Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Monday, April 14, 2008

New Labour, New Empire Day

From 1902-1958, 24 May each year marked 'Empire Day' across the British Empire, where school kids would have to dress up and sing patriotic songs (see above). The Labour Party when in power went along with this nonsense of course, and so fifty years on, it is not that surprising that Gordon Brown now wants to resurrect this lost and unlamented 'national tradition' by setting up Armed Forces Day.

With the British armed forces essentially now just the 'cannon fodder wing' of the American Empire, one wonders how much popular support there will be for Brown's proposed 'special day of celebration'. Defence Minister Des Browne may want 'some mechanism to help strengthen the bond' between the military and the public, but until he considers the only real mechanism that has any chance of achieving this - immediate withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and a pledge that British troops will never again wage criminal imperialist wars - he is doomed to failure. Yet, as ever, what a capitalist government cannot achieve through consent will be imposed by dictat and backed up with a nationalist propaganda offensive. The re-militarisation of British society is already well underway in schools with a proposed increase in the size of the cadet force.

While Brown dreams dreams of football grounds full of people hailing march-pasts by young military personel while the national anthem plays over the loudspeakers, one is naturally reminded of George Orwell. As Orwell pointed out in 1939, 'every increase in the strength of the military machine means more power for the forces of reaction...[and] leads directly away from democracy, even in the narrow nineteenth-century sense of political liberty, independence of the trade unions and freedom of speech and the press.' One cannot help but note that New Labour's proposed 'New Empire Day' is yet another shift away from any sort of decent society towards a more totalitarian one, even though the words 'decency' and 'totalitarianism' themselves have been brutally vulgarised in meaning beyond belief by the so called modern 'anti-totalitarian decent left'. As ever though, if there is hope, it lies with the proles, and it lies with the real new left.

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At 12:21 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strange though that if you look at the long-term budget plans of the Army and especially infantry the whole emphasis has been on reducing the number of frontline combat troops - hence the whole hoohah about merging regiments and downsizing. there seems to be a mismatch between what fighting a COIN campaign in places like Afghanistan and IRaq require in terms of manpower and equipment and what the state is willing to allocate in fiscal terms.

On the other hand I am not entirely sure about Orwell's point of view. I have some sympathy for the view shared in some progressive American circles that mandatory military service might lessen the military adventurism of states; particularly when the bourgeois and the elite have their children affected by a general draft, we are much less likely to go to off the back of a hastily cobbled up dodgy dossier.

At 11:07 am, Blogger Snowball said...

LN - I can see what you mean but look at a militarised society like say Israel - mandatory military service there has not lessened its capacity for idiotic military adventurism.

At 12:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t think Israel is a good example being a settler state and basically being founded on grabbing lands from the indigenous inhabitants, it is obviously going to follow a different trajectory; here it is much easiser to cast any form of military aggression as self-defence when your enemy is next door. For imperial powers though, I do think that hi-tech warfare, the use of mercernaries and other proxies minimises the political costs of war at home. If everyone had to go thousands of miles and fight for less than clear cut causes it certainly reduced its appeal.

Also it is easier to brainwash segments of the population which provide recruiting grounds for the professional military with self-justifyinh nationalist propaganda; than it is to brainwash an entire society.


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