The war will be followed by a revolution

A soldier home on leave envisaged potential revolution after the war.

THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION

No very penetrating observation of the signs of the times is necessary to discover that in all probability the war will be followed in England by disturbances which may amount to a revolution. If many people are unaware of the urgency of this peril it is because the greater part of labour is still inarticulate and because, in response to the demand for an appearance of unity at all costs, labour is at present willing to wait till the war should be ended before it makes its demands known.

Many factors will combine to precipitate the crisis. The days before the war were full of a growing industrial unrest on the one hand, and the example of threatened civil war on the other. The Irish rebellion, the growth of Sinn Fein, and, above all, the Russian Revolution, have had influences greater almost than can be imagined. Sources of irritation and distrust are to be found in the conduct of the war itself. Finally, the end of the war will leave society in a state of flux in which all who were discontented with the old state of things will see a condition propitious for change. And they will have learned the use of bayonets ….

It will always be surprising to some people that any radical change should be thought desirable in “free England”; still more so that a revolution should be deemed necessary to bring it about. But they forget that political freedom, even when it exists, does not imply an economic equivalent. They hardly realise that millions of the men and women of “free England” are condemned by our economic system to spend their lives in joyless drudgery for a wage which hardly permits mere physical efficieny. Such conditions are strangulation to the spiritual in man; and the very danger lies in this. It is not ideals that make revolutions; it is empty stomachs and empty souls, and hunger may desperately clutch the wrong things and content itself with the purely material.

What remedy, then, can we offer? The placid politicians who propose mere goodwill can have no idea of the acuteness of the situation.

Russell Brain

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, September 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

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