Editorial – No capitalism without war

The year 2024 opens with at least two major ongoing wars in which the most up-to-date weapons of mass (and individual) destruction are being employed, resulting in the deliberate destruction of infrastructure on which societies depend, and in social regression rather than the progress that defenders of capitalism claim it provides.

The competitive struggle for profits is built into capitalism, but that this should require the manufacture of the most sophisticated weapons of war and destruction is in itself a condemnation of the system.

Capitalist competition involves not just economic entities but also states as armed bodies serving the interests of the businesses operating from within their frontiers. The states’ external role is to secure and protect sources of raw materials, trade routes, markets and investment outlets for these firms.

When disputes arise, as inevitably they do, states seek to settle them by diplomacy. The aim of diplomacy is not to find a ‘fair’ or ‘just’ solution but to bargain, with the outcome reflecting the relative bargaining position of the sides. ‘Might is right’, and is the reason why states seek to equip themselves with the most destructive and up-to-date weapons that they can afford.

Even if no war were ever to break out, the nature of capitalism would still require productive resources to be devoted to the manufacture and maintenance of armed forces. This anti-human waste of resources is built into capitalism and cannot be avoided as long as capitalism lasts.

But wars do break out.

The object of diplomacy is to avoid war as each side assesses where the real balance of power is. But diplomacy doesn’t always work. When this fails the balance of power between two states is tested by actual war. States don’t resort to this lightly as war is risky and expensive. This is why the state that starts it has to feel that it has no alternative but to make a stand. The rulers of the Russian state evidently thought that the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO represented such a threat.

Israel has been armed by the United States as its proxy in the Middle East where the issue has always been oil. It’s to increase its ‘might’ in the area to counterbalance Iran. But Israel is using these weapons to crush a comparatively weak armed insurgency in defence of its own ambition to rule over an area from the sea to the river.

In both Ukraine and Gaza we are seeing the horrors that result from the use of the most modern weapons of killing and destruction whose development and existence capitalism requires. Their existence is supposed to act as a deterrent to rivals and as bargaining chips in diplomacy, as they are most of the time. But not always. From time to time they are deployed to kill and destroy, adding to the charge-sheet against capitalism.

If you want peace, prepare for socialism.

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