Friday, March 4, 2016

"An Illustrated History of the Russian Revolution" (1928)

Book Review from the June 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

"An Illustrated History of the Russian Revolution" Editors : W. Astrov, A. Slepkov, J. Thomas (Vol. I. 195 pages. Publishers: Martin, Lawrence, Ltd., 26, Bedford Row. Price 10s.)

The work of which this is the first volume is described by the publishers as the "only complete history of the Russian Revolution.” The material was supplied by the Lenin Institute in Moscow and by many of the prominent men who played a part in these struggles. It contains a large number of excellent reproductions of photographs , relating to the events described.

This volume covers the period from the beginning of the present century to the middle of 1917. A second volume, to be published this year, is to bring the history up to the introduction of the New Economic Policy and the effort to reconstruct Russia’s industrial life.

It is, on the whole, an exceedingly readable and useful account of the forces which led up to the overthrow of the Czar’s Government, the seizure of the land by the peasants and the withdrawal from the War. It is, however, needlessly inaccurate in dealing with the attitude of Socialists to the War. While Lenin and his associates retained their pathetic trust in the Second International right up to 1914, the Socialist Party of Great Britain had years before realised the non-Socialist character of that body. The British Labour Party, like its French and German counterparts, was not Socialist and could not be expected to take up a Socialist opposition to the War. It is therefore misleading for the writers of this work to state (page 56) that the “Socialists” of Germany, France and England supported the War. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, alone in this country, took up a Socialist stand in 1914 and maintained it throughout the War. That we did so was known to the Bolsheviks.

In 1915, when the British Labour Party and its fellow-parties in the Second International refused to admit the Bolsheviks to their Conference because the Bolsheviks opposed the War, it was to us that the Russian Party came in order to secure publication of its manifesto denouncing this action and repudiating the rights of these jingoes to speak in the name of Socialism. The manifesto in question was published in the March, 1915, issue of the “ Socialist Standard.”
Edgar Hardcastle

Sex relations in Russia: Are they revolutionary? (1928)

From the January 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Bolshevik writer on literature and sex, well known in America, Mr. V. F. Calverton, waxes very enthusiastic on “Red Love in Soviet Russia,” in his magazine, The Modern Quarterly (Nov., 1927), an American journal cultivated by “Red intellectuals.”

The "Red” writer has just returned from Soviet Russia, and admires the "realistic candour" with which Russia is meeting the sex problem.

He quotes at the outset the usual rubbish of Capitalist distortion, such as the following from the "Yellow” morning paper, the New York American of June 12th, 1927, on "Marriage in Russia":—
A Provincial Control Commission of the Communist Party in examining a member as to his conduct and life, something that is often done, asked him about his morals and sex relations. He replied that he was happily married, had a beautiful wife, loved her, and was faithful to her. The Commission expelled him from the Party on the ground of "holding to small bourgeois principles.”
This type of lie has almost died out here, but in America it still survives. On the other hand, the view is widespread that sex relations in Russia are changing in a Socialist direction, but the evidence advanced does not support that view.

The writer of the article claims to uphold the materialist view of history—but drops it when he deals with sex relations. What material environment is there in Russia upon which new sex relations can flourish? Small private property in the villages and a mixture of State-controlled and privately-owned businesses and industries in the towns! And withal a struggle to maintain pre-war standards of production and to find work for all the able-bodied.

Mr. Calverton deals with some of the changes in woman’s position in Russia, and argues that "woman has been emancipated from her subordination to man, which she still suffers in the 'civilised' Western world.”

Marriage in Russia is now a civil function, but the ecclesiastical aspects of it are destroyed. Thus argues Mr. Calverton, but he omits to mention that besides the civil contract, marriage may be celebrated in all the churches in Russia where religion is "reformed,” but still strong.

We are next told that when a woman marries in Russia “she is still a free woman.” This high-sounding phrase, when explained by him, means the domestic code “does not establish community of property between the married persons," and that change of residence of one of the parties does not oblige the other to follow. Surnames of children may be that of husband or wife, as the couple may decide. The man cannot shirk responsibility for the children, and in case of divorce, we are told, a third of the man’s salary is requisite for the support of each child.

These changes are not revolutionary. “Property rights” of woman have become commonplace in capitalist countries with the entry of woman into business, etc.

Changes as to names and separate residences may be written into statute law, but, like many of the laws which Russia passed in its early Bolshevik days, they must remain dead letters if they conflict with economic conditions. The housing question in Russia is very acute, and to point to laws which allow separate residences for married people only brings up the question, when will even the married workers living together be able to get adequate accommodation in a country where rich and poor still have a real meaning and a real existence?

He quotes Madame Kollantay to the effect that what is revolutionary in Russia’s sex relations is “the creation of a collective responsibility,” “feelings of comradeship,” etc., but no facts are adduced to show its real existence, any more so than in any capitalist State. Engels’s book, "The Origin of the Family,” is quoted, but no deductions are drawn from the important point made by Engels, that once capitalism is overthrown, the new race growing up under new conditions will fashion their opinions and practice without any regard to what we to-day consider should be their course.

The fact that statute law cannot escape from the dominant influence of material conditions is admitted in the Russian Code quoted in the article :—
Only time and experience will show how many of the provisions of this code belong to the transitional category, features which are destined to vanish with the more perfect establishment of the Socialist order. In certain clauses, however, there is clearly to be discerned a conscious recognition of conditions and habits of life surviving from the old order. Such survivals are inevitable at this time when neither the economic nor the psychological transformation is complete. There are provisions respecting property and income which will inevitably be subject to obsolescence or amendment. The law of guardianship, essentially revolutionary as it is, is yet no more than a first tentative approach to the realisation of collective responsibility for the care of the young. The laws of marriage and divorce still bear traces of the passing order, frank and sensible acknowledgment of the existence of certain economic and psychological conditions only to be overcome when the complete change is accomplished.
All children in Russia are legal. Compared with Czarist Russia, this is an advance, where children were counted illegal where a church marriage had not been performed. And even in this country the interests of property are gradually legalising children born out of wedlock.

A great deal is made of the fact that in Russia divorce can be obtained upon mutual consent on the grounds of incompatibility. Again, if we compare this with Czarist days, it is an advance, as under Nicholas adultery was necessary to obtain divorce. But modern capitalist States are modifying divorce law, and in Puritan America divorces in many States are granted on the slightest pretext.

In Russia Birth Control literature is plentiful. So it is here and generally throughout Europe. With the difference that most people here can read it, but Russia still suffers a large amount of illiteracy. From the Rev. Mr. Malthus (Christian apologist for a ruthless war on the workers) down to Charles Bradlaugh (atheist defender of capital) and on to reformer Marie Stopes, we have had plenty of Birth Control propaganda, and mostly by individualists—clearly showing that it has little revolutionary interest.

Abortion in Russia is legal, but the high birth rate and the low economic development in Russia doubtless plays a large part in welcoming anything to reduce births.

Between 1922 and 1924 more than 55,000 legal abortions were performed in Russian State hospitals. The backward mental development of Russia’s peasantry—her most fruitful populace — necessitated scientifically performing what was generally done in a dangerous way by those who feared every new mouth to feed. The widespread practice of abortion in Russia still shows that birth control literature may be cheap, but the practice of birth control methods among a backward people still very slow.

These reforms may all be well carried out in every capitalist country without in any way weakening the fabric of capitalism. And where they are carried out in some degree as in U.S.A., the individualist and reactionary views of those who are in favour of them is notorious.

Prostitution in Soviet Russia is still strong as it must be in every country where the workers are poor and private property owners are prosperous. All the freedom of marriage laws on paper cannot override the effects of economic life.

The battle with the brothel keepers in Soviet Russia is dealt with by the official journal,  "Izvestia” (November 11th, 1926), quoted by Mr. Calverton.

In 30 States in one year 715 houses of prostitution were opened, chiefly in Moscow, Leningrad, Samara, and Stalingrad. Unemployment of single women was found to be one of the greatest dangers. The "Izvestia” (November 11th, 1926) states that over 32 per cent. of the prostitutes are occupation house workers.

The Soviets decreed that single women should be laid off last in the event of unemployment. Houses for the Reformation of Prostitutes were opened, and the Commissar of Public Health says that prostitution is on the decline. No figures are quoted to show this, but in any case the causes are still there and the attempts at reforming are little in advance of the Salvation Army.

Summing up the general sex relations, it is obvious that there is nothing beyond the process of reform from the barbaric condition of Czarist laws to laws more suitable to capitalist development.

International Socialism, on the other hand, will not deal with effects of capitalist conditions, but lay the economic foundations upon which new sex relations will flourish, freed entirely from the trammels of property and economic insecurity.
Adolph Kohn

Looking at Hippies (1969)

From the November 1969 issue of the Socialist Standard

For the sociologists, psychologists, criminologists and indeed anyone else who is on the mighty bandwagon called the Behavioural Sciences, obsessions come and go. The latest is the probe for reasons behind the hippies, to ask why they should want to drop out of this great, beneficient society we live in. This is an interesting, and by no means simple, question. Another, less fashionable but with more value, is, what are the reasons behind the people who have not, in one way or another, dropped out?

By this we do not necessarily mean people like Reginald Ethelbert Seaton, who retired from the chair of the Inner London Sessions in September and who told the Daily Telegraph before he went: “Show the birch to a hippie or a Skinhead and you have shown him the light and the way back to respect for himself and the law.” We really mean the millions who applaud that sort of statement and whose reaction to the hippies, whether they are occupying empty houses or just flopping on the ground around Eros, includes a perceptible element of hysteria.

We have seen this kind of ugly mood before, and seen it turned against other non-conforming minorities, and watched it being titillated by what are called the organs of public opinion. For example, the joyful press reports of the court attendant at Folkestone who sprayed the courtroom while the hippies were there. That proved they were all dirty and verminous. Then there was the newsreel commentator who sounded on the verge of an apoplectic fit when they showed the board outside 144, Piccadilly asking for, among other things, a colour television set. That proved the hippies were all shameless scroungers—or at least it did to anyone who refused to recognise that the request was obviously meant as a joke.

This kind of malice is aimed not just at the squatters. Another of its targets was the crowd outside the house; it was meant to reassure them that the values of property society are eternal, that they are respectable in a good cause, that their degrading docility makes sense. It is only a short step from this to reject—angrily, even violently—the minority who do not accept property values, and who do not want to be respectable or docile.

There is, of course, a lot more to it than that. A hippy spokesman (accepting that there can be such a thing) at 144, Piccadilly said that they were standing against the routine degradations of work (by which he meant employment) and the straight society. Perhaps the resentment against this would not be so pronounced if these opinions could be nicely pigeon-holed into one of the usual explanations for deviant behaviour. But the hippies, or most of them, come from families which one of them called in New Society (9/10/69) “White collar workers: anything from badly paid office staff to teachers, scientists and lower executives.”

Now by rights the hippies should think and act like impoverished clerks and teachers. When they refuse to do this, when they begin to perceive some of the unpleasant facts about capitalist society, they appear to be traitors and let-downs and, because the facts they perceive are so uncomfortable, they are also a challenge. They challenge the automatic acceptance of wage-slavery— the rush-hour backwards and forwards the forelock-touching, the scheming and grovelling for an extra few shillings on the salary cheque—and the gratitude for it all.

They challenge, too, all those values of what they call (and it is not a bad term) the straight society. They do not regard the law as an eternal morality, they do not worship manliness and organised, military brutality. “Get your hair cut and get to Vietnam” snarled one of the spectators at 144, Piccadilly. He was frustrated at the hippies’ preference for love before war. What greater treachery could there be ?

What the hippies are up against, whether they realise it or not, is the support which the working class give to capitalism. This support need not be a directly conscious business expressed in the language of the politico; it is more of a general, almost a conditioned, acceptance of whatever capitalism demands— poverty, disease, war. Those who so bitterly criticise the hippies would do well to look at what they themselves support.

At this year’s Labour Party conference, for example, Harold Wilson was speaking for the straight society. What did he make of it? We have, he said, a two-fold task :
. . .  to remove the scars of nineteenth-century capitalism — the derelict mills, the spoil heaps, the back-to-back houses that still disfigure so large a part of our land.
   At the same time we have to make sure that the second industrial revolution through which we are passing does not bequeath a similar legacy to future generations. We must solve the problems of pollution —of the air, of the sea, of our rivers and beaches. We must also solve the uniquely twentieth century problems of noise and congestion . . .
It did not seem to strike anyone in the hall that, typical of a capitalist politician, Wilson was promising to solve the problems of capitalism today at the same time as he was admitting that the problems of capitalism last century are still with us. But there was more to come, as Wilson wound up with these words:
We go forward today into the year ahead, into the Seventies. We have the faith. We have the vision. We have the means to make that faith, that vision, a reality. We cannot fail.
Now, even those who are hardened to the regular debasement of words by a politician must have thought that this was going a bit far. It might just have happened that the Labour delegates, remembering all that has passed these last five years, would have wanted something more from their leader than stale platitudes. One or two of them might with reason have laughed, or fainted with surprise, or been sick. But they did none of these things. They stood up and applauded. For a minute and a half.

Such is the straight society. If the hippies are revolting against the spectacle of workers asking for more from the men who cheat them, lie to them, exploit them and even kill them, then clearly they have a point.

Should we, then, all rush off to join the nearest squat? The weakness in the hippy case is that, assuming they are consciously rejecting the values and priorities of capitalism, they have no notion of how to deal with the system. Capitalism is rotten but it is here — kept here by the working class who, although they are a conforming, politically ignorant mass, cannot be ignored. The hippies could be turned out of their squats because behind the police who got them out were all those millions of people who support capitalism and who stand for the values, disciplines and degradations of the straight society.

This is one fact which it is impossible to opt out of. One of the hippies’ much publicised plans, for example, was to buy St. Patrick’s island off the Irish coast and there establish a community of love and harmony. This is the sort of dream many of us have had at some time or other but the hard, sad fact is that on St. Patrick’s the hippies would have been no more insulated than they were at 144, Piccadilly.

On their island the hippies would have had no choice but to deal with capitalism outside. They seem to recognise this at the moment; Frank Harris, one of their leaders, told a local meeting that they would buy produce and contract their construction work at the nearby resort of Skerries (which pleased the local tradesmen) and later talked about methods of financing the venture. (The Guardian 7/10/69). But to deal with capitalism means that the relationships the priorities and the values of the system would, sooner or later, be admitted to the island paradise.

Capitalism does not exist by accident. It has exhausted its usefulness to human society but it lives on and the simple reason for this is that the majority of people want it to. Indeed, when we get down to it, even the hippies eventually end up on that side. They are not the first group to hate the effects of capitalism at the same time as they misunderstand the basics of social change. The hippies deny the need for political action, for a conscious majority in favour of a revolution. Their theory that it is possible to insulate ourselves against the effects of capitalism denies the need for a revolution and in that very fact supports capitalism’s continuing.

And so, paradoxical though it may be, the hippies are on the same side as the men with the bowler hats and rolled umbrellas. There is not, yet, a revolutionary situation and until there is we shall never have a fuzz-free London and there will continue to be the theft of property.

See also:
Socialist Standard December 1969: Hippies: An Abortion of Socialist Understanding

Material World: Dogs of War (2016)

The Material World column from the March 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
The use of mercenaries in warfare has a very long history but these days an insatiable need for security has fuelled the growth of today’s private security industry. Technology allows private armies to punch above their weight. And military hardware and technology is ever cheaper, ever more available. Business is booming for a growing army of private military contractors. A common attraction about hiring mercenaries is that they can get away with things that you can’t get away with if you’re a national government. The American corporation Blackwater gained notoriety in 2007 after its hired guns killed 17 Iraqi civilians and seriously wounded 20 in Baghdad. The incident became known as the Nisour Square massacre.
A War on Want report Mercenaries Unleashed, published in February on their website, reveals that private military and security companies (PMSCs) constitute a ‘vast private industry, now worth hundreds of billions of dollars, [which] is dominated by UK companies reaping enormous profits from exploiting war, instability and conflict around the world.’ Rather than regulating these ‘dogs of war’ the UK permit the mercenaries to police themselves with voluntary codes like the 2010 International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers. Many countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, are not signatories to the 1989 United Nations Mercenary Convention banning the use of mercenaries.
Fourteen companies, like flies around shit, have head offices in Hereford, where the SAS is based. War on Want estimates around 46 companies compete for recruits from the special forces. Most mercenary companies boast of their links to elite infantry units like the Royal Marines. The report notes that ‘at the heart of the industry is a revolving door between PMSCs, military, intelligence and corporate worlds, with the interests of these sectors closely intertwined.’
Security giant G4S is the second-largest private employer on Earth with more than 625,000 employees. While some of its business is focused on routine bank, prison and airport security, G4S also plays an important role in crisis-zones right around the world. In 2008, G4S swallowed up Armorgroup, whose 9,000-strong army of guards has protected about one third of all non-military supply convoys in Iraq.
The Gulf petro-states are hiring poor people from around the world to take part in the hostilities in the Yemen civil war paid for by the wealthy Gulf States. The United Arab Emirates has hired hundreds of Colombian mercenaries to fight for it in Yemen, paying handsomely to recruit a private army of battle-hardened South American soldiers. The Colombians had entered the UAE posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater (re-named Xe and now Academi) and now in charge of his new company Reflex Responses, with a $529 million contract from the sheikdom according to the New York Times(15 May 2011). The Colombians’ experience fighting leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers in their home country make them attractive recruits for the UAE and they are highly prized for their training in fighting guerrillas according to a source cited by the press agency AFP in Bogota, adding ‘They want to make war an industry using Colombians as cannon fodder.’
An Australian, Mike Hindmarsh, a former senior Australian army officer, is the commander of the UAE’s Presidential Guard, an elite unit and the only Arab force to undertake full military operations in Afghanistan, where they fought alongside American troops. The Presidential Guard has been lauded for playing a key role to re-install the exiled Yemeni government of President Hadi. Nor is Hindmarsh alone. It is not known how many Australians work for the UAE military but among those, a former Australian soldier and intelligence corps officer since February 2014 has been an adviser to the Presidential Guard, a former special operations commander in the Australian army has been a specialist adviser to the Presidential Guard since January 2013 and an evaluator for the Guard was previously a warrant officer in both the Australian and British armies. Yet another former senior commander in the Australian army is now in his fifth year as a senior adviser to the Guards.
In 2015 the Swiss government banned private military firms operating from inside its borders from taking part in foreign conflicts, however, the most famous of mercenary armies, the Pontiff’s Swiss Guards, escape the prohibition that forbids recruitment of Swiss nationals for foreign armies. A similar proposal by War on Want to ban the organisation of mercenaries in the UK, and end what they call ‘the privatisation of war’, we fully expect, will die a death.

Why We Commemorate The Commune. (1909)

From the March 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

M. Yves Guyot, in the first number of that most amusing journal, the Anti-Socialist, says that “Socialists celebrate, without much conviction, the anniversary of the Commune which, in 1871, added the horrors of fire and shooting to those of the siege of Paris. As a matter of fact, however, they have forsaken the so-called revolutionary methods.” The wish is probably father to the thought. Or perhaps M. Guyot is misled by the clamour of the middle-class place-seekers, who try to use the working-class movement as a means of inducing the ruling clique to admit them to the feast. The would-be leaders of the workers are usually ready to sell out or become reasonable "when the ruling class shows a disposition to purchase them. But with the rank and file this cannot be—and that is why the real and the sound movement, the movement that counts, is that of the rank and file, and is neither more advanced nor more backward than this is. Socialism is a class movement, a mass advance, and not a movement of demagogues. And there is a steady growth of Socialist knowledge and determination among the workers, who, far from abandoning the revolutionary method, become more truly revolutionary in the scientific sense of the word. They are gaining in consciousness of their class interest, and learning, slowly it is true, how fundamental is the truth that for their emancipation they must rely upon themselves alone.

This, indeed, is one of the great lessons of the Commune of Paris, and its annual celebration helps to bring vividly home to the Socialist worker the deep meaning of the class struggle and the ruthlessness of the master class when its interests are threatened. It is by no means the only valuable lesson afforded by that historic tragedy, but it is one that will repay a moment’s attention. On the heads of the Communards mountains of calumny have been heaped. The hireling literature of the bourgeoisie has attempted to bury the Commune under falsehoods, suppression of facts, and misrepresentation. The capitalist squint is manifest all through, and the workers are assiduously trained by preceptors in the hire of the masters to look at all things with their masters’ squint. That which is just and legitimate when done by the master class in defence of their interests is the blackest of crime when done by the workers in defence of theirs. That which is heroism and gallant conduct on the part of the capitalist class becomes murder and abominable misdeeds when resorted to by the workers in their own defence. Therefore, while so many of our fellows are taught to look upon the Communards as the worst of criminals, it is our duty to vindicate the memory of those brave men.

The history of the Commune, as recounted by many bourgeois historians, presents a glaring example of that falsification of history of which the capitalist class is guilty; of the shameless slandering of heroic workers, in spite of existing trustworthy documents and evidence, and of the reliable histories which have been written. There is no need to repeat the story, to refute one by one the lies of prostitute historians—Lissagaray and others have done that —but it is worth while emphasising here the fact of the class calumny. Thus a writer in the Times “Historian’s History of the World” recklessly accuses the Commune of having committed monstrous crimes, and goes on to say, “For more than two months the Commune ruled supreme over one of the greatest capitals of the world, and to this day the collectivists, the anarchists, the unruly, and the lawless of every country on the globe celebrate that brief triumph as the most splendid manifestation of the power of the people that the world has ever seen.” And against the fact that while supreme the Commune ruled well and peacefully, and kept Paris remarkably free from disorder or crime, this person, Rambaud by name, says, “In reality a few audacious men, both within and without the committee, such as Rossel, Flourens, the ‘generals’ Duval and Bergeret, Raoul Rigault and Delescluze, arrogated to themselves the greater part of the power and abused it shamefully . . . So long as the Commune lasted the conditions under which men governed, tyrannised, fought, killed, and themselves found death were those of pure anarchy." Such specimens of class misrepresentation are by no means rare in this “history,” yet in spite of class bias, they are compelled to admit in speaking of the “ re-conquest ” of Paris after the Commune, that “From the beginning it was evident that the conquerors would lie implacable. Hardly had the army entered the city than the executions began. . . At the barracks people were shot down by the dozen. Whole districts were depopulated by flight, arrests, and executions. . . Meanwhile long processions of prisoners (forty thousand had been taken) were journeying with parched throats, blistered feet, and fettered hands along the mad from Paris to Versailles, and as they passed through the boulevards of Louis XIV.’s town, they were greeted with yells and sometimes with blows. They were crowded hastily into improvised prisons, one of which was merely a large court-yard where thousands of poor wretches lived for weeks with no lodging but the muddy ground, . . and whence they were dispatched with a bullet in the head when desperation led them to rebel. . . The punishment inflicted on the insurgents was so ruthless that it seemed to be a counter- manifestation of French hatred for Frenchmen in civic disturbance rather than a judicial penalty applied to a heinous offence. The number of Parisians killed by French soldiers in the last week in May 1871 was probably twenty thousand, though the partisans of the Commune declared that thirty-six thousand men and women were shot in the streets, or after summary court-martial.”

It is a bourgeois refinement to represent the capitalist hatred of the workers as “French hatred for Frenchmen in civic disturbance.” No struggle is so bitter as the class struggle, for on their supremacy in this depends the capitalists’ power, wealth, influence, indeed, everything that springs from their ability to exploit the workers; and they will in this struggle go to lengths of savageness which make ordinary warfare pale its ineffectual fires. After the Commune slaughter gave place to wholesale deportation to New Caledonia only when the heaps of dead threatened the conquerors with pestilence. Such was the punishment of the Commune for its “crimes,” of which the greatest was its weak sentimentalism and mistaken moderation in face of the tiger that was attacking it.

The Commune is by no means the only example of the vindictive ruthlessness of the ruling class and the folly of washy sentiment on the part of the workers, but it is nearer to us because it illustrates clearly that the working class in revolt within the capitalist system almost instinctively turn towards industrial democracy. Of the bitterness of class struggles, and their ruthless prosecution by ruling classes, history abounds in examples, from the massacre of the soldier-helots of Sparta to the street slaughters of our own times. And in every social revolt calumny has been the accompaniment of the massacre of those who revolted. The peasants in Germany, driven to revolt by misery and ill-treatment, were accused of every known crime, yet the “Cambridge Modern History” tells us that “The worst of their deeds was the ‘massacre of Weinsberg,’ . . (1534) for which the ruffian Jacklein Rohrbach was mainly responsible. In an attempt to join hands with the Swabian peasants, a contingent of the Franconian army commanded by Metzler attacked Weinsburg, a town not far from Heilbronn held by Count Ludwig von Helfenstein. Helfenstein had distinguished himself by his defence of Stuttgart against Duke Ulrich of W├╝rttemberg, and by his rigorous measures against such rebels as fell into his power. When a handful of peasants appeared before Weinsberg and demanded admission the Count made a sortie and cut them all down. This roused their comrades to fury: Weinsberg was stormed by Rohrbach, and no quarter was given until Metzler arrived and stopped the slaughter. He granted Rohrbach, however, custody of the prisoners, consisting of Helfenstein and seventeen other knights; and against Metzler's orders and without his knowledge the Count and his fellow prisoners were made to run the gauntlet of the peasants' daggers before the eyes of the Countess.” The author further adds “These bloody reprisals were not typical of the revolt.” On the other hand we are told in the same chapter that “the suppression of the movement was marked by appalling atrocities . . the Bavarian chancellor reports that Duke Anthony of Lorraine alone had already destroyed twenty thousand peasants in Elsass; and for the whole of Germany a moderate estimate puts the number of victims at a hundred thousand. The only consideration that restrained the victors appears to have been the fear that, unless they held their hand, they would have no one left to render them service. ‘If all the peasants are killed,’ wrote Margrave George to his brother Casimir, 'where shall we get other peasants to make provision for us ?’ Casimir stood in need of exhortation ; at Kutzingen, near Wurzburg, he put out the eyes of fifty-nine townsfolk, and forebade the rest to offer them medical or other assistance.” The writer justly adds “When the massacre of eighteen knights at Weinsberg is adduced as proof that the peasants were savages, one may well ask what stage of civilisation had been reached by German princes.”

The peasants’ revolt in England is another case in point. The poll tax and the attempt to re-enforce feudal services roused revolt all over England. The men of Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire, though they attacked the houses of the more obnoxious nobles, and ransacked the prisons, did not plunder or steal, but simply asked for their freedom. This Richard II. promised, and set thirty clerks to write out charters, upon receipt of which the peasants began to disperse. The next day Wat Tyler, their leader, was murdered by the Mayor of London; and when the peasants had returned home their charters were annulled and the King marched through Essex and Kent at the head of a large army and put hundreds of peasants to death.

Another instance was Kett’s rebellion in the reign of Edward VI. Twenty thousand men defeated the royal troops at Norwich and demanded redress of grievances. Kett proclaimed a rude communism, and admittedly kept perfect order in his camp and consented to no violence. His humanity, however, cost him dearly. The Earl of Warwick at the head of an army of foreign mercenaries defeated the peasants, and then proceeded with a cold-blooded massacre which ceased only because Warwick feared that the “gentlemen would have to be plowmen themselves, and harrow their own lands.”

There is, indeed, no lack of modern instances pointing the same moral and emphasising the fact that the savage crushing of the Commune, far from being an isolated case, is but the expression of the real feeling of the ruling class for those beneath. The worker who in the face of these lessons becomes the dupe of the sentimental humbug and humanitarian professions that cloak capitalist interests, is guilty of treachery to his fellows. The lesson most be taken to heart that on his own class alone can the worker rely, for the capitalist must ever remain the bitterest enemy of the working-class movement; and bourgeois honour, justice and humanity are but empty words to lure the worker astray. In all war sentiment is weakness, and nowhere more so than in the class war, and for the workers to be the dupes of bourgeois sentiment in the inevitable struggle with the capitalist interest, is to place themselves entirely at the mercy of the enemy.

It is not, perhaps, pleasant to find things so. It would doubtless be more agreeable if the tiger would peaceably lie down with the lamb, and fools may abuse us for pointing out that this cannot be. Well, let those who nurse such illusions ignore the facts if they will — the facts will not ignore them, and will find them unprepared. Let those who will not face reality soothe themselves with falsehood—though they shut their eyes the truth remains. The very harshness of reality makes him worthy the name of man but the more determined that it shall alter, and he finds that he must know rightly the nature of the society about him before he can take any effective step toward the change on which so much human well-being depends Moreover, in emphasising a harsh truth—a truth to which so many wilfully blind themselves we are but doing our bare duty by our fellows, for it is on the knowledge of things such as these that the speedy emancipation of humanity from slavery and the possibility of real human brotherhood depends; and that, indeed, is one of our reasons for commemorating the Paris Commune of '71.
F. C. Watts