From Workers’ International News, Vol.1 No.4, April 1938, p.8.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Hitler’s dramatic seizure of Austria created a war-scare which British Imperialism immediately utilised in order to intensify and speed up its preparations for the war which it sees as inevitable in the next few years. The bitter struggle for markets, for sources of raw materials, for spheres of investment passes rapidly out of the phase where it can be regulated any longer by tariffs, quota agreements and currency manipulation. By placing the German toilers on a diet of black bread and propaganda, German Imperialism has succeeded in fabricating a new arsenal out of their uneaten dinners. Totalitarian chemistry has transmuted butter into guns, and those guns have gained for German Imperialism a prize that butter could not get for them – Austria. Those guns now menace Czechoslovakia, and beyond Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine.
But British Imperialism can still afford to use different methods to gain the same effect. A population which voluntarily fights because it believes itself to be the victim of foreign aggression is far superior in morale and power of endurance to a people who are dragooned, starved and bullied into a warlike mood. Cunningly exploiting Hitler’s act of aggression which comes on top of the barbarities perpetrated in Spain and China, the National Government sent out a call for air-raid helpers, and an army of volunteers responded. The cry, “More Arms,” goes up and Britain gains a tremendous spurt in the arms-race. As long as British Imperialism is able to pose as the threatened victim of the foreign aggressor, all talk of conscription may be postponed till the very outbreak of hostilities. And in contradiction to the totalitarian states, Britain can still afford the luxury of depending upon the volunteer in her war preparations.
On March 23rd Neville Chamberlain asked the TUC General Council for its “goodwill and help” in speeding-up the arms programme, to be expressed in negotiations between unions and employers over proposals for reorganising industry on a war basis. The National Government thus seeks in the name of patriotism to transfer to the shoulders of the working class the burdens of the increased tempo of rearmament. Modern war rests upon modern industry, and the regimentation and militarisation of the industrial workers, achieved by force in Germany and Italy, must here be accomplished through “democratic” machinery, by consultation with the trade union heads. Let no worker be deceived by the pretence of stern criticism on the part of some of the trade union leaders; none the less surely will they lead the workers into the trap of class collaboration, to undergo once again the experiences of the last world war.
During the last war, the trade union rights and industrial safeguards which had been wrested from the master-class in years of painful struggle were surrendered by the workers’ leaders as their contribution to the war-needs of the imperialists. The duration of the working day, the restrictions on night-work, Sunday work, overtime, on the employment of apprentices and women, the regulation of output, all these were given up. The right to strike was surrendered, and even the right to change employers, so that the decisions of the arbitration boards which were set up were compulsory for the men. The system of fines was restored and the factory regulations safeguarding the health and the lives of the workers were abandoned.
The employers ruthlessly exploited the position for their own private profit; under the conscription system which was introduced, militant workers who raised their voice against the manner in which workers’ sacrifices were utilised to pile up fortunes for the capitalists were dealt with summarily. They were sent to the trenches.
Trade Union and Labour Party heads reaped their reward in the Government positions and salaries that were given them; the workers’ share was starvation and slavery behind the lines, mutilation and death in the trenches. And when the war was over, the workers were faced with a bitter struggle to regain some of the rights they had been swindled out of, a struggle rendered all the more severe on account of the dilution of the unions during the war and the mass unemployment that followed the war years.
To-day the ruling class seeks to bring about the surrender of workers’ rights in advance of the outbreak of hostilities. The mechanisation of modern warfare imposes greater need for industrial war preparation than ever before and the ruling class, profiting from the lessons of the last war, has worked out its plan in readiness. Hitler has provided a golden opportunity to set the plan in motion, and the trade union leaders are being brought into line.
The alarm must be raised among the workers. No support for war preparations, No surrender of hard won workers’ rights. Resist the war plans of imperialism. The enemy is in our own country, seeking to safeguard his property and his profits at the expense of our lives and our well-being. Prepare to transform the coming imperialist war into civil war.
Last updated on 11.9.2005