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 Leading the World to War

Sep 4, 2023

The following is a speech given by Gary Walkowicz in August at the SPARK summer festival.

I want to start by talking about this ongoing war in Ukraine. In recent days, the media and the Biden administration have been admitting what has been obvious for a while, that the counteroffensive by Ukrainian troops has not gone very well and the Russian forces and Ukrainian forces are in a kind of a stalemate.

This war has now gone on for over a year and a half. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers on each side have been wounded and maimed. Tens of thousands have been killed. Civilians of both countries have been killed. Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes and much of the infrastructure in Ukraine has been destroyed. Now we are seeing attacks by Ukraine against Russian civilians. This war has been a human catastrophe. And for what purpose? Why did this war even happen?

Ukraine felt that it had no choice but to defend itself when Putin ordered Russian forces to invade Ukraine. Russia felt that it had no choice when, year after year, the U.S. and NATO were stationing troops and setting up military bases right on the very border of Russia, threatening Russia.

War in Ukraine Is a U.S. War

But standing behind the scenes, orchestrating everything, was the government of the United States. On the one hand, the U.S. has been training and supplying and helping build up the Ukrainian military forces for years. On the other hand, the U.S. government has been directing the expansion of NATO forces to surround and threaten Russia. Since the war started, the U.S. has kept sending more and more weapons to Ukraine. This allowed the Ukrainians to hold off the Russian forces and keep the war going. The U.S. has also largely been directing the Ukrainian forces. They do battlefield planning with the Ukrainian generals and provide them with intelligence from the U.S. spying apparatus. In very real ways, this war in Ukraine has been a U.S. war waged against Russia, with the Ukrainians being the proxies, the pawns in this war; the Ukrainians are the ones doing the dying.

And what has been accomplished in this war? It has meant only death and destruction for the people of Ukraine and Russia, two peoples who have lived intermingled for decades. But for those people running things in the U.S., the war has accomplished a lot. The U.S. government has used this war to weaken Russia, which seems like it might have been the goal of the U.S. government all along. Meanwhile, U.S. military contractors who are producing the weapons have gotten much richer and more profitable by supplying the war. The U.S. has also been able to use Ukraine as a testing ground to see how all those weapons would work in a future war.

Preparing for a Bigger War

But more than that, the U.S. has been using this war as a cover to increase and build up its own military forces and weaponry. The money spent on the U.S. military budget was already more than the next 9 countries in the world spend, COMBINED. But now the U.S. military budget is growing even bigger. The U.S. government is using the war in Ukraine to prepare for a bigger war.

And it’s not just the U.S. government that is preparing for war. The NATO countries have also been increasing their military budgets. Other countries outside NATO, like Japan and South Korea and Australia, are doing the same thing. The major countries of the world, led by the U.S., are preparing for the next war, a bigger war.

Maybe the U.S. government will use the fact that Ukraine can’t push back the Russian forces as an excuse to send in U.S. troops, and that bigger war will start soon.

Maybe the war in Ukraine will have a ceasefire and there will be a negotiated settlement, for the time being. But even if that happens, it would not change the fact that this military buildup is going on; it would not change the fact that the capitalist world is moving toward a bigger war.

World Wars Produced by Capitalism

Capitalism is going down a road that the world has seen before. Since the early 1900s, the capitalists of the major economic powers of the world have been butting heads against each other. The capitalists of each country are competing for profits against the capitalists of the other major powers. This competition between capitalists is intensified when their economic system goes through another crisis. The capitalists of each country see that their only way out of these crises is to take from the other capitalist states. They want to take from each other—take access to more natural resources, take access to more markets to sell their products; take access to exploit the labor of more workers and farmers, all in the name of making more profits.

This competition between the major capitalist states was exactly what led to World War One. Tens of millions of people died in that war.

And just over 20 years later, it happened again. The capitalist system was facing another economic crisis, the great worldwide depression of the 1930s. Once again, the capitalist national states began to build up their military forces before the war even started because they were preparing for another world war. World War Two was the capitalists’ way of getting out of their economic crisis.

World War Two was even more destructive than World War One. It is estimated that as many as 85 million people, soldiers and civilians, died in World War Two. Three percent of the entire world’s population died. Much of Europe, Russia and Japan was destroyed, but the American ruling class profited from the war as the U.S. came out of it as the world’s dominant economic and military power.

Today the ruling class of this country and the capitalist rulers of the world are preparing for another big war, a global war. When there is a war, the U.S. will likely be in the middle of it, and they will not let the other capitalist countries stand on the sideline. That’s what they are building all these weapons for.

Preparing the Population for War

And there is also another clear indication today that the capitalists are moving toward war. Because they are preparing the population here to accept it.

How are they preparing us? Every day on the news, day in and day out, we are being told something about China being a threat to the U.S. You hear it, don’t you? Now the U.S. has soldiers and bases and warships and planes stationed all around China, right up to China’s border. China does not have any troops or any bases or any weapons in Mexico or in Canada or off the Pacific Coast, but somehow, they want us to believe that China is a threat to the people of the U.S. We are told similar things about Russia.

Why do they want us to believe that China and Russia are a threat, why do they prepare us for a possible war against one or the other or both countries? Well, China and Russia are two large countries with many natural resources and large working classes. But the American capitalists have only limited opportunities to exploit those two countries, because the governments of China and Russia control much of their economies and these governments limit access for capitalists from other countries to get in and make profits. China and Russia also stand as an alternative pole of attraction for poorer countries who want to take some distance from U.S. imperialism. Are the American capitalists preparing us for a war against China and/or Russia so they can get in there and make bigger profits? Certainly, this is a very real possibility.

Now maybe the sides in a coming world war will line up differently than that. Before World War Two started, it was thought that the U.S. was going to go to war against England; that was before they lined up together against Germany.

We don’t yet know how the countries will line up, who will be allies with who, and against who. But the history of capitalism tells us that another world war is coming. It might be this year, it might be 5 or 10 years from now, but war is coming.

And this war will be a war waged against us, against the working class in every country. The working class will be ones expected to fight and die and kill workers from other countries. The working class will be the ones expected to sacrifice for the capitalists’ war production.

Workers’ Real Enemy Is Our Own Bosses

But we do not have to accept this future. While the capitalists and their government are preparing for their war, the working class can prepare, too. We can prepare for our own war. Not a war against the working people of another country. We can prepare for a war against our exploiters. Those rulers who want us to go to war for them, they are the very same people who exploit us here at home every single day. These same bosses take away our jobs and reduce our standard of living; these same bosses take away from health care and take away from schools, they take away our children’s future, so that millionaires can become billionaires.

These bosses, this ruling class, these capitalists, these are our real enemy and our only true enemy. The only war that makes any sense for working people is a war against those people who exploit us.