A Quiz on You and the Arms Race


by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)

When arms are shipped to other countries, do you have anything to say about which they will be pointed when they get used? Does anyone near you have anything to say about that?

Are you more secure because of the arms that were shipped to Iran? To Taiwan? To Israel? To Pakistan? To Saudi Arabia? To any place?

For 5,000 years, from spears to H-bombs, people have accumulated arms to make us more secure. Has it made us more secure? Will spending more on arms make us more secure? Will war?

There Are Other Ways

During these 5,000 years our ancestors also sought security in other ways. They raised food instead of hunting for it. They built water systems and sewers. Which gives you more security — the wheat belt and the local sanitation system, or the Pentagon?

For greater security our ancestors merged with their neighbors into larger social units. Does the lack of fortifications at state lines make you fear that people from adjoining states are more likely to kill you than people from your own state?

Will stretching your boundaries 10 miles north or 10 miles south make you more secure or better off in any way? Which is the more likely way to pick a good place for a boundary — a war, or tossing a coin? Or how about a vote by the folks along the border?

What Is a Nation?

In these times does the term “nation” any longer mean those with the same ancestors, the same language, the same culture? No. A modern nation is the body of people who support the same military-industrial complex with their labor and their lives. Can you point to any nation that does not fit that definition? What good does it do people to kill each other for their military-industrial complexes??

Today we live in a world economy, run increasingly by transnational corporations. People have come thousands of miles to live and work here. People from here have crossed oceans to work there. We depend on each other’s work around the globe for the things that make life enjoyable.

Can young people today in any country feel at all sure on what continent or continents their grandchildren will be born? Which is the more effective way for them to improve their grandchildren’s chances in life — to stretch their boundaries by war, or aim at making life good everywhere? (When answering that question, keep in mind that mankind spends more on arms each year than it spends on improving the equipment with which we do the world’s work.) Which should you aim to leave your children, a green planet where they can grow things, or a wheelbarrow full of green paper in an inflation-wracked and radiation-poisoned world of post-war scarcity?

What Good Is War?

How enduring is victory anyway? Is it the victors of the last world war or the losers, who have the advantage in today’s world market? Did the Civil War settle where American jobs would be moving now?

Has it been military victory that has shaped history? Or rather has it been the mix of climate, inventions, the social practices, scientific developments, and the social struggles that have gone on inside the nations?

Can there be winners in World War Three?

A Union Approach

Do you expect that workers in other countries are likely to attack you on their own initiative? Or do you expect that if they attack you it will be because their rulers have told them to? And because they fear that if they do not attack you, you will get them first?

Isn’t this like the situation workers face in an unorganized industry? And something we need to deal with in the same way? The upper crust has kept us at heel by making us distrust each other across the work bench, and now, across the ocean. The obvious remedy is to build union solidarity on the same scale.

If some ruler abroad wants to seize the place where you work, he will have to occupy it with troops drawn from his work force. Will he dare do this if your ways of life will inoculate them with democracy and vigorous rank-and-file resistance? If you practice militant unionism on the job, if you practice democracy and respect for your fellow workers on the shop floor and in daily life, will he risk letting his obedient forces mingle with you? But if you are obedient workers, unorganized or practicing little democracy in your union, you surely tempt him to invade you and exploit you. If you build militant unionism, any dictator will no more want to occupy your home and your workplace than he would want to thrust his hand into a hornets’ nest.

We need to build such unionism anyway to make our job a good place to earn our living.

The more we resist those who would get us to fighting each other, the more our fellow workers in other countries can resist too. The less we resist, the more they feel it is in their interests to obey.

Build for Peace

We build unions so that employers could not use us against each other on the same job. We extended our unions so that workers in different plants in the same industry could not be used against each other. For many practical reasons we need to extend the understanding among union men and women so that workers in different countries cannot be used against each other, in peace or in war. It is even poorer unionism for workers to bomb each other’s children than it is to bust each other’s picket lines.

We must do more than resist. For a peaceful and prosperous future we must build arrangements for the peaceful and rational use of this planet’s resources. This cannot be left to exploiters, or to war mongers, or even to the most benign persons charged with the responsibility of protecting their national states against each other.

It is the ultimate function of unionism to enable those who do the world’s work to reach a global understanding about what work we will do, where we will do it, what we will produce and where we will move it, for our mutual benefit and the common good. And it won’t be arms.

It is time for digging by union research departments and for thinking by all of us, about the nuts and bolts of such an arrangement. Won’t that sort of thinking put war and world politics and all else into a new perspective — one that can make otherwise insoluble problems soluble? It is an appropriate union undertaking because it is the most rational way to improve collective bargaining, fight inflation and avoid recession — for inflation and recession and war are not destinies, like the coming of winter, outside of our control, but they depend on what the working class does. A world labor movement in active communication over such planning of our work is not likely to let any sinister handful split it up into armies killing each other. A nationalistic labor movement is a natural for war.

It takes organization to promote such ideas, and the Industrial Workers of the World welcomes all wage workers whether they bargain through other unions or not, to join us in getting our worldwide class to think about these prospects. Are you with us?