1930s >> 1933 >> no-345-may-1933

War and the Workers

An indication of what the workers, their wives and children, may expect to go through in the next thieves’ quarrel of their capitalist masters is vividly brought home in a manual recently provided for the St. John Ambulance Brigade, and summarised in the Daily Telegraph of December 15th, 1932. Similar training, it is stated, is being given in numerous other countries.

The following precautions have to be taken in the event of an aerial gas attack: —

“Windows to be sealed with putty or paper, and doors covered with woollen material soaked in soapy water.
All fires to be extinguished and chimneys and ventilators blocked.
No lights except electric.
Occupants of rooms, who should have 20 square feet floor space each, to keep quiet and still.
All suspected of contact with the gas to discard outer clothing and wash well before being admitted to refuge.
No occupant to leave a sealed room without authority, the key being left outside.
Rooms to contain many pails of water, soap, paper and pencil, and a red light for signalling in an emergency.
Victims unavoidably in contact with gas to hold their breath and close their eyes as much as possible.”

When the aerial raiders have departed, leaving a trail of death behind them, it may be necessary to purify the streets. “This may necessitate the burning of grass, the sprinkling of roads, earth, and wooden floors perhaps two or three inches deep with a mixture of chloride of lime and earth, sand, sawdust or soot.” (Italics ours.)

General Smuts, eleven months earlier, in an address on disarmament at Sheffield University on October 8th, 1931, said even then that the armaments of the world were greater than they were in 1918, and even more so than in 1914. Europe, with the exception of the disarmed powers, was ready for instant war.

He also was under no illusion as to what would happen in the next “war to end war.” He said: —

“The armed peace continues in an aggravated form, and, as long at it continues, mankind seems to be marching to some horrible doom.
Unless a real measure of disarmament puts an end to the armed peace we are making for another cataclysm which will be infinitely worse than the horrors of the Great War.
It will pay scant attention to armies and navies or to the other paraphernalia of war. It will go straight for the populations and for the immense urban aggregations.
It will fight with new unheard-of chemical and biological weapons. It will cover the fair land and the great cities with poison and disease germs.
There will be no escape, not even for the statesmen and the war-makers, and a pall of death will rest over all. Even now the laboratories of three continents are busy with their deadly researches. And in due course some lunatic or criminal will press the button , and the flower of the human race will be trapped and destroyed.”—News Chronicle, 9/10/31.

Dealing with armaments, General Smuts said that escape lay along the arduous path of disarmament, which was “the greatest and heaviest task before the League of Nations.”

Yet in spite of all the platitudes about disarmament, armaments grow apace. To take the naval side alone, the end of the ten years’ battleship holiday is celebrated by the laying down in France of the keel of the battle cruiser Dunquerque (Daily Telegraph, November 16th, 1932). She will be the most powerful battle cruiser yet built with the exception of H.M.S. Hood. She can send hurtling through the air for 23 miles a projectile weighing half a ton. One such cruiser is not deemed to be sufficient, and it is proposed in. due course to build two more Dunquerques. The report further states that it has been semi-officially intimated that Italy will build a “reply” to the Dunquerque. Also, three German pocket battleships are now under construction.

Meantime, the British Government are not lagging behind, and the recent estimates provide an additional £3,093,700 for the navy, and another £1,462,000 for the army.

In the midst of it all, that monument to the hypocrisy of the victors in the last great shambles, the League of Nations, continues its weary way along the path of resolutions, committees, commissions, and reports. Its complete ineffectiveness to stop the settlement of disputes by force of arms was demonstrated long ago in the case of Vilna, and more recently in the case of China and Japan. Evidently the member nations prefer to rely upon their own strength rather than upon the “moral force” of the League.

Seeing that the League of Nations is powerless to prevent wars and equally powerless to bring about any effective disarmament, how can wars be averted?

Briefly, the Socialist case is that all wars by capitalist States are undertaken for the purpose of protecting foreign investments, securing markets for the disposal of the surplus products produced by the workers, and of securing fresh sources of raw material. Judge each war by the result, and it will be seen that this is the result of nearly every war during the last century.

That the workers have nothing to gain as the result of a war, whether the State in which they happen to be born is victor or vanquished, is evident from the state of the labour market in those countries which participated in the last war. In vanquished Germany there are 6,000,000 unemployed workers living on or below the level of bare subsistence, and no one will maintain that in victorious Britain the workers’ lot is very much better, or even in that el Dorado, the United States of America.

The Marxian analysis of capitalist production lays bare the cause of all wars,. The worker produces commodities of a far greater value than his wages enable him to buy back. Out of the struggle for this surplus comes the struggle for markets at home and abroad, and with the capitalist development of previously undeveloped countries, tariff walls are erected. The struggle grows keener; finally the tension reaches breaking point, and war is declared.

War is, then, a quarrel between the various sections of the capitalist class over the disposal of the surplus wealth stolen from the workers in the course of their exploitation. It ‘is, therefore, a quarrel in which the workers have no concern, and to end it they must remove the cause, i.e., the class ownership of the means of production. This they can do by organising to capture political power from the master class, and to establish a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production—in short, Socialism.


(Socialist Standard, May 1933)

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