In the final part of 'Socialism and War' John Rees argues that the only war that can end war is the class war
There can be few more terrible indictments of our system than the disparity between the technology of war and the science of saving lives. The most advanced and costly technology in today's world is in the service of the military. Yet for those of its victims who live, but who have lost their arms and legs, there will be crutches and false limbs that have altered little from those given to the veterans of Waterloo.
Of course, the few very rich who are maimed will be able to afford microsurgery or false limbs with electronic circuits connected to the body's nerve endings. But no such facilities will be available to the majority of poor soldiers - it just isn't profitable. It certainly isn't as profitable as war.
To change such a system will take a titanic struggle. But war, because it introduces chaos and dislocation at home just as it does at the front, creates conditions under which people can begin such a struggle. The workers' and soldiers' councils which made the German and Russian Revolutions during and after the First World War are the best, but not the only, examples.
The mutinies and soldiers' councils, the police strikes, the Irish Civil War, the great strike waves and the fight for women to get the vote, which shook this country during and immediately after the First World War, were a great opportunity for change. It was only finally frittered away by the labour leaders who sold out the General Strike in 1926. More mutinies came at the end of the Second World War and the great popular clamour for change was the occasion for Lord Hailsham's famous cry, "Give them social reform or they will give you social revolution."
The opposition to the Vietnam War shaped a generation and fed into the great revival of revolutionary thought and working class resistance that dominated the early 1970s. In response to the Afghan and Iraq wars another anti-war movement springing up across the globe, the largest co-ordinated movement of its kind the world has ever seen. It has now fed into resistance to one of the deepest recessions the global economy has experienced. Most of the protesters will be revolted by the barbarity they see before them, without sharing all the ideas in this pamphlet. Yet, if those who do share these ideas work consistently and determinedly alongside them, they can, in time win acceptance that such ideas are the most effective way of fighting the war.
Then we really will have a chance to build a fight, not just against this or that war, but against the society which produces war. We can connect the struggle against the war with the struggle against low wages, bad housing and unemployment. Then we will be fighting a class war, the only war that can end war.
John Rees is a writer, broadcaster and activist, and is one of the organisers of the People’s Assembly. His books include ‘The Algebra of Revolution’, ‘Imperialism and Resistance’, ‘Timelines, A Political History of the Modern World’, ‘The People Demand, A Short History of the Arab Revolutions’ (with Joseph Daher), ‘A People’s History of London’ (with Lindsey German) and The Leveller Revolution. He is co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.
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