The army plays an important role in the capitalist system: one can say that it forms the backbone of the state. For the bourgeoisie, the army has a dual role: it serves as an instrument to conquer new territories—this inevitable law of the system is the reason the army exists—and at the same time it is a means of coercion against the working class when capitalism comes up against its own internal problems.
Recognizing that the army is the clearest expression of the class division of society means admitting that the highest levels of the capitalist state direct its organization and functioning toward the dual goal we mentioned. Military discipline is merely subservience fabricated by the bourgeoisie to serve its interests and requirements.
In every case, whatever the state of demoralization in the army may be, in order to find a solution to a revolutionary situation the working class must win over this instrument which will facilitate its seizure of power. The proletariat should never even think that the capitalist army can evolve, can be transformed, into an army of the working class.
There is no doubt that we are at a stage preparatory to the revolution. In such a stage, the orientation that should be adopted by a party claiming to be working-class and revolutionary, to be advocated by militants claiming to be Marxists, is to make the proletariat see clearly the contradictions of the capitalist regime, to sharpen those contradictions to the point of creating a situation that impels the masses to fight for power.
And that is where we, as Marxists, find reason to confront the SWP leadership, which says: “We fight against sending worker-soldiers into battle without proper training and without equipment. We oppose the military direction of worker-soldiers by bourgeois officers who have no regard for their treatment, their protection or their lives. We demand federal funds for the military training of workers and worker-officers under the control of the trade unions. Military appropriations? Yes—but only for the establishment and equipment of worker training camps! Compulsory training of workers? Yes—but only under the control of the trade unions!”
American capitalism is working feverishly to enter the war under the best circumstances. What it lacks is not just stockpiles of arms and equipment, but also pro-war hysteria among the masses. What prevents this hysteria from being created is formal democracy in the USA (as in France and England)—that is why, as events unfold, the American bourgeoisie will gradually have to rid itself of democratic impediments. So it cannot grant relative control of the workers by trade-union tops. Supposing, however, that the American bourgeoisie did decide to make this concession, the “management” of the working class would have a corporatist, fascist character.
In the area of production in general, in certain situations the workers movement has demanded control of production. It goes without saying that the revolutionary vanguard never viewed this control as a way to help capitalism to resolve its crisis, but as a way to deepen it even more and to demonstrate and expose to the working class how the surplus value is allocated. Fascism has been able to heighten its demagogy by granting the workers not “control” but “direct participation” in running the factories. One must not, of course, confuse a factory with a regiment and the army with the capitalist regime as a whole, but the control the American comrades demand does not go in the direction of exposing the very purpose of the army, nor does it further the disintegration of the army. Rather it results in maintaining the cohesiveness of this powerful instrument of the capitalist state whose goal is to resolve the crisis of the system.
Classical “soldiers’ committees” are the instruments to fight for the democratic demands that soldiers can and should always raise. To concede this mission to the American trade unions means reverting to the position of “parity committees” that we have seen in the area of production. Experience has proven that this path leads not toward intervention by the working class into the affairs of the state, but on the contrary state intervention into the affairs of the working class. Is the SWP giving