WWI: Down with the War!

Aug 4th, 2014 | By admin | Category: Articles, Frontpage, History, Lead

LL Down with war smallOn 6 August 1914, just nine days after the start of what came to be known as World War One, the ILP published a front-page appeal in its weekly journal, Labour Leader, imploring the “workers of Great Britain” to unite with those across Europe and resist the government’s call to arms.

“Though our governments declare war, we declare peace,” it said. “Stand true in this hour of crisis. The flag of International Solidarity is greater than the flag of Britain, of Germany, of France, of Austria, of Russia. It waves over all.”

Here we reproduce the editorial in full as part of our series on the ILP’s role in the World War One peace movement.

Down with the War!

WORKERS of Great Britain, you have no quarrel with the workers of Europe. They have no quarrel with you. The quarrel is with the RULING classes of Europe.

DON’T MAKE THEIR QUARREL YOURS.

One Million Trade Unionists and Socialists of Austria have protested against the war.

DON’T DESERT THEM.

Three Million Trade Unionists and Socialists of Germany have protested against the war.

DON’T DESERT THEM.

Workers of Great Britain, unite with the organised workers of France and Russia in saying that though our Governments declare war we declare peace.

Stand true in this hour of crisis. The flag of International Solidarity is greater than the flag of Britain, of Germany, of France, of Austria, of Russia. It waves over all.

Why should you go to war? What have you to gain from war? What has war ever done for you? What did the last war – the Boer War – do for you? Twenty thousand workers were shot dead on the battlefield. You are still paying £12,000,000 every year in food taxes for it. The workers of South Africa are worse off than ever. The rich mineworkers alone benefited.

THE WORKERS NEVER BENEFIT BY WAR.

This is not your war. It is not the war of the German working class, or of the French working class, or of the Austrian working class, or of the Russian working class.

It is the war of the British RULING Class, of the German RULING Class, of the French RULING Class, and of the Austrian RULING Class.

IT IS THEIR WAR, NOT YOURS.

This is the war of the RULING Classes. But the RULING Classes will not fight. They will call on you to fight.

Your fathers, your brothers, your sons will be called on to shoot down the German workers. The German workers will be called on to shoot down your fathers, your brothers, your sons. You have no quarrel. But you will have to suffer.

WHY SHOULD YOU?

You will have to pay for the war. You will hunger and starve. Your wives will hunger and starve. Your children will hunger and starve.

WHY SHOULD THEY?

Workers, even now you can stop this terrible calamity if you will! No Government can continue to engage in war if its people say with sufficient strength: THERE MUST BE PEACE.

SAY IT!

Say it in your thousands. March through the streets and say it. Gather together in your squares and market places and say it. Say it everywhere. Say it, and go on saying it until the Government heeds.

Workers, don’t fail your comrades at this great moment. Stand by your fellow-workers here. Stand by your fellow-workers in Europe. Whoever else deserts the ranks, whatever you may have to face, stand firm. The future is dark, but in the solidarity of the workers lies the hope which shall, once again, bring light to the peoples of Europe.

Down with the War!

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More articles on the ILP and World War One are available here.

You can read more about the ILP’s history here and here.

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7 comments
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  1. For a related item, see – http://threescoreyearsandten.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/the-day-after-war-broke-out.html

  2. A remarkable and poignant statement.

  3. THE WORKERS NEVER BENEFIT BY WAR.
    This is not your war. It is not the war of the German working class, or of the French working class, or of the Austrian working class, or of the Russian working class.

    It is the war of the British RULING Class, of the German RULING Class, of the French RULING Class, and of the Austrian RULING Class.
    IT IS THEIR WAR, NOT YOURS.

    How true! But even sadder – NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

    Our elected representatives of all main political parties will join with the Royals (the descendants of those donkeys who sent the lions over the top) and the establishment by banging the UK nationalist drum from now until the Remembrance Day parade, at the Cenotaph.

    And the narrative, as always, is our boys are heroes and are always the bravest and the best and are defending our unique values in the name of peace, democracy and god. Also that the spend on weapons of mass destruction is always necessary and very good value unlike the waste that goes on welfare and social justice.

    And while our service men and women march to the tune of Nimrod and our modern day leaders wipe away a few crocodile tears as they try and remember the words to Land of Hope and Glory and belt out, with lumps in their throats, the words of our national anthem (“Send her victorious/Happy and glorious” etc) some might even be contemplating the next foreign adventure in Eastern Europe, Middle East, wherever.

    Sadly, very few, if any, will agree with the ILP and the author who penned this statement in August 1914.

    So get ready for another barrage of Orwellian doublespeak and spin from the Royals, the establishment and political elite who are always ready to risk the lives and limbs of working class boys and girls, but rarely their own.

  4. The current issue of the “Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Clarion” (Number 112) carries an article entitled “The First World War: and those who refused to fight”. It would be worthwhile to contact its editor, the ILPer Alistair Graham for permission to place it on this web-site. He probably wrote it anyway,

  5. Thanks Harry. We have used it, in fact. You can find it here: http://www.independentlabour.org.uk/main/2014/01/14/wwi-remember-those-who-refused-to-fight/

  6. Matthew: I hope that I am not at cross purposes. But it seems that the item you direct me towards is dated 14 January. The item I referred to appears in the current issue of the ‘Clarion’ dated August/September 2014.

    I appreciate, however, that numbers of ILPers and Friends will already subscribe to this publication. If not it is highly recommended. If we had a few hundred Alistair Grahams spread throughout the country helping to produce the equivalents, it might feed back into reshaping the Labour Party. Awareness of the importance of democratic socialist localism was at the very core of the birth of the ILP.

  7. Further to my last comment. Here is a my local example of socialist localism – http://threescoreyearsandten.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/50th-anniversary-contact-club-dronfield.html

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