War and Peace Conjunctures, an Essay

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A Controversy between Lenin and Kautsky

In a sharp 1914 attack against Karl Kautsky, Vladimir Lenin, calling him the German "Marxist," denied his ideas about the possibility of peaceful deals between democratic capitalist states. According to Kautsky, wars had become too costly as a means of solving opposite interests; thus, in the end, the democratic capitalist states could reach a collective deal to control the capitalist system. Kautsky wrote that "tendencies of capital expansion may be favored through peaceful democracy and not by violent imperialist methods" (Lenin, 1975). Further, wars between capitalist democracies would be replaced "by a common universal exploitation by financial capital united in an international scale" (Kautsky, 2008).

Kautsky 's statements followed the presentation of the same ideas in The Great Illusion, written in 1910 by Norman Angeli, a British economist and Nobel Peace Prize winner of 1933. Norman Angeli considered the advances of the global economic interdependence between the powerful states. Further, because the source of wealth related to international trade could not be controlled, war was becoming innocuous, without sense (Angeli. 1910). For Lenin, imperialism and wars would be inevitable inside the capitalist system.

Actually the political divergences between Kautsky and Lenin were larger and not restricted to this issue of war and peace among capitalist states. Kautsky 's general ideas about the path of socialism were closer to those of Edouard Bernstein and Rosa Luxembourg, who also maintained sharp arguments with Lenin (Magnoli and Barbosa, 2011). Rosa Luxembourg considered the German Spartacus revolution an adventure, but took part in it and was murdered. Kautsky, who opposed the Spartacus revolution, was finally expelled from the Marxist establishment and labeled by his former colleagues the "renegade Kautsky."

Leninists still maintain that wars are inevitable between the capitalist states. Some debate about over the causes of the two World Wars; others mention the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, while most Leninists omit the non-declared wars in Korea and between China and Vietnam which were started by non-capitalist countries (Fontes, 2010). However, one can reply that the First World War occurred when the influence of the aristocratic class on European governments was still very high and played a major role on the outbreak of the war.

About the Second World War, we can recall the appeasement policy of Chamberlain during the 1930s in face of violent Nazi aggressions; one can also point to the American attempts to stay out of the European war and to negotiate a deal with Japan. These policies expressed the search by the two leading democratic capitalist powers for peaceful solutions at that time. The recent wars in Iraq or Afghanistan cannot be considered as occurring between capitalist powers. They express more a resistance along the peripheries of traditional cultures to the world order imposed by the capitalist system.

Thus, the facts apparently lend credence to the statements expressed by Angeli and sustained by Kautsky. However, one may concede that (1) since the end of the Second World War and until the 1990s, capitalists were engaged as a bloc in a confrontation with the USSR; (2) after the War, the US emerged with disproportionate strength relative to that of the other capitalist states combined; and (3) the existence of nuclear bombs created an enormous deterrent to war. At the beginning of the Cold War, Churchill pronounced famously that it is better to have built a divided world than have destroyed a united world. The atomic weapon plays a major role in removing chances of war between the leading world states. A danger lies in the case of atomic weapons falling into the hands of people who care more about life in Heaven than on the Earth.

Let us remember that a number of international institutions were created in the wake of the Second World War to sustain the cohesion of the capitalist states as a unified bloc. …