Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Canada
Preface to the fourth edition (1915)

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 merits.

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 their demands.

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,
Except unto the working out of Doom,
Its threads are Love and Life, and Woe and Death,
The shuttles of its Loom”.

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.

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 most promising.

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 war.

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.