AFTER over a decade of savage austerity measures, during which wages have been driven down and millions made dependent on food banks, the House of Commons Defence Committee has just demanded that the defence budget should rise from 2% of GDP (£40bn) to 3% (£60bn), in its report called ‘Beyond 2 Per Cent’.
Clearly in the period ahead it is to be ‘guns not butter’! and it is to be super-austerity for the working class. In fact, the Defence Secretary and former Tory Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson, has demanded from the Treasury £20bn more a year for his defence department. He has also boasted to his military cronies that if he does not get it he will bring down the May government! Clearly the army is moving into politics to ensure that there is a rapid rearmament at the expense of the NHS, the Welfare State and working class living standards.
The MPs’ Defence Committee is backing up Williamson and has said that the UK must significantly increase defence spending if it is to maintain its influence with Washington, President Trump and its NATO allies. The committee said the extra money for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would be spent on increasing the readiness of the armed forces to counter possible threats from Russia.
The Committee’s view is that the UK’s active subservience to the USA is vital, and that any loss of influence as far as the US ruling class is concerned will be a disaster for a much weakened British capitalism. It declared: ‘The government must not let this happen.’ Committee member Madeleine Moon, Labour MP for Bridgend, warned: ‘Influence is really important but unless you can back it up with capability you have no credibility.’
The MPs’ report noted that the eye of the US is on the military capability of the UK, and quoted comments by US Defence Secretary James Mattis that the UK benefits from its defence relationship with the US by £3bn a year. It observed: ‘However, that will continue to be true only while the UK military retains both the capacity and capability to maintain interoperability with the US military and to relieve US burdens.’ The UK has to be ready when the US calls!
The report said defence spending is ‘far too low’ and the government ‘needs to apply the resources that are necessary to keep this country safe’. It must move the level of defence expenditure back towards 3% of GDP, as it was in the mid-1990s. It also warned of ‘serious deficiencies in the quantities of armour, armoured vehicles and artillery available to the British Army.’ The lack of vehicle-mounted anti-tank weapons and self-propelled artillery and the need for modernisation of rocket artillery has left the Army ‘at serious risk of being outgunned by its Russian counterpart’. It once again invoked the ‘Russian threat’.
In fact, the UK is rapidly rearming. It is set to buy over 138 F-35 fighter jets for £12.bn. It is bringing in two giant aircraft carriers which will use the F-35B, capable of a short takeoff and a vertical landing approach. The first F35s have already arrived in the UK and are stationed at RAF Marham in Norfolk.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s first giant new aircraft carrier, weighing in at 65,000 tonnes, will carry up to 60 F-35s. It is the largest aircraft carrier ever commissioned by the Navy and is now undergoing sea trials. Her sister ship, named HMS Prince of Wales, is under construction and a huge dock has been built in Bahrain capable of taking the two carriers during operations in the Gulf region. There is no doubt that the crisis of world capitalism is rapidly intensifying with a trade war erupting and the prospect of another banking crash.
This is driving the UK ruling class into frantic war preparations which will be financed by the privatisation of the NHS and the further driving down of the living standards of the UK working class and youth. The object is the redivision of the world with Russia and China the main targets.
There is no doubt that the only policy for this situation of rapid war preparations is for the working class to adopt the policy of Lenin. This is that the enemy is at home, and must be disarmed by a socialist revolution, and the bosses and the capitalists must be expropriated to bring in socialism.