The Worker January 1916

Prevent Conscription

Source: The Worker, No. 2, 15 January 1916, p. 2, by Anon;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

No pains are being spared to reduce the opposition to conscription throughout the country. Every disreputable game that is known is being employed by those who all along have been the enemies of the working class, and who have yearned for some opportunity to get military discipline in the factories and workshops.

Northcliffe’s Daily Record has been the dirtiest so far in that it makes vague insinuations which touches no one in particular and yet besmirches every man on the Clyde.

If they have authoritative information, as they say, let them out with it. If they fail to do so then they are assisting in the distribution of the loathsome thing they protest against. The fact is that the whole gang are too dirty for the Clyde men to wipe their feet on. The game is to try and arouse sufficient doubt of the sincerity of any man who has a mind of his own, and is in the habit of expressing it, especially on the question of conscription.

But it will not succeed. The Clyde men are rapidly learning to do their own thinking, and on this question they have thought to some purpose.

No Prime Minister’s pledge will satisfy them that this is not the forerunner of universal conscription, or that it will not be used for industrial purposes. We know better than that.

The thorough-going conscriptionist has all along been the most unscrupulous, and in these days when honesty is not usually looked upon in high circles as the best policy, the most scoundrelly stand a good chance of having their way, unless we, the workers, get up against them with our industrial might. The passing of this Bill would be looked upon as showing the weakness of labour, and the whole-hoggers would be encouraged to push their advantage for the conscripting of every man of military age.

Let no one be taken in by the fact that it is a very small thing the Government are asking for. They have purposely made it small in order to try and get the principle accepted. Once let that be granted and the cursed thing cannot stop there.

And can anyone be taken in by any pledge that it will not be used for industrial purposes?

Have the military not been used in disputes before the war?

Have they not been used during the war? Everyone knows they have. And that being so under the glorious “voluntary” system is any one such a fool as to think that conscripts will not be used against themselves if they dare to become the least bit restive.

Men like Chiozza-Money would be well advised to speak for themselves alone, and deny that any members supported the Bill in order to forge a weapon to be used against the working class. We have no such childlike faith in some of the politicians and employers of labour. Some of the latter we know would be delighted to get some weapon of the sort.

Sir Mark Sykes, in the second reading of the Bill, was somewhat vague as to what he meant by saying:- “As to the idea that the Bill might be used to the disadvantage of organized labour, if anyone imagines that after the war we can return to the old political and social conditions he is wrong. The 3rd August, 1914, was the beginning of a new epoch, and in the work of reconstruction that will be necessary the lessons of the war will not be forgotten.”

Now, what does that mean? Does it mean that after the war labour is going to have the time of its life – that Capital is going to take labour to its bosom?

We are perfectly certain that no such brotherly love is going to be shown. The employing-class have too much contempt and loathing for the working-class to do any such thing.

If Sir Mark Sykes is expressing surprise, in that passage, that anyone should think the Bill will not be used to the disadvantage of labour because there is going to be no return to pre-war conditions and that the employers of labour will make full use of the experience gained during the war, we agree with him. That is one reason why we are going to offer the fiercest resistance to conscription, and demand that the industries be taken out of the hands of private persons, and that we be given a share in the management.

“.... if anyone imagines that after the war we can return to the old political and social conditions he is wrong.” And yet the Munitions Act contains a “guarantee” that there will be a return to pre-war conditions. We said something very like that to Mr Lloyd George in Glasgow, but he assured us that we were wrong. It seems to us that both pledges are worthless.

As to Sir Mark’s statement regarding the moral effect the passing of this Bill would have on Allies and enemy alike the same thing could be said for compliance with our demand without any resort to compulsion. By adopting it the voluntary system would have its first real chance.

But it is not necessary to follow up all the debate. Everyone knows that conscription means the death blow to all freedom and that if it is once placed on the Statute Book there will be no freedom of speech, freedom of the Press or opportunity to resist any industrial tyranny.

See what is going on in Glasgow at present. Papers being suppressed and public halls refused for the discussion of subjects which are quite legitimate topics for debate. How much worse would it be if conscription were imposed? We must prevent it becoming law at all costs, and to that end we desire every factory, shipyard, and workshop on the Clyde that is not yet affiliated to the Clyde Workers’ Committee to join up at once. We are going to resist it to the bitter end, and we want every man and woman to link up with us.

The conscriptionists must be smashed, and Labour can do it.