Revolution or War n°25

(September 2023)

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The Drive to World War (CWO-ICT)

We reproduce below an article from the Aurora bulletin of the Communist Workers Organization, the group of the Internationalist Communist Tendency (ICT) in Great Britain. It could well have served as an editorial for this issue of our own journal. We follow it with a brief account of the dockers’ strike on Canada’s West Coast. It illustrates how the bourgeoisie – government, unions and repressive apparatus – is even less reluctant than before the war in Ukraine to ban and repress any workers’ struggle that is even remotely significant. All state apparatuses are in battle order to impose on the proletariat and, more broadly, on the populations, the march to generalized imperialist war. In particular, the ideological weapon is essential to justify the choice of one side against the other. The American bourgeoisie understands this. So much so that the Pentagon and NATO are now championing feminism and LGBTQ rights, as illustrated in our article on the subject. In addition to provoking working-class reactions, the exacerbation of social antagonisms as a result of the crisis and the war is precipitating revolts of all kinds, such as the one that set fire to French cities for five days last June following the murder of a young man by the police.

Finally, we reproduce a contribution by Battaglia comunista, the organ of the ICT in Italy, on new technologies such as ChatGPT. It recalls the Marxist and class position in the face of new technologies, automation, which change nothing in the capitalist relationship and mode of production, in particular the need for it to exploit living labor power to continue the accumulation of capital and the production of surplus value. New technologies linked to automation, which are driving labor productivity through the roof, further exacerbate the contradiction and growing imbalance between living labor – proletarians – and dead labor – machines and robots. The result is an even more accelerated worsening of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Far from fading, capital’s contradictions are deepening. They can only push it further into the historical impasse that leads to... generalized war.

The Drive to World War (CWO-ICT)

June marked the beginning of the spring counteroffensive in Ukraine. The preliminary results are in: at most a few dozen square kilometres of strategically insignificant territory have been exchanged for perhaps tens of thousands of human lives. With each passing day, the entire operation resembles the senseless slaughter of the First World War ever more closely.

Even so, our politicians and media attempt to ’reassure’ us that victory is within grasp – that is, so long as ’we’ continue to supply the Ukrainian army with the latest and greatest ’lethal aid’. To that end, Ukraine’s western allies have been continually pushing the envelope, delivering ever more advanced and destructive weapons to the battlefield. July saw the deployment of controversial US-made cluster munitions, and there is every indication that a consignment of F-16 fighter jets will arrive in August.

Plainly, the main results of these ’humanitarian’ interventions will be a prolongation of the war, the maximisation of human suffering, and inflamed tensions between NATO and Russia. For its part, Russia has been more than happy to play into this spiral of escalation, with both Putin and Medvedev repeatedly and brazenly threatening the use of nuclear weapons in the event of direct NATO intervention. Meanwhile, the Wagner Group, exiled to Belarus after its bizarre mutiny in June, has set the Polish government on high alert. An additional 10,000 soldiers of the Polish army – on track to becoming the largest in the EU – have been rushed to the Belarusian border.

Militarisation of the Sahel and the South China Sea

Whilst the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to dominate the headlines, it’s far from the only sign of the drive to generalised war. The end of July saw a successful coup in Niger. This follows similar military power grabs in Chad, Mali, and Burkina Faso, all of which took place in the last two years. The latest coup immediately provoked the threat of invasion from the pro-Western Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In response, the Burkinabe and Malian juntas pledged to aid in the defence of Niger. At the time of writing, the promised invasion has not yet materialised, but the situation is extremely precarious.

Almost the entirety of the Sahel is now under the control of military juntas, which seem to be aligning into an anti-ECOWAS bloc with the encouragement of the Russian government. Russia, which has already established a military foothold in the region through the Wagner Group, gave a significant boost to its African charm offensive at the recent Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg, promising six of the continent’s poorest countries 50,000 tonnes of free grain and debt forgiveness to the tune of 23 billion USD. It seems unlikely that the West will allow further regional realignment without a fight – after all, France and the US have soldiers stationed in Niger, and Niger’s uranium mines supply 20% of the uranium for French nuclear power stations.

Meanwhile, there is no sign of de-escalation in the South China Sea. The past five years have seen the US and Chinese governments adopting increasingly belligerent attitudes over the Taiwanese question, with both sides conducting massive drills and war games in anticipation of an invasion from the mainland. Unlike Ukraine, where NATO has been able to outsource the immediate responsibility for killing and dying to locals, a war over Taiwan would almost certainly involve the active participation of US military personnel in combat roles from day one; as a result, escalation into a worldwide conflict could be rapid.

Against the False Promise of Pacifism

At first glance, the drive to generalised war can seem inexplicable. Humanity only stands to lose from it, and yet we seem to be inching towards it every day. However, it is not the result of pure madness, or pig-headed politicians and generals making the wrong choices. There is an inescapable force, rooted in the search for greater profits which drives the international capitalist system into crises that cannot be resolved through peaceful means. So long as we live in this system, in which antagonistic states clash to defend the particular interests of their own national capitals, we will continue to see bloody conflicts paid for by people with no skin in the game; namely, the global working class.

History has shown again and again that effective opposition to imperialist wars cannot take the form of simple pacifism. Following the working class in Russia who had taken power into their own hands in 1917, the revolutionary uprising of the working class in Germany finally brought an end to the First World War. It was the threat of revolution and civil war that caused the powers of Europe to finally halt the slaughter to save their own necks. But ultimately, capitalism survived the day. Barely one generation later, the working class was once again massacred by the tens of millions in the cataclysm of the Second World War.

The working class must learn the lessons of history. We need to get politically organised for our own agenda which, far from fighting each other, is no less than taking power into our own hands and ending the next World War before it can begin!

Aurora #64, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.