The anniversary of the first successful atom bomb test in 1945 seems an appropriate occasion to restate the socialist opposition to war.
It is never in the interests of the working class to support war.
Wars are fought over private property and related issues and as long as we live under capitaIism the conditions that give rise to war will always exist.
Capitalism is the cause of modern war.
If we were living within 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 society as a whole, war would be non-existent. For socialism is a system which would be world-wide, with no trading, buying and selling, but goods and services would be produced solely for use and not for profit. People would give to society according to their individual ability and take from society according to their needs. Such a society would unite the human race as a sociaI unit, with no economic cIasses or divisions, or national barriers. The material objective would be: to produce and distribute goods and services in sufficient quantity, and of the finest quality that can be practically obtained, to satisfy the needs of all. In complete contra-distinction to this, capitalism produces international rivalries that are the basic cause of modern war,
War in the modern world has the potential for the destruction of the human race. It could be argued that this will never happen, but it cannot be denied that capitalism has produced atomic warfare, and the potential for total human annihilation does exist. This ever-constant threat of total human destruction, with which we all have to live, is sufficient reason unto itself for the workers of the world to organize for socialism and abolish capitalism - and to acquire the education, knowledge and desire to effect this change as quickly as possible.
The World Socialist Party has a most clear and positive attitude to war. We are opposed to all wars, whether they be major and world-wide, or minor and localized. Our opposition to all war has been consistent from the time of our origins with the establishment of our companion party in England, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, in 1904. We do not oppose war in so called peacetime and then change our position when war is declared,jumping on the Band Wagon or flag waving, patriotism, and jingoism. The World Socialist Party, and its companion parties, state that all wars in the modern world are fought over private property issues, markets, trade routes, boundaries, territorial rights, and spheres of influence. Modern war is really an extension of "business under capitalism" carried to an extreme of ultimate violence, when the economic rivalries between the various national sections of the capitalist class can no longer be peacefully resolved or controlled. War is business as usual, but with the added ingredients of the insane and mad slaughter of humanity fighting over the material interests and properties of a minority. The working class, as that section of society that is propertyless in the means of wealth production and distribution, has no interests at stake in supporting any war, at any time, for any reason.
The socialist opposition to war is an opposition distinct from all others. It is not an opposition based upon religious beliefs; and although we are opposed to war on social and humanitarian grounds, our opposition is not limited to a humanitarian approach - it goes much further. The socialist opposition to war results from our analysis and opposition to capitalism; the realization that this system is the cause of war; further, that the working class are living under a system that can never be made to operate in their interests; and that war is inevitable under capitalism, and that the two go hand in hand and should be completely opposed by the workers at all times until they are both finally eliminated, one with the other.
Wars can be opposed from the wrong political standpoint as far as the working class are concerned. For example, an opposition to the recent Vietnam war can be an opposition which states that it was not in the interests of the United States to have participated. But this is not a socialist opposition to the Vietnam war. For when we talk about the interests of the U.S.A. what does this really mean? The United States, like all capitalist countries, Russia and China included of course, is divided into two main classes - the working class who are the majority, and who are the non-owners of the means of wealth production, and the capitalist class who are the minority that own and control the means of production and distribution. So when one talks about the interests of the United States this is not a true, scientific statement. The United States is a geographic entity classified as such by man. The Government of the United States administrates the capitalist system within the United States, protecting the interests of its own ruling class at home and abroad. Other governments throughout the world, Russia and China included, operate in similar fashion. The people in the United States who were in opposition to the Vietnam war, and who were not socialists, or who did not take a moral, humane, or religious opposition to the war, were in effect stating that the prosecution of the war was not in the interests of the American capitalist class, and this could or could not be an arguable case from the American capitalist class standpoint. But it is not the socialist case in opposition to the Vietnam war. Most of the people that opposed the Vietnam war would not hesitate to support a different war if they considered that the re was justification for their support. Because the unfortunate fact remains that the working class do not properly understand how capitalism works and therefore do not appreciate that it is the system itself that breeds and causes war.
Vietnam, from the United States capitalist viewpoint, had a strategic value as a base of operations for the eastern trade - it was a gateway to Southeast Asia. Furthermore, from an American business standpoint it was a market place, a source for raw materials. Another tragic aspect of the Vietnam conflict was that it afforded United States capitalism an opportunity to test its military technology. This resulted in the wholesale killing of Vietnam workers, peasants, women and children who were destroyed by mass bombing, napalm bombing, and were the victims of chemical spraying of rice fields, and other atrocities. The greatest atrocity became the war itself.
The Mid-East, which for decades has always been either on the verge of conflict or involved in war, is a veritable powder-keg of comparatively small nations spawning opposing interests, with the major powers aligned behind them in positions of antagonisms. The issues at stake are boundary lines, economic conflicts, trade, and oil.
The Arab/Israeli situation has produced war, perpetual strife, and killing. And the Arab and Israeli working class, just like workers elsewhere, do not understand their true position in society. While socialists have deep and genuine sympathy for all minorities that have been persecuted, and of course much worse, the conditions that give rise to Hitlers, Mussolinis, and let us not forget Franco and Stalin, always exist under capitalism. The so called Jewish problem has not been solved with the establishment of Israel. In fact a good case could be made to show that Jews living in Israel are in far greater danger of total elimination than they have ever been before. Atomic warfare, limited to a strike against Israel, could eliminate this small territory with all its population. If this sounds far fetched, remember the horror that was perpetrated against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This crime against humanity was later rationalized and justified under the humbug of expediency. The Jewish people live in constant fear of war, and the horrible possibility of mass annihilation of the Jews in Israel, through atomic warfare, exists. As far as a home for the Jews is concerned, a Jew living in Israel, in a home with a mortgage on it, can be turned out of his home, should he miss some mortgage payments, in just the same fashion as an American Jew who also is in similar default. And of course this applies to workers the whole world over.
In 1914 our companion party in England, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, opposed World War I, and in 1939 the World Socialist Party of the United States and all our companion parties opposed World War Il. The World Socialist Party reiterated the message given in 1914 by the S.P.G.B. in its War Manifesto. I quote these words which were given to guide the working class attitude to war and to inspire action to achieve socialism. They were applicable in 1914, in 1939, and they are just as true today:
"Having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our Fellow Workers of All Lands the expression of our Good Will and Socialist Fraternity, and Pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism and the Triumph of Socialism."
World War II was caused by the clash of economic interests between the German ruling class and their partners and the various European, English, and American ruling and capitalist class. It was not a fight over ideals, freedoms, or democracy. It was a war fought over material and property issues. The real cause of the war, as is always the case, was camouflaged with high-sounding phrases in order to gain the support of the workers. If the British and American governments were concerned with matters of principle, such as Democracy and Freedom, why would they have had as an ally Russia that harbored a dictatorship equally as harsh and as cruel as the one in Nazi Germany? As a matter of fact, Churchill, in an open letter to the London Times in 1938, praised Hitler, saying:
"Were England to suffer a national disaster I should pray to God to send a man of the strength of mind and will of an Adolf Hitler."
The governments of capitalist countries do not declare and support wars over idealistic stands on questions of democracy or dictatorships, but wars are declared and fought over private property issues. Fascist Spain, under the despotic dictatorship of Franco, was always supported and helped by the Government of the United States. Of course, the United States bases in Spain were very much responsible for this alliance. Where were the ideals of Democracy and Freedom displayed here with the support that Franco Spain for years received from the United States? This support was probably responsible for the long life of the Franco fascist dictatorship.
When wars are ready to erupt lies, humbug, and hypocrisy are the order of the day. The workers are called on to sacrifice themselves on the false pretext of fighting for freedoms, or for "right" against "wrong," or because the aggressor is at the doorstep. And at that time it is too late to examine the cause of war because the workers are already enmeshed in it - killing and maiming at the behest of their leaders.
War is not a method that can be used to preserve democracy. Take political inventory today and you will find just as many, perhaps more, countries under military juntas, dictatorships, and countries with little or no democracy, as we had in 1939, when World War Il erupted, supposedly as a fight for Democracy against Dictatorship.
If the working class can be persuaded to support capitalism in peacetime then they can be persuaded to support their respective ruling classes when war is declared. The time that is ripe for the working class to become socialist is now, when there is no worldwide war. In fact, the working class should have be come socialist, abolished capitalism and wars, decades ago, and millions of lives would have been saved. But once a war is declared, the declaration itself presupposes that the capitalist class and their governments know that they will have the support of the workers. Without this support this system could not continue for one second - wars would be impossible to prosecute -they would, of course, be non-existent. The working class are responsible for the production of all wealth under capitalism, and when they are called on to defend the wealth that they have produced, but do not own, they are ready for the supreme sacrifice, under the mistaken belief that they are fighting for ideals.
For who in his right rnind would be prepared to go out and die, or be maimed, for such material things as private property that belongs to a small group in society that function as parasites in peacetime and provocateurs in war? Fellow workers we urge you to wake up while you are still in the land of the living.
I quote from a very famous man who was not a socialist:
"I feel only contempt for those who can take pleasure marching in rank and file to the strains of a band. Surely, such men were given their great brain by mistake; the spinal cord would have amply sufficed. This shameful stain on civilization should be wiped out as soon as possible. Heroism on command, senseless violence and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism - how passionately I despise them!"
This statement was made by Albert Einstein and was reported March 14, 1962, in the New York Post.
Whenever war is fought, for whatever superficial and false reasons, and whichever side is declared the victor, one side is always, invariably the loser - the world working class,
[This essay is taken from World Without Wages (Money, Poverty & War) by Samuel Leight, which dates from 1980]