Will Corbyn shut down the army if he is elected
The public reprimand of Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labor Party, by the chief of the British armed forces marks a milestone in the decline of British democracy.
The Chief of Staff, Sir Nicholas Houghton, was interviewed by BBC Andrew Marr about Corbyn's statement that he would never approve the use of nuclear weapons. Houghton replied, “Well, I would be concerned if that view were implemented.” Houghton had previously complained to the media that Britain was “hanging” its allies for not taking part in the bombings in Syria.
Corbyn's office sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Michael Fallon saying, “It is imperative to democracy that the military remain politically neutral at all times. By publicly taking sides in current political disputes, Sir Nicholas Houghton is clearly violating this constitutional principle. "
The government did not put Houghton in their place, but hurried to support him. A spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron said that "as the government's primary military advisor, Houghton has the right to speak about how we can maintain the credibility of one of our main weapons systems."
Labor leaders also defended Houghton. Shadow Defense Secretary Maria Eagle and Lord West, former Admiralty First Sea Lord [Commander in Chief and Chief of Staff of the Royal Navy], said they would resign if Corbyn's refusal to renew the Trident nuclear weapons system became part of party's policy. Lord Hutton of Furness, the former Labor Secretary of Defense, wrote to Rupert Murdochs Times and stressed: "The chief of the defense staff must not be muzzled or silenced."
Houghton knew he would be asked about Corbyn's attitude and went on the air with the express intention of attacking him publicly. This is not the first time such public statements have been made.
In September brought the Sunday Times the comment of a “high active general” that if Corbyn were to take over the government there would be a “very real danger” of “mutiny”. Elements in the military would be willing to "take whatever means necessary, fair or unfair," said the officer.
He continued: "High-ranking generals would, contrary to all customary practice, publicly attack Corbyn for fundamental political decisions, such as the Trident program, the exit from NATO or plans to weaken and downsize the armed forces."
Houghton's explanation shows that this approach is already in practice.
Countless articles endorse or apologize for Houghton, but there are also voices in the media who feel compelled to openly debate whether his statements pose a serious threat of army mutiny. Particularly noteworthy is an editorial of the Guardian from Monday. It said: “In the modern democratic history of this country there has not been a military coup and not even a halfway meaningful mutiny. Therefore, the comments made by the Chief of Staff, Sir Nicholas Houghton, about Jeremy Corbyn must be cause for concern. "
The Guardian lists various examples in which the military itself "decided which orders to obey". The most prominent example is the case of "former NATO commander Sir Walter Walker" who, after the miners' strikes of 1972 and 1974, led a fascist movement in the 1970s that was directed against the Labor government of Harold Wilson and aimed at breaking up prepared for a general strike.
The newspaper issues a warning to the ruling class: illusions about democracy, which are vital to the maintenance of capitalism, are undermined by overly open political interference by the military.
“Such incidents,” the editorial concludes, “fuel speculation that the 'establishment' would ultimately always resort to pronunciamento along the lines of Spain to prevent an elected left government from exercising its mandate. Whether that was on purpose or not, General Houghton and the anonymous general who recently threatened mutiny if Labor were to try to 'downgrade the military' are fueling this fire again. "
Indeed, there is no chance of success for Corbyn's stated goal of bringing to power a Labor government that opposes austerity and militarism. The reaction of the overwhelming majority of the Labor leadership to Houghton's statements also proves the completely right-wing and anti-working class character of this longstanding party of British imperialism.
Since his election as party leader in September, Corbyn has been under the relentless fire of the Tories, the Labor faction in the lower house, his own shadow cabinet, the media and now the armed forces commander in chief. Nothing Corbyn did has graced his opponents. Even his promise to approve the vote on the modernization of the Trident system and the intervention in Syria has not reduced the chorus of those who are calling for his replacement.
Houghton's public statements and anonymous threats of mutiny must be understood as a warning of the increasing dangers facing working people. What the Guardian referred to as “speculation” is the reality of political and social relations under capitalism.
The armed forces “non-partisanship” evoked by Corbyn has always been a fiction. The armed forces are the "special formations of armed men". Engels already described them as the essential instruments for maintaining the rule of capital - not only against external enemies, but against the internal threat in the form of any serious social and political opposition that develops in the working class.
In today's conditions, this fiction can no longer be upheld.
For decades, all the great powers have been waging one war of colonial conquest after another, in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now in Syria. Starting with the coup in Ukraine organized by Washington, NATO has gone on a collision course with Russia, while the US is trying to forge a military alliance with Japan and Australia against China in the Far East.
This explosion of imperialist violence calls for a frontal assault on democratic rights in the form of a flurry of "anti-terror" laws that undermine civil rights and the intense surveillance of virtually every man, woman and child in the world. The military's power and political influence are growing by leaps and bounds in all major capitalist countries.
These developments are being driven by the systemic crisis of the capitalist profit system, which has only worsened since the stock market crash of 2008, and the determination of the global financial oligarchy to use the crisis for their own enrichment. That is why all governments, regardless of their composition, have been given the task by their paymasters to implement increasingly brutal attacks on jobs, the standard of living and the social rights of the working class.
With the rise of social resistance, the preparations of military leaders and intelligence chiefs for dictatorial measures are also increasing, without there being any significant resistance from elected politicians or the media.
Turning to austerity, militarism and war are incompatible with maintaining democracy. The working class can only respond to the threat of dictatorship by building a new socialist and internationalist leadership that will fight for political power.
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