Project Canterbury

Discerning the Lord's Body
The Rationale of a Catholic Democracy

By Frederic Hastings Smyth, Ph.D.
Superior of the Society of the Catholic Commonwealth

Louisville, Kentucky: The Cloister Press, 1946.

Appendix VI. Free Enterprise and War

Note that when we are forced by the present terrible world situation to think about a remedy in terms of a larger international cooperation, we still keep insisting that such cooperation must not transcend or override "purely" national self-interest. This is of course a completely self-contradictory way of thinking.

[213] The root of the difficulty is that international political cooperation can be achieved only among national units which are themselves internally organized upon a cooperative economic basis. National competitive capitalist organization of the material means of production and distribution requires international imperialist economic competition, both for markets and for sources of raw materials.

This kind of international competition leads quite unavoidably to wars. Any proposal for organizing for international peace while this economic system prevails must be largely unreal. It is necessarily a mere bandying of words. For political forces always reflect economic forces. The political system is always the handmaid of the economic system. Hence competitive economics require competitive politics in the international scene. War, according to the acknowledged authority of Karl von Clausewitz, is only the continuation of political action by other means. Open warfare is therefore the inevitable and logical outcome of that veiled economic warfare now admired under the formula of "Free Enterprise."

Imperialist international competition which leads to war does not result from the fact that "wicked people" deliberately choose this evil course in spite of the fact that peaceful solutions are open to them. Peaceful solutions often are not open to the international conflicts of interests between capitalist nations. They are not always open even to conflicting economic group interests within delimited national areas. To this all civil wars--the United States Civil War in particular--bear historical witness. War could not be avoided within an unmitigated capitalist economy even if the angels themselves attempted to operate it.

Because continuing international peace is illogical among nations which are internally organized on the basis of economic competition, it is our own economic system which needs to be attacked by Christians. Without this, the attempted moral reform of individuals is worse than useless. Its inevitable failure to bring a remedy to the basic situation and to prevent war leads to frustration and defeatism among those who pin their hopes to the Christian "conversion" of individuals, while leaving untouched the basically contradictory problem which the capitalist organization of our material productive forces presents. Hence Christians who now maintain that their religion is indifferent to the economic organization within which they live have fallen into a confusion arising from an ignorance in this day both indefensible and inexcusable.

Project Canterbury