Thursday, March 13, 2008

The War and the Working Class

The government treats its soldiers the way most corporations treat their workforce--as an invisible, disrespected, disposable means to an end that is contrary to workers' interests. Members of the armed forces come mainly and disproportionately from the working class and from small-town and rural America, where opportunities are hard to come by. The "economic draft" operates, in effect, to recruit young people from these communities as they sign up to gain job skills, experience and educational opportunities absent from their civilian lives.

A number of parallel experiences link the lives of soldiers with those of working-class civilians, going well beyond their common discipline of following orders. Consider "stop-loss" as an example. The military reserves the right to extend the deployment time and active-duty status of every soldier beyond the service dates prescribed in their enlistment contracts and mobilization papers. Most soldiers were unaware of this as the Iraq War intensified, but by the start of 2006 the military had enforced its stop-loss provision on 50,000 of them. Outraged soldiers and their families challenged these extensions in court, but they were upheld.

Meanwhile, in the civilian economy, one out of every five full-time hourly employees worked mandatory overtime--the requirement by management that the worker stay on the job beyond the normal quitting time. Many workers want overtime for the money, but they generally resent being forced into it, especially when it disrupts family plans or taxes their physical or mental strength. While the consequences of stop-loss are more far-reaching, the principle is the same. Both disregard the needs of the workforce and abrogate the expectations working people have of a life outside the control of their employers. .


[Source: The Nation: Top Stories -


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