A crack that lets in light

In this age of horribly destructive weapons and the ability of U.S. government agencies to pore over everyone’s private communications — if they are digitized, as most are — there is a tendency to regard the capitalist state as all-powerful, a juggernaut that can roll over everyone if it wants.

It isn’t and it can’t. But it takes an economic as well as a political crisis to make that apparent.

The state rests on force in the final analysis — armies, police, courts, prisons and all the adjunct agencies that buttress repression. When you count them all up, millions of people are involved in one capacity or another in making it work. Most of them don’t see themselves as guardians of the capitalist- imperialist order. Yet that is what they are. And when the system goes into crisis, when tens of millions of workers face economic insecurity that could lead even to homelessness and hunger, the loyalties of many of those working for the capitalist state are shaken.

Right now the federal government has cut 10 percent from the budgets of many agencies and says it just doesn’t have the money to fix the bridges, inspect the meat, give poor children a head start, keep the post offices open, and perform thousands of other vital tasks.

But it’s got the money to send destroyers to the Mediterranean with hundreds of cruise missiles to attack Syria. That has provoked a huge reaction from the masses of people, who have clearly rejected such an attack.

And it has prompted some of those who at one time had top security clearance, who were trusted with the kinds of government secrets that aren’t supposed to come out, to blow the whistle. Edward Snowden and Pvt. Chelsea Manning weren’t the only ones. They may be symptoms of a much larger current of disaffection.

The latest sign of this is a public statement by the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity which rebuts the Obama administration’s charge that the Syrian military used poison gas on civilians in a suburb of Damascus.

A dozen former U.S. military and intelligence officials have signed the statement sent to Obama, which begins, “We regret to inform you that some of our former co-workers are telling us, categorically, that contrary to the claims of your administration, the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident that killed and injured Syrian civilians on August 21, and that British intelligence officials also know this.”

Called “Is Syria a Trap?” the statement can be found on a number of different websites, including wikispooks.com. What it indicates is a much wider circle of dissent from within about the government’s war policy, since the dozen retired personnel who signed the statement say they were briefed by people on active duty who have access to the raw data not being shown to the public, the media or even members of Congress.

The seemingly all-powerful state, therefore, is subject to the same stresses and strains that are forcing the masses of people to organize and struggle.

As we write this, the Obama administration may be pulling back from its full-court press for an immediate attack. It certainly risks more opposition if it does not even give the appearance of listening to the people.

But the forces of imperialism are not swayed by logic or appeals to conscience. The struggle against predatory wars for profit must be part of every progressive agenda, because war itself then becomes the excuse to inflict even more pain on the masses in the name of patriotism and sacrifice — none of which is extracted from the super-rich.