YESTERDAY’S statement by the army commander in chief, Dannatt, represented a major intervention into politics by a bourgeois officer corps that is supposed to be non-political and bound by the dictates of the elected government.
The object was to force a speedy withdrawal of the army from Iraq and its transfer to Afghanistan. The Blair government’s spin doctors were silenced and Blair was unable to reply to this attack.
Historically in the bourgeois era there have been two previous interventions by the army into politics.
One was at the birth of bourgeois rule when the New Model Army dissolved the House of Commons in order to execute King Charles 1.
The Lord Protector of the English Republic and its military leader, Oliver Cromwell, then dissolved the Long Parliament in 1653. These actions were in the revolutionary period of the bourgeoisie.
The second intervention was in the period of the beginning of its downfall, when the position of the ruling class came under severe threat from German imperialism, on the eve of the First World War.
This was when the British army officer corps mutinied at the Curragh in July 1914, in opposition to the Liberal Government’s Home Rule plans for Ireland.
Dannatt’s intervention comes directly out of the period of the break up of British imperialism, its death agony, when its political leaders consider that it is so weak that it can only live by doing the dirty work of the US bourgeoisie, whatever the ‘blood price’ is, or whatever explosive contradictions emerge.
Dannatt is basically telling Blair that the British army must get out of Iraq ‘soon’, otherwise it will be ‘broken’ by being given a task that is beyond it.
He said: ‘I want an Army in five years time and 10 years time. Don’t let’s break it on this one. Let’s keep an eye on time.’
He added that the Iraq war had led to the army becoming unpopular in the country, and had seen the country ‘losing its Christian virtue’ and ‘moral compass’.
He remarked that the ‘covenant’ between the nation and its armed forces was being broken down. ‘I said to the Secretary of State the army won’t let the nation down but I don’t want the nation to let the army down.’
Dannatt neglected to say what would happen if the nation and the government definitively broke their ‘covenant’ with the army.
This is the ground from which springs political officers, contempt for a degenerate bourgeois order, and plans for coups to put society into a straitjacket.
The general made clear that the Iraqi adventure had much poisoned Britain’s position at home and abroad, and he identified an Islamist threat inside Britain.
He said: ‘I don’t say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them.’
He added: ‘When I see the Islamist threat in this country I hope it doesn’t make undue progress because there is a moral and spiritual vacuum in this country. Our society has always been embedded in Christian values; once you have pulled the anchor up there is a danger that our society moves with the prevailing wind. There is an element of the moral compass spinning. . . We need to face up to the Islamist threat, to those who act in the name of Islam and in a perverted way try to impose Islam by force on societies that do not wish it.’
It is becoming clear that the general is beginning to see the mission of the British army as restoring the ‘moral compass’ of British society and defeating the Islamic ‘threat’ inside Britain at a time when governments ‘have pulled up the anchor’ of Christian values.
Since neither Blair, Brown nor Cameron governments can rescue British capitalism from its crisis, or break with US imperialism, tensions between parliament and the state forces, including the army and the police, are set to sharpen rapidly.
Only a socialist revolution will prevent the development of a military police state in Britain, and defend the liberties and basic rights of its people by mobilising the working class to put an end to capitalism and imperialism.