From the November 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard
The so-called "Peace" propaganda of to-day is associated by most people with Socialism and the Socialist Party.
The plain fact, however, is that Socialism has very little in common with it, and judged by the essential features the two movements are as the poles apart.
What is distinctive about Socialism that separates it from all other movements of social activity ?
Briefly, Socialism differs from other phases of social thought in that it stands for the overthrow of modern society based upon class ownership of the necessaries of life and the building up in its stead of a society of wealth producers owning the means of life in common. What, on the other hand does the "Peace movement" specially signify? It stands for an alteration in diplomatic methods between various capitalist Courts, and at the present time it is in favour of stating the terms upon which the combatants are willing to declare "peace."
Socialism fights for the removal of a system of society which works out to the detriment of the many. The "Peace Crusaders" are out for an alteration in the method of government whereby the wars between capitalist countries can be reduced or abolished.
Socialism declares in favour of a new system wherein capital and capitalist governments cease to be. "Peace" propagandists by no means unite in condemning capitalist society, and they are mostly opposed to a change in the system altogether.
What is the Socialist attitude to war? It is that war as we know it is produced in the main by the conflict between the interests of capitalists of various nations. It is born of the rivalry between sellers of goods for profit, and it can only die when selling for profit is abolished. In other words, Socialist theory holds and capitalist practice proves that only by ending the entire capitalist system can war with all its attendant horrors cease.
War, in the words of the "Peace" propagandists, is due to secret diplomacy, misunderstandings between Courts, and a vicious newspaper Press. These things, however, are but results of the workings of the system itself, and whilst the latter remains, the effects, in the shape of secret diplomacy, etc., will continue.
This article is being written in mid Atlantic, away from all books of reference, and consequently exact quotations cannot be given. But the reader need only refer to the literature of the Union for Democratic Control and the Peace Societies for confirmation of the statements made.
Consider the personnel of the Peace advocates and see what sanction of Socialism there exists amongst them.
Mr. Ponsonby is one of the most noted of the Peace persuaders of the day and he is a Liberal M.P. Mr. Trevelyan is a late Minister of the Liberal Government and resigned upon the occasion of the declaration of war. Mr. John Burns resigned his Cabinet membership upon the same occasion. Lord Morley left high office at the same time. Mr. E. D. Morel has never been associated with Socialism and is simply a reformer who, when occasion calls, can be quite as much an Empire builder as the most notorious supporter of the war. Witness his appeal for British versus French sovereignty in the Congo. (See "The British Case in the French Congo," by E. D. Morel.)
All sorts of appeals are made to the Socialist Party to join forces with these "anti-war” organisations, but it is deaf to all such cries. Not because we do not yearn for the cessation of the war. By no means so. Socialists above all others realise the horrors always following in the train of war. We know and feel the wreckage of human ties, the break-up of family life, the sorrow and suffering arising from the brutal carnage. But there are two important reasons why we cannot associate with the various "Peace" and "Stop the War" organisations.
Firstly, because we abide by the dictates of the class struggle. Because we stand for Socialism and they do not. Because we refuse to associate with those who support the capitalist class during "peace" time and who fight for the subjection of the working class. Therefore we cannot ally ourselves with these capitalists and clergymen, ex Cabinet Ministers and would-be Cabinet Ministers. We refuse to lower the Socialist flag to march with the enemies of Socialism. We know that, given of the realisation of the whole of the Peace parties' programme, the horrors and misery of working-class slavery would be left untouched for the better. The very men who seek our help for "peace" now would be amongst the first to "war" on the working class.
The second reason for which we cannot unite with the stop the war movement is that it is impotent for its very object. Even if we held that it was policy to unite to stop the war it would be foolish to join in the programme of these societies. What machinery have they for stopping wars ? None. Appeals to capitalists are their general methods. They propose to leave in power the makers of wars, the capitalist class. They intend to continue the profit-making system which itself produces commercial rivalry and inevitably international warfare.
Surely it is not now doubted that wars are born of the fight for spoil between capitalists. Throughout the last hundred years the economic objects of the various wars has stood out so clearly as to compel even capitalist writers to admit it.
Men such as the War Correspondent of the "Daily News," H. N. Brailsford, in his "War of Steel and Gold"; the member of the late Liberal Government, John M. Robertson, in his "Psychology of Jingoism " and "Patriotism and Empire"; the "Daily Mail" War correspondent during the Russo-Japanese War, F. A. McKenzie, in his "Tragedy of Korea." These and a list of others can be quoted to show that wars are caused in the ultimate analysis by the struggle for trade and territory by the master class.
Listen to the present clamour for "capturing the enemy's trade," putting a tariff upon enemy's goods, and such pocket appeals and judge the truth of the Socialist view.
If you wish to stop all wars you must stop all commercial competition and to do this you must work for Socialism.