Monday, August 27, 2007

Military Industrial Complex

The most significant pronouncement of the 1960's which literally created a new perspective on Post War America for the radical Left and Right. And it is not only relevant today but continues to be the basis for a coherent oppositional critique of the neo-con agenda of American Empire and American Exceptionalism.

The irony is that the those on the New Left like the SDS accepted Eisenhower's assessment of the dangers and used as a critique of American State Capitalism while those from the Old Left embraced it during the cold war as 'anti-Stalinists', and became the founders of the Neo-Con movement in America today.

It was the SDS that inspired the emergence of the libertarian left and the left libertarian critique of this model of State Capitalism.

Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the Nation
January 17, 1961

"Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

"Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."


HE was a soldier who loathed war.

He was a politician who abhorred politics. He was a hero who despised heroics. Yet there was nothing inconsistent about Dwight David Eisenhower. As much as any other American of today or yesterday, he was the storybook American. A man of luminous integrity and decency, of steadfast courage and conscience, he embodied in his wide smile, high ideals and down-to-earth speech all the virtues of a simpler and more serene America.

In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower's challenge from 40 years ago is more relevant today than ever, and he seemed to know it would be. ''Down the long lane of the history yet to be written, America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.... Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.'' Such words are rare in Washington today, but tomorrow their echo can still be heard.

Mega-contractors such as Halliburton and Bechtel supply the government with brawn. But the biggest, most powerful of the "body shops"—SAIC, which employs 44,000 people and took in $8 billion last year—sells brainpower, including a lot of the "expertise" behind the Iraq war.

The War Business

And so, for the private contractors that increasingly make up the infrastructure of our armed forces, fortune has arisen from tragedy. During the first Iraq war, in 1991, one in a hundred American personnel was employed by a private contractor. In the second Iraq war, that ratio is closer to one in ten. The Washing ton Post reports that as much as one third of the rapidly expanding cost of the Iraq war is going into private U.S. bank accounts.

The original point of this massive outflow of federal dollars was to save money. In Donald Rumsfeld's vision, privatization would bring the unbending discipline of the marketplace to bear on war itself. In 1995, well before his return to Washington, Rumsfeld presented to America his "Thoughts from the Business World on Downsizing Government," a monograph informed by his experience as both a White House chief of staff and defense secretary (under Gerald Ford) and a CEO of two large American corporations (General Instrument Corp. and G. D. Searle). "Government programs are effectively insulated from the rigors of the marketplace, and therefore are denied the possibility of failure," he wrote. "Sometimes, nothing short of outright privatization can restore the discipline of a bottom line."

Eisenhower's Farewell Warning Was Meant For Our Time

To be sure, there isn't really such a corporation: the Omnivore Group, as it might be called. But if there were such a company—and, mind you, there isn't—it might look a lot like the largest government contractor you've never heard of: a company known simply by the nondescript initials SAIC (for Science Applications International Corporation), initials that are always spoken letter by letter rather than formed into a pronounceable acronym. SAIC maintains its headquarters in San Diego, but its center of gravity is in Washington, D.C. With a workforce of 44,000, it is the size of a full-fledged government agency—in fact, it is larger than the departments of Labor, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development combined. Its anonymous glass-and-steel Washington office—a gleaming corporate box like any other—lies in northern Virginia, not far from the headquarters of the C.I.A., whose byways it knows quite well. (More than half of SAIC's employees have security clearances.) SAIC has been awarded more individual government contracts than any other private company in America. The contracts number not in the dozens or scores or hundreds but in the thousands: SAIC currently holds some 9,000 active federal contracts in all. More than a hundred of them are worth upwards of $10 million apiece. Two of them are worth more than $1 billion. The company's annual revenues, almost all of which come from the federal government, approached $8 billion in the 2006 fiscal year, and they are continuing to climb. SAIC's goal is to reach as much as $12 billion in revenues by 2008. As for the financial yardstick that really gets Wall Street's attention—profitability—SAIC beats the S&P 500 average. Last year ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company, posted a return on revenue of 11 percent. For SAIC the figure was 11.9 percent. If "contract backlog" is any measure—that is, contracts negotiated and pending—the future seems assured. The backlog stands at $13.6 billion. That's one and a half times more than the backlog at KBR Inc., a subsidiary of the far better known government contractor once run by Vice President Dick Cheney, the Halliburton Company.

It is a simple fact of life these days that, owing to a deliberate decision to downsize government, Washington can operate only by paying private companies to perform a wide range of functions. To get some idea of the scale: contractors absorb the taxes paid by everyone in America with incomes under $100,000. In other words, more than 90 percent of all taxpayers might as well remit everything they owe directly to SAIC or some other contractor rather than to the IRS. In Washington these companies go by the generic name "body shops"—they supply flesh-and-blood human beings to do the specialized work that government agencies no longer can. Often they do this work outside the public eye, and with little official oversight—even if it involves the most sensitive matters of national security. The Founding Fathers may have argued eloquently for a government of laws, not of men, but what we've got instead is a government of body shops.

Port Huron Statement

of the Students for a Democratic Society, 1962

The Military-Industrial Complex. The most spectacular and important creation of the authoritarian and oligopolistic structure of economic decision-making in America is the institution called "the military industrial complex" by former President Eisenhower, the powerful congruence of interest and structure among military and business elites which affects so much of our development and destiny. Not only is ours the first generation to live with the possibility of world-wide cataclysm -- it is the first to experience the actual social preparation for cataclysm, the general militarization of American society. In 1948 Congress established Universal Military Training, the first peacetime conscription. The military became a permanent institution. Four years earlier, General Motor's Charles E. Wilson had heralded the creation of what he called the "permanent war economy," the continuous use of military spending as a solution to economic problems unsolved before the post-war boom, most notably the problem of the seventeen million jobless after eight years of the New Deal. This has left a "hidden crisis" in the allocation of resources by the American economy.

Since our childhood these two trends -- the rise of the military and the installation of a defense-based economy -- have grown fantastically. The Department of Defense, ironically the world's largest single organization, is worth $160 billion, owns 32 million acres of America and employs half the 7.5 million persons directly dependent on the military for subsistence, has an $11 billion payroll which is larger than the net annual income of all American corporations. Defense spending in the Eisenhower era totaled $350 billions and President Kennedy entered office pledged to go even beyond the present defense allocation of sixty cents from every public dollar spent. Except for a war-induced boom immediately after "our side" bombed Hiroshima, American economic prosperity has coincided with a growing dependence on military outlay -- from 1941 to 1959 America's Gross National Product of $5.25 trillion included $700 billion in goods and services purchased for the defense effort, about one-seventh of the accumulated GNP. This pattern has included the steady concentration of military spending among a few corporations. In 1961, 86 percent of Defense Department contracts were awarded without competition. The ordnance industry of 100,000 people is completely engaged in military work; in the aircraft industry, 94 percent of 750,000 workers are linked to the war economy; shipbuilding, radio and communications equipment industries commit forty percent of their work to defense; iron and steel, petroleum, metal-stamping and machine shop products, motors and generators, tools and hardware, copper, aluminum and machine tools industries all devote at least 10 percent of their work to the same cause.

The intermingling of Big Military and Big Industry is evidenced in the 1,400 former officers working for the 100 corporations who received nearly all the $21 billion spent in procurement by the Defense Department in 1961. The overlap is most poignantly clear in the case of General Dynamics, the company which received the best 1961 contracts, employed the most retired officers (187), and is directed by a former Secretary of the Army. A Fortune magazine profile of General Dynamics said: "The unique group of men who run Dynamics are only incidentally in rivalry with other U.S. manufacturers, with many of whom they actually act in concert. Their chief competitor is the USSR. The core of General Dynamics corporate philosophy is the conviction that national defense is a more or less permanent business." Little has changed since Wilson's proud declaration of the Permanent War Economy back in the 1944 days when the top 200 corporations possessed 80 percent of all active prime war-supply contracts.

The Return of the SDS

During the late 1960s, when students all over American were practicing direct democracy on campus by waging massive student strikes and taking over their university buildings, the three essays collected here for the first time were among the most widely read pieces of student radical literature. Their author, Carl Davidson, was national vice-president and inter-organizational secretary of the SDS. Starting from the sociologists' conclusion that modern universities are "knowledge factories" designed to serve the Military Industrial Complex, Davidson, in these essays, explored various analogies and connections between students and the working class and outlined a theory of student syndicalism that characterized a critical phase in the development of SDS. Drawing not only on classical Marxism but also on IWW and anarcho-syndicalist ideas as well as on newer revolutionary currents such as the Dutch Provos and French Situationists, these writings were among the most original and influential documents of the American New Left in its dynamic first decade, and remain an unexcelled "how-to" manual for insurgent students seeking to gain some measure of control over their lives. In a new afterward, the author situates the rise of student syndicalism in its historic context, while reflecting on the meaning of these writings for today.

The SDS of the sixties had its roots in the League for Industrial Democracy, a socialist organization with credentials. The League included Norman Thomas, Upton Sinclair, and Jack London. In the early 1960’s the youth branch of the league clashed with the old establishment and created Students for a Democratic Society. In the early sixties SDS was small, and disorganized because of an understandable aversion to centralization and a belief in localized participatory democracy. SDS involved itself in the civil rights movement and quickly grew. The strength of the SDS, and probably the reason it grew so quickly was that it had no official ideological line. It was certainly radical, but it made no policy naming it Anarchist, Marxist-Leninist, Democratic Socialist, or anything else. Instead it incorporated all of these, and the liberal students too. By creating unity among radicals in general where factionalism once existed the SDS became the biggest, most effective, and most known radical organization of its time.

Especially notable was the preference for community organizing among SDSers. Though many of these campaigns weren’t successful in accomplishing their goals, the idea was the right one. Any radical student organization must be an organization of action, of union organizing, and of protest organizing. Because these actions were so visible, they further contributed to SDS’ growing numbers, and as the organization grew they began to implement all the right actions that gained public attention and in some cases real change. The SDS organized boycotts, direct action, civil disobedience, and also did teach-ins and propagated ideas of class-consciousness. At its height the SDS was able to organize huge marches on Washington, and even gained the qualification of a true radical organization: interference by the FBI.

The American Student Movement of the 1930s

Poster, Declaration of the Rights of American Youth, American Youth Congress
The modern American Student movement began in the 1930s, when the National Student League joined with the Student League for Industrial Democracy to form the American Student Union (ASU). During its peak years, from spring 1936 to spring 1939, the movement mobilized at least 500,000 college students (about half the American student body) in annual one-hour strikes against war. The movement also organized students on behalf of an extensive reform agenda, which included federal aid to education, government job programs for youth, abolition of the compulsory Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), academic freedom, racial equality, and collective bargaining rights.

The Student League for Industrial Democracy was the student affiliate of the League for Industrial Democracy (LID).

There were two distinct groups called the Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID) in two different periods - one existed from 1931 until 1935, the other existed from 1945 until 1960.

The first SLID was formed when radical student members of LID left in 1931 and formed the New York Student League (which was renamed the National Student League a year later). In response to this new group, LID formed SLID in 1931. SLID existed until December of 1935 when, like the student members of LID in 1931, it became too radical for LID, and split off from LID. SLID joined with the National Student League (NSL) when it split from LID, with SLID and NSL combining to form the American Student Union.

The reincarnation of SLID is the more well-known one. In 1945, LID decided to recreate SLID. SLID was a small and fairly moribund group throughout the 1940's and 1950's, much like LID which now was more liberal and anti-communist than socialist. In 1960, SLID renamed itself Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) so as to have a more wide appeal among college students. SDS would become the largest and most influential left-wing student group in American history.

League for Industrial Democracy (or LID)

At Port Huron, Tom Hayden clashed with Irving Howe and Michael Harrington over perceived potential for totalitarianism. Hayden said, "While the draft Port Huron Statement included a strong denunciation of the Soviet Union, it wasn’t enough for LID leaders like Michael Harrington. They wanted absolute clarity, for example, that the United States was blameless for the nuclear arms race...In truth, they seemed threatened by the independence of the new wave of student activism..."

By 1965, SDS had totally divorced itself from the LID, and it became a publishing front for the followers of Max Shachtman, who had dominated the organization since the late 1950s. To this day, the post office box of the Shachtmanite legacy group Social Democrats USA is held under the name League for Industrial Democracy.

League for Industrial Democracy (LID)
"The league was established in 1905 to educate students and other members of society about socialist principles of democracy and labor. Over the years it lost its progressive orientation and by the 1950s became involved with the CIA in efforts to combat communism." Now dominated by anticommunists, its board is composed primarily of neoconservatives associated with the Social Democrats USA and the international institutes of the AFL-CIO.
"Included among LID ranks are Sol Chaikin, Eric Chenowith, William Doherty, Evelyn Dubrow, Larry Dugan, Jr., Norman Hill, David Jessup, John T. Joyce, Tom Kahn, Jay Mazur, Joyce Miller, Albert Shanker, Donald Slaiman, John T. Sweeney, and Lynn R. Williams. Penn Kemble and Roy Godson, a specialist in labor and intelligence theory, are also LID directors. The league received a NED grant in 1985 "for a study on the interrelationship between democratic trade unions and political parties, with special emphasis on socialist and social democratic parties, to examine their attitudes toward U.S. labor, foreign-policy, [and] economic issues.""

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