No More War

Two replies to Mr. Phelps’s “A Canadian Dilemma”

November 15 1934

No More War

Two replies to Mr. Phelps’s “A Canadian Dilemma”

November 15 1934

No More War

Two replies to Mr. Phelps’s “A Canadian Dilemma”

The Old Front Tine Speaks

IN A recent issue of Maclean's Arthur J. Phelps says: “Canada can no more stay out of the next war than she can out of the rain when it falls . . The only

possible terms on which Canada might keep clear of war would involve a completely intellectualized and ruthlessly imposed Quaker passivism with acceptance of all involved.” He admits there is no sense to war and no particular reason why Canada should get into it if one broke out somewhere, yet he says we "might as well go. There’ll be nothing else to do.”

Nothing else to do but go to a war, Mr. Phelps?

Surely, yes. Here’s a suggestion: Get a job. Make a job. Work fer a low wage. Any wage. Work for your board and overalls. Work.

Work so hard and well that some other slave-driving capitalist will offer you cake with your board and a new straw liat to go with your overalls if you’ll work for him.

Work early and late. Save your nickels. Marry some nice girl. Buy a stove and, if you can’t get a home any other way, build one of logs out in the woods. Grow turnips and raise six youngsters. Work and mind your own business.

Brutally unattractive? Possibly so. Yet it mightn’t lx so bad once you got started. On the other hand, a war isn’t much fun either, Mr. Phelps.

Do you know what four men on a loaf means? It spells hunger. All the time.

Do you know what it’s like to sleep in your clothes for months on end, the lice encrusted around your collar?

Did you ever have to listen for four hours to the conversation of a group of sex-starved men? Have to listen? How would you like four years of it?

IX) you know anything of marching? Left, right, left. While the yellow dust swirls and chokes, and the pitiless sun glares down on you, and the salt stinging sweat runs into your eyes. Shoulder straps that gnaw and gnaw beneath their eighty pound load. Left, right, left. Marching through black cloacae of slime and mud. Mud to your knees, mud to your waist, mud to your neck; and never a hot bath and a clean bed at the end of day. Left, right, lelt. Sore feet; blistered feet; bleeding feet, and an agony of weariness and pain that eats to the uttermost cell of your body and brain, so that never, never can you forget.

Do you know fear, Mr. Phelps? Real fear, cold and stark and desperate? Fear of the hellish tornado of thunder and flame that never ends? Fear of the death that whistles softly or snarls wickedly just overhead; and the death that bursts near by in a slow, tearing, gigantic upheaval that makes the most terrific crash of thunder seem like a child’s popgun; and the death that steal*silent beneath the blanketted entrance of your dugout and strangles you horribly? Fear of the cold, shining, darting steel that only just misses your vitals. Fear of being shot in thelbowels and left to die miserably and alone in a water-filled shell-hole?

IX) you know anything of thirst real thirst? Bitter and choking, when you'd give your hope of heaven for five minutes bellydown in the creek back home?

Were you ever really sleepy? Say, fifty or sixty hours without rest, and you stare over a parapet and watch the corpses on the wire until you are certain you see them move and stoop forward and replace their lost limbs and heads. You see them pick up their dropped rifles and advance upon you. Their faces grin in a horrid, phosphorescent light. You try to give the alarm. From your open mouth no sound comes forth. You try to fire, but your arms are paralyzed. You try

to run, but you fall forward on your face and you wake up.

Do you know anything of grief? Poignant, silent, soul-wracking, as one by one your friends go—in a gasping agony, or a shrieking prayer that you slay them, or a hideous disintegration?

War for Canada a year or ten years hence, Mr. Phelps?

There will be no war for Canada until after the generation that fought in the last war shall have died !

Too many of us have been content to let a few lone voices like that of Colonel Drew preach the cause of peace. Too many of us have failed to hold the torch thrown to us by the falling hands. We were just grimly sure in our own minds that there would be no more war for us. But the rising tide of war talk and its resultant acceptance in people's minds are beginning to endanger the future of our children.

Right now the greatest obstacle to war is the intense mental resistance to it on the part of the common people.

Can’t the Arthur J. Phelpses of our pulpits, presses and platforms see that, by sounding this note of inevitability of war, they play directly into the hands of the warmakers? The article that prompted this outburst was a grand piece of work for the armament manufacturers. It battered down a lot of mental resistance to war in the minds of those of similar baa-lamb complex who could think of nothing better to do during a war than to go to it.

Mr. Phelps wishes he could clear up his thinking.

Listen, Mr. Phelps.

Listen, you editors who print such vaporings as he writes.

Listen, you statesmen with your inflated egos.

Listen, you patriots and flag-wavers who are always so eager to shed someone else’s blood.

This is the word from the old front line: No More War !

Twenty years ago Canada joined the merry-go-round, and we paid and are still paying the ticket.

Never again. Understand? No more war!

Why do you think we stuck out those four years of hell?

No more war !

What was the greatest comfort we could give to those dying heads we pillowed upon our thighs?

No more war !

Don’t bleat to me, Mr. Phelps, such phrases as “the implications of ruthless passivism.” The men who fought in the last war stick to words of one syllable and have no difficulty whatever with their thinking.

No more war ! Compree?

Any fool can get himself into trouble, but a wise man avoids it and suffers from none of the implications of ruthless passivism either. So can nations.

Of course, we can keep out of war. Have an end of secret treaties and alliances—or any alliances that may drag us into a conflict. Take the profit out of armaments. Let us never forget that it is better that a government should lose face before the whole world than that one little child shall be orphaned.

A g(xxl lawyer serves his firm best by keeping it out of trouble. He merits dismissal when he fails. We can do the same with a government that is so blind to the well-being of the nation as to jeopardize its peace. And that, of course, is what would happen if the government of any nation that suffered in (he last war should be so illadvised as to declare for another.

Any man or group of men in power who deliberately choose to ignore the common people’s desire for continuing peace toy with disaster.

War for Canada a year or ten vears hence, Mr. Phelps?

God pity the men who would lx responsible for it, for we, who remember the last war, will have none.—F. J. Whiting, Vancouver.

The Way Out

CRYING over spilt milk is bad enough, but crying over milk before it is spilt is worse. Such seems to be the attitude toward Canada’s defense against war taken by Arthur Phelps in his article “A Canadian Dilemma.”

What are we to do if another war breaks out? Mr. Phelps’s immediate reply is “ Kamerad! I surrender.” Like lambs we shall walk dumbly to the slaughter when the ballyhoo starts, and throw away our lives and money at the concealed dictation of men who do not even pretend to have our interests at heart. This, it appears, is a moral obligation.

Such an attitude is, I believe, absolutely un-Canadian. If the men in the corps had adopted it in the trenches—gone only where they were told, done only what was laid down for them in Daily Orders Part I or II; in fact, like jellyfish, abandoned their reason and intelligence when they were in tight comers—they would never have been heard of.

Believing that they were doing their bit for civilization—however true that may or may not have been—Canadians in the war organized and trained themselves into a national effort that counted in the world scene, both under shell fire and round the tables of the Peace Conference. Canada in those days was not too small or inexperienced or “young” a nation to act the part of

intelligent manhood. Why should she be

now?

In 1914 to 1918, the Canadian people took on the job of fighting a war without preparation or forethought of any kind. We did not know why we were suddenly called on to fight, and we certainly did not know what fighting meant.

But we learned something from that war. We learned what modern war could do— that it did not defend our 60,000 comrades whose crosses do not even stand on Canadian soil; nor did it spread liberty, economic or political, but rather cramped and crushed it out.

And so we have another job on our hands now, as urgent and infinitely more inspiring than the dirty killing job of 1914. It is not to fight a war but to build a peace; to install an “effective security” for us all instead of the false and lawless insecurity that is all we could get out of the old style method of self-armament against others.

Any system which ixrmits or assumes a policy which will mean killing off our best youth, wrecking our economic structure and poisoning the mind of whole peoples against each other, is not a system of security— whoever “wins” or “loses” in the game.

Yet this is the system we are now supporting by refusing to think, work and pay for another system.

The argument of the other system runs thus: The world is one society; the use of violence by one part against the other (war) thus becomes a crime.

Disease is fought and conquered every day by scientists, practising doctors, hospitals and nurses, and public education in hygiene, medical precautions, etc. Crime is met and checked every day by policemen, judges, lawyers, reformatories and prisons, sup[xxted by the consent and taxation of the public as a whole.

How is war—the greatest crime and disease of all—to be fought, checked or conquered?

That is the great challenge to the world today; and Canadians—unless they are weakly content to take what is foisted on them by the anarchists, profiteers and blockheads who cause war—can answer it with the same virility and shrewd common sense with which they fought twenty years ago.

For the war against war, Canada has already pledged herself to act according to the principles of co-operation and social justice laid down in the Covenant of the League of Nations. She has renounced war wholly and for ever in the Kellogg Pact. She is an old and close associate of Great Britain in the British Commonwealth; and she is the neighbor and friend of the United States of America.

We are part of a collective system of effective security against war, and we don’t know it.

Our people do not know or understand the pledges of their country; nor do they realize the hope that lies in those pledges.

Only a handful of people in this country are even thinking about this new world to which Canada belongs. Most of us cling to the habits and prejudices and catchwords of twenty and thirty years ago—and the inevitable result is the dejected defeatisn!^ sounded by Mr. Phelps.

But if we would only begin thinking, demanding the information about our national policy that we ought to have, and working with others who are bound on the same great task elsewhere, we would drop these habits and find out where we are.

War is now too serious a matter to be left to the soldiers, as the Frenchman said. It is time the citizen on whom it falls takes a hand in putting it where it belongs. —T. W. L. MacDermott, Secretary, League of Nations Society in Canada.