Tomorrows Crises: War

In the capitalist's eye, war is the most desirable state of affairs because it is the most profitable.


The Second World War was the first war where all the propaganda and slogans took a back seat to the harsh realities of greed. That does not mean that the war was started in order to make money but that it was exploited by a group who made money selling arms to both sides. In the end, it did not matter which side was going to win the war because the same people were going to profit and dominate the post-war world; as they have done:

  • IBM: Before the war, Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, received the "Order of Merit of the German Eagle with Star" from Hitler. When war was declared, he transferred IBM's European interests to Geneva and a Dr Otto Kriep became responsible for the firm's German activities. IBM was considered an important factor in the Nazi war effort. In 1942, the US side of company obtained a 94% share in the Munitions Manufacturing Company which manufactured bombers, heavy guns and aeroplane engines earning more than $200 million. At the same time, it continued to receive profits from it's German operations. This led to an interesting problem for the allied forces. The failure of Frank McCarthy, an RAF bombardier, to hit an IBM factory in Sindelfingen might have had something to do with the fact that he was personnel manager of Canadian IBM!

  • ITT: On the advice of Hitler's economic advisor Wilhelm Keppler, Sosthene Behn the founder of ITT, entrusted the management of his German companies to Kurt von Shroeder who later became a major financier of Himmler's Gestapo and an SS general. Behn also benefitted from his relationship with Gerhardt Westrick, an influential member of the National Socialist Party. In 1938, with the agreement of Hermann Goering, the ITT subsidiary, Lorenz, bought a 28% share in Focke Wulff, whose planes caused serious damage to allied convoys and weapons. In 1940, after a meeting with Hitler, Behn agreed that Jews should be removed from senior management positions in his European companies and between 1941 & 1944, over half the product of His Spanish factories went to support the Nazi war effort. At the same time as his Focke Wulff planes were machine-gunning allied convoys and troops, Behn's American labs developed the high-frequency "Huff Duff" sonar system used to detect German submarines. For this invention, he received the "Medal for Merit", the highest civilian award, from the US President Harry Truman in 1946.

  • GENERAL MOTORS: In 1929, General Motors, under its president Alfred Sloan, became 100% owner of Opel. In 1935, at the request of the Nazi high command, Opel's Brandenburg offices started developing a heavy truck which was to be less suceptible to enemy air attack and the Opel Blitz was completed in 1936. This earned them the "Eagle of the First Class" from Hitler in 1938. Seven months before the outbreak of war, GM converted 432 acres of the Opel establishment at Russelheim to manufacturing military aircraft. Between 1939 and 1945, these factories produced 50% of the propulsion systems for the Junker 88, regarded as the best bomber in the Luftwaffe. In 1943, while its American manufacturers were eqipping the US Air Force, GM's German group developed and manufactured motors for the Messerschmitt 262 (the first jet fighter) which gave it a 100 mph advance over its American rival, the Mustang P150.

  • FORD: Henry Ford was a familiar face in Nazi ruling circles and sent Hitler a $50,000 cheque on his fiftieth birthday with a telegram congratulating him on having set Germany back on its feet. In 1938, he opened an assembly plant in a Berlin suburb designed to produce troop transports for the Wermacht. Between 1939 and 1945, Ford and GM subsidiaries produced 90% of the 3-ton "Mule" half-tracks as well as 70% of the medium tonnage heavy trucks supplied to armies of the Reich which were regarded as the backbone of the German army's transport system. Behn of ITT and Ford were also approached by Westrick (authorized by Foreign Secretary von Ribbentrop) to do everything they could to persuade Britain to surrender. The two businessmen did actually take steps in that direction in communications with Churchill and Anthony Eden.

At the end of the war, these companies openly admitted their involvement in the Nazi war effort by seeking compensation from the American government for damage caused to their European factories. In 1960, GM received $33 million compensation in tax exemption on profits for damages caused to its aeroplane and motorized vehicle factories in Germany, Austria, Poland and China. ITT received $27 million damages, $5 million of which were for the Focke Wulff factory, American property bombed by allied planes. And Ford received just under $1 million for damage done to its military truck production lines in Cologne!

These same organisations (General Motors, IBM, ITT, DuPont, Chase Manhattan bank and many others), who cooperated with both sides during World War 2, have continued to reap profits from war on both sides ever since. These same companies made record profits from military intervention in Vietnam defending Vietnam against communism at a profit whilst at the same time invested these profits into the economies of communist countries.

In other words, war is seen as the perfect vehicle for the expression of the capitalist economic system of greed: the products are expensive, used up incredibly quickly and nobody knows for sure if it worked or not in the field of conflict. And that is why the world's defence companies report record profits year after year.

Today, warfare is still very big business. The whole world spends billions on warfare. $17.4 billion is needed to feed the world's poor yet that amount is spent on arms every two weeks by the world.

We believe that we will see a major shift of power away from the North to the South because the South will break their debt links to the North. This would mean that the production equipment purchased by these debts as well as the natural resources of the South will both remain in the South and will act as an excellent foundation for economic growth. All the North holds are paper IOUs from the South which will become worthless. This is likely to lead to a North-inspired war against the South. Should the South act in the way that we have said, it is likely that the US will not take it lying down. It along with the EC, would wage war on these countries especially in Central and South America. In fact, some have suggested that such a war has already started. But this is not war as we could recognise it.

SUSAN GEORGE: Strategists have known Sun Tzu ("The Art or War", 500 BC) that winners win because they adapt to the terrain and to changing circumstances. The US has learned from its failure in Vietnam. Highly visible, debilitating and exhaustively reported interventions like Vietnam have given way to Low-intensity Conflict (LIC). LIC has become the officially sanctioned and widely practised strategy against movements popular in the Third World and governments unpopular in Washington - "A Fate Worse Than Debt", p232

LIC (Low Intensity Conflict) has been labelled "war without the appearance of war" or as "war by proxy". The scandal of Irangate was one such example. Using "covert operations" (lying, deceit, fraud) to pay for supporting the Contras - The US army's stand-in for its war against Nicaragua. What LIC loses in impact, it well than makes up for in duration. LIC is low-cost for the aggressor and so can be continued for a long time. However, for the victim, LIC is very expensive. Taking Nicaragua again, the war against the Contras costs it nearly 60% of its entire national budget! The effects of this are chilling:

SARA MILES: The frightening thing about LIC is that winning, as we normally think of it, might not matter so much any more - at least not as much as does the creation of a system for waging permanent war in the Third World. LIC is not "won" in the sense that convetional wars are won. Most of us still still assume that war-makers conceive of war as a linear activity, with a beginning, an escalation and an outcome. But US low-intensity strategists have, if you will, discovered dialectics; they understand it as a permanent global struggle. LIC is not a fad, or a fluke or a flare-up in trouble spots; it is the new norm for relations between the United States and the nations of the Third World - Contents of a letter to the North American Congress on Latin America's "Report to the Americas", Quoted by Susan George in "A Fate Worse Than Debt", p233

But the most significant things about LIC is that it has been created from the attitudes of economic power. The ideas of permanent war becomes just another means of making money out of the misery of the South without having to spend a lot to do it.

LUIS IGNACIO SILVA, Brazilian Labour Leader: Without being radical or overly bold, I will tell you that the Third World War has already started - a silent war, not for that reason any less sinister. This war is tearing down Brazil, Latin America and practically all the Third World. Instead of soldiers dying there are children, instead of millions of wounded there are millions of unemployed; instead of destruction of bridges there is the tearing down of factories, schools, hospitals and entire economies ... It is a war by the United States against the Latin American continent and the Third World. It is a war over the foreign debt, one which has as its main weapon interest, a weapon more deadly than the atom bomb, more shattering than a laser beam - Quoted by Susan George in "A Fate Worse Than Debt", p234

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