DONATE NOW TO HELP UPGRADE LIBCOM.ORG

"The only war which is worth fighting is the class war" Sheffield Meeting

11 posts / 0 new
Last post
Theft's picture
Theft
Offline
Joined: 17-08-11
Jun 20 2014 07:44
"The only war which is worth fighting is the class war" Sheffield Meeting

Joint meeting of the Communist Workers Organisation and the Free Communist at the Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair. Saturday 12th July. 10am-6pm

This year is the one hundredth anniversary of the first great imperialist slaughter of 1914. The fiftieth anniversary was greeted in 1964 with a wave of anti-war cultural and historical events and comment. In the wake of the rising militarism at home (how many military charities have mushroomed in the last decade), and the changing nature of war (we don’t need to directly suffer over a war in Afghanistan or Iraq whereas every family was touched by the slaughter of the First World War) that this will be repeated. The current crisis in the wake of the nationalist orgy of last year’s Olympics mean that celebration rather than reflection are what the ruling class are what the ruling class want. In the face of all that would it not make sense to revive the idea of revolutionary defeatism, of “no war but the class war” amongst the revolutionary groups of today? Who knows we might even collectively make a small contribution to fighting the wave of nationalism which the ruling class are already swamping us with?

at Showroom Workstation

15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S1 2BX July 12th 2014

https://sheffieldbookfair.org.uk/

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Jul 2 2014 11:46

Is there a specific time for this meeting and for others at the bookfair yet? I can't see any listing on the bookfair website.

Theft's picture
Theft
Offline
Joined: 17-08-11
Jul 2 2014 14:05

This meeting is at 4pm, I'm not involved in organising the event and don't know what other meetings are on apart from I believe Battlescarred is doing one on "The Spirit of Revolt: Bakunin"?

Theft's picture
Theft
Offline
Joined: 17-08-11
Jul 17 2014 10:13

The audio from this meeting I will say it's not the best due to the fan that was behind the speakers.

jondwhite's picture
jondwhite
Offline
Joined: 23-10-12
Jul 18 2014 22:45

Audio at http://sheffield.indymedia.org.uk/2014/07/517228.html sounds clear so far.

However at 8:21 the CWO speaker John states "I won't go into the various british ones today but the only group and it was a group rather than an organisation that can claim to have had any real anti-war policy was completely was the Socialist Labour Party."

The SLP in Britain were nearly a thousand strong shortly after the First World War but has dwindled out of existence today. The SPGB were most certainly an organisation that opposed the First World War and are still extant and launching an exhibition on the SPGB opposition to the First World War beginning a few weeks away in August.

Workers might wonder whether this airbrushing of the SPGB opposition from working-class labour history can be excused as a simple CWO oversight. Well, this CWO speaker also represented the CWO in a debate against the SPGB. The audio is available on the SPGB website (http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/audio/can-majority-workers-develop-socialist-conciousness-under-capitalism), and worth a listen if only to hear the CWO speaker claim in Part 6 at 10:30 the SPGB are "schooled in Stalinism."

slothjabber
Offline
Joined: 1-08-06
Jul 19 2014 11:07

I noticed that at the time. I suspect that he meant the SPGB. To my recollection there was an SLP minority position that was national-defencist.

arminius's picture
arminius
Offline
Joined: 11-08-06
Jul 19 2014 14:24

"Socialist Labor Party and the War" (1915)

[url]http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=inu.32000001993866;view=1up;seq=5 [/url]

slothjabber
Offline
Joined: 1-08-06
Jul 20 2014 07:53

We're talking about the Socialist Labour Party, a 1903 impossiblist split from the SDF in the UK that included James Connelly and published 'The Socialist'. They were close to the SLP in the US but didn't have identical positions.

See: SLP UK 1903

Not to be confused with: De Leonist SLP in USA

or: Scargill's tankie rump.

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Jul 20 2014 09:21

The Socialist Labour Party failed to produce a clear position when the war commenced. The Editor of The SLP journal wrote in the issue of November 1914, three months after the war broke out:-“I cannot say what the official attitude of the Party is”

In the following issue December 1914 he explains: “The S.L.P. – let us admit it freely, it has been taken by storm, though not so disastrously as other parties. What policy does the S.L.P. follow with respect to this war? We do not know. We are disunited. We are groping for a lead at the present time”.

Johnny Muir, who was the editor tried to argue his case for defending "his own" country, at a special meeting in their hall in Renfrew Street. In the midst of the discussion, and while Johnny was arguing a certain point, Davy Kirkwood jumped up and shouted, "Naw, naw, Johnnie, that'll no dae, the workers have nae country. Ah'm feenished wi' ye."

This vacillation of the SLP at the start of the war became something the SPGB used in debates with the SLP for quite a few years, despite the actions of the SLP later on in opposing the war.

(As an aside the Red Clyde anti-war position of the shop-stewards was a bit over-exaggerated with Kirkwood boasting of his factories record-breaking out-put for the war effort.)

The rent strikes was more effective and were mostly organised outside the unions although female members of the ILP were actively involved in the women's anti-war movement see this blog post

http://www.socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-peace-women...

The British Socialist Party declared that it recognised: “…that the national freedom and independence of this country are threatened by Prussian militarism and that the Party naturally desires to see the prosecution of the war to a speedy and successful issue.” (Justice 17 September 1914)
The B.S.P. was torn between factions led by John Maclean, who headed the B.S.P.'s Scottish Branch, and Henry Hyndman, who headed the party as a whole. Some BSP members formed the “Socialist National Defence Committee,” which issued a manifesto urging Socialists to carry the British flag in the “war of liberation” and would break up anti-war socialist meetings and this was recorded by the minutes of the EC of SPGB . In 1915 the B.S.P.'s pro-war wing would leave to form the National Socialist Party.

The Independent Labour Party allowed its members to support the War and to engage in recruiting. I.L.P. members in Parliament were permitted to vote War credits, and throughout the War the I.L.P. remained a constituent part of the war-mongering Labour Party. The myth about Keir Hardie's anti-war attitude is very persistent but at the outbreak of the war he took the side of the British ruling class.

"A nation at war must be united especially when its existence is at stake. In such filibustering expeditions as our own Boer War or the recent Italian war over Tripoli, where no national danger of any kind was involved there were many occasions for diversity of opinion and this was given voice to by the Socialist Party of Italy and the Stop the War Party in this country. Now the situation is different. With the boom of the enemy's guns within earshot, the lads who have gone forth by sea and land to fight their country's battles must not be disheartened by any discordant note at home." (Pioneer, Merthyr 15th Aug., 1914).

And again he writes

"We must see the war through, but we must also make ourselves so familiar with the facts as to be able to intervene at the earliest possible moment in the interests of peace" (Pioneer 15th Aug., 1914).

Hardie to become convinced that “our interests as a nation” were “directly attacked.” In an article “Pioneer” he says: “I have never said or written anything to dissuade our young men from enlisting. I know too well all there is at stake.” Hardie expressed his pleasure that a recruiting meeting addressed by him had been more successful than those of the Liberals.

“If I can get the recruiting figures for Merthyr week by week, which I find is a very difficult job, I hope by another week to prove (Hardie’s emphasis) that whereas our Rink meeting gave a stimulus to recruiting, those meetings at the Drill Hall at which the Liberal member or Liberal candidate spoke had exactly the opposite effect.” Two weeks later Hardie was able to proclaim that he had obtained the recruiting figures for his constituency and was able to make good his boast. He set out his claim in this manner: "(1) That for the five weeks before the Rink Meeting. recruiting had been steadily going down week by week; (2) that our I.L.P. meeting was held on Sunday, October 25th, and that for the next three weeks the number of recruits secured in Merthyr kept steadily rising. . . If Mr. Jones challenges this statement I shall produce the figures, though not inclined to do so for very obvious patriotic reasons. Unlike my colleague I am more concerned with aiding the army than with trying to take a mean advantage of a political opponent" (Pioneer, 19th Dec., 1914).

Ramsay Macdonald, another leading light of the I.L.P, declared that “the war they were fostering was wrong and would be considered so by posterity” (“Labour Leader,” 6.8.1914). Yet he could add
“I want the serious men of the Trade Unions, the brotherhoods, and similar movements, to face their duty. To such it is sufficient to say, “England has need of you, and to say it in the right way.” “Daily Chronicle,” 14.9.1914.

F.W. Jowett, MP, Chairman of the I.L.P said :–
“It has been said that the I.L.P. holds the view that, notwithstanding the circumstances binding Great Britain to France and France to Russia, the Government ought to have declared for neutrality; I do not accept the statement as a correct representation of the position of the I.L.P. for my part, at all events, I agree that the Government was in honour bound by its secret understanding with France, to declare for intervention."

Bruce Glasier summed up the ILP policy that “such matters as enlistment and the urging of recruiting are matters for the individual conscience”:–"They had disassociated the Party from the political recruiting campaign, but they had left it to every member to recruit if he thought it well to do so, and, if he thinks it his duty, to ask his neighbour to recruit.”

I.L.P. delegates voted for the “unanimous declaration” issued by the Conference of “Socialists of Allied Nations,” which stated that the Socialists are “inflexibly resolved to fight until victory is achieved.”

Of course, i am biased but i do think to devalue the SPGB anti-war credentials is inaccurate. We had members going to jail, going on the run. The Standard continued to be published and could publicise the Bolshevik Party's anti-war conference statement and Rosa Luxemburg critique of the 2nd International, alongside its exposures of the wars follies

Okay, outdoor meetings were suspended and is anyone surprised when there had been assaults and arrests upon the speakers, some losing their jobs from the actions of informers in the crowds. The SPGB are not a party of martyrs or sacrificial lambs.

jondwhite's picture
jondwhite
Offline
Joined: 23-10-12
Jul 20 2014 11:15

Who's devaluing them? I can see them being airbrushed not devalued.

slothjabber
Offline
Joined: 1-08-06
Jul 20 2014 13:03

I think Jock made a slip of the tongue. I don't know if it was deliberate. I rather doubt it.

Of course, he may be on to back up his assertion that the SLP was the only group in the UK to adopt a consistently anti-war position.