Jan 29 2012: Thirty Five Photographs from Military Technology Magazine (1982)

In 1982, when the issues of Military Technology magazine from which these images were scanned appeared, the traditional manufacturing of the UK and elsewhere was being allowed to decline steeply, while the kinds of manufacturing seen here – generally of electronic and automated systems for military applications – was receiving a very large boost in its funding. Not only were the Falkland islands subject to military operations at this time (one issue shows a British ship under fire, and draws conclusions about the lessons to be learned for improved defence systems in future conflicts) but throughout Western Europe and in the United States, a step-change in the Cold War was taking place, and tensions were being notably heightened between NATO and the Warsaw Pact states globally. Already, in these 1982 magazines, artist’s impressions of military satellites are being put forward ahead of Ronald Reagan’s plans to take the conflict into space with his ‘Star Wars’ proposals, while on the ground, Margaret Thatcher was busy giving rousing speeches in support of the rights of Trade Unions in Communist Poland that did not, curiously, find themselves applied to the Trade Unions of her own country, whose rights were being rapidly eroded as her government legislated them into impotence in preparation for the deregulation of finance a few years later. That, a quarter of a century on, the deregulated market has itself become a Soviet-style inflexible ideology on its own terms – prone to scapegoat others for its failings and treat its ailments with the application of ever-larger doses of the originating virus – is either ironic or tragic, depending on your perspective. Yet looking at these images, we also see a glimpse of the ways in which corporate activity was already deeply entangled with government, with military markets and arms sales protected and financed by subsidy, in relation to other British manufacturing during the 1970s and 1980s, in ways that are comparable with the similar protections being afforded to financial services since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Here, in other words, is a small gallery in support of Eisenhower’s warning of the 1950s about the risk posed to democracies by the emergence of “a military-industrial complex”, with some views of the component parts of that complex as it stood in the early 1980s.

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