Patriotism in its simplest, clearest, and most indubitable meaning is nothing but an instrument for the attainment of the government’s ambitious and mercenary, aims, and a renunciation of human dignity, common sense and conscience by! the governed, and a slavish submission to those who hold-power. That is what is really preached wherever patriotism is championed. Patriotism is slavery.” – Tolstoy
The horrors of war and the burdens of the preparations for war have reached new heights. The world is drifting towards more war and all over the world people’s efforts and energy have been directed towards reducing the threats of war. We see today the love of peace and the danger of war growing side by side. Nevertheless, advocating peace does not necessarily further the cause of peace. Being anti-war cannot be based on mere pacifism.
Pacifism, meaning practitioners of non-violence (Quakers, Gandhian or Tolstoyan) are opposed to war so when we speak of “pacifists”, we mean those who are anti-war and believe that the struggle against war, those who take a position – against wars in general – and think that organisations for peace can campaign and can stop a war.
The World Socialist Movement (WSM), however, view it as a complete fallacy that the pacifist position is a method of preventing war. Harsh as this conclusion may seem to pacifists since many are personally sincere in their convictions. The preaching of peace does not necessarily further the cause of peace and socialists expose the illusions of pacifism while pointing to the revolution as the only way solution for society to end wars. Pacifism spreads mistaken ideas about the nature of war and of the fight against war (advocating disarmament, conscientious objection, treaties, UN resolutions, etc., as solutions), and thus prevents a real struggle against war, which can be based only on a true understanding of the nature and causes of war. Pacifism diverts the working class from its struggle for socialism, the only genuine way to fight a war. In this way, it redirects the revolutionary struggle against war into “safe” channels – that is, channels safe for capitalism.
The World Socialist Movement, therefore, does not accept total pacifism. The WSM’s members are not pacifists and do not rule out the need for violence under all circumstances. In certain circumstances, the greater harm can come from rejecting violence.
The nature and causes of modern war show that war is an essential part of capitalism. The inner conflicts of capitalism lead and must lead to war. Nationalism and religion mean it is easier than ever to obscure and cloak the fundamental real causes. Religion and nationalism are the best cloaks for the intrigues and machinations of presidents and preachers.
War is a symptom and result, of the irreconcilable contradictions of the present form of society, that is to say, of capitalism. The only way to oppose war is to fight against the causes of war. Since the causes of war are integral to capitalism, it follows that the only way to fight, against war is to fight against capitalism, itself. The only true fight against capitalism is the revolutionary struggle for socialism. It, therefore, follows that the only possible struggle against war is the struggle for the socialist revolution. The WSM is absolutely clear that there is no “separate” or “special” struggle against war. The campaign against war cannot be divorced from the day-to-day struggles of the workers so far as, in their historical implications, these lead toward a socialist society. No one can uphold capitalism – whether directly, as an open adherent of the capitalists, or indirectly, from any shade of pacifist position and fight against war, because capitalism means war. Only a revolutionist can fight against war because only a revolutionist takes the road to the overthrow of capitalism. Any organisation based upon not challenging capitalism is not merely powerless to prevent war so in practice it promotes war, because it serves to uphold the system that breeds war, and because it diverts the attention away from the real fight against war.
The World Socialist Movement seeks to prevent all varieties of pacifism based on a mere “anti-war” platform. Pacifism is not merely powerless against the war since it is not based on genuine social organisation nor a clear analysis of the causes of war. In practice, it actually aids war by spreading illusions about the nature of war and the fight against it, by shifting the energies of honest opponents of the war to a fictitious fight against it, by sugar-coating the realities of capitalist society and thus making them – including war – more palatable, by subordinating the working class to middle-class individuals and ideas, by preparing the betrayal of working people in the next war, when outstanding pacifist leaders will decide in the crisis that, this war is different and is for “democracy”, “culture”, or a “humanitarian” cause and call for support of the government. No, the pacifist way is not the way to fight wars. There is only one case against war: the socialist case for revolution.
Fundamentally wars are caused by the efforts of all of the capitalist powers to expand into another’s sphere of influence and the only way they can acquire control is by taking power away from some other rival because the whole world has been divided up among blocs of competing nations. That is what leads to war, regardless of the will of the people. We do not maintain that the ruling class really seeks and desires war. What we say is that they would gladly avoid it but they can not both avoid it and maintain their advantage within the capitalist system for their interests at the same time. In contrast to the slogans and rhetoric of many anti-war activists, a political movement such as ours, aiming at a social transformation of society, which is possible only by the consent and support of the majority, while still in a minority, cannot defy the decisions of the majority, by sabotage and inciting mutiny to stop a war. Such a party would absolutely discredit itself and destroy its possibilities of convincing people of its greater aspirations, besides being utterly ineffective so far as accomplishing anything. If we are not strong enough to overthrow the capitalist class which is driving us on to war, the very outbreak of war testifies that we are far less able to do anything against it when the people are united in a war-frenzy of patriotism.
Today, one organisation exists that still understands that workers have no quarrel with workers of other lands and continues to wage war against war itself – The World Socialist Movement.
We do not place trust in any ruling class. We do not give them any support because we do not think they can or will solve the fundamental social problems which must be solved in order to save civilisation from conflicts. We believe that the necessary social transition from the present system of capitalism to the far more efficient order of socialism can only be brought by the workers. The workers must organise themselves independently of the capitalist political parties. They must organise a great working-class party of their own, develop an independent socialist party of their own, and oppose the policy of all the capitalist parties.
Until the hold of nationalist and racist poison on the minds of the world’s workers is destroyed, it will not be possible to live the full and satisfying life of socialism. Stand up for yourself as a human being and fight for the only worthwhile end — the achievement of free humanity. Corpses cannot work for the socialist revolution. The continuous struggle for socialism is the World Socialist Movement’s peace policy. When peace is assured it shall be a peace based upon universal freedom and fraternity, when every man, woman and child is well-housed; well-clothed; well-fed; well cared for when sick; and no longer wage-slaves all of their lives.