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Marxism-Leninism on War and Army - The economic Foundation of war

Marxism-Leninism on War and Army
While engendering wars and determining their aims politics is neither primary nor self-contained. It is determined by the vital interests of different classes evolved by the socio-economic system of the exploiter state. This system, which has given rise to wars, is characterised by the domination of private ownership, the concentration of the bulk of the means of production in the hands of the exploiter classes, who exist by appropriating the surplus product 48created by the working people. This is what all class antagonistic formations have in common, what forms the common source of wars of the most varied type.

All wars in the past and present, those between exploiter states in pursuit of the selfish interests of slave-owners, feudal lords and the bourgeoisie, as also the uprisings and wars of the working people against their enslavers, against whom they rose when their position had become unbearable and their patience had worn out, all these wars were caused by private ownership relations and the resultant social and class antagonisms in exploiter formations. However, this does not mean that the specific differences in the causes of wars have been abolished. Wars in each of the above formations and in definite historical epochs had their own, specific causes.
The Economic Roots of Wars Under Capitalism

Capitalism ushered in a new epoch in the history of wars. The basic law of capitalism is the production of surplus value. The aim of capitalist production is the constant, unlimited accumulation of profit. Capitalists cannot rest content with the mass of the surplus value being created by the proletariat of their own country. Their appetites are insatiable. They scour the world in search of high profits. Wars are a means of rapid enrichment for the capitalists and, hence, a constant travelling companion of capitalism. The system of the exploitation of man by man and the system of the destruction of man by man are two sides of the capitalist order. War is a means by which the bourgeoisie obtains new raw material sources and markets, robs foreign countries and makes easy profits.

Capitalism created a world market for the first time in history and enlarged the number of objects over which wars were waged. Chief among them were colonies—sources of cheap raw materials and labour power, spheres for the export of goods and capital, strongholds on international trade routes. For several centuries bourgeois Holland, Britain, France, Portugal and other European states waged wars of conquest against the weakly developed countries in order to make colonies of them. There were also wars between the capitalist countries themselves for a division of the world.

Naturally, some wars under capitalism were due also to 49other causes. The development of the productive forces of capitalism was obstructed in many countries by national oppression and political decentralisation. The epoch from the French bourgeois revolution of 1789–1794 to the Paris Commune of 1871 saw bourgeois-progressive, national liberation wars among other types of war. The main content and historical purpose of these wars was to overthrow absolutism and to destroy foreign oppression.

With the transition of capitalism to the imperialist stage, the bourgeois states became much more aggressive. This is explained by the economic features of imperialism, which is a decaying and moribund capitalism.

At the turn of the century leap-like development replaced the more or less regular spread of capitalism over the globe. This led to an unprecedented growth and intensification of all the contradictions of that system—economic, political, class and national. The struggle of the imperialist powers for markets and spheres of capital investment, for raw materials and labour power, and for world domination took on extremely sharp forms. While imperialism ruled undividedly this struggle inevitably led to destructive wars.

The basic economic sources of these wars were rooted in the deepening conflict between the modern productive forces and the economic, and also political system of imperialism. This was the main cause of the armed clashes between imperialist powers.

The confines of old national states, without the formation of which capitalism could not have overthrown feudalism, became too narrow for it. The productive forces of world capitalism outgrew the limited framework of bourgeois states. The whole world merged into a single economic organism, and was at the same time divided up among a handful of big imperialist powers. This contradiction found expression in the striving of the bourgeoisie to export capital and to win markets for commodities they cannot sell at home, to seize raw material sources and new colonies, to destroy competitors on world markets and to conquer world domination and, hence, to unleash wars.

The conflict between the productive forces (with the national-imperialist limits imposed on their development) and the capitalist relations of production is strikingly expressed in the uneven, leap-like economic and political development 50of capitalist countries under imperialism. Thus, at the beginning of the century bourgeois countries which had launched out on industrial development only recently found themselves in a favourable situation and succeeded, by a sudden forward dash, to outstrip the old industrial capitalist states in a comparatively short time. After the Second World War the share and role of the individual capitalist states changed again and the unevenness of their economic development intensified.

Uneven development inevitably leads to abrupt changes in the alignment of forces in the world capitalist system. From time to time a sharp disturbance of the equilibrium occurs within that system. The old distribution of spheres of influence among the monopolies clashes with the new alignment of forces in the world. To bring the distribution of colonies in accord with the new balance of forces, there inevitably have to be periodical redivisions of the already divided world. Under capitalism armed violence is the only way of dividing up colonies and spheres of influence.

“... Capitalism,” Lenin said, “has concentrated the earth’s wealth in the hands of a few states and divided the world up to the last bit___Any further enrichment could take place only at the expense of others, as the enrichment of one state at the expense of another. The issue could only be settled by force—and, accordingly, war between the world marauders became inevitable." [50•1 As a result of the social antagonisms inherent in capitalism and the operation of the law of the uneven, leap-like economic and political development of the capitalist countries under imperialism, the contradictions between the bourgeois states aggravate to the utmost, and this leads to a division of the capitalist world into hostile coalitions, and to wars between them.

The First and the Second World Wars burst forth on this economic basis. The imperialists of all countries, the entire world system of capitalism were guilty of them. These wars had catastrophical results for the international bourgeoisie, promoted the formation of the world socialist community and the collapse of the colonial system of imperialism. However, the ruling circles of the imperialist states did not draw the necessary conclusions from them.

Reasons for the Greater Aggressiveness of the Imperialist States Today

Formerly the aggravation of the contradictions between these states or their coalitions was the main reason responsible for the striving of imperialist states to unleash wars. These contradictions continue to aggravate. However, the main contradiction now is that between the two opposing social systems—capitalism and socialism.

The contradictions between the two world systems are class contradictions. The socialist system greatly diminishes the sphere of imperialist exploitation and domination, creating conditions in which capitalism will lose the privileges it still enjoys. Socialism has a revolutionising influence on the working people in the capitalist countries, the colonies and dependent countries.

Another reason for the growing aggressiveness of modern imperialism is that the contradictions between the imperialist states, on the one hand, and the colonies and recent colonies, on the other, have greatly aggravated. Under the influence of the example set by the Soviet Union—once a backward agrarian country and now a mighty industrial power—and that of the successes achieved by other socialist countries, the popular masses in Asia, Africa and Latin America have launched a national liberation revolution. Deep antagonisms divide the imperialist states and the countries that have won national independence or are still fighting for liberation.

The imperialist predators are willing to resort to any means, fair or foul, to preserve and strengthen their colonial possessions. They attempt to suppress the national liberation struggle of the African peoples by force of arms, they unleash wars in the Southeast Asian countries and organise reactionary coups in the Latin American states. Colonialism and neocolonialism are the direct and indirect cause of many conflicts threatening to plunge mankind into a new war.

The third cause is the exacerbation of the internal contradictions of capitalism after the Second World War. This is linked, first and foremost, with the continuing aggravation and deepening of the general crisis of capitalism, with the fact that the main contradiction of capitalist society, that between labour and capital, continues to grow. The transition from monopoly capitalism to state monopoly capitalism, 52under which the monopolies merge with the state, intensifies the exploitation of the working people, makes science and technology and the growing productive forces serve the aim of enriching a handful of monopolists. Exploitation has never been as hideous as it is today. Even when business conditions are favourable millions of people, workers and intellectuals are unemployed, and peasants are ruined and evicted from their land. At the same time a small number of powerful monoplies is profiting from the exploitation of the working people, from the arms race and aggressive wars.

State monopoly capitalism is responsible for the unprecedented intensification of militarism, including the economic and ideological fields. Militarisation permeates the entire life of bourgeois society. The production of massdestruction weapons eats up an enormous part of the national income of the bourgeois states. During the past 20 years US military spending has increased more than 48-fold over that in the two prewar decades. More than 75 per cent of the total expenditure in the US Federal Budget is directly or indirectly channeled to military needs. The growth in weapons production in the main imperialist states makes other countries spend large funds on strengthening their defence too.

The imperialist state is becoming a militaristic police state. The economic superstructure rising on the basis of finance capital, and the politics and ideology of the finance oligarchy strengthen the state’s aggressiveness. Under state–monopoly capitalism “big business”, the political leaders and the top brass controlling the state, make it pursue a policy aimed at preparing a war against the Soviet Union and other socialist states.

The sharp diminution of the sphere of action of the imperialist forces and the extreme aggravation of the contradictions under state-monopoly capitalism make the economic and political development of the bourgeois countries ever more uneven. This is the fourth reason responsible for the greater aggressiveness of the imperialist states.

In recent years serious changes have taken place in the relation of forces within the capitalist world. This process is continuing.

Intense exploitation of the working people through the system of state-monopoly capitalism, relatively small military spending over a long period of time, the high level of capital investments and the comparatively rapid growth of labour productivity, the application of the fruits of scientific and technological progress, and the considerable material assistance given to them by the USA and some other countries have led to rapid economic advance in West Germany and Japan. For several years the West European countries and Japan outstripped the USA in economic growth rates. Lately, however, their roles have changed again.

This deepened the contradictions between the USA and the European capitalist countries and Japan. The competitive struggle in Western Europe has also taken on sharper forms, including the Common Market and other state–monopoly associations. New forms of international economic associations and new ways of dividing markets have emerged, as have also new centres of attraction and new hotbeds of contradictions. All this must be taken into account when the economic reasons for military clashes are investigated.

The triumph of socialist revolutions and the transition of a growing number of countries to the socialist road have greatly weakened imperialism. But, imperialism does not want to give up its positions without struggle. The classSocial antagonisms between the two social systems are growing ever more distinct and at times assume very sharp forms.

The contradiction between capitalism and socialism is stronger than the inter-imperialist contradictions. It reflects all the contradictions of the epoch and leaves a deep mark on all major international events. It should be remembered that the growth of the forces of socialism and the upsurge of the class and national liberation struggle are attended by the growing aggressiveness of the monopoly bourgeoisie, which fights social progress by all and every means and attempts to preserve its class privileges and riches at all costs.

The advance of the world socialist system and other factors do much to exacerbate inter-imperialist contradictions. They exert a dual influence. On the one hand, they strengthen the will of the imperialist powers to unite, to create military, political and other alliances, on the other, 54they deepen the contradictions between them. This corroborates Lenin’s statement that “... two trends exist; one, which makes the alliance of all the imperialists inevitable; the other, which places the imperialists in opposition to each other—two trends, neither of which has any firm foundations". [54•1

After the Second World War the first tendency naturally grew stronger in the course of the struggle waged by the imperialist powers against the socialist system. Imperialist states energetically strengthened their aggressive military blocs, signed bilateral pacts, etc. For the first time in history the main imperialist powers, the USA, Britain, West Germany and others joined a single military alliance directed against the socialist system.

Naturally, the fact that there are two opposite tendencies in the development of the imperialist system makes every alliance of the capitalist countries contradictory and unstable. Such alliances (organisations) directed against the socialist countries and the national liberation movement do not resolve the economic and political contradictions between the individual capitalist countries in those alliances and within every one of them but, on the contrary, further deepen and aggravate them. Besides, the setting up of organisations involving a number of capitalist countries inevitably leads to a growth of the contradictions within these organisations and struggle against outsiders. At present, however, these interimperialist contradictions are dampened by the even sharper class antagonisms. That is why a war between the big imperialist states, though still possible, is far less likely now than it was before.

Thus, the world imperialist system is torn by deep and sharp antagonisms. These are contradictions between labour and capital and between the people and the monopolies, growing militarisation, the disintegration of the colonial system, the antagonisms between the young national states and the old colonial powers, and most important—the rapid growth of world socialism that undermines and erodes imperialism, weakens it and spells its doom.

In view of the above the imperialists intend to save 55capitalism through war, the danger of which is great at present and is threatening all the peoples of our planet. It is precisely because capitalism at its highest stage has entered the period of its decline and ruin and is going through a new, third stage of its general crisis, that its aggressive strivings are not decreasing but are incessantly growing.

Imperialist aggression is spearheaded against the socialist community and only the strength of the countries in that community, notably that of the Soviet Union, prevents international reaction from unleashing a world military conflict. At the same time the antagonisms between the handful of highly developed imperialist powers and the young developing countries are growing sharper. The imperialists attempt with all the means at their disposal to hamper the peoples from carrying out radical changes in their social systems. With this aim in view they unleash local wars, instigate military coups and organise plots and interventions.

Socio-Economic  Conditions for the Establishment of Peace

War, as Marxism-Leninism has shown scientifically, is not a permanent feature in history. The historical inevitability of transition of all or at least of the main countries to socialism creates the economic basis for banning wars from the life of society and for establishing eternal peace. Mankind has already attained a stage of development in which there are material prerequisites determining not only the possibility but also the objective need for the victory of the new, socialist system, under which the causes breeding wars and military conflicts will disappear. Lenin wrote: “... our aim is to achieve a socialist system of society, which, by eliminating the division of mankind into classes, by eliminating all exploitation of man by man and nation by nation, will inevitably eliminate the very possibility of war." [55•1

The modern productive forces have created the material prerequisites and the objective need for the transition of mankind to socialism. Because of their high level of development and social character an extensive division of labour has been established between different countries, and close economic ties have been formed. The development of sea, 56land and air transport has made it possible to cover the distances between countries in no time.

Modern scientific and technological progress opens up broad prospects for the rapid development of the productive forces and for the radical improvement of the material conditions in all countries. The introduction of its enormous achievements, on a mass scale, the extensive use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and the comprehensive automation of production will give mankind unheard-of wealth, which we must not risk losing just to please a handful of warmongers.

However, the long-since-obsolete capitalist relations of production prevent the use of the enormous achievements made by production, science and technology in the interests of all members of society, and also equal economic co–operation between the peoples.

Under capitalism already there is a clearly expressed tendency towards the setting up of a single world economy managed according to a common plan, a tendency that will undoubtedly develop further and will fully assert itself once socialism is established on a global scale. Socialism will remove the barriers between countries and nations imperialism has set up, will unite mankind into a single workers’ collective. The triumph of socialism in all countries will bring a social system “whose international rule will be Peace, because its national rules will be everywhere the same—Labour!” [56•1

These prophetic words which were spoken by Marx as early as 1870, have been fully borne out by the peace-loving policy of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, by the new relations between them. These are relations of fraternal co-operation and mutual assistance between countries, in which the leading role is played by the working class, and in which the working people themselves are the masters of their destiny, and are building a new life without the bourgeoisie. The socialist community embodies the objective invincibility of mankind’s movement toward eternal peace.

Now the world socialist system determines the main trend 57of human society’s historical progress. The further transformation of the world socialist system into the decisive factor in mankind’s social development will express not only the chief content, trend and main distinctive features of history, but also the entire process of that development, all its paths and specific features.

But, until the economic basis of wars and their only source —imperialism—continue to exist, until imperialist policy and ideology are aimed at preparing and unleashing military conflicts, the economic and military might of the Soviet Union and the entire socialist community, the policy and ideology of the building and defence of socialism and communism, will have to play an important part in preventing wars and reining in the aggressive imperialist forces.


[50•1] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 28, p. 80.

[54•1] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 27, p. 369.

[55•1] V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 24, pp. 398–99.

[56•1] The General Council of the First International, 1870–1871, Minutes, Moscow, 1967, p. 328.

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