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Communists in a Capitalist Army? May 19, 2003 by RedStar2000


In a way, this is the most rewarding "virtual discussion" I have thus far taken part in. A young man was about to become a capitalist mercenary...and I was one of the people who "talked him out of it".

I hope you will forgive me a little pride in this one.


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This question has come up before...in two forms.

The first is when some guy says he's going to join the military and we try to talk him out of it.

The second is after he's in...and he writes to us asking us how to get out.

You could save us all a lot of grief by not joining in the first place.

The idea that it's ok to join the military (or be a scab--blackleg--or be a cop, etc.) in order "to eat" is, I'm afraid, completely absurd.

Granted that unemployment among the young is always high (perhaps kept so precisely to supply a continuing flow of young bodies into the military). Nevertheless, millions of young people manage to survive without becoming professional killers for imperialism.

And make no mistake about it, that's what you'll be.

Having no idea of your personal circumstances, I cannot make any useful suggestions at this time...though I am certain it is possible for you to survive without selling yourself into the most degrading form of slavery.

Do not kid yourself that you will be of any "use" to us as a soldier...you will be part of the enemy. Your death will provoke indifference or joy in us, depending on the circumstances. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that you could find yourself shooting at unarmed civilians...including us.

What price are you willing to pay for that meal?

DON'T DO IT!
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 11, 2003
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First of all, France and Canada are capitalist countries. France has imperial troops fighting in Africa right now. Canada participated in America's imperialist war in Afghanistan.

Perhaps a military career might be less odious in small, weak countries with little future as imperial powers...Denmark or New Zealand, perhaps.

But even then, the purpose of an army--to defend the power and wealth of a ruling class against external and internal enemies (us) still remains.

As does the old question: which side are you on?

Professional soldiering is not "just another job". It is killing for a living. Is that what you want to be...a killer? Does it really matter what you think about other things in life if that becomes the definition of you as a person?

We are not simply what we "think" we are...we are, in a more fundamental sense, what we do.

If we produce things, we are essentially workers. Soldiers do not produce anything but death...they are killers in the same sense as the staff at Auschwitz were killers. As long as you "carry out your orders", you will get your paycheck.

Let's dispose of the idea that communists can enter the military and recruit more communists. Everyone you meet in the military is someone who most likely wanted to be there...who buys into the "ethic" of the professional soldier. Why should such people give a rat's ass about communism? Or anything else except skillful killing while avoiding being killed? And getting paid!

So where, then, do communists with a military background come from? In revolutionary periods, professional soldiers begin to concern themselves with political matters from the point of view of their class interests. To be crude about it, who is going to be signing their paychecks?

They will stay with the old regime--some of the officers may even attempt a coup to strengthen the old regime--for a while. When it becomes clear that popular revulsion for the old regime is overwhelming, they will switch sides without missing a beat. Mercenaries do not care about ideas; they care about getting paid.

Conscripted armies are a different matter; an army of draftees that is losing is indeed ripe for revolutionary ideas and will seek them out on their own. An example of this in the U.S. was the Vietnam Veterans Against the War...organized not by communists but by veterans who came to the anti-war movement eager to learn the real reasons behind their misery.

When mercenary armies in the western world appeal to the young, they often promise to teach you a "skill" that will help you in the "real world" (civilian life). Unfortunately, there are few jobs for "tank repair specialist" in the civilian market...the vast majority of military specialties are useless in civilian life.

Except for one: the mindlessly obedient use of violence against the weak. Police departments, prisons, and security firms are constantly seeking military veterans to do exactly what they did in the military...kill on command. Late capitalism requires an ever larger group of people trained in the ability to intimidate, injure, and kill an ever more sullen and uncooperative populace.

Being a mercenary for the ruling class is, indeed, not just a job...it's a career.

quote:

As with all things, what you do in the military is up to you.


No, it isn't. What you do in the military is up to your commanding officer. It does not matter if "your mind is strong"--soldiers don't have minds in the sense that civilians do. Soldiers obey orders.

For anyone to voluntarily put themselves in this position is either stupid or criminal or both.

I repeat: DON'T DO IT!
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 12, 2003
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quote:

I don't think that the individual soldiers can be held responsible for wanting to live...


I agree with you that you can't hold someone responsible for acting out of ignorance of possible alternatives.

But we are in the 21st century now. The dummyvisions are alive with footage of what it means to be a soldier. I don't think there are too many people who can legitimately claim ignorance. Some, yes, but not many.

I also agree that the desire to survive is extremely strong...and we may find ourselves doing some pretty unsavory things to put food on the table and pay the rent (much corporate employment falls into this category).

But are you willing to kill other people in order to survive? And not just any other people, but people like yourself who, being civilians, are helpless in the face of your weaponry and training.

It seems to me that, at some point, you draw a line in the sand and say...I will beg on the streets before I will do that. Being a professional killer for imperialism is a good place to draw that line.

As to revolutionary considerations, my reading of history is different than yours. It seems to me that the record shows little effectiveness of communists in the military...even among conscripted soldiers until the old regime is tottering. At that point, the army of the old regime simply melts away or comes over to the side of the revolution in whole chunks...often led by their commanding officers. There may be a few scattered instances of communists effectively organizing inside the old regime's military...but I know of no cases where it made any substantive difference.

Finally, I think the distinction that you draw between "brutal" and "less brutal" capitalist countries is not relevant to the central question in this thread.

I agree that if one must be a wage-slave, it is certainly better to be one in Canada or the EU or New Zealand than in England or the United States...much less China or Indonesia.

But the armies of all those countries have a purpose that is outside the realm of imperialism altogether. They are the final line of defence of the old ruling class...to be used against the people if the people rebel.

That works when the rebellion is localized and limited. In the case of the kind of massive uprisings that would justify the term communist revolution, the military becomes initially "unreliable"...and then useless.

Thus, an army can be used to smash an industry-wide strike (or intimidate the workers into a settlement). It can even be used to crush a city-wide uprising. In a national uprising, the army knows there's not much it can do...so it does little and then does nothing at all.

And this is how they act whether there are communists in the army or not.

So when you join a capitalist army, this is what you can expect. To murder or to help others murder in defense of the wealth and power of "your" ruling class. Or, if you are "lucky", it is only the preparations for such murder that will involve you personally...you will be "out" before the killing starts.

Instead, maybe you'll be a cop clubbing anti-war protesters or strikers in the streets of...wherever.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 12, 2003
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Your remarks on the U.S. National Guard rather miss the point and, in fact, reinforce my point. They are the first units to be deployed in the event of "civil unrest"...rebellion.

In addition, when they are deployed following floods, earthquakes, etc., what are they deployed for? To protect property...usually corporate property from "looters".

In the case of forest fires, the U.S. National Park System has its own fire-fighting division, if I'm not mistaken...and hires thousands of temporary workers (at a pathetic wage) every fire season. It is quite rare for National Guardsmen to be involved in fighting forest fires. That's not their real job.

If you believe that tank repair skills are "transferable" to truck maintenance, fine. I won't argue that point. It's better for the ex-soldier to repair trucks than to become a cop.

The individual who has already "distinguished" himself on this board for his spineless servility to U.S.-British imperialism in Iraq, is naturally to be found defending the military establishment.

His "defense" is one that emphasizes the "non-combatant" roles of military personnel...I believe the ratio is about 10 to 1; behind every soldier in the field there are 10 "support personnel" needed.

The railroad crews on the Auschwitz run didn't kill anyone either. But the holocaust couldn't have happened without them.
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First Posted at Che-Lives on April 13, 2003
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The problem of "skill scarcity" in post-revolutionary society was quite pressing in places like Russia and China...because the total number of skilled workers was so small.

Following a revolution in an advanced capitalist society, many or most communists will indeed have many skills to draw upon. No one is saying that it's a betrayal of communism to work for a living.

What we're talking about in this thread is becoming part of the apparatus of repression.

In my view, that is treason to the working class.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 15, 2003
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quote:

Why do you feel so strongly about this?


Because of what they do. It is dishonest of you to dwell on the non-combat or support roles of military personnel, since the purpose of that support is to facilitate murder in the interests of the capitalist class.

The tiny handful of soldiers who refuse to carry out their orders have no effect on the functioning of the machine. They are simply "defective parts" that must be and are quickly replaced.

The fact the the professional military can function at all demonstrates that mindless obedience is the norm. Wide-spread refusal of orders is a sign that the soldiers have reclaimed their humanity; as long as they obey, they are indeed robots, mindless killing machines.

Of course, they don't "like" being characterized in this fashion; they frequently piss and moan about "fucking civilians who don't understand combat", etc. And then, if ordered, they go out and kill some more.

That's the average. The worst is an outright fascist mentality. Those who are most likely to make up the violent portion of fascist and semi-fascist political groups are veterans of military service. They like a political system of order-givers and order-takers. That's where they feel truly comfortable and most at home.

The military/police have, at their core, a fascist mentality, wherein obedience to authority is the highest human virtue.

It is the polar opposite of revolutionary communism.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 16, 2003
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There's a rather obvious contradiction in your "game plan".

On the one hand, you plan to spend the next four years of your life in the military, gaining these mysterious "NVQs".

On the other hand, you plan to be a "defective part"...to deliberately disobey the orders of your commanding officer...which puts an immediate halt to your first strategy.

It's always possible that you will gain a duty spot that is "harmless"...guarding the British Consulate in Yakturd, Mongolia, for example.

But, most likely, you will be trained for some assignment that has a direct or indirect effect on the purpose of the military machine. It seems to me that this makes the decision of "where to draw the line" (when to disobey) extraordinarily difficult.

And the military really is "not just another job." You can't just walk away when you feel like it. What may happen to you is impossible to predict...a quiet discharge, years in a military prison, even the death penalty; all depending on how seriously the military views your defection. It could get pretty ugly!

The assertion that the British Army is "the best army in the world" is just nationalist window-dressing...it has no relevance to this discussion. We're not discussing which professional sports team to sign with.

Naturally, most of the publicized atrocities in Iraq have been committed by U.S. forces; they are the vast majority of the troops there.

But do not think for a minute that "we Brits" don't do that sort of thing. The record of British occupation in Northern Ireland is, as you know, a parade of atrocities. If British troops take part in permanent occupation duty in Iraq, the stories will come out soon enough. If you join up now, you may even get a chance to see some.

Sound like fun?
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 18, 2003
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quote:

I don't want to live off benefits, it's as simple as that.


So, let me get this straight. You're willing to "take the Queen's shilling" to murder (directly or indirectly) for the British ruling class...but you won't take the money to sit on your arse.

You're willing to starve rather than go on the "dole" but your excuse for becoming a professional killer is that it's "better than starvation".

I'm afraid you've completely lost me.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 19, 2003
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quote:

We need some people who know how to fight!!! A revolution can't work with civilians and you all know that...


I'm sorry, but that happens to be the only way it will work.

If your strategy is one of urban guerilla warfare, I can only advise you to forget it. There may be a few skirmishes in the last weeks (or hours) of the old regime, but that's all I expect to see.

Any protracted armed struggle between civilians and a fully-equipped modern army would be disasterous. It wouldn't make any difference at all even if the civilians had professional military advice from some trained combat specialists...the civilians are too "out-gunned" to do anything but surrender.

Understand, I'm speaking of an advanced capitalist country here. If you want to fight in a guerilla war in some backward country, that is a different matter.

But it also raises another question.

What exactly do you expect to learn in the military that you can't learn outside the military?

There are tons of books on "the art of war" and many on-line "simulations" of battle techniques. Military strategy, as a general once revealed, is mostly common sense.

Even the details of modern combat are, I suspect, available on the internet if you're willing to do some digging. I have no idea how to use or care for an AK47...but I'll bet there are sites I could learn that if I thought it would be useful.

Thus my advice to you is the same as it is to all lefties who romanticize the military or think there is something useful there...

DON'T DO IT!
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 19, 2003
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I am delighted to hear your response!

Now, here's another lesson about being a leftie. It is sad but true that, sometimes, when a slave begins to stop being a slave, the people who resent that the most...are other slaves. (!)

It's almost as if they were saying: "how dare you refuse to accept what we have always accepted?"

Be prepared to catch that kind of flak and don't let it bother you...when you become a leftie--a revolutionary--you have, in their eyes, invalidated their lives.

It's not necessary to fight with them; just make it clear that this is the road you've chosen to travel...and there's nothing they can say that's going to change that.

Good luck to you!!
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 20, 2003
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