1920s >> 1920 >> no-188-april-1920

Peace Problems, Prices and Panics

For fear that the reader should imagine that I am going into a long diatribe about the capitalist peace I hasten to disillusion him. There can be no peace for the workers so long as capitalism exists, for wars are inevitable.


Wars are the outcome of an irreconcilable clash of interests manifest in the very nature of the capitalist system of society, wherein national groups of capitalists compete with one another in order to dominate the world’s markets and trade routes. In their campaigns of conquest they drag in their train workers from all parts of the world, who are pitched and tossed like the gambler’s coin to fight out the issue.


We have a glaring example in the recent world war—one of those periodical crises which shake society to its foundations and entail the sacrifice of millions of working-class lives.


The effects of the four and a half years war have set the ruling class of Europe trembling. For four and a half years the people have been engaged in the work of destruction. The blind passions of mankind have been aroused and inflamed by the cries of the capitalist class urging their wage slaves to slaughter one another.


Commencing with a propaganda of hate in the shape of the alleged German atrocities published as a blue book by the English Government. Following with the tirade against the “barbarous” methods of the German war lords—which methods were shown to be quite humane when practised by the Allied war lords.


There is a particular object in recalling to mind this propaganda of hate. We were told that the Germans would never be received or recognised by the rest of civilisation again. Now, however, the capitalists want peace, but they find it a very difficult thing to obtain. The problems with which they are confronted are becoming truly terrifying to them, and as the “Daily Telegraph” (2.3.1920) puts it in an article on the findings of the Supreme Committee appointed by the Allies to deal with the economic problems of Europe :


  By some means or other the mounting prices of practically everything in everyday use, and food supplies in particular, must be checked. . . . Technically the war is over, but in fact it cannot be regarded as at an end until we have cleared up the complications which it created, and among these the rise in prices is the outstanding one.


Of course it is not surprising that while the energies of the capitalist class have been engaged for the past eighteen months at the Peace Conference in Paris in trying to come to some agreement among themselves as to the sharing of the spoils of the war, the problem of making up for the shortage of the necessaries of life caused by years of concentrated destruction, has been somewhat neglected. The fact that prices of the necessaries of life are high, and that many of them are practically unobtainable by the workers, that substitutes for our daily diet are looked upon as almost a matter of course, that the shortage of housing accommodation causes the workers to be so scandalously herded together, that there is unemployment amongst those who were never to know the pinch of poverty more—the demobbed soldiers — all these represent problems to the ruling class, and problems they are likely to remain.


It consoles the workers, however, to read about all these problems, because they still fondly imagine that their condition will be improved by listening to talk from the governing class. But that is as far as it will get. What concerns the allied capitalists of Europe at the present time is the vastly more important task of dividing up the territories taken from their late foes during the war, transferring the control of trade routes, etc. They find it a rather difficult matter, however, and this accounts for the utterance contained in the latter part of the quotation given above. But the last few words about the rise in prices being the outstanding complication are merely added as a blind—the complication being the “equitable” division of the spoils of war.


That our rulers hope some day to clear up their affairs with one another is to be gleaned from the following extract from the same authority. Here can be seen the anticipations they have for the future:


  Germany should receive her due quota of the available supplies in raw materials, provided the neutrals be willing to finance her imports of this nature . . . with America standing out Germany’s custom and business partnership, however distasteful, and righty distasteful, it may be to her war victims, become Europe a disagreeable but compelling necessity.


The vile “Hun,” with whom we would never trade again under any circumstances! The cant and cunning of the Allies’ war cries are clearly shown in the above frank admissions.


The attempt to place the blame on America for “standing out” is a piece of camouflage artfully designed to hide their double dealing and justify their resumption of trade relations with their late enemies.


It must be borne in mind that the capitalist class of the world are united by common interests far more powerful than those which sometimes tend to tear them asunder. This point is convincingly illustrated by the fact that their guardians the Supreme Council have arrived at the following conclusion :


  Affirming the principle of International Solidarity, the necessity of Europe being treated in certain respects as a single economic entity . . . a general understanding has been reached by virtue of which Germany is to be helped by Europe to recover something of her pristine industrial productivity. (Same article in “Daily Telegraph.”)


In the above can be seen how the masters realise the common interest of their class when they talk of International Solidarity. Territorial boundaries enable governments to explode different brands of patriotic gas to fool and divide the workers and create the necessary war enthusiasm. The workers, however, are referred to as fanatics, cranks, and bloody revolutionaries when they talk of Internationalism.


The writer finishes his article in thoughtful mood, remarking :


   Furthermore, far-seeing precautions must be taken lest we reproduce in these Islands, the worst evils which exist elsewhere. . . War. famine, revolution, that is the sequence which the allies must arrest, if not for the sake of the peoples who were so recently their enemies, at least for their own salvation. . . . The principles of economy and self help in association with a spirit of co-operation and must be accepted by Europe as essential to recovery of economic heath. None too soon the council has faced a problem which must be solved if the cancer which is consuming Northern Russia is not to spread far beyond the borders of that unhappy and distraught country.


This represents a heart-cry of the capitalists of Europe. They realise the perilous position in which the result of four and a half years of war has placed them. Torn between conflicting emotions, on the one hand endeavouring without success for nearly two years to arrange among themselves the division of the spoils of war, and on the other hand their burning zeal to resume their commercial enterprises and trade relations, they are suffering the agonies of conscious impotence. Further, they are faced with the graver peril of the growing unrest of the working class of their respective territories.


The workers of the world would do well to examine the events of the last five years in relation to the attitude which this Party took up immediately on the outbreak of the war. In our manifesto published in the September 1914 issue of our Party Organ, we began by saying- —


   “Whereas the Capitalists of Europe have quarrelled over the question of the control of trade routes and the world’s markets, and are endeavouring to exploit the political ignorance and blind passions of the working class of their respective countries in order to induce the said workers to take up arms in what is solely their masters’ quarrel . . .”


and concluded with—


   “Having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our fellow workers of all lands the expression of our good will and Socialist fraternity, and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism. The World for the Workers.”


That attitude has been vindicated and stands on record to justify our oft-repeated claim of the truth and unchallengeable soundness of our position. Compared with the confusion and treachery of the pseudo organisations of this and other countries boasting that they champion the workers and represent their interests, we enjoy the supreme confidence which invigorates our consistent and unfailing efforts in the prosecution of the class war.


The facts, therefore, which the workers have to grasp are, that under the existing social order they are wage slaves; the only thing they possess is their power to labour, which they are compelled to sell in order to live.


The workers are poor because they are robbed of the greater portion of the wealth which they produce. The necessaries of life are produced by the social labour of the workers, but the means and instruments for producing these necessaries are owned and controlled by the capitalist class. It is because of this antagonism, this contradiction, in society, i.e., social production side by side with private ownership, that we have poverty-stricken workers and idlers rolling in wealth.


The solution to the “problem” rests with the working class, who must get to understand their class position in society and enrol themselves in a political party with the object of capturing the powers of government, in order to establish Socialism. That political party already exists—it is the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Study the Object and Principles of that Party—they will be found on the last page of this paper— and if you agree with them come and join us, and fight for the only thing worth while, i.e., Socialism.


O. C. I.