We live in a world capitalist system shot through with international rivalry and conflict. As one war ends so another begins. With each passing decade tens of thousands of people are maimed and killed while the weapons used to “degrade”, “take-out” and inflict “collateral damage” become more sophisticated and deadly in their use and consequences.

Capitalism causes war but it is not through market competition and trade - the buying and selling of commodities for profit - that causes governments to go to war. War is usually fought over the acquisition and protection of raw resources, trade routes and spheres of strategic influence.

In a recent edition of FOREIGN POLICY, an article by John Reed, under the heading Surrounded: How the US military is encircling China (20th August 2013), highlighted the increasing conflict between China and the US in the Pacific. The writer was no Socialist but the content of the article confirmed the Socialist analysis and reasons for war, particularly the consolidation and expansion of spheres of strategic influence.

As John Reed, the author of the article wrote:

The U.S. military is encircling China with a chain of air bases and military ports. The latest link: a small airstrip on the tiny Pacific island of Saipan. The U.S. Air Force is planning to lease 33 acres of land on the island for the next 50 years to build a "divert airfield" on an old World War II airbase there. But the residents don’t want it. And the Chinese are in no mood to be surrounded by Americans.

The Pentagon's big, new strategy for the 21st century is something called Air-Sea Battle, a concept that's nominally about combining air and naval forces to punch through the increasingly-formidable defenses of nations like China or Iran. It may sound like an amorphous strategy -- and truth be told, a lot of Air-Sea Battle is still in the conceptual phase. But a very concrete part of this concept is being put into place in the Pacific. An important but oft-overlooked part of Air-Sea Battle calls for the military to operate from small, bare bones bases in the Pacific that its forces can disperse to in case their main bases are targeted by Chinese ballistic missiles.

The report also highlighted plans by the USAF to send fighter jets and bombers to bases from countries as far apart as Australia and India:

In addition to the site on Saipan, the Air Force plans to send aircraft on regular deployments to bases ranging from Australia to India as part of its bulked up force in the Pacific. These plans include regular deployments to Royal Australian Air Force bases at Darwin and Tindal, Changi East air base in Singapore, Korat air base in Thailand, Trivandrum in India, and possibly bases at Cubi Point and Puerto Princesa in the Philippines and airfields in Indonesia and Malaysia….

China has responded in kind by courting friendly governments like Tonga with vast sums of money for the use of ports and infrastructural development in which to construct military and naval bases. According to ABC NEWS (14th May 2013):

In countries across the South Pacific, Chinese money is pouring into infrastructure and construction projects.

In Tonga, the Chinese have built roads, invested in telecommunications, and just completed a huge wharf that can accommodate cruise liners and container ships. The investment infrastructure has also built influence

Of course, the wharf could equally be used to support “military assets” such as warships while the investment to infrastructure across the island could lead to the construction of airfields for fighter-jets and ballistic missiles. Chinese capitalism is just as imperialistic as its 19th century European counterparts.

And it is not just the Pacific area that the increasing international rivalry between the US and China asserts itself. China’s recent colonial adventurism to take control over disputed islands in the potentially energy-rich waters of the East and South China Seas, against the interests of Japan and the Philippines (both enjoying political and military support from the United States), sets the grounds for future wars not just regionally, but potentially globally too.

What of the moralists who deny their actions are informed by the interests of trade routes and strategic spheres of influence? In the arena of international rivalry the justification for war on moral grounds is merely empty rhetoric.

The use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium by the US in Iraq, notably the city of Fallujah http://www.brusselstribunal.org/WMD.htm and the use of white phosphorous by Israel in Palestine (loc cit) is not condemned by the moralists of the world like Tony Benn and David Cameron. The proposed war aims of Cameron, Hollande and Obama in Syria is not a moral crusade but an attempt to tip the balance of the civil war in favour of the rebels, undermine support for Syria from Iran and Hezbollah and to ease the Russian fleet away from Syrian port of Tartus once a government pliable to Western capitalism has been installed. It is not morality but realpolitik. The vulgar and base pursuits of economic and military interest by capitalist governments are the driving force behind the preparation for war and ultimately the engagement with other countries in armed conflict.

The Socialist Position on War

What of the Socialist position on war. And does the future have to be one of international rivalry, conflict and war?

We can only repeat what we said at the beginning of the second Iraq war in 2003:

What US capitalists and their governments are hoping for is stability. Stability to exploit the world’s working class, to increase profits and to consolidate and extend their class power and privilege. But capitalism can never give them stability. Future wars are already being hinted at against North Korea, Iran and Syria – and possibly others. Killing some people as a pretext for saving others is a barbaric argument. Who was saved by the 500,000 Iraqi children sacrificed for sanctions? How many by the million killed in Indonesia or the 3 million in Vietnam? Capitalism killed them all and it will kill more (THE IRAQ WAR - IN WHOSE NTERESTS?)

And Socialists have a consistent record in opposing capitalism’s wars. The Socialist Party of Great Britain opposed both the First and Second World Wars on the grounds that they had nothing to do with the interest of the working class.

Two Manifestoes were published setting out the Socialist position; the first was published in the S.P.G.B’s official journal, the SOCIALIST STANDARD in September 1914, and the second in the issue for October 1939.

As we stated in the pamphlet “THE SOCIALIST PARTY AND WAR”

These statements not only expressed the S.P.G.B.’s attitude to the wars now past. The Principles behind them endure and the statements represent the Party’s attitude to wars that might arise in the future (p. 75 1950).

The capitalist class and their politicians use the armed forces for their own purpose and not in the interest of the working class. As Benjamin Franklin once said:

There was never a good war or bad peace (Letter to Josiah Quincy 1783 Wiki-quotes)

The Socialist Party of Great Britain never supposed that you can stop war by merely opposing war. It has always been the Party’s case that to get rid of capitalism’s wars the working class has got to get rid of capitalism.

Throughout the S.P.G.B’s history it has seen capitalist states presenting different types of faces; imperialist and anti-imperialist, monarchists and republics, all varieties of Christian religions, Islamic and Hindu sects, Buddhists and even atheists.

There have been those countries which have claimed to be “Socialist” but they were nothing more than capitalist countries with an exploitive wages system, ruling class and armed forces no different to other capitalist countries ready to use force to protect the interests of a privileged minority; internally against their working class and externally against other capitalist countries.

The free traders believed that free trade would bring permanent peace; it hasn’t any more than protectionism has. Free traders believe that more and more trade will prevent war but war is bound up with international rivalry and you cannot have capitalism without nation states and its armed forces; you cannot have capitalism without international rivalry, conflict and war. The Cobden dream of capitalism without war is simply utopian.

The League of Nations and the United Nations have both failed to prevent war. In fact the United Nations, in particular, has being implicitly engaged in war throughout the world. In the Eastern Congo, for example, the United Nations’ force, known as the “intervention brigade” has a mandate from the UN to go on the offensive against the rebels along the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. There have also been allegations that UN troops have fired on protestors (INDEPENDENT 30 August 2013). What is not commented on is that the Eastern Congo has great mineral wealth coveted by the likes of China and the US; war by proxy even if it is through the United Nations.

There is only one thing which has not been tried. There has never been Socialism in the world. With Socialism there will not be any more war; there will be no armed forces for the propertied class to protect its property; there would be no production for sale and profit; there would be no markets; there would be no need to protect raw resources, trade routes and spheres of influence; the world would not be divided into separate capitalist nations each fighting the other; there would not be government exploiting different languages and religions and there would be no conflict between capitalists and workers because there will be no profit system and no exploiting capitalist class.

Socialism will be organised world-wide on the basis of common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by all of society. Production would be solely and directly for use. The function of production would be to make goods available to all society. There would be free access.

To achieve Socialism requires foremost, the winning over of the working class to an understanding and acceptance of the Socialist case. It is a Socialist principle that you cannot contemplate socialism being run except by socialists. Socialism is not possible until a socialist majority democratically gain control of the machinery of government and the means of production.

A socialist working class have got to take conscious political action within a principled Socialist party in order to get democratic control of the machinery of government, including the armed forces. To believe you can have Socialism – the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society - without political class struggle is naïve, idealistic and utopian.

A socialist majority has to gain control of parliament and Local Councils. This is the only way for the capitalist class to be disposed and for the working class to establish Socialism. And in ridding the world of war and conflict: “Socialism will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race and sex” (CLAUSE 4 Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain 1904)

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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


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.