Against Capitalist War! Against Capitalist Peace!

This article was written and distributed in Toronto by people of varying political perspectives (anarchist, communist and others) who have come together on a class basis to express opposition to capitalism and its wars.


As the Iraqi death toll from the UN-sanctioned economic embargo (a particularly devastating ‘weapon of mass destruction') is calculated in seven digit figures, the US military is mobilizing over 150,000 personnel for an invasion of Iraq. With seemingly no sense of irony, the greatest possessor of weapons of mass destruction in the history of humanity, has characterized its imperialist drive to dominate the world's oil reserves as a moral crusade to disarm Saddam Hussein of deadly weapons. With the nationalistic/racist frenzy whipped up in the aftermath of September 11 still lingering, the US government is confident that it will encounter nothing more than superficial resistance to its genocidal war.

In Canada, the state claims that it will need the legitimacy of a UN Security Council mandate before it will participate in the Iraq slaughter. Of course this is just a formality and the Canadian state is already prepared to go to war. In any case the ruling capitalist minority has stepped up its class war assault on the whole of the working class, but particularly the Muslim/Arab minorities within it, in an effort to reap profit from fear. With racism as a government policy, and with the capitalist "post 9/11" austerity lay-offs and cutbacks still in motion, there is little doubt that a war on Iraq will not be kind to Canadian workers to say nothing of the fellow workers in Iraq. But then again, when has capitalism ever been nice?


War is an expression of capitalist competition. In the drive to accumulate profits, secure markets, control resources and human labour, capitalists compete with one another on a global scale. Rather than being an anomaly in an otherwise peaceful system, warfare is an inherent and very normal aspect of capitalist competition. In fact, capitalism could not survive without war.

The nation state is the most crucial vehicle which capitalists use to pursue their interests. In addition to providing a captive supply of labour, markets and resources, the state also provides capitalists with the physical and legal mechanisms to compete with one another internationally. Although competition between states does not always take overtly militaristic forms (i.e. trade/tariff "wars", diplomacy, economic warfare/sanctions etc...), capitalists time and again utilize military power to obtain their ends. Whether motivated by desperation to defend their profits from foreign competitors, by a more aggressive impulse to encroach on the economic spheres of others (usually weaker states), or even by the need to carve out a new capitalist state (i.e. the would-be al- Qaida state); capitalists inevitably resort to warfare in the pursuit/protection of profits.

Both a cause and effect of capitalist war is the ever-present cycle of economic and security "crises." Be they stock market implosions or threat of terrorist attack, these symptoms of capitalism create a ripe atmosphere for fear and distrust among the working class. Crisis is always used to subjugate working people to the needs of the ruling class, particularly in the drive to war. By exploiting people's fears, capital attempts to mobilize them through the ideologies of nationalism and patriotism. In this way the interests of the exploiting minority are presented as the interests of all. As it is the interest of the capitalists to squeeze more profits from workers and to use them as cannon fodder in conflicts with other capitalists, nationalism and patriotism portray sacrifice and death as working class interests. Hundreds of millions of working class people have marched off to their deaths in the heat of nationalistic hysteria. We are told that in order to protect our 'way of life' and the 'prosperity' of 'our' nation we must submit to massive layoffs, government cutbacks and increasingly intrusive 'security measures.' Patriotism legitimizes capitalist profits at the expense of workers.

In addition to this, xenophobia and racism make nationalism and patriotism the time-honored tools for dividing workers into artificially antagonistic camps, both internationally and domestically. Foreign workers are portrayed as enemies/competitors while minorities within the domestic working class are singled out as enemies of the state. This has become evident since September 11, 2001 as Muslims/Arabs have been designated as the enemy "race" at home and abroad. Nationalism and patriotism obscure the real division of society into classes, thereby diverting class antagonisms and strengthening the rule of the capitalist minority, militarism and war.


Yet as horrific as capitalist war is on the working people of the world, capitalist peace provides no respite from terror, brutality and death. Capitalist peace kills tens of thousands every day death by starvation, lack of shelter or healthcare, by unsafe working conditions, by the poisoning of the air and water, by hopelessness, alienation and drudgery. Terror is still terror whether it is fear of lack of money or food, or fear of bombs and bullets. The military, work, police, the judicial system, and prisons are all manifestations of capital and states' everyday reign of terror upon working class and excluded people. Capitalist peace means terror, death and misery by other means.


Despite the rhetoric about Canadian 'honest- broker' foreign policy or its 'humanitarian' and 'peace-keeping' military policy, Canada is a major imperialist power that is highly involved in capitalist exploitation and war around the globe. Canadian capital is active in almost every region of the world and Canada's foreign policy is directed towards the protection and expansion of its international investments.

Canadian capital finds itself most comfortable in the poorest regions of the world where its treatment of workers and the environment is only comparable to conditions in slave-labour camps and toxic waste dumps. In places like Colombia and Sudan, where Canada has billions of dollars in investment, death squads, assassins and helicopter gunships have been the primary means of labour relations/asset protection.

Unlike some militarily stronger imperialist states, Canada's moderate military capabilities limit its ability to independently intervene on behalf of its international capital assets. As a result, Canada has traditionally fulfilled its imperialist military needs through a combination of long and short-term military coalitions (e.g. NATO, the Allied coalition in Afghanistan) and the military arm of the United Nations. In this way Canada has been able to pursue its imperialist interests by collaborating with other capitalists when their interests are in common.

Since the Second World War, Canadian militarism has been expressed mainly through its role in UN "peace-keeping/police" operations. Far from being humanitarian in nature, UN interventions (often Canadian led) have always been imperialist in nature. The UN is a body made up of competing capitalist states the strong, the not so strong, and their lackeys. It is not above the conflicting interests of its constituents. The UN's activity has always reflected the interests of the dominant capitalist states. The common purpose of UN military intervention into states has been to establish an ‘order' suitable to foreign capital. This usually involves (re)establishing a local foreign-capital- friendly ruling class, as well as training and equipping a military and police force to protect it from the local population.

In the current situation with Iraq, the cynical and bloody interests of capitalism are being justified under the guise of a UN banner. UN Security Council (SC) resolutions (such as the recent "weapons of mass destruction" resolution) have long been held up by the Canadian ruling class and much of the left as the true expression of international justice. Nothing could be further from the truth. SC resolutions are no more than a rubber stamp of moral legitimacy for war crimes of unimaginable magnitudes. The UN mandated economic sanctions that have been placed on Iraq since the last Gulf War have killed over a million people (none of course from the ruling class). Yet according to Canadian capitalists, this same murderous mechanism will determine whether or not Canada will join in on the orgy of death in Iraq!


The capitalist state and media would have us believe that since the first Gulf War, all US/Allied wars were hi-tech, bloodless conflicts of "pin-point precision". Through a combination of lies and rigid media control/compliance the governments of the major capitalist powers have portrayed a wholly fraudulent picture of modern warfare.

In Kosovo, far from defeating Serbian military forces in the field, NATO succeeded only by destroying the civilian infrastructure of the Serbian state. That meant bombing the electricity grids, water and sewage processing plants, government buildings, hospitals, bridges, roads, factories and workplaces. Less that 5% of Serbian military forces in Kosovo were actually destroyed by NATO forces!

Although coalition forces were much more successful in massacring over 150 000 Iraqi soldiers in the open desert during Desert Storm, the civilian infrastructure and Iraqi cities were a primary target. Thousands of Iraqis were killed in their homes, at work and even in civilian bomb shelters.

The recent US/Canadian/Allied war in Afghanistan was not much different. Although a civilian infrastructure was almost non-existent in this poorest of poor countries, coalition forces ruthlessly assaulted the civilian population claiming that civilians and combatants were "indistinguishable". The poverty stricken people of Afghanistan did majority of the dying while the leaders of al-Qaida and the Taliban went largely unscathed.

The bloodless wars in the age of ‘computer precision', have been bloody massacres, reign of terror attacks on working class populations. In war has not become more humane and will not change.


Religion and its leaders have come out for and against a war against Iraq. But regardless of their stance, they always act as enemies of the working class. Whether justifying capitalist war (e.g. the western Christian right and Islamic fundamentalism) or capitalist peace (e.g. the Vatican and most branches of "moderate" Christianity and Islam), religion seeks to tie working people to their bosses, the states and capital in one great ‘brotherhood.' The truth of course is that workers have nothing in common with its rulers regardless of their ecclesiastical affiliations.

The anti-war demonstrations in Toronto, for the most part, have been organized by the Coalition to Stop the War (CSW), out of which the Toronto Coalition Against Sanctions and War on Iraq (TCASWI, a.k.a. the International Socialists) is the most visually active. The CSW/TCASWI coalitions are a cross-class alliance made up of social democrats, religious leaders, pacifists, union bureaucrats and other class enemies of workers. Far from opposing the political, social and economic structures that create war (i.e. capitalism), TCASWI advocates the reactionary/pacifist position that capitalist society can exist without war in other words with capitalist peace. They claim that petitioning (often literally) Canadian rulers to alter their imperialist ways is the only possible course action to end war (and have even displayed hostile discomfort with others who have opted for more confrontational forms of opposition).

On the TCASWI website they list such "radical" demands as "That Canada oppose any new war on Iraq" and "That Canada recognize its responsibility and the harm inflicted on the Iraqi population and promote the creation of a fund for compensation and reconstruction of Iraq."

Such calls to the rulers of the Canadian state to repent for their imperialist activities could almost be written off as naivete if they were not so blatantly intended to subvert anti-war sentiment back into capitalism. By squeezing anti-war opposition into reformist class-collaborating alliances, TCASWI effectively does the job of capital. The working classes anti-militarist and anti-capitalist potential is silenced in favor of capitalism's legalist, electoralist, "send a message to our politicians" ideology, that only strengthens the political/state structures of war. CSW/TCASWI's role has been to pacify and paralyze autonomous working class opposition by channeling it into activity that legitimizes the existence of capital, the state and therefore war.

In supposed opposition to the overtly pro- capitalist CSW/TCASWI, is another ever-present perspective on the Toronto left that of the ‘leftists'/ Trotskyists. The common ideological formula among these tendencies dictates that in any given war the weaker capitalist state/would-be state is actually engaged in an ‘anti-imperialist' struggle of ‘national defense/liberation'. This strange concept is used to justify blatantly pro-capitalist positions of support for worker-murdering states like Iraq.

In their "Defend Iraq!" statement (Oct 2002) the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) claimed that people must "take sides in conflicts between imperialist predators and there victims", and that the IBT "reject[s] the simplistic equation of Saddam Hussein and George Bush [...] as a ‘plague on both your houses'." In effect the IBT advocates ‘militarily defense' for the Ba'athist regime while affording "no political support to Saddam Hussein" - but what the hell does that mean?

The Trotskyist League (TL, a.k.a. Spartacists) makes it a little clearer. In their "Defend Iraq Against Imperialist Attack!" statement (2002) the TL states that a US led war against Iraq "will be a predatory war of conquest, while on the Iraqi side it will be a just war of national defense. Opponents of imperialist barbarism must take a sidefor the military defense of neocolonial Iraq against imperialist attack, while giving no political support whatsoever to the vicious Saddam Hussein regime."

How is such a thing possible? What is the difference between "military defense" and "political support"? Well of course there is none. In the International Communist League's (the international of the TL) statement "Defend Iraq Against US and [...]" they quote the Clausewitzian maxim "war is the continuation of politics by other means". A very true statement indeed, but if war is politics by other means, then "military defense" is nothing more than "political support" by other means. The ‘leftist' defensist theory is nothing more than a thinly veiled call to support a worker-murdering capitalist war machine. How very proletarian of them!

What makes the ‘leftist' positions all the more paradoxical is they also claim that the oppressed Iraqi working class must overthrow Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athist regime. When placed into the context of their ‘anti-imperialist' strategy, the contradictions slap you in the face. The ‘leftists' proclaim that the Iraqi proletariat is to overthrow Saddam and his state while the Canadian working class is supposed to be supporting Saddam with "military defense"!? What form of working class solidarity and internationalism is this? Clearly, these reactionary and anti-proletarian positions have nothing to do with class struggle and everything to do supporting capitalist war.

In the end the only thing separating the ‘leftist' Trotskyists from the reformist/pacifist CST/TCASWI is militant rhetoric - as both tendencies are intent on diverting the working class into supporting capitalism and its war machine.


In all wars we are caught between our enemies and our enemies' enemies. Although war is the expression of competing capitalist states/would-be states, it is regular working people that do all of the dying. The impending war against Iraq will likely result in the deaths of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of working class and excluded Iraqis. This is business as usual in a world where tens of thousands die from the "peaceful" conditions of capitalism on a daily basis. At what point do we collectively reject this homicidal madness?

War is not an independent phenomenon that can be eliminated in isolation. War is but one aspect of capitalist relations. Capital itself, cannot be morally divided into militaristic and ‘peaceful' sectors. It is an organic whole and all of its various aspects culminate together to create its motives and impulses such as the drive to war. To oppose this barbarism means linking up all fronts against the state and bosses' global exploitation of humanity. Only the end of capitalism itself can usher in the conditions of permanent and true peace. Only the collective power of the working class has the possibility of uprooting, once and for all, this blood- drenched system of misery, terror and death.

Therefore the struggle against war is same struggle that we experience everyday the struggle to survive as wage slaves under "peaceful" capitalist domination the class struggle. This struggle has been expressed in various forms of resistance to war likework stopages, the "hot cargo" of war materials, strikes, general strikes, mass mutinies, uprisings and revolutions. Recent actions have shown how even relatively isolated working class activity can directly impede capitalist war efforts. The firefighters' strike in Britain forced that government to divert significant military resources away from its war mobilizations. In Nagasaki Japan, 200 dock workers refused to load military supplies onto naval vessels headed to assist the US-led war on Afghanistan, single-handedly impeding the entire war effort of the Japanese state. Such isolated actions have done more to hamper capitalist war efforts than all of the anti-war demonstrations. Image what an internationally united working class could do.

For a classless, stateless human society, devoid of work, racism, poverty, alienation and the law of value.



A criticism of this leaflet by the International Bolshevik Tendancy can be found here.
A reply to this criticism by Red and Black Notes can be found here.

This article has been archived on from the Against capitalist war, against capitalist peace archive on the Red and Black Notes website.

Posted By

Fall Back
Jul 11 2009 13:46


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