Tom Quelch

War or Peace?

Source: The Call, February 5, 1920, No. 200
Transcription/HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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.


Is it to be war or peace?

In Russia the genius of the Bolsheviks has raised the mass—has lifted the town proletariat and the millions of poor peasants from out of the black depths in which they existed under the Tsarist regimé.

Under the old order these millions lived their mean and wretched lives; robbed by a corrupt aristocracy, a corrupt bureaucracy, and a growing native and alien capitalism, terrorised by a noxious police system, in their ignorance and simplicity accepting the vile superstitions of a vile priesthood.

To-day these millions have absorbed—or are rapidly absorbing—the principles of Communism. New conceptions of life have opened before them. New beliefs are driving out the old obscurantism. New and nobler ideals have effected a wonderful moral and intellectual transformation.

It has been said that the soldiers of the Red Army fight with the fervour of fanatics. Certainly they have performed marvellous feats, comparable only to the wonders achieved by the revolutionary armies of France, inspired by the noble conception of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity,” during the French Revolution.

In considering the achievements of the Red Army, it must always be borne in mind that the old Russian Army broke from sheer excess of demoralisation, suffering, hunger and misery; that millions had been killed and wounded in the capitalist-imperialist war—in 1916 it was reported that in Moscow alone there were three-quarters of a million wounded—and that only a tremendously powerful moral impulse could have brought order out of the weltering chaos.

Russia, to-day, is the one country in all the world that presents a united people. The few hundred mangy parasites who skirmish around her borders only possess a power for mischief in accordance with their ability to secure foreign aid. There is no class war in Russia. Society is not rent with the irreconcilable antagonism of the toiling masses and a parasite ruling class. The Russian people all have a definite economic stake in their country; all possess citizenship, all have very much to lose and very much to fight for. The Red Army unlike the armies of Western capitalism, is not recruited by cajoleries and lies, by a spurious newspaper patriotism, and by petty deceiving. The Red Army is consciously defending the conquests of the revolution.

It is said that war is more than anything else a contest of wills. It is those armies most possessed of the will to win, the will to conquer, the strongest fixed determination, that vanquish their enemies. As with armies so with nations. And to-day history presents us, for the first time, with a people with one will, with a people of one mind, with a people really united in purpose. That stupendous fact will, sooner or later, soak into the mentality of the rulers of the capitalist world.

Russia represents one concentrated will. It is winning everywhere, in every way. The keenest minds in the world are rendering enthusiastic, devoted service. The intellectuals in every department of science, art and literature are not only being won over to Bolshevism, but are quick and eager to give of their best to the Socialist Republic.

To the old capitalist world Russia, with its Socialist purpose, its new thought, its international proletarian urge, its vital élan, is like a blazing volcano, full of combustible material, seething with a lava that, at the present, is only just percolating into the countries of capitalism.


Opposed to the Russian Socialist Republic are the capitalist minorities of Britain, France, America and the lesser powers who belong to the League, of Nations.

These capitalist minorities possess enormous power—illimitable wealth, tremendous resources, vast armaments.

But the power they wield is rendered nugatory—or partially so—by the fact that in each of the countries subject to their domination—the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie—the working class are, more or less consciously, waging a determined class war.

In this country, in France, in Italy, and in the United States this class struggle is rendering abortive the capitalist war on Bolshevism, or, as we prefer to call it—Communism.

Not only are the workers war-tired, reluctant again to become cannon-fodder, sick of senseless slaughter, but a growing consciousness of the identity of their interests with those of the Russian Socialist Republic is evident amongst them.

Not only are the workers of Western Europe compelling their rulers to forego the mobilisation of forces to attack Russia—just imagine how the workers here would welcome the calling up of the Z reserve!—but they are slowly wresting the initiative from their enemies in the class struggle.


It is war.

Only it is a new war—a war which will assume many forms in the various countries—strikes, industrial unrest, electoral contests, civil war, military operations—a world-wide war for Communism.

The fact that the capitalist countries will soon be officially compelled to make peace with Russia—though always by underground and devious ways will the capitalists make war upon her—spells the doom of capitalism.

No longer can the Churchills and Clemenceaus make military war—presently they will realise that they cannot make peace. It no longer, rests with them. The initiative is no longer in their hands. They no longer decide.

It is now not so much a question of the capitalist League of Nations waging war on Russia, as of Russia allied with the proletarian hosts of all countries waging war on the cynical and brutal capitalists.

Bolshevism spreads. Everywhere the workers are massing under the banners of the Third International. Everywhere the organised proletarian parties orientate towards the Left.

Certainly it is war. The class war. The war to end wage-slavery, to end capitalism with its evils of misery and degradation, prostitution and crime. The war to end war.

And until that war is ended we do not want peace—because such peace will be the peace of the beggar and the slave.