Germany Boosts School Militarization & Youth Recruitment

A central element of the return of German militarism is the complete orientation of society towards war, including at home. As the World Socialist Web Site recently commented: Germany’s new national security strategy is “a blueprint for war without and the establishment of a police state within.” All “areas of economic and social life” must be “subordinated to the notion of ‘security’ and declared de facto important for the war”.

This phenomenon is increasingly affecting young people and even children. In the context of the escalating NATO war against Russia and the ongoing rearmament offensive, schools are increasingly militarized. At the same time, the reintroduction of compulsory military service is being discussed and prepared. The government pursues the declared objective of massively expanding the Bundeswehr (German army) and of recruiting ‘new blood’ among young people, ie the cannon fodder necessary for Germany’s warmongering policy.

According to an article in the daily Frankfurter Rundschau based on information from the Ministry of Defense, a total of 119 conferences or events organized by career counselors are planned for this purpose in German schools until September 2023 alone. In total, several hundred presentations have already taken place this year: 350 in the first three months of the year and 196 between April and June.

The militarization of schools is in line with official government policy. Speaking to the newspapers of the Bavarian Press Group, Eva Högl (Social Democrat, SPD), commissioner of the Bundestag (parliament) for the Armed Forces, said in mid-June: “I would be delighted if the teaching community said: ‘it is an important element within the framework of Education to also deal with the Armed Forces’”.

The army already recruits more than 1,500 young people a year. According to data from the Bundeswehr, it took on 1,773 underage soldiers last year alone. This corresponds to almost 10 percent of the total of 18,776 new recruits. But from the point of view of the government and the leadership of the army, it must not stop there. In order to boost recruitment into the army, Högl argues for the introduction of a general review board for serving in the Bundeswehr.

In an interview with T-Online on June 4, she said: “We could, like in Sweden, invite a whole age group of young people to the review board for the Bundeswehr. For then, if they are declared fit, then let them decide for themselves whether they want to commit or not. And this review board should be for all genders.”

The use of Sweden as a model for Germany clearly shows what the ruling class is planning. Sweden reintroduced conscription in 2017, having abolished it in 2010 and the country – according to then Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultquist – then had problems “filling military units on a voluntary basis”.

The World Socialist Web Site commented at the time: “Workers and young people across Europe should take this announcement supported by all parties in Sweden, including the Swedish Left Party, as a warning. After two devastating world wars in the 20th century, even the ruling class of a supposedly peaceful Sweden is once again recruiting cannon fodder for another great war.”

This is precisely what it is about. In the interview, Högl explains that it would not be useful “to cancel the suspension of conscription in Germany”. The only reason she gives, however, is that we do not have “enough trainers and not enough infrastructure”. It is quite clear. A possible reinstatement of conscription requires above all greater preparation. As a result, the Bundeswehr, in any case, must now play a more central role in social life.

Högl then gives free rein to his dream of a militarized society: “But more visibility with the population also means more encounters. This involves swearing-in ceremonies in public places, departure or return ceremonies for units on mission abroad. A sign of recognition would also be to invite the Bundeswehr on the occasion of celebrations such as shooting society parties, regional fairs and similar things”.

This kind of open tribute to the military was common under the German Empire [1871-1918] and the Nazi regime. Today, it is back in force. The call for the militarization of society and the reintroduction of conscription – which only the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) officially mentions in its program – crosses all the establishment parties.

Recently, on “Bundeswehr Day” in Bückeburg, Lower Saxony, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) complained that restoring compulsory military service would not help recruit enough young people quickly enough. It would take up too much “energy, time and money”. Instead he suggested that “young men and women could participate in the daily life of the troops for a time. It would almost be like an internship, and getting to know the procedures and the different areas.” In this way, we could “raise the interest of young people to get involved”.

Some forces within the Left Party openly call for the reinstatement of conscription. Last year, Thuringian Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow propagated the “proposal of a Bundeswehr as a territorial defense army, as a parliamentary army and integrated with the whole population through conscription”. He said he was “deeply convinced that a social year [of service] would benefit all the citizens of our country”.

The Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei (Socialist Equality Party, SGP) and its youth organization (International Youth and Student Equality – IYSSE) have declared war on the return of German militarism and on all pro-war parties. We reject the reintroduction of conscription and the militarization of schools and universities, as well as mass rearmament, the NATO war offensive aimed at Russia and the Bundeswehr missions abroad.

The opposition of pupils, students and young workers to war and militarism is enormous. If the ruling class thinks that it can again, after the crimes committed in the two world wars, use millions of young people as cannon fodder for the predatory interests of German imperialism, it is mistaken. But the fight against war requires a clear perspective. In its program for the 2024 European elections, the SGP writes:

The only social force that can prevent a new world war is the international working class – that is, the vast majority of the world’s population, which today is larger and more interconnected than ever. Together with its sister parties of the Fourth International, the SGP is building a global socialist movement against war and its cause, capitalism.

* Stop the NATO war in Ukraine! No sanctions or arms deliveries!

* Two world wars is enough! Stop the warmongers!

* 100 billion euros for nurseries, schools and hospitals, not for rearmament and for war!

Young workers and students who want to fight against war and militarism should study this program carefully and contact us. Sign up today as a member of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality – IYSSE.

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