Discontented generals enter into politics


THE formation of the United Kingdom National Defence Association (UKNDA) led by ex-chiefs of the general staff and politicians such as David Owen is a clear break from Britain’s bourgeois parliamentary tradition, and is a move towards a new form of rule in Britain.

Since the 1640s, when the New Model Army purged the House of Commons and forced through the execution of King Charles 1, and formed the English Republic, the British bourgeoisie has had a horror of political armies.

Since then it has always stressed that the armed forces are the servant of the British government and that their duty is to carry out the instructions of their political masters, a role that the army has been content to carry out, till recently.

In the period when British imperialism ruled the world there was no problem with this approach.

The bourgeoisie provided the armed forces with the tools, and the army did the job, defending the empire, which the British bosses were super-exploiting, from their rivals, whether they were German, Japanese or the national revolutionary movements.

Even when the Tories, under MacMillan, declared that Britain’s role east of Suez was over, the military chiefs bit their lips and loyally supported the withdrawal from Malaya, Singapore and Aden.

It was when Britain, much reduced in economic stature, surfaced under Tony Blair as the ‘partner’ of the US and its grandiose plans to reorder the world, and the British military was called upon to punch well above its weight, that the military revolt began.

Just before Iraq was invaded in 2003, the military command demanded assurances from the Prime Minister that the war was ‘legal’ and that the US-UK defiance of the United Nations would not land them in the ‘next cell to Milosevic’ as the matter was put by a leading British commander.

The illegal war has however done much more than land an officer in prison, it has demoralised sections of the officer corps and broken the Territorial Army, and the process of demoralising the officer corps is continuing in Afghanistan.

Now we have an army whose chiefs hold that they have been ‘betrayed by the politicians’, or as another theme would have it ‘been let down by the country’ which has not provided them with the tools and the manpower to do the job.

It is a process that is paralleled by the emergence of political police chiefs who demand of parliament that it legislates to satisfy their requirements.

The emergence of political army officers and police chiefs is a semblance of a move from a bourgeois democracy to an open dictatorship that the downsized British bourgeoisie requires to stay in power.

This is the essence of the emergence of the group of former senior military leaders and politicians such as David Owen and Winston Churchill who have formed the UK National Defence Association (UKNDA) and who want the military budget increased from 2.0 per cent (£34 billion) of Britain’s GDP to a figure put between three per cent and five per cent.

Other prominent supporters of the group include Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6, and Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP who serves as a defence adviser to the prime minister Gordon Brown.

The UKNDA president, Winston Churchill – grandson of the UK’s prime minister during World War II – said: ‘At the time of the Falklands 25 years ago we were spending five per cent of our gross domestic product on defence.’ However a name asssociated with the past does not equal the recreation of the past.

They want guns not butter, and their wish for a rebirth of the power of British imperialism can only be achieved by slashing the health and education budgets and smashing the Welfare State.

British imperialism is in its death agony. The role of the working class is to bury it to go forward to a socialist society. The moment when this will have to be done is fast approaching.