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Peace and the Workers (1918)

"Peace and the Workers" was a leaflet, distributed in Southern Ontario in November 1918, shortly after the armistice. It seems to have been the first public statement of the organized Communist underground in Canada.

Two subsequent statements, similar in form and content, were distributed early in 1919 and signed "Provisional Council of Soldiers and Workers Deputies of Canada."

The formula "means of wealth production" used in this statement provides a strong clue to the origin of part of the group that wrote it. Most socialists referred to the "means of production." Only the Socialist Party of North America, for reasons that remain obscure, insisted on the insertion of the word "wealth."

Originals in Chief Censor's Files, Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa.

Soldiers and Workers:

After more than four years of slaughter, starvation and misery for the workers of the world, the rival factions of capitalists have come to terms. Fifteen millions of workers have been killed in order to settle which gang of exploiters shall exploit the workers of the world. Fifteen million more have been disabled, blinded or stricken with disease in order that a crew of parasites could get control of new markets, sources of raw material, and trade routes. Many millions of women and children have died of starvation while fat capitalists have rolled in luxury and have accused you of squandering your miserable wages, their fat and silk-clad women have urged your overworked wife to "conserve food"—you must know that you have been forced to "conserve" all your life and yet you kept silent under the sneers of these people who rob you of nearly all you produce! You have gone through all this for what? Read the speeches of the spokesmen of the rival gangs and see. Do they intend to make your life easier? No, even returned soldiers who were supposed to have "fought for their country" are being forced into factories because of the small pensions they receive after their "glorious sacrifice." Are they out to establish Democracy? No, ask the hundred of workers who have been thrown into prison for daring to speak the truth about this war of conquest; ask the crippled soldier who is imprisoned for daring to wear his uniform after he is discharged; ask the soldiers who are discharged with a pension insufficient to keep them alive. Could these, soldiers and workers, honestly say that this war is to "make the world safe for democracy"? No! Then do not let yourself be fooled by the lying press and the prostitute public speakers. All that concerns the capitalists is the destruction of a dangerous trade rival; the capture of colonies and new markets and cheap labor.

Slimy-tongued speakers have told you during the war that you were "saving the Empire." The "Empire" has been saved, but it does not appear to have helped the workers. Those who fought for the "Empire" are being got rid of as cheaply as possible; those who slaved in munition factories are being turned adrift by the thousands. The Empire has been saved! The capitalists do not need you any more, they need not care what becomes of you now—the sooner you die the sooner you will receive your share of the "Empire." You know these things are true; then why don't you start out and work for your freedom?

You are celebrating the victory of your masters over another set of masters; you are cheering over the death of fifteen millions of your comrades. You are doing exactly what your masters want you to do, that is, keep yourself in a state of excitement over your masters' victory, while your masters are preparing to suppress you when, in a few months' time, you are howling for bread. This victory means nothing to you except the same daily grind of hopeless toil, poor food, poor clothing, poor shelter, and an early death. Wake up! Show yourself to be worthy of more than a slave's position. Sweep away the capitalist class; conquer supremacy for the working class; and then get down to the serious business of building up institutions necessary for carrying on the business of the country where the workers will own and control all means of wealth production and distribution. You must now choose between revolution for the establishment of Socialism or degradation and misery.

Your Example

The workers in Russia have been in power for one year—the soldiers and workers joined together and overthrew the Czarism; then the capitalists tried to gather the fruits of the workers' action, and again the soldiers and workers co-operated and overthrew the capitalist government. They established their councils and set about building up Socialism. They were faced with great difficulties, the productive machinery was almost at a standstill; the transportation system was ruined by the war, and the workers practically starving. Besides these difficulties every capitalist government in the world was opposed to these workers, every capitalist newspaper in the world sought to discredit them, and some governments, the British amongst others, financed counter-revolutionary plots. Despite all these obstacles the Russian workers have triumphed. They have brought order out of chaos; they have increased the food supply, but great care is taken that only those who work get any of it; and they have reorganized the railways. The factories have been handed over to the workers, who elect committees to direct production; and the land has been taken away from the landlords and handed to the peasants. Remember that these things are actual facts which can be proven, while the accusations of the yellow press have never been proven.

The Russia of the Czar was pointed to as Black Russia, the workers of Russia have built up Red Russia, and it is from the workers of Russia that you must take your example. You have spilled your blood like water for the benefit of your masters, surely you are prepared to take decisive action for your own benefit? Workers and soldiers unite for the overthrow of the parasites who fatten upon your labor. Take action and build up your councils to conduct the business of the country; take over and run all industries for the benefit of the working class; establish revolutionary discipline and crush the capitalists as they have crushed you since you were born. These actions MUST be taken if you want to be more than food for cannon in times of war and work beasts in times of peace.

The flames of revolution are spreading over Europe; the workers of Germany have risen and overthrown their master class and the allied capitalists are going to try [to] crush them and help the capitalists of Germany despite the fact that they were deadly enemies a short time ago. The capitalists of the world are helping each other—the workers must unite and overthrow them. Workers and soldiers, the issue is clear—either revolution for Socialism or degradation and misery under capitalism.

What to Do

It is a usual saying with those who are anti-Socialist that "Socialists are impossibilists." This has been refuted by the events in Russia during the last year or so. There the workers have taken the line of action advocated by the Socialists and have succeeded in defeating the capitalists and building up a system of society where only the interests of the workers are consulted.

Qualities of statesmanship have been displayed by the Socialists which have effectively smashed the frantic efforts of the capitalist governments of the world [in] their efforts to reduce the Russian workers to slavery again.

We desire to impress upon you the practicability of the action we urge. No abstract theories are necessary. All that is necessary is that you, soldiers and workers, should recognize that while a few men own the means whereby you live, you must be slaves to these men; once you see this then you must be prepared to take action to accomplish your freedom. You know that the government uses the police force and soldiers to crush you every time you try to do anything for yourselves. These men are members of the working class like you are, efforts must be made to win them over to the side of the workers. This is your first step, and it is not so hard as it may appear; the workers in the army suffer under a system which is worse than factory life, also, [and] they are coming to understand that when they are discharged from the army they can only expect a miserable pension. You can show them the difference which would take place if they support the workers' revolution, how the soldiers would elect their own officers; how the soldiers' committees would participate in conducting the affairs of the country; in fact, everything about which they only dream now could become a practical certainty through the co-operation of the soldiers and workers for the defeat of the capitalist class. You must show the soldiers that the only ones who have interests in common with them are their fellow-workers; all the capitalists think about is how cheaply the soldier can be kept. The soldiers have everything to gain by the overthrow of the capitalists and nothing to lose.

The uprising of the soldiers and workers against their oppressors will make it necessary for a new kind of administration, to conduct the business of the workers' republic, to come into being. We have seen [how] the workers in Russia and Germany managed this by the formation of Soldiers' and Workers' Councils. Only members of the working class can stand for election, and the electorate has the right of recall at any time; besides that, a general election is held every three months. This is a truly democratic form of representation, nothing can be done unknown to the workers. These councils will take over all power from the existing governing bodies whose great function is the suppression of the working class. Capitalist officials will be given a chance to co-operate with the workers and if they refuse will be imprisoned until everything is settled. The men who so gladly imprison the workers will taste their own medicine.

The business of the Soldiers' and Workers' Councils is, firstly, to suppress the capitalists and their followers; secondly, to transfer all private property in the means of wealth production into the property of the working class to be used for the benefit of the worker class alone. This cannot be done all at once and the first steps in this direction will be to hand over the factories to the workers, who will elect committees to direct production; in this work the technical experts will be made to help. The farms will be taken over by the agricultural laborers and poor farmers (who will be glad to get rid of this slavery to financial capital through mortgages). Committees will be appointed by the Councils to co-ordinate the efforts of these local committees, and in that way the industrial life of the community will be placed upon a firm foundation, with the result that in a short time the capitalist will be completely shorn of his power to rob and exploit the workers.

This is how the workers of Europe are moving, and succeeding in their task of ridding the world of the system of society which means only misery for the workers. But the first essential is revolutionary action by the working class: nothing short of the complete overthrow of the capitalists and their institutions can prepare the ground for the building of the Workers' Republic where the workers shall control their own destiny.

Workers and Soldiers! Upon your shoulders rests this mighty work, your whole future depends upon its success.

Copyright South Branch Publishing. All Rights Reserved.