From the June 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard
Since August 1914 the assertion has been continually cropping up in the most unlikely places that the “ Great War” was being fought in order to prevent, for all time, the possibility of such a disaster ever again overtaking the world. The workers of every country engaged in the struggle were urged to come in and do their bit, so that when the strife was over and one side or the other emerged victorious a reign of perpetual peace should be inaugurated.
Papers and people of the sentimental type, such, for instance, as the “Daily News” and Harold Begbie, were particularly vehement in their repeated declarations that the war that has been devastating Europe for the past five years was, must and should be the last, or as some of them put it, the very last war.
A great many people believed it. Undoubtedly many men joined the Army and fought and died in the belief that they were acting in the best possible way to prevent the recurrence of such an overwhelming catastrophe. They were inflamed with what is so often, and so erroneously, considered the noble idea of self-sacrifice, were willing to go through a course of brutal and degrading training in the art (!) of warfare, allowed themselves to be sent abroad to kill and be killed at the command of their superior officers, thinking that they were thereby helping to make future generations safe from the horrors of militarism. They were most of them quite sincere in the matter. Mixed with the contempt one cannot help but feel for their wrong-headed and foolish idea of patriotic self-sacrifice, we may perhaps spare a little leaven of pity for the waste of what was in its inception a not altogether ignoble impulse.
The utter foolishness of this idea of the late war having as one of its results the ending of all warfare, can be seen at once if we consider the world situation to-day.
- The Entente and its allies are fighting the Hungarian revolutionarists.
- The Entente and the reactionary Russian party are fighting both the Bolsheviks and the Poles.
- The German Government are fighting the German Spartacists.
- The Bulgarian Government is fighting the Bulgarian revolutionists.
- The Italians and the Jugo-Slavs are on the verge of a conflict (if such has not already started).
- The Greeks are calling up their 1920 class of recruits, to be ready for anticipated happenings in the Balkan States.
- New Zealand is alarmed at what it considers to be the aims of the Japanese to dominate the Pacific.
- There are rebellions and riots, accompanied by wholesale executions and repressions, in India and Egypt.
- Ireland is only kept from an outbreak by the menace of machine-guns and tanks.
- There are strike-riots in Australia and in America.
- Conflicts, with many casualties resulting, have taken place between the French authorities and the French trade unions.
- England is nominally the most peaceful, but even here there is an undercurrent of discontent among all sections of the populace, which may at any moment break through the sheep-like docility of the British working man.
Perpetual peace has not even started to be yet awhile.
Anyone who has even the most rudimentary knowledge of economics knows how futile are the expectations as to a capitalist war, waged all capitalist States, resulting in a cessation of by armed conflict While capitalism lasts; while certain groups of capitalists struggle among themselves for, the possession of the most-favoured—from the profit-making standpoint—portions of the earth; while you have such groups intriguing one against the other for the possession of the world markets, you must inevitably have a condition of things that leads eventually to war. There comes a time when neither of the rival groups will give way: then comes a deadlock and an appeal to their respective governments, leading up to appeals to the credulous working man in the various countries to join up and fight “the war to end war,” “the war of liberty,” “the war to make the world safe for democracy,” “the war for the rights of small nationalities,” and the war for all the other catch-phrases with which we have become familiar during the last few years.
The way to end war is by the detraction of the root-cause of war, that is by the destruction of the capitalist system itself. There can be no escape from the spectacle of bloodshed, rapine, and horror while capitalism lasts.
The Socialist, from his inception as Socialist, has for his part been waging a war more bitter and deadly even than that which has reddened the plains and fouled the air of Europe. His war is the age-long struggle of the dispossessed against the owners of the world’s wealth. This is the last and greatest war, the waging and winning of which stand as beacons of hope in this dark age of death and destruction.
To his comrades in the fight the writer sends a message of courage and endurance; to the non-Socialist members of his class (his future comrades) he voices an appeal for a patient and intelligent examination of the principles of Socialism; to both he reiterates his assurance of the final speedy emancipation of his class from the thralldom of capitalism to the new-born freedom of the Socialist Commonwealth.
F. J. Webb