Against War and Imperialism
March 12, 2012
To further the discussions on how to advance the movements against capitalist globalization and the war program of U.S. imperialism, we are printing excerpts from Michael Thorburn's pamphlet "Against War and Imperialism."
Capitalist-imperialism arose in the beginning of the 20th century. By that time, a handful of monopolies, linked with the big capitalist bankers, had come to dominate the entire economies of Western Europe and the U.S. The growth of monopolies leads to a "superabundance" of capital which overflows the brim of the home market. In other words, the capitalist monopolies, driven by the inexorable law of maximizing profit, continually seek new outlets abroad.
This export of capital and the internationalization of capitalism are fundamental processes of modern imperialism – necessary for the survival and growth of U.S. capitalism.
Today 3,000 U.S. corporations have overseas investments in 24,000 foreign affiliates. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that U.S. companies held $4 trillion in direct investments overseas; sales from these operations were $2.5 trillion, an amount equalling more than 25% of the country's gross domestic product. The export of commodities account for another 10% of GDP or nearly $1 trillion in 1998. In addition, the developing countries owe some $2.5 trillion in debt to U.S. and European finance capitalists. Through these investments and loans, U.S. monopoly capital grabs hundreds of billions in super-profits every year. The very social existence of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class is bound up, not only with the exploitation of the American people, but also with the super-exploitation and plunder of the entire globe.
Today when Western leaders advertise their program of "globalization," they are not only demanding that every country must embrace the free market system. They are also insisting the removal of any barrier – including tariffs, capital controls, currency regulations, labor and social legislation, etc. – to the export of capital and the domination of the economies of other countries by the Western monopolies.
Of course, the imperialists and their pr men, portray "globalization" and the export of capital as the "transfer of technology to the underdeveloped world" and extol this as the path for "economic development and prosperity." They boast that international loans and capitalist investments are a form of "aid" for the "poor and backward countries."
But nothing could be further from the truth. The export of capital is the export of a social relation, the export of the capitalist-imperialist relations of domination and exploitation.
Through its branch plants and its banking networks, through loans, U.S. monopoly capital has come to own the land and the resources of the dependent and colonial countries and exploit the labor of the toiling masses. Rather than being a motor of economic development, the imperialist exploitation is the primary cause of the poverty and economic underdevelopment of the colonial and semi-colonial countries.
After a full century of "enjoying" the benefits of Western colonialism and "globalization," the vast majority of people in the dependent and colonial countries remain in grinding poverty. Today, for example, more than 1 billion people must try to survive on incomes of less than $2/day.
Why does such poverty continue to exist and, in fact, to get worse? Is it because the sun does not shine or the crops do not grow in other countries? Is it because these countries lack natural wealth or their peoples are "lazy?"
No. On the contrary, it is because for decades the very soil of these countries and the fruits of the labor of peoples have been plundered by the imperialists, have gone to the lords of capital in Wall Street, London, Paris and elsewhere. Over the last 100 years, the imperialists have drained and keep draining the oil wealth of the Arab peoples, dug up the very soil of Africa and shipped it to Europe, turned whole countries in Latin America into mono-crop "plantations," etc., etc. Today, foreign monopolies are even trying to grab control over the water resources of the dependent countries and force the peoples to pay tribute just to drink their own water.
While stealing the national patrimony of the peoples and destroying the indigenous economies, the imperialists have set up branch plants to superexploit the labor of the peoples. Relying on fascist governments and reactionary labor codes, the foreign corporations impose subminimum wages and inhuman working conditions on the workers.
Today the export of loans and finance capital have become a favorite means of the international monopolies for tightening their control over the dependent countries. Already the developing countries owe more than $2.5 trillion to bankers in the U.S., Japan and Western Europe.
Aside from grabbing hundreds of billions in interest every year, the IMF and World Bank and other financial institutions use the debt to force the developing countries to surrender their economic sovereignty and open entire continents up to imperialist plunder and exploitation. The international bankers force the privatization of the state sectors of the economy, demanding removal of any barrier to foreign ownership. Through such measures not only the mineral wealth and other resources but also the factories and the entire economic infrastructure of various countries, including ports, rail lines, roads and airports, etc., have been turned over to foreign monopolies. In addition the international bankers draw up the budgets of the developing countries, imposing new taxes on the masses while gutting social spending. Many developing countries spend 1/3 to 2/3 of their yearly budget on interest payments. Sub-Sahara Africa, for example, is forced to pay four times more on debt servicing every year than on health care and education combined. So too, the international capitalists dictate labor codes and other laws to remove any restrictions on their drive to maximize profit through the super-exploitation of the workers.
By dominating the global marketplace, the big monopolies impose the "scissors" effect on poorer and dependent countries – buying up their raw materials cheaply while selling back manufactured goods at inflated prices. Through the privileged position of the dollar and the domination of international currency, U.S. bankers extract tribute from the entire world.
Today, the means of production at the disposal of humanity are more than enough to guarantee the economic well-being of everyone, more than enough to enable humanity to take a great leap forward from the realm of economic necessity to the realm of freedom. But, on a world scale, billions of people are denied even their most elementary human and economic rights because these vast means of production – this patrimony of humanity – is owned by a handful of big capitalist monopolies and imperialist states. It is the social relations of capitalist-imperialism which are holding back the progress of humanity.
Thus when the U.S. government speaks of the "universality" of "American values," it is talking about the "right" of the capitalists to exploit and dominate the whole world. From Truman to Clinton to Bush (to Obama-ed.), every U.S. president has proclaimed that the oil wealth of Arab peoples is part of the "vital economic interests" of U.S. capitalism, that the resources and labor of the Latin American peoples belong to U.S. imperialism because it is "their backyard," that the European working class is obliged to serve as the "frontline of defense" for U.S. imperialism, etc. Today no spot on the earth or in the heavens is excluded from the ravenous appetite of U.S. imperialism.
Militarism and War
These inherent economic processes of modern capitalism – the process of monopolization at home and the export of capital abroad – give rise to violence and domination in politics. The very foundation of the capitalist-imperialist system – the social relations of subjugation and exploitation of the oppressed nations and classes, rests on violence and war.
It is well known that the history of the rise of capitalist-imperialism is the history of conquering the colonies through fire and sword. In the beginning of the 20th century, U.S. imperialism entered the scramble for colonies and economic territory by grabbing the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico through war. For decades, the U.S. marines openly made the law in Latin America while the U.S. companies plundered the wealth of the continent.
U.S. imperialism, which remained largely unscathed from WW II, emerged from the war at the head of the camp of capitalism. But faced with the worldwide growth of the camp of socialist countries and the ever-rising tide of national liberation, U.S. imperialism initiated the most ferocious counter-revolutionary campaign, stepping into the shoes of Hitler.
Under the banner of "containing" communism, U.S. imperialism militarized the entire world, launched wars against the national liberation movements and prepared for nuclear war against the socialist countries.
Since the end of World War II alone, U.S. imperialism has launched hundreds of armed interventions against the peoples and their movements for national liberation – in Korea, in Lebanon, in the Dominican Republic, in the Congo, in Vietnam, in El Salvador and Nicaragua, etc., etc.
In addition, U.S. imperialism has deployed its armies on every continent and filled the oceans with its warships. It has established its network of military bases over the entire globe. Over 500 U.S. military bases have been established on the soil of 100 countries. Such bases put the peoples under the thumb of military-colonial occupation, trampling on the sovereignty of countries and the dignity of the peoples in the Philippines and Puerto Rico, in Korea, etc. More than 100,000 troops are deployed in Europe as the "frontline" of defense of U.S. capitalism. So too, in Asia, the U.S. relies on the "forward-deployment" of 100,000 U.S. troops to project the strategic and economic interests of U.S. capital. In the Middle East, tens of thousands of U.S. troops, including a large war flotilla and nuclear-armed subs, are kept "combat ready." ...
The U.S. military machine is also used to "protect" and "expand" U.S. imperialism's empire from "theft" by rival capitalist powers.
Twice this century the imperialist system led humanity into world wars. While the capitalist powers fought to see which set of gangsters and robbers would hold the most economic territory and colonies, it was the working masses who paid the horrible price.
In the late 1950's, the transformation of the Soviet Union into an imperialist power gave rise to a bipolar world in which the competing alliances and empire of U.S. imperialism clashed with Soviet social-imperialism. These two superpowers militarized the entire world, instigated regional "proxy" wars, and tried to impose a regime of nuclear blackmail on the peoples.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism more than ever is intent on being the "sole superpower" on the basis of Might Makes Right....
But even while U.S. imperialism tries to keep its allies under its hegemony, the contradictions and rivalries keep breaking to the surface. The U.S. is unable to maintain its "grand alliance" against Iraq and even its "close allies" are rejecting the economic sanctions. For the last 10 years, the turmoil, the disintegration and wars in the former Yugoslavia are directly linked with the rivalries of the various imperialist powers. The growing integration of the European Community, the creation of the "euro" and the new EU military forces reflect the growing rivalry and struggle within U.S. imperialism's core NATO alliance. Struggles keep breaking out over trade barriers and currency flows, etc. At same time, sharp contradictions continue to exist with Russia, China and other countries. Already the intensifying rivalries between imperialist powers have fueled the wars in the Persian Gulf and the Balkans.
Trying to stop these centrifugal forces from undermining its hegemony, U.S. imperialism's strategy is to foment tensions and militarize every situation in order to insert itself into the equation. Thus, for ten years, U.S. imperialism worked to arm fascist elements on every side of the Balkan conflicts. And after creating chaos and organizing ethnic cleansing, U.S. imperialism dispatched its own troops to the region as "peacekeepers" and mapmakers. Still, nothing has been resolved and new wars over the division of the Balkans are brewing. Similarly, U.S. imperialism works to keep the pot boiling in Iraq and the Middle East in order to project its military power throughout the region and establish its bases everywhere.
In short, war and militarism are the way of life of the U.S. monopoly capitalist class. The very contradictions of their economic and social system – a system based on the enslavement of nations and characterized by intense conflict amongst competing capitalist monopolies and states – inevitably lead the capitalists to war. In this era, the people are subjected to two kinds of war: 1) wars waged by imperialism against the liberation movements of the peoples; and 2) inter-capitalist, inter-imperialist wars fought to see which robber and exploiter will control the most economic territory and empire. In both cases, the aims of imperialism are utterly reactionary and it is the working class and people – in the U.S. and throughout the world – who pay the horrible price.
American Chauvinism and Imperialist Pacifism
U.S. imperialism has always tried to disguise its exploiting, aggressive aims under the banner of "freedom," democracy" and "human rights." But history shows that on the lips of the U.S. capitalists these slogans are precisely the slogans of American chauvinism. In the name of "democracy," the C.I.A. organizes coups d'etat and installs fascist regimes; in the name of "freedom," U.S. imperialism has waged genocidal, colonial wars against the liberation movements of the Vietnamese people, the Korean people and others. In the name of "human rights," U.S. imperialism bombed the civilian population of Yugoslavia, destroying the infrastructure of that country.
The slogans of democracy and human rights are used to declare the "moral superiority" of the "American way of life" – the "universal values" of the "free market" system. Thus, the only "human rights" that U.S. imperialism is concerned with are the "rights" of the capitalists to exploit the peoples of the world; the "freedom" espoused by U.S. imperialism is the "freedom" of the capitalist monopolies to determine the social system of every country.
Precisely because there is so much opposition amongst the peoples to war and colonialism, U.S. imperialism is continually at work trying to disguise its exploiting, aggressive aims. U.S. imperialism relies on the counter-revolutionary tactics of imperialist pacifism – of talking about "peace" while waging war, of promising "negotiations and compromise" while imposing its dictate, etc.
Today, in the face of the ever-growing opposition to capitalist globalization, imperialism has officially taken up the line of "globalization with a human face." This program offers a few empty promises for the slight amelioration of the impoverishment of the peoples, pretending that we can have capitalism without the exploitation of the workers and peoples.
So too wherever U.S. imperialism is waging war, it is talking about "peace." For 50 years the U.S. government has armed and organized Israeli fascism in its war against the Palestinian nation. But still, the U.S. tries to present itself as the "honest broker" seeking peace. Again, even as the U.S. escalates its counter-insurgency war in Colombia, it keeps up an endless stream of propaganda about "dialogue and negotiations."
This imperialist pacifism turns truth on its head and tries to portray the imperialist warmakers as advocates of peace while slandering the peoples who resist colonialism and fight for their rights as the source of "violence and terrorism." Furthermore, the real content of the peace plans and negotiations sponsored by imperialism are to try to get the peoples to give up at the bargaining table what imperialism cannot win on the battlefield – to get people to give up their freedom and independence and accept neo-colonial arrangements which guarantee the interests of the U.S. monopolies.
The entire policy of imperialist pacifism attempts to 1) cover over the depth of the contradictions between imperialism and the peoples and 2) separate the problems of war and colonialism from their root causes in the imperialist system. Imperialist pacifism presents war only as a "policy" not as the inevitable result of the system of domination and subjugation of classes and nations.
Exposing and fighting against imperialism and its war program includes a continuous fight against imperialist deception and pacifism. War and militarism are not policies arising from some "hawkish" imperialists who might be opposed by some capitalist "doves." War and militarism are inseparable parts of the imperialist system. It is this system which must be fought against.
So too, it is mere illusion to think that the contradictions of imperialism will disappear because the warmakers signs treaties and send representatives to negotiating tables. The system of violence against the peoples as well the disequilibrium and conflicts amongst the imperialists themselves will continue as long as imperialism exists because at its very foundations imperialism is a system of exploitation and subjugation. In fact, rather than lessening or disappearing the contradictions of this system are becoming and will become ever more intense.