Another preventable tragedy is drawing to a close. The War that has spread death and destruction over a great part of the earth has come to an end in the western countries, and men and women in the fighting forces are anxiously awaiting the signal to go home. Home! Back to the old monotonous life in the office, the shop and the factory, toiling like beasts of burden for the enrichment of those who own the means of production, and with the constant dread of unemployment and penurious old age.
Europe is strewn with cities of the dead, the demented, the hungry and the homeless. Wonderful products of man's age long ingenuity, constructed by the labour of slaves, ancient, mediaeval and modern, have been reduced to shapeless heaps of rubble in a wild orgy of destruction unparalleled in any other period of human history. The unbridled savagery of the uncivilized Vandals and Huns of Antique and Mediaeval times has been surpassed by the calculated savagery of the highly civilized nations of to-day. War is always brutal and when the result of decades of scientific discoveries are centred upon means and methods of carrying on warfare, the brutality and cynical destruction is correspondingly colossal. And even so the last year of the War has shown us that we have only had a taste of things to come if the cause of war is left untouched by the only people who can abolish it—the working class.
The tragic aspect of the last six years is the fact that war solves no working class problem; it even throws up more problems and makes old problems more pressing On the one hand it gives an impetus to methods for reducing the amount of labour required to produce a given amount of wealth, on the other hand it converts thousands of ordinary workers into highly skilled technicians to compete with each other for a relatively reducing number of jobs. Many a trained specialist in different fields of industry will be walking the streets looking for a job in the not far distant future, just as their lesser skilled brethren did a year or two after the last War. And yet it is just the working class that bears the overwhelming burden of War, does nearly all the fighting and makes the principal sacrifices.
We now learn that the new world for which so many were called upon to struggle, and for which so many laid down their lives, is not yet. Food in the world is short, transport is ruined, the destruction of bomb and gun must first be made good before any improvement can be expected. We are exhorted to forgo the alleged fruits of “victory", tighten our belts and produce as voluminously as possible so that industry may get on its feet again.
The glowing promises of the early days of the War have gradually dimmed and in place of them we are urged to think of the starving peoples, of the vanished trade, and of anything else that can fob the workers off demanding the beautiful world of dreams by which they were seduced to the battlefields and the bomb devastated workshops. Not for them the type of dinner given by Mr Eden to a select party of diplomats at San Francisco which, according to the Daily Express (3/5/45) consisted of: Martini cocktails or tomato juice; oysters; sirloin steak; new peas, asparagus, potatoes au gratin; ice-cream ring with chopped fresh strawberries, small cakes, champagne. Yes, we must think of starving Europe, deny ourselves and work, but the exalted emissaries of our masters are permitted to forget—and eat.
In the meantime the capitalists of the different nations are completing their plans to fight each other in an economic war for markets, sources of supply and lines of traffic. Already British and American interests have fallen foul of each other over oil and airlines, shipping and island bases. And the scramble is only beginning.
In spite of the curtain of exalted sentiments behind them the Yalta Conference, the Frisco Conference, and all the other conferences past and future, have only one fundamental object—the enrichment of groups of capitalists out of the labour of the international working class. What we are witnessing now is simply a jockeying for place in this race for enrichment. The capitalists of each nation are asking themselves: “What point of vantage can we get out of the spoils of victory. Hurry or the other fellow will get there first.” Thus among the “United” nations and their friends, the late-comers, there is seething distrust. France tries to hang on to Stuttgart and growls; Yugo-slavia does the same at Trieste; Russia adopts an amenable Polish and Viennese government and the others do the growling; Turkey licks its lips and pounces in for a share; and so on and so forth. Hence another “War to end all wars” with still greater catastrophic results is already in the making, even before the present battlefields have been cleared of their broken human debris.
Working class memories are short and the spokesmen for the capitalists are cunning. The horrors of Buchenwald are trumpeted around the world because it suits the present interests of our masters whilst other misdeeds of capitalist civilization, equal in fiendish cruelty, are overlooked. It was not only Germans who transported hundreds of thousands of negroes in coffin ships from tropical Africa to work as chattel slaves under appalling conditions in the United States; who forced thousands of children of tender age to work in the factory hells of this country and America; who suppressed with ruthless ferocity the French Communards of 1871; who brutally exploited the native populations in every part of the world for personal enrichment. Capitalism drips with blood and tears wherever it raises its ugly head and flaming youth treads the ghastly path to the grave in defence of it. It is not only dictatorships, but capitalism itself that represents the spirit of ruthless unbridled domination.
In these days of “Victory” we remember what capitalism was and is. The relief at the lifting of the war clouds is apt to inspire in many an understandable desire to get back to work and forget, like a bad dream, the horrors they have been through. But the workers must not forget. They must remember, and remembering search for and apply the only remedy for wars and other social ills from which they suffer. The real enemy of the working class is, and always has been, at home. That is the capitalist class of every country and the system of wage-slavery it represents.
The workers must grasp the real meaning of the facts presented to them, and find and apply the only remedy or once again pay the penalty for allowing a privileged class to direct the course of events. They must recognise that they are the producers and distributors of the wealth of the world, but an idle class lives on the results of their toil because the workers allow that class to retain the ownership and control of the means of wealth production although constitutional means are at their disposable to dispossess that class.
Modern wars are not caused by human frailty, but by the greed of capitalists for profit out of the labour of the workers. When the population of the earth owns in common the means of production the product of human labour will be distributed to each according to the needs of each. Then no one will make profit out of another’s labour and the scramble for markets will disappear. This is Socialism, and it is for this alone that Socialists are struggling. When the workers have made up their minds to build a Socialist society, and have set about doing so, war and its causes will disappear from the earth.