On working with the Armed Forces (was Re: re.: Condor and Carlos)

Carrol Cox cbcox at SPAMilstu.edu
Fri Jun 16 10:05:01 MDT 2000

Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky wrote:

> But in a Third World country, the Nation is still something that
> waits to be built. The ruling classes here do not share the strategic
> interest of the high military in national defense. National defense
> has a strict logic which, if followed, even reluctantly, brings you
> to the need for industrialization, and to the basic need to have well
> fed, well educated and happy people to man the war machine. None of
> these can be accomplished under the conditions of a national defeat
> (and one may well define every Third World country as a country in
> chronic national defeat of varying degrees). There appears, thus, a
> potential of conflict between the high officers and the local ruling
> classes, which we must by no means neglect.

Just a couple of tentative observations -- centered on the situation in

There is of course, as this and Chris's post point out, a class division
the U.S. army, which in times of great social tension can be exploited.
U.S. army in Vietnam began to disintegrate not (as the Generals would have

had it) out of cowardice or deviance of one kind or another but from a
growing conscious recognition that they were being used and abused for
purposes not their own. But, to reemphasize, that was in a period of
high social tension and late in the war. I had a student who had been
badly wounded in Vietnam a month or so after Tet and spent many months
in a Veterans hospital. He said that there was a sharp line *within* the
hospital between those wounded before and after Tet. Those wounded
afterwards had turned pretty solidly against the war, while those wounded
before it continuted to be "hawks" -- "patriotic." An army of workers is
potentially an army against itself: but that does not happen easily, and
perhaps not at all unless it has experienced significant defeat, defeat
becomes interpreted (and this is a serious political task) as betrayal by
their leaders -- *not* betrayal by the "homefront." In the latter case
workers in uniform tend to become not citizen soldiers but in effect

And I think one needs to make and keep in mind a sharp distinction between

soldiers and police. (Under extreme conditions police too may began to
waver, but *only* under conditions so extreme that it makes little
Police are not workers in uniform: they are declassed --  they are no
workers at all. And the culture of police work, the activity in which they

find themselves continuously engaged, the fact that at least a huge
of them enter the force already embued with an anti-working class
are already class traitors, means that even those whose initial
may correspond to the famous "Officer Friendly" of police propaganda --
even they either quit the police or adopt its culture.

And during long periods of relative peace, with a relatively smaller army
more isolated from the general population, there can be a tendency for
citizen soldiers to become police -- the army more and more like a
police force which (whateve their class background initially) come to
see the civilian population (i.e., the workers) as The Enemy. This seems
definitely to occur in prestige units: paratroopers, marines, etc. The
reduction in force of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve after the Gulf
War was very possibly mostly intended to rid the Reserve of those
who had, despite all Marine indoctrination, remained citizen soldiers,
not dedicated cops.

I don't know how this fits, if at all, the conditions in South America.
>From man accounts I have read of the war in El Salvador, it seemed
as though much of the army, though dragooned in from the peasantry,
had to some extent developed this police consciousness -- that
the sermons which led to Bishop Romano's murder were designed
to stop this development of police consciousness in the peasants of
the army?????


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