Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Curse of National Prestige (1905)

From the August 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The dawn of peace appears in the Far East

Slav and Mongol have faced each other on many a battlefield on land and sea, and victory has been uniformly with the new world power of Japan. This war was essentially a commercial war, as all wars are to-day carried on in the interests of commerce. All international relations, diplomatic and military, are becoming more and more commercial in their nature.

Some years ago the late Lord Salisbury declared that all wars in the future would be railway wars, and later he avowed that they would be tariff wars. He saw clearly as we Socialists see that war is but a manifestation of the antagonism of interests existing in the several national spheres of industry. We have only to look at recent wars in which European powers have been engaged to see that they have all been economic.

Norway and Sweden may be seen in a state of extreme tension because the ruling class of Norway believe that Sweden has been securing preferential commercial treatment through the appointment of a Consulate whose sympathies and interests were purely Swedish. Because of this commercial friction the Norwegian Storthting has passed a resolution deposing King Oscar and placing their country under the control of a provisional government.

Greece made war upon Turkey because she lusted after the rich olive groves of Crete. France and Germany were at war because France had ambitious thoughts of extending her boundaries to the Rhine while Germany was desirous of possessing the broad, smiling plains of Alsace and Lorraine. America fought with Spain for the possession of the plantations of Cuba and the Philippines. Britain crushed out the national independence of the Transvaal and Orange River Republics.

During the latter of those wars what was the fear of the ruling class as expressed in their Press? Not of the loss of life of the soldiers on the veldt, not of the thousands of children done to death by official incompetence, or something worse, in the concentration camps; not of the burning of homesteads and farmhouses in the Vaal; no, it was none of those things. The real fear was shown in the thrill of horror which was felt by the monied class in Park Lane or on ’Change when the rumour was current that Botha had blown up the Rand.

Nor is it a new thing for war to be fundamentally economic. In one stage of civilisation the food question causes tribe to fight against tribe, the fate of the defeated tribe being to serve as food for the victors. In another phase of civilisation the captured in battle are sent as helots to toil for the benefit of those who have vanquished them.

As Britain deliberately crushed out the trade and manufacture of Ireland and of India in the interests of her own manufacturers, so have countries sought for colonies and for extended territory in order to secure trade monopolies. In other directions the cloven hoof of commerce has displayed itself. Thus the union of the Parliaments of England and Scotland has ever been defended on the plea that it gave to the latter all the commercial privileges that the former had won for herself.

Although our contention that war has always been fundamentally economic can be justified from every historical epoch, yet it would be going too far to say that this has always been obvious. Many wars have appeared on superficial examination to be primarily religious, while others have been excused on the ground of maintaining national prestige. When recently the Baltic Fleet shot down innocent fishermen on the Dogger, when France ignored Germany in her arrangement with Britain, Spain and Italy as to her position in Morocco, in the thousand and one other occasions on which war has been in the air it has been the maintenance of national prestige which has been the excuse and the justification put forward.

In the worship of this fetich Britain replied to Russia’s seizure of Port Arthur by the seizure of Wei-hai-wei, and Germany by the fortification of Kiau-Chau. Britain having a sphere of interest, another phrase for a sphere of exploitation, Germany must have a sphere of interest in the province of Shantung, while France and Japan seek for similar enforced “concessions”.

The above remarks have been called forth by our witnessing dissension in the recently unified French Socialist party on the question as to whether the party should take part in wars carried on by the ruling powers of France. Among Socialists there appears some uncertainty as to the proper position to adopt with regard to this question, and a few remarks on the subject may not be out of place.

Beaconsfield, in his novel Sybil, declared that England was divided into two nations. These two nations are the nation of propertied and the nation of propertyless. The nation of the haves who do not work, and the nation of the have-nots who do. The question we have to determine for ourselves is, “Is the country of the propertied worth fighting for by the nation of the propertyless?”

I do not think it will be questioned by any Socialist that it is his duty to oppose the wars of the ruling class of one nation with the ruling class of another, and to refuse to participate in them. When Germany seeks to force war upon France so as to secure for herself special trade advantages with Morocco, it is for the millions of German and French socialists to declare in no uncertain voice that they will have no part or lot in the war. If they do this then there will be little fear of war. The military power of Russia has failed in the Russo-Japanese war largely because of the unrest among the Russian people, and the military power of Germany would be equally powerless against a revolt against war amongst the most intelligent of the political parties in the Fatherland.

With defensive wars the question becomes somewhat complicated. Is the Britain of the ruling class worth defending by the workers? Has the worker to-day – a wage-slave earning but a bare subsistence wage – anything to fight for? As it is the country is being conquered by the operations of the international capitalist. The British worker is to-day the employee of a limited liability company or of a trust whose shareholders are international, and it is the capitalist class who rule the political machine.

Were Germany to conquer France or France to conquer Britain, he would be ruled by no more alien class than rules him to-day. As the result of bring a citizen of a country which is nationally independent his condition is such that he has no guarantee from week to week of his power of earning his livelihood. Thirteen millions of him are living in a state of semi-starvation, and the individuals composing those thirteen millions are always changing. In the slum districts the conditions are such that crime is at a premium, and virtuous living at a discount, so much so indeed that it is a constant surprise that the results of these conditions are so good.

The worker to-day has nothing to fight for. The interests of his masters are not his interests. National prestige is not his prestige, but is used to force from other nations commercial treaties and conditions which in the end prove adverse to him.

What the Socialist has to realise clearly is that the interests of his fellow workers in other lands are nearer to his than are those of his master in his own country. The bonds which bind worker with worker, irrespective of nationality, are those of class solidarity. The meeting of Japanese and Russian on the platform at the International socialist Congress at Amsterdam in August last was but symbolic of this solidarity. From the capitalist-class of every country the worker is divided by a gulf of class antagonism which can be bridged only by the absorption of the capitalist-class in the working class, the result of the coming Social Revolution.

When the capitalist-class fully realises that they can no longer depend upon the working-class, when they find that the worker has at last come to understand his class position, and that he has no reason for fighting in his master’s interests against those with whom he has no personal quarrel, he, the capitalist, will see that it is impossible to appeal to national prestige, to patriotism, to the spirit of “our imperial race” and all the rest of the phrases used of old, and then it will be impossible to make war in so light a spirit, or to raise questions likely to create a tension between the ruling class of different nations.

It is for the worker to see that his position demands that he should fight only for his class emancipation, and that nothing, internal reform or national strife, should draw him away from his determination to fight for the realisation of the Socialist regime.

WORKERS OF ALL COUNTRIES UNITE! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR CHAINS! YOU HAVE A WORLD TO WIN.
Robert Elrick

Quotes (1905)

Quotes from the January 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard
Early issues of the Socialist Standard would be peppered with brief quotes which would serve as inspirational, informative and, most importantly, as space fillers. Here are the quotes from the January 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard:
The object of true education is not merely to make people do the right things, but enjoy the right things; not merely pure but to love purity; not merely just, but to hunger and thirst after justice.  — Goethe.

In the huge mass of evil, as it rolls and swells, there is ever some Good working imprisoned; working towards deliverance and triumph.  — T. Carlyle. "French Revolution."

The plain message physical science has for the world at large is this, that were our political and social and moral devices only as well contrived to their ends as a linotype machine, an antiseptic operating plant, or an electric tramcar, there need now at the present moment be no appreciable toil in the world, and only the smallest fraction of the pain, the fear, and the anxiety that now make human life so doubtful in its value. There is more than enough for everyone alive. Science stands, a too competent servant, behind her wrangling, underbred masters, holding out resources, devices, an remedies they are too stupid to use.  — H. G. Wells in "Fortnightly" for December.

Quotes (1904)

Quotes from the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard
Early issues of the Socialist Standard would be peppered with brief quotes which would serve as inspirational, informative and, most importantly, as space fillers. Here are the quotes from the December 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard:
Let no man fear the name of "Socialist." The movement of the working class for justice by any other name would be as terrible.  — Father William Barry.

The rich are always content with the lot of the poor.  — Wertheimer.

Call ye that a society, where there is no longer any social idea extant? not so much as the idea of a common house, but only of a common over-crowded lodging house, where each, isolated, regardless of his neighbour, clutches what he can get, and cries "mine!" and calls it Peace, because, in the cut-purse and cut-throat scramble, no steel knives, but only a far cunninger sort, can be employed.  — T. Carlyle. (Sarter Resartus.)

With the seizing of the means of production by society, production of commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation. The struggle for individual existence disappears. Then, for the first time, man, in a certain sense, is finally marked off from the rest of the animal kingdom, and emerges from mere animal conditions of existence into really human ones. The whole sphere of the conditions which environ man, and which have hitherto ruled man, now comes under the dominion and control of man, who now, for the first time, becomes the real conscious lord of Nature, because he has now become master of his own social organisation. . . . It is the ascent of man from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.Frederick Engels.

Obstinacy of opinion and heat in argument are surest proofs of folly. Is there anything so assured, resolute, disdainfu, contemplative, serious, and grave as an ass?  — Montaigne.

The really exhausting and really repulsive labours instead of being better paid they are almost invariably the worst paid of all . . . The more revolting the occupation the more certain it is to receive the minimum of remuneration.  — John S. Mill.

In every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organisation necessarily following from it, forms the basis upon which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch. Consequently the whole history of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding land in common ownership) has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes. The history of these class struggles form a series of evolution in in which, now-a-days, a stage has been reached where the exploited and oppressed class—the proletariat—cannot attain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class— the bourgeoisie—without at the same time, and once and for all emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class-distinctions and class-struggles.Marx.

The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors,” and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment.” It has drowned the most heavenly ecstacies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom—Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation. The Communist Manifesto. 


He that is down needs fear no fall.  — Pilgrim's Progress.


Better to hunt in fields for health unbought,
Than fee a doctor for a nauseous draught.
                                                             — Dryden. 


This mournful truth is everywhere confessed,
Slow rises worth by poverty depressed.
                                                             —  Dr. Johnson


"Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea;"
"Why as men do a-land: the great ones eat up the little ones."
                                                             — Shakespeare.

The law is a sort of hocus-pocus science, that smiles in your face while it picks your pocket; and the glorious uncertainty of it is of more use to the professors than the justice of it.  — Macklin.

I never could believe that Providence had sent a few men into the world, ready booted and spurred to ride, and millions ready saddled and bridled to be ridden.  Richard Rumbold, when on the Scaffold (1685).

The Co-operative movement has to some extent lost sight of the great aim which Robert Owen had in view, which was to raise the whole of the members of the community by reorganising the forces and circumstances which governed their lives.  — Co-operative Annual, 1902.


Quotes (1904)

Quotes from the November 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard
Early issues of the Socialist Standard would be peppered with brief quotes which would serve as inspirational, informative and, most importantly, as space fillers. Here are the quotes from the November 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard:
And we too love peace, but not the peace of slavery. Marat.

They shall build houses and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards and eat fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat. — Isaiah. LXV. 21, 22.

What sort of society is this that has, to the extent that ours has, inequality and injustice for a basis? Such a society is fit only to be kicked out through the windows — its banquet tables, its orgies, its debaucheries, its scoundrelism, together with all those who are seated leaning on both elbows and enjoying it on the backs of others whom they keep down on all fours. The hell of the poor is the paradise the rich love to solace themselves in. Victor Hugo.

The human race is gradually learning the simple lesson, that the people as a whole are wiser for the public good and the public prosperity, than any privileged class of men, however refined and cultivated, have ever been, or, by any possibility, can ever become. — Lewis H. Morgan. Ancient Society.

The artisan who is demanding at this time an eight hours day in the building trades is simply striving to recover what his ancestor worked by four or five centuries ago.  — Thorold Rogers.

Wage-Workers of the World, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains — you have the World to win.  — Karl Marx

The great appear great to us because we are on our knees: let us rise!  — Theroigne.

The modern state, whatever its form, is essentially a capitalist machine; it is the state of the capitalist; the ideal total capitalist.  — Frederick Engels.

The punishment good citizens get for neglecting their politics is to be governed by bad men.  — Plato.

The abolition of poverty and the abolition of capitalism shall be accomplished at one and the same time.
Room! For the men of mind make way!
  Ye robber Rulers, pause no longer;
Ye cannot stay the opening day:
  The world rolls on, the light grows stronger.
The People's Advent's coming!

Gerald Massey.
Political economists see nothing but the past; hence future generations will represent the civilization of political economists by a head reversed and looking backward. Fourier

The Commercialisation of Literature. (1904)

From the November 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

The awful ignorance of the middle-class re-acts on Society at large, yet the ignorance is not due to lack of information but incapacity of thought. This observation was forced upon me the other day as I was reading in The Guardian an article entitled “The Next Literary Epoch.” Miss G. Hill, the writer, began by showing how books are now treated as manufactured articles, and are "advertised and sold much as a new line in dress material.” This is due to the gradual disappearance of the personal relation between publisher and author. Huge amalgamations have made the link solely a monetary one. The manager of the company dares not deal with ought but "certainties.” The literary element in the governance of publishing is diminishing since the directors had no more knowledge of literature than the directors of a chemical company have of chemistry. Science has also created a thirst for facts; literature, as a mental refreshment and enjoyment, has ceased to be sought after.

Miss Hill continues: "We must take into account the fact that literature is chiefly in the hands of the middle classes, and will therefore be modified by the conditions of life and habits of thought prevailing among these classes. It is they who furnish the bulk of both writers and readers. The democracy, as a rule, use their leisure for the study of science. It might be supposed that what the upper classes lack in point of numbers they would make up in point of opinion; but they are not originators; they do not create new movements of thought or control the stream of intellectual tendency.” Further the writer of this interesting article show that specialising has become a rule, but that it is useless if the basis of education is not broad enough to specialise upon. People are acquiring knowledge without thereby acquiring "power.” The facts obtained sufficed without deductions being made from these facts. "This is the way to train up learners but not thinkers.”
S. J. C. Russell