By Comrade Carlos
How do we as revolutionary communists determine friend from foe? Not everyone who calls themselves your comrade has your back, and deciphering who our true enemies are in the field while organizing is crucial to avoid wasting our time attempting to recruit those with class interests opposed to a socialist revolution. Simply put, those classes oppressed in the current societies around the world, the proletariat and semi-proletariat, the peasants, the lumpen-proletariat, etc, are all similar in their consistent oppression. Each class has differing interests but a similar motivation to escape crushing exploitation. For nearly any class in US society, the pull towards the military is enhanced by the gambit of propaganda which promises class mobility and belonging.
The draw towards the military from the broad oppressed classes becomes irresistible when coerced by the Amerikkkan court system, which routinely directs young colonized men into the Marines in lieu of incarceration, particularly during war time (which has been constant since the 90s). One example of this is the case of rapper Bambu De Pistola. Bambu was arrested at 16 for armed robbery and upon released was strongly suggested by a judge to join the military ( Jones 2016). Further, in the same article in LA Weekly, Bambu describes the “school-to-military” pipeline. This describes the way in which the youth of the lower classes are hounded by the recruiters by the various branches. In my own experience, recruiters from every branch all set up tables like a career fair at my high school, at 17 ½ years old I enlisted in an eight year long contract that consisted of four years Active Duty, and four years Ready Reserve. I was enticed with promises that I would be removed from an abusive home situation, would not be at risk for overseas deployment, nor drug/migrant interdiction. By 18, myself and dozens of other classmates had undergone physicals, a mental exam (ASVAB), and fitness tests.
Throughout my service I encountered several classes, who each joined for individual and class interests. Often working class kids joined for the education benefits, and had no clear objective in serving the US economic interests, and they were vaguely aware that the main imperialist motivations behind the conflicts the US are embroiled in. Lumpen-proletariat recruits, such as myself, were typically there to escape our situations (homelessness, gang feuds, drug addict parents, etc) and similarly LGBTQ+ people of every class joined to escape persecution most often at the hands of their family. Several times over my enlistment I heard shipmates/service members from bourgeois and petite bourgeois background describe physical fights with fathers/uncles/brothers or being evicted by families who detested their homosexuality or transgender identity.
The brainwashing for service members typically comes through peer exposure, and not a clear line from the command. The command of most every unit I was attached too was vaguely progressive, sending out missives on consent, warning us not to haze one another, preaching tolerance. These messages come from well-educated officers who received their brain washing in US or NATO universities, and possessed the typical tripe found on those campuses. Besides being hypocritical statements that did not reflect the character of the military or its goal as the enforcement arm of the imperialist class; the utter lack of enforcement is what allows the reactionary enlisted petty officers to subvert the authority of those memos with mockery, and abrasive counter arguments in the workplace. I would often get in heated debates with superiors who used every slur imaginable to describe what they believed to be degeneracy. My executive petty officer’s incredulity at the existence of Trans people was often a point of discussion in the work space. When preparing for overseas deployment, racial slurs were used to jokingly refer to Arabs and/or Muslims. Dissent was quickly squashed among the lower ranking enlisted with several types of punishment, from disciplinary duty, to write ups. Often the petty officers simply note in an individuals file, that the service member is “unsuitable” which is a catch all term that applies for resistors, racial/sexual minorities, or anyone the Petty Officers find distasteful. The victims of these retaliations are the most likely to develop a progressive attitude or be progressive in the first place. I personally saw shipmates stand up for one another when reactionary petty officers were dogging one of us for being gay, saw anti-racist behavior and even some individualistic sabotage actions against particularly reactionary leaders. This is indicative of a real resistance forming in the minds some service members, and these people would do well to receive anti-imperialist education, as well as help exiting the military from progressive veterans who have also found ways to discharge that weren’t particularly injurious.
However, the base line attitude and actions of military service members is not progressive. Whether or not the service member came from a progressive home or a class with revolutionary potential is irrelevant after spending even a moderate amount of time in the military. Even if the service member did not actively participate in repressive/oppressive activities, they most certainly witnessed someone be oppressed or repressed. If they did nothing, stayed with the organization, even for fear of retaliation, they are culpable. This is particularly true for those of us who have been deployed overseas and have participated in imperialist conflicts first-hand. Often these service members make excuses, “I am just an aviation mechanic” or “I was purifying water for the locals” but this is not based in an analysis of the concrete conditions. The fact remains that an imperialist presence in a nation has a net negative impact on the people who are being occupied. Service members who do not properly self-criticize (fully acknowledge their blame) and take sufficient steps to distance themselves from the military are not worthy of being Communists nor revolutionaries of any tendency.
Our goal as revolutionaries is the overthrow of the old system and the replacement of the current dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with a government run for and by proletarians. This should not exclude veterans of imperialist forces, but we must be very certain of their allegiance. The military spurns thousands of veterans a year, creating a disgruntled force of other-than-honorable dischargees/ General Dischargees/ and Medical Dischargees who are often primed for radicalization (Types of Military Discharge and What they Mean for Veterans). Denied the benefits they were promised, or separated because of reactionary discrimination, these people may represent the dregs of the military but our best hope at reaching service members who did not let the imperialist propaganda change them and pit them against the interests of oppressed peoples. Use caution, as some may have been separated for reactionary suicidal crimes (drunk driving, brawling, drug abuse), and not everyone possesses clear-eyed consciousness upon discharge but largely this group of veterans is not shot through with jingoist ideology.
On the issue of those already in or whom have been in who wish to serve the people, candidly discuss their service, educate them with a proletarian feminist, materialist, internationalist lens. Test their commitment to the people and vet them thoroughly, do not give them special access to information initially or quickly bring them around your comrades because while they have important training to impart, White Nationalist ideology and fascistic ideation are part and parcel with military service. There are military members of every race with radical nationalist or racist beliefs, service members of every race who study white supremacist literature and recruit from inside the military. Taking special precautions around those with exposure to these beliefs is necessary, even Black and Brown veterans, as military members can hold seemingly contradictory beliefs and be dangerous infiltrators.
The next steps for those Communists and revolutionaries who care about those ensnared by the imperialist militaries is to provide a revolutionary alternative for the oppressed classes that the bourgeoisie target. Provide a means to escape, or de-escalate hostile home situations, provide for the welfare of downtrodden youth, inspire the people through education and deed. Until Communists can compete with our enemies in providing for people, we will continue to see the masses, who are without proletarian, materialist, internationalist analysis, choose the easiest way forward. The economic decision to join the military can be offset by a determined revolutionary movement.