A Socialist Labor Party Statement—

The Military Budget

Who really benefits? Who really loses?

Here’s what the Socialist Labor Party says.


While issuing calls for workers to accept drastic cutbacks in social programs, politicians on Capitol Hill are eagerly approving dramatic increases in another area of the budget—militarism.

If the Reagan administration has its way, spending on militarism in the next five years will total a staggering $1.5 trillion. Among the alarming implications of resurgent militarism that are already being felt are: the revival of the draft; a growing U.S. military presence in Central America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East; new, more powerful and more accurate nuclear weapons systems; and serious talk about a so-called “limited” nuclear war. These disturbing trends should prompt all workers to ask themselves, “Who really benefits from militarism?”

The politicians voting billions more for the Pentagon claim that bolstering militarism is necessary to preserve “national security.” Yet to offset the costs of militarism, the same politicians are making life less secure and more desperate for millions of working people. While lining the pockets of defense contractors with billions in defense appropriations, Congress is cutting nutrition, health, unemployment and other social programs that the poor and disadvantaged have been forced to rely on, meager as such programs are. Indeed, all workers will pay dearly for the military budget, which averages out to more than $2,000 per family in 1981. This figure will rise to $4,800 by 1986.

Many have already expressed their opposition to one manifestation of resurgent militarism—the draft registration initiated by the Carter administration. At least 400,000 18- and 19-year-olds have decided to risk a possible felony prosecution rather than register for the draft. Such opposition has dimmed ruling-class hopes that workers had forgotten the genocidal U.S. aggression in Vietnam that accompanied the last draft.

Despite differences on how to proceed in the face of such opposition, however, the ruling class remains firmly committed to building up the armed forces. Though Reagan feigned opposition to a peacetime—though not a wartime—draft registration, he has not made good on his pledge to abandon the current registration program. In fact, Reagan is committed to increasing the 2.l-million member military by 10 percent.

Realization of this goal is being facilitated, in part, by capitalism’s growing inability to provide jobs for workers. Unemployment, especially among minority youth, has resulted in higher enlistment rates in the misnamed “all volunteer” force (AVF). However, the racism, sexism, authoritarianism and low pay enlistees are subjected to continue to produce record attrition rates. Though Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger recently noted that Reagan “wants very much to retain the volunteer army as long as he can,” various alternative plans for compulsory military service are being formulated by Congress and the Pentagon, while the current draft registration continues.

Reduced funding for social programs and the prospect of military conscription are not the only negative features of resurgent militarism affecting workers. To these must be added the horrible consequences of a more belligerent U.S. foreign policy. Already, the world’s most repressive dictatorships, from South Africa to South Korea, are receiving strengthened support from U.S. imperialism. Such regimes regard such increased support as a green light to step up their brutal oppression of workers and peasants. In addition, the U.S. war machine has dispatched weapons and “advisers” to assist a savage El Salvadoran regime that continues to drench the democratic aspirations of an entire people in blood.

Of course, getting U.S. workers to support the Reagan administration’s efforts to prop up brutal totalitarian regimes and to crush national liberation struggles the world over is no easy task. In a desperate effort to rally such support, ruling-class propagandists have pulled out all the stops on their cold war propaganda campaign, seeking to characterize struggles like that in El Salvador as the product of “Soviet support of international terrorism.” But more and more workers are refusing to buy this fraudulent justification for increasing U.S. military involvement in El Salvador and elsewhere.

Indeed, there are encouraging signs of increasing working-class opposition to the manifestations of U.S. militarism. Opposition to the draft and to nuclear arms proliferation is growing. In addition, many people reject U.S. intervention in Central America. For example, a recent survey found that only 2 percent of those polled think the United States should send troops to assist the Salvadoran junta. Only 19 percent supported military aid.

Notwithstanding such public opinion, however, the U.S. ruling class will continue its escalation of militarism as long as there are profit interests, which benefit from it. Accordingly, active opposition to the profit-motivated capitalist system, which underlies militarism, is needed to prevent another Vietnam-style U.S. military intervention—or worse.

In joining with the growing number of working people who are condemning and taking a stand against the draft and militarism, the Socialist Labor Party therefore stresses the fact that U.S. militarism is rooted in the capitalist class’ private ownership and control of the economy. The SLP thus seeks to organize working people politically and economically to replace the economic chaos and militarism of capitalism with a worker-controlled economy that will serve our collective needs.

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.


Socialist Labor Party of America, P.O. Box 218, Mountain View, CA 94042-0218 • www.slp.org • socialists@slp.org

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