Pyramids of sacrifice: The Guardian newspaper on the Eurofighter

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Tue Jul 22 04:13:49 MDT 2003

As I mentioned in a some recent posts, slightly absurdistically, even if you
accepted the necessity of militarism (we of course reject it !), then it
still remains the case that governments invest plenty taxpayer's money in
military hardware which nobody really needs, and which may not even be used
in the event of war. Looked at strictly from a technical-military
perspective, the war against Iraq might well be described as "perverse
technological overkill combined with gross political naivety" (do you recall
Bush appealing to the military top brass "please help us win" ?).

The important thing is that military expenditure is now frequently justified
with reference to the job opportunities it creates, relative costs, and the
pool of expertise it maintains. Ernest Mandel frequently referred to
capitalism as a combination of "partial rationality and overall
irrationality" (the formula is originally Alvater's - see the chapter in
Mandel's Late Capitalism on ideology), but in finding rational
justifications for the system, people are often scraping the absolute moral
bottom of the barrel these days, in ways which I in my emotional analysis
can only judge as terribly depressing.

As a student in the early 1980s, I read a sociology text by Peter Berger,
called "Pyramids of sacrifice" (for an intelligent critique of this book,
see  - later I
read an awful scholastic article in Economy & Society suggesting the
bolsheviks sought to build pyramids of sacrifice as well; a confusion of the
bolshevik project with Stalinist industrialisation, premised on the
liquidation of the bolshevik leaders). The argument for militarism is like,
we need to build "weapons of mass destruction" so that the private
enterprise system may continue to flourish, and employ the working class.

I mused just now that the paradox of our time is that the analyses of the
New Left Marxist prophets, dismissed at the time because of oversimplication
and exaggerated and unrealistic revolutionary expectations, are coming home
to roost. The more Marx is ridiculed and denied as a "an outdated thing of
the past", the more the empirical evidence comes in that shows the actuality
of his ideas and those of his more intelligent followers. In fact, this is
so obvious, that it often seems explicit references to Marx are hardly
necessary anymore, except as an aid to probe the given issue systematically
to its revolutionary conclusion. It's just that people are too nice to do
it. Trotsky reflects in his History of the Russian Revolution, "The chronic
lag of ideas and relations behind new objective conditions, right up to the
moment when the latter crash over people in the form of a catastrophe, is
what creates in a period of revolution that leaping movement of ideas and
passions, which seems to the police mind a mere result of the activities of
"demagogues". The masses go into a revolution not with a prepared plan of
social reconstruction, but with a sharp feeling that they cannot endure the
old regime. Only the guiding layers of a class have a political programme,
and even this still requires the test of events, and the approval of the
masses. The fundamental political process of the revolution thus consists in
the gradual comprehension of a class of the problems arising from the social
crisis - the active orientation of the masses by a method of successive
approximations" - Vol. 1, Sphere edition, p. 16).

Anyway, check out this excerpt from an article in The Guardian newspaper by
Andy Beckett:

"The last time a UK pilot shot down an enemy aircraft was in 1982 in the
Falklands." Since then, Britain's frequent wars have been fought against
opponents either without air forces or without much chance to use them. Yet
the Eurofighter was devised in a very different era: when massed formations
of Russian aircraft were anticipated by western military planners as an
accompaniment to an invasion of Europe.
With this threat, real or otherwise, having long receded, the Eurofighter's
original role, using its manoeuvrability and clever weapons systems to
perform Battle of Britain-style heroics, has been replaced by something more
ambiguous. For critics of the international defence business and its
political and military allies, the jet has become the perfect example of a
well-connected industry's ability to make over-budget, redundant products
and find a market for them regardless. "The Eurofighter is completely out of
date," says Susan Willett, a defence analyst and "long-term sceptic" about
the jet. "It's a cold-war beast."

For those suspicious of European collaborations in general, the fighter -
paid for and built according to a complex and frequently disputed formula,
which currently gives Britain the largest share, roughly a third, of the
expenditure and the work - has become bloated with predictable compromises.
Production contracts have been distributed according to political
imperatives rather than ability of those chosen to fulfil them. Different
wings of the same aircraft have been manufactured in different countries.
The Eurofighter has become, literally, a warplane designed by committee.

But to supporters of the Eurofighter, all these complaints are either
irrelevant or incorrect. "The aircraft is absolutely critical to the UK
aerospace industry," says John Wall, the national aerospace secretary of the
trade union Amicus. Estimates of the number of British jobs dependent on the
project range from 10,000 to 80,000.

"These are worthwhile jobs," Penney adds. "Engineers, technicians, skilled
artisans... often in places where there aren't many other jobs." Without
this local expertise, he continues, Britain would have to buy fighters from
America or even Russia, at probably greater cost.

Whole story:,11816,1003333,00.html

Now back to my domestic chores...

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