An American Babushka in Moscow:  Reflections on the logic of the permanent war economy

russian mother

Monogamy and growing old produce the same results.  Sleeping with the same person over and over again takes the razor sharp blade of passion and dulls it flat.  So too, living in the world, truly living in it and not just in one small cell of it, reduces the sharp peaks of our emotions, rounds them out into dull stones which weroll over and over again with aged fingers.   I think that this is part of what wisdom is – this overfamiliarity with life, so that we know it more but feel it less.

So yesterday begins with my friends calling me too early on a Saturday morning.  “Have you read, have you heard about the Americans attacking Syria?” How can I have heard when I have been sleeping?

My fiend Gulya comes and it is her first question to me.  “I am so afraid of war,” she says.  She tells me the story of her father who was 61 when she was born, and so, old enough to have fought in the Great Patriotic War as it is called here in Russia.  Every year on his birthday he would toast with the plea for no more war.  She shakes her head,” but there is so much war in the world now”.   Indeed, indeed – America is fighting war on 8 fronts now.  War is a very profitable business and business is good.  Matter of factly I tell her this and then ask her how much avocados are selling for at Billa.  We decide to go and find out.

The people’s worry about a war occurring between America and Russia arises out of a misconception.  First, the misconception that America and Russia are not already at war and second, that the “war” that they imagine on the brink of their Russian horizons will be World War III, the great nuclear holocaust.  Neither the Americans nor the Russians want that kind of war, and for several reasons, I don’t think it will ever happen.  First of all, at this point, Russia is at a disadvantage.  It is said, quite rightly of Putin, that he plays a weak hand strongly.  This is true, for him the war is a slow, chess game which he plays so well.  Move then counter move in the public arena, the building of alliances, the unification despite differences with other countries, and yes, a computer war fought by geeks in solitary enclaves.  Putin does not want war.   Let me repeat that, Putin does not want war.

Several months ago when I went home to America to visit my family my son-in-law takes me over to my storage unit so I can get some things.  As we are poking around an aged copy of SeymoreMelman’sThe Permanent War Economy, falls out.  My daughter’s husband takes it home to read and a few days later he says to me,  “Everything in this book is still true today.”  Uh huh. Yep.  True that.

What is it that was true then and is true now?  Capitalism in America wants and needs wars to sustain itself.  War is the way the testosterone drive hegemons of American Capitalism masturbate.  Melman tells us the same thing the year before his death in 2004  that he told us when he was a young professor at Columbia in 1975:

“The Permanent War Economy of the United States has endured since the end of World War II in 1945.  Since then the U.S. has been at war – somewhere – every year, in Korea, Nicaragua, Vietnam, the Balkans, Afghanistan – all this to the accompaniment of shorter military forays in Africa, Chile, Grenada, Panama.”

America today is fighting on at least 8 different fronts.  Beyond this the US Central Commands website states that it is active in 20 countries across the Middle East and is “actively ramping-up military training, counterterrorism programs, logistical support and funding to the military in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, U.A.E., Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

So it is that profits are booming and unemployment is low as the poor, having few other alternatives to “survive”, sign up for the military.

America wants and needs war, to be sure, to be sure, but it does not want one grand war with Russia which will end conflicts, as that would put an end to the slow but steady accumulation of profits. It hopes to wear Putin and Russian people down via economic siege. Rather, the needs of capitalism are better filled by the status quo… endless proliferation of slow wars and never ending conflicts all over the world.  For these it produces ever less believable provocations and justifications whether they be “fighting terrorists” or “fighting communists”, “spreading democracy” or “bringing to an end crimes against humanity.”  These noble causes are but delusions for sacrificing human beings on the high altar upon which is worshipped the greatest of all gods: wealth.

There is only one man that stands before the Empire and tries to interfere with its plans; but even he contributes to their accumulation of profits as they send Tomahawk missiles to test his weapons.  Each missile used demands that another be created, and each that is created produces profits.

Vladimir Vladimirovich, take good care of yourself.

Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.

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