The Western Socialist
Vol. 31 - No. 242
No. 6, 1964
America, we are told (by the propagandists of America), wants peace and the way to guarantee peace is through the maintenance of a strong standing army.
Needless to say, this is the "logic" of all nations since it is understandable that no nation actually desires war. It is all quite like the situation that exists within the typical Western films of Hollywood. In these stories there are men who want peace. There is, for example, the man who swaggers into the saloon, saunters up to a card table, and, with a resounding thump slaps his revolver onto the table before commencing the minor economic struggle of poker. And there is peace.
Yes, there certainly is peace in the saloon, (for a time) or at least, there is a period of no violence while the players vie with one another: And the story unfolding on the silver screen, even though fiction, is remarkably similar to the state of peace, today, among the nations. Here is a man (an armed force) who has created a nonviolent situation but who has created it by throwing into any possible opposition a fear of instant violence. Can this be called peace? Or should it not, rather, be looked on as a temporary armistice a truce until some opponent feels able to draw faster or even to be pushed into drawing against serious odds by our first gunman pressing an advantage.
In much the same vein we have nations, contending one with another in a struggle vastly wider than a poker game but, nevertheless, an economic struggle, training their youth in the "art" of fighting and the use of mass-destruction weapons, even capable in these times of destroying all life on earth. Like the gambler in the saloon they arm themselves in order that they can carry on an economic competition among themselves in as nonviolent an atmosphere as is possible. And in the midst of their threats to flatten one another's cities and annihilate millions of each other's population they carry on their peaceful trade.
Unfortunately, even so nebulous a state of peace is not possible on a universal scale and actual warfare seems always to exist someplace if merely on the lesser scale of the Southeast Asia conflict. But for the rest there is a "Balance of Terror" which can last, as with the gambler in the saloon, until one side or the other of the "Cold War" adversaries feels strong enough to press the issue beyond the brink and they are forced to begin "shooting it out."
How then, is such a condition, this "peace of mutual terror" to end? By negotiations for disarmament? Aside from the enormous role the production of armaments plays in maintaining employment at the unsatisfactory level of these times, it would seem that the logical way to a genuine peace would be in removing the need to resort to war. And so it should be clear that one must examine the roots of the problem — the factors that cause nations to take up arms.
Modern war is the clash between nations (or groups of nations) over the protection of existing economic markets and the sources of raw materials. Just as the gambler must strive to become "top dog" if he is to keep from getting wiped out in the poker game, so must each contending nation strive to outproduce the others in weapons if it is to remain a competitor in the production of profits, generally. A modern nation must be prepared to fight in order to meet its economic requirements — fight or go under in the fierce dog-eat-dog struggle of capitalism today. The world, however, is largely made up of two contending economic classes which division cuts through and goes beyond the arbitrary divisions based upon national boundaries. And another sort of war — now veiled, now open — goes on continuously between these classes, a war, over the division of production. The numerically tiny owning class in all countries owns and controls the weapons — along with just about everything else and so each national capitalist class has everything to gain in preventing its capitalist rivals from muscling in on its territories — territories which extend, usually, far beyond its own boundaries into vast areas of the world where markets and raw materials exist. The working class in each nation, on the other hand, owning nothing but its ability to produce and being forced to sell this ability to the capitalists or the capitalist state, has nothing tangible to gain from international warfare.
So the state of nonviolence — "peace," they call it — continues on a shaky basis throughout most of the world. But rather than the gun on the saloon table, the road to genuine peace lies through an awakening by the working class of the world to its class interests. When enough working people realize there is nothing but death, mutilation, and destruction for them and their familieg in fighting their masters' wars, they will take steps to organize a sane system of society — a system of society based upon production for use rather than for sale on a market. Only then will the gun on the table become unnecessary and cease to exist.