War and the Working Class
It is incredible to realise, but it is 86 years ago that the Socialist Party of Great Britain produced a superb pamphlet with the above title arguing the socialist answer to war. The concluding words were in bold type on page 36:
“Socialism must become The Single Aim of a politically-organised working class. Then capitalism and war will be no more”.
We in The SPGB today, still hold tenaciously to THE SINGLE AIM OF SOCIALISM. Others have added further “mean-while” objectives and become part of the problem by being opportunist and pushing socialism to an ultimate aim, which of course, means no aim at all.
The one thing that damns the ideas and actions of the opportunists with their “mean-while” objectives is that they are left with capitalism which repeatedly throws up all the problems and contradictions against which they pit themselves. If they had the understanding to go straight for THE SINGLE AIM, the job will long have been done.
Whilst we have to deal with the present world situation, if the Labour Party had not supported every war since it came into existence in 1906 and had the so-called Communist Party and assorted leftists not used their religious attachment to Soviet State-capitalism to divert workers away from their real interest, the “present” situation could have been quite different. Nationalism is divisive, what is needed is class unity based on a mutual acceptance by workers that their interest is the same world-wide.
One thing is certain; there can be no wars without the working class. So ending war must begin with the workers; those who are forced to sell their labour power as a commodity in exchange for a wage or salary. While workers are prepared to kill each other to enable their rulers, the capitalist class, to plunder the earth’s resources for profits, conflicts will continue.
It is absurd, but we are regularly told, that in more than one hundred years, WE have made little progress. This is surely the case of the shoe being on the wrong foot. It is the majority of workers who are gullibly persuaded by the capitalist mind-poisoning media, to behave against their own interest, and support capitalism.
Socialists in opposing war have been told over many years:
“If the country’s good enough to live in – it’s good enough to fight for”.
This ignorant piece of nonsense has been endlessly repeated, despite the fact that between the end of World War One and the start of World War Two, there was never less than one million unemployed and poverty, insecurity and housing misery have remained the lot of millions of workers to the present day.
It is nearly 175 years since Marx and Engels published THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, by 1939 it was nearly 100 years old. In that outstanding document Marx and Engels said:
Communists might possibly be reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationalities. The working men have no country. We cannot take away from hem what they have not got (page 36).
The concluding lines of the Manifesto read;
“The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!”
It is fantastic to reflect the fact that Marx helped found The International Workingmen’s Association, in 1864. Where is Internationalism today? The massive growth of the capitalist propaganda media machine has used compulsory mis-education to poison young minds with nationalism and religion and sustain adult indoctrination through mass circulating ‘news’, papers, radio and television.
Also, the leftist Trotskyites and others have hijacked a form of pretentious internationalism, with reformism and day-to-day slogans aimed at solving the problems of capitalism, while retaining the system. There are leftists who support Russia in its invasion of Ukraine and there are those leftists who support Ukrainian nationalism. Those of a religious bent see it as a war between good and evil: the good of Russian Imperialism versus the evil of American Imperialism. And those political theologians who see the war in terms of the ‘good of NATO’ against the evil of Putin’s aggression against Ukrainian capitalism.
Socialists do not take sides in capitalism’s wars. Workers in Russia and workers in Ukraine have identical interests. They have a common enemy: the world capitalist class who own the means of production and distribution for the purpose of making profit not in directly meeting human needs.
To end capitalism’s wars requires the formation of a socialist majority taking democratic and political action to replace the profit system with socialism: the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.
Where today, is the recognition of the points Marx raised in his 1864 Inaugural Address to the First International? It included the following:
“That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves” (See Clause 5 of our DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES).
Also in the Inaugural Address, it is stated:
“That the economical subjection of the man of labour –to the monopoliser of the means of labour, (that is the sources of life) lies at the bottom of servitude in all its forms, of all social misery, mental degradation and political dependence”.
“that the economical emancipation of the working classes is therefore –the great end to which every political movement ought to be subordinate as a means”
The profundity of these remarks, and their relevance to today’s world, can hardly be exaggerated. These socialist sentiments are only to be found in The Declaration of Principles, of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
In August, India and Pakistan “celebrated” 75 years of independence from British capitalism. Right at the start in 1947, as the sub-continent divided into two nations plus Bangladesh, one million people were killed. Thirty of those years of independence in Pakistan have been spent under military rule.
Now there is the territorial conflict over the Kashmir region. Here the conflict is between India and Pakistan with Chinese capitalism playing a third-party role. Again, the conflict is presented in nationalist terms hiding the fact that Kashmir is strategically important, is vital trade route and has raw resources particularly water, with direct regional and global consequences.
What has been gained for the workers? Extreme poverty is still wide-spread in both countries; this co-exists with religious ignorance, as it has done for many centuries. These are stark examples that show again, nationalism is the ideology of the capitalists; workers should be concerned with emancipation and socialism
No worker’s Blood
There is no working class blood on the hands of the SPGB unlike those of the Labour Party and so-called Communist Parties. The SPGB is not just opposed to this or that war, nor simply opposed to the United States side.
It was dangerous to oppose war from 1914 to 1918 but the SPGB issued a front page statement saying:
“…that no interests are at stake justifying the shedding of a single drop of working class blood…”
The Party saw German capitalist encroachment on the markets of British capitalism as not being an issue of the working class. While workers in this and other countries see capitalist class interests as their own, they will be prepared to kill other workers for capitalist interests against their own and those of fellow workers elsewhere.
Some years ago, ITV screened a film, BREAKING THE SILENCE: TRUTH AND LIES IN THE WAR ON TERROR by John Pilger. In dealing with the USA colonising of Latin American republics he interviewed a leading CIA figure who frankly admitted it was oil and gas they sought to grab and he openly stated that the US would use any force necessary anywhere for such American interests. He could only make such a statement if he knew he could count on American workers willingness to produce and drop the bombs and use all other weapons of war-making. Without that willingness on part of the workers, war would be impossible. The question is, on what possible grounds would workers not to be willing to kill each other?
Workers will only withdraw their support for wars when they become class conscious, they must reject their rulers’ ideology and see the world’s workers as their fellow socialists. Certainly, a minority will oppose a particular war as “unjust”, but class-consciousness is the only answer to war. This makes socialist activity and awareness the issue of greatest importance in world society today.
War, vile in every detail, as it is, is not the most extreme degradation to which workers are subject. The “ordinary” everyday world of the labour-market, selling themselves for wages all their working lives, is the ultimate degradation is a travesty that workers consider themselves lucky to be exploited and get a monthly wage. The misery of capitalism will always fall upon the working class until they do something political about it.
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.