The U.S. capitalist rulers foresee a future of wars and revolutions, and have been taking bipartisan steps to prepare to defend and advance their weakened, but still dominant, place at the top of the imperialist world pecking order. Just in the last few days, Washington has warned of potential new military conflicts over Ukraine and Taiwan.
One new arena of competition is efforts by Washington, Moscow, Beijing and other powers to gain the advantage in the militarization of space.
The guardians of U.S. imperialist power try to portray their efforts as in the interest of everybody. “From space, all of humanity is one, and through our work in space, we have the opportunity to benefit not only the American people, but all of humanity,” proclaimed Vice President Kamala Harris at the Dec. 1 meeting of the government’s National Space Council.
But far from harnessing scientific developments to help “humanity,” the satellite and other space programs she touts are an inseparable part of the rulers’ bloody military operations. They are used for surveillance of their rivals, and in the future will be used for more direct military action, including augmenting their ability to attack rebellions by working people.
Central to their aims is curbing competition from the Chinese rulers and the growing reach of Beijing’s armed forces, as well as Moscow’s.
“Military doctrines of competitor nations identify space as critical to modern warfare,” says the U.S. Space Priorities Framework document. Its release was announced by Harris at the meeting. Washington’s rivals “view the use of counterspace capabilities as a means both to reduce U.S. military effectiveness and to win future wars,” it warns. The government “will accelerate its transition to a more resilient national security space posture.”
Talk of military use of satellites and future bases in space is decades old. In 2019, then President Donald Trump formed the first new U.S. military branch in 73 years, the U.S. Space Force, proclaiming “space is a war-fighting domain.” Two years earlier he revived the Space Council.
The new military branch has been expanded by the Joseph Biden administration, as part of the Air Force. It currently counts 6,490 military space personnel that it calls “guardians” on its roster.
Two weeks before the National Space Council meeting, U.S. officials reacted with outrage when Moscow carried out an anti-satellite missile test, blowing up one of its own now-defunct satellite stations and spreading debris into orbit. Washington, as well as Beijing and Moscow, have the capability to destroy satellites from the ground.
Both Beijing and Moscow use lasers, radio frequency jammers and cyberattacks to obstruct U.S. satellite spying operations every day, Gen. David Thompson told the Washington Post.
U.S. spy satellites disclosed in July that Beijing was constructing over 100 nuclear missile silos in Gansu province.
The U.S. capitalist ruling families are the only ones ever to use nuclear weapons, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945. Hundreds of thousands were incinerated or subjected to excruciating deaths from burns or radiation sickness. Washington and Moscow today hold 90% of the world’s stockpile of nuclear warheads.
Washington, Beijing, Moscow rivalry
With the massive expansion of capitalist production and trade in China in recent decades, the rulers in Beijing have increasingly challenged Washington’s domination of markets and investments worldwide, especially in Asia.
To protect their advances, the Chinese rulers have poured massive resources into expanding their military. Though still far short of the military armament and capabilities of the U.S. Navy, Beijing is building its own blue water fleet, and will add a third aircraft carrier next year.
To counter the Chinese rulers’ military reach, Washington in September signed the AUKUS pact with the governments of Australia and the U.K., to provide the Australian rulers with nuclear-powered submarines. The U.S. government is determined to hold onto its supremacy in the Pacific, its “prize” for coming out on top of the imperialist slaughter in World War II.
U.S. capitalists’ development of space travel is completely bound up with advancing the destructive and deadly capacities of their armed forces.
Like its rivals in Beijing and Moscow, Washington is developing hypersonic weapons that are launched into space. Unlike ballistic missiles, they are maneuverable and can more easily evade detection. In August the Chinese military tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile.
Earlier this year Elon Musk’s SpaceX company got a $149 million Department of Defense contract to make satellites that can track down missiles launched into orbit by Moscow or Beijing. Instead of circling the earth on an easily traceable fixed orbit, the new generation of satellites use refuelable engines to maneuver to prevent interference with their spying function.
Writing in the Militant in 1969, Socialist Workers Party leader Joe Hansen laid bare the real motives behind the U.S. space program after its first moon landing with Apollo 11. Science, Hansen pointed out, has been diverted “to profit-making at the expense of human needs, to mass murder, to the construction of fiendish weapons of exterminating mankind.”
“The most important feature of the Apollo 11 triumph,” Hansen wrote, “may yet be the impact it has on bringing man, the tool-making animal, to realize that he has become sufficiently skilled with tools, and that now he must master his social and economic relations if he is not to perish from what the tool has become.”
To accomplish that, working people will need to organize revolutionary battles to strip the capitalist warmakers of their military arsenals and take political power into our own hands.