War casts a black cloud over all who witness it—civilians as well as combatants. Death and mutilation, ruined health, the destruction of homes and the frustration of hopes and plans; pain and anguish and the aftermath of sorrow being bequeathed to the following generations.
We see a cynical line-up of ‘humanitarian angels’ backing Ukraine in its war against Russia — a war which is bringing a food crisis to tens of millions of helpless men, women and children around the world. None of the great powers hold any concern for ordinary people. Refugees are a price they are only too happy to pay. This war is one from which the working class can hope for no gain and which they should denounce from all angles. War, after all, is only the method by which the capitalist class redistributes its loot. When wealth is socially owned, this will be seen as the strangest and most self-destructive exercise possible. It is in the nature of the capitalist system to perpetuate conflict between the classes and between the nations. Commercial rivalries set capitalist states and empires one against the other.
Since our formation our response to the problem of war has clearly distinguished us from other organisations claiming descent from Marx and Engels and the early socialist pioneers. We analyse events in class terms. We approach problems from what we see as being the real interests of the world working class. For the Socialist Party capitalism and war are inseparable. There can be no capitalism without conflicts of interest. Our duty as socialists is to oppose the wars of the ruling class of one nation with the ruling class of another, and refuse to participate in them. This has been our consistent view. We can conceive of no situation in which we would give our support to either side in any of capitalism’s armed struggles.
So long as the working class continue to support capitalism so long will its wars, and preparations for war, continue. We have argued that because wars are the outcome of economic and strategic conflicts between the capitalists of the various nations any attempt to abolish war while those economic conflicts remained will bound to be futile. International peace conferences passing pious resolutions are doomed to failure. An ‘anti-war campaign’, as such, is, from the working class standpoint, absurd. Just as the class struggle cannot be abolished save by abolishing classes, so it is impossible for capitalist nations to get rid of the grim spectre of war, for capitalism presupposes economic conflicts which must finally be fought out with the aid of the armed forces of the State. The only solution to war is to abolish capitalism and replace it with socialism.
It is true that men and women hate war and sincerely seek to prevent it. What need can there be for a distinctly socialist attitude towards war? The answer is simple. The sincere desire for peace shown by the capitalist parties is nullified by their over-riding will to maintain the capitalist system of society. The Socialist Party shares nothing in common with the parties that preach peace but continue to prepare for war. Our opponents differ among themselves only as to the number and kind of armaments necessary and the size of the budget to be devoted to acquiring them
We do not appeal for peace and love (though we are not opposed to that of course) rather we call on the workers of this and other countries to recognise their common class interest and to organise consciously and politically to gain the political power necessary to dispossess the owning class – to strip them of their power. The consequences of war have fully justified our attitude of opposition to it.
Our hostility is no mere theoretical quibble. It goes to the heart of our case against the problem of war. Unlike those on the Left who are choosy as to which wars they pick to object to, we in the Socialist Party are against all of capitalism’s wars. Nor do we single out any particular aspect of war – WMDs, or land mines, or poison gas, or the use of child soldiers – we oppose the system that give rise to these things. The Socialist Party has always opposed the supposed legitimacy of ‘just’ wars. We see that causing more conflict cannot lead to an end to the suffering in the world. War can only be stopped when it is rejected by those who alone must fight it. The ruling class and their media, political ideology, establishment history and all the other paraphernalia of the capitalist propaganda machine can never acknowledge this because to do so would invalidate the origins of their own power. As to the other myth they peddle concerning mankind’s inherent violence, we can only look within ourselves for the answer. If you sincerely believe in the efficacy of a humanitarian war to solve the world’s problems then you simply deny the evidence of history.
The workers have no country. What they do have is a common interest in making the world the common heritage of all who live in it. Under the cloak of patriotism and national defence, with the blessing of the media and the politicians, workers are thrown against each other in battle. They do not know that they are fighting to defend or to extend the interests of the class that lives by robbing them of the fruits of their labour.