History is full of daring deeds and gory deaths of our country’s leaders, from Henry V leading from the front at Agincourt, to Richard lll being cut down on Bosworth Field. Leaders who put it all on the line and to a greater or lesser degree stood shoulder to shoulder with the fighting man. However, the nature of war has changed dramatically over the last three hundred years or so, not only do our leaders no longer stand in the fighting line, but swords and pikes were replaced with machine guns and mass artillery.
It wasn’t only the method of destruction that changed, but also the funding and very reasons to fight. The American Civil War of the 1860s ushered in a whole new era, that of death on an industrial scale, followed nearly one hundred years later by the advent of nuclear bombs, which are weapons that put the aforementioned industrial scale on a whole new level.
The problem I have is understanding the reason for war in a so-called civilised world. If there was ever a war that was justified, I’ve heard myself and others saying, then that war was WW2; however this creates a dilemma for me because I agree with the late Tony Benn, in that: “war is the result of failed diplomacy.” With that thought in mind I started looking at war in a whole new way.
The American Civil War of the 1860s would appear to be a major turning point in warfare, not only because of the huge casualties, but because of the fortunes that were made by industrialists (not for the first time, I hasten to add). These fortunes were massive, creating wealth on a scale that matched the slaughter. From textiles for uniforms, to iron ore and coal for steel to make guns, the horses and railways supplied a monster that was devouring men and materials at a truly terrifying rate. Right in the middle of this were the industrialists, happily supplying both sides and raking in the dollars by the wagonload. It seems that for the first time in history war didn’t just serve the monarchs and the gentry, but also the industrialist fat cats who could get much, much fatter. War was now big business.
Along comes WW1, and Britain and France weren’t prepared for a war on this scale, tactically or financially, and they needed bankrolling. And who should step in with their knowledge of war as business opportunity? Why, the USA of course, who waved an open cheque book.
At the end of WW1 Uncle Sam wanted paying back, so the allies set about the task of allotting blame and decided that Germany was 100% at fault and should therefore be liable for the full cost of the war. Germany’s economy inevitably couldn’t cope and collapsed, resulting in hyperinflation. In short, they needed a massive cash investment to kickstart an economic recovery. And who just happened to be on hand? Yep, the good old USA once again. Let’s understand this, America was now lending money to Germany so that Germany could pay its former enemies, who in turn could repay America the money they borrowed during WW1. Everybody was paying America and the interest alone on these loans was enough to push America forward into becoming a financial giant.
This resulted in the USA now having huge industrial input into rebuilding the new Germany and setting the stage for WW2, as the German people saw Hitler performing economic miracles as he lead them from strength to strength, all propped up behind the scenes by American money. US industrialists worked so closely with the Hitler regime that after WW2, General Motors (allegedly) successfully sued the US Government over damages caused by American bombers to their factories in Germany. General motors were in fact building for and suppling to the German war effort. If you want to back a winner in a boxing match then you bet on both boxers, and that’s exactly what they did. At the outbreak of WW2 it made no odds who won because the US industrialists had a foot in both camps and the only event that changed that was Japan bombing Pearl Harbour.
As far as I’m aware, since WW1, the USA has had some involvement in virtually every conflict, either financially or militarily, and often that involvement is covert. There is a school of thought that suggests Hitler and his National Socialists (not to be confused with actual socialism), where put in place by American financial giants, the intention to have a puppet leader controlled ultimately by the USA. If that’s true then America hasn’t learnt much, in view of the connection between Saddam Hussain and the CIA; puppet leaders tend to turn around and bite the hand that landed them the throne.
The worry today is obvious, and that worry has a name, Donald Trump. An American industrialist with his finger on the nuclear button and a fortune invested in companies that manufacture nuclear weapons, he’s also on record as saying: “what’s the point in nuclear bombs if you can’t use them?”
Here in Britain, we are informed that we are the second largest producer of weapons in the world. I have no idea if that’s true, but if it is then it seems obvious that there’s a massive connection between war and refugees. It also seems that there is a huge backlash against refugees, and the powers that be are happy enough to take the cash for weapons but none of the responsibility for the refugee crisis they’ve had a major hand in creating.
So, as we teeter on the brink of yet another American-led war, this time with North Korea, I ask myself, is war the failure of diplomacy or the success of capitalism? And if it is the success of capitalism, do we need or in fact want this brand (or any type) of capitalism?
I feel that with the rise of Corbyn’s Labour Party and the obvious demise of May’s Tories there’s a real chance for permanent change in Britain, the sort of change that hasn’t been felt since 1945 and the Atlee administration. If this comes to pass we cannot become complacent - as we did after Atlee. There are huge numbers of our population living a life of real poverty as the Conservative government ensures more arms are shipped to the Middle East, ensuring misery in Yemen for millions. Weapon sales are essential, so we’re told, for the economy to function properly. Only by ensuring the ‘defence’ of allies can we maintain our current standard of living.
This is what we’ve come to. After decades of neoliberalism and selling arms to whichever side will buy them (take a bow, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Israel etc), we’re now told British-made instruments of death are the only way to ensure a healthy, robust nation at ease with itself. There can be no alternative to this thinking, we’re told. This is realpolitik, like it or not. And all it takes is to never question the prevailing orthodoxy of these arms sales. Thatcher didn’t, and nor did Blair, Brown or Cameron. To do so only hands the initiative to our rivals. That’s nearly 40 years of unbroken ideology and cosseted relations with tyrants. However there’s a man called Jeremy Corbyn, and he takes a different view.
Jeremy Corbyn dares to use the word ‘immoral’ in relation to our much-hyped weapons sales, especially to the usual culprits. He puts a moral slant on the arguments. Arms sales to repressive regimes are a bad idea because they kill and maim, regardless of how many jobs they ensure. But then Corbyn is hated because he represents a different beast entirely – he stands for the average voter.
And there’s plenty of average voters out there, working selflessly, putting the needs of community and desperation before their own. These people work in small, dedicated groups, independent of government or state, yet they’re the opposite of those who seek to make profit from death; the help now, the last line of survival for so many, is food banks, soup kitchens and hostels. We can only estimate how many people are living rough. This Government continues to juggle figures. There are, it claims, fewer people on benefits but it doesn’t mention that there are more people that are sanctioned who are assumed to be in work because they can’t claim benefits. They are in fact still out of work but no longer included in the unemployment figures. That seems to satisfy the Government statisticians. The Tories also seem to think it’s acceptable to lie; Hunt’s latest claim that the NHS was actually a Tory policy borders on insanity.
So: enter Jeremy Corbyn. I genuinely think that in Britain we will soon have the chance to make a real choice between more of the same old corruption, profits for the rich as they feed off the misery of others, or a socialist government based on compassion, in which rather than trample over those who are stumbling, we offer a supportive hand to pick them back up. It may take more than a mere term in office to undo the damage caused by years of endless market fundamentalism, but the start of something bigger and better for this country is in the air.
That day will be nothing less than the first day of a new era, and in a world where many of the old guard in New Labour are happy to attack their leader regardless of what he says, the attacks become fewer and less important, and the attackers find themselves with a smaller and smaller audience. Because it’s not about narrow party interest, but the people. And with a political system deliberately designed to ensure establishment values are perpetuated, we have to become the guardians of Corbyn, because: “WE ARE MANY AND THEY ARE FEW.”
Pat Brady for Political Provocater