Clara Zetkin

The Struggle Against New Imperialistic Wars

Source: The Communist Review, July 1922, Vol. 3, No. 3.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

WHEN the last war broke out, when the Powers were flying at each other’s throats, they all came to the conclusion that that must be the last war. The battle cry was that it was the war to end wars, to make it absolutely the last war. Two years have passed since peace was declared, and what do we see? We are now as near to war as we have ever been before. Preparations for war are visible the world over. Conditions are more dangerous than they were in 1914. The war danger still exists. The conditions that led to the great slaughter are still in existence. The balance of power has been shifted, but the war has not solved the original problem that led up to it. On the contrary, alongside of the antagonisms which led up to the war, new antagonisms have developed and sharpened. Colonial opposition to the mother countries grows. Russia was excluded from the world economic and political systems. Now the powers are considering what specific stand they must take towards Russia, and are fighting each other about it. Smaller states have developed. The former Austrian empire has brought forth a number of smaller states, such as Czecho-Slovakia and Jugo-Slavia. Border states, like Latvia, Esthonia, etc., have risen. The original cause of the war was not due to the antagonisms between France and Germany, but was a clash between England and Germany. The struggle was for world power, but German Imperialism is destroyed, its militarism is defeated, and still the antagonisms between England and Germany exist. France tries to save itself from bankruptcy by squeezing Germany like a lemon. Germany is impoverished. It can save France from bankruptcy. England won the war, but England has been a country manufacturing finished products in great quantities and Germany was one of its greatest markets. Now England finds German markets closed to it, because Germany is pauperised. On the other hand, in order to pay the indemnities required of it, Germany must export its products extensively, and must consequently compete with English products. The present condition in Germany, through the sinking of the mark, has made Germany the bargain counter of the world. Germany is trying to sell everything, machinery as well as finished products. The German capitalists would sell the moon and stars if they could get at them. They are selling their land to foreign capitalists. After all, the German bargain sales mean nothing but dirty competition, that is, unfair competition with the products of other countries, because the German worker is the most exploited worker in the world. The products thrown on the market by Germany are produced by absolute exploitation. The German working class is under paid as no other working class is underpaid. The German worker is at a lower stage of payment than the coolie of Japan. He gets eight times less than the English workers, and it is impossible for other countries, despite their tariffs, to prevent German goods from coming in and still selling at a tremendous profit. England did not gain anything by its victory, but French militarism has been strengthened. Before the war France was a nation of bankers. Now, after the war, industrial capital has developed in France. It is no longer a place where luxuries are produced; it is also producing iron and steel wares. Through the war it got hold of the great iron deposits of Lorraine, and got the German coal basins near to its doors. Germany, through the coal indemnity it has to pay, has influenced the development of industrial production in France. This is also a reason why France wants to get hold of the Ruhr district for the sake of the coal on the other side of the Rhine. England, of course, is against that; it knows that if the deposits of ore that France possesses were reinforced by the possession of such additional coal deposits, France would become a very dangerous industrial competitor. France has extended its political influence. It has created a new form of vassals in Jugo-Slavia, Poland and the Little Entente, etc. Through this influence it has also got connections with the coal and oil resources of Roumania and the Balkan States. It can also block England’s way from Europe to Asia Minor and to the lower Balkan states. France is also in a stronger position than England in another respect. Its colonies are so close that they are of great importance and benefit to the militaristic designs of the French capitalists. The Angora Treaty that France signed with the Young Turks has strengthened France in Asia Minor just where England is weakest. The German Government has always speculated upon the antagonism between England and France. When the Upper Silesian question was under discussion, Germany thought that England would prevent the division of Upper Silesia. It thought that the antagonism would prevent Poland from getting these deposits. But the German Government did not see the real factors. Germany, after all, is only an object in any dispute that exists between England and France. The real question with England lies in the route to India, in the control of the direct route that England must have to India. At the present moment the control of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, Egypt, and independent Arabia—nominally independent, but in reality under the supervision of England—still guarantees such a route. And it is over this that the real conflict may come.

Another product of the war was the fact that England, which had been capitalistically and politically in the forefront of worldpower, has been pushed back by America. America exploited the war to its greatest advantage. Its industries have intensified and extended. It has organised production on a very large scale, and it is significant that much of this organisational work was done by German engineers, etc., which proves that capitalism knows no country. Formerly America was known as an exporter of raw products, steel and food products. Now it is extensively exporting finished products. During the war it conquered the home and South American markets. It has now extended its raw products to Europe. Even the coal market was conquered by America, although it was England’s coal that won for her her great position. Lately England has got back her coal supremacy. The President of America had to ask the United States railway companies to reduce the rates for coal transport, to enable the American mineowners to compete against English coal. Another source of antagonism between America and England is oil. Oil is superior to coal as fuel. Is is easier to transport, and gives quicker results. It has become important, especially for war vessels and for ships generally. America controls about 70 per cent. of the oil production. England wants to get the Baku and the Mesopotamian oil wells, A steady stream of gold has found its way to America since the war, and even more so at the present moment than before.

Another source of antagonism between England and France is China. China has about one-third of the population of the world. Her peoples have been trained for centuries to be subservient and willing workers. These workers can give unlimited profits to capitalists. The United States is trying to conquer China by so-called peaceful penetration, but still in this effort it comes into conflict with England and Japan. Japanese capitalism developed more during the war than even American capitalism. Japanese capitalism has developed the militaristic side of capitalism more than any other country. The apparent parliamentarianism that exists in Japan is still ruled by cliques and castes. They have built such a military system in Japan that it is just to say that Japan is the Prussia of the Far East. It combines the features of the highest developed capitalist State with the highest developed military features of an Imperial State. Japan wants to get certain strongholds in the Pacific Ocean. It might appear that the attempt to get these would be a course of war, but that is not so. The cause of war in the Far East is in China itself. Japan was successful in taking hold of a large part of China during the war. It got the province of Shantung, and also that part that was controlled by Germany, Kiao-Chow. England did not oppose the Japanese occupation of these places, because she was entrenched in the South of China. She controls there the production, which has developed, to a certain degree, in a European manner. England looked at the Japanese occupation with no tearful eye. A conflict will sooner or later break out between Japan and England. Antagonism will increase between Japan and America, and any such antagonism will benefit England.

England is somewhat hampered by its over-sea dominions. These, at the last Imperial Conference, demanded their say on the foreign policy of England. As far as the Dominions are concerned, they are not at all completely in agreement with English foreign policy. South-Africa has very little interest in shedding its blood in a conflict that England may be embroiled in over America and Japan. Australia has many more points of connection, politically and economically, with America than it has with England, especially regarding Japan. Australia would not want to go to war against America if she attacks Japan. The chances are that all these oppositions that arise, even between the Dominions and England, will lead sooner or later to a complete separation of these dominions from the mother country. England is also hampered by the rebellion that is taking place in all its colonies. For instance, the revolt in Ireland was very much supported by America, by official America, as well as by the Irish in America. The position of Ireland as a friend of America would greatly improve the chances of America in a war with England.

The Egyptian revolution is of exceptional importance to England. With the penetration of Asia-Minor by France, England is more and more compelled to look upon the Suez Canal as its most important connection with India. If it loses its hold on Egypt, the fate of the Suez Canal would become problematical. India has been for forty years in a state of ferment. England has tried both to crush this rebellion and to bribe it. It has used both the whip and sugar in dealing with it. But still it has not succeeded in crushing it. It is a revolution of the Mohammedan world, as well as a national revolution, and these elements are reinforced with a growing class-struggle. In Madras and Bombay, in all the States of India where there are industries, great strikes are constantly taking place, and the class struggle becomes more intense every day. The rebellions that have appeared in all the colonial countries have been greatly influenced by the world war. It is true that the world war has decreased the influence of the white races, or the respect that the coloured races have had for them. But the rebellion has been even more influenced by the Russian revolution which has inspired the colonial peoples with the rebellious spirit.

All these antagonisms among the capitalist countries are tending towards a conflict, but all these countries, despite their opposition to each other, find a point of contact in a struggle against Soviet Russia. Russia has inspired the Eastern peoples against Europe. Soviet Russia is obnoxious to the capitalist world. It is a perpetual reminder to the capitalists that their days are numbered. Russia has proved to them that the day will come when they will disappear from the earth. The capitalists are afraid, and for this reason they are everywhere trying their best to crush Russia. France has spent a billion francs to bring this about. It is using its influence with the Little Entente and with Poland for the purpose of using these powers in an eventual attack on Russia. Even the neutrality of Germany in such a struggle is only a myth. At best its neutrality would be only a preparation for war against Russia. It is quite certain that it would turn against Russia despite any treaty entered into between the two countries.

The neutrality of Germany is no safeguard for Russia. Its only safeguard would be the revolutionary integrity of the German proletariat, which would prevent Germany from taking part in any war against Russia, and would prevent France from using Germany against Russia.

The world is still in arms. In 1914 there were 7,000,000 in the armies. In 1922 there are 11,000,000 under arms. If one considers that the German army has been completely disbanded, with the exception of about 100,000 reichswehr, and the Austrian army is practically eliminated, still there is an increase of 4,000,000 in the armies of imperialism. France has nearly 1,000,000 men in the army. It is costing five billion francs per annum. The social institutions of France, the laws for social insurance, etc., are only given one and a-half billions. France was a creditor to the amount of 50 billion francs. Now there is a deficit of 35 billion francs against her. France owes this sum to other nations.

England spends a large percentage of her income on the fleet. The Geddes Commission was formed for the purpose of finding ways and means of economising the national household. There is a conflict now because that commission submitted a report which demanded a reduction of the army to the number of 75,000 and a reduction of the naval forces to the number of 50,000, and the unification of the ministries of the air and the army and other measures.

The world war did not solve the antagonisms and the problems which brought it about. It did not end with the Peace of Versailles. It can only end with the proletarian revolution. The proletariat is exploited more than ever before. In England six and one-third millions of wage earners have had their wages decreased since the peace was declared, while only 130,000 have gained increases. The only right of existence that capitalism ever had was that it developed the forces of production. But capitalism itself now limits the further development of industry. It is slacking the forces of production, and therefore it has no more right to exist; its historic mission has ended. This impossibility of capitalism to develop its own productive forces further is increasing, and will intensify the existing antagonisms which are increasing the danger of the conflict.

The danger of war is increasing rather than decreasing. But even among the bourgeoisie there is opposition to war. Commercial capital cannot find its markets in other countries without first sending armies to these countries, but financial capital can exploit its forces only through the political dominance in the countries in which it invests its money, and this can only be got by military conquests, and therefore the policy of the governments is for war all the time. War shows the crisis of capitalism. As war becomes a permanent institution, it exposes the critical character of the position in which capitalism finds itself, and this proves the necessity for the abolition of the present ruling powers and the creation of a new society. The Washington Conference for England, America, and Japan only resulted in a weak treaty which says that if a conflict arises, all these powers will cony together to discuss it. The Conference resulted in nothing. They want to scrap some battleships and not build any more for the next ten years. This is the only result of the Washington Conference. Big battleships are worth nothing in view of the development of new instruments of murder. England would recognise Russia, but France is refusing to do this. Russia, of course, does not need to be recognised. Its very existence is proof enough that it does not need a paper recognition. It is forced, no doubt, to make certain concessions through its position. The capitalists are using this position to try to make Russia a dependency, but the Red Army will see that capital is only an instrument for the development of Soviet Russia.

Pacificism, too, must be fought by our comrades. We must not permit the idea of pacificism to be used against the Red Army. The working class must get all the means of life into its hands, and this must be preceded by getting the means of death out of the hands of the capitalist class. This is only to be got by struggle. The class struggle alone can be a struggle against war. Pacificism is not a struggle against war. In France pacificism grows because the country has lost about 2,000,000 of its population since 1914. Even counting the new population gained by the acquisition of Alsace-Lorraine, the population of France is 500,000 less than it was in 1911. The peasantry which adheres to the two children system, is against war because it sees its sons used for militarist purposes. So pacificism is growing in France. We may be glad to note that pacificism exists among certain sections of the capitalist class, but we must not allow Pacificism to exist in our own ranks in a struggle against war. We must agitate among the soldiers, so that when they are called to war they shall know what to do. The whole policy of the Communist International must be to mobilise the working class against war. The Genoa Conference ought to have had a brother conference for a mobilisation of the working class. Genoa had only one object—the reconstruction of capitalism at the expense of the working class. We must reconstruct the working class state at the expense of capitalism. Capitalism is doomed. Our struggle and our tactics must be directed towards the great goal, to organise the powers of the workers; to inspire them for the struggle and to develop it, so that when capitalism calls again for war the working class of the world can answer with a call for world revolution.