"National defense and democracy -- here are the solemn formulas of the capitulation of the proletariat to the will of the bourgeoisie!" - Manifesto of the Second World Congress of the Communist International, 1920
The kings made us drunk with fumes,
Peace among us, war to the tyrants!
Let the armies go on strike,
Stocks in the air, and break ranks.
If they insist, these cannibals
On making heroes of us,
They will know soon that our bullets
Are for our own generals.
- English translation of some lyrics of The Internationale, 1871
I am sick being told that I owe veterans and soldiers anything. Anything at all.
Let me be perfectly clear. There are soldiers and veterans that I am quite fond of, but I'm not thankful to a damn one of them. I don't respect their "service." I might respect them for other things, but not that.
Societies are divided into antagonistic classes, exploiters and exploited. Through their wealth and influence, the exploiters have control of the state. One of the state's most powerful weapons is its military (in the U.S. 15% of federal government spending is on the military). These militaries fight wars to win new markets, defend existing markets, or to crush internal dissent.
At best, some individual soldiers joined the military out of ignorance and desperation. Maybe they hoped to do a good deed, get money for their education, or even just to survive. At worst, other soldiers enlisted out of racial or religious hatred, to satisfy bizarre psychopathic lusts, or to get combat training for the violent far-right activities that they conduct after leaving active duty (and sometimes while still inside the military).
Regardless of their motivation, noble or twisted, soldiers serve a capitalist state whose every action is meant to defend and strengthen a bestial system of exploitation. In war these soldiers cause incalculable death and misery. In peacetime militaries still cause harm. They waste tremendous resources, cause grave environmental damages, stockpile weapons that threaten the existence of the human race, and foster a narrow-minded, nationalistic spirit.
All of this for sake of the exploiters.
To thank veterans means to encourage the illusion that militaries serve our interests. This covers up the fact that for most of us the state is, objectively, a hostile, antagonistic force.
It's no surprise, then, that we're constantly and aggressively told to thank soldiers for their "service." This is drummed into us every moment of every day: at professional football games and children's sporting events, at church, in promotions at the grocery store, when boarding an airplane, in college graduation programs, etc.
But to thank veterans means to encourage the illusion that militaries are just "our boys" en masse -- sometimes misused by the powerful, but always worthy of unconditional support whenever those powerful people order them into battle. This encourages another generation to enlist and gives the exploiters a free hand to start wars on virtually any pretext. We need to break the cycle. We need to stop telling kids that they're heroes for blackguarding for four or eight or 20 years.
So on Veteran's Day, the least we can say is "No thanks."