Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

SPGB Socialist Opposition To War - Whose War and Whose Terror?

Socialists do not take sides

The so-called War on Terror has entered its 7th year in Afghanistan. The US contributed to its anniversary by dropping a bomb on mourners at a wake in Heart. Ninety civilians, including 60 children, were killed in the attack (BBC NEWS 24.08.08). Not that the conflict has come cheap. The US capitalist class has had to pay to date some $130 billion in military expenditure (REPORT TO CONGRESS RL 33100, p-CRS-6 2007).

What the US capitalist class and its Government do have in plenty of supply is support from academics, journalists and the literati. Justification for the death and destruction in Afghanistan comes from the crude “My Country Right or Wrong” to the sophisticated prose from the likes of Christopher Hitchin, Martin Amis and David Aaronovitch, the latter so exhilarated by Blair’s pro-US speech to the 2001 Labour conference that he needed to leave his house “to get some fresh air”(CAPITALISM CAUSES WAR AND TERRORISM SPGB page 5 2001).

Socialists are constantly lectured by supporters of the US that their government is morally superior to the feudal Taliban insurgency. The odd death here and there is to be expected, they say. Do you want the Taliban to win?

The question implies that capitalism can be divided into a moral order of good versus evil. Socialists reject that capitalism can be divided in this simplistic way. It shows a scant understanding of history, how capitalism came into existence, and the development of competing nation states causing barbarism, death and destruction in the pursuit of raw resources, strategic points of influence and trade routes.

Socialists give support to no nation State. Instead, Socialists want to see a conscious and politically active working class replacing capitalism and its war and terrorism with Socialism based on human co-operation and no artificial boundaries across the world. And common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society can only come about when workers- those who have to live off wages and salaries- refuse to get involved in capitalism’s conflicts. Workers have to understand politically where their own interests lie. And their interests are totally at odds with those of the capitalist class and its politicians.

The world’s resources are owned by the capitalist class and protected by their respective States. The capitalists own the means of production; the factories, the transport systems and the distribution points to the exclusion of the working class. The capitalist class owe their unearned wealth and privilege to the exploitation of the working class by paying workers less in wages and salaries than the wealth they produce in the production process. Consequently, a world capitalist class faces a world working class over the rate and intensity of exploitation. And because the capitalist class own the means of production, protected by the machinery of government; “all class struggles are political struggles” (Marx COMMUNIST MANIFESTO).

Workers should not be seduced by the judgemental rhetoric of politicians who claim they represent good and their opponents represent “evil. Followers of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western could be forgiven into believing that George Bush sees himself as Clint Eastwood-“the man with no name” -from the film “THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY” but the reality is altogether different. Bush is a President presiding over concentration camps, torture, the bombing of women and children and a grasp for world’s resources like gas and oil.

The US Government conveniently refuses to judge its own actions of torture and barbarism yet arrogantly sits in judgement on others. It pretends that it is a Texan sheriff wearing a white Stetson hat fighting grizzled desperados the world over and sees its duty to free markets, to save women from a fate worse than death and to lock up the bad guy but in doing so economically enslaves, rapes, and exterminates thousands of people “for their own good”.

And the US finds useful idiots ready to defend its carnage over the six continents of the world. One useful idiot is the academic Sam Harris, philosopher at UCLA, who has written an apologetic book justifying the actions of the US after 9.11.

In THE END OF FAITH: RELIGION, TERROR AND THE FUTURE OF REASON (2005) Dr Smith sets out to justify “collateral damage” like the bombing ordered by President Clinton of the Al-Shifa pharmaceuticals plant in August 1998 which resulted in the death of innocent women and children. The plant was not making weapons for terrorists. It was just an industrial complex making medicine. This act of State terrorism was brushed conveniently under the carpet as a regrettable mistake.

Harris dismisses Clinton’s terrorism on the ground of intent. Harris holds the view that the US is a “Well-intentioned giant (p.142)”. He believes the US, unlike its enemies, does not go out with the intention of killing the innocent only the baddies. So when “collateral damage” occurs during a military strike he believes no criticism can be made against US capitalism because the violence was carried out with the best of all intentions.

The argument offered by Dr Harris is perverse. Rather than representing the “Future of Reason” Harris’s justification of the US War on Terror means that reason goes out of the window. Mai Lai is explained away by Harris as a one-off event; the “bad apple” excuse. The bombing of innocent women and children in Afghanistan is explained away as the fault of the current level of weapons technology the US has as its disposal to prosecute a war. Harris takes as unquestioned both capitalism as a social system and the fact that the world is divided into competing nation states where war is the logical outcome of nationalist rivalry.

Harris’s book was written before the events surrounding the Guantanomo Bay concentration camp and Abu Ghraib prison where Iraq prisoners of war were held in degrading and humiliating circumstances. If we are to understand Harris’s “reasoning” correctly, he is saying that if the terrorists at Guantanamo and the Abu Ghraib prisoners of war hadn’t respectively supported Bin Laden or President Hussein then the US soldiers would not have had to torture them? Or, to put it more crudely, he is, in effect saying, “If you are good then the US will not torture and humiliate you but if it does then you can at least have the satisfaction of knowing that US torture is morally superior to the torture as practised in Iraq under the regime of President Hussein” For this is the logic of Mr Harris’s, some would say, tortured position.

Taking this absurd argument to its logical conclusion Dr Harris would no doubt defend a decision by Bush’s or some other future US President to order the destruction of the whole world if the need arise on the grounds that it was only the actions of a “well intentioned Giant”. His reasoning is preposterous. If it was really believed then reason would not have any future.

But the path to hell is paved with good intentions; and the hell is Iraq and Afghanistan, the rendition flights, the torture chambers, the beatings and the killings. Not that Dr Harris is alone in offering this excuse. The apology offered by Dr Harris is the same given by apologists for the defence of suicide bombers and violence by other nation states and terrorists who are involved in an identical realpoltik as the US; Iran, Russia, Syria, Israel, France, Al Quaida and so on. The only difference being that the justification for violence, suicide bombings and torture now comes from the perspective of another ruling class or would be ruling class aggrieved by “the Great Satan” or “US Imperialism”.

Every State is locked in conflict with every other State and friends become enemies and enemies become friends over night. In this conflict of interests between one capitalist class and another, between one capitalist government and another Socialists do not take sides. We say a plague on both your houses. We no more support the Taliban, its nationalism and irrational Islamic beliefs than we do the interests of the US and its allies whose so-called War on Terror is a smoke screen to protect strategic points of influence, raw resources and trade routes.

Socialists make no moral judgement except to point out that capitalism is a very unpleasant system of international conflict and class exploitation. We reject that there are “just” and “unjust” wars. Wars are not a by product of ethics. Governments do not go to war because it is either just or unjust. Governments justify war in order to gain public support, by claiming they are just. Governments have to convince public opinion the war is for “Freedom”, democracy and “human rights”.

However, there is not a shred of evidence wars in capitalism have ever been fought for these reasons. The reason is crude and base. Wars arise out of capitalism being divided into competing nation States; a struggle over raw resources, trade routes and spheres of influence. Governments will not say that war is being fought for oil, to protect gas supplies and to ensure a region remains stable as a strategic sphere of influence. But that is exactly what wars under capitalism are fought for.

Harris also attacks those who reject war. He states that it is a luxury Socialists cannot afford against ruthless dictators. Would we want to live in a world of Islamic Fundamentalism he asks. Would we want the Taliban to rule our lives?

This is not a new argument put to Socialists.

At the outbreak of the Second World War Socialists were told that it was better living in Britain than in a dictatorship; easier to put the Socialist case in 1940’s Britain than Hitler’s Germany. Socialists point out that wherever Socialists exist they try to put the Socialist case as best they can. It is never easy. In some parts of the world it is harder and more dangerous than others.

But what do the Dr Harris’s of the world want us to do? Suspend the Socialist case while one group of capitalists and their governments, with the support of its working class kill other members of the working class. We advocate Socialism as the means to stop war not the absurd proposition that if all the countries of the world ceded their interests to the US or some other super power then there would be universal peace. It is sheer utopianism, like the belief held by proponents of free trade that the more economically liberal capitalism becomes in the world the less likely there will be war.

War was no bed of roses for Socialists between 1914 and 1918 with restrictions placed on what Socialists could say about the war. One member ended up in the Tower of London by refusing to fight in capitalism’s war. Other Socialists were forced to go on the run, endure economic hardship and then forced into conscription. Not as hard in the Second World War but still the enforced conscription, imprisonment and the difficulties imposed on putting a Socialist case against war restrictions (R. Baltrop THE MONUMENT ch 6 and ch. 11 1975).

The German Social Democratic Party endured years of difficulty under Bismarck’s Anti-Socialist Laws with many members imprisoned. They carried on as best they could.

Of course it is difficult arguing the case for Socialism staring down the barrel of a gun, awaiting a call from the secret police, enduring torture and possible death. But it is understood by a Socialist that all the exploitation, pain and misery faced by the working class, which includes socialists is not the actions of government in power per se but the fact that the capitalist class own and monopolise the means of production and are divided into competing nation States. It is because the working class continue to give support to capitalism by voting for its politicians that war, terrorism death and destruction persists from one generation to the next. And on capitalism as the cause of war and terrorism there is not even a passing comment by Dr Harris.

As Dr Harris wrote his book justifying Bush’s so-called War on Terror, the U.S. and allied forces toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, paving the way for a pro-Western, interim government and the country's first post-Taliban presidential elections. Throughout the war, however, there has been little interest -- whether from the US government or other groups - on its toll on the civilian population of Afghanistan.

Very few attempts at compiling annual estimates of insurgency-related civilian deaths have been made. The nature of the conflict makes data collection difficult and verification even more so. However, attempts have been made.

In 2002 the BBC NEWS was reporting that the number of Afghan civilians killed by US bombs has surpassed the death toll of the 11 September attacks. The BBC cited a study an American academic Professor Marc Herold:

Nearly 3,800 Afghans died between 7 October and 7 December, University of New Hampshire Professor Marc Herold said in a research report

In 2006, more than 3,000 Afghans died in the violence, twice as many as in 2005 and more than in any other year since the 2001 fall of the Taliban (BBC NEWS 23rd August 2008).

And how are they dying? Through missiles from air attacks; from bullets from ground assault and, increasingly from cluster bombs.

Afghanistan is now littered with unexploded cluster bombs, adding to the risk to civilians who also routinely die from the estimated 10 million land mines that remain from previous wars. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, an average of 88 Afghans die every month because of land mine injuries (Z MAGAZINE March 2002).

We state, with Marx, that workers have no country. Our interests are totally separate and opposed to those of the capitalist class. We do not recognise that the Government is neutral but is instead “the Executive of the bourgeoisie”. We reject patriotism and nationalism as an anti-Socialist poison just as we do all religion. We are not pacifists but we reject capitalist wars as something the working class should not fight or die for.

In saying that capitalism is the source of war we do not mean that capitalism’s wars are deliberately plotted for the purpose of making a profit, even though some individuals have done this.

As the SPGB noted nearly sixty years ago:

…it would be more accurate to say that Governments, in trying to handle the problems and antagonism created by capitalism, turn to war when other means fail” (THE SOCIALIST PARTY AND WAR p. 27 1950

And this includes the so-called War on Terror in Afghanistan.

Women in Afghanistan

The vast majority of Afghanistan's population professes to be followers of Islam. During the rule of the Taliban (1996 – 2001) women were forbidden to work, leave the house without a male escort, not allowed to seek medical help from a male doctor, and forced to cover themselves from head to toe, even covering their eyes. Women, who were doctors and teachers before, suddenly were forced to be beggars and even prostitutes in order to feed their families.

Despite the change of Government the repression of women is still prevalent in Afghanistan where many families still restrict their own mothers, daughters, wives and sisters from participation in public life. They are still forced into marriages and denied a basic education. Numerous schools for girls have been burned down with teachers killed and tortured.

Five years ago, when the US and the British arrived in Afghanistan, they sold their military intervention to their respective electorate not simply as a way of driving out Al Qeida and the Taliban, but also as a way of empowering women. As Cherie Blair said in November 2001: "We need to help Afghan women free their spirit and give them their voice back, so they can create the better Afghanistan we all want to see." Or as George Bush boasted in December 2001: "Women now come out of their homes from house arrest." (GUARDIAN November 28th 2006)

Five years later, in 2006, the Blair’s and the Bush’s have become less vocal about the women who were meant to have been liberated. Bush is silent on the fact that the majority of girls in Afghanistan still cannot go to school. When Tony Blair visited Kabul in November 2006, he did not comment on the recent report by one charity, Womankind Worldwide, which stated: "It cannot be said that the status of Afghan women has changed significantly in the last five years." (GUARDIAN November 28th 2006)

Here are a few facts about women in Afghanistan post Taliban:

• Every 30 minutes, an Afghan woman dies during childbirth
• 87 percent of Afghan women are illiterate
• 30 percent of girls have access to education in Afghanistan
• 1 in every 3 Afghan women experience physical, psychological or sexual violence
• 44 years is the average life expectancy rate for women in Afghanistan
• 70 to 80 percent of women face forced marriages in Afghanistan

(Statistics taken from AFGHANISTAN ON-LINE 2008)

From the US and British governments not a word about this failure. They were too busy inadvertently building an infrastructure for the opium trade and to ensure the construction of oil and gas lines through Afghanistan from neighbouring counties


Afghanistan and the Opium Trade

One justification for The War on Terror was the argument put forward by the Labour Government that the arms the Taleban were buying were paid for with the lives of young people buying their drugs on British streets., 'That is another part of their regime that we should seek to destroy.' Tony Blair claimed on 2 October 2001 (BBC NEWS 2.10.08).

What are the facts behind this declaration?

US government agencies have been important in escalating the supply of heroin to the Western world.

In 1947 the CIA's supply of arms and money to Corsican gangsters recruited to undermine French trade unionists in Marseille docks was the beginning of the 'French Connection' which supplied heroin to North America until the early 1970s.

Heroin trafficking subsequently developed in areas of South East Asia suffering from corrupt governments, endemic warfare and private armies allied to the CIA.

CIA support of Chinese Nationalists who had settled near China's border with Burma and of Hmong tribesmen in Laos helped the development of the so-called 'Golden Triangle' which, after US from Vietnam in 1973, supplied about one-third of heroin smuggled into America. Burma remains the world's second largest illicit source of heroin, with an estimated 89,500 hectares of opium under cultivation in 1999.

In 1979, the Carter administration shipped arms to the Mujaheddin (Muslim holy warriors) resisting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. These American-backed rebels raised money for arms by selling opium, and by 1980, 60% of heroin in the West came from the area (P. V. Scott: DRUGS, OIL & WAR: THE US IN AFGHANISTAN, COLUMBIA AND INDO CHINA 2002)

When the Taliban temporarily banned the cultivation and trafficking in opium during 2000, it was their opponents the Northern Alliance who continued to control the poppy crop. They now form the Government in Kabul supported by the US and Britain.

Afghanistan is the source of about 95 per cent of the heroin used in Britain, and the revival of its poppy trade since the overthrow of the Taliban has kept the price low, encouraging the spread of addiction. A gram of heroin that would have cost £60 ten years ago now sells for £40 (BBC NEWS August 12th 2006).

A research paper published by the House of Commons library acknowledged that Afghanistan's small farmers had no choice but to return to poppy cultivation as soon as the Taliban had been overthrown, to pay off debts. But poppy cultivation has spread since then onto land where they had never been grown before. By 2003, it was the main source of income for 2.3 million Afghans, or 10 per cent of the population (loc cit).

In seven years, the occupation has brought about one major transformation in Afghanistan, a development so extensive that it has increased Afghanistan’s GDP by 66 per cent and constitutes 40 per cent of the entire economy. That is a startling achievement, by any standards. Yet the Bush regime and Labour administration are not trumpeting this success. Why not? The answer is this. The achievement is the highest harvests of opium the world have ever seen (MAIL ON SUNDAY June 2007).

Why are the US and Britain in Afghanistan?

Why are the US and Britain in Afghanistan? It has nothing to do with morality or good versus evil. They are there for three often interrelated reasons; trade routes, raw materials and spheres of strategic influence. We will deal with each reason in turn. These reasons are illustrated in the map of the region (see Appendix 1) showing deployment of US military and naval power, gas and oil routes, ports, strategic importance of countries in the region, and trade routes.

1). Trade Routes

In 2002 an agreement was signed in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, allowing for the construction of a gas pipeline from the Central Asian republic through Afghanistan to Pakistan.

The building of the trans-Afghanistan pipeline had been under discussion for some years but plans were held up by Afghanistan's unstable political situation. The pipeline represented the first major foreign investment in Afghanistan in many years.

With improved regional security after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan approved plans for a 1,500-kilometre-long gas pipeline. The leaders of the three countries signed an agreement to set up a consortium to build and operate the pipeline. The trans-Afghanistan pipeline will export Turkmen gas via Afghanistan to Pakistani ports, from where it will reach world markets.

Turkmenistan has some of the world's extensive reserves of natural gas, but still relies on tightly controlled Russian pipelines to export it. Ashgabat, its President, had long been desperate to find an alternative export route. Afghanistan would also profit by receiving millions of dollars in transit fees and construction of the pipeline would create thousands of jobs. It is also hoped such a project would bring further foreign investment into the region. (BBC News December 2002)

2). Raw Resources

In the 1970s, a wide variety of mineral resources were discovered. Analysis by the United States Geological Survey revealed the existence of a number of minerals and unexploited oil reserves in the north of Afghanistan of economic importance. The most important discovery was that of natural gas, with large reserves near Sheberghan in Jowzjan province, near the Turkmen border, about 75 miles west of Mazar-e Sharif ( M. T. Klare: RESOURCE WARS: THE NEW GLOBAL LANDSCAPE OF GLOBAL CONFLICT 2002).

The US Department of Energy estimates the gas reserves in Turkmenistan are the fifth largest in the world and Kazakhstan is soon expected to become one of the worlds’ largest oil producers. The wider region, around the Caspian Sea, holds more oil and gas than either the United States or the North Sea. But despite these potential riches, the Central Asian republics remain locked in economic and infrastructural dependence on Russia: the legacy of 70 years of Soviet rule (see “Chaos in the Caucasus”, ECONOMIST, October 9, 1999, pp 23-26).

Moscow's attempts to perpetuate that dependence, the republics' efforts to escape it and Washington's eagerness to assist them, have created a decade-long 'New Great Game' in Central Asia (see Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim for a fictional account of the “Great Game” of spying and espionage played out in the 19th century between Britain and Russia). Afghanistan is an essential part of the jigsaw puzzle because it provides part of the land route for a pipeline to the Indian Ocean (see S., J. Randall: US FOREIGN OIL POLICY SINCE WORLD WAR 1 FOR PROFITS AND SECURITY 2008 and S. le Vine: THE OIL AND THE GLORY: THE PURSUIT OF EMPIRE AND FORTUNE ON THE CASPIAN SEA 2007).

The Soviets tried to export some of the country's resources to the USSR. In the 1970s, the Russians had estimated Afghanistan's proven and probable natural gas reserves at up to 5 trillion cubic feet. Afghan natural gas production reached 275 million cubic feet per day in the mid-1970s. However, due to declining reserves from producing fields, output gradually fell to about 220 Mmcf/d by 1980. At that time, the Jorquduq field was bought into production and was expected to boost Afghan natural gas output to 385 Mmcf/d by the early 1980s (for a discussion of Russian objectives in the Caspian area, see Pavel Baev, Russia’s Policies in the Caucasus, Royal Institute of International affairs 1997 pp 30-36 and R. Forsythe, THE OLITICS OF OIL, Oxford University Press pp 13-17 1996).

From this point, in the 1980s, USSR decided to build a 180km pipeline that would export natural gas across the Amu Darya into the country. The natural gas production increased to 240 Mmcf/d and 97 percent was exported to the USSR via the pipeline.

However, sabotage of infrastructure by the anti-Soviet mujahedin fighters limited the country's total production to 290 Mmcf/d, an output level that was held fairly steady until the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. After the Soviet withdrawal and subsequent Afghan civil war, roughly 31 producing wells at Sheberghan area fields were shut in pending the restart of natural gas sales to the former Soviet Union.

Besides oil and natural gas, Afghanistan also is estimated to have 73 million tons of coal reserves, most of which is located in the region between Herat and Badashkan in the northern part of the country. Many coal deposits have been found in the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush, in Karkar and Eshposhteh, in Baghlan province, and Fort Sarkari, in Balkh province. Although Afghanistan produced over 100,000 short tons of coal annually as late as the early 1990s, as of 1999, the country was producing only around 1,000 short tons.

Ever since the fall of the former Soviet Union, Exxon, Mobil, Chevron and the other big oil monopolies have been eyeing on the vast oil and gas wealth around the Caspian Sea, just north of Afghanistan. This region’s oil reserves may reach more than 60 billion barrels, enough to service Europe’s oil needs for years. Some estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels. The Caspian Sea reserves are 10 percent of the world’s known supply, worth about $5 trillion at today’s prices (RESOURCE WARS loc cit page pp101-104). Russia and German companies had been trying to establish a pipeline from the Caspian Sea through Eastern Europe, but U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia blocked this plan. Russia, however, also signed a treaty with Iran for a pipeline route. China also began negotiating to build oil and gas pipelines from Kazakhstan. In January 2001, oil industry journals saw little diplomatic success for the U.S. creating alliances in the region. They noted, however, that the incoming Bush administration, heavy in oil and related interests, would likely try to reverse this trend.

In February 1998, Unical Corporation testified to the House Committee on Internal Relations Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific that the “Taliban government in Afghanistan is an obstacle” to having an oil pipeline from the Caspian region to the Indian Ocean, that is, through Afghanistan. In 1997, Unical even tried to bribe the Taliban with billions of dollars to support the proposed pipeline through their country (see Unical’s John Maresca on the strategic importance of Afghanistan to the multinationals in the next section).

According to the book BIN LADEN: THE FORBIDDEN TRUTH (2002), the Bush Administration was under pressure from the United States oil companies. The Bush Administration held extensive talks with the Taliban regime from February to August 2001 with the aim of securing control over the vast oil and gas reserves in Central Asia through the construction of an oil pipeline from the rich oil fields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, to Afghanistan and Pakistan and onto the Indian Ocean.

The authors, Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié allege that if the Taliban had allowed the construction of the pipeline and US control over Central Asian oil and gas reserves, the latter would have paved the way for economic assistance to, and political recognition of, the Taliban.

As the authors point out:

The oil and gas reserves of Central Asia have been controlled by Russia. The Bush government wanted to change all that...this rationale of energy security changed into a military one" page 63.

At one moment during the negotiations, US representatives told the Taliban:

"either you accept our offer of a carpet of gold, or we bury you under a carpet of bombs" (loc cit).

This all before the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York.

3). Spheres of Influence and Strategic Interests

The final section gives a telling explanation of why the US and its allies are in Afghanistan. The reason, beside the raw resources is Afghanistan’s strategic importance for the US. This was explained to the US Congress by John J Maresca, Vice president of International Relations, Unical Corporation in the US. The quotations are long but support the socialist argument that the strategic importance of a country along with raw resources and trade routes are the cause of war under capitalism.

This is what Mr Maresca said:

I would like to focus today on three issues. First, the need for multiple pipeline routes for Central Asian oil and gas resources. Second, the need for U.S. support for international and regional efforts to achieve balanced and lasting political settlements to the conflicts in the region, including Afghanistan. Third, the need for structured assistance to encourage economic reforms and the development of appropriate investment climates in the region…

And he continued:

“… the Caspian region contains tremendous untapped hydrocarbon reserves. Just to give an idea of the scale, proven natural gas reserves equal more than 236 trillion cubic feet. The region's total oil reserves may well reach more than 60 billion barrels of oil. Some estimates are as high as 200 billion barrels. In 1995, the region was producing only 870,000 barrels per day. By 2010, western companies could increase production to about 4.5 million barrels a day, an increase of more than 500 percent in only 15 years. If this occurs, the region would represent about 5 percent of the world's total oil production.

For Mr Moresca one major problem had yet to be resolved and that was how to get the region's vast energy resources to the markets where they were needed. He pointed out that Central Asia was largely isolated. Their natural resources were land locked, both geographically and politically. Each of the countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia faced difficult political challenges. Some had unsettled wars or latent conflicts. In addition, a chief technical obstacle was the transport of oil is the region's existing pipeline infrastructure.

As he put it:

Two major infrastructure projects are seeking to meet the need for additional export capacity. One, under the aegis of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, plans to build a pipeline west from the northern Caspian to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. Oil would then go by tanker through the Bosporus to the Mediterranean and world markets”.

He then set out the other project sponsored by the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, a consortium of 11 foreign oil companies, including four American companies, Unical, Amoco, Exxon and Pennzoil. This consortium looked at two possible routes; one line would angle north and cross the north Caucasus to Novorossiysk. The other route would cross Georgia to a shipping terminal on the Black Sea. This second route would be extended west and south across Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

He went on;

At Unocal, we believe that the central factor in planning these pipelines should be the location of the future energy markets that are most likely to need these new supplies. Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Newly Independent States of the former Soviet Union are all slow growth markets where demand will grow at only a half. The key question then is how the energy resources of Central Asia can be made available to nearby Asian markets. There are two possible solutions, with several variations. One option is to go east across China, but this would mean constructing a pipeline of more than 3,000 kilometers just to reach Central China. In addition, there would have to be a 2,000-kilometer connection to reach the main population centers along the coast. The question then is what will be the cost of transporting oil through this pipeline, and what would be the netback which the producers would receive

And he concluded:

The only … possible route is across Afghanistan, which has of course its own unique challenges. The country has been involved in bitter warfare for almost two decades, and is still divided by civil war. From the outset, we have made it clear that construction of the pipeline we have proposed across Afghanistan could not begin until a recognized government is in place that has the confidence of governments, lenders, and our company. Unocal see a pipeline which would become part of a regional system that will gather oil from existing pipeline infrastructure in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia. The 1,040-mile long oil pipeline would extend south through Afghanistan to an export terminal that would be constructed on the Pakistan coast. This 42-inch diameter pipeline will have a shipping capacity of one million barrels of oil per day. The estimated cost of the project, which is similar in scope to the trans-Alaska pipeline, is about $2.5 billion. Given the plentiful natural gas supplies of Central Asia, our aim is to link gas resources with the nearest viable markets. This is basic for the commercial viability of any gas project. But these projects also face geopolitical challenges. Unocal and the Turkish company Koc Holding are interested in bringing competitive gas supplies to Turkey. The proposed Eurasia natural gas pipeline would transport gas from Turkmenistan directly across the Caspian Sea through Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey. Of course the demarcation of the Caspian remains an issue (From THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD February 12th 1988 emphasis added).

And Socialists are lectured by Tony Blair, his wife, and the Labour Government that the war in Afghanistan was about morality, the pursuit of feminism and the welfare of heroin addicts on the streets of Britain!!! Wars under capitalism are fought over trade routes, raw resources and spheres of strategic influence.

The SPGB has always been consistent on the cause of war under capitalism:

Wars reflect the determination of Governments to defend or gain control of valuable possessions by armed might when other means have failed. The purpose of war is to gain or maintain the mastery of territories where there are rich mineral deposits, vital land, sea or air routes or areas where goods can be sold or capital invested” (WAR, loc cit p. 8).

War and terrorism is inevitable under capitalism but that its abolition can be accomplished by the establishment of socialism.

The Working Class and the War on Terrorism.

War and terrorism, then, is caused by capitalism and the clash of interests of competing capitalist countries over raw resources, strategic spheres of influence and trade routes. Wars are not fought over ethics or religion although morality and religion can be used to justify war.

Although, increasingly, “democracy” and “freedom” are used by politicians to obtain support for nationalism still play an important role. Workers falsely believe that they have an interest in capitalism’s wars because it is “their country”. Workers do not have a country. They do not own the means of production. These are privately owned by the capitalist class to the exclusion of the rest of the population. Workers have no trade routes to protect, no strategic influence to secure or raw materials to fight over.

War and acts of terrorism cannot solve the problems facing the working class. War and terrorism cuts across the basic identity of interest of the world are working class. It pits one group of workers against another.

As the Socialist Party of Great Britain noted over 50 years ago, war:

“…elevates force into the position of arbiter in place of the common human desire for mutual peace and happiness. Its effect is wholly evil. It depraves all the participants by forcing them to concentrate upon the best methods for producing misery and of annihilating each other. It elevates lying, cheating, disabling and murdering opponents into virtues, confers distinctions upon those who practice these means most successfully, and inaugurates training courses on a vast scale to produce efficiency” (THE SOCIALIST PARTY AND WAR p. 94. 1950).

Socialists are completely opposed to war and terrorism and to what war and terrorism represents. Socialists urge workers not to take part in capitalism’s wars. They should look to their own class interests that are totally opposed to the capitalist class and their government. Workers should not take sides. Let the capitalist class fight its own battles.

Workers should pursue their own class interests which are to recognize that war, poverty and other social problems are caused by capitalism. That the working class face social problems on a daily basis like exploitation because they do not own the means of production. And that capitalism can never be made to work in their interests.

To recognize the problem as capitalism leads to one and only one pressing conclusion the abolition of the profit system with its wars and its replacement with Socialism. With the establishment of Socialism men and women will have taken the first step out of modern barbarism and the killing fields of the world. Socialism with common ownership of the world’s resources will mean co-operation to meet human needs and an end to wars and poverty.


Map showing oil and gas fields, US military deployment, ports and trade routes (source: from whom permission has been given to reproduce the map)

Map showing oil and gas fields, US military deployment, ports and trade routes

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