One couldn’t have but noticed that in the build-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine peace talk was the harbinger of the war. The louder and more the politicians and statesmen talked, the nearer war approached. When governments are proclaiming their peaceful intentions one can be sure that a war is in the offing.
The prospect of war with its slaughter and suffering is, undoubtedly, vile and revolting. It is understandable that any human being should brand it as immoral and seek to oppose it. But an enemy is always portrayed as despicable and diabolical, while atrocity tales of barbarism are circulated and the enemy is proclaimed the enemy of all decency and of all civilisation in general. Russia’s leader, Putin, has been characterised as the violator of all that peace-loving people hold dear.
Widespread opposition to war will not, and cannot arise from sentimentalism and emotionalism. It must have its roots in an understanding of what causes war, the purposes for which wars are fought and a recognition of worldwide class interests, irrespective of nationality, language, colour, sex or any other sectional division. Workers must understand that they have a common interest with those whom they are sent to kill and that the real enemy is the social class that sends them to do the killing, then there is a prospect of an end to war. Until then, peace activists will no more stop future wars than it has staved them off in the past.
For years the Socialist Party has had to put up with the apathy or wrongly directed zeal of the great majority and has been trying to get the workers of all countries to realise that, without a fundamentally different and better basis for the social system, there never would be or could be any safeguard against war. But we who were engaged in the campaign of showing the only way of escape were not listened to. We had to put up with the people who were “not interested in politics,” or who thought they knew of short cuts or easier ways.
There have been active peace movements in all parts of the world, organising petitions and protests. Never in all their previous history have these activities been so amply demonstrated to be absolutely futile and impotent as at the present day to bring an end to the war in Ukraine. Their efforts are misdirected and quite useless. The capitalist juggernaut lurches onwards, unheeding to the inevitable clashes, pitting worker against worker in ineffectual and ghastly conflict. The peace activists call attention to the evils of war (of, which we all are already painfully aware) but stop short of unearthing the cause, i.e., capitalist competition between the nations for trade routes, markets and sources of raw materials. The solution follows logically, i.e. a worldwide movement by the workers for the establishment of a worldwide socialist society.
Wars between nations is occasioned by the struggle for markets and for the possession of regions rich in mineral wealth, while the present competitive system remains inevitable. It cannot be attributed to human weakness, and cannot, therefore, be removed by appeals, however eloquent, to the "better nature" of the peoples of the world.
Our attitude to war, the Socialist Party’s attitude, is one of uncompromising opposition because we contend that the workers have a common interest against the world capitalist class, and have nothing to gain by partaking in the quarrels of the latter, which are only possible with the continuance of exploitation.
The political leaders who served their masters by opposing any ceasefire to the war until the foe had been vanquished are right in one thing. Conflicts are not settled by equitable negotiation but only when one or the other is prepared to yield, or when the object of each has become unattainable. Those in the peace movement - unless seeking the overthrow of capitalism—are in the position of accepting the competitive social system which necessarily breeds bitter rivalries and of thinking at the same time that the rivalries can be settled by amicable discussion at the council table.
Modern war is fought to settle the squabbles of capitalism’s master class; it does not involve the interests of the ordinary people except that it brings them nothing but suffering. If the working class refuse to fight—as we say they should—it should be on these grounds—and this should apply to all war, not just to the Ukraine war. To the workers who understand their position in society, it is a matter of indifference which section of the international master class wins or loses, for it will be the workers of both sides who lose their lives or gain nothing if they survive.
The Socialist Party advocates the organisation of the working class for the capture of the political machinery in order that a new social order may be established in which the means of life will be owned in common by all and in which therefore there will be no need for the forcible protection of property and the slaughter of millions of producers in order to decide which bunch of parasites shall control the trade routes and markets of the world.