Mary E. Marcy

Killed Without Warning

(March 1917)

From International Socialist Review, Vol. 17. No. 9, March 1917.
Transcribed by Matthew Siegfried.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

TODAY several hundred American newspapers and several million newspaper-reading sheep are raising their voices in hypocritical horror, in virtuous fury because the imperial German government has notified these United States that she has inaugurated a campaign of unrestricted submarine activity and destruction, in which she will seek to sink all vessels plying the seas in a prescribed war zone.

And we are not concerned personally with the causes of this German declaration. We workers own no ships nor stock in shipping companies; we own no cargoes and we have no money with which to travel about luxuriously from one European country to another. What we are interested in is whether or not the American working class shall lay down its tools and take up arms and go to war over the matter. What we want to know is whether it is worth our while to load our young men upon ships and rush them to France to help slay the Germans or to meet death in an ice-watery grave in mid-ocean.

We are not admirers of the German government. We hold no brief for the power-mad Kaiser ox the Prussian military caste. We believe the German government is the best capitalist government on earth today because it is most efficient, most brutal, most skilled in turning workingmen into brainless, spineless cannon fodder. But from the viewpoint of the class conscious workers, the German government is the worst government in the world because it is able to suppress almost all spirit of working class revolt. It has so thoroly disciplined and molded its workers into thoughtless, automatic slaves that one would as soon expect to find a heart in the breast of a Rockefeller as a spirit of rebellion among the German laboring classes.

But bear this in mind: the German government is the envy of every large capitalist in the world today; it is the ideal toward which all other capitalist governments are laboring, are bending all their energies. The capitalist classes of all other nations recognize in Germany a menace and a competitor in world trade and in world finance. Apparently Germany has also solved the problem of keeping her workers cowed and submissive, therefore the German military system must be duplicated at home if the capitalists of other nations are to win in the struggle for new foreign spheres of interest and hold those spheres they already possess. And the only way the capitalists of other nations can defeat the German ruling class is by adopting. the German system and beating the German capitalist class at its own game.

During the past two years the largest newspapers in this country have carried on a systematic campaign for the greatest navy in the world, for an enormous army and universal military training. But the working class of America refused to be hoodwinked into submitting to this yoke and in spite of all the papers could accomplish the preparedness campaign fell flat.

But the capitalist class can put over almost anything when the country is at war! During the excitement, and stimulated, perhaps, by lies of barbarities, manufactured in newspaper offices, the government can force universal military service down our throats and lay the foundation of an obvious Imperialistic rule in which so-called democracy will yield to the mailed fist.

The American workers must be aroused on these points; they must be shown just what is proposed and what is about to happen. They must not be permitted to blindly put their heads into the noose. They must refuse to bear this intolerable burden that has brought about the reign of blood and terror in Europe. They must give the American capitalist class a warning in unmistakable terms that they will not fight the battles of capitalism for profits; that they will not go to war except to fight in the interests of the workers of the world.

All power lies in the hands of the working class. There can be no wars, no navy, no army, no munitions, or guns, no transportation or provender without the labor of the working class. The socialists and syndicalists in Europe had no program for fighting and opposing war when war was thrust upon them by their respective governments. They had been either too blind or too weak to organize a force to prevent war, or, perhaps the men and women who actually understood the trend of Imperialism (the last and strongest form of capitalism) were too few in numbers to accomplish anything.

But the American workers can walk out of the mines, leave their engines, lay down their tools, put their hands m their pockets and go home, and thus declare beyond any shadow of a doubt that they will not make war on any nation for the benefit of the profit-taking class of America!

Coal and iron would cease going to mills and factories; wheels would stop revolving; where would there be found crews to run the trains, or coal to give them power?

Declare it from the housetops, you workers of America, that at the threat of war, you will put your hands in your pockets and go home and stop the wheels of all industry, until all danger of universal military service being made into a law is passed, until the thought of war is impossible.

Of course, we know that it is “uncivilized,” unchristian, inhuman and altogether devilish for one government to declare that it will destroy the lives of non-combatants at sea and send them to a horrible death.

But we workers remained calm when the Rockefeller hired murderers turned machine guns upon the poor homes of the Colorado miners, without warning, and killed sleeping men, women and children.

The paid makers-of-public-opinion wail that Germany has insulted the flag, as though that flag had always represented peace and human liberty. But we can recall that the old Red, White and Blue floated over the bull-pens in Colorado when striking miners were herded together and illegally kidnapped and murdered at the will of the Colorado mine owners. It was in the name of law and order, and as the elected representatives of all the flag stands for, that two cowardly governors of West Virginia sent steel armored automobiles and machine guns against the striking miners, killing scores and scores of workingmen without warning. And we workers did not go to war about that, nor talk about going to war.

Because they are too profit-mad to put in safety devices, tens of thousands of railroad men are killed on their jobs annually without warning in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave,” and nobody ever heard a capitalist wanting to go to war over it. They don’t even go to jail for it. No paid editorial disease even thought about demanding preparedness to prevent the needless deaths of these workers.

Here in Chicago over a thousand young men and women went to their deaths in a boat at the Chicago docks, two years ago, without warning because the shipping company systematically overloaded a dangerous bottom for a few paltry dollars. And four or five years ago several hundred miners lost their lives without warning in the Cherry mine disaster because the mine operators would not spend the money to make the mines safe.

And we workers just go out and gather up our dead and go back to our jobs – and don’t go to war over it, or think of going to war over it.

The imperial German government has warned these United States that the leisure-class American public which seeks to cross the Atlantic will be blown to a sudden death by German submarines, and many American workingmen have signified their desire to go over and lick the Germans for it.

But have they so soon forgotten the authorities of Everett, Washington, who, without any warning, on November 5th, lined up on the docks and killed five unarmed workingmen and wounded thirty-one more by firing into a group of members of the I.W.W. who were going into Everett in the steamer Verona, entirely within their legal rights, to establish the right of free speech and organization, supposed to be the heritage of every “sovereign American citizen.”

Scarcely a week passes that somewhere in this broad land the capitalist class does not murder workingmen and women by their refusal to spend a few dollars from their dividends for safety devices, or when the servants of this class do not shoot down without warning, workers who are trying to secure a little more of their own products.

The Washington Lumber Trust killed American workers without warning; the German imperial government warns us that it means to kill a few members of the parasitical, travel-indulging, American exploiting class; to destroy a few cargoes owned by this non-producing, product-grabbing class.

The Washington slaughter, the Eastland drownings, the four hundred Cherry mine murders, the Hancock, West Virginia, Colorado, Bayonne, Lawrence, Patterson killings, were, are – our fight, the fight of the working class; the German murders-to-be are the affair of America’s capitalist class, the one deadly, ever-present enemy of the American working class.

We are not pacifists. We believe in war, but war upon the enemy of our own class – Capitalism!

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Last updated on 27 January 2023