Capitalism causes war
The socialist’s opposition to wars is on the grounds of class. Socialists argue that workers should not let themselves be involved in wars caused by disputes between different sections of the capitalist class. As we stated in the 1936 pamphlet on WAR AND THE WORKING CLASS:
“The Socialist Party of Great Britain, like voice crying in the wilderness, has always maintained that capitalism and warfare inseparable. There can be no capitalism without conflicts of economic interest. From these arise the national rivalries and hatreds, the fears and armaments which may at any time provoke war on a terrifying scale”
War and capitalism will always go together. War has continued into the Twenty First century particularly in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. The Ukraine conflict, the first land war in Europe since 1939, is just one of many now taking place throughout the world.
War is not a series of ‘out-of-the-blue’ episodic events. War and conflict derives from the competition of capitalism. All countries prepare for war. War is part and parcel of capitalism, like economic crises and poverty. Wars take place because of the competitive struggle over raw materials, strategic spheres of influence, land and trade routes. The world divided into competitive nation states is about winners and losers; between those who have political and economic power, those who want power and those who have little or none at all and have to do as they are told.
Socialists oppose capitalism’s wars because they are not in the interest of the working class to fight and get killed in. Workers have no interest in capitalism wars. Workers do not own the means of production and distribution. Workers do not own land, strategic points of influence, raw materials and trade, shipping and communication routes. Workers only own their ability to work, their labour power which they are forced to sell on the labour market in exchange for a salary or a wage.
As Marx and Engels famously wrote “Workers have no country. You cannot take from them what they do not own” (COMMUNIST MANIFESTO).
The working class has no interest in war
The working class form a majority throughout the world. They face the world capitalist class over the ownership of the means of production and distribution. Workers face capitalists and their political representatives over the ownership of land, factories, communication and transport system and distribution points. Workers have no interest in the profit system because they cannot just take what they produce nor have direct access to what they and their families need.
The interest of the working class is to become socialist, form a majority within principled socialist political parties and democratically and politically replace capitalism with socialism: replace the anti social drive to make profit with the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society. The interest of the working class is to win the class war.
It is not for workers to take sides in capitalism’s wars. It is not for the working class to show “patriotic duty” and support the killing of workers by other workers. Nor is it to fly the Ukrainian flag from cars or flag poles. Nor is it to uncritically support politicians who urge war, death and destruction from the safety of their political offices. And it is not for workers to “get behind” the politician s like Starmer, Truss and Johnson in arming Ukraine and imposing economic sanctions on Russia in order to pursue the narrow interests of their own capitalist class.
Is war about good and evil?
The media and politicians present war in moral terms of good and evil. “We” are good the “enemy is “bad”. Napoleon was considered a monster. In the First World War it was the “Kaiser” who should be hanged from the nearest lamp post. In the Second World War it was “Hitler” who was the personification of evil and in league with the devil. Then, more recently, there has been Saddam Hussain in Iraq, and Colonel Gaddafi in Libya who have been singled out for their nasty and brutal regimes. The British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, once described Colonel Nasser during the Suez Canal in 1956 as a “new Hitler” labelling him both a “fascist” and a “communist”. Eden said nothing about Britain’s imperialist interests.
More recently we have been told by the capitalist media and politicians that the war in Ukraine has been the result of “evil” Mr Putin”. If only someone else was in power instead of nasty Mr Putin. The journalist, Ben Macintyre, recently ran an article “Could we kill Putin? Possibly/ Should we?” (TIMES June 4 2022). Macintyre was of the belief that by taking out Putin through assassination it would resolve the conflict.
Macintyre retold the (mainly failed) attempts by the CIA to take out political leaders like Castro. Macintyre reminded us that the killing of Reinhardt Heydrich in 1942 led to the killing of every inhabitant in the Czech village of Lidice. And that between 2000 and 2018 Israel has conducted some 1800 killings of Palestinian leaders and activists. The Second World War did not end with the killing of Heydrich, nor the “Final Solution” which he had instigated at the Wansee conference a few months earlier. There is still violent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Macintyre concluded that assassinations are “Tricky to recruit and extremely problematic to deploy”.
In the media there is a torrent of articles, telling readers that Putin does this, Putin does that, as though Putin is this all powerful figure in the Kremlin. This is the baseless “evil man theory of history” first articulated against Marx by Isaiah Berlin in his lecture on “Historical Inevitability” given at the London School of Economics in May 1953.
History, for Berlin, was not about why and how one social system changes to another. Berlin was not interested in the economic changes in society which cause change or in the class struggle as “the motor force of history”. As a defender of privilege and wealth Berlin had no interest about where we are now, how we got here and where we’re going next. He saw the job of historians to deliver judgemental moral sermons against “Charlemagne or Napoleon, or Genghis Khan or Hitler or Stalin for their massacres” (p 76). His was a morality of history: praise for the good: damnation for the bad. It was a religious conception of history.
However, all politicians have to work within the limits imposed by capitalism. Capitalism controls politicians not the other way round. To understand politics and politicians you first have to understand capitalism and the forces that act on the profit system. And this applies to political leaders as it does to anybody else.
Do not take sides
To begin a critical analysis of the Ukrainian conflict requires a dispassionate analysis which the capitalist politicians of NATO will not allow to take place. They have gone out of their way to stifle debate using the ad-hominem argument of any criticism of NATO being seen as support for Russia even if socialists go out of our way to state that we condemn both sides.
We oppose Putin’s Russian invasion of Ukraine with its indiscriminate killing, rape and brutality of civilian populations, we oppose the killing of the working class by other workers no matter what uniform they are wearing and we oppose NATO as an aggressive force protecting the interests of Western capitalism, notably the United States. Socialists have not forgotten NATO’s war in Serbia in 1992-1995 nor the invasion of Iraq on the spurious grounds of Hussain supposedly having “weapons of mass destruction”.
This is so convenient. It lets the US, Britain and NATO off the hook. They can do no wrong. They are innocent parties in the conflict. Yet no one asks what would happen if someone else was in charge in Russia. If Putin was replaced by someone else, Russian policy against NATO expansion would still remain the same, antipathy against Ukraine joining the EU would still exist and the pursuit of Russian power and strategic dominance, once enjoyed by the USSR, would still be entertained. All capitalist countries want to be top dog.
In capitalisms wars, socialists do not take sides. We neither support Ukrainian nationalism, NATO expansionism nor Russian imperialism. What we do support are the interests of the working class in its class struggle against the capitalist class. We do not give support to workers when they display sentiments of nationalism or patriotism, or argue for “my country right or wrong”, or enlist in the armed forces to kill for the interests of another class. We do not support workers in uniform or those supporting them killing other workers.
The support of socialists for the working class is qualified. Workers should be becoming socialists not soldiers and supporting the interests of another class. They should be struggling to establish a world without war, not getting involved in one which is of no interest to themselves or their families. Workers face the same problems no matter where they live and have the same interests in solving them.
The working class can replace capitalism and its wars with global socialism – a social system of society based on co-operation, not competition, on common ownership of the world’s resources democratically controlled by the whole community; a society with production directly for use – not profit; a classless society where wars will be a thing of the past.
Object and Declaration of Principles
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
Declaration of Principles
THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN HOLDS:
1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.
5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.