Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)
If there is one subject in the world--one great subject affecting humanity which is more important than any other as essential for social progress, social improvement, the spread of Socialism--it is the question of peace, as opposed to all militarism, and especially to wars of conquest, and more especially still to the crushing out of small communities by powerful nations.
I have been reading lately three wonderful books--books very different from each other, but all tending to hope for down-trodden humanity. These books are: Mr. J. Richardson's "How It Can be Done," the most beautiful, true, and practical statement of the essential first steps towards Socialism yet put forward, and two books by a lady,2 "A Colony of Mercy" and "Cities and Citizens," describing what has been and is being done in Germany to abolish the worst forms of want, far, far in advance of anything we have done in this country. These two books make me ashamed of my country; and how much more ashamed of a country which joins in a Peace Conference, takes a prominent part in it, declares for arbitration, and almost before the ink of its declarations is dry, refuses arbitration, and goes to war to crush two small Republics, which, whatever their faults, were better governed than we are! And our foolish people return their false and cruel men again to power, to spend hundreds of millions in wholesale murder and plunder, and thus render impossible for years to come any such vital measures as old age pensions, while the crushing taxation to pay for this war will inevitably increase the need for such an instalment of justice to the workers.
Peace is the Socialist's first need, and peace will never be got unless we make it the first and only question at the polls. As it is the first necessity for all reform, let us put everything else aside till we get it. Let every Socialist, every reformer, vote only for men who will promise distinctly, and without any reservation whatever, to support Arbitration, according to the Hague Conventions to which we have agreed, for every international dispute. When that is our rule of action, our army, instead of being indefinitely increased, as now threatened, may be diminished to the amount necessary to defend our own country only.
Now, I should like our Vanners to give half their time and half their speeches to the Peace Question. Take as our text that fine old saying, "War is a game which, were their subjects wise, kings would not play at." For "kings" read "governments," and this is true and applicable to-day. War is the game, the excitement, the means of living of the wealthy classes and of speculating capitalists, and, whoever wins, it is the people--the workers--who lose and pay.
Show the people that there is never any occasion for war, that no war has ever produced any permanent good. All history teaches this. Show the demoralisation caused by war. Some of the letters written home by soldiers in South Africa and from China, gloating over plunder and devastation, massacre and deliberate killing, are enough to make the angels weep.
Surely there must be a large majority of our people who have sense enough, justice enough, pity enough, Christianity enough, to oppose all war. Let every one of these publicly promise to vote no longer for Conservative or Liberal or Radical, but only for thorough supporters of arbitration and opponents of war and militarism, and there will be some faint gleam of hope that this century will bring us to the threshold of the Co-operative Commonwealth.
If we do not do this, but let such Governments as the present have their way, the result will surely be, first, CONSCRIPTION, and with it the omnipotence of capitalism and the degradation of the people.
--Yours very sincerely, Alfred R. Wallace.
1. The Clarion, a socialist newspaper, helped promote its message by sending around horse-drawn vans with volunteers to proselytize and circulate literature on the streets of London. This strategy was also used by Wallace's Land Nationalisation Society.
2. Wallace must have had a temporary lapse of memory here in not naming the author of these two works: it was Julie Sutter. Wallace would later publish a short "appreciation" of another Sutter work in 1907 (S641).