From the January 1976 issue of the Socialist Standard
Enoch Powell is no friend of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. His divisive views on race are enough to make any self-respecting Socialist shudder. Yet amongst politicians he is undoubtedly one of the more coherent defenders and theorists of the present social set-up. His opposition to government spending, for example, does not extend to the police or prison services. He is in no doubt that crime is an unavoidable part of competitive society and maintains that economies in this field can only hamper the smooth running of that system. On inflation, too, he is uncompromising. He fully understands that inflation is caused by governments having an excess of paper currency printed, an explanation given (although Enoch may not realise it) by all Socialists since Marx.
In a recent edition of the BBC’s Any Questions Mr. Powell “came clean” once again, this time on the subject of war. He expressed the view that, with nations obliged to defend their interests against possible attack by outsiders, all grandiose, well-meaning schemes to disarm or to abolish war were pie-in- the-sky; the best governments could do was to stave off for as long as possible the wars that were bound to break out sooner or later. This is a bold, objective description of conditions in the world today and we must congratulate Mr. Powell for his frankness and lucidity. What he might have added, however, is that a nation’s interests are rarely susceptible to objective interpretation. The recent tension in the Spanish Sahara is a case in point. It arose from three different nations each claiming to defend its legitimate interests. In reality the three groups are after the mineral wealth which possession of this territory would give them. And here is the rub, for it is competition for the earth’s resources that causes confrontation and armed conflict. Do we infer from this that people are greedy or anxious to grab from others? If so, it is not natural but depends on circumstances and is not what happens in the case of wars. In modern wars leaders use the insecurity, ignorance and frustrations inseparable from competitive society to persuade the led to fight and slaughter their fellow human beings in the “national interest”, which in reality is the interest of the ruling class.
Enoch Powell is simply acknowledging what we have said: in a commercial, nation-divided world, war is inevitable. If the politicians are unable to avert wars, it is quite simply because they are committed to looking after a system that breeds them.
What is our alternative? We suggest a truly united, wholly democratic world with no nations, no money and with the satisfaction of human needs as its first priority. Impossible? We don’t think so. All that is in fact needed to bring it into being is peaceful political action by a convinced majority of ordinary people.