Marx and the Military Industrial Complex

In the first article above, author Lee Fang discusses what is often termed the military industrial complex, and calls out so-called pundits that have financial stakes in the conflict with ISIS. Additionally, Fang criticizes the Pentagon’s funding requests for including requests for more F-35 planes, that are not yet considered ready to fly. I’ve also included an article by Eli Lake about how military contractors who served in the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts are hoping to be hired again in the conflict with ISIS.

Marx would consider all of this to be in line with his writings, although I am not sure even he could have predicted the extent to which this would occur. According to Marx, one of the ultimate effects of capitalism is the tendency for capitalists to co-opt governments, in order to produce policies that favor the capitalists’ ability to make profit. For example, by making the government pass laws that allow capitalists to elongate the workday, capitalists can increase labor and therefore profit (absolute surplus labor). By getting the government to allow unsafe processes or environmentally dangerous techniques in manufacturing, capitalists can reduce the amount of necessary labor and make more profit as well (relative surplus labor via industrialization).

Marx’s writings are best applied to the manufacturing industry, which was presumably a dominant economic sector during his lifetime, but I think he would have had just as much to say about the modern military industrial complex. In this industry, the consumer is the government – so the capitalist’s influence in government directly impacts the amount of profit the capitalist can conceivably make. In other words, the capitalists create government demand and then bleed that demand until they’ve made as much money as they can. Marx accurately predicted that capitalists would use government like this – and while the trends in privatization probably would not have surprised Marx, I think the practice of private firms being used to fight wars would be pretty shocking to his 19th century viewpoint.

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