About draft resistance, pacifism, and revolutionary work inside the military

(from resolutions of the Second Congress of the Marxist-Leninist Party, Fall, 1983)

(CV #36, Sept. 2005).


. Below we reproduce the views of the Second Congress of the Marxist-Leninist Party, the party from which we spring, on the issue of the draft. Although the Second Congress was held two decades prior to the LRP's polemic against us, it already answered their objections. It summed up our approach to the draft and showed that it is quite possible to link up with the anti-draft movement while opposing pacifist illusions and while fighting against those imperialist politicians who advocate strengthening the "volunteer" army. It also linked up anti-draft work with the crucial work inside the military. Boldface has been added to the resolution to highlight some passages of particular relevance to the present polemics on the draft.

. Following this are some additional excerpts which criticize pacifism, from the Second Congress resolution "On the upsurge in the international movement against imperialist war"

. The views are on the anti-draft movement are from resolution IIc, the struggle against militarism and imperialist war. The subsections of this resolution are

On the struggle against the draft and work inside the military


. In 1980 Carter announced the restoration of registration for the military draft. Reagan has continued registration and taken a series of measures to expedite the return of the draft. He has begun prosecution of a number of young men who have refused to register and also instituted other coercive measures to pressure the youth to register. All these steps point to the fact that the U.S. government is deadly serious about restoring the draft. This is an important part of the current round of war preparations by the U.S. imperialists.

. The launching of draft registration was met with a storm of protest in 1980-81. Hundreds of demonstrations were organized. Young people in the high schools and colleges attempted to build organizations to fight the draft and militarism. Since that time, however, there has been a lull in the anti-draft movement. But by no means is the struggle over.

. The Marxist-Leninist Party opposes the restoration of the draft. It fights it as part of its struggle against all imperialist war preparations. The experience of the 1960's, as well as the experience of the anti-draft protests of 1980-81, show that the anti-draft struggle will continue to be an important front of the anti-militarist struggle.

. In fighting the draft, the MLP places the fight against imperialism to the fore. The MLP is opposed to the U.S. armed forces because these are imperialist forces. It opposes the draft as a measure aimed at strengthening the imperialist army. Certain imperialist politicians and their social-democratic supporters claim to oppose the draft, but they do so from the standpoint of debating how best to strengthen the imperialist armed forces. They believe that it better serves U.S. imperialism's interests today to have a "volunteer" army rather than a conscripted one. The Marxist-Leninist Party fights against the attempts by the capitalist politicians and social-democrats to orient the anti-draft movement to working for a strengthening of the U.S. armed forces.

. In the course of the struggle against registration and the draft, the issue of refusal to register comes up. There are many who have refused to register and there will be those who will resist the draft when it is restored. The MLP supports the courageous stand of those who take such a stand and face persecution and the threats of imprisonment. But the MLP does not give a general call to refuse registration or the draft. It believes that it hurts the struggle against militarism and war to give the impression that refusal, if only enough people take part, can stop imperialist war. This has never happened. The imperialist warmongers cannot be fought by individual acts of conscience, no matter how courageous. To fight militarism and reactionary war, it is necessary to build the mass revolutionary struggle against imperialism.

. The value of draft resistance is that it signifies a courageous protest against militarism and helps to draw sections of the people into more conscious and wider forms of struggle. Those who refuse to register or to get drafted cannot leave their struggle simply at that act, but must go on and take part in the mass struggle against imperialism.

. Draft resistance is however part of a bigger picture. There are other sections of the young people who will take a different attitude on the question.

. There are those who register with the aim of fighting militarism and imperialism from within the armed forces. This section fights the attempts to restore the draft but, when going into the army becomes compulsory, they will accept their conscription into the armed forces in order to fight from the inside. This is a bold and courageous stand and it deserves the utmost support as struggle inside the military is ultimately one of the decisive fronts of struggle against imperialist war. At present this section of activists is quite small. But once drafted and inside the military, these activists will find their number multiplied manyfold as they link up with the other conscripted youth or those who have gotten ensnared in the "volunteer" army.

. It must be borne in mind that the overwhelming majority of youth will eventually register because they find no alternative and the full force of the state bears down on them one by one. This does not mean that they have avoided struggle by registering, for they will find themselves in a difficult and dangerous struggle inside the military once they are drafted. This section must not be neglected by the anti-imperialist movement or considered to be the enemy; rather they too must be drawn into the anti-militarist demonstrations and other activities.

. The same holds true for those working youths who have gotten ensnared in the present "volunteer" army. The majority of the GI's enter the army because of the pressure of poverty and unemployment. The anti-imperialist movement must pay close attention to all opportunities to draw these young people into the struggle.

. There are already various signs of small stirrings inside the armed forces. There have been a number of instances of GI's taking part in protests against U. S. intervention in Central America and other anti-war activities. There are also signs of wide disenchantment with the U. S. presence in Lebanon, Central America, etc. These cracks and fissures are bound to grow.

. The experience of the GI movement in the 1960's shows that the ordinary soldiers can and will be organized into a force against imperialism. Winning over the rank-and-file soldiers is ultimately an important question for the development of the revolution.

. --From Documents of the Second Congress of the Marxist-Leninist Party, Fall, 1983 (reprinted from The Workers' Advocate, Volume 14, #1, January 1, 1984)

About pacifism
-- excerpt from the resolution "On the upsurge in the international movement against imperialist war"


. The Second Congress of the MLP also combined resolute support for the international movement against war with a criticism of pacifism. The LRP exaggerates the struggle against pacifism to the point where it denounces the anti-militarist struggle and refrains from serious work in various anti-war demonstrations. The MLP, on the contrary, put forward the path of combining fervent support for the anti-war movement with opposition to pacifist illusions. The Second Congress resolution on the upsurge in the world anti-war movement included the following passages:

. The period since the Founding Congress of our Party in 1980 has witnessed the resurgence on an international scale of a mass movement against the war preparations of the imperialist powers. In the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia and particularly in Western Europe, imperialist metropolises have been swept by a whirl wind of protest against the escalating arms race. Mass demonstrations have swelled to ten times and more their previous size, as thousands upon thousands of workers and other progressive people have stirred to action.

. The MLP warmly welcomes this important development. We take particular joy that the mass demonstrations and other actions are hitting blows against the diabolical war schemes of U. S. imperialism, our own chief enemy.

. . . . . .

. The MLP fights against militarism, wars of aggression, and the preparations for a third world war. We hold that this struggle must be aimed against the exploiters and imperialists who are the source of war. . . .

. Therefore we distinguish between different types of war. There are reactionary wars, wars that put millions of working people to death for the profits of a handful of millionaires, wars of plunder and aggression. But there are also liberating wars, wars that free the masses. These include national liberation wars, such as the wars of the colonial subjects against the colonial overlords. These also include revolutions, which are a form of civil war, such as the uprising of the slaves against the slaveholders, and the insurrections of the workers and all the exploited against the capitalists. Such liberating wars, despite all the horrors and sufferings that inevitably accompany all wars, are fully necessary, legitimate and progressive. . . .

. Thus our Party, just as it firmly denounces and condemns U.S. imperialism's criminal interventions in El Salvador, firmly supports the revolutionary war waged by the Salvadoran peple for liberation from the jackboot of U.S. imperialism and the local oligarchy. In other cases, as in the recent war over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), our Party has unhesitatingly condemned both sides as reactionary. Above all, we work for the socialist revolution right here in the heartland of U. S. imperialism as the only way to end U.S. imperialism's criminal military aggression around the globe once and for all.

. Pacifism denounces all war without distinction and tries to fight war while leaving its source intact. Consequently it is no surprise that, despite the personal sincerity of various pacifists, pacifism has always proved impotent. Moreover, pacifist phrases have proved of use to the warmongers themselves and their apologists. Most imperialist warmongers today, from Reagan to Adropov, know enough to cloak all their evil deeds, from the arms race to brutal invasions, in the language of peace, arms control, peacekeeping, and so forth. Only a struggle that targets the actual warmongers, and that connects the anti-war cause with the struggle against exploitation and oppression, can truly fight imperialist war.

. The anti-war movement that has blossomed on a world scale is directed against reactionary war and the preparations for a new world holocaust. The MLP warmly welcomes the resurgence of this international movement against war preparations of the imperialists. We hail the blows it is landing against the war schemes of the U. S. imperialists. We support the international movement by working for an upsurge right here in the heartland of U. S. imperialism in the struggle against the imperialist war preparations. If directed squarely at the imperialist system, this movement will draw millions into the fight against the warmakers and make an important contribution to the socialist revolution. <>

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October 15, 2005.
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