Lou Paulsen wwchi at
Mon Nov 20 19:15:02 MST 2000

-----Original Message-----
From: Macdonald Stainsby <mstainsby at>
To: marxism at <marxism at>
Date: Monday, November 20, 2000 7:27 PM
Subject: Re: Amerikans

Yoshie wrote:
>> The Japanese Imperial Army were mainly made up of draftees, too (as
>> most modern armies anywhere have been).  I wouldn't call Japanese
>> soldiers during World War 2 merely "victims and not murderers,"
>> though.  Why should American GIs in the Vietnam War be thought of in
>> any way different from Japanese imperial soldiers during WW2?

Stainsby continued:
>I must concur wholly. While posturing as a "fifth column",  as Lou Pr put
it, might
>have been silly, it is very important that these murders are called
precisely that,
>it wasn't 3 1/2 million "accidental deaths".  ...

>  ...  It is wholly reasonable to go out and declare
>that the volunteers (and there were quite a few!) are the enemy. Indeed,
who else is
>if they were not?
>The Nazis were all conscripts as well. Even the 12 and 60 year olds
fighting on thw
>Western Front in 1945. Would anyone like to shed a tear? Anyone here saying
they were
>not part of the Nazi machine? I can see it as acceptable that any conscript
go to the
>war without a fight. Once they are there, see what it going on and do not
>then they are guilty.

I'm sorry - I can't quite go along with you all the way on this.  And I say
this as a member of a party which did as much as we could possibly do to be
a fifth column for the NLF in the U.S.  We chanted 'Victory to the NLF'
while a lot of people were counterposing the slogan 'Out Now!' to that.   I
don't think I need to prove my or my party's credentials here, and I hope
that we can't reasonably be accused of being liberals, apologists for
racism, etc.

We supported the Vietnamese cause with all our strength, and, YES, the
millions of Vietnamese people who were killed by the US war machine were
murdered, not killed 'accidentally.'  But (let me be quite clear about what
I'm saying) I can't go so far as to label individual working-class soldiers
as 'murderers', without distinction among them or their motives or
backgrounds or what they actually did in the war.  This goes for U.S.
soldiers in Viet Nam, and for Japanese workers in the Japanese army, and,
yes, for German soldiers in the German army in World War II.  Or for US
soldiers in World War II!!  Furthermore I can't make your distinction
between conscripts and volunteers as easily as you do, Stainsby.  There is
such a thing as an 'economic draft'.

Are there people among them whom I would call murderers?  Yes, of course.
In all these wars there were willing participants in racist massacres of
civilians whom I would label as murderers without compunction.  The lifers,
the officers - they are conscious imperialist murderers.  If they aren't
when they join, then, alas, they are when they are given responsibilities.
Am I tempted to shed a tear for US pilots shot down over Viet Nam, or over
the SS officers buried in Bitburg?  No.

But that leaves us with a whole host of tens of thousands of our fellow
workers, who were drafted, or for that matter volunteered, and went to the
front, and followed orders, and took people's lives, and never 'turned the
guns around', because they didn't know any better.  Why didn't they know any
better?  Because our socialist forces were weak and were never able to get
to them and adequately propagandize them.  They did not "see what was going
on" because from the point of the view of the soldier on the ground, what is
going on is "they are trying to kill us, and we are trying to kill them."
You don't necessarily "see the nature of imperialism" from a foxhole.

Were they "part of the war machine," that is, of the Nazi war machine, or
the imperial Japanese war machine, or of the imperialist US war machine in
the Roosevelt or Johnson or Nixon administrations?  Of course.  But why
limit it to combat soldiers?  All people in the service are part of the war
machine.  Medics are part of the war machine.  Civilian workers in the
armaments industry are part of the war machine.  In fact (as the War
Resisters' League is fond of telling us) we are ALL part of the war machine
inasmuch as our labor is taken from us in the form of taxes to be used in
making imperialist war.  Are all US workers murderers because they pay war
taxes?  Because they voted for Bush or Gore, who are war candidates?

For that matter as I recall there were a large number of soldiers of the
Russian empire at one time who were part of the Czarist war machine.  They
killed Germans and Austrians and for that matter Poles and strikers and
communists.  As I recall, Lenin's line towards them was to win them over and
recruit them.  It was to intensify the division between them and their
officers.  In fact it was to encourage them to kill their officers.  It was
never to label them as murderers en bloc.

We did our best to follow this example in Viet Nam.  Not only did Andy Stapp
go into the military, as Lou Proyect mentions, he and others organized the
American Servicemen's Union (later the American Servicepersons' Union) and
published the newspaper "The Bond" which circulated among a surprising large
number of soldiers in Viet Nam and sailors on carriers.  We did our best to
expose the divisions within the military, particularly between the
African-American workers, some of whom, Stainsby, had "volunteered", if you
believe in free choice, and the white racist officers.  We did this at the
same time as we were celebrating every military victory of the Vietnamese.
Furthermore this was the Vietnamese line as well.  They never went around
attacking all combat troops as murderers.  They always emphasized that they
distinguished between the worker-troops and their officers and the US

Lou Paulsen

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