Saturday, March 18, 2006

End Capitalism to End War

The text of a leaflet distributed by members of the World Socialist Movement at various demos across the world today.

Today, 18th March, campaigners across the world will be demonstrating against the carnage that Bush and Blair have brought to Iraq since the invasion of that country, demanding that allied troops are brought home and that the current war drive against Iran is halted.

Many here today will be veterans of the mass protests in London and elsewhere on 15th February 2003 which attracted many millions— people fully aware at the time that the events of 9/11 had no link to Saddam Hussein and that he posed no military threat to the West. Likewise, the millions who marched that day were right in believing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction—a fact that has now been well established—and that any war in Iraq would fully destabilise the country. And you would have been in a minority had you not realised the blatant link between the intended war and the fact that beneath the sands of Iraq lay huge oil resources.

Three years of campaigning will have left you revolted at the incessant lies of the Bush and Blair governments as they have tried to justify the war on Iraq and the continued imperialist occupation of that country. Week in, week out, the British and American governments have distorted the truth and sunk to all manner of low tactics to justify the massacre of innocents.

Now, after all of your campaigning efforts, the meetings and demos you have attended, the petitions you have signed, the countless arguments you have had with friends and neighbours, you are back here again - your objections to the invasion of the Iraq war vindicated, yet still ignored - marching today, still demanding a withdrawal of US and British forces from Iraq and pleading for US bombers not to drop their payloads over Iran. In spite of all your hard campaigning, we now face a full blown Middle Eastern war.

But, whoa, hold on! Do you not think you might just be wasting your time here today? Granted, the Iraq War has resulted in the deaths of a hundred thousand and innocent Iraqis are still being killed every day. But do you not think you're asking the wrong questions, making the wrong demands? Repeating the mistakes of the past? We're not saying you are wrong for asking questions, only that you do not ask enough. Indeed, question everything! We're not suggesting you are demanding too much today—in truth, you are not demanding enough.

Whilst this protest demands the withdrawal of western forces from Iraq and pleads that Iran is not attacked, it supports the very system that creates war by not questioning the premise of war. War is a bedfellow of the system we know as capitalism, being waged over trade routes, areas of influence, foreign markets, natural resources and the profits that can be had via the same. By not taking issue with the nature of capitalism, and the root of war, this protest is making the mistake of every previous anti-war demo and paving the way for more in the future. Wars will continue as long as capitalism exists.

Now we're not being churlish here. It is heartening to see so many here today, united in common voice—it reveals the workers can be mobilised around issues they feel are important. But from our experience—and we've had 100 years' experience of observing campaigns and demonstrations and protests around every kind of reform and demand imaginable—we can confidently say that this demonstration, no matter how well meaning, no matter how sincere its supporters, is just one of hundreds over the years that address the symptoms, not the cause, of the problem and will make no significant difference to the established order, either here or in Iraq and Iran, or to the way politicians think.

Three years ago, many millions marched all over the world, united in their objection to more capitalist bloodshed; there were demos and vigils every night in opposition to the war. The issue was debated in parliaments and senates and to top it all the push for war received no UN sanction - but still the troops were sent. So much for one of the biggest protest movements in labour history.

Consider this. Across the globe there are literally hundreds of thousands of campaigns and protest groups and many more charities, some small, some enormous, all pursuing tens of thousands of issues, and their work involves many millions of sincere workers who care passionately about their individual causes and give their free time to support them unquestioningly. Many will have campaigned on some single issue for years on end with no visible result; others will have celebrated minor victories and then joined other campaign groups, spurred on by that initial success.

And, considering the above, two things stand out: firstly, that many of the problems around us are rooted in the way our society is organised for production, and are problems we have been capable of solving for quite some time, though never within the confines of a profit-driven market system. Secondly, that if all of these well meaning people had have directed all their energy—all those tens of billions of human labour hours expended on their myriad single issues—to the task of overthrowing the system that creates a great deal of the problems around us, then none of us would be here today. Instead we would have established a world without borders, without waste or want or war, in which we would all have free access to the benefits of civilisation with problem solving devoid of the artificial constraints of the profit system.

If you are now confused forgive us if we come across blunt, but which part of "to end war we must end capitalism" do you not understand? Its simple! Every aspect of our lives is subordinated to the requirements of profit - from the moment you brush your teeth in the morning with the toothpaste you saw advertised on TV until you crawl into your bed at night. Pick up a newspaper and try locating any problem reported there outside of our 'can't pay—can't have system". Crime, the health service, poverty, drug abuse, hunger, disease, homelessness, unemployment, war, insecurity….the list is endless. All attract their campaign groups, all struggling to address these problems, and all of these problems arising because of the inefficient and archaic way we organise our world for production.

And let us never forget, therefore, that Capitalism is a war-prone society, in that built in to it is the perpetual conflict between rival states over markets, raw materials, trade routes, areas of influence and the strategic points from which the same can be defended. You simply can't have capitalism without wars, the threat of war and preparations for war. To end war we must end capitalism.

You've got it! We're unlike any other group out to reform capitalism, who beg governments to be just a little nicer, who think you can have capitalism without the horrid bits, satisfied if our masters throw us a few more crumbs from the bread we bake. We are not into the politics of compromise and we certainly are not prepared to be satisfied with crumbs. We demand the whole damned bakery!

So if you're just demonstrating against war, then take our advice and invest in a sturdy anti-war banner, for if you are prepared to oppose war without opposing the very system that gives rise to it, then you'll be demonstrating for quite some time to come - that is if the state will continue to allow such a mass voice of dissent at times of crisis. In recent years, in the US and Britain, the state has been demanding more and more control over our lives, limiting our freedoms and insisting we must be placed under moiré and more scrutiny. At the end of the day governments, as the executive of capitalism, represent powerful interests and quite simply we, as a potentially revolutionary class, need to be watched, our thoughts controlled and our actions monitored. The day may well come when workers look upon such demonstrations as this one as a luxury never to taste again.

We believe that protestors should not belittle themselves or their class by making the same age-old demands of the master class. Be realistic! Demand what until now has been considered "the impossible" – a world without waste or want or war! Join us in campaigning for a system of society where there are no leaders, no classes, no states or governments, no borders, no force or coercion; a world where the earth's natural and industrial resources are commonly owned and democratically owned and where production is freed from the artificial constraints of profit and used for the benefit of all - a world of free access to the necessaries of life. Wouldn't such a campaign movement address the real root of every campaign and protest currently being waged? We think it would.

We hold out to the workers a real revolutionary proposition. The choice is yours – the struggle for world socialism and an end to all our problems or a lifetime attached to the 'pick-your-cause' brigade and the certainty that, freedoms permitting, you will be retracing your footsteps here today in years to come. Please use the contact details overleaf for more information.

For more information about the World Socialist Movement, check out of the following websites and webpages:

Socialist Party of Great Britain

World Socialist Party of the United States

Socialist Party of canada

World Socialist Party of the United States on MySpace

Socialist Standard blog on MySpace

Murdering the Dead (2003)

Book review from the February 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Murdering the Dead: Amadeo Bordiga on Capitalism and Other Disasters. Antagonism Press GBP5. Available from Antagonism Press, c/o BM Makhno, London, WC1N 3XX. Website

It would hardly be controversial to argue that capitalism, with its emphasis on profit and short-term considerations, provides fertile ground for accidents and disasters of various kinds. It also means that any accidents which do happen are likely to be more serious and harmful than would otherwise be the case. Cutting corners and ignoring safety matters is part and parcel of a profit-oriented system. However, in the essays collected in this book, originally dating from between 1951 and 1963, Amadeo Bordiga argues that capitalism actually benefits from disasters.

(1889-1970) was the first general secretary of the Italian `Communist' Party, but soon broke with the politics of the Third International. After being jailed under Mussolini, he went on to advocate a moneyless non-market society. This might seem to put Bordiga in the same political tradition as the Socialist Party, but unfortunately he saw Socialism as being managed by an elitist central administration and was thus opposed to a truly democratic society.
His argument here is basically that disasters are profitable, far more so than simple maintenance of existing buildings, machines, etc. Contracts for rebuilding and replacement involve much larger sums than those for keeping an existing dam (or whatever) up and running. Natural disasters are therefore insufficient, and must be supplemented by human-made cataclysms. Destruction means bigger profits than mere depreciation, with built-in obsolescence just being a special case of destruction. Disasters, then, are not just made more likely by capitalism's emphasis on profits at the expense of safety, but are actually welcome in the pursuit of surplus value.

A possible objection to this approach is that it regards capitalism too much as a single entity, rather than as a system with a variety of competing capitalists. Certainly, some companies will benefit from a huge rebuilding contract, but others will not. And when the state pays in the case of `public' works, the costs fall on all the capitalist class. So it is not at all clear that capitalism as a whole does well from such a situation. In addition, if it really were just a matter of making money from disasters, capitalism could surely use this as a means of escaping from any kind of recession, along the lines that (some claim) can be done via arms-expenditure. In all cases, such spending has to come out of taxes and so out of profits.

Despite these reservations, though, this is a worthwhile volume devoted to a writer and activist who deserves to be better-known than he is. And it helps to show up the hypocrisy of the capitalists and their political supporters when they shed tears for the victims of disasters.

Paul Bennett