Peace and Socialism: the indivisible struggle

by Eric Trevett, President of the New Communist Party

THE struggle to abolish nuclear weapons is crucial for the survival of the human species. But central to averting a Third World War, is the need to eliminate the causes of war. And that is why communists and socialists have always understood the struggle for peace and socialism to be indivisible.

Building pressure for nuclear disarmament and peace amounts to a fight to defeat imperialism; while socialism seeks the elimination of the causes of war, militarism, unemployment and poverty -- the two go hand-in-hand.

The turbulent 20th century has witnessed the highs and lows of struggle in several ways: Between classes -the working class and capitalist class; between the imperialist powers and national liberation movements opposed to colonialism and neo-colonialism; and between the imperialist powers themselves vying for markets, resources and spheres of influence.

What's more, as we face the millenium, none of these conflicts have been resolved. Rather, they have become more serious.

The history of this century includes endless colonial wars in which imperialism killed millions of people. But at the same time, we have seen the virtual ending of direct colonial rule thanks to the courage of those conducting the anti-imperialist struggle, often combining military and political characteristics.

The anomoly is Ireland. Britain maintains direct colonial rule of the six counties continuing in the teeth of tremendous efforts to bring about a peace settlement.

There have also been two world wars in 1914-18 and 1939-45. Both arose from inter-imperialist rivalry with certain imperialist powers challenging others for a greater share of the spoils of exploitation and colonialism. The consequences of both wars were horrific. The slaughter was on a scale never before witnessed in human history.

The two wars had some contrasting features. In the First World War most casualties were sustained by the armed forces locked in battle. Britain suffered more deaths in this war than in the Second World War, although in the last war the total number killed exceeded the total for the 1914-18 war.

The Second World War saw conscious genocidal policies against the Jews and Slavs. There was sustained saturation bombing of densely populated towns and cities. And in that war, most casualties were civilian. It ended with just two bombs being dropped by the United States on two Japanese cities. They wiped out hundreds of thousands and the genetic effects from radiation persist on a big scale to this day. It ushered in the era of nuclear weapons.

Recently, we were deeply shocked by the wanton killing of children at a school in Dunblane. But imagine also the comparison, bearing in mind how impersonal statistics can be, with just one terrible detail of the Hirroshima bomb. In one of several schools directly hit, all 277 first-year girls were incinerated. Moving out from the epicentre to the periphery, a primary school of 139 children lost 71 of its pupils who died of radiation burns. In fact, the extent and nature of that carnage is unimagineable.

The 19th century ended with socialists predicting the inevitability of imperialist war. In the early years of the 20th century they adopted a revolutionary strategy to counter the threat of such a war. The aim, once it had begun, was to turn the imperialist war into a series of civil wars.

This would then lead to socialist revolution, the defeat of imperialism, bring the First World War to an end and begin the eradication of the conditions that led to war. Out of that war emerged the world's first working class state -- the Soviet Union. It was a tremendous victory that strengthened the position of the working class and oppressed throughout the world.

With it was born new possibilities for humankind. It gave rise to the belief that further world wars might be averted as the anti-capitalist and antiimperialist struggle continued. It was thought possible that peace could be imposed on a minority of imperialist powers who perceived that their individual interests would be served by wreaking war on others.

Unfortunately, that hope proved to be illusory.

Its success required those imperialist powers under threat from rivals, to ally with the Soviet Union in order to resolutely enforce peace on the more belligerent powers. But the threatened imperialist powers were consumed with hatred for the Soviet Union.

And furthermore, they were fearful that if Nazi Germany wasn' t appeased, it might help precipitate a revolutionary solution to the economic and political crisis created by capitalism globally. Already, the crisis was being sharply revealed in Germany itself. In anycase, there was profit to be made by co-operating with the axis powers. And there was also the belief that Germany would target the Soviet Union first.

The alliance that might have prevented the war was only established after the Second World War (a second imperialist war) had broken out. And the second front ocurred only after Europe had been largely overun by the Nazi war machine and the Soviet Union itself had been invaded.

Earlier, Japan had invaded China and other countries and the surprise attack had been made on Pearl Harbour. That wiped out a sizeable, though not decisive, part of the US fleet.

Britain and the US always had their own secret agenda. They proved to be treacherous allies of the Soviet Union, which played the major part in destroying the Nazi war machine and made the greatest sacrifices to achieve victory over fascism. But the Second World War did more than foster a hatred of fascism. It exposed the rotten core of capitalism and imperialism. The consequence was a marked political swing to the left in Europe and a worldwide upsurge in anti-colonialist, anti-imperialism and revolutionary struggle.

The Soviet Union was no longer in isolation. It was joined by those countries which had chosen socialism. The capitalist class everywhere was under pressure from a militant working class. But weathering the storm of the immediate post-war years, the capitalist class -- helped at first by social democratic parties -- reasserted their position worldwide.

In a prolonged period of economic stability in the heartlands of imperialism, living standards rose significantly. What were the sayings of the day? "There will never be mass unemployment again", "capitalism is crisis-free" and we were told: "capitalism is now a welfare state".

Assisted by social democracy, capitalist ideology was strengthened in the ranks of the working class. Over the years working class resistance to anti-Sovietism, anti-socialism, anti-trade unionism and privatisation was weakened.

Post-war economic stability provided the material base for an ideological offensive which weakened working class and socialist consciousness. It gave credibility to the revisionist offensive that was unleashed in many Communist Parties, often initiated from within the leadership of those parties and imposed upon an unsuspecting membership.

Wherever it was unchecked, revisionism paved the way for the eventual liquidation of the Communist Party. In the case of the Soviet Union, it amounted to conscious betrayal and collusion with imperialism by the top leadership to bring about counter-revolution and a global offensive against socialism that succeeded in ending working class state power right across eastern Europe.

As a result, the working class in Britain and worldwide suffered a major setback. So too did the broadly-based peace movements. The growing inter-imperialist rivalries, different groupings vying with one another against a background of profound and deepening capitalist crisis, increases the danger of another world war. And like the previous two world wars this century, another is being nurtured in the womb of the capitalist system. Its outbreak will have been precipitated by imperialism.

Of course, there are differences in the world situation now from the preceding period that led up to the Past two world wars. No longer are there any colonial empires. The redivision and re-adjustment of military spheres of influence is being achieved by political, economic and military methods, largely to suit US imperialism. And at, this stage none ofits imperialist competitors are willing to take a firm stand against the US claim to favoured treatment when it comes to tariffs and trade.

Where the US considers its interests are furthered by war, it has until now dragooned support -- however reluctantly from its allies -- as it did in its war against Iraq as well as continuing a vindictive trade embargo against that country. Nevertheless, there is underlying animosity growing in the ranks of the imperialist powers toward the US. And that is reflected, for instance, in the move to create a single European currency.

The working class and other sections are increasingly disatisfied and anxious as their circumstances worsen. It therefore becomes all the more necessary to counter the war danger and raise the political level of anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist consciousness. This will also have the effect of bolstering the battle being waged against the government's damaging policies -- on health and education, for instance.

The 20th century is ending with an imperialist offensive to subjugate the former socialist countries and to incorporate them in a subordinate role dictated by imperialisms' "new world order". Narrow nationalism is being used by the imperialists to provoke wars and civil strife and thereby break up formerly sovereign countries of the socialist community.

Following the elimination of the socialist world's economic and military alliances, the Soviet Union was broken up into unco-ordinated countries and regions: Yugoslavia was splintered, Czechoslovakia divided and the German Democratic Republic was virtually annexed.

But this break-up didn't mean Russia itself would then be admitted as an equal into the Western camp of capitalist competition. In fact, Russia is still targeted as an enemy of imperialism. This is clear from the process of Nato enlargement which envisages the inclusion of Poland in particular, but specifically excludes Russia.

Western economic predators have led a rapid scramble for dominance over the economies and resources of former socialist nations.

Imperialism has manipulated their internal market system and opened the gates to the dumping of foreign goods on these countries as their national industrial and agricultural production increasingly dwindles.

Western companies are clawing at their oil and energy resources, while privatisation -- pressured and "advised" by the West -- of previously socially owned assets, has led to Western big-name company takeovers. This was epitomised recently by Volkswagen's submerging of Skoda. But it has also meant that the whole package of capitalist political, ideological and cultural ideas and practices are permeating the fabric of former socialist societies.

Whatever problem the people of the former socialist countries had before their demise, they are self-evidently infinitely worse off now. What these nations suffer today bears not the remotest comparison with all that had existed under socialism. But while discontent and instability is increasing, it will still take time to build up the revolutionary resolve and organised capacity to re-establish working class state power and socialism in these countries.

Capitalist development has always taken place unevenly. And those countries which are in the ascendant, are able to placate their populations while living standards rise. But in the end, carefully fostered illusions about crisis-free capitalism eventually collapse. This is brought about by economic limitations and contradictions emerging in both the domestic and global capitalist market economy.

Production outstrips the purchasing power of wages and other income available to buy commodities. The crisis of over-production in time gives rise to acts of repression against the working class and other sections of society. The employing class, as the class struggle sharpens, intensifies the rate of exploitation of workers to expand their domestic and international market share.

But as the ruling class tightens the screws, it meets resistance spearheaded by the working class through their political and trade union organisation. In the battle, everything the capitalist state can devise is used against workers' action. Legislation and violence is used in an attempt to cripple trade unions.

And this is ocurring in an atmosphere of the general attack on democratic rights. The ruling class has unleashed its programme of authoritarianism as it imposes greater material impoverishment. And so the pull toward fascism is thereby opened up.

All of this -- the economic, social and political repercussions of capitalist crisis -- gives rise to social and political instability. The working class and other sections of the oppressed are faced with the need to defend their interests, their material and democratic rights.

The answer lies in militant action against unjust laws -- and indeed revolutionary action to advance the evolutionary process -- to put paid to the economic and political system which breeds crisis, fascism and war and create a socialist society.

Hence, the growing working class student discontent and workers' militant struggle in south Korea -- one of the new so-called Asian tigers. The country momentarily displaced Germany and Japan as a showcase of postwar capitalism.

But no capitalist country is secure from crisis today. Amid capitalist crisis, there is growing narrow chauvinism and a drift to fascism in Britain as the inter-imperialist struggle to redivide the world gathers pace.

With this in view, we need to step up the campaign to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction. As we have seen in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those bombs were designed to inflict maximum civilian casualties. But today those bombs have been superceded by weapons with many times the destructive capacity of the Atomic and Hydrogen bombs. And many of these more recent nuclear weapons are clearly in place to be unleashed in salvoes, threatening global annihilation.

Non-proliferation, clearly, is not enough. The campaign to ban nuclear weapons -- the dismantling of the weapons systems and the destruction of the nuclear weapons themselves must be stepped up. There is no other way forward for progressive humankind.

We must regain the initiative in the ideological struggle and have the confidence to project the idea that socialism is the only solution to capitalist crisis. The interests of the working class and the overwhelming majority of the world's peoples are best served by it.

When the Soviet Union and eastern Europe succumbed to capitalism, the capitalist class and right wing social democracy went on the ideological offensive. Their constant theme was that socialism had failed. Just a few years later, we can see that capitalism has failed to serve the interests of the vast majority of people in those former socialist countries. And we challenge anyone to demonstrate any instance where capitalist changes have since left the people better off. There is no doubt that this tragedy is a retrograde step for the world's social development.

Campaigning to get rid of the Tory government will help strengthen the working class and the peace movement struggle outside parliament.It will help to create a more receptive attitude to socialist ideas and consciousness. And the most immediate way we begin to carry this out, is to work for a Labour victory in the coming general election.

The fight for peace and nuclear disarmament is more effective when the expectations of the working class are raised. A Labour government elected under pressure would encourage this. The labour and peace movement must intensify its campaigning. It must stress the benefits of a substantial re-deployment in financial and human resources away from military into civil production to raise the standard of life. Getting rid of Trident is paramount in this respect.

But the aim of successive British and US governments has been to interpret non-proliferation one-sidedly. They mean to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries, while deliberately excluding themselves from that equation by actually building up their own nuclear forces.

This is why Non-proliferation must be firmly linked to the total elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide. Achieving that would further strengthen the struggle for the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction.

The process of Nato enlargement is a key aspect of this problem. We oppose this because it increases the likelihood of war and inhibits the process of nuclear disarmament. But it also bolsters imperialisms' ability to intervene in the internal affairs of sovereign countries, subordinating the interests of the people to capitalism.

We should be aware how dangerous the situation is becoming now as Russia uses the same arguments for retaining nuclear weapons that Britain and Nato falsely used for developing and deploying theirs, to counter the threat from nuclear and increasingly sophisticated and powerful conventional forces.

Our task is to build an ideologically and organisationally united party in the struggle to equip the working class and its allies with revolutionary consciousness. This is also essential if the peace movement is to reach its full effective potential.

The situation we face is serious, but by no means hopeless. The capitalist crisis is a vindication of the teachings of the great revolutionary leaders -Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. The sharpening struggle and the resistance of the working class around the world provides a basis not just for hope, but for confidence in the working class.

Its effect too is to give us encouragement as we rededicate our efforts to the noble and indivisible struggle for peace and socialism.

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