Tue Jul 23, 2024
July 23, 2024

An Age of Barbarism

By Bill Hunter, 2005, on the invasion of Iraq and imperialist terror

An Age of Barbarism: that is the true description of the epoch we are living through – the barbarism of a capitalist system in decline and decay. The 19th century began with the viciousness of the Boer war and its concentration camps. In a short while the First World War was launched with four years of slaughter, savagery and suffering, such as the world had never seen before. It was followed in two decades by another war that surpassed the first in casualties and destruction. It ended with the terrorist attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Before this there was the terror bombing of cities with the spreading of fire storms. Two million died in Japanese cities. In the twentieth century terror became more and more a part of the tactics of war, particularly the terrorising of civilians, calmly calculated by military strategists.

Immediately after the 1939-46 war the preparations for the next began. Since then, until the Soviet Regime collapsed in the last decade of the century, in relations between U.S. and the Soviet Union the axiom of Clausewitz was reversed – politics between the capitalist powers led by the United States, and the Soviet Union, could be said to have been war carried on by political means. Thus, the period was designated the Cold War. In fact, politics of war began before the peace treaties of the Second World War were signed.

The First World War of the 20th century took place in a century that revolutionary Marxists categorised as being in an epoch of the decline of capitalism, in which the question of socialism or barbarism was central.  Lenin himself categorised this epoch as one of wars and revolutions, where capitalism had developed to its final stage: that of imperialism, where the world had been divided up among the Great Powers and every extension of capitalist production carried its opposite within it – the enormous fearsome antagonisms which now threaten the whole world. It is not just an epoch of wars, but of world wars. 

Terrorism of the rulers

“War is the imposition of our will by force,” is another often-quoted aphorism of Clausewitz. In fact, the foundations of capitalist or feudal society are built on force although the relationship of force in human social relations was much clearer in feudalism. The bourgeois or capitalist class fought against feudal restrictions under the banner of freedom, but the freedom to buy and sell property without restriction and feudal laws. But capitalist society came into the world by force, and it continues with its assistance.

The launching of terror is constantly part of that force particularly during war. In fact, the expansion of war to the whole of society instead of its conduct by small groups was a characteristic of the twentieth century and contributed in a major way to the definition held by several intellectuals of the twentieth century as the most brutal century so far. Terrorism on civilian populations became a major weapon of the “imposition of will by force.” When the military leaders talk of “collateral damage” today, they speak not of casualties and destruction committed accidentally on non-combatants; they mean the deliberate terrorist tactics on the whole people of the enemy country, which are now an intrinsic part of “imposing will” in war. Driven by same economic and class contradictions as imperialist powers of the past. Imperialism was the highest stage of capitalism which arose because capitalism was in decay said Lenin. He saw the changes in capitalism in terms of the epochs it went through from its youth to its decline. The changes came, not from qualitative changes in capitalism it had not changed its basic nature and its basic contradictions. Its economic crisis continued because of the great prime contradiction between the social production and the individual appropriation through property ownership.

Sections of academics, radicals, revisionist Marxists, capitalist publicists, and ultra-left communists like Antonio Negri want us to believe that globalisation introduces a qualitative change into capitalism itself and its imperialist stage.

The jury of moralists, who condemn ‘terrorism’ of whatever kind have their gaze fixed really on the revolutionary deeds of the persecuted who are seeking to set themselves free. The best example of this is Ramsey Macdonald. In the name of the eternal principles of morality and religion he was unwearied in condemning violence. But when the collapse of the capitalist system and the sharpening of the class struggle made the revolutionary fight for power an actual and living question for England also, MacDonald left the Labour camp for that of the Conservative bourgeoisie with just as little bother as when a passenger changes from a smoking compartment to a non-smoking.

The main enemy of these masses in the world, who are demonstrating against the present war is imperialism It is by striving to build an international unity with them in fighting the imperialist enemy that we can deal with the fundamentalists.  In places like Palestine, they are already suffering under a ruthless and hypocritical terrorism, fuelled by an obscurantist mediaeval fundamentalist Zionism, which has systemised and modernised terrorist policies to undermine and destroy Palestine.

A great number of people are opposed to this war. But as is the case with all great social questions that face humanity it cannot be solved except by the movement of masses.

It is not ideas that change the world but masses of people. Of course, the struggle for ideas is important but they become a material force for change when connected to the movement of masses of people.

It is our responsibility to fight for clear, class, internationalist, Leninist principles against the class enemy in our own country.

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