Editorial: Why we oppose this “Peace Movement”

The hypocrisy of the English race is proverbial. At intervals they rise to such a height in this direction, as to draw upon themselves the ridicule of the whole world—as when, drooling a sickening stream of sanctimony, they circumscribed the exploitation of the West Indian slaves, forbidding their masters to employ them more than eight hours a day, while children of tender years, of our own race, in our own country, toiled for sixteen hours a day in the mill-hells of the Midlands.

The recurring frenzy of nauseating pretence again sweeps over the land, and this time its infection spreads beyond our shores. They have caught it America ; they suspire the bacilus in Germany ; in Australia the complaint becomes epidemic. “Peace, sitting under her olive” is the subject of this amorous outbreak, and you might shout “mad dog !” in the streets and nobody would take any notice, because every eye is fixed on the beautiful form “sitting under her olive,” and every lip is outraging her name.

Peace, forsooth ! What has peace to do with you, workingmen of the world ? What horror has war that “peace” has not accustomed you to? “The red rain of death !” Ah ! go into the mine and you will see it. “The awful rending of strong men’s bodies !” The shunter sees it every day. “The fearful cost of human life !” The “Thunderer” was built in “peace” at the cost of a thousand accidents, from keel-laying to launch. Every plate iu her great hull would sweat blood of those who mined it and smelted it and forged it, were the day when “the sea shall give up its dead” to come upon us tomorrow. Every great girder that gives strength to her stupendous form, and every rivet that holds them together, have been drenched with the blood of workingmen, at every stage of their winning and fashioning, before ever they come to crush and mangle workers’ bodies in the shipbuilder’s yard. And every gun which is to be put aboard her, and the engines and fittings and coal—all these are to be paid for with workers’ life and limb ; so that when she leaves port a complete thing, she may do so as an emblem of capitalist peace : for it is very unlikely that she will ever receive such libations of blood in battle has she has had poured over her on the stocks.

Peace ! The snuffling humbug of the word on capitalist lips ! At the very moment they are mouthing it most unctuously they are drafting police and military against the miners in South Wales, massing troops on the borders of Mexico, and raising an immense fund to fight the implement workers in Australia. And while the British Liberal Government are making the remote corners of the earth echo and re-echo with the empty nothing, “Peace !” they are voting the enormous sum of £75,000,000 for war—on the principle that they’ll have peace if they have to fight for it.

Strange, is it not, that in all this cry of “peace” but one incentive shows itself ? The burden of armaments. It is the treasure, not the blood, that causes the capitalist head to ache. No wonder—for treasure is the master’s while the blood is the workers. £75,000,000 in a year is a mighty drain, and the Government that is forced to exact it is in a precarious position. So they scream “peace” by way of a soft answer to turn away wrath—and also in the certain knowledge that the result will demonstrate that peace, even as the capitalist understands it, is possible only at the cost of crushing armaments—or national extinction. It is significant that no hope is held out of a “peace treaty” except with America—a country with whom all serious differences have already been composed, against whom, in addition, Britain would hurl her might in vain, and who could inflict damage, where they can inflict it all, with impunity. They could starve us out by stopping their own and Canadian wheat at the graneries. It is admitted that on the day when the States and Canada want join hands the “mother country” has got to submit. On that day the treaty becomes in all eyes what from the first it must be in reality—waste paper. It is easy for two nations who cannot fight, to make a treaty that they won’t.

But the case is different with, say Germany. No responsible person suggests a treaty with that country—yet it is Germany that has made a British Liberal Government increase its annual Naval Estimates £14,000,000 in five years. No, derision waits the Minister who dares suggest such a treaty, for the farce would be too apparent. Just as a treaty with America brings peace no nearer because the two could not fight, treaty or no treaty, so a treaty with Germany would bring peace no nearer because, in the face of conflicting interests (without which they would not fight in any event), the treaty would not be worth the cost of its inscripton. The humbug, therefore, of the cry of “Peace” and “Disarmament,” is apparent.

There comes a time, of course, when it becomes cheaper to submit to a foreign rival than to arm against him. What course our ruling class will take when the cost of “keeping up the two-power standard” is dearer than exploiting native workers under foreign rule is foreshadowed by the course of the French master class at the time of the commune. Their patriotism will quickly enough then take the form of reduced annamants—the tacit confession that they would sooner “wear the yoke” in humilty than seriously suffer in pocket.

Meanwhile the Liberals, in their desire to cover themselves, have been loyally supported by the Labour Party. These have shouted “peace” with the best of them, and they lose no opportunity of implying that it is only the “burden of armaments” which prevents the Liberals “sweeping poverty from every hearth.” They thus kill a number of birds with one stone. First the Liberals are absolved directly it is discovered that their efforts for general disarmament are without avail ; secondly the Labour Members put themselves right with all those of their constituents who are, or who think they are, groaning under the burden of armaments, and thirdly thsy throw dust in the eyes of the rank and file of the Labour Party and Trade Unionists on whose backs they have climbed to place—and pelf.

Of course, a show of consistency had to be made in the House. The I.L.P. had organised 250 meetings on the question of armaments, so something was expected. And something happened.

Exactly one half of the Labour Members in Parliament came up to scratch to save the face of their party by voting against the Liberals’ immense Naval Estimates. The other half (save two who voted FOR them !) stood out of it oblige the Liberals !

Keir Hardie says the party were bribed, the Osborne Bill being the price of their defection, and he should know. But we wonder how many would have opposed the Estimates had they been really in danger. How many would dare have gone back to their Liberal constituencies with the confession on their lips that they had helped to defeat a Liberal Government? Not many, we venture to guess.

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