Pacifism

Marxist Dictionary

An ideology that defines “peace” as a totalizing social objective above the interests of the classes that make up society.

Pacifism makes invisible the fact that “peace”, like all the other issues at stake in a class society, is not on the margins or above the interests of the classes that make it up. This was true even when capitalism was still in its historical rise, when it was a progressive mode of production that pushed human development.

There is absolutely no social terrain, from the most primary material conditions to the most subtle moral conditions, in which the owning classes and the conscious proletariat opt for the same attitude and appear as an undifferentiated “people” […] In those aspects where the formal aspirations and interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie as a whole are at stake, or its progressive sector, seem identical or common, as, for example, in democratic aspirations, the identity of forms and slogans masks a total rupture of content and practical policy.

Rosa Luxemburg. The National Question and Autonomy, 1908

Peace is one of those cases where the same term covers antagonistic objectives and needs. For the bourgeoisie all over the world in capitalist decadence, imperialism has become what water is to the fish, a means so universal and omnipresent that it is incapable of thinking of a peace that is not imperialist, that is, one that reflects and reproduces the conditions of imperialism. Its own form of organization in this historical stage, state capitalism, is born from the exacerbation of the tendencies, characteristic of imperialism, towards concentration and centralization in the state, under the conditions of world wars.

Blind to the difference of class interests over war and the material, economic base that drives them, pacifism tells us that in the face of the threat of war we have to “defend peace”, “communicate for peace”, “educate for peace”, learn “nonviolent conflict resolution”, practice “nonviolence”… But the tendencies that lead us to war do not originate in a supposed “innate violence” of our species nor in bad education or difficulties in communicating. And they are certainly not settled by turning the other cheek in our daily disputes, much less by expressing an abstract dislike of the militarism and warmongering of states as if they were mere “bad choices” of the ruling class and not an expression of the needs of national capital, of each and every national capital.

The tendency towards war is embedded in the very logic of capitalist decadence. To pretend otherwise, to play at giving cultural or ethical answers to what is a problem that is not played in that field, only serves to divert attention and to blame the very workers who suffer its most direct consequences. That is why the same politicians and media that are preparing the war also encourage political pacifism. Pacifism with its ethical, individualistic, cultural approach… is an ideological inhibitor of the danger, always present for the bourgeoisie, of the war against the “external enemy” becoming an internal class war.

The history of the 20th and 21st centuries has shown that only class struggle has effectively confronted war and only when it was led by slogans and practices expressing the revolutionary defeatism of the workers.

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Workers of all countries, unite, abolish armies, police, war production, borders, wage labor!