HENRY NOEL BRAILSFORD
THE WAR OF STEEL AND GOLD
A STUDY OF THE ARMED PEACE
SOCIALISM AND ANTI-MILITARISM
WE have spent time enough in analysing the obscure causes, hidden in counting-houses and embassies, that go to the making of wars. We have found little of the old joyous patriotism and chivalry among them. Can we discover in the modern world an idealism which will stir masses of men among the forces that combat war? The Anti-Militarism of the Socialist parties on the Continent is based on a faith as great and precarious as Mr. Norman Angell's pacifism. He is convinced that mankind is guided by reason. The Socialist is sure that humanity survives under a uniform. On that belief he has based a strategy which shall abolish war between modern peoples. It is a great hope. Let us start from experience in our examination of it, and read its proposals in relation to the peculiar psychology of war.
In what temper does the soldier achieve the miracle of disciplined murder? When I attempt to answer that question, my memory goes back to a battlefield in Thessaly. It was the last engagement in that futile Graeco-Turkish war of 1897. In the centre at Domokos the Greek army was preparing to retreat. But of that we in the legion of foreign volunteers knew nothing. On the far left we had more than held our own, though with heavy losses. We had kept our positions, and in our little corner of the field had checked the Turkish advance.
Suddenly our Italian comrades, with a Garibaldi at their head, swung into view, marching at the double round a hill on the plain below us. They ran rather than walked, upright in full view of the enemy's marksmen, disdaining cover, and challenging death in the conspicuous red shirts which carried on Greek soil the great tradition of Italy's wars of liberation. It was one of the bravest sights which life has to offer, the sight of men, commonplace perhaps and timid in quiet moments, rising in an hour of exaltation to a joyous and defiant heroism. We ran down from our positions to reinforce them. A few scattered volleys, a few rushes, and the line of red fezes, which was for us the Turkish army, had wavered and retreated. We sheathed our bayonets, shook the hands of comrades, and slowly returned to our own lines. After the shame and disillusion of this disastrous war, this first success filled us with elation. We were pleased with ourselves, not overanxious about our wounded comrades, and ready to reckon the joy of battle as the crown of life. It was in this mood that I stumbled across a thing in the grass. It was a dead Turk, prone on his back, his rifle still held in his clenched hand. A clean bullet wound in the temples showed how sudden the end must have been. I am ashamed to think that my first thought was one of satisfaction. The dead man lay in the line of fire of our company. One of us must have sent that bullet. And then I looked at his face. He was an oldish man, and his scanty hair was almost grey. He wore the uniform of the last class of the reserve, called up only in grave emergencies. It was a simple peasant face, round, and good-natured, clean and healthy. He was short and rather slight, and the hand which held the rifle seemed childishly small. The dead face smiled up from the ground, and the simple gentleness of this old man, so little formidable, so clearly a stranger to the lusts and passions which we on the "Christian" side liked to associate with the name of Turk, made its direct appeal to the normal human instincts which war can silence only in the rushing hours of animal excitement. It flashed upon me that this was the first Turk whom I had yet seen near enough to touch---save indeed a miserable spy whom some soldiers hanged head downwards from a tree over a fire of straw until the officers rescued him. And I thought I could tell what manner of man it was that we had killed---a kindly old farmer, who had lived his quiet life up to this war among his children and his neighbours, pruning his fruit trees and gathering his harvests, good to man and beast, and totally ignorant of the eddies of world politics which had caught him in their whirl. A fellow-volunteer came up at that moment and began roughly to rifle the corpse in quest of trophies. He even proposed to scalp the old man---that was, he said, what was usually done during the native wars in Rhodesia, where he had served before. I found myself defending from outrage the enemy whom an hour before I was trying to kill. In the misery of the retreat which followed our transient victory I understood what this experience meant. I had not known that I was firing at simple peasants. I had been firing at "the enemy .... the Turks," "the Sultan's brutal soldiery .... the forces of Oriental barbarism," and other names, phrases and abstractions. I had seen only a line of red caps which made in the distance a serviceable target.
As we neared our own lines we overtook our wounded. An Italian, whom I helped to limp along, told me that another volunteer had just robbed him of his blanket. I took him, calling loudly for water, into the barn which served as a field hospital. When I had found water, a sentry at the door roughly forbade me to enter---it was the order of his superior officer. I remember still the anger with which I pushed past him, and then the sudden horror of the great room filled with moaning men, some dying, some only frightened by pain, some waiting patiently to lose a leg or an arm. There was more to think of on the retreat. I understood at length that that military discipline which I had been proud to obey myself, and to impose on others, was the necessary condition of this criminal stupidity called war. Men can be got to shoot at other men with whom they have no quarrel, only because they have first been taught to lay aside their own personality, their own judgment, their free choice between good and evil. They become automata which shoot at other automata as little conscious of what they do as the rifles in their hands. And that brave scene of the charging Garibaldians, I knew now that it had no more to do with ideals or heroisms than a rush of horned cattle or a stampede of wild horses. It is the physical impetus which makes a fine charge, and not the idea behind it. Men will show the same forgetfulness of self and the same disregard of others in a sham charge on a field day at Aldershot. English cavalry regiments have been known to ride into one another with all the fury of battle, and to continue their rush in spite of broken limbs and injured horses. "It was a good thing that we had not our sabres out," said a trooper on the casualty list to a newspaper correspondent after a recent incident of this kind on manoeuvres. Prince Kropotkin tells in his memoirs of a famous charge of a Russian cadet battalion at manoeuvres. They bore down on the Tsar himself, and would have trampled him to death if he had not avoided them at the last moment. A uniform will serve as well as an idea to inspire soldiers with solidarity, and the animal exhilaration of swift movement will produce all the phenomena of heroism. I saw now to what bestial degradation war had reduced these same Garibaldians. One would steal a blanket from a wounded comrade; another would threaten to stick his bayonet into me because I was bringing water to a wounded comrade against the orders of some worried or stupid officer. War is the suspense and annihilation of the individual conscience. It blots out for the soldier the humanity of the men whom he opposes, and blurs them together in one unrealised and unimagined horde which he calls the enemy. It destroys, while it does this, the duties and the sympathies which bind man to man. The whole process meanwhile is rendered respectable by a veneer of illusions. In adopting the attitude of passive obedience the soldier convinces himself that he is submitting to a patriotic obligation. He throws the responsibility of what he does upon his officers. They in turn obey the statesmen, and the statesmen themselves are as little able to judge of what they do, because they also are never in contact with the visible fact of war, and the human reality of their enemies. War is vicarious crime. The statesman does through the soldier what he would not do in his own person. The soldier does at the bidding of the statesman what he would shrink from doing if the whole decision lay with himself.
I had to learn after this war that the diplomacy which provoked it had in all probability no aim more serious than to save the throne of the King of Greece. I had also to learn, through meeting them in time of peace, that the Turkish officers against whom I fought, so far from being, as I had supposed, the willing tools of the late Sultan's despotism, were even then beginning to organise for revolution. The process of disillusionment left me doubting whether there ever was in history a just and necessary war of aggression. Certain it is that in any war which we can conceive in Europe, two armies mainly composed of working-men would face each other in the service of some capitalist intrigue, and in the defence of interests whose chief concern is their exploitation. These men lead in all modern countries the same life. The essential question for them is what percentage of their harvest will be left to them after the landlord has levied his rent, what food will cost them after the manipulators of the tariff have taken their toll, or what proportion the wages bill of their factory will bear to the total profit. Yet, thanks to the mystifications of a false patriotism, to the influence of a benumbing discipline and a drill expressly designed to turn men into machines, they may, in ignorance or fear, proceed to slay each other in order to decide whether it shall be French or German financiers who shall export the surplus capital (saved from their own wages bill) destined to subdue and exploit the peasants of Morocco.
Such reflections as these are made by thoughtful men before, and by experienced men after every war. They have been the common property of Radical and Socialist thinkers since the days of the French Revolution. One may find them, limpid and forcible, in the pages of Thomas Paine, who himself had fought in America against King George's redcoats. They are familiar to-day to millions of working-men throughout Europe, the men who will form the conscript armies of the next great war---if, indeed, another great war is possible in Europe. To popularise them, to make them among the workers as familiar, as axiomatic, as much a part of their class-morality as the ideas which inspire them with loyalty to their Trade Unions---that is among the first duties of Continental Socialism. Can it carry this task further? It is something to detach the workers from the crowds which shout for war. Can they be induced to refuse to carry a rifle in an unjust cause?
The idea of a fundamental opposition to all war is no new thing in the history of civilisation. It has usually taken root among men whose outlook on life was ethical and individualistic. The Quakers in Australia and the Doukhobors in Russia have refused under any circumstances to serve in armies, because their consciences were bound by the law of Christ. The teaching of Tolstoy has placed this position on a reasonable and undogmatic basis, which makes a powerful appeal even to minds which cannot embrace the doctrine of non-resistance to evil. A man's readiness to adopt that doctrine depends ultimately on the degree in which he is concerned for his own personal righteousness. If one's ruling passion is to deserve the approval of one's own conscience, one may find it possible to stand inactive while a child is maltreated or a horse beaten before one's eyes. If, on the other hand, a man's chief concern is to check suffering, if he thinks rather of the pain of the child and the horse than of himself, then at the risk of any loss of personal saintliness he will, if remonstrance fails, resist evil by using his fists. The right of rebellion in extreme cases and of resistance to aggressive wars rests on the same basis. Tolstoy could never have made a mass movement against war. The pacifist movement is weak for other reasons. Men and women divided on other issues, and acting in concert only to hold meetings and listen to lectures against war, will rarely be formidable to any government. Governments have more to fear from a party which is united on all issues and votes when it has talked. Tolstoy and the pacifists created a favourable intellectual atmosphere. It remained for Socialism to create the party of peace.
Two contemporary reasons combined to make the French the leaders in this practical anti-militarism. The revelations which attended the Dreyfus case aroused a profound uneasiness in all democratic minds. For some years under a clique of officers, secretly Royalist, openly clericalist, the army had become the tool of a well-organised reaction. Anatole France has satirised the situation in his inimitable Ile des Pingouins. For the moment the danger was averted, but it lurks in some degree in all professional military castes, and even under conscription the officers must be professionals. In the second place the French Radicals, and more especially M. Clemenceau, had made a ruthless use of the army to repress strikes, which properly roused the fury of the working-class. These two contemporary conditions combined to aid the work of Gustave Hervé. No "extremist " has been more persistently maligned. Those who know him describe him as a personality of great charm. His published speeches, despite some regrettable crudities and violences of language, are powerful compositions, closely reasoned and admirably phrased. His courage has been tested by numerous prosecutions and imprisonments. His position, stripped of subtleties---and in controversy he can be extremely subtle---has a simplicity which appeals to men of every grade of intelligence.
Patriotism, in Hervé's view, is an illusion sedulously cultivated by the capitalist class in order that it may the more easily enslave the workers, and shear the sheep without their even perceiving that they are being shorn. It unites in one community the exploiters and the exploited, until they begin to believe that they have some interests in common. It is a conservative emotion, which brings the classes together, and helps to keep them tranquilly one under the other within the bosom of the same country. It is an intelligible sentiment only for the class for whom the motherland is a milch-cow. For the workers she is rather a stepmother. The motto of Socialism must be, "Workers of all countries, unite across your frontiers." The motto of Patriotism is, "If your country commands it, workers of all countries, massacre one another." To be sure, nationality is a fact. But it is not an eternal or necessary fact. Nations came into being by a slow historic progress. They may be dissolved or amalgated by a contrary process. There is nothing sacred in the chance of war which has made most modern nations. For the worker there is nothing to choose between them. Go from one country to another, and you will find everywhere the same prisons, the same barracks, the same police, the same brothels, the same Ministers of the Interior. Cross what frontier you please, and you are still only a living tool, which is worth only its current price in the labour market. If one is to be exploited one might as well be exploited by a foreign as by a native capitalist. It follows, then, that the workers can have no interest in the issue of any war, even when his own country wages it. His country is not in fact his own. Let him then refuse to risk one square-inch of his own skin in any war, and keep his courage for the revolution. When war breaks out he will neither ask who is in the right and who in the wrong, nor fly to the aid of his country under the spur of patriotism. In any event, since diplomacy is secret and the press mendacious, he never can judge which of two warring nations is the aggressor. The proper strategy to follow on declaration of war is to desert the flag, to proclaim a general strike, to follow that up by insurrection, and in the confusion to carry out a social revolution. In no circumstances ought any Socialist conscript to assist any capitalist government, even in a purely defensive war.
A thinker who defends so extreme a thesis as this performs a great service. He forces us all to think, to go back upon our premises, to make it clear to ourselves why our judgment revolts against his conclusions. There is a valuable half-truth in every one of Hervé's vehement statements. But in the first place it is untrue to say that the worker has no share in the heritage of nationality. Its ideal riches even now are open to him. His language is a mother-tongue. The treasures of literature enshrined in that language are open to him. He feels a thrill in the knowledge of his history, its heroisms, its revolutions, its struggles towards liberty. He imbibes whatever is distinctive and original in the national spirit. It is true that the man of leisure and wealth shares more fully in all these benefits. But the worker commits a folly who despises and scorns them. Instead of vilifying his motherland, he should determine to possess her. It is, if possible, still more false to make light of the evils of conquest and foreign domination. An alien exploiter is, in spite of Hervé, incomparably worse than a native. Every difference of race, language or religion aggravates the miseries which a subject people has to suffer from its ruling class. An Irishman, a Pole or an Armenian would never have fallen into this flagrant error. Indeed, as Bebel (thinking mainly of the Poles) and Bernard Shaw (thinking mainly of the Irish) have said, each in his own way, the chief mischief of racial domination is that under it the proletariat is so obsessed by its national wrongs that it has no leisure to think of its economic subjection. It is so busy fighting for its autonomy, its language or its Church, that it has no ears for social questions. Nationality is not in itself an evil. On the contrary it is only by the collaboration of many nations, each with its own temperament, its own history, its own language, that civilisation can hope to attain its full development through diversity. The right of every nationality to defend its liberty and its identity against conquest, is a right which Socialism has always been the first to respect, and will be the last to abandon. The general adoption of Hervé's theories by the more advanced nations would be merely an invitation to the less advanced to conquer and enslave them. If his doctrine were Socialism, this inevitable consequence would follow ---that the country which had the most Socialists would be the first to be devoured and exploited by its neighbours.
Hervé luckily has been followed only by a small though very active minority of French Socialists. The real importance of his campaign is that it has induced Jaurès, supported by the majority, to define a policy of anti-militarism, which is at once better in theory and sounder in statesmanship.
Jaurès starts from two premises; that nations have the right and duty to maintain their independence, and that the opposition of labour to war must be something more effective than an academic or sentimental abhorrence. It must be a will to prevent wars by acts. It is obvious that the most effective way in which a proletariat united across frontiers can prevent war is not to stand aloof from all wars, but to use its joint forces to check aggression and assist defence. If, let us say, Germany were to meditate a wanton attack on France, the best way to deter her is to announce in advance that by common accord, and in full agreement, German Socialists will impede the attacking force within its ranks and in its rear, while French Socialists will aid the defending force with all their ardour and courage. Could this be realised, the German attack would certainly fail, and were it anticipated, no sane Government in Germany would dare to take the risk of aggression. Were this formula generally adopted, could the whole force of labour in civilised States be used for the defence and against the aggressor, it is certain that war, in Europe at least, would have become unthinkable. If Hervé objects that it is difficult to determine who is the aggressor in a war between two capitalist States, Jaurès has a ready answer. The aggressor in any international dispute is the Power which refuses to submit its case to some form of impartial arbitration. One may doubt the sincerity of some of the Powers which have played at arbitration at Hague Conferences. But the clever policy for the workers is to take the diplomatists at their word. Labour, drilled, conscripted, regimented, has the power to enforce a real respect for arbitration, by giving its numbers and its courage as a premium to that side in a quarrel which will appeal to reason. The duty of a Socialist party in a country which meditates an aggressive war is to resist the Government by "every means in its power, from parliamentary action and public agitation, up to the general strike and insurrection."
The French Socialists carried this doctrine, concentrated in resolutions passed at Limoges and Nancy in 1906 and 1907, to the International Conference held at Stuttgart (1907). The debates both in committee and in the full conference were of unusual interest. In the end the following resolution (with a long preamble), framed by Vandervelde on the basis of a draft by Jaurès was unanimously carried:--
If war threatens to break out, it is the duty of the working class in the countries concerned and of their Parliamentary representatives, with the help of the International Bureau as the means of co-ordinating their action, to use every effort to prevent the war by all the means which seem to them the most appropriate, having regard to the sharpness of the class-war and to the general political situation.
Should war none the less break out, their duty is to intervene to bring it promptly to an end, and with all their energies to use the economic and political crisis created by the war to rouse the populace from its slumbers, and to hasten the fall of capitalist domination.
In its practical effect this resolution hardly differs from the French proposition. It is to be noted, however, that it does not specify the means by which war may be prevented. All practicable means are to be adopted, and in paraphrasing the resolution some of the German orators expressly added the words "without excluding any." Among the precedents held up for imitation is the action of the Swedish Socialist party, which threatened to declare a general strike if Sweden should make war on Norway. The Germans very frankly explained that they could not publicly pledge themselves in advance to action so extreme as the general strike in case of war, without at once exposing themselves as a party to wholesale repression. When the crisis arrived, they would know how to act. The discussion between the French and German leaders revealed some interesting points of theory. Germans were not prepared to say in advance that it would always be the duty of a proletariat to assist its Government if it were attacked. Kautsky, a very acute thinker, remarked for example, that it certainly was not the duty of Russian Socialists to defend the Tsar's Government in the late war, though technically Japan was the aggressor. He also denied that in any war over Morocco it would be the duty of German Socialists to defend Germany, even if she were attacked. Bebel went so far as to say in the heat of the debate that if Germany attacked Russia he for one would be the first to shoulder a rifle, because the event of such a war would be to liberate the working classes in Russia and to weaken the reaction even in Germany itself---a most hazardous calculation. These interesting debates on nice points of theory led to wonderful misunderstandings in the capitalist press. The French papers held up the German Socialists as a model of patriotism to the French. The Prussian official gazette on the other hand announced "that the German Socialists are the least patriotic in the universe." The plain truth is, of course, that the whole congress unanimously rejected "patriotism" in the conventional sense of that word. No Socialist party will say, "My country, right or wrong." No Socialist party will allow its duty in case of war to be prescribed for it by a ruling class. The French leaders will enquire which side is the aggressor, and will unhesitatingly oppose it, even if it is their own country. The German leaders put the criterion somewhat differently. They will be guided, not by national interests, but by the interests of labour the world over. Some difference in theory there is. There can be none in action. For French and Germans are equally resolved to be guided in any definite case by the decision of the whole Socialist world, to act in concert, and to act through the International Bureau. That is the real significance of the Stuttgart decision.
In practice the growth of this conscious antimilitarism within the Socialist movement has introduced a new factor of enormous importance into European politics. Henceforward every European Government which meditates war has to reckon with the certainty that it will be opposed, certainly morally, and perhaps physically, by a powerful and organised party at home. It may even have to pay at the polls for its adventure. What happened in Bulgaria after the avoidable second war against Servia and Greece is a warning to all Governments which meditate aggression. The party of MM. Daneff and Gueshoff, whose arrogant diplomacy made that disastrous war, possessed an overwhelming majority in the Chamber when they began it. In the general election which followed the war, their party was annihilated, and secured only six seats in a total of over two hundred. Even more significant is the fact that the Socialist and Peasant Parties between them, feeble before the war, secured nearly a third of the representation after it. But far more serious than the risk of disaster at the polls, is the danger that Socialist opposition within an army may sap the spirit which alone wins victories. General Kuropatkin, in his able report on the causes of the defeat of the armies which he led in Manchuria, emphasised among them the indifference and hostility of the Russian soldiery. They had already begun to hate the autocracy and to desire revolution , they were totally indifferent to the Imperialist ambitions which made the war. The same moral factor goes far to explain the defeat of Bulgaria in the second of the Balkan wars. Her armies entered on the first war with spirit and enthusiasm. It was a war of liberation, undertaken on behalf of the oppressed peasant of Macedonia, and every Bulgarian soldier knew from the tales of his elders or from his own experience the misery and degradation of the Turkish yoke which he fought to overthrow. The first war was protracted by the grasping diplomacy of the Bulgarian Government. The spirit of the men flagged under inaction, privation, and disease. They had liberated Macedonia, and cared nothing for the further objects which kept them in the field. As the time of harvest approached, no discipline could avail to keep them with the colours. They deserted during the long months of inaction in such numbers that General Savoff abandoned all attempts to coerce them, and when a man disappeared he was written down in the lists as "on leave." The second war against Bulgaria's allies stirred no such enthusiasm as the first, and when it opened the strength of her armies was diminished by the 80,000 men who had indulged in this tolerated desertion.
This experience conveys a moral of importance. It means in the first place that even without deliberate Socialist propaganda, the moral factor must be reckoned with in modern wars. A conscript army is not a mere machine which can be set in motion against an enemy with equal prospect of success, whatever the cause of the war may be. The ardour and endurance of the men will have some relation to their opinions about the justice and necessity of the war. In the second place it means that there are limits to the sacrifices which a conscript army will willingly make. It cannot be kept in the field indefinitely without losing something of its spirit, even in a war which it approved at the start. This means that there is on moral grounds a time limit to a modern war, even if the finances of the belligerent Power are equal to its prolongation. A modern war is necessarily brief, and this means that permanent conquest has become nearly impossible. The conqueror, after his first successes in the early months of the war, will find it increasingly difficult to prolong the campaign. He will be less able than he was in the days of small professional armies to meet a determined enemy defending his home-territory by guerilla tactics. One may doubt, for example, whether any conscript army could have done what our professional army did during the three tedious years of the South African War. The action of Roumania is another object-lesson, which would probably be repeated in any modern European war. When the conqueror is exhausted by costly successes, a neutral Power, a tertius gaudens, is almost certain to intervene to limit the struggle and rob him of the fruit of his victories. A generous mind revolts against the meanness of this predatory policy, but, undoubtedly, it handicaps the conqueror, diminishes the gains of conquest, and thereby strengthens the motives which may induce even a strong State to refrain from making war. Nor was it only in the Balkans that this Balkan crisis illustrated the extent to which a military Power must take the sentiments of its conscript soldiers into account. Austria mobilised a part of her army when the crisis began, in order to check any attempt at intervention on the part of Russia. She abstained, however, as far as possible, from calling reservists of the Slav races to the colours, because she knew that their sympathies would be with her Russian adversary.
The experiences of Bulgaria are full of encouragement to those who hope that the opinions and interests of conscript armies, consisting as they do largely of reservists summoned from their homes and their fields, may in the future deter aggressive Governments from aggressive and unnecessary wars. The Bulgarian soldier is by temperament singularly patient and enduring, he submits readily to discipline, he is patriotic as the soldier of older nations rarely is, and he has only just begun to feel the influence of Socialistic thought. If he grew "stale" as the campaign dragged on, a French or German army would reach the same condition much earlier. When once a spirit of reluctance and criticism invades an army, it becomes incapable of meeting even an inferior enemy inspired by a belief in the justice of his cause. Commands are obeyed stupidly and slowly. There is an end of self-sacrifice, of promptitude, of spontaneous intelligence. Regiments will not do their best in forced marches, nor stand firm under a murderous fire. The consequences may be even worse than this. It would take some heroism to desert or revolt, or make a general strike. But any average man can do less than his best in handling the big guns or aiming his rifle. It is doubtful whether the indifference of an army which disapproved of the war in which it was engaged would ever be shown fully in the first excitement of a battle. When once a soldier is under fire his instincts bid him fight in self-defence. It is a good deal safer to be on the victorious side than to be engaged in a disastrous retreat. But, undoubtedly, this spirit of opposition would check the ardour of an attack, and put a limit to the endurance which men will display under difficulties. It would be shown most easily of all during the mobilisation, where everything depends on the promptitude and goodwill of each unit, and men are not yet heated into unreason by contact with the enemy. In a German army in time of war one man in three would be a Socialist voter. Some of these at the best of times are only superficially under the influence of Socialism, and others would be carried away by the excitement of the national crisis. But it is hard to believe that if in a war of aggression this army were to be hurled against France to-day, German Socialists would show any ardour in shooting down French workmen. The spirit which marched through Sedan to Paris could not be revived in our generation.
How far the general strike could be used with success to prevent the outbreak of war is a more difficult question. The Italian Socialists, ill-organised at the best, and sharply divided when the trial came, made no use of it to stop the adventure in Tripoli. They were taken by surprise, for this war was both secret and sudden in its origin, and it was conducted mainly by the young troops of the active army. European soldiers will never feel the same reluctance to shoot down an uncivilised enemy which one hopes they would feel if they met white troops. It is fairly certain that French Socialists would make an attempt to stop an aggressive war by a resort to the general strike. It would require superb heroism and perfect organisation if it were to succeed. Martial law would at once be proclaimed. The press would be silenced, and the leaders would be arrested and shot. It is unlikely that the mobilisation could be stopped, or that any appreciable proportion of the reservists would refuse obedience. But even a slight delay might embarrass the plan of campaign, and large numbers of men would join the colours in a mood which wins no victory. The question is not, after all, whether a Government could manage, in spite of the hostility of the organised working-class, to stumble somehow into war, and get its armies up to the front. Its aim is something more than that. The question is not whether an aggressive Government can still contrive to make war, but whether it can reckon on victory. To crush Socialist resistance is one thing; to embody the working-classes in the fighting line embued with the fighting spirit, is a wholly different matter. If any modern Government knew that it had to deal with a powerful Socialist party, courageous, united, well-organised, and firmly opposed to war, a strike would be superfluous. The experiment of a strike against war will never be made under favourable conditions; it will be made only if Socialism is so weak that the Government can safely despise it. In no country with a conscript army in which Socialism deserves to be respected, will a Government dare to-day to make an unnecessary war. It is always a mistake to invent heroic methods, where simple facts will suffice. The simple fact that the working-class hated the idea of war, and the knowledge that it would fight half-heartedly, would in themselves suffice to keep the peace, at all events between nearly equal antagonists. In France and Germany, if not as yet in Austria and Italy, Socialism has already attained this degree of strength. It is even now perhaps the most formidable factor in the preservation of the peace of Europe, and its pressure is none the less real because Governments will never willingly admit that it has influenced them.
The Socialist opposition to war is effective, because under modern conditions on the Continent a war must be the effort of the whole nation. A minority makes its influence felt here even when it is impotent in Parliament. The Socialist deputies in Reichstag or Chamber may always be voted down, and their resistance has counted for little. But the Socialist soldiers in the army are indispensable to it. It will win no victories while they are an element of active or even passive discontent. In its opposition, on the other hand, to the accumulation of armaments, to colonial expansion, to the armed peace of the Balance of Power, Socialism, even where it is strongest, is as yet unable to prevent middle-class States from "rattling into barbarism," or even greatly to retard the pace. Lord Rosebery in the same speech in which he coined that memorable phrase, invited the masses to rise up and say, "Enough of this folly." The dependence of those who have learning and leisure and wealth on the insight of working-men, with whom it is a rare event to read a book, is one of the oddest ironies of modern civilisation. No Socialist party is strong enough to make this dramatic gesture of disgust effectively, without the aid from middle-class Liberals, which as yet they hesitate to give. The arming, the export of capital, the rivalry to win fields of exploitation, and the consequent division of Europe into two hostile camps, go on in spite of Socialism. It is possible that the long discussion of the rather theatrical revolutionary device of a strike against war did harm by directing attention exclusively to the risk of war, and in diverting it from our modern dry warfare. But if that was a mistake, it is being corrected to-day. The aphorism of Jaurès that the preparation for war is an evil hardly less than war itself, expresses the general trend of Socialist thought not only in France but also in Germany. The Socialist appeal to a general strike, like the pacifist appeal to reason, falls far short of solving our problem and for the same reason. It leaves untouched that ceaseless play of rivalries, that incessant competition to accumulate force, which devastates even when it lights no torch of war, and divides mankind though it orders no battle.(18)
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