Socialist Equality Party (UK)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Britain)

Imperialist War and Militarism

269. The analysis made by the International Committee of the implications of globalisation, the decline of US capitalism and the degeneration of the old workers’ organisations prepared the international movement for the eruption of militarism and war that followed the dissolution of the USSR. The International Committee was able to detect, in the outburst of US aggression in the Balkans, the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, the contradictions that were eroding the foundations of the entire imperialist order.

270. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the chief obstacle that had prevented the US exercising its global domination was gone. But this coincided with the historic eclipse of the US as the world’s premier economic power. Washington determined to use its military superiority to offset its weakening economic position against its major rivals and establish control of the world’s most strategic regions and resources. Though the US plays the pre-eminent role in the drive towards militarism, at the roots of this drive are the geopolitical and economic tensions arising objectively out of the capitalist nation state system. Competition between the US, Japan, Russia, and the European powers, as well as China and India, mean that further predatory wars for geopolitical dominance and control of energy resources are inevitable.

271. In its much reduced world position, the British bourgeoisie has generally understood that it must accept the leading role of Washington, and work under the NATO umbrella, in projecting its global interests as a military power. But this took on greater urgency following the collapse of the East European Stalinist states. Reunification had consolidated the position of Germany as the continent’s leading power, while the Franco-German alliance worked to the detriment of UK influence across the European continent. It was to offset the challenge posed by Britain’s European rivals that the Blair government functioned as the most enthusiastic ally of US imperialism in its policy of “pre-emptive war” and associated crimes. Behind the British bourgeoisie’s insistence on the need to preserve and deepen the “special relationship”, it was determined to secure its share of the spoils of conquest. All the institutions of the state—parliament, the civil service, the intelligence agencies and the armed forces—were given over to wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the name of the “war on terror”, the judicial framework for a police state was established.

272. Labour sought to legitimise the return to neo-colonialism under the guise of “humanitarian” interventions and the pursuit of Western “democratic values”. The contemporary invocation of the “white man’s burden” was taken up by a substantial layer of what once had constituted the middle class liberal, “left” milieu. During the 1960s and 1970s, this layer had based its leftism not on the independent struggle of the working class but on the Stalinist and social democratic apparatus. The collapse of this apparatus removed the essential prop for such protest politics. It meant that the liberal “lefts” no longer identified their own social advancement as in any way bound up with the workers’ movement. On the contrary, they were among the beneficiaries of the speculative boom and the dismantling of the welfare state inaugurated by Thatcher and carried forward under New Labour.

273. A pernicious role was also played by those petty-bourgeois groups that came to the leadership of the mass protests against the Iraq war in 2003. Once again, the SWP, the Stalinists and others united behind pacifist appeals to the United Nations, the European powers and Britain’s Liberal Democrats. The abject failure of this movement, and its subsequent collapse, underscores that the fight against war demands a unified political movement of the international working class for the overthrow of capitalism and its nation state system.