E. Belfort Bax

Comrade Hyndman’s War Manifesto

(27 February 1904)

Comrade Hyndman’s War Manifesto, Justice, 27th February 1904, p.6 (letter).
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


The position and prominence of our comrade Hyndman’s manifesto on the war in this week’s Justice, which almost gives it the appearance of an authoritative expression on the part of the organisation as such, is my excuse for troubling you with these few words.

Let us examine our comrade’s statement of the case. His pronouncement, of course, may mean a series of propositions that are unimpeachable, if somewhat trite or it may have a meaning which probably the majority of Social Democrats could not accept. If the former, there is nothing further to be said. If the latter, it behoves us to look at the matter more closely. Hyndman appears to defend the principle of settling international disputes by force of arms. This has been over and over again unanimously condemned by Socialist congresses. What does he mean by its being the duty of a nation “to make war in order to obtain a full outlet for its own economic development”? If this means anything, it looks like an apology for wars to obtain markets for surplus produce, which is not precisely a doctrine commonly held to be consistent with Social Democracy. As to the adjective “oppressing,” I would like to ask whether in this case Russia was oppressing Japan and whether it was not rather a case of Arcades ambo, both the Arcadians wishing to grab the swag of Manchuria or Korea or as much of China as they could get.

Again, our friend Hyndman seems to confuse the issue between two distinct things. He says that “a nation has a right to make war against another nation trying to conquer it.” What are we to understand by this? If it means that an existing nation has a right to defend its own territory against invasion, no one will dispute it (at least as a general principle). But then this surely cannot be correctly termed “making war,” nor does the proposition seem one that needs emphasising in prominent type. The most peace-preaching old Quaker might resist the aggression of a highwayman but we should not quote such action as his as a justification for street-fighting.

Comrade Vaillant has declared that he would prefer revolution in France to a war between France and England, to which Hyndman replies: “But that is war, too; civil war instead of foreign war.” Hyndman proceeds: “Let us clear away confusion,” but surely the confusion is of his own creating. There is no real analogy between an oppressed people fighting against the governing class oppressing it, be it native or foreign, and two governing classes taking up arms against one another, using their subjects as cannon-fodder. I fancy that many readers will regard it as unfortunate that comrade Hyndman should end his manifesto with the epithet “peace-at-any-price men,” a tag that savours unpleasantly of the worst type of jingoism. – Yours,


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 15.6.2004