Dora B. Montefiore

from the Workers’ Point of View

Date: February 1913
Publisher: Workers’ Anti-Militarist Committee, 9 Manette St, Charing Cross Road, London
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
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.

[(3,109 words) Dated February 1913 after she had broken with Hyndman and did not have the BSP resources to help her produce and circulate this. Very few copies remain of the following important pamphlet, if it is somewhat ultra-left, which is printed in faint type on poor quality paper.—Note by transcriber ERC.)]

From the Workers’ Point of View


[A cartoon here of Lord Roberts talking to Napoleon.—Transcriber’s note]

OUR OWN LORD ROBERTS: Why is it—you found, no difficulty in getting devoted soldiers, while to-day, we . . .?”

“BONY”: “Because, Sir, with me every grenadier in the Grand Army carries a Marshal’s Baton in his haversack—but with you the soldier’s haversack is suspected to contain nothing more inspiring than a Policeman’s Baton!” (With acknowledgments to the Daily Herald).

Published under the auspices of the Workers’ Anti-Militarist Committee
9 Manette St, Charing Cross Road, London

I want in this little pamphlet to make it very clear to the workers why we anti-militarists take up quite a different attitude towards militarism from that of the Peace Societies and other middle class and sectarian organisations. Many sincere and humanitarian folk are opposed to war, but believe that the best way to maintain peace is for each nation to be armed to the teeth, and ready for every attack. Others, who believe in the protestations of such rulers as the Czar of Russia, or of Kaiser Wilhelm, as expressed in the Hague Conference, and similar juggleries of the ruling classes, cling to some form of pacifism, to some small reduction of armaments, or to some so-called humanitarian device, such as the prohibition of the use in war of dum-dum bullets. These people must know full well, if they think out the question at all, that under our present system of capitalism and of intense competition in the industrial field, to make any appreciable difference in the manufacture and output of armaments, uniforms, munition and commissariat provisions of war, would so dislocate the labour market, and would cause such millions of men and women to he thrown out of employment, that the coming social revolution (so dreaded by the privileged classes) would be by many years precipitated.

The workers, on the contrary, oppose militarism, and every form of compulsory service and conscription from the industrial and international standpoint from which it affects the workers all over the world; and the workers, as a class, suffering, as they do at present under the system of wage-slavery, declare that they refuse any longer to bear, children, or to fight and die in the interests of the exploiting class.

The workers now recognise that it is this exploiting class—those who, owning the land, machinery and tools of production, and who only allow: the workers access to these means of life in return for their underpaid labour—who decide when and where wars shall be made.

They further recognise that it is they, the workers, who pay in money, in blood, in suffering, for every war that is waged.

Again, they recognise, when their thoughts turn towards the economic conditions under which they live, that there IS a war being constantly waged between the exploiters of, and parasites on, Labour, on the one hand—striving to keep in their own hands the wealth which the workers, create—and the workers on the other hand, striving (through bitter sufferings and sacrifice) to get for themselves and their children a fairer share of that wealth. This war is known as the Industrial or Class Struggle; and this is the only war in which the worker, who has nothing but his labour power of brain and hand to sell, should engage.

The capitalists and exploiters used to ignore this class struggle, and say it did not exist. Nowadays, they are forced to give, in the columns of their newspapers, some account of it; and they do so under the heading of “Labour Unrest.”

In proportion as Labour becomes more and more “unrestful”—that is, more and more conscious that the capitalist is getting the meat, and, Labour the bone—so the financiers and exploiters throughout the world become more and more anxious to divert the attention of Labour from its own pressing interests, and to persuade it to sacrifice itself, as it has always done in the past, in the interests of its masters. The task for the capitalists and exploiters is unfortunately comparatively easy as they control both the capitalist State, and the education of the workers; and education, which should bring knowledge and light on social and international questions, is the key to the situation.

With this purpose therefore of misleading from their childhood the workers, history is falsified, and is written exclusively from the point of view of the exploiters. The class-rooms, where the children of the workers are educated, instead of being hung with pictures telling of the glorious victories in the past and present of knowledge and of science, are hung with crude pictures of kings charging in battle at the head of their armies, while the workers of one land exterminate the workers of another, land, with whom they had no quarrel. Instead of the children the people being taught how their few precious liberties have been, one by one, wrested with blood and suffering from the privileged classes, they are taught by similar crude pictures how territory has been wrested from one country by the kings and rulers of another country, who have used as pawns in the game of their personal ambitions, the sons and fathers of the “common people.” False values, false standards have been cunningly given to the children of the workers, who have been led to believe from childhood that it is an honour to wear the uniform of a king or queen; whereas, if the worker were really conscious of his dignity—as being the source of all wealth, and therefore of all civilisation, he would spurn the shoddy uniform of the traditional representative if the class which exploits him and keeps him from a place in the sun. That shoddy uniform is made by the sweated labour of the wives and daughters of the workers, and is decorated with the cheap Brummagen brass ornaments and buttons, which mark the soldier out as the man who has sold his conscience, his will and his human dignity to another man, who calls himself king, emperor or ruler.

The worker who has donned this uniform, and who has been marched and countermarched, and drilled and bullied till he moves like an animated automaton, is also required to take an oath of allegiance to the ruler whose uniform he wears; and under the terms of this oath he may be, and constantly is, called upon to shoot down his fellow-workers, or other men and women, who, in times of peace, may be objectionable to the exploiters.

Let the workers remember that Francesco Ferrer, the noble Spaniard who strove for real education for the Spanish workers, was shot down by workers in the uniform of a capitalist State, who had taken the military oath to obey whatever commands their “superior” officers imposed on them.

Let the workers remember that it was workers, dressed in the uniforms of a capitalist State, and obeying the orders imposed on them by their military oath, who shot down working men and women at Peterloo, at Featherstone, at Belfast; and most recently of all, on the Johannesburg Rand, when under the orders of Lord Gladstone, British troops were used to shoot down British miners on strike. Let the workers remember that the Swiss army (which is a so-called “Citizen-Army”) has, according to the Reformers’ Year Book of 1906, “shot down more strikers than any other army.” That Bebel, speaking at the 1904 Amsterdam Congress, said “In Switzerland, in this short summer only, the citizen army has been called out six times against the workers, who were making use of their right to combine and associate—even in many small strikes.”

Let the workers remember that in every country, where the class, or capitalist State is supreme, there the same struggle is going on between the workers on the one hand, and the exploiters (entrenched within the capitalist State) on the other hand. The kings and rulers to whom this military oath is taken, are the figure-heads of these capitalist States; and it was with this class-struggle in his mind that the German Emperor said to his conscripts a few years ago: “I may call upon you to shoot down or bayonet your own relatives—father and mother, sisters and brothers. My orders in that respect must be executed cheerfully and without grumbling. You must do your duty, no matter what your heart’s dictates may be.”

The same class struggle is going on in all our colonies; and in Australia, where the so-called “Labour” Party has been captured by the exploiting class (who out there have invested much capital in lands and in industrial undertakings, which they fear may be resumed and socialised by the workers), the same anxiety is being shown by capitalists to manufacture a false and jingoist patriotism, which will appear to divide the interests of the Australian workers from those of the workers in other parts of the world. The capitalists sent Kitchener on a world tour a few years ago, and at the same time spread through their subsidised Press absurd and ignorant rumours about the danger of a Japanese or of a German invasion of Australia or of New Zealand. The agitation against the Japanese and the Germans was so persistently carried on, and the working men and women of the Australian colonies were so ignorant of the class struggle on which present capitalist society rests, that, although they possess the vote and the right of free speech, they allowed the Defence Acts to be foisted on them, and sold their young sons, from 12 years old upwards, into capitalist military slavery.

The Australian and New Zealand lads have now before them the choice of becoming conscripts or convicts. If they elect to be conscript’s they may have, in obedience to military orders, to shoot down their friends or relatives in times of industrial trouble; or they may be ordered to fight in the quarrels of Great Britain, and to “legally murder continental and other workers, whose industrial interests are allied to the industrial interests of the Australian and New Zealand workers. If the lads refuse this capitalist proposition of compulsory military service, they will be fined, imprisoned, and branded as convicts. Many thousands of lads have already suffered in this way in our colonies, in order to prove their allegiance to the cause of the workers. Over 6,000 lads have been either fined or imprisoned for refusing compulsory drill and service the capitalist army.

Among these lads who have suffered for conscience sake are the two sons of Mr. J. Sellar, who was three years ago a farmer in England, and who then emigrated with his wife and four sons to New Zealand. Needless to say the emigration agents did not tell him about the compulsory military service, which compels every lad over 12 years of age to drill and train to be a soldier. Mr. Sellar’s two sons have been imprisoned in Wanganui jail, because they refused this conscription and the taking of the military oath. And when they chose, rather than be conscripts, to be convicts, they were told by the magistrate who sentenced them that they had better leave the country, for New Zealand did not want young men of their type.

I repeat, the reason these tyrannous and degrading Defence Acts were initiated and passed was, because the capitalists, being first in the field, they desired to protect their property, the land (which they took before they invited the workers to come out), the Banks, the Stores, the Machinery, the Nationalised railways, and other wealth,—not only from the capitalists of other lands, who might be casting covetous glances at them,—but FROM THE WORKERS THEMSELVES, who are beginning to understand that those who make the wealth should own the wealth. As sops to the awakening workers, the capitalists have nationalised the railways, a mine or two here and there, and some brickworks, but the workers are learning by bitter experience that industries and departments (such as the Post Office or the Railways) nationalized under a Capitalist State, are no cure for wage-slavery, because they are still carried on for profit; and nothing but the SOCIALISATION OF THE MEANS OF LIFE under a free Co-operative Commonwealth will abolish the present system, and give the wealth of the world to the workers of the world.

Do not think, you workers of Great Britain, that this training of, and drilling of, the youth of our colonies does not affect you and your sons; but read what Lord Roberts wrote to Colonel Allan Bell, who was one of the officers taking a prominent part in the enlistment and enslavement of the youth of Australasia. “I hope,” wrote Lord Roberts, “your efforts to gain universal training will be ultimately successful; for if you fail there, it will mean we shall not get it here, and, as regards the British Empire, universal training will he put back on the clock of time at least fifty or sixty years.”

I would ask the workers, what have their representatives in the capitalist Parliaments of Australasia or of Great Britain done toward putting back the clock of time for universal training?

Have any Labour Members at Westminster asked questions about the jailing and fining of British subjects, who have been persuaded to emigrate to New Zealand without being told of the militarist trap which awaited them? Where are the forty accredited representatives of Labour in the British Parliament, and what are they doing actively and militantly against militarism?

What is the record of the Commonwealth Labour Party in Australia?

I take the answer from the pamphlet “The Curse of Conscription” written by our comrade, Harry Holland. “One of the principal achievements of ‘Labour as Lawmaker’—that is the Labour Party as Lawmaker—in 1910, almost immediately after its great victory at the polls, was the extension of the tentacles of the military octopus. The term of compulsory service was lifted from two to seven years! The boy of from 12 to 14 was dragged in, and called a Junior Cadet, and was required to drill for 120 hours in a year—nearly three weeks. The boy of from 14 to 18 became a Senior Cadet, and was required to put in four whole day:- 12 half-days, and 24 night drills. Young men from 18 to 25 became members of the Citizen Forces, with a liability of 16 whole days’ drill, eight of which must be in camps of continuous training . The Labour Party’s Defence Act gives the officers power to inflict fines and other penalties on the boys, WITHOUT ANY FORM OF TRIAL WHATEVER.”

I ask the workers, is it worth while their troubling to send to this House of Pretence, either in this country or in the Colonies, “Labour” representatives who thus neglect and flout the interests of the workers and of their children?

Again, the workers are constantly told by their exploiters that military drill is so excellent for the health and stamina of the cadet and growing lad. Let working class mothers and fathers read what has been written on this subject by Dr. Saleeby, in his book, “Parenthood and Race Culture.” “But it is in the barrack yard that the pitiable confusion between the survival value of mind and muscle respectively in man is most ludicrously and disastrously exemplified . Every year hundreds of young soldiers, originally healthy, have their hearts and lungs and other vital organs permanently injured by the imbecile attitude of chest—that of abnormal expansion—which they are required to adopt during hard work.”

We are threatened in Great Britain with compulsory military service; and it is time the workers of Great Britain made up their minds whether they are going to accept or refuse this added capitalist yoke. If they accept it, as they have accepted the Insurance Act, which marks them down as the servile, and therefore State insured, class of this country, then they will put back for many years the moment of their industrial and social freedom. If they refuse it, they will be manifesting a degree of class-consciousness which will more mightily disturb the calculations of their exploiters than any other act of the modern proletariat has hitherto done. And they will further be showing a spirit of solidarity with their fellow workers and comrades throughout the world, which will go far towards removing misunderstandings, and towards destroying out of date and blatant expressions of patriotism.

In the manifesto to the conscript lads of Australia, which was published in the Socialist paper I was editing in Sydney in 1911, I wrote, in the name of the International comrades who were backing the paper: “The army you lads should enlist in is the Industrial Army. The only enemy you have to fight is Capitalism; and the only State of the future under which you working lads will not be robbed of the greater part of the wealth your labour creates, will be the Socialist State. Workers of the world, instead of taking payment from the capitalists to fight each other, should unite to fight the capitalists, and take over for themselves the land, workshops, mines and factories; and should produce the wealth they are creating for their own uses, instead of for the few who now exploit and govern them; and who, in the organizing of this compulsory military service and training, are only preparing an army of legalised murderers to defend their stolen wealth.”

The only scientific way to fight militarism is to fight capitalism. When things are no longer produced for profit, but for the use of those who make them, then there will no longer be any necessity for a capitalist army.

When millions of workers are set free from making munitions and provisions of warfare, then they will be able to turn their attention to building themselves better houses, producing more and better food and clothing for their families, and they will enjoy the leisure, the comfort, the culture and the education which are now the privileges of the exploiters.