Middle East

The Real Reasons Behind the So-called
‘War on Terrorism’

By Nat Weinstein

Any reasonably objective person trying to figure out the real reasons given in the mass media for the so-called “War on Terrorism” is not likely to swallow the distortions in the mass media whole. Take for instance, the way the facts in each of the many wars in the Middle East have been reported in the media. The art of deception tends to take the form of portraying the victim as the criminal and vice versa.

Thus, the American Empire’s Zionist storm troopers are portrayed as the victim and Lebanon’s Hizbullah, the criminal.

Aside from such an absurdly twisted version of the facts, even more dishonest is the bald-faced portrayal of the American Empire as the champion of “freedom, democracy and the rule of law.” But the characterization of America—more accurately, the U.S. ruling class—as the arch-opponent of “crimes against humanity” deserves a special Nobel prize for crudely turning the truth inside-out and upside-down!

The real reasons for the crimes against humanity committed by U.S.-led world imperialism in the Middle East, and throughout the world today, have nothing to do with the growing trend toward inter-racial, religious, national and ethnic conflict. All these evils were set into motion by the many social, economic, and political injustices that are rooted in the capitalist social and economic order that is now the dominant force in today’s world. That’s a viewpoint, if the truth be told, shared by a majority of the peoples of the world—despite the exactly opposite version of the facts of life created by the artful dodgers who write the mainstream news.

Let’s take a look at the real story behind the one told by the capitalist-owned and controlled mass media of communication:

• The first and most obvious of the many factors driving the American Empire along its path of death and destruction that we now see unfolding mainly, but not only, in the Middle East, is the existence, there, of the world’s largest reserves of oil and gas, without which the wheels of industry cannot turn.

• The second of these forces is the ever-sharpening struggle between each capitalist nation for as large a share of the global market as it is able to capture. This struggle by all capitalist nations—each against all—has powered the major imperialist nations toward a policy that has already resulted in the destruction of millions of the world’s innocent people, held hostage to capitalist exploitation and oppression.

• The third and most powerful force driving the capitalist world toward self-destruction is known by economists as the tendency of the average rate of profit to fall.

The fall of the average rate of profit is the most fundamental of capitalism’s internal contradictions. The tendency of profits is to expand absolutely along with the expansion of capitalism into new markets. But at the same time, the struggle for market share sharply intensifies competition among capitalists fighting for living space in a finite world marketplace. This spirit of competition, which capitalist ideologues consider the greatest of all virtues, lies at the roots of the declining average rate of profit.

As scarce as the proverbial hens’ teeth, however, are bourgeois economists who will own up to the fact of a long-term tendency of the average rate of profit to fall.

But I was surprised to see that James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology, and a comrade, in the generic sense, since we are on the same side of the class struggle, has recently written a 4,000-word polemic against the left wing of the workers’ movement entitled: “Crisis of U.S. Capitalism or the Crisis of the U.S. Wage and Salaried Worker?” His opening remarks provide a clear indication of the nature and substance of his critique:

“Progressive, leftist, radical and even a few ‘Bearish’ Wall Street pundits have been arguing for years about the coming collapse, decline or demise of U.S. capitalism. No amount of continued growth of billionaires, millionaires and multimillionaires, record earnings by investment houses and double-digit profit growth of major corporations can convince our doomsayers to rethink their prophecies.

“Nothing has discredited the U.S. left more than its apocalyptic visions of the Big Fall, in the face of robust growth. Given the “long-term” or imprecise time frame and a ritualistic litany of profound structural weaknesses, their predictions are swallowed and regurgitated in the progressive media, websites and blogs where they are spread to a dubious public.”

Although, the author of the two preceding paragraphs appears to only see the bright side of capitalist economy as presented by Wall Street’s “Bullish” Wall Street pundits, he doesn’t give hardly enough credence to its dark side as presented by Wall Street’s “Bears.” After all, both Bulls and Bears have to know something—or know people who do know something about the real state of the economy. But so do those of us like Jim Petras and myself who also have to know and do know something about the subject.

In any case, I want to thank him for providing me with an opportunity to explain why “leftists,” such as are the editors of this magazine, “have been arguing for years about the coming collapse, decline or demise of U.S. capitalism.”

So in order to explain why we say that this is indeed the direction in which it is moving; and at an ever increasing pace, I think it best to start with a brief explanation of why the rate of profit tends to fall.

The falling rate of profit: how it works

This question remained unanswered until Karl Marx came along. But to solve this conundrum required three volumes of Capital, which many consider to be his most important contribution to the science of society. Marx succeeded, where all others had failed, first to identify and then to fully explain the many conflicting forces at work in the complex coordinate system such as is the capitalist social and economic order in a manner entirely consistent with the scientific method. That’s why it has successfully withstood the challenges to Marx’s Capital ever since.

The three volumes of Capital expound his labor theory of value, which is the foundation for his critical analysis of the laws governing capitalist economy and is the key to understanding why it must fall over the long term—but rises and falls chaotically over the shorter term.

Competition for market share makes capitalists reduce prices consistent with their drive to gain a rate of profit justifying the risks that go along with a system based on production for profit. If we reduce this problem to its essentials, it boils down to this:

If war and the lies needed to make war acceptable to the gullible become necessary to keep the rate of profit from falling to the point that capitalists will not invest when the risks are higher than is justified by an acceptable rate of profit, then war becomes—for the capitalist—a vital necessity.

There are two ways to increase profits and, at the same time, the rate of profit. The first is by increasing the length of the workday, or intensifying the rate of exploitation by forcing workers to do more work in every minute of every hour, or both. And the second way is to lower the cost of labor by replacing human labor by machines.

Reducing the labor costs serves to raise the rate of profit for those capitalists who first successfully increase productivity without a comparable increase in costs. It doesn’t matter whether this is done by the first or second way, or most effectively by both ways.

But intensifying the rate of exploitation, and replacing human labor by machines, causes a paradoxical fall in the average rate of profit for the majority of individual capitalists and nations who have not kept up with the new standard of productive efficiency needed to garner an average, or higher, rate of profit.

And try as critical capitalist economists have tried to do to come up with a viable alternative to Karl Marx’s labor theory of value—and thereby maintain the myth that wages are a fair exchange of things of equal value1—all of the best bourgeois economic theorists have failed to come up with a consistent theory. All of the latter failed to pass the test of consistency and experience required by the scientific method, while Marx’s labor theory of value has passed with flying colors.

If we follow the logic of capitalist production through to the end, we can better understand what it is about the capitalist mode of production that is driving the American Empire and its allied imperialist powers toward an unending series of predatory wars.

Without new worlds into which the growing multitude of competing capitalists can expand—and there aren’t any new worlds left—an ever-increasing number of capitalists are either driven into bankruptcy, and thus out of the world marketplace, or swallowed up by their more successful competitors in accord with the laws of the jungle that rule over the capitalist world. Thus, the rich get richer and the poor poorer, and the means of production and all the financial and commercial institutions on this planet are increasingly concentrated into the hands of an ever more powerful few.

This conquest is paid for with the destruction of millions of the world’s innocent people, along with the accumulated wealth of society and wasted human and material resources. But there’s always an upside to every downside.

In the final analysis, the downside is summarized by Rosa Luxemburg in an essay entitled “The Junius Pamphlet” (1916), that she was forced to write under the pseudonym of Junius. She and Karl Liebnecht and other German revolutionary socialists, who like their comrade in America—Eugene Debs, were imprisoned for opposing the first imperialist World War.

It was this German revolutionary Marxist who coined the catchphrase which has echoed around the world ever since by revolutionary Marxists everywhere—“Socialism or Barbarism!” In it she argued that the only choice before the human race was an ever deeper descent into barbarism or the overthrow of capitalism by socialist revolution.

She argued further that the world had reached an historical turning point which demands resolute action by the workers of the world to carry through the revolutionary overthrow of capitalist barbarism and create a socialist world.

In other words, the terrible consequences of capitalism’s world-historic tendency is that it calls into existence the struggle for a socialist world wherein man’s inhumanity to man will come to an end once and for all time.

1 While wages are indeed a fair exchange for the value of the workers labor power before it is consumed by the capitalist to power the production of commodities; wages are not equal to the value the worker has produced after the end of his workday.