From the July 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard
Apparently the one objective of the ruling class engaged in the European conflict at present is to “win the war,” no matter what the cost to the people they keep in subjection, and who wage the war for them. The one social distinction is to be obtained in the bloody ampitheatre of Mars. The saddest and most ironic thing about the world conflict is that the workers have waged the war against the wrong people.
In all history it is the greatest instance of misdirected energy: it should have been their own ruling and exploiting class that they should have struggled against, and in the countries called the workers’ own, and which will be their own when they take possession.
“Crush German Militarism!” is our masters’ cry here ; but they would dearly love to have an English militarism as well organised, efficient, and as much a menace to their rivals as that which they denounce. Meanwhile there is no need to take a personally-conducted trip to Flanders in order to crush “Prussianism”: we have plenty of the English variety here! The Germans alone can destroy their own particular brand of that pestilential growth. Let us hope that they will do so before long, uprooting, capitalism also in the process, once for all!
As the war proceeds, veil after veil of lying nonsense is torn aside, and the ghastly truth, —apparent from the start to the Socialist— appears to the disillusioned and war-harrowed masses, the truth that not one nation's rulers care a damn about “honour,” “truth,” and “liberty”; that in this war no great principle is at stake ; but that, instead, the most hellish war of all ages is being waged for capitalistic rivalry and gain, for world markets and commercial supremacy.
Whilst every secret of science has been probed to see if it can be pressed into the service of war, and the wage earners are annihilating each other in patriotic frenzy, they themselves have seen every so-called right and liberty they had suppressed by capitalist despots. In England there are at the present time (according to statements made at the Leeds Conference) 74 Englishmen incarcerated without a charge being preferred against them, and without any means being afforded them of making a defence. And many others who decline to take part in the war on principle, are in the prisons of “their own” country.
Nevertheless, the “fighting for freedom with the strength of free men” goes on, and the duped workers become more and more enslaved by the class whose interest they are lighting for. The civic rights of the vaunted “democracy” have been made to function as a door-mat; the incubus of debt rears itself daily to more colossal heights; the British casualty lists alone are some 30,000 weekly. The astounding apathy and complaisance with which the people accept these things is one of the features of this, the “Great War for Freedom,” the “War to End War.”
Every country involved is piling up its human wreckage of maimed and dead, creating sorrow and suffering to the one sordid end of capitalist advantage. Noble arid devout ministers of religion are “doing their bit” by preaching the incumbent duty of destroying the “Huns": vicarious sacrifice is a parsonic privilege. Others among them have become exemplars, and have gone out with rifle and bayonet to fight men equally as deluded as themselves, perhaps, in the vain hope that this is the “last war,’' and through it will come about the Brotherhood of Man.
Nature has made the world very beautiful, but, alas! Man has turned it into a veritable inferno. Whilst Spring has been decking the countryside in loveliness comes the news that 4r millions of the manhood of Europe have been killed and wounded ! Yet the war goes on!
Will the workers never learn the lesson of reason and wisdom except through untold suffering and unspeakable pain the lesson that they, as a class throughout the world, have but one enemy, the INTERNATIONAL CAPITALIST CLASS?
Under the present system, in time of peace or war, the workers are compelled to produce wealth prolifically ; they receive about one third of what they produce, the rest is legally stolen from them, and used to their injury. And so we get the most intensely ironical fact of millions of dispossessed wage-slaves, fighting each other in groups, in their masters’ interests alone, they themselves having previously produced all the wealth which the capitalists quarrel over. All their energies of mind and body have made the prodigious accumulation of wealth which the capitalists keep only to use against the workers, whose very lives are but pawns in the hands of the class that has exploited and continues to exploit them.
Apparently no sacrifice is too great for the working class to make when capitalist interests are at stake. When are the workers going to fight for their own interests ?
The most deplorable fact of our present social life is the lack of class-consciousness among the workers. They do not realise that they are wage-slaves. They do not grasp their own all-importance. They do not understand their own all-powerfulness. Chloroformed by superstition and custom; content to let the present regime continue, they drift into fatalistic folly, and political and intellectual thralldom. It is this attitude that has made the breeding bed for the war.
What a price is paid by the working class of the world for political ignorance! What a penalty is suffered for the proletarian misconception called “Patriotism”!
What, then, is the remedy? Reforms, palliatives of any kind, are useless. They are but anodynes to lull the ever-recurring pain that is produced by this system of production for profit. The cause of the evil must be eradicated. That cause is the capitalist system.
Workers, study SOCIALISM! Organise class-consciously for the conquest of the political machinery, and for your complete emancipation from your present slavery. Yours is an irresistible power: wield it, and win
The World for the Workers.