Jack Fitzgerald

War and Why
(The Cause and the Remedy)

Source: Socialist Standard, July 1912.
Transcription: Socialist Party of Great Britain
HTML Markup: Michael Schauerte
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

“But what they killed each other for I could not quite make out” says Jasper in one of our school poems.

And some leading lights of the capitalist class have lately been investigating a similar problem by enquiring—or pretending to enquire—into the ill-feeling existing between England and Germany. In considering the “forces that make for Peace” Lord Weardale quotes from Mr. Norman Angell that “it is perhaps necessary to divert ourselves from those broad ethical principles which the champions of international peace have hitherto used, perhaps too specifically, as their main line of argument, and insist with greater emphasis on the economic considerations.” (Manchester Guardian, 10.6 12.)

Those “broad ethical principles,” however, seem to have been having a rather bad time of it. For instance, in the same journal for May 30th appears the following:

It seems that Lord Haldane, a few weeks ago, approached the Rural Dean of Willesden with the request that he would ascertain what would be the opinion of his Rurideconal Chapter of an offer to appoint a Church of England chaplain, with certain pay and allowances, in return for each hundred men whom the Church could persuade to enlist. Apparently the offer was well received by the clergy, and the condensed report that I saw of the discussion does not reveal a single dissentient.

Surely the great regard for “economic considerations” shown here by the followers of the “Prince of Peace” should satisfy even Mr. Angell.

But the latter says that wars do not pay; that not even the winner gains by the fight! Against this Mr. T. Lough, M.P., says when describing the animosities between England and Germany:

A further factor was soon added, in the shape of the interests of the capitalists engaged in the construction of warships and war material. Supported by immense financial resources, this particular branch of industry has taken to inciting international feelings of mistrust and hatred.

Should international peace be established their orders would fall off and their dividends would disappear.

The Internationalism of Capital

Mr. Lough, as a wealthy capitalist, should be a better authority than Mr. Angell as to what “pays” and when. A more general statement is made by Sir Alfred Mond in this discussion:

In all countries the great world of commerce knows no national bounds and tolerates no interference with its labour by such limitations.

Exactly. White men or black, Chinee or Britisher, all are fish for the capitalist net, and as the wealthy Liberal says, “no interference” is tolerated that hampers the robbery of the workers, wherever they may happen to have been born.

“The relations between the captains of industry of all countries,” continues Mr. Mond, “are getting more friendly every day, and exhibit a growing mutual respect and inclination to cooperate on a labour-saving basis.” (Manchester Guardian, 10.6.12.) An awkward admission, this, for the stupid Anarchist who argues against the concentration of capital, and the revisionist of the I.L.P. and Fabian type, who tries to maintain that Marx’s analysis was in error.

Even more specific was Professor Ludwig Stein, who says we are to prepare “by means of a detente between England and Germany, an understanding between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente which would allow us Europeans to act as allies in the work of partition of our planet in the Far East, instead of destroying each other as enemies. There are at present such great things at stake that our little jealousies and political feuds must sink to a quantite negligeable in face of the necessity to assert and secure the Imperialism of our civilisation, the world dominion of our system of culture.”

Whose is “our civilisation,” “our system of culture”? Not the working-class’s for the spokesmen are all representatives of the employers—the capitalist class.

Tankee You for Noting

And what a “civilisation” and “culture” is their’s! One where-in growing misery and insecurity of life for the working class accompanies increasing powers to produce wealth, increasing wealth produced. Paralysing paradox where one sees misery in the midst of plenty and want where wealth abounds. And this is to be extended to the Far East, for the workers there to enjoy. Should they resist then the “great world of commerce” will tolerate no “such limitations/' but will batter down that resistance with the 13.5’s, the machine guns, and the magazine rifles.

Ignoramuses like Mr. Norman Angell will talk about putting aside “broad ethical principles”—as though they had ever been really concerned with these—and insisting upon “economic considerations” as though they had ever been absent or were not the fundamental cause of all modern wars.

To serve the economic interests of capitalism the war drum will be sounded by the “atheistic” Blatchford and the “religious” rural dean, while the capitalist class control power. The forces of war will be used to crush less—capitalistically—developed nations, or, if necessary, to wipe them out of existence.

But, after all, this is but the secondary use of the fighting forces. “The great world of commerce” will not only not “tolerate” any limitation by nationality; it will not tolerate any limitation by members of the same nation. Inside every nation is a far more important division than that separating nation from nation.

The Class Line

The division between the wealth producers—the working class—and the wealth-owners—the capitalist class, is one concerning the very means of life themselves. True, the working class have failed to understand this yet. But their strikes and struggles over the question of living tends to show them more clearly every day how they are dominated in society.

In the Transport Workers’ Strike Committee’s first manifesto protest was made against the use of soldiers and policemen to accommodate the employers. The Daily News for June 15th states that two hundred seamen and firemen belonging to the French Navy were going to man the Atlantic liner “Provence” in place of the men on strike. Sir George White used the military to unship coal at Gibraltar when the men went out on strike shortly after the South African War.

This is the fact that explains the utter farce and failure of all the “Peace Conferences” and “Disarmament” movements. The real and primary use of the war forces is to keep the workers a slave class to the employers, to drive strikers back to work, to shoot them down when sacred “property” is in danger, and even to run the services should the capitalists decide it to be necessary.

This force is placed under the control of the capitalist class by the working class voting them into possession of political power. The very men on strike to-day in the docks cheer the local capitalist representative, Sir John Bethell, although he is a member of the party in power.

They are backed up in this suicidal stupidity by their “leaders” and the parties they belong to. Tillett and the B.S.P., Gosling and the Labour Party, all act as powerful allies of the capitalist class by encouraging and advising their poor dupes to place political power, with all its accompanying command of the forces of repression and blacklegism, in the hands of the masters.

What must be Done

The Socialist on the other hand, points out and explains the war existing in society—the class war—wherever capitalism has taken root; he shows how the workers place this terrible power in the grasp of their most bitter and pitiless enemies, and draws the only conclusion open to intelligent men—that is that the workers must conquer political power for themselves, and so wrench from their oppressors once and forever that weapon which is turned against them, no matter whether Liberals or Tories are in power, whenever they seek to obtain better conditions. Only then be will the cause of wars—class and market—be abolished. Only then will the worker enjoy what he produces, and have comfort, luxury and happiness at his service.