50 Years Ago: Strike to Stop War
It has for long been the habit of Labourites and others in this country, and those occupying a similar position abroad, to boast that they held in their hands the instrument which would make it impossible for the ruling class of Europe to carry on a great war. This instrument was the General Strike. We all know how persistently it was stated that the organised workers of the various countries would, immediately on the outbreak of war, paralyse the war-mongers by “downing tools”! Yet where is there to be found a single instance in the whole vast war-stricken expanse, of this “heroic” policy coming to fruition?
If any attempt was made in Germany to put the policy of the general strike into operation, that attempt, in its utter failure to even so much as become an item of news, is as destructive to the theory as would be the failure to make the effort. But with regard to the advocates of the general strike as an anti-war measure in this country we are not in the dark. Mr. Keir Hardie, for example, one of the more prominent of those at home who have toyed with the idea, has written to the Press denying that he has told the workers not to enlist, adding “I know too well what is at stake.” It is not out of this frame of mind that anti-war strikes are developed.
In this direction, as in many others, events here proved the truth of what we have consistently contended, namely, that the political conquest is the essential preliminary to any action involving the defeat of the present controllers of the political machinery. No wild words or frenzied ravings about “taking and holding” on the one hand, or “general striking” on the other can replace political control.
From the Socialist Standard, January, 1915.