1930s >> 1938 >> no-408-august-1938

A Thought for the Times

It is evening. One of those warm evenings after rain. There are heavy clouds over most of the sky with a steely reflection from the sun, which is sinking in a dull red mist. On the lake the swallows are swooping and skimming along the surface of the water in swift waves of flight. The swallows are numerous and they dip to the water, rise over the island, and circle back again. Here and there a boat moves quietly along with the soft, leisurely plash of oars. Strolling by the water one is filled with a peace that it seems impossible to disturb.


Three girls pass by talking. One of them is German and she is saying to her companions, in the quaint English of a foreigner: “I learnt English first, and then French.”Suddenly the quietness is broken by the throb of an engine, and an aeroplane wheels in a circle out of the clouds above. Immediately an element of dread stirs one to give a frightened glance up. There is something ominous in the drone of the engine overhead. Is it a bombing machine? Whatever it may be it is a harbinger of the force that can shatter to pieces this peaceful scene.


The three girls have crossed the bridge and are strolling along on the other side of the lake, talking to each other with the animation of joyous youth. They have no quarrel with each other, although they belong to different nations that may be at one another’s throats at any moment.


What is it that stirs up peaceful and friendly people to make war on one another? War with all its bloodshed and destruction; its maiming of youth and desolating of homes; its glorification of poor shivering boys in trenches, longing pitifully for the home fires so many of them never live to see.


What are wars for, anyhow? What was the last great war fought for? Not national glory, not democracy, not even to safeguard the rights of small nations. No! Those things were, and are, only blinds; clouds of high sounding phrases to hide the sordid reality. That reality behind the false, enticing phrases was—profit. The struggle between sections of wealthy capitalists for freedom to exploit and wring profit from the work of property less wage workers in different parts of the earth.


Mr. Chamberlain, speaking at a National Government demonstration at Kettering on July 2nd, described the present world situation in the following words:—

   It is a striking fact, and a tragic one, that at the present time foreign affairs are dominating the minds of the people of this country, almost to the exclusion of subjects which, in ordinary times, would have occupied their whole attention. Indeed, we are not alone in that respect, for I think all the peoples of the world are asking themselves this same question : “Are we to be allowed to live our lives in peace or are we to be plunged against our will into war?”
When I look round the world I must say I am appalled at the prospects. War, accompanied by horrible barbarities, inflicted either wittingly or unwittingly upon civilian populations, is going on to-day in China, and much nearer to us in Spain.
Almost every week we hear rumours of war on this question or on that in other parts of the world, and all the principal nations are spending their precious savings on devising and manufacturing the most efficient instruments for the destruction of one another. I wonder whether, since the world began, has it ever seen such a spectacle of human madness and folly?—(Sunday Times, July 3rd.)


These are the words of the Prime Minister of the Government of one of the oldest and most important imperialist countries. The only solution he can offer is to build up mightier armaments “to preserve peace.”


This is the inglorious end to which centuries of civilization has brought the most advanced nations of the earth.


Does capitalism deserve to be supported any longer? It brings hard work, misery and desolation, in peace and in war, to the mass of the people. It is time those who bear the sufferings took time to think how those sufferings could be abolished. The only way to do so is to destroy the source from which they flow—the private ownership of the means of production.