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A Critique of “A Global War Regime”

Michael Hardt and Sandro Mezzadra's article “A Global War Regime” examines the interplay between militarisation and capitalist structures, yet, from a Marxist perspective, it overlooks crucial aspects like class struggle, the state's role, and the ideological mechanisms underpinning militarisation.

Michael Hardt and Sandro Mezzadra’s article “A Global War Regime” offers a comprehensive analysis of the complex ties between militarisation and capitalist structures. However, from a Marxist standpoint, several key aspects remain underdeveloped or missing entirely. This comradely critique aims to highlight these gaps and challenge the authors’ arguments while also recognising the thought-provoking elements of their analysis.

Lack Of Class Analysis

A fundamental weakness1 in the article is its inadequate focus on class struggle. While the authors discuss the militarisation of economic and social life, they fail to examine how these processes impact different social classes, particularly the working class. Marxism emphasises the centrality of class struggle in understanding societal changes, and this perspective is notably absent in their discussion.

The authors note, “The war regime is also evident in the militarisation of the social field. Sometimes this takes the explicit form of suppressing dissent and rallying around the flag.” This observation is insightful but superficial. The article does not delve into how militarisation specifically serves to maintain the dominance of the capitalist class over the working class. For a more robust analysis, it should explore how the militarisation of society functions to protect capitalist interests by suppressing working-class movements and preventing revolutionary uprisings.

The Militarisation of Policing and Suppression of Dissent

In recent years, the militarisation of police forces in various countries provides a clear example of how militarisation serves to protect capitalist interests by suppressing working-class movements and preventing revolutionary uprisings. The United States, in particular, has seen a significant increase in the militarisation of its police forces. This trend has been marked by the acquisition of military-grade equipment by local police departments, including armored vehicles, assault rifles, and advanced surveillance technology.

This militarisation has been used to suppress various forms of dissent and protest, particularly those led by working-class and marginalised communities. For example, during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in 2020, which were sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, heavily militarised police forces were deployed across the United States to quell the demonstrations. The protests, which highlighted systemic racism and economic inequality, were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and mass arrests. The use of military tactics and equipment against largely peaceful protesters exemplified how the state uses militarisation to maintain social order and protect capitalist interests by stifling movements that challenge the dominant class.

Minnesota State Patrol troopers stand in formation, wearing riot gear and holding wooden batons, at Minnehaha Avenue and 27th Avenue South near the Minneapolis Police Department's 3rd Precinct, as the Minneapolis Fire Department battles blazes at Lake Street businesses, following the publication of a video showing a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed and unarmed Black man, killing him.
Minnesota State Patrol troopers stand in formation, wearing riot gear and holding wooden batons, at Minnehaha Avenue and 27th Avenue South near the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct, as the Minneapolis Fire Department battles blazes at Lake Street businesses, following the publication of a video showing a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed and unarmed Black man, killing him. https://www.flickr.com/photos/87296837@N00/49977235136/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=90999696

Furthermore, the response to trade union disputes and protests has also seen increased militarisation. For instance, in 2021, during the Amazon workers’ unionisation efforts in Bessemer, Alabama, reports emerged of heightened police presence and surveillance around the union activities. The intimidation tactics used against these workers illustrate how militarisation is employed to suppress working-class movements that seek to challenge corporate power and improve workers conditions.

Superficial Treatment Of Imperialism

The authors mention the decline of US hegemony but do not sufficiently engage with Marxist theories of imperialism, particularly Lenin’s view of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism. Lenin argues that imperialism is characterised by the domination of finance capital and the division of the world among monopolistic capitalist powers.

Gilbert Achcar’s analysis in his article “Imperialism(s) and the New Cold War” provides a valuable perspective on this issue, tracing the origins of the New Cold War to the end of the Cold War in 1991, when the United States emerged as the sole superpower and expanded its military presence globally, leading to a backlash from Russia and China.

Achcar states, “The United States used its newfound power to expand its military presence around the world and to intervene militarily in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.” This expansionist policy led to increased rivalry and the emergence of a New Cold War. Hardt and Mezzadra’s observation that “crisis has become the norm” due to the decline of US hegemony aligns with Achcar’s argument but lacks depth in explaining the systemic nature of imperialist competition and collaboration. A more thorough critique would consider how imperialist powers, including the US, continue to exert influence through economic and military means, even amid hegemonic decline, perpetuating global capitalist exploitation and conflicts.

The article “The Spectacle of Imperialism: Unpacking the Global Performance of Violence and Domination” further expands on these themes by illustrating how imperialist violence is not merely a tool of control but also a performance that legitimises domination. This perspective aligns with Lenin’s theory of imperialism by highlighting the theatrical aspects of power projection and the spectacle created to maintain ideological hegemony.

William I. Robinson, in his discussion of the New Cold War, emphasises that escalating tensions with Russia and China serve to divert attention from the deepening crisis of global capitalism. This crisis is not only economic but also political, manifesting in chronic stagnation, rising inequality, and a legitimacy crisis for capitalist hegemony. Robinson explains, “The ruling groups must channel fear over tenuous survival away from the system and towards scapegoated communities…and towards external enemies such as China and Russia.”

Robinson’s insights highlight that the current geopolitical landscape is shaped by the intersection of economic over-accumulation and political crises. The New Cold War is thus framed as a strategy by US rulers to manage internal social unrest and legitimise expanding military budgets, which provide new profit opportunities amidst civilian economic stagnation. This perspective enriches Hardt and Mezzadra’s critique by illustrating how imperialist powers use international tensions to sustain their capitalist regimes.

Moreover, the situation in Gaza, as analysed by William I. Robinson and Hoai-An Nguyen, offers a stark example of how imperialist strategies intersect with economic and political imperatives. The carnage in Gaza, described as a potential genocide, underscores the brutal measures taken to sustain capitalist accumulation. Robinson and Nguyen argue that the Israeli siege of Gaza represents a form of “primitive accumulation” aimed at creating new spaces for transnational capital. The destruction and subsequent reconstruction efforts are integrated into the global capitalist system, demonstrating how militarised conflicts serve as profitable ventures for the transnational capitalist class.

Lenin’s view of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism is characterised by the domination of finance capital and the division of the world among monopolistic capitalist powers. This perspective links into the articles by Robinson, Achcar, and Robinson and Nguyen in several key ways:

  1. Domination of Finance Capital: Lenin argues that finance capital, rather than industrial capital, dominates the imperialist stage of capitalism. Robinson’s analysis of global capitalism echoes this by highlighting how transnational capital flows and financialisation play central roles in the current global economic system. Robinson emphasises the influence of transnational corporations and financial institutions in shaping global economic policies, which aligns with Lenin’s assertion of finance capital’s dominance.
  2. Monopolistic Capitalist Powers: Lenin describes imperialism as a stage where monopolistic capitalist powers carve up the world to ensure their dominance. Achcar discusses the geopolitical strategies and conflicts among contemporary global powers, demonstrating how these powers use both economic and military means to maintain their influence and control. This mirrors Lenin’s idea of monopolistic powers dividing the world to maintain dominance, demonstrating how imperialist strategies persist in modern geopolitical maneuvers.
  3. Economic and Geopolitical Interplay: Lenin’s view incorporates the interplay between economic interests and geopolitical maneuvers. Robinson and Nguyen delve into how contemporary imperialism manifests through the interconnectedness of economic exploitation and geopolitical strategies. They argue that modern imperialism involves not just direct territorial control but also economic dominance through global value chains, trade agreements, and political influence. This complex interplay is a continuation of Lenin’s analysis of imperialism, adapted to the nuances of the modern global economy.
  4. Persistence and Evolution of Imperialism: Lenin’s theory suggests that imperialism evolves but remains a persistent feature of capitalism. The articles by Robinson, Achcar, and Robinson and Nguyen explore how imperialism has adapted to contemporary global conditions, maintaining its essential characteristics of economic exploitation and geopolitical control. They highlight how current imperialist practices are driven by the need to manage economic crises, legitimise military expenditures, and address social unrest, reflecting Lenin’s view of the persistent nature of imperialism.

By linking Lenin’s theoretical framework to the contemporary analyses provided by these scholars, we can better understand how imperialist strategies have evolved yet continue to shape the global capitalist order. The domination of finance capital, the role of monopolistic powers, and the intricate relationship between economic and geopolitical factors remain central to understanding modern imperialism, just as Lenin described in his time.

By examining how these powers navigate their imperial ambitions through both conflict and cooperation, we gain a richer, more nuanced understanding of how imperialist strategies are adapted and sustained in the modern era. This approach highlights how these strategies not only address internal crises but also maintain global dominance. By revealing the complex interplay between economic interests and geopolitical maneuvers, it sheds light on the persistent and evolving nature of imperialism. Additionally, it underscores the economic and political imperatives, such as legitimising military expenditures and managing social unrest, which are crucial to understanding the persistence of imperialism in the contemporary global order.

Economic Determinism

The article seems to suggest that economic and military logics are becoming indistinguishable, which risks falling into economic determinism. Marxism requires a more dialectical understanding of the relationship between the economic base and the superstructure2.

They observe, “The boundaries between the economic and the military are becoming ever more blurred. In some economic sectors, they are indistinguishable.” While this blurring is an important observation, the article should further explore the reciprocal relationship between economic interests and ideological or political factors. Marxism posits that the superstructure (including state and ideology) both shapes and is shaped by the economic base. The article would benefit from examining how military strategies also influence economic policies and vice versa, beyond mere economic determinism.

Ambiguous Solutions

The solutions proposed by the authors, such as desertion and internationalist politics, are vague and lack concrete strategies. Marxism emphasises the need for organised revolutionary praxis to overthrow capitalist systems.

They suggest, “Desertion from the current war regime must therefore be conceived differently from traditional modes. Local and individual gestures have little effect.” Desertion as a strategy is underdeveloped and could be seen as retreatist rather than revolutionary. A more robust Marxist framing would call for the organised mobilisation of the working class and oppressed groups, forming coalitions that can effectively challenge and dismantle the capitalist and militaristic structures.

Underdeveloped Theory Of State And Capital

The article fails to fully engage with the Marxist theory of the state, particularly its role as an instrument of the ruling capitalist class. This perspective is crucial for understanding how militarised governance supports capitalist accumulation.

They write, “The incessant parade of armed confrontations, large and small, serve to prop up a militarised governance structure.” This statement acknowledges the role of militarised governance but does not explore how the state, as theorised by Marxists, functions to maintain the conditions for capitalist accumulation.

To enhance their analysis, Hardt and Mezzadra could draw on the works of Louis Althusser, Nicos Poulantzas, and Ralph Miliband, who provide a robust framework for understanding the role of the state in capitalist societies.

Louis Althusser: In his essay “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” Althusser argues that the state maintains the conditions for capitalist production through both repressive state apparatuses (such as the military, police, and judicial system) and ideological state apparatuses (such as education, media, and religion). These institutions propagate ideologies that support the capitalist order, ensuring continued exploitation and suppression of dissent. Althusser’s concept helps us understand how the state not only uses force but also shapes the way people think to maintain capitalist dominance. This is crucial in explaining how the state justifies and perpetuates the global war regime through ideological means.

Nicos Poulantzas: In “State, Power, Socialism,” Poulantzas elaborates on how the state functions to stabilise capitalist societies by mediating class conflicts. He describes the state as a condensation of class relations, arguing that state policies and actions reflect the balance of power among different classes, primarily serving the interests of the capitalist class. Poulantzas highlights how the state integrates various social forces into a coherent structure that maintains capitalist order, often by incorporating elements of the working class into the state apparatus, thereby neutralising their revolutionary potential. This perspective is important for understanding how the state uses both coercive and integrative methods to maintain social order and capitalist hegemony.

Ralph Miliband: In “The State in Capitalist Society,” Miliband critiques the notion of the state as a neutral entity. He argues that the state is deeply embedded in the capitalist system and is instrumental in maintaining the conditions for capital accumulation by implementing policies that favour capital over labour. Miliband emphasises the role of the state in enforcing property rights, regulating labour markets, and maintaining social order through policing and surveillance. He argues that the state’s primary function is to serve the interests of the capitalist class, ensuring the continuation of exploitation and suppression of dissent. This is crucial for understanding the state’s role in perpetuating the global war regime as an instrument for maintaining capitalist dominance and suppressing any potential for revolutionary change.

A more detailed analysis should examine how states mobilise resources, enforce laws, and propagate ideologies that support the interests of the capitalist class, ensuring the continuation of exploitation and suppression of dissent. For example, the state’s role in enforcing property rights, regulating labour markets, and maintaining social order through policing and surveillance directly benefits capitalist accumulation. Additionally, state policies often prioritise military spending and technological development in ways that bolster capitalist interests, as seen in the alignment of artificial intelligence advancements with military applications.

Areas for Further Development

Class Struggle And Resistance

A robust analysis of the global war regime necessitates a detailed examination of how different social classes, particularly the working class, are impacted by and resist militarisation and capitalist exploitation. The current analysis lacks a clear focus on class struggle, which is a cornerstone of Marxist theory.

The working class often bears the brunt of militarisation, as resources that could be allocated to social welfare are diverted to military spending. This shift exacerbates socioeconomic inequalities and undermines public services, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable populations. The trade union movement and grassroots organisations play a crucial role in challenging these conditions. For example, the anti-war movements during the Vietnam War era in the United States demonstrated how collective action by the working class and allied groups could effectively oppose militaristic policies. Similarly, contemporary movements such as the protests against military expenditures in favour of social programs in various countries highlight ongoing resistance to the militarisation of society.

To strengthen their critique, Hardt and Mezzadra should delve deeper into the dynamics of contemporary resistance movements, analysing their strategies, successes, and limitations. This includes examining the critical role of organised labour, community groups, and international solidarity in opposing militarisation and capitalist exploitation. By exploring these facets, they can provide a more comprehensive understanding of how these movements operate and how they effectively challenge the global war regime. Recent examples of worker actions in response to conflicts, such as those by port workers in India and Barcelona, illustrate the powerful impact of such resistance and offer valuable insights into the potential for coordinated, grassroots opposition to militaristic policies.

1. Indian Port Workers’ Refusal to Handle Arms Shipments to Israel

In February 2024, a trade union representing employees at 11 major Indian ports announced its refusal to handle shipments containing weapons for Israel during the ongoing war against the Gaza Strip. This decision followed reports of Indian-manufactured drones being transported to Tel Aviv. The Water Transport Workers Federation of India (WTWFI) declared their stance to “refuse to load or unload weaponised cargoes” from Israel or any other country involved in the “war in Palestine.”

“We, the Port workers, part of labour unions, would always stand against the war and killing of innocent people like women and children,” a statement by the Union said. With over 3,500 employees at 11 government-owned ports in India, the union called for an “immediate ceasefire,” adding that handling these weapons helps organisations kill innocent people. The union’s general secretary, Narendra Rao, affirmed that the resolution aligns with the World Federation of Trade Unions, made during a meeting with international trade unions in Athens at the onset of the war.

2. Barcelona Dock Workers’ Boycott of Military Material Amid Gaza War

In November 2023, the Barcelona port stevedores’ union refused to load and unload any military material amid the war in Gaza, urging the protection of civilian populations in conflict areas. This decision aimed to inspire other Spanish ports to follow suit, as stated by Josep Maria Deop, the secretary of

the OEPB union, which represents 1,200 stevedores. The union’s boycott is mostly symbolic, intending to promote peace and protect civilians, emphasising that “no cause justifies sacrificing civilians.”

These contemporary examples3 illustrate how trade unions can leverage their strategic positions within global trade networks to make powerful political statements. The actions of the Indian port workers and the Barcelona dock workers not only disrupt the logistics of arms shipments but also amplify the call for global justice and peace. Their resistance demonstrates the interconnectedness of local labour struggles with broader international issues, underscoring the importance of organised labour in challenging militarisation and capitalist exploitation.

In addition to trade union actions, grassroots movements have played a crucial role in anti-militarisation efforts. The Stop the War Coalition, formed in 2001, is a prime example. This organisation became the centerpiece of anti-war activism in the UK, mobilising millions to protest against the Iraq War. The coalition’s ability to unify diverse groups under a common cause demonstrated the effectiveness of broad-based, grassroots mobilisation in influencing public opinion and political discourse.

Building on the legacy of the Stop the War Coalition, recent movements have continued to harness the power of grassroots activism. Over the past month, Palestine solidarity marches have surged globally, drawing attention to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. These marches, organised by various community groups and solidarity networks, have successfully mobilised hundreds of thousands of people, demonstrating widespread public opposition to militaristic policies.

Furthermore, university campuses have become hotspots for activism. Students have set up camps and organised sit-ins to protest their institutions’ investments in companies supplying arms to conflict zones. These university protests not only raise awareness but also apply pressure on academic institutions to adopt ethical investment policies. These actions reflect a growing trend of grassroots mobilisation that transcends traditional boundaries and incorporates diverse methods of resistance.

For example, during the Iraq War, university students were pivotal in organising large-scale protests and educational campaigns. These efforts helped to sustain public opposition to the war over time. Today, similar tactics are being employed to protest the ongoing conflict in Gaza, with students leveraging social media and digital platforms to amplify their message and coordinate actions globally.

Understanding the role of organised labour, community groups, and international solidarity in resisting the global war regime is essential for developing effective counter-strategies. By incorporating these recent examples of trade union and grassroots activism, as well as historical precedents like the Stop the War Coalition’s efforts against the Iraq War, Hardt and Mezzadra could significantly enhance their critique. This would offer a more nuanced and actionable analysis that resonates with contemporary movements challenging militarisation and capitalist exploitation.

Imperialist Competition and Collaboration

Hardt and Mezzadra’s analysis should delve deeper into the intricate dynamics of imperialist competition and collaboration within the global war regime. Marxist theorists, particularly Lenin in “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,” argue that imperialist powers engage in both conflict and cooperation to dominate global markets and resources.

The article touches on the decline of US hegemony but does not adequately address how this shift impacts global economic and political stability. A comprehensive Marxist critique should analyse how emerging powers, such as China and Russia, interact with established imperialist powers. This includes examining trade agreements, military alliances, and geopolitical conflicts.

Graham Allison’s “Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?” offers a compelling analysis of the historical patterns of conflict between rising and established powers. Allison explores how economic and military tensions between the US and China epitomise modern imperialist competition. This analysis aligns with Lenin’s theory that imperialism involves competition among capitalist powers for global dominance. The book illustrates that while both nations engage in fierce economic rivalry, they also navigate complex interdependencies that necessitate a degree of cooperation. For instance, despite trade wars and geopolitical posturing, the US and China remain critical trading partners, with deeply intertwined economies. This paradoxical relationship underscores Lenin’s point about the economic entanglements that characterise imperialist competition. The interplay between competition and collaboration among imperialist powers exemplifies the ongoing struggle for global dominance that Lenin described, highlighting how capitalist powers maneuver to maintain their global influence.

Similarly, Robert D. Kaplan’s “Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific” provides a detailed examination of geopolitical tensions in the South China Sea, highlighting the strategic and economic interests that drive imperialist competition in the region. Kaplan’s analysis reveals how China’s assertive territorial claims and military build-up in the South China Sea are countered by US naval presence and alliances with regional powers such as Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam. This strategic chessboard exemplifies Lenin’s assertion that imperialist powers engage in both conflict and cooperation to dominate global markets and resources. Kaplan’s examination of the South China Sea as a critical maritime route demonstrates how control over strategic locations remains a focal point of imperialist rivalry, driven by the capitalist motivations of securing trade routes and resource access. Additionally, the economic importance of these routes for global trade highlights the capitalist motivations behind such territorial disputes, further supporting Lenin’s theory.

Opposing US Militarisation in the Asia-Pacific Should Not Mean Remaining Silent on China’s Emerging Imperialism

In grappling with the geopolitical tensions in the Asia-Pacific, it is imperative to recognise that opposing US militarisation does not necessitate turning a blind eye to China’s burgeoning imperialist ambitions. Au Loong-yu, a long-time Hong Kong labour rights and political activist, articulates this complexity in his extensive analysis of China’s global status. While China has risen as a formidable regional power with a global reach, its actions, such as the nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea and its economic coercion exemplified by the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, reflect an imperialist drive to dominate lesser countries. This emerging imperialism is characterised by a bureaucratic capitalist state that fuses state power with capital interests, differing from traditional private capital-driven imperialism. Therefore, left solidarity in the Asia-Pacific region must balance opposition to US militarisation with a critical stance on China’s expansionist policies, advocating for the self-determination of affected peoples and resisting the entrenchment of any form of imperialism in the region.

Taiwan, Militarism, and the Reactionary Campaign Against China

Phil Hearse underscores the necessity of supporting Taiwan’s right to self-determination while firmly opposing the American military buildup in the Indo-Pacific region. This stance aligns with the broader critique of escalating US-China tensions, where militarisation on both sides threatens regional stability. Hearse argues that socialists must reject the narrative that pits imperial powers against each other without acknowledging the oppressive actions of both. While China’s aggressive posturing, such as the nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea, reflects its emerging imperialism, it does not justify the US’s militaristic strategies aimed at maintaining its dominance. Hearse’s perspective emphasises that opposing US militarism should not equate to endorsing Chinese expansionism. Instead, the left must advocate for peaceful resolution and support democratic movements in Taiwan and other affected regions, again prioritising the self-determination and democratic rights of local populations over the geopolitical games of imperialist states.

Understanding these dynamics is crucial for grasping the full picture of how the global war regime functions and persists. Both Allison’s and Kaplan’s analyses illuminate the dual nature of imperialist dynamics, where competition and collaboration coexist, reflecting Lenin’s view of imperialism. Recognising these patterns, along with the insights from Hearse and Au Loong-yu, can also shed light on the potential fractures within the imperialist system that revolutionary movements can exploit. By leveraging the inherent tensions and contradictions within the global war regime, revolutionary movements can find opportunities to challenge and undermine the capitalist structures that perpetuate imperialism and militarisation.

Role Of Ideology

A key aspect missing from Hardt and Mezzadra’s analysis is a thorough examination of the ideological apparatus that sustains the global war regime. Louis Althusser’s concept of Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) is particularly relevant here. ISAs, such as the media, education systems, and cultural institutions, disseminate ideologies that justify and normalise militarisation and capitalist exploitation.

The media, for instance, often frames military interventions as necessary for national security or humanitarian purposes, masking their true nature as tools for capitalist expansion. Education systems may propagate nationalistic and militaristic values, preparing the populace to support or participate in military endeavors. Cultural institutions, including films and literature, can glorify the military and perpetuate myths of benevolent imperialism.

Noam Chomsky’s extensive body of work, particularly in books like “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” (co-authored with Edward S. Herman), provides a foundational analysis of how media serves as an ideological apparatus that supports militaristic and capitalist interests. Chomsky argues that corporate media often acts as a propaganda tool, shaping public perception and opinion to align with the interests of powerful elites, including the military-industrial complex. This process of manufacturing consent involves selective reporting, framing, and omission of facts to construct narratives that justify and legitimise military interventions and capitalist exploitation.

Building on Chomsky’s framework, Norman Solomon’s “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” delves into specific examples of how US media has played a pivotal role in promoting militaristic ideologies. Solomon demonstrates that media outlets often uncritically echo government talking points, portraying wars as essential for national security or humanitarian purposes. For instance, during the lead-up to the Iraq War, mainstream media largely amplified the Bush administration’s claims about weapons of mass destruction, despite significant evidence to the contrary. This alignment between media narratives and state interests helps to garner public support for military actions, thereby facilitating the continuation of imperialist policies.

In addition to traditional media, the role of digital platforms and social media in shaping public opinion cannot be overlooked. Chomsky’s insights into propaganda can be applied to the analysis of how algorithms and targeted advertising reinforce existing biases and militaristic viewpoints. For instance, social media platforms can amplify hawkish voices and suppress dissenting perspectives, thereby creating an echo chamber that supports aggressive foreign policies.

Furthermore, Chomsky’s analysis can be extended to the coverage of contemporary conflicts. For example, media representations of the US-China rivalry often emphasise the threat posed by China, framing increased military spending and presence in the Asia-Pacific region as necessary defensive measures. This narrative not only justifies the expansion of US military power but also aligns with broader imperialist objectives of maintaining global hegemony.

Similarly, in the UK, the BBC and other major British news organisations often reflect the perspectives of the government, especially in times of conflict. For instance, during the Iraq War, British media largely supported the government’s rationale for the invasion, emphasising the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and the need for intervention. This alignment between media narratives and state interests helps to garner public support for military actions, thereby facilitating the continuation of imperialist policies.

Cultural institutions such as the Royal Family and state-commissioned art play a significant role in perpetuating nationalistic and militaristic ideologies. The recent unveiling of King Charles III’s first official painted portrait since his coronation is a prime example. Painted by Jonathan Yeo, the portrait depicts King Charles in the uniform of the Welsh Guards, complete with a sword and a butterfly symbolising his environmental causes (Additionally, the butterfly in the portrait can also be viewed as symbolising Charles’ metamorphosis his succession from Prince of Wales to King). This imagery serves multiple ideological functions. On one hand, it perpetuates the historical tradition of royal portraiture, which has long been used to signify power and authority. On the other hand, it updates this tradition by incorporating modern elements, thus maintaining the relevance of the monarchy in contemporary society.

The portrait, prominently displayed at Buckingham Palace and later at Drapers’ Hall, reinforces the Royal Family’s connection to national heritage and military tradition. It underscores the monarch’s role as a figurehead of national unity and continuity, which can subtly support the justification of militaristic endeavors. By emphasising the King’s environmental advocacy alongside traditional symbols of military power, the portrait weaves together themes of modern progressivism and historical authority, effectively maintaining the ideological status quo.

Furthermore, art commissioned by the state or influential institutions, such as this portrait of King Charles III, serves to cement the relationship between the monarchy and national identity. These works are not merely artistic endeavors but are strategic in promoting a cohesive national narrative that aligns with the interests of the state. The symbolic elements in such portraits, from military uniforms to environmental symbols, help to shape public perception and maintain the ideological framework necessary for the support of state policies.

To deepen this critique, we should consider how these ideological mechanisms operate to sustain the global war regime. This involves examining the narratives promoted by various ISAs and how they shape public perception and consent. By understanding these mechanisms, we can develop effective counter-strategies that challenge these dominant narratives.

Concrete Revolutionary Praxis

To provide a robust and actionable analysis, Hardt and Mezzadra should include concrete examples of revolutionary movements and strategies that have successfully opposed militarisation and capitalist exploitation. Historical and contemporary cases offer valuable lessons for current and future struggles.

Example 1: The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia (1917)

The Bolshevik Revolution is one of the most significant examples of a revolutionary movement that successfully dismantled a deeply entrenched militaristic and capitalist regime. In 1917, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Tsarist autocracy and the provisional government that had replaced it. This revolution was marked by the strategic mobilisation of the working class, peasants, and soldiers, who were disillusioned with the ongoing World War I and the dire economic conditions.

The Bolsheviks’ success lay in their ability to organise mass protests, strikes, and uprisings, which culminated in the October Revolution. They established a state committed to socialist principles, nationalised industries, redistributed land, and withdrew from World War I. The revolution also involved the creation of soviets (workers’ councils) that provided a new form of direct democratic governance. This demonstrates the importance of organised revolutionary praxis, the ability to mobilise broad segments of society, and the implementation of alternative governance structures that prioritise the needs of the working class over capitalist interests.

Example 2: The Zapatista Movement in Mexico (1994-present)

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), commonly known as the Zapatistas, offers a contemporary example of a revolutionary movement that effectively combines armed resistance with the creation of autonomous zones. On January 1, 1994, the Zapatistas, composed primarily of indigenous people from the state of Chiapas, declared war on the Mexican state in response to the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which they saw as a threat to their land and livelihoods.

The Zapatistas have since established autonomous municipalities that operate independently of the Mexican government. These autonomous zones emphasise self-governance, collective ownership of land, and the creation of social structures that reject both state and capitalist control. The movement also focuses on issues such as gender equality, indigenous rights, and environmental sustainability. Through a combination of armed resistance and the building of autonomous institutions, the Zapatistas have provided a living example of how revolutionary praxis can create alternative social and economic models that resist militarisation and capitalist exploitation.

Example 3: The Kurdish Liberation Movement (Rojava, 2012-present)

Another contemporary example is the Kurdish liberation movement in Rojava, a region in northern Syria. Since 2012, the Kurdish forces, led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), have established a semi-autonomous region known as Rojava. This movement emerged amidst the chaos of the Syrian civil war and has been characterised by its commitment to direct democracy, gender equality, and ecological sustainability.

Rojava’s governance model is based on the principles of democratic confederalism, as articulated by Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. This model emphasises decentralised self-governance through local councils and communes, the inclusion of diverse ethnic and religious groups, and the promotion of women’s rights through structures like the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). The movement has successfully defended its autonomy against various forces, including ISIS and the Syrian regime, while creating a radical alternative to both state and capitalist forms of organisation.

Example 4: The Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa (1948-1994)

The anti-apartheid movement in South Africa is another historical example of a successful revolutionary struggle against an oppressive regime. This movement involved a wide array of strategies, including mass protests, strikes, international solidarity campaigns, and armed resistance by groups like the African National Congress (ANC) and its military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. The struggle against apartheid was marked by the mobilisation of diverse segments of society, including workers, students, and global activists.

The culmination of these efforts led to the dismantling of the apartheid system and the establishment of a democratic government in 1994, with Nelson Mandela becoming the first black president of South Africa. This movement highlights the effectiveness of sustained, multifaceted resistance strategies and the importance of international solidarity in challenging deeply entrenched systems of oppression.

To further enhance the analysis of revolutionary praxis, it is crucial to examine recent examples of Palestinian solidarity protests around the world, particularly following the 2023 attack by the Israeli state on Gaza. These movements provide valuable insights into the conditions and strategies that contribute to their success and offer lessons for contemporary struggles against militarisation and capitalist exploitation.

Global Solidarity Protests: Mobilising for Justice

In the wake of the 2023 Israeli attacks on Gaza, a wave of solidarity protests erupted around the world, demonstrating widespread support for the Palestinian cause. These protests were marked by their scale, diversity, and the unity of purpose among participants. Major cities such as London, New York, Paris, and Berlin saw large gatherings of protesters demanding an end to the violence and advocating for Palestinian rights.

University Protests: Student Activism and Boycotts

University campuses are playing a pivotal role in the global solidarity movement, with students organising protests, sit-ins, and academic boycotts to raise awareness and call for action against the Israeli occupation. At institutions such as Cambridge University and SOAS in the UK, and Columbia, and University of Texas in the United States, students have mobilised en masse, holding demonstrations and educational events to inform their peers about the situation in Gaza.

One significant example is the student-led campaign at Goldsmiths, where a five-week occupation, ended on 15 May after the university agreed to protestors’ demands, including providing scholarships to Palestinians and reconsidering its definition of antisemitism.

Lessons from Global Solidarity Protests

The recent global solidarity protests following the 2023 attack on Gaza offer several important lessons for current and future struggles against militarisation and capitalist exploitation:

  1. Global Unity and Collective Action: The worldwide response to the Gaza attacks demonstrates the power of global unity and collective action. By coordinating efforts across different countries and communities, protesters were able to amplify their message and exert significant pressure on international institutions and governments.
  2. Role of University Activism: University campuses serve as crucial hubs for activism and organising. The student-led protests and campaigns for divestment highlight the potential of academic institutions to influence broader social and political movements. Engaging students in activism not only raises awareness but also cultivates future leaders in the struggle for justice.
  3. Leveraging Media and Public Opinion: The use of social media and traditional media coverage played a critical role in spreading the message of the protests and garnering international support. Effective use of media can amplify the voices4 of the oppressed and mobilise a global audience, as seen in the extensive coverage of the solidarity protests.
  4. Building Sustainable Movements: The persistence and resilience of protesters, despite the challenges and repression they faced, underscore the importance of building sustainable movements. This involves continuous organising, education, and solidarity actions that keep the momentum alive and maintain pressure on those in power.
  5. Impact of Economic Pressure: The calls for divestment and boycotts illustrate the effectiveness of economic pressure as a tool for social change. By targeting financial and corporate interests, activists can disrupt the economic foundations that support militarisation and occupation.

By incorporating these historical and contemporary examples, it is possible to illustrate the diverse strategies and tactics that revolutionary movements have employed to successfully oppose militarisation and capitalist exploitation. Understanding these concrete cases provides valuable insights into the conditions necessary for revolutionary change.

Footnotes

  1. It is important to note that Hardt and Mezzadra’s article appeared in the New Left Review’s Sidecar blog, a platform known for its intellectually engaged readership. Given this context, the authors may have assumed that their audience already possesses a familiarity with the foundational Marxist concepts and critiques that I have highlighted. This assumption might explain why certain aspects, such as class struggle, imperialist dynamics, and the role of the state, are not as thoroughly elaborated in the article. However, for a broader and more inclusive readership, explicitly addressing these critical Marxist perspectives would enhance the overall analysis and make the arguments more accessible and robust. ↩︎
  2. The “economic base and the superstructure” is a concept from Marxist theory. The economic base (or base) comprises the means of production (e.g. factories, tools, raw materials) and relations of production (e.g. class relations, property ownership) in a society. The superstructure consists of the cultural, political, and ideological institutions and practices (e.g. legal systems, religious beliefs, arts) that arise from and are shaped by the economic base. Marx posited that changes in the economic base drive changes in the superstructure, while the superstructure can also influence the base but is ultimately secondary to it. ↩︎
  3. Spain refused permission on 16/05 for an Israel-bound ship carrying arms to call at the southeastern port of Cartagena. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/spain-denied-port-call-ship-carrying-arms-israel-2024-05-16/ ↩︎
  4. Even not talking to the media can be a successful tactic to amplify your message. ↩︎

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