The comics are all over the place on this one. The IDW continuity is determined to push this weird backstory of a corrupt senate, slave labor, and gladiators, and how no side can really claim to be the “good guys.” (To save you the trouble of googling it, the upshot is that Megatron was a poet-slave-gladiator-turned-revolutionary who gets a little carried away). The cartoon, however, for all its faults, seemed to really nail the reason for the war between the Autobots and Decepticons: resources. Much like Earth, Cybertron, home planet of the Transformers, only has so many natural resources. Humans are a young species and are relatively ahead of the resource curve. We’ll eventually hit peak oil, but (hopefully) by that time we’ll have really mastered alternative forms of energy. Transformers, though, are a very old race, and single generations can live for millions of years. They’ve used up the great majority of their planet’s resources and, because their planet lacks a star to orbit, cannot take advantage of solar power. Transformers, in other words, isn’t the story of political discord and revolution—it’s an apocalyptic tale about what happens when our resources dry up. And what happens isn’t pretty. The cartoon makes it pretty clear that two schools of thought emerged from this energy problem. You have the Decepticons, who are perfectly willing to invade other planets and steal their energy, and the Autobots, who want to trade peacefully for energy. The Great War naturally results. On Cybertron, the two sides fight it out for what’s left and on Earth and elsewhere, the Autobots are determined to stop the Decepticons who disrupt free trade. The Decepticons’ gripe is that trade is slow and everyone else in the universe is primitive. Why not just steal a whole bunch of oil and be done with it? An obvious comparison is the killing of whales in the 19th century to acquire spermaceti. In this example, we’re the whales.