You are called to the war - Sylvia Pankhurst

Article in Workers' Dreadnought opposing the involvement of the Allied nations in the Russian Civil War.

Submitted by Spassmaschine on June 25, 2009

Wake up! Wake up! Oh, sleepy British people! The new war is in full blast, and you are called to fight in it; you cannot escape; you must take part!

Out of the old inter-capitalist war between the Allies and the Central Empires, the war, the actual crude, cruel fighting between the workers and the capitalists has emerged. Soldiers who enlisted, or were conscripted for the old war have been quietly kept on to fight in the new war which began without any formal declaration. They have not been asked: 'Do you approve this war; do you understand it?' They have merely been detained and will now fight against their comrades.

Officially the British Government is not at war with Socialism in Europe, though in actual fact British and other Allied soldiers have been fighting it for a long time, and British money and munitions are keeping the soldiers of other governments in the field against it. There has been no official declaration of war, but the House of Commons, on April 9th, expressed its opinion in support of the war on Socialism in general, and on Russian Socialism in particular. This expression of opinion the Home Secretary claims to have been unanimous, and certainly when he challenged Members to express a contrary opinion no voice of dissent was audible enough to reach the columns of Hansard or the press. No Member of Parliament has written to the newspapers to make his protest.

Some Socialists tell us that the floor of the House of Commons is a splendid platform for propaganda; but the trouble is that when they get into the House, their courage seems to evaporate like a child's soap bubble. We have heard of Labour Members of Parliament being ready to do and say all sorts of heroic things to get themselves put out of the House, to arrest the world's attention on some appropriate occasion. That is not much, of course, as compared with running the risk of death in the horrible trenches or with being incarcerated for years in prison; but here was an opportunity, if ever there was one, for Members of Parliament to display all their pluck! Clem Edwards, the notorious anti-Socialist, moved the adjournment of the House, 'to draw attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the alleged overtures from the Bolshevik regime in Russia to the Peace Conference in Paris.'

In the debate Brigadier-General Page Croft and Lieut. Col. Guinness suggested that some Members of Parliament support the Bolsheviki. Did any man cry out: 'Yes, we are proud to stand by our fellow workers in their fight for Socialism'? No, on the contrary, the Labour Members broke out into cries of protest against the suggestion that they had any such sympathies. Bottomley rewarded them by an assurance of 'the profoundest and most affectionate respect'. The Home Secretary hammered in the point, saying the debate had called forth 'from every quarter of the House an indignant repudiation that the House contained a single Bolshevik sympathiser.' He described the Soviet Government as 'a mere gang of bloodthirsty ruffians,' and said it would strengthen the hands of the Government to know there is no quarter' for any Soviet supporters, 'at any rate in the British House of Commons.'

Even then there was no protest! Where was the lead to the country, and especially to the lads who may mistakenly enlist in the counterrevolutionary armies, which our 'leaders' in Parliament might have given? Of what were the opponents of the resolution afraid? Either they are cravens, or their opposition to the new war is of a very lukewarm character. The real work for the Socialist revolution must be done outside Parliament.

On April 10th, the day after the House of Commons has thus expressed itself, the first contingent of volunteers set sail for Russia. (à)

The British men who are in the army of the Government are fighting against the Workers' Socialist Revolution just as are the men who are fighting in the armies of the capitalist Government of Germany, France, Italy, America, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and any other governments which are joining in the strife. In all these armies the truth that they are fighting Socialism has dawned on some of the soldiers, and many of them have deserted and joined the Red Armies of the working-class Socialism.

Many who are not actually in the fighting rank have nevertheless ranged themselves against the capitalist governments and on the side of the Soviets. Philips Price, who is editing a Bolshevik newspaper in Russia and many other British people are aiding the Soviets over there. In this country we can also help by working with might and main to establish the British Soviets, by telling the soldiers, sailors, and workers the issues that are at stake in the International Civil War.

That war has now spread far beyond the boundaries of Russia. General Smuts has left Hungary abruptly, finding that Soviet Hungary stood firm for Communism. Shall we presently see the armies of capitalism marching on Hungary? The Evening News reported that the Serbs had refused to obey the order of the Big Four to send their troops to attack Hungary, because the Allies has not yet recognised the kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. But the Allies will presently secure a capitalist army from somewhere to carry on the fight. Paderewski is reported to have refused to send Polish troops to fight Communism, unless Dantzig and other territory is conceded to Poland. The Allies will bargain with Paderewski till they have bought his support or substituted a Polish ruler who is more amenable.

Churchill has revealed the fact that Germany is ordered, as one of the peace conditions, to fight Communism, and that the Germans may buy their way into the League of Nations by doing this efficiently. Indeed, the entire policy of the Paris Conference is dominated by the policy its members are pursuing in the war between the capitalists and the workers. Both false and foolish are the stories, so industriously circulated, that the British and American politicians at the Peace Conference are the pacifying influences and that they are working against a peace of annexation and oppression; whilst the French and Italian politicians are the greedy Jingoes, who, by demanding all sorts of advantages for themselves, are preventing the peace. The plain fact is that British and American capitalists have got what they set out to gain by the war with the Central Empires and the French and Italians have not. (...)

It is stated now that Germany is to pay the Allies between ten and twelve thousand million pounds and that the payments will be spread over fifty years, during which the Allies will occupy Germany, we suppose. Evidently it is thought that fifty years will not be too much for the crushing out of Bolshevism. Moreover, after such a period of occupation, history teaches us to anticipate that the occupying Powers will consider it inexpedient to withdraw. Ireland, Egypt, and India all stand as landmarks calling us to this conclusion.

To this pass has capitalism brought us. Europe, neutral and belligerent alike, is starving: not a household in our country, or any other, but mourns some of its members who lost their lives in the last war; and the world, in order to maintain the capitalist system, stands on the threshold of a time of still more extensive war.

British workers, which side are you on in the International Civil War?

Published in Workers' Dreadnought, 19 April 1919. Taken from the Antagonism website.