The violence which is an integral element of world capitalism has erupted yet again. In the Indian subcontinent the inevitable armed conflict between the two enemies has not been prevented by the United Nations, the international peace-keeping body.
Once again we see how capitalism cannot develop an effective means of preventing violence, whether on a local or international level. Only Utopians could expect the League of Nations, the United Nations, the Warsaw Pact or the Commonwealth to work wonders. Violence is a necessary part of capitalism.
To get down to cases: Just now we described the Indo-Pakistan armed conflict as “inevitable”. There are several reasons for this — some complex, some simple, some ancient and others more immediate.
Most people point to the partitioning of India at the time of Independence — nearly 25 years ago — as a significant point in history. The demand of the Muslims for their own state resulted in India losing five Muslim-majority areas to Pakistan. These areas were: North-West Frontier Province, Sind, Baluchistan and half of the Punjab in the west, and in the east the Eastern half of Bengal. The new state of Pakistan was thus a split personality: its capital, its business and military centres were developed in the West wing while the East wing, more populous and economically more promising, was treated as a colony.
During the sixties, under Ayub Khan’s corrupt dictatorship, Bengali demands for autonomy grew more emphatic, backed by civil and industrial unrest. Ayub’s successor, Yahya Khan, tried to placate these forces but finally, last March, resorted to military methods.
We may ask: why was he so determined to retain East Pakistan at such appalling cost? The reason is the usual sordid one of capitalist economics. East Pakistan had a profitable export trade, mainly in jute and tea, and the West wing needed foreign currency badly, both for maintenance of the Army and for development of new industries; and besides East Pakistan provided a captive market for West Pakistan’s growing industry.
That is what Pakistan stands to lose by this war. Against this loss, Yahya Khan would be fairly happy if he could grab Kashmir. This beautiful and fairly prosperous state, bordering West Pakistan, is a Muslim- majority area but was ceded to India by its Hindu ruler and has ever since been a bone of contention.
As for India, Mrs. Gandhi has her own reasons for war: if one counts the refugees, she has more than ten million reasons. Since Partition, India is naturally in a competitive position as against Pakistan. To take only two examples: their textile exports compete for foreign markets and so do their jute exports. At the time of Partition, West Bengal had more than 100 jute mills, which were separated at a stroke from the better jute producing areas of East Bengal. The mills had to be run down, as the small West Bengal crop of low-grade jute could not keep them going profitably.
For this reason — and others not connected with Partition — West Bengal is now in serious economic trouble. There is an extremely high rate of unemployment, and political and industrial unrest have led to indiscriminate murders and terrorism, with gangs of goondas roaming the city slums and terrorising the villages (If all this does not fit your stereotype of peaceable, poetic Bengali people, just remember that two Bengali words we all know are “thug” and “cosh”, and that in 1947 the bloodbath of Partition was worst in the Punjab and Bengal.)
Mrs. Gandhi has every reason to swim with the tide of Bengali nationalism and, posing as an altruistic benefactor, rescue Bangla Desh from the tyranny of the Pak Army. In doing so she will divert attention from her domestic difficulties and outflank the left wing parties. The majority party of West Bengal supports Moscow, so it will have to endorse her action. She may also have her eye on East Bengal’s potential as a cheap food-growing area, as a captive market for Indian manufactures and as a help in restoring West Bengali jute mills.
Finally we see a cynical line-up of angels backing this war — a war which is bringing starvation, disease and destitution to tens of millions of helpless men, women and children; which destroys the crops, the homes and the land they depend on; which has already pauperised 10 million refugees and is daily killing scores of others.
This war is hacked by so-called Communists in the Kremlin, supporting the same Mrs. Gandhi who refuses to allow their comrade Jyoti Basu to hold office in West Bengal. In backing India, the Russians are opposing, not only “imperialist” America, not only the corrupt, religion-based authoritarian regime of Pakistan, but also their own comrades in Peking. What an Unholy Alliance is this new Holy Trinity: Pakistan, America — and Peking! And what a piece of blatant humbug is Russia’s support for India and the “right of self-determination” for Bangla Desh!
None of these principalities and powers, these international Al Capones, has any concern for ordinary people. Famine, cholera, typhus and acres of refugee camps are a price they are only too happy to see others pay, as they fight it out, by proxy, in the plains of Bengal and the Punjab or the mountains of Kashmir.
This war, like other capitalist adventures, is one from which the working class can hope for no gain and which they should denounce from all angles. War, after all, is only the method by which the capitalist class redistributes its loot. When wealth is socially owned, this will be seen as the strangest and most self-destructive exercise possible.