#whitefeather diaries

Quakers and socialism

Thursday 28 August 2014

Most opponents of the war were either socialists or Christians. Many were both. Some Quaker anti-war campaigners were explicitly socialist, such as the journalist Hubert Peet and the women's rights campaigner Ada Salter. Others avoided any justifications for their position that were not defined in purely spiritual terms. Some, such as Howard Marten, linked peace with economic justice but tended not to speak of socialism.

The Socialist Quaker Society was formed in 1898. The Society magazine, Ploughshare, condemned the war as soon as it was declared. The editor, William Loftus Hare, attacked the idea that Christianity was about withdrawing from the world, or separating religion and politics. He insisted that Jesus' teachings meant rejection of both war and capitalism. Here's an extract. It finishes with a quote from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

The difference between the escape from a transient life, from a perishing world, and the sanctification of life, the salvation of the world, is immense!

If we are right, then the Sermon on the Mount and its correlative discourses are not to be regarded as an interim ethic, appropriate to an occasion that has passed by, or to a specially selected body of persons now living. They are fundamental principles of a spiritual, moral and social order that has never yet been firmly established in the world; they are infinitely more prophetic and eternal; they cannot be overwhelmed by the waves of Bernhardian or Nietzschean philosophy; they have remained on the written page during ages of militarism, and even now, between the dispatches from the Front, they haunt us still.

Jesus was right when he declared, “My words will never pass away”. Their immortality is finally assured. The transition from militarism and civilisation, from force to law, must be preceded by internal, psychological changes. Anyone who is ready to make such ventures of faith as are counselled above will earn for the present, perhaps, the scorn of men, but subsequently their gratitude. “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you.”

The above is an edited extract from Ploughshare, November 1914. Quoted by Tony Adams in his book, A Far-Seeing Vision: The Socialist Quaker Society (1898-1924) (published by thr Quaker Socialist Society, 1993).

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Thursday 28 August 2014

Poetry played an important part in Howard's life. He wrote a good many poems throughout the war years, neatly written down in a carefully preserved notebook. Early on in the war, he wrote a poem about the Quaker notion of the “inner light”, which played such an important part in his pacifism.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Howard recognised the link between war and economics.