We [Socialist Voice] are publishing this text from an unpublished book War, Imperialism and Socialism by Bill Hunter because yet again the question of capitalist decay is posed in relation to the collapse of Carillon (see page 6 in this Socialist Voice The giant flagship collapses). The failure of Carillon to be able to build a hospital, schools, rail infrastructure etc is raising the question, what is the solution: Capitalism or Socialism. Socialism is beginning to be recognised as the only solution.
For Bill Hunter, who was a member of the International Socialist League until his death, the only way to end capitalism was a socialist revolution led by the working class and a revolutionary party to establish socialism under workers democracy.
The last thirty years with the slow-down of the system, the economic crises every few years, the increasing degradation and misery of a large mass of the world’s population, have shown that the Marxists were right in declaring that capitalism, in the 20th century was a system in decay.
Historian, Eric Hobsbawm, in his book on the twentieth century, The Age of Extremes, declared it to be, “without a doubt the most murderous century of which we have record by the scale, frequency and length of the warfare which filled it.”
To emphasise his point he included short opinions at the beginning of his book of twelve people, philosophers, scientists, writers, and a musician, of whom eight commented on its violence, the ‘terrible events’ within it and its disastrous course.
The musician, the famous violinist, Yehudi Menuhin wrote how “It raised the greatest hopes ever raised by humanity, and destroyed all illusions and ideals.”
Jonathan Steele, The Observer, journalist began a two page article in that paper on 12 December 1999 under the headline. ‘the century that murdered peace’, with a subhead: “At the bloody dawn of a new millenium, Jonathan Steele, foresees no escape from the long catalogue of warfare and suffering that branded the twentieth century an Age of Barbarism”.
Immediately after the 1939-45 war the preparations for the next war began. From then until the Soviet Regime collapsed in the last decade of the 20th century, in relations between US and the Soviet Union the axiom of Clausewitz was reversed – politics between the capitalist powers led by the United States, and the Soviet Union, could be said to have been war carried on by political means.
Thus the period was designated the Cold War.
The politics of war began before the peace treaties of the Second World War were signed.
Imperialism produces war
The First World War of the 20th century took place in a century that revolutionary Marxists categorised as being an epoch of the decline of capitalism, in which the question of socialism or barbarism was central.
Lenin himself categorised this epoch as one of wars and revolutions, where capitalism had developed to its final stage: that of imperialism, where the world had been divided up among the Great Powers and every extension of capitalist production carried its opposite within it – the enormous fearsome antagonisms which now threaten the whole world.
It is not just an epoch of wars, but of world wars.
We live in the middle of undreamed of possibilities for the satisfaction of humanity’s needs and cultural demands. Today, that labour is producing an enormous quantity of goods.
Yet a major problem for billions of people in the world is the distribution of the goods that their labour produces through working on nature.
The crying question of today is not technology but its control.
Millions of people throughout the globe feel they have no power and no control over their lives or over their future.
They face the same grave problems in the accelerating pace and uncertainty of work, and the change and worsening of conditions that existed for many years.
And, that is particularly so in the case of an enormous mass of people in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East who feel most severely the ravages of imperialism.
Genetic engineering now opens up the possibilities of an amazing leap in medical facilities but produces incalculable threats to humanity and nature.
Under the pressure of war needs, science made a leap forward in nuclear physics.
The immediate result of that leap was that Japanese human beings were annihilated in 1945, many of them left as a shadow on the pavement, others suffering a lingering death from nuclear illnesses.
A feature of the world today is that all around us, people are fearful of the advances of science and technique. We have the paradox of over-accumulation of wealth contrasted with blinding poverty.
Thatcher’s war against workers
The ideological preparation in the 1970s for the offensive against the working class was the resurgence of the doctrines of economic liberalism or what is now called neo-liberalism headed by the group in Britain that set out to put Thatcher at the head of the Tory Party.
Capitalism in its decay gave itself a ‘shot in the arm,’ of doctrines from its youth, repudiating the ‘consensus’ and Keynesian policies of the boom. A whole layer of intellectuals, already retreating before the ideological offensive of capitalism, were shattered and demoralised by the collapse of the Stalinist regimes at the end of the eighties and beginning of the nineties.
An age of barbarism
An Age of Barbarism: that is the true description of the epoch we are living through — the barbarism of a capitalist system in decline and decay.
The century began with the viciousness of the Boer war and its concentration camps.
In a short while the First World War was launched with four years of slaughter, savagery and suffering, such as the world had never seen before.
It was followed in two decades by another war that surpassed the first in casualties and destruction.
It ended with the terrorist attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Before this there was the terror bombing of cities with the spreading of fire storms. Two million died in Japanese cities.
In the twentieth century terror became the tactic of war, particularly the terrorising of civilians, calmly calculated by military strategists.
The great speed at which events have taken place following the suicide attacks on Washington and New York, testifies to the enormity of world tensions that are below the surface in capitalist economic relations and relations between classes and states.
War does not come about just as the result of a particular event, such as the bombing of New York.
This war we are now living in, assumes the characteristic of a war against the poor and oppressed peoples in the world; a war that comes from the politics of modern globalised capital and its statesmen, led by the mighty power of US imperialism.