War today has become a permanent feature of daily life under capitalism the world over. Since the Gulf War, the world working class has again and again been confronted with the reality of war � numerous wars in Africa and Yugoslavia, the war in Kosovo, the Chechen war, the war in Afghanistan and now the war drive in India and Pakistan where two nations with nuclear weapons are at each others’ throats.
This reality of a war-racked decomposing capitalist system is indeed horrific. Without a historical, marxist framework it may fill one with despair. It is this historical materialist analysis of the reality of capitalism today that provides the key to understanding the wars and the crises ravaging the world capitalist system.
The wars, and the whole cycle of crises, wars, and reconstruction (First World War, Second World War, the setting up of blocs at Yalta), that have ravaged the capitalist system since the beginning of 20th century can only be understood in the framework of the onset of the decadence of this system since 1914. At the same time, the immediate framework in which the current wars are unfolding is defined by the collapse of the system of blocs at the end of the 1980s and the decomposition of the capitalist system. As we have repeatedly shown, the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989 in turn led to the collapse of the western bloc. This eliminated the discipline of blocs, which used to contain the uncontrolled eruption of conflicts among the smaller powers. The reality that has unfolded since then is best defined by ‘every man for himself’, where all powers, big or small, are out to satisfy their imperialist appetites at whatever cost. The great powers, including the world’s only superpower, the global gangster, the US, find it more and more difficult to contain these conflicts among the lesser gangsters.
The wars referred to earlier have been the product of this tendency of everyman for himself. The beating of the war drums between India and Pakistan, the war that is being prepared between them today, while rooted in their past, is unfolding in this global framework of spreading chaos, this tendency of everyman for himself.
The latest war drive between India and Pakistan
Since the December 13 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament, the Indian bourgeoisie has been clamouring for war against Pakistan. In the wake of this attack, all factions of the Indian bourgeoisie met in parliament on 18th Dec and declared their support for any military or diplomatic action, including war, the government might take, like the Americans, to ‘punish’ the ‘terrorists and their backers’.
Immediately after this, the Indian bourgeoisie started a campaign of war-mongering. The politicians started making statements to stir up war hysteria and the media started whipping up war frenzy through ‘patriotic’ reporting about preparations for war. This has been accompanied by a mobilisation for war all along the border. Nearly half a million soldiers have been moved to the border between India and Pakistan. This has been reciprocated by their Pakistani counterparts. Both states have moved their military machines to the borders.
Both India and Pakistan have moved civilian populations out of the border areas. They have been laying mines in the cornfields on the borders.
This sabre-rattling has been accompanied by a ‘diplomatic offensive’ by India, a game in which the Pakistani bourgeoisie is on a weaker wicket at this moment. The Indian bourgeoisie has recalled its ambassador from Pakistan. Each one has asked the other to cut diplomatic staff by 50% and has restricted the movement of diplomatic personnel to capital cities. Both have forbidden each other from the use of their air space for civilian flights and have cut all transport links. There is also talk of abrogating some old treaty � the ‘Indus Water Treaty’. At one level they have completed all preparations for war, with both armies standing face to face to start killing each other at any time.
“Either we live or you live”
On the surface all this is just a result of the December 13 attack on the Indian Parliament. But if it finally breaks out, this war won’t be the first between Pakistan and India. Since their birth in 1947, India and Pakistan have already fought four open wars (1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999) and have been on the brink of open war on a number of occasions. When not engaged in open war, they have been involved in ‘proxy wars’ as in Kashmir, or earlier in the Indian Punjab and in Karachi/Sindh.
The very birth of these two states is rooted in war. Their relation � in the minds of their ruling bourgeoisies � seems to be defined by a simple, deadly equation � “Either we live, or you live”. An equation that characterised the relations of the two blocs during the cold war and ended with the destruction of the Soviet bloc. The bourgeoisie in Pakistan speaks of “bleeding India to death by a thousand cuts” (daily war in Kashmir, Khalistan, elsewhere). And the Indian bourgeoisie often speak of the need for a “final war” with Pakistan, which alone will allow peace to prevail. This talk of “bleeding through a thousand cuts” and of a “final war”, in addition to expressing their mutual hatred, also expresses their respective strengths and strategic calculations.
Who carried out the December 13th attack?
Regarding the December 13 attack on the Indian Parliament in which 14 people were killed, the Indian bourgeoisie quickly decided and declared, as the Americans did after 11th Sept for Bin Laden, that these were carried out by Let and Jaish, the two Pakistani based terrorist groups, with the help of ISI, the Pakistani secret service. They demanded that Pakistan take action against these gangs. Simultaneously they started mobilising for war.
The claims of the Indian bourgeoisie about Let and Jaish have been accepted by the world bourgeoisie � the Americans and British banned them soon after India’s declarations. Under their pressure, Pakistan has also banned Let and Jaish and arrested their leaders.
On the surface the terrorist attack on India has not benefited the Pakistani bourgeoisie. It has in fact come in handy for the Indian bourgeoisie to put Pakistan in a corner. Yet it is possible that Let and Jaish carried it out with the connivance of dissident elements within the Pakistani state who thought a war between India and Pakistan would serve their interests. It is also possible that the Indian state itself allowed this attack to happen. In any case, it has been extremely successful in using it to put Pakistan on the mat. Even before this, the Indian state had strengthened its offensive in Kashmir. More people are now being killed everyday in Kashmir than at any recent time.
But a more concrete encouragement for the Indian bourgeoisie to go onto the offensive has been the turn of events in Afghanistan. For years the Taliban regime in Afghanistan acted as an extension of the Pakistani state. Pakistan used Taliban-ruled Afghanistan as a training centre, as a staging ground to fan separatist movements in Kashmir, but also in central Asia and Chechnya. Afghanistan was for Pakistan what it is now aimed to be for America � a conduit for the spread of its influence in Central Asia. Pakistani strategists used to say that control over Afghanistan gave Pakistan a strategic depth vis-a-vis India. This is one reason why the US has had to kick Pakistan to join the so-called coalition against terrorism and for the destruction of the Taliban regime.
The destruction of the Taliban has been a severe blow to Pakistan. It has relatively weakened its position and thrown the Pakistani bourgeoisie into disarray. It has fostered divisions within its ranks. The Indian bourgeoisie has taken advantage of this situation and accelerated its offensive against Pakistan.
Will war break out?
Left to itself, the Indian bourgeoisie would go to war. But this does not suit the interests of the only superpower, the US. It is engaged in its ‘war against terrorism’ in Afghanistan. Although the Taliban regime has been destroyed, America still needs Pakistani support, forced or willing, to achieve its strategic goals � completely destroying the Taliban, establishing a stable regime that is under its full control, using it to penetrate the Central Asian republics and to oversee the whole landmass around Afghanistan. Immediately, a war between India and Pakistan would jeopardise all this. It would compel the US to take sides and upset its long-term plan to dominate this whole area.
Also, the US is aware that given their deep-rooted hostility, and especially given the desperation of the Indian bourgeoisie, a war between India and Pakistan has the possibility of turning into a bigger conflagration. There is a risk that if war seriously endangers Pakistan, it will compel China to flex its muscles (China has already been expressing its ‘mounting worries’ about the tensions between India and Pakistan and there have been reports of Chinese troop movement on the Indo-China border). This would in turn compel the US to react.
Owning to all this, the US has been putting increasing pressure both on India and Pakistan � on India to ‘use restraint’, on Pakistan to take action against terrorists. In this the US has been joined by a plethora of ‘world leaders’ � Tony Blair, Chirac, Annan etc (although these ‘allies’ don’t hesitate to pursue their own national interests during their ‘peace’ initiatives). So far this pressure has been successful in holding back the two combatants. At this moment, it seems very likely that a war will not break out immediately in south Asia.
Even if ‘peace’ prevails for the moment and the imperialist interests of the global powers are successful in compelling India and Pakistan to disengage and demobilise, it will only be a temporary interlude. This won’t be only because of the legendary enmity of India and Pakistan, but because the very logic of capitalism is war.
The tasks of the working class
As part of its war preparations, the bourgeoisie has been trying to whip up national hatred and patriotic frenzy. But the working class has nothing to gain from this war, these imperialist conflicts of their rulers and exploiters. They must refuse to be taken in by the propaganda of the bourgeoisie. The working class can advance its interests only by developing its class struggle against its exploiters, and by establishing its class unity across national boundaries. The working class and its revolutionary vanguard, the communists, have no sides to choose. They oppose all sides in the war and call for worldwide unity of the working class, for the destruction of capitalism.
CI January 2002