Peace on Earth

While from thousands of pulpits Christian preachers are asking for “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” we find war between classes and war between nations everywhere manifest. If we take but a short period of ten years we shall find that every civilised country has been engaged either in war or in oppressing subject races. America with Spain and with the Philipinos ; France in Madagascar and in Algeria; Russia with Japan and with the Manchus; Germany with the Hereros ; Holland with the Javanese ; Britain everywhere : thus the tale of war is told.

We who are Socialists are all in favour of peace, at the same time we recognise that so long as men live in societies based upon class opposition, in societies in which the modes of producing the material sustenance of man are monopolised by a class, so long will war be rife as a means of satisfying national disputes.

The fact that one class monopolises all that is best in life because of its owning the means of production, while another class possesses nothing but its power of labour, has to sell that power in order to gain a mere livelihood, is the primary cause of the war of classes. Each class seeks to better its condition. And this is only possible at the expense of the other class. A rise in wages for the worker is a fall in the profits of the employer. A reduction of hours for the worker beyond certain limits is at the expense oi the employer’s surplus-value. This opposition between employer and employed manifests itself not only in the striving for better wages and reduced hours, but throughout the whole of the ramifications of modern industrial, society.

The production of commodities is to-day production for the market. During periods of prosperity production is carried on by all manufacturers with great intensity. This production is furthered by means of the “credit” system, which allows of capital being borrowed and material being bought on credit. When, as the result of all the rival manufacturers turning out their goods as quickly as possible, the market becomes glutted, it becomes necessary to somehow convert these goods into money in order to discharge their liabilities. The usual markets being glutted, it is ever more necessary to extend the limits of the market, to secure fresh outlets, and the ordinary method of arriving at this end is to annex new territory and develope its resources.

Thus arising from the very course of commerce itself comes the necessity of carrying on wars of aggression. War to-day is essentially commercial, and at all times has been at base economic. Whether it is the ancient commercial feud of Athens and AEgina, the jealousy of Rome of its commercial rival, Cathage; the desire of Rome to conquer the lands adjoining the Mediterranean and thereby possess a monopoly of that sea which was then the world’s commercial highway; peasant wars, servile wars, feudal wars, or modern wars of aggression like the recent Boer War ; whichever of these they be, they are fundamentally economic, and in the interests, not of the whole people, but of the ruling class.

And when such wars do arise they always receive the support of the Church within their own nation, which is so ready at other times to prate of “peace on earth.” While having no quarrel with religion as such, we cannot but recognise that the official church in any country is the worthy bulwark of the ruling class in that country, and that towards that most reactionary of churches, the Roman Catholic, the propertied class are drifting more and more.

When the Church is prepared to advocate and to hasten the downfall of the present industrial system—the cause of modern wars—and to substitute therefor a society based upon social equality from which no wars can possibly spring, we shall be the more willing to believe in their protestations in favour of peace. But to-day they cry peace ! peace ! where there is and can be no peace.

Each of the forms of war—the outcome of the existing capitalist system—carries in its train results both dire and disastrous for the working people. Whether national or industrial warfare is the more distressing and far-reaching in its results may be difficult to determine from actual tabulated statistics, but after a minute examination of both we have no hesitation in saying that industrial warfare has far the greater number of victims.

Enormous as have been the victims of battles like Borodino, Sedan, or the Sha-ho ; great as is the estimate of 2,000,000 men killed in battles between fairly civilised powers in the 25 years from 1855 to 1880, greater still has been the sacrifice to industrialism. Let us calculate the number of children dying in their first year from remediable causes, the number of accidents on the railway or in the mine, the early deaths of the workers from living in insanitary dwellings and working in insanitary factories and workshops with insufficient nourishment for their daily fare, and we shall see that the industrial warfare is as severe as the national. When we remember that the number of those killed and injured on American railways during the past year exceeded the 45,000 casualties of the Sha-ho battle we shall see that it is as necessary to consider means for the removal of the warfare of peace as of that of war.

We may be excused if we give two extracts, one showing the horrors of the battle-field, the other the terrors of the factory.

The first is from Dr. Russell, of the “Times,” who wrote the following account of the battle of Sedan:

“Let your readers fancy masses of coloured rags glued together with blood and brains, and pinned into strange shapes by fragments of bones ; let them conceive mens’ bodies without heads, legs without bodies, heaps of human entrails attached to red and blue cloth, and disembowelled corpses in uniform, bodies lying about in all attitudes with skulls shattered, faces blown off, hips smashed, bones, flesh, and gay clothing all pounded together, as if brayed in a mortar, extending for miles, not very thick in any one place, but recurring perpetually for weary hours, and then they cannot, with the most vivid imagination, come up to the sickening reality of that butchery.”

Thus of war ! and now of peace ! Our extract is from Dr. Tatham’s Report on “The Mortality of Occupations.” He pays :

“At the last census (1891) male cotton and flax operatives above the age of 15 numbered 179,359 in the aggregate having increased since 1881 by 11 per cent. At ages below 45 years the mortality of cotton operatives scarcely differs from the average among textile workers, but at each group of ages above 45 the rates are considerably in excess of the average. Compared with the standard for occupied males the death-rates are excessive at all ages over 25 years and under 45 years. The comparative mortality figure of these workers from all causes at ages 25—65 is 1,141, considerably exceeding that of textile workers generally; while compared with that of occupied males it is in excess by 20 per cent. Cotton operatives die half as fast again as the standard from diseases of the respiratory system; their mortality also shows an excess of two-fifths from diseases of the nervous system, and of the digestive organs other than the liver, and an excess of one-fifth from circulatory diseases. They also suffer more than the average from phthisis, influenza, diabetes, and suicide, whilst, in common with textile workers generally, their mortality from alcoholism and liver disease is below, but that from rheumatic fever is above the average.”

True, the first of these pictures is far more horrible than the second, but we have a Sedan only once in thirty years or more, while we have the remediable terrors of factory life with us day by day.

By all means let us have peace, but let us work for it by trying to remove the cause of war—our present industrial system. When society is no longer a crystallised selfishness, when the condition of man’s living is no longer at the expense of his neighbour, when anarchy is no longer the phase of production of commodities, when, instead of all these, men live, owning the material means of subsistence in common, and men and women can obtain the satisfaction of their needs without having to sell their labour force for a bare subsistence, then it will no longer be necessary to speak of peace, for peace will then be a living reality.

Those who really desire that peace should reign over all the earth, who see peace between men as a condition of healthy industrial and social development should join with us of The Socialist Party of Great Britain in organising that party which shall preach those principles of industrial harmony based upon the abrogation of class privilege and the holding of all means of production and of distribution in common, which shall be the basis upon which shall be built up a peace which shall endure and which shall extend throughout the world-wide co-operative Commonwealth.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, January 1905)

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