Last June at Columbia University, President-Elect Barack Obama said that he would make plans for the American people to recognize an “obligation” for military service. “If we are going into war, then all of us go, not just some.” The ruling class has never forgiven the Bush administration’s failure to successfully use the 9/11 attacks to recruit more young workers, especially black and Latin, to be patriotic Americans willing to fight in its military.
The Obama administration has promised not to make the same mistake. With wars in Afghanistan and Iraq burning, the economic meltdown and rising unemployment and the rise of new imperialist rivals, time is running out for the U.S. ruling class to try to maintain its position as top imperialist power. As future White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel has stated: “Rule one: Never allow a crisis to go to waste . . . They are opportunities to do big things.” (Boston Globe, 11.30.08)
One “big thing” they’re attempting is to recruit young workers and students to National Service. This includes plans to expand AmeriCorps to 250,000 and double the size of the Peace Corps. These programs under the guise of promoting community service domestically and internationally have been used as a way to stop rebellions and support U.S. imperialist attacks on workers around the world.
They are also proposing that all middle and high school students do at least 50 hours of community service a year, giving a tax incentive of up $4,000 a year in “exchange for 100 hours of public service.” College students would do 100 hours of public service in exchange for tuition decreases, making “a college education affordable.” (Obama’s website).
This service would help meet dire needs of the ruling class:
In order to rebuild a rapidly disintegrating infrastructure, it will create low-wage jobs –– many of them non-union –– thereby lowering the wages of the entire working class
- More bodies in military uniform. (See CHALLENGE, 12/10)
- Win workers and youth to U.S. nationalism
- Clean up the image of the U.S. around the world as the country that spreads “democracy.”
RULERS TURN WORKERS’ COLLECTIVITY ON ITS HEAD FOR THEIR NEEDS
In the absence of a mass communist movement capable of winning thousands of workers to revolutionary ideas, the bosses can twist working-class collectivity into support for capitalism. Many people volunteered during events like 9/11, the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, proving that workers have a willingness to help others and oppose, at some level, the “everyone-for-themselves” mentality of capitalism. A 2006 UCLA study found that 86% of incoming college freshmen — most of whom are now presumably college juniors thinking about post-college employment –– volunteered at least occasionally during high school and 70% did so at least once a week (Washington Post, 11/24/08). The communist PLP aims to take this collective feeling and use it as part of organizing a society based on production for the good of the whole of society.
On the other hand, the bosses’ intentions with community and national service is similar to the Nazis’ call for National Socialism by recruiting young and old to “do what they can” for the sake of the country (i.e., the ruling class). The Obama administration wants to acclimate the U.S. population to the idea of “service” and “sacrifice.” These ideas will be used to convince workers and students to make the deadly error of allying with their class enemies and fighting for U.S. imperialism.
Work Within, Not on the Outside
We can turn Obama and the Democrats’ idea of community and national service on its head by buildng communist ideas within their various “Corps.” That means distributing CHALLENGE and always fighting for service for the working class — organizing against the bosses and for the real interests of the workers. We need to fight against workers getting laid off from their jobs, getting their pensions and homes ripped away from them by the greed of capitalism. We need to fight every attack against immigrant workers, like the murder of Marcelo Lucero in Long Island, by capitalist-inspired racism. We need to fight for communism to get rid of racism, sexism, nationalism and imperialist war. These are our working-class’ calls to service.
The mass unemployment hitting the U.S. and the world will draw many workers to the option of national service. Sooner rather than later this option will become mandatory as inter-imperialist rivalry sharpens and the eventuality of war is clearer. Members and friends of the communist Progressive Labor Party must organize with workers to build class struggle against the bosses — taking the lead in strikes, marches and rallies. We need to build a base of rank-and-file workers to recruit for communist revolution.