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A project against militarist Europe
by Nathan Legrand , ReCommons Europe
2 June 2020

The role of militarism, arms trade and wars in Europe`s foreign policy

This document is a longer version of the fourth of the five texts that form part of the publication entitled “The impact on the South of European financial policies and development cooperation strategies and possible alternatives”, elaborated in the framework of the ReCommonsEurope project. This longer version has been proposed by it’s author, Nathan Legrand. Since 2018, this project engages the CADTM, in collaboration with the association EReNSEP and the trade union ELA, in a work aiming to feed the debate on the measures that a peoples government in Europe should implement as a priority. This work of elaboration concerns all social movements, all people, all political movements that want a radical change in favour of the 99% .

Thus, a first phase of this project culminated in 2019 with the publication of a “Manifesto for a new internationalism of peoples in Europe”, which was signed by more than 160 activists, militant peoples and researchers from 21 European countries. This manifesto, published in 4 languages (French, Castilian, English and Serbo-Croatian), expose the most urgent measures on the following issues: currency, banking, debt, labor and social rights, energy transition in order to build an eco-socialism, women’s rights, health and education, as well as more broadly international policies and the need to promote constituent processes.

With this second phase, we seek to define a set of clear proposals that a peoples government should implement in order to bring about a real and profound change in the unjust relations between the European states and the peoples of the Global South. To this end, we are carrying out a process of drafting texts, based on joint work between activists, politicians and researchers from the countries of the South and the North. This work concerns the following areas: the indebtedness of the countries of the South vis-à-vis the countries of the North, free trade agreements, migration and border management policies, militarism, the arms trade and the wars, and reparation policies regarding the spoliation of cultural goods.

In addition to this first text, we invite you to read the other articles that are part of this project:

- Abolish illegitimate and odious claims by European countries from third parties and give absolute priority to human rights

- Putting an end to the EU’s neo-colonial policies in the field of trade and investment

- End the inhumane migratory policies of Fortress Europe

Where there is smoke, there is fire.

The world capitalist system is based on deep inequalities between a ruling class — the capitalist class — which is a minority and the overwhelming majority of the population. The capitalist class has exclusive ownership of the means of production and decides alone on production. The latter is thus oriented towards achieving maximum profit in the short term, and not towards satisfying the needs of the entire population. In order to realize these profits, the capitalist class does not care whether its economic activities have a beneficial use value for the majority of the population.

Thus, for example, since the beginning of the industrial revolution and the transition to fossil fuels from the 19th century onwards, the largest industrialists have been responsible for the accumulation in the atmosphere of ever-increasing levels of greenhouse gases without any concern for the climate disruption they cause, threatening the survival of ecosystems and entire communities — particularly in the countries of the Global South — even though the phenomenon of global warming has been widely known for at least thirty years. This profit-seeking approach, whatever the social consequences, is also reflected in real estate speculation, which excludes millions of households from the right to housing. The examples could be multiplied, as this logic is at the very heart of the capitalist mode of production. [1]

The use value of arms, over which States always seek to establish a monopoly, is clear: it is negative for the millions of people affected by the deaths and destructions caused by armed conflict. Those who survive in conflict zones are affected by the physical destruction of housing, public health and education services, power plants, water sanitation units, and infrastructure for the delivery of these vital goods that are energy and water. As such, armed conflicts have lasting negative consequences on the capacities of affected societies to guarantee fundamental human rights and to be resilient to other major shocks such as natural disasters or health emergencies. Just consider the potentially devastating impact that an epidemic such as the Covid-19 could have in regions heavily affected by infrastructure destruction such as the Gaza Strip, Yemen or Syria, or in camps where hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflict and persecution are crammed in deplorable conditions, such as in Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan or Bangladesh.

For the ruling classes, who represent a tiny minority of the population but who are in control of state power, arms are, on the other hand, an effective means — all the more so if the monopoly of coercion is successfully exercised by the state — of maintaining the existing social order as soon as domination is no longer accepted as natural by the dominated. Moreover, the necessary reconstruction of areas devastated by war provides new fields of accumulation for capital.

In the 19th century, the development of industrial capitalism led to an intensification of class struggles by creating high concentrations of workers, resulting in a qualitative leap in the collective organization of the exploited — in particular through the trade unions and their revolutionary political relays (socialists and anarchists) — threatening the domination exercised by the bourgeoisie. [2] From the 19th century to the present day, the capitalist mode of production has undergone an international expansion by imperialism, i.e. by the aggressive exportation of capital abroad — in particular through direct investments and sovereign loans. As soon as capital leaves national borders, it exerts a relationship of over-exploitation on foreign populations. Indeed, the exchange value of labor power is reduced to the strict minimum, and even below the minimum necessary to ensure its reproduction, in the name of an ideology of the natural supremacy of European civilization and therefore of the natural inferiority of non-European human lives (this ideology was defeated in the second half of the 20th century only to be replaced by an ideology of the cultural supremacy of Western societies, making it possible to perpetuate the over-exploitation of populations in the Global South). Moreover, the profits are brought back to the metropoles, and the activity brings little or no gain to the territory where it is carried out. Consequently, the acceptation of domination is less than that of the domination of domestic capital. Moreover, foreign capital does not benefit from the legal framework defined by its sovereign state (although the latter phenomenon is tending to diminish significantly as capitalist globalization advances and international rules that are favorable to big capital are adopted in the fields of trade and investment), and faces strong competition with capitals of other imperialist powers. The ruling classes are therefore forced to protect their capital exportations by armed force. The imperialist phase of capitalism thus coincides with an upsurge in militarism and armed conflicts, and therefore with a significant growth in the production of arms for both the domestic markets and exports.

The unprecedented violence through which the primitive accumulation of capital was made possible in the centuries before the industrial revolution, especially the violence — ideologically justified by racist theories — against the black African populations transformed into slaves, thus gave way to the violence of colonial and then neo-colonial imperialism. The workers’ movement and popular uprisings have been bloodily repressed to the present day. Inter-imperialist tensions in the 20th century led to the two world wars — total wars of cataclysmic proportions. Industrial capitalism enabled the mechanization of weapons, the industrialization of violence and thus gave rise to a veritable modern barbarism made of imperialist wars, counter-revolutionary conflicts and coups d’état, genocides and massacres of a colonial character or aimed at suppressing popular movements.

Besides direct military intervention, Western imperialism has distinguished itself since decolonization by its diplomatic, material and financial support for authoritarian regimes whenever the latter stood in favor of their economic interests, or were perceived to be so. Like the United States, European powers have supported coups d’état aimed at overthrowing leaders perceived as threats to neo-colonial domination. In these areas, the interventions of the French state in Africa are real textbook cases, but other European powers such as Germany, Belgium and Britain are also involved in this neo-colonial destabilization.

A non-exhaustive list of acts of modern barbarism since the end of the 19th century.

Among the innumerable crimes committed by capitalism and imperialism since the 19th century and in addition to the two World Wars, we can think of the crushing in blood of the Paris Commune in 1871 by the regime of the young Third Republic in France; the genocide of the Herero and Nama nations at the beginning of the 20th century by German colonialism; the genocide of the Congolese at the end of the 19th century by Belgian colonialism; the genocide of the Armenians by Turkish nationalism in a declining Ottoman Empire, a massacre which laid the foundations of the modern Turkish Republic; the counter-revolutionary war waged by Russian monarchists and other ultra-reactionaries supported by the major imperialist powers, aimed at overthrowing the nascent socialism in Russia after 1917 and preventing its international expansion; the genocide of European Jews, Gypsies, the disabled and homosexuals by the Third Reich and its allies throughout the European continent during the Second World War; France’s colonial wars in Indochina (1946 – 1954) and Algeria (1954 – 1962); the US wars in Korea (1950 – 1953) and Indochina (1965 – 1973); the genocide of communists or suspected communists in Suharto’s Indonesia from 1965 onwards, with the complicity of Dutch and US imperialism; the support of the United States and its allies for counter-revolutionary conflicts and coups d’état throughout the world, and in particular in Latin America, for example with the support for Pinochet’s coup d’état and then military dictatorship in Chile from 1973 to 1989, or the support given to the Contras opposed to the new Sandinista regime in Nicaragua from 1979 onwards; the crimes of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, supported by Western imperialism until its fall in 1994; the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 by the United States and its NATO allies — including many European armed forces; the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the United States and several of its allies, first and foremost the United Kingdom and the Spanish state, but also other European states; the colonization of Palestine by the state of Israel for more than 70 years, again with the support of European and North American imperialism. Let us note here the responsibility of the authoritarian bureaucratic regime of the USSR in the arms race during the second half of the 20th century, and its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 fueling geopolitical chaos and paving the way for the continued destabilization of the region in the decades that followed (notably through the interventions of Washington and its allies). Let us also note China’s criminal material support (alongside the at least diplomatic support from the United States!) to the genocidal regime — and then to the guerrilla warfare — of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s and 1980s.
On the neo-colonial policies of France and other European powers in Africa.

In Cameroon, the fact that President Paul Biya has stayed in power since 1982 despite his many anti-democratic practices certainly has a lot to do with the strong support of the French state, which he enjoys both diplomatically and militarily, through the delivery of arms and the training of Cameroonian security forces provided by France. Such support pays off: French companies are the first to invest in Cameroon, while France is one of the country’s main bilateral creditors. Paul Biya also enjoys the support of the German and British states and has been decorated by the three former colonial metropoles.

In Togo, it is certainly thanks to the major protest movement that highlighted the regime’s authoritarianism in 2017 that a contract for the sale of French combat helicopters was not finalized at that time. In this country, Faure Gnassingbé has remained in power since he ‘naturally’ succeeded his father Gnassingbé Eyadema in 2005. Eyadema had seized power in 1967 after helping to overthrow the first president of independent Togo four years earlier, and had ruled the country with an iron fist with the support of France, with Jacques Chirac not hesitating to describe him as a “friend of France” as well as a “personal friend”.

While the list drawn up here cannot be exhaustive, it is impossible not to mention the relationship between the French state and the regime of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who was in power in Côte d’Ivoire from 1959 to 1993 and whose policies — marked by the development of an export-led economy and structural adjustment in line with the expectations of the World Bank, the IMF and Western imperialism, and benefiting locally only a small clique of the political power’s cronies — were pursued by his successor Henri Konan Bédié until 1999. Houphouët-Boigny, a French government minister at the end of the Fourth Republic and then under the presidency of Charles de Gaulle, had campaigned for the maintenance of a colonial status for African states within the framework of the “Communauté française” wanted by French imperialism. When the project finally failed, Houphouët-Boigny became the first president of independent Côte d’Ivoire in 1960 and established an authoritarian regime intimately linked to French neo-colonialism. In agreement with the French state and its secret services, he participated in the destabilization of numerous attempts at independent and socialist-inspired development, from West Africa to Angola in the south of the continent. In addition to the many ‘Françafrique’ scandals that have broken out publicly - without the perpetrators being brought to justice - light has yet to be shed on two cases in particular in which the responsibility of the French state, through the intermediary of the regime of Houphouët-Boigny, is beyond doubt: on the one hand, the assassination in 1987 of Burkina Faso’s revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara (a few months after his appeal to all African states to stop repaying the debt owed to Western creditors and to initiate on the continent an independent development of the former colonial powers), replaced by Blaise Compaoré who led policies favorable to French and international imperialism; and on the other hand the support, through arms deliveries and diplomatic support — through the Ivorian state but also through the new regime of Blaise Compaoré in Burkina Faso — to the Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, who set his country and neighboring Sierra Leone on fire and bloodshed in the 1990s and until the early 2000s. French interference in the region continues, with French governments visibly supporting the rebellion against Laurent Gbagbo’s government in Côte d’Ivoire until Alassane Ouattara’s victory in 2011, while the French army exfiltrated Blaise Compaoré when a massive popular movement ousted him from power in Burkina Faso in 2014 (he was able to flee to Alassane Ouattara’s Côte d’Ivoire where he acquired Ivorian nationality).

The French State shamelessly awards decorations to leaders of authoritarian regimes. Let us only mention the fact that the Legion of Honour — the highest French decoration — was awarded to despots Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, all three of whom were targeted by revolutionary uprisings from December 2010 and early 2011 onwards (the first two were quickly overthrown while the third remained in power at the cost of a terrible scorched earth policy, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of forcefully displaced people). Through its Foreign minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, the French government offered its assistance to Ben Ali in the repression of the Tunisian demonstrations, in particular through the sale of repressive weapons. And since 2013, France has been involved in providing unfailing support to the military man turned ultra-authoritarian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi in Egypt.

While France is unquestionably at the forefront of European neo-colonialism through arms sales and support for authoritarian regimes in countries of the Global South, other European states are not left out. Let us recall the responsibility of Belgium, alongside the United States, in the coup d’état that overthrew Patrice Lumumba, the first head of government of the independent Democratic Republic of Congo in 1960, in order to protect its economic interests (particularly in mining) threatened by a policy that made no bones about wanting to see the decolonization process through to its conclusion.

Let us also recall the arms sales by France and Belgium (also involving at least one British company, Mil-Tec) to the authoritarian regime, and then preparing for genocide, of Juvénal Habyarimana in Rwanda — arms sales that even continued after the outbreak of the Tutsi genocide in April 1994 as far as France and the Mil-Tec company were concerned. These arms sales were made possible by funds received by the World Bank and the IMF — which supervised structural adjustment and the development of an export-led economy in the country — up to a few months before the genocide began, while payments by the Rwandan state to its suppliers and creditors were facilitated by banks from Belgium (Belgolaise, Société Générale de Banque), France (BNP) and Germany (Dresdner Bank).

Capitalism produces increasingly powerful weapons.

Thus, since the end of the 19th century industrial capitalism has led to a massive production of weapons by industrialists who have gained considerable economic and political weight, particularly in the United States, Western Europe, Russia and China. Because of the purpose of its production, capital in the field of armaments has a very special status in our capitalist societies: armament is an area where the state and private capital are very closely intertwined. Decisions on research, production and trade are not taken without the approval of the state, while industrialists are protected and subsidized by the state, which even acts as a sales representative for the capitalists of the arms industry. Just think of the role played by the King of Spain in promoting the arms sold by the capitalists of the kingdom, or the role of the Ministry of Defense in France, whatever the political affiliation of its minister, in promoting French know-how in the field of armaments. The role of Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defense under the presidency of François Hollande (and Minister of Foreign Affairs under that of Emmanuel Macron), was key in the sales of Rafale fighter jets to States ruled by reactionary regimes such as Egypt, Qatar and Narendra Modi’s India. So much so that Serge Dassault, CEO of the Rafale manufacturing group Dassault Aviation, and then a member of the parliamentary opposition, praised Le Drian after the signing of the sales contract with India as “the best Minister of Defense we’ve ever had... Thank you, Mr. Le Drian, thank you, Mr. Holland, for everything you do, not just for us, for all exportations.” [3]

Pushed by a constant drive for innovation, the arms industry has developed ever more destructive weapons in particular since the First World War. Armored vehicles, tanks and other battleships and submarines with ever-increasing capabilities multiplied on the battlefields. Above all, the development and generalization of military aviation (and aircraft carriers) were to sow death and terror among the civilian population (a characteristic of total wars) as witnessed by the massacre of Guernica, the German air raids on British cities during the Second World War, and conversely the complete destruction of German cities by the Allies’ bombings during the same period, or the massive American carpet-bombing of the Indochinese peninsula during the Vietnam War. A similar objective of terror and death on an industrial scale among civilian populations was pursued with the development of chemical weapons, first used in Ypres (Belgium) in 1915 and which were then central to the Nazi extermination of European Jews and Gypsies with the gas chambers, as well as to the imperialist endeavor of Washington in Vietnam with Agent Orange. It is again this same logic that presided over the development of the atomic bomb, used by the United States in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

The use of advanced technologies is nowadays at the heart of the development of weapons systems, for example with drones (vehicles — airborne or not — remotely controlled or automated, which can be used for surveillance as well as in combat when equipped with missiles) or automated borders (recognizing clandestine crossings through a system of sensors). As with the development of aviation in the 20th century, these technologies make it possible to establish an ever-greater distance between those who kill and those who are killed (or between those who guard the border and those who seek to cross it), thus limiting the risk of injury, loss or empathy for the victims on the part of the assailant.

While the European Union talks about peace, it sows the seeds of war.

The European Union, its member states and several other European states bear heavy direct and indirect responsibilities in armed conflicts around the world. They produce and sell weapons on a massive scale. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) March 2020 report on international arms transfers [4] indicates the volume, origin and destination of the world’s major arms sales for the period 2015-2019. SIPRI indicates that arms exports have increased by 5.5 per cent over this period compared to the period 2010-2014, and by 20 per cent compared to the period 2005-2009. While the top two arms-exporting states, the US and Russia, account for more than half of global arms exports (36% and 21% respectively), the EU member states are not lagging behind. France and Germany are the third and fourth largest arms-exporting states, while the United Kingdom (which was still a member of the EU for the period 2015-2019) and Spain rank sixth and seventh. Among the world’s top 25 arms-exporting states, responsible for 99% of global exports, there are nine EU member states, which account for 25.6% of global exports.

Despite what governments say when questioned on the subject, it is clear that the best buyers are authoritarian and warring regimes not because they would be interested only in increasing their deterrent capabilities, but because they use these weapons. In 2018, a report by several NGOs denounced the use of French armaments in the violent repression deployed by the authoritarian regime of Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi in Egypt since 2013 [5] — indeed, France is the leading supplier of arms to Cairo. The role of European states in supplying arms to the Saudi-led military coalition waging a bloody war in Yemen since March 2015 is also regularly pointed out: the United Kingdom and France are the second and third largest suppliers of arms to the Saudi ultra-reactionary regime, the United Arab Emirates imports arms from France (UAE’s second largest supplier) and the Netherlands (third largest supplier), while Qatar obtains arms from France (second largest supplier) and Germany (third largest supplier), and Kuwait from France (second largest supplier). The European powers are involved in the repression of the massive protest movements shaking Algeria (of which Germany is the third arms supplier) and the authoritarian monarchy of Morocco (Paris is the kingdom’s second arms supplier, and London is the third), as well as arming the authoritarian regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey (of which Italy is the second arms supplier and the Spanish state is the third), which is waging a low-intensity war in the Kurdish regions of the country and a direct war against the Kurdish movement in northern Syria. European weapons are also used by the State of Israel (of which Germany is the second arms supplier and Italy the third), which is colonizing the Palestinian territories, organizing the blockade of the Gaza Strip (and regularly intervenes militarily there) and pursuing a policy of apartheid within its borders. France is the third arms supplier to Narendra Modi’s far-right regime in India, which pursues a repressive policy throughout the country and a colonial policy in Kashmir. Italy is the third largest arms supplier to neighbouring Pakistan, where human rights are constantly trampled down by a powerful military institution. Other authoritarian regimes buying arms from EU member states include China (of which France is the second largest arms supplier) or Singapore (of which the Spanish state is the second largest arms supplier and France is the third largest). Indonesia, which violently represses the struggles of the Papuan population, purchases arms from the former Dutch colonial power, which is the country’s second largest supplier. And Brazil, whose police force is one of the deadliest in the world, buys arms from France (the country’s first supplier) and the United Kingdom (third supplier).

The criminal nature of these arms sales to repressive and warring regimes is all the more striking when they are compared with the lack of assistance to populations in danger. Thus the revolutionaries in Syria fighting against the murderous regime of Bashar Al-Assad never received the defensive weapons (anti-tank and anti-aircraft) that they demanded at the beginning of the revolutionary process (before reactionary groups gained a dominant influence within the armed opposition). Deliveries of these weapons that could have made a difference were systematically blocked by Western powers on the pretext that they feared they would fall into the wrong hands, and only small arms were delivered to the insurgent fighters. [6] Western support for the Kurds of the PYD in northern Syria was limited to tactical military support in the fight against Daesh. Once the fundamentalist organization was largely defeated, this tactical support ceased and the Kurdish people had to face the Turkish army with a balance of power that was deeply unfavorable to them. When NATO (of which a majority of EU member states are members, as we shall see below) intervened in Libya in 2011 with the stated objective of providing assistance to populations in danger, the US and European powers went far beyond the establishment of a “no-fly zone” and launched a large-scale offensive aimed at advancing their own interests.

By intervening militarily in different parts of the world (including through military cooperation agreements with existing regimes), imperialist powers seek not only to maintain their economic and political domination over countries of the Global South — while at the same time strengthening authoritarian regimes there — but also to demonstrate the effectiveness of their weapons systems for their potential clients. The arms trade is therefore not only responsible for wars indirectly (through the sales of arms to belligerent regimes), but also directly generates military interventions. In recent years, we can mention — not exhaustively — the participation of EU states that are members of NATO in the war in Afghanistan from 2001 onwards, the participation of several EU states (first and foremost the United Kingdom and the Spanish state) in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the participation of European NATO member states in the military intervention in Libya in 2011, France’s military intervention in Mali from 2013, and subsequently the participation of many European powers to the UN military operation MINUSMA in Mali, and the participation of many EU member states in the military coalition against various jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria from 2014. In addition, European armies are deployed in many countries around the world under military cooperation agreements with existing regimes. Here again, the case of France, which has signed such agreements with many African countries, is emblematic. For those of these countries that export arms, these interventions are opportunities to demonstrate the effectiveness of the weapons they offer for sale.

The EU is developing a Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). While it has not yet been possible to achieve a fully integrated military policy and a common army, it is nevertheless making it possible to strengthen the military cooperation of its member states. Furthermore, while the imperialism of the EU and its member states retains a degree of autonomy, its alignment with US imperialism is the general rule. In terms of military imperialism, the majority of the EU member states are members of NATO, and the accession to NATO of Eastern European states and the former Yugoslav bloc is a de facto necessary precondition for their accession to the EU. The EU thus enables the strengthening of the military presence of the United States and its allies at the gates of Africa, the Middle East and the former Soviet bloc, and participates directly in the imperial domination of the West over the rest of the world. This cannot conceal the fact that a number of European states, especially from the core of the EU, are themselves directly involved in this domination as states.

Violent societies.

In this way, the EU and its member states are contributing to the establishment of increasingly violent societies, in Europe, at its borders but also in the rest of the world. In a capitalism whose crises (which are inherent to it) come at ever shorter intervals, the mode of domination of the possessing classes is less and less achieved through the acceptance of this domination as natural and legitimate, and more and more through coercion. Social order is maintained by the use of weapons: the exploitation of the labour power of the overwhelming majority of the world’s population is facilitated by its submission to an authority that is known to be (potentially) violent, including in societies with political institutions that are considered ‘democratic’. This is obviously a political choice of the ruling classes, who favor this militarization of societies to the detriment of the development of the areas of social reproduction — health, education, housing, leisure, etc. This logic has been largely highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 — a health crisis that was unprecedented for more than a century,— during which the health systems of states that are among the world’s main sellers and buyers of arms proved incapable of dealing with the situation. In France, the shortage of masks and equipment for health care personnel and the population was widely observed in the light of the state’s purchase of several years’ stockpiles of repressive weapons.

In addition, many customers of arms-exporting states are also debtors of those states and of international financial institutions (World Bank and IMF). The debt incurred by these repressive and warring states should be considered odious according to the definition of the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debts (CADTM), from which it is worth quoting here: “any loan must be considered odious, if a regime, democratically elected or not, does not respect the fundamental principles of international law such as fundamental human rights, the sovereignty of States, or the absence of the use of force. The creditors, in the case of notorious dictators, cannot plead their innocence and demand to be repaid. In this case, the purpose of the loans is not fundamental for the categorisation of the debt. In fact, financially supporting a criminal regime, even for hospitals and schools, is tantamount to helping the regime’s consolidation and self-preservation. Firstly, some useful investments (roads, hospitals…) can later be used to odious ends, for example, to sustain war efforts. Secondly, the fungibility of funds makes it possible for a government that borrows to serve the population or the State – which, officially, is always the case – to generate other funds for less noble goals.” [7]

Towards a world order based on equality, democracy and solidarity.

For the movements of the political and social Left that would like to embody a force for change in Europe aimed at laying the foundations for an egalitarian and solidarity-based society, it is imperative in this context to take up anti-militarist politics. This means fighting not only against the wars of European imperialist powers, but also against arms sales and support for repressive and warring regimes. If such forces could embody popular governments, they should implement such policies in order to make a radical break with an unequal and violent world. However, the following measures can be put forward by social movements without waiting for the establishment of popular governments.

A popular government in a member state of the NATO will leave the latter and cease all co-operation with it. This constitutes a major issue of symbolic and material rupture with the existing political order at the international level; it would amount to nothing less than the “de-Westernisation” of international relations by refusing alignment with the interests of the US superpower and by demonstrating that international relations of solidarity rather than subjugation are possible.

The military command which is the most closely linked with the capitalist state and class will be dismissed and the army will be re-organized under democratic control. If the state is involved in wars abroad, it will initiate a process of disengagement to be achieved as soon as possible and to be replaced with humanitarian support under democratic control of the people concerned.

A popular government will engage towards global disarmament and dismantle its nuclear weapons if it has any. It will socialize the weapons industry and implement a moratorium on arms production and sales abroad, and it will reconvert the sectors producing offensive weapons, giving priority to the sectors of social reproduction — health, education, housing, etc., — all the while providing support and training for the workers of the reconverted industries and maintaining their salaries. It will initiate retroactive legal actions against those responsible for the sales of arms to criminal regimes.

A popular government will take sanctions against regimes that violate international law and fundamental human rights, paying attention not to further endanger the populations of the said regimes when a dependent country is concerned (for instance, it will take targeted actions against individuals responsible for the actions of the regime rather than indiscriminate economic sanctions). It will freeze all economic ties with the state of Israel as long as the latter does not respect international law and UN resolutions, that is until the state of Israel recognizes the sovereignty of the Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and the international regime of Jerusalem (this means the abandonment of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem), ends its blockade on the Gaza strip and its Apartheid regime within its own borders, and allows Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

A popular government will actively support oppressed nations and peoples (e. g. Palestinian, Kurdish, Sahrawi, Rohingya) through humanitarian and diplomatic help. It will assist populations whose lives are directly threatened, including through measures to prevent criminal regimes from committing mass crimes.

On the medium term at the international level, several popular governments should establish a strong enough relationship of powers to enter into meaningful negotiations with oppressive powers for the settlement of national issues (e. g. Palestine, Western Sahara, Kurdistan) and protracted civil wars (e. g. Syria). They should also aim at profoundly reforming the United Nations (or else replacing it) in order to transform it into a truly democratic conflict-resolution body that is not dominated by five powers (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China) with a permanent seat and a veto in the Security Council, as is currently the case.

Footnotes :

[1This logic gives rise to a strong contradiction, since the reproduction of the labor force that is indispensable for the reproduction of capitalism requires the carrying out of activities that are socially useful to the many (food preparation, health care, education and access to culture, emotional work, etc.). Patriarchal capitalism seeks to resolve this contradiction in various ways, including in particular the assignment of these tasks to women and gender minorities within the family sphere through unrecognized and unpaid work, and the commodification of public services.

[2Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels described this in the following manner in 1848: “What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.” (The Communist Manifesto, available at

[3“Serge Dassault (LR) : ‘Merci M. Le Drian, merci M. Hollande’”, Public Sénat, 22 January 2016, quoted in Claude Serfati, Le militaire. Une histoire française, Paris: Éditions Amsterdam, 2017.

[4Pieter D. Wezeman, Aude Fleurant, Alexandra Kuimova, Diego Lopes Da Silva, Nan Tian, Simon T. Wezeman, Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2019, SIPRI Fact Sheet, March 2020.

[5Egypt: A Repression Made in France, FIDH, June 2018. URL:

[6Apart from small arms, a few anti-tank weapons seem to have been delivered to the armed opposition to Bashar Al-Assad despite the refusal of the United States thereof. But the various reports of these weapons in the hands of armed groups over a short period of time are not evidence of an abundance of such deliveries — on the contrary, one might think that such publicity was due to the exceptional nature of the matter.

[7Éric Toussaint, “The Doctrine of Odious Debt: from Alexander Sack to the CADTM”,, 24 November 2016. URL:

Nathan Legrand

CADTM Belgium

ReCommons Europe