Ted Grant

Down with the war!

Written: September 1939
Source: Youth for Socialism, vol. 2 no. 1 (September 1939)
Markup/Proofread:: Emil 2007

Today the youth of Britain as of other countries face the gravest threat to their lives and liberties they have ever had to consider. War or peace trembles in the balance. The nations confront one another mobilised and armed to the teeth. “We are ready,” boasts Chamberlain, pointing to the Navy, Army and Air Force preparedness, to the methodical preparations of A.R.P. and evacuation schemes. Yes, they even have ready 250,000 shrouds for those they expect to be killed in the first weeks and months of air-raids, for London alone. Across the Channel, on both sides of the Rhine, the state of preparation is just as, or even more complete.

It requires merely the signal, on either side, and the ghastly tragedy of 1914-1918 will have begun. Millions, tens of millions, will be killed in the insane slaughter, whole cities and countries will be devastated, women and children as well as men will be in the front-lines to be butchered. Famine and disease will sweep over all Europe. The flower of European manhood will he exterminating one another. And for what?

The British capitalist press has been attempting to picture the situation as if it were all due to the “lust for power” on the part of a lunatic who controls Germany. This man, they say, has an insane desire to dominate Europe—the world.[sic] After his conquest of Austria and Czechoslovakia, it is now the turn of Poland. It is time, they say, that British “democracy” made a stand.

It is true that German Imperialism desires to dominate the continent of Europe. But the reason for this lies in the insoluble contradictions of German capitalism. In the most highly industrialised country in Europe, with the coming to power of fascism in Germany and the consequent savage lowering of the standard of living of the German people, the German capitalists find themselves in a position where they must find new markets in order to get rid of their surplus goods, which they cannot sell at home. In addition they want sources of raw material and new peoples to exploit, having squeezed almost the last pfennig, the last ounce of energy out of the German working class. They have openly demanded that Central and South Eastern Europe must become a “German sphere of influence”.

But the British and French capitalists, despite the huge resources of their empires, with their millions of colonial slaves, out of whom super profits are wrung, also despite the few crumbs given to the upper layers of the working class, find themselves in a similar position.

Cabinet minister after cabinet minister has openly stated that they are not willing to give up a single one of their markets anywhere in the world. That is the cause of the quarrel between these different gangs of imperialist bandits. Stripped of all the pious phrases about “defence of democracy”, “liberty”, “the rule of law, not force”, on the one hand, and “Germany’s sacred rights”, “living space”, “the wrongs of Versailles” on the other, it can be reduced to the quarrel between the different cliques of monopoly capitalists as to who shall have the dominant right to make profits at the expense of the peoples of the whole world.

The attempt to picture the struggle as one between barbarism and civilisation, fascism versus democracy, tyranny against liberty, is made laughable by the attempt of the British capitalists to win over to their side Franco, the butcher of millions of Spanish workers, bloodiest tyrant in Europe, and Mussolini, not a whit better or worse than his fellow dictator. And there is no need to point out that thousands of workers are languishing in the jails of fascist Poland in whose defence we are to die.

In addition, by means of the Emergency Powers Act the liberties of the workers in England will be swept away soon. In France the move towards dictatorship has gone even further than in England. Freedom of the press, freedom to hold meetings, etc., has already been taken away, and rule by an “inner cabinet” of four dictators resorted to. As soon as the sound of the first shots has died away, behind the smoke of battle the last vestiges of freedom and democracy will disappear. War on the totalitarian scale will begin.

Already the capitalists have exacted “sacrifices” in the “national interests” from the rail workers and engineers. Dearly bought trade union conditions in the engineering industry have gone by the board. “Dilution”, leading to a lower standard of living has begun. This is just the start. Other attacks on all sections of the working class are to come. It will be noticed that the railway owners, engineering bosses, and armament profiteers are not being called on to make sacrifices.

War, if it comes, will mean immense profits to the monopoly capitalists on both sides of the frontier. It is the working class and small people generally who will be the sufferers. “But what about the defence of our country?” plead the millionaires and their hired prostitutes of the boss class press. Defence of whose country? Defence of the landlord and the boss!

We defend the country when we have a country to defend. Cut down the profits out of war 100% first. Let the mines, factories, railways and workshops come under the control of the working class. The working class on both sides of the frontier has no interest in the struggle of one or another group of vultures fattening on the corpses of the working people. If British capitalists win the war, they are preparing to carve up Germany among their allies and themselves. Already the Evening News, formerly an enthusiastic supporter of Hitler, when he was destroying the trade unions and other organisations of the working class, former enthusiastic backer of Mosley and British fascism, has hinted in its leader columns of this intention upon the part of the British ruling class. If Hitler wins he will impose his monstrous tyranny on the whole other sections [sic] of Europe and the colonies, as he has upon the Czech people. British workers and German workers have no reason to slaughter one another. Let us turn upon our real enemies, the German and British capitalist class.

If world capitalism has no solution for its problems excepting new and more horrible slaughter of whole nations, it is time this insane system were ended. And meantime, what is the message of the Labour and Communist Party leaders to the workers of the world? They are betraying us into the hands of our worst enemies.

Working youth, capitalism can only continue to exist on your bones. The sole way out for the youth lies in the overthrow of capitalism and workers’ power and socialism. Our path lies in building up the revolutionary socialist youth which alone can lead us away from the nightmare of war which hangs over us.