1980s >> 1984 >> no-963-november-1984

Capitalism: the hate machine

The army exercise Operation Lionheart, which took place in West Germany in September, was said to be the biggest war game since the end of the Second World War; altogether, some 131,000 NATO soldiers were involved along with their air-forces. These forces were divided into the Blues, representing the West, and the Orange, representing the Russian enemy. The purpose of the exercise was to test the West’s responses to an invasion by Russian forces and the battlefield was West Germany right up to the Iron Curtain border. According to a report on BBC Radio Ulster, Soviet observers were to be present and 31,000,000 will be paid in compensation to German farmers for destruction resulting from the war game.

It might be a neighbourly gesture to have the Russians along to observe how the West proposes to slaughter them in the next war. Doubtless NATO’s eastern guests will reciprocate with a military junket of their own and, in the best neighbourly traditions of propertied society—which imposes on the guests the need to surpass their hosts when their turn comes to throw a party—they will give an impressive display of killing capacities.

War, the threat of war, and the consequent need to give priority to “defence” budgets, has always been a feature of capitalism. In the past, it was aberrational, with periods of peace-mongering and disarmament high on the system’s agenda. Armaments are financed by taxation and, directly or indirectly, taxation is a charge on capital; in the past, considerable segments of capitalism have lobbied for arms cuts and reduced taxation.

Since the Second World War that has all changed. The “defence” industries have become deeply interwoven into the fabric of the system and there are few large industries today — and, especially multinational industries — that are not associated with “defence” in one way or another. It is probably impossible to calculate the number of human lives that are bound up in some way with the killing and destruction business. Sivard estimates that they total almost a hundred million, while other estimates put the figure far in excess of this. Apart from the millions engaged in “defence” forces, and their reserves, there are further millions producing armaments, making uniforms, providing food and catering services; there are construction crews, scientists, surveyors — the whole range of occupations and professions. The aircraft industry, the shipbuilding industry, engineering, furniture industry, office equipment, telecommunications, together with such utilities as gas, electricity, coal—it would be difficult indeed to think of an industry that is not involved in some way with war and preparation for war.

Throughout the world, the nations representing the opposing power blocs are now permanently engaged in preparation for war. Vast arsenals of fabulously expensive war materials are continually being rendered obsolete, superseded by newer, more expensive, more threatening and more terrible weapons of mass destruction. In the countries concerned, the staggeringly vast amounts of wealth devoted to weaponry — often in the face of cuts in social welfare and in health care and in education — must be justified. What justification can a government and its pensioned news media give for such organised lunacy?

The only justification that can be given is the need for “defence” — no government has a Department of Offence. But even that will not suffice as a general excuse. The government must identify the potential enemy and, further, must provide evidence of the enemy’s evil intent — evidence commensurate with the appalling outpourings of the “nation’s wealth” on armaments. In other words, throughout the most technically developed countries of the world today there is the permanent need for preparing people psychologically to face up to the prospect of war; the definite need to inculcate hatred, distrust and fear of an identified potential enemy.

Imagine two families living in close proximity to one another adopting this attitude. Both sets of parents continually tell their children that the other family are preparing to harm them and that they must procure the most deadly weapons they can lay hands on to protect themselves. Every day, the parents upbraid their children with the warning that their neighbours are intent on destroying them: the neighbours are deceitful, untrustworthy, evil, heavily armed and constantly intent on destruction.

If such hatred and fear were constantly pumped into the children of both families is it not likely that, at some point, they will come into conflict? And, if the consequences of that conflict led them into court, can you imagine the comments of the bewigged buffoon who presides over the administration of capitalism’s strange and ambivalent “law and order”?

Of course, this analogy is incomplete in that it fails to explain why two normal families should adopt such an attitude to one another. In the case of capitalism the answer is to be found in its unceasing, relentless competition for markets, for natural resources, for trade routes and the need to maintain military forces and strategic areas for the defence or acquisition of these markets.

Additional to these dangers is the permanence of war preparations, the vast expenditure on which needs injections of hatred and fear. Thus, the separate national segments of world capitalism need a Hate Machine — a combination of capitalism’s politicians and the leaders of its institutions, together with its obedient media of mass communication — constantly poisoning the relations between peoples and creating the fears and insecurities essential to the popular acceptance of war and its vastly expensive preparations.

Whatever other deadly lessons capitalism’s captains may have learned from the war game Lionheart, they can be satisfied that it is a valuable input for the Hate Machine. It will have served to show the boys at the front, the “nation” and the whole “free world” who the enemy is going to be; who to hate, to fear and distrust. If it is completely successful, it will have the added advantage of showing just how unpatriotic are those enemies of our civilised way-to-life who would dare to suggest that the wealth used to set up and carry through Lionheart might have been spent on building a couple of thousand houses or on saving the lives of the thousands who died of hunger or hunger-related diseases within our civilised capitalist world during the 22 days of Lionheart.

Richard Montague
(Belfast Branch, World Socialist Party)