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Workers’ International News, June 1940


Total War


From Workers’ International News, Vol.3 No.6, June 1940, pp.11-12.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Not for weeks not for months but for years we have proclaimed that when the two rival imperialist gangs ultimately met in mortal combat it would be impossible to distinguish one from the other. All that would remain of “freedom and democracy” would be the name. The rotten, gangrenous “democratic” skin has burst under the first major military impact. The event was announced in advance by the ruling strata of the bourgeoisie; said the Times of May 7th,

“In a higher sphere, that of first principles and of the nature of total war, we require to do some still harder thinking.”

Not only the thinking but the acting has now taken place. In our last issue we wrote:

“... the repressive apparatus of the bourgeoisie carefully geared to the tempo of events, commences slowly but none the less surely to revolve.”

The tempo of events has now swung the bourgeoisie and their “labour” retainers into a furious offensive against the liberties and standard of life of the proletarians in this country. Chamberlain and his able organisers of capitulation have moved down the ladder to be replaced, as the official report has it, by “a government representing the united and inflexible resolve of the nation to prosecute the war with Germany to a victorious conclusion.”

The Labour Party Conference, like the Whitsuntide holidays, was handed over to the bosses, its principal act being to approve the decision of the leadership “to take their share of responsibility as a full partner (!) in a new Government under a new Prime Minister ...” It was not accidental that the Transport Housemaids should make their magnanimous offer to the bourgeoisie at this time. This course had already been dictated to them. “That Labour will be found in the ranks of the Government before the war is over is as certain as anything can be,” declared a Times leader on May 6. This gross act was committed six days later.

Mr. Attlee has assured his followers that they have not entered the Government as hostages but as partners. The bourgeoisie has aided them in this pretence by Parliament taking powers to conscript wealth and property while they prepare to drive the workers’ standard of life down to that of colonial slaves. Mr. Kirkwood tore the veil from this deception in the House of Commons on May 22, when he said to Attlee:

“The working class, as I understand the Lord Privy Seal (Mr Attlee) are to be tied hand and foot, and private property is not.”

The actual role of the Labour and Trade Union fakers is that of messenger boys to Mr. Winston Churchill. This personification of capitalism in its death agonies, prefers that his offering of “blood, toil, tears and sweat” should be conveyed to the masses by those whom they have trusted and elected to lead the organised labour movement.

The bourgeois offensive is now in full swing. Mr. Ernest Bevin tells us that we must “work like Hell” even if it means relaxing the labour rights so hardly won by decades of struggle. And if any doubts arise as to whether or not they are filched from us let the London Evening Standard, mouthpiece of Beaverbrook and Duff-Cooper, remove them:

“... the protection of the workman in his union, the protection of the individual by known and established law – these are not privileges to be tossed away as playthings of no consequence. Why then in the space of a few hours are we ready to forgo them now? Hitler is the answer.”

Morrison joins in the holy chorus: “We must work at war speed, every minute wasted means a life” and so on. The employers leap in to take advantage and the engineers are told to work twelve hours a day end seven days week. Frenchmen who fail to turn up at work are arrested. It is only a matter of time before we shall find ourselves similarly shackled to the machine of destruction. The arrest of anti-war militant elements and of fascists goes on apace. The Times, commenting on the powers contained in the latest act, declares on May 23rd:

“No one would be sorry to see these powers exercised immediately against those responsible for publications or activities which seek to ... impede ... their country in waging this war, and many would prefer to see such persons confined ... in internment camps.”

The formation of the Local Defence Volunteers, under military command and discipline is a significant preparation against social disturbance at home rather than invasion from without. Let those who doubt it carefully note the opinion of the Times:

“The suggestion has even been made that expert women shots might be employed and people of this kind would be extremely useful in some places – e.g., in factories employing female labour.”

Despite the pious horror of our rulers against the undoubtedly atrocious acts of their German counterparts, they will not hesitate when the occasion demands to shoot down even female workers who strike.

In this bloodthirsty assault on the standards of life of, the working class the reactionary bourgeoisie is aided by the leading representatives of the labour movement. The labour leaders foist the new Government on the masses as a Government of “equal sacrifice” which will “control everything and everybody.” They impose a 100% Excess Profits Tax and make loud noises. This fraud can easily be exposed, and it must be exposed by the militant workers themselves advancing with all the strength at their command, a demand for Labour to take full responsibility on a programme of demands for nationalisation of the, banks, railways, mines and heavy industry without compensation, the expropriation of all profit. It will then be revealed in practice before the eyes of the working class, that the Labour fakers are capable of carrying out only the programme of the bourgeoisie, of managing only capitalism in the interests of the ruling class. It will be clearly revealed to the toilers that only. the policy of intransigent class struggle taken to its logical conclusion can liberate humanity from the depths of the abyss into which decadent capitalism has dragged it.

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