Open Letter to the War Resisters’ International

The 13th Triennial Conference of the War Resisters International, to be held in Rome from 7th to 13th this month, has on its Agenda the discussion of non-violence and politics, with a view to bridging the gap between advocates of non-violence who seek “a fractional society and a world without war” and ‘Individuals and groups engaged in political activities who are finding traditional politics based on physical coercion no more effective for solving present-day problems or even for maintaining order”. The statement setting out the attitude of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is printed below. Copies have been sent to the Conference, at their invitation. 


The only way in which mankind can bring about a social change and build a fraternal society, free of war, is to establish Socialism. This will not come about as an expression of non-violence but as the conscious act of a Socialist working-class. The attitude of pacifism can be, and has been, adopted by people of all manner of opinions—for example, by members of the British Labour Party, by Christians and so on—all of whom support the capitalist social system which produces violence and which therefore makes pacifism an empty dream.


Giving effect to the proposal to bridge the gap between politics and pacifism can only mean the formation of yet another political party which supports capitalism while it aims to deal with one of capitalism’s manifestations, war. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always regarded such organisations as a waste of time, and the history of reformism supports our case to the hilt. Any organisation which accepts the continuance of Capitalism, the cause of war in the modem world, is standing in the way of Socialist Parties like the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which seek to end Capitalism and with it war.


Modern war arises from the conflicting economic interests of the various national capitalist groups, including Russia and China, and the other countries falsely claimed to be Socialist.


It is a basic condition of Capitalism that there is a class struggle between the owning, exploiting class and the wage and salary earners by whose labour wealth is produced, and that that wealth takes the form of commodities, produced for sale and profit. This condition produces the competitive nature of Capitalist society which, within a country, in addition to the class struggle, sets one firm against another and which, in the world at large, sets one government against another over the capture of markets for exports, over access to raw materials such as oil and rubber, over the control of trade routes such as the Suez Canal and over the occupation of strategic points such as Cyprus and Singapore.


In another aspect, these disputes take the form of intricate manoeuvres in the political, diplomatic and military fields over the control of spheres of influence. For a long time the ruling class of the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. have disputed over the control of Europe and the Middle East. To some extent, their differences over the Far East have been composed because of the rise of the potential threat from China.


The important fact is that these disputes are inseparable from Capitalism and that they go on all the time. That is why governments maintain armed forces, both to protect the privileged position of the propertied class internally and against other capitalist groups internationally. That is why the long history of international organisations and conferences for disarmament and peace is a history of failure.


This is the basic explanation of the world wars of Capitalism, of the minor wars which have been going on all the time and of the periodic world wars, and of the continual state of tension in which Capitalism lives. The inevitable result of all this is that violence is part of our lives as long as we live under Capitalism.


In these conditions it is futile to make a moral stand against violence in itself. Many pacifists have proved their sincerity and courage, but this does not alter the fact that their views are out of touch with reality. The only way in which war and social violence can be removed from our lives is to remove Capitalism—including State Capitalism in Russia, China, etc.—and replace it with Socialism. This is not, as pacifists argue, a question of propagating ideas of non-violence. It requires that a socialist working-class democratically gain control of the machinery of government for the purpose of abolishing Capitalism and establishing Socialism.


Socialism will be a social system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.


Wealth will be produced solely for use and not for the profit of a minority. This will remove the basic cause of war and will therefore remove the apparatus of war—the armed forces and their weapons—and the atmosphere of violence which oppresses humanity today.


To establish Socialism the working-class of the world must first understand and want it. They must, in other words, free themselves from ideas which at present keep Capitalism in being—including ideas like pacifism—and consciously choose the new society in which men can truly live in brotherhood and build a world for human beings.