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Capitalism is the single greatest source of violence

Originally published: Pearls and Irritations on April 23, 2024 (more by Pearls and Irritations)

What the present moment reveals, once again, is that Western aggression during the “Cold War” was never about destroying socialism, as such. It was about destroying movements and governments in the periphery that sought economic sovereignty. Why? Because economic sovereignty in the periphery threatens capital accumulation in the core.

This remains the primary objective of Western aggression today. And it is the single greatest source of violence, war and instability in the world system.

The reason Western powers went after socialist movements across the global South during the “Cold War” (Cuba, China, the incineration of Vietnam and North Korea, etc) was because they knew socialism would enable the South to regain control over their own productive capacities—their labour and resources and factories—and organise them around local needs and national development.

When this happens—when people in the global South start producing and consuming for themselves—it means that those resources are no longer cheaply available to service consumption and accumulation in the core, thus disrupting the imperial arrangement on which Western capitalism has always relied (cheap labour, cheap resources, control over productive capacities, markets on tap). Remember, roughly 50% of all material consumption in the core is net-appropriated from the global South. This is what they are trying to defend.

But it wasn’t only socialist governments that pursued economic sovereignty. After political decolonisation, a wide range of movements and states across the South also sought economic liberation and sovereign industrial development. And Western powers attacked them with equal brutality (Indonesia, Brazil, Guatemala, the DRC…).

This is the key reason that Western powers supported the apartheid regime in South Africa, and it is why they support the Israeli regime today… as Western settler-colonial outposts that can be used to attack and destabilise regional movements seeking socialism or any form of real economic sovereignty, whether in Angola or Mozambique or Zimbabwe or any of the Arab nationalist or socialist movements in North Africa and the Middle East.

Iran has always been central to this story. Western states orchestrated a coup against the extremely popular prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. He was a left-leaning nationalist, not a socialist. But he wanted Iran to have control over its own resources (notably, oil), and for the U.S. and Britain this was unacceptable. Mossadegh was replaced by a brutal Western-backed dictatorship. The revolution that finally overthrew the dictatorship in 1979—and constituted the current government—wasn’t even left-leaning, much less socialist. But they want national economic self-determination and that is sin enough. They are a target for the exact same reasons that Iraq and Libya were targets.

The same goes for China. China’s path toward sovereign industrialisation—whether socialist or not—means that it is no longer an easy source of cheap labour for Western capital. And as the supply price increases so too does the sabre-rattling from Western states and media.

So this is the situation we are in. The Western ruling classes are backing obscene violence and plausible genocide in Gaza, against overwhelming international condemnation, because they must shore up their regional outpost at virtually any cost.

The vast majority of the world supports Palestinian liberation, but Palestinian liberation would constrain Israeli power and open the way to regional liberation movements, and this is strongly antithetical to the interests of Western capital. And now they are provoking war with Iran, risking regional conflagration, while at the same time encircling China with military bases, ramping up sanctions on Cuba, trying to contain progressive governments in Latin America, threatening invasion of the Sahel states…

It is intolerable and it cannot continue. The violence they perpetrate, the instability, the constant wars against a long historical procession of peoples and movements in the global South who yearn for freedom and self-determination… the whole world is dragged into this horrifying nightmare. They are willing to inflict enormous suffering and misery on hundreds of millions of people in order to preserve existing dynamics of capital accumulation.

We will not have peace until this arrangement is overcome and post-capitalist transformations are achieved.

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