Edgar Hardcastle

Is It War?

Source: Socialist Standard, February 1937.
Transcription: Socialist Party of Great Britain.
HTML Markup: Adam Buick
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2016). 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.

The international situation becomes each month more tense and dangerous, and early war is on all sides spoken of as a possibility. The German ruling class, strongly armed for war, along with what allies they can find in Italy, Japan and elsewhere, are bent on carving out territorial gains in Europe and the colonial lands. Against them on the present line-up are the Governments of France, Russia, Britain and other countries, anxious to keep what they have. The spokesmen of the British ruling class, themselves frantically hastening war preparations, declare that this country will only go to war for its own "vital interests"—a truly admirable-sounding doctrine. We, too, are of opinion that the working class should only fight for its own vital interests. But what are the vital interests of the world working class on the one side and the national sections of the ruling class on the other? The British ruling class find their vital propertied interests scattered over the seven seas and across the surrounding continents: in India, China, South America, Africa and the Mediterranean lands. It even appears, according to The Times (January 20th, 1937) that it is a vital British interest, "that the political independence and the territorial integrity of Spain should be preserved." But what matters to the workers is not where the ruling class have an interest, but what that interest is. All the time the defenders of capitalism pretend that capitalist and worker have a mutual interest. Let us test it by seeing what the capitalist Governments do about the urgent problem of working class poverty. President Roosevelt can admit, in a speech at Washington on January 20th, 1937 (see Daily Telegraph, January 21st), that one-third of the American nation are "ill-housed, ill-clad and ill-nourished. " The same can be said of Great Britain, Germany, and most countries. All the Governments, past and present, have promised to deal with it, but none of them have done so or will do so. They do not consider it a vital problem. If they did they would have acted with the promptness and decision they all show about armaments and war for the defence of the propertied interests of the capitalist class. The British ruling class may have a vital interest in Spain, but it is not concerned with helping the Spanish workers to escape from the miseries of oppression and exploitation at the hands of the landowners, the military and the Catholic Church. To this the politicians hasten to reply that their concern is with British workers, not with Spaniards. Professor Haldane recently gave the most crushing answer to this, when he pointed out that the workers in besieged Madrid are probably better fed than those in our depressed areas like Merthyr. What have the British ruling class to say to that?

The interest of the workers everywhere is not in helping their rulers to grab or hold, but in the speedy overthrow of capitalism everywhere, the ending of the exploitation of one class by another. Let the workers of all countries apply that touchstone to the policies of their respective Governments. If the British ruling class—from Rothermere, the near-Fascist, to Beaverbrook, the "isolationist"—want the worker to take armed action in any quarter of the globe, ask what working class interest is at stake. Make no mistake, the armed forces of the capitalist State are not set in motion by the capitalists who control the machinery of Government for any purpose but their own class interest. Whether they call their wars offensive or defensive, struggles for colonies or to protect trade routes, for democracy or for Fascism, for religion or against it, the true purpose will be to hold or increase the wealth of the various sections of the ruling class. Workers, have none of it! Accept their advice and think only of the vital interest of your class, against capitalist wars and for Socialism.