A Socialist Labor Party Statement—

War in the Gulf!

What Caused It? What Can We Do About It?

These are times when every serious-minded person ought to ponder the question: What is the cause of war? History provides the answer. A few examples—

Some 18 months following the end of World War I, a war that was ostensibly fought to make the world safe for democracy, President Woodrow Wilson bluntly declared that that war “in its inception was a commercial and industrial war.” And he emphasized that “the seed of the deep-seated hatred was hot, successful commercial and industrial rivalry.” In short, it was a war of capitalism.

Less than two years after World War II, a U.S. Navy statement quoted in the Congressional Record of April 15, 1947, declared: “Realistically, all wars have been for economic reasons. To make them politically and socially palatable ideological issues have always been invoked.”

The present war in the Gulf is no exception. Like all modern wars, the war in the Gulf is in its origin a war of capitalism. By that we mean that it is a war that logically and inescapably resulted from a social system organized on the principle of the present capitalist system of production for profit.

Moreover, it is a war that could only break out under a system of society such as capitalism. And it is a war which can only strengthen the cause and multiply the evils which added up to produce the present war and will, in time, lead to future wars. History proves it, experience teaches it and the economic factors involved render it inevitable.

True, the fuse of the present war was lit on August 2, 1990, when Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait. That brutal attack was carried out in typical gangster fashion, and in total disregard of every theory, practice and law of modern civilization. The ferocity with which the criminal Iraqi rulers struck marked a new low in the steady decline of international capitalist standards—never too high at any time—while at the same time it measured the degree of the desperation of one of the most repulsive contemporary specimens of predatory capitalist imperialism, Saddam Hussein.

But if by imperialism one understands the forcible annexation of foreign territory and/or the subjugation of another nation or nations, for whatever alleged purpose, then the United States, like Iraq, is an imperialist nation, equally bent on dominating markets and controlling resources for the benefit of its ruling class. For despite all the lip service to peace, democracy, international law, human rights, etc., the stakes in the Persian Gulf are grossly materialistic. Markets, spheres of influence and sources of raw materials vital to the industries of all nations have been at the root of all major wars of this century, and the present conflict is no exception.

What is it that brings on these economic rivalries that are the root cause of war in today’s world? Under the capitalist system the workers receive in wages only a fraction of the product of their labor, hence can buy back only a fraction. What the workers cannot buy back, and what the capitalists cannot consume in extravagant living, or use up in expanding industry, or in willful destruction, must be sold or bartered in foreign markets. This is the reason capitalist nations will do anything, even to the point of waging war, to preserve and extend their foreign markets and spheres of influence, and to dominate sources of raw materials and cheap labor.

The present struggle is, of course, primarily one for control over the oil resources of the Gulf region. Under the overriding competitive profit motive inherent in capitalism, and in the reaching out for control over sources of oil and other raw materials so vital to modern industry, clashes are inevitable. And, as we have witnessed with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the massive counterattack by the United States and its allies, this fierce struggle drives the participants to commit acts of incredible violence and slaughter.

Considering the basic cause and real factors that have produced the wars that have plagued the world since the turn of the century, it becomes obviously irrational to blame such wars—including the present one in the Gulf—primarily on this or that individual or group of individuals. This is not to say that individuals and/or groups do not play a part. They can and do precipitate or retard the course of events that lead to open conflict. The present war in the Gulf is no exception.

In the present conflict the facts clearly point to Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi rulers as the immediate aggressors. But in recording the fact and placing the blame on the Iraqi imperialists for lighting the fuse of war in the Persian Gulf, let it also be noted and remembered that in these very facts are contained a damning indictment of capitalism as a war breeder. For even if we were to concede the purest of motives and the best of intentions to President Bush and his advisers, war was nevertheless the final reward of their efforts. In other words, given the present economic system, and regardless of who is in charge, capitalism still means war.

The Socialist Labor Party does not charge that there was any deliberate effort to involve this country in war. The charge of the SLP is that the president, his advisers and the capitalist class generally, will do whatever they believe is necessary to protect, strengthen and preserve the capitalist system, the system that in the final analysis is the cause of war. For it is the economic facts and factors that control leaders and their actions—leaders rarely control events, or at any event not for long. “I claim not,” said Abraham Lincoln, “to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”

The war in the Gulf will take its course, propelled by forces beyond the immediate control of individuals, regardless of the prior hopes and intent of individuals, leading to a termination the precise nature of which even the most clear-visioned cannot visualize at this moment.

What is certain, however, is that even though the contemptible Hussein and his Iraqi government may be utterly crushed at a horrendous price in human blood and suffering, none of the basic problems that have beset the Middle East and its long-suffering peoples will have been solved. For when the war ends, the whole identical process that led to the war is bound to start all over again, leading to new clashes of interest and in time to the next greater and more destructive war.

Can we do anything about that? The Socialist Labor Party believes we can.

We believe that the American working class must at last come to recognize that the competitive capitalist system of private ownership of the land and plants of production, means of transportation, mines, etc., is in fact the basic cause of the present state of world anarchy, and of wars, declared and undeclared. To avoid future wars, therefore, the capitalist cause must be abolished. Society must be reorganized on socialist lines, replacing private (and state) ownership and competition with social ownership and cooperation. We must make the factories, mills, mines, railroads and all the other means of social production the collective property of society so that we can produce things to satisfy human needs instead of for the profit of the few. Only then can the competitive, war-breeding struggle for international markets, spheres of influence and sources of raw materials be ended. Only then will the nations of the world have an economic foundation for lasting cooperation, harmony and peace.

Socialism—genuine socialism—is literally the hope of humanity.

The Socialist Labor Party, an organization that has devoted 100 years to the study of the social question, offers a program to accomplish this change to socialism peacefully. In the name of sanity we urge you to study this program, and to help us bring to birth a society in which all of humanity can live in peace and freedom.

(Issued by the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Labor Party of America, January 18, 1991.)


Socialist Labor Party of America, P.O. Box 218, Mountain View, CA 94042-0218 • www.slp.org • socialists@slp.org

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