Recently, a company commander in the Middle East held a meeting to tell everyone how good a job they’re doing. This has become such a repetitive occurrence that the words coming out of his mouth seem like a memorized speech. You can feel the tension as everyone gathers around him.
The issues on everyone’s mind are not about the good job everyone is doing; they’re about the long hours that soldiers have to work and about the petty rules the leadership has enforced for the entire company. The silence is noteworthy because everyone takes a look at each other, and everyone knows exactly what is going on.
At this midpoint of the deployment, morale is at its all time low. After all, who can ever make sense of an 18-hour-work-day? Or justify such babysitting rules as evening curfews? Who is able to agree with the multiple article 15’s/counseling statements for crimes like talking back, faking illnesses, and missing a doctor’s appointment? Or who can make sense of growing Afghani civilian deaths, or a million Iraqi deaths, or thousands of U.S. GI deaths so that U.S. bosses can control the region’s oil, oil pipelines, and profits?
The hypocrisy of the commander’s praise was clear to everyone. At this little meeting, the smirk on one soldier’s face, the readjusting of body positions, and the quiet coughs and comments capture the mood a hundred times better than the commander’s useless speech.
A month later soldiers decided to write a leaflet exposing the corrupt and incompetent leadership of this company. The leaflet was posted everywhere on the base. It denounced the leadership for not caring about its soldiers. It pointed out that the leadership took measures simply to make sure they looked good; the shinier the brass, the better the chance of promotion. These deployments are career-makers for officers seeking promotions. And the culture of this Army breeds leaders who take advantage of their power; these leaders work soldiers into the ground just to make themselves look good. This is the culture of capitalism, especially capitalism in crisis pushing soldiers more and more. Ask any maintenance soldier in our unit, and that soldier will express how mechanics are worked like mules.
When this leaflet was discovered, the first sergeant was taken into custody by the military police. No one knows why; perhaps for his protection. The entire company was called for formation, where the remaining leadership lashed out in fear. This may not be common across the board, but it was something to behold on this day. As one soldier said, it was “great to see how angry they got.” The officers were scared!
Rank-and-file soldiers, who had received political literature that is still discussed, created the leaflet. Many agreed with the literature that was distributed to them before they deployed. In fact, many in the unit became close friends in discussing this literature. This literature led to some soldiers sharing CHALLENGE and conversations about anti-racist, anti-imperialist, and communist politics with many friends. Since the leaflet there have been many political discussions. The response of the leadership was retaliation. But that was fine with us. After all, this is the Army. If they give us a hard time, you bet it’s worth giving them worse.
In the midst of enormous lay-offs that have sky rocketed unemployment, this rebellious atmosphere is needed everywhere. Racist capitalism haunts us all, and we must organize and fight it all together, to destroy it with communist revolution. More soldiers can join this fight.