FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond

H. Bruce Franklin is a retired literature professor and the author of numerous books of criticism. He is also a leftist and an anti-imperialist. He was a founding member of the Bay Area Revolutionary Union, an ROTC undergraduate and an officer in the United States Air Force. While in the air force, he was a navigator on planes under the command of the Strategic Air Command (SAC). The primary task of the command was to conduct reconnaissance of the Soviet Union. This surveillance often involved violating Soviet air space and then denying such violations had occurred. Franklin was a navigator on planes designed to refuel bombers and other such aircraft during their missions. His time in the military and what he saw while under its command were crucial to his becoming an antiwar activist when he got out.

Franklin’s most recent book, Crash Course: From the Cold War to the Forever War, is part biography, part political analysis, and part history. The latter element is informed by Franklin’s personal biography and includes the also-mentioned analysis. While describing his early life as a true believer in the myth of US democracy and the nation’s overall goodness, Franklin details memories of events in his childhood that led him to believe this story. As a child growing up during World War Two, he followed the victories of US forces, cheering on their march towards victory. In his telling, he recalls the emotions he felt when US bombers dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the emotions were not of anguish but of celebration. Following his sharing of childhood emotions, Franklin then takes on the various justifications for those bombings, challenging and ultimately destroying each one. Woven into his recollections of his youth are memories of the heroic role played by Soviet forces in the defeat of the Nazi armies. Once again putting on his historian’s hat, he then proceeds to describe the recasting of the Soviets as an enemy almost immediately after World War Two ended.

As far as Franklin was concerned at the time, the Soviets had become the enemy. Like many other US citizens, he bled red, white and blue, never questioning the foreign policy of Washington and always willing to do what was asked of him to serve the Empire. So, he joined ROTC, became an Air Force officer, and did as he was told. It wasn’t until some time in the mid 1950s that Franklin and his wife—along with millions of other US residents—began to wonder about the truth of the American myths. Crucial to their questioning was a growing awareness of the legal racial apartheid then accepted by almost all white-skinned US residents. The civil rights movement was expanding its reach and influence, causing many otherwise liberal white folks to examine their role in maintaining that apartheid. Some, like Franklin and his wife, began to realize that the discrepancy between the professed faith of equality and freedom for all and the blatant repression of African-Americans was not only immoral, it was unsustainable. History tells us this realization along with the activism of Black Americans would cause the wall of white supremacy to crack. Today’s news also tells us that wall is not yet completely destroyed.

After his stint with the military was over, Franklin went on to more studies, ultimately ending up as a faculty member at Stanford University. It was during his time at Stanford that Franklin and his partner in politics and life, Jane Franklin, moved politically from antiwar progressives to revolutionary Marxists. Their activism and Bruce’s professorial career took them to Europe and the East Coast. Their speeches, writings and protests drew the attention of US and local law enforcement agencies involved in the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. After a particularly intense period of harassment that included the filing of false charges against Franklin and the ultimate loss of his position at Stanford, the Franklins moved to New Jersey when Bruce was offered a position at Rutgers University’s Newark campus.

There is so much to this book. Franklin’s insights into the mentality of the US during the Cold War based on his work re-fueling SAC bombers and his belief (at the time) in the policies of Washington provide the histories one has read regarding the period with a personal perspective. That perspective does more to explain the nature of propaganda in the nuclear age than anything else I can currently recall. His description of the political journey he and his partner took is specific to a time and place, but is also one taken by many others before and since. As noted earlier in this review, Crash Course is both a memoir and a history. Franklin’s mastery of the craft of writing has created a book where each element enhances the essential nature of the other. The story he tells here describes not only an epoch in the history of a nation and an individual, but also the consciousness that created that history.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail