Sidelights on Korea
All governments are in favour of peace; we know that because they have all told us so! We also know, in spite of this passionate assertion, that they have all been engaged in “little wars” since the end of the second World War. This also includes the bearer of the olive branch, the Indian Government, which forgot to clean its own doorstep before making its frightened appeal to others to clean theirs. This is the comic side of the tragedy. None of them want war but they all prepare for it and wage “little wars.” What they really want is the fruit of war without having to spend treasure fighting for it. But they all want the fruit so determinedly that rather than lose it, they are prepared to turn the world into a cemetery again. Human life and human misery weigh nothing in the balance against markets, trade routes and raw materials—the means to realise the surplus labour extracted from the working class, out of which the capitalist class of the world wax rich and live in riotous luxury.
The war in Korea has some similarities with the “little wars” that preceded the 1939 catastrophe. Here again new methods of warfare are being tried out by the most powerful groups just as they were in Spain and China. We read of the coming into action of new and more powerful weapons on both sides; weapons not devised by either North or South Koreans. These weapons include new quick-firing rifles that fire a number of bullets instantaneously; powerful tanks with better fire-resisting armour; more formidable tank attack weapons; more powerful plane fired rockets; and so forth. At the same time we read about the greater concentration upon the development of guided missiles of various kinds this side of the iron curtain; the silence from the other side is more foreboding than actual information would be. In short, whilst we have been taught to recoil with horror from the tooth and claw of animal life in the jungle, that is a paradise compared with the human jungle prepared by enlightened human ingenuity from which we have lately emerged and into which we seem doomed to be driven again, unless the workers of the world awake to what lies behind it all—the hungry hunt for riches by a relatively small section of the world’s population.
Another similarity with pre 1939 times is the impotence of the world assembly that was alleged to be the means of banishing war. Then it was the League of Nations which pursued its way, impotent to do anything about the numerous wars that occurred between 1918 and 1939, and finally disappeared on the outbreak of war in 1939. But our “practical” capitalists, who accuse socialists of being idealists, were not discouraged. They learnt nothing from the collapse of the League of Nations. No sooner was the last war ended than they organised a new, more costly and equally useless emblem of their fatuous idealism—the United Nations Organisation. Since then the world has been involved in bitterness, conflict, and wars in which the United Nations has not had the slightest influence beyond providing halls for the shouting and the intrigue and occasional banquets and travel tours for the disputants. Like the old unlamented League of Nations the United Nations has been no more than the plaything of the more powerful governments, providing a facade behind which each jockeyed for the plunder on behalf of their particular section of the world capitalist class.
When we point out that Socialism will require the understanding and co-operation of people all over the earth we are met with the challenge “What about the backward nations?” To those who are disturbed by what appears to them to be an insurmountable obstacle the war in Korea should provide a salutary lesson. When the war first broke out it was generally believed that a few thousand trained American soldiers would have little trouble in sweeping the native North Korean army out of existence. With a shock it was soon realised that this expectation was based on an illusion. Not only were the North Koreans armed with the latest and most powerful means of destruction but these people, until recently, looked upon as backward peasants, were able to handle the complicated rifles, guns and tanks as well as carry out military manoeuvres with an expertness equal to the personnel of the so-called advanced countries. They have provided evidence that, given the opportunity, mental and physical capacities are so similar all over the earth that the apparent backwardness is not real and can be overcome in a very short time. At the rate of progress we have been witnessing in recent years the “backward people! ” bogey will soon vanish.
There is another lesson that the Korean war is providing. How often are we met with statement from our opponents “You can’t change human nature!” Without going into the misconception behind the question let us remember the propaganda of years which painted the Germans and Japanese with unalterable racial characteristics which doomed them to act as wild beasts of almost unbelievable brutality. Short as may be the memory of workers they can hardly have forgotten the stories of the natural criminal proclivities of these two groups of people. Well, if we are to accept the human nature argument, they must have changed in a remarkably short space of time. Germany is being appealed to and urged to form an army to fight alongside the Western countries as allies. The Japanese have also acquired good conduct medals and efforts are being made to bring them in on similar terms. The awkward part of it is that the Germans, who were alleged to be a fundamentally war-like race, have shewn no enthusiasm for the project; they want to go about their business in peace.
The war in Korea has given an impetus to the armament drives because behind it is the struggle between rival powers which is driving towards another world war. But Korea is not the only spot where these rivalries are culminating in “small wars.” Malaya is another part of the East where fighting is involved. If the main interest of the Powers in Korea is strategic other things also interest them in Malaya.
On the 16th August the Foreign Editor of the Evening News, Mr. Harold Walton, wrote an article headed “Malaya at War is our Best Dollar-Eamer.” Malaya is the biggest producer of tin and rubber in the world. The following two extracts from the article are significant:
“And so the tale goes on, the grim battle against the Communist terrorists in the eternal half-light of the Malayan jungle, and the sky-rocketing of the prices of those two vital raw materials for which Malaya is most famous—tin and rubber. . . . One thing is certain: that so rich a treasure-house as Malaya will always be a target of Soviet Russian expansionist aims, and that the terrorist war she has set on foot there (with the single object of driving the British out) will be intensified as the months go by.
. . . .
The British troops and the planters and tin managers, the Malay police and the innocent and loyal villagers (many of whom have paid with their lives) should have the support and gratitude of the whole Western world.”
There is a specimen of the sordid aims that lie behind the high-flown appeals to workers to risk their lives in warfare. Both the older and the newer brigands hunger for the treasures of Malaya.
As we have so often pointed out all modern wars are capitalist, rooted in the conditions of capitalism. Peace campaigns are pointless so long as the world is based upon capitalist conditions. Big wars and little wars will continue to devastate the world until the mass of its population realise that Capitalism must disappear and Socialism take its place; only then will there be peace upon earth.