A Peace demonstration, organised by the Rushden and Higham Trades and labour Council was held on Sunday, ideal weather prevailing. A procession was formed in the Recreation Ground, and marched through the town, accompanied by the Rushden Temperance, Rifle, and Mission Bands. The following was the order of the procession:
1. Boot and Shoe Operatives
2. Friendly Societies
3. Co-operative Society
4. Adult School
7. United Clubs
9. Leather Workers
Along the route the members of the Rushden Division of the St. John Ambulance Brigade under First-Class Sergt. Pridmore, mad a collection for the expenses. Three banners were carried round the town, and were placed behind the platform while the meeting was in process in the Recreation Ground. They represented the Boot and Shoe Operatives, the A.S.R.S., and the Lilford strikers. It is estimated that the attendance numbered 3,000 or 4,000. It is significant that the first demonstration to take place in the Recreation Ground should be for peace and that it was organised by that section of the community who were so prominent in the agitation for the ground itself. This fact was commented on by the speakers.
Mr. John Spencer presided, supported by Messrs. R. J. Davies (prospective Labour candidate for East Northants), J. F. Green (secretary of the International peace and Arbitration Association), J. C. Turner (secretary of the local branch of the National Union of Railwaymen) and C. Bates (president of the local branch of the Boot and Shoe Operatives Union). The Rushden Adult School Prize Male Choir, under the efficient direction of Mr. Bert Sanders, sang “Send out Thy light”.
The Chairman said that many years ago, when he was connected with the Rushden School Board, he was instrumental in getting an alteration in the school books. The glories of war and the splendour of battles had been pointed out, but not the horrors of it all. That had been altered. He was also pleased to think that the recreation ground was being used for the purpose of the peace demonstration. (Applause) But the greatest pleasure was to know that men and women were beginning to think for themselves on the wasteful expenditure on armaments. There was no just cause for the increased expenditure threatened.
The people who owned newspapers were interested in armament firms and consequently created scares for their own benefit, while the great mass of toilers had to suffer. Every householder in the country paid on the average 4/0 a week for the upkeep of arms. He stood for peace and arbitration. Every dispute should be settled without war, as all nations were of one flesh and blood. (Hear, hear) He believed the time was coming when the people of Europe would insist that their governments should abolish war or the workers strike to prevent it. Among many great men in favour of increased armaments there were large numbers of apologists. Great men, however, were not always wise. On such trivial things as an insulted flag or royal quarrels they would bring nations into deadly conflict.
With the enlightenment of the English people and instruction given in the day schools, the lesson of unity being strength would bring about a determined spirit on the question of armaments which would diminish and ultimately disappear altogether. That was the object of the demonstration.
Mr. J. C. Turner, of Irchester, moved-
“That we members of working men’s organisations of Rushden and district cordially join in the celebration of Peace Day, transferred by common consent from February 22 to May 18, the date of the opening of the first Hague Conference. That historic event and the subsequent second session of the ‘Parliament of man’ entitles us to look hopefully and even confidently to the further development of the concerted action of nations in the interests of peace based on International Law. Our combined efforts should, we hold, be centred in the task of creating and fostering a spirit antagonistic to the fratricidal strife at present controlling international relations, thus strengthening the Peace Party, which has long called for an arrest and gradual reduction of armaments and substitution, for the burden of the armed peace, of an international judicial organisation.
“We urgently appeal to the workers of all classes throughout the civilised world to join us in our protests and to support us in our aspirations. It is only by the closest collaboration that it will be possible to escape from the heavy material and moral burdens which at present afflict the nations, and to compel the Governments ultimately to submit to the unanimous desire of the peoples.”
Mr. Turner said he wanted to clear the minds of any in favour of compulsory service and to show them that it would be of no benefit to the working classes. (Applause) Lord Roberts was continually bewailing the shortage in the Army and advocating conscription as the only alternative. But it would be a sorry day for any Parliament that dared to table a Bill for conscription. On the Army and Navy alone £70,000,000 was spent yearly. Then there was another £30,000,000 interest that had to be paid on past wars.
Thus, the sum of £100,000,000 was going yearly to prepare for prospective wars and to clear off debts on past wars. Since the present Government had been in power the cost of armaments had gone up by £15,000,000 up to the 1913 Budget. Advocates for Labour claimed to be able to put that money to a better purpose. (Applause) He honestly believed that if 15 millions were properly utilised it would cover the cost of the erection of 70,000 houses fit for the working classes, and each house would have to it and acre of land. What a boon to the toilers of England for 70,000 families to live in their own house, free from the fear of tyranny which dominated the workmen under Lord Lilford. (Applause)
Councillor C. Bates seconded the resolution and said they had an example in the Lilford estate men, some of whom were present. They had tried to get by peaceable means certain concessions, but Lord Lilford and his tenant farmers had told them to go if they belonged to the Union. About 30 of the men, through sticking to their Union, had had to leave their work. (Hear, hear)
Mr. Green spoke of the Hague Conference, and said it was a good sign of progress. Unofficial pacifists had been meeting a great many years. And they did their best to educate public opinion in order to bring pressure to bear on Governments, but anything done at the Hague had far more weight, because it became official.
What the representatives of the different Governments pledged themselves to was bound to be carried out by the Governments who sent them, so that might be termed the measure of their success. No Government was strong enough to resist the tremendous pressure of public opinion. That was why efforts were being made to educate the great masses to see that war was absolutely out of date. The time of war was past. They were now living in the industrial period when war was an absurd anachronism. Rich people engineered it for their own purpose. The poorer people had to suffer most in a war.
There was no earthly reason why they should go to war. The workers had no quarrel it was only the “Gild-bugs” of Johannesburg who wanted the South African war. What quarrel could English workman have with Dutch farmers?
Great progress was being made in the world. The peaceful idea was developing enormously. When he came into the movement there were only one or two societies confined to the United States and England. There was now hardly a country that had not its Peace Society.
Mr. Davies said the question of war or peace would have to be settled by the workers. In the past, nations had been fighting each other by building warships and keeping standing armies. The fight of the future would not be between country and country but would be right across England itself. Mr. Money deplored the fact, that, if armaments were done away with there would be a large number of people thrown out of work. But the Right-to-work Bill of the Labour Party would settle all such problems.
The poor had nothing to fight for at all. What had wars done for them? People who claimed to have blue blood in their veinsand who would spend two hours over their dinnerstold them that war brought out heroic spirit in mankind. But had it? War brought out the most carnal and most beastly passions nature ever planted in man.
The process of conscription in this or any other country would be the progress of the bully in human nature, and in the same ratio they developed all that was contrary to peace and progress of the human race, He asked the man who pleaded for peace to put the cross in the right place on election day. (Applause)
The resolution was carried with perfect unanimity and great enthusiasm.
A meeting was held in the evening in the Co-operative hall, Mr. Elsdon presiding.
A resolution in favour of peace was moved by Mr. E. Freeman, seconded by Mr. Codling (Agricultural Labourers’ Union), supported by Mr. Green and Mr. Davied, and carried unanimously.
Mr. C. Cross moved a vote of thanks to the speakers which was seconded by Mr. Bazeley and carried.