E. Belfort Bax

Labour Day and Imperialism

(4 May 1907)

Labour Day and Imperialism, Justice, 4th May 1907, p.5.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

When, seventeen years ago, the first celebration of the Spring festival of the olden form took place in its new form as a day of protest of the modern proletariat against the existing order of society – economical, political and ethical – it was decided to emphasize especially the international and anti-militarist aspect of the modern Socialist movement on that day.

Since the first Labour Day, seventeen years ago, the international and anti-militarist movement has made vast progress among the class-conscious proletarians of the continent, and in the Latin nations especially, has given rise to a veritable anti-patriotic zeal which some of our friends are inclined to regard as excessive.

Be this as it may, the significance of such a movement as that of Gustave Hervé within the French Socialist Party, is not to be gainsaid.

It cannot be too often insisted upon, by every Socialist agitator, alike on the platform and in the press, that all war in modern times ultimately rests on the necessity of the enemy, capitalism, to maintain its supremacy by extending the area of its operations. The ultimate object in all cases is to enable the capitalist to exploit fresh territory and new populations – industrially and commercially. It should be the constant aim of all our propagandists to hunt out and expose the plausible but fallacious explanations, by which bourgeois speakers and writers attempt to cover up this fact. For example, it is commonly given as an explanation and justification of the modern Colonial policy of expansion, that such is a necessary result of the growing pressure of population in the older countries of modern civilisation. An obvious disproof of this lies in the fact that States with a stationary or even a declining population, such as France, or thinly peopled in proportion to their territories – such as Russia or the United States, are not less eager in the race for colonial expansion than States where the population is denser, such as Great Britain or Germany. It is the continuous pressure of capitalism, not of natural or national necessity, which loads to colonialism with its wars and its war-paint called patriotism.

At present there exist four fragments of the civilisation of the earlier would which especially excite the cupidity of capitalism, and the existence of which, as hitherto, stands in the way of that rapid and sweeping advance which is essential to the continuance of its life. These countries are China, Persia, Turkey and Morocco. It is on these lands, therefore, that the capitalist harpies of the various States of modern civilisation are especially preparing to fix their claws. And hence it is in this direction that we may look for the more immediate menace to the Peace of the world.

As regards this country, is it too much to hope that the organised working classes have already acquired a sufficient hatred of jingoism in all its forms – already feel strongly enough, by instinct even if they do not think by reasoned conviction, that the sentiment of patriotism in its modern application is an invention of the enemy to bulldoze them – as to render the repulsive scenes of 1900 for ever again impossible? We do not know, but we will hope so.


E. Belfort Bax


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