#whitefeather diaries

Violent revolution?

Friday 6 November 2015

Howard was willing to die rather than to fight. Some anti-war activists, like Howard, opposed war in all circumstances. Others believed that some wars could be justified, or that it was acceptable to use violence in revolution.

One whose feelings changed over time was George Lansbury, who edited an anti-war newspaper called The Herald throughout the war. On 15 May 1915 George explained his position in an article in The Herald.

A few short years ago in East London I took part with many of you in a struggle when the weapons used by the governing class was that of starvation. In and out of the homes of East London I went day by day in that terrible year of 1913, and saw with my own eyes the starvation of women and children.

Over and over again I wished to kill, and when, one day in Liverpool and another in London, I saw police and soldiers, horse and foot, charging and batonning my unarmed brothers and sisters, my whole being rose in rebellion, and for a moment I hated both police and soldiers.

Now I hate no longer. Soldiers and police in these struggles are the agents of governments, who in turn are the agents of monopolist possessing classes. I know now as I never knew before that force and violence are not the weapons we must use for securing our happiness and wellbeing; that these can only come to us when brotherhood, love, and co-operation are the guiding principles of our life.

We of the working-class and labour movements have again and again proclaimed our belief that all human life is sacred. It is easy to do this when days are bright and the sky clear. Let us in these days of murder and rapine, of brutal, unashamed slaughter, still preserve our faith, and under all circumstances and conditions proclaim our undying faith that the object and mission of life is to establish here in our midst the kingdom of love and brotherhood which we have been taught by the churches to believe is the kingdom of God on earth.

Source: The Herald, 15 May 1915

Related Materials

Letter from the Society of Friends to members of Parliament
Friday 6 November 2015

As 1915 wore on, the casualties mounted, the number of volunteers dropped and pressure to introduce conscription intensified. Howard Marten knew that conscription would affect him personally. He later talked about his life in London as the war progressed.