[Marxism] Chossudovsky on privatisation and militarisation

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Sun Jul 18 05:51:29 MDT 2004

John asked:

But couldn't it also be claimed that privatisation is a consequence of a
body politic which itself has been privatised - ie our political leaders
serve both directly and indirectly the needs of the private sector to the
detriment of their constituents - ie the people.


Well the private sector are also part of their "constituents", and the
capitalist state is not neutral, it promotes capitalism.

Privatisation is an essential part of the transformation of goods and
services of any kind into tradeable and saleable commodities.

You cannot normally trade in goods and services, and obtain income from
that, unless private ownership rights can be attached to those goods and

Therefore, privatisation in all forms is an essential characteristic of
marketisation, market expansion.

But you are correct, insofar as we have to distinguish between legal
formalities and the substantive economic & power relations involved.

One of the better discussions of Marx's own theory of the state, is in Hal
Draper, Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, Vol. 1: State and Bureaucracy
(Monthly Review Press).

John asks:

And what is the basis of your assertion that a militarist solution can only
succeed for three decades or so?


That's my personal assessment based on what I know about the history of the
20th century. Typically military regimes can continue only for a generation
or so. Military regimes emerge when the ruling classes or the ruling elites
cannot secure their social order by other means. But typically if they have
performed a "stabilising function", they break up, through popular revolt,
corruption, economic decline, etc. Direct forcible coercion is never a
lasting method of ensuring societal reproduction. A relatively stable social
order is always based not just on methods of direct and indirect coercion,
but also on popular consent of a critical mass of people who benefit from
the regime or are co-opted by it.

John said:

Capitalism is a violent economic system and militarism is a direct and
inevitable consequence of that system.


Agreed, there hasn't been any year in the 20th century without some armed
conflict occurring somewhere. But that by itself does not tell us all that
much yet. We need to understand how specifically that occurs. Fact is, the
military industry is big business, and military research and development is,
by far, the largest single research pursuit on earth.

During the 1980s, Elisabeth Sköns has calculated, world military expenditure
was 10 times higher by value than in 1925-1938. In 1989, the USA spent 36%
and the USSR 23% of it.

The global stockpile of nuclear warheads peaked in 1986 at 69,490, equal to
an explosive yield of 18 billions tons of TNT, three times the total
explosive force used in all of world war 2. After that there was a slight
lull in military spending, but the events of 9/11 again gave a very powerful
impulse to the military industry (check it out at http://www.sipri.se/).

This doesn't create more social stability, security and certainty, but
reduces it - the more weapons there are, the greater the likelihood that
they will be used, by that fact alone.

SIPRI calculates world military expenditure in the calendar year 2002 was
US$794 billion in 2002 prices, accounting for 2.5% of world GDP valued at
$31.8 trillion, and $128 per head of the world population.

For comparison, Cuba spends about $30 per Cuban citizen per year in its
military budget, and the USA spends about $1,010 a year for each American

If you convert the SIPRI world military spending estimate into purchasing
parity terms you arrive at about one trillion US dollars worth of military
expenditure per year, or, given a world population of 6.2 billion, a
military expenditure value per head of the world population in 2002 equal to
US$161 in real terms. (One trillion dollars is just under a tenth of the
total value of US GDP).

For 2002-2003, SIPRI calculated that world military spending using their
measure had increased by 18% in real terms, to reach $956 billion (in
current dollars) in 2003. So really, whatever valuation measure you use, it
can be said confidently that the military industry is a trillion dollar a
year business.

High-income countries account for three quarters of world military spending
but only 16 per cent of the world's population. The combined military
spending of these countries is slightly higher than the aggregate foreign
debt of all low-income countries and 10 times higher than their combined
levels of official development assistance in 2001.

The main reason for the large increase in world military spending is of
course the massive increase in spending by the United States government,
which accounts for almost half of total world military expenditure.

The total number of smallarms, ranging from pistols and revolvers to
shoulder-fired rocket launchers, in civilian and military hands around the
world was estimated to have risen to to 639 million in 2001, and the USA
accounts for 220 to 230 million of those (Geneva Graduate Institute of
International Studies, 2002).

8 million more smallarms are produced every year, so we can estimate the
current total world stock at about 660 million smallarms. So there exists
one firearm for every 9 or 10 people on the planet. For every four
Americans, there are 3 firearms owned by the military or civilians.

According to the United Nations, of 49 major conflicts in the 1990s, 47 were
waged with smallarms as the weapons of choice. Smallarms are responsible for
over half a million deaths per year, including 300,000 in armed conflict
(war fatalities) and 200,000 more from homicides and suicides (in Israel,
more IDF soldiers seem to be dying from suicide than from interventions in
the West Bank).

That's one person in the world killed every minute by smallarms.


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