From Workers’ International News, Vol.1 No.10, October 1938, p.8.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The drums and bugles, the banners and patriotic songs, the marching columns and cheering crowds of August 1914 gave a warm romantic glow to the war that was slowly extinguished in the blood and slime of the trenches, in the daily rain of tears when the casualty lists ... dead ... wounded ... missing ... were published. To-day the picture is different.
In the past days we have witnessed the elaborate war machines of the imperialist powers, prepared over a period of years, swinging relentlessly into action, thrusting with inexorable power the shuddering and reluctant European masses into the line-up for the world conflict. Blindfolded by secret diplomacy, deeply distrustful of the propaganda showered upon them, the peoples of Europe have shown no enthusiasm for this war, no sympathy with its declared aims.
The Paris correspondent reports in the Times of September 26th:
“At the Gare de l’Est yesterday the station and approaches were packed with patient men, stolidly awaiting their turn to leave. Often their womenfolk were with them, some stony-faced with grief, others weeping quietly and apologetically, but nowhere was there any sign of flinching from an expected necessity. Once, it is true, there was a shout of ‘A bas la guerre’ from a group driven under the strain to a natural reaction by the noisy cries of a few young Communists, who for their part shouted their readiness to meet Fascism in the supreme struggle.”
From this passage, two points glaringly obtrude themselves. The bourgeoisie even finds it necessary to restrain the “Communists” in their enthusiasm for the imperialist war, to admonish them irritably for their too noisy patriotism. In the second place, the bourgeoisie finds itself able to pose sanctimoniously as the innocent victim of the warmaker, sympathising deeply with its fellow victims among the masses. Never before has the world seen so shameless a betrayal of socialist principles by a self-styled “workers’ party”. Never before has the bourgeoisie been in so powerful a position as to completely hide its rapacity behind the mask of “peace-lovers,” and to reprove the “Communists” even while it made use of them.
In London too, the “Communists” out-yelled the yellow press in their enthusiasm for the imperialist war. For the first time in history the “Communists” were permitted to establish a platform in Whitehall itself, unmolested by the police. The War Propaganda Department in Whitehall becomes redundant when the Stalinists enter the administrative centre, symbolising their service to the British bourgeoisie. The Daily Worker impudently boasts of a gift of £10 from an army officer who recognised that its aims were his own.
In the years since the end of the Great War there have been many war-scares but none so far-reaching and so serious as that which convulsed Europe during the past weeks. The preparations that have been made serve the ruling class in the last resort to face up to a sudden war announced by enemy bombers over the great cities. And in the event of a compromise being reached, they serve the purpose of a full dress rehearsal for the outbreak of the war of to-morrow. An expensive rehearsal, yes, adding to the already staggering burden of taxes borne by the toilers, but a necessary one for the ruling class and one very gratifying to them in the political results achieved.
If agreement is achieved, Chamberlain emerges as the Angel of Peace, in a powerful position to contest a General Election, to impose with ease conscription measures upon Britain and to speed up war preparations.
While Chamberlain receives the Nobel Prize, the Labour Party receives the execrations of the masses just as soon as they have sorted things out and realised that the Labour Party yelled louder than anyone else for the imperialist slaughter, with the possible exception of the Communist Party.
War or “peace”, the bourgeoisie stand to gain. They prefer, at this moment, the “peace”, bringing with it a new lease of life for the Chamberlain Government and a more decisively anti-Soviet foreign policy. The “Labour” leaders, fearing to take office, are relieved of the necessity, and join in the bourgeois applause for Chamberlain’s “peace” efforts. And the wretched Maxton of the ILP typifies the blindness, if not the downright treachery, of the ILP parliamentarians when he fails to see, or refuses to see, the real meaning of Chamberlain’s “peace” manoeuvres, and adds his congratulations to those of the “Labour” traitors.
For the bourgeoisie, peace is merely the continuation of war by other means, to pervert the famous dictum of Clausewitz. Beyond this present crisis, assuming that it will be solved by compromise, it is possible to see only successive crises, culminating sooner or later in the vast blood-letting.
The conditions that breed crisis will remain, even after Czechoslovakia, Schleswig, Alsace, the Polish corridor, have gone the way of Austria. Crises are the bursting ulcers on the skin, originating from the deep-seated inner decay of capitalism, a disease which can be cured only by the surgery of civil war, class against class, for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of workers’ power.
Last updated on 11.9.2005