On the 11th November, the leaders of the rich countries made a point of commemorating the centenary of the end of World War I with great pomp and ceremony. They shed hypocritical tears over the fate of the 11 million who died on the killing fields of this war. But neither they, nor their media, said a word about the build-up of imperialist rivalries which actually led to this 4-year long butchery.
The spark that triggered the war may well have been the murder of an Austrian aristocrat. But its real cause was the ruthless competition for markets and colonies between the world's richest capitalist classes. In 1914, decades of protectionism, trade war, an arms race, colonial expeditions and nationalist sabre-rattling finally came to a head.
Overnight, the class struggle was ditched in the name of "national unity". The world's working classes were ordered to rally behind the national flag of their capitalist exploiters. They were thrown at each others' throats and told to "give their lives for their countries". But as the French anti-war socialist Anatole France wrote, "they say we die for our fatherland, when in fact, we die for its industrialists and bankers"! Put in a nutshell, this was what WWI was really about!
From World War I to... Brexit
So, no wonder we hear nothing about the true story of WWI from the likes of Trump and May.
Today, once again, against the backdrop of a deepening capitalist crisis, the politicians of the capitalist class are striving to boost the profits of their masters, by embarking on an aggressive trade war - under the "America first" banner of Trump and under “Brexit” for May. A trade war in which the working class has no stake whatsoever.
Once again, they’re using the worn-out slogan of "national unity", to try to suppress the class struggle and rally workers behind their pro-business policies, i.e., behind the exploiters and their profiteering.
And once again, they’re trying to whip up fears and prejudices, to pit worker against worker along national lines, in an attempt to split our ranks and weaken our capacity to resist the bosses' ruthless bid to increase exploitation.
And then what? Such policies always come at a price for the working class. In a growing number of countries - from Hungary and Austria, to Italy and Brazil - they helped raving, anti-working class, far-right parties to come into office. And in each case, their sickening xenophobic demagogy has become the “new normal”, while being used to cover up a vicious turn of the screw against the working class.
In Britain, these far-right forces are represented by the Tory party's so-called "hard-Brexiteers". They no longer hide their plans to use Brexit as a means of turning Britain into a tax haven for the wealthy and a pool of cheap labour for British capital. This is what these politicians mean by "national interest": their objective is to create the most profitable environment possible for the British capitalist fat cats and, therefore, the most hostile environment possible, to impose on all workers, regardless of nationality.
For a clear class policy!
Beyond the ridiculous absurdity of their posturing, the champions of the "national interest" are enemies of the working class. Their nationalism - and the scape-goating of "foreigners" that comes with it - are a lethal poison for society.
Not only does this represent an immediate threat to workers' conditions, but it is also a potential threat for the whole of mankind. Their policy aims at sharpening competition between rival capitalist classes. In today's crisis-ridden capitalist system, this can only mean reproducing the very same conditions which eventually led to two world wars. The working class cannot allow this to happen again!
These nationalist bigots must be challenged and stopped. But they won't be stopped by politicians like Corbyn, who does not have the guts to stand up to them, for fear of losing some votes in a general election. As if yet another ballot, whether a general election, or the "People's Vote" that some are calling for, could do anything to stop, let alone reverse, the degeneration of this capitalist system!
During WWI, the Russian working class chose to take another road. In 1917, Russian workers over-threw the regime which had taken them into war. But they did not stop at that. They ensured that capitalist profiteering, would no longer be allowed to wreck society. They set up their own organs of state power called “soviets”, which were directly elected in factories and working class districts, and which took over control of society at every level.
Today, against the poison of nationalism, but also against the dead ends championed by the likes of Corbyn, the working class needs its own class policy. Following the example of 1917, it needs to aim at taking over control of society, in order to bring capitalism and its lethal recklessness to an end, once and for all.