All armies are recruited on their stomach, from that of Salvation to that of Kitchener. This fact explains many anomalies in connection with the present war. Faced with
the bullet from his job, the average worker turns to face the bullet on the battlefield. Our masters are not ignorant of this fact. Large firms have discharged their male employees between the ages of eighteen and thirty, with a view to compelling them to enlist. Lord Derby has dismissed from his stables every unmarried man who has refused to enlist. Other employers have circularized their staff as to the causes and consequences of the war. This document promises immense trade and much employment in the event of Germany being crushed. It threatens loss of both should the Kaiser prove victorious. Urges every able-bodied man to take up arms, and demands to know what the staff individually is going to do about it. The London breweries called upon unmarried men in their employ to join the army immediately, or take a week’s notice. Lastly, the Local Government Board advised the local distress committees to grant no relief to single men, within the prescribed ages, and physically fit for enlistment. This is how a worker has been, and is recruited. Poverty made Charles Bradlaugh a Dragoon. It is making lesser men into Kitchener’s conscripts.
The conditions of life among British workers, said the Railway Review for December 13, 1912,
precludes them from taking any interest in their country. Their whole time is spend in making sufficient money to keep them alive. Millions of their number exist on the abyss of pauperism. During this exceptional prosperous year, there has never been less than 300,000 men and women out of work. In bad times the number is increased to a million or more. Men, women and children, too, to our eternal shame, are sweated nearly to death in heated factories for wages which do not provide them with a sufficient quantity of the necessities of life, luxuries they dare not dream about. Under our present industrial system, workers’ lives are wasted as recklessly as ever they are wasted on the field of battle. A shunter on the railway runs thirteen times more risk than a soldier did in the South African Campaign. In 1911, there were 4,306 workmen killed, and 167,650 injured; ponder on these figures, and then try to imagine what the average workman, who daily runs the risk of losing his life or limbs, must think, when he is asked to vote for compulsory service, so that he may repel a foreign enemy.
To-day he does not need to vote for conscription. He enjoys it without the vote. Hunger has compelled him to rally to the flag. On the battlefields of France, he may ponder how little political power a wage-slave possesses. He may reflect how the economic drive has impelled the recruiting agents to their task. We are thinking, in this connection, of the following Labor M. P.’s: Will Crooks, Will Thorne, G. Barnes, and Arthur Henderson. These worthies represent the Labor Party on the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, and are appearing, up and down the country, on the same platforms as Earl Curzon, the Marquis of Lincolnshire, J. F. Remnant, M.P., T. MacKinnon Wood, Winston Churchill, F. E. Smith, F. E. Wilde, C. F. G. Masterman, etc. All tried and trusted friends of labor!
On the eve of the war, Henderson issued, in conjunction with Keir Hardie, on behalf of the British Section of the International Socialist Bureau, a manifesto against the conflict. This asserted that the success of Russia would be a curse to the world. We do not see how it can be either worse or better than the success of Prussia. Certainly, we have no sympathy with the absurd pro-German-government attitude adopted by Keir Hardie. But we would have maintained it, had we been convinced once that it was true. Not so Henderson, he is working his hardest to secure the triumph of Russia. So are Barnes, Thorne, and Crooks. Even Ramsey MacDonald—who stood out with Keir Hardie against the war after it was declared—has addressed a letter to the Mayor of Leicester applauding the recruiting campaign. This, though he has explained that the war only aims at substituting Tzarism for Kaiserism. The cause of this debacle is economic. Labor M.P.’s, also, are among Kitchener’s conscripts.
Pursuit of the logical working-class course of opposition to the war, recruiting for it, and the interests behind it, would have meant empty coffers both now and in the future. There would have been no paid spectacular platform appearances to-day. There would have been no safe seat, no governing class votes, at the next general election. That £400 a year would cease in consequence. All this had to be considered.
Very similar consequences would have attended deliberate silence, in face of the capitalist agitation, and certain craft labor interests involved.
Cannot we understand, then, why the Labor Party has placed the services of its National Agent at the disposal of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee to assist in the necessary secretarial work? It has forgotten the snub administered by the King and his advisers in connection with the Royal
Home Rule Conference. Only the force of economic compulsion can explain such toadying.
With the platforms and press controlled by the capitalist class, there was but one comfortably popular path to take. This was to recruit. It promised immediate finance at a time of threatened famine. It guaranteed the future.
Support is lent to this assertion by the manifesto issued by the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress. This document congratulates the Labor Party upon its recruiting activities. It adds that, unless the voluntary system affords enough recruits, the demand for conscription would become so persistent and so strong, as to become irresistible. It thinks that this prospect should stimulate recruiting.
Lord Haldane, when Secretary for War, avowed that universal military training would be possible after the next great war. It does not follow that the response to Kitchener’s Appeal, however great, will stay the attempt to foist conscription upon us. It might accelerate it. As long as possible, however, our Labor Leaders must avoid a crisis. They are obliged to follow the line of least resistance—and pray that decisive action, indicating real opinion, may never be necessary. Rushing up recruits may avert the evil day. It at least staves it off. So the present form of economic conscription is applauded, by Trade Union Leaders—who are also conscripts.
To drive men into the Army, by telling them that if they do not, they will be forced to join, is conscription. The issue is not between the sham voluntary system and the full-blown coercive one; not a question of marking time, but of going forward. We are not so anxious to cherish volunteering as to abolish capitalism. All who fear the coming moment of action are slaves, who, owing to their incapacity to conquer true freedom, are most willing to surrender even the pretence of liberty. So long as they maintain their jobs, what does the cause of the commonwealth matter?
Organized labor takes its stand on the craft struggle, not the class struggle. It wishes to regulate its wages, not to free itself. It consents to lose its life in its efforts to solve it. The job alone is its principle. Union conditions reconcile it to the blatant murder howl,
My Country, Right or Wrong. Wages made the construction of death’s battery right in time of peace. They justify it now—in time of war and depression, when few jobs are going, and money is a consideration. Engineers are interested in the protection of ammunition hoists and the studding of machine-faced scarphed joints. Boilermakers are concerned also in the studding of armor-plate. So keen has been the competition for this work, that the demarcation disputes between the two organizations of skilled labor have led, often, to threats of strike. When we add that coppersmiths, braziers, and other metal-workers also gain their livelihood in dockyards and armament factories, it can be seen that Mr. Barnes represents not only his economic interests in boosting recruiting, but also that of organized labor, as represented by the Engineers, Boilermakers, Coppersmiths, and Sheet Metal Workers Societies. He represents their needs as wage-workers, their power to accumulate Union funds, the living of their secretaries.
Will Thorne, again, represents the East End of London, the needs of its misery, the call of its degradation. Here was constructed in 1911, at the Thames Shipbuilding Works, the Super Dreadnought, the battleship
Thunderer, which the Archbishop of Canterbury launched. To the inhabitants of Canning Town, the construction of this vessel meant the subsistence level, the bread line. When the warship work was lost to the Thames, the West Ham member, in company with Lord Roberts, addressed a huge protest meeting, demanding the work for London as opposed to Newcastle. So with Will Crooks. He applauds the war, and represents an industrial constituency interested in the creation of armaments.
Last year it was reputed that Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. supported 120,000 men, women and children by the Newcastle-on-Tyne works alone—that is, about a third of the city’s whole population. Which means lively working class, and trade union working class, interests in war scares. The call for certain literature means work for those engaged in printing it. Without a revolution, the compositors, linotype operators, etc., cannot control the printing presses in the interests of labor. So long as their demand is for wages or better conditions, their interest is with the market. They are glad to print the recruiting appeals, glad to print war scares, glad to see the papers rushing out—regardless of their contents. Opposition to such work, indeed, would militate against the well-being of the armament workers, would affect their livelihood, and disorganize the entire trade union movement. So organized labor works against its own emancipation; gives no heed to the character or purpose of its production; and is very anxious to discover a blackleg in the printer of every radically-socialist magazine. Dreading the development of militarism, the workers eke out their miserable existence by promoting it.
Similar relations between capital and labor exist in Germany. Similar results are seen. The interest of the German workers, as commodity sellers, unites them with the assassin profit interests of the German ruling class. Nowhere do the real interests of the workers as a class enter into the consideration. Nowhere do they come together as a class. To do so, would be to precipitate the revolution, to declare war on all class society, its industrial despotism, its hypocritical political superstructure. It would be to proclaim all international well-being; to wreathe the universe in sunny smiles, to rock the world with joyous laughter, to banish want from every clime, restore to maidenhood its modesty, to youth its innocence; to maturity, all healthy endurance, to old age, a sweet evensong, to all things the high mysterious charm of worth.
That charm is but a vision, a dream of unreality, to-day. Leaving the un-fine arts for the intrigues of labor, we have the international shammed in the international federations of the workers. But yesterday, our brother-secretary of the pottery workers of Germany, affiliated to the pottery-workers of England, sent his greetings, and evidence of his union’s solidarity. To-day, our brother-secretary is at the front, fighting his brother-secretary from England. By the same mail, a common brother-secretary in America received their greetings—despatched ere their departure for the front. He writes a Canadian brother, stating:
Our brothers are at the front. At the front? Yes! What, fighting the common foe? No, fighting each other! Still, they are our brothers in the international, members of the same union. Let us wish them luck. Let us send them our trade union greetings.
In North London resides a family whose father is a German, whose mother is English. The two eldest sons, born in Germany, have returned thither to join the German Army; the two younger sons, both of whom were born in England, have joined the British Army and have gone to the front. Like trade union brothers, they have joined the firing line.
Not that the trade union brothers are hypocrites. Only their international is a wage’s international, not a freeman’s federation. Potters join hands with potters across the frontiers—to keep up the potter’s wages; carpenters with carpenters, and so on with the textile, transport, tobacco, wood, boot and leather, and factory workers; with the tailors, saddlers, lithographers, furriers, etc. Sincerely they wish each other well. Heartily they would support wage-struggles in other industries—after their own! But their own industry comes first, and they do not consider the effect of their success upon the lot of the other workers. Slaves of the market, they rejoice in its briskness. Where they are concerned in the manufacture of guns and warships, the workers in Krupp’s rejoice with those in Vicker’s, at the war-scares which keep them in bread. They internationally organize on the strength of the busy time, and greet each other with affection. All they want is a fair price—for their labor power. When war comes, and distress prevails, then they are still glad to make the means of their own destruction; for work means less want. During the recent years of
Dreadnought clamor, the National Society of Coppersmiths, Braziers, and Metalworkers, has been active, trying to secure better conditions for coppersmiths working in Home and Foreign Dockyards! Ben Tillett has supported the armed nation theory—and secured work for members of the Dockers’ Union, digging trenches! At the next strike, we shall hear Tillett and others abusing Thomas Atkins. Shall we forget that trade unionism has helped to promote this war? Has drawn its wages from circulating the interested lies of the warmongers? Has paid its leaders out of gun-making? Has armed, clothed, and cheered Tommy to the front—both in Britain and Germany? Shall we forget that the elect of Labor has assisted in crushing its fellows into the barrack room? That it wishes to perpetuate the system—on the prostitute’s terms, the best possible price?
Capital alone, is not responsible for this war, labor has done its share. We know Dean Inge, that gloomy light of St. Paul’s Cathedral, has derived profit from his interest in the British manufacture of Austrian torpedoes. We know the Postmaster-General, the Colonial Secretary, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and Mr. Asquith’s brother-in-law, the Under Secretary for War, are among his confreres in this infamy. But were trade unionists unwilling to turn out Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Chilian, Turkish, Brazilian, Argentine and British Warships in our dockyards? Or did they rejoice to think that Vickers’ Automatic rifle-calibre gun had been adopted by five governments? Was it not pleasing to their international that the standard rate of wages was paid in the Canadian, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Russian, Portugese, and other works of the British Armament Trust?
The wage-labor object of the workers’ international has compelled it to back, at one and the same time, the German
Flottenverein or Navy League, and also the British Navy League: Pan-German and Pan-British on the same grounds, for the same reasons. Thus the international trade union movement is, itself, the recruiting office for the Kaiser’s Army as well as Kitchener’s Army. Could folly reach lower depths of outrage?
Dr. Ludwig Franck, Social Democratic member for Mannheim, died fighting at Luneville—for the Kaiser’s cause!
Men not only think from their stomach. They listen from it. Interviewed in London, the end of last year, Professor Delbrück, told the Daily Mail representative:
Germany for the past fifteen years has been a country of immigration, not of emigration, and her excellent school and university system is producing every year a surplus of educated men. If we possessed more territories inhabited by inferior races, their administration and development would afford to this educated surplus the same kind of occupation and employment that Englishmen of a similar class find in Egypt or India.
We can complete the picture for ourselves. Patriotic lectures—at so much a lecture, journalistic exploitation of commercial antagonisms—at so much a column. International trade union subserviency to the national concentration of capitalist rivalries. Endangerment of the fatherland, and death of Franck. What if he had opposed the sentiment of the economic interests which swept him on to his doom, in company with so many German workers? We know the consequences. Franck was an economic conscript.
Try to relieve the picture by a reference to those native Indian troops and the seven princes who have accompanied it to the front. Surely this is no economic army. Pause—and inquire, ere you assert too much. Consult the Treaties, Engagements and Sanads published under the authority of the British Government in India. Consider how the political occupancy of India followed on its economic exploitation. Remember that Anglo-Indian officialdom objects to constitutional government in the native states, on the grounds that the chiefs personally are responsible to the British Government for efficient management, and that they cannot divide their responsibility with their subjects. As early as 1820, in an official communiquè, No. XXVI, found on page 142, of volume VI, of the book mentioned, the Gaekwar of Baroda is told:
With regard to internal affairs Your Highness is to be unrestrained, provided you fulfill your engagements to the bankers, of which the British Government is guarantee. The Resident is, however, to be made acquainted with the plan of finance which Your Highness shall determine on at the commencement of each year. He is to have access to the accounts whenever he requires it, and is to be consulted before any new expenses of magnitude are incurred. The guarantees of the British Government to ministers and other individuals must be scrupulously observed. Your Highness is to choose your own minister, but to consult the British Government before you appoint him.
The other native rulers are less independent even than the Gaekwar of Baroda, more completely under British domination. None of their troops are, individually, economically free agents; and Anglo-India does not wish them to enjoy any pretences, even, to the position of political citizenship. What sane man can consent to view them other than as conscripts?
We have seen then the economic army is in its process of evolution; have noted its many ramifications. It is for capitalism to take the bull by the horns, to proceed to its militaristic crisis, and to proclaim compulsory military service. Lord Glenconner—brother-in-law of Mr. Asquith, an interested party in the Nobel Dynamite Trust, who derived profit from arming Germany and Austria—as an officer of the National Service League, would urge it on to this extreme. It is not for us to say him nay. We are prepared to welcome the conflict. Our reply will be to assert the first line of revolutionary offence. The capitalist bid for the final slavish recognition of its complete authority, its absolute supremacy, will meet with no talk of an economic army. It shall discover a revolutionary one. Quietly and firmly, each Socialist must decline to serve the murder cause, but refuse to handle a rifle at the bidding of the ruling class. We can do no less than this. We shall do much more. If violence is to be the final arbiter of rights, the workers will decide on the arbitration in their own way, on their own day, for their own cause—the establishment of the world-wide Socialist Republic, the Anarchist Commonwealth.—The Spur, London.