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The return of conscription and the next generation to go to war in the EU

2022-07-31 | EU
The return of conscription and the next generation to go to war in the EU

No longer the "new militia" of 2018....

Five years ago now, in August 2018, a ghost haunted European government palaces: the reinstatement of military service. The proposal began as a campaign idea by Macron. But soon after, Salvini in Italy, May in Great Britain with the support of The Economist, a good part of the press in Germany and even the King of Morocco himself embraced the proposal.

It was, they insisted, "something new", compulsory from the age of 16 for both men and women and not centered on military training.

The young people will be placed in boarding schools with other young people from different social classes. These boarding schools will be located all over the country and the young people who will attend them will be sent with priority to places far from their regions of origin, where they will receive training in "civic and republican values" and "contribute" to social work. In other words, the idea is to create a cross-class experience that favors identification with the national territory and the association between the state and social needs.

The objective, more educational-patriotic than militaristic, was a product of the context of the time in Europe and the Maghreb.

The petty bourgeoisies in revolt are the principal problem of "governance" of a bourgeoisie which [already sees a new recession coming] (https://es.communia.blog/el-disparo-de-salida-de-una-nueva-recesion-y-mas-guerra/) and fears that the proletariat of the central countries will be able to establish itself as a political subject. [...] That is why the bourgeoisie now considers so urgent the need to "reform" and "re-educate" the petty bourgeoisie by involving it in the "national project".

Over the years, this "new militia", the "Universal National Service", developed only in France. According to L'Express:

For fifteen days, the young people first participate in a cohesion stay, a moment of collective life outside their home department. They must then commit themselves to an association, an administration or a uniformed organization for an 84-hour mission of general interest.

But in reality, so far it has not gone beyond the pilot phase: 2,000 young people in 2019 and 15,000 in 2021 took part in the "cohesion courses" during the summer. This year they aim to reach 50,000. The poor development has not only been due to the pandemic. The high school teachers' unions continue to oppose it... and the military is dragging its feet.

But Macron is not satisfied. This past July 14, he charged again. The first immediate priority for the army that he presented was the "relaunch of the Universal National Service" (SNU). He wants to make it compulsory in 2024, i.e., make it compulsory for every young Frenchman when he turns 16. He also wants it to be incorporated with "defense training" content, as the generals that are demanding it seek to find some military use for it. In reality, they are already imagining other things.

... it is the "militia" of a lifetime with better equipment and variable numerus clausus

Reclutas del servicio militar obligatorio sueco

Military conscripts in Sweden

For at least two years now, most armies in Europe and Asia have been estimating their own participation in a "high-intensity war" sometime between 2027 and 2030. Until the Ukrainian war, the Europeans were the ones who gave themselves the most time to prepare.

In January [2021], the [French] General Staff quietly set up ten working groups to examine the country's readiness for a high-intensity war. French generals believe they have a decade or so to adapt.

The groups cover everything from ammunition shortages to societal resilience. The groups even study whether citizens are "prepared to accept a level of casualties we have not seen since World War II," says one participant.

The specter of high-level warfare is already so pervasive in French military thinking that the scenario has its own acronym: HEM, or "hypothesis of major engagement."

The French armed forces are preparing for a high-intensity war, La Vanguardia, 30/3/2021

This was a year before the Ukrainian war broke out. This year France increased its military budget by 3 billion euros in order to reduce the time frame and get its armies ready for a "high intensity war" as soon as possible.

But a "high intensity" war means forced and massive mobilization. Something that can easily be chaotic and counterproductive if a significant part of the population has not previously received instruction in the use of weapons and tactical behavior. That is the framework in which lifetime military service makes sense again for the state.

In Germany, a month before Macron ordered to resurrect the SNU, the president had advocated the return of mandatory military service, which had been dismantled by Merkel in 2011. He was not alone. Latvia began setting it up soon after the outbreak of war in Ukraine and Lithuania is following in its footsteps. Holland, which cannot fill a quarter of the placements due to a lack of volunteer staff, is considering using it.

Most of the countries that are studying it "seriously" have their eyes set on the model of Norway and Sweden. Over there, all young men of military age and without physical handicaps are called to undergo a series of competitive tests. However only a certain number of them are enlisted as soldiers, which has so far hovered around just 15% and depends on "anticipated defense needs."

Governments like the model because it reduces costs compared to the classic universal militia and the military because the "educational" part is subordinated to their real deployment objectives, while allowing a certain flexibility to rapidly increase the number of soldiers.

That is why it was significant that in March the Swedish Prime Minister addressed young people and told them that they "should be prepared for military service". The "needs" can no longer be met, it seems, with only 15 percent of the young people in each call-up.

The first European generation of the 21st century to "go to war"

Reclutas ucranianos de 19 y 18 aƱos respectivamente

Two Ukrainian conscripts, 19 and 18 years old respectively, mobilized in a combat zone

In 2019 the French Chief of the General Staff appeared behind closed doors before the Parliament. He composed to them a very clear framework of acceleration of the armed dimension of imperialist conflicts.

The world order, as we see it in our strategic vision, will be reorganized around the Pacific in a major confrontation. This must lead us Europeans - with the French playing an important role - to rethink our position. We cannot abandon the Western camp (...) solidarity with the United States is extremely important.

However, we cannot, for example, allow the Chinese to ally with the Russians without reacting, which is inevitable considering that they continue to confront the Americans. Current developments are constantly accelerating, but they reflect a fundamental trend that we know has been operating for many years.

In that framework, as he had warned just a few weeks earlier, a high-intensity war "was becoming a very likely option." And in such a scenario, "the question of the mass" of material and human resources to incorporate into the carnage becomes crucial.

At the time, the general suggested to the parliamentarians that they could meet their objective through the mutualization of armed forces from different EU countries, that is, implement the "European army" project promoted by Macron. However, the army was already openly discussing the possibility of reintroducing compulsory conscription.

The problem was that the laws of industrial warfare were a carbon copy of those of capitalist production. In the same way that the incorporation of new workers in a factory contributes little to production if the number of machines is not increased, modern warfare is organized around the armed equivalent of fixed capital: heavy weapons.

"What's the use of 800,000 young men of one age group when you only have 200 Leclerc tanks to arm?" exclaimed General Bouquin, former head of the legion, in 2020 in a report by France's leading military think tank on the coming high-intensity war. But that is what has changed with the outbreak of the Ukraine war across the EU.

From the extra 100 billion in German defense budgets to the sudden demand for submarines in Romania, militarism is, as of today, the main tendency in common of all European national capitals. Military industries are running at full speed from Spain to Bulgaria. The generals will not be left without their peculiar version of "fixed capital". The dimension of the endeavor is immense in terms of the totality as well as for each state and national capital involved individually. A large scale leap in comparison with the last decades that drove the socialization of militarism.

Militarism entails the instrumentalization and subordination of the organization of production and the destinies of accumulation to the material needs of the armed imperialist conflict. The profitability of the armaments sector is assured in its first phases and hundreds of billions of euros in resources of all kinds are invested in it.

Socialization is an immediate consequence. Roads, railways and even crops are modified according to military needs, rapidly transforming the material basis of social life. The official ideology is reshaped and the media is deployed to the hilt to convert "defense needs" into a "priority felt by the population". Finally, the population itself, and especially the workers, must be included in the war effort to varying degrees, from forming part of the expansion of the human base of the army to becoming militarized, a process we are witnessing in Ukraine.

It is within this general framework of development, which is already underway, that the return of military service in one form or another is foreseeable.

As militarism develops, the pressure towards its socialization will inevitably increase: compulsory military service will return to some countries and in all countries supplies and productive policies - beginning with agriculture, food and transport - will be subordinated to the prospect of war.

The new imperialist map of Europe is more contradictory than ever, 4/4/2022

We didn't have to wait long to see that tendency in motion. The EU is accelerating its reform of the transport system - especially trains and freeways - to adjust it to the needs of an eventual war with Russia. The new Czech presidency, meanwhile, has identified as its main objective the redesign of agricultural policy from a strategic "food security" perspective. Recruitment systems are already being expanded.

In Poland, for example, the military budget has sharply increased to account for 5% of GDP. Polish generals already have more tanks than the French forces of the distressed Bouquin. As a result, Poland has quickly reformed the voluntary conscription system in order to double their manpower.

Thus, incrementally, but swiftly, all the necessary material conditions of that war for which the European militaries are preparing themselves in the perspective of 2030 are being built. A war in which the European militaries expect "a level of casualties that we have not seen since the Second World War".

In other words, according to the "strategic scenarios" being handled by European states today, the boys and girls born around 2012, those who are now 10 years old, are the most likely to be the first European generation to fight in a mass war since the Second World War.

Europe has taken a qualitative leap towards militarism which cannot be reversed. The consequences are beginning to emerge more and more clearly under the characteristic profiles of a war economy: concentration and centralization of capital reinforced through the state, reinforcement of the military industry, subordination of the needs of accumulation to the strategic needs of the imperialist conflict (let us recall the suicide represented by the accelerated change of energy sources) and policies of political and social control.

Against them, no serious resistance can be expected from any sector of the political apparatus. The state will advance like a steamroller, the trade unions in the front line, on the living conditions and freedoms of the workers. These attacks will represented as advances or imposed as "sacrifices". But the consequences will not stop accelerating on a trajectory that is already fixed. Only the development of the organization and ability of the workers to stand up to its immediate consequences can stop its course.

The future of Europe and the war, 11/5/2022