The Fruits of Anarchy
When a period of trade activity has been un¬usually protracted, the inevitable crisis invariably startles the economists of the ruling class in the midst of ruminations on their good fortune, or genius, in having at last overcome trade epidemics. As with the trade crisis, so with war comes as a bolt from the blue, shattering theories, exposing contradictions, dissipating hopes, and falsifying prophecies.
Anarchy in Interests Produces—
Conflicting interests must always produce conflicting ideas. A survey of prevailing ideas will consequently give some notion of the underlying anarchy of capitalist interests and conditions.
One group of idealists we can afford to leave to their own shallow cogitations. Those who argue that without war to develop and ennoble—and kill off the fittest—the human race is certain to degenerate. They are backed up by the “war traders” for obvious reasons. Opposed to them are the humanitarians, the anti-militarists, and the peace-loving bourgeois traders, whose ships, heavily insured, are on every sea. These traders, always fearing for their markets, express vehemently their belief in arbitration and their suspicions of diplomatists generally. In the interest of trade Andrew Carnegie subscribes two millions to finance a peace tribunal. At the same time armament firms subsidise the Press and frighten the ignorant with scares, bribe high-placed officials through their agents in all parts of the world, cater for every nation or province that happens to lie inflicted with agitators, whose business it is to keep alive feuds and magnify every action of a neighbouring-State into a sinister threat against the cherished freedom of the people.
Anarchy in Ideas
The following quotation from the “Daily News and Leadder” (15.7.14) presents quite typically the attitude taken up (in peace times) by the peace-mongers :
“If there is not soon a world-wide movement against the tyranny of war and of all the infamies associated with it, it will not be for lack of lessons. Wherever we turn, to France or Russia, Germany or Japan, Italy or our own country, the evidence accumulates of the burden which the war-traders put upon the backs of the people. Their business has no relation to patriotism. It is cosmopolitan in its operations and soulless in its motive. It works upon the fears and hates of ignorant people, uses the Press as the instrument of its purposes and makes tools of the diplomatists and the statesmen, many of whom are financially interested in its success. In Russia, in France, and now in Japan we have seen how it can buy up the very services and make lackeys of the generals and admirals of army and navy. Its maleficient influence overshadows the democracy of every land and until we have found a way of uprooting the whole evil system there will be no real progress made towards peace or an enduring civilisation.”
“Our own country” is not excepted in this sweeping statement. The Prime Minister, when confronted with figures relating to the operations of armament firms abroad, said he dared say the figures were correct, but he knew of no sufficient reason for instituting an enquiry. Shortly after two of the largest British firms entered into a contract with the Turkish Government to carry out extensive works at Constantinople that meant the virtual re-modelling of the Turkish navy, while just before the outbreak of the war, according to a prominent war correspondent, “the British Admiralty was lending missions of naval officers to Greece and Turkey, to hasten in co-operation with the contracting syndicates the preparation of their war forces.” The same writer added : “There is not a feud, or the possibility of a feud, but these tradesmen are at hand to egg on the rival adventurers, and to ‘equip’ them with the latest instruments of the science and art of wholesale homicide.”
Circumstances, you know, Alter Cases
The peace-mongers forget their former denunciations when their country is involved in war. The “business” of the war traders has a close “relation to patriotism” when the “latest instruments of the science and art of wholesale homicide” must be placed in the hands of the workers to defend capitalist interest. The cry is then “Pile up the munitions ; more elbow room to the war traders.” They forget what they have said—but they cannot unsay it.
Before the war it had become almost a plati¬tude that great wars of conquest, religious wars, etc., were things of the past ; that to-day commerce and industry dictated the policies of the different nations. Since the war every capitalist hack has been busy denying the economic cause—even while crying : “Capture the enemy’s trade”—repeating again and again that the struggle is between “militarism and democracy.”
“Prussian militarism” has become an everyday phrase. Exactly what is meant by it has never yet been clearly explained. According to some supporters of the so-called voluntary sys¬tem, it is synonymous with conscription ; others affect to see difference between the French and German forms. One fact beyond dispute is that the capitalist class of every country maintain armed forces up to the strength they deem necessary to cope with their enemies within and without ; and it is even more certain that the capitalists of no country hesitate to use them when their interests are at stake. The methods may be slightly different, but the object is always the same—to retain possession or ownership of the means of life.
Relatives are Best Apart
For instance, the Kaiser, according to Ben¬jamin Kidd (in the “Daily News and Leader,” 7.9.15), appeals directly to his conscripts, saying :
“In view of the present Socialist agitation, it may come to pass that I shall command you to shoot down your own relatives, your brothers, your sons, or parents, which God forbid, but even this you must obey without a murmur.”
while Mr. Asquith, in the House of Commons says, in answer to a question (I quote the “Daily Chronicle.” 24.3.14).
“I think it is a very good rule, where the military force is called in to render assistance to the civil power, in exceptional cases, both as regards officers and men, so far as you can do it, to avoid the employment of those who are locally connected by personal, domestic, or social ties.”
In peace time every increase in armaments raises the war discussion anew and furnishes fresh evidence in the shape of contradictions, confessions, and absurdities. Ten days before the declaration of war the United Methodist Conference passed a resolution “protesting against the ominous growth of armaments.” One rev. delegate declared that
“the war spirit was not in the heart of King George, the Kaiser, the House of Commons, the Reichstag, or in the hearts of the British or German people. It was in the brain of a few irresponsible journalists, who were obsessed with a dastardly kind of Imperi¬alism. He hated strikes, but would be glad to see a strike of the great democratic forces of Europe as a protest against this wicked, inhuman, and sinful waste of money.”
Note how these despicable followers of the mythical Christ are concerned for their masters’ money—a fraction of which comes to them in the shape of livings. One would almost imagine it was of greater importance in their estimation than human life did one not remember that personal ambition overshadows everything else in the mind of the up-to-date Gospel hawker.
Notoriety being their goal, it does not always follow that popular ideas must be applauded ; sometimes the reverse will bring a freak Non-conformist within the circle of the lime-light. At present it is almost criminal to denounce war, even in theory yet the president of the Churchmen’s Union at Rugby goes even further and denounces scientists for their share in it—possibly on principle, because he recognises the antagonism between science and religion. He
“deplored the employment of the latest discoveries of science and the newest inventions of civilisation not in the service of mankind, but to kill, burn, and torture. Men of science and learning had been bribed by the rulers of nations to prostitute their powers to the invention of horrible instruments for the wholesale killing, poisoning, and torture of brave men.”
Parson’s Filthy Job
Obviously this is a case of the pot reflecting on the sooty condition of the kettle. The priest is equally susceptible to capitalist bribery with the scientist, and just as ready to furbish old superstitions or manustitions or manufacture new ones, to the detriment of the working class, as the scientist is to invent or improve instruments for the perpetration of wholesale murder.
So much for the irresponsibles. There are writers and politicians, however, that are considered authoritative ; but we shall be disappointed if we expect to find their utterances free from similar contradictions and absurdities. Mr. Norman Angell in “The Great Illusion,” we are told by a contemporary,
“Lays down the principle, which he enforces by references to recent history, that in the case of a great war the victor suffers more in the long run than the vanquished. . . . Moreover, because also of this interdependence of our credit-built finance, the con¬fiscation by an invader of private property . . . would so react upon the finance of the invader’s country as to make the damage to the invader resulting from the confiscation exceed in value the property confiscated. So that Germany’s success in conquest would be a demonstration of the complete economic futility of conquest. . . . For allied reasons, in our day, the exaction of tribute from a conquered people has become an economic impossibility.”
In November 1910 Mr. Asquith, speaking on the subject of international relations, furnished the occasion for a Press discussion in which prominent leader writers expressed similar views to those of Mr. Angell. The “Aberdeen Evening Gazette” (11.11.10) said :
“If Germany beat us, she could not destroy our trade : she could not seize any of our colonies or annex any of our territories. She could not exact a ‘thousand million’ indemnity, because credit is now an international business, and to impair British credit would be to shake her own. If Germany smashed us she would smash her own best customer, and her own people would pay the penalty.”
The ”Times” (11.11.10) said:
“They move, as he says, in a vicious circle. They arm because they distrust one another, and they dis-trust one another because they are armed. It is a chronic malady, the cure of which Mr. Asquith is optimist enough to hope for through the growth of a more genial spirit among the nations. A more potent agency will perhaps be the increasing complexity of international relations, which makes it difficult for one nation to damage another without almost equally damaging itself.”
The “Westminster Gazette” (11.11.10) said :
“Trade is a great pacificator, and the international credit on which trade rests is a thing to which war is abhorrent. The fear of breaking the peace and the difficulty of breaking it grows with the growth of armaments. And at the same time the subconscious conviction that the whole collective process is a kind of insanity must gradually project itself into the conscious proceedings of civilised nations.”
These quotations are by no means isolated. In recent years similar opinions have been repeated so often that they should be familiar to every newspaper reader. But note the change since the outbreak of war. Every possible evil, from economic, annihilation to wholesale slaughter, has been flung at the heads of the workers to frighten thorn into the recruiting office or the munition factory. When the international capitalist class saw no immediate cause for quarreling, their scribes told us our trade could not be destroyed by Germany, nor could our colonies or territory be annexed. A war indemnity could not be exacted by Germany because it would shake her own credit. Yet Britain’s credit is to be shaken by this very action, according to every responsible newspaper, while the self-appointed “Adviser-in-Chief to the British Nation”—Mr. Horatio Bottomley—says that “we shall need an army of occupation to mind the German capital whilst the war indemnity is being paid.”
Many writers have uttered grave warnings on the horrors of war, and have suggested remedies that were almost laughable—if the subject were not so tragic. Mr. Egmont Hake, in the “Daily Telegraph” of September 6, 1892, prophesied that
“We shall have battles raging for days over extensive grounds, hurried and disorderly retreats, desperate pursuits, and consequently, miles of country strewn with carcases and corpses. Should we wonder if to this tragedy Nemesis were to add her epilogue —pest.”
and the remedy is, “a liberal support of our hospitals” !
Professor Gardiner says :
“It should not be impossible to build upon the basis of the international comity of savants a society of men pledged to use their powers and discoveries not for destruction, but for saving life, not for pro¬moting, but for moderating friction between nations.”
Benjamin Kidd told us in “Social Evolution” that the Christian religion was responsible for an ever-growing altruism and humanitarianism in the “Western civilisations.” He is, perhaps, surprised at the calmness with which these peoples regard the slaughter going on to-day, though, he admits his theory is falsified and that altruism is useless as a force to avert war, when he suggests that the Allies should “declare the United States of. Europe”—and, one might add, arm in preparation for war with the United States of America, or some other combination of powers in competition with them for the world’s markets.
But about the most outrageous thing that has been said on the war question is the reply given to those workers who asked what is their stake in the country. “Their wages.” Those wages that for “millions of the workers do not suffice to replace the energy used up in their daily toil.” The wages system is the most complete and tyrannical form of slavery evolved during centuries of class domination. Wage slavery squeezes every ounce of energy out of the workers and scraps them, condemns men, women, and children to degrading poverty and continual anxiety and, as “John Bull” says, “the sordid atmosphere of the office and the workshop.”
This is the worker’s stake in every land—if he seeks diligently and has the luck to find a master. But if he has knowledge concerning the position he will detest the wages system, and if he has wisdom in addition to knowledge he will work for its abolition and the establishment of Socialism. The nationality of his master in the meantime will not count with him : all members of the master class alike are to him parasites that live by his labour and drive him into the factory with the whip of unemployment and hunger, to be exploited.