Against the War Psychosis of Capitalism: The Class War of the Working Class

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Against the War Psychosis of Capitalism: The Class War of the Working Class

The Bush Administration has eagerly embraced the public outcry over the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center as an opportunity to advance a long-term ruling class goal to strengthen the state by overcoming a problem that has plagued it now for three decades: the so-called Vietnam Syndrome

One of the central characteristics of the political situation over the last thirty some odd years, since the onset of the open economic crisis, has been the fact the bourgeoisie has confronted an undefeated working class that could not be counted on to rally behind the state, and permit itself to be mobilized for the carnage of global imperialist war. In the period prior to the outbreak of World War II the situation was starkly different. The world working class had suffered defeats of historic proportions that had rendered it incapable of resisting capitalism's inevitable drive towards imperialist war in the 1930s. These defeats including the failure of the revolutionary wave that began in Russia in 1917, and the ideological defeats that permitted it to be mobilized behind the state, such anti-fascism.or the physical defeats such as outright repression of the workers movement in Germany. It was these defeats that created a situation in which the working class could be mobilized behind the capitalist state and thereby opened a course towards global imperialist war.

The workers who came of age with the return of the global economic crisis in the late ‘60s had not experienced the same political, ideological and physical defeats as the prior generation and, unlike their fathers, would not be tricked into accepting the level of sacrifice, death and destruction that capitalism sought to inflict. In the U.S. the failure to successfully mobilize the population around the Vietnam War was the first notable example of that capitalism now confronted a proletariat unbent by defeat.

Since the 1960s, the American capitalist media has lamented the existence of what it has called the Vietnam Syndrome, a supposedly mass psychological disorder, in which Americans could not be convinced to accept the sacrifice of a long, protracted war. This problem contributed heavily to the necessity of the U.S. ruling class to rely on proxy wars for the past 30 years to advance its imperialist interests around the globe, supplying and financing its various puppets in smaller wars against its imperialist rivals or their proxies, or, alterenatively, to orchestrate short term military operations carefully designed to risk only minimal casualties, such as in Somalia, Haiti or the Persian Gulf. However, this problem, this so-called Vietnam syndrome, this resistance to being mobilized behind the state to march off to imperialist slaughter, was not a problem of social psychology, but rather a political consequence of the fact that capitalism had to contend with an undefeated working class. No matter how politically confused or disoriented it might have been at any given moment, the American proletariat, like its brothers throughout the world, was not ready to send its sons and daughters to march off to the slaughter for its exploiters imperialist interests, as was the case during World War II.

The Bush administration immediately seized upon the Trade Center disaster as the opportunity to prepare the population to rally behind the flag, behind the state, and accept the idea of a protracted war-- one that could last 36 months, as Secretary of State Colin Powell put it. For the moment this political offensive seems to be working. With a relentless, propaganda barrage, constantly comparing the current disaster to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 that killed less than half the total missing at the Trade Center, patriotic fervor is at unprecedented levels since World War II. The hideous flag waving, the singing of mindless patriotic songs, the distortion of the genuine sense of solidarity for the victims of the tragedy into the basest nationalist chauvinism are all part of this campaign. The media, including the tabloid newspapers and especially television,with its constant, repetitious replays of the planes crashing into the buildings, and glib, are all contributing mightily to this effort.

However the long term success of this political offensive is not sealed. The strategy runs into difficulty because there is no “enemy” country to attack or invade. For the moment the “heroes” continue to be the firefighters in New York City who risked their lives to rescue the missing, not the Special Forces units who will soon raid Afghanistan, or the crews who will fire the cruise missiles that will obliterate thousands of lives, in what the bourgeoisie will excuse as “collateral damage.” But more importantly, the outcome of the ruling class political offensive won't be determined simply by conditions in the U.S., but depends as well on the experience, activity and collective political force of the world working class. The outcome of this offensive will be linked to the question of the deteriorating living conditions, shrinking wages and the acceptance of continuing death and destruction that the ruling class will attempt to inflict on the working class in the name of sacrifice for the good of the nation, and the proletariat’s response to these attacks. Whether the working class will abandon its own self-defense and acquiesce in the capitalist attacks is not predetermined.

The potential success of the capitalist campaign and the implications it could have on a long term basis for the class struggle raise truly serious issues for the workers’ movement, and the future of humanity itself. The present situation clearly poses the alternative of barbarism or socialism with inescapable clarity. Now as never before, revolutionaries and class conscious workers must speak loudly and unitedly against the war psychosis propagated by the bloody gangsters who wield political power. We must intervene as widely and effectively as possible against the rising tide of nationalism, against the racist attacks against Muslims, against the American bourgeoisie’s attempt to mobilize the working class behind the state. No matter how much of a minority revolutionaries might find themselves in at this crucial juncture, they have the responsibility, to their class, and to history, and to the future, of pointing out the general of march to communism -- to point out that the only way to build a future where wanton mass death and destruction are not daily barbaric social realities is for the working class to return to the class struggle, to fight for its class interests and to challenge the continued domination of capitalism that is leading us into barbarism. It is class war, not imperialist war, that holds the promise of a future for the human race.

Jerry Grevin

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