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
Mar 28, 2022
What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters during the week of March 21, 2022.
“Vladimir Putin is guilty of war crimes”—this was the message Biden delivered at a presidential press conference. And Biden called on us for sacrifice to stop Putin.
No doubt Putin is a criminal. One fifth of Ukraine’s population has fled their homes, attempting to escape Russian missiles and artillery. Big cities like Kyiv have been surrounded for four weeks, bombarded regularly. Cities like Mariupol were turned into morgues. The Russian army holds Ukrainian civilians hostage to war.
But if four weeks of war in Ukraine make Putin a criminal, what do decades of war in Afghanistan and Iraq make of U.S. presidents? Over a million civilians were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, 16 million displaced from their homes. Cities were leveled. From 2001 up to today, every U.S. president directed wars which held civilians hostage to war. Long before 2001, there were open U.S. wars in Viet Nam and Korea and clandestine U.S. wars in Iran, Chile, and Eastern Europe.
U.S. presidents always claimed they sent troops to war to “defend democracy” abroad and in this country.
But that was always a joke—and not very funny. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were carried out so U.S. capitalists could drain profit from the Middle East, along with its oil.
The U.S. military, far more lethal than that of any other country, has 750 of its bases in other countries. U.S. bases are demonstrations of sheer power, not beacons of “democracy.”
U.S. bases, in 80 other countries, exist to protect capital in the far-flung corners of the world where U.S. corporations seek profit. To put it clearly: the U.S. military acts so U.S. corporations can steal wealth from other peoples. (And don’t forget, U.S. troops have sometimes been used to break strikes in this country.)
In some ways, we share the fate of Russian working people. We pay the cost of wars carried out in our name, but which rebound back on us.
Russian conscripts, just like American soldiers before them, were sent to kill or be killed. Russian soldiers will come back from Ukraine, suffering physical and psychological wounds, just like American soldiers came back less than whole from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Russian workers are paying for Putin’s war with increasing militarization of their society. They have already paid with lost wages as the Russian oligarchs seek to pad their wealth. And now they pay as the U.S. and Europe tighten a noose around the Russian economy, harming working people more than anyone.
American society, too, is increasingly militarized, and we, too, pay a cost. The money spent on the military is money that was not spent to keep roads in repair, money not spent to keep bridges from falling and dams and levees from collapsing. The money spent on U.S. wars is money not spent on schools or clean drinking water. Money that should have kept Social Security pensions in pace with inflation, instead went to pay interest on debt run up by war. Money that should have prepared the public health system for a disease like Covid, went to war. Money that should have gone to workers who were out of work went, instead, to war. The population is deprived, its basic needs unmet because war is omnipresent.
We sit in the middle of a country that spends more on war in one year than Russia did in 15 years. But Biden wants us to blame Putin for the steady worsening in our situation. Really?
We need to blame those responsible for the problems we have here, the U.S. capitalist class whose drive for profit impoverishes us. We need to blame its henchmen in the U.S. government that defends the capitalist drive for profit, here and abroad. Instead of “sacrificing” to stop Putin, we need to pull our forces together to break the hold of U.S. capitalism here. In doing so, we would be giving the greatest support to working people everywhere. We would help shake the grip that U.S. militarization today has on the whole world.