Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2795

How the ruling classes construct support for wars 

Our rulers want us to support the escalation of war. Isabel Ringrose explores how the media props up the generals and says that resistance can break their hold
Issue 2795
Ukraine flag in a German train station

A Ukraine flag on a screen in a German train station

Everywhere you look, from the BT tower to outside football stadiums, you’ll see propaganda about the conflict in Ukraine. British media, with the BBC leading the charge, is putting us under a siege of biased information that props up our rulers’ version of the war.

 War offers a problem for world leaders. They are forced to convince people that their imperialist interests benefit us. A tried and tested method they have to pursue their lies is to use the media.

Propaganda is pumped out, often with horrific stories and images of dead children or bombed hospitals. Some times these things do happen. But they can also be faked. At the start of the Gulf War of 1991 most of the media highlighted a story that the Iraqis had removed 312 babies from incubators and left them to die. It was a complete lie. Amnesty International soon retracted the story from its records.

But the story had done its work and helped to move more people behind the attack on Iraq. The revolutionary Karl Marx wrote, “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas. The class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.”

He explained that the class controlling the means of production at the same time dominates the means of mental production. That class then seeks to subject those without that control to its views.Within the media the Ukrainian conflict is framed as an isolated issue. The message is that you might think that Boris Johnson is a corrupt, racist, misogynistic liar who partied while people died of Covid.

But you can trust him when he denounces Putin, even if it is from the standpoint of the Western military alliance.  He’s putting up your fuel bill and enriching his mates. But you can trust him on the war. That tactic stops people from seeing a pattern of destruction—wars, pandemic, climate change and class assaults together.

The most widely-available “solution” to the horrors in Ukraine becomes the one our rulers put forward—currently supported by the entire political elite. It is pumped out by our rulers’ and bosses’ media.

Many conclude military escalation in Ukraine should be supported even if it means war. And the alternative—fighting the system that causes all wars—is less simple and accessible.

But people’s ideas are also shaped by the material conditions of their lives. This can mix with the dominant ideas in society and sometimes produce contradictory ideas. Ideas dramatically shift when people’s experiences come into conflict with the ideas adopted from above.  It can mean the media, which usually falls in line with ruling class interests can also clash with it. 

And that opens up possibilities for new ideas. Over Ukraine, there are many people in Britain who rightly feel solidarity with the ordinary people in Kiev or Kharkov. But that doesn’t mean they indifferent to the prospect if immolation in a nuclear war. 

That creates space to undermine our rulers. And their version of events is undermined most quickly when there is struggle against them. The London Underground worker slurred as an ally of Vladimir Putin during their strike is much more likely to be open to an argument not to trust the right over the war itself.  Not only do people realise their own power when they fight together, they see through the lie that they have something in common with those in power. 

It’s resistance from below that has the ability to break through our rules’ narrative of the conflict in Ukraine and hit back at the system that got us here.

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