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
May 29, 2023
This article is translated from the May 8 editorial for the workplace newsletters distributed by Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the revolutionary workers group active in France.
Last Monday was the commemoration of May 8, 1945. It may have been the end of the Second World War in Europe, but it wasn’t the end of all wars. They continue to rage in many countries. For more than a year, the war in Ukraine has demonstrated that war isn’t a thing of the past for Europe: it’s very much part of our present.
For a long time, governments have wanted us to believe that the barbarity of war is behind us, that there will be no more bombardments or trenches, no more cities destroyed or displaced populations.
Populations were fed the same nonsense after the First World War, which was a horrendous massacre: 10 million deaths in Europe, millions wounded, amputated, gassed, and left with disfigured faces. At the battle of Verdun alone, 500,000 soldiers were killed and both sides ended up in the same place they started from!
There had never before been so much suffering and destruction in a single war and every leader of the time called it “the war to end all wars,” the very last war. Twenty years later, in 1939, it started all over again!
The Second World War streamlined horror so efficiently that it was the deadliest war in history. Not only were 20 million soldiers killed, but also between 40 and 60 million civilians were bombed and starved, and 6 million Jews plus Roma and others died in Nazi extermination camps. Many cities were reduced to rubble.
The cause of the two world wars was fundamentally the same: the need for capitalist trusts to expand and the economic war that resulted from it.
Competition and competitiveness may seem inoffensive, but they embody this economic war. Those who defend capitalism sing its praises but, by definition, it means a confrontation between private interests. States relay these confrontations with the means conferred on them by their economic, political, and military power.
World war is not a catastrophe brought about by this or that dictatorial monster. It’s the extension of the economic war between capitalist trusts to gain control of raw materials, production lines and to secure markets on a global scale.
Of course, the First World War was inevitably followed by a Second World War. And the Second will be followed by a Third. And this will go on for as long as the capitalist system rules.
International relations, alliances, reversals of alliance, peaceful relations and warlike relations are not guided by the happiness of peoples, by freedom or by democracy. They are the result of calculations and the balance of power between states and the capitalist interests they represent.
The war in Ukraine is no exception. Warmongers explain that it’s important to defend a small country that’s being attacked by a powerful neighbor. As if Ukraine hadn’t been the arena for the clash between the U.S. and Russia for more than 30 years! As if the imperialists behind NATO were equipping, training, and giving military intelligence to Ukrainian troops out of the goodness of their hearts.
The war against Putin’s Russia and the blacklisting of Xi Jinping’s China are the political and military expression of the economic rivalry that exists among all these great powers. It is not in the workers’ interest to choose one side or the other. It is in their interest to fight to overthrow the capitalist system that condemns us to exploitation and war.
The United States and Western imperialist countries, including France, maintain world order by brandishing the flag of peace and democracy. But their order is infested with dictatorships! Their order generates endless wars in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia! Their order plunges whole regions into deprivation and drives hundreds of millions of women, men, and children out of their homes and turns them into pariahs!
The deadly fighting in Ukraine and the skirmishes between the U.S. and China make the threat of generalized war all the more real.
Every state is preparing for war by rushing headlong into rearmament. The fighting cannot be separated from the social battle that workers must wage against the power of a capitalist class that, in order to have its market shares and profits, is ready to drive the whole world into barbarity.