Source: The Communist Review, April 1923, Vol. 3, No. 12.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). 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.
NEVER, since 1914, has Europe shown such signs of war madness as has been displayed during the past two months. We, the Communists, expect nothing but war under capitalism; it is one of the inevitable symptoms of its decay. We have vainly appealed to the Labour movement to recognise this, and to organise a united workers’ front to combat it. But no; our complacent Labour leaders, led by the professional middle-class career-mongers of the I.L.P. have refused to join together with the Communists to resist international imperialism. They are deliberately carrying out, step by step, the identical policy, practised by Henderson, Thomas, and Havelock Wilson, against Germany at the opening stages of bloody 1914. These heroes of the recruiting platform, who fight all their enemies with their mouths, were valiant opponents of imperialism in 1914. By imperialism they meant German imperialism, and helped, by their skin-saving recruiting thunder, to organise the British masses for war. Many of the best proletarian fighters in the rank and file of the I.L.P. were rightly indignant at the jingoistic and charlatan tactics of these tub-thumping war maniacs. And although our I.L.P. pacifists were too intent upon denouncing the Labour renegades to notice the subtle antics of their own leader, Mr. J. R. MacDonald, on the militarist slack-wire, they did at least make a whole-hearted denunciation of the 1914-18 war. So effectively did these rank and filers protest that many simple-minded wealthy pacifists, particularly Quakers, thought it their duty to finance the I.L.P. as a bona-fide anti-war party. The events of the Ruhr invasion demonstrate that not only have the I.L.P. leaders betrayed the international masses; they have equally misled their wealthy pacifist friends. For, following in the footsteps of Havelock Wilson and Henderson and Thomas, the middle-class I.L.P. leaders are now denouncing imperialism—French imperialism. Let us emphasise that, from the standpoint of the international working class, a British labour leader is equally a knave, whether he attacks the war policy of France or of Germany. In either case he is deliberately playing the game of British capitalism—which is to create an ultra-nationalist psychology among the masses as one of the necessary conditions for recruiting them for a future war. Is there any essential difference between a Havelock Wilson denouncing Germany in 1914 and a J. Ramsay MacDonald or Philip Snowden “going for” France in 1923? If there is any difference it is this: since 1914 we have learnt by experiences, bought with human lives, that our duty in the British battalion of the international proletarian army is to fight, by every and any means, the most alert and unscrupulous group of imperialists history has ever known—the British capitalist class.
Mr. R. C. Wallhead, of the I.L.P., the brave gentleman who fluttered from constituency to constituency, up and down the country, on the lookout for a safe seat in Parliament, has declared that the whole international socialist movement is opposed to the French imperialists. As becomes a leader of the Two and a Half International, it is characteristic of this individual to overlook the most elementary facts. He is not aware, we suppose, that on January l0th, the Foreign Committee of the Belgium Chamber was led by Vandervelde in an enthusiastic speech approving of the Ruhr invasion, and he is not aware, we suppose, that every one of the prominent leaders of the Belgium Social Democratic Party declared in favour of the action of France. And this is the person who castigates the Communist International because it insists upon discipline.
Once there was a time when the I.L.P, had a high opinion of Karl Liebknecht. When he was tried, as a German Socialist, for fighting the imperialists in his own country, he declared:
“If the German Socialists, for instance, were to combat the English Government and the English Socialists the German Government, it would be a farce or something worse. He who does not attack the enemy, imperialism, represented by those who stand opposed to him face to face, but attacks those from whom he is far away and who are not within his shooting range, and that even with the help and approbation of his own government, is no Socialist, but a miserable hack of the ruling class. Such a policy is not class war, but its opposite—inciting to war.”
These brave words, rising from the grave of the heroic and martyred anti-militarist, seem as though Liebknecht’s spirit had returned, but for an instant, to denounce the villainous anti-French machinations of the MacDonalds and Snowdens. Let these people give a lead against imperialism by starting at Downing Street. They dare not. They are afraid to attack the imperialists “who are within their own range” because that demands something more than resonant periods and parliamentary wind-baggery. It means, what it has meant to Marcel Cachin, and the many Communists in France who did fight the imperialists within their range—it means imprisonment and perhaps worse. In the scathing words of Liebknecht, the official policy of the I.L.P. on imperialism is identical with what he denounced as the hack work of the ruling class and as an incitement to war.