Mythology refers to Helen’s “beautiful face that launched a thousand ships”. This, according to legend, was the cause of the Trojan war. Whether true or not, what we can say in the modern era is that the face of major war is now the ugly face of capitalism at its highest stage: imperialism. There is a massive media industry employed by the controllers of capital, working day and night, to define the narrative differently. Nevertheless, it still remains as the German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz wrote in the 19th century that, “War is regarded as nothing but the continuation of state policy with other means.”
In the case of the Western powers led by the US, state policy remains as Lenin noted in his seminal work: the creation and maintenance of a world order that facilitates the export of finance capital in order to exploit labour and natural resources across the rest of the globe. To do so entails ensuring compliance with this system by all those countries not part of the privileged sphere. Being forced to accept this situation, the people of less well-off countries suffer serious social and economic disadvantage. Failure to comply with the dictats of imperialism, however, results in heavy-handed economic and/or military sanction.
At this point it is worthwhile reflecting on James Connolly’s assessment that governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich to manage the affairs of the capitalist class. Capitalist governments led by the USA, therefore, see as a major priority the need to enforce the West’s global military domination as a necessary step towards preventing or challenging their ability to exploit what they like to call the Third World.
With this insight in mind, the rationale underpinning the current campaign by the US and EU to curtail the ever increasing economic and thence political influence of China becomes clearer. A campaign that is now being augmented by a brazen military threat as the US surrounds the PCR with a ring of military bases. Not that the imperialists confine their “projection of power” to the East. A NATO proxy war in Ukraine and now backing a genocidal campaign against Palestinians are but the latest conflict zones in an ongoing series of hostilities across every continent.
It hardly needs saying that Washington and its allies do not state publicly the underlying rationale behind their foreign policy and most certainly never explain the real reason for their never-ending series of wars. Were they to do so, it would most surely lead to problems with their own electorates. Evidence of this fact can be seen in the huge demonstrations in the US and UK demanding a ceasefire in Gaza, in spite of unqualified support by Biden and Sunak for the murderous Israeli assault.
The role of the West’s mainstream media in promoting acceptance and tolerance for their government’s military operations is of such significance that these agencies have to be seen as an integral part of the imperialist war machine. Media coverage is at best tendentious when not downright partisan.
Nor is the Irish state broadcasting company, RTÉ, free from being complicit in this strategy. The station rarely fails to refer to the “’Hamas-run’ health agency in Gaza” or neglects to mention the 7th October casualties when reporting the infinitely greater number of Palestinian dead. How monotonous too have become the repeated phrases, “Iranian-supported Hezbollah”, “Iranian-backed Houthi”… Yet when did we last hear of the US-supported, -equipped, -financed and -protected state of Israel?
The danger inherent in such slanted reporting is obvious. In the absence of a rounded and complete picture being provided to the public, warmongering governments are subject to few if any restraints. On one hand it misleads many in the West to accept their states’ spurious narrative “justifying” the aggression. Perhaps still more dangerous is that this misinformation leads to a sense of semi-complacency in that all too many underestimate the real risk of a global conflagration placing the very existence of the human species in doubt.
In this context it is useful to consider what is referred to as the Thucydides Trap. Based on observations made by an ancient Greek historian, the theory indicates that when a superpower’s position of supremacy is threatened by an emerging power, there is a significant likelihood of war between the two. The theory has received renewed interest in academic and military circles over the past decade in light of the above-mentioned growth of China’s influence on the world stage.
And while the concept has its critics and sceptics, it does nevertheless merit a serious hearing within wider society. After all, what is the purpose behind the US military encirclement of China and in time, will this situation become ever more fragile and fractious? Not only is it increasingly likely that the Chinese economy will outperform all others but there is also a definitive shift in global relations and alliances.
Exemplifying this transfer of allegiance is the growing influence of the BRICS group of countries, a fact reinforced recently by the South African government lodging a case with the International Court of Justice against US protectorate, Israel. Taken together, these two events alone can pose a challenge for contemporary capitalism with its dependency on financialisation, as G7 countries have shifted away from industrial capitalism.
Against this rather depressing backdrop it is important to review the prospect for peace. There is, after all, significant and energetic peace movements in many countries constantly making solid and unanswerable arguments against the horrors of war. Moreover, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets across the imperialist West demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.
The question is, though, whether such expressions of moral outrage will be sufficient to prevent an all-consuming conflict? Historical precedent offers little comfort. Most likely it will require direct involvement by the working class through grassroots organisations such as trade unions taking industrial action to prevent the movement of troops and munitions.
In Ireland, a good start would be firstly to fight to retain the Triple Lock on neutrality and second, to ensure the closure of the NATO military bases in Shannon and Aldergrove.