The Pacifists and Socialism
The Labour Party claims (sometimes) to represent the interests of the workers. An illustration of its method of doing this occurred in the House of Commons recently.
On March 17th Mr. Ponsonby (one of the Liberal “converts”) moved that the Air Force be reduced by 32,000 men. This is, of course, quite consistent with the general attitude of the author of the “Peace Letter” on the question of Disarmament. Such a motion, however, is about as practical as asking the master-class to commit suicide outright.
It would, of course, be of financial advantage to considerable sections of the property owning class if their system could be maintained without expensive machines of destruction. If only other capitalists would not butt into the world-markets struggling for their place in the sun—if only the workers would peacefully accept wage reductions whenever necessary and never, never, never ask for a rise in their scale of fodder supplies—what a beautiful world it would be. There would be no need for the machinery of government to protect property and none would be more ready to apply the principle of disarmament than the Conservative Party.
The representatives of capitalist interests, however, have learned by grim experience that a system of exploitation such as the present can only be preserved by force and in this conclusion they find themselves at one with quite a considerable section of the Labour Party. Only twenty-four members of that Party supported Mr. Ponsonby’s motion. The official Labour Party could not do so without jeopardising their whole position.
Representing the opinions of millions of workers, who accept the capitalist system as the necessary form of society, the Labour Party as a whole can do nothing but maintain that system through the machinery of government. They cannot entertain any suggestion of weakening the forces which are the essential element in that machinery. The disarmament of the capitalist class can only be accomplished by a political party representing a working class awake to its position as the slave-class in society and determined to end that situation.
Ponsonby, Lansbury and the rest of the Pacifist crowd in the Labour Party know that the confusion in their ranks makes their position safe. On this point they will always be treated as harmless cranks by their stodgy, respectable colleagues. Variety is the spice of life, and it would most certainly not do for a party trying to run “the nation” to think in unison.
The New Leader of March 18th (p. 4) informs us that there are no less than five distinct groups of opinion within the Labour Party on this question.
First, there are the out-and-out Pacifists; secondly, those who profess to believe in the class-war and who only condemn arms in the hands of the capitalist government; thirdly, the S.D.F. “citizen army” group; fourthly, the bulk of the Party which wants to wait till all the thieves have agreed to stop squabbling over the booty; finally, “the die-hards, who really believe in armies and navies.”
Whatever they may “believe” or not believe, these groups all joined hands in supporting the MacDonald Government, which did the dirty work of the Capitalist Class in Iraq and elsewhere.
One of Ponsonby’s supporters, a Mr. Shepherd, advertised himself as a Quaker, who had been misled by propaganda into actually fighting during the recent carnage. This illustrates once more the worthlessness of religious and so-called ethical scruples to the workers. Only Socialist knowledge can prevent them yielding themselves up a willing sacrifice on the altar of capitalist necessity. Millions of Christians slaughtered one another, firmly convinced that God approved of their conduct.
To the workers who understand their position in society it is a matter of indifference which section of the international master class is the best equipped with engines of war. Whichever side wins or loses, the workers of both sides lose their lives or gain nothing if they survive.
The Socialist Party advocates the organisation of the working class for the capture of the political machinery in order that a new social order may be established in which the means of life will be owned in common by all and in which therefore there will be no need for the forcible protection of property and the slaughter of millions of producers in order to decide which bunch of parasites shall control the trade routes and markets of the world.