Editorial: “Peace in Our Time.”
Several years ago a Conference was called together in Holland to consider the important question of Peace. Representatives of the ruling class in various nations (the territory-stealing, maiming and murdering sections of society) gravely discussed the best means of abolishing war, or, with sardonic humour, how to make it more humane. Sonorous sounding resolutions were put forward but—not passed. Each representative declared that his nation was simply bursting to abolish war, and if only the other nations would at once disarm—to show their good faith—his nation would at once follow suit—or—er—nearly so.
For by some curious freak of Fate each nation had had some particular cause for retaining one or other items in their armaments which, for practical reasons, they could not give up.
The net result was that after passing a few minor and ineffective resolutions, the Conference dissolved. And the cause of their failure was simple. Despite the old adage about “Honour among thieves,” this particular Conference of cut-throats found it was impossible for them to trust each other, and so the efforts to reach an agreement upon the reduction of their general costs of throat-cutting ended without result.
1914-18 gave a lurid example of their brotherly love. It also showed how utterly ludicrous were the prophecies made by the various experts, French, English, and German, as to the length of time to which a vast war could be continued, and the absurd under-estimate of the quantities of munitions required to carry on such a war. The staggering loss of life and enormous destruction of wealth has shaken, to some extent, the complacency of the master class. The gigantic amounts the various sections of this class owe to each other—on paper, threatens arithmetical indigestion in their ledgers. So they are looking for a way out of their difficulties. A bright idea strikes one of these sections. “Let us call a Conference.” Carried away by the startling originality of this suggestion, the others agree, and date and place of meeting are decided.
For this resurrected farce a new stage is found, and Washington displaces The Hague. One or two new turns are introduced and a fresh song is sung by a chief comedian, but otherwise the farce remains, in all essentials, as originally produced.
For several years a fierce debate has been waging among naval experts on the relative value of the big gunboat usually known as the “Dreadnought.” Far from settling this problem, the naval activities of the war only intensified it. But while the “big” boat and “little” boat men are wrangling over their respective pet theories science has carried the question of armaments into new channels. The enormous development of the aeroplane and airship, along with the sudden introduction of poison gas, has given an almost entirely new aspect to the problems of war. The smartest agents of the master-class recognise this, and so the new comedian is ordered to appear and sing his latest song, entitled “ Let us scrap our Dreadnoughts ere they grow to old. ”
America, practically self-sufficing and protected by great sea spaces, starts the song. England and Japan, to whom naval activity is still of large importance, join somewhat stutteringly in the chorus. Then while the audience rises and cheers in a frenzy of enthusiasm, the actors retire behind the curtain to discuss the serious business of the day—how to carry out their burglary of China and the rest of Asia without strangling each other in the division of the “swag.”
Only a sunny optimist would imagine that burglary is going to be abolished by burglars.
Honesty may be the best policy, but they have found the second best very profitable up to the present. Modern wars are the results of the conflict of economic interests between various sections of the capitalist class. As these sections diminish in numbers, they increase in power, with the result that when conflicts do arise they are on a scale undreamt of before and with a slaughter roll staggering to contemplate.
Is there a solution?
Yes! But it will not be found at The Hague or Washington. It depends upon the understanding of the working class. When this class sees clearly that in peace or war they are but slaves to the master class, that this slavery is due to the masters’ control of political power, and that this power is placed in the masters’ hands by the workers, the end of Capitalism is at hand.
By organising to take control of this power the workers will be able to establish the social ownership of the means of life, and so abolish the division of economic interests that results in war, misery, and increasing insecurity of life.
Then a real Peace Conference will have been called.