Source: Militant International Review 29 (Summer, 1985)
Transcription: Nick 2008
Markup: Niklas 2008
For Marxists, war and revolution are fundamental questions. The basic positions on these issues were brilliantly worked out by the great Marxist thinkers of the past: Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.
Over a period of 40 years, these ideas have been added to and developed by the genuine tendency of modern Marxism represented by Militant and Militant International Review.
It is necessary to continually restate the fundamental conceptions of Marxism at each stage, in order not to be completely pushed off course by events.
Nowhere is this more true than in the great question of differences which arise between the nations. Clausewitz, the great German military historian, explained that war is the most serious question because, ultimately, all the great problems are resolved in this way. Not only war between nations, but also the war between the classes, is what decides issues.
From their own point of view, the strategists of capital understand the nature of war, as do the Marxists. By contrast the so-called “theoreticians” of the Communist Party as well as the Labour right and left have forgotten all the most elementary teachings of Marx.
The ideological decay of all the leaderships of the workers’ movements internationally — whether “Communist” or socialist — is clear from their position on war and peace.
The clear, precise formulations of Marx and Lenin have been pushed aside in favour of all kinds of middle class and pacifist ideas.
This is particularly clear in the case of the “Communist” Party, which imagines that “pressure” can prevent the rise of world war, and talks about the “unity of all Progressive Forces” to persuade the ruling class to politely renounce nuclear armaments!
These sorry reformist know-nothings now regard the teachings of Marx and Lenin as “old fashioned”. They have long ago abandoned the class point of view whether in domestic or international politics. And, as old Clausewitz explained, “War is the continuation of policy [i.e. politics—EG] by other means.”
For the benefit of these ladies and gentlemen, it is necessary to repeat the ABCs of Marxism which explained long ago the economic basis of society and politics. As Lenin concisely put it: “Politics is concentrated economics.”
On the basis of existing property relations, there arises the national and international superstructure, upon which politics are based.
The politics of the ruling class in the West, and the ruling bureaucracies of the Stalinist states, are determined by the need to defend their material power, incomes, prestige and privileges and, in the case of the capitalists, what is decisive, their profits. This is what determines their actions both at home and abroad.
Incidentally, the serious strategists of the bourgeoisie always tend to arrive at similar conclusions to the Marxists. In reality, many of them are influenced by the ideas of Marxism without acknowledging the fact.
They understand perfectly well the material basis of world politics. Their attitude is a million times more serious than all the petit-bourgeois froth of the pacifists and reformists.
The central contradiction of our epoch on a world scale is the contradiction between mighty Stalinist Russia, on the one hand, and the giant of American imperialism, on the other. This fundamental antagonism existed before the Second World War, but has now been magnified a thousandfold.
In 1939, the German and British imperialists could allow themselves the luxury of going to war because they imagined that this basic antagonism—between world capitalism and the deformed workers’ state in Russia—would be removed either during or after the war.
In view of the fact that this year marks the fortieth anniversary of the end of World War Two, it is perhaps fitting that we should deal with what that war really represented.
The Second World War was the biggest single miscalculation in the history of world capitalism. The British, German and American imperialists all paid a heavy price for their mistake. Because the crimes of Stalin and the bureaucracy had gravely weakened the Soviet army and economy, Hitler imagined that he would have an easy victory in Russia.
For their part, the war plans of the alleged “democratic” bourgeoisie of Britain were based on the idea that Germany and Russia would fight themselves to a standstill, and then, when they were both exhausted, Britain could “mop them both up.”
But the calculations of all the imperialist powers came undone. The Second World War in Europe really resolved itself into a titanic struggle between Stalinist Russia, based on a nationalised planned economy, and Nazi Germany, with the resources of most of Europe behind it.
Despite the crimes of Stalinism, the Russian workers and peasants defeated the Nazis at Stalingrad, Kursk, Leningrad and Moscow and carried out the greatest military advance in the whole of human history.
This was a catastrophe for European and American capitalism. By 1945, they had lost half of Europe. The German capitalists lost most, with their country cut in two. The dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was meant as a warning to Russia as Japan was already defeated. However it did not achieve its intended aim of preventing the Red Army from marching into Manchuria, and defeating the Japanese army in ten days.
The victory of Russian Stalinism in the war and the subsequent victory of Mao in China created a new world balance of forces which has set its stamp decisively on the modern epoch.
The peculiar development of the war itself could not have been foreseen even by the greatest genius. All the imperialists had miscalculated—not to speak of Stalin and the Moscow bureaucracy whose false and criminal polices were, together with the imperialists, also responsible for the war.
Before his assassination at the hands of a Stalinist agent, Leon Trotsky had predicted that the war would end either in the world socialist revolution, or the military defeat of the U.S.S.R. (Although in his last work, Stalin, left unfinished at his death, Trotsky had already put forward the idea that the Stalinist regime could survive for a whole historical period.)
In fact, the Stalinist regime emerged from the war strengthened by its military victory over Hitler. The establishment in occupied Eastern Europe of regimes of Proletarian Bonapartism one-party totalitarian bureaucratic police states in the image of Moscow did not weaken the bureaucracy but strengthened it, as did the Chinese revolution of 1945-1949.
The social base in Eastern Europe and China was transformed. Capitalism and landlordism were eliminated. This was an enormous step forward despite the step backwards taken by the establishment of military-police regimes rather than proletarian or socialist democracy. At the same time we had the mighty movement of the masses in the colonial and semi-colonial countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America, which compelled the former colonial powers gradually to relinquish direct military rule, in favour of more indirect domination through the mechanism of the world market, the terms of trade, interest rates and “aid”.
All this established an entirely new situation on a world scale, which could not have been foreseen in advance. Under the pressure of the expansion of Stalinism, the colonial revolution and the threat of revolution in Western Europe and Japan, U.S. imperialism was compelled to underwrite the losses of capitalism in the advanced capitalist countries, while simultaneously trying to prop up the rotten and degenerated capitalist regimes of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The reasons for the post-war world economic boom have been explained in other articles and documents [see Will There be a Slump?, 1960]. The prior condition for this was the derailment of the revolution in Europe after the war by the false policies of the Social Democratic and Stalinist leaderships.
The division of the entire world between the two giant superpowers the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union compelled the other, smaller, powers to gather together on pain of extinction. For strategic, political and economic reasons, U.S. imperialism launched the Marshall plan which assisted economic recovery in Western Europe and Japan.
The devastation caused by the war itself opened up new markets and avenues for investment. On the other hand, the crushing dominance of U.S. imperialism as the dominant world power, meant that the all-powerful dollar, directly linked to gold, could play the role of a world currency (to a lesser extent with the pound), and a medium of trade.
The U.S.A. was compelled to keep the world economy moving on pain of extinction. The main motor force for the unprecedented economic upswing which took place from 1950 to the mid-1970s was an unparalleled intensification of the world division of labour, world trade and world economy, to a far greater degree than in the past.
This was the main reason for the boom, although there were other contributory factors. The general application of Keynesian policies of deficit financing and increased state expenditure, especially arms expenditure, served to fuel the boom, but only at an enormous cost of stoking up the fires of inflation. Vast quantities of fictitious capital were produced in this period, including the million million Euro-dollars which are floating around Western Europe today.
This brilliant fire-works display which lit up the decline of capitalism generated tremendous illusions in the possibilities of a new era of peace and plenty. The bourgeoisie talked of a “Pax Americana” and “the American Century”. Compared to the conditions of the 1920s and 30s, all the advanced capitalist countries were passing through a period of full employment and relative plenty for the masses.
Naturally, the reformist and Stalinist “ideologists” fell for all this. They did not understand that the bourgeoisie had partially and temporarily overcome the fundamental contradiction (i.e. the contradiction between the development of the productive forces within the strait-jacket of private ownership and the national state) through this unparalleled development of world trade and the world division of labour.
In a brilliant confirmation of what Marx and Engels had written in 1847, the world became one single, interdependent economic unit, one single market, to which every national state is subordinate.
Even the Stalinist states were drawn into the world market, forced by the economic crisis of the bureaucratic regimes, to abandon the reactionary dream of “autarchy” and the madness of trying to build up “independent” economies in Russia, China, Czechoslovakia, Poland etc., under the banner of “socialism in one country”.
The development of atomic weapons is the final and crushing answer to the reactionary utopia of Stalin’s “theory” of “Socialism in One Country”. Everything built up in decades of labour and sacrifice can be destroyed in minutes. The fate of the workers of all countries is bound together by the ties of the world economy. It is also tied together by the worldwide class struggle. Only victory in the most important countries can guarantee a march forward to democratic workers’ power and then socialism.
Throughout the long period of boom after World War Two, the main contradiction between the capitalist and non-capitalist states has not been eliminated. But for reasons which we will explain below, it has not led to a new World War. Instead, it finds its expression in the insane arms race involving the most diabolical weapons on land, underground, on the sea-bed and now in outer space also.
Nevertheless, the changed balance of forces internationally has meant that the so-called “small wars” which have taken place every year since 1945 have not led to an all-out conflict between Russia and America. To some extent, the economic upswing temporarily mitigated the antagonisms.
In spite of the bureaucracy, the advantage of a nationalised planned economy was shown by the achievements of the Soviet Union since the war. The Soviet economy increased about 10% per annum as late as the 1950s. These tremendous achievements of the U.S.S.R. must be set against the terrible destruction of the war, when Russia suffered more than any other country, with more than 20 million dead.
Marx and Engels long ago explained that no social system ever ceases to exist before it has exhausted all the potential for the development of the productive forces inherent within it.
The secret of the relative stability of the bureaucratic regimes in Russia and Eastern Europe since the war, as Trotsky explained, was due partly to the fear of imperialist intervention on the part of the masses, but mainly because the bureaucracy was still capable of playing a relatively progressive role in developing the economy, although at a cost several times higher than under capitalism.
And here we have a new and striking contradiction. On the one hand, the antagonism between the Russian bureaucracy and U.S. imperialism has enormously intensified since 1939. On the other hand, the existence of totalitarian regimes of proletarian bonapartism makes it far easier to get temporary agreements than was possible during the lifetime of Lenin and Trotsky, on the basis of a healthy workers’ state, led by a revolutionary internationalist Bolshevik Party.
The reason for this is that not only the bourgeois, but also the bureaucratic Stalinist regimes are opposed to the Socialist revolution. This is especially true for the advanced capitalist countries, but also in the colonial world, where the danger would exist of these revolutions leading to the establishment of a healthy workers’ state. In fact, the bureaucracy is even more terrified than the bourgeois of the victory of the working class and the setting up of regimes of proletarian democracy which would directly challenge its power and privileges.
This explains the possibility, at least for temporary periods, of arriving at a “modus vivendi” in an attempt to safeguard the interests of the imperialists and the bureaucracy, on the basis of the status quo.
Despite all the threats, insults and fist-waving, the strategists of capital know that the Stalinist bureaucracies are merely a new variant of reformism. They represent no threat as far as their subjective intentions go. In fact, insofar as there can exist a social stability under capitalism, the Social Democratic and “Stalinist” leaders contribute to this. The so-called “Communist” Parties in Western Europe, the U.S.A. and Japan for decades have “done their bit” to help to shore up capitalism.
The new and repulsive degeneration known as “Euro-communism” is an historical punishment and a just reward for those bankrupt “theoreticians” of Stalinism who haughtily dismissed the idea put forward by Trotsky in 1928 that the acceptance of socialism in one country would mark the beginning of the national-reformist degeneration of all the Communist Parties in the world, whether in or out of power.
Only the stupidity of U.S. imperialism prevents the entry of the Italian C.P. into the government for the moment at least. The example of France shows how these ladies and gentlemen behave when “in office” like good “respectable” reformists, eager to do the dirty work of the capitalists until they are unceremoniously ejected with a kick in the pants!
The crisis of capitalism spells internal convulsions for all the “Communist” Parties, as we see in Britain, Spain, Greece, Finland, etc.
These people represent no threat to the ruling class in the West. The more astute bourgeois have understood this and are prepared, when faced with a movement of the workers, to arrive at a deal with the “Communists”. So why is it not possible to have a similar arrangements with the “reasonable” men in the Kremlin?
For their part, the Russian bureaucracy would be only too willing to reach an agreement. They have no interest in world revolution. All they want is to preserve their power, incomes, prestige and privilege and get on with the job of organising “their” countries.
The laws which govern a nationalised planned economy are not the same as those which operate under capitalism. The Stalinist bureaucracy does not need to expand, to conquer foreign territory and markets.
The Moscow bureaucracy has played a counter-revolutionary role for decades. Even in the colonial world, the revolutions that have taken place did so, not because of the bureaucracy, but in spite of it. In Iraq and Sudan, the C.P. held rallies of more than a million people. They could have taken power peacefully without civil war and bloodshed. Instead, they knowingly handed over power to allegedly “progressive” army officers who thanked them by carrying out a massacre of Communists, workers and peasants.
In Indonesia, exactly the same role was played by the C.P. which claimed 3 million members, of whom probably a million were murdered by the reactionary army officers. In this case, the responsibility lies at the door of the Chinese bureaucracy which controlled the Indonesian Party and encouraged it not to take power, although they had behind them 10 million organised workers and 40% of the army far more than Lenin dreamed of in 1917!
The Russian bureaucracy originally opposed the Chinese revolution of 1945-1949. Stalin recommended to Mao that he should enter a coalition government with Chiang Kai Shek! The fact that Mao disregarded this invitation to suicide was no thanks to Moscow.
In Cuba, the corrupt and utterly degenerate “Communist” Party supported the dictator Batista, and denounced Castro. Only after Castro took power after the general strike in Havana, and broke with U.S. imperialism, did the Kremlin finally give aid. If it had depended on the Stalinists, the Cuban revolution would never have taken place.
In the Philippines the Moscow orientated Communist Party, the P.K.P., has been legalised and tolerated by Marcos since 1974. Today it is desperately trying to split the opposition Communist Party, the C.P.P., and its guerrilla forces, formerly Maoist but now independent. The so-called hard-line Morning Star has given its approval to these counter-revolutionary reformist “Communists” who have tacitly tolerated the Marcos regime, like their brother party tolerated Batista. So the Morning Star gives support to “Communists” who are worse than the Euro-Communists but then Moscow supports the P.K.P. and therefore they must be supported! The Morning Star, ironically in its 1985 May Day issue, published a completely uncritical interview with the leader of the pro-Moscow Philippine “Communist” Party where he openly explained these counter-revolutionary plans. The rotten Communist Parties in Asia, Africa and Latin America have nowhere carried out the socialist revolution except, as explained, in a caricatured and distorted form in China and Indo-China. Not accidentally, the Times recommended the C.P. to be taken into the new government in Sudan. They did a good job last time round, with Numeiri!
Despite the reactionary raving of Reagan, Moscow was not responsible for the Nicaraguan revolution. On the contrary, the Russian and Cuban bureaucracies have put pressure on the Sandinistas not to carry through the revolution to the end, to do a deal with the (in reality, non-existent) “progressive” Nicaraguan bourgeoisie and come to a compromise with U.S. imperialism.
The bureaucracy is striving for a deal with Washington. The last thing it wants is trouble in Central America which might “embarrass” Reagan and upset the chance of an “understanding”.
However, the dreams of Gorbachev overlook the fundamental question: the basic contradiction between a regime based on nationalisation of the economy and a plan, and decaying capitalism.
The bureaucracy strives time and time again to reach an agreement with U.S. imperialism, based upon “peaceful co-existence” between different social systems. They cynically distort Lenin’s teachings on the subject of war to justify their twists and turns. In vain! The very existence of deformed workers’ states undermines capitalism irrespective of the subjective intentions of the bureaucracy.
It is true that the monstrous regimes of totalitarian one-party states no longer exercise a power of attraction over the masses in the advanced capitalist countries of Japan, Western Europe and the United States.
However, in the ex-colonial and semi-colonial world the question is posed entirely differently. Under conditions of mass starvation, with the impasse of capitalism, the masses would still look towards Russia and China for a way out.
Therefore, the existence of mighty nationalised, planned economies, in spite of the bureaucracy, constitutes a pole of attraction for the masses in the underdeveloped countries and a powerful stimulant for the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements of the masses.
It is this, and not the alleged “Russian threat” which most worries the strategists of capital. Russia’s economic system does not require expansion. Although the Red Army could easily win a conventional (i.e. non-nuclear) war in Europe, Moscow has, in reality, no intention of attacking.
Apart from anything else, they could not hold down the workers of France, Italy, Germany, Britain etc. They have their hands full, as it is, trying to keep down the Poles! In reality, a military occupation of Western Europe would be the end of the bureaucracy. The present day Red Army, mainly composed of young workers in uniform, is not the same as the Red Army in 1945. They would rapidly be infected by the germs of revolution.
Every serious military analyst now agrees that, in a conventional war in Europe, nothing could stop the Warsaw Pact forces. Within a week or so they would be in complete control of Europe. Germany would probably not last 24 or, at most 48 hours.
The German army with Prussian military discipline set out to conquer the world twice this century. Now this is ruled out by the changed relationship of forces. The forces of the N.A.T.O. pact would be brushed aside by the immeasurably superior forces of the Warsaw Pact.
The changed situation is clearly recognised by the ruling class of West Germany who are reduced to the status of a virtual satellite of the United States. That the capitalist rulers understand this clearly is shown by the position of the former mighty German army. Its Prussian military discipline has been so diluted that most of the army is on leave at weekends! This would give apoplexy to the former Prussian officer caste! Incidentally it is also a crushing confirmation of how seriously they take their own propaganda about the much vaunted “threat” of a Russian or Warsaw Pact invasion!
The conclusion is clear. A major war between the two great super-powers would necessarily be a nuclear war. It would mean the destruction of humanity and probably the termination of all life on the planet.
The threat of nuclear war has caught the imagination of many, particularly of the youth. In recent years we have seen big movements in many countries against nuclear armaments, against N.A.T.O. and against the scandalous waste of resources represented by the staggering sums spent on arms manufacture.
Marxists have every sympathy with the burning indignation of the youth against these abominations which threaten the very existence of life itself. The desire to fight against militarism, imperialist alliances like N.A.T.O., and the monstrous bleeding of society by the “military-industrial complex” contains a fundamentally progressive aspect, which must be supported.
However, it is the duty of Marxists to explain the processes taking place within society, not just to weep and rail against the arms race and “war in general”. As Lenin tirelessly explained, nothing is so futile as empty and sentimental pacifist rhetoric.
War is not a question of morality. It is a class question. It is precisely “the continuation of politics by other means”, as Clausewitz said and Lenin often repeated. The complete degeneration of the reformists and particularly the latest variety of “Euro-Communist” reformism is shown in their attitude towards war.
They have completely capitulated to vulgar, middle-class pacifism of the most empty and superficial kind. They seriously imagine that it is possible to avoid war by “putting pressure” on the bourgeois, by means of “public opinion” and “uniting all progressive forces”, appeals to the church, the United Nations, etc.
The first question a Marxist would ask about war, as anything else, is: What class is behind it? Whose interests are involved? Does it benefit or prejudice the interests of the working class?
In the time of Marx and Engels, it was still possible to speak of progressive wars in Europe, for example the wars of Italian unification and German unification. In the present epoch, the wars of colonial liberation too, have a progressive character and must be supported.
The war of Nicaragua against the “Contras” is in reality, a class war against imperialism and capitalism, which is being distorted by the Sandinista leadership in order to conceal the real nature of the class struggle.
Marxists do not have a position on war “in general”, but support the progressive struggles of the oppressed masses to liberate themselves from national and class slavery.
Mass pressure and “public opinion” can sometimes have a certain effect, obliging the ruling class to modify its position on secondary questions. But it can never force the bourgeoisie to change course on important questions which affect its fundamental interests. And that includes fundamental questions of military policy, i.e. the ability of the ruling class to defend its power and influence, if necessary by force. The futility of these petit-bourgeois illusions is shown by the role of the (dis)United Nations. In reality the U.N. is a forum in which the smaller powers—like Nicaragua—can vent their spleen against the bigger imperialist powers.
The limitations of this talking-shop, however, is shown by the position of the Security Council, where each of the major powers has a veto. The decisions are taken by the mighty economic and military powers. Anything which affects the fundamental interests of the super-powers is, therefore, automatically vetoed.
The U.N. has been a farce from the very beginning. As a “peacekeeping force” its record has been really brilliant: four or five wars every year since 1945! In other words, it is as impotent as the League of Nations was before the war.
This is hardly surprising since it represents a “forum” for fundamentally opposed forces. It is like the reformist idea of “getting the workers and bosses together over a table”. Nothing fundamental is resolved, and the real struggle is decided elsewhere and by other means.
If there has been no war—in the sense of world war between Russia and America—that has been due neither to the U.N. nor the pacifist anti-war movements in the West, but because of the class balance of forces nationally and internationally.
The pacifists and their reformist and Stalinist co-thinkers have no real understanding of the mechanics of war in the modern epoch. The capitalists do not make war to amuse themselves, for patriotism or for moral considerations. They make war to obtain material benefits: markets, territory, spheres of influence, raw materials and profit.
In 1939, they could permit themselves the luxury of going to war, for reasons explained above. But now they are in an entirely new ball game. To take on Russia in Europe would be to invite a crushing defeat in a conventional war. What, then, is the likelihood of a nuclear war?
In the recent period, scientists have uncovered the full extent of the catastrophe that a nuclear war would represent. If only a small percentage of the nuclear arsenal of one of the super powers were exploded, it would cause a “nuclear winter”. Large amounts of debris would be thrown up into the atmosphere, blotting out the sunlight. For many months the Northern hemisphere would live in perpetual darkness, with Siberian temperatures. All plant and animal life not already destroyed by heat, blast and radiation would perish. The same effect would spread to the Southern hemisphere, transforming the earth into a dead planet.
Under these conditions a major war between the super powers of Russia and U.S. imperialism, either nuclear or conventional, is ruled out. Neither side would have the slightest interest in such a war.
However, the central antagonism between the U.S.S.R. and U.S. imperialism does not exhaust the question of international relations. There are also contradictions between the imperialist powers. Thus, we have the growing tensions between the U.S.A., Japan and Western Europe, which surfaced in the recent world economic summit.
In fact, in the past, the degree of antagonism which now exists between Japan, the E.E.C. and the U.S.A. would undoubtedly have led to war between them. However, this is also ruled out under modern conditions.
Germany, the strongest member of the European “rich man’s club”, suffered a crippling blow in 1945, when the country was cut in two. With the powerful forces of the Warsaw Pact parked on its doorstep, German capitalism knows it is in no position to indulge in military adventures in Europe, or anywhere else.
The case of Japan is even more striking. In the past, the Japanese militarists always expanded via Korea and Manchuria in the direction of North China and the mineral wealth of Siberia. Geographically speaking Japan itself is a continuation of the Manchurian Peninsula. But now the idea of Japan invading Korea, or taking on the military might of Chinese or Russian Stalinism is just laughable.
Both the Japanese and German capitalists have drawn the inevitable conclusion. Part of the reason for the outstanding successes of the Japanese economic “miracle” is the fact that they have been spending only a minuscule amount on arms, less than one per cent of G.N.P., at least up to the recent period, and have ploughed back the money thus saved into productive investment, machinery and technology.
Vast amounts of money are being squandered every year on arms expenditure, which under modern conditions is mainly the production of expensive scrap metal. The great majority of this, especially of the gigantic arsenals of the super-powers, will never be used. The madness of the arms race is shown by Reagan’s Star Wars, which will cost the staggering sum of 26 billion dollars, just for research! To deploy these weapons, in turn, would cost a million million dollars.
The main reason for this is the pressure of the voracious arms monopolies which have a powerful lobby in Washington. This was strikingly revealed in the recent scandal involving corruption in General Dynamics, the third largest U.S. defence contractor, which was fined $676,283 for giving gifts to an admiral to secure orders with the Pentagon. The latter has paid $9,600 for an ordinary spanner and $640 for a lavatory seat!
The Times recently pointed out that:
“The jobs of one out of every 10 Americans depend directly or indirectly on defence spending. The Pentagon is the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the nation. Defence industries account for 10 per cent of all U.S. manufacturing. In some states, notably California, defence-related employment is the largest single source of personal income. Defence employs 25 percent of the nation’s scientists and engineers. There are twice as many defence workers as there are farmers.
“The influence of this vast military-industrial complex has been greatly expanded by Reagan’s unprecedented $2.3 trillion defence build-up. The Pentagon is now spending an average of $28 million every hour—24 hours a day, seven days a week.” (The Times, 23rd May, 1985).
One of the features of the recent boom in the U.S. has been an increase in public spending, mainly on arms expenditure, while the money for the old, the sick and the unemployed has been ruthlessly cut back.
This is a peculiar variant of Goering’s celebrated phrase: “Guns instead of butter!” Before the war, Hitler’s rearmament programme did help the German economy to get out of recession. But by 1939 the effects of rearmament had been exhausted. The arms had to be used!
Now, however, the arms accumulated cannot be used, except in bloody forays in the colonial world. And arms expenditure is inherently inflationary. It is the production of fictitious capital. At a certain stage, from being a stimulus to the economy, it will turn into the opposite. Probably next year, the boom will enter into a new recession, aggravated by the stored-up inflation of the previous period.
Similarly the Stalinist bureaucracies are compelled to spend vast amounts on arms expenditure. The Russian workers’ state under Lenin and Trotsky spent a relatively small amount on defence, because the main basis of their foreign policy was the Communist International and the extension of the world revolution.
Today the Russian bureaucracy is unwilling and unable to base itself on the support of the international working class. Yet the only real defence of the U.S.S.R. consists, in the last analysis, in the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of world socialism.
The lavish expenditure of the bureaucracy on costly toys for the military, big parades, rockets etc. is intended to frighten the Russian workers with the spectre of a new world war and the horrors of imperialist intervention. On the other hand, it is meant to pander to the military wing of the bureaucracy, ever jealous of their prestige and perks.
Not long ago, a large-scale “nuclear air-raid alert” was staged in Moscow. Western military analysts commented on the worthlessness of this exercise from a purely practical point of view. However, the real intention was to intensify the fear of war among the mass of Soviet workers, and divert their attention from the unbearable rule of the bureaucracy.
As far as world relations are concerned, we are confronted with a dialectical contradiction. The central contradiction of our epoch on a world scale is the antagonism between Russian Stalinism and U.S. imperialism. But while they stand implacably opposed to each other, at the same time, they need each other and lean upon each other.
In reality, the existence of hideously deformed, bureaucratic totalitarian states in the East is just as useful to the Western capitalists as the imperialist war threat and all the horrors of capitalism—mass unemployment, poverty, racism—are for the bureaucracy.
The welding together of the world economy provides the material base for the unfolding world revolution. For the first time, the spectre of revolution is haunting the three major areas of the world simultaneously: the advanced capitalist countries, the underdeveloped countries of the “Third World”, and the Stalinist states.
The period we are now entering will be the most explosive in human history.
On the basis of capitalism and the nation state there is no way out for the working class of the West, or for the workers and peasants of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Similarly, the impasse of the economies of Russia and Eastern Europe indicate that the regime of bureaucratic planning has now reached its limits.
In the last ten years [the rate of growth of] Russian production has been lower than that of the United States! This is the first decade since the Five Year Plans have been adopted that this has happened. But Marxism teaches that socialism will be victorious over capitalism because it furnishes a higher productivity of labour and higher output. What this means is that the Stalinist bureaucracy is choking up the economy and that bureaucratic inefficiency, corruption, dictatorship and nepotism is preventing the advantages of state ownership and a plan from being realised. The economy is seizing up. From being relatively progressive, bureaucratic rule has become absolutely reactionary.
But capitalism and imperialism are in an even worse plight. New economic and political convulsions are inevitable. The last 10 years will seem like a prosperous golden era compared to the grim reality of the next 10 years. This will be a decade of storm and stress.
The only solution for humanity is the socialist revolution in the West and the political revolution in the deformed workers’ states. That is the only way to avoid the horrors of unemployment and war in the future.
The question of war in the modern epoch, as in the past, is a function of the class struggle. The reason why there has been no world war in the past period, despite the existence of conflicts which in the past would have inevitably led to a general conflagration, is not that the imperialists and capitalists have suddenly become converted to pacifism.
It is due to cold calculation and material interest. The overwhelming superiority of the Soviet Union in conventional weapons, as we have explained, means that any war between Russia and America would necessarily be a nuclear war. But this would be to “kill the goose that lays the golden egg”. It would also be the end of the capitalists themselves. Therefore, in the immediate or short term, there is no question of a world war or a nuclear war.
So long as the bourgeoisie remains in control of the state, such an event is ruled out. However, this state of affairs will not last forever.
If the working class fails to overthrow capitalism and imperialism within the next ten or twenty years, then the ruling class will begin to seek a way out on the basis of the establishment of monstrous Bonapartist military-police states. Such a regime in the United States would have an extremely unstable character. But for this very reason, an American Pinochet would look to the possibility of “solving” the problem by means of a nuclear “first strike” against the Soviet Union.
Thus, the question of the survival of the human race is bound up with the struggle for socialism internationally. Under modern conditions, war is not a national question. Nuclear weapons know no frontiers. Radiation, fall-out and the nuclear winter are no respecters of neutrality.
The narrow, reactionary nationalism of the Stalinist bureaucracy, which imagines it can “defend” the Soviet Union by reaching an agreement with imperialism, in reality represents the greatest threat to the Soviet Union and the future of mankind.
Likewise, the petit-bourgeois illusions in pacifism and “neutralism” will be impotent to prevent war, despite the positive side of mobilising large numbers of youth, women and workers against the threat of nuclear annihilation. Only if these movements are linked to the struggle for the socialist transformation of society can they really play a role in solving the problems of war.
Lenin pointed out that, unless the working class took power, there would be a second, a third and a tenth world war until civilisation would be destroyed. Despite the fact that there has been no world war since 1945, this idea remains correct today. Except that a nuclear war would mean the destruction not only of civilisation but of all life on the planet.
The coming period will be a period of wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions. It will be a prolonged and protracted period of the death agony of capitalism.
In this period, while a world war between Russia and America is ruled out, there will be many “small” wars in the colonial world. The war of Iran and Iraq, which already is similar to World War One in terms of casualties, shows that; under modern conditions, conventional war can be almost as horrific as nuclear war. All kinds of devilish weapons are now available: not only fragmentation bombs and exploding bullets, but napalm, poison gas, chemical and bacteriological warfare.
In Vietnam, more bombs were dropped than in the whole course of World War Two. The Americans bombed Cambodia back into the stone-age which was an important reason for the murderous frenzy of the Khmer Rouge peasant troops when they entered the cities. Similar abominations are inevitable unless the working class takes power in the ex-colonial countries and the advanced capitalist countries.
Because of the enormous intensification of the world division of labour, the revolutionary process has a more international character than in the whole of history. One success of the revolution in any major country will have an electrifying effect upon all the other countries.
For decades, despite the underlying antagonism, the Russian Bureaucracy and U.S. imperialism have leaned on each other. Both sides look with dread upon the possibility of the working class coming to power in any country. The victory of the workers in Spain, Greece, France, Britain or the U.S.A. would completely undermine the basis of the Bureaucracy.
On the other hand, the victory of the political revolution and the establishment of a genuine workers’ democracy in the U.S.S.R. would spell the end of capitalism and imperialism internationally.
The unparalleled development of industry, science and technique, particularly in the course of the last few decades, means that for the first time the material conditions for socialism now exist on a world scale.
At the end of the 1970s, in every four years, £1 million millions was wasted on arms expenditure throughout the world. Now that figure is £1 million million in less than two years. This sum of money alone could transform the lives of every man, woman and child on the planet if it were used for productive purposes.
On the basis of the planned and harmonious application of the new technique—industrial robots, computers, micro-electronics, satellite—the resources of the whole planet could be utilised to the full to provide a better life for all. Contrary to the pessimistic assertions of the bourgeois, there are ample resources potentially to guarantee a full and happy life for every human being on the planet.
The only thing which stands in the way of the attainment of these things is the outmoded ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange by a privileged handful, and the narrow limitations of the national state which has now become transformed into an absolute fetter on the development of the productive forces.
A World Socialist Federation would usher in a new and qualitatively higher phase of human civilization. Mankind would stand a head taller in a world freed from the horrors of war, unemployment, illiteracy and disease.