Marxist explanations of warfare

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Within Marxist theory, modern warfare is described as existing as result of capitalism. Marxist theory states that all modern wars are caused by competition for resources and markets between great and imperialist powers, claiming these wars are a natural result of the free market and a class system. [1]

Modern warfare is warfare using the concepts, methods, and military technology that have come into use during and after World Wars I and II. The concepts and methods have assumed more complex forms of the 19th- and early-20th-century antecedents, largely due to the widespread use of highly advanced information technology, and combatants must modernize constantly to preserve their battle worthiness. Although total war was thought to be the form of international conflicts from the experience of the French Revolutionary Wars to World War II, the term no longer describes warfare in which a belligerent use all of its resources to destroy the enemy's organized ability to engage in war. The practice of total war which had been in use for over a century, as a form of war policy, has been changed dramatically with greater awareness of tactical, operational, and strategic battle information.

Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and competitive markets. In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investment are determined by every owner of wealth, property or production ability in financial and capital markets, whereas prices and the distribution of goods and services are mainly determined by competition in goods and services markets.

Great power nation that has great political, social, and economic influence

A great power is a sovereign state that is recognized as having the ability and expertise to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power influence, which may cause middle or small powers to consider the great powers' opinions before taking actions of their own. International relations theorists have posited that great power status can be characterized into power capabilities, spatial aspects, and status dimensions.



The Marxist theory includes the belief that war will only disappear once a proletarian world revolution has occurred which overthrows free markets and class systems. [1]

War Organised and prolonged violent conflict between states

War is a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies and informal paramilitary groups, such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. Warfare refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant suffering and casualties.

Proletarian revolution Social and/or political revolution.

A proletarian revolution is a social revolution in which the working class attempts to overthrow the bourgeoisie. Proletarian revolutions are generally advocated by socialists, communists and most anarchists.

World revolution Marxist concept of overthrowing capitalism in all countries

World revolution is the Marxist concept of overthrowing capitalism in all countries through the conscious revolutionary action of the organized working class. These revolutions would not necessarily occur simultaneously, but where and when local conditions allowed a revolutionary party to successfully replace bourgeois ownership and rule, and install a workers' state based on social ownership of the means of production. In most Marxist schools, such as Trotskyism, the essentially international character of the class struggle and the necessity of global scope are critical elements and a chief explanation of the failure of socialism in one country.

Rosa Luxemburg

Marxist philosopher Rosa Luxemburg theorized that imperialism was the result of capitalist countries needing new markets. Expansion of the means of production is only possible if there is a corresponding growth in consumer demand. Since the workers in a capitalist economy would be unable to fill the demand, producers must expand into non-capitalist markets to find consumers for their goods, hence driving imperialism. [1]

Rosa Luxemburg Polish Marxist theorist, socialist philosopher, and revolutionary

Rosa Luxemburg was a Polish Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist and revolutionary socialist who became a naturalized German citizen at the age of 28. Successively, she was a member of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).

Imperialism creation of an unequal relationship between states through domination

Imperialism is policy or ideology of extending a nation's rule over foreign nations, often by military force or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. Imperialism was both normal and common worldwide throughout recorded history, the earliest examples dating from the mid-third millennium BC, diminishing only in the late 20th century. In recent times, it has been considered morally reprehensible and prohibited by international law. Therefore, the term is used in international propaganda to denounce an opponent's foreign policy.

Market (economics) Mechanisms whereby supply and demand confront each other and deals are made, involving places, processes and institutions in which exchanges occur.

A market is one of the many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers. It can be said that a market is the process by which the prices of goods and services are established. Markets facilitate trade and enable the distribution and resource allocation in a society. Markets allow any trade-able item to be evaluated and priced. A market emerges more or less spontaneously or may be constructed deliberately by human interaction in order to enable the exchange of rights of services and goods. Markets generally supplant gift economies and are often held in place through rules and customs, such as a booth fee, competitive pricing, and source of goods for sale.

Vladimir Lenin

Vladimir Lenin expanded upon Marx's ideas, providing an analysis of what Lenin described as monopoly capitalism. In his theory, Lenin suggested that as capitalism developed as a system, monopoly capitalism was the highest stage of its development. According to Lenin, "imperialism is capitalism" when "the formation of international capitalist monopolies will share the world among themselves and the territorial division of the whole world among the greatest capitalist powers is completed". [2]

Vladimir Lenin Russian politician, communist theorist and founder of the Soviet Union

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by the alias Lenin, was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 to 1922 and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924. Under his administration, Russia and then the wider Soviet Union became a one-party communist state governed by the Russian Communist Party. Ideologically a communist, he developed a variant of Marxism known as Leninism; his ideas were posthumously codified as Marxism–Leninism.

In this way, Lenin is suggesting that capitalist powers will cause wars with weaker nations to increase their holding of monopoly capital. As capitalism develops, its natural progression is for core capitalist nations to exploit those on the periphery through imperialist wars in search of new markets and resources. Lenin’s theory provided the origins of the world-systems theory. [3]

World-systems theory multidisciplinary, macro-scale approach to world history and social change that stresses that the world-system should be the primary unit of social analysis

World-systems theory is a multidisciplinary, macro-scale approach to world history and social change which emphasizes the world-system as the primary unit of social analysis.

See also

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Theory of Imperialism concerns the global systemic outcomes of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall in the capitalist system, and the objective impact of the consequences of those dynamics, and counter-tendencies in the world economy which are now generally associated with Marxian economics. As such it is often considered distinct and differentiated from the history of imperialism that extends through earlier historic periods and economic formations. J. A. Hobson's liberal critique of the emerging phenomenon has been considered as seminal by many writers on the subject, preceding and influencing Hilferding, Lenin "the principal English work on imperialism" and Luxemburg's formulations and teaching.


  1. 1 2 3 O'Callaghan, Einde (25 October 2007). "The Marxist Theory of Imperialism and its Critics". Marxists Internet Archive . Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  2. Lenin, V.I. (1996) ‘Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism’, London, Pluto Press.
  3. Hobden, S. and Wyn Jones, R. (2008) ‘Marxist Theories of International Relations’, in Baylis, J., Smith, S., and Owens, P. (2008) (Eds) ‘The Globalization of World Politics. An introduction to international relations’, New York, Oxford University Press, p.147