Anti-war demonstrations in Britain

2 Aug 1914
  • London
  • Britain
Anti-war demo, Trafalgar Square, 2009
Anti-war demo, Trafalgar Square, 2009

On Sunday 2 August anti-war demonstrations were held across Britain, organised by the ILP:

"With a spontaneity which was a striking proof of how surely rooted in principle was the organisation, every section of it [the ILP] moved in the same way. The National Council, the Divisional Councils, the Federations, the branches—even the smallest and most isolated of these— acted as by a common impulse; and on Sunday, August 2nd, in every city, town and village where there was a branch or group of the Independent Labour Party, a public protest against the nation being dragged into the war was made, and a demand that whatever might happen in Europe, this country should stand neutral and play the part of peacemaker." [1]

The demonstration in Trafalgar Square, London, was described by the Manchester Guardian as "the biggest held for years." Speakers included John Stokes (Chairman of the London Trades Council), , George Lansbury (Daily Herald editor and former socialist MP); Robert Williams (Secretary of the Transport Workers’ Federation), Will Thorne MP ( British Socialist Party), Mary Macarthur (Federation of Women Workers), Margaret Bondfield (Shop Assistants’ Union), Dr. Marion Phillips (Women’s Labour League), Herbert Burrows (British Socialist Party),  Keir Hardie (ILP), Arthur Henderson ( Labour Party) Charlotte Despard and Robert Cunninghame Graham (former MP for Northwest Lanarkshire, and future founding president of the Scottish National Party).

Robert Cunningham Graham said: "Do not let us do this crime, or be parties to the misery of millions who have never done us harm."

A manifesto had already been signed by Keir Hardie and Arthur Henderson on behalf of the British section of the International Socialist Bureau, saying:

"Workers, stand together therefore for peace. Combine and conquer the militarist enemy and the self-seeking Imperialists to-day once and for all."