Editorial from the August 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard
This is now a world of potential plenty. Yet all but a few are deprived in some way and many starve. At the same time part of the world’s resources are used up in making weapons of war and in training men and women to use these weapons. How is this terrible paradox to be explained ?
The technical basis of modern society is large-scale, mass-producing industry which can only be operated by co-operative labour. By its nature it draws into the work of producing things millions of people the world over. These millions work not on their own; they work together. No man makes anything by himself; he only plays a part in the co-operative labour through which things are today produced. Farms, factories, mines, mills and docks are only geographically separate. Technically they depend on each other as links in a chain. They are only parts of a world-wide productive system. In other words the world is one productive unit.
Common sense would suggest that, to take full advantage of this world-wide productive system, it should be owned and controlled as a unit. That it should belong in common to all mankind and be controlled by them for their own benefit. But of course, this is not so. The means and instruments for producing wealth are not owned in common by us all. They are the.property of a few. Nor are they used to make what we need. They are used to make things to be sold.
This is what is behind the paradox of waste amidst want. The problem of war, militarism and armaments is just one of the many which must arise as long as there is private property and production for sale instead of common property and production for use.
Those who own the world and its instruments of production compete against each other in buying raw materials and in selling finished products. This competition is not just economic; political means too are used. The competing owners, in groups, have at their disposal armed forces. To protect and further their interests is why these forces exist. The economic conditions of capitalism make them necessary. Any group of owners which controlled no armed forces would be in a sorry state. Not only would it be unable to keep others off its own wealth but it would also be unable to take and hold sources of raw materials or to erect tariff barriers to keep others out of a market or to control ports and trade routes around the world. In other words it would soon go under. The owners thus compete by political and economic means for sources of raw materials, markets and trade routes. When other political means fail all that is left is brute force—the organised, scientific killing and destruction that is war.
Not only must groups of owners have armed forces but they are always under pressure to equip them with the most destructive weapons. For in their struggles might is right. So resources are devoted to research into nuclear physics, biochemistry and space, to develop ever more destructive weapons. Millions of men and women are conscripted or enticed into the armed forces and trained to kill, wound and destroy.
Militarism is the inevitable outcome of commerce, of the buying and selling that goes with the private ownership of the world’s resources. To abolish militarism we must abolish commerce. To abolish commerce we must replace private property by common properly, that is, we must establish Socialism. This means a world wide change that will bring social relationships and productive forces into harmony. Only then will the resources of the world be able to provide the plenty they are capable of, instead of being wasted on such things as arms.