It is at times easy to forget in Australia the realities of war. – death, destruction, and pain on an unimaginable scale – but for many, the destruction rained down upon Palestine by the Isreali state has brought these images back to the forefront. When you look at the scale of destruction enacted by the Isreali government on Palestine, the constant violence of the Indonesian government in West Papua, or the endless wars in the Middle East, it can be easy to wonder if it is even possible to see a world without war. When one thinks of all the rallies held over the years against military violence and war, it is easy to become despondent and choose to look away rather than attempt to take action.
The question of what we can do in the face of the military industrial complex is particularly relevant for us in Meanjin today, as between the 1st and 3rd of June the city is playing host to the LandForces Weapon Conference – a conference of death merchants, where the best and brightest of the military industrial complex will come together to pitch products of destruction to one and other.
The military industrial complex is a multi-billion dollar industry, and is perhaps one of the most profitable areas within modern capitalism, and an area the Australian government desperately wants to become a major player in. Both the LNP and Labor want nothing more than to profit from providing military equipment to Indonesia to assist in crushing West Papuan independence, or to Isreal in their ongoing genocide of Palestinians, or various South American governments to use on their own citizens. At the same time these weapons conferences are used to massively militarise police forces at home to repress any and all resistance. LandForces and the military industrial complex represent the true face of capitalism as a destructive, immoral system, happy to use the most abhorrent levels of violence to continue it’s stranglehold on the world – and this is what we must struggle against.
But knowing something must be struggled against is not enough, we need to answer the question of how we can ensure that our struggle is effective in achieving its goals. We know that appealing to the morals of death merchants or the governments that fund them is a fruitless endeavour. If morals meant anything they would not be in the industry to begin with. Capitalism and imperialism do not function based on morals, but on the need for expansion and profit, and no amount of appeals from us can change this fact. We can also safely say that individual or small scale actions are not enough in the face of this machine. While admirable and often brave, small scale performative direct actions are often little more than slight distractions at best, and are quickly and violently squashed at worst, with little gained in terms of building sustained power or organisation. With small numbers and little ability to disrupt the economy, the purpose of these small scale disruptive actions cannot be seen as much more than an expression of strong belief from a committed minority. Without the threat of larger scale collective action, this expression of belief can comfortably be ignored by the state.
The only way we can truly disrupt imperialism and the military industrial complex is through collective direct action undertaken by workers at the point of production. We’ve seen clear examples of this recently, as dock workers in both Italy and South Africa have refused to allow weapons to be transported to Israel. We also have a history of such action in Australia, where the maritime unions have a long history of refusing to participate in the transportation of munitions during various post-WW2 conflicts.
If we are to end the military industrial machine, it is necessary that we build long term working class organisation and power. At present, this task is largely being neglected by those committed to opposing war and imperialism. Such people have been pushed out of long term working class organising, and as a result that struggle sits at a very low ebb today. Nonetheless, we must put time and attention into building rank and file workers’ power and transforming our union movement back into an instrument of class struggle rather than class collaboration.
We must also remember that war is endemic to capitalism, and the notion of a version of capitalism without war is impossible. The only true path to a world without war is social revolution and libertarian socialism.
So let’s protest and disrupt LandForces today, but let’s also remember that the bigger task is to build and grow our own power so that we can end war once and for all.