According to a report in the Guardian, the value of UK arms exports doubled during 2022, reaching a record £8.5bn. Arms companies like BAE Systems are reaping huge profits from capitalist conflict as the world careens towards ever-greater instability.
Despite the warmongering hypocrites in Downing Street constantly bragging about their mission to ‘defend democracy’, these profits are mostly accrued from sales to despotic regimes in the Middle East.
In reality, this cabal of cannibals are interested in defending nothing but imperialist interests, while the death merchants stuff their pockets. Such is the nature of capitalist war.
Selling to head-chopping war criminals
The main recipient of UK-made weaponry in 2022 was Qatar, which bought £2.7bn worth of arms. These included Eurofighter Typhoons and other equipment from BAE Systems. Second place goes to Saudi Arabia, usually at the top of this list, which bought £1.1bn of arms. Turkey is also one of the largest destinations for British weapons.
These regimes are, of course, viciously authoritarian and reactionary. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that executed 150 people last year, by beheading, hanging, and firing squad. Political parties are banned, dissent is criminalised, and women, LGBT people, and other minorities face brutal discrimination.
A very similar picture is found in Qatar, with most of its population consisting of noncitizens with no political rights. Qatar’s human rights record came under scrutiny during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as workers behind the event were jailed or deported after trying to claim unpaid wages. Many are still being held in detention months later.
In Turkey, the newly re-elected Erdogan regime routinely suppresses political dissent and imprisons opponents and critics. Turkey is also engaged in war against the Kurds in northwestern Syria. The explicit goal is to ensure that the continued oppression of the Kurdish people within Turkey is not threatened by the existence of an independent Kurdish state at Turkey’s borders.
And how are all the weapons being purchased by these despots being put to use? Saudi Arabia has deployed much of its stockpile of British weapons in its bloody, protracted war on Yemen, which has been recognised as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
As of 2023, a shocking 21.6 million people require humanitarian assistance as a result of this calamity, and 80 percent of the country struggles to access food and other basic necessities.
Saudi airstrikes have been responsible for two-thirds of civilian deaths in Yemen. Deliberate targeting of important infrastructure has left millions of people facing starvation. Despite all this, when challenged in the courts by campaign groups, the British imperialists have found ‘no pattern’ of Saudi airstrikes breaching international law.
Lenin once said that war is terrible…terribly profitable. And since only the value of single-use export licences is publicly released, it is safe to say that the real level of arms exports – and profits – is far greater than the figures above.
The British imperialists will cry foul at Vladimir Putin’s regime and Russia’s war in Ukraine. But they are all too happy to prop up rotten, bloodthirsty dictatorships, so long as the wars waged by those despots serve their cynical interests.
For all their hypocritical hue and cry about the need to defend ‘democracy’ in Ukraine, one would think that Kyiv would have topped the list when it comes to the recipients of British arms.
Putting aside the reactionary character of the oligarch-backed Kyiv regime, which has itself banned many opposition parties and clamped down on workers’ rights, at ‘only’ £401m worth of exports, the imperialist propaganda is false on its own terms.
Even if we consider the total figure of £2.3bn worth of weapons supplied to Ukraine in 2022, which includes stocks held by the British military, this is still below even the £2.7bn in single-use export licences corresponding to weapons supplied to the decidedly undemocratic Qatar. And it is surely a fraction of all UK arms exports.
Not that British arms manufacturers have failed to cash in on the Ukraine War, which has boosted demand for military hardware across the board, as governments around the world prepare for greater chaos and conflict. BAE attributed its record orders last year to the Ukraine conflict. These rose to £58.9 billion, up from £44 billion at the end of 2021.
Behind all the stinking hypocrisy, the aim of the Western imperialists in Ukraine is not to ‘defend democracy’. Nor is it even to provide the Ukrainian army with the means that would allow it to decisively defeat Russian forces.
The main objective of US imperialism, the main ringleaders on the NATO side, is to bog down Russia in a protracted war and bleed it dry.
The British establishment, for their part, act as Washington’s obedient and belligerent lapdogs, while puffing out their chest about their undying support for Kyiv, in order to distract from the acute economic and social crisis at home.
The western imperialists do not wish to escalate the war in Ukraine to the point of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia, a nuclear-armed power. Moreover, a full-blown clash would surely provoke a major reaction back home, from a working class that has no appetite for the hell that a Third World War would unleash.
Nevertheless, the western imperialists are happy to continue fuelling the war in Ukraine, and sacrifice the lives of Ukrainian workers, in the name of their own narrow interests.
Fight for revolution
War is an inevitable part of capitalism. Fierce competition amongst the world’s imperialist powers means a struggle for markets, territories, and spheres of influence.
But given that the territorial and economic division of the world amongst the imperialist countries was already completed at the turn of the last century, only redivision is possible during this period of capitalist decline. And redivision means the use of force.
While the bourgeoisie wage predatory wars for their own interests, they also net healthy profits from the exports of weapons abroad.
It is absolutely clear that the interests of the capitalists are diametrically opposed to those of the working class. While the imperialists fight for dominance and pocket blood money, workers endure the resultant destruction, and are sent to slaughter each other senselessly.
Only the utmost unity of the international working class can put an end to all war.
As a starting point, the big arms companies should be expropriated under workers’ control. Their factories and the expertise of their workers should be retooled and put to use developing socially beneficial goods, rather than instruments of destruction, on the basis of a democratic plan of production – along the lines of the Lucas Plan in the 1970s.
Ultimately, only by seizing power into their own hands can workers cleanse the world of all the horrors of capitalism, including war, and ensure that society’s resources are deployed to help humanity, not line the imperialists’ pockets.
For this, it is necessary to unite our class in all countries around a revolutionary programme: for the expropriation of the billionaires and bankers, and to establish a socialist society based on democratic economic planning and workers’ control.
Down with imperialism! Down with capitalism! Workers of the world, unite!