Oldham Historical Research Group

'What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
- Only the monstrous anger of the guns.'
from 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' by Wilfred Owen

1914 - 1918


9th August 1917 (Thursday)

Sir, Since war broke out the I.L.P. has been furiously assailed and slandered by the Jingo Press. Apparently the worst crime of the party was its refusal to abjure its principles and renounce its faith and turn apostate to its past traditions. The fierce whirlwind of passions which has turned Europe into hell has broken in vain against the I.L.P. In face of abuse and insult the party has not flinched. The war of the I.L.P. is the real war for freedom, economic justice, and international democracy. It believes that common humanity is even higher than nationality. It counsels its members to live and, if need be, to die, but it will never ask them to give backing and support to the false aims and mad, blood-stained ambitions of the rulers and diplomats of Europe.

What are the aims of the war? Sir W. Barton appears to think they have been achieved. The Allies are going to have a conference to see if they can decide them. The I.L.P. has concerned itself with the politics of the war, not with the individual action of this member or that. The party has appealed for sane and clear thinking, as we intended doing on Monday night, as against the muddled, poisoned thinking that has brought Europe to this calamitous pass.

The I.L.P. has always said that war settles nothing, but unsettles everything. We have always said that the workers of the European countries by means of friendly international action will do more for themselves and each other, more for the advancement of civilisation, security, knowledge, human happiness than they can possibly hope to accomplish by a policy of mutual destruction. It says so now. The war has not proved the I.L.P. to be wrong; it has proved the I.L.P. to be right.

The meetings we intended to hold were to prepare the people for the future. We hold strongly to our beliefs that our views are the only right views to secure a just settlement and lasting peace, and I can assure you that in face of the lies and abuse of the press we are tempted[?] many times to put altruistic views on one side and devote our leisure time to pleasure and money-making and go in with the mob. We believe that a real peace will come, not from brute force, but from the innate sense of justice and fair play. If that has gone, everything has gone, and it is no use thinking about the future of mankind. The points of our peace programme are that there should be no conquest by force of arms; every nation, the small and the great, must be free to live its own life and achieve its own destiny unmolested by the sabre-rattling of its neighbours; nationality must be restored in Belgium, Poland, and Finland; Alsace-Lorraine must be free to decide and work out for themselves their own future. Then there should be set up a world council, an international parliament, which whilst recognising and respecting the autonomy and independence of states, would prevent the appeal to armed force in disputes between these states and maintain order and international law and substitute arbitration for war.

What is needed among the nations is not mastership or dominion but a genuine partnership based on the recognition of community of interest and common honesty and the international and esssential amity of the working people. But the answer to this is generally: "Yes, but must we allow the Germans to go unpunished for their brutal crimes?" I should not like to believe that all Germans are guilty of some of the atrocious acts which have been committed by German officers and soldiers. Nor should I like to think that all the New Zealanders at Chadderton Park were similar to those who acted as they did on Monday night. Similar treatment of Belgians by the Germans would have had great headlines about 'Huns' Brutality, etc., to Peaceful Civilians.

We believe in a people's peace, as the Russian people want, no more class diplomacy, and no more secret diplomacy. They have cost Europe more than enough. Internaitonal democracy and International Socialism are the only sound foundations of peace.

In view of the present government by a Jingo press and the acceptance of the law of the mob, for the saftey of my wife and children I must withhold my name and sign myself,


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