The Approach of the Third World War

The crisis of capitalism throughout the world has accelerated the march by American imperialism toward war with the nations it considers obstacles to its continued military and financial primacy, particularly Russia and China. The world stands on the precipice of disaster. 

In the 30 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, United States imperialism has been on a rampage across the world, destroying whole societies in the Middle East and Africa. Many millions of people have died from these adventures, more have been turned into refugees or become unspeakably impoverished. The latest military policy of the United States, however, focuses on “Great Power Competition.” 

In the South China Sea, on the borders of India and Vietnam and from the island of Taiwan, the United States and its allies have encircled China militarily and threatened it with total war while economically sanctioning the world’s largest producer of goods. In Europe, NATO has expanded from Germany one thousand miles to the borders of Russia. Treaties regulating deployment of intermediate range ballistic missiles have been scrapped. Forces have been stacked within a short striking distance of St. Petersburg and Moscow. 

Controlling a huge section of the Russian border (not to speak of Belarus, Russia’s lone ally in Europe) and hosting the vital Russian naval base in Crimea, Ukraine was subject to a coup in 2014 directed and funded by the United States – yet another US backed color revolution – making Ukraine a US proxy state. 

Russia could only defend its Black Sea naval base by “annexing” Crimea, which was done through referendum and not through military means. Ukraine, led by a far right US regime cultivated by Washington, waged war on the Russian-speaking East of the Country. Russia meanwhile, was placed under a harsh sanctions regime. The US continued to pile up troops, war machines and missile systems on Russian borders. Ukraine, the second largest country in Europe and already in a virtual war with Russia, requested to join NATO as part of its new constitution. 

Russia tried to negotiate a way out of this debacle, but failing this, has presently resorted to a thuggish invasion of Ukraine, all the time trying to force the West to negotiate as it pours arms and money into the proxy war of Ukraine with Russia. The ominous words “no-fly zone” and worse are being shouted by the most brazen members of the Western governments. Germany has used the occasion to shed the post-World War II status quo and rearm itself.

The threat of a third, and necessarily nuclear war, is immediate and severe. The slightest miscalculation could end civilization. Only a small exchange of nuclear weapons would kick up enough radioactive dust to initiate a nuclear winter which would devastate life on this planet. Russia and the United States alone, however, possess tens of thousands of these terror devices. 

After sacrificing millions of people to the Covid pandemic through their policies of malignant neglect, is there any doubt that the ruling class simply does not care about the civilian losses that might accrue from its illusory “limited” or “tactical” nuclear exchange that it imagines is possible as a viable military option? This is according to the principal war planning and policy documents of US imperialism.   

War and foreign policy of capitalist nations follow from the needs of the financial autocracy to maintain and accentuate their control of world resources and profit opportunities. Monopolist finance capital uses the state form and imperialism as a lever to use against rival capitalists who have carved out a stake in one corner of the world or another. Amid the long term decline of the American economy and its tenuous, slipping hold of financial dominance of the globe, it turns to imperialist methods to restrain any potential contenders. 

The history of capitalism shows the constant and violent changing of the guard with regards to which nations hold the strings of world finance. From Spain, to the Netherlands, to Fleet Street at the center of the British Empire, to Wall Street as the center of American hegemony. But as the great American industrial strength faded in the wake of World War II, and the post-war arrangements of Bretton Woods fizzled out, a renewed crisis began to take hold. This has developed to the point where China and possibly other future national and regional alignments can legitimately be said to threaten US hegemony in the near future. 

Just as the decline of the British Empire relative to its rivals sparked a war for a new division of the world. Once again, through a new world war American imperialism seeks to redivide the globe, attempting to salvage and safeguard profit opportunities out of the ruins of the productive forces and current arrangements of power.

The forces that can be now brought to bear and the opportunities for success under such circumstances never existed in the Cold War and could only have been pictured in the wildest dreams of Cold War imperialism. There was a stalemate in the Cold War based on the post-war position of the Soviet Union and of the United States, which placed objective limitations on the two blocs that denied the feasibility of outright war as a means to protect or supplement the interests of either country.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the main counterweight to American imperialism, the US immediately sought to use this “unipolar” moment to assert itself militarily as it never could previously even as it increasingly became economically impossible to sustain world dominance purely by dollar diplomacy.  

The attempt to find a way to resolve political and economic conflict through war runs through the entire Cold War but there was never an opportunity for the full application of this program. Now, with no bloc of countries yet fully ready to take the mantle of world leader from the United States, and no bloc capable of really stopping the course of war, the same recognizable outline of a re-division of the world through blunt violence characterizes the motive force of the coming war as much as it did the first two world wars. There is this difference, that the US is now the declining power as well as the most militarily eminent, and nothing progressive can come out of war for any section whatsoever of the world working class.

The attitude of idealism, finding its expression in contemporary politics under various names, always takes the form of reductionist efforts at psychologizing world events. This works to ultimately make inexplicable the historical processes under review and obscures the lessons and aspects of events that offer valuable predictive insights into the direction of capitalism. In other words, it directly undermines the development of a correct political line on world events.

In the early 60s there was an intense debate on the lessons of the two world wars between those who took a materialist position like Fritz Fischer and various idealists who tried to psychologize the wars or make them about individuals and their mistaken ideologies.

Fischer argued economic and geographical-historical circumstances in Germany led to its recurring attempts to conquer Europe. His rivals indulged in trying to identify insanity in certain individuals and “social types,” either to offload war guilt or pin it down on these superficial abstractions, thus burying the entire period either way.

Fritz Fischer was not the inventor of materialism in the field of history or foreign relations. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky all analyzed the same fundamental movements of economy and historical processes from which wars inevitably arise.

It is necessary to harness all the historical antecedents to the current conflict, to analyze the objective forces and the subjective positions of the capitalist powers as they emerge, more broadly, from the current crisis of capitalism. 

It is important to take seriously the talk and advanced state of preparations for war. What is the total front and center of world events today is the encirclement of Russia with soldiers and armaments. 

The current situation does not resemble the Cold War status quo in terms of the basic correlation of forces and geo-strategic realities. The strategic advantage enjoyed by United States imperialism is profound and unprecedented. The complete encirclement of the world’s largest country has been completed from all possible directions, opportunistic and ultimately temporary partners in Europe have jumped on the bandwagon, and Russia is almost totally isolated in world diplomacy, with the possible exception of Chinese support.

It is in this context that the violent outburst of Russian militarism must be placed. The stampede for war by the West is conditioned by its military supremacy and its longtime encroachment in the Russian sphere. War Fever or the uncritical backing of the West’s chosen proxy in Ukraine is the complete antithesis of a correct understanding and a humane response. The working class of all countries must unite together in common cause, all of them confronting their own ruling class in a unified anti-war movement. Warmongering capitalism everywhere must be overthrown. In this and this only lies the end to war and the final elimination of the nuclear threat. 

The crisis of American and world capitalism, accentuated by the pandemic, can only lead to barbarism if allowed to further unfold under the direction of the capitalist class. The key to the international situation is to turn the attempt to corral the working class into another disastrous world conflict into a war between classes, into a struggle for socialism.

Capitalism is much more fragile than it appears at first. War tends to reveal this fragility. Capitalism rests on a small minority of the world population, its economic system on paper and electronic claims on production and distribution. The imposing appearance given by the repressive and propaganda arms of the bourgeoisie is not something which can stand up to a revolutionary situation.

There is no strong arming or pulling wool over the eyes of an entire population when the interests and experiences of the population have brought them as a mass directly up against the capitalist system. The capitalist war has within it the seed of revolution, and this should be the essential focus of all analysis and writing on the third, and barring the intervention of the working class, inevitably nuclear world war.


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