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James Burnham

Their Government

(7 July 1939)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 48, 7 July 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The new army appropriation bill which went into effect July 1 provides for the expansion of the regular army by 112,000 men. During the past two months the War Department has been formulating its plans for getting its hands on these 112,000.

There are already several hundred recruiting stations established in the continental United States including a major station at each of the army posts. You would perhaps think that this would be almost enough to solve the War Department’s problem. The problem, it seems, is more difficult than it looks.

Super-Ballyhoo for War

According to the, program already announced, 387 new recruiting stations are to be opened up. In addition there will be 18 traveling stations, each including a big sound truck and a substantial staff. The War Department has itself explained that all the most modern devices of big business advertising are to be used: posters, speeches, the radio, magazine articles, and high pressure publicity releases.

What is the trouble here?

There are approximately 135,000,000 people in this country. 112,000 are wanted for the army. This comes to considerably less than 1/10 of 1%. Among the 135,000,000 are 15,000,000 or so unemployed including at least 7,000,000 youth. The unemployed with or without relief jobs live at a minimum subsistence level.

Now, war mongers from Roosevelt to Browder to Anthony Eden tell us daily that the war ahead, the mighty crusade against Hitler’s Germany, is the most popular war in history. Everybody would and will support it, they say, because it will be the liberating war for people and freedom and democracy.

The Lie of a Popular War

If the war ahead is so wonderfully popular, why all this trouble for the War Department in the recruiting campaign? You would certainly think that the young workers and farmers of the country should be flocking to the colors at the mere announcement that the rolls are open. You would especially think so in the case of the unemployed who can at least get a certain kind of security and enough food in the army. But the fact is that for this miserable handful of 112,000 all of the biggest publicity guns in the arsenal have to be trotted out.

In this circumstance, the truth becomes abundantly clear: it is a vicious, and deliberate lie that the war ahead is a popular war. The masses of the people here and in every country fear the war and hate the war.

It is exactly the same in Great Britain. And the big pressure campaign for recruiting began immediately after the Munich crisis. All the dispatches in the newspapers kept telling us that they didn’t have enough application blanks for the thousands of young men who wanted to join, but the truth came out when Chamberlain introduced and drove through his conscription bill. Why conscription, for this so marvelously popular war? And even in the new European crisis over Czechoslovakia, all they wanted was a mere 200,000. They could not find even a fraction of 200,000 so they have to drive them with police guns and bayonets.

The war mongers find it very necessary to try to make their war appear popular. They think that in this way they will discourage the opponents of war by making them feel that nearly everyone is for it, and so what is the use of keeping up isolated resistance. That is why, every other day, the headlines declare that “England Is Ready,” “France Is United to Resist Hitler.” But these are lies, just as it is a lie when the papers tell us that the people of this country are ready to fight the war of the Sixty Families. The facts prove them to be lies.

If his war is popular, why does Roosevelt fear the war referendum? Why does he, the democrat of Democrats, fear to let the people vote on war?

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