Cannon fodder needed

In The Big Engine, by sci-fi writer Fritz Leiber, the protagonist posits his theory that people were ‘just machines, set to do a certain job and then quietly rust away.’

So no surprise to find a capitalist-supporting politician appealing to the hang ‘em, flog ‘em brigade who begrudges ‘their’ taxes keeping the ‘work-shy’ in supposed idle luxury whilst they themselves resent theirwage slavery drudgery.

‘Young jobseekers who repeatedly turn down work should be conscripted for two years’, a Tory MP has said. Richard Drax, a member of the Commons Defence Select Committee, said there is a growing issue with work-shy youngsters: ‘In some cases, particularly among some of the young, they have got to a point where, for whatever reason, they’re not prepared to contribute to our country and to serve their country. If they can’t be encouraged to do that, then maybe we’ve got to a point where they should be told to do so.’

What would, once upon a time, be surprising is that Labour Party politicians, (not even making a pretence at being a working-class party any more), is as evangelistic in its support for the capitalist system and for capitalists.

Not only does capitalism need bodies, to produce and to be exploited, but it also needs cannon fodder.

The ‘war machines’ are becoming more vociferous and more insistent. Many more establishment voices, here and abroad, are ingraining the idea of a forthcoming war – probably with Russia and the necessity to protect the Motherland, ie, capitalist interests, either through voluntary swelling of the military or through compulsion. Understandable if, as an exploited class, you ask, in the manner of the The People’s Front of Judea, what’s the motherland ever done for us?

Richard Drax lays it out plainly – ‘And if they’ve refused three offers of a job, or whatever the number would be, and they say ‘I’m sorry, I’m not doing any of that’, you then say – in which case you must go and do two years in the Armed Forces’ (Daily Express 12 March).

Sir Alex Younger, an ex-head of MI6: ‘Britons have been “infantilised” since the end of the Cold War and the Government should consider having the power to “compel” people to serve’ (MailOnline 5 April).

General Sir Patrick Sanders, the outgoing Chief of the General Staff opined that ‘British citizens should be ‘trained and equipped’ to fight in a potential war with Russia – as Moscow plans on ‘defeating our system and way of life.’ It’s not known if he was pointing his finger Lord Kitchener style when warning that ‘increasing army numbers in preparation for a potential conflict would need to be a ‘whole-of-nation undertaking’.’

SkyNews said the comments are being read as a warning that British men and women should be ready for a call-up to the armed forces if NATO goes to war with Russia. It comes after Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said in a speech earlier that we are ‘moving from a post-war to pre-war world’ and the UK must ensure its ‘entire defence ecosystem is ready’ to defend its homeland.’

The Estonians, no friends of Russia given their history, are also adding fuel to the conflagration. The Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in a BBC interview: ‘We have a reserve army of 44,000 people. That would equal for Great Britain around two million people. Two million people who would be ready to defend their country, who know what they have to do’ (Daily Express 4 April).

In Ukraine at the beginning of the year, the former Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s army Valerii Zaluzhnyi said that the army needed another 500,000 soldiers: ‘Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed a law that will lower the country’s minimum conscription age from 27 to 25, potentially boosting the number of men available to fight Russia’s invasion. A statement published by Parliament upon passing the law in 2023 said it was “inappropriate” that “a significant number of citizens” who were fit for military service could not be called up, despite the present need, under martial law. Martial law also prohibits most men between the ages 18 and 60 from leaving Ukraine, unless they are deemed unfit for military service for health reasons or have an exemption’ (CNN 2 April).

Sensibly following the example of many American young men who, during the Vietnam war, chose to absent themselves from America, many Ukrainians have adopted ‘flight not fight’: ‘Approximately 650,000 Ukrainian men aged 18-60 have left Ukraine for Europe since the start of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022′, BBC Ukraine reported. Citing data provided by Eurostat a report notes over half a million male refugees are currently residing in the 27 EU member states, as well as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, many of whom are undocumented. In Germany, it is estimated that 100,000 unregistered individuals are residing in the country, while in Austria at least 14,000 Ukrainian men arrived using forged documents or the services of smugglers.

Under martial law, Ukrainian men between the ages of 18–60, with some exceptions, are not allowed to leave the country because they could be called up for military service. As Ukraine faces the challenge of maintaining adequate military personnel, recent reports indicate that nearly 20,000 Ukrainian men have managed to evade conscription, finding various routes to leave the country’ (Kyiv Independent).

John Richards’s song, Don’t Despise The Deserter, about a soldier who is executed by his country, has historical precedents. Three hundred and six British and Commonwealth soldiers were executed by the state in World War One.

‘So I ran from the fighting, and I threw down my gun,
I ran by the moon, and I slept with the sun.
Arrested by government, charged by the king,
To be shot, ’cause I can’t kill in order to bring
Peace to a foreign land.’

Less about peace and more about capitalism.

Don’t let yourself be persuaded to become cannon fodder for the capitalist class.


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