Capitalism means war

By Roise McCann


People around the world have been forced to bear witness to the nightmare of countless genocidal atrocities committed against the population of Gaza by Israeli State forces. The horrors of the onslaught cannot be overstated and its impact will be felt in perpetuity in Palestine and beyond.

Marginalised, vulnerable and working-class people pay the ultimate price for wars waged in the interests of capitalist nation states. Over 60% of those murdered by the Israeli State’s onslaught are women and children, amongst them also are those with health complications and older people. In 2023, there are wars and conflicts taking place across the world that are killing and maiming civilians, decimating ways of life for communities and traumatising generations of people. Over 40 conflicts are ongoing from Ukraine to Yemen, to Ethiopia, to Myanmar.

Cynical imperialist interests

In the past few weeks we have seen the shameless banding together of figureheads like President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak and Emmanuel Macron, backing Israel’s relentless tirade of violence on Gaza. Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign aid. Most recently the US sent battleships and Marine forces, as well as unprecedented levels of military aid to assist Israel’s slaughter of thousands of Palestinian civilians. US military forces have also struck Iranian forces in Syria – raising tensions with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and the likelihood of a region-wide conflict.

The Chinese CCP has cynically acted as a neutral peace-maker, remaining “neutral” hoping for a crisis for Western imperialist forces. Meanwhile, the CCP also has vested interests in Israel as a major debt-holder. The Russian regime has proposed a ceasefire to the U.N. Security Council, cynically condemning violence against civilians as it wages its own brutal war in Ukraine. Both the Russian and Chinese regimes pose a counter-weight to US imperialism in the region and are concerned about how the flammable developments might impact their own imperialist interests.

Competition and conflict

Capitalism is the dominant economic system across the world – but it is also fractious and constantly in crisis. The market is global, but divided between nation states competing for power and resources. These capitalist states have a monopoly on violence: with control of armed forces like the military and police, which are deployed at will to protect and advance their vested interests in different regions. The most powerful of these nations are imperialist powers that subordinate others but also are in constant competition with other imperialist powers.

War is inherent to capitalism because it is a system based on profit, competition and the constant need to expand, which inevitably comes at the expense of competitors – there can’t be peaceful coexistence under a capitalist system.

War is also big business: world military spending reached $2.24 trillion in 2022, with the UK squandering billions of taxpayer funds annually on weapons firms that turn the highest profits for rich stakeholders. It’s money well spent for maintaining capital but also to protect it from the working class.

Anti-war and anti-capitalist

Internationally, millions have taken to the streets to call for a ceasefire on Gaza and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Similarly, thousands took to the streets in the early stages of the war on Ukraine. Significantly, in Russia, anti-war protests also took place but were severely repressed by Putin’s regime. The working class, no matter religion or creed, has nothing to gain from wars waged in the interests of profits for warmongering capitalists. We are human fodder, and collateral damage when violence begins.

Across history and across conflicts, masses have taken to the streets as they have now. The Vietnam War triggered huge mobilisations and politicisation in the USA and beyond. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to an estimated 36 million people worldwide taking to the streets in anti-war demonstrations. School and university students in many countries staged walkouts and occupations to show their opposition to the invasion. Now again the horrors of destruction and carnage are leading many around the world to question the system we live under. And that is necessary because capitalism means conflict, violence and war. It means a constant struggle for ever more profits for an ever smaller number of people – and results in misery for the vast majority of us.

This is why our struggle to build an alternative to capitalism is urgent. This must be built as an internationalist movement. Racism and other forms of oppression are used to divide, and wars are nothing but another way for the ruling classes to defend their interests. Of course it is working-class people who will pay the price of war, including with their lives. Building a movement that can end wars means building a socialist alternative. And the multiple brutal conflicts around the world today only further underline the urgency to do so.

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