Capitalism, Crisis and War – What is to be done? Discussion Contributions

The Wars of Imperialist Capitalism:

What to do and What not to do.

(Aníbal, Forum Inter-Rev, April 11, 2022)

Wars between the constituent parts of imperialist capitalism are a terrible reality in various parts of the world. The earth has experienced two world wars and many regional and local wars. In these wars, blood has flowed in abundance, blood to water capital’s lust for profit. Capital lives in competition, and its parts are grouped together to compete in the best conditions against their adversaries. This movement changes its forms but remains permanent in its content. This is the root of capitalist imperialism, and no state force or social class can escape it.

Now the war in Ukraine shows once again that in imperialist capitalism all bourgeois factions and all capitalist states have to intervene in one way or another. On the one hand in the exploitation and domination over the proletariat. And on the other hand in the conflicts between capitalist nations, which are part of the world dynamics of imperialist capitalism: trade wars, political wars and necessarily warlike confrontations.

The war in Ukraine is part of the formation of imperialist blocs. As a rising capitalist and imperialist world power, China challenges the number one imperialist position of the USA. After the fall of the Russian bloc, the USA tried to dominate significant parts of the world, among others the countries of the former Russian bloc. At the same time, new regional powers resisted the USA: Germany-France in Europe, Turkey in the former Ottoman Empire, (1) Iran in the Middle East, etc. In this context, China aligned itself militarily and economically with Russia, and both tried to attract other states. However, the war in Ukraine has damaged the reputation of the Chinese-Russian alliance. The USA lead the opposing bloc, with NATO and AUKUS (2) as essential alliances. As a first result of the war in Ukraine, the EU countries, Britain, Japan, Canada, Australia, and other allies in various continents, are more firmly integrated into the American bloc.

The Ukrainian bourgeoisie is sharply divided over which of the two blocs in the making it should choose. One faction believes that an alliance with Russia best serves Ukraine’s imperialist interests and has decided to secede in the former industrial region of Donbass. The fact that Russian is the most widely spoken language in the region is used for its nationalism. Another faction believes Ukraine’s imperialist interests are best served by an alliance with the EU and NATO, making it a pawn in the US strategy against Russia. The Ukrainian language, and a narrative about its culture and history, are at the core of its nationalism.

Both nationalisms of “oppressed peoples” are used to tie the population, and especially the workers, to the capitalist and imperialist interests of their exploiters and oppressors, pushing them into an inter-imperialist war in which the USA and Russia pull the strings.

All national capitals are necessarily pitted against each other. The inherent dynamic of globalized capitalism is based on disputes over markets, territories, strategic military control, control of sources of raw materials and energy, control of the flow of labor… Nothing for the benefit of the proletariat and everything against it. The capital and money for all this comes from our labor.

The exploitation and control of our class, which generates surplus value with its labor, the basis of capitalist profit, becomes wider and more intense. The demands for submission to political and military dictates become more acute. The various capitalist factions use the proletariat as a maneuvering mass and cannon fodder. In many [geographical] areas, huge masses of the civilian population with many impoverished peasants are ravaged by imperialist wars for capitalist interests.

The political, trade union and social forces call on us to defend one side or the other. Or they put forward the campaign of democratic citizenship, with their “no to war”, based on pacifism, demonstrations, harmless spectacles and channeling of social tensions. But what they impose on the working class, whether active or unemployed, is what they call social peace: that capital should tighten its grip and attack, and that we should sit back, divided as a class, holding on without defending our demands in companies and in society, thinking at most of supporting with votes and walks this or that political demagogy, trade union, NGO and other social fauna subsidized by the bourgeois states, with a horizon of reformist change of capitalism… the effects of which are catastrophic.

But there can be no peace in a capitalist society, there never has been and there never will be. Either the proletariat reacts by freeing itself from its subjugation to bourgeois interests and forces, and from an attitude of mere distrust, or the exploitative and militaristic march of imperialist capitalism will intensify, leading, when a series of conditions are met, to a Third World War, and in the meantime to the development of numerous regional wars in the world (see Yemen, Ethiopia, Syria, etc.).

What is to be done? The radical defensive struggle, broad and self-organized by the proletariat, is necessary. But this is not enough, neither against the open militarist manifestations of capitalism nor against the daily economic and political attacks. We must understand that the two are interrelated: in order to generate more offensive and defensive capacity against their competitors, all states, capitalist forces and coalitions need to squeeze more and more surplus value out of the working class. Imperialism cannot stop doing this at the risk of seeing its positions and interests deteriorate. That is why every war between states is capitalist-imperialist, and all states have to defend their positions with military means, and organize themselves with the right partners for this or that protection of their positions.

There is talk of totalitarianism and dictatorships. But democracies have the same attitude. They speak of “oppressed nations” fighting for their self-determination. But this is in the framework of the struggles between the forces of capital, which use this self-determination to build coalitions with the capitalist powers and forces to improve their security and positions.

They talk about national freedom. But it is the freedom of the national bourgeoisie to ally with others and fight to improve their positions, attract investments, monopolize trade, control strategic territories, land and sea areas, and grab raw materials for themselves.

It is the freedom of capital to exploit labor power and exercise what is in fact a dictatorship over the working class and society as a whole. The national bourgeoisie controls the means of production and distribution, along with the freedom to use its weapons against its opponents, financing professional and drafted armies and imposing military taxes. It militarizes the economy and society according to the aspirations of each side.

In doing so, they use their dirty tricks, and their cunning stands out. They cannot stop doing it; it is in the class relations of capitalism, in the way of producing life and material wealth. That is the root that must be attacked in depth. And for that it is necessary to have criteria, methods and organization.

Therefore, what is necessary in the face of capitalism’s imperialist war is to defend internationalist, revolutionary defeatism: against all bourgeois sides, states and bourgeois forces, for the defeat first of all of the bourgeoisie that exploits and dominates us nationally.

At the same time, we need international coordination to respond on the war fronts, in the enterprises and in society, boycotting all military interests and structures that collaborate in the war, defending international solidarity among the proletariat across nations, ethnicity and all kinds of divisions that favor capitalism.

Thus, on the war front, it is about soldiers directing their weapons against their officers and commanders and not against the soldiers on the other side of the front. It is about degrading the criminal military hand on all sides of the war. And in the rear it is about rejecting and resisting capital. In the enterprises, in the cities and in the neighborhoods, it is about raising class demands, in particular alleviating the remarkably miserable situation of the most exploited and worst treated parts of the proletariat. Class demands, without sticking to cards and legal statutes of citizenship, by means of strikes, mass mobilizations, meetings to organize the broadest possible mobilizations. It is therefore a question of orienting ourselves towards radical transformation, of organizing ourselves for it, while being aware of the enormous problems that this poses.

Without this class struggle against imperialist war, capitalism will further aggravate the terrible consequences that its global march has generated. It will further degrade our class, the environment, aggravate disputes between nations and blocs, spreading mystification and deceptions designed to subjugate us, and sterilize protest demonstrations, which must be broad, lucid and international to be effective. The working class is the target: hours and hours of work, sacrifices, renunciations, humiliations and existential insecurity, piles of corpses and traumatized people. No to the patriotic demands and patriotic chants that chain us to capital, in a daily routine of toil and fatigue to valorize capital for some miserable crumbs.

The movements that develop from critical denunciations to concrete actions against capitalist interests and forces depend on the possibilities. From defense and solidarity organizations to the calls of our class, trying to bring together those who in theory and practice want to react and promote a radical international dynamic, for the emancipation of the working class by itself and united all over the world, for a society of free and equal producers, without classes, states, nations, money and capitalist enterprises, without oppression and exploitation, establishing proper relations with the land, air, water and other natural resources. Only a society liberated from capital and its profit motive, without its profit-making structures, its ideologies, its huge states and its armies can meet the current challenges to the human species. For these goals we must join forces, with clarity and determination. We must be aware that there are many problems and differences that can only be tackled within the movement itself. With regard to these problems, there is no choice but to become dynamic and to fight, instead of taking up a wait-and-see attitude, which is wrong. Otherwise we will remain tied to sectarian dynamics and ideological illusions.

Aníbal (Forum Inter-Rev), April 11, 2022.

Source: Guerra del capitalismo imperialista. Qué hacer y qué no hacer

Translation: H.C., April 15, 2022. Revision: April 22, 2022.

Aníbal is a cosignatory of the “unwelcome response” to the respective statements of both the ICC and the ICT, and of the alternative proposition Ukraine war: What next? on the Left-Wing Communism site.


1 This refers to the Pan-Turkism, or the ‘Great Turkish’ policy, pursued by Erdogan’s government, which the author qualifies as “clearly territorially imperialist”. [Editor’s note]

2 See for instance: AUKUS: Another Preparation for Imperialist War (Int. Communists Oceania, September 2021) and China-Iran Accords, the Silk Road and Some Other Imperialist Manoeuvres (FD, May 2021) [Editor’s note]

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