THE BRITISH armed forces, especially the army, are making a big turn to recruit youth, with military colleges springing up everywhere.
More than one-in-10 new army recruits are boy soldiers of just 16 years old, according to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Defence.
More than one-in-four of all new army recruits are under 18, currently too young to be sent into combat – but that can be changed! This trend follows on from the successful deployment of 17-year-olds to the Gulf War in 1991, and to Kosovo in 1999.
After an outcry against boys being trained to be killers, the army amended its rules, stopping soldiers under 18 from being sent on operations where there is a possibility of fighting.
Despite this, at least 20 soldiers aged 17 are known to have served in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are more than 1,700 teenagers in the armed forces below voting age.
The vast majority of 16- and 17-year-olds in the armed forces are in the army, according to the 2014 annual personnel report. And the proportion of army recruits aged just 16 has risen from 10 per cent in 2012-13 to 13 per cent in 2013-14. Many of them would have begun the enlistment process when they were 15, according to campaigners.
Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, has defended the practice of recruiting 16-year-olds. ‘Some of the finest soldiers I commanded during my 30 years in the army started their careers as juniors, enlisting at 16.’ The approach ‘unquestionably boosts the quality and fighting effectiveness of the armed forces’.
He added: ‘Calling this scheme unethical and operationally unsound not only betrays Child Soldiers International’s ignorance of military matters but also insults the young men and women who serve their country with courage, pride and distinction.’
But Madeleine Moon MP, a member of the Commons Defence Select Committee, described the increase in recruitment of under-18s as ‘alarming’. ‘The failure to recruit adults should not be used as an excuse to flood the army with vulnerable youngsters.’
Army advertising has now turned towards youth. The latest ad targets youth with its appeal to ‘snowflakes’, ‘phone zombies’, ‘binge gamers’ and ‘selfie addicts’.
Lieutenant General Tyrone Urch, Commander of Home Command, commented: ‘You may feel like the army is dumbing down on who it seeks to recruit as these ads are a change to the norm, but the army is open for business.’ However, that business is supporting reaction abroad and maintaining capitalism at home – by force.
The army is targeting youth from poorer backgrounds, such as on the edges of cities in the north of England, according to data from the Child Rights International Network (CRIN), which campaigns against recruiting under-18s.
No doubt the army command is longing for the return of the days when young offenders were given the ‘choice’ of a prison sentence or joining the army. The fact is that UK capitalism is in a huge crisis with its ruling class split and divided over whether to serve the EU or the US.
Poverty, homelesness, and cheap labour are on the rise, and the working class and its youth are becoming more and more opposed to capitalism, a society where the rich are getting richer and the poor ever poorer!
Youth are disaffected with crisis-ridden capitalism and long for a decent future. The capitalist state is now turning to sections of youth from which to build its forces for the military actions that are ahead in the UK against the working class and the poor, to maintain capitalism by force.
As the class struggle sharpens, the state will require an army that uses the same tactics in the UK that were used in the north of Ireland – to maintain the UK ruling class.
Youth are the most revolutionary section of the working class. We urge them: don’t allow yourselves to be used by the capitalist state.
Join the Young Socialists and the WRP en masse to organise the British socialist revolution to get rid of capitalism in the UK and make a giant stride forward in getting rid of it worldwide.