Resistance to World War 1 – the Origins.


Patriotism and pacifism: Valley radicals resist the call for war!

Presentation made by Rob Walker to the Radical ValleysTalk and Discussion held at the Red and Green Club, Milnsbridge.  

Key Questions

• How extensive and deep rooted was the opposition to war in 1913-14?

• How effective was the opposition to war?

How extensive and effective was the anti war movement in Huddersfield and the valleys in 1913-14? 

The Pre-War Mood

War with Germany Inevitable

• Social Darwinism – inevitable struggle between races for world domination

• The perceived threat to British pre-eminence – post 1901 fears of imperial decline

• Fear of German domination of Europe– Invasion of Britain

• Entente agreements 1904/1907–Haldane’s secret military agreements with France to send BEF

• Inevitable consequence of capitalism and imperialism War increasingly unlikely

• Economic interdependence makes war unthinkable-mutually assured impoverishment

• Higher level of European civilisation/rationalism will solve any crises through diplomacy

• Growing democratization of Europe means “the people” will halt war

• The “three cousins” will not fight

• The International socialist movement will not allow war to happen –general strike/refusal to vote for funding/refusal of workers to fight/revolution??

Norman Angell

Norman Angell

Key Concerns in Huddersfield Press 1913-14

• Events in Ireland- 1913 Dublin Strike/Lock-out, Unionist opposition to Home Rule

• Women’s Suffrage movement –national and local stories

• Labour unrest – Leeds Corporation Strike in 1913-14, Summer 1914 Engineering Labourers Strike in Huddersfield

• Socialist Unity – BSP and ILP-national and local issue- Socialist Sunday School movement strongly in favour

• In Colne Valley Socialist League– Victor Gayson saga continued into 1914 –issue of bankruptcy and ill-health

• Tango! – Was it Immoral? Was Meltham the new Buenos Aries?

Anti-War Demo 001

Support for Militarism

5th December 1913 – National Service League Meeting    in Huddersfield Town Hall – Chair, Conservative Mayor of Huddersfield – Joseph Blamires, Lord Ampthill- Liberal Unionist- later founder of National Party in 1917 Argued that national service would:

• “lead to the physical and moral improvement of the working classes”

• “Discourage war” Vernon Harcourt – Liberal Unionist Politician – extreme arguments treated with ridicule by a significant portion of audience.

• “if we are not prepared to fight we should go home and look in our children’s eyes; then pray god to kill them.    After which we should build a monument to our cowardice from their gravestones” Miss Maye E Bruce (Later founder of The Soil Association) Female support for National Service League, argued for the need to resist German militarism – subjected to laughter and heckling Liberal Opposition To War

• Huddersfield Liberalism remained still rooted in 19th Century radical tradition (Cyril Pearce)– few “New Liberals”-1913 Conservatives had become largest party in council • Huddersfield Examiner – editor/proprietor Ernest Woodhead opposed to national service “ an interference with individual liberty” an high levels of military spending

• Strong non-conformist influence – More radical Liberals often quakers eg Robson family • Opposed to shift in Foreign Policy after 1901 –suspicious of Ententes, especially alliance with “despotic” Russia • Optimistic view of prospects for peace in editorials in early 1914 – several reports of calming speeches by Lloyd-George

• “We have nor alliance or agreement that can force us against our will into a European war” Quoted Lord Grey, Editorial February 1914 Norman Angell-Garton Foundation The Great Illusion – Norman Angell 1910

• What are the fundamental motives that explain the present rivalry of armaments in Europe, notably the Anglo-German?

• They are based on the universal assumption that a nation, is necessarily pushed to territorial expansion and the exercise of political force against others); it is assumed, therefore, that a nation’s relative prosperity is broadly determined by its political power; that advantage, in the last resort, goes to the possessor of preponderant military force, the weaker going to the wall, as in the other forms of the struggle for life.

• The author challenges this whole doctrine. He attempts to show that it belongs to a stage of development out of which we have passed; that the commerce and industry of a people no longer depend upon the expansion of its political frontiers; that a nation’s political and economic frontiers do not now necessarily coincide; that military power is socially and economically futile, and can have no relation to the prosperity of the people exercising it; that it is impossible for one nation to seize by force the wealth or trade of another—to enrich itself by subjugating, or imposing its will by force on another; that, in short, war, even when victorious, can no longer achieve those aims for which peoples strive Angell –”War and the Workers” December 1913-Glowing reviews E &W The book set out Angell’s key foreign policy ideas:

• No secret treaties

• No secret military conventions with France

• Support for international peace conventions • Ban war preparation loans to foreign governments

• Repeal the law allowing naval officers and crew to receive “prize money“ Charles Treveleyan-Liberal MP for Elland Secretary to Board of Education Trevelyan    was opposed to British entry into the First World War. In 1914 he founded the Union of Democratic Control with    Angell, Morel and Ramsey McDonald.    In the 1918 general election he lost his Elland seat as an Independent Labour Party (ILP) candidate. 1922 Labour MP for Newcastle. Progressive Labour Education Minister 1924 & 1929-31

• Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan aristocratic Liberal MP for Elland Liberal Meeting Brighouse – Jan 28th Examiner Report Charles Trevelyan Attacked “a new breed of militarists who are at the back of the new compulsory service movement” “any foreign policy which landed us with commitments to send armies to the continent implies conscription. Thank heavens, we have no such commitments.” Co-operative Holiday Association – Joint holidays in Germany and Britain for working class citizens to socialise together to promote a recognition of common interests (centres already in place) Arthur Sherwell –Liberal MP for Huddersfield Charles Leach – Liberal MP for Colne valley Arthur Sherwell “In many ways he was the epitome of the town’s particular brand of    Liberalism.” Cyril Pearce

Sir Charles Trevelyan MP

Sir Charles Trevelyan MP

• Temperance campaigner & writer

• Non-conformist

• Refused to address a meeting which was critical of the Liberal government’s arms spending in Feb 1913

• Supported the war Charles Leach

• Congregationalist preacher • Only MP to be removed as of “unsound mind” in 1919

• Gladstonian Liberal • Supported war – army chaplin Socialists in Huddersfield • Both BSP ( HSP & CVSL) and ILP groupings largely    anti-war but some members were more patriotic/anti-German

• Divided over the issue of affiliation to Labour Party– two May Day processions in 1914 show remaining divisions

• Socialist Sunday Schools –large & influential, pro-unity

• “The Worker” (Ed. George Thomas) strongly anti-war, supported revolutionary socialism but called for socialist unity – “Looked both Ways” (Cyril Pearce)

• Huddersfield Trades and Labour Council-Active but divided

• Colne Valley Socialist League – Affiliated to BSP, still agonising over Grayson till he pulled out in April 1914

• Ethical socialism    very    influential. Often pacifist, strong links to Quakerism and other non-conformist churches.

• Some strongly Marxist and syndicalist expressions of class conflict/revolutionary socialism rather than pacifism

Profusion of Anti-War Socialist Meetings in 1913-1914

Examples. • October 1913 – Victoria Hall Huddersfield- Debate: ”Should the working class support the National Service League”

• Main speaker against, Fred Shaw, Huddersfield Socialist Party, Executive member of BSP • “The W/C and capitalists have no nationality”

• “Immaterial whether we live on fish and chips or German sausage” • “Britain already invaded by German capitalists”

• Large attendance strongly opposed to national service Holmfirth ILP -8th Dec 1913 Meeting at Free Church School

Victoria Hall, Huddersfield

Victoria Hall, Huddersfield

• Glasier a frequent speaker in the area – ethical socialist/pacifist

• “I rejoice at the decided anti- military attitude of the international and socialist working class movement”

• Motion passed “with acclamation” calling    for PLP to “resist by every means the present alarming expenditure and the new blood tax of the militarist movement known as national service” J Bruce Glasier  Huddersfield’s Female Socialists Women’s Labour League- Jan 1914 Speaker, National Secretary, Marion Philips “By a thumping majority –the most urgent question is the reduction of armaments, the fight against conscription and the prevention of war by an agreement between the workers of nations.” Phillip’s was often featured in “The Worker” Became a member of the patriotic War Emergency Workers’ National Committee when war started

John Bruce Glasier

John Bruce Glasier

• Treveleyan –Liberal MP “ That the mass meeting of Huddersfield citizens declares its emphatic opposition to all forms of military service and a big navy. ….”

• Edna Penny – Sheffield ILP, “Huddersfield citizens view with grave concern the enormous expenditure on armaments in this and other European nations..” Conference Revealed Conflicts Within Socialist and Liberal Ranks

• Meeting very well attended but lead up to it revealed serious divisions which would ultimately prevent united opposition to war

• Bitter argument in Huddersfield Trades Council led to a split amongst socialists–HTC voted to boycott the meeting because it was – “whittling down” socialist anti-war commitment –    Arthur Gardiner, Richard Fenwick & John Brook led the opposition

• “The Worker” attacked HTC decision as divisive and foolish

• John Brook letter in response to criticism of his position “ My sense of propriety and self-respect allowed me to steer clear of men who wave an olive branch above their heads whilst the other hand rests on the butt of a bayonetted rifle .”

• Huddersfield MP, Sherwell refused to appear if Liberal gov. were criticised over military spending – split with anti-militarist MP for Elland, Treveleyan – seeds of his defection to ILP during the war Huddersfield Socialist Party Statement February 1914 This was effectively a revolutionary socialist response to the more ethically based Lib/Lab opposition to militarism expressed at the conference. “ The international awakening of the working class will one day rob the capitalists of    the obedient hacks; and the order for war may prove the signal for the use of the instruments of war against other than the appointed enemy” This masked underlying splits within theHSP and CVSL where some members were patriotic. Nationally BSP leaders such as Hyndman were swinging in favour of an anti-German military preparations The outbreak of War –June August 1914 Assassination of Franz-Ferdinand covered in Examiner but not in “The Worker” Worker Editorials –See C. Pearce, Commrades of conscience, for the full texts 1st August- “Prepare for War” 8th August    – “The Need for Action” Retained a steadfast anti-war stance “The workers have no quarrel & they have had no voice in the developments.    They will have a terrible reckoning to pay.” Editorial 29th August – Radical socialist position “Our patriotism has been appealed to …but as long as the old distinctions are maintained there can be no unity and talk of it is sheer unadulterated bunkum.” Socialist Anti War Demonstrations Sunday 2nd August – St Georges Square, arose from strike meeting, some local leaders called for a general strike Sunday 9th August – St Georges Square. Calls for:

• European workers to demand that their governments cease fighting;

• an international peace conference;

• post war workers conference to oppose armaments manufacture – swords to plough shares. In spite of this many socialists who were concerned about the causes of the war became involved in war relief committees often working    with    Liberals such as Florence Lockwood who thought the war a tragedy but wanted to provide humanitarian support. Local HSP Leaders Angered by BSP Pro- War Stance

• 23rd August – prominent BSP speaker JD Hudson sent over from Manchester    to deliver a pro- war/anti-German message

• Incredibly started his speech “ I am not here to repeat fallacious platitudes that appeal to the groundlings.”- went on to support volunteering for war and national service • Shouted down by Huddersfield/Colne Valley socialists from HSP and ILP

• Forced to end his speech by the strength of opposition Pro War Meeting, Huddersfield Town Hall-25th August 1914 Called because of concern regarding levels of volunteering and enthusiasm for war. Some moderate socialist support for volunteering. Main speaker – Sir William Raynor, Liberal, Deputy Mayor Letter of support from Arthur Sherwell MP Labourist Alderman William Wheatley seconded a resolution proposed by Colonel Thorold of Duke of Wellington’s Regiment “to support our armies at home and abroad” Demonstrates division in Labour movement in the area Key Questions Extensive?

• Many Liberals, socialists and non-conformists were strongly opposed to war. Virtually the main stream position in the area pre- 1914 Effective?

The Great Illusion• Foundation of an unusually strong local conscientious objectors movement – volunteering weaker than normal

• Post-war, the prominent anti war socialists were very significant in local socialist politics

• As everywhere in Europe a significant majority of the population accepted the need to back the war effort

• Helped longer term Labour Party unity – even Colne Valley affiliated in 1918. Very different to continental experience.

• Undermined Liberal power locally and nationally .

Huddersfield Trades Club

Huddersfield Trades Club

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