Editorial: Lethal Might Before Needs

As the calamity of Brexit continues to engulf British capitalism, its representatives and supporters indulge in all manner of fantasies and delusions. We are assured that once the UK leaves the EU, the rest of the world would be falling over themselves to negotiate trade deals with it. Now we are told that the UK can again become a great global military power as it was in the good old days of the British Empire.

As Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, put it in his speech to the Royal United Services Institute on 11th February , ‘Brexit has brought us to a great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality and increase our mass.’  However, this speech was not well received in certain quarters. His boss, Theresa May, was none too pleased with his plans to send an aircraft carrier to the Pacific, a move that the Chinese leaders  would interpret as being provocative, as she hoped to establish closer economic ties with Chinese capitalism. Provoking other countries militarily is generally not seen as the best way to form advantageous trading relations with them. Indeed the Chinese leaders were so incensed by this, they cancelled a proposed visit to Beijing that Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, had intended to make with the hope of forging trade deals with them.

It is also ironic that Williamson proposed to take ‘action to oppose those who flout international law’ when the UK government has done that on several occasions.

However, the speech was more than posturing by a Churchill wannabee trying to promote his career. When he said the Western powers  must be prepared to ‘use hard power to support our interests’, he was not just laying bare the current real tensions between Russia and China on one side and the Western Powers on the other, but was  also revealing the essential nature of capitalism  as a system whereby nation states need to compete with each other over global markets and that for this purpose vital trade routes and sources of raw materials need to be safeguarded. Thus they need to be constantly armed to the teeth and prepared for war. As too often when all else fails, war inevitably breaks out.

Perhaps the Labour Party in its response called out Williamson for ramping up the pro-war rhetoric? No, actually, Nia Griffith, the Shadow Defence Secretary, took the government to task for running down the armed forces over the years as part of their cost-cutting programme. The Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, Jamie Stone, also made a similar criticism that the armed forces had been ‘hollowed out’.

It must be borne in mind that this speech was made at a time when there have been cutbacks in welfare and local services — more people using foodbanks and local libraries closing. Therefore, what Williamson has also shown is that the priority of the capitalist state must be to advance the interests of its capitalist minority, even at the risk of war, over the needs of the working class majority.