1910s >> 1917 >> no-160-december-1917

Children or Ore?

The question of Alsace-Lorraine has received considerable attention from the political and journalistic hirelings of the capitalist class. A vast amount of sloppy sentiment has been thrust upon us with the object of covering up the real facts at issue, a good example of which comes from Mr. Lloyd George.

“However long the war may be,” says that worthy, “however great the strain upon our resources, this country intends to stand by her gallant ally, France, until she redeems her oppressed children from the degradation of a foreign yoke.”

What noble words! How can this high character resist the temptation to take part in such a righteous cause! It may be that Mr. Churchill has given him advice on the subject.

Knowing the history of the capitalist class, Socialists reject with scorn their professed sympathy for the workers of any nation. Material interest dominates their every action, as the following demonstrate?.

“If Germany could secure a peace based on her present military position” says a writer in the “Daily Chronicle,” 24.10.17, “the whole of this wealth of iron ore, estimated at some 5,000,000,000 tons, would pass under her control.” And further on we read : “Liberate those provinces from her clutch with their 21,000,000 tons of iron ore a year, their 3,800,000 tons of iron smeltings, their 2,300,000 tons of steel smeltings, and useful coalfields of the Somme Valley, and a long step has been taken towards peace.”

The thoughts of that iron ore will no doubt urge “our gallant ally” to “redeem her oppressed children.”

Terrible as is the idea of that 21,000,000 tons of ore, not to mention the iron and steel smeltings, passing into the hands of the German capitalists, there is something even worse in view.

“Suppose,” continues the article coolly, “Germany were to win and were to annex the greater half of the ferruginous basin that lies on French soil. Territorially it would be a very small acquisition. Economically its value would be inestimable. It would mean that after the war Germany would be able to raise some 46,000,000 tons of iron ore a year, while the French output would be reduced to a bare 4,600,000.

What a nightmare to the French capitalists! We can almost hear them moaning with Asquith that “no sacrifice can be too great when 46,000,000 tons of iron ore are at stake.”

Numerous other figures are given by the writer of the article. We are told, for instance, that with an Allied victory “France would be in a position to extract about 43,000,000 tons of ore a year and Germany would have to remain satisfied with a maximum yield of 8,000,000 tons.”

And to the importance of an Allied victory is established, as also is the fact that iron ore, and not oppressed people, is responsible for the particular interest centred in Alsace-Lorraine, “in the fate of which,” we are told, “is involved nothing less than the industrial supremacy of Europe.”

A glance at the final paragraph, here quoted, will explain the British capitalists’ new-found love for the “children” of Alsace Lorraine.

    “It is clearly an almost vital interest, both for France and Great Britain, that the formation of a huge Franco-German cartel, based on the reciprocal exchange of coal for ore, should be prevented, that we should ourselves supply France with the coke that will enable her to do her own smelting, and that we should take from her in return the iron ore that we now import from Sweden and from Spain.”

The evidence given shows the capitalists in their true character as a cold-blooded, profit-seeking tribe, ready to slaughter millions of workers to gain an advantage over a commercial rival. Hypocrites that they are, the shedding of crocodile tears with one eye while using the other to calculate the tons of iron ore the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine would provide is to them a simple matter.

The value of their sympathy for oppressed people can be measured by the fact that the toilers of all countries are oppressed. Murdered with work and starvation that wealth may be piled up in ever-greater abundance for the benefit of those that exploit them, the life of the workers is one round of oppression no matter who their rulers may be.

Their conditions are general; they do not change in essentials as we cross frontiers or land at different ports. The workers are slaves and capitalists live by their robbery the world over. An attempt on the workers’ part to secure a larger portion of the wealth which they alone produce is met, when necessary, with the armed forces of the State, used by the capitalists to uphold their position as exploiters of labour and to defend their interests against the capitalists of other countries.

The State to which we belong does not trouble us; our object is to get control of the fighting forces for the purpose of overthrowing the present system of society and establishing Socialism, the system wherein wealth shall be produced to give comfort and happiness to the whole community.

Then and then only shall we be freed from capitalism and its horrors of peace and war. To us, therefore, Socialism is the only thing that matters.

E. L. Wake

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