Fighting for Peace

S. J. Rutgers

Published: International Socialist Review, vol. 16, no. 7. January 1916. Pages 420-421.
Transcription/Markup: Micah Muer, 2021.

It certainly is very disappointing to read what the socialist press, even in neutral countries, has to say about peace. Most authors advocate some kind of special solution of the problem, although nobody seems to be quite confident in what he says with so much emphasis.

We all want peace, which in itself means nothing, if we cannot give a positive form to this platitude.

What kind of peace? According to your personal taste you are invited to accept one or another of at least twenty peace propositions, and if you choose that of the American Socialist party, together with some of the amendments, proposed in the Socialist press, you will have enough to fill a 10 years' peace conference.

One of the fundamental difficulties with most of the peace programs is in the fact that its fulfilment depends upon the military results of the present war. This forces us to rest some positive or negative hope on national militarism in its modern imperialistic form. Most of us feel pro-ally or pro-German, or at least anti-German or anti-ally, but this, at the same time, breaks our fighting power against imperialism in general. And as imperialism is the present, latest phrase of capitalism, this means the giving up of the very principles of the class struggle. In fact, it is the same policy as that of the belligerent socialists accepting a truce of "Burgfrieden" (civic peace).

Those who advocate some peace program, that is dependent upon the results of the war, should logically allow countries that are in a position worse than this program, to continue fighting, whereas in countries that are victorious beyond the program, labor would have no actual influence on the peace terms, on account of their giving up the principles of the class struggle.

To expect more democracy or even permanent peace as a result of an imperialistic war, seems utterly absurd, imperialism and democracy being like fire and water, and peace among a troop of hungry wolves not very likely. But even if the wolves should pause in fighting among each other, after the war is over, it could only be in a united effort to jump at labor.

Every proposition to make a so-called peace program, or to advocate some special form of peace, has failed and must fail unless you keep to the class struggle, straight and simple. If your program is less complicated, less scientifically dressed, you will find a way out, broad and bright, without theoretical clouds or fogs, but paved with deeds, strong feeling and heavy fighting.

Modern capitalism means imperialism.

National war means imperialistic war.

Class struggle means fighting modern capitalism.

means fighting present imperialism,

means fighting imperialistic wars,

means fighting nationalistic wars, whatever may be the so-called ideal motives. Please keep in mind, that every "national" war under the present conditions is bound to become imperialistic.

Now you may love your country your language, your literature, according to your personal taste, but if you love them more than you hate modern capitalism, or what is the same, imperialism, you simply are no Socialist. And if you happen to be a Socialist, you will fight imperialism, regardless of what will be the national issue. After all, you will find that there is some humor in history, because it will prove that the only way to protect nationality in the more human sense, will be to fight imperialism, and the surest way to destroy nations and national feeling will be to fight for them.

For the period of real national fighting has passed. The modern fighting, in strong alliances together with foreign nations, is fighting to improve strategic positions in the struggle for world power, is fighting to conquer foreign colonies, all of which is not the old national issue, and often means the very opposite of it.

But when we fight imperialism on an international basis, and without compromising with any capitalist party, socialism will be the result, which at the same time means the only possibility for the free development of national feeling.

It really seems too simple, but from a socialist viewpoint there is no other way, and it is a fine way too, if we only have confidence in our own cause.

Those who despair are practically lost.

But when you see before your eyes that capitalism has reached a stage in which it can only exist by wasting and destroying its own products; where it can only maintain the position of its ruling class by brute power and corruption, and still you think that times are not ripe, that you will have to wait some centuries more, well then you are simply a slave in body and mind and you will get all you deserve.

It is up to labor to take its own fate into its own hands.

It is up to labor to start a fight that will not end until we have victory. This will have to be a harsh fight; it will mean defeats as well as victories. It will mean victims and martyrs. But to be killed in a war for imperialism seems worse than being killed in fighting against imperialism. And as even Morgan cannot pay interest when there are no workers, some of you will have to survive even a revolutionary period. Take the best of your chances and take it in your own hands.

This means to stop the "Burgfrieden" and to fight against your own ruling class in all of the belligerent countries; this means an agitation for demobilization in neutral countries in Europe, and it means uncompromising fighting all over the world, industrial and political.

American Socialists can give a moral support to those comrades who advocate this kind of peace action, but above all they will have to take up their own class-struggle in a most efficient way, which will mean a greater help to European labor than a dozen peace programs.