From von Clausewitz to cyber-warfare

A working class military programme


James Marshall of Labour Party Marxists argues that a Jeremy Corbyn government would be best defended by abolishing the standing army and the formation of a popular militia.

Two years ago, official Britain solemnly marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. The “war to end war” – that is how HG Wells, the Fabian social-imperialist, justified the carnage at the time.1 Yet, as we all know, 20 years after the Armistice of Compiègne, what passed for peace once again gave way to generalised armed conflict. World War II outstripped World War I in terms of death, destruction and sheer depravity.

And, of course, at its close, the big three – the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union – promised a “world of peace”, secured through the United Nations.2 Despite that, since 1945 there have been “some 250 major wars in which over 50 million people have been killed, tens of millions made homeless, and countless millions injured and bereaved.”3

The nature of warfare has changed. From World War I’s mud, blood and trenches and the fast-moving mechanised battlefields of World War II, we now have cyber attacks, drones and satellite-guided action.

As a matter of routine, the servile media portrays the wars conducted by the US, Britain and their allies as well-ordered, almost surgical operations. Yet during the 20th century the proportion of civilian casualties steadily climbed. In World War II, some 66% of those killed were civilians; by the beginning of the 1990s, civilian deaths approached 90%. This is not only the result of technological innovations. Present-day conflicts are often proxy wars fought out within, not between, states. The distinction separating combatant and non-combatant thereby easily evaporates.

Brushing aside mass street protests, one imperialist adventure has inexorably followed another: Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Liberia, Iraq, Mali, Libya and Syria. Equally, despite the 1980s peace movement, the United States pressed ahead with the deployment of first-strike Pershing IIs, cruise missiles and B2 stealth bombers. Ronald Reagan wanted to force a Soviet leadership that had already lost faith in itself to capitulate. Now a US determination to stay ahead in the arms race threatens to see the introduction of weapons once considered pure science fiction: electromagnetic rail guns, hypersonic anti-missile missiles, quantum stealth aircraft, unmanned warships, drone swarms and satellite killers.4 Such programmes both terrify and spur on the authorities in Moscow and Beijing.

Only a hopeless sectarian would stand aloof from the peace movement. Organisations such as the Stop the War Coalition and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament have mobilised huge numbers over Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza and now the renewal of Trident. That must be welcomed. But – and it is a big but – despite the leadership of socialists such as John Rees, Lindsey German, Andrew Murray, Chris Nineham, Kate Hudson and Andrew Burgin, what the peace movement champions is pacifism. Listen to their platform speeches. Their appearances on radio and TV. The horrors of war are indignantly condemned. But, in the name of keeping the peace movement broad, calls for class politics and socialist revolution are dismissed as sectarian and divisive. Hence, objectively, the STWC and CND serve to spread illusions in a peaceful capitalism.

It would therefore be outright treachery to follow the example of the Socialist Workers Party, Left Unity, Counterfire and the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain and become uncritical cheerleaders for the STWC and CND. This is not a matter of abstract dogma or a test of political virility, as some of our critics maintain. No, it is either socialism or we shall see the further descent into barbarism.

What is war?

Let me ask a fundamental question: what is war, and where does the drive for war come from?

The classic definition is provided by Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian soldier-philosopher and director of the Berlin military academy from 1818 to 1830. His principal work Vom Kriege (1832) theoretically distilled the military practice of Napoleon Bonaparte. Hence, along with Principia mathematica, The science of logic, Origin of the species and Das Kapital, it is rightly considered a seminal achievement.

Clausewitz tells us that war “is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfil our will”. War, he says, is “a duel on an extensive scale”. Centrally, for Clausewitz, war is a “continuation of policy by other means”.5 A definition fully accepted by the founders of scientific socialism, who deepened Clausewitz’s ideas by linking wars to the existence and struggles of classes. Thus we find Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) not only declaring, “War is a continuation of policy by other means”, but adding:

All wars are inseparable from the political systems that engender them. The policy which a given state, a given class within a state, pursued for a long time before the war is inevitably continued by that same class during the war, the form of action alone being changed.6

Because Marxists understand the relationship between war and politics, because Marxists link war to the existence and struggle of classes, we are not amongst those who absolutely oppose all wars.

Original, or primitive, communist society did not experience anything remotely like war – at least as we would define it. Amazingly, this 200,000-year period of human natural history is breezily skipped over in Steven Pinker’s Whiggish account of declining human violence.7 Fights between individual male protagonists must have occurred, maybe even the group killing of a social transgressor, but no organised, prolonged, extensive conflicts. Under conditions of material abundance, female equality and counter-hierarchy, it almost certainly never happened. Yet with the gradual breakdown of communist social relations, beginning with the mesolithic, warfare did appear. That is what the archaeological record shows. Collective burial sites dating from the mesolithic, which provide unmistakable forensic evidence of deaths being due to stone implements – arrows, spears, etc – have been excavated.8 However, such examples are very rare. When class society, the patriarchal family and private property finally solidified with the neolithic counterrevolution, only then did war became commonplace.9

The ruling class not only suppressed their own populations using armed bodies of men (the state). By employing murderous violence, it sought to enslave and extend its domination over other peoples too. Great empires appeared in the Bronze Age, along with an almost perpetual state of warfare. For the ancient Assyrians, Hittites, Persians, Athenians, Spartans, Carthaginians and Romans; for the medieval Anglo-Saxons, Carolingians and Normans, the “profession of arms was esteemed the sole employment that deserved the name of ‘manly’ or ‘honourable’”.10 Killing, looting and raping were socially sanctioned male aspirations.

However, with the rise of capitalism, wars assumed an even bigger scale. Battles were fought on many seas and on many continents. World markets equalled world wars – eg, the 1652-74 and 1781-1810 Anglo-Dutch wars, the 1755-64, 1778-83 and 1793-1815 Anglo-French wars. In that sense, what we call World War I and World War II are only the latest in a string of world wars.

While Marxists aim for the abolition of war and a modern higher, version of communism, we recognise that this can only come about by first abolishing classes and class exploita­tion. Self-evidently, this requires the expropriation of a capitalist class which on past experience is quite prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to hold onto its riches, privileges and god-given right to rule. Indeed there are good reasons to believe that the great European powers turned to war in August 1914 in an attempt to roll back growing popular support for socialism.11 Hence, while it is vital to oppose capitalist warmongering, the working class must be won to the idea of making revolution – “peacefully if we can, violently if we must”. It is clear then that Marxists recognise the existence of just and unjust wars – a concept derived not from Hegel, nor from Fourier or Babeuf, but the saintly Augustine of Hippo.12

So, almost needless to say, our attitude to war is not determined by gross national product, territorial size or military capacity, whether it is a David-versus-Goliath affair, or even if a country is fighting an offensive or defensive war. In general, we feel obliged to support wars of national liberation – after all, “any people that oppresses another people forges its own chains”.13 Nevertheless, sometimes it is right to back the ‘aggression’ of a big country against a small one. Eg, if Soviet Russia had been in a position to save the 1918 Finnish revolution from the Mannerheim counterrevolution, that would undoubtedly have been a just war. What determines our attitude is which class rules and what policies that class pursues. This is the unfailing method we employ to determine whether a war is just or unjust.

Hence, looking back over the centuries, we find just wars. Obviously, when Spartacus fought for the freedom of Rome’s slave population in 73-71 BCE, that was a just war. When John Ball and Wat Tyler led the peasant’s revolt in 1381, that was a just war. When the French masses rose up against Louis XVI in 1789, that was a just war. The same goes for France in 1792-94. The massed columns of the conscript Armée Révolutionnaire Française soundly defeated the joint Austrian-Prussian attempt to impose a Bourbon restoration.

Marxists have also actively supported wars judged to somehow bring forward the struggle for socialism. The Marx-Engels team sided with the Union against the Confederacy in the American civil war of 1861-65 (the second American revolution). Both sides were capitalist. However, while the south was based on slavery and subordination to Britain’s commercial dictatorship, the north was based on free labour and sought independent economic development. Victory for the north, Marx and Engels calculated, would strike a powerful blow against the British empire, do away with slavery and unleash the class struggle in America. Their co-thinker and loyal friend, Joseph Weydemeyer, took the lead amongst the German-speaking population of New York (after Berlin and Vienna, the third largest German city in the world at the time). The Marx party worked tirelessly to secure the nomination and election of Abraham Lincoln. And, note, the most militant, most effective, most politically conscious units in the Union army were German. Many, including 10 generals, were refugees from the 1848-49 German revolution – the ‘48ers’ or ‘Red 48ers’.14

As a central component of their global strategy, Marx and Engels were also determined to bury what they called the “tsarist menace”. Since the 1815 Congress of Vienna, Europe languished under an “Anglo-Russian slavery”.15 Marx and Engels urged Europe’s peoples to bring the conservative order, so meticulously constructed by Alexander I, Metternich, Castlereagh, Talleyrand and Hardenberg – and so admired by Richard Nixon’s prince of darkness – crashing down.16 By definition that necessitated launching a war of liberation against Russian absolutism.

However, in the late 19th century things began to change. The most fearsome guarantor of counterrevolution showed all the signs of exhaustion … and being ripe for a popular revolution. Because of this, especially after Marx’s death in 1883, Engels shifted his position … and not only on Russia. Having eagerly looked forward to a European war, he began to issue urgent warnings. A general conflagration would “inflame chauvinism” in every country and thus temporarily derail the working class movement.17

In February 1917 the “tsarist menace” ignominiously collapsed and with October 1917 political power passed into the hands of the working class, as organised in the Bolshevik party. Workers throughout the world had a moral duty and every interest in siding with Soviet Russia. That included supporting its revolutionary wars. Such wars can be defensive: eg, against the white armies of Wrangel and Denikin and the 14 interventionist powers.

But what starts as a defensive war can easily be transformed into an offensive war. In 1920 the Red Army pursued the invading Polish forces across the Soviet border and deep into Poland itself. Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders envisaged reaching Warsaw. That would not only mean defeating the peasant-aristocratic army, headed by the notorious social-nationalist, Józef Piłsudski. The expectation was that the city’s proletariat would mount an uprising and thus provide the Red Army with a vital staging post on its way to help reignite the German revolution. Of course, it never happened. Logistically the Red Army overextended itself and the Warsaw proletariat proved rather more nationalist than socialist.

Imperialism and war

Needless to say, most wars are neither just nor revolutionary. This is most certainly the case with capitalism in decline: what Lenin called monopoly, finance or imperialist capitalism. Without doubt, there were monopolies, financiers and overseas expansionism at an early stage. Tudor England had its Sir Thomas Grisham, a bourse, privileged manufacturers and a colonial empire. Following Ireland, the first outposts in India and the Americas were established during the reign of Elizabeth I. But what we take from Lenin’s Imperialism (1916) is its fundamental insight: since the late 19th century capitalism has been a negative anticipation of socialism and simultaneously in decay.

State pensions, health services based on need, unemployment benefit, compulsory education, universal suffrage – all go hand in hand with the promotion of national chauvinism, perverting human ingenuity and the warfare state. Clearly essential laws are in retreat: market competition, the reserve army of labour, value, etc, continue, but are increasingly influenced, altered and overridden by state organisation. Massive arms spending allows the leading capitalist powers to ameliorate, offload or even bring to an end one of the system’s periodic crises. Imperialist exploitation also provides the additional surplus needed to incorporate social democracy and the trade union bureaucracy into the state apparatus. The working class is thereby divided into rival national detachments.

Albeit at the cost of substantial concessions, the principle of nationalism trumped the principle of class. Demands for import controls, barriers to immigration, appeals to the national interest, etc, became the common currency of a labour movement that has thoroughly internalised its subordination. Not surprisingly then, the working class has failed to realise its historic mission. As a consequence – with capitalism’s economic anarchy, wars, failed states, pandemics and ecological crises going unresolved – there is the ever-present danger that humanity will “crash down together in a common doom” (Rosa Luxemburg).18

An exhausted Britain was able to ride the precipitous 1929 crash and the economic dislocation of the early 1930s without plunging into social turmoil. It still possessed an enormous empire and a web of semi-colonies and dependants. By contrast, German imperialism, having been reduced almost to the level of an oppressed country by the terms of Versailles, spiralled off into chaos. In desperation, the capitalist class embraced the Nazi gangsters as their saviours.

World War II was considerably more complex than World War I. Its opening phase saw the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, Japanese expansionism in China, the German retaking of Saarland, Anschluss with Austria, Franco’s uprising, etc. Wars of colonial oppression, revanchism and counterrevolution interwove with wars of resistance. However, the looming clash between the German-Italian axis and the Anglo-French alliance had every appearance of being a classic inter-imperialist conflict. The correct slogan under these circumstances would therefore be ‘defeat for both sides’. Britain and France were going to fight not for democracy, not for national freedom, not for the anti-fascist cause. No, they wanted to preserve their position at the top of the imperialist feeding chain.

However, instead of the hostilities grinding to a bloody stalemate, as in World War I, the Wehrmacht cut straight through Holland and Belgium and deep into France. Half of the country, including Paris, was occupied. Vichy, though formally independent, became little more than a satrap. Hence, the war for the working class in France turned into a struggle for national liberation. The same possibility existed for Britain. Hence, especially after June 1940 and the fall of France, the necessity of the working class formulating its own demands for national defence: eg, arming the population, election of officers, specialist military training under trade union control, removal of appeaser ministers, abolition of the Hitler sympathising monarchy and elections to a constituent assembly. Standing up against the threat of Nazi invasion had to be combined with the class war for socialism. Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, reinforced the complex nature of World War II. The Soviet people fought against being enslaved as agricultural helots in a German India. Stalin, on the other hand, had his own great-power ambitions.

In 1945 Germany, Japan and their allies were forced into an unconditional surrender. Needless to say, the aftermath of World War II was very different from World War I. Des­pite being on the winning side, Britain and France failed to save their empires. This was in part due to the greatly enhanced power of the Soviet Union and colonial peoples winning national independence. However, as long as it did not see ‘official communists’ or pro-Moscow left nationalists coming to power, the US too wanted decolonisation. Something it pursued, of course, in its own economic, military and strategic interests. The US had no concern whatsoever for the colonial peoples themselves, except as objects of exploitation.

The US became a sort of super-imperialist power, its capital penetrating every corner of the capitalist world, all imperialist rivals bending to its will. The American century closed the 20-years crises of 1919-39. The rate of profit soared and the global economy expanded at an unprecedented rate for an unprecedented period. Inevitably, however, not least due to rising trade union power, the boom came to an end. From the mid-1970s onwards the US and Britain opted for finance capital, offshoring industrial production and reversing the social democratic settlement. And, with the additional plank of draconian legislation, trade union power was to all intents and purposes neutered.

Despite the growing economic weight of China, a faltering European Union and US parasitism and relative decline, there is no immediate prospect of an all-out World War III. With the likelihood of mutually assured destruction (MAD), who would fight and why? Nevertheless, there is the increasing danger of a regional hot spot accidentally boiling over: Syria, Palestine, Korea, Ukraine, Kashmir and the South China Sea immediately spring to mind. With good reason, Liz Sly, writing in the Washington Post, describes Syria as a “mini world war”.19 Militarily, a direct clash between the US and Russia or China could quite conceivably rapidly escalate. Even a limited nuclear exchange would exact an almost unimaginable human toll.

What distinguishes Marxists from others on the left who oppose the war danger is that we see the need to retaliate not with Left Unity’s ambiguous demand for a “drastic reduction” in military expenditure.20 Nor with the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty’s no less vague “Cut arms spending”.21 The same goes for the number-crunching plea of Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain to “cut military spending to average European levels”.22 Ditto the Scottish Socialist Party’s recipe of reducing “defence spending” to no more than the per capita level of the Republic of Ireland.23 Banal, timid and self-defeating.

Our military policy does not legitimise a reduced version of the existing armed forces. Despite the verbal, statistical and factional variations, what that theme amounts to is the attempt to win the working class – as individuals and as an organised force – to the hopeless attempt of securing peace, while the capitalist system remains intact.

Inevitably there is a corresponding refusal to take up the elementary demand of arming the working class. That is certainly the case with the Socialist Party in England and Wales and the CPB.24 But, if untreated, what begins as a scratch ends with gangrene. Confronted by the miners’ Great Strike of 1984-85 and the formation of hit squads, the Marxism Today Eurocommunists condemned “macho” violence. They offered instead the mystical, women-only pacifism of Greenham Common. But come the ‘war on terrorism’, not a few of these former peaceniks were to be found in the ranks of the Bush-Blair interventionists: eg, the newspaper columnist, David Aaronovitch.

Marxists are convinced that the bour­geois state machine must be broken apart, demolished, smashed up, if we are to realise socialism and put an end to war. So, concretely, in today’s conditions, that not only means demanding the scrapping of all nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction – they are inherently inhuman. We should be arguing for scrapping the standing army.

None of this will be realised by patiently winning over members of the ruling class. It has to be fought for. The working class must develop its own militia. Such a body grows out of the class struggle itself: in the fight to protect picket lines, in defence of Muslims from fasc­ist attacks, in guarding our print shops, meeting places and demonstrations. With a workers’ militia it becomes realistic to split the state’s armed forces. Fear of officers, sergeants and court martials must be replaced by rank and file mutiny. Certainly, army regiments, airforce squadrons and naval crews declaring for our side provides us with the military wherewithal needed to safeguard either an expected or a recently established Marxist majority in parliament.

Programmatically we therefore demand:

  • Rank-and-file personnel in the state’s armed bodies must be protected from bullying, humiliating treatment and being used against the working class.
  • There must be full trade union and democratic rights, including the right to form bodies such as soldiers’ councils.
  • The privileges of the officer caste must be abolished. Officers must be elected. Workers in uniform must become the allies of the masses in struggle.
  • The people must have the right to bear arms and defend themselves.
  • The dissolution of the standing army and the formation of a popular militia under democratic control.


Strange though it may appear to the historically ill-informed, here contemporary Marxists draw direct inspiration from the second amendment to the US constitution. Ratified to popular acclaim in 1791, it states: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”25 Those who made the American revolution – above all the urban and rural masses – saw a standing army as an existential threat to democracy. Eg, in her Observations on the new constitution (1788) Mercy Otis Warren – the mother of the American revolution – branded the standing army as “the nursery of vice and the bane of liberty”.26 At great sacrifice the common people had overthrown the tyranny of George III and were determined to do the same again, if faced with another unacceptable government.

Naturally Marx and Engels considered the second amendment part of their heritage. Clause four of the Marx-Engels Demands of the Communist Party in Germany (1848) is emphatic:

Universal arming of the people. In future armies shall at the same time be workers’ armies, so that the armed forces will not only consume, as in the past, but produce even more than it costs to maintain them.27

The Marx-Engels team never wavered on this. Read Can Europe disarm? Here, in this pamphlet written by Engels in 1893, 10 years after the death of his friend and collaborator, we find a concrete application of Marxism to the dawning epoch of universal suffrage and universal conscription. Engels concluded that the key to revolution was mutiny in the armed forces. His pamphlet outlined a model bill for military reform in Germany. Engels was determined to show that the proposal to gradually transform standing armies into a “militia based on the universal principle of arming the people” could exploit the mounting fears of a pending European war and widespread resentment at the ruinous military budget.28

For propaganda effect, Engels proposed an international agreement to limit military service to a short period and a state system in which no country would fear aggression because no country would be capable of aggression. Surely World War I would have been impossible if the European great powers had nothing more than lightly armed civilian militias available to them.

Not that Engels was a lily-livered pacifist. He supported universal male (!) conscription and if necessary was, of course, quite prepared to advocate revolutionary war. However, his Can Europe disarm? was not intended to prove the military superiority of a militia over a standing army. No, he wanted a citizen army within which discipline would be self-imposed. An army where rank-and-file troops would confidently turn their guns against officers who dared issue orders that were against the vital interests of the people. Through mutiny such an army could be made ours.

As might be expected, the Marxist parties of the late 19th and early 20th century unproblematically included the demand for disbanding the standing army and establishing a popular militia in their programmes. Eg, the 1880 programme of the French Workers’ Party, the 1891 Erfurt programme, the 1889 Hainfeld programme of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, the 1903 programme of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, etc.

In the ‘political section’ of the programme of the French Workers’ Party (Parti Ouvrier), authored jointly by Karl Marx and Jules Guesde, we therefore find the demand for the “abolition of standing armies and the general arming of the people” (clause four).29 A proposition faithfully translated by the Germans: “Education of all to bear arms. Militia in the place of the standing army” (clause 3).30 The Austrians are adamant: “The cause of the constant danger of war is the standing army, whose growing burden alienates the people from its cultural tasks. It is therefore necessary to fight for the replacement of the standing army by arming the people” (clause 6).31 Then we have the Russians: “general arming of the people instead of maintaining a standing army” (clause c9).32

Theory and practice must be united

Amongst the first decrees of the 1871 Paris Commune was the abolition of the standing army and the constitution of the national guard as the sole armed force in France. Memorably, Auguste Blanqui proclaimed: “He who has iron has bread!” By actually constituting a new state, based not on a repressive force that sat outside the general population, the Commune opened a new chapter in working class politics. And Russia took what happened in Paris to as yet unsurpassed heights. Formed in April-March 1917, the Red Guards proved crucial. Red Guards, and increasing numbers of army units, put themselves under the discipline of the Military Revolutionary Committee – a subdivision of the Bolshevik-led Petrograd soviet, formally established on Leon Trotsky’s initiative. On October 25 (November 7) 1917 the MRC issued its momentous declaration that the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky “no longer existed”. State power has passed into the hands of the soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers.

Workers formed defence corps during the 1926 General Strike in Britain. American workers did the same in 1934. There were massive stoppages in San Francisco, Toledo and Minneapolis. In the 1920s the two main workers’ parties in Germany established their own militias. The SDP dominated the soft-left Reichsbanner, while the Communist Party formed the much more militant Rotfrontkämpferbund (at its height it boasted 130,000 members). Despite its 1923 founding statutes emphasising ceremonial paraphernalia, marches and band music, the Schutzbund in Austria served as a kind of “proletarian police force”.33 When it came to strikes, demonstrations and meetings, this workers’ militia maintained discipline and fended off Nazi gangs. Though hampered by a dithering social democratic leadership, the Schutzbund heroically resisted the February 12 1934 fascist coup. In Spain anarchists, official ‘communists’, Poum, etc, likewise formed their own militias against the Franco uprising.

Then, more recently, in 1966, there was the Black Panther Party. It organised “armed citizen’s patrols” to monitor and counter the brutal US police force.34 Even the “non-violent” civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King, included within its ranks those committed to “armed self-defence” against Ku Klux Klan and other such terrorism.35 Countless other such examples could be cited.


Speaking to a Hiroshima remembrance event in August 2012, Jeremy Corbyn spoke of his desire to emulate “the people of Costa Rica”, who “abolished the army”. Leaving aside the actual situation in Costa Rica and the synthetic outrage generated by The Sun36 and the Daily Mail37, demanding the disbanding of the standing army has assumed a particular importance since Corbyn was elected Labour leader.

Put aside passing opinion polls and imagine that Corbyn wins a majority in 2020. Are the courts, MI5, the armed forces and the police going to be steadfastly loyal to the new government, or powerless to act behind ministerial backs, because of the results of a general election? Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, etc, rightly dismissed such naive politics as “parliamentary cretinism”.

The Corbyn government would doubtless be committed to swiftly reversing austerity, renationalising the rails, ending British involvement in the Syrian quagmire, decommissioning Trident and maybe negotiating a withdrawal from Nato. However, say in the name of keeping the Labour right, the Daily Mirror and the liberal intelligentsia onside, the Corbyn government decides to leave in place MI5, the police and the standing army. Frankly, that would be an open invitation for a British version of general Augusto Pinochet to launch a bloody counterrevolution. In Chile thousands of leftwingers were butchered after the September 11 1973 army coup, which overthrew the Socialist Party-Communist Party Popular Unity reformist government under president Salvador Allende.

There are already rumours swirling around of unnamed members of the army high command “not standing for” a Corbyn government and being prepared to take “direct action”.38 Meanwhile, the Financial Times darkly warns that Corbyn’s leadership damages “British public life”.39

Why trust the thoroughly authoritarian British army? An institution which relies on inculcating “unthinking obedience” amongst the ranks.40 An institution run by an officer caste, which is trained to command from public school to Sandhurst as if it is their birthright. And, of course, the British army swears to loyally serve the crown – believe it, more than a harmless feudalistic throwback. The monarch and the monarchy function as a potent symbol, and an ever-present excuse for a legal coup.

Why trust the British army, which has fought countless imperial and colonial wars, up to and including the horrors of Iraq and Afghanistan? A British army that has been used when necessary to intimidate, threaten and crush the ‘enemy within’?

No; instead, let us put our trust in a “well regulated militia” and the “right of the people to keep and bear arms”.


1 . HG Wells The war that will end war London 1914. See

2 . T Hoops and D Brinkley FDR and the creation of the UN New Haven 1997, p219.

3 .

4 .

5 . A Rapoport (ed) Clausewitz on war Harmondsworth 1976, pp101, 119.

6 . VI Lenin CW Vol 24, Moscow 1977, p400.

7 . See S Pinker The better angels of our nature London 2011.

8 . J Guilaine and J Zammit The origins of war Oxford 2015, p75.

9 . Noted but inadequately discussed by Steven Pinker in his opening chapter of The better angels of our nature (2011).

10 . AFT Woodhouselee Elements of general history ancient and modern London 1818, p287.

11 . A view accepted by many mainstream historians. See P Kennedy The rise of the Anglo-German antagonism 1860-1914 London 1980; J Joll and G Martel The origins of the first world war Abingdon 2007; C Clark The sleepwalkers: how Europe went to war in 1914 London 2012.

12 . See ‘Augustine to Boniface’ in EM Atkins and RJ Doradaro (eds) Augustine: political writings Cambridge 2001, p217; JM Mattox Saint Augustine and the theory of just war New York 2006; GM Reichberg, H Syse and E Begby (eds) Ethics of war Malden 2006, pp-70-90.

13 . K Marx, ‘Confidential communication’ CW Vol 21, Moscow 1985, p120.

14 . AH Nimtz Marx, Tocqueville and race in America New York 2003, p170.

15 . K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 9, Moscow 1977, p197.

16 . See H Kissinger A world restored Boston MA 1954.

17 . H Draper and E Haberkern Karl Marx’s theory of revolution Vol 4, New York 2005, p166.

18 . P Hurdis and KB Anderson (eds) The Rosa Luxemburg reader New York 2004, p364.

19 . Washington Post February 14 2016.

20 .

21  . ‘AWL election campaign: why we are standing and our policies’:

22 .

23 .

24 . See Weekly Worker May 21 2009.

25 .

26 .

27 . K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 7, Moscow 1977, p3.

28 . K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 27, London 1990, p371.

29 .

30 .

31 . I am grateful to Ben Lewis for his translation of the Hainfield programme.

32 .

33 . M Kitchen The coming of Austrian fascism London 1980, p116.

34 .

35 . See CE Cobb This nonviolent stuff’ll get you killed New York 2014.

36 .

37  .

38 . Daily Mail September 20 2015.

39 . Financial Times August 14 2015.

40 . NF Dixon On the psychology of military incompetence London 1976, p244.