Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

What They Said

Some Labour Leaders and the War

In an article by Mr Keir Hardie in yesterday’s Pioneer (Merthyr) 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”. (MANCHESTER GUARDIAN, November 28th, 1914.)

I returned about 1.30 and received the Rt. Hon. J. H. Thomas at lunch, a Labour M.P., and head of the Railwaymen’s Union. I found him a broad-minded patriot. Most anxious to help and fully alive to what the gentry of England have done in the war. He is a great admirer of Asquith… (The Diary of Sir Douglas Haig. Commander of the British forces in France, October 31st, 1917.)

Ruthlessness

Nothing for which the masses of our people have ever striven is more important than they and all of us should win in this tremendous war against the ruthless military caste…that menaces the rights and freedom of mankind. (H.M.. Hyndman, writing in the Daily Dispatch, July 7th, 1915)

Sir Douglas Haig’s diary for the same day shows that ruthlessness was not confined to one side…

At 11 o’clock Lt. Col. Fowkes, R.E., called on me from G.H.Q. regarding the use of asphyxiating gas. I said better wait until we can use it on a large scale, because the element of surprise is always greater on the first occasion.

The First Casualty

It is difficult to imagine what could be more despicable than the attitude of the capitalist Press during the past year. The persistent and ever more complete suppression of truth, the distortion of facts, the hypocrisy, the false and maudlin sentiment and stupid advice to the workers, the idiotic praise of everything British and the belittling of the same thing when done by the alien, all make it increasingly obvious that the “glorious institution”, the capitalist Press, is one great insult to the intelligence of the people, (THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, September, 1915)

It would be an admirable thing if all unmarried men between 18 and 30 without the manhood to offer themselves, were forcibly pressed into the Army and put into battalions where the kicks should be more than ha’pence. (THE DAILY EXPRESS, August 20th, 1914.)

God’s purpose and War

It is God’s leading that we are following now. War is an instrument through which God is working out his own purpose (Canon Alexander of St. Paul’s. THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, August 25th, 1914.)

And this is what the war really meant…

…some have gone in the dug-outs to try to get a few hours’ sleep, but this is almost impossible, for the earth shakes from the vibrations of the artillery. The lice crawl all over the body, driving one near frantic, and the rats are in swarms and run over us. But there are some corpses lying out on the top, with plenty of rates around them, so they won’t go hungry. (A SOLDIER IN THE TRENCHES, The Ploughshare, March 1917.)

The War for “Freedom”

The Daily Mail wants the names of every known pacifist or active friend of Germany in your city, town or village…the names of every speaker or writer who favours Germany, with all you know about the source of his income, the societies to which he belongs, and the relations he has, or had, with Germany. (THE DAILY MAIL, October 25th, 1917.)

Talking about Homes…

It is a pitiful thing to think of, but thousands of these brave men of ours have better homes in the trenches of Flanders than in the sunless alleys of our Motherland. (Arthur Mee, writing in Lloyd’s News, March 26th, 1916.)

Sir David Keppel (Master of the King’s Household) arrived and went round to inspect several Chateaux considered suitable for the King’s occupation. He fixed one which (for secrecy) is to be prepared for me. Derek is enjoying himself so much that he has asked to stay another day. (The Diary of Sir Douglas Haig, Commander of the British Forces in France, August 2nd, 1916).

Marching on Whose Stomach?

We then went to Poperinghe. It was now past 2 o’clock, so we stopped to have lunch near some stacks on the road south of Steenwoorde. A party of refugees passed us and a well-dressed woman and a man came up and asked if they could go by Tournai to Brussels…They had walked all the way from Ostend with a basket on the arm or a pack of clothes on their backs. All that was left to the poor things of their property…I gave them 2 doz. “Oxo” soup squares for which they seemed most grateful. (The diary of Sir Douglas Haig, Commander of the British Forces in France, October 17th, 1914.)

Prince Arthur of Connaught arrived with the Crown Prince of Servia…Lunch lasted two hours and all enjoyed themselves hugely. (July 7th, 1915). We had coffee after lunch in my writing room, and Joffre enjoyed himself so much that it was 2.20 p.m. before he went…They are, indeed difficult allies to deal with! But there is no doubt that the nearest way to the hearts of many of them, including that of the “Generalissimo”, is down their throats and some 1840 brandy had a surprisingly smooth effect upon him and Castlenau! (May 26th, 1916.)

A Prayer for the Troops

Keep the Officers who lead us; help us all to render them cheerful obedience. May we all endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. When suffering or death comes to us, may the Holy comforter be as a friend at our side. Grant us speedy Victory over our enemies, if it be Thy Will. God save the King, the Queen, and all the Royal Family. Give wisdom and courage to all who control the affairs of our Empire. Bless all our Allies, and save them and us with Thy Great Salvation; through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen

From THE SOCIALIST STANDARD August 1964 p. 122, 126 and 127

Back to top

Socialist Studies

email: enquiries@socialiststudies.org.uk | www.socialiststudies.org.uk