The Interests of Labor in International Peace, October 5, 1904

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Mr. Chairman: We have been saying, over in the women's meeting at the Park Street Church, that the thing that is incumbent on this generation is to discover a moral substitute for war, something that will appeal to the courage, the capacity of men, something which will develop their finest powers without deteriorating their moral nature, as war constantly does.

The last speaker said he believed that the people who would eventually bring peace to the world, political peace and industrial peace, would be the workers of the world. I should like to go a little further and say that the only outlook which many of us see when we anxiously scan the horizon in every direction, the only visible beginning which we can find for a moral substitute for war, is to be found in the labor movement as it is developing in every land on the face of the earth.

The first people to conceive the need of modern internationalism was, as you well know, an association of workingmen. They were organized in London in 1864, and they called themselves simply this: An International Association of Workingmen. What did they say at their third meeting in Brussels, which was held, I believe, in 1868? They recommended in their resolutions to the workingmen that when [page 2] war was declared between two countries all the workingmen of both should call a strike. What did they further say? They said that back of all the governmental officers, back of all the talk, back of all the diplomacy, the people that worked with their hands were the nation, and they alone should control the destiny of the nation. And what has come about now? If the Emperor of Germany should [tomorrow], in case of a great war, have to call out not only his standing army, but also the reserves, he would produce what would amount to an industrial strike of all the men in Germany. They would leave the factories, the shops, their professions, and the universities, and the Emperor would be surprised to find himself the leader of a tremendous strike.

Now, how has this come about? Many times in these meetings we have heard pretty sermons-–pretty definitions of war; but Von Moltke, the great German soldier, also gave us a definition of war; and his definition was that war is just simple destruction, destruction of life and destruction of property. Who should protest against this destruction? Who should band together for preserving human life, for keeping the fields free from the tramping of soldiers, from the destruction of the precious bread that men love to have? I say it is the workers, who year after year nourish and bring up the bulk of the nation. Are not they the people who stand over against the soldier who destroys? The peace movement should be in the hands of those who produce, and not be allowed to fall into the hands of those who destroy.

Let us imagine for one instant the great moral change which would come over all the world if people all worked with their hands. It would be something like the moral change which came over Count Tolstoy when he quit being a soldier and went to work on his estate. Suddenly there came about in him that which religious people call conversion. He suddenly saw that the man at the bottom was the man who is the [savior] of life, because he labors, because he produces. As things are now he labors too much. He has to wear himself out with work; he hasn't enough to feed his children; he hasn't decent conditions under which to perform his work. But in spite of that he has the great blessing of labor, and that in itself is a source of life; it is the source of moral life as well as physical life. And it would seem to me that the men who represent labor in this large convention which is at present assembled in three halls in this city might say to themselves: We hold within our power that which will eventually make for universal peace.

There is enough grain produced each year to feed all the children of the world, not merely to keep them alive, as we do now, but to nourish them in mind and body. We shall come to the point some day when all human labor will be considered so valuable, and human life so important, because it contributes to the great process of civilization, that we will not allow any man, during the prime of his life, to be shot down, nor allow him to go forth to kill his fellow men.

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