1960s >> 1965 >> no-726-february-1965

The peace-mongers

War is a wearisome subject; most people seem to try to shut it out of their minds. They feel a sense of helplessness in the face of such a vast problem. With all the major powers of the world on a permanent war footing, most people fall back to the attitude—”What can we do about it?”

The vast military machines, the massive nuclear and “conventional” bases, the fleets with their unimaginable powers of destruction, all completely dwarf the individual; he feels at the mercy of powers beyond his control. Although every now and again a trigger-spot flares up in some part of the world and armed forces are more or less constantly in action, few people seem to ask why. Most of them simply accept the fictions dished out by the propaganda machine of whatever country claims their misguided loyalty.

The possibility of a major war is too frightening for them to face, so they think ‘‘let’s forget it till it happens,” while they hope that the smaller, local wars don’t get out of hand. The fact that capitalism has created this monstrous threat has not registered on any scale. The working-class think they are unable to move, because they are not aware of any alternative.

The so-called peace movements have all failed to understand the nature of the forces against which they pit themselves. They are stuck in the rut of nationalism, just as are those to whom they appeal. None of them can see any further than capitalism, even though some of them sometimes use phrases that might give a different impression. In this country, for example, the Ex-service Movement for Peace brags of its patriotism and its members attend meetings displaying their medal-ribbons.

It is this “British and proud of it” attitude that plays straight into the hands of the capitalist class, who like to hear nothing better than their property-less wage-slaves declaring loyalty to their masters’ country. While nationalist feelings prevail, it will be relatively easy for the propaganda machine to persuade workers that “if the country is good enough to live in, it is good enough to fight for.” Nationalism is a big help to the ruling class in getting support for armaments and ultimately for war.

In this all-important respect, the peace mongers are their own damnation. As long as workers think in terms of “the country,” it is logical for them to be prepared to defend it. Thus all the horror weapons become “necessary” in the name of “defence,” because if “they have got them we have to have them.” It is in this atmosphere that CND talk about Britain setting an example by abandoning her nuclear weapons. In the jungle world of capitalism the British—or any other—ruling class are not so naive as to fall for that one.

No ruling class is willingly going to “set any example” which would mean saying—“these are our oil-fields, markets and vested interests, but you, our rivals, can move in at will because we have no military might to support our claims.” It only has to be put like that to show how futile the peace movements are.

The present owners of the oil-fields, the land, investments etc., only came by them through robbery, plunder and force of arms. They realise that what they took by force can only be held by force; no national capitalist class is going to contract out of the rat-race in order to make way for their rivals. And if one ruling group did contract out, their loot would soon be snatched by whoever got in first and was militarily strong enough to hold it. Nothing basic would be changed. There would be one rival less and those remaining would be a little fatter.

To those people who innocently go around seeking to “ban the bomb” or to remove some other immediate outrage, it seems quite irrelevant to talk about private property in the means of production. They see the end product of it all, the Bomb, but the social relationships and the historically developed conditions from which the Bomb arose entirely escape their attention. Yet it is futile to attempt to deal with the end product while ignoring the process of its production.

The apathy and despair of millions of workers follows on the blind and emotional activities of organisations like CND, which have masses of terrifying data on the Bomb, but know of no way of dealing with it.

In any case, there are still plenty of people being killed by those old fashioned, “conventional,” weapons the rifle, the hand-grenade, or the bayonet. They are just as dead as if they were killed by any other means, and as far as they were concerned there was nothing at stake to justify their deaths.

The capitalist classes of the major power blocs maintain their military machines for the purpose of protecting or expanding their spheres of profitable influence, nationally and internationally. This minority of people own the factories, the land and all those assets which go to make up the country. At the same time that the majority of people—the working-class—own nothing to fight about. Workers in all parts of the world have a common interest to get rid of the social system which condemns them to exploitation. They cannot do this in ignorance; they must realise what capitalism means and how to change it.

Chasing after bombs or some other pressing effect of capitalism, only helps to retain the system that has produced these things. When a political challenge is made by INDEC, the overwhelming majority of their own supporters still vote for Capitalism under the Labourites or the Tories. Despite the mass following of CND, their political effort can only be described as feeble. These are the people who were going places, who could not wait for the day when there would be a majority of Socialists. It was the old familiar cry of “something now,” which results in nothing never. Disillusionment and disintegration is all that awaits such movements.
Harry Baldwin