Socialism is the Best Medicine

Socialism is the Best Medicine

There’s Just One Way to Stop War

November 22, 2023


A magnificent anti-war movement is exploding all over the world!

On its own, revulsion over the Israeli war on Gaza cannot explain the rapid rise of the largest anti-war movement ever. There are deeper systemic factors.

Opposition to the war has opened space for people to express their grievances against the ruling class: their failure to meet our basic needs for medical care, housing, and social support; their decision to let millions die from COVID rather than curb corporate profits; their refusal to stop climate change and environmental destruction; and their barbaric wars that risk nuclear annihilation. Fueled by mass discontent, the anti-war movement could grow into a general rejection of the social system that drives us to war.

What is war?

War assumes that peaceful agreement is not possible, that the two sides have opposite interests, and one side must be forced to submit to the other. War has only one goal, to overpower the enemy by any means necessary.

Kind-hearted people insist there must be a way to disarm or defeat an enemy without using deadly violence.

The goal of war is to win. If one side restricts its use of force, while the other side does not hold back, the latter will gain the upper hand. For the same reason, the stronger side will refuse any ceasefire that gives the weaker side time to recover.

Some try to civilize war by outlawing war-crimes, condemning excesses, and insisting on an international rules-based order. These are fantasy demands.

War is a crime against humanity. It is the ultimate crime, and mass death and destruction are the ultimate atrocities. It is impossible to conduct war in an humane or lawful manner when victory goes to the most ruthless, to those willing to break all laws and violate all that is sacred.

Truth is the first casualty of war. Outrageous lies, endlessly repeated in the patriotic press, justify the most barbaric actions. The victors rewrite history to absolve themselves of wrong-doing. The U.S. still promotes the self-serving lie that nuking Japanese cities was necessary to end WWII.

Is war in our nature?

Is it true that war is built into human nature, that people have always warred against each other and always will? That is what we are told. Christianity cites the example of Cain killing his brother as evidence that war springs from ‘original sin.’

This is nonsense. Two things define human nature: we are social, and we adapt. They go together; our ability to adapt is based on our willingness to cooperate. You help build my shelter, and I’ll help build yours. We feel good when we do something meaningful for others.

No only can we adapt to any place on Earth, under the ocean, and in space. We can also adapt to every form of social arrangement.

For hundreds of thousands of years, humanity thrived in many different kinds of societies. While individual conflict occasionally resulted in death, that is not the same as socially organized warfare.

Anthropologists tell us that war only becomes a permanent feature of society when cooperation breaks down, when land that was previously held in common is claimed as private property – a commodity that generates wealth for those who own it and impoverishment for those who don’t. This shift marked the beginning of class divisions, about 10,000 years ago.

After warfare appears, violence becomes “almost an obsession” as rival powers fight for control over land, and the dispossessed strive to regain what was stolen.

By the end of the 19th century, competing empires had claimed or colonized virtually every inch of the planet. The only way to get more land was to take it from a rival empire.

Imperial rivalry brought us World War I, then World War II, and is laying the ground for WWIII, as a declining U.S. empire is challenged by a rising Chinese empire.

Should humanity survive the next war, which is unlikely, there will be a fourth world war as new empires compete for dominance. This is the road to our extinction.


Cooperative societies do not war; they share the land and its bounty. War dominates class societies where the few compete to exploit the many.

Human beings are intensely social creatures; we can only justify not sharing by casting the other as less-than-human and therefore undeserving of equal treatment. For the same reason, people won’t kill people they identify with. The enemy must be dehumanized as unworthy of life.

When Jews at the Treblinka extermination camp asked the Nazi commander, “Why put us through all the humiliation and degradation when you knew you were going to kill us?” The commander replied, “Because it made it easier for my men to do their job.”

U.S. President Truman, who ordered the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, described Japan as a country of savages. After the bombing, he justified the devastation by stating, “When you deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast.”

Colonial barbarism

Colonial wars are the most barbaric. It’s not enough to dehumanize Indigenous people to justify taking their land. Their societies must be utterly destroyed, their numbers so diminished, and their people so devastated that they abandon all hope of recovery. That is the definition of genocide.

On November 21, Israel and Hamas agreed to a 4-day ceasefire to allow a hostage exchange. However, Israel has pledged to continue the war until Hamas is eliminated and Gaza can never threaten Israel again. Achieving these goals will require driving all Palestinians out of Gaza and imposing a ‘final solution’ on those who remain.

Israel has destroyed every hospital in Gaza, arrested key medical personnel, and deprived the entire population of food, water, medicine, and fuel. The Nazis imposed these same life-threatening conditions on Jews trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto, so as many as possible would die from starvation and disease.

Israel can dismiss public opposition to its genocidal war because it enjoys the unconditional support of NATO nations,

Two kinds of war

There are two kinds of war: wars of acquisition conducted by those wanting to expand their territory; and wars of liberation conducted by those wanting to reclaim what was stolen.

The two are often connected. Imperial wars can provoke wars of liberation, and wars of liberation can birth new imperial powers.

The colonization of North America by the British empire provoked a war of national liberation by settlers who were, at the same time, conducting a genocidal war against Indigenous peoples in order to build their own empire.

During WWII, the occupation of China by imperial Japan provoked a war of national liberation to create a Chinese State that became an imperial power in its own right.

We can distinguish between wars of acquisition and wars of liberation by answering two questions: which class is conducting the war, and what is their goal. Wars of acquisition are conducted by the dominant class. Their goal is to expand their territory and increase their wealth and power. Wars of liberation are conducted by the oppressed and dispossessed. Their goal is to gain control of their land and their lives.

Class war

The daily battle between bosses and workers is also a war, a class war. For bosses, the goal is to extract maximum profit from workers’ labour. For workers, the goal is to reduce or end such exploitation.

Bosses justify their brutality by dehumanizing workers as unworthy of protection and support. Workers defend themselves by forming unions, by striking, by sabotage, and by threatening to end the rule of profit altogether.

The class war is as deadly as any war, with innumerable casualties: Sickness, injury, and death on the job. Death from homelessness, malnutrition, and preventable disease. Death from environmental pollution and global warming. Death by cop. Death in prison. Death at the borders. And when life becomes unbearable, death by suicide.

Making workers pay

Imperial wars intensify the class war. Workers are being bled dry to fund a trillion-dollar war machine.

Our rulers don’t pay for the wars that enrich them. They make workers pay by investing tax dollars in war instead of funding social programs that workers need.

As the dominant global empire, the United States operates hundreds of military bases in over 80 countries, and spends more on its military than the next 10 nations combined.

Workers in the U.S. bear the cost of this empire with decaying infrastructure; a shredded safety net; falling life expectancies; rising maternal and infant death rates; more poverty, homelessness, sickness, drug addiction, and infectious disease.

This mass misery is the result of diverting billions of public dollars from needed social programs to the military. Billions more are sent as ‘aid’ to warring nations that use that money to purchase weapons from the donor nations – an effective transfer of tax dollars to the domestic war industry.

Not only are public dollars not being spent on needed hospitals, housing, and schools at home, they are funding the destruction of hospitals, housing, and schools in other lands.

Today, every industrialized nation is de-funding social programs so they can beef up their military. Workers everywhere are facing the same problem: how to survive an increasingly unsafe environment where social supports are collapsing.

U.S. President Biden recently demanded another $105 billion to prepare for war with China, escalate the war in Ukraine, and send more weapons to Israel. $100 billion is more than the total wealth produced by two-thirds of the world’s nations. Just $20 billion could house every homeless person in the U.S. And $23 billion could feed every starving or malnourished person on the planet.

What drives the war machine?

The short answer is profit. The weapons industry is the most profitable on the planet. However, the military-industrial complex does not drive the war machine, it provides the fuel. Competition for capital drives the war machine. In fact, capitalism can be defined as an economic and military machine for accumulating capital. And it is tremendously successful at this.

Stronger nations use their economic power to dominate and exploit weaker nations. Backed by billions in farm subsidies, U.S. corporations dump cheap food on the world market, driving farmers in poorer nations out of business so their countries become dependent on U.S. food imports. Stronger nations strip weaker ones of valuable resources and force people to work for rock-bottom wages, or don’t pay them at all. Nations that resist such exploitation face punitive economic sanctions, like those imposed on Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and China.

When economic pressure is not enough, resistant nations are forced to submit. Since its founding, the U.S. has launched 400 overseas military interventions to defend U.S. corporate profits.

War fractures society

War fractures society as people line up on one side or the other, or rebel against war altogether.

In the United States, the ruling Democratic Party support Israel’s war on Gaza, while many of its younger supporters oppose it. The umbrella AFL-CIO fully supports US foreign policy, while a growing number of its unions pass ceasefire resolutions.

In Canada, a split has developed between the federal New Democratic Party (NDP), which supports Israel, and NDP activists and unions calling for ceasefire.

The Canadian government is sending more money and weapons to Israel, even though 74 percent of Canadians oppose Israel occupying Palestinian lands, and 71 percent support a ceasefire.

Older Canadians tend to support Israel, while 48 percent of younger Canadians (18-34) view Israel as an apartheid state.

Conflict is intensifying between students who oppose the Israeli war and administrations that attack them for doing so, between pro-Palestine journalists and pro-Israel editors, and between pro-Palestine doctors and pro-Israel medical associations. People are being harassed, physically attacked, and fired simply for voicing support for Palestine.

These fractures reveal the different interests of the three classes:

  • The ruling class unconditionally supports Israel’s genocidal war against Palestinians.
  • The middle class is divided between higher-level bureaucrats and administrators who slavishly back their ruling classes, and front-line professionals demanding a ceasefire to stop the horror.
  • A growing minority understand that a ceasefire will not stop the war, will not return Palestinians to their ancestral homeland, and will not bring peace to the Middle East. They want to liberate Palestine from all colonial control, from the river to the sea.
Social crisis

Similar social fractures developed in response to the U.S. war in Vietnam. The resulting social crisis led to a major transformation of society.

Our rulers’ greatest fear is that a global anti-war movement will inspire the international working class to fight for their own liberation. That is our greatest hope.

When people no longer believe their rulers’ lies about war, they wonder what other lies they’re being told. When the will of the majority is dismissed and people are persecuted simply for what they believe, the mask of democracy falls away, and society cannot continue in the old way.

There are two possible outcomes to this crisis: either we end capitalist rule and build a cooperative, sharing society, or the existing order is rescued by a ruthless dictator. The threat is real.

U.S. Presidential hopeful Donald Trump is channeling Hitler, calling for his political enemies to be imprisoned or executed, and warning that the external threat from other countries is “far less sinister, dangerous, and grave” than the internal threat. In typical fascist style, he dehumanizes his opponents, stating,

We pledge to root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.

War and revolution

War provokes revolution. In 1871, as the Prussian army advanced on Paris, the king fled with his troops to Versailles. To defend their city, working people formed the Paris Commune, abolished the hated police and the standing army, and enrolled everyone capable of bearing arms in the National Guard.

The Paris Commune was more than a means of defense; it became a way for ordinary people to shape society. Elected officials were paid no more than the average worker’s wage and could be recalled by majority vote any time. The Commune reopened abandoned factories under workers’ control; provided free education and day nurseries; and established equal rights for women. The term “Communist” was first applied to supporters of the Paris Commune.

Horrified that a people’s government was ruling the capital, France agreed to a ceasefire with Prussia on condition that the Prussians allow the French army to enter Paris, destroy the Commune, and retake the city. The agreement held and the Commune was crushed.

During WWI, a massive anti-war movement peaked in the German and Russian revolutions. Again the warring empires suspended hostilities in order to counter the greater threat of losing power to the working class. Although those revolutions were defeated, they show us what is possible.


Twenty years ago, millions of people protested the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq in a chain of demonstrations that circled the globe. More than 100 American cities and counties passed anti-war resolutions, as did many unions. Yet, we failed to stop that war. We mistakenly believed that pressuring politicians would be enough. We must not make that same mistake again.

Authorities dismiss our demonstrations against war in the same way they dismiss our demands for higher wages, public medical care, and affordable education and housing. How do we up the ante?

We can blockade munitions plants and ports to stop the production and transport of weapons. However, such actions are limited to how many people can participate and for how long. When they cause more than a temporary disruption, the State will step in to physically remove demonstrators, criminalize them, and ban or bankrupt their organizations.

On their own, anti-war resolutions and public demonstrations are not enough to stop war. When the ruling class are committed to war, only one thing can stop them – a workers’ rebellion that challenges their right to rule.

To end war, we must win the class war

The global war machine cannot function without workers. Only they have the power to stop the machine. That is why an effective anti-war movement must be rooted in the working class. This cannot be stressed enough! Those who operate the war machine are the only ones who can dismantle it.

The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions has appealed to the global working class to refuse to build weapons destined for Israel, refuse to transport weapons to Israel, and pressure their governments to stop all military trade with Israel.

In response to this appeal, dock workers in Barcelona, transport workers in Belgium, and logistics workers in Italy have stopped shipping arms to Israel. That’s a great start, and we need much more.

The modern working class is larger, more powerful, and more connected than ever. Workers in every land are protesting the same things: a rising cost of living, falling wages, the loss of public programs, and deteriorating living and working conditions. People are falling apart because there is no safety anywhere. We are all Palestinian.

We can solve our problems cooperatively. We can turn things around by standing together and refusing to be divided by racism, nationalism, and patriotism. There is more than enough for all to share.

Our task is two-fold
  • We must convince every workplace, union, school, and social organization to pass a ceasefire resolution (or demand a negotiated settlement) as quickly as possible. This will get people talking about the problem and how to solve it.
  • We need to convince anti-war activists that building support for workers’ economic demands is anti-war activity. The more society invests in making life better, the less it invests in war.

It will not be easy to connect workers’ economic demands with the political demands of the anti-war movement. During the 1950s, union executives partnered with the State to purge social-justice issues out of the labour movement.

Our challenge is to make social-justice issues central to the labour movement and labour issues central to the anti-war movement.

Workers have stopped war before, and we can do it again. Only this time, there can be no going back. To end war entirely, we must end the rule profit. Then we can return all land to the commons, share the bounty of this world, and live together in peace.



  1. Thanks Susan! Excellent overview! The “Ceasefire” demand should only be aimed at Israel, the U.S. etc. Those who support Palestinian liberation should not put demands on the Palestinians, such as ceasefire or returning hostages. We should support them unconditionally though we have fundamental political differences with the Hamas leadership. See recent articles on the Firebrand website:

    • Steve – Thank you for that clarification and for the links to those excellent articles. As you say, “The need to oppose the whole ruling class in order to support Palestine creates the potential for more radicalization than exists around other issues.”

  2. The real anti-Semites are not those who reject the violence of the Zionist state but those who defend violence in the name of antisemitism and thus associate all Jews with genocide.


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