1920s >> 1921 >> no-204-august-1921

‘Revolutionary Christianity.’

The “Crusader” is a journal published by a number of people having in common a belief in the power of the ethics of Christ to overcome all the difficulties and to combat all the evils which trouble mankind. In the main they appear to have arrived at their present standpoint as a result of the recent war. During it they took up a pacifist attitude, and none could deny the courage and sincerity with which this was maintained. Further, they have shown a genuine desire to face new problems with the same independence, and to apply to them their universal remedy. As a case in point their condemnation of war for its disregard for human life, which in their opinion is sacred, has compelled a broadening of outlook to include industrial strife; for they soon realised that peace-time pursuits are just as disregardful of the lives and individuality of the workers as is war.


Arising out of this an endeavour was made to get shareholders in railways, mines, and industry generally, voluntarily to give up part or the whole of their incomes in order to ensure the payment of an adequate wage to the workers. Of their sympathy for the latter there can be no question, but this invitation to shareholders is typical of their general utterly futile well-meaningness. Practical help may be an advance on passive sympathy, but neither is of permanent use unless accompanied by knowledge, and the one obvious fact about our “New Crusaders” is that they simply do not understand the problem for which they think they have found the solution.


That there is a conflict in society few people now trouble to deny, although some of our opponents would explain it as the outcome of the workers’ ignorance and consequent failure to recognise that Capital and Labour are Siamese twins. The “Crusader” group does also realise that this conflict is sufficiently real to make Christian ethics impossible of application under present conditions, and describe themselves therefore as revolutionary; but although they look hopefully on signs of movement among the workers, they do not correctly interpret what they see. Viewing society through ethical spectacles, they fail entirely to understand its structure, the lines of its development, and the nature and magnitude of the forces at work within it.


Dimly perceiving that the future is with the workers, they nevertheless will not recognise that the class division in society is fundamental, and look to sympathetic interest of all people of goodwill to rid the human race of the material and moral evils of the present system. Necessarily somewhat detached from the workers, they sympathise with but do not trust them; they cannot rid themselves of the idea that Labour needs benevolent shepherding into the green pastures of the new world. They preach fearlessness and confidence in the innate goodness and loyalty of mankind, but nevertheless allow W. J. Chamberlain to insult his trade unionist readers with the remark that, although himself aware before the event of the impending Triple Alliance collapse, and knowing “that the position of the workers’ army looks pretty nigh hopeless, . . I hadn’t the courage to say so,” and again, “had I written all that was in my mind last week … I should probably have been denounced as a reactionary.” After which he has the amusing impudence to condemn R. Williams and J. H. Thomas for not leading their “hopeless army” to the slaughter. Mr. Chamberlain, who thinks the workers unable to endure the truth, really ought to think twice before calling Bob Williams a “hot air merchant.”


Confident in the power of love and believing that right is might, they nevertheless place considerable trust in trade union organisation and have a healthy regard for mere numbers.


Whenever the employers or the Government, sure of their dominating position, take the offensive against the workers, the “Crusader” always sees in the protest into which the latter are provoked, the early coming of the Social Revolution. They invariably accept the indignation of the rank and file and the wild utterances of their leaders as tokens of strength instead of what they often are merely the signs of a realisation of helplessness. When each strike or lock-out ends in compromise or failure for the workers, and the Revolution fails to materialise, they are again unable to recognise it for what it really is, the overcoming of a less force by a greater. It is ascribed to the treachery, cowardice, or incompetence of this or that leader, the apathy and lack of spirituality of the workers, the wickedness of Lloyd George to anything, in fact, but the harsh reality. The duplicity of Mr. Lloyd George on the one hand and the brilliance of Mr. F. Hodges on the other would matter but little to class-conscious workers, and are likely to prove equally dangerous while political knowledge is lacking.


The “Crusader” does not supply that knowledge.


At the commencement of the last coal struggle, when it was obvious to most people that, for the miners, conditions were exceptionally unfavourable for an industrial dispute, the “Crusader,” true to its belief, advocated the tactics of humiliation and despair of appealing to the humanity of the employers instead of offering what resistance was possible


“Pity may be evoked where threats would have provoked only counter-threats. Labour, if it were wise, would realise that ‘the broken sword’ is the most powerful of all weapons.” (4th March. 1921.)


Aware of the immense power of the Press and seeing this power invariably used against the workers, they counsel introspection and contemplation of the soul as the road to independence of the written word, instead of teaching the real lesson that this if just one more weapon controlled by the capitalist class and used by them to further their class interests.


What the “Crusader” lacks is the recognition of the first importance of the fact that one class—the capitalists—lives by robbing another class—the workers. That robbery is cloaked under legal forms, softened by protective measures—the Factory and Compensation Acts, etc., —obscured by the activities of well-meaning reformers, and cleverly and persistently denied by the Churches and other institutions which supply apologetics for the dominant class, but the robbery exists and will become ever more intensive. Where such material is provided there must be conflict. Its appearance may change, and under special circumstances, such as the war, it may seem to have been obliterated, but it cannot remain hidden.


In that conflict force rules.


This is the kernel of the whole matter, let our “Crusaders” disprove it if they can. During the war they preached negotiation and conciliation. In peace they have so far recognised realities as to condone the use of the strike; the power of the folded arms. They were wrong in their attitude to war, and in so far as they approve of strikes only on the false assumption that they are merely the abstention from labour, and therefore passive and morally justifiable, they are wrong now. A strike does inflict additional hardship and suffering on people not directly interested, and on that ground alone should logically be condemned by the “Crusader.”


War between nations is occasioned by the struggle for markets and for the possession of regions rich in mineral wealth, and while the present competitive system remains is inevitable. It cannot be attributed to human weakness, and cannot, therefore, be removed by appeals, however eloquent, to the “better nature” of the peoples of the world.


Our attitude to war, the Socialist attitude, is one of uncompromising opposition, because we contend that the workers have a common interest against the world capitalist class, and have nothing to gain by partaking of the quarrels of the latter, which are only possible with the continuance of exploitation.


The labour leaders who served their masters by opposing any cessation of the war until the “enemy” had been “crushed,” and who serve them now by preaching industrial peace, were right in one thing. Quarrels are not settled by negotiation. While the forces at the disposal of the contending parties are more or less equally matched, and while the cause of the quarrel remains, it cannot be disposed of by the round table conference. It is true that eventually enemies have to meet to arrange peace terms, but only when one or the other is prepared to yield, or when the object of each has become unattainable.


The same is applicable to industrial disputes, the class struggle.


The class which now hold the reins of government will not willingly let them go, nor will they, except under compulsion, put in the workers’ hands the weapons they may use for their emancipation.


Fortunately, however, the capitalists are compelled by other forces beyond their control to grant such education as enables the workers to learn, and having learned, to act. The development of the system itself provides the force in question.


The need of the hour for us is to put before the workers the knowledge which will enable them to recognise the class nature of society and its government as the true explanation of social chaos.


There is nothing in this beyond the comprehension of the average worker, and an appreciation of it will lead surely to organisation for the capture of political control which must precede any social transformation. However much the “Crusader” may desire this end, in so far as their propaganda makes more difficult the perception of the facts of present social organisation in all their simplicity, it can only be regarded as a hindrance to the early coming of “the day.”


Edgar Hardcastle