From the August 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard
As I write we enter the fourth year of the war. Arm-chair warriors of every nationality, who support the rigors of the struggle with such remarkable courage and endurance, are exchanging greetings and reaffirming their will and determination to stick it as long as they can find men to fight for them - or women for that matter when the supply of men no longer meets the military needs. Politicians are made and broken in the service of Mars; millions are piled on millions in the tale of the cost of it in treasure; the country bristles with hospitals crowded and overcrowded with the poor wreckage that testifies to the cost of it in blood and suffering; no family in the land is there but sorrows for cruel losses, and goes about its daily business in the gloom of catastrophies to come, but the war drags on.
With each succeeding season the strife is waged on a lower plane. One after another more brutal methods of slaughter are adopted, by both sides alike. One by one the scruples which have survived all other wars between civilised peoples are found to be impediments, and are abandoned. The British "gas" which was not going to be of a poisonous nature, is now found to accomplish awful things, and not the "huns" only go into battle under orders to take no prisoners. Indeed, we have advanced beyond this, and if persistent tales are to be believed, on one side at least which shall be nameless, prisoners of war—men whose surrender has actually been accepted—are driven into dug-outs and bombed to death!
The war seems now to have settled down to a definite policy of "manning" on the actual fronts—a policy of man for man, with the hope of a favourable balance in the long run. It is openly and repeatedly stated by people of importance that the business of the war from the allied point of view is to kill Germans, and no doubt corresponding views obtain on the other side. The logical result of this must be that the collapse must come from that source of all armies, the civil population. Much as has been said about the Russian crumple having robbed the Allies of victory this year, there is not the slightest indication that this is the fact. The evidence all points to the limits of any push being the effective range of its artillery mass, even in the face of comparatively weak numbers. If so, then attrition is the only process on the battlefield, a process which must become slower as the cost mounts up, and the only result of the entry of America into the conflict can be to prolong this agonising progress to the long-predicted stalemate.
With such a gloomy prospect facing them, it is full time the people of the world rose to the occasion. The international authors of the war, unable to reach a settlement through their usual instrument, militarism, find themselves ever more helpless in the toils of the child of their own loins. The more they have spent in this bid for supremacy in the world markets, the greater is the force compelling them to persist in their efforts to retrieve their fortunes by victory or stall off ruin by averting defeat. These cannot stop so long as they can find the men to fight for them, and keep their civil populations at work for them and acquiescent in their sordid and awful aims.
Are we, then, to drift on through further years of torture? Are we to go on losing our loved ones—our sons, our brothers, our comrades, our friends—in order that statesmen may splutter about teaching the Germans to say "reparation"? What is reparation to the toiling masses? What reparation can there be for the dead? Can they be made good by sacrificing still other lives to the fetich "reparation"? No! There is only reparation for property, and what concern is that of the propertyless?
Along the road our masters are driving us lies ruin. It is for the working class of the world to save civilisation from the threatening destruction. Let us, then, make ourselves heard ere it is too late. There is plenty of room in the world for all workers: it is the parasites that crowd us. Let us have done with them.
A. E. Jacomb