1970s >> 1971 >> no-797-january-1971

What causes war

Nowadays every government, every political organisation proclaims itself for peace, against war. We hear no more that war is glorious, beautiful, sweet, that it purifies the spirit. It is no longer possible wholly to hide the terrible, suffering-causing nature of war. So the master classes have changed their propaganda tactics: we learn that our rulers strive ceaselessly for peace, but the aggressive rulers of some other country threaten us. In certain circumstances war is a necessary evil—we are struggling for freedom, human dignity—in fact, we make war for peace:

  We are advocates of the abolition of war, we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun. (Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Peking 1967.)

The ruling classes of every country and their governments are themselves the people who make peace, human dignity, real democracy and real socialism and so on, impossible. Do you believe such are the motives of any “side” in any war? But if not, what does cause war ?

Maybe governments misunderstand each other’s desires? But they possess information services, often secret, much more reliable and detailed than those at the disposal of the general public. Often it is convenient for them to pretend ignorance or lack of understanding.

The aim of war is the protection and advancement of the economic interests of the capitalist classes of every country, each in competition against the others—for example, to protect or gain markets, sources of raw materials, trade routes. Mainly war is a struggle between imperialisms, for example, the Second World War between Germany-ltaly-Japan and America-Russia-Britain-China. Now we have a three-cornered conflict: China against Russia and both against America. All three fought on the same side in the Second World War!

Those who control these powers must aim to protect and extend their own spheres of influence. Each power either is or would like to be an imperialist power, but the ambitions and interests of one state often must conflict with those of another. Political discord occurs, and when one government judges that “national interests,” that is, capitalist interests, are intolerably threatened, war explodes.

Of course, the struggle is often not directly between great powers, but between their puppet states, e.g. Vietnam, Germany at present, Korea. Often the inhabitants of a puppet state imagine that they are fighting for “national independence,” e.g. Hungary 1956. Vietnam now, when in fact they are fighting for a rival empire. In the world of today small states cannot be independent. And independence, that is, exploitation by fellow nationals alone, is not something worth fighting for to the working class.

So our position is: We are against every war, and both sides of every war. Wars are struggles between capitalist interests; no army fights for the interests of any working class. Only in a truly socialist world-wide society will war disappear, because while the capitalist world social order lasts, the roots of war remain. So the only way to lasting peace is through a new world order—without money, armaments, classes, nations.

S. S.