Editorial from the September 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard
Twenty years ago a war commenced of a nature more devastating than any that had occurred before. So great was the feeling of horror aroused by the carnage and the barbarities committed at the time that there was general assurance that “never again” would such a thing happen—and ever since the governments have been preparing for even worse wars. At present, in Europe and the East, nations are watching each other on the verge of flying at each other’s throats, moved by economic motives similar to those which set guns belching death and destruction in those old unhappy years.
Already nations are preparing the ground of justification by measures to stir up feelings of patriotism and the rankling spirit of wrongs that require righting, Armies, navies and air fleets are being overhauled and increased, and scientists are hard at work devising means of defence and means of destruction.
The hollow farce of the League of Nations still plays its expensive and idle part in the game. One of its principal supporters, Viscount Cecil, speaking at Windermere on August 11th, said that "No one could feel security for peace at present. Every day new disturbances arose, rumours of war got about, and countries were preparing for the worst.” (The Observer, August 12th, 1934.)
A week or two ago a huge Italian army was on the borders of Austria fully equipped to launch into war should affairs in Austria take a turn that militated against the economic interests of Italian capitalists. At the moment of writing, Russia and Japan are on the brink of conflict over the Chinese Eastern Railway. Incidentally, the diplomats of the different countries are hard at work arranging pacts for mutual aid in the event of a war breaking out.
One fact appears fairly clear, and that is that the art of the chemist will play a considerable part in another big war. According to Lord Hailsham, it would be impossible to provide adequate defence against gas attacks. The horrors of the last war may therefore appear as pleasant memories compared with the horrors of the next. The very fact that in face of this there are large groups quite ready to engage in war is a fearful illustration of the urge of profit-seeking in modern civilisation. The underlying causes of war are the efforts to further business, buying and selling, with the object of making profit and thereby enriching those who have invested capital in various enterprises, including the making of engines of war.
The way to prevent war is not by engaging in anti-war campaigns. These are quite useless, because they leave the causes of war untouched. The only preventative is to take away the urge to war; take away the profit motive. While private ownership of the means of existence remains, the making of profit is the object of the private owners. Abolish private ownership and substitute for it common ownership in the means of production and the profit motive disappears, taking with it the seeds of war, both internal and external.
Socialism is the only means to defeat the warmongers.