E. Belfort Bax

The True Inwardness of the Peace Crusade

(11 February 1899)

The True Inwardness of the Peace Crusade, Justice, 11th February 1899, p.4.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In the special May Day number of Justice for 1897 the present writer hinted at the possibility of Capitalism itself, even during the period of its supremacy, finding it convenient to get rid of “war.” This tentative forecast seems by way of being confirmed by subsequent events.

It cannot be denied that an extreme unwillingness to engage one another in war has been manifested among the members of the civilised family of nations for well nigh a generation past. Diplomatic hitches and grave situations which in the earlier half of the century and even later would have infallibly led to hostilities, have blown over after the necessary amount of bluster and friction. The very conditions of modern warfare on a big scale as it would be carried on between great powers are such as to render the actual resort to war next to impossible. The stakes to be placed on the table are too heavy, and the gains in the most favourable event too problematical.

Meanwhile, to use the current phrase, the “blood and sinews,” of the European continent are being absorbed in preparation for a war which, with every, year that passes, seems less likely to come, instead of being employed in creating wealth in general and profit for the capitalist class in particular. Hence the pull the Anglo-Saxon race still has over the rest of civilised mankind, notwithstanding the loss of one monopoly after another as regards manufactures. Great Britain and the United States are spared the war-drain of the European continent, and hence the Anglo-Saxon nations remain the dominant powers of the capitalist world.

Now the Czar’s circular marks time in the development of latter day capitalism as regards war. As pointed out in the article before referred to as a probable contingency, the influential section of the capitalist classes of Europe have for some months past, if not for longer, come to the conclusion that the principle of cut-throat competition among the capitalist nations does not any longer pay, and will have to be succeeded by the trust system of “pooling the swag” in one form or another. The idea probably first of all gained ground on the return of Stanley from Central Africa some ten years ago. All modern international disputes relate directly or indirectly to the possession of markets and to colonial expansion generally. They are disputes, in short, about commercial monopolies and the profits of trade. Surely, therefore, here, if anywhere, there is a case for amalgamation when the contrary means crushing and yearly increasing burdens! So thinks the astute capitalist.

The Czar and some at least of his advisers have been shrewd enough to detect the trend of public opinion among an influential section of the governing classes throughout the civilised world. Seeing, in addition, that Russia, with all her resources, great as they are, is financially draining herself dry to keep pace with the military improvements of the other Powers, and has, perhaps, more to gain by a guaranteed peace, or even by a cessation of armaments, than any of them, in. view of the untold wealth of her huge territories waiting to be opened up – seeing all this, we must agree, I think, that it was not a bad move from the Russian point of view to sound international public opinion on the question. Were the conference a success, however trifling, there would be both material and moral gain. Were the conference a failure, or were the reception of the rescript so generally adverse that no conference took place at all, though there might be no material gain, there would still be the moral gain of a reputation for philanthropy which might come in useful in the future. So, whichever way it turned out, the venture was perfectly sound from the standpoint of policy. We are not prepared to say that the public opinion of the governing classes is at present ripe for the step proposed, but anyway the present Czar-made agitation will probably encourage its growth, even though no immediately tangible result should ensue. This is a question, however, which the next few months will decide.

The adhesion of Mr. Cecil Rhodes with the justification for the step alleged to have been given by that latest votary of peace, ought, one would think, to open the eyes of those who see only idealistic enthusiasm in the present agitation. Mr. Cecil Rhodes frankly admits that he wants the millions now spent in military and naval preparations to be diverted to the construction of railways in Africa for the tapping of new markets and the exploitation of fresh “nigger” populations – to other words, for our old friend, the “spread of civilisation!” Doubtless other far-seeing capitalists, not merely English, but German, French, and Russian, as well, think similarly.

The fact is the existence of war as a means of settling disputes between the nations representing modern civilisation has become not merely an anachronism but a positive obstacle in the path of further capitalist development. The main outstanding causes of international dispute between the capitalist classes of different states are causes which all relate to the parcelling out of those portions of the earth’s surface, which have, as yet, not come under the complete dominion of modern economic conditions among these states. Now such matters can be settled in a much cheaper way, and with infinitely greater advantage to industrial, commercial, and financial interests by an amicable arrangement, as already said, for “pooling the swag,” and then dividing it into fair proportions on the principle of mutual concession than by the obstinate attempt of the capitalist classes of each nationality to secure the lion’s share of what remains for themselves to the detriment of their colleagues elsewhere. Besides, there is no time to be lost in the process of “opening-up” if bourgeois civilisation is to be saved for a season longer. And then, again, are not the interests of Capitalism the same all the world over, and do they not imperatively demand solidarity among the representatives of those interests against the proletarians of all nations who are uniting themselves? The above considerations I would venture to suggest as constituting the “true inwardness” of the Czar-Stead crusade.


E. Belfort Bax


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