MacArthurism is local, state and national security forces using dramatic displays of militancy against peaceful activists-like beatings, pepper-spray, destroying encampments, caging protesters for hours without food and water-mainly to justify their massive budget expenditures and to propagate the need for more police forces, more training, and more advanced weaponry. It is an opportunity for militant and career-minded leaders to achieve new goals to fund more jails and prisons, and to push through new legislation to militarize courts while repressing peaceful dissent.
‘We’ll Survive This’
Just like Occupy Wall Street protesters and the soon approaching 2012 new year, eighty years ago battle lines were also drawn between Bonus Army marchers and the powers residing in Washington DC and Wall Street. Thirty-thousand World War One veterans had descended upon the nation’s Capitol requesting their $250 bonuses for having fought in the Great War. (According to then-President Woodrow Wilson, it was a war that had made America safe for democracy.) However, Congress and President Herbert Hoover refused to meet with the hungry and unemployed marchers, let alone grant their bonuses.
Therefore, a contingent of veterans occupied and camped on a small portion of land near the Capitol. President Hoover considered the squalid shantytown, filled with veterans and their poor families, an eyesore and embarrassment, even a disgrace. Congress and Wall Street associated many of them with radical communists and revolutionaries wanting to overthrow the government. After several months of peaceful marches filled with patriotic songs, President Hoover called on General Douglas MacArthur to clear the Bonus Marchers from several abandoned government buildings where they were living.
Although the War Department accounted for the largest chunk in the national budget,(1) Chief of Staff General MacArthur, a career-minded military officer and politician, resented how the stock market crash and Great Depression had prevented an increase in funding for America’s armed forces. And when MacArthur was not fighting to protect and fund his army, he was fighting to control the public’s imagination. Like others in the conservative War Department, General MacArthur regarded protesters across America threats to the national security, calling them Communists and anarchists, both reprehensible scourges.(2)> Years earlier, General MacArthur had opposed the Geneva Convention and Washington Naval Conference‘s disarmament treaties, viewing them as “pacifist” movements and a national threat. When addressing the graduating class at the University of Pittsburgh, he seized the occasion to argue that demonstrators protesting the government’s ineffectual responses to the spreading Depression were “organizing the forces of unrest and undermining the morals of the working man.” Students that jeered were arrested. The university apologized and announced incoming freshmen would sign loyalty oaths.(3)
Upon receiving orders from President Hoover, General MacArthur saw an opportunity to use his army in a spectacular manner against Bonus Army occupiers. Even though a Veterans Administration survey showed that 94 percent of the Bonus Army marchers had army or navy records, 67 percent had served overseas and 20 percent had been disabled, General MacArthur refused to believe it. He thought 90 percent of them were fakes and wrote their ranks “were swollen with criminals, men with prison records for such crimes as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, burglary, blackmails, and assault.”(3).
General MacArthur never changed his mind about the protesters, but he did claim to have captured a secret document disclosing a secret Communist plan. It covered such details as the public trial and hanging in front of the Capitol of high government officials, and at the very top of the list was the name of Army Chief of Staff MacArthur.(4) The secret document, leaked to the media, was a fake. The Bonus Army marchers were only hungry for food and justice and dignity. Meanwhile, General MacArthur believed a commander must protect his image at all costs and must never admit his wrongs.(5)
General MacArthur falsely believed there was an “incipient revolution in the air” and informed his officers that he was “going to break the back” of the Bonus Army.(6) He also wanted to dramatically use his army to justify the need to Congress to increase its funding. General MacArthur gave the orders to march and while the last cavalry charge on U.S. soil was trampling veterans, tanks were dismantling and burning down the protesters squalid encampment. General MacArthur’s shock and awe campaign killed three veterans and a veteran’s wife. A boy was bayoneted. A 9-month-old baby suffocated in the flames.
Today, OWS protesters are still battling MacArthurism. MacArthurism is local, state and national security forces using dramatic displays of militancy against peaceful activists-like beatings, pepper-spray, destroying encampments, caging protesters for hours without food and water-mainly to justify their massive budget expenditures and to propagate the need for more police forces, more training, and more advanced weaponry. It is an opportunity for militant and career-minded leaders to achieve new goals to fund more jails and prisons, and to push through new legislation to militarize courts while repressing peaceful dissent.
MacArthurism is violent bureaucracies that rationalize and justify disproportionate uses of force. While concentrating power and weapons in the hands of the capital-rich Few and their security forces, it dis-empowers regional and local working-class movements. It also enriches corporate armament industries and their media empires. Repeated images usually portray peaceful protesters negatively. Seldom are their voices aired. Instead, viewers are fed a steady diet of leaders and their emotional warnings that protesters are radicals, socialists, terrorists, or anarchists, and that they need to “take a bath” and “get a job.”
But with 26 million unemployed Americans, jobs are scarce, as is national unity. Just as MacArthurism can break nations by misappropriating and wasting funds on needless military expenditures, when intermingled with hyper-police forces, it can destroy local communities. Overtime, distrust and insecurity among the poor and working-classes builds against the rapid growth of government policing. Mixed with over-taxation and an increase in economic disparity, minor and major revolutions or acts of sabotage occur. They are displayed through criminal activities or attacking the state and its armed forces.
As modern-day MacArthurism engages in more costly security measures at home and more deadly wars abroad, and as it commits more absurd and violent acts against peaceful protesters and foreign citiznes, its capacity to provide stability and democracy will end. During economic crises, the best way to maintain a nation and to protect state freedoms is always to provide employment opportunities while rejecting empire building and hyper-militarism. The best way to build safe and democratic communities is always through educational and public works programs while dismantling hyper-security forces.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt claimed that General MacArthur, who exceeded his orders, was “one of the two most dangerous men in the country.”(7) President Roosevelt understood that an engaged workforce, like the OWS protesters, was more productive and liberating than military and security forces or a rogue general. Workers and protesters should have a higher degree of patriotic fever than MacArthurism, which is one of the two most dangerous ideologies in the country. The other most dangerous American ideology is passive and disengaged citizenry. Is it not time, then, for citizens to exceed their orders?
(Today, Monday, December 12, the Occupy Wall Street groups in California, Oregon and Washington state are taking action against the 1% owners and the global economy by committing to a general strike to shut down West Coast ports. In “Counterpunch,” Steve Stallone, Secretary of Pacific Media Workers Guild, writes: “They hope to amass picket demonstration so large that dockworkers of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), long live the radical labor vanguard of the West, will invoke the part of their contract allowing them not to cross the line because it is a health and safety risk.”
Mr. Stallone also believes the Shut Down Wall Street on the Waterfront movement “…could signal a new direction for the Occupy movement: engaging in mass direct actions outside of established institutions to both support local labor practices and strike at the heart of the global economic apparatus.” The ILWU has also been on the forefront of improving workers rights and preventing deadly military equipment and weapons from reaching dictatorial regimes around the world. Please show your support and solidarity for this historic movement and general strike.)(8)
Dallas Darling (firstname.lastname@example.org)