Friday, April 24, 2015

Socialist Standard Anti-war poetry


Once more the media is feeding us , here in the Uk and in New Zealand and Australia tales of heroic sacrifice over Galipoli. The following are the voices of socialists who saw through the propaganda at the time much less a hundred years later. 

THE QUESTION.
From the March 1911 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is a Labour man? He who has sold
His class and their Cause in the shambles of Gold,
For pelf, and a place in the council of Greed,
Weaving snares for those dupes Want and Ignorance breed,
Where the offspring of Toil, from the cot to the grave,
Are consigned to the mart of the modern wage-slave.
Here "organised Labour" support and applaud
The Thugs of all progress, Cant, Falsehood and Fraud;
And, like autumn leaves borne on the blast of the storm,
They are whirled in the vortex of futile reform.
Against the class currents they struggle in vain,
Till they sink, where no trace of their efforts remain.
When Knowledge imparts to the people her power.
Slavish fear shall depart from their hearts in that hour;
And thrusting aside tyrant forms of the past,
Revolution shall crown them with glory at last.
The Labour pest, hurled from its seat of ill-fame,
Shall be hailed a political relic of shame.
Then time in its fulness will give Freedom birth,
When the Socialist era shall gladden the earth.
F. G. Thompson 

TO THE ADVOCATES OF MILITARISM.
From the May 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard

Compel them to come in, for there shall be
A feast well-spread, to suit the taste of all-
Ruin and pain and untold misery;
The downward trend, the devastating fall,
From every higher impulse; robes to wear
Woven of fraud, hypocrisy and lies.
Compel them to come in that all may share
This wolfish feast of bloodstained infamies.
Not yours the chains of slavery to break;
You heed no woman's sorrows, no man's groans,
No flag of freedom in the breeze unfurled.
Your passion is destruction, you would make
A world-wide graveyard full of dead men's bones.
Whence reeks a stench that sickens all the world.
F. J. Webb.

NO MAN'S LAND
From the May 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

Grey, desolate, and bare of shrub or tree,
Deep-holed and scarred by many a giant blow;
A grave yard breath of rank mortality
Hovers around in restless ebb and flow;
Dim shapes the colour of the earth they cumber
Lie motionless and silent, writhe and moan;
Dismembered limbs, mixed with war's other lumber,
Weirdly entwined, across the waste are strewn.
Such is this "No Man's Land." The light of day
Brings in its train horrors no tongue can tell,
Sights, scents and sounds that all the senses stun;
And when night falls the will to rend and slay
Creeps from its lair the hideous list to swell
Of bodies rotting in the morrow's sun.
F. J. Webb

IN TIME OF WAR.
From the February 1916 issue of the Socialist Standard

If at this time of brute force paramount,
When death itself is made the creed of men;
When love is held of small or no account,
And beauty scorned alike of voice and pen;
There yet should be, hidden amid the crowd,
Some finer spirits, shrinking and alone,
Who hear the voice of Wisdom cry aloud
Before Life's temples, stricken, overthrown;
Now should they lift above the noise and strife
Their song of hope, of confidence supreme
In love and beauty; now indeed should scan
The wide horizon of a boundless life,
Wherein the poet's song, the dreamer's dream
Shall stem the mad brutality of man.
F. J. Webb.

THE LUST OF WAR.
From the October 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

Wars and rumours of wars are round about,
And hell let loose, and death and dumb despair;
The groans of dying men, the victor's shout,
Mingle, befouling what was once so fair.
I feel again the old contempt arise
For men and all men's ways of greed and waste;
World-weariness lies heavy on my eyes;
The joy of life is bitter to the taste.
Is it not tragic, pitiful as well,
That men should dabble in their comrades' gore
To slake their masters' blood and money-lust;
Should suffer all the pains and pangs of hell,
Binding their fetters tighter than before,
Grinding their faces in the blood and dust.
F. J. Webb

TO THE PRINCES OF THE CHURCH.
From the February 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

You prate of love and murmur of goodwill,
Turn sanctimonious eyes toward your God,
Write on your walls the text "Thou shalt not kill,"
Point out the path your "Prince of Peace" once trod,
While all the time, with murder in your hearts,
You lie, cajole, and bully that the fools
Who heed your words may play their foolish parts
As slaves of Mammon, as the War-Lord's tools.
On many a field, in many a river bed,
Of Flanders and of Poland and of France,
Your bloody-minded words bear fruit indeed.
Preachers of Death! the thought of maimed and dead
Will nerve us when our hosts of Life advance
To crush for ever your accursed breed.
F. J. Webb

The Call
From the December 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard

Come from the slum and the hovel,
From the depth of your dumb despair;
From the hell where you writhe and grovel
Crushed by the woes you bear;
There are joys that are yours for the taking,
There are hopes of a height unknown,
A harvest of life in the making
From the sorrows the past has sown.
Come from the dust of the battle,
Where your blood, like a river, runs,
Where helpless as driven cattle
You feed the insatiable guns.
You fight when your masters bid you,
Now fight that yourselves be free,
In the last great fight that shall rid you
Of your age-long slavery.
There's a murmur of many voices
That shall roll like thunder at last;
The shout of a world that rejoices
In a harvest ripening fast.
For the slaves their shackles are breaking
With wonder and ecstasy;
There is life, new life, in the making
In a new-won world made free.
F.J. Webb

Hiroshima, August 1945

Forty years ago the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan. The following poem was written by a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain shortly after he heard the news of the bombing.
Like a blast from hell the atom bomb came,
And a city in ruins was hurled;
On wings of fear, it thundered its name,
Through a shocked and war torn world;
This atomic force with transmutable breath,
Its first warning sign we see,
Garden of plenty, or desert of death;
What is this world to be?
The challenge is vital, and urgent the hour;
When this Capitalist era must pass,
And workers control this atomic power,
So misused by the ruling class;
This nuclear power from the atom was wrought,
It evolved in the womb of time,
Born of the labour of man's social thought,
Its baptism, Fire, blood and crime;
Dark is the future if our governments command
This scientific genie of might,
Secret diplomacy knows no remand,
From chaos and abysmal night;
The Capitalist powers are still planning our fate,
And with their lies seek to stifle our fears,
Turning worker against worker, in blind bonds of hate,
For their new orgy of blood sweat and tears;
A Socialist world, no other solution,
Presents itself to mankind;
The workers must strive for a world revolution,
And cast off those fetters that bind;
This atomic force with transmutable breath,
For good or for ill must abide,
Garden of plenty or desert of death?
The workers themselves must decide.

Walter Atkinson

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