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Socialism and the anti-war campaign

In our report of the International Congress at Copenhagen we referred briefly to the absurd proposals to organise the workers of the world to ensure “universal disarmament and the prevention of warfare”. But in view of the efforts of the British section of the confusionists to “enlighten” the workers on “the all important question of armaments or no armaments, warfare or no warfare” (under capitalism!) and particularly in view of the projected Mass Meeting at the Albert Hall, it is necessary to explain the Socialist position on this matter at greater length.

The Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Party state that the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists to conserve the monopoly of the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, and that in order to stop this robbery the workers must capture the powers of government, including the armed forces, so as to turn them into an agent of emancipation. That is unquestionably the Socialist position as it was expounded by Marx and Engels, the founders of scientific Socialism. Those who profess to-day to be the “International Socialist Movement” would not dare to challenge this statement.

However, it is possible to affirm a principle and act contrary to it, as the pseudo-Socialists both nationally and internationally prove. The main demands in the resolution which the German Social-Democratic Party forced upon the Congress were, compulsory arbitration upon international disputes, and Parliamentary action for disarmament and the prevention of wars. Yet this same party is responsible for the following pronouncement in the exposition of their Erfurter Program:

“As States and monarchs become ever more dependent upon the capitalist class, so the armies cease to serve merely the personal ends of the monarchs and are utilised increasingly for the purposes of the capitalist class. Wars are less and less dynastic and more and more commercial and national, which in the last instance can only be traced back to the economic conflicts between the capitalists of the various nations. The capitalist state, therefore, is not only in need of an extensive army of officials for the purpose of the law and police, but it requires also a strong military force. Both armies are ever on the increase in capitalist States, but in recent times the military force grows more rapidly than the army of officials.”

Wars being the outcome of economic conflicts between the capitalists of the various nations, it is illogical and unscientific to attempt to abolish war while the economic conflicts remain. But these international reformers, hungry for votes, are ready to abandon the very principles they themselves set up for working-class guidance.

It is clear that the “anti-war campaign”, as such, is, from the working-class standpoint, absurd. Just as the class struggle cannot be abolished save by abolishing classes, so it is impossible for capitalist nations to get rid of the grim spectre of war, for capitalism presupposes economic conflicts which must finally be fought out with the aid of the armed forces of the State.

But in fairness to the German S.D.P. it must be admitted that they show some consistency in their anti-Socialist attitude, for, desiring to force the German Government to disarm, they, as a party, adopt the policy of opposing every Budget the Government bring in. it was because the Party representatives in Baden and other minor States violated this policy that dispute raged so furiously between “revolutionists” and revisionists before and during the last Party Congress.

In France, Belgium, Austria, Russia – in every country but England – the reform Internationalists follow this example of anti-Socialist consistency. Only in England the parties affiliated to the “International” clamour for “peace at any price” while supporting budgets which provide means of war, and agitating for a citizen army without military discipline – which they expect the “guileless” capitalist class to establish “in order to enable the workers, when enlightened, to shoot their exploiters into oblivion”.

During the discussion on the subject at Copenhagen, Ledebour (German S.D.P.) said when dealing with the anti-war resolution and Keir Hardie’s amendment recommending the General Strike to prevent war:

“I deny the right of moving such a resolution to anyone who in his own country supports the Budget. I deny this right, consequently, above all to our English comrades, who by their support of the Budget place in the hands of their masters the weapons which later on they can use for purposes of war. How can they take the liberty of proposing the General Strike to the parties of other countries who are far more anti-militarist than they happen to be? So long as they support the Budget and supply the arms let them not bring forward more extreme proposals than ourselves.”

Hardie, in reply to this attack, assured the Congress of the Labour Party’s hostility to war, nay more, to militarism, and explained their support of the Budget as a matter, not of principle, but of tactics and practical politics.

Now to nail this impudent lie to the counter. In his last election address published in the Labour Leader for 11.2.10, Keir Hardie says: “The Budget, Old Age Pensions and the like, all have their roots in Socialism; that is why the enemies of the people spend so much time trying to misrepresent it”. If the Budget has its “roots in Socialism”, surely to support it must be a matter of principle, and if these measures are part of Socialism, the Liberals are Socialists and Hardie and the whole British Section of so-called Socialists again proven impostors. Further, the Liberals do not differ at all from Hardie and his party on the question of armaments. The Daily Chronicle (12.11.10) says: “It is the mad race in armaments which creates the atmosphere of hostility and maintains the tension”. The Liberal newspaper evidently takes up the attitude of dealing with effects, not causes, and the Labour Party are no more logical or convincing.

There is even more direct evidence of fraudulence in the attitude of the so-called English Socialist Section adopted at Copenhagen regarding the question of war and militarism. On March 18 Mr. G.H. Roberts M.P. (I.L.P. and L.P), speaking on behalf of the Labour Party in the discussion on the Naval Estimates in the Commons said:

“There seems to be an idea in the minds of the hon. gentlemen that the Labour Party were strongly opposed to an efficient Navy. He did not think that anybody could point to any utterance that had been delivered from the Labour Party members that could give colour to deductions of that sort. The Labour Party looked upon the Navy as a form of national insurance” (Labour Leader, March 25, 1910).

How flatly this contradicts Hardie’s election vow, the Party’s declaration of hostility to militarism, and the attitude of the hypocrites at the International Congress at Copenhagen!

And the S.D.P. is not a whit better than the other branches of the section. Mr. Jack Jones, their spokesman at the Congress, supported the amendment in favour of the General Strike for preventing war, declaring that his organisation preach war against war, and that there is no reason to suspect the S.D.P. of pro-militarist proclivities.

But what are the facts? Hyndman in his lecture on “Tariff Reform and Imperialism” (Queen’s Hall, 18.4.10) said: “I am in favour of the maintenance of a powerful navy capable of defending this island and of protecting our food supply against any assailant . . .” and H. Quelch, the author of The Armed Nation (the title of which sufficiently indicates its pro-militarist contents), writes in an article on the Copenhagen Congress (Justice, 10.9.10):

“The resolution on armaments is much more satisfactory, and we have little fault to find with the conclusions of the conference on this subject . . . We do agree with putting forward the General Strike as a means of preventing war”.

So those who demand a powerful navy and a citizen army “capable of defending this island and protecting our food supply”, also want to apply the General Strike, presumably to prevent them doing it! And those who (rightly enough) opposed the General Strike as a means to Socialism, on the ground that when the workers are sufficiently organised for a General Strike they are able to attain Socialism without it, clutch at it, not as a means to end the system which makes war, but as a preventative of hostilities!

The Socialist position is as follows: In society to-day there are two classes – the propertyless or working class and an idle class who own and control the means of producing and distributing wealth. The latter use this ownership and control to force the workers to work for them, and to submit to being robbed of the greater part of the produce of their labour. The master class, being but a tenth of the population, can only keep possession of the means of production by their control (through the political machinery) of the armed forces. While the master class have that control it is hopeless for the workers to attempt to seize capitalist property. It is sheer madness, therefore, to expect that the capitalist class would, because the workers demand it, either abolish the armed forces or hand their control over to the working class. That would be to abolish themselves as a ruling class. Further, the interests of the capitalists of one country clash with those of the capitalists of other lands, especially in the matter of obtaining markets, and so long as capitalism lasts there will be this clash of interests, necessitating ever-increasing armaments and the inevitable appeal to arms. It is absurd then to waste time and energy in an endeavour to convince the capitalists that wars are superfluous and a curse under capitalism.

Let the workers learn their position in society and unite to obtain control of the machinery of government, including the armed forces. Such action will make it possible for them to take possession of the means of production and use them for the benefit of all. In that way alone will they be able to usher in a system of society wherein universal unity of interests will abolish all war, be it between classes or nations.

H.J.N.
(Socialist Standard, December 1910)