Generals over the White House: INTRODUCTION


The material that follows was written under the growing impact of a surge in the "new militarism." This was given tremendous impetus by the promulgation of the so-called Carter Doctrine on January 21, 1980. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, this new doctrine constituted a qualitative change in U.S. foreign policy. It brought on a hysterical and jingoistic war psychosis orchestrated by the Pentagon, the White House, the State Department, and the capitalist media. The pretexts for this were the seizure of the U.S. Embassy personnel by Iranian students and the Soviet Union's military assistance to the Afghan revolutionary government.

The new militarism has been in the making for several years. It differs from the old militarism only in form. As against the crude, vulgar, and offensive outpourings of the type of Generals Patton and Curtis LeMay, the new militarism has broadened its base by virtue of its more sophisticated, more deceptive approaches. It handles itself with urbanity and goes out of its way to cultivate its long-standing ties with the universities, the press, and other public institutions of the capitalist establishment.

Whereas the old militarists like LeMay would crudely announce their intention to bomb Viet Nam into the Stone Age, or "nuke 'em," the new militarism has directed itself to the alleged "appalling weakness of the U.S. geopolitical position" vis-à-vis the so-called "growing strength and aggressiveness of the Soviet Union." They have worked at enlisting more and more of the bourgeois academe into their own intellectual stable. Such organs as the Washington Quarterly, put out by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, cater to the intellectual elite and attempt to draw in and widen a constituency for the military.

The new militarism has its counterpart in the civilian population in the growth of the new right. The latter is a loose, conglomerate coalition of all the old reactionary and right-wing groupings under new names and masquerading more recently under single-issue-oriented labels such as Right to Life and so on.

This is written almost 30 years after the Korean War, yet the political climate is highly suggestive of the period immediately preceding the launching of the imperialist aggression against the besieged Korean people. A considerable number of articles have recently appeared in the capitalist press evoking memories not of Korea, but of the period immediately preceding the outbreak of Hitler's aggression in Europe. The purpose of these imperialist retrospectives is to cast the USSR in the role of Hitler in order to prepare the masses psychologically for war against the USSR and other socialist countries and oppressed peoples in rebellion, such as Iran.

Yet as this is written, the south Korean puppet regime of U.S. finance capital is once again on the verge of being toppled by what certainly appears to be a mass insurrection. Yet public outrage in this country is not directed against the reign of General Chon, one of a number of militarists who have exercised one of the most brutal, fascist dictatorships that the world has known.

In the following pages we seek to draw attention to the role of the military and to the role of the military-industrial complex. The increasing encroachment of the military into civilian life, its arrogating to itself political decision-making on behalf of the capitalist establishment, is not a new phenomenon. General Maxwell Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Kennedy, had occasion to remark in a recent television interview that during the Second World War and running well into the Truman administration, the military was making political decisions.

Nor is the military-industrial complex an historical accident. It is true, as Professor Seymour Melman points out, that it was none other than General Dwight D. Eisenhower who initiated the organization and coordination of the military-industrial complex by issuing a directive in which he virtually outlined the steps to be taken in integrating the industrial, technological, and scientific sectors of society into the military. Moreover, this fusion would have taken place with or without Eisenhower. The military-industrial complex is an historically inevitable outgrowth of the inherent tendencies in capitalist production in the epoch of imperialism, that is, monopoly capitalism.

Our view of the military differs fundamentally from the anti-militarism of the liberal and progressive elements in capitalist society. Their anti-militarism takes as its point of departure the split of political, social, diplomatic, and military policy from economics. It fails to recognize that the structure of capitalist society, that is, the relationship between the basic classes, between exploiter and exploited determines the politics of the capitalist state, no matter which policy the governing group may pursue. This policy is inevitably imperialist and today inexorably serves the military-industrial complex, which, willy-nilly, is propelled in the direction of imperialist war.

In a recent [May 17, 1980] letter to the New York Times, five prominent liberals, Professor Melman among them, urged President Carter to make a clean sweep of his present foreign policy advisers and dismiss his present National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, an all-too-well-known hawk and spokesperson for the Pentagon. In that way these prominent liberals hope to pull back from "the brink of war." Others call for the abolition of the post of National Security Adviser. But the abolition of a post (or the dismissal of an individual official, even a Secretary of State) cannot obviate a political trend which is an expression of irresistible economic forces inherent in the nature of modern finance capitalism.

In the view of the liberals, a mere change of advisers can change the fundamental policy of the capitalist state. But the United States has now had seven Presidents and a virtual horde of foreign policy advisers, Secretaries of State, and National Security chiefs since World War II. Each of these Presidents has had his hard-liners and his soft-liners. The overall result has been the buildup of the largest armada in the world and the development of frightful and sophisticated weapons. As against a military budget of between $14 and $15 billion at the end of the Second World War, the Carter administration is now committed to launching a five-year arms buildup to the tune of one trillion dollars! (Washington Post, May 19, 1980.)

Yet, revolutionary Marxists do not view the inevitability of imperialist war fatalistically. There are deterrents, of course.

There are contradictions in the imperialist camp, as evidenced by the unwillingness of the imperialist allies to support the U.S. military adventure in Iran, or to go whole-hog with Washington in its confrontational brinkmanship with the USSR.

There is, of course, the formidable might of the Soviet Union itself and other socialist countries.

There is the worldwide revolutionary struggle of the national liberation movements, plus the unwillingness of the European working class to support military adventures by the U.S. and its own imperialist governments.

Most significant is the inability of the Carter administration to get the kind of response from the mass of the American people that it needs in order to really launch a war. And this is despite having pulled out all the stops in a flood of jingoistic and chauvinist propaganda that has saturated the masses.

It is no longer the early 1950s or even the 1960s when there was capitalist economic stability and development. The U.S. capitalist economy has now been in decline for several years, wracked by galloping inflation and rising unemployment.

The mass of the working class, Black, white, Latin, Asian and Native is most unreceptive to the kinds of war adventures which characterized the previous epoch. On the contrary, there's every sign that the new economic crisis which the Carter administration is now forced to acknowledge is bound to evoke a wave of militant labor struggles that promise to invade the political arena and resist the new militarism of the banker-general complex.

No wonder, then, that the Carter administration has had to temporarily lower its rhetoric and, at least for the moment, slow down a little its vicious flood of orchestrated war propaganda.

This month the Black people of Miami suffered a tremendous toll of death and destruction at the hands of the combined forces of the police and military. However, their historic rebellion against the vicious racists will give food for thought and help stay the hands of the unbridled militarists.

Sam Marcy
May 21, 1980

Main menu Book menu