Sunday, May 25, 2008

Labour embraces militarism

From the Socialist Party of Great Britain blog, Socialism Or Your Money Back:

At one time - a long, long time ago now - the Labour Party used to project itself, and was even seen as, the party of peace. The present series of Labour government, having committed British troops to two unpopular wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) is now seen by many as the party of war. Far from being ashamed of this, the Labour Party is revelling in it. According to a report in the London Times (20 May):
"A Bank Holiday to celebrate the work of the Armed Forces is under consideration by the Government as part of a drive to improve relations between the military and the public. Legislation is also to be introduced to make it a criminal offence to discriminate against military personnel in Service dress or combat fatigues. This is an attempt to encourage members of the Armed Forces to wear their uniforms in public as often as possible. Anyone who physically attacks a serviceman or servicewoman in uniform will also be charged with an "aggravated offence", to underline the seriousness now attached to the well-being and security of Armed Forces personnel when in the public eye.
The recommendations are in an official report, National Recognition of Our Armed Forces, drawn up by Quentin Davies, the MP and former Tory defence spokesman, who switched to Labour in June last year. He was asked by Gordon Brown to investigate ways of improving the relationship between the military and the civilian public ( . . .)
Bob Ainsworth, the Armed Forces Minister, confirmed that the government had accepted all the recommendations in the report."
This is a logical enough position for any government of capitalism to take. The armed forces don't exist just for decorative purposes. They exist to allow a country to have some credibility and clout in the rivalry built-in to capitalism between all capitalist states over sources of raw materials, trade routes, markets, investment outlets and strategic points and areas to protect these. Normally this involves peaceful diplomatic negotiations but always against a background of threats, direct or understood. Sometimes it involves sabre-rattling. But sometimes it involves war, the organised use of force to kill and destroy. In any event, an effective fighting force is a valuable thing to have in a world where might is right.
Although governments can ignore "public opinion" over going to war (as the Blair government did over Iraq), hoping to win people over once it's started, they'd like to have this support from the start. One way to achieve this is to glorify the armed forces and present them as heroes doing their duty to defend the rest of us.
But it is equally logical for Socialists to reject and combat such militarist propaganda because we don't want workers to kill workers from other countries in pursuit of capitalist interests. We want the members of the armed forces to be seen for what they really are: trained hired killers for the ruling, capitalist class.
It is not clear whether the Labour government's planned Bill to encourage militarism will mean that in future it will be a crime to make this point.
Adam Buick