Fair Use Blog

Now online: two British labor manifestos on World War I

Continuing our collection of historical sources and political documents from the 1910s, especially those related to World War I, I’m happy to announce that the Fair Use Repository now features the complete text of two manifestos from British labor organizations taking on the outbreak of World War I.

  • On August 1, 1914, the British Section of the International Socialist Bureau published the Manifesto to the British People, written by J. Keir Hardie and [Arthur Henderson], arguing that Whatever may be the rights and wrongs of the sudden, crushing attack made by the militarist Empire of Austria upon Servia, it is certain that the workers of all countries likely to be drawn into the conflict must strain every nerve to prevent their Governments from committing them to war.

  • In September 1914, the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress issued a Manifesto to the Trade Unionists of the Country, supporting the war, praising the Labour Party’s role in the government’s military enlistment campaign, urging working-class men to enlist voluntarily in order to demonstrate to the world that a free people can rise to the supreme heights of a great sacrifice without the whip of conscription, and calling on the government to ensure that enlisted men receive at the hands of the State a reasonable and assured recompense, not so much for themselves as for those who are dependent upon them, and to take a liberal and even a generous view of its responsibilities toward those citizens who come forward to assist in the defence of their country.

The manifestos are taken from versions reprinted in the wartime anthology, Labour in war time (1915), by George Douglas Howard Cole; I initially put them up in order to fill out the references made to each of the two manifesto’s in Guy Aldred’s That Economic Army, which refers to each of them in the course of Aldred’s analysis of economic conscription, and how it had turned virtually all of English politics and civil society towards support of the war machine.

Leave a Reply