Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Cold War re-heats

Editorial from the September 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

According to Clausewitz, the oft-quoted 19th century general and military strategist, war is "the continuation of policy by other means." The recent brief – if brutal – conflict in the Caucasus is yet another example of the everyday nature of capitalism continuing by other means.

The conflict in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which appears to have claimed thousands of lives has been a rare eruption, exposing the tectonic-like political and economic pressures shifting below the surface.

These recent events have been a wake-up call to those still deluded into thinking that the ending of the cold war (which was never an ideological battleground anyway) would mean an end to stand-offs between superpowers, with the ultimate potential for World War 3.

The Cold War has just been re-heated then: but this time round the battle-lines are clearly not drawn on grounds of some supposed ideological differences. There are no great ideological or moral issues at stake here. The protagonists (US and Russia) and their allies are simply rival capitalist economies, eager to secure strategic advantage, access to resources and regional influence.

In particular, in attempting to diversify its oil sourcing away from troublesome regions such as the Middle East, the US is relying on a new pipeline via Georgia which taps into relatively secure sources in Central Asia while avoiding Russian territory.

There are other considerations however. The failure of the centralised command economy version of capitalism as practised by the Soviet Union till its demise almost 20 years ago did not end the cold war, it merely changed the front. As the economic and political basis for the Warsaw Pact crumbled, the regional military pact NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) has been expanding far beyond its original "north Atlantic" scope, with the states of the former Soviet Union strategically-attractive targets of its recent recruitment drive, as it expands its sphere of influence.

Military conflict is an unavoidable consequence of the everyday conflict of property society. In capitalism all productive resources – most explicitly oil production and distribution – have to be owned and controlled by someone. Modern warfare – with all the waste, devastation and atrocities it brings in its wake – is a problem of capitalism. In contrast, in a moneyless, wageless, classless and stateless socialist society no-one will own any productive resource to the exclusion of anyone else. There will be no laws, rules or coercive forces to administer or police such monopolisation.

The World Socialist Movement is unique as a political movement in clearly and consistently expressing its opposition to war throughout the last hundred years. This is not selective: we oppose all wars, and have done so from World War 1 to Gulf War 2. Our opposition has a simple basis: war is fought over issues of interest to employers, landlords and bosses – the capitalist class, in short – while it is workers, in uniform or civilian clothing, who are the cannon-fodder. The overwhelming majority, the members of the global working class – whether from Georgia (Caucasus) or Georgia (USA), have no interests at stake worth shedding a drop of blood over.