Why Not Peace?

The capitalist butchers are still playing their ghastly game, and in their endeavour to score off one another are proving to the hilt what we have consistently maintained as to the causes and objects of the war. Germany flies a “peace” kite, and their brother capitalists of all other countries, who know their family blood so well, hasten to explain that one of its chief objects is to set up the backs of the German people for further butchery. In other words, on capitalist showing it is a capitalist trick to lure the poor deluded fools of the working class to face fresh horrors in Mammon’s reeking shambles.

However, there is food for reflection in the reception which is accorded by our international masters to the Germanic peace proposal. We used to hear a lot about “honour” in the early days of the conflict. Such a nebulous term would naturally be useful as an obscurant in getting a war under way, but its real place in the catalogue of the objects of the struggle is in the very nature of things bound to be revealed in the first negotiations for peace. It is in fact so revealed. The word is not mentioned anywhere. No statesman among all those who a couple of years or so ago champed on “the honour of our race” dare whisper the word now that war aims have to be tabled. The world would ring with laughter were any to do so.

We see now emerging, like the scum on a boiling pot, the true objects for which the nations have filled the bath with blood. Each of those on the Entente side have their “aspirations,” which must, of course, be satisfied before there can be any “lasting peace.” On the other side the same motives of grab hold sway. This means that, in spite of the cant about “restitution, retribution, and guarantees,” there can be no peace until further thousands of working men’s carcasses have been pounded shapeless and trodden into mud to form the basis of a “peace which shall endure”—until the next war.

But at all events, the peace proposal has finally cleared the air of some of the vague and shadowy shapes which formerly obscured the patriotic vision, and we now know what we are fighting for. Constantinople and the Dardanelles for Russia—and so that she gets them we will bleed with the same heroic fortitude as our grandfathers bled so that she should not. The Trentino for Italy, Alsace-Lorraine for France—these are objects so near our hearts that we must assent if they stop them beating. Territory for Roumania, territory for Serbia, territory for Montenegro, compensation for the ruined factories and shattered property of the possessing class of Belgium — we will bleed and die for them all.

And then, in the course of time, the point will be reached where our masters cannot conveniently spare anymore of us for corpses, have doubts about their ability to bear the strain of maintaining more of us as cripples, get cold feet when they think of the interest on their national debt, and begin to wonder whether further sacrifice of blood and treasure is going to hang a bigger mill-stone about their opponents’ necks than about their own. Then they will see that the Austro-German masters have been properly and sufficiently punished for Belgium and Serbia and the Lusitania and Nurse Cavell and Captain Fryatt—through millions of butchered working men, of Britain and France and Russia no less than of Germany and of Austria.

Then a balance will be struck upon the basis of what blood and treasure the contestants still have to spend, and we shall have “Peace.”

But as for us, we think this an opportune moment for proclaiming that we have no quarrel with our fellow workers in any country. Be it in Germany, or Austria, or Turkey, or France, or Russia, or at home here in England the workers are either tricked or coerced into being the agents of those whose interests are served by the war. In this respect one race is not more culpable than another. The ignorance which permits it is international, nay, universal. So we can have nothing but sorrow for all the working-class victims of the war, whatever tongue they speak, and whatever Caesar they serve. To us it is no matter for gratification that the battlefields of France are covered with German dead, and that in Berlin anxious and suffering crowds wait all the winter’s night in the streets for the first whisper of peace. We sorrow with them as we suffer with them.

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