Birds of a feather

Charity, we are told, covers a multitude of sins. And War, it seems, covers a multitude of lies. One doing duty just now is called “The Need for Unity.”

Tory and Liberal papers are full of enthusiasm at the “united front” shown to the enemy by Unionist, Liberal, Labour and Socialist alike. If we were to question the inclusion of the last, doubtless we should be referred to members of the so-called Independant Labour Party and mis-named British Socialist Party, who have vie with the most rabid Jingoes in urging the working class to take up arms for their masters, or in spreading the stupid illusion that it is the German Kaiser who caused the war.

The poor, deluded wage-slaves are to be urged to join “Kitchener’s Army” for the purpose of fighting for “their” country and “their” liberty.

Tne factory worker, whose “country” is usually limited to the amount that would fill a flower pot, and whose “liberty” is of the kind that allows him to go to work (if he is lucky enough to have a job) when the factory hooter howls in the morning, and to leave off when it repeats its dirge at night, now finds himself with a whole load of other liberties launched at him.

In thousands of cases he can stay away from work altogether—in fact, they won’t let him in because they have closed down the factory. He is at liberty to leave his domicile, and is even assisted by the bailiff and broker’s man, who, with kindly solicitude for his failing strength, save him the trouble of moving his few belongings by taking them in lieu of the rent he cannot pay.

Fired with enthusiasm for these liberties, and not having the faintest idea where his next meal will come from otherwise, he rushes to the recruiting office in such numbers that the “Directive Intelligence” of the masters is overtaxed to the extent that their servants cannot even register the recruits nor give them a number. So, to get out of the difficulty, they have raised the physical standard—not daring to tamper with the mental one.

The agricultural labourer has a different notion of what is meant by “our country.”

It is a place on portions of which he is permitted to work on six days a week, from about sunrise to sunset, except when he looks after cattle, when the permission is graciously extended to seven days a week. More days per week would be granted him—if they existed. The other portions are places he may admire from the roadway, not for too long, of course, or the gamekeeper might think he was “loitering with intent” and Hodge would lose his job. But he may reflect on the enjoyment Lord Shoddy or Sir Arthur Ale-Adulterate derives from the ownership of these fine preserves, and vow that while he can hold a gun the Germans shall never take that country from Lord S. or Sir A. A.-A. He may further reflect that his own life reeks with variety. Night is followed by day, Autumn follows Summer. It does not always rain, nor is it always dry—though he may be. The place he sleeps in will emphasise this by letting in both wind and rain. And he will wonder how the Germans can stand the monotonous life he is told they lead. Now a chance to find out presents itself, for by joining the Army he is promised a free passage out to where they actually are, at——— (the next words were cut, out by the Press Censor.—Ed. “S.S.”) so he enlists.

Before war was declared by Great Britain on Germany, the Labour Party, the I.L.P., the B.S.P., the Fabians, etc., held an anti-war demonstration in Trafalgar Square, that, possibly much to their own surprise, was by far the largest gathering held there in recent years. Even after war was declared the British Section of the “International Socialist Bureau” issued a manifesto against war, signed by Mr. Keir Hardie and Mr. Arthur Henderson (“Labour Leader,” 6th Aug., 1914). The I.L.P. still opposes the war—in the columns of the “Labour Leader.”

But the I.L.P. is a portion of the Labour Party. The Labour Party is a small part of the Liberal Party, and is entirely dependent upon the latter for the seats—with attendant salaries—that they hold.

At the orders of their masters, the Liberal Party, the Labour Party join the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee formed to combine all the persuasive powers of the capitalist politicians in urging the workers to join the Army, and “Mr. Arthur Henderson, Mr. Frank Goldstone, and Mr. J. Parker have been appointed as its representative speakers at the united demonstrations which are to be held to arouse enthusiasm for the war,” and “the head office of the Party, its entire machinery are to be placed at the disposal of the Government in their recruiting campaign.” (“Labour Leader,” 3rd Sept., 1914.)

In the same article we are told :

“The decision of the Parliamentary Labour Party to co-operate with the Government in the series of meetings it is organising to encourage enlisting, and the endorsement of that decision by the National Executive of the Labour Party, constituted a grave betrayal of the principles of the Party and an outrage upon its traditions and hopes.”

The “Labour Leader” would be hard put to it to justify such language. The guiding prin­ciple of the Labour Party, so strenuously defended by Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, is to keep the Liberals in office at any price ; and its traditions and hopes are to persuade the Liberals to give them a few more seats in Parliament. How, then, can their present action be a “betrayal” of these principles or traditions ?

On another page of same issue we are told that : “The I.L.P. representatives on the Labour Executive opposed the decision and reported to Head Office” ; while the National Council of the I.L.P. “recommends branches to take no part in the proposed campaign.”

But if branches are to take no part prominent members do. Mr. W. C. Anderson objects to the language about the Labour Party quoted above, and says: “It must be very plain that the I.L.P. cannot remain inside the Labour Party and yet brand its actions in these heated terms” (“Labour Leader,” 10.9.14). Why not ? The only rule rigidly enforced by the Labour Party is that its candidates for Parliament must not run as Socialists, and there is nothing in the “Labour Leader’s” statements against that. Again, Mr. R. C. K. Ensor opposes Mr. Keir Hardie’s views on Russia, and makes the following profound pronouncement:

“The Russian democratic and constitutional movements have welcomed in this war a unique opportunity of securing at once two things which can only be secured together—the liberalising of Russia and the creation of a permanent Anglo-Russian friendship. It would be difficult to name any two objects more important for the world’s future.”

And all this was Mr. Ensor’s secret till the war broke out. Alongside of such stupendous results the “neutrality of Belgium” and “the safeguarding of small States” fade into insignificance. May we also enquire how long it is since Mr. J. Parker ceased to be a member of the I.L.P. ?

Still more follows. A recruiting meeting was held at Leicester on September 11th and the Mayor read a letter from Mr. Ramsay Macdonald in which, among a series of canting hypocrasies, the following occurs:

“I want the serious men of the trade unions, the brotherhoods and similar movements, to face their duty. To such men it is enough to say ‘England has need of you,’ and to say it in the right way.
“They will gather to her aid ; they will protect her ; and when the war is over they will see to it that the policies and conditions that made it will go like the mists of a plague and the shadows of a pestilence.” (“Daily Chronicle,” 12.9.14.)

Lord Roberts could hardly say more. Yet Mr. Macdonald is still a member of the I.L.P.

We thus have the illuminating spectacle of that organisation through its National Council and branches opposing the war, its prominent members supporting that war by encouraging enlistment, and the organisation as a whole orming part of the Labour Party that lends “its whole machinery” to the aid of the Government. Truly, a “supreme ironic procession,” as Meredith would say.

In these acrobatic and contortionist actions a serious rival is found in the B.S.P.

Like the I.L.P. it joined in a protest against England going to war. Then it wobbled for a while, and now it presents a pretty spectacle. In a paper called “Justice” (Aug. 25th), Mr. Hyndman says that all they can do at present is “to denounce the infamous German invasion of Belgium, to applaud the splendid resistance and self-sacrifice of that noble little people, and to hope for the speedy and total rout of the Prussian military caste.”

One may ask why the latter sentiment is restricted to Prussia ? Has Russia no military caste ? Is France free from such a thing ? And has Mr. Hyudman ever heard of Mr. Blatchford and Lord Roberts in England ? The British Navy League, so strongly supported by Mr. Hyndman, is, of course, a “caste” to spread peace and amity among the nations, not to prepare for and urge on the war.

When Mr. Norman objects that Belgium’s treatment of the people of the Congo was hardly the best example of brotherly love, Mr. Hyndman replies by saying: “We all know that the late King Leopold’s rule in the Congo was abominable. Was Louvain sacked on that account ?” (“Justice,” 17.9.14.) If we may venture to answer the latter query we are inclined to say No ! But in the interests of fair play we should also have to admit that we have not yet heard that the Germans gave this as a reason for their action.

He also says in,the same issue: “The treacherous and ruffianly attack upon neutral little Belgium settled the matter for me. It would have been infamous if we had failed to declare war on her behalf, and in order to save France from destruction.”

Several questions at once crop up at this answer. How many attacks upon little States by big powers have been other than “treacherous and ruffianly”? And who are the “we” that are going to “save France from destruction ” ? Of the two classes in this country which should take on this task ? Obviously the capitalist class, as it is their quarrel. But they are exactly the class that are not doing so, while the workers, of whom Mr. Hyndrnan has said over and over again that they are as well—or as bad—off in Germany as in England, evidently have no interest in the matter at all.

And Belfort Bax, who is supposed to be well-acquainted with German affairs, says : “The military camarilla which dictates to Germany, and which has engineered the present war, is of Prussian origin.” (“Justice,” 10.914. Italics ours.)

Where the “intellectuals” lead the lesser lights will follow. Mr. W. Thorne, M.P., assisted Major Hogg, Captain Passingham, Colonel Palmer, and several other agents of the capitalist class in running a recruiting meeting at the Public Hall, Canning Town, on Monday, Sept. 14th, and moved a resolution stating his profound belief that: “We are fighting in a just cause, and to vindicate the right of small States and the public law of Europe.” (“Stratford Express,” 19.9.1914.) The latter phrase sounds important, and having neither sense nor meaning behind it, it is just the sort of claptrap Thorne could give off.

He also said that when the news of the battles at Mons and Cambrai came “he put his International Socialism in the reference library for the time being.” (Ibid). Carping critics may object that he never had any “Socialism,” International or other, to bring out, but they may be ignored in this crisis. “When his party met he was one of the first to be in favour of the Chairman and the two Whips being part of the Recruiting Committee, and he did not regret it.” (Ibid). Referring to the treatment of the soldiers and their dependants, he said: “These men, when they come back maimed, should not be allowed to go into the workhouse, or walk about the streets selling laces and matches.” What they should be allowed to do Mr. Thorne did not say. Perhaps he thinks they had better sell bananas ! Anyhow, “If that happened again it would be a standing disgrace to the country.” (Italics ours. Ibid>). “Standing” disgrace because, we suppose, it has such a huge number of disgraces already that there is no room for any of them to sit down.

Besides, seeing the large amount of distress existing in Canning Town now among the dependants of the soldiers, we can give a guess as to the conditions that will prevail when these men “come back maimed.” Starvation will be their share. One disgrace more or less can hardly disturb the equanimity of “this country.”

One result of the “unity” shown above is that no contests will take place at the next Municipal election in West Ham so far as Labour, Progressive, and Alliance Parties are concerned. They are all agreeing to leave the Wards represented as they are at present. “The Kaiser,” to quote the above mentioned issue of the “Stratford Express,” “has brought peace to West Ham” !

Finally, the B.S.P. issue a manifesto wherein they state : “Recognising that the national freedom and independence of this country are threatened by Prussian militarism, the Party naturally desires to see the prosecution of the war to a speedy and successful issue.” After a list of the usual hopeless hopes that it terms a practical programme, the Manifesto winds up as follows: “The British Socialist Party advises its representatives who are invited to take part in the general recruiting campaign, to accept such invitations provided they are permitted to speak from the common platform in support of the national programme and policy set forth above.” (“Justice,” 17.9.14.)

So their wobbling ends by their coming down on the side of the Government. Yet not altogether. In “Justice” for Sept. 24th it is stated that Stepney, North West Ham, and Bow and Bromley branches of the B.S.P. are opposed to this Manifesto. But doubtless such impertinence will be nipped in the bud by the Executive Committee publishing the amount of dues these branches owe the Centre.

The various and varying phases of capitalist development give many opportunities to the working class to discover their enemies. The gigantic war now in progress, involving the maiming and slaughter of hundreds of thousands of our class, has shown clearly how those enemies, from Bonar Law to Asquith, from Sir Edward Gray to Ramsay Macdonald, from Carson to Redmond, from Keir Hardie to Hyndman, and from W. Thorne to R. C. K. Ensor, are lined up in one camp—the capitalist camp—with the various organisations they represent.

The Socialist alone remains to point the moral, draw the lesson, and show the workers that not until they take control of affairs for themselves will they have the decision of Peace or War in their hands, and to show them how the necessity to do this means the carrying of the CLASS WAR to its conclusion, whereby wars of all kinds will be abolished.

J. F.

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