“Generals Over the White House” is a book that should be read and reread. It was written in 1980 by the late Sam Marcy, who founded Workers World Party in 1959. Its main subject is the takeover of the Carter administration by the military at the end of the 1970s. But this history is only part of its value.
The book’s greatest value lies in its Marxist analysis of the military in relation to the civilian government — and this sheds piercing light on the Trump administration today.
Marcy shows how, under capitalism, the military never stops striving to take over the capitalist government and has contempt for capitalist democracy, which stands in its way of carrying out the most aggressive military policies.
For example, Marcy wrote:
The difference between civilian and military control does not derive from any fundamental class difference. Both the civilian and the military wings of the capitalist government are securely in the hands of the ruling class. There is, however, a basic difference in this very important respect: the more the military encroaches, the more it erodes every conceivable element of what remains of bourgeois democracy.
The military in the imperialist epoch organically tends in an anti-democratic, totalitarian, if not fascist direction. Wherever the military lays its hands, the more it invests its field of operations with repressive, anti-democratic and totalitarian measures. Nothing escapes their long, grasping reach.
Marcy describes how the military drains the resources of society and contributes to the physical decay of the infrastructure and the intensification of the poverty of the masses. He dwells on the economic crisis of capitalism and how it contributes to the advance of capitalist militarism and the military.
Marcy’s book, written in 1980, could not be more timely.
At this moment, Trump has opened the door wide to the military in the executive branch. He is threatening war against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and plans a nuclear military buildup against Russia and China.
The U.S. capitalist establishment is praising the generals in the administration as “the adults in the room.” Meanwhile, Trump and the generals are trying to destroy capitalist legality. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is kidnapping undocumented workers in their homes, at their jobs and on the streets. Muslims are being banned from the U.S. Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan are being praised as “good people.”
Understanding the relationship of the military to all this is crucial. And “Generals Over the White House” is invaluable in deepening our understanding of yesterday and today from a Marxist point of view.