“Hamilton Takes Command!”: Student Codetermination of the Military-Industrial Complex?

In June 1775, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia chose Virginia delegate Col. George Washington as commander in chief of the Continental Army then surrounding British-occupied Boston. Hurrying north, Washington spent a day in New York City, where, on Sunday, June 25, 1775, Alexander Hamilton braced at attention for Washington to inspect his militiamen at the foot of Wall Street.

Lower Manhattan and Wall Street, as seen from the South

Two months later, the last hundred British troops withdrew from Manhattan, going aboard the 64-gun man-of-war Asia . At 11 o’clock on the night of August 23, Continental Army Artillery captain John Lamb gave orders for his company, supported by Hamilton’s volunteers and a light infantry unit, to seize two dozen cannons from the battery at the island’s southern tip. The Asia’s captain, having been warned by Loyalists that the Patriots would raid the fort that night, posted a patrol barge with redcoats just offshore. Shortly after midnight, the British spotted Hamilton, his friend Hercules Mulligan, and about 100 comrades tugging on ropes they had attached to the heavy guns. The redcoats opened a brisk musket fire from the barge. Hamilton and the militiamen returned fire, killing a redcoat. At this, the Asia hoisted sail and began working in close to shore, firing a 32-gun broadside of solid shot. One cannonball pierced the roof of Fraunces Tavern at Broad and Pearl Streets. Many years later Mulligan would recall: “I was engaged in hauling off one of the cannons, when Mister Hamilton came up and gave me his musket to hold and he took hold of the rope. . . . Hamilton [got] away with the cannon. I left his musket in the Battery and retreated. As he was returning, I met him and he asked for his piece. I told him where I had left it and he went for it, notwithstanding the firing continued, with as much concern as if the [Asia] had not been there.”

[Regardless of whether he was twenty or eighteen at the time,] Hamilton ’s cool under fire inspired the men around him: they got away with 21 of the battery’s 24 guns, dragged them uptown to City Hall Park and drew them up around the Liberty Pole under guard for safekeeping.

On January 6, 1776, the New York Provincial Congress ordered that an artillery company be raised to defend the colony; Hamilton, unfazed that virtually all commissions were going to native colonists of wealth and social position, leaped at the opportunity. Working behind the scenes to advance his candidacy, he won the support of Continental Congressmen John Jay and William Livingston. His mathematics teacher at King’s College vouched for his mastery of the necessary trigonometry, and Capt. Stephen Bedlam, a skilled artillerist, certified that he had “examined Alexander Hamilton and judges him qualified.”

While Hamilton waited to hear about his commission, Elias Boudinot, a leader of the New Jersey Provincial Congress, wrote from Elizabethtown to offer him a post as brigade major and aide-de-camp to Lord Stirling (William Alexander), commander of the newly formed New Jersey Militia. It was tempting. Hamilton had met the wealthy Scotsman as a student at Elizabethtown Academy and thought highly of him. And if he accepted, Hamilton would likely be the youngest major in the Revolutionary armies. Then Nathanael Greene, a major general in the Continental Army, invited Hamilton to become his aide-de-camp as well. After thinking the offers over, Hamilton declined both of them, gambling instead on commanding his own troops in combat.

Sure enough, on March 14, 1776, the New York Provincial Congress ordered Alexander Hamilton “appointed Captain of the Provincial Company of Artillery of this colony.” With the last of his St. Croix scholarship money, he had his friend Mulligan, who owned a tailor shop, make him a blue coat with buff cuffs and white buckskin breeches.

He then set about recruiting the 30 men required for his company. “We engaged 25 men [the first afternoon],” Mulligan remembered, even though, as Hamilton complained in a letter to the provincial congress, he could not match the pay offered by Continental Army recruiters. On April 2, 1776, two weeks after Hamilton received his commission, the provincial congress ordered him and his fledgling company to relieve Brig. Gen. Alexander McDougall’s First New York Regiment, guarding the colony’s official records, which were being shipped by wagon from New York’s City Hall to the abandoned Greenwich Village estate of Loyalist William Bayard.

In late May 1776, ten weeks after becoming an officer, Hamilton wrote to New York’s provincial congress to contrast his own meager payroll with the pay rates spelled out by the Continental Congress: “You will discover a considerable difference,” he said. “My own pay will remain the same as it is now, but I make this application on behalf of the company, as I am fully convinced such a disadvantageous distinction will have a very pernicious effect on the minds and behavior of the men. They do the same duty with the other companies and think themselves entitled to the same pay.

-Willard Sterne Randall, Hamilton Takes Command, ca. January 2003

Tonight, I am proud to announce that, thanks to the general guidance provided Richard David Wolff, my refinements of the Socialist Student Economy (SSE) is going along quite well. Wolff’s ESOP (Employee Stake-Owner Plan) and WSDE (Worker Self-Directed Enterprise) was the spark of inspiration that compelled me to split the latest Third Place Post into two Parts.

If I were to reapply his concepts into a more Hamiltonian Federalist, more Prussian or more Bolshevist manner, I am presented with a promising conclusion for “Third Place: Student Cooperatives and the 600-Ship Navy (Pt. II of II).”

Given the Student Government of the SSE, I can envisage a potential Student Codetermination of the Military-Industrial Complex as well as opportunities for the SSE to actually build a 600-Ship Navy at the fraction of the cost and within the timeframe of a Four-Year Work-Plan.

Codetermination is a fundamental aspect of Council Democracy wherein the members of Community-Organized Guilds (or in Wolff’s case, Labor Unions) vote on who among them should delegate on their behalf at their local Council, with the voting itself being conducted at the workspace itself. We can expect something similar in the Military-Industrial Complex, particularly among students serving their Drafts under the Council State’s Three-Year Conscription Policy. There are only four ways for the student body to serve the Draft:

  • With the Vocational Civil Services of the Workforces
  • With the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Armed Forces
  • With the Youth Cooperatives of the Military-Industrial Complex
  • With Your Student Government’s SSE

Since I am relying on the Socialist Nation from the SMP Compendium as my template, we can assume that the Military-Industrial Complex falls under the administrative jurisdiction of the Ministry Energy & Armaments Production. These Student Cooperatives are actual Cooperatives: the students involved do in fact control their own portion of the means of production in this regard. Acting at the behest of the Council State itself, through a joint program between the Ministry of Education (which oversees the Student Government) and the Ministry of Energy & Armaments Production (which oversees the Military-Industrial Complex itself), the Student Government wields the Intents of Command and Obedience for the students who run and operate the Student Cooperatives.

Every Student Cooperative involved in the Military-Industrial Complex is therefore an SAE (State-Administrated Enterprise) by default because they are under the Student Government’s Direct Command and thereby its Command Responsibility. The Student Government is ultimately responsible for whatever happens to the Student Cooperative and the actions of everyone involved within its day-to-day affairs.

Unlike the rest of the Military-Industrial Complex, the Student Cooperatives have more than just Codetermination at their disposal. They are also capable of coordinating their Student Government’s Total Educational Effort with friendly foreign Student Governments. The arrangements can be done officially or unofficially under international law and the Rapallo Treaty is a great example of both:

In 1920 any well-informed observer would have found it highly improbable, if not impossible, that Germany and Russia would pose a military threat to the world for decades to come. Both countries were in desperate shape after World War I. Germany had suffered a catastrophic defeat, and its new democratic government had to contend with an economic crisis, a communist revolution, and the loss of 10 percent of its territory. Things were even worse in Russia. Millions of Russians had died in the war. The civil war between the Reds and the Whites—and intervention by the Western powers—had further devastated the country.

Yet just over a decade later, Germany and Russia were fielding cutting-edge air and mechanized forces. More remarkably, by the outbreak of World War II, the defeated powers of the First World War had surpassed the victors in their ability to wage modern, mechanized warfare. This transformation lay in a feat of military secrecy on a grand scale: a period of cooperation in which the Soviet Union helped Germany circumvent international law by allowing it to rebuild its armed forces in Russia, and in which Germany gave Russia an evolutionary boost in technology and training[.]

The two nations were still major powers, however. Germany had the world’s second largest industrial economy after the United States and remained on the cutting edge of technology development. And even a weakened Russia still had a large population and vast unexploited natural resources. Both countries saw the Western Allies as their primary threats, and both believed that the only means of national survival was in building superior military forces.

The earliest stages of the German-Russian postwar relationship remain murky. Immediately after the First World War, the German government had little thought for long-term foreign policy as it contended with one internal crisis after another. But a few individuals were able to look beyond the short term. One of them was the visionary Col. Gen. Hans von Seeckt, newly appointed commander of the German army. Seeckt was interested in developing military cooperation with the new Soviet regime and saw Russia as a place where Germany could secretly produce weapons far from the prying eyes of the Allied disarmament inspectors. In early 1920 Seeckt began sending out feelers to the Russian regime through Turkish contacts he had made during the war. These initial forays were conducted privately, without the knowledge or consent of the German government.

Hans von Seeckt

Seeckt was not alone in seeing Russia as a place where Germany might pursue military production. Officials in the German Foreign Office also considered developing economic and military contacts with the Soviet Union, and by 1920 members of the Foreign Office began secret discussions with the Soviet War Ministry about selling German weapons and technology to the Soviet regime.

It might seem strange for Germany to establish relations with a communist revolutionary state just after brutally suppressing a Soviet-supported rebellion by German communists—which it did in 1919—but both sides saw a certain logic to it. Germany had the expertise and modern technology that Russia urgently needed; Lenin saw these diplomatic and military efforts as a means of breaking the Western Allies’ economic and military stranglehold on Russia. And Russia, for its part, could offer the Germans plenty of space to build secret factories to produce the modern weapons the Western Allies had denied them, without fear of discovery by the IAMCC.

With both nations desperately needing to reestablish themselves as military powers, their governments entered into secret negotiations. General von Seeckt carefully laid the groundwork for the alliance, creating in late 1920 an office under his direct control within the Reichswehr staff: “Special Group R,” the for Russland—Russia. Seeckt later dispatched Col. Hermann von der Lieth-Thomsen, a highly regarded general staff officer who had been chief of the air service in the First World War, to serve as the German army’s secret representative in Moscow.

In April 1922 Germany and the Soviet Union signed a treaty of trade and friendship at Rapallo, Italy. The published version of the treaty established friendly relations between the two nations that included trade and investment. But the treaty also had a secret annex, signed two months later, that established close military cooperation between the two powers. Under the treaty’s secret provisions, Germany would establish joint ventures with the Soviet government to build weapons factories in Russia. These included aircraft manufacturing plants, ammunition factories, and a poison gas plant. Russia would also set up [armored and chemical warfare] schools, and provide the Germans with bases where they could train airmen. German officers of the elite general staff were assigned to teach in the Soviet army and air force staff academies. Soviet officers were allowed to take the German army’s general staff course—probably the finest advanced officer course in the world.

The Rapallo agreement was a diplomatic and military masterstroke: The public part of the agreement alone took the Allied powers by complete surprise. The secret part of the agreement—the allying of the Weimar Republic’s new army, the Reichswehr, with the Soviet Union—was something they could not even have imagined.

To keep it that way, every effort was made to deceive the Allies as the extensive military activities got underway. German airplanes were flown across borders into Russia at night, and shipments of military goods were sent by roundabout routes and boxed as “farm machinery.” The military training bases were set up in remote areas, and German military personnel assigned to training in Russia were officially discharged from the army and sent under assumed names. Upon completing their training they were reinstated in the army as if they had never left.

One industrial enterprise did have a lasting impact. The German army sponsored a deal with Junkers Aircraft Company to build a secret factory in Russia in the village of Fili, just outside Moscow, in 1922. At the time, Junkers had the most advanced all-metal aircraft designs in the world. Dozens of Germany’s top aircraft designers and technicians traveled secretly to Russia to help the Russians set up aircraft and engine factories to build the latest Junkers designs.

Junkers AG Advertisement

To work on the Junkers project, the Soviets assembled an aircraft design team under the brilliant young engineer Andrei Tupolev. The Germans liked Tupolev and his team, and admired their desire to learn. But the factory languished because the Soviet regime was unable to buy more than a handful of aircraft. After manufacturing only 150 airplanes in two years, and losing a great deal of money in the process, Junkers pulled out and turned the plant over to the Russians.

Yet, by providing the Russian designers and engineers with access to the latest western technology and ideas, this brief cooperation provided a major boost to the fledgling Soviet aircraft industry. Tupolev and his team took over the Fili factory and began manufacturing the TB-1 and TB-3 bombers—both of which showed a strong similarity to the Junkers designs of the era. By the early 1930s the Soviet aircraft industry was growing at an astounding rate, and by the middle of the decade, the Soviet Union possessed one of the largest and most modern air forces in the world.

[T]o ensure the training was as modern as possible, the Reichswehr managed to quietly obtain one of the hottest fighter planes of the era: the Fokker D XIII. During the crisis of 1923, when France and Belgium occupied the Ruhr valley following Germany’s failure to make required reparations payments, the German army made secret war preparations that included ordering 50 of the new fighters from its old friend, Dutch aircraft manufacturer Anthony Fokker[.]

A similar success story was unfolding with armor development. One of the most painful mistakes the German General Staff made in World War I was its belated appreciation of the role of armored vehicles on the battlefield. In contrast to the Allies, who had fielded tanks by the thousands in 1918, Germany started late and had manufactured only a handful of tanks by the end of the war. Although denied tanks by the Versailles Treaty, the Germans made the development of modern armored forces a high priority in the 1920s.

In 1925, the Reichswehr’s weapons office contracted the engineering firms of Daimler, Rheinmetall, and Krupp to build prototype heavy tanks, each armed with a large-caliber gun, several machine guns, and thick armor. The tank prototypes were to incorporate the most advanced engines and transmissions, be gas-proof, and be able to cross rivers. In 1927 the order was followed up by contracts to produce light tanks, also with all the latest engineering features. In keeping with the highly secret nature of the program, the Germans used code names for the armor in all military correspondence: ‘large tractors’ for the heavy tanks and ‘light tractors’ for the light tanks.

By 1929 the German companies had produced six prototype heavy tanks and four light tanks and shipped them to the Russian industrial city of Kazan to be tested. These tanks, in addition to prototype armored cars produced by the Daimler and Büssing companies, helped equip the German tank officer school, which opened the same year. Along with military personnel, dozens of German engineers were secretly brought to Russia to oversee the armored experiments. Ferdinand Porsche—who would go on to design the most notorious heavy tank of World War II (and possibly of all time), the Tiger Mk IV—had his first experience in tank design as head of Daimler’s “large tractor” project and observed the German army’s first armored maneuvers in Kazan.

The Soviets were just beginning to organize mechanized forces in 1929, so they were especially eager to support the German tank school and testing station. With tank production beginning in the Soviet Union, the Red Army’s top priority was to develop a force and doctrine for armored warfare; Red Army leaders saw the Germans, admired as masters of operational-level warfare, as the best means to get the program going. That year, the German General Staff sent three officers to the Red Army to help advise in the creation of the Red Army’s first tank units.

To ensure the Germans had the support they needed for their armor school and testing center, the Red Army gave the Germans 30 brand new tanks—one-third of the Red Army’s tank production for 1929. Along with 10 German tanks, the Germans could now practice battalion-sized and larger operations. Although the armored warfare course was only for German officers, Soviet technicians were allowed to examine and test-drive the German prototype equipment, and more than 60 carefully selected Red Army officers were allowed to participate in the exercises and war games. As the Soviet tank force expanded, the Red Army formed its new tank units near Kazan so they could conduct large-scale maneuvers with the Germans in 1930 and 1931.

-James S. Corum, Devil’s Bargain:
Germany and Russia Before WWII

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