resurgent militarism and the reappearance of calls for conscription demonstrate that a lasting blow against militarism can only be dealt by a movement that opposes the social system that breeds it.

Militarism is part and parcel of a capitalist system based on profit-motivated production, the private ownership of the economy by a tiny capitalist minority, and the exploitation of working people. It is the means by which the capitalist minority enforces its political and economic will both at home and abroad. Accordingly, an effective antidote to militarism can only be fashioned by a working-class movement that organizes workers economically and politically to effect a basic transformation of society. This is the program of the Socialist Labor Party -- to organize workers into mass, workplace-based organizations capable of wresting control over society from the capitalist minority and of creating a worker-controlled economy that will serve our collective needs and free us once and for all from the unspeakable horrors of militarism.

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