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From The Socialist newspaper, 29 March 2002

Wars - The Horror Of Capitalism

GEORGE BUSH and Tony Blair's 'war against terrorism' is embroiling the two governments in further military action in Afghanistan and raising the likelihood of a wider conflict against Iraq.

Committee for a Workers' International (CWI - the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) spokesperson, PER OLSSON, examines the vital issues of war and peace in the 21st century.

George Bush opened his State of the Union address in January this year by saying "America is at war", and promised the biggest increase in military spending since the early days of the Vietnam War.

With the latest increase ($48 billion dollars a year), the US is spending more militarily than all of the European countries combined. The US alone accounts for 40% of world military spending, which in 2000 reached $804 billion, a world average of around $130 per person.

As John Pilger remarked: "The new military budget in the US is enough to end all primary causes of poverty in the world" [The Mirror, 29 January].

Never in history has one power occupied such a dominant military, diplomatic and economic position. The US controls nearly one-third of world output.

However, the increase in military spending could undermine US imperialism's position as its economy slows down and the budget and current account deficits become unbearable.

The Pentagon hawks are seriously exploring the possibility of using nuclear weapons against seven named states, including Russia and China, and to include "mini nukes" in its warfare.

At the same time the US administration wants to go ahead with building the national missile defence system (NMD), a $100 billion project that will encourage precisely the weapons that the "shield" is supposed to defeat - nuclear weapons.

The NMD may read like a bad sci-fi novel, but a new militarisation thousands of kilometres above the planet will inevitably follow in its wake.

World superpower

The world is on the eve of a new destructive arms race. The European Union is planning to set up its own Rapid Reaction Force of 60,000 soldiers, warships and combat aircraft.

NATO's general secretary, Lord George Robertson, a former New Labour minister, has asked all European countries to increase military spending to bridge the gap between the EU and the US. At the same time, governments in former 'neutral' countries, such as Sweden and Austria, have declared that "neutrality is a thing of the past".

The terror attacks on 11 September changed the world strategic scene, politically and militarily. US imperialism, as the only superpower left in the world, had the pretext to adopt a more aggressive and interventionist policy.

The victory in Afghanistan boosted the confidence and arrogance of the US. For the first time since 1945, US imperialism no longer rules out a pre-emptive nuclear strike against countries with the alleged ability to use weapons of mass destruction against America.

This marks a significant policy change. The New York Times even described the US "as a nuclear rogue state" [13 March].

Events since 11 September have reinforced the mistaken idea that US imperialism can impose its power anywhere on the globe.

It has also given strength to the hawks in the US administration, like Richard Perle, one of Bush's most reactionary advisers, who recently said: "This is a total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there... and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage a total war, our children will sing great songs about us in years to come".

"Total war", by implication, could also include nuclear attacks. Lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons is a step towards using those deadly arms. And if the US is lowering the threshold, other states could do the same, with horrifying consequences.

The Nuclear Posture Review by the Pentagon last year, orders the military to plan for the use of "smaller nuclear weapons" in specific battlefield situations.

This should not just be regarded as an empty threat, but is part of a deadly effort to blur the distinction between so called conventional and nuclear wars.

"The notion that an accurate, low yield nuclear bomb would cause limited - acceptable - collateral damage is ludicrous. ...a five kilo warhead dropped on London might only destroy Islington. But it would kill thousands of people and make thousands more victims of burns, radiation sickness and blindness", commented The Guardian. [4 April 2001].

Wider agenda

According to US magazine Newsweek, the long war "against terrorism" and the threat against Iraq " is part of a broader agenda, say his [Bush's] closest advisers. And that is nothing less than the reassertion of American power in the world - by a greater willingness to use force, with or without the support of the allies, even at the cost of American casualties. Some of Bush's top advisers believe that after the Vietnam War, the pendulum swung too far in the direction of multilateralism and anti-interventionism, Now they are trying to shove it back".

This policy is bound to give way to a massive increase in anti-imperialist sentiments and feed mass protests, in particular if there is a risk of nuclear arms being used. A nuclear attack by the US or any other state, could spark off the biggest mass movement in history.

It is one thing to proclaim that the Vietnam syndrome is over, but what will the reaction be when US imperialism is dragged into military conflicts costing the lives of American soldiers and the anti-war movement is gaining support?

There is a limit to the extent that the US can play the role of the world's policeman - the 'Robocop' of globalisation.

The US ruling class is still to some extent reluctant, after its defeat in the Vietnam War in the 1970s and the fiasco in Somalia at the beginning of the 1990s, to be involved in military combat that means risking the lives of US soldiers.

"The US reserves the right to itself to wage war, and dumps on others the messy, expensive business of nation-building and peacekeeping", remarked former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, [The Observer, 10 February].

And in the case of Afghanistan, after seven US soldiers were killed in combat, US imperialism is asking Blair to fight the war on the ground. But, as history has shown, it is easier to get involved in an armed conflict than to get out.

The US's arrogance and unilateral approach will increase tensions and rivalry between imperialist countries. This rift will tend to grow as the present, short-lived moment of economic growth turns into its opposite, and US capitalism is forced to to protect its own interests at the expense of other countries.

Nuclear threat

While global warming is increasing, the climate between the major imperialist powers is becoming frostier. New alliances between the imperialist powers may be formed in the future, but such temporary alliances are doomed as the main imperialist blocs and different capitalist countries fall out with each other because of conflicting interests.

The development of monopoly capitalism - imperialism - in the late 19th century, intensified all the conflicts inherent in capitalism. This together with the defeat and delay of the world socialist revolution, explains why the 20th century became the bloodiest in history.

More than 100 million people perished in the wars of the last century, surpassing the number killed from the beginning of civilisation until 1900.

The final act of hostility of World War II - the dropping of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 - heralded the beginning of the nuclear age and the biggest military build-up in history.

After this, a new world war would no longer be a 'war to end all wars', as the imperialist governments said at the outbreak of World War One in 1914 and at the start of World War Two in 1939, but a war to end all civilisation.

After 1945, the US and the Soviet Union confronted each other as rival social systems -the former based on private ownership of the means of production and the latter, where the economy was state-owned but undemocratically controlled by a bureaucratic elite.

This did however resulted in an uneasy balance of power internationally, with both preferring to act through client states in the ex-colonial world rather than risk a Third World War ending in nuclear disaster.

The collapse of Stalinism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in 1989-90, meant that all subsequent social, political, and military conflicts have developed in the context of a new, more fluid and increasingly unstable international situation.

What's Socialism Got To Do With It?

The inability of capitalism to overcome its own contradictions and the limits for its expansion set by the market system is the primary cause of violence and wars.

Capitalism is a system based upon production for profit not need. Profit comes out of the surplus value produced by workers. They only receive a portion of the value they produce in the form of wages and cannot buy back all the goods produced. This in turn means that the extension of the market can never keep pace with the expansion of production, causing crises, stagnation and conflict between nation states.

Neo-liberal policies have accelerated economic and social crises and the fragmentation of many nation states in Africa - the weakest link of the capitalist chain.

The US Worldwatch Institute in its State of the World 1999 report commented: "Globalisation carries new conflict potential. Given spectacularly uneven economic benefits heightened vulnerabilities and uncertainties for many communities and individuals and the inherent challenge to local control and democratic accountability economic globalisation tears at the very fabric and cohesion of many societies. These processes may well trigger a backlash."

A massive backlash against globalisation and in particular against the actions of US imperialism, is inevitable in the future. The anti-capitalist movement will merge together with a growing movement for peace, against wars and militarism, while the brutal conditions imposed by an over-confident imperialism will cause social revolts on the scale of Argentina in recent months.

A world in peace and stability is utopian as long as 1.2 billion people "live" on $1 or less a day and when more than half of the world's poorest countries are embroiled in ongoing or incipient crises. War and military escalation is rooted in the exploitative and oppressive nature of capitalism and imperialism.

The fate of the planet's future cannot be left in the hands of the capitalist politicians, generals or diplomats. Hapless international organisations, such as the United Nations, are controlled by the major imperialist powers.

The politicians talk about "peace", "national defence", "collective security", "military interventions in the interests of humanity" at the same time as they spend billions of dollars each day on arms, sell arms to whoever is prepared to pay, and wage a constant war on the working class and poor.

War is a continuation of politics by other means. Military power today exists to support the policy and actions of the capitalist class.

Transforming society

The world's arsenal of nuclear arms is a threat to the very survival of humanity. Only in the fantasy of the ultra-right can a nuclear war be "won". For decades the horrifying results of a nuclear war have prevented the use of such weapons. It is not in the interests of the ruling class to annihilate the goose that lays the golden egg - the working masses.

But this does not exhaust the question. In the longer term, if the working class fails again and again to fundamentally change society and suffers a series of crushing defeats, then the coming to power of brutal, unstable dictatorships, in the US, Europe and other developed countries, could become a reality.

The ruling class would find it difficult to keep such frenzied regimes under control. This would open up the possibility that in order to 'escape' social and economic crises one of these monstrous regimes would be tempted to initiate a 'first strike' against another competing power, and to 'win'a nuclear war.

The Socialist Party supports the demand for nuclear disarmament and an immediate reduction in military spending. The arms industry must be brought into public ownership in order to work out plans for alternative production and to make sure that the resources wasted on military research and arms are used for the benefit of humankind.

The only way to a lasting peace for humanity is to build an international working class movement that can unite oppressed people internationally in a common struggle against capitalism and imperialism, and against the horrors of wars and inequality. The struggle for world socialism is a struggle for peace.

Whether the struggle for socialism will be successful depends on the level of organisation of the working class, and its strength and combativity. A genuine socialist party of workers and young people is needed to prepare and organise the struggle, so that working people can take on the most conscious and complex task posed by history - the socialist transformation of society.

If it is to break the inevitable opposition put up by the capitalist class the movement for socialism will have to gain strength through the active participation and support by the majority of the population.

History is full of examples which illustrate that the capitalist class is prepared to use violence and dictatorial means to defend its profit, income and power.

Nothing less than a determined and conscious movement of the oppressed, under the banner of socialism, can divide and neutralise the armed forces of the capitalist state and secure a peaceful transformation of society.

The struggle for socialism is international or it is nothing. The only protection against attempts by global capitalism to sabotage and undermine every measure taken by a workers' government is to try to spread the socialist revolution across the world.

The establishment of a democratic socialist society is the first step towards a classless society that will end poverty and want and allow every human being to reach their full potential.

Wars and violence would become a thing of the past as people take part in the building of a new society. With the removal of the market economy and capitalist competition, and the introduction of global socialist co-operation that transforms the lives of all, why would one country want to wage war against another?

The struggle for peace is a struggle for international socialism.

New World Disorder

There has been little order in the 'New World Order', of "justice, free from the fear of terror and more secure in the quest of peace" proclaimed by George Bush senior after the war against Iraq in 1991.

War and international conflicts in the 1990s forced 50 million people to flee their homes - one out of every 120 people on earth.

In the past decade millions have been killed in the many civil wars and wars fought. There have been 27 major armed conflicts, mostly civil wars, in the period 1990-2000. The bloody collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the intervention by Western imperialism (mainly the US), brought wars and civil wars to Europe for the first time since the end of World War II.

Socialism or nuclear annihilation

There has been little order in the 'New World Order', of "justice, free from the fear of terror and more secure in the quest of peace" proclaimed by George Bush senior after the war against Iraq in 1991.

War and international conflicts in the 1990s forced 50 million people to flee their homes - one out of every 120 people on earth.

In the past decade millions have been killed in the many civil wars and wars fought. There have been 27 major armed conflicts, mostly civil wars, in the period 1990-2000. The bloody collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the intervention by Western imperialism (mainly the US), brought wars and civil wars to Europe for the first time since the end of World War II.

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In The Socialist 29 March 2002:

Teach Labour A Lesson

Say No To War

Rising Anger At New Labour

Fight The Bosses' Jobs Massacre

Council Housing Under Attack

Biggest Demo In History Engulfs Rome

Wars - The Horror Of Capitalism

Public and Commercial Services union elections: Time For Change


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