Home » News/Views » War and capitalism

War and capitalism

The apologists of capitalism harp on endlessly about the supposed downsides of socialism. Their tongues fall conveniently still when it comes to the glaring defects of the capitalist world. Partisan media commentators never count the cost of living with capitalism. Invariably the destruction and catastrophes associated with the bourgeois system are presented as inexplicable, unavoidable, unfortunate events that we are fated to endure.

Of the many unacceptable costs of living with capitalism, probably the biggest is its periodic tendency to generate massive military conflicts, orgies of mutual slaughter that originate in the same way. Contradictions and economic conflicts between capitalist blocs gradually escalate, become increasingly antagonistic then eventually erupt into global wars, consuming colossal numbers of lives and obliterating resources.

So far capitalism has spawned two devastating world wars. We should never forget their cost, but equally we should recall what generated them and therefore ensure they are never repeated. The world wars were fearsomely destructive of property and economic production, but over time, and with much sacrifice and effort, economies can be rebuilt and restored. The world wars were also shockingly destructive of life; nothing can restore that precious quality.

Historians estimate the number of military and civilian casualties in the First World War at 37 million people: 10 million military personnel plus 7 million civilian deaths, with a further 20 million wounded. Estimates of fatalities in the Second World War range from 50 to 70 million people, with one source calculating there were over 25 million military and over 37 million civilian deaths – misery that was totally avoidable. These huge losses happened because capitalism was allowed to determine how the world developed, producing debilitating economic and political contradictions among leading powers that could not be confined to peaceful means.

Examination of our contemporary world reveals many disturbing parallels to previous pre-war periods, in particular, the existence of acute differences of economic and political interest between the great powers. The world is increasingly characterised by competing forces contesting trade, resources, minerals, oil, even water.

The past is always a source of instruction to the present. Today it warns us there is a new danger of capitalism sucking workers into another catastrophic world war. The safety of our world is too important to be left in the hands of such a tainted system. The one sure way to avoid the nightmare of a third world war is through workers internationally enforcing their own peaceful outcome on the planet by pursuing socialist agendas of mutual construction and mutual respect.