Monday, February 22, 2016

The Illusions of Anti-Militarists (1925)

From the September 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the workers outside the Army, Navy, etc., are opposed to Socialist ideas, is it likely that those inside the armed forces will be more sympathetic to revolutionary influences? The answer is emphatically, no. The powerful influence of capitalist tuition on the civil population is plain. And the more powerful effect of capitalist tuition on those in the “forces" is plainer still.

In spite of this, Pacifists and “Communists,” who have never adopted a policy of educating the workers in Socialism, think it will be possible to permeate the armed forces with their ideas. Communists who talk about general strikes to seize power and direct action as the only way, suddenly decide that these policies are not sufficient. They now declare that the Army must be with the workers. If economic action to tie up industry and “starve the bosses" is the policy they believe in, why bother about the Army. They sometimes think that the armed forces will be starved by a general strike and that no Army can be moved because of a railway strike. But they drop all this moonshine suddenly and get the notion that the Army and Navy can be converted. The very same persons who loudly proclaim that the mass of the workers cannot be educated into Socialism tell us that the Army, being composed of workers, can be won for our ideas.

The dictatorship diehards who affirm that only a minority of the workers under capitalism can escape from mental slavery to the capitalist, these are the very same people who believe that those in armed camps can have their capitalistic education dispelled.

This “short cut" to Revolution is full of illusions. Take the position of a soldier. He is isolated in barracks and camps and there mentally drilled to obey orders. He is carefully segregated from the influences which might weaken the mental hold of capitalist tuition. He is given a security of food, clothing and shelter, which is denied in industrial life, and where unemployment is frequent. All the carefully arranged plans and codes of training mould the member of the armed forces so well, that of all the working class he is the least likely recruit to revolutionary ideas, especially in the leading capitalist countries.

Socialists, therefore, direct their attention chiefly to the civil population, regarding them as the most likely recruits to Socialism. Without the bulk of the working class being won for Socialism, its establishment is impossible.

When the masses are converted to Socialist ideas and organised, and in control of the political machine, the armed forces will be under their control. While Socialists welcome the acceptance of Socialism by any and every member of the working class, we do not delude ourselves with the notion that any rapid or widespread conversion of the Army and Navy is possible. Soldiers may tire of prolonged war or be driven to stop fighting by lack of food, But that is not a conversion to the revolutionary policy of Socialism.

Anti-militarism does not denote an acceptance of Socialism. Pacifists and Liberals, Anarchists and Quakers, may all be antimilitarists, opposed to all wars, sighing for perfect peace, yearning for brotherly love, but they are dreamers and ignore the nature of the system under which we live. Armed forces are required by ruling classes to keep the subject class in slavery and wars are inseparable from a system of private property.

Socialists, therefore, go to the roots of the matter. The system depends upon the ignorance of the masses of workers and therefore until the workers obtain real knowledge of the causes of their conditions and organise in agreement with that knowledge—there is no possibility of abolishing the effects of the system.

The lurid appeal of the Communist, Workers' Weekly, asking the Labour Party to stop the soldiers being used against workers is another sign of Communist Party stupidity. With all the experience of the Labour Party as a Government and their willingness to use armed forces and pass Coercion Acts and support wars, no Socialist would ever expect them to assist the workers.
K.

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