Thursday, August 5, 2021

Letters: Introducing the WSM (2000)

Letters to the Editors from the August 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Introducing the WSM

Dear Editors,

Thank you very much for Introducing the World Socialist Movement and the accompanying literature you sent in response to my e-mail. Having read through it, it seems that our goals and assessments of the global situation are virtually identical.

I was pleased to see that you tackle the “human nature” argument in the “Objections to Socialism Answered” section of the booklet. It’s an argument I’ve come up against on numerous occasions and I have some thoughts of my own on what “human nature” is (as distinct from “animal nature”, derived from the genetic imperative to breed);
  • We’re gregarious; humanity is obviously a social species
  • We’re sentient; not to say that all animals aren’t, but we know for a fact that humans are capable of complex abstract analyses
  • We’re communicative; we’ve developed intricate languages to express our thoughts and feelings to each other
  • We’re compassionate; our capacity to empathise with others is nothing short of amazing and is surely the key to our unity and social order. Why would we do things to others that we wouldn’t want done to us? If our so-called “leaders” rediscovered their empathy, imagine the impact on their treatment of refugees and their policies allowing people to starve while food rots in warehouses. (Have you ever noticed, whenever “our” politicians are asked “why don’t we just ship our food surpluses to the people who need it?”, they always seem to reply “it’s not that simple”? It is that simple—people are dying . . .)
If the above points are true, why on earth would they present a barrier to socialism? If anything, they suggest that we’d be good at it. It’s not like we’re stupid—if we can do capitalism, we can do socialism and we’d all be a lot better off for it, I’m sure. Even our former plutocrats would learn to live in a world where human achievement in science and technology were unfettered by competition, profit margin and political expediency.
Phil Salter, 
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs

Limited LETS

Dear Editors,

Like some other members of the Socialist Party, I am also a member of a local LETS group so my curiosity was aroused on coming across the article on LETS by Kaz in the July issue. Though interesting and informative, I did not find its line of argument altogether convincing.

Kaz appears to lump LETS together with various other “reformist schemes” which he condemns not so much because they are inherently ineffectual but because of the (unrealisable) “hope attached to them by often desperate members of the working class”. “Alternative currencies,” argues Kaz, “like experimental communities and a dozen other half-baked schemes have been tried before, more than once, as a solution to the problems of capitalism and each time have been found wanting.” There are two points I would like to make in response.

Firstly, it would be quite wrong to brand LETS as a “reformist” type of activity for it is no more reformist than, for example, trade unionism. By “reformism”, the Socialist Party means, quite specifically, policies enacted by the state which seek (futilely) to modify the economic behaviour of the capitalist system in such a way as to eliminate or alleviate certain problems that are inextricably part of that very system itself. In no sense does LETS fit this definition.

For one thing, it is simply a form of mutual aid at the grassroots level. Essentially, it does not involve the state at all—even if, sometimes (for example, in the USA) the state may choose to involve itself for its own reasons by providing funding for some LETS-type organisation. But this does not mean such organisation should be shunned anymore than we should shun trade unions because of their formal links with the Labour Party. For another, LETS constitute a particular kind of micro-economy qualitative different and separate from the capitalist macro-economy—the real focus or object of reformist activity. LETS are an essentially non-exploitative, egalitarian and voluntaristic arrangement which, like Marx’s “labour-time” vouchers, do not involve the use of money at all—one of the defining features of a capitalist economy.

Secondly, as a socialist I have no illusions that LETS offer any real solution to the problems of capitalism. Indeed, I doubt whether many members of the LETS movement would think any differently. LETS are essentially a way of coping with life under capitalism and are particularly beneficial for people on a low income, like myself, or the unemployed. Moreover, the range of activities involved is vastly more expansive and diverse than the caricature that Kaz paints (“giving lifts to old lades and trading organic lentils”). My local LETS group, for example, publishes a fairly substantial directory each year which lists literally hundreds of different kinds of services (and goods) offered or requested—from plumbing and house painting to holiday accommodation and computer repairs—which enables our members to a limited extent to circumvent the capitalist money-based economy to meet our own personal needs. Granted this is never going to be more that a rather limited circumvention but, for someone like myself, it is by no means insignificant.

It is highly regrettable that the title of Kaz’s article (“LETS not make the same mistakes again”) should convey the impression that workers should not become involved in LETS groups. This is emphatically not the view of the Socialist Party and it would be utter folly if it ever were to become that. LETS do not represent an alternative to the absolutely essential task of organising politically to establish socialism and just because enthusiasts like Dave Boyle entertain fantasies about what can be achieved through the LETS movement, this does not mean that we should then proceed to shoot down in flames the very idea of LETS itself.

The significance of LETS to the working class is not that they will provide any real and lasting solution to the problems we face under capitalism; it is that they offer a practical instance of what Kaz rightly calls a “form of voluntary labour for the good of the community, surely the basis of work in socialism”. If they, along with experimental communities etc. have been “found wanting” in this respect then so too, it has to be said, has the purely “propagandistic” or political approach adopted by the Socialist Party. For after nearly a hundred years of consistently applying this approach we have unfortunately made very little discernible progress.

The answer is surely not to reject one approach in favour of the other but to embrace both. While it is not the business of the Socialist Party to directly involve itself (in a practical sense) in the development of the LETS movement, it will certainly benefit by adopting a more explicitly sympathetic approach to this movement. Yes, let us recognise its limitations but let us also recognise that by involving ourselves as individuals in this movement we can each help in a small way to nudge the consciousness of our fellow workers in the direction we desire.
Robin Cox, 
Redruth, Cornwall

We don’t presume to tell workers (including our own members) what strategy to adopt to survive under capitalism—beyond, that is, urging them to fight back against downward pressures via trade unions, tenants associations and the like. So if people want to join LETS schemes, we have no objection. Our criticism of them (as of trade unions) is that they are not the solution—there is no solution to workers’ problems within capitalism—nor are they somehow “stepping stones to Socialism”. When people make such claims as Dave Boyle did in his book on Funny Money we criticise them. LETS schemes are not socialist or a step towards socialism. They are, as you put it, “essentially a way of coping with life under capitalism”.

A tie to the job (2000)

From the August 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard
The morning rush hour often yields a flurry of colours as men rushing to work sport undulating ties on their mad dash to be by their masters by the allotted time.
Tied to the ruling class
For the capitalist class, the tie is the very symbol of elegance and power, echoing Oscar Wilde’s sentiments that “a well-tied tie is the first serious step in life” (Wilde joked this at a time when very few workers actually wore ties at all). Indeed, the tie was suitably born soaked in blood. The word “cravat” comes from “Croat”, the nationality of the soldiers who won Turkey (previously in the Austro-Hungarian Empire) for Louis XIV of France, and who marched victoriously into Paris adorned in colourful silk handkerchiefs tied around their necks. The French King soon copied this style and began a similar fashion among the European aristocravats, pun intended. Indeed, Louis XIV called an entire regiment the Royal Cravattes.

In the stiff world of power, English gentlemen were soon wearing cravats so high and tight that they could not even turn their own necks around. Clothes have always been a symbol of the wearer’s status in society, and this fetishism of commodities as embodiment of social superiority was perfectly exemplified by the cravat. Indeed, LeBlanc, a Frenchman who spent his life instructing the elite how to tie a cravat properly, remarked that “the grossest insult that can be offered to a man comme il faut is to seize him by the cravat; in this place blood only can wash out the stain upon the honor of either party.” The official name of the common way in which most men tie their ties today, the Windsor technique, is named after the Duke of Windsor himself.

Ties which both hang flaccidly from the neck to the groin like a penis and also point to it are the very symbol of the phallus, which is so envied by other men and women not for its actual qualities as much as the social meaning attributed to the gender of its owner. The tie is thus a symbol of the domination of men over women, and of power in general.

To those of us who wear it to work (and I am one of them) the tie is a burden, another rule to follow in a workplace dominated by rules and regulations. It represents the very essence of discomfort, as it applies light pressure to the very tube we all require to breathe, reminding us of our life sentence to capital by tie hanging, of how much our lives are owned and controlled by the elite, and how much our very life force is maintained because of our servitude to another class. Wearing a tie, we simply don’t feel free, just as we don’t look free, donning an article required of many workers regardless of their individualities or creative abilities. The very essence of conformity.

Ties come in all colours, symbolizing the endless shades of commodities on the marketplace. Just as we workers identify ourselves by what soap opera we watch, what car we drive, what shade of left or right we adhere to, so our many-coloured and patterned ties mirror these false identities and choices. They maintain a sense of choice and free will (Mickey Mouse tie versus striped tie versus plain coloured tie) in a world in which workers have virtually none other than in such a meaningless domain as that of choosing between this or that object of consumption. They feel like the object of our individuality even while being mass-produced and inevitably laying bare our bondage to the job.

With my tie as chain around my neck I often imagine myself to be the chained factory farm cow, being prepared for the slaughter, raised only as a commodity for sale on the market from birth to death. Indeed, the dress “code” itself, like all codes, symbolizes the world of apparition, what the Situationists termed Spectacle, beneath which lurks the real meaning of our servitude.

I do not “wear it proudly.” It reminds me of a life of slavery. With my tie on, like the factory farm cow, I dream of greener pastures where I too can graze in freedom. I fantasize of a world in which all the paraphernalia of the capitalist system are gone—money, wages, buying and selling, bosses, nation states, meaningless objects of consumption and, yes, ties too – and people will relate to each other directly, without the mediation, status and conformity of the dress code.

In such a world, the feeling of freedom and ease is likely to reflect in our attire, and as the artificial division between “their time” (work) and “our time” is gone, so will the division between “work clothes” and “play clothes” as well. Whether we will all wear something more akin to pajamas or athletic clothes or close to nothing only history can tell, but it is clear from the tie that it acts in the same relation as ideology, maintaining while at the same time obscuring the deeper relations of minority ownership and power.

The very word “tie” speaks to both our actual economic ties to the ruling class as well as to the feeling of being tied to it. I look forward to a time when I will be appreciated for the mind above the coloured collar, and when clothes are admired for their uniqueness, their comfort, and the manner in which they express the freedom of human society.

A girl’s best friend? (2000)

From the August 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is a profound and tragic irony that diamonds, marketed in London, New York and Antwerp as the eternal symbol of love and beauty, are potent symbols of hate and disfigurement, misery and suffering to the millions of people in whose countries they are mined.

In Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Congo and Angola, the diamond trade has brought with it years of conflict and instability and the deaths and maiming of hundreds of thousands of Africans perceived as standing in the way of the lucrative profits the increasingly illicit trade brings.

The statistics speak for themselves. In Angola, between 1992 and 1997, Unita earned $3.7 billion from illegal diamond sales, helping them fuel a war in which 500,000 were killed. In under ten years of fighting, Jonas Savimbi built his rag-tag army up into one of the best armed irregular forces around, all thanks to diamonds he traded for state-of-the-art weaponry. In Sierra Leone, between 1991 and 1999, over 50,000 died and many more were maimed (their limbs hacked off with machetes) whilst government forces fought the rebel RUF over an illegal diamond industry worth over $200 million a year. And in nearby Liberia, between 1989 and 1997, 150,000 died as a result of a conflict fought over control of the diamond trade. Liberia, which incidentally has no significant diamond deposits of its own, nevertheless runs a $300 million plus diamond trade with the help of troops loyal to Sierra Leone’s RUF leader Foday Sankah. Such is the illicit global trade in diamonds that the US State Department believes it to be worth anything up to $7 billion a year.

The diamond trail usually starts in the dusty towns of Angola, in the Sierra Leone wilderness or the jungle terrain surrounding Kisangani in the Congo, where half-naked workers labour with pick, spade and drill, guarded by miniature and well-equipped armies. Small mine owners pass on their stones they unearth to local dealers, though not before the guards’ commanders have had their share, and likewise the local dealers have to make payment to the local militia leaders, who similarly have to pass a share to their seniors

Immense armies can be spread over hundreds of thousands of miles of diamond rich land, providing safe passage to all prepared to pay the price, whilst governments and warlords sell concessions to mine, with concession purchasers selling them on to anyone keen on making a killing (no pun intended).

There are of course other key figures, albeit playing as low a profile as possible. They include Burkina Faso’s leader Blaise Compaore and Liberia’s Charles Taylor, who help speed smooth passage by circumventing the controls imposed by the UN and other regulatory bodies. Meanwhile, the governments of Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and Zimbabwe provide military help to warlords in exchange for these little shiny stones and the right to mine them. In the case of the latter, critics of Robert Mugabe accuse him of donating 11,000 troops to the conflict in the Congo in return for diamond field concessions.

And of course there is the middle men who make the deals, find further safe passage for the diamonds to the western markets and supply the weapons that fuel the conflicts and ensure the diamonds keep coming.

Investigators working with the UN recognise a well organised international network of smuggling involving numerous west and southern African countries, with further links to freight companies supplying arms from the UAE to Bulgaria and the Ukraine. Whilst the RUF in Sierra Leone have been provided with former Soviet surface-to-air missiles, at the height of the Angolan war over twenty Ilyushin aircraft could be found landing on one airstrip each evening, each loaded with military hardware.

Whilst pressure groups, such as Global Witness, the UN and other diamond industry regulatory bodies try to introduce an “ethical dimension” into the trade, the dealers themselves fear their efforts will undermine consumer demand because of the diamond’s link with limbless children in West Africa. Provenance certificates, supposedly implying that this and that diamond has no blood on it have been suggested, but such a move would require the co-operation of bankers, brokers and buyers in Tel Aviv, Antwerp and Bombay—the three main diamond centres – and indeed the governments of several countries, including Liberia, who are only too happy to overlook the fact that a few hundred carats true cost is a child hobbling along on crutches and provide forged documents.

As Herbert Rowe, a political scientist specialising in African affairs at Georgetown University in Washington noted: “Even in the Cold War, superpowers did not allow the wholesale ripping up of the economy, the use of children as soldiers and attacks upon relief groups” (Guardian, 14 May). He is of course referring to countries like Sierra Leone, now the poorest country on earth and whose population has enjoyed no health or education system for 10 years, as a direct result of the mayhem that has been set loose because of the greed for the profits that diamonds bring.

Further anti-diamond trade measures have included a boycott of diamonds. But the truth is that— although the trade brings so much misery in its wake—the average piece of diamond-laden jewellery on display in the local high street has only a 4 percent chance of having an illicit source and that the diamond most likely originated in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa or the Russian Federation. Further, any such embargo would hit “innocent” diamond producing and cutting countries such as Botswana and India, the latter with a diamond industry employing 800,000.

The fact that only 4 percent of the diamonds that adorn our loved ones are bloodstained and that this 4 percent has caused so much chaos and upset throughout Africa suggests, more than anything, the intrinsic danger of the incentive to make a profit at any cost. All the controls it is possible to impose upon the diamond trade would not distract one iota from the fact that, at whatever human cost, if there are profits to be made from the trade then profits will be made. This is the essential nature of capitalism, even in its more overt and legal forms. If profits can be made, no matter how small, they will be made and to hell with anyone who stands in the way.

The task is not to try to regulate the diamond trade more efficiently, but to end the system that makes the diamond the commodity it is; to banish forever the system that conditions us into thinking that wearing a shiny stone brings status and respect. Since this journal’s inception 95 years ago, we have consistently reported the wars and conflicts, the misery and sufferings our class has endured in the name of the profits derived from mineral wealth and its possession by an elite. We expect, for the foreseeable future, to carry on in this tradition until our class truly wakes up.
John Bissett

Africa – The Lost Continent? (2000)

From the August 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Africa has been politically backward and na├»ve throughout the last century with so many atrocities, anomalies and injustices. Its children thought that, one day, things will be better, but since the era of independence dawned the situation has remained the same or even got worse. Ills, evils and self-destructions of all kinds continue to plague the African continent. Africa has lost its natural, human and material resources to wars and massacres. Coups and counter-coups have continued to play havoc with African society. Should confidence have been reposed in the statements of the likes of Kwameh Nkrumah, Thomas Sankara and Patrice Lumumba, to the effect that Africa’s problems will turn to brightness? Is there any optimism for Africa? Will African children live to see this happen?

One may ask why Africa has remained the poorest continent the world has ever produced. The answer is simple.

Firstly, the self-centredness and mass corruption of African leaders plays a pivotal role in the continent’s Waterloo. Most African heads only came into power to enrich themselves. The poor and the underprivileged are always the victims of these despots. Statistics have revealed that millions of African farmers go without a piece of farmland when their leaders have uncountable hectares of farmland in and out of the continent; millions are dying of sicknesses and diseases everyday when potential medical facilities would be more than enough; millions are suffering from starvation and malnutrition when there is sufficient food; and millions more are living in absolute poverty when individual leaders are saving millions of dollars in foreign banks for their own interests.

Secondly, the intolerance and lack of respect for one another among Africans, combined to invite trouble in Africa. Africans are killing each other and destroying the continent’s resources all because of these leaders’ power hunger. It is enough to mention the gun rule and slaughtering of people in Algeria, massacres in Burundi, Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and killing of innocent civilians in Cassamance (southern Senegal) among others. These indicate that African leaders are themselves responsible for Africa’s underdevelopment and political mayhem. With this era of political ignorance and naivety occupying Africa, there is more than ever need for a continent, indeed a world, without leaders or political borders.

As we entered the dawn of the new millennium, intellectual sycophants have started howling and trumpeting that it will be a millennium of African peace and development. One renowned intellectual was quoted as saying that “in the next millennium, Europeans will come to Africa as refugees.”

Is it not during this prelude stage of the millennium that floods occurred in Mozambique, killing hundreds of people? That hunger and starvation entered Ethiopia? That thousands died in Nigeria as a result of the religious wars? That mass religious suicide occurred in Uganda? That the senseless land dispute heated up in Zimbabwe? And the wars in Rwanda, Cassamance and Burundi intensified?

With these madnesses in our midst, only the insane would predict a bright future for Africa. Until socialist politics is introduced in Africa, the gloom of this “Heart of Darkness” shall continue.
Sheriff Bojang JR (Gambia)

Glories of the Profit System (2000)

From the August 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard
  • The world’s 225 richest men have a combined total wealth of over $1 trillion—equal to the annual income of the poorest half of the world.
  • Globally, the richest fifth of humanity holds 85 percent of the world’s wealth; the poorest fifth, 1.4 percent.
  • The three richest men on Earth possess assets greater than the combined gross domestic product of the 48 poorest nations.
  • Sixty Americans own total assets of $331 billion; the richest of all, Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates, owns $8 billion more than the assets of 104 million Americans.
  • In the USA the richest one percent holds over 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, doubling their share in just twenty years.
  • Higher-paid American citizens (e.g. executives, small business people, middle management) lost 10 percent of their wealth over the last ten years.
  • The income gap between the best and worst paid US workers is now the most extreme of the 25 most industrialised countries—exceeding even societies like Guatemala.
  • The richest fifth of the world’s population consume 86 percent of all goods and services, while the poorest fifth consume a mere 1.3 percent. The richest fifth consume 45 percent of all meat and fish and 58 percent of all energy used. [N.B. talk of “developing nations” is just nonsense when these figures are examined: resources don’t exist for them to develop, and even if they did, the Earth environment would probably collapse within a year if poor nations consumed as much as wealth ones. The term “developing nations” is really a code for impoverished, a status the elite seek to maintain as a permanent category.]
  • Even without an expanded industrial base or becoming “First World”-type consumers, the poorest nations—where 800 million are hungry and 40 million are infected with HIV, could solve their basic problems of food, clean water and health care with only 4 percent of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people in the world.
  • The real scandal of the age is that the rich are vampires whose wealth and privilege come at the expense of the premature death and dreadful sufferings of hundreds of millions of helpless innocent victims.
  • Solution: Socialist Revolution.
(Information from the Mainstream Media Project, Bread for the World Institute, and the 1998 United Nations Development Report.)

Why war is no accident (2000)

From the August 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard 
War is not a freak of history, nor an accident of policy. Rather it is the continuation of business competition by other means
The fate meted out to the innocent population of Iraq, due to the terror and sanctions imposed upon that country by Britain and the US, is not a freak of history, nor an accident of policy. Rather, it is the continuation of an old game, and the re-use of policies deployed successfully, and equally devastatingly, elsewhere.

The noted historian, Eric Hobsbawm, in his essay “Barbarism, a Users Guide’, cites how, over the course of the century, the Enlightenment principle that “civilised warfare [sic] is confined to the disablement of the armed forces of the enemy” has declined. He finds the cause of this change in the “concept of total national mobilisation [which] shattered” this vital principle of “civilised warfare” [sic]. Hobsbawm however, offers no notion as to how this happened, or why the world should be sliding towards barbarism.

Hobsbawm’s “enlightened” idea of warfare was indeed compatible with a society in which warfare was the preserve of an elite, which was separated from the relatively independent communities in the villages and far flung towns—which was the economic conditions of the eighteenth century under which these ideas developed. It was thus able to conduct its warfare within terms of the social surplus upon which this elite generally existed.

As, however, capitalism developed the relative independence of rural towns, regions and of the military structures, became gradually eroded as the whole world was swallowed up into an integrated market economy. Everyone became absolutely dependent upon everyone else. Thus, eruptions of military conflict could no longer be confined to the combatants alone, as the shock waves spread out throughout the whole economy. Hence, Hobsbawm observes, that such societies had to mobilise the population to war generally: “[capitalist societies] do not fight…like bodies of professional soldiers, for whom fighting the war does not require hating the enemy.” War could no longer be a gentlemanly pastime, played with a set of rules to make things fair.

Hobsbawm’s basic error is to accept the distinction between official war, and peacetime, the start and end of the game declared by the gentleman players. His Arcadian depiction of enlightenment warfare neglects the continual use of state military forces against the lower classes, the regular insurrectionary slaughters, and the like. He neglects the fact that capitalism is a system “based on a state of perpetual war” (Morris). Just because an end of play is called, it does not mean that the slaughter ends.

The twentieth century has not been about the decline of an official distinction between war and peace, but rather, a growth in the scope and magnitude of the capitalist war.

First world slaughter
The First World War provides a case in point, where this universal warfare was pursued. Not content simply with seeing something like 9 percent of the world’s population dying on the battlefields (Hobsbawm) in order to secure capitulation from the gentleman players in Germany, the British ruling class also followed a policy of blockade against Germany, even after the end of the war. The effects of this course of action were devastating, and utterly indiscriminate. Not only, thus, were supplies disruptive by the usual wastage of resources due to war, but exacerbated, across the whole of central Europe by Britain’s blockade. In Germany. some 800 people perished every day from starvation: in the first months of 1919 30% of babies born in Berlin died, and the figure was 85% in Dusseldorf, due to a shortage of milk.

The Blockade—the cordon sanitaire— was also turned into a device for trying to crush the Bolshevik regime in Russia, and as a result, exacerbated no doubt by Russia’s own civil war, some 50 million people across the North of Russia faced starvation in 1919. Across all of central Europe, some 200 million faced death by famine.

All of which was the result of conscious policy. The British Minister responsible for the blockade wrote “I regard the blockade as the easiest and cheapest method of applying pressure to Germany.” The force, eventually for abandoning the policy of starving Germany into submission, was the threat of loss of control. President Wilson sent the Allied Blockade Council an illuminating telegram “Food relief is now the key to the whole European situation and to the solution of peace. Bolshevism steadily advancing westward, poisoning Germany. It cannot be stopped by force but it can be stopped by food.” The New Statesman at the time perceptively observed that food relief “cost something not far short of continuing the war”, which, of course, was precisely what it was for.

Likewise, during all that time of peace and victory, troops continued to pour into battle for the benefit of their country’s capitalists. The Great Powers of the world banded together to plunder fallen Russia, in the midst of its chaos. British, French and American troops landed at Archangel – ostensibly to secure Allied munitions from falling into German hands; Japanese and American troops landed at Vladivostok: and – since no war would be complete without it – British troops seized the Caucasian Oil fields at Baku. The defeat of the official Gentleman players merely meant that the winning powers were free to use their strength against the workers in the losing states in order to seize the assets and booty on offer there.

Those assets included human beings. Since their capacity for war was in no way related to an inherent antagonism to their foes, when Germany was defeated the allies demanded that German troops in Russia be handed over to their use against the Bolshevik foe. There are no permanent enemies, only permanent interests, and the name given to the game depends soleIy upon the interests of the day (all these incidents are described in 1919 Red Mirage by David Mitchell).

Second world slaughter
Apologists of capitalism would claim, however, that World War I was a monstrous carnival of imperialism, madness run rampant. They would point to the Second War, and declaim loudly that it was a just war, where the actions of the Allies were intended to stop just such atrocities. Indeed, James Bacque in his book Crimes and Mercies sets out such a case, despite the fact that his book deals with precisely with the horrors meted out by the Allied occupiers of Germany. Asserting that the allied crimes were simply vengeance and hawkishness run rampant, he lauds the eventual triumph of dovism. The stories he relates, though, point to a bleak continuance of the exact same policies as after the first war.

On the Eve of the allied victory, the leaders of the victorious countries accepted a plan drawn up by American Secretary of the Treasury Henry C. Morgenthau, to de-industrialise Germany, and forever end the threat it posed, leaving it at a not-quite agricultural level of economy.

The usual historical accounts of the war tell of the atrocity that was the blockade and starvation of the Netherlands; and many accounts tell of the perfidy of the Russians in blockading Berlin, and the heroic allied airlift to save that city. What these accounts miss out is that Britain, France and America subjected their sectors of occupied Germany to just such a treatment themselves. In 1944 the average Dutch ration was 1,397 calories per day, and 1,554 in 1945. In the British zones of occupied Germany the official ration was 1550, and for six months in 1946 it fell down to as low 1,000 calories. In the French sector, conditions including a daily diet of 450 daily calories were recorded. All this, while the occupying armies and the staff lived in comfort.

On the 8 May 1945 General Eisenhower issued a proclamation forbidding civilians to feed German POWs under pain of death, and all the while, thousands of prisoners languished in Allied camps, unable to return to rebuild their communities, and dying due to maltreatment. The occupying powers again took POWs to rebuild their own economies, as virtual slave labour—in the name of reparations. Further, the occupiers removed industrial capital to use for their own economies, leaving Germany in a state that it only reached 25 percent of pre-war production.

The cumulative effect of the ongoing economic attacks on Germany, after the formal ending of the war, was that by 1950 it is estimated that some 5 million Germans died as a direct or indirect result of the conditions imposed on Germany. Where foreign policy demanded it, food could be found – Britain managed to send food to Greece where – as in Italy – the war continued as a counter-insurgency struggle against the locals. The siege was only lifted, again, when chaos and collapse threatened allied control over Europe.

To accept the official distinction between war and peace, the official distinction between “friend” and “foe”, is to buy into an ideology meant to disguise the reality of continuous warfare. Not a decade passed last century without British troops being in the battlefield. Regardless of the stated intentions, of the apparent excuse for beginning a war, the only reason ever is the pursuit of the interest of the capitalist class, which they will enforce without rule or reserve upon the working class. Hoping that war can be carried out in a gentlemanly way, that it can be carried out without inflicting suffering on the working class is pie in the sky. The destruction of resources, of wealth, that is inherent to war is diametrically opposed to the interests of the working class.
Pik Smeet