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1915 and 1920 Prefaces
to the SPC Manifesto

The Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Canada was published as a pamphlet in 1910, and republished four more times in the next decade. The Preface to the 1915 edition details the SPC's internationalist opposition the World War I, and the Preface to the 1920 edition declares the SPC's support for the Russian revolution.

Preface to the fourth edition (1915)

Since the first issue of the Manifesto, many events have transpired of more or less importance, but all to be dwarfed into insignificance by the outbreak of the most colossal and destructive war of all time – a war which has all the appearances of being the opening of a new chapter in human history, not on account of those of its aspects which loom largest in the popular eye, but for the valuable lessons it has already writ large for the workers’ reading. Yet it is precisely these latter features which are practically neglected, while the former are given an attention altogether beyond their merits.

This war is not being waged because an Archduke was assassinated in Bosnia, nor because a treaty was violated in Belgium. The issue is greater than that. It is a war for world markets. The "place in the sun" the Teutons seek is a place to sell their wares. The British outcry against the peril of Prussian militarism is inspired by the fear of German commercial competition. The German military machine, like the British naval machine, is but the jemmy wherewith the capitalist pries his way into his neighbor’s domain. The world market calls for world mastery. Without the latter, the former is a dangerous ambition.

As a war for world markets, it is a matter of concern only for the various capitalist interests involved. Yet the workers of each country have flung themselves into the conflict, regardless of the consequences to themselves. They have been stampeded by the two faces of the one bogey that has been conjured up before them all. The Teutons have rallied to the defence of the Fatherland from Russian barbarism; Briton and Frank, Slav and Roman have risen to breast the onrush of Prussian militarism, regardless of the fact that the foe the most feared by each is already within the gates – the master class whose battles each is fighting; regardless of the fact that they have more to lose by victory than defeat. For, in any war, the victorious State has ever been the stronger to oppress its own workers; the defeated State ever the weaker to resist their demands.

Also, at the first of war’s trump, fell the walls of our "International" Jericho – an event of no little import to the working class. Justifying the S. P. of C.’s long resistance to any movement to join the International Socialist Bureau, on the ground that it was neither international nor socialist, it points the valuable lesson that Internationalism is born not made. If the working class is to be internationalized, it is the capitalist system, not Social-Democratic statesmanship, that will do it.

Another illusion that has been dispelled is that the strength of the European Social-Democracies, arising out of their opportunist mode of propaganda. These parties have waged their campaign upon the "political issues of the day", thus aligning themselves with that section in the Socialist movement which would sacrifice sound principles to immediate successes. They have numbered their adherents by the million, and have educated them not at all. They have sown the wind – they are reaping the whirlwind. In conflict with them for a generation are those who would sacrifice immediate successes to sound principles, who have been content to be fewer in numbers if clearer in understanding, who have given transient political issues the "go-by" and have harped upon the Social Revolution, who have expounded Economics and the Class Struggle, when the others were shouting against taxes and tariffs, who have earned for themselves the name of "impossibilist" and have been content therewith. The war has justified them. Where there are any "impossibilists" or "near-impossibilists" in Europe, they have stood firm. The "practical socialists" are cutting one another’s throats in the trenches.

But the war!

This war is by no means to be regarded as an accidental and regrettable cataclysm. It is a fundamental and inevitable part of a world process. A page in the era in which we live – Capitalism; an era in the evolution of the human race from the simple, unorganized communes of savagery, toward the complex highly organized Commune of Civilization, wherein the forces of Nature are to be harnessed to the wheels of Man. The slaughter may seem appalling to us. To an era it is insignificant. To the Process it is of no moment:

"It slayeth and It saveth, nowise moved,
Except unto the working out of Doom,
Its threads are Love and Life, and Woe and Death,
The shuttles of its Loom".

At any rate, "Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War". A period of peaceful capitalist prosperity will kill and maim as many as a periodical war.

And the outcome? Just as the outbreak of the war was foredoomed by causes within the capitalist system, so is the outcome, whatever it may prove to be, foredoomed. Just what it will be none may yet say. Only this is certain: forward it must carry us towards the Social Revolution. How far forward one cannot see. But the signs are most promising.

On the one hand, debt is piling upon debt and capitalist industry must pay the tax. And the tax will be hard to collect – which is hopeful. For when the State is in financial straits, the revolution is at hand. That is one lesson of history.

On the other hand, the influx of women into the fields of wage labor hitherto occupied by men is remarkable. By virtue of their cheapness they will stay. And at the end of the war some twenty million men will be thrown upon a glutted labor market, in an industrial system staggering under the incubus of war taxes. It looks well!

The longer the war continues the more do the "war conditions" of society and industry, outside the war zone, tend to become the normal conditions; the more does the war become the world’s chief market. The more unsettling, therefore, will be the settlement of the war. Peace will uproot those established conditions and annihilate that market. It will be an outbreak of peace, as cataclysmic as was the outbreak of war.

On the face of it, uprisings of a more or less revolutionary character seem not unlikely. Whether they will be successful or not is problematical. If they are it will not be the fault of the master class.

One more illusion, indeed, we may put from our minds if we ever had it – that of a peaceful Revolution. A master class capable of sending millions to slaughter in the field for the extension of its profits is capable of making a shambles of an industrial city for the retention of its property in the means of production. To expect them to give up their rulership with any good grace is to credit them with grace beyond reason. It is only when a social system is about to pass that the resistance of its parasites seems to collapse.

At any rate, the moral is for the workers to prepare. The worst, or the best, is about to come. Let us hope for an early victory – for the working class.

Preface to the fifth edition (1920)

This pamphlet has been in the hands of the working class for ten years. Over 20,000 copies have been sold, and as the demand continues unabated, we are venturing another edition.

We have had criticisms from all parts of the English speaking world, and have, after much discussion, revised some theoretical errors and obscurities. It has been our care in making these corrections not to interfere with the work as a whole, preferring to leave it, as far as possible, just as the author, who is dead, wrote it.

The Preface to the Fourth Edition draws attention to the Great War, and was written shortly after the world went mad, like the dog in the poem, for spite. The real causes of the war were set down, causes which very few to-day care to deny. We took the stand then that the war was not regrettable, and the grounds that "forward it must carry us to the Social revolution". And we set down this principle, that the outbreak of peace would be as "cataclysmic as the outbreak of war". There are other forecasts we could claim credit for, but let these suffice.

That we have been carried forward toward the Social Revolution requires no proof. The Russian Revolution has been carried through and the working class of Russia are masters of that country. They have retained mastery after almost three years of warfare against both the victors and the vanquished of the Great War. They have overthrown the national autocracy which was suited to early capitalism, have conquered the seat of power from the capitalists, have put down a dozen counter-revolutions of formidable character, which were strongly supported by foreign powers, have driven several foreign armies from their territories, and have, isolated from the civilized world, evolved an economy which has fed and clothed, and armed the men who accomplished this amazing feat.

It is a working class achievement and harbinger of the accomplishment possible when the workers take control of life.

It is fortunate that Russia was the first to revolt. We can conceive of no other country so admirably situated which could have withstood the rain of fire and brimstone showered down by the outraged God of Capitalism. Its geographical position prevented the capitalist world from bringing all its tremendous resources to bear, and its wealth of natural resources neutralized the Allied blockade. If they have sinned against the Holy Ghost in revolting before the evolutionary alarm clock called them, we freely forgive them, and humbly hope that those who await the appointed hour, will bear themselves as valiantly.

Other revolts which followed the war were for the time being crushed. The reports from Hungary show to what lengths a master class will go in avenging itself upon an unsuccessful working class revolt. That the Hungarian revolt was premature, in so far as the suffering entailed by Hungarian workers is concerned, we will concede, but social development is not concerned with human suffering, or human happiness. We have all seen, if we have no all been seized with it, the madness that causes a man to strike blindly at some inanimate object, which in some innocent manner causes him injury. And, in just such manner do revolutions occur, not from any premeditated design, but from the inherent consequences of a particular social condition. While we confess the difficulty, nay, the well nigh impossibility, of organizing a revolution, we can at least try to understand one when it occurs, and we can furthermore realize the inevitability of a social change in a world where social changes have been constantly occurring since the dawn of civilization and the advent of slavery.

It is for the purpose of furthering an understanding of this social phenomenon, inherent in a system where man is enslaved by man, where in the midst of plenty, the powerful many are starved and sweated by the feeble few, that this Manifesto is issued.

A thorough understanding can only come by study of the actual conditions which confront mankind. We do not pretend to reveal the secret in these pages. All we hope to attain by inducing the members of our class to read this book is, to call their attention to the fact that a thorough investigation has been made of society, and the results are available to almost any one who will devote some time and a little cash to that end.

The Great War has torn down, with that careless and aimless ruthlessness manifest in natural forces, many barriers to social progress. It has, just as the Crusade did for the rising capitalist class, thrust the working class into positions of power which they cannot help but enlarge. It has, just as the Crusade did to the feudal barons, torn from the hands of the capitalists many of their most powerful weapons. It has further, just as the Crusade, did, disrupted the economic machinery of the ruling class. It has in short, carried us forward to the Social Revolution.

This is so apparent, and the murmurings are so frequent – thunderings would be a more appropriate word, but we admire the soft pedal, – which, coupled with the manifest stupidity of the official hirelings of the capitalist class, might precipitate a revolution in half a dozen countries in Europe. Socialist literature abounds with information which discloses the economic motive underlying every move of the recent peace conference, and which also shows the utter impossibility of carrying into effect the proposals of the Versailles Treaty, or the League of Nations. Lloyd George can no more create a nation than he can create the country they are to inhabit; Millerand cannot extract tribute from Germany without injuring France any more than he could cut off his arms and increase his strength. These are facts known to all students of Marxian Socialism, to which this pamphlet is an introduction.

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