On this day in 1956 the armed forces of Britain and France, following behind those of Israel, were sent to Egypt in order to restore control of the Suex Canal. This contemporary account explains the nature of the conflict and shows why the need for Socialism remains urgent today.
The monster of war has raised its ugly head again, and once more the workers have been called upon to take up arms and risk their lives in their masters' quarrels. Still erecting monuments to dead heroes of past wars the governments mock them by engaging in the preliminaries of what may be another shambles on behalf of capitalist self-interest.
The usual flimsy pretexts were broadcast to cover this most brutal and bloody of all the consequences of the present exploiting system. The victims of the past are forgotten in the fervour of conquest for gain.
The hypocritical blustering of the warmongers is matched by the feeble and contradictory protests of the alleged anti-war and peace committees, the reformists, and other deluded groups, all thrown into confusion when faced with this calamitous product of the workings of international Capital.
The Invasion ol Egypt
At the end of October the British and French Governments, on the hollow pretext of stopping the war resulting from the Israeli invasion of Egypt, launched a massive air attack on the latter country as a prelude to landing trøops along the Suez Canal. The real objects of this aggression were transparently clear, It was designed to regain control of the Canal from the Egyptian Government, protect resources of oil and the holdings and profits of the oil companies in the Arab countries as well as to safeguard the French Colonies in North Africa. It was a naked clash of capitalist interests; the Egyptian capitalists, backed by Russian arms, trying to establish their dominance in the Middle East and the British and French imperialists trying to hold on to what they had filched in earlier wars.
The rival slogans of "national sovreignty," "international rights," "restoring peace," etc., only thinly disguised the sordid motives of the different ruling class groups and, failing to get the backing of other governments in the United Nations, the British Tory and the French Labour Premier contemptuously defied the body to whose principles they pay lip-service.
Guilt of the Labourites
This act of aggressron was repudiated as an outrage by the British Labour Party, their spokesmen uttering hysterical denunciations of "power politics"; making tearful pleas for the soldiers thrown into battle against their will; and pleading for the peaceful settlement of international confticts. Their speeches reeked of hypocrisy! It was the Labour Government that imposed conscription for the Tories to make use of, and they who prepared the way by Iaunching the £1,500 million a year rearmament programme, the biggest peacetime massing of weapon of destruction ever known in British history. The Labour Opposition who say that British soldiers should not be used in this war have supported every major war in the lifetime of their party, including the Korean War in which American Capitalism fought against Chinese and Russian state Capitaltsm for control of Korea, and where altogether over a million soldiers and civllians lost their lives.
The Communist Party vied with the Labour Party in condemning the invasion of Egypt while, at the same time, contorting themselves to condone and justify the bloody slaughter in Hungary where invading masses of Russian tanks shot down workers who were trying to improve their miserable conditions and get rid of the ruthless Russian domination. While Russia and the United States condemn Britain and France for invading Egypt, Britain and France condemn Russia for invading Hungary; could hypocrisy and cynicism go further?
Futility of United Nations Organization
The resolutions passed by the United Nations Organisation figure prominently in the battle of words about the invasion, and the Labour Party contrasts the Korean War, which they and the majority of the United Nations endorsed, with the present Anglo-French aggressron, which is condemned, The contrast is completely misconceived as indeed is the whole propaganda which claims that the United Nations is an organ which can prevent war and therefore deserves working-class support.
War is caused by the commercial rivalries that are necessarily engendered by world Capitalism. Each country builds up armed forces to maintain its position in the capitalist world, and no group which believes it has a vital interest at stake will be deterred from using its armed forces by United Nations resolutions. In 1950, when South Korea was invaded the American Government, believing its position in the Pacific to be jeopardised, at once moved its armed forces into action. The decision of U.N.O. to endorse military sanctions against the invaders was taken after the American Government had acted; had the vote gone the other way the U.S.A. would have fought the war just the same. Other exarnples are the Indian Government's military occupation of Kashmir in spite of a U.N. decision that a plebiscite should be held to determine whether that territory should go to India or to Pakistan. Egypt likewise defied the U.N. vote about allowing Israeli ships through the Suez Canal.
The United Nations (like the League of Nations a quarter of a century earlier) was set up because the politicians dared not face their war weary peoples without being able to offer them something that would deceive them into thinking that their sacrifices had not been in vain. The United Nations is a capitalist institution useless to the working class.
The farcical nature of U.N.O. extends also to the British United Nations Association. The Association condemns the British Government's action, but among the prominent men who are its Presidents and Vice-Presidents are Eden and other Tory leaders.
Capitalism the Cause of War
Capitalism is an exploiting system under which the workers - the mass of the population - produce the goods that are sold to provide the profit out of which the owners of the means of production and distribution accumulate their riches. Profit, the surplus left over after the expenses of production and distrtbution have been met, is the mainspring of the system. In order to obtain this profit goods have to be sold at home and abroad. This necessitates markets, trade routes and sources of supply. It is over these that Capitalists quarrel and finally plunge into war. So it is today. The main source of the present crisis concerns oil - the lucrative "black gold" so urgently sought after, protected and fought over on the diplomatic field as well as on the battlefield.
International Working-Class Unity
All this points to the necessity of international working-class action to abolish the cause of war. Unfortunately, the workers are still at loggerheads internationally and are a prey to all sorts of emotlonal upsurges that do not bring them any fundamental relief. They will only unite when they understand the causa of and remedy for war as well as for the other evils they suffer. Only when the workers do understand and unite against Capitalism in all the countries of the world for the purpose of achieving Socialism, the ownership in cornmon of all that is in and on earth, will war vanish from the human horizon.
True to the stand taken by our Party in the wars of 1914-18 and 1939- 45 we repeat from our 1914 War Manifesto words to guide working-class attitude to war arid inspire action to achieve Socialism:
"HAVING NO QUARREL WITH THE WORKING, CLASS OF ANY COUNTRY, WE EXTEND TO OUR FELLOW WORKERS OF, ALL LANDS THE EXPRESSION OF OUR GOOD WILL AND SOCIALIST FRATERNITY, AND PLEDGE OURSELVES TO WORK FOR THE OVERTHROW OF CAPITALISM AND THE TRIUMPH OF SOCIALISM."
Socialist Party of Great Britain
52, Clapham High Street,
London, S. W. 4.
November 6th, 1956.