The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Capitalism on the Road to War

May 7, 2023

The signs of war are everywhere. Military spending has ramped up. News programs turn the war in Ukraine into something heroic, instead of the inhumane disaster it is for both peoples. And they produce toxic propaganda turning people of other countries into our enemies.

Look at what they say about Russia. Yes, Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022. But long before that invasion, U.S. policy in the region was aimed at chopping off former parts of the Soviet Union in an attempt to strangle Russia. The U.S. provided military goods and money to extreme right-wing forces in eastern Ukraine attacking the Russian-speaking people who had always lived there.

To understand the current war in Ukraine, you must look at what the U.S. did before the war. The Ukraine War is a direct result of U.S. foreign policy for 30 years. This is something you will not learn about on the nightly news.

Consider China. This enormous country is a major industrial producer of everything from auto parts and machinery to shoes and furniture. When China shut down for Covid, this led to shortages and blockages. But blockages are a two-way street. The U.S. produces many of the most advanced machines and tools that are vital for the functioning of China’s economy, and the U.S. has prevented China from getting them to modernize its industry. The media doesn’t talk about this.

Capitalism has always been marked by competition. The capitalists compete with each other. Its marketplace is marked by commercial wars, not to mention shooting wars when national states send their armies to protect the position of their own capitalists. This is just a regular part of the way that capitalism functions.

But nightly news shows don’t talk about this. They don’t ask why capitalist competition inevitably leads to war. They don’t, but we should.

Capitalism has always needed war. It turns to war when it cannot escape the chaos which the functioning of its system causes.

In 1907, a financial panic broke out on Wall Street. It was the public eruption of an unresolved global economic crisis. In 1914, the crisis pulled Europe, using its colonies for cannon fodder, into World War I. In 1929, the New York stock market crashed, setting off another unresolved global crisis, leading directly to World War II in 1939.

In both wars, the U.S. spent the first years arming one of the sides, just like today, using the bodies of other people to carry on the blood bath. But jump into war it did, in 1917 and 1941. It has dominated the world militarily ever since.

Since 1971, U.S. capitalism has bumped along from one economic crisis to the next: the monetary crisis, the first “oil shock,” the second “oil shock,” the third-world debt crisis, the 1987 stock-market crash, the collapse of the bubble, followed by the “sub-prime” real estate crisis of 2008, followed by the current crisis of international inflation based on speculation in currencies, raw materials and agricultural products.

Each time, the government bailed out the capitalist system. But government debt built up, tearing resources away from vital public services, driving down the standard of living of the laboring population.

Today, capitalism is mired in another unresolved economic crisis—like the ones ushered in by the 1907 panic and by the 1929 market crash.

The world situation also has this in common with those years: the U.S. has been building up its military forces for decades. It is the only country to have bases all over the world, the only one that spends more than all the other top military powers spend altogether. The U.S. has accumulated the kind of war machine that could let it carry out another world war whenever it wants.

American capitalism and the government that stands behind it pretend that this military machine is only a “defensive” machine.

The news media will spread propaganda, pushing this view. People who believe it will go into the next world war with their eyes wide open, seeing nothing.