Left Unity Principal Speaker Felicity Dowling writes:
The abomination that is the destruction of Aleppo, of its people and of its buildings and services will be remembered for centuries to come, should humanity have the good fortune to last that long.
War is part and parcel of capitalism, the more so in economic crisis as now.
When the capitalists can’t make enough money by production, or by trade, or by robbing the accumulated wealth of the modern state (they call it austerity or re-structuring or the cuts, or just plain privatisation), by the peaceful use of their power, they decide to rob one another – or other states and peoples – with force of arms. War is part and parcel of capitalism.
In World War One a hundred years ago, some organised sections of workers stood firm against war, refusing to take the side of any capitalist power. This did not stop the war, because others supported the nationalist war-mongering of their ruling classes, but it made a major political point. Those who stood firm against war led the campaigns, parties and movements that went on to challenge capitalism and imperialism, and to improve the lives of working people during much of the 20th century.
Then, as now, the tide of propaganda was difficult to withstand. Propaganda now is subtle and clever, but still tries to pull us all into the concept of war as an acceptable tactic to be employed, propaganda which tries to make us condemn one side and praise another, where we should condemn war.
The use of modern and social media makes contact with besieged areas possible but ineffective. It has become also a tool of state propaganda, but we have no other forms of trustworthy communication.
The huge concentration of wealth in the USA has made it war master general but other capitalist powers are also war makers. Putin’s Russia too is a capitalist great power, and no friend of workers.
Russia’s military might, born in the Soviet era, makes it still a world power. It is a power baited by the overweening attitudes of the EU and the USA, in the extension of NATO power into Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics, and this conflict is already causing war and poverty in Ukraine.
The sheer power of the USA has meant that wars are waged by proxy, and that asymmetrical warfare, has become a feature. Asymmetrical war is waged by non-state forces with limited access to modern weapons, waged against powers with the huge industrial military and technical might. Isis gained access to modern weaponry, intended ostensibly for the Iraqi army in Iraq, and they are not the first non-state group to gain access to advanced weaponry. There are stories now of ISIS and related factions being provided with arms by the west.
The rebels in Syria were defeated in part by their inability to access weapons of war in the air, or to be able to defend against them.
Left Unity respects the right of people to oppose repressive governments. We are not pacifists but we will not make common cause with governments who wage war as incidental tactics in their economic interests.
The crisis in the world economy since 2008 and the horrific impact of imposed restructuring in the global south, the impact and aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war, the onslaught on Iraq by Western powers, the destruction in Afghanistan, the crucifixion of Libya, the onslaught on Gaza, and the standing injustice for Palestine has created the combustible material for war to spread like wildfire across the so-called Middle East and the North of Africa, the lands of oil. The rise of political Islam has flowed too from this mix, funded at times by the west, and at times by sectarianism within Islam, but gaining its own momentum. One anthropologist observed that the harsher life’s conditions the harsher the religion espoused by the people.
The light in this darkness was the Arab Spring, where people rebelled against corrupt governments. Great powers used their might to create proxy wars through taking sides in civil wars and uprisings, sides which always defended their own interests and, for now, the Arab Spring is silent though perhaps not yet finished.
In the 21st century, wars now are themselves causing further wars. Capitalism will accept in some places the failure of states as long as money or oil continue to flow to the coffers of the very rich.
Once there was a thought that wars could, with modern technology, be surgical and swift but instead war has descended to repeating the worst aspects of every era, including medieval barbarism. Violence against women is a key component of modern warfare. Children in the heart of war suffer themselves and pass stress illnesses to their own children.
Once a war starts it assumes its own momentum, assumes its own bitter course and high ideals are easily lost, in truly desperate struggles for survival.
As great powers compete and squabble over the wealth of planet earth other wars, small and large are brewing.
We weep for Aleppo, as we weep for Yemen, just as we decry the failure to “bring home our girls” and we shudder once more in the face of atrocity upon atrocity. We denounce war as a method and technique of capitalism and imperialism. It is ever more important to demand a better world, and to proclaim that a better world without war is possible and is a requirement for the future of humanity.
It is far from easy to build an international movement for socialism in such conditions, but harder still to sit back and watch Aleppo burn, Yemen starve and Palestine cry out for justice.
14 December 2016