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Labor Action, 24 October 1949


Eugene Keller

Discussion: A Rejoinder on –

Socialist Policy and German Armament


From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 4, 23 January 1950, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The objections raised by Comrades Green and Fenwick in the last two issues of Labor Action to my discussion article on Western Germany’s rearmament (December 26, 1949) appear to me, with one major exception, irrelevant to the subject discussed, Both represent my discussion of American politico-military policy in Europe as though it had been thought up by me.

For example, both quote the following passage from the article: "The new German army ... must have an ideology. It must at the least be able to feel that it is fighting for a country of its own, if nothing more sublime.” Within the context of the article this passage was meant to pose the difficulties that face the Americans in furthering German rearmaments. That is, on the one hand they would like to “control” it, and on the other, their policy gives rise to unpredictable and uncontrollable tendencies, such as most likely will arise in any army which is not merely a foreign legion.

Nor have I anywhere implied, as Fenwick states, that I am ruling out the defeat of Stalinism by other than military means; rather the implication, as I indicated in the article, holds true for present American policy.

Nor am I “in favor of” German rearmament. In making the point that Germany’s right to rearm must be recognized, I made it – the context is clear on this too – against those who, as an alternative to German rearmament, desire the continued occupation of Germany.

Susan Green’s and Fenwick’s “alternative” is the call for and creation of a Western European Union. However, this idea represents a basic political orientation; one must seek to relate individual political questions to it; it furnishes the general framework of our politics in Europe, but within it we are still compelled to seek such answers to questions as will give concrete shape to the idea. Thus, neither Green nor Fenwick has dealt with the issue.

Militia System Feasible

The one relevant objection raised by them was against my advocacy of a militia in Western Germany, controlled by trade unions and other democratic organizations. Both Green and Fenwick hold that nowadays a militia no longer corresponds to military realities. Having thus disposed of what I had held to be socialist policy on German rearmament, they proceed to ignore the issue and propose an Independent Western Europe as the “alternative.”

Now, the argument that the vast complexity of modern military organization rules out its democratization – and that is what the idea of a militia implies – is the fit companion to the argument that modern technology inevitably tends toward the elimination of democracy, making the “experts” indispensable. The point simply is that Fenwick and Green have not proved their argument at all.

It is the very complexity of industry, the accompanying division of labor and the relatively high skill of the average member of modern society which make a militia possible. For example, the training of aircraft mechanics in the U.S. army took but a few months, because each mechanic was assigned to only a few repair operations. Whatever general objections to the modern division of labor one might have, it remains one of the factors which make a militia feasible.

In other respects, a highly industrialized country, like Germany, with its modern facilities broadly distributed, allows a militia to have the requisite local or regional control which is one of the constituents of its democratic character. As indicated in my article, there are only a few military activities which will need the attendance of permanent staffs which are easily placed under popular control (research, certain educational facilities, etc.). This subject deserves a thorough treatment which cannot be given here; anyway, the burden of proof that a militia is outmoded rests on Comrades Fenwick and Green.

Counter to East

Fenwick indicates the belief that it is really premature to speak of rearming Germany, that there are issues of greater priority, etc. Obviously, my discussion of German rearmament dealt with only one facet of America’s policy in Germany. My use of language may at times have been over-emphatic but I certainly did not suggest that the issue takes precedence over other issues; if is, however, intimately related to them and must be met as. say, the issue of dismantling is met (although it is somewhat more complex than that).

Certainly, I do not think it was premature to discuss it and to formulate some sort of political program to meet it. There have again been reports in recent days (N.Y. Times, January 13, 14, 15) of plans for re-establishing a German army, and such plans are probably not drawn up without the assistance of American officers.

America hopes to use a German army for its own purposes; the German bourgeoisie, on the other hand, will seek to re-create it as a base of social control as well as, eventually, to create power relationships favorable to itself. Therein lies one of the dilemmas of American foreign policy; there are also implied new aspects of the national question.

For the present purpose, it suffices to point to the official reason given for a new Germany, i.e., the threat posed by the “police” troops organized by the East German government. To me it is obvious that a militia could counter this threat with as much efficiency as a re-established army (and certainly with vastly greater political effect) and that from this assumption can proceed a socialist military policy in Germany.

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