Armaments and war are necessary expenses for a class society Ruthless Criticism

Armaments and war are necessary expenses for a class society

[Chapter VI of Karl Held and Theo Ebel, The Free World Wants War! (Resultate Verlag: Munich, 1986)]

The governing organizers of Western readiness for war do not accept the objection that the costs of armament are too high. They are equally unimpressed when people cite the sacrifices which are called for as soon as the threat which peace policy constitutes is put into practice. Those in charge definitely did not allow their strategic calculation for the case of war to be questioned on the grounds that the preparation and implementation of a great war do not pay off.

On the contrary, they insist that the free use of their violence is simply necessary for all the achievements of their “economy” – so that the question of costs is superfluous.


Democratic politicians are very much aware of the costs and sacrifices incurred by their military projects. They consider them to be imperative and do not simply dismiss people's reservations by saying that armed ventures by nature never payoff for the victims. They would find such a straightforward confirmation of this fact cynical and tasteless. By contrast, they find it honorable to prove that these sacrifices are necessary. In so doing they document that they are in favor of the privations and corpses involved – but at the same time invoke objective necessities which no “responsible” person can close his eyes to. It does not bother them in the least that their proof only goes to show that the necessities they devote themselves to when carrying out the functions of their office and doing their “damned duty” are nothing but their own political resolutions.

It leaves “our” politicians cold when people criticize the expenses incurred by armament on the grounds that they absorb the funds for other non-military projects. It is easy to explain: why philanthropic calculations such as “How many schools could be built for one missile? How many hospitals? How many people could be saved from starving?” do not fill them with doubts. Such laments indicate to them above all that the critics are appealing to their reason and humanity. On the one hand, those affected by their politics acknowledge them to be in charge; on the other hand, no one seems to exclude them from the circle of concerned cosmopolitans who “cannot possibly want all that.”

They are thus free to reject the “possibilities” proposed, appreciating the “good intentions” behind the humble suggestion while running it down unmercifully – for it is only idealism! Of course, it would be nice if we were able to distribute all the money to the needy in the “Third World” and spend it on social boons; but it is “realistic,” and therefore necessary, to finance our armament as we are doing. Those who demonstrate their thoroughly positive attitude to their state, expecting its policies to provide one “service” after the other for the citizens' of this world, are given the appropriate answer by all advocates of armament: that it is the necessity to protect these state services which makes the defense of the state such a fundamental task.

Anyone who points out that it is up to the state force to fulfill his own social interests is informed very straightforwardly of the tough consequence of his error – and told the truth of the matter at the same time. It is correct that all “social interests” and rights customary in our state, ranging from free speech, working and driving to the need for justice, are matters administered by the state power. This power sets the limits on what is allowed when it comes to all its subjects’ manifestations of life; it makes sure that all interests are pursued in the permissible forms defined by the state. But this is also the reason why those who bear “political responsibility” are not in charge of fulfilling the interests made known to them. After all, political power, which must see that all those things citizens are interested in take their proper course, must see to its own preservation. For this is what the government is empowered to do to prove itself as an authority which guarantees “law and order” in spite of the particular demands made on it by one kind of subject or another. And it is only capable of doing this if it can ward off any danger to itself. It inevitably starts off by defining the dangers itself and procuring the means for removing them. Thus, no self-respecting democratic government would dream of watering down the security needs of the community it is entrusted with by seeing to its citizens' private needs.


Those who govern comply in every respect with this basic “law” of democracy, which can also be solemnly referred to as a constitutional imperative. When faced with people's reservations about the unnecessary costs of “our security,” they do not merely point out that the question of competence is already resolved by the sovereignty of the state leadership; they do not merely refer to the best of all justifications, the elections which have given them their powers, the argument today being that “decisions which have come about democratically” are automatically beyond all criticism because they happen to have the law on their side.

Democratic rulers put up the costs of armament for discussion themselves – starting right off, of course, by establishing the incontestable criterion to be followed: “Do these costs do justice to our security needs?” The defense secretary in office regularly initiates debates about whether enough money is available for equipping the armed forces. An expert calculation of what is needed in terms of “our” troops' combat effectiveness, the efficiency of their equipment, their task within the alliance, etc., demonstrates to every responsible politician, journalist and citizen what “we” will have to spend. In view of the unshakable criteria set by “our security,” all “irrelevant” considerations of other ways of using the money are ruled out. Provided with the correct point of view – i.e. the nation's – everyone is allowed to demand that only effective and reliable instruments of war be procured. Conversely, “we” have to come up with enough money, of course, if “we” want quality. Along these lines, criticism is just the thing in a democracy: criticism of money wasted on the wrong kind of plane, on an imported generation of tanks, even of people who, perhaps because of selfish business interests, lack the necessary responsibility ...

It is only fair that the results of this discussion, which so “objectively” chews over the question of how much “our security” must be worth to us, also enter into the “decision-making process” of parliament and the government. One item or another in the budget is then reexamined, that is, suspected of being a superfluous and unbearable burden – for the state, of course: pensioners' pensions, sick people's sick pay, welfare for welfare cases. The arms budget has never been debated and decided on under morally acceptable headings like “cutting costs” and “economy budget.” For decades, the main areas where politicians have discovered a scarcity of funds have been those known so nobly as “social.”

As if they needed to disabuse everybody and his brother of the misunderstanding that the state is primarily a means of subsistence for its citizens (no one really insists on this in practice), those in charge have set the perspectives right in no uncertain terms. Firstly, they make it clear that the “services” the state performs consist in administering the constraint to work, purchase, save money and obey, and not in guaranteeing success to the majority of citizens in its charge. Secondly, they make it clear that the only way ordinary people can attain these “services” is by making sacrifices. While a considerable number of people indulge in the illusion that the state is the guarantor of their welfare and their security, “hard times” have been officially decreed. As if it were necessary to abolish once and for all the idea of state care, which politicians themselves circulated in electoral campaigns for decades, a national propaganda war has been unleashed on people's “expectations to be taken care of” and their “readiness to make demands.” As if the wage earners in Europe's “welfare states” had not always been supplying the state with funds in the form of their taxes and social “contributions,” it has now been decided that they have been helping themselves to too much state wealth. New, higher quotas for the money handed over to the state are called for, and millions of people subject to compulsory insurance must get along with less money in the name of public economy.

The citizens must spare the state – and be at its service as a source of money. They are the means for its success even and especially in the peacetime “our politicians have managed to preserve up to now.” In its actions, the government confronts its subjects with the question of whether their existence is still worth securing...


However, when presenting themselves as dutiful administrators of the public finances, governing democrats go even further in “teaching” the governed about costs and sacrifices. The armament programs required for their peace policy do not merely prompt them to act like conscientious treasurers whose pot of money is just too small, making “painful cuts” unavoidable. Their “pot” is not merely “too small” for the subsistence of those in straitened circumstances, it is above all too small to finance their unrenounceable duties, including the nation's security. In this area, “helplessly reacting” to the “financial necessities” would be tantamount to failure! Necessity in this case is simply called increasing the state debt. For the state as a buyer of urgently needed weapons of all kinds, money which does not exist is very useful for filling the “hole” in the treasury – after all, the state has the power to “create money.”

After its debts have been borrowed and lent, been speculated on and borne interest, they circulate as “purchasing power,” which only involves one “problem” – inflation. The executors of economic “necessities” therefore feel a need to see that the “inflationary development,” which they portray to the whole world as a fate and a problem independent of their deeds, is kept “under control.” Their recipe is for efficient industrialists and bankers to be able to do good business with the state debt worldwide. How much the state can skim off depends on their profitable investment. And if the slips of credit with the nation's name on them, which have been multiplied by the state debt, remain a useful means for worldwide business, if they prove their worth for buying and selling, investing in production and in international finance – state indebtedness is not detrimental but advantageous.

This kind of thing is also conveyed to the governed in times of brisk armament – not in a free correspondence course on “the national economy and the world economy,” but (in wise consideration of their limited powers of perception) as the simple message that nothing and no one must stand in the way of this basis of our state, the “economy.” The state, which is dependent upon the “economy,” serves its “growth” by clearing away obstacles: a good government maintains its wherewithal by doing everything in its power to promote capital's business. And this is obstructed not only by the competition in the world outside, which occasionally puts domestic companies in the red, but also by people who do not always correctly understand their job of being a means for business. It is thus the duty of the highest political office-holders to translate their professional knowledge of the “necessities” into practical instructions: service for the nation means performance – at low costs.

Thus, the nation's peace leaders reveal without any scruples why they consider it superfluous to ask if the expenses of “our” war preparation are really worth it. In their efforts to bring their economic and political “imperatives” to bear, they simply have different criteria for what is “worth it.” They devote themselves to the laws of the “free market economy.” And although they are not willing to call this mode of production capitalism, it is of great importance to them that the only testimony to successful economic activity, the only thing which is worthwhile, is returns on capital.

This means standing up for a kind of wealth which is highly compatible with people and nature being ruined – because they are not at all what count! The accumulation of this wealth involves publicly registered pauperism – both in the “industrial states” and in their “underdeveloped” partner countries. There are quite a few people who fall victim to the criterion of business – it has to pay off – because they cannot be profitably used yet, any more, or at all. Their ranks are joined by all those victims of freedom who are mowed down to restore law and order when their disobedience annoys those in charge.

Even though democrats will hear nothing of such terms as “proletariat” and “classes,” “overpopulation produced by capitalism” and “exploitation” – democrats in power want to have, and do have, these very things to show for themselves. Educated rulers are aware that there is a majority of “people of modest means” among their subjects, they know that “problem number one is unemployment,” etc.; and each department of the “welfare state” is testimony to what the criteria of capitalist business mean for the “working world.”


Democratic statesmen make sure – in peacetime – that the lives and survival of a fair number of citizens of the world are dependent on capital. In their free society, those proficient in the technique of comparison can even consider themselves lucky to be able to prove themselves as a means for capital and be used that way all their lives. Politicians attribute the many disagreeable and inescapable effects of this order neither to it nor to themselves – democratic rulers arrive at a very different finding. They are confronted with “social problems” which befall their politics and must be continually “solved,” but never for good, since there are “laws and imperatives” which make it “unrealistic” to hope for “solutions” all the time.

However “powerless” they may be in view of these “necessities” of theirs, they do not want to let up in their fight for power, which is institutionalized in the few democracies of the West as a competitive fight among the parties. They are especially keen on wielding this power in times when there is the “threat of war” they have proclaimed so impressively, when state power exploits the “laws of the market economy” in order to produce defense-readiness. Politics as a profession and the vocation of our politicians appears to be most appealing when the purpose and gist of state affairs can be executed with unrestrained honesty – and shown off. The subjects' error that politics is somehow implemented in their interest can then be exploited so very shamelessly and at the same time corrected in practice – by turning the matter around and ordering that ordinary citizens' interests be equated with those of the state: “We enforce the necessities with our power – and you make the necessary sacrifices!”


This honesty, which reaches particular heights during the electoral campaigns of the eighties – the motto being: “The population have to make sacrifices! Fine, but for the right government!” – is the comprehensive answer to the objection that armament and war do not pay off. Agitating with this honesty, politicians show how intransigent a proper state is in enforcing the “constraints” they are constantly citing. What is being governed and defended has nothing to do with those material pleasures and improvements a citizen would not mind having for his humble self. As advocates and guarantors of the “democratic system,” in which the only thing that grows is the capital of those known as “business,” the statesmen of the eighties demand the service which is due. Knowing for sure that the nation's success stands or falls by capital's success, they are also expert in the opposite calculation. Restrictions on their power, on “our system,” must be done away with for the sake of the freedom of business as protected by law. When those in power exhort the population to recall their wartime virtues, as has become fashionable, they show everyone why they do not regard military spending as a “waste.”

Democratic politicians know what they can rely on: they can rely on their power to make sure the basis of the nation works. They can rely on the expansion of their kind of political rule to allow “the economy” to produce more and more miracles, which they have millions pay for with their performance and their “admirable” sacrifices. People who justify and build up armament so skillfully in accordance with the fundamental needs of capital also know that only a lost war is justification for the question as to costs and sacrifices – then everybody knows they are “senseless.”