‘When We Go To War’ by Mary E. Marcy from International Socialist Review. Vol. 15 No. 12. June, 1915.

‘You’ve done very well. Now what’s left of you can go back to work.’
‘When We Go To War’ by Mary E. Marcy from International Socialist Review. Vol. 15 No. 12. June, 1915.

If the United States should propose to take up arms against Germany tomorrow, what would the workers in this country do to prevent war? What would we do to prevent war on Mexico?

What could you do, you railroad man, you miner, you carpenter and you steel worker? You would have no opportunity to go to the election booths to vote on the question—because elections are not held to decide whether the United States should make war or not. Your (?) Government has given you no legal machinery with which you can voice your demands in this matter.

And because there is no legal way in which we may declare our hostility to war, are we going to shoulder our guns and march to the front to be killed, or to kill others in order to fight the battles of the capitalists in this country? We might secure the churches and hold protest meetings; we might send letters to the capitalist papers proclaiming our antagonism to wholesale murder. But this would not check the war.

We would need to paralyze the industrial machinery that makes war possible, in order to impress our wishes and our demands upon the Government.

Strong industrial organization and a strong anti-war spirit can kill any war. The boys who dig the coal to supply the great war vessels can then strike against coaling these great engines of destruction. They can refuse to coal the trains, and to haul the soldiers to the front; they can demoralize the production of the munitions of war and make botches of the war guns. They can produce bad ammunition; they may even go so far as to refuse to join the army and navy. THEY MAY STOP THE ENTIRE WHEELS OF INDUSTRY!

Not one wheel need turn; not one telegram be sent; not one newspaper appear. Water supplies may be cut off; electric lights go blind and the whole world of industry go dead. And two or three days of industrial paralysis WOULD BRING ANY GOVERNMENT TO ITS KNEES. It would be an exhibition of strength that no man or group of men could ignore. It would kill off any thought of war with any foreign power.

Organize in your union, or in the factory or shop where you work, so that you may be able to demoralize the whole plant if it seems that war is about to be declared.

Some people will tell you that VIOLENCE is wrong, that it is illegal and unethical. But the violence that may attend the putting of a steam engine out of business, a shop or mill temporarily out of commission in ORDER TO PREVENT WAR, would be like burning a match in order to prevent a forest fire.

The German comrades always persistently and consistently opposed all German propaganda for the general strike or for direct action or violence in any form, just as some of the socialists in America have spoken against violence, direct action and the general strike.

But the German comrades as well as the German working class have been guilty of more violence, more bloodshed, more direct action, more illegal activities than any other nation in the world. They have literally destroyed a whole nation Belgium- in a war to benefit the CAPITALISTS of Germany who exploit the workers of Germany.

War means not only wholesale violence, direct action, and illegal destruction, it means MURDER and torture by the wholesale of combatants and non-combatants.

We do not need pink tea society ladies and sissies to talk against war. We want MEN AND WOMEN who will demoralize the wheels of industry so that there CAN BE NO WAR. And a general strike can accomplish this purpose better than any other weapon. Votes can’t help us tomorrow—because we will have no opportunity to vote on any war issue.

But each and every one of us must organize with our fellows so that in case war threatens, we may be able so to act that we can PARALYZE the whole nation for a few days as an exhibition of our power and make the very thought of war unfeasible to the minds of the OWNING class in America.

Not Because We Will Not Fight.

We do not oppose the wars of the capitalist class because we wish the working class to turn the other cheek when it has been smitten by the Boss.

But we propose to wage wars only in the interest of the working class and not for the benefits of the employers of labor, who rob and exploit us.

We are the bitter foes of all sorts of exploitation. We mean to wage continual warfare against this system of society that permits a few individuals, who do no useful work, to appropriate the whole product of the workers because they own the mills, railroads, factories, the land and the mines. This is why we oppose the private ownership of the plants of production, the factories, mills, etc., etc., and are fighting for the common ownership of these great productive institutions BY THE WORKERS for the WORKERS THEMSELVES.

This is our war. It is the only war worth fighting today. All other national wars are waged today for the property owners who desire to acquire more lands, more mines, more oil wells and railroads in foreign lands so that they may exploit MORE WAGE WORKERS and pile up more profits for themselves.

And so we will have none of the quarrels or struggles or wars of the OWNING CLASS. Our war is to abolish a private OWNING class and to make the world’s wealth the property of the working class of the world, when all that labor may enjoy comfort and leisure and all the good things of life and when no man shall wallow in riches and wealth produced by the labor of others!

As Hervé so well said only a few years ago:


The International Socialist Review (ISR) was published monthly in Chicago from 1900 until 1918 by Charles H. Kerr and critically loyal to the Socialist Party of America. It is one of the essential publications in U.S. left history. During the editorship of A.M. Simons it was largely theoretical and moderate. In 1908, Charles H. Kerr took over as editor with strong influence from Mary E Marcy. The magazine became the foremost proponent of the SP’s left wing growing to tens of thousands of subscribers. It remained revolutionary in outlook and anti-militarist during World War One. It liberally used photographs and images, with news, theory, arts and organizing in its pages. It articles, reports and essays are an invaluable record of the U.S. class struggle and the development of Marxism in the decades before the Soviet experience. It was closed down in government repression in 1918.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/isr/v15n12-jun-1915-ISR-riaz-ocr.pdf

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