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LABOUR AND THE COMING PEACE
EW conferences of recent years have been followed with more interest than that of the
American Federation of Labour held in Buffalo. The President of the United States was there and made an address which may be taken as the official utterance of the Government as to its attitude toward the great world conflict. Every problem affecting labor was discussed, and on the whole wisely, and always with the world after this war in mind. But by far the most significant contribution of all was the remarkable "Basis for Peace Negotiations” adopted by the Conference. It is one of the most statesmanlike pronouncements that has been issued in America since we went into the war. If it truly represents the mind of the masses it augurs well for the future and casts upon these troubled times a great ray of encouragement. We hope it will be read and pondered by every man in America-and in Europe, for that matter. It is as follows:
BASIS FOR PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
"We urge the adoption of the following declarations as the basis upon which peace must be negotiated.
"(1) The combination of the free peoples of the world in a common covenant for genuine and practical co-operation to secure justice and, therefore, peace, in relations between nations.
“(2) Governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed.
“(3) No political or economic restrictions meant to benefit some nations and to cripple or embarrass others.
“(4) No indemnities or reprisals based upon yindictive purposes or deliberate desire to injure, but to right manifest wrongs.
“(5) Recognition of the rights of small nations and of the principle, 'No people must be forced under sovereignty under which it does not wish to live.'
“(6) No territorial changes or adjustments of power except in furtherance of the welfare of the peoples affected and in furtherance of world peace.
"In addition to these basic principles, which are based upon declarations of our President of these United States, there should be incorporated in the treaty that shall constitute the guide of nations in the new period and conditions into which we enter at the close of the war, the following declarations, fundamental to the best interests of all nations and of vital importance to wage-earners:
"(1) No article or commodity shall be shipped or delivered in international commerce in the production of which children under the age of sixteen have been employed or permitted to work.
“(2) It shall be declared that the basic work-day in industry and commerce shall not exceed eight hours.
“(3) Involuntary servitude shall not exist except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.
“(4) Establishment of trial by jury."
We wish to comment on three or four of these most momentous resolutions.
Number one calls for "the free combination of the world in a common covenant for genuine and practical co-operation to secure justice and, therefore, peace, in relations between nations.” The exact words, "League of Nations" or "League of Peace,” are not used here, but this is manifestly what the workingmen had in mind. Labour in the
United States has put itself alongside the President of the United States and the leading statesmen of England, France and America in demanding that this war shall issue in some league of the great powers that shall have as its fundamental article the settlement of international disputes by judicial processes, and shall lift the relationships of nations up on to that high level where they shall correspond to those now pertaining to individuals. In England, inspired by the utterances of such men as Lord Bryce, Viscount Grey, Lord Balfour, Mr. Asquith and Mr. Dickinson, and by eminent leaders in all branches of the church, a “League of Nations Society' has been formed, which is advocating this idea with great response. In the United States such men as ex-President Taft, President Lowell, Ambassador Marburg, Hon. Oscar S. Straus and Dr. Hamilton Holt have created the “League to Enforce Peace," which has met with wide response, and attracted to itself hundreds of the leading minds of the nation. President Wilson has again and again
maintained in his messages and speeches that some form of a league of nations must issue out of this unparalleled conflict. In fact, most thinking people are beginning to feel, as Mr. Asquith put it a while ago, that there is no hope for the future of civilization except in some "partnership of nations.” Are we not all of us beginning to feel that only some such partnership or league of nations is the sufficient result of the terrible cost and sacrifice the world is paying? If we go back to the old international order all this uncomputable price will have been paid in vain, all this sacrifice of pain and life have been of no avail. This new political order is the only adequate reward of the unspeakable agony. We are glad that labour has put itself upon record to this effect.
Number three declares that there should be "no political or economic restrictions meant to benefit some nations and to cripple or embarrass others.” Here again the words are general, but it is at once patent that they are called forth by the Paris conference of the Allies, where the question of continuing the war against Germany by economic measures after the military victory against her should be won, was discussed. The best minds in every nation have revolted against this. The revolt was manifested not only in America—we were not in the war at that time—but in England, France and Japan. It would be not only an unchristian act, but it would make any future peace of the world impossible.
It would sow the most prolific seeds of future wars, it would defeat the very ends for which all the nations are fighting, and it would make any league of nations for permanent peace impossible. It is well to recall the words of our own President here: “Punitive damages, the dismemberment of empires, the establishment of selfish and exclusive economic leagues we deem inexpedient and in the end worse than futile; no proper basis for a peace of any kind, least of all for an enduring peace.” We are glad the workingmen have spoken so emphatically upon this point. They will carry the world with them.
Number four reads: "No indemnities or reprisals based upon vindictive purposes or deliberate desire to injure, but to right manifest wrongs." This sounds very much like the Sermon on the Mount and we are glad it comes from labour. It comes, too, at an opportune time, for many voices are urging the contrary. But, if, with the labour group, the world can rise above revenge at the close of this war, it will be one of the steps surest to guarantee permanent peace, and to win the heart of the German people to that friendship our President insistently says he hopes may sometime obtain again, and to that democracy for the German people for which we profess to be fighting. With the clause to the effect that there may be indemnity for manifest wrong no one can quarrel. The entrance into Belgium, with deportation, was a pure act of burglary, and nations that commit burglary must of