AGAINST MILITARISM: The State, Exploitation
"War is the health of the state." The truth of this statement stems
from a deeper reality: war is, in fact, the basic functioning of the
state. But to understand this one must have clarity of the nature of
war and "peace". During the times when most people considered
war in terms of the threat of nuclear annihilation, fear clouded
understanding. Although this threat hasn't actually disappeared, it no
longer seems to loom on the horizon with the immediacy that it had
in the '80's and before. The military actions we have seen in recent
years could remove the cloud that prevents a clear understanding of
the nature of war if we examine them well.
In recent decades there have been very few declared wars in spite
of the fact that military actions have constant. As early as the '60's,
the U.S. war against Viet Nam was never declared as such, but
rather started as "advising" and then evolved into a "police action".
Since then military actions have been known by such names as
"peacekeeping mission", "humanitarian mission", 'surgical strike".
This apparently Orwellian language is in fact very revealing to those
who examine it carefully. If the bombing of hospitals and apartment
buildings can be a "police action", then events such as the bombing
of the MOVE house in Philadelphia are simply par for the course. It
should also come as no surprise that increasingly big city police
forces are receiving military training and that the Marines have been
training in American cities for dealing with urban unrest. In the case
of the former, we are dealing with the training of "peace officers",
and in the case of the latter, with the training of "peace-keeping
forces". The unity of purpose between the police and the military is
thus quite evident.
The purpose which these two institutions serve is social peace. But if
armed organizations are necessary for the maintenance of social
peace, then this so-called "peace" rests on a bed-rock of violence.
All states, however democratic, only exist by means of force. From
its beginning, the purpose of the state has always been to maintain
the privilege of the powerful few against the exploited many. In light
of this, it is evident that social peace means nothing other than the
suppression of rebellion, of any uprising of the exploited. Such
suppression involves violence or the threat of violence-the perpetual
terrorism of the state visible in uniform on every street. Thus, social
peace is simply an aspect of the ongoing social war of the rulers
against those who they exploit, the war necessary to maintain
capitalism and the state.
In this light pacifism is useless against militarism and war. To call
states to interact peacefully is to ignore the primary function of the
state. For the state, war is peace-that is to say, violence the way to
maintain social peace, the continuation of domination and
exploitation. This is as true for democratic states as it is for blatantly
dictatorial and oligarchic regimes. The former merely supplement the
force of arms with the illusory participation in consensus creating
"dialogue"-which always upholds the present order-as a means to
keep the exploited under control. So if the struggle against militarism
and war is not to be a futile symbolic gesture that ultimately upholds
what it claims to fight, it must leave behind the moralisms of pacifism
and humanitarianism which the state has already drawn into the
realm of its justifications for war. This struggle must recognize the
reality of the ongoing social war against the exploited and of the
necessity to transform itself into a revolutionary struggle aimed at
destroying the state and capital. For only when the state and capital
are destroyed will the ongoing social war come to an end.