(A French patriot had written urging the SPGB to support the war in order that Alsace-Lorraine, annexed to Germany in 1871, should be restored to France.)
This very annexation, now so loudly denounced, was agreed to by the French capitalist class on condition that the French prisoners of war should be released from Germany for the sole purpose of crushing the Commune of Paris. It was the price of the slaughter by French soldiers of 25,000 French working men, women and children in the streets of Paris. No capitalist eyes then wept for the workers; no capitalist love for the ‘children’ of France saved them from the foul conditions and awful tortures of Salory and other prison camps; no French capitalist ‘chivalry’ stood between hapless thousands and death from hunger and privation in savage New Caledonia. Long after the fighting ceased, the farcical ‘trials’ continued to provide targets for capitalist bullets. In fact, the slaughter was only stopped because of the fear of an epidemic. As the real historian—Lissagary
—says, ‘It was pestilence, not pity’, that stopped the murders.
The French and German capitalist classes joined hands, after a tremendous war between the two countries, to crush down, maim and murder the working class in France. The lesson should be burned deep into the minds of the working class, not of France only, but of the whole world. For it shows the foul hypocrisy of the capitalist class, whether of France or of Germany, of England or of Italy, of Austria, Russia, America, Japan or any other country, when they pretend to be interested in the welfare of the workers of the particular nations they rule, or aspire to rule, while all the time it is the profit plundered from the workers that is their real concern.
From the Socialist Standard, February 1918.