Capital & Class. - 1983. - Issue 19 issue 19 by Conference of Socialist Economists

By Conference of Socialist Economists

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The former period is the one whose experience is crystallised in the theory of the permanent arms economy . In it, `spinoffwas clear and obvious . The civil jet aircraft industry was crucially dependent on military planes . Solid state electronics - the transistor and the like - was almost completely dependent on military funding and military purchases in its early years (Braun and MacDonald, 1978) . Civil nuclear power arose directly from the military use of nuclear energy . ) . Numerically controlled machine tools were invented for military production, and their development carefully nurtured by the United States military (Noble, 1978) .

People (in practice, normally, men) have to be forced or persuaded to fight, and have to be trained and organised to do so effectively . This first precondition I shall return to below . Secondly, these people have to be provided with the physical wherewithal to make it possible for them to fight : food, clothing, shelter, transport and, in particular, weapons . As warfare has developed, the last of these preconditions has become more and more salient . Of all the means of war, weapons have become the central area of attention and debate, and the advanced capitalist states now spend approximately as much on procuring weapons as they do on paying, training and organising people to use them .

But we need to be very careful of the kind of romanticism to be found in Engels (1878/1976 : 214) about the military virtues of those `fighting for their own interests' . Battle is a brutal and terrible experience and modern states have not relied on either ideology or material interests to sustain their soldiers' will to fight . Coercion, John Keegan reminds us (1978 : 330), remains central to armies, and desertion may well have been reduced less by commitment to a cause than by the fact that on a modern battlefield - defoliated and many miles deep - there is simply nowhere to desert to .

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