Editorial Retrospect. The Ebb of the Tide
Another of the arbitrary divisions marked off in time, and called a year, has been traversed, and the results are far from pleasant. In Europe, Asia, and Africa the war thunders still roll over battle-fields already deluged in blood and covered with the corpses of war’s victims.
The period when “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All Men” is supposed to be celebrated with renewed vigour sees but the continued slaughter of myriads of men, without any immediate prospect of cessation. On the contrary, the cry is for “more men and still more men” from each of the combatants, and so long as munitions of war can be obtained, human life is considered but as dust in the balance against the interests and wishes of the master class.
This tremendous conflict, compared with which every previous war was, as Engels predicted it would be, merely child’s play, has shown to all who have powers of discernment, how necessary is a solid base of Socialist science from which, not only to guage the forces arrayed, but to see the tendency and discover the path those forces are drifting along. Among the welter of views and avalanche of explanations and excuses for the awful carnage now proceeding, two sections stand out with clear ideas as to what they want and how they shall obtain it.
Those branches of the international capitalist class known as the “Allies” (a fitting term) have a well-defined object in their attempt to crush a powerful rival known as the “Central Powers.” Where capitalism reigns this latter branch of the capitalist class has shown a tendency and a power to beat its various rivals that has roused the fierce hatred of the latter. Hence their determination to carry on the present war till either their commercial enemy is beaten down or their own class position is endangered by the drain of the conflict.
The last point is not quite so easy to guard against as it may seem at first sight. In addition to that section of the capitalist class piling up large profits from the war operations, there is the professional section of the wage-slave class who have taken up militarism as an occupation, and who are desirous of dragging everything under the military mantle. The struggles between these parties give us the spectacle of each side claiming that it is the real saviour of society, and that the other side is rapidly driving it to destruction.
With even clearer view, far wider and deeper grasp of the forces arrayed and the road to be travelled, stand the Socialists of the World. Understanding clearly that while commercial rivalry exists wars are ever imminent and only need a spark to start the blaze ; knowing full well that the working class are but the pawns of the master class in this gigantic game of world competition ; well aware that, as even Mr. Hyndman admits, no matter which side wins the workers’ position will not be improved in any way ; realising that appeals for peace while the causes of war are left untouched are merely a waste of time : the Socialist stands unmoved by the canting and lying appeals to fight for a country he does not possess, and for a class who maim, rob, and murder him both in peace and in war.
Where this Socialist clearness of vision is absent the resulting confusion ends but in the support of the capitalist class. As shown in our previous issues, the Independent Labour Party and British Socialist Party are committed to the support of the wholesale slaughter of our fellow workers through the position and pronouncements of the official sections of those bodies, which the rank and file have never repudiated in the only effective way open to them, that is, by promptly placing those sections outside the organisations.
The attempt of the I.L.P. to sit on the fence fails to charm the capitalists, and at Merthyr Tydvil the Liberals and the Tories combined to run a labour cat’s-paw, Mr. C. B. Stanton, against the I.L.P. nominee, Mr. Whinstone (whom he defeated; despite the latter’s statement that he was a supporter of Mr. Asquith’s Guildhall pledge on the war. (“Labour Leader,” 25.11.15.)
The B.S.P., which supports the present recruiting campaign, with all its economic pressure, its open threats and dirty lies suddenly jibs against conscription, only to find it cannot even hire a hall for a meeting on this subject, despite all the grovelling at the masters’ feet Messrs. Hyndman, Gorle, Hunter Watts, and the rest have been guilty of.
In the United States the so-called Socialist Party of America allows prominent members to join in a campaign of “preparedness” against invasion—”in National Defence,” as one put it. This shows how even being so far away from the scene of the war does not compensate for lack of Socialist knowledge.
For the present the Socialists are in the minority. Beyond voicing their protest against the slaughter, and using such opportunities as come within their reach for continuing the propaganda of Socialism, they are compelled to stand by as the war wave rolls on. But just as surely as the tide ebbs after its flow, to return again with fresh power, so the working class, recovering from its intoxication with war-fever, will realise more clearly than before its slave conditions, until sufficient numbers are gathered for the final conflict, the conflict that can have but one end—the overthrow of capitalism, with all its sordid brutalities, and the establishment in its stead of Socialism.