Posted by: Inside-Out Peace | February 6, 2009

Has War Solved Anything? Part 1

Every so often, I see a bumper sticker or button that says “war never solved anything… except communism, slavery and fascism”.  I offer here, an analysis of this claim that war “solved” those three things in a series of three posts.  This post will discuss the solution to communism, with posts on slavery and fascism to follow.

The only wars the U. S. has actually fought against communist countries were the Korean War and the Vietnam War, neither of which caused the end of communism (which is what I’ve assumed the bumper sticker writer meant by “solve”) .   The end of communism is commonly associated with the break-up of the Soviet Union, in December of 1991, long after the ends of both these wars.  MSN Encarta traces the history of communism as follows:

Where communist parties did make it to power, it was, in Marxist terms, in the wrong places—that is, in relatively poor countries where industrial capitalism was just beginning to develop. The dismal performance of the regimes they created constitutes another unfortunate consequence of Marxist-Leninist thought. These regimes, couched in the original theory as short-term improvisations that would tide people over until the promised era of plenty and classless harmony, in practice turned out to be long-term tyrannies that transformed society from above, sheltered themselves from public accountability, and did everything they could to perpetuate their hold on power. Until the 1970s, analysts of communist states, and apologists for them, could point to some evidence of economic accomplishment, albeit at grave political and social cost. From then on, however, economic ills beset all the communist governments, necessitating hard choices about reform.

As change accelerated in the 1980s, political forces long held in check by communist rulers—in particular, nationalism—came to the fore. In stunning sequence, the reforms attempted by the prototypical communist regime, that of the Soviet Union, led to the system’s collapse and to the emergence of the Russian Federation and 14 other postcommunist states. Soviet events undermined communist systems in Eastern Europe and, in most parts of the world, accentuated the loss of credibility of the nonruling communist parties and put an end to the instruction, aid, and encouragement they had long received from Moscow. In China and several other countries, communist leaders introduced economic reforms so serious that they altered the party’s self-image almost beyond recognition.

In other words, communism ended because it simply didn’t work as an economic system. 

Now, China is still commonly referred to as communist, so the question exists as to whether communism can even be said to have been “solved”.  But while China’s government is still totalitarian in nature, viewing communism as an economic system, I would say that China is either already not communist or will soon not be.  Encarta puts it this way:

Appalled by the chaotic crumbling of the Soviet system, China’s leaders are determined not to repeat what they view as Mikhail Gorbachev’s mistakes. Plunging full speed ahead with economic modernization and liberalization, they have at the same time carried on with venerating Mao Zedong, barring opposition parties, and censoring the mass media. This dual strategy should be sustainable for some time, and it will draw sustenance, as the Chinese communists did before 1949, from Chinese patriotism. Ironically, the best hope for the survival of communism in some form well into the 21st century lies with the leaders of a relatively backward country whose priorities are to foster, not the emancipation of the international working class, but capitalism and the dignity of the nation.

So, I say that war is 0 for 1.   On to slavery…

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