Publisher: Thomas Bell, Election Agent. 44, Northgate, Halifax.
Printer: Printed by The National Labour Press, Ltd. 30, Blackfriars Street, Manchester
Transcription: Adam Buick
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). 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.
When the mighty armies of Imperialistic Germany smashed through Luxemburg and Belgium in 1914 there reverberated through the world the genuine indignation of the common masses, whose sympathy was attracted by the fate of the small countries. This tragic event was exploited to the full by the Allied Imperialists. But ere many months had elapsed history proved this to be “only the first step towards the solution of the fundamental problem of the Imperialistic war, namely, the suppression of the weak by the strong.” International capital for years had been regulating the international economic life of the peoples. The small nations were becoming increasingly entangled by the great Powers. The war has torn to shreds the old garments, and revealed the fact that State loans, railway concessions, military diplomatic agreements, formed but the prelude to the rude and calamitous methods of war. Lord Robert Cecil has said:
“Diplomacy must concern itself with commercial questions, any attempt to draw a distinction between diplomacy and commercial questions must be fraught with disaster.”
Von Moltke also says in his preface to the “Franco-Prussian War”:
“The Bourse has now acquired an influence which can mobilise the armies for the protection of its interests. Mexico and Egypt were occupied by European armies to secure the payment of debts of high finance.”
Imperialist Russia and Imperialist Britain arranged the destiny of Persia. And as if to show most tangibly the futility of self-preservation for neutral Powers the European war, represented by the armies of Bulgaria, Turkey, France, England, Russia and Italy shifted on to Greek territory. “Military necessity” was the explanation of German Imperialism, “military necessity” was the explanation given by Allied Imperialism. Yet all proclaim they desire the freedom of small nations. But still the British Government sheds its crocodile tears for Belgium, pleads “military necessity” for the invasion of working-class Russia, and sends troops and machine guns to Ireland; hails with satisfaction the breaking away of the Czecho-Slovaks from Austria, and murders Connolly in Ireland.
The freedom of the world’s capitalistic Governments, whether German or British or American, is the freedom of the capitalist to exploit all nations, whether small or large. No other definition of freedom can explain the presence of British troops in working-class Russia, British rule in India and Egypt, and the continued repression of the Irish. As the opponents of all capitalistic governments it is imperative that we should present to the electorate what we mean by “self-determination,” and its relation to economic world developments.
The only democratic way of getting to know the “will” of a people is by the referendum. The “will” of a people, however, cannot be expressed even by a referendum so long as armies of occupation are in their land, nor so long as the capitalist class own the means of life and the mighty press machine to pervert and poison the minds of the masses.
Furthermore, in our considerations of the question of self-determination and national aspirations we must make clear the economic groundwork upon which alone can thrive the diverse cultural and spiritual qualities of the nations.
The economic developments of the world have broken down national barriers, compelled alliances, and crashed them all into the world war.
Britain needs oil from Persia, corn from Russia, highways to the East. France and Germany need iron and coal fields, trade routes, and so on. The attempt to get them and to preserve them within national bounds compelled the setting up of tariff barriers. The one solution is the Federation of the Nations of the World into one economic whole free from tariff barriers and capitalist exploitation. Without the latter condition we should get only a league of capitalists for the fastening down to bondage of the working class of the world. The League of Nations, fathered by President Wilson, half sympathetically supported by the Imperialist groups of the Allies and the Labour Party, is such a League. A League of Nations which is not preceded by a social revolution in all lands can be no other.
All schemes of Home Rule, whether they be for India or Ireland, for Poland or Roumania or Serbia, are schemes for the transfer of capitalistic government from the conqueror to the conquered country. So far as the working class is concerned their self-determination under such conditions remains as far off as ever. Grattan’s Parliament was established in Ireland in 1782, but still the working class of Ireland became not free. England has had her Parliament for centuries, and yet in 1914 there were 12,000,000 people approaching starvation. In 1918 her wounded are despised, the orphans of her dead are in Poor Law institutions, and having won their so-called fight for freedom they are now face to face with the freedom to walk the streets for work and bread. Theobald Wolfe Tone said of Grattan’s Parliament:
“The revolution of 1782 was a revolution which enabled Irishmen to sell at a much higher price their honour, their integrity, and the interests of their country; it was a revolution which, while at one stroke it doubled the value of every borough-monger in the kingdom, left three-fourths of our countrymen slaves, as it found them, and the Government of Ireland in the base and wicked and contemptible hands who had spent their lives in degrading and plundering her; nay, some of whom had given their last vote decidedly, ’though hopelessly, against this our famous Revolution. Who of the veteran enemies of our country lost his place or his pension? Who was called forth to station or office from the ranks of opposition? Not one. The power remained in the hands of our enemies, again to be exerted for our ruin, with this difference: that formerly we had our distresses, our injuries, and our insults gratis at the hands of England; but now we pay very dearly to receive the same with aggravation through the hands of Irishmen. Yet this we boast of and call a Revolution!”
And England’s “Mother of Parliaments” regiments the working class with her “Insurance Acts,” provides for them with her workhouses, deals out her miserable doles to the afflicted, smashes the workers’ press, suppresses the truth, imprisons her pioneer fighters for freedom, sends her armies to fight for the oil wells of Baku and the coal fields of Lorraine.
She holds by military might nations of the East and West. She uses her armies to blackleg strikers, and her machine gun to crush those who would be free indeed.
Written right across every page of human history is the declaration that no people can be free so long as the private ownership of the means of production and distribution endures.
Self-determination under capitalism is therefore an impossibility, and demands for its realisation a preceding social revolution. Such a fundamental change of the internal structure of society liberates the social aspirations of the peoples of the world, shatters the exploiting factions, and rising from the age-long struggles free citizens of the world combine. Thus the League of capitalist groups sinks out of sight, joins the barbaric ages, to which it rightfully belongs, and on the basis of the social ownership and control of the means of life there rises the new order—the self-determining combined in the great Federative Republic of the Workers of the World.