SDS Position Papers: Why ROTC 'Must GO'

The HUC, the HPC, and SFAC have all suggested that some measures be taken against ROTC as it is now constituted at Harvard. Their suggestions are premised on a liberal assumption: the university is "a neutral haven" for scholarship, in which all points of view are objectively examined. In this community of scholars, all pursuing a "liberal education," the military has no place; what one learns in ROTC courses is of inferior intellectual quality and involves a technical training rather than an academic discipline.

Therefore, the HPC, the HUC, and SFAC seek merely to remove accreditation from ROTC. As the HPC statements says: "Our report is not meant to challenge the existence of ROTC at Harvard, but rather to challenge certain inappropriate aspects of its present status (CRIMSON, 11/15/68). Similarly, the HUC in its statement says: "ROTC could regain all of these privileges by applying for them in the same manner as other Harvard organizations must. . . . These positions, then, in no way challenge the function of ROTC, only its academic status."

We Say that this is a reactionary position - ROTC is bad

To not challenge the function of ROTC and its role in U.S. imperialism by posing the issue in academic terms is in effect to sanction that function. For in the end, ROTC stays on campus or it is thrown off. If it stays, in any form, it continues to provide junior officers for the U.S. military; it is this military that is engaged in the suppression of popular revolutions throughout the world and in the quelling of Black rebellions at home.

Today, in Vietnam, the United States seeks to achieve by negotiations what it has been unable to achieve by military force--the continued freedom of Americans to exploit the third world. It is to protect these freedoms that the U.S. has set up military dictatorships in Thailand, the Congo, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, Iran, etc.; it is to protect these freedoms that the U.S. has razed whole villages (Ben Suc) and almost totally destroyed major cities (Ben Tre--a city of 35,000--was 85 per cent destroyed by U.S. bombing during the Tet offensive. Globe, 2/8/68). There is no just solution to the war in Vietnam except complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and complete termination of American influence.

Corespondingly, just as the United States has no rights in a country which it has tried to conquer, the instruments of U.S. domination in Vietnam (i.e., ROTC, the CIA, etc.) have no rights either therefore to recruit highly trained human resources on American campuses. ROTC trains men in various aspects of the U.S. military; to justify the right to be so trained necessitates condoning the activities in which the U.S. military engages--in effect, one would have to support the right of conquest, the right of a foreign government to exploit a people and to suppress the Black liberation movement at home. There is no such right, any more than there is a right for Murder, Inc. to train and recruit instruments of death.

The role of the University

The assumption on which the HUC, the HPC, and SFAC base their positions is that the university is a neutral institution engaged in value-free research, In fact, Harvard is intimately linked with U.S. imperialism and the oppression of people at home and abroad. Harvard is a corporation; it has business interests, for instance, in the power companies of the American South (companies which follow racist hiring policies) it is a landlord in Cambridge and its effect on the community had been to drive up rents and dispossess working people (at an enormous profit). Harvard allows military recruiters free run of the campus, and specifically, the three ROTC programs, dating back to 1916, are among the oldest in the country. Harvard also gets government research contracts for a variety of purposes (Louis Fieser, the inventor of napalm, is a professor at Harvard), not to mention the fact that it permits CIA agents to take graduate courses at the East Asian Research Center--fortunately, the CIA men are only interested in getting inculcated with the values of a "liberal education"! Harvard also allows recruiters from various corporations on campus to recruit students to continue the oppression of people in Vietnam, South Africa, Guetamala, Iran, etc. It is not surprising that David Rockfeller (President of Chase Manhattan) and others like him sit as Overseers of Harvard University.

Abolish ROTC--the only just position

In the final analysis, after all the rhetoric is cleared away, either ROTC remains and fulfills its purpose, or it is thrown off campus. To have it stay is in effect to support the U.S. military's policies of suppressing just popular revolutions abroad and the quelling of Black rebellions at home. The courses at Harvard and the "liberal" administrative atmosphere obscure this fact. The assumptions that American free enterprise is basically good and that the university is a place for objective scholarship make students think that they are engaged in a process of learning (abstract learning), and in no way part of the struggle between the oppressors and the oppressed. Students come to see themselves in an ivory tower, above the real world, in which the U.S. commits genocide against the Vietnamese people and oppresses Black people at home.

We believe that students must perceive the role of the University in U.S. imperialism and ally with workers at home and abroad in order to right it. Given the nature of the university, the faculty will probably try to to set up a committee to consider the question of ROTC, just as they did with SFAC after Dow. But they will never consider seriously a viewpoint that challenges the function of ROTC, anymore than they will give SFAC real power. Rather, they will use their committees to take up a lot of time and eventually try to buy us off. The only way we can get ROTC off campus is by mobilizing the student body to fight for its abolition. We must build a movement that fights for the only just demand--after all it makes little difference to the Vietnamese peasnts, or to the Black people in U.S. ghettos, whether or not ROTC graduates got course credit for their training. It is ROTC's function, not its academic status, that is rotten, and it must be opposed.

The only just demand is the total abolition of ROTC.

The significance of the anti-ROTC campaign at Harvard

During the course of this fall, a number of students have expressed the sentiment that the Campaign to abolish ROTC was at best quixotic, and perhaps even disruptive in intent. This leaflet is aimed at showing very concretely 1) that ROTC is a significant issue, one that must be fought and won; and 2) that the response of the Administration to the Dec, 12 "sit-in" at Paine Hall is the direct result of this importance. Most of the information in this leaflet comes from a memorandum sent by Army ROTC to the Committee on Educational Policy(CEP) including the quotation above. Copies of this memorandum, entitled "I formation to Illuminate the Harvard Anti-ROTC Debate," are now in our possession--suffice it to say that it is interesting in the context of the CEP resolution, that the content of this memorandum has been so little known on campus.

Why ROTC is important