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War is an Act
of Authoritarian

Imprisoning a Person Requires Law,
Executing a Person Requires Judiciary,
Slaughtering the Masses Requires War

By Punkerslut

From Radical Graphics
Image: From Radical Graphics,
the "War" Category

Start Date: June 7, 2010
Finish Date: June 7, 2010

"For the working class, imperialism means increasing power and brutality of their exploiters."
          --Anton Pannekoek, 1936
          "Trade Unionism"

     Every government, ruling by force, eventually participates in that great, all-encompassing act of force: war, whether between tribe and tribe, city and city, or nation and nation. During the 'period of peace,' this force is restricted to cops and prisons, as well as laws and courts to interpret them. The judge's gavel, the riot police officer's baton, and the hangman's noose -- these were the typical tools chosen by state power to maintain itself. They are the methods in which the government keeps the common people pleased with their simultaneous work and hunger. The intent is to condition the majority to obedience; to subject them to the mercy and will of just a few who own the lands, the factories, the mines, the banks, and the political parties.

     In a war, the state does not put these tools down, but increases their use and adds variety to them: tanks and airplanes, conscription and drafting, martial law and a hierarchy of officers, admirals, and generals. No longer is it just handcuffs that tighten around the hands of powerless minorities, the dispossessed, and the victimized. Now the order is to have a tightened grip on the throat of the enemy soldiers -- to apply as much force as possible to other humans, so that they cease to live, to breathe, to feel. While the courts once announced imprisonment verdicts on individuals, they now announce them on entire peoples. Before the war, it exposed only a handful of individuals to the firing squads, but now, millions must face them.

     The act of war comes with an increase of authority and power of those in control of society: the governors, the generals, the landowners, and other powerful interests, whether an aristocracy, a nobility, the media, or investors. War is an act of authoritarianism, and it must be so, as it widely multiples the number of laws and orders of the government. It extends the role of the government to every part of human life, so that there is not one citizen unaware of their nation's conquest. Business becomes intensely regulated and control, as a "war-time economy" allows the governor to order people to work and imprison those who overconsume. A draft allows the government to turn any human being into a soldier. Freedom of speech, assembly, and thought are all restricted, because they might threaten the movement of the state to dominate a foreign nation.

     All of this is an increase in the power of governors and rulers. Those who give commands and orders are given more powers, while the people themselves are deprived of more liberties. Before, every proposed bill could meet praise and condemnation by the people; and for every word that was put into the official record, the people have exchanged at least a thousand words in discussing it. But now, bills are no longer proposed -- laws are given to be adopted. It has become a matter of "national importance" for the "defense of the nation." The masses lose more and more of their right to form the environment in which they live; these rights and privileges are taken "by necessity," so that the government can become a warring government.

"When the animosities of faction are thus awakened at home, and the pretensions of freedom are opposed to those of dominion, the members of every society find a new scene upon which to exert their activity. They had quarrelled, perhaps, on points of interest; they had balanced between different leaders; but they had never united as citizens, to withstand the encroachments of sovereignty, or to maintain their common rights as a people. If the prince, in this contest, finds numbers to support, as well as to oppose his pretensions, the sword which was whetted against foreign enemies, may be pointed at the bosom of fellow-subjects, and every interval of peace from abroad, be filled with domestic war. The sacred names of Liberty, Justice, and Civil Order, are made to resound in public assemblies; and, during the absence of other alarms, give a society, within itself, an abundant subject of ferment and animosity."
          --Adam Ferguson, 1767
          "Essay on the History of Civil Society," Part 3, Section II

     Before engaging in war, the state was represented to the people as peace-time soldiers called "police" and the peace-time camps called "jails." With participation in international murder, the state now becomes represented by occupation armies spread throughout farms, towns, and cities. It is now most visible as the tanks that spread throughout the fields and hills, the patrols of infantry throughout untouched parts of nature, and the sounds of explosions that go for miles when a battle breaks out. Just because the state has escalated itself to the state of war does not mean it has given up or loosened its domestic authority. Like it feels itself the supreme judge in the life and death of people, it gives itself the same power in judging the liberty and imprisonment of its own people.

     During its "state of emergency," the government employs the police to arrest those who oppose the war. Whether Socialist or Anarchist, conscientious objector or pacifist, anti-war or anti-capitalism, all of these voices are muted by the law and its enforcers. The state has never really legalized freedom of speech, and there have always been many who were persecuted for having the wrong ideas. But during a war, the government feels more threatened, and increases its efforts in combating dissent and unrest. This is combined with a rising distrust and hatred of the state by the people, since the public becomes tired of seeing so many of its children dead; mothers and fathers cannot sleep knowing that their children are facing battle, imprisonment, and even death.

     The longer war lasts, the greater the drain on the strength of the people to submit to their government -- to accept their state's orders, and even to admire its courage and power. The reality of war presents itself slowly and painfully, but it becomes so real to a people that its terrible effects cannot be forever ignored. There may not always be a collective sense of insurrection and dissent; but there are always bold voices that step forward to resist the authorized killing. And sometimes they are driven to public acts of self-destruction -- their loneliness and alienation from this world acting only as a fuel to their rage. This can be felt by Henry David Thoreau, who was imprisoned for resisting a war tax; or by Eugene V. Debs, who was imprisoned for speaking against World War 1; or by the Buddhists of Southeast Asia who burned themselves alive in public against protest oppression and war.

     Far from weakening its control on the public, the state only increases its domination of the public when it makes a war thousands of miles away. Its military is physically threatened by the forces of the opposing nation, but now its own advisors and government officials are threatened by the people. Now its force must be used to protect itself from the constituents of the government. Newspapers are censored, active resistors are imprisoned, and freedom of thought is banished. Facts are concealed by the government, true knowledge of the casualties of civilians is kept secret, and the public's mind becomes dominated by the few who own and control mass media. To sustain war, government must not accelerate the force it uses upon its enemies, but also upon those who are its own people.

     This international slaughter is done by the sanction of authority and official order. War is the height of authoritarianism; one might be able to find more liberty in a dictatorship at peace than a representative government at war.

"...if, on the other hand, reason is to rule, let us appeal to that and not to brutal force."
          --Hall Bolton, 1898
          "A Peace Appeal to Labor"


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