Manifesto to the Trade Unionists of the Country

Gentlemen—The Trade Union Congress Parliamentary Committee, at their meeting held yesterday, had under consideration the serious position created by the European war and the duty which Trade Unionists, in common with the community in general, owe to themselves and the country of which they are citizens.

They were especially gratified at the manner in which the Labour Party in the House of Commons had responded to the appeal made to all political parties to give their co-operation in securing the enlistment of men to defend the interests of their country, and heartily endorse the appointment upon the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee of four members of the party, and the placing of the services of the national agent at the disposal of that committee to assist in carrying through its secretarial work.

The Parliamentary Committee are convinced that one important factor in the present European struggle has to be borne in mind, so far as our own country is concerned—namely, that in the event of the voluntary system of military service failing the country in this its time of need, the demand for a national system of compulsory military service will not only be made with redoubled vigour, but may prove to be so persistent and strong as to become irresistible. The prospect of having to face conscription, with its permanent and heavy burden upon the financial resources of the country, and its equally burdensome effect upon nearly the whole of its industries, should in itself stimulate the manhood of the nation to come forward in its defence, and thereby demonstrate to the world that a free people can rise to the supreme heights of a great sacrifice without the whip of conscription.

Another factor to be remembered in this crisis of our nation’s history, and most important of all so far as Trade Unionists and Labour in general are concerned, is the fact that upon the result of the struggle in which this country is now engaged rest the preservation and maintenance of free and unfettered democratic government, which in its international relationships has in the past been recognised, and must unquestionably in the future prove to be the best guarantee for the preservation of the peace of the world.

The mere contemplation of the overbearing and brutal methods ot which people have to submit under a government controlled by a military autocracy—living, as it were, continuously under the threat and shadow of war—should be sufficient to arouse the enthusiasm of the nation in resisting any attempt to impose similar conditions upon countries at present free from military despotism.

But if men have a duty to perform in the common interest of the State, equally the State owes a duty to those of its citizens who are prepared—and readily prepared—to make sacrifices in its defence and for the maintenance of its honour. Citizens called upon voluntarily to leave their employment and their homes for the purpose of undertaking military duties have a right to receive at the hands of the State a reasonable and assured recompense, not so much for themselves as for those who are dependent upon them, and no single member of the community would do otherwise than uphold a Government which in such an important and vital matter took a liberal and even a generous view of its responsibilities toward those citizens who come forward to assist in the defence of their country.

We respectfully commend this suggestion to the favourable consideration of the Government of the day.

Long life to the free institutions of all democratically-governed countries!

Yours faithfully, the Parliamentary Committee,