Is war the natural result of capitalism?

War and Capitalism - A Love Story

At the moment people are being killed by armed conflicts in different parts of the globe. Often the original motives for the argument have long been forgotten. But the killing and dying go on. Despite its inhumanity, war has a right to exist within our economic system. Because in capitalism war is sometimes quite necessary.

“It doesn't matter whether the war is real or not. Victory is impossible. The war should not be won, it should go on. A hierarchical society can only exist on the basis of poverty and ignorance. [...] The war effort should keep society short of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its subjects. And his goal is not to defeat Eurasia or East Asia, but to preserve the structure of society. ”According to Michael Moore in his film“ Fahrenheit 9/11 ”, this freely translated quote should come from George Orwell. In fact, it is a fragmentation from Orwell's book "1984". Nevertheless, this quasi-quote lingers. Because after every war, survivors, their descendants and, at some point, historians ask themselves who the war has brought anything in the first place. Finding an answer is usually not that easy.

An economy that calls for war

By its very nature, capitalism is susceptible to crises. Due to the radical competition that exists not only between wage earners, but also between capitalists and corporations, more and more must be produced and cheaper. While in this process many lose their jobs due to technical progress and at the same time wages fall, more and more products are constantly coming onto the market. The result: a crisis of overproduction. This does not mean that too much has been produced, but above all that no one can afford these products anymore. Capitalism and its defenders have struggled with this unavoidable crisis since it existed. In the most extreme form of capitalism, this crisis means the collapse of the entire economy, since no one can buy products anymore, wages are not paid and certainly nothing is bought anymore. This negative spiral leads to an immense reduction in production and at the same time to Destruction of the existing capital. Hunger, eviction and the absolute end for the poor is the norm. After this devastating period, it's time to invest again. Since there is room upwards again, growth and competition can be relied on again. Now the process is terribly inefficient. Such a crisis must be prevented. So if there is a way to destroy capital without destroying the whole economy and reducing production, it must be seized. Because of this, the war industry is very good business. The capital that is created, i.e. products such as tanks, missiles, rifles and ammunition, are destined to be used up, i.e. to be destroyed. It doesn't necessarily have to happen as long as there is a steady demand for it. The US government, for example, has this access, which has repeatedly distinguished itself by awarding enormous public contracts to the war industry when economic growth declines. This avoids the crisis, even if only apparently, because production can still be done and there is thus purchasing power, but the population does not become richer as a result. In the end, a lot of tax money is thrown into the deep hole of the capitalist crisis (and thus into private pockets) in order to maintain the system.

A bottomless gold mine or: arms export

Not every country can quietly make a blind and endless investment in the arms industry. So why not sell to someone else? The arms export is a lucrative and safe method to maintain one's own production and economic growth and at the same time have nothing to do with dangerous weapons and their implications. Austrian corporations, and thus the Austrian economy, also benefit from this concept. In 2014, the production of weapons and ammunition generated sales of 312 million euros. A large part of this was exported. Again and again there are reports that Austrian pistols are recognized by rebels in Libya or Syria. Arms export is so lucrative because it creates demand itself. In an armed conflict, there is not just a demand for new weapons because the old ones have been used up. There is a constantly renewing and increasing demand, because on the one hand the opponent also needs weapons, and on the other hand a comparatively larger amount is needed by both sides to decide the conflict for themselves. So it is most profitable to supply both warring parties. And that is entirely possible. In the fight against IS, its opponents are sometimes openly and sometimes less openly supported by various world powers with weapons, money or troops. At the same time, war equipment is being sold en masse to Saudi Arabia and other IS sympathizers. What happens to the weapons afterwards is irrelevant for the exporters. What is clear is that there will be demand again soon.

International showdown

Of course, stabilizing the economy is not the only effect arms production has on society, both nationally and internationally. High armament and its expansion mean military power. As soon as economic contradictions are so great that it is no longer profitable to trade, the only thing that counts is the size of the arsenal. The Cold War between NATO and the USSR was an arms war to the point of absurdity, as in the end both sides had enough atomic bombs to blow up the world several times. There was actually an economic war hidden behind the armaments war. Which economy could produce better, faster and more efficiently? When the West prevailed as the victor, the victorious economic system, capitalism, was established all over the world in the same breath, whether it fit or not. Proxy wars or military interventions usually aim to expand or enlarge one's own geopolitical or economic position. This includes, for example, securing resources. When the US sent troops to Afghanistan and later to Iraq in 2002, it made sure that afterwards US companies got the best oil deals.

War and society

So war is a way to avert crises. This fact becomes all the truer, especially when it is not led beyond our borders but into society. With the creation of a new, dangerous opponent, social contradictions take a back seat. The quality of life drops radically. Some have to fight and die, the rest suffer from rationing, have to work harder and more and are gradually being drawn up as war reserves. The poorest are forced to go to war, while the rich can usually buy their way out of it. Either way, war as the dominant conflict prevents all other conflicts - and thus secures the position of the ruling class. At the beginning of the First World War, all movements, parties and classes united under the banner of their own state - including Austrian social democracy. This put workers' rights and the struggle against the monarchy on the back burner, only to win against the “bigger enemy”. That was fine with the bourgeois and aristocratic elite, of course, as it allowed them to stay in power for a little longer.

The arms industry, war, intervention and armed conflict do not happen without a reason. The economy seldom creates a conflict by itself, but it often drives conflict and allows it to escalate. War has a fixed place within capitalism and, like a crisis, will usually take place again and again. Perhaps not within one's own borders, but then the price for the economic and political stabilization of one's own society will be paid where the war is raging. It is necessary to act against this system. When arms are no longer produced and exported, what should be fought with? Therefore: stop exporting weapons and never again war!

by Simon Březina