The Tasks of Revolutionaries in the Face of Capitalism's Drive to War

arntz-homeland.jpg

The horrific massacres on both sides in the war between Israel and Hamas over recent days are just one more sign of what capitalism has in store for the rest of us. The poison of nationalism, a consequence of a class-divided society, is engulfing the workers of Israel and Palestine, whether or not they are signed up to support their own ruling classes; the overwhelmingly vast numbers of dead, injured and displaced are workers and their families on both sides of the border.

Submitted by Internationali… on January 23, 2024

Hamas’s invasion of Israel coincided almost to the day with the Yom Kippur War of half a century ago. Then, as now, the Israeli state was caught by surprise but the historical comparisons end there. In 1973 the world capitalist system was just entering the downturn in its cycle of accumulation. Today we are still in the throes of contradictions that have followed that downturn as capitalism has tried to restart the kind of profitable growth it enjoyed in the post-World War Two boom. So far globalisation and financialisation have only allowed a minority to get richer at the expense of the vast majority. They have not been enough to start another cycle of accumulation.

This particular exchange of atrocities between Israel and the Palestinian nationalists is far more bloody than previous ones. This is no accident. Given the economic stagnation, imperialist tensions have reached new highs and, as we have argued since it began, the Ukraine war is only the harbinger of yet more violence and points to a more generalised war. Yes, there have been plenty of wars around the planet for decades, and very few of them have not been caused or exacerbated by some great imperial power interest. Ukraine though has been different. Not only is there no room for any form of compromise but the war has become a direct contest between NATO (openly arming Ukraine) and Russia. More than this, it has reforged alliances between the Western powers (NATO’s demise is no longer under discussion) and is creating a more solid pushback from the “sanctioned powers” in Russia, China and Iran. The US has spent more time attacking China than Russia since the Ukraine war began, both rhetorically and economically.

In the wake of all this, the renewed bloodshed in Israel and Palestine is only one zone of conflict. In Syria the 12 year old civil war has led to the partitioning of the country as a series of big and little players all vie for control of this or that patch of ground. Turkey controls most of the northern border and the strip of land inside it to keep a watch on the US-backed YPG in Rojava, whilst Russia and Iran are supporting the Arab tribes fighting the SDF/YPG forces in Deir Al-Zor, Iran and Hezbollah still have troops in the south of Syria assisting Assad in regaining control but also assisting themselves in keeping open Iran’s supply routes to its Lebanese ally. Add to this all the conflicts spreading from Burkina Faso and Niger through the Sahel to Sudan and Yemen (and not forgetting the continuing struggle for Libya). In them too the great powers are all highly visible. As the world watches in horror as Israel prepares to ‘destroy’ Gaza, other conflicts are being prepared. Azerbaijan, not content in having driven 100,000 Armenians out of Nagorno-Karabakh, is now threatening an invasion of Armenia to open up a corridor to the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhchivan. Border disputes, ethnic cleansing and violence between different communities continue in many parts of the world, from Myanmar to Colombia.

It is the working class who are the prime victims of this violence. Everywhere, the working class is both enlisted, or even conscripted, by capitalism to fight its wars, and also the class that suffers most from them. The root cause of these conflicts is capitalism, or more specifically capitalism’s economic rivalry and its recurring economic crises. Capitalism cannot exist without force, without dispossessing the working class of what they produce, of the necessities of life, using the state with its courts and police forces to contain the working class. It is the last class society of human development, a society in which our ability to work, to build, to create, is controlled by a ruling class which directs our labours and takes the wealth we produce for its own benefit. At best we get the crumbs from the table that we have prepared for our masters. At worst we end up as cannon fodder or “collateral damage” in the meat-grinder of their wars.

Because capitalism is built on competition, it is also an unstable and violent system, where the dog-eat-dog competition between firms increasingly becomes a violent confrontation between states. At a certain point, when it is impossible to sustain profits by any other means, a massive destruction of capital value is necessary to restore the balance between fixed capital (machinery and other means of production) and variable capital – the value of the labour-power of the working class which produces the wealth of society – and war becomes the only way to do this. In the early twentieth century, capitalism entered the epoch of imperialism, when these conflicts twice brought the world into a state of world war, killing tens of millions of people. However, even the ‘small’ wars of twentieth- and twenty-first century capitalism are imperialist wars. They are fought to expand capitalist production, or to limit the capacity of economic and strategic rivals. Ultimately, the cause of war is the seeking of profits and redressing the falling rate of profit by searching for and controlling raw materials, cheapening the costs of production, including the price of labour power (wages).

There is no solution to capitalism’s wars, as long as capitalism lasts. Even if a particular conflict can be brought under control, the causes of war do not disappear. The wish for strategic advantage, and ultimately the economic basis of capitalism as a system of obtaining profit, all drive states to war. In the midst of the ongoing crisis of capitalism, which has been desperately searching for a way to increase profits for more than half a century, war is increasingly an option that will be taken, especially by weaker states, to try and secure advantage.

In the midst of this violence it is the task of revolutionaries to remind workers that we are no more than labour-power for capitalism. When our labour is not required we may be reluctantly kept alive (in the richest states, to avoid ‘social unrest’). But increasingly workers are left with no means at all but their wits to survive. We have no stake in helping capitalism to continue, yet more and more we are being drawn behind capitalism’s national banners. It is in all our interests to oppose the horrific world capitalism creates. We can start by making a political stance by standing with our class brothers and sisters wherever we are.

We must reject nationalist poisons that pit worker against worker, that say that workers of one country should unite with the capitalists of that same country, and fight the workers of another country, who are in turn fighting in the interests of their rulers. All of the thousand-and-one varieties of leftists and liberals who support ‘independence for the Palestinian people’ or ‘the right of Israel to defend itself’ or ‘national self -determination’ or ‘democracy against terrorism’ do nothing more than enrol workers behind various national flags which serve eventually as their shrouds. While governments and opposition parties alike in the West issue statements saying that the mythical national ‘we’ “stand with Israel”, leftist groups like the SWP in the UK say their support for Hamas is “unconditional but not uncritical” – their criticism however is not that Israeli workers are being murdered, or that the whole purpose of such atrocities is to drive a nationalist wedge between Israeli and Palestinian workers, but that there are not enough women and LGBTQ+ people doing the murdering.(1) Killing and dying for the states of our bosses, whether they’re in ‘oppressed’ Palestine, ‘democratic’ Israel, ‘anti-authoritarian’ Ukraine, ‘anti-fascist’ Russia, US-backed Rojava or any other fraction of the ruling class and its desire to administer territory and workers to exploit, can never be in the interests of the working class, wherever it happens to find itself.

The task of communists, of internationalists, of revolutionaries, is clear. It is to state that capitalism is the cause of these wars, and the only solution to this barbarity is in the action of the working class to oppose capitalism and all its states and wars.

The first step is raising the banner of international class solidarity and, as far as we are able, demonstrating to the working class in general that there are no capitalist solutions – only revolution will bring about an end to this horror-show. To this end, internationalist organisations issue declarations, communiqués, proclamations, statements, condemning the war – all the wars – and calling for workers to refuse the call to arms. Since the beginning of the latest hostilities in Israel/Palestine, there have been a gratifying number of these. The ICT has of course issued a statement(2) – and published further articles – condemning the war, and explaining our interpretation of the events that precipitated it and the underlying causes. We will continue to do so on our website and in our territorial press.

Other groups which claim the heritage of the Communist Left have also released statements. The International Communist Current has published such a statement(3), which includes the very clear internationalist call “For us, proletarians, there is no side to choose, we have no homeland, no nation to defend! On either side of the border, we are class brothers and sisters! Neither Israel, nor Palestine!”, with which we absolutely agree. The International Communist Party’s statement begins “All parties of the Israeli and Palestinian bourgeoisie direct their proletarians to the slaughter of a war for the defence of their profits and the survival of the rotten regime of capital. Against the imperialist warfare, for the revolutionary class warfare”, and again we agree, with that part of the statement (whatever reservations we have about other parts).(4) The International Communist Perspectives group in South Korea, which takes part in the No War But Class War Korea committee, has released a very clear statement which ends “Workers have no homeland! Oppose nationalism! Overthrow the genocidal system! Refuse to sacrifice workers and go to class war! Let's stop the war through international class struggle to overthrow the capitalist system!” (5) The Groupe Internationaliste du Gauche Communiste (IGCL) have translated our own statement and issued it with a commentary explaining that “we are unequivocally on the same side of the class barricade with the ICT in the present moment and struggle, and more broadly facing the historical alternative, international proletarian revolution or generalised imperialist war.”(6) The group Internationalist Voice has also released a statement that begins with a clear internationalist message: “Against the reactionary war, against the brutality of capitalism, workers have no country!”(7), and the group in Spain called Grupo Barbaria close their statement with the words “… To the flags of nationalism, no matter the colour of each one, we counterpose the joint struggle of the Palestinian and Israeli workers. For the Israelis, their bitterest enemy is the apparatus of the Jewish state, just as the PNA and Hamas are implacable enemies of the Palestinians. Only by confronting them directly will they be able to get out of the hellish labyrinth in which they find themselves. In short, against imperialist war -and this is one- there is only room for its transformation into a class war”.(8)

Other groups have also issued internationalist statements (and as we publish this we are hearing of others which we will add as we get them – see notes below). We know of the Czech group Třídní Válka (‘Class War’) which has issued a statement which we think expresses an internationalist impulse, though we would disagree with the immediate prospect of turning this conflict into a revolutionary attempt to overthrow capitalism. The statement does however include an internationalist message: “As communists, we call for a destruction of all states equally, as they are nothing else than the local expression of the global capitalist State, a structure of organized violence of the bourgeois class against the proletarian class!” (9 In the UK, the Anarchist Communist Network (ACN) calls on workers to resist the drive to slaughter that capitalism has prepared for us in a thoroughly internationalist statement, closing with the words “Neither one state nor two states can end this cycle, no agent of capitalism is able or willing too. All their wars are against our class. Class War is our only response which is why there, as in the Ukraine we say resist their drive to war – No War But The Class War!” (10). And the CNT-FAI (France) have also made their position clear "Once again, those who decide on wars are not those who die from them... Once again, it is the civilian populations who will toast, from Sderot to Gaza. All the ideologies used by those in power, namely nationalism and religions, are the pillars of this murderous logic which pushes people to kill each other for the greater benefit of the leaders of this world. Neither Hamas nor colonisation! As long as there are states there will be wars!”(11)

Though we have some disagreements with all of these groups, we recognise that these are all statements on a class terrain. All put the central problem as being the continued existence of capitalism, and call for the working class to reject nationalism, instead opposing class struggle to capitalist war.

Also among the anarchists, the initial statement of the Anarchist Communist Group (ACG) is clearly internationalist: “Against the barbarism of capitalism and the march towards world war we call for working class unity, internationalism and preparation for mass movements that can implement social revolution and create libertarian communism. No war but the class war!”(12), though subsequent statements have cast doubt on this and we think show clear capitulations to leftist support for the Palestinian ‘resistance’ – that is, the murderous militias of Hamas and ultimately Iran’s foreign policy aims. This demonstrates a worrying trend among anarchists who have supported various ‘liberation’ projects, from Rojava to the illusion of ‘anti-authoritarian’ brigades (fighting alongside actual ideologically-motivated fascists) in Ukraine.(13) The ACG has been clear in its rejection of nationalism in Ukraine, but now seems to be entering the mire of bourgeois politics in Palestine.

We think the necessary duty of communist militants in situations like this is to state unequivocally that all nations are capitalist, there is no ‘national’ road to liberty, that all capitalist solutions are a disaster for our class and ultimately for humanity, that the only solution to war, misery and environmental destruction is the working class destroying capitalism and bringing about a world where production is planned to satisfy human need.

But this first step is not in itself enough. Revolutionaries also need to organise. We need to be able to take our message – a message that, let’s not be modest here, we think is a matter of life or death for the working class – to the class, massively and repeatedly, wherever we can gain a hearing. It is not enough to proclaim that war is bad and decide our job is done. We must find ways to talk to workers, to have real conversations, to really influence people. We think that the No War but the Class War (NWBCW) committees, that we are participating in directly, in the UK, Canada, France, Australia and beyond, and those we have not been able to participate in but have welcomed in Korea and other places, are another vital step.(14)

What we do not think internationalists should be doing is attacking each other. We have always held the view that old polemics would be resolved or made irrelevant by the appearance of a new class movement. After four decades of retreat we may even be on the verge of a new one appearing in response to declining living standards, war and environmental disasters caused by capitalism-made climate change. However that is not in the gift of revolutionaries and after decades of class retreat a new movement of the working class may take a while to emerge. In the meantime, the road capitalism is taking us down is such a great threat to the future of humanity that we need to find ways to work together. We are thus prepared to work with all groups and individuals that accept the basic premises of internationalism – that all states act in the interests of capital, that all workers have the same fundamental interests no matter what nation, sex, gender or race they are, that capitalism is a system that is bringing humanity to the abyss and that only its overthrow by the working class will allow humanity a future. When capitalism is bringing us ever closer to armageddon through war and increasing environmental catastrophe, it is a criminal desertion of our duty as revolutionaries if we let petty sectarianism blind us to the reality of the situation. The various state organs tasked with monitoring the revolutionary groups (we are not so naïve as to think there are none) must surely be laughing themselves silly with the antics of groups of supposed ‘revolutionaries’ who spend their existence on attempting to disrupt meetings of other groups and endlessly polemicising against those who they should be working with. The state does not need to send its agents to disrupt the work of revolutionaries if so-called ‘revolutionaries’ are doing that work themselves.

We shall continue to work in the NWBCW committees, with those groups and individuals who, though we do not agree with them about everything, nevertheless can agree to work together to bring an internationalist, anti-capitalist message to the working class. We would urge all revolutionaries, even if they cannot, due to disagreements over analysis or method, join the ICT, to at least try to work within the NWBCW committees, against this war, the last war, the next war, and for the self-organisation of the working class, against all the horrific and barbaric manifestations of capitalism that assail our class and humanity a whole. We have a very long road to travel before the working class worldwide will be capable of overthrowing capitalism. We do not have any illusions about that, but it is vital that we travel that road. If we do not, the future is nothing but an endless horror of war and destruction.

Internationalist Communist Tendency
22 October 2023

Notes:

Since this article was published we have also received internationalist statements from the group Konflikt in Bulgaria (kon-flikt.org), from Mouvement Communiste in Belgium/France (mouvement-communiste.com) and Internationalist Perspective (internationalistperspective.org).

(1) socialistworker.co.uk

(2) leftcom.org

(3) en.internationalism.org

(4) international-communist-party.org

(5) communistleft.jinbo.net

(6) igcl.org

(7) en.internationalistvoice.org

(8) barbaria.net

(9) autistici.org

(10) anarcomuk.uk

(11) cnt-ait.info

(12) anarchistcommunism.org

(13) anarchistcommunism.org

(14) For more explanation about the purpose of NWBCW, see: leftcom.org

Comments

westartfromhere

4 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on January 24, 2024

Hamas’s invasion

Incursion would be more accurate.