Mary E. Marcy

The Cause of War

(July 1917)

The International Socialist Review, Vol. 18 No. 1, July 1917, pp. 28–29.
Transcribed by Matthew Siegfried.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

THE Profit System is the cause of all wars today. We are going to prove this to you so that you will recognize the facts even if you have never thought on the subject before in your life. You know that all the coal mines, the oil wells, the railroads, the land, the packing companies, the shops and factories are owned by a few private millionaires. This is true of Germany, France, England, Belgium, Austria and America.

When you and I were born into the working class we found that just about all of the natural resources of the “civilized” nations, and the railroads, the shops and mills had been gobbled up by people who had been born before us. As we grew up we found that, after our parents had ceased to support us, the only way we could get money to buy food and clothes and shelter was by selling our strength of hand or brain to one of these groups of capitalists who aimed the land and machinery with which food and clothes and houses were produced.

And there were hundreds of thousands of other propertyless men and women also looking for a master who would buy their strength and permit them to work in the shops and factories, making things for the shop and factory owners.

Because there were many men after each job, the bosses were able, and are still able, to buy our labor power for a wage that just about covered the cost of living. Now a wage means a part. For example, a miner digs $15.00 worth of coal in a day (for the boss) and the boss pays him $3.00 in wages, or a very small part of the value of his product. And the boss keeps the product. And so we have the profit or Wage System.

Now suppose there are 400,000 miners in the United States and all of them are paid $3.00 a day for producing $15.00 worth of coal; and suppose there are millions of factory and mill and shop and railroad workers all of whom are producing ten or fifteen or twenty dollars worth of wheat, or shoes, or houses, or service – for which they are only paid the small part, or wage, of $2.00 or $3.00 a day.

Now just imagine that all of the products of the whole working class of this country for one month – the food, the clothing, the houses, etc., etc., could all be piled into one great big market place for sale. You would see on one side the owners of the things you workers had made, and their servants, nearly all the lawyers, judges, preachers, professors, editors, publishers. None of these people produce anything. They would all be on one side. And on the other side would be the whole productive, service-giving, working class.

Suppose the prices the idle, owning class asked for the things you had made in a month were all added up and printed on a huge price tag. And suppose you workers of this country all lined up with your wages for the month and added them together to see how many of the things you always need so badly – you could buy.

You would find that your total added wages would equal just about one-fourth or one-fifth of the value of the commodities you had altogether produced in a month, probably one-fifth of the price that the owners of your products asked for them.

After you had bought all your wages would buy, you would see that the millionaire capitalist class would divide a part of the surplus value with its servants – the editors, writers, law-makers, advertisers, managers, superintendents, etc., etc., by paying these people enormous salaries to keep the present system of profits running smoothly for their benefit.

The millionaire industrial capitalists would give a portion of the surplus (produced by the working class) to the middle class, the speculators, the merchants, the banker, the landlord. And then you would see that even after all this class of useless people had spent their salaries, or percentages, buying things from that huge market place (produced by you workers) there would still be a big portion of commodities left over.

And you would be unable to buy any more (of your products) because your wages would all be spent. And the professional classes, and the middle classes would be unable to buy any more, because their salaries and incomes would all be spent. And the millionaire owners would have used all they could possibly eat, or wear, or sleep in, or squander – and there would still remain an enormous amount of your products still undisposed of.

Probably you would be wearing cheap, sweatshop clothes and paper-soled shoes, or faded dresses and thin cloaks for the cold; probably you are forced to eat cheap food and tough meats and drink imitation coffee and sleep in basements or tenements.

And you could look right over on that huge market place and see all the left-over, unsold products of the working class: good clothes, leather shoes, rich food.

And this is what the very wise (?) editors (who are owned by the capitalist class) call “over-production.”

Think it over. I am willing to wager a dollar to a doughnut you can find the cure for “Over-production” out of your own head.

Picture to yourself the whole working class standing before that market place with all its wages spent – looking at the unsold things you have made, and need and cannot buy.

Suppose the working class received a value equal to the value of their products? Could you then consume, or buy up, all the goods you had produced? And would there then be any problem of “Over-production”?

The Cause of War

Now you can easily see that the capitalist class, which owns all these surplus things, wants a market in which to sell them. Besides, the capitalist class has billions of dollars (profits) which it wants to invest in some other country in order to make more profits.

And this is the cause of all capitalist wars. The capitalists in Germany, in America, in England, France, Italy and Belgium – all want to seize, or to hold, territory in foreign, undeveloped countries. They want to have an army and navy in order to protect these foreign investments – from the armies and navies of the capitalist government of other countries.

Wars are caused by the competition of various national capitalist groups for new markets, new natural resources in undeveloped countries, for new, protected foreign. investments. Each national capitalist group wants the strongest army and navy to protect their industrial and financial invasion in new territories like China, Mexico, South America, Africa, etc., etc.

The Cure

Suppose in England, in France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Germany and in America the working class of these countries received the full value of the things they produced. They would be able to buy the entire product of the national working class and live in comfort; eat good foods; wear decent clothes; live in real homes.

Then there would be no profit-taking capitalists with dividends to invest in other countries; there would be no capitalist class with a surplus of commodities to sell. There would remain no cause for war. There would be no war.

The capitalist classes of the warring nations today rule those nations because they own the lands, the mines, the shops, the mills, the factories and the railroads. Because they own these, they own the jobs.

Socialism will prevent wars because it means the ownership of the factories, mines, shops, lands and all other instruments of production and distribution by the workers who use them. It means the value of his products for the worker and the abolition of the Profit System.

The way to cure a disease is not to put salve upon the symptoms, but to remove the cause. The Profit System is almost the only cause of war today. Discard the system and remove the cause of war.

The Profit System is the cause of nearly all the suffering poverty, sickness, crime, as well as war. It is the One Great Enemy of the Working Class. Amidst the horrors of famine, poverty, crime and war there is one way out for the working class of every country. There is one way that means victory for the useful workers of that country. That way means Socialism, or Industrial Democracy.

Nearly all power lies in the hands of the workers. You can make the whole world your world with a united working class. But you must have an educated, organized class.

“Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to gain!”

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Last updated on 31 May 2022