Honeyed phrases about ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ is a minor issue from the standpoint of the working class. As is the question ‘Who started the war?’ because politicians on either side of a war will always portray the ‘enemy’ as the ‘aggressor’, and usually successfully to sway public opinion. John Pilger quotes the journalist who exposed the Iran/Contragate:
"If you wonder," wrote Robert Parry, "how the world could stumble into world war three - much as it did into world war one a century ago - all you need to do is look at the madness that has enveloped virtually the entire US political/media structure over Ukraine where a false narrative of white hats versus black hats took hold early and has proved impervious to facts or reason."
At the height of World War One’s slaughter, British prime minister David Lloyd George confided in C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian: "If people really knew the truth the war would be stopped tomorrow, but of course they don't know and can't know."
It's time they knew and that is part of the task of socialists.
Socialists have always claimed that at the bottom of all war there is an economic cause. This claim is substantiated by a careful study of the causes and results of wars. Economic causes are, of course, the root of wars. But today, with all this nationalistic preaching it is easier than ever to obscure this fact. Nationalism is the cloak behind which the economic causes work.
The position that socialists take in a war is of the utmost importance. It is an acid test, for us. Many people are anti-war. There is a more fundamental reason why socialists reject a strategy that leaves the causes of war untouched. So long as we simply aim at putting a halt to the latest barbarity in which our rulers are engaged we will always leave them free to prepare another war. The drive to war is inherent in the way capitalism works. As long as the antiwar or peace movements and the working class in general refuse, or are unwilling, to recognize the cardinal point that capitalism with its production for profit and private ownership of the tools of production is the cause of war, they will find themselves fighting endless reforms or effects under capitalism which never lead to a solution but only to frustration and despair.
The real roots of the war can be seen in the class system of society. The narrow interests of each “national” capitalist class conflict one with the other. It is notorious to all students of history that “spheres of influence” and “places in the sun” are only elegant phrases that really mean exclusive possession of foreign markets and trade privilege. But these things are known only to the careful investigator into facts and to the unprejudiced historian.Kings and capitalists may fight for these things — people, never! Yet it is peoples that must fight the war and die in war.
Internationalism means no nationalism. Nationalism always claims certain virtues as the peculiar, exclusive possession of certain nations. If individuals make such claims, they are laughed to scorn. Why — with what logic — may nations make such claims? Nationalism claims that the culture belonging to one nation is distinct from that belonging to any other. This was so in the past, but the natural evolution of mankind is making it less so. Increased means of communication has created a world where there is no essential difference between any one of the countries of the world. Even language is tending to become universal. More people understand each other today than ever before. Governments are coming to resemble each other. Codes of ethics are becoming international. It is only by the most artificial kind of propaganda that nationalism is kept alive. Nationalism is an unmitigated curse. It leads inevitably to chauvinism and to national aggression. It leads to a patriotism for the soil, for the particular bit of the earth’s surface on which a particular person has been born. It leads to narrowness and bigotry, to national jealousy and petty pride. In the end nationalism is the best of cloaks for the intrigues and machinations of capitalists.
When people attack 'militarism' yet uphold the capitalist system, they are fighting an effect while defending the cause. The politicians are elected and sent to parliament to protect the economic interests of the capitalist class. That's just one little lesson in political economy that the anti-war movement badly needs. The function of the political State is that of the executive committee of the capitalist class. The only road to permanent peace lies in the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by genuine socialism under which goods will be produced for use and the means of wealth production will be socially owned.
Socialism being a classless and cooperative there will be no exploitative capitalist class as at present to fight over the surplus wealth stolen from the working class and encourage wars to get rid of it. The causes of war that existed under capitalism will no longer exist under socialism. Only under socialism can permanent peace become a reality instead of just a dream as at present. All of the energy, enthusiasm and sacrifice of the present anti-war movements will come to naught unless they quickly learn that capitalism is the cause of war. Capitalism and its nation state system is the root cause of war. The danger of war can only be prevented through a struggle to abolish the profit system and reorganise society on the basis of socialism.
Wars are not accidental. An accident can sometimes spark off war but only if all the other conditions for war are present. But there is no such thing as an “accidental war”. The only way to end the possibility of such madness as war is to destroy the system which inevitably leads to these horrors.