Remembering the 'Greatest Generation'

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There has been a lot of hype in the mass media about the so-called 'Greatest Generation' -- the generation that fought in World War II. First there was "Saving Private Ryan," the Hollywood blockbuster starring Tom Hanks, which glorified the sacrifices of those who fought in the war. More recently, there has been a media campaign to erect a monument to the soldiers and sailors who "made the world safe for the American way of life." Tom Brokaw, one of the most prominent television news reporters/broadcasters in the United States, has published two books on this generation, both those who fought in the war. The television news has been inundated with "heart-warming" stories about "long overdue" medals and citations being awarded to aging veterans. Various tributes have been made to the factory workers who worked long and hard to produce the weapons and materials needed to prosecute the war. A strong dose of gratitude is handed to those men and women who were not sent into combat but who worked under often dangerous and difficult conditions to keep production for war going at a fierce pace. There has been homage to all the women who worked as nurses or factory workers or truck drivers to keep war production going.

At the start of the 21st century, more than fifty-five years after the days of the Second Imperialist World War, which pitted the newer, major industrial powers such as Germany and Italy, against the more mature, dominant capitalist powers, such as the USA, Britain, and France - the media has been intent on demonstrating that wars can be good, wars can be popular, and that war is heroic. They are trying to take advantage of the aging veterans who are reportedly dying at the rate of several thousand a day - the fathers and grandfathers of the current generations of the working class, which has not been ideologically defeated by the ruling class and convinced to sacrifice itself for imperialism -- to glorify the "honor" of imperialist slaughter.

The intervening years-between the end of the Second World War and today- has seen disaffection among the population in America, and in other major powers, with the notion of major war. For years now, the US as the strongest military power and the dominant imperialist power on the planet, has been doing battle in small theaters- like the infamous war in Vietnam and as well as in the former component parts of Yugoslavia. Recently, the US has striven to 'ideally' win quickly through the use of incredibly overwhelming power. This follows the 'Powell Doctrine' that was used in the Gulf War. A televised war, which is over very quickly, is thought to be more palatable to the general population. We cannot help but note, that the former general is serving as Secretary of State for the new Bush administration.

Imperialist war is never, in the current period of capitalist decadence and social decomposition, in the interests of the working class. While certain 'generations' of the proletariat have been enlisted by the capitalist state to fight wars for capitalism during the twentieth century, it has not been in interests of the working class. Historically, the working class has recognized that the matters of imperialist conquest and war entail the destruction of millions of lives and of many of the accomplishments of humanity made over many centuries. Rather than celebrate the imperialist butchery as the bourgeois ideological campaign tries to do, to genuinely honor the suffering and hardships of our fathers and grandfathers requires that the working class today guarantee that capitalism will never again lead humanity into another orgy of destruction and murder, that the working class today destroy the capitalist system.

This generation, and the generations to come have challenges awaiting. There is a real need to fight the most important war, the war against the decadent capitalist system. Such a revolutionary struggle, on an international scale, can develop the basis for a new society freed from the rule of capital and controlled by the vast majority of the population - the proletariat.

Eric Fischer

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