We are well acquainted, too well acquainted, with violence, from domestic violence to sexual assault to exploitation. The violence women experience within the United States is not the violence of traditional military warfare. Women in the most oppressed communities are subjected to high levels of police militarization. But, for the most part, the U.S. ruling elite, the warmakers, carry their weapons of destruction and starvation far away. They inflict it on other women, other people. But the violence of women’s oppression is real. The violence of poverty, of the political and economic choices this system makes to fund war and occupation and defund education, healthcare, housing and all people’s needs, is only expanding.
Marx wrote in 1867 that “capital comes dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” The system of capitalism IS violence. Capitalism’s very structure makes war inevitable. The tiny ruling class of bankers and corporate owners are driven to maximize their own profit, leading to intense competition. Competition often breaks out into war. Sometimes these are large scale wars but also include long, drawn out conflicts.
Until imperialism is eliminated, war will be a fact of life. The U.S. government operates on a policy of continued expansion of militarism and war. The United States has blocked any consideration of a negotiated peace between Russia and Ukraine, while ramping up its threats and demonization of China. Due to the warmakers’ intransigence, the world is hovering on the brink of military conflict between nuclear-armed states.
In this issue of Breaking the Chains we ask the question: what does it really mean to struggle for peace?
The warmakers speak of peace as an abstract concept. In their view, war has, as its goal, a peace on their terms–following, of course, the war machine’s utter destruction of people and their lands. Over and over again, we are told that the United States and European imperialists must wage war to protect people and to win peace. We are told to hate the enemies of their making, created using half-truths and racist tropes, until we believe that peace will be won through this or that war. They label the people of independent nations fighting for sovereignty as terrorists, narco-traffickers and threats to everyday people here. The just resistance of a people for self-determination and against imperialism’s sanctions, wars and occupation are twisted to fit labels of death and violence. The world’s biggest, most expensive military machines are labeled as purveyors of democracy and freedom. That is not peace.
Some liberal and even radical thinkers describe peace as the absence of war. The absence of war is a false peace, an ideal not achievable under a system that is continually driven to war.
For us, for revolutionary socialists and feminists, peace is freedom from exploitation, freedom from the necessity of war. Capitalism serves no purpose for working people. It needs to be uprooted and replaced. Workers are quite capable of building a world free from violence. A world that, unlike the world of capitalism, does not sustain and generate war by its very nature. Peace can be built by building a society founded in solidarity and the equitable distribution of resources–socialism. Peace can be built when the exploiting class is overthrown by the exploited, and the working class works for the benefit of the entire society.
Women of the world are no stranger to the burdens of war. Capitalism is deeply patriarchal. So, women continue to bear the worst effects of the system’s illnesses, be they poverty or violence or war. But women have also often been integral to the fight against imperialist war. Women have been among the forces that turn the destruction of war into resistance and ultimately to revolution, like in the revolutionary movements that became the Russian, the Vietnamese and the Chinese revolutions. The colonized world has had to address the legacy of colonialism and imperialism along with questions of national liberation and development. Women were fighters, supporters, theorists in those struggles. Women in the imperialist world have played key roles as well in solidarity with these movements. The struggle against imperialism within the imperialist countries is a key factor in the resistance to war and destruction across the globe.
We have learned from many women and historical events featured in this issue a key lesson about the struggle against war and for peace. It is deeply intertwined with the struggle for national sovereignty, for economic and political liberation and for social justice. Peace will be found in liberation and liberation will be won through struggle.