Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Canada
Since the first issue of the Manifesto, many events have transpired of more or less
importance, but all to be dwarfed into insignificance by the outbreak of the most
colossal and destructive war of all time – a war which has all the appearances of being
the opening of a new chapter in human history, not on account of those of its aspects
which loom largest in the popular eye, but for the valuable lessons it has already writ
large for the workers’ reading. Yet it is precisely these latter features which are
practically neglected, while the former are given an attention altogether beyond their
Preface to the fourth edition (1915)
This war is not being waged because an Archduke was assassinated in Bosnia, nor
because a treaty was violated in Belgium. The issue is greater than that. It is a war for
world markets. The “place in the sun” the Teutons seek is a place to sell their wares.
The British outcry against the peril of Prussian militarism is inspired by the fear of
German commercial competition. The German military machine, like the British
naval machine, is but the jemmy wherewith the capitalist pries his way into his
neighbor’s domain. The world market calls for world mastery. Without the latter, the
former is a dangerous ambition.
As a war for world markets, it is a matter of concern only for the various capitalist
interests involved. Yet the workers of each country have flung themselves into the
conflict, regardless of the consequences to themselves. They have been stampeded by
the two faces of the one bogey that has been conjured up before them all. The Teutons
have rallied to the defence of the Fatherland from Russian barbarism; Briton and
Frank, Slav and Roman have risen to breast the onrush of Prussian militarism,
regardless of the fact that the foe the most feared by each is already within the gates –
the master class whose battles each is fighting; regardless of the fact that they have
more to lose by victory than defeat. For, in any war, the victorious State has ever been
the stronger to oppress its own workers; the defeated State ever the weaker to resist
Also, at the first of war’s trump, fell the walls of our “International” Jericho – an
event of no little import to the working class. Justifying the S. P. of C.’s long
resistance to any movement to join the International Socialist Bureau, on the ground
that it was neither international nor socialist, it points the valuable lesson that
Internationalism is born not made. If the working class is to be internationalized, it is
the capitalist system, not Social-Democratic statesmanship, that will do it.
Another illusion that has been dispelled is that the strength of the European Social-Democracies, arising out of their opportunist mode of propaganda. These parties have
waged their campaign upon the “political issues of the day”, thus aligning themselves
with that section in the Socialist movement which would sacrifice sound principles to
immediate successes. They have numbered their adherents by the million, and have
educated them not at all. They have sown the wind – they are reaping the whirlwind.
In conflict with them for a generation are those who would sacrifice immediate
successes to sound principles, who have been content to be fewer in numbers if
clearer in understanding, who have given transient political issues the “go-by” and
have harped upon the Social Revolution, who have expounded Economics and the
Class Struggle, when the others were shouting against taxes and tariffs, who have
earned for themselves the name of “impossibilist” and have been content therewith.
The war has justified them. Where there are any “impossibilists” or “near-impossibilists” in Europe, they have stood firm. The “practical socialists” are cutting
one another’s throats in the trenches.
But the war!
This war is by no means to be regarded as an accidental and regrettable cataclysm. It
is a fundamental and inevitable part of a world process. A page in the era in which we
live – Capitalism; an era in the evolution of the human race from the simple,
unorganized communes of savagery, toward the complex highly organized Commune
of Civilization, wherein the forces of Nature are to be harnessed to the wheels of Man.
The slaughter may seem appalling to us. To an era it is insignificant. To the Process it
is of no moment:
“It slayeth and It saveth, nowise moved,
At any rate, “Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War”. A period of
peaceful capitalist prosperity will kill and maim as many as a periodical war.
Except unto the working out of Doom,
Its threads are Love and Life, and Woe and Death,
The shuttles of its Loom”.
And the outcome? Just as the outbreak of the war was foredoomed by causes within
the capitalist system, so is the outcome, whatever it may prove to be, foredoomed.
Just what it will be none may yet say. Only this is certain: forward it must carry us
towards the Social Revolution. How far forward one cannot see. But the signs are
On the one hand, debt is piling upon debt and capitalist industry must pay the tax.
And the tax will be hard to collect – which is hopeful. For when the State is in
financial straits, the revolution is at hand. That is one lesson of history.
On the other hand, the influx of women into the fields of wage labor hitherto occupied
by men is remarkable. By virtue of their cheapness they will stay. And at the end of
the war some twenty million men will be thrown upon a glutted labor market, in an
industrial system staggering under the incubus of war taxes. It looks well!
The longer the war continues the more do the “war conditions” of society and
industry, outside the war zone, tend to become the normal conditions; the more does
the war become the world’s chief market. The more unsettling, therefore, will be the
settlement of the war. Peace will uproot those established conditions and annihilate
that market. It will be an outbreak of peace, as cataclysmic as was the outbreak of
On the face of it, uprisings of a more or less revolutionary character seem not
unlikely. Whether they will be successful or not is problematical. If they are it will
not be the fault of the master class.
One more illusion, indeed, we may put from our minds if we ever had it – that of a
peaceful Revolution. A master class capable of sending millions to slaughter in the
field for the extension of its profits is capable of making a shambles of an industrial
city for the retention of its property in the means of production. To expect them to
give up their rulership with any good grace is to credit them with grace beyond
reason. It is only when a social system is about to pass that the resistance of its
parasites seems to collapse.
At any rate, the moral is for the workers to prepare. The worst, or the best, is about to
come. Let us hope for an early victory – for the working class.