Capitalism can only offer war and chaos

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A year after the invasion of Iraq was launched, those who openly justified the war are looking more and more exposed.

Not only have the weapons of mass destruction not been found, it has become increasingly clear that the evidence for their existence offered by governments and intelligence services was no more than a tissue of lies, Hutton's attempted cover-up or other bogus 'inquiries' notwithstanding.

Not only has evidence for Saddam's links to Al-Qaida and the September 11 attacks prior to the war not been forthcoming, the war has actually opened the doors of Iraq to international terrorist groups like Al-Qaida, which are now merging with the home-grown 'resistance' forces operating against the occupying armies.

Not only has the war failed to bring prosperity, stability, democracy or even electricity to the Iraqi population, its balance sheet has been horrifying: up to 10,000 Iraqi civilians killed, tens more thousands of Iraqi conscripts, a growing death toll among the Coalition troops, rampant crime, daily acts of terrorism which are increasingly hitting Iraqi civilians.In short, the brutal regime of Saddam has been replaced by an equally brutal and demoralising state of chaos, a quagmire in which peace and stability have become impossible dreams.

The picture is very similar in Afghanistan, which is currently getting very little publicity in the international media. The Taliban have gone from Kabul but continue to resist in their strongholds further south; the murderous warlords whom they replaced in the 90s have re-established their fiefdoms in most of the remaining areas of the country; the oppression of women by the Taliban has been maintained by the same warlords. As in Iraq, attempts to graft a democratic façade over this mess have been an abject failure.

In his response to Clare Short's revelations about British intelligence spying on Kofi Annan, Blair declared that she was being "totally irresponsible". In reality, the military actions carried out by the Blair and Bush governments reveal the depth of irresponsibility of the entire capitalist class today. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not fought to free the people of those countries, nor to make the world safer from terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, but for the military/strategic interests of the world's leading power. The defence of these interests requires the US to impose its authority in the oil-rich Middle East and in Central Asia, to squeeze its main imperialist rivals out of these areas, and, ultimately, to build a ring of steel around both Russia and Europe; it requires, in short, the US to protect its global domination from the threat of the emergence of a new superpower. And to achieve these entirely sordid ends, the US bourgeoisie has made full use of its own arsenal of mass destruction against much weaker states, leaving a trail of death and chaos in its wake. The Blair faction of the British ruling class decided that it was in Britain's best imperialist interests to tail-end the US war-effort, even if other factions (represented by the likes of Short and Robin Cook) are enraged at this, because for them it would be more in Britain's interests to pursue a more 'independent' line vis-à-vis the USA.

But whatever the disagreements there may be within the ruling capitalist class, they can only be over the best tactics to employ in the defence of the national economy and the nation state. And ever since 1914 it has been plain that the defence of the nation means imperialism - policies of war and domination directed against other nations or blocs of nations, policies from which no nation, as Rosa Luxemburg put it, can hold aloof. Thus every nation state, every faction of the capitalist class, for whom 'responsibility' to the national interest is the highest ideal, must be an advocate of imperialism and war, whatever the language they may use at a particular moment. In the build-up towards the invasion of Iraq, France and Germany had to speak the language of peace to defend their interests against those of the USA. It didn't make them any less imperialist. Similarly Cook and Short were only 'pacifists' faced with the Iraq war; they had been openly bellicose war-mongers during the attacks on Serbia in 1999 or Afghanistan in 2001.

The world war of 1914-18 provided the first historical proof that the bourgeoisie was no longer fit to rule human society. The world war of 1939-45 and the long-drawn out period of wars that has followed it amply confirm this. Capitalism has reached a stage in its existence when it lives for war and by war. And in the epoch of imperialism, there are no 'progressive' wars, no wars justified by the need to expand the world market and develop the productive forces. In the epoch of capitalist decay, every war is an expression of that decay and an active factor in its acceleration. The negative balance sheet of the 'war against terrorism' demonstrates this once again. Since the collapse of the USSR, the USA has been faced with the necessity to make use of its vast military superiority to impose its will on a 'multi-polar' world where its former allies have become its principal rivals. But every attempt to intimidate these challengers brings not a Pax Americana, not a world where everyone quietly recognises who's boss, but a world where anti-Americanism has become the ideological bread and butter of more and more states, more and more political factions. A chaotic world where the spread of wars both external and internal have made the Cold War period look stable and harmonious in comparison.

Opposition to war means class struggle, not pacifism!

Left to itself, this spiralling nightmare of chaos and war can only overwhelm humanity. But if capitalism has no future to offer, it has created a force which does: the class which it exploits and which produces the essential wealth of society. The working class has no national interest to defend. It is fundamentally antagonistic to the interests of the national economy which 'grows' on the soil of its exploitation; and thus it is no less fundamentally antagonistic to the war-drive of each national ruling class, which is fuelled by its sacrifices at home and on the battlefronts. History has proved that the more the working class raises the stakes of its struggle against exploitation, the harder it is for the ruling class to wage war. In 1917-18 workers' strikes and uprisings brought the world butchery to an end; in 1939, the ruling class was able to drag humanity into another slaughter because it had defeated the first attempts of the working class to get rid of this system once and for all.

In the last year, the world scene has been dominated by war and rumours of war. But after a long period of relative peace on the social front, there have been visible signs of another war brewing - the class war. In France last spring, in Italy, in Spain, Austria, in Britain, even in America, there has been a revival of workers' strikes and demonstrations, giving the lie to the propaganda about the 'end of the class struggle' that has helped to confuse and disorient workers over the past decade and more. These movements are not directly a response to the capitalist war-drive but to a growing series of economic attacks on jobs, wages, pensions and other benefits. But for that very reason they contain the seeds of a wider struggle against capitalism which will inevitably lead workers to reject any enrolment in imperialist war.

There are no short-cuts to this, but there are many diversions. Principal among them is the whole 'Stop the War' carnival which pretends that imperialist war can be halted by a democratic and peaceful alliance of all classes and all decent-minded people. Pacifism has never stopped wars; on the contrary it has prepared the ground for them by helping to spread the deadly illusion that you can have world peace without the world wide overthrow of the bourgeoisie. And the worst part of this illusion is the idea that some parts of the ruling class, some countries or regimes, are really in favour of peace against a minority of war-mongers. In the build up to the Iraq war, the 'peace movement' acted as a direct instrument of the imperialist policies of countries like France and Germany or of the bourgeois cliques opposed to the Bush/Blair line.

The only real struggle against imperialist war is the international class war!

WR, 28/2/04.

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