Why Demilitarize McGill?
*The text that follows was written in the summer of 2014 by several people active in the “Demilitarize McGill” campaign.
Demilitarize McGill organizes to interrupt the University’s history of complicity in colonization and imperialist warfare by ending military collaboration at McGill.
We oppose research, recruitment, and other activity for military purposes because they are local manifestations of imperialism. By imperialism, we mean the process by which western states, and the networks of economic and political interests they represent, extend their power over other territories through the organized use of force. Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Israel, and their allies use the pretense of “terror” to wage wars that give western corporations control over natural resources and violently enforce authority over all spheres of life in targeted regions.
Military institutions also play a key role in enforcing settler colonialism, by which we mean the political order produced by, and serving to reproduce, a society founded by the colonization of an area that used to be outside of a given state’s control. Canada, the U.S., and Israel are good examples of settler colonial states, as they were built on land stolen from respectively the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island and the Palestinian people.
Today, as Indigenous peoples stand on the front lines of battles against resource extraction and the expansion of colonial control that it signals, they and their accomplices in urban centers confront configurations of state violence fully informed by military counter-insurgency techniques, if not actual soldiers equipped for war. In Canada and elsewhere, police increasingly deploy military technology to conduct surveillance and repress revolt against a colonized society.
These wars, foreign and domestic, also fuel a powerful coalition of companies, military agencies, and political interests that make up what is called the military-industrial complex. They are unified by an interest in the continuation and expansion of warfare, which increases the profits of private armies and weapons manufacturers, raises military funding, and promotes nationalism, making it easier for politicians to maintain social control.
This phenomenon is perpetuated by the powerful lobbying capabilities of military industries and by the revolving door of senior personnel between militaries and their industrial suppliers. In such a climate, military contractors are able to sell increasing amounts of weaponry and other tools of warfare to militaries, whilst further development of such technologies receives unlimited government funding.
Universities fit into this pattern as a convenient place for both military contractors and militaries themselves to do research. By conducting research at universities, the military-industrial complex benefits from labour and resources that they need not fully fund, in particular low-cost graduate student workers. Moreover, conducting military research at universities provides a publicly funded method of training future workers for the military industry.
The military-industrial complex also diverts public funds from other areas, and military funding is often maintained or increased even as the economic logic of austerity dictates cuts elsewhere. Under the logic of austerity, universities are urged to seek funding from corporate sources, including military industries. Military research on campus becomes seen as ‘necessary’ to the university’s financial viability, or as a source of opportunities for students and researchers, compensating for the serious harms enabled by such research.
As an active party to the military-industrial complex, McGill University is the site of a wide range of military research projects. The University is engaged in research for the U.S. Air Force building the legal foundations for war in outer space, for defense contractors seeking to optimize the design of attack drones, and in collaboration with army research agencies developing more lethal thermobaric explosives. Other collaborations see McGill researchers participating in the development of software for guided missiles and for drones to be used in urban warfare. For a summary of what we know about this research, see Military Research.
As we work to oppose these research projects, we also seek to resist all systems of domination, including those that may be enacted within our organizing practices. This means that we hope to subvert the patterns by which we perpetuate the white supremacy, patriarchy, ableism, cissexism and heteronormativity that are among the foundations of western militarism. We also seek to resist the ways that we reproduce, interpersonally and institutionally, the exploitative class structures that are integral to capitalism and relied upon by military power. We are committed to anti-hierarchical practices, self-critique, and resisting the erasure of traditionally undervalued contributions.
We aim to end all military activity at McGill, including but not limited to research funded by and benefitting military institutions, and recruitment or promotion on campus. In the short term, this might mean temporarily restricting the activities of a weapons laboratory, but in the long term, it means a complete end to economic, ideological, academic, and personal connections – direct or indirect – between the University and any arm of the military.
We believe research, popular education and direct action to be effective means of achieving these goals. Some forms this has taken are Access to Information requests to McGill and military agencies, workshops and walking tours, and blockades of military research labs. We hope that we can contribute to inspiring others to attack the global infrastructure of imperialism and colonization as it manifests in their own specific locations.