Easter, 1917: A Survey and a Statement
Spring still sees the murder machine of war carrying on its ruthless work. The toll of dead and wounded, of maimed and crippled, of the working class of the various belligerent countries only varies in its monotony by its increasing quantity. In other directions changes are rapidly taking place in the methods and constitutions of the different countries that would have seemed quite improbable a short time ago.
Perhaps the most unexpected of the changes has been the revolution in Russia. Information published here is small in quantity and only of such kind and character as the master class choose to let us know, hence caution is necessary before arriving at conclusions based upon such news as we have. One of the most significant features of the business is the speed and unanimity with which the several governments and other supporters of the capitalist system of society have hastened to praise the Russian revolution, and to offer their congratulations and advice —particularly the latter—to the Provisional Government and the Workers’ Committee.
The common theme of all these messages is the need for the more vigorous prosecution on the part of Russia of the war against the Central Powers. So far as can be judged from the news published here, the replies seem generally to be favourable to these promptings, though the repudiation by the Workers’ Committee of the idea of annexation of territory as a result of the war appears to have somewhat staggered the other parties, who are fighting only for liberty, righteousness, democracy, and freedom.
All the information available, both past and present, shows quite clearly that the upheaval in Russia is not a revolution of the working class, clearly seeing its slave position under the old order and setting to work in an organised fashion to emancipate itself. Far from this is the truth, we are sorry to say. It is but another example of the capitalists using the discontent and numbers of the working class in Russia to sweep away the Feudal rules and restrictions so strongly symbolised in the Czar and the Council of Nobles, and to establish a system of government in line with modem capitalist needs and notions.
Hence the welcome given to the revolution, not only by the capitalist governments in their official capacity, and also by their various hangers-on, like Hyndman, Kropotkin, the B.S.P., I.LP.. etc.
According to the report in the “Daily Telegraph” of 18th April. 1917, the Duma gave a great welcome to the decoy ducks of the British Government, Messrs. W. Thorne, J. O’Grady, and W. S. Saunders. These individuals were sent out by the Government as representatives of the “Labour” movement here, although not a single organisation of workers was consulted as to their views on the matter, nor was their choice asked in reference to a representative. The “Labour” organisations have been completely ignored in the matter, and the individuals referred to have been chosen by the Government because of their peculiar fitness to perform the dirty work required to be done.
America’s entry into the human slaughter whirlpool was easier to foresee. Huge factories equipped with expensive plant had been built to meet the Allies’ demand for munitions of war. Owing to the increasing number of munition factories built here, and the extension and more complete organisation of those already existing; the home supply of munitions has increased enormously. This has meant a serious reduction in the orders going to America, with the result that vast amounts of invested capital are practically idle and unproductive from the capitalists’ standpoint. Moreover, the openly announced extension of the German submarine campaign against American vessels, as well as against others, means the danger of losing such cargoes as were bring sent over. To keep these factories in America fully employed and thus to continue the vast profits their owners have been reaping, it was necessary to find some market for their wares. The only course open to secure this end was for America to enter into the war and so create the market needed by her own demand for munitions. A more remote, but still very important factor, was the anxiety of the American capitalist class to be represented at the conference that will deal with the settlement of affairs at the end of the war. Their commercial interests, particularly in Asia, might be hampered seriously, or even excluded, from certain areas, unless they were present at the conference with powers equal to those of any of the other parties.
The chatter about defending the rights and liberties of humanity is just the usual cant and humbug which the capitalist class resort to whenever they think fit. It only needs to recall the treatment served out to the natives of the Philippines and, still more significantly, the way the various sections of the working claw were bludgeoned and shot down, and their wives and children starved, when the men were locked out or on strike, to show how much “freedom ” or ‘humanity” counts against profits in America, as in every other country where the capitalist system of society exists.
In England both the B S.P. and the I.L P., while pawing resolutions in favour of peace at their annual conferences, remain affiliated to the “Labour” Party, which not only actively supports the war. but whose prominent members join in the scramble for the well-paid political jobs it has brought into existence.
At the I.L.P. Conference the action of Mr. J. Parker in joining the Government was repudiated, but Parker is still allowed to remain a member of the party on the plea of “toleration.” The fact that the actions of many other prominent members are quite as open to criticism as Mr. Parker’s may have something to do with this defence of treachery to the working claw.
The chairman of this same Conference, Mr. F. W. Jowett, M.P., stated :
“Whatever in the nature of protective armaments is necessary to keep the land of my birth free from an invading force I would without hesitation provide. For this purpose I should consider the self-governing^ colonies and the United Kingdom as one nation.” (“Labour Leader,” 12.4.1917.)
This is just the same attitude as was taken up by Lord Roberts, Mr. Hyndman, Mr. Blatchford, and the “Daily Mail.” For “protective” measures, as every military authority agrees, includes attack as well as defence. Then why condemn Parker for joining the “Committee of Protection” called the Government, if Mr. Jowett is prepared to provide “without hesitation” (or with) the armaments, including, of course, the conscription of men, necessary for this “defence”? Let the twisters of the I.LP. answer—if they can.
At the beginning of the war the Socialist Party of Great Britain was the only organisation in the British Isles that stated the Socialist position toward this and all other capitalist wars. Now, in the midst of the upheavals taking place in various directions and the suicidal policy of further nations joining in the strife, we still stand by that position, still fight for the emancipation of the working class from the slavery of capitalism, without any regard for racial or geographical boundaries. At our Annual Conference—the third during the war, and well attended despite the inroads made in our ranks by the master class—no doubt or question as to the correctness or soundness of our attitude was heard. On the contrary, the experience of the period since August 1914 has but added fresh evidence in support of the need for Socialist understanding on the part of the working daw before they can march to their emancipation. Every new order under the Defence of the Realm Act, whether applied to military or civil purposes, whether for obtaining recruits for the Army or shortening the food supply for the family, shows with startling emphasis the immense weapon of control formed by the political machinery. Not until that weapon is torn from the masters’ hands by the working class, with an understanding of their object and the organisation to achieve it, will there be any hope of peace on earth with happiness for all.
By our motto, “The World for the Workers,” we still take our stand, and continue to strike the note that has been the key to our actions since the Party was first formed, namely, “The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working claw itself.”
Editorial Committee. Socialist Standard