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(en) Anti-War Epilogue by George Woodcock

From "Griffin" <zabalaza@union.org.za>
Date Sun, 16 Mar 2003 09:20:04 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

I thought this might be of use for any anti-war pages. It is the Epilogue
of his book "Anarchy or Chaos" which we have recently reprinted in two
Yours for freedom, Griffin
Find out more about Southern African Anarchism at: http://www.zabalaza.net
Download free Anarchist reading material from: http://www.zabalaza.net/zababooks
IN THE COURSE of the preceding chapters I have made certain references to
the present world situation, as seen by the anarchist, and the object of the
final chapter is to recapitulate these references in the form of a brief
outline of the position maintained regarding the war, by the main body of
anarchist opinion.

War springs not from the nature of man, but from the nature of the forms of
society under which the majority of men live. Man is not by nature addicted
to war; this fact is confirmed by the life of the surviving tribes which
represent primitive man in the modern world, such as the Eskimos, to whom
war is unknown not only in fact, but even in thought and language. In a
society that is free, equalitarian and just, there is no reason for war, and
human societies have become disinclined towards war insofar as they have
approached such an anarchic form.

There are currently a number of theories regarding the causes of the war.
There are the official theories that it is caused through the perfidy of
certain German politicians, which tend now to merge in the stranger theory
that it was caused through the perfidy of the whole German people. There is
the theory that it sprang from some imperfection in the moral outlook of
mankind in general, and the religious extension of this theory that it is a
judgment of God on these same moral imperfections. There is the theory that
it rises necessarily from the internal stresses of Fascism.

There are also the widespread economic theories, which take various forms
according to the political position of their advocates. Some theorists,
including the apologists for the fascist powers, talk of the existence of
'have' and 'have not' countries, countries possessing lebensraum ("living
room" -ed.) and countries too crowded to 'be able to hold and feed their
peoples, and blame the 'have' countries for not parting with their colonies
and markets in order to satisfy the needs of the 'have not' countries.
Currency fanatics blame the war on national, international, or Semitic
finance. The majority of socialists blame the capitalist system of
production, with its imperialist and expansionist tendencies, which results
in a struggle for markets and empires between the various capitalist
imperialisms and ends, after the failure of other political methods of
struggle, in open war to conquer by physical force the right to exploit the
markets of the world.

In almost all of these theories there is an element of truth. The perfidy
of German politicians certainly played its part in the inception of the
war - but so also did the perfidy of the English politicians who helped
their former rivals to power and the Russian politicians who agreed at the
outset to grant them the hegemony of Western and Central Europe. The fact
that the German people failed to resist the actions of their politicians was
also a contributory cause of the war, but so also were the actions against
the German people of the Allied governments after 1918, which gave Hitler
the excuses by which he was able to lead his dupes.

The theory concerning the wrath of God is somewhat ridiculous, but it is
true that almost all the bourgeoisie and large sections of the workers in
the larger countries have been morally corrupted by the standards of a money
society and tend to support, from a desire for personal aggrandisement, the
actions of the ruling classes.

It is true that fascism, alias totalitarianism, alias the union of the
centralised state and monopoly capitalism in one monstrous body, is, at
least in its present form, forced to use war in order to survive - a manner
of keeping alive which is ultimately suicidal. But a corollary of this is
also true, namely, that a country at war under modern conditions is bound
sooner or later to adopt a totalitarian economic and political structure -
as England and America are doing today. A totalitarian society is, as we
have seen, one in which war is a necessary and perpetual factor; therefore
the countries which set out to fight fascism by military means themselves
attain the fascist need for a war structure which is likely to persist and
cause the recurrence of wars until an economic and political collapse,
opening the way for the social revolution, bringing the end of such a

There is a measure of truth in all the economic theories. The greed of the
older imperialisms in wishing to retain the empires they had gained and
their concern at the threat which totalitarian hegemonies in Europe, Africa
and Asia would present to their own future markets were in fact among the
major causes of the war. The machinations of financiers of all kinds also
hastened the appearance of the war on the political horizon. The socialists
in particular are right in criticising capitalist society, and in pointing
out its imperialist and expansionist tendencies that lead eventually and
inevitably to great wars such as the two that have laid waste the present
century in the growth of man.

But they are wrong in assuming that a change in the economic system would
alone suffice to cure the evil of recurrent war. War, as these various
theorists have contended, is due to economic, psychological and moral
causes. But it is due also to political causes, and by this I do not mean
the political failings of particular countries, ideologies or politicians,
but the principle of domination and government that underlies the political
system of every civilised country in the world today.

This error arises partly from their misunderstanding of the nature of modern
societies, and partly from their misunderstanding of the nature of the
present war. The anarchist criticism of modern society has been elaborated
in earlier chapters. Here I will deal briefly with the anarchist view of
the nature of the present war.

This war is regarded by almost all those who support it, and by many who
oppose it, as a horizontal conflict between two groups of states, either,
according to the supporters of the war, to establish the advantage of
justice over injustice, right over evil, or, according to its opponents, to
gain the political and economic hegemony of certain parts of the world,
Europe, Asia, etc. Some, even, combine these two attitudes by admitting the
selfish ends of the governments on both sides, but by contending at the same
time that the governments of the allied powers represent a better form of
society and should therefore be supported, in spite of their admitted
shortcomings. Most of the intelligentsia justify their compromise with the
government by such poor sophistry. Their attitude is demonstrated in all
its ineptitude in Day Lewis's poem, "Where are the War Poets?" which
represents the inner weakness of so many of his generation.

They who in panic or mere greed

Enslaved religion, markets, laws,

Borrow our language now and bid

Us to speak in freedom's cause.

It is the logic of our times,

No subject for immortal verse,

That we who lived by honest dreams

Defend the Bad against the Worse.

That the English intellectuals lived by 'dreams' is true enough, even if one
may sometimes have doubted their honesty. That they still live by dreams is
equally evident.

The dream nature of their world is shown most clearly, in this fallacious
view of the war as a struggle between the two sets of powers whose rulers
have differing attitudes to the idea of freedom. Germany, Italy, Japan,
Romania, Hungary; etc., are fighting for slavery; England, America, Russia,
China, and all the ridiculous collections of waxworks who form the puppet
governments without states are fighting for freedom. In their statements,
if not in their thoughts, it is as simple as that. The entire
superficiality of this attitude is seen simply by comparing the leaders of
the 'democratic' powers with those of the 'Fascist' powers, or,
alternatively, by comparing the tendency of social development in England
with that in Germany. Or, again, one might ask why the politicians who
champion the freedom of the Poles are so stubborn in refusing it to the

The answers are simple, even for dreamers. Mr. Churchill and Mr. Bevin
differ only in degree and not in kind from Herr Hitler and Dr. Ley. All
four are concerned to destroy the liberty of the individual, as their
actions tell more truly than their speeches. The tendency of social
development in England is, as was demonstrated by Burnham in The Managerial
Revolution, identically similar to that in Germany, i.e. towards the
consolidation of the state long prophesied by the anarchists and now
manifested in the fusion of economic and political control, and the seizure
of that control by a new ruling class of state and industrial managers.

The answer to the third question is that the rulers of England and America
are, in fact, no more interested in the freedom of the Polish people than
they are in the freedom of the Indian people. They merely want to use the
Poles and a new Polish state in the destruction of German hegemony in Europe
and the establishment of their own. As they already hold the power in
India, there is no object in giving anything away to the Indians.

In fact, the conflict between groups of national states is the less
important aspect of this war. What matters is not that England is fighting
Germany, or America fighting Japan, that the Nazis are oppressing the Poles
or the British sahibs oppressing the Indians. These in themselves are
terrible facts, but expressed in this way they do not represent the real
nature of the war. What is real to the workers, to individual men and women
outside the privileged classes, is the manner in which the war is being used
in a counter-revolutionary manner to strengthen authority and crush freedom
in every country in the world. The significant war is not in reality the
horizontal one between England and Germany, but the vertical one between the
rulers of England, Germany, Russia, America, on one side, and on the other
side the ruled throughout the world.

This real war can be seen in the steady and cumulative attack on the
liberties of the individual, on the rights and conditions of the workers of
every degree. This we can best observe in our own country, where the
freedom of the people has been reduced to a very small fraction of the
already limited freedom we enjoyed in the days of peacetime capitalism. It
is true that in the more obvious respects there is slightly more liberty in
England and America than in the Axis countries. But, under the pressure of
total war and the consolidation of the state machine, the divergence in this
respect between the two opposing sets of powers is becoming less real.
England and America preserve a greater show of liberty in order to justify
is some small degree the illusion that they are fighting for democracy. In
this way they are the victims of a dilemma of, on one side, their declared
purpose and, on the other, their real purpose and the methods they must use
to encompass it. It is significant that their ally Russia, which has lived
under a pseudo-Socialist dictatorship for a quarter of a century, does not
need to make any such show of liberty. When the people have never enjoyed
even a fragment of the substance, they are not likely to be influenced a
great deal by the absence of the shadow.

In reality the existence of a little liberty in this country means almost
nothing. What matters is that the principle of bureaucratic dictatorship
now governs this country. Legally the representatives of the state can, as
sergeants in the last war used to say, do anything with a man short of
getting him with child. The individual has no rights; Habeas Corpus is dead
mutton. At present it is convenient and practicable for our bureaucratic ru
lers to allow us to retain certain of the liberties of capitalist democracy.
When events render this position inconvenient for them to maintain, they
will not hesitate to make the English state in all its aspects as ruthless
as the German.

Against this tendency towards the breaking of all liberties and the
political and economic enslavement of the man to the state war machine, a
spontaneous resistance is already arising among the workers. The
regulations which interfere with normal daily life tend more and more to be
disregarded, by ordinary people as well as by self-conscious
revolutionaries. The police courts are working overtime on offences against
regulations which have only existed since the beginning of the war, and even
the government admits that the prisons contain twice their pre-war
population - not counting the thousands in internment camps and in the
overcrowded military glasshouses.

But the most significant resistance begins to appear now in the industrial
field, which is the Achilles heel of the state. In spite of the illegality
of strikes in wartime, the workers are in fact taking direct action in many
instances where their liberties or working conditions are attacked. There
have been strikes among munitions workers, aircraft workers, dockers, and
miners in all parts of the country. All the strikes that are takings place
do not reach the attention of the public through the press, and there are
many other unpublicised methods of economic attack that the workers are
putting into use against their bureaucratic masters. The disgruntled
miners, for instance, have, in spite of all the personal appeals of
Churchill and his lackeys of the Labour and Communist Parties, reduced the
per man output of coal in almost every pit in the country.

The class struggle is reaching a dynamic phase as the war situation
continues and war organisation becomes more highly developed. The
resistance of the workers increases and, while the employers and the state
may for the time being give small concessions in an endeavour to placate
them, the necessity of their situation will in the end force them to
increase their pressure on the workers and so produce an ever-deepening
resistance on the part of the oppressed.

This struggle between the classes is, as I have said, the real war on whose
outcome depends the liberty of mankind. Whether the Allies defeat Germany
or Germany defeats the Allies will not matter a great deal to the workers,
in the long run at any rate. The choice of Churchill or Hitler is merely
the choice between two masters of slightly differing brutality, but equal
rapacity. On the other hand, it matters a great deal to mankind whether the
ruling class or the workers are successful in the war of classes that exists
between them. The solution of the social problem is the only way to solve
the other problems, such as war, which are dependent upon it. The society
in which we live will inevitably produce war, by reason of the economic and
political stresses inherent in its structure. To solve the social problem
the only means that can be efficient and complete in its operation is the
social revolution, which overthrows authority, class and property, destroys
the wages system and money relationships, and ends the state and every other
form of the domination of man by man. Until then, there can be no better
world, no perpetual peace, no increase in freedom, whether social or
economic, and no guarantee of that economic security without which the
worker cannot be truly free or the intellectual, artist or scientist develop
to fulfilment.

I do not state that such a social revolution is imminent. But I do contend
that there is a general trend in social affairs towards a revolutionary
situation, in the maturing of which this war is but an incident. The
oppositions of the class struggle are becoming daily more clear, and there
is a growing realisation among men of all kinds that the social choice
before them is not one between two forms of authoritarian society, such as
democracy and Fascism, but between authority in any form and the completely
free society of anarchy. Society in its evolution is moving towards one of
those sudden breakings of the dams of oppression when social development
leaps forward in the flood of revolution.

When the true social revolution comes, it will not be an insurrection made
by trained revolutionaries. The revolutionaries will take part in it, but
the people will make it out of their angers and their needs. The
revolutionary will not direct their deeds; his sole function will be to
clarify their ideas, to keep before their eyes the nature of the goal to
which they struggle, and to warn them of the dangers of re-erecting the
institutions of power they have overthrown.

That is the role of the anarchist. When anarchy rises from the ruins of the
state his task is finished, and he becomes one among the individuals living
in the growing body of the free society. Until then he must struggle by
example and teaching to imprint the doctrines of freedom so clearly on the
minds of men that, even were all the anarchists slaughtered, society would
still move on to anarchy.

On the 11th November, 1887, August Spies, standing on a Chicago scaffold
with the rope round his neck and the cloth over his face, spoke to his
murderers. "There will be a time when our silence will be more powerful
than the voices you strangle today". He spoke the message of anarchism to
the rulers of the world.

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