Resolution Against Militarism

Adopted by the 34th National Convention of the Socialist Labor Party of America, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, June 5–10, 1981

Militarism is on the march in the United States.

The threat of military conscription hangs over the heads of young men and women while thousands are enlisting “voluntarily” for lack of civilian employment.

The level of global U.S. military intervention escalates daily leading to a possible confrontation with the Soviet Union.

Funds for social services and welfare have been slashed by the Reagan administration while plans have been made to spend an incredible $1.5 trillion over the next five years for military expansion.

Is this what American workers want? On the contrary, millions of workers want peace, not war. They want better schools, health care, housing and more jobs, not more guns, tanks and bombs. Yet in spite of the widespread yearning for peace, freedom and plenty, militarism is on the rise.

Capitalism Breeds Militarism

In fact, under the capitalist system, it can be no other way. The tremendous waste of both labor power and natural resources on the production of weapons reflects the imperatives of the capitalist economic system. To ensure profit making at home, the ruling class is compelled to export commodities and to secure sources of raw materials and cheap labor abroad. This requires that U.S. capitalism pursue its economic objectives with sheer military might.

Moreover, in an economy where a fifth or more of the industrial capacity is idle—even with billions being spent on the production of armaments—military spending constitutes a vital economic stimulus. Without this stimulus, capitalism would be in even more dire economic straits than it currently finds itself. This is so because military spending lessens the impact of the instability inherent in this economic system upon the profits of capitalists. Because weapons production results from government contracts and is geared to an ever-growing demand, it is free of the usual uncertainties of production for the open market. It also provides a category of items for lucrative export that helps to correct the balance of payments. (The U.S., it should be noted, is the world’s largest arms merchant.) And in exporting arms to repressive regimes allied to U.S. interests around the world, an additional benefit is gained.

Militarism is not a mistaken policy that can be reversed merely by voting into office a different set of capitalist politicians. It is the established policy of the two parties of monopoly capital which alternately exercise control over the executive arm of U.S. imperialism.

While Ronald Reagan may soon reinstate the draft, it was Jimmy Carter who initiated draft registration. While the Reagan military budget is nothing less than a Pentagon wish list, it was Carter who sharply increased military spending. While the Reagan administration has adopted a dangerously belligerent stance toward the Soviet Union, Carter set the stage for a possible military showdown with the Soviet bureaucrats. Whether Democratic or Republican, politicians have not hesitated to adopt a militarist stance and to use U.S. military forces when they have believed it would advance the interests of U.S. imperialism.

It is clear that after the setbacks recently suffered by U.S. imperialism in Vietnam, Angola, Iran and Nicaragua, the capitalist class is determined to check anti-imperialist struggles in Third World countries and to halt the spread of Soviet imperialist influence in these areas. For example, to make Central America safe for U.S. imperialism, the Reagan administration has sent military supplies and soldiers—including a number of the notorious Green Berets—to bolster the blood-drenched Salvadoran regime. In the Middle East, the U.S. is not only arming the Israeli and conservative Arab regimes to the teeth, it is also deploying more and more of its own military forces in that area.

In order to justify increased military spending in the face of sharp cutbacks in social programs, the capitalist class has told workers that these military expenditures are necessary to keep the “peace” and to protect the “national security” of the United States. Every arms race, however, has ended with a war.

Stopping Militarism

But what can workers begin to do to halt the march toward militarism? In antiwar demonstrations in cities across the country, thousands of individuals have opposed reinstitution of the draft, U.S. imperialism’s policies in El Salvador and war. The Socialist Labor Party holds, however, that workers must go even further if the militarist policies of the capitalist class are to be stopped. The roots of militarism are deeply rooted in the system based on profit-motivated production, private ownership of the economy by the capitalist class and the exploitation of working people. Accordingly, if militarism is to be stopped, workers must abolish the capitalist cause of modern war and build a new socialist society.

A socialist transformation of society would create an economic order under which the means of production would be socially owned and democratically controlled by workers through their industrial organizations. Socialism, unlike government ownership schemes, would place power in the collective hands of the working class, not in those of government bureaucrats.

With the elimination of the profit motive, the principle of social use would guide production. The need would no longer exist for military spending artificially to stimulate the economy, or to maintain a large military machine to enforce access to foreign markets. Under capitalism, even relatively small cutbacks in military spending could lead to increased unemployment and the creation of economically depressed areas. Under a social system based on production for use, the elimination of unnecessary production would simply reduce the workweek of the entire labor force because the entire industrial process would reflect the needs of the whole population.

To resist the drive toward militarism and to eventually abolish its capitalist cause, workers must organize economically and politically. This organization must lead to the development of a new labor movement that can mobilize the full measure of the industrial power of the working class on the economic front. At the same time, it must set in motion a political party of the working class to challenge capitalist power in the political arena. The success of such a revolutionary movement would eradicate forever the dangers of militarism.


Socialist Labor Party of America, P.O. Box 218, Mountain View, CA 94042-0218 • •

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