McManus 1916

What Conscription Really Means

Source: page 3 The Worker no.4 1916;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

At the time of writing the workers are faced with what looks to be one of the most severe tests they have yet encountered. The Compulsory Bill has passed the second reading, and everything points to its being rushed on to the Statute.

This despite the indications of opposition by the Labour movement. Reliance is being placed on public (?) opinion to coerce the Labour leaders into falling into line with the Bill, and so prevent a rupture. It seems to be overlooked that the workers, in manifesting trouble in spite of all the threats and blustering of the Government, besides flying in the face of all the repressive legislation, are not likely to cease opposition because their leaders lose heart and desert them. It rather intensifies the situation, because the fight then is concentrated in the work shop, and there are workers in every shop and yard in the country who are prepared to face the worst rather than submit to compulsion. They vary in numbers only in the different districts, and concentration on the issue can only result one way, consolidation. In those districts where the workers have hitherto accepted the Munitions Act, etc., it will come as the last straw. As for the other districts, So. Wales, the Clyde, the Tyne, etc., it is for the workers there to once more take the lead, and so bring the whole struggle to a head. Not only our lives, but the principles that have been fought for by our forefathers, the liberties that have been won by their blood, and the destiny of our children are all involved in the issue. Our own lives have been hard enough, struggling day in and day out to keep body and soul together, and mean though the results of our efforts have been, how much worse would it have been had we not benefited by those blood-won liberties. Imagine, then, what a future we are preparing for our children if we allow it to go any further. Follow-workers, be ye male or female, think to what it is you are committing your own flesh and blood.

The German capitalist class had certainly a rigid militarism, but it had reached its apex just at the dawn of German capitalism. It had to operate on ancient Feudal institutions, and hence the rising capitalists had often to fall into line with the workers to ensure their own development. This explains the enormity of the Socialist movement there. Hence when the war broke out and capitalist expansion or commercialism was the issue, not militarism, you have the majority of the Socialist movement lining up with Germany. It has been left to a minority to preserve the nucleus of the real movement.

Try, then, and picture what a future it will be, with militarism established as a permanent institution, at the disposal of a capitalist class operating in a country where there are no obstacles of the nature of obsolete institutions to hinder their progress. No obstacles of the nature of obsolete institutions to hinder their progress. No obstacles but the working class movement. If your imagination does not fail you, then there will be no doubt as to your attitude. There should be no doubt as to how far we will go. Already the best part of our lives has been sucked out by sweating and exploitation, only to be confronted with this issue. Let us sincerely dedicate the remainder of our lives to saving our children from a form of slavery more approaching to barbarism than even our own. They may crush us, but they will never crush our principles; rather will they by crushing us intensify the determination of those who come after us to follow on in our steps, undaunted and courageous until the dawn of the great day when

“All shall be better than well.”