The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Years

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Thu Oct 10, 2019 12:03 am


A Lecture delivered at the Sorbonne on March 15th, 1927

In the face of this audience, in the presence of so many distinguished men and women, I feel in a very apologetic state to-night.

I am not accustomed to make public addresses. I am not used to being entertained in this flattering fashion. But the invitation I received to come here was so tactfully and charmingly conveyed, and did me so much honour, that I could scarcely do otherwise than obey and come.

I come, if you will permit me to say so, less for the great compliment that your attention does me personally than because this gives me an opportunity of saluting France, the custodian of the world’s artistic conscience, the exponent of intellectual freedom, the mighty mother of valiant and liberal thought for all mankind. The name of the Sorbonne is a very magical name to every intellectual worker, and I do not disguise from myself that to speak here to-night is the highest distinction that is ever likely to fall to me.

You receive me to-night as a man of letters. And as a man of letters I know I am not very easy to define. I am something of a romancer, something of a novelist, something of a publicist. I have written essays and social speculations. I have stolen and dressed myself up in the plumage of the historian. I have written schoolbooks and a scientific handbook. For my own part, I fall back upon Journalist as the least misleading description of my use in the world.

But let me disabuse your minds of any idea that it is out of modesty or as a pose of modesty that I call myself a Journalist and my very miscellaneous mass of work Journalism, and that I am conceding a superiority in kind and quality, as an iron pot might concede a superiority to a porcelain vessel, to the novelist, the romancer, the social philosopher or the political essayist. I am not doing that. I am not raising that sort of issue. I am not thinking of rank and order and precedence. What I am doing is trying to express, in as bright and hard a manner as possible, a very definite view of the value of all literary effort, all literary and artistic effort. I am trying to express, in so far as my own activities go, my sense of the temporary nature, the transitory and personal nature, of every statement made by science and philosophy and of every beauty revealed by art.

If I find any difference between my mind and the minds of most of the people I meet, it is that my perception of time is rather more detached than is usual from the dimensions of the individual life; that my mind is, as it were, a small-scale map of wide range; that I think with less detail and in longer stretches; that the race process as a whole has come home to me with unusual vividness, and that future things and our relationship to future things have an abnormal reality for me. And consequently it is natural for me to think that the man of letters, the artist, the scientific worker and the philosopher live first and foremost for their own time and for the times immediately following their own, and that thereafter their real value diminishes.

Tradition and educational pressure may mask this process to a certain extent, but only mask it. We belong to our own times and have significance only in relation to our own times. And this is as true of those we call "Immortals,” of Homer, of Shakespeare, of Michael Angelo or Leonardo or Voltaire, in the measure of their scale, as it is of you and me who are thinking and discussing here to-night. Great or little, we work, we serve our purpose, we pass. Into the night or into the museum of antiquities at last go one and all. Art, poesy, philosophy, literature, are not permanent things. They change in their methods, their function, their essential nature. . . .

And when I say that, I do not belittle them, but glorify them. They are living processes like ourselves who breed and pass, and not dead things like crystals or cut gems to be treasured for ever in the vaults of the classical temple. All of them but the mere bric-a-brac I would sweep into one living mortality as Journalism in its widest sense. The picture, the music, the book, the research that does not arise out of actual current things — and does not bear upon what we are doing or what we intend to do — does not in reality exist. It is a phantom. It is a pretension. It is Nothing. Science, art, literature, philosophy, all alike record Humanity’s impression of the present and its attempt to adjust itself for a future. They express the thought and embody the will — the growing changing thought, the developing will — of mankind. They are not a beautiful excrescence upon human life; not mere pearls secreted by the effort and suffering of mankind; they are the very core of the life of mankind — its chief directive function.

Now, after this much of self-introduction, I will put before you certain speculations that occupy me very much. I put them before you not as something thought out and presented to you in a finished state, but as something about which I find myself greatly exercised — something that may evoke kindred operations going on in your minds also, and so interest you this evening.

I propose to launch a generalisation, a generalisation about the probable forms of expression prevalent now and in the immediate future — expression in political, social, literary and artistic life. I am going to suggest that we are in the beginning of an age whose broad characteristics may be conveyed some day by calling it The Age of Democracy under Revision. That title I have chosen by way of defining its relation to the age which has been drawing to its close under our eyes: the Age of Democracy Ascendent.

Let us begin by exploring common ground. It would be easy to find quite a large number of intelligent and well-instructed people who would agree that the sixteenth century saw the germination, the seventeenth and the eighteenth the birth struggles, the nineteenth the rise and prevalence of something called Modern Democracy. Something not merely political, but social, and profoundly differentiating the literature and art of this time — quite as much as the political life — from those of any previous period. That Ascendency of Democracy has culminated; and like some wave that breaks upon a beach, its end follows close upon its culmination.

Now what do we mean by this word Democracy? We are apt to say that such words as Democracy and Socialism may mean anything or nothing. But the truth is, that, in spite of many variations and convolutions, both these words retain very definite meanings indeed. One might compare them to little bags given to a multitude of children to collect anything they liked from a pebble beach. In such bags, you might find at the end of the day a great variety of things; in no two bags would you find exactly the same things, and yet for all that in nearly all the bags would you find very much the same content.

I suppose we should, nearly all of us, be in agreement that what we meant by Democracy — in the modern sense — was expressed morally by the statement:

All human beings are of equal value in the sight of God;

or legally:

All men are equal before the law;

or practically;

One man's money is as good as another's.

This implies a repudiation of caste, of inherent rank and function, of all privileges and all fixed subordinations. It is equalitarian or rebellious. And it is mildly paradoxical in the fact that, by insisting upon the importance of all individualities, it tends to restrain the exaltation of particular individuals, and by exalting all individuals to an equal level, it subordinates all individuals to the mass.

The democratic idea is no doubt very deeply rooted in the competitive and insurgent heart of man. It is implicit in Christianity and in Islam. But it was only in the sixteenth century, with the progressive decay of Feudalism, that it began to be effective in the literary, political and artistic expression of mankind. If you reflect, I think you will agree that its appearance was everywhere associated with the breakdown of outworn or outpaced systems, with processes of release and liberation, and generally also with processes of disintegration. Democracy to many minds will also involve the challenging and repudiation of authority. Some Catholic Democrats may question that, but I believe I shall have the general feeling with me in accepting that relaxation also as an aspect of Democracy.

Now as Democracy became ascendent in our world, its spirit produced new forms in political life, in literature, in art, in music. Let us consider these distinctive forms.

In politics it produced government by elected representative assemblies — elected by an ever-widening constituency of voters. We have Chambers of Representatives, Parliaments, spread throughout the world, and we have seen the franchise extend until manhood, and at last womanhood, suffrage seems everywhere in sight. It is strange to us nowadays to imagine a fully organised country without a constitution, a Parliament and periodic appeals to the mass of voters to endorse an elected Government periodically replaceable. Yet six hundred years ago such a way of managing public affairs would have seemed fantastic. The Ancient World knew nothing of such devices. There were assemblies then, but not representative assemblies. The Greek democracies and Republican Rome assembled all their citizens. Even countries like France and England before the sixteenth century which had Parliaments of a sort, did not conceive of them for a moment as governing bodies and kept the elected element in a minor position. I doubt if many of us fully realise the significance of the fact that the current political methods and assumptions of the world to-day, prevalent from China to Peru, would have been almost inconceivable even to highly intelligent human beings until twelve or fifteen generations ago.

So much for the political expression of Democracy. In literature the democratic spirit found its natural vehicle in the Novel. That too was new and distinctive. The tale, the story of adventures, mankind has had always — most usually of kings, princes and heroic leaders — but it was only with the ascent of Democracy that stories of characters, histories of common individual lives detached from politics, detached from any sense of social function, getting loose from any subordination or any responsibility, rose towards dominance in literature. At the very outset of the ascent of Democracy came the great master Cervantes with his “Don Quixote,” scoffing at aristocracy, scoffing at privileged responsibility, mocking at the final futility of chivalrous mastery, putting his wisest words into the mouth of a clown and letting the flour mills of the common bread-eater overthrow his knight in armour. As modern Democracy rose to its climax, the novel rose to its climax. The common characteristic of almost all the great novels of the nineteenth century, and up to our own time, is that they represent great crowds of individuals who follow trades, professions and so forth, and who have either no public function or, if they have a public function, are not so differentiated by it that it is of any serious importance to the story and the values of the novel. The crowd of individuals and its interplay have become everything. Great ideas that bind people together into any form of collective life are disregarded. Great religious ideas, great political ideas and developments are not there in any living, fermenting, debatable form — are even challenged and forbidden by the critics as having no place there. Consider Balzac, Dickens, Turgeniev, Zola, and suchlike representative giants of this closing age. You think at once of a picture of humanity like a market-place, like a fair, like the high-road to anywhere on a busy day. When political life appears, it appears just as any other sort of life. Here is a novel about elections and their humours, and here is one about peasants or fishermen. Just different scenery and costumes for the common story.

It strikes one at first as paradoxical that a period in which the exaltation of the individual has tended to make every one a voter, a fractional sovereign of the whole world, should lead in the literary expression of the time to the disappearance, so to speak, of the whole world in a crowd of people. But the paradox involves no real inconsistency. What is everybody's business is nobody’s business. The literature of the period of Democracy Ascendent displays what its political developments mask only very thinly — that Modern Democracy is not a permanent form of political and social life, but a phase of immense dissolution.

I think it would be comparatively easy to call the drama of the last three centuries to confirm the evidence of the novel. With the beginning of the period under consideration the Miracle Play which gave you Everyman and related him to God and Heaven and Hell gave place to Falstaff and his jolly companions, to the jealousy of Othello and the social aspirations of Monsieur Jourdain. If we turn to painting or to music we find all over this period the same effect of release — if you like — detachment, anyhow, from broad constructive conceptions and any sort of synthesis. There was very little detached painting in the old world. It was a part of something else. It decorated a building, it subserved a religious or political as well as a decorative purpose. If paintings were ever detachable, it was that they might be carried from a studio to an altar or a palace elsewhere. But with the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries painting became more and more liberated, said good-bye to the altar-piece and the palace and set out upon a life of its own. Now our painters are pure anarchists. They paint what pleases them for the sake of painting. They paint with a total disregard of any collective reality, and they are extremely offended when we build our houses with insufficient accommodation for their bright irrelevant observations upon the beauty of this and that.

So too music has broken loose. In the old world it was relevant and generally subordinate. I can imagine nothing more astonishing to a revenant from the ancient to our present world — not even a general election! — than a visit to a large concert-hall during the performance, let us say, of Debussy’s L’Apres-midi d’un Faune” or Ravel’s “Septette,” — this gathering of fortuitous people with no common function, to listen to music which, apart from its beauty, has no sort of collective meaning, no social object at all.

So far I have been attempting to make a case for the assertion that a consideration of the chief forms of human expression during the past age enables us to see in all of them Democracy as a great process of loosening of bonds and general disintegration. But that loosening and disintegration were not universal.

With the emancipation of Man's higher activities from ecclesiastical control, the distinction between the religious and the secular life has gradually established itself. That this should happen was inevitable. Mechanical obedience being of the essence of supernatural religion, the secularising of human life became absolutely necessary if any vital progress was to be made. The Church patronised art, music, and the drama so far as they served her purposes. When they outgrew those purposes, in response to the expansive forces of human nature, she treated them as secular and let them go their several ways. In the interests of theology she tried to keep physical science in leading-strings; but when, after a bitter struggle, science broke loose from her control, she treated it too as secular and let it go its way.

Let us see what this distinction involves. As salvation is to be achieved by obedience to the Church and in no other way, it follows that in all those spheres of life which are outside the jurisdiction of the Church (except, of course, so far as questions of "morals" may arise in connection with them), Man's conduct and general demeanour are supposed to have no bearing on his eternal destiny. This is the view of the secular life which is taken by the Church. And not by the Church alone. As, little by little, the Institution - be it Church, or Sect, or Code, or Scripture - which claims to be the sole accredited agent of the Eternal God, relaxes its hold upon the ever-expanding life of Humanity, all those developments of human nature which cease to be amenable to its control come to be regarded as mundane, as unspiritual, as carnal, as matters with which God has no concern.

Were this view of the secular life confined to those who call themselves religious, no great harm would be done. Unfortunately, the secular life, which is under the influence of the current conception of God as one who holds no intercourse with Man except through certain accredited agents, is ready to acquiesce in the current estimate of itself as godless, and to accept as valid the distinction between the religious life and its own. Hence comes a general lowering of Man's aims. As the secular life is content to regard itself as godless, and so deprives itself of any central and unifying aim, it is but natural that success in each of its many branches should come to be regarded as an end in itself. It is but natural, to take examples at random, that the artist should follow art for art's sake, that the man of science should deify positive knowledge, that the statesman should regard political power as intrinsically desirable, that the merchant and the manufacturer should live to make money, and that the highest motive which appeals to all men alike should be the desire to bulk large in the eyes of their fellow-men. Even the ardent reformer, whose enthusiasm makes him unselfish, pursues the ideal to which he devotes himself, as an end in itself, and makes no attempt to define or interpret it in terms of its relation to that supreme and central ideal which he ought to regard as the final end of human endeavour. When we remind ourselves, further, that secularism, equally with supernaturalism, tends to identify "Nature" with lower nature - in other words, with the material side of the Universe and the carnal side of Man's being, - we shall realise how easy it is for the secular life, once it has lost, through its divorce from religion, the tonic stimulus of a central aim, to sink, without directly intending to do so, into the mire of materialism, - a materialism of conduct as well as of thought.

But if the loss to the secular life, from its compulsory despiritualisation, is great, the loss to religion, from the secularisation of so much of Man's rational activity, is greater still. The very distinction between the secular and the religious life is profoundly irreligious, in that it rests on the tacit assumption that there is no unity, no central aim, in human life; and the fact that official religion is ready to acquiesce in the distinction, is ready, in other words, to make a compromise with its enemy "the world", is a proof that it is secretly conscious of its own failing power, and is even beginning to despair of itself. As it resigns itself to this feeling (as yet perhaps but dimly realised), its reasons for entertaining it must needs grow stronger. The progressive enlargement of the sphere of Man's secular activities is accompanied, step for step, by the devitalisation of the idea of the Divine. What kind of intercourse can God be supposed to hold with Man if the latter is to be left to his own devices in what he must needs regard as among the more important aspects of his life, - in his commercial and industrial enterprises, in his art, in his literature, in his study of Nature's laws, in his mastery of Nature's forces, in his pursuit of positive truth and practical good? As in these matters Man frees himself, little by little, from the yoke of supernaturalism, which he has been accustomed to identify with religion, his formal conception of his relation to God and of the part that God plays in his life - the conception that is defined and elucidated for him by religious "orthodoxy" - becomes of necessity more irrational, more mechanical, more unreal, more repugnant to his better nature and to the higher developments of his "common-sense". The tendency to exalt the letter of what is spoken or written, at the expense of the spirit, is as much of the essence of ecclesiasticism as of legalism. "Si dans les règles du salut le fond l'emporterait sur la forme, ce serait la ruine du sacerdoce". And, as a matter of experience, the hair-splitting puerilities of Pharisaism under the Old Dispensation have been matched, and more than matched, in the spheres of ritual, of dogmatic theology, and of casuistical morality, under the New. As Man gradually shifts the centre of gravity of his being from the religious to the secular side of his life, this puerile element in religion - the element of ultra-formalism, of irrationality, of unreality - tends, like a morbid growth, to draw to itself the vital energies of what was once a healthy organism but is now degenerating into a "body of death". If, in these days of absorbing secular activity, Man continues to tolerate the theories and practices of the religious experts, the reason is - apart from the influence of custom and tradition and of his respect for venerable and "established" institutions - that they are things which he has neither time nor inclination to investigate, and which he can therefore afford to tolerate as being far removed from what is vital and central in his life. I am told that the Catholic Church holds, in the case of a dying man, "that the eternal fate of the soul, for good or for evil, may depend upon the reception or the non-reception of absolution, and even of extreme unction". That the truly appalling conception of God which is implicit in this sentence should still survive, that it should not yet have been swept out of existence by the outraged common-sense and good feeling of Humanity, is a proof of the immense indifference with which the Western world, absorbed as it is in secular pursuits, regards religion.

It may indeed be doubted if men have ever been so non-religious as are at the present day the inhabitants of our highly-civilised and thoroughly-Christianised West. At any rate the absence of a central aim in human life has never been so complete as it is now. Most men are content to drift through life, toiling for the daily bread which will enable them to go on living, yet neither knowing nor caring to know why they are alive. There is a minority of stronger and more resolute men who devote life with unwavering energy to the pursuit of what I may call private and personal ends. Thus the man of business lives for the acquisition of riches; the scholar and the scientist, of knowledge; the statesman, of power; the speculator, of excitement; the libertine, of pleasure; and so forth. Few are they who ever dream of devoting life as a whole to the pursuit of an end which is potentially attainable by all men, and which is therefore worthy of Man as Man. The idea of there being such an end has indeed been almost wholly lost sight of. Those among us who are of larger discourse than the rest and less absorbed by personal aims, ask themselves mournfully: What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Is life worth living? and other such questions; and being unable to answer them to their satisfaction, or get them answered, resign themselves to a state of quasi-stoical endurance. That religion cannot be expected to answer these questions - the very questions which it is its right and its duty to answer - seems to be taken for granted by all who ask them. Religion, as it is now conceived of, is a thing for priests and ministers, for churches and chapels, for Sundays and Saints'-days, for the private devotions of women and children, for educational debates in Parliament, for the first lesson on the time-table (9.5 to 9.45 a.m.) of a Public Elementary School. The "unbeliever" is eager to run a tilt against religion. The "non-believer" is content to ignore it. The "believer" is careful to exclude it from nine-tenths of his life. It is to this pass that the gospel of salvation by machinery has brought the most "progressive" part of the human race.

-- What Is and What Might Be: A Study of Education in General and Elementary Education in Particular, by Edmond Holmes

Now I would point out that in certain fields synthesis is so necessary, so inherent, that it has put up a very successful fight against the solvent tendencies of Democracy.

In certain fields the ascent of Democracy has not meant dissolution. No doubt the whole world of modern science became possible, and could only become possible, through the immense mental releases of ascendent Democracy. But while in the realms of political, literary and artistic expression Democracy meant fragmentation and reduction to unorganised masses, in this newer world of science the onset of Democracy was accompanied by synthesis of the most extensive sort. The development of science in the past three centuries has been diametrically different from the political, literary and artistic development of the same period. In the preceding ages, when everything else was organised and relevant, science was a mere miscellany of disconnected facts. With the release of the human mind from authority, science began to be systematic and coherent. Release from established traditions and precedences meant in the world of politics, literature and art, limitless freedom. In science it meant subjugation to experimental verification and the logical consistency of fact with fact. So while the broad visible history of the Age of Democracy so far has been one of release, escape, go-as-you-please: less conspicuous in laboratories and faculties and books and classes — but in the end infinitely more significant — has been the growth of one consistent vision of reality to which all things must be referred, in which the moods of a man are made to march with chemical changes, and the structure of the smallest atom is brought into relation with the physics of the remotest star. To that release of synthetic forces I shall presently return.

Next let me point out that this period of the ascent of Democracy has by no means been a period of easy, undisputed ascent. Nor has it been merely a struggle against kings and aristocracies, privileges and advantages, ancient traditions and old authority. The proposition that any man is as important as any man has come hard against certain mental and material realities. History for the last hundred years or so has been largely the story of that collision. This assertion of human equality has come against the severest stresses at the boundaries where language meets language, and at the geographical or social frontiers of dissimilar races. There the common man, who has been willing to break down all the boundaries between himself and his superiors, discovers deep instinctive dispositions to call a halt and draw the line. His mind is invaded by an exaggerated sense of difference. He develops rivalries, suspicions, antagonisms. The Age of Democracy has also been the Age of Nationalism. Never in the whole history of mankind have national and racial antagonisms been so acute and conscious, so massive, powerful and dangerous, as they have become during the ascent of Democracy. And yet that is entirely inconsistent with the larger and completer aspirations of Democracy, which have insisted always that there shall be no distinctions of class or creed or race. One of the most human and interesting things to watch at the present time is the struggle of the Labour parties in the European democracies against their ingrained nationalist feelings and their belligerent patriotism. And still more edifying are the fluctuations of the Labour movement in such countries as Australia and South Africa with regard to yellow and brown immigration and the black vote.

But nationalism is not the greatest force that Modern Democracy has evoked against itself in its ascent. Far more fundamental is the synthetic drive in economic life, the enormous material pressure making for the replacement of individual and small competitive businesses by great and unifying enterprises, not merely in manufactures but in the production of such staples as coal, oil, iron and steel, cotton, food substances and fundamental chemical products. The small man and the medium-sized business are pushed aside by highly organised and often quite scientifically organised concerns.

Here again the paradoxical aspect of Democracy reappears. These great crystallisations of business — so large as to become at last monopolies — are plainly due to the releases of Democracy, the freedom of science, invention, experiment and enterprise, the lack of control and restriction the ascent of Democracy has involved. But just as plainly do these crystallisations run counter to the more intimate feeling of Democracy that every man is as good as every man, that every man should be his own master and live his life in his own fashion after his own heart. Essential to the life and success of these big businesses is an intricate system of specialisation and subordination of functions, and great freedoms of action for the executives. Most of those engaged in working them must be simply employed persons, and there must be great inequalities of authority and initiative between one man and another. In America a sort of reconciliation between this democratic reality of economic synthesis and democratic ideals of equality has been attempted by Anti-Trust legislation, and in England there is a small but delightfully logical movement for what is called the Distributive State, which is to cut up big businesses periodically and hand the bleeding fragments back to the common man. But the main expression of this conflict between synthesis and analysis in the democratic age has been the struggle for and against Socialism. For there is scarcely any form of Socialism that does not fall within the definition of an attempt to take the general economic life out of whatever hands control it at present and hand it over to the direction either of representatives elected by the workers, or of politicians elected by the voters of the entire community. Socialism is the attempt to democratise economic life as political life has already been democratised. And the final practical objection to Socialism, partial or general — the objection that has usually carried the argument — has always been this: that politicians and elected people are not good enough for the job.

That brings me to the great conspicuous fact of our present time, to what I may call the arrest, the pause, in the advance of political Democracy — to the fact that now, and since the War, there has been a growing distrust of and discontent with the politicians and the political methods evolved by Parliamentary Democracy.

In two great Latin countries we have seen politicians and parliamentary institutions thrust aside with no signs of popular regret. In Russia a parliamentary republic appeared and vanished like a dream and gave place to a government by an organised association of a quite unprecedented pattern, the Communist Party, making only the slightest concessions to the representative idea. In China we see another extraordinary organisation, the Kuomintang, consolidating the whole country with tremendous vigour in the face of the discredited parliamentarianism of Peking.
I will not discuss nor even raise other instances to enforce my argument that the magic has gone out of the method of government by general elections.

I have said enough, I think, to pose my essential question. Is the process of ascendent Democracy played out? Or is it going on upon the old lines, in spite of these appearances? Or is it perhaps entering upon a new phase, a phase so different as practically to open a new age in the story of human experience? Are not its synthetic releases overtaking and mastering its tendency to fragmentation?

I have already betrayed, even in my title, the answer I am disposed to give to these questions, which is that Democracy is entering upon a phase of revision in which Parliaments and parliamentary bodies and political life as we know it to-day are destined to disappear. And that with the disappearance will come profound changes in all our methods of expression, indeed in all our lives.

For a number of generations the democratic process ruling the world has meant nothing but release, enfranchisement for freedom, the breaking down of controls and restraints and obstacles. There has been a worldwide detachment of individuals from codes and controls, subjugations and responsibilities, functions and duties. I suggest that this process of dissolution is at an end, and that mankind is faced — is challenged — by the need for reorganisation and reorientation, political and social and intellectual, quite beyond the power of the negligent common voter and his politicians and the happy-go-lucky education and literature on which our minds are fed.

Let me state three great interrelated problems that have been facing mankind since the war, and let me remind you how futile so far have been the attempts of our modern democratic Governments and communities to find solutions, to produce any hope of solutions, for these problems.

Foremost of these three in our consciousness is the problem of war. I need not, before such an audience as this, dilate upon the cruelty, the horror, the sheer destructiveness into which the war process, equipped by modern science, necessarily develops. I will not talk of air bombardment, nor of poison gas and germs, nor of the practical abolition of the immunity of the non-combatant, nor of the complete economic and social disorganisation that would probably ensue upon another group of wars. I take it that upon these matters you are of the same mind as myself. I take it that an enormous majority of humanity now wants no more war.

Yet consider how feeble have been the efforts of any Government since 1918 to set up more than the flimsiest paper barriers against war. The sabres still rattle in Europe.
The big guns are moved from position to position. In 1910 war hung over Europe, over the world, like a cliff we knew must fall. And it fell. Here and now, are we any safer? For what were these politicians elected? Little conferences, little junketings, little demonstrations of amiability — like tying back the cliff with coloured cotton. Meanwhile the foundries go on making tanks, battleships, guns, all the world over.

And second of these three problems Modern Democracy has no power to handle, is the monetary question. If anything is plain, if there is anything upon which every one must be agreed, it is that for the proper working of contemporary civilisation a stable money basis of world-wide validity is essential. Just so far as money is unstable, so far does speculation undermine and replace sound business enterprise and honest work for profit. For eight years now we have seen the exchanges of the world dance together. We have seen the effort for economic recuperation crippled and deflected by this drunkard dance of money. Each democratic Government has pursued its own policy according to its lights and apparent interests. The bankers and the financiers have performed their mysterious operations in obscurity. And nowhere, in any Democracy, has the mass of voters shown the slightest understanding of or ability to grasp the processes which threw them out of employment, made their poor savings evaporate, and snatched the necessaries of life out of their reach.

But the military obsession with its war threat and the monetary tangle are, so to speak, merely complications of the more general riddle before mankind, which is that, chiefly through changes in methods of transport and the advance of science and invention, economic life has become world-wide and a certain economic unity is being imposed willy-nilly upon the globe. A vast change of scale is happening in economic life — a vast extension of range. So that the method of the small individual manufacturer and trader, the method even of the moderate-sized competing company, the method even of national groups, tend to be superseded, in the case of all our staple supplies, by combinations upon a universal scale. The master problem before us all, before our race, is how to achieve this world economic unity, how to produce a system of world controls with as little blind experiment as possible, without the sacrifice of countless millions of whole generations, in the throes of this inevitable reconstruction. How to establish enough political unity in the world to ensure peace; how to establish enough political unity to save industry and trade from becoming the mere preliminaries to a gamble with the exchange; how to establish enough political unity to control and direct the distribution of raw products, employment and manufactured goods about the earth — that in brief is the present task before the human intelligence. And we have no Governments, we have nothing in the world able to deal with this trinity of problems, this three-headed Sphinx which has waylaid and now confronts mankind.

Now the sense of the inadequacy of modern democratic Governments for the task before them grows upon us all. What is going to be attempted, what is going to be done in the matter? We are all familiar nowadays with various projects of electoral reform. Some, such as the Referendum, aim merely at restraining and paralysing Governments. Others, such as the proposal to have smaller representative bodies of members elected by large constituencies by the methods of proportional representation by the simple transferable vote, would no doubt give a more free and vigorous assembly, and go far to abolish political parties and the hack professional politician. But none of these electoral reform projects go to the root of the trouble with Modern Democracy, which is the indifference, ignorance and incapacity of the common man towards public affairs.

We have to recognise more plainly than is generally admitted to-day that the ordinary voter does not care a rap for his vote. He does not connect it with the idea of the world at large, nor use it to express any will or purpose whatever about the general conduct of things. I have already called attention to the fact that the novel, the characteristic literary form of Modern Democracy, and the modern drama ignore all comprehensive political and religious ideas. Thereby they display current reality with the utmost veracity. These forms, the novel and the play, have so far embodied no new concepts and directions about life as a whole, they have simply presented life at large released from preexisting concepts and directions. Our modern democratic Governments reveal as clearly that the onset of Modern Democracy did not mean a transfer of power from the few to the many, but a disappearance of power from the world. The vote is an instrument of defence, and not a constructive tool. Faced with gigantic constructive needs of ever-increasing urgency, political Democracy fails. It cannot produce inventive and original Governments; it cannot produce resolute Governments; it cannot produce understanding, far-thinking Governments. Its utmost act of will is the capricious or peevish dismissal of Governments by a general election.

For a century or more it has worked well that the world should be under-governed and under-organised. In that liberty science has won its way, established itself in a world-wide system of research and record, gained an invincible inertia. Music has achieved the most glorious developments, painting risen to unprecedented levels of technique, literature learnt a new fearlessness, and industry and commerce have tried and expanded a thousand subtle and huge combinations no official control would ever have permitted. The mere break-down of the cramping systems of the past, the escape from traditional privilege and authority, was enough to permit the great expansion of life that has gone on since the sixteenth century. But there is a limit to unguided and uncontrolled expansion, and at that limit we seem to have arrived with a war threat, a monetary instability and a chronic conflict between the organic growth of economic processes and the desire of the worker for freedom and happiness, which none of the Governments in the world seem to have the necessary initiative and vigour to meet.

We need now more definite direction and government in human affairs, on a scale and of a quality commensurate with the three mighty problems our race has to face. It is idle to talk of returning to the little royalties, aristocracies and so forth of the pre-democratic past. Are there any signs of a new, more decisive and more vigorously constructive form of government in our world? I submit there are, and on these signs I rest my anticipations of the Age of Democracy under Revision that is dawning upon us. Coming events cast their shadows before, and a keen eye can detect a number of shadows of what is coming. But the two shadows to which I would particularly draw your attention are the Communist Party and Fascism.

Let me be perfectly clear upon one point here. I am an unsparing hostile critic of Marxist Communism. I have a strong dislike for many aspects of Fascism — including particularly its head. May I insist upon that? There is a mental disease about called “Seeing red," and I want to avoid any manifestations of that to-night. I am not sympathetic with Communist ideas. In my latest book, “The World of William Chissold," you will find a most careful, elaborate and destructive criticism of Marxism, and my treatment of Lenin has brought down upon me the violent vituperation of Mr. Trotsky. Quite as fervently have I plunged into conflict with Fascism. I am anti-Communist and anti-Fascist. But what I am discussing now is not the mental content of these two movements, but their quality and spirit as organisations.

Their quality and spirit as organisations. , . . They are both mainly composed of youngish people. They are so far democratic that they are open to any one who will obey their disciplines and satisfy their requirements. Some of my hearers may know something of the intimate lives of young Communists or young Fascists. The movement dominates the entire life. The individual gives himself — or herself — to the movement in a spirit essentially religious. It enters into the life and into the conscience as few religions do nowadays. Communism indeed claims that it is a complete substitute for religion. Everything else is to be subordinated to the ends of the movement. With the Fascist these are the supposed good of the Italian community; with the Communist they are the supposed good of the whole world. These movements began as voluntary movements of young people, so concerned about public affairs as willingly to give themselves to the sacrifices and dangers — and adventure — involved. I submit it is a fact of profound significance that Fascism could attract enough vigorous young people to capture and hold and govern Italy, and that the Communist Party, with perhaps a hundred thousand members or so in Russia, could seize upon the ruins of that war-broken land and hold it against all comers.

One has to admit, in spite of many assertions to the contrary, that neither in Italy nor Russia do the masses of the population seem to resent the dictatorship of these associations. No vote famine has broken out in these disenfranchised countries. You do not find haggard peasants wandering about in search of a polling booth. So that our assertion that the average common man, the common voter, does not care a rap about the commonweal and his vote, has to be supplemented by the fact that there is an active-minded minority capable of so vivid an interest in the direction of public affairs as to make the most complete sacrifices to see things going in the way it considers right. This is most conspicuous in Russia and Italy, but in China students’ associations, closely similar in character, are taking possession of the larger half of the country, and in Japan and many other countries kindred bodies of mentally energetic types are playing an increasingly important role in public life. In the nineteenth century such types were either not stimulated to activity, or their energies were spent upon parliamentary politics or diverted in other directions. Now all over the world a certain section of them is taking its activities out of parliamentary affairs and setting itself into vigorous competition with the parliamentary system.

You see, I am building my expectation of a new phase in human affairs upon the belief that there is a profoundly serious minority in the mass of our generally indifferent species. I cannot understand the existence of any of the great religions, I cannot explain any fine and grave constructive process in history, unless there is such a serious minority amidst our confusions, They are the salt of the earth, these people capable of devotion and of living lives for remote and mighty ends — and, unless the composition of our species has altered, they are as numerous as they have ever been. I see them less and less satisfied and used by existing loyalties and traditional faiths. I see them ready to crystallise about any constructive idea powerful enough to grip their minds. Is it not reasonable then to hold that these associations, these concentrations of mentally energetic types for political ends, these revelations of politico-religious fervour in the community — considerable as they are even now — are the mere beginnings of much greater things? The breakdown of the old loyalties and the old faiths in the past age has released this great fund of effort and synthetic possibility for new applications. And over against it we have the need for world peace — which can be achieved only by some sort of political unity — and for social adjustment, which seems only possible through the comprehensible handling of world economic affairs as one great system.

More than twenty years ago, in a book called “A Modern Utopia,” when there was not a fact on earth to support me, I sketched a World State ruled by a self-devoted organisation of volunteers. To-day I can recall that conception of a future society and I can appeal to Russia, China, Italy and much that is astir everywhere, to substantiate that possibility. I have spoken of the youth in these two specimen movements I have cited, but it is not merely the young who will be found willing to orient their dispersed lives to great aims and comprehensive ideas. The pain of aimlessness and ineffectiveness can be aroused at any age with the realisation of insecurity. The search for a consuming objective ends only with life. In short, we have the morally energetic types needed for such a movement in a released and nascent state. We have the manifest need for such a movement. We are gathering the creative ideas and accumulating the impulse for such a movement. What is there to prevent a great politico-religious drive for social and world unity taking hold everywhere of the active and adventurous minority of mankind — that is to say, of all mankind that matters — even quite soon?

That is the essence of what I want to put before you to-night. That is what I mean when I say that the phase of Democracy as release has come to its end, and that we are already in the beginning of the phase of Democratic Synthesis, a great religious-spirited phase. If you choose to link it to Christianity or Islam or Buddhism or any existing democratic religion; or to Communism, that religious substitute; or call it in itself the Religion of Progress, nothing that I am saying here to-night will stand in your way. And if this diagnosis is correct, then necessarily the changing spirit of Democracy, the change from fragmentation and irrelevance to synthesis and reference to directive general ideas on a universal scale, will become apparent in all forms of human expression.

Here with the time at my disposal I can but ask: Is that so? In political life, is there any tendency among intelligent people to be dissatisfied with the passive role of voters and to attempt, in all sorts of ways, to exert a direct influence on common affairs? In intellectual life, is there an increasing tendency to discuss world-wide problems — political, economic, social? Is there a marked increase of such literature? A livelier interest in such questions? If this thesis is right, the novel and the drama should be changing. They should both be bringing in great issues, a quasi-religious attitude to world affairs as a living part of the human story. The novel should no longer be merely a picture of a spectacle relying for its interest upon adventures and the extraordinary traits of individual characters, in no way responsible for the whole. It should be turning decisively towards responsibility, to what I might call creative propaganda. It should be permeated by the question: “What do these lives make for?" And the drama — to turn to the drama — should be no longer the well-made play grouping itself around a situation. Is such a play as Shaw’s “Saint Joan,” or Toller’s “Masses and Men,” any intimation of Synthetic Democracy upon the stage? Again, is there in painting and music any tendency to return from — what shall I say? — pure painting and pure music to breadth and profundity of reference?

Well, I ask these questions. I put these ideas before you. I have done my best to give you my impression of this new phase into which human life is passing, and my forecast of the new spirit that I believe will guide the criticism of expression in the time before us. And I thank you with all my heart for the reception and the attention you have given me.  
Site Admin
Posts: 31701
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Thu Oct 10, 2019 12:16 am


I LOATHE Nationalism, and ripening experience has corroded my Imperialism (of 1899-1900) profoundly, and perhaps incurably, but this does not prevent my being intensely, affectionately, and profoundly English. But by being English I do not mean pretending mystical and impossible emotions at the first grunts of the National Anthem, or the chance sight of that curious political compromise of the last century, the Union Jack, which has swallowed up the real English flag of St. George, and still, against all reason, retains the cross of St. Patrick in its entanglement. Nor by being English do I mean repudiating the high republicanism of my English Milton, my English Cromwell, and my equally English George Washington. Nor again would I mix up the English idea with a trained aversion from foreign goods and ingenious attempts to choke the trade of other countries in favour of our home products. Indeed, I feel a little ashamed of myself when a polite and kindly foreign post office hands me out my letters stamped with blatant exhortations to "Buy British Goods.” Yet all the same I maintain that I am a scion, however unworthy, of a very great race, and heir to an unapproachable tradition of candid speech and generous act.

My people, the English, have created mighty nations, lived valiantly for freedom and fair play through many sturdy generations, and fertilised the whole world with their adventurous dead.

I hold most firmly that we English — who make up perhaps a third of the United States population and an eighth of that of the British Empire — are a people necessary to mankind, that there are certain calls and occasions when either "God's Englishman" — as our Milton had it — must play his part, or the occasion fail.

It is our boast that we say what we think without fear or favour and that we are not easily driven in flocks or cowed by difficulties or defeated — even by defeat. And believing these things, I hold it as my right and duty as a common Englishman to watch the steps of my own people wherever they are found, in Britain or America, in India or Africa or Australia, and to speak as plainly as I can when they seem to be falling away from the quality that has won us our place in history and the respect of mankind, I had rather assert my right to repudiate the shooting at Amritsar and cry "Stop!" to the justice of Massachusetts when it grows harsh and unfair to such friendless men as Sacco and Vanzetti than reap all the material successes that life can offer me. In that way I can a little discharge the obligation I am put under when I am counted among Englishmen.

Never have we been a theatrical people; there are few heroic gestures in our story and little rhetoric; we have never pretended to be a breed of supermen, and our drama, fiction, and common speech abound in self-derision. The British common soldier breaks into literature in the persons of Falstaff and Bardolph and Nym, and the foreigner has always been given fair play and a welcome among us — up to 1917 at any rate. Our dearest boast was the prestige of "the word of an Englishman,” and it is our claim that we would rather be trusted than exalted among the peoples of the earth. Whatever the diplomatic situation may have been, the great mass of the English folk in the New World, as in the Old, believed that they were fighting aggressive monarchist militarism in the Great War and preparing the way for a peace without uniforms. They hated Germany more for her goose step than for her fleet. The seed of that rather wilted but still living plant, the League of Nations, was sown by the practical liberalism of the English mind on both sides of the Atlantic, and could never have existed but for the faith of the English in reasonable dealing. The faith of our people launched that experiment, and to them alone can the world look for the mental courage to face its disappointments and accumulate and organise the resolution needed for the next thrust and experiment in the same direction.

Liberalism of thought and restrained steadfastness in act has been the contribution of the English people to human affairs during the past two centuries. None of us claims any preposterous superiorities over other peoples; and most of us can admit inferiorities without a qualm. The French, are certainly more direct and clear-headed than we are, and the Germans more thorough. We lack the animation of the Levantine and the mental richness of the Slav. We have a curiously atmospheric quality in our thought; we are not rapid with our problems, and we are apt to muddle about with perplexities and betray a lack of haste and zeal which exasperates observers. At the present time, and indeed since 1917, we have been making a bad showing. It is time we woke up to what we are not doing. A time may come when we shall discover that the world has not waited for the English.

For ten years the English — and by English I mean equally the English-speaking, English-thinking people of the United States and of the British Empire, for I cannot separate them in these matters — have on the whole been disposed towards some settlement of the world’s affairs that would ensure permanent peace. I do not believe that there would have been even a League of Nations without the initiative of the English on both sides of the Atlantic, and I believe that the welcome and acquiescence of the other nations of the world in that project was due to their belief "in the word of the Englishmen,” to their belief that the great section of mankind we English constitute and control would see the vast promises of President Wilson through to a working reality. They thought that there was that much moral force in the world, and that the English-speaking masses embodied it and meant it.

I believe enough in the quality of my own people to be persuaded they were right. I believe that on November 11, 1918, the world was within sight of a broad, permanent settlement of its political affairs that would have ended war, that the war to end war had been fought and won, that the will to end war was sufficiently abundant to have carried that settlement through, and that it was the organisation of that will that was wanting and failed. The will to end war was caught and baffled in a net of political and diplomatic evil habits. And particularly it was the will to end war in the United States and the British Empire, which should naturally have been the backbone will of peace organisation, that was ineffective and that was diffused and dispersed and defeated.

The failure of the will for peace in America to make itself effective has been discussed very thoroughly, and the broad facts are history; the disposition of President Wilson to make world peace the monopoly of the Democratic Party and the consequent estrangement of the Republican majority; his obsession by the idea of the sovereignty of "nationalities" and his incapacity to think out what he meant by a nationality; his diplomatic incompetence and intellectual and moral seclusion, have been set out plainly in a huge literature of criticism, and so have the disgusts, resentments, and fitfulness of the American people as it realised that its will for peace was thwarted, and sought to shift the blame from its own political institutions.

Now, as always, there is a manifest majority of voters in Great Britain on the left side in public affairs; the spirit of the British peoples is now, as it has been generally for a century, liberal, compromising, tolerant, and anxious for a fair deal between nation and nation; and yet at the present time the British Government is not simply aloof like the American from world direction, it is the leading force making for reaction. The present British Government is, in fact, doing its best to revive the role of the defeated Hohenzollern Imperialism, and if it can hold the Empire in its present course it will certainly steer the British people towards a fate that may repeat the German experience. And this it is able to do in spite of the national temperament and the high traditions of the English, because of the incapacity and short-sightedness of the politicians who have contrived to impose themselves upon the main masses of liberal thought.

That is the most momentous fact in world affairs at the present time. The paralysis of English liberalism carries with it the paralysis of progress throughout the world.

The elemental necessity before that moiety of the English people which forms the nucleus of the British Empire, if it is to go on playing its proper part in the shaping of human destiny, is to get rid of Mr. Baldwin’s Government and all its works as speedily as possible. It has to do this for its own sake and for the sake of the world’s future. It has to shake itself clear of this imperialist militarism which is alien to its nature. It is an obligation. But when the English people turns to the Liberal and Labour politicians who should be translating its manifest will into achieved fact, it finds a crew of active and ingenious second-rate and third-rate men engaged in petty feuds and divided into two bitterly contentious camps, without a shadow of principle to distinguish them.

It is extraordinary how hard it is to separate Liberal from Labour Party men except by the fact that they are separated. Of many of these people I, who live fairly close to it all, do not know the party associations from day to day. Of So-and-so or So-and-so I asked; "Has he gone over or has he come back?"— it is so little a question of quality and so much of postal address. There seem to be rather more lawyers in the Liberal Party and many more glorified trade union officials in the Labour Party, but a man like Commander Kenworthy, for example, can go from one party to the other or back again with as little change of nature as a performing sea lion hopping to and fro through a hoop. In power the Labour politicians have shown themselves mild snobs, socially ignorant rather than virtuous, and pathetically anxious to assure the world that there is no danger of "Socialism in our time.” They are Liberals in red ties who have to cater for the earnestness of the young supporter. On the Liberal side, wary, alert figures like Sir John Simon and Sir Herbert Samuel dodge and posture about with a manifest effort to look like the sort of commanding, attractive, and inspiring personalities English masses are supposed to trust and adore — these two are the more prominent of a whole host of common-place careerists of no personal significance at all — and Mr. Lloyd George tries an infinitude of poses to catch the unifying spirit as it flits uncertain through the dither. Mr. Lloyd George might very well catch the unifying spirit if only the unifying spirit could be sure that it had caught him. But there is no outstanding figure at all to hold and reassure both factions. There might be in Philip Snowden were he physically a stronger man.

That is the situation. One by-election follows another. Each time the Government vote shrinks to a smaller proportion of the total; sometimes a Liberal scrapes in (and oh! the joy of Mr. Masterman), some- times a Labour man, and sometimes the Conservative keeps his seat with close upon two-thirds of the poll against him. But in a general election the mutual animosities of these wrangling factions rise to a malice that prefers a Government victory to the success of the kindred competitor.

It is just as likely that the next election will leave the existing Government in power, a possibility fraught with disaster to the whole world, as that either of these Opposition gangs will scramble to a greater total than the Tories.

Now to the great mass of English people these party feuds and bickerings between Liberal and Labour are a matter of entire insignificance. Nobody believes that the Labour Party has the courage or capacity to carry through any extensive socialising operations, nor that a Liberal Government would carry out a policy very different from that of a Labour Government. But either a Liberal or a Labour Government would release educational progress, check armament, relieve the world from the fear of adventures against Russia and China sustained more or less furtively by Britain, break the ugly association with Mussolini, show a living regard for free speech and private freedom, and reassure the forces of peace and civilisation in France, Germany, Poland and Hungary.

Either would do. The general desire is for one or the other, and the question which the politicians pose is Which? Both the Liberals and the Labour Party tricksters have in turn cheated the country out of proportional representation, which would have relieved us of much of this present difficulty. It is too late to go into that issue now. The primary concern of intelligent Englishmen now is to get rid of this Baldwin-Junker Ministry, which is as unpalatable to intelligent financial and business men, with some understanding of the necessary cosmopolitanism of modern economic life, as it is to the main mass of liberal-minded labour.

How is this to be done?

It seems to me that the occasion would be best met by the formation of a series of new local political organisations, beside, and independent of, the local official Liberal and Labour Parties.

What is needed is a block of voters who will vote primarily against the Government and only secondarily for either Liberal or Labour. The sensible thing seems to be to vote in each constituency for whichever of these two political parties secured the largest vote against the Conservatives at the preceding contest, irrespective of all their bletherings against each other. One would vote Liberal here or one would vote Labour there in order not to waste one’s vote. In that way the Government could be reduced to a minority, and probably a small minority in the House of Commons, and, whatever else happened, there would be an arrest of the threatened "Hohenzollemisation "of British policy and the British Empire.

I do not know what supplies of non-partisan political energy are available in Great Britain at the present time. Certain newspapers — the "Express" group and Mr. Garvin’s "Sunday Observer,” for example — seem to care about as much for party loyalty as I do, and are probably at bottom quite of my mind about stopping the reactionary drift; they are conducted by men of imagination with a sense of the greatness of our people; others are mere party organs, in which not merely the leading articles but the arrangements and display of news are calculated to favour one or other of the contending parties. But even among the readers of these biassed newspapers there must be a growing multitude impatient with the extraordinary way in which Great Britain at present belies itself and endangers the outlook of mankind. It needs but a crystallising touch to give that impatience a form and a direction.

We want a "Wake Up, England!" movement in Great Britain, and not merely in Great Britain, but for all the English throughout the earth. We want a mood and form of politics that will save our destinies from our politicians while there are still great things to be saved.

7 August, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 31701
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Thu Oct 10, 2019 6:14 am


The ordinary game of politics bores me, and I rarely write about it. The manoeuvres of X., Y. and Z. to get towards the head of the queue of possible tenants of No. ID, Downing Street, fill me with that cold disgust we all feel for vices to which we are not inclined. I have wanted many things in life, but never “place." The “party game" I have loathed from my youth up. My primary interest in the Labour Party was that it promised to end that game. Alas! it has only made it worse.

But there are times when some attention has to be paid to these detestable sports. Normally it matters very little to most of us whether the income tax is decreased or increased a little by X. or Y. or Z., and whether it is Z. or A. who damps our hopes for the education of the country. The Westminster permanent officials run their departments in very much the same manner whether it is a Tory or a Liberal or a Labour man who intervenes trivially in their sway. Why should I care whether it is Mr. Baldwin pretending to be a simple, honest farmer, or Mr. Ramsay MacDonald pretending to be a romantic gentleman, at 10, Downing Street?

Normally there is no reason at all. But it happens that this is an abnormal time, and, like millions of my fellow-countrymen, I wake up to find that this Baldwin government, which we considered merely narcotic and drowsed under inattentively, is the most dangerous government that Britain has ever had. Its peculiar danger is that it has learnt nothing from the war, that its stupidity is not the passive stupidity we hoped and believed, but a very active stupidity, so that at three cardinal points it has set things moving in the direction of war.

In the first place, it has carried its support of the aggressive and reactionary Mussolini dictatorship to a pitch which amounts to a virtual betrayal of both France and the republican regime in Germany. We are under great obligations to France. In the past I criticised French policy when it seemed to be obsessed by a blind hostility to Germany, because I believed, and I still believe, that upon the development of a Franco-German friendship hangs all the hope we have of a great future for Europe. A liberal France, a liberal Germany in accord — the European future is utterly black without that accord. But to criticise France when she is aggressive is one thing, and to undermine her position in Europe is quite another. This tawdry, unclean tyranny in Italy insults and threatens France. Would it dare do that alone? without American money and British moral support? without the hope that if it can entangle France in a conflict, all the suppressed barbarism of the other side in Germany, the side which is now the under-side, will flare up to its assistance? And this “safe “ Government of ours in Britain moves not a finger to arrest this advancing disaster, can find no better role to play in such a European situation than that of Mussolini’s friend. Next comes the failure to get to an understanding with the United States upon the issue of disarmament. At the present time, as Kenworthy has demonstrated in the completest fashion in his recent book, Great Britain and the United States are arming against each other. Do people realise the significance of this? Neither country has, for example, an educational organisation adequate to its needs and opportunities, and yet vast sums are being squandered, upon the advice of military and naval “experts,”on military and naval preparations that are bringing these two countries, with the same language, a common culture and a long tradition of mutual forbearance, more and more into the attitude of armed rivals. The Baldwin Government has its excuses for its failure at Geneva. It puts the blame on the American representatives. But who wants its excuses? Its failure is a crime.

Thirdly, we have the Russian muddle. For an amount of espionage and propaganda not much, if at all, greater than that normally practised by all the chief governments of the world — a publication like "Asia,” for example, coming from New Hampshire, is far more efficient as anti-imperialist propaganda than anything the Russians have ever done — the Russian representatives in London were expelled in the most insulting manner, and the premises of the Russian Trade Delegation burgled. Ministers like Lord Birkenhead and Mr. Churchill reviled the regime in Russia unpardonably. What are the results? Trade is broken off. A market particularly desirable for the manufacturers of Great Britain is more or less closed. The world in general, and Russia in particular, is impressed with the idea that Great Britain is the enemy of the Soviet Government.

Naturally that Government does its best to retaliate. What would you do if you were a Russian? We British oblige the Russian Government to press on with whatever propaganda it conducts against us in Asia — in Turkey, China, India especially. What else can you imagine it doing? And it was totally unnecessary to stimulate this hostility and embitter this enemy. The antagonism was dying down. Intercourse was increasing. Trade was improving.

Now all that has been put back. The British have grimaced threats at Russia until now there is an active propaganda in Russia to prepare that people for the attack the blusterings of such Ministers as Mr. Churchill and the Home Secretary seem to forebode. And Britain trains a highly mechanicalised expeditionary force. So behind Britain and Central Asia, in the heart of Europe and across the Atlantic, the spectre of war becomes more threatening, more substantial, less of a phantom and more of a possibility, with every month of this Government rule. Throughout the world the present British Government has been evoking the war idea and the war spirit.

I will say nothing of the social war this Government has waged at home. Grave as that is, it is dwarfed by the monstrous dangers of the international situation, I will not say that the British Government wants war — with two possible exceptions among its members. But it is stupid; its stupidity is that sort of mental inflexibility which makes men inadaptable to new circumstances. It goes on upon the old diplomatic, militarist, nationalist and competitive lines that carried Europe so inevitably to the smash of 1514, and it has not the imagination to see plainly how surely it drives to another smash. If the present British Government remains in office for another five years that smash, I believe, will come.

I am not indulging here in single-handed prophecy. What I am writing here is realised now more or less lucidly by an immense multitude of observers. It lies upon the surface of things, just as the war of 1914 lay plainly on the surface of things for years before it came. And one might reasonably imagine that this great multitude would set about preparing to push the Government out cf office effectively and thoroughly, would make sure of a complete purge of its supporters at the next general election. Nothing could be further from the reality ol the case. The same want of imagination that allows the British Government to drum along with international bickerings and military preparations towards a new great war robs the huge majority of people who are against the Government of any effective coherence. The Great War seems to have passed over the politicians in opposition with as small intellectual profit as it has over the Ministers in office.

In the face of a rapidly approaching disaster that may wreck civilised life, these people go on with the old tricks and the old antics that distinguished political life in those days of apparently eternal security when good Queen Victoria sat upon the throne. They do not seem to see that there is any situation or any stream of events outside the little arena in which they manoeuvre against each other for office and the petty glories of a party triumph. Two figures in particular I contemplate with blank amazement. One is Sir Herbert Samuel. I am loth to believe him as silly as his public proceedings. But of their immense silliness there can be no doubt. He is the figure-head of pure party Liberalism. He is the typical advocate of the candidature of those five hundred Liberal candidates who are everywhere to wage implacable warfare against the Labour Party. Everywhere they are to busy themselves in breaking up the peace vote and, if they cannot get in themselves, letting in the Tory — and war.

Over against him is Ramsay MacDonald, a figure of fantastic vanity and secretiveness, equally resolute on keeping the Labour Party in bitter antagonism to the Liberals — though the heavens fall. The poor little “Daily Herald" under his influence spends most of its ammunition on the Liberals, and the mere whisper of "coalition" is treated like an attack upon fundamental political virtue. The implacable stupidity of both these groups, the pure party Liberals and the pure party Labourites, exceeds even the unteachable stupidity of the Government policy. And they are helping it forward. When the bombs begin to burst and the smash comes Sir Herbert Samuel and Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, because of their inveterate party spirit, will be as responsible for the disaster as Mr. Amery or Mr. Baldwin.

But the question I have been asking myself and most of the people I have been meeting lately is, “What are we personally going to do about it? “ Like the majority of people in Great Britain, I want a coalition of the Liberal and Labour Parties. That plainly is our salvation. I realise — surely everyone realises — that the internal legislation and the foreign policy of a Liberal Government in Great Britain for the next ten years at least would be substantially the same as that of a Labour Government. Of the two Mr. MacDonald is the least likely to move a step towards Socialism. The pretence of any irreconcilable fundamental differences does not deceive 5 per cent, of the British Electorate. The Liberals might be rather more economical and skimpy over social services and the Labour people more snobbish and more extravagant over the army, navy and air services. The blend might indeed be better than either party, faults might cancel out. And since I am convinced that people like Sir Herbert Samuel and Mr. Ramsay MacDonald are incurably set upon their party follies, I am obliged, we are obliged, to cast about for other figures upon which we may concentrate our enthusiasm and to whom we may look for some sort of leadership beyond mere party strategy in the approaching struggle.

One’s mind turns to Mr. Lloyd George. He is a seasoned Coalitionist, and he is plainly disposed towards another Coalition. He has made alluring gestures towards the left, but an unusual hesitation to return them is apparent. Plainly Labour, though it may work with him, will not put itself under him.

And that applies not merely to the party-obsessed Labour people. We all like Mr. Lloyd George, but at times he veils his solid worth beneath an agility and flexibility that leaves us uneasy. I do not know if we can look to him to play a secondary role in a combination. It would necessarily be a very considerable role. And, after all, he is technically a Liberal, and the majority of the anti-Government mass is Labour. The headship of any combination for the preservation of peace in the world should reside in the majority. The leader should be a Labour man. This also excludes Lord Cecil, with his traditional attitude towards Church and land, from the formal leadership. So one turns to the Labour Party and looks for a Coalitionist there.

I consider Henderson, Thomas, Clynes, all surely Ministers in a coalition, but none of them quite what we require as a figure-head. Then I come to Snowden and stop. There, I believe, is the man who can best lead the British Empire, under a Coalition Government, back to sanity, security and the service of peace. There is a certain quality of greatness about Snowden which is not very widely distributed in our political world to-day. I suppose that among statesmen, politicians and public servants of all types and parties, Philip Snowden is more generally respected and would be more willingly trusted than any other contemporary. He is a man whose public character, quite as much as his private character, is without spot or blemish. He is a man of real capacity and great personal force. He is the man we want. And I do not see why we, the growing multitude of British people who want to get rid of this dangerous Government of ours and who do not care a rap either way for the Liberal “machine “ or the Labour “machine,” should not set about getting him now.

Would he serve us? Probably not at first. He might plead his allegiance to his party. But there are popular invitations that have the force of commands. Would Mr. Lloyd George work with him? I do not know. Mr. Lloyd George has neither the narrow-mindedness of Sir Herbert Samuel nor the lonely vanity of Mr. MacDonald. He is quite capable of magnanimity; and for him also a strong popular feeling, effectively expressed, might have imperative force. Many of the dissentient Liberals, on account of minor feuds and unforgettable sayings during those feuds, would, I know serve much more gladly under Snowden as a leader than under Lloyd George.

But at the present stage of affairs I do not see why we should wait upon the Tadpoles and Tapers to fix up this arrangement for us. The growing multitude of people who see things in this way has the power to force this combination over the heads of the party managers. We can write; we can organise; we are not without a Press. Why wait while the leaders negotiate?

At the next election it will be comparatively simple for us to disregard the difference between Liberalism and Labour altogether. When we find ourselves in any constituency where a Liberal is trying to cut down a Labour majority or where a Labour candidate is trying to cut down a Liberal majority, we can vote solidly for the legitimate claimant to the seat, whether he be Liberal or Labour. When we hear the Liberal beginning to make his little points against Labour or the Labour man chipping the Liberal, instead of getting on to the real business in hand, the proper comment is a loud “Bah!" repeated until the gentleman takes notice. Then we shall get the maximum number of Liberals and Labour men into the House of Commons, and when they are there they will have to shake down into a coalition whether they like it or not.

The Labour Party is surely not so foolish as to take office in a minority again, with the Liberals primly in possession of what Sir Herbert Samuel calls the casting vote,” and equally will the Liberals refuse to shoulder responsibility alone. Everybody in Parliament knows that Coalition waits at the end of the passage even if a second election intervenes. Why have the expense and delay of a second election? As practical people with an empire to save, let us get on to that coalition now.

27 November, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 31701
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Thu Oct 10, 2019 7:56 am


I HAVE recently been reading the "History of Witchcraft and Demonology,” by Mr. Montague Summers, and various utterances upon the Soviet Government of Russia by supporters of the present enlightened Government of the British Empire, and I find a curious confusion in my mind between the two. Mr. Summers, like all good Catholics, is a believer in witchcraft; and he hates witches as soundly and sincerely as the British county families hate the "Reds "; and he believes as freely and fiercely about the detested breed. Here is a passage, and I will leave the reader to guess whether it is from the pages of Mr. Summers or the columns of a Conservative newspaper on the eve of a general election:

The witch or the Red (as the case may be) is "an evil liver; a social pest and parasite; the devotee of a loathly and obscene creed; an adept at poisoning, blackmail, and all creeping crimes; a member of a powerful secret organisation inimical to Church and State; a blasphemer in word and deed; swaying the villagers by terror and superstition; a charlatan and a quack sometimes, a ...." — here I censor my authority — an ...." — the censorship is really imperative; a minister of vice and inconceivable corruption; battening upon the filth and foulest passions of the age."

The doubts the simple, honest reader of the British Conservative Press will feel — whether this is the more accurate description of Mother Shipton, Gilles de Rais, any Knight Templar, the late Mr. Krassin, Mr. Lunacharsky or Lenin — will do much to carry out the interesting views of that great historical writer, Mrs. Nesta Webster, that modern Communism is the lineal descendant of the black traditions of mediaeval sorcery, Manichean heresies, Free Masonry, and the Witch of Endor. Be that as it may, modern Communism is certainly heir now to the estate of fear and terror which descends to us from the past.

Perhaps mankind has a standing need for somebody to tar, feather, and burn. Perhaps if there was no devil, men would have to invent one. In a more perfect world we may have to draw lots to find who shall be the witch or the "Red,” or the heretic or the nigger, in order that one man may suffer for the people. Mr. Summers’ book makes interesting, disagreeable reading of the sort that enhances its excitement here and there by a coy resort to transparent Latin; and it shows Popes and prelates and Puritans, kings and judges, all manner of respectable people, succumbing to exactly the same sort of emotional disturbance that now makes membership of the Communist Party so dangerous, exciting, and attractive to the light-minded young of Western Europe and America. Nothing was too dreadful for belief about witches and warlocks, and, alas for the feebleness of the human imagination, most things, it is felt, were not nearly dreadful enough. They made mischief, they fostered strikes, and they raised storms and insurrections in such scanty leisure as a constant round of Witches' Sabbaths allowed. They were drowned, tortured, beaten, and burnt alive, and still the kindly righteous had a baffling sense of inadequate retort to all the bestial cruelty and wickedness charged against them.

As one turns over the record of Mr. Summers' book, it is fairly plain to any one not under a conscientious necessity to believe in witchcraft that all these waves of inquisition and cruelty were a sort of pooling of the normal indignation of mankind against the orgies and queer and vile acts that lurk at the roots of our animal nature, and of our fear of the tricks and malicious resentments of inferior and unhappy people, and a direction of this pooled force of disapproval and hostility against heresy, sedition, and unpopular opinions generally, Gilles de Rais was an insane murderer, guilty of almost incredibly bestial cruelties, but his wickedness was pinned to heresy and made an excuse against the gentlest and purest of unbelievers. Evil men, you said, were heretics, and then when some one ventured to differ from your high orthodoxy you charged him promptly with organised association with filth and every form of evil. If any one questioned your theology, well, manifestly he was a second Gilles de Rais. Mr. Summers, for instance, has no doubt that great epidemics of witchcraft followed doctrinal disputes; that religious doubt and a flirtatious alliance with the devil were in the sequence of cause and effect.

To-day there are many signs that the "Red" has a good chance of playing the part of the witch of older times in a new world mania. The examination of Sacco and Vanzetti, charged with ordinary murder and robbery, upon their political opinions, in the Massachusetts courts, was quite in the vein of the old witch trials. "Tell me what you think,” said the prosecution, "and what you did may be judged by that,” It is wonderful how witch-hanging Massachusetts has kept true to its old traditions.

This tendency to associate unpopular opinions with murderable offences seems to be an increasing one on both sides of the Atlantic. I am sure it needs only a very slight Press campaign to convince any number of people in London that when Sir W, Joynson-Hicks made his preposterous raid on the Soviet business headquarters in search of an alleged stolen paper, members of the Arcos staff escaped on broomsticks from an upper window with that wonderful confidential document the police sought and never found. When I came back from Russia in 1920 and wrote that Lenin seemed an intelligent little man, who was rather at a loss what to do with the great country that had fallen so wonderfully into his hands, I pleased nobody. The Communists and Left Labour people wanted extravagant praise and a glorification of a state of affairs that seemed to me to be a frightful muddle, and the anti-Bolshevik witch-hunters wanted yarns about orgies in the Kremlin, Mme. Lenin dressed up in the Russian Crown jewels, drinking champagne out of cups of gold in the worst possible taste, and aristocratic babies being tortured and murdered after dinner just for fun and devilry by commissars. They wanted to excite themselves about Moscow, just as the mediaeval witch-hunters excited themselves with wild imaginations about the Witches’ Sabbaths.

Failing "hot stuff" of that sort, the anti-Bolsheviks were convinced I was in the pay of Moscow. They wanted their Bolsheviks not small and bothered, but horrible. They wanted me to make their blood run cold. They wanted to work themselves up into a frenzy of indignation, terror, and violence.

And they wanted to do so because, as I say, there seems to be in the dark, tortuous, and dangerous heart of man a real craving for vehement self-righteous persecution and enthusiastic and irrational punishment. I know. I have felt it in me. If I have never lulled and massacred in the waking day, I have known all these bright reliefs and excitements in dreams. And in reveries.

To any one who can think about Bolshevism and retain a normal temperature the facts are as plain as daylight. Russia has been, is, and must remain for some time to come a largely barbaric country. Large areas of Russia are still as backward as England was in Tudor times, and few of its towns have a social life much in advance of early nineteenth-century conditions in Great Britain. It was in the days of the Czar, and it is to-day, a backward land of hardships and intense discomforts, a land of rough methods, frequent crimes, and much sporadic cruelty. Until ten years ago it was ruled by a stupid, disorderly, and tyrannous autocracy — superstitious and hostile to education — which collapsed through sheer inherent rottenness under the stresses of the Great War. The resources of Russia were so wasted, and its army so ruthlessly handled in that war, as to wreck the whole social system. Those Bolsheviks are in possession of the wreck. They are in possession because they were the only people with sufficient faith, discipline, and determination to hold together in the general chaos.

But they are neither gods nor devils. They are limited, conceited, and as liable to witch panics and suspicion mania as the most enlightened citizens of Middlesex or Massachusetts. Their "reprisals" for the Arcos raid and for the various recent murders of their members would have disgraced a lynching State in the American Union. They cling to the old theories and dogmas of Marx, half a century stale. They seem as little capable of modern industrial organisation as the British coal-owners, and their need is far more urgent. They have a percentage of cads, roughs, and scoundrels hanging to them which may or may not be higher than the similar percentage of any political party in Britain or America. They are as a whole just a band of worried, rather incompetent, doctrinaires, some able and sympathetic, some obtuse and dangerous, and they have an empire on their hands. There they are, the only possible Government for Russia, and if they are submerged, nothing will be left of Russia but a wilderness of warring brigand armies and barbaric peasants. Failing them Russia will repeat on a larger, more dreadful scale, and without the same substructure of civilised urban tradition, the Germany of the Thirty Years’ War.

They will probably resent my conception of them as muddled, overstrained men with an old-fashioned and inapplicable social theory to guide them in an overwhelming job, far more than the current idea of them as a crew of super-devils. Like the medaeval witches, they threaten and boast to keep up their self-respect, and so they bring down upon themselves the cowardly violence of the timid. Whatever happens abroad to the discomfort of the American or European capitalists they claim as the result of their marvellous machinations. It is a pitiful posturing.

I do not believe that the coal muddle and that dismal strike of last year would have happened any differently if Russia had never existed. They have a conceit of ordering about the labouring classes of the earth. It is touching. I found poor Lenin in the Kremlin swallowing the stuff in Miss Sylvia Pankhurst’s "Dreadnought" as the current opinion of the British proletariat.”

As a matter of fact, in all the world from end to end outside Russia — I am not forgetting China — the Communist Party cannot count upon the services of twenty thousand men or raise half a million pounds. It is always poking into gatherings and claiming to have called them, jumping on coaches driven by other people and pretending to run them. The only advantage of this sort of rubbish to the Bolsheviks is to give the simple Russian worker a good conceit of himself and his rulers, but it is disastrous to the friends of the worker everywhere. It supplies the witch-finder and the hunter of radicals with just the "'orrible 'orrible" evidence he needs.

When I visited the House of Science in Petrograd in 1920, there was a Communist Party representative who had poked in among the men of science to explain how different and superior "Marxist " chemistry and astronomy were to the bourgeois teaching, and Fulop-Miller’s "Geist und Gesicht des Bolshewismus (which has recently been translated into English) collects, with destructive malice and deadly illustrations, flagrant examples of the nonsense about new philosophy, new science, new art, new religion, new everything, newer and better than ever before, with which the Bolsheviks console themselves in their grim and from many aspects amazingly plucky struggle to keep a strained and damaged civilisation going and even progressing, in the face of the extravagant hatred and hostility of the outer world.

If only people would recognise, first, that Russia is, and must be for some decades, a very backward country, and that, whatever Government rules there, rough and barbaric things are bound to happen; second, that the whole of the Bolshevik propaganda is about as injurious to modern capitalism as the brews and spells of those poor old women our ancestors found such satisfaction in burning alive were to the people against whom they were aimed; third, that panic, violence, brag, bad manners, and petty irritations towards foreigners are not the monopoly of the Bolsheviks; and, fourth, that the existing Government of Russia is the only possible Government there at the present time; and that the only hope of saving the vast areas and resources of European and Asiatic Russia for civilisation lies in getting to some working compromise with that Government and co-operating in its development — I say, people would bear these fairly obvious things in mind, I should be able to look forward with more confidence to the immediate future of the world than I feel at the present time. But with Britain in the hands of a Government suffering from witch mania with regard to Russia and the ruling powers of America in little better case, with the liberalism of the world leaderless, misrepresented and confused, there is a very considerable probability that that ailing State will be, as a potential modern State, ruined and destroyed in the next few decades. Nothing will be achieved by the overthrow of Bolshevism in Russia as the result of this witch mania but the completer desolation of a great area of the old world.

21 August, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 31701
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Thu Oct 10, 2019 9:27 am


A CORRESPONDENT in America writes to suggest an article on the struggle between Capital and Labour, and what it is coming to. To-morrow in the United States is the legal holiday for the celebration of Labour, and it seems an appropriate date for some general remarks that have been accumulating in my mind about this indisputable struggle.

I am afraid I shall disappoint my correspondent. From some phrases in his letter I am inclined to think he expects me to be violently partisan in this issue, to foretell the doom of the capitalist system and the great days when Labour alone shall rule the earth. This shows a lamentable ignorance of my voluminous and — I am told — correctly I think — reiterative works. I cannot hope for the abolition of the capitalist system, because I do not believe there is a capitalist system, and my only aspiration for Labour is that it should get right off the earth. I believe this conflict between Capital and Labour is like that great struggle between Arianism and Trinitarianism, which tore the Roman world to pieces thirteen or fourteen centuries ago; that is to say, I regard it as a struggle about theoretical definitions having only the remotest relationship to any fundamental realities in life. Most Christians nowadays, I remark, are Arians professing a Trinitarian creed, and much the same effacement may overtake this false antagonism of Capital and Labour. We may come to a world of capitalists professing to be a Labour community. Or we may follow quite other and more rational lines of development.

Most of the issues upon which men are antagonised in crowds — ^because of the uniformity of our intelligences and the eagerness of our minds — are false issues. Throughout all history most human conflicts have turned on false issues. The issue of patriotism, for example, is so false that it is indelicate almost to the treasonable pitch to say so.

But, braving the indelicacy, can any intelligent person argue to-day that patriotism nowadays has anything whatever to do with race, or thought? Take a concrete example to illustrate this current insanity. My distant cousin and namesake at Chicago, Professor H. G. Wells, the eminent physiologist, living under the stresses of his local patriotism, is obliged to pay for the construction of cruisers and airplanes to protect himself, the American Constitution, and the Standard Oil Company against me, and I am obliged to pay for the construction of cruisers and airplanes to protect the House of Windsor, the Anglo-Dutch Oil people, and this Wembley Exhibition Empire of ours, against him, when, as a matter of the most obvious common sense, we are so much akin and so much after the same ends, that what we both need is mutual protection from these monsters of the imagination that have got hold of us, and which are quite likely to gas us or blow us to shreds before they have done with us. Clearly we two are parts of the same biological, intellectual, and moral strain, we belong to the same civilisation, we are of one outlook, blood and name, and our chief real political interest is to get rid of these people in uniform, these diplomatists, and the difference of our flags, which may in the end waste most of the good of both our lives in a fatuous war.

And it is equally false to imagine that because the evil passions of men can be involved to the pitch of judicial murder — at least in such barbaric countries as Soviet Russia or Italy or Massachusetts — there is any profound matter involved in this century-old conflict between Capital and Labour that muddles our minds and devastates our public affairs to-day. It is a conflict embodying certain easy misconceptions of social, and particularly of economic, life. It is an incidental squabble exaggerated to the dimensions of a fundamental process. But it rules a huge proportion of current political activity. It is another of the great hallucinations which make history in our time and prepare infinite perplexity for the historians of the days to come.

This "capitalist system" has never been defined; it has merely been indicted. Try to define it. "Labour" is equally undefined. According to a Communist informant, "Labour" is the proletariat, that is to say, the people who produce offspring for whose education and upbringing they have made no provision. It is the propertyless class which works for wages and breeds so that it keeps those wages down to the subsistence level.

There certainly is such a class in most countries where there are towns and cities, but it is a residual class. It is much more in evidence in a medieval city like Hankow than in a modern city like New York. In China the brigand armies now prevalent are drawn largely from that class. It supplies the gang labour which under recent conditions took the place of gang slavery. The pressure of its hunger exercises a degrading influence upon life in general. So far it justifies the "proletarian "legend. But it is absurd to project its characteristics and limitations over the great multitude of workers in a modern community. It is preposterous to present economic life as substantially the exploitation of this class by a hard-minded minority.

In the United States the actual proletariat, as we have defined it, must be a very small proportion of the population. There is less of such exploitation of degraded propertyless people now than there was a hundred years ago, and it is a diminishing factor in economic life.

If we abandon this romantic, this Victor Hugoesque conception of "Labour" as living in rags and slums, and begin to incorporate semi-skilled and skilled workers with savings, insurances, and other property and a certain minimum of education, and peasants with leases or owning land, we shall cease to have any definite boundary to stop us, and before we know where we are we shall find ourselves in perplexity whether in this or that case we are dealing with a capitalist or a worker, "exploiter "or exploited. We may draw our social boundaries, we shall find, anywhere. If we draw them sufficiently high we may arrive at last at the proposition that every activity in the State is "Labour,” and that nothing lies outside that term except a few usurers, gamblers, criminals, official parasites, and the heirs of rich men.

The economic processes of the modern community and the psychology of these processes are, as a matter of fact, extraordinarily complex and still largely unmapped, and they yield to no such elementary antagonism as the Capital and Labour picture assumes. Human beings carry on by use and wont. They are imitative, habitual, mechanical, lazy, greedy, and afraid; there is no such simple, shark-like consumption of the honest toiling community by highly intelligent property owners as the legend suggests. Property in excess does not make most people either active or aggressive; generally it makes them indolent, insolent, evasive, and wasteful. Property in small quantities brings out much inherent meanness and causes much anxiety. It terrifies more often than it stimulates. Want of any possessions leaves people spiritless, driven, or desperate. A sense of secure earning-power is at the same time the basis for the satisfaction of most people who are satisfied in the modern State, and the thing most conducive to activity.

It is across the seething, swarming stir of miscellaneous modern life that these great collective hallucinations of patriotism and of class assertion sweep. We are worried or out-of-sorts, and suddenly, under their influence, we see ourselves threatened or oppressed and the victims of a malignant conspiracy to keep us down. If we get the patriotic delusion, this inclines us to war; if the Capital and Labour notion, to revolution. When Labour Days and Labour holidays come round, a certain number of us gather in meetings and processions to menace the phantoms that we suppose afflict or threaten us and our kind.

Menaces find a billet somewhere. A number of rich and well-off people, secretly conscious of a poor contribution to the general well-being, struggle not only against their consciences, but against a gnawing fear of retribution and expropriation. They have a lingering and troublesome belief that God may be righteous, and that these vague threatenings of the uncomfortable and limited may foreshadow the method of His judgment.

They are probably wrong upon the latter count, at any rate. I do not believe that under modern conditions, in a modern mechanicalised State, common low-grade labour is capable of carrying through a revolution, much less a big social reconstruction. Something like a world revolution may occur in the smash that may follow another great war, a greater Soviet experiment, for example; but it will not be in reality a constructive revolution, but merely a phase in the process of that human collapse to which war must surely bring us all, if we do not head off war. There will be no Labour-ruled world because, as I have said, "Labour" so conceived is a phantom form imposed upon a great complex of forces.

But these rich and well-off idle people do believe that phantom is real, and a multitude of politicians, journalists, and organisation-running rogues prey on their fears to extract subsidies for political groups, newspapers, and "anti-Socialist "propaganda, and to conduct a persecution of "Left opinion. They embody the "Capitalist "antagonism to "Labour,” and give it a voice and a countervailing crazy group of ideas, fears, loyalties, and motives. They "frame up” cases to murder talkative fish pedlars and the like, and feel much safer for a bit after such squalid acts of defence against these absurd but impotent threats to their comfort and self-complacency.

Meanwhile the mills of God are grinding against them in a manner they do not understand nor suspect. They really believe they are a beneficent "Capitalist System "malignantly pursued by the unsuccessful, and as sincerely do a great multitude of excellent people believe that they are "Labour" implacably oppressed by a "Capitalist System.” It is just as though we classified all the colour in the world as either pink or green.

The more we clear our minds of this prevalent hallucination about Capitalism versus Labour the more we shall be able to distinguish the real processes at work in our world now. So far from there having been a progressive enslavement of the masses of mankind during the past hundred years, there has been a great release from toil. In the civilisations of the ancient world, slavery or serfdom seems to have been a necessity in the economic process. The only source of power, except for a slight use of wind and water mills, was human or animal muscle.

The most fundamental facts in human history during the past two centuries have been, first, the rapid progressive replacement of human toil, not merely of muscular toil, but of toilsome skilled effort, by a magnificent development of mechanism; and, secondly, an enormous increase of the amount of energy available for human purposes. A certain fraction of this increase has no doubt been consumed in reckless breeding; a much larger part has been and is being wasted in the traditional fooleries and cruelties of war and war preparation, due to our continued toleration of the uniform and title-worshipping classes. And the increase in prosperity itself has been, and is, much less rapid than was possible, because of the vague but powerful traditions of proprietary method which have hampered the development of new larger- scale dealing with national resources. The enlargement of the machine has outrun the lawyer, the legislator, and the banker, and they have still to come up to its enlarged possibilities. Until they do, the machinery of modern life clogs, drags, and is dangerous.

But when all these deductions have been made, there remains in hand a huge achievement of welfare, freedom, and hope in the last two hundred years due entirely to inventions and discovery, science and commonsense. The facts of material advance are altogether more important in the history of the past two centuries than the amount of subjection and human frustration that has occurred during this period. The former are new phenomena, the latter are old conditions of life that have, if anything, diminished.

The line of progress lies not in these disputes about proprietary rights and claims upon the ever more bountiful gifts of science and invention, but in the search for the most efficient means of turning these gifts to the general advantage. There is a growing science of industrial psychology and industrial efficiency. It is, I believe, likely to develop into a very powerful group of ideas and realisations.

At present it concerns itself mainly with the question of how to secure the most effective labour. We discover that long hours are often less profitable to every one concerned than reasonably short hours; that air, light, and cheerful conditions for the worker are good investments. The investigations spread to an inquiry into the worker’s home. Presently we shall realise that the waste of strikes, unwilling service, sabotage, and other forms of industrial friction is largely due to the want of reasonable hope in the worker’s life. It will be good business and good politics to give the worker hope and security. And it will be impossible to study industrial efficiency in the mine and field and workshop, we shall find, and ignore the bearing of the country house and the director’s home upon the quality of the economic services rendered. In other words, we shall bring the social system to the touchstone of efficiency instead of to the bar of justice.

Few people nowadays defend or attack private property on grounds of abstract morality and justice. Ownership is not an institution of the order of primary right. Ownership is an institution that has to be justified. The case of individualism against collectivism stands or falls almost entirely upon the assertion that competitive individualism gives a larger and better product always than any non-competitive system. The case of the socialist is that this is untrue. Without limitation it is a very incredible assertion that the individualist makes . Neither case has ever been proved, but the study of the psychology of economic life, as it extends, is bound to turn what are at present mere wranglings for a greater share in the economic output into a search for the most productive arrangements for work and living.

Then mankind may find that while the administration of transport, credit, land, and natural resources are far better taken out of the domain of private proprietorship into the collective control either of public authorities or quasi-public trusts, there are other directions, householding, many forms of cultivation and construction and artistic work, for example, in which a great increase in independent proprietorship is desirable. While socialisation progresses in some directions, individualism will assert itself in others. And always machinery and mechanical organisation will be dispensing with toil. In the long run it seems probable that the sort of thing we understand by "Labour" now will dwindle to a small, minor, and unimportant class in the community, and that simultaneously there may be an absorption of much privately owned wealth by a scientifically conducted collective administration. While we are representing life in melodramatic colours as a struggle between the "Haves" and the "Have-nots” the less romantic but infinitely more subtle and interesting reality of a struggle between scientific organisation on the one hand and the alliance of personal greed with chaotic stupidity on the other may be undermining all the grounds of our melodrama.

Such being my convictions, I do not find myself excited by the advent of a Labour Day to any demonstrations against the Capitalist System. I refrain with perfect ease from gathering in mass meetings or pouring in my myriads, with banners and bands and red flags, through the streets of great cities. I do not believe Labour is marching to triumph; I believe it is soaking away towards absorption in a modern mechanicalised community of a middle-class type. A day will come when Labour Day will be a quaint and interesting anniversary, like fireworks in November in London or beating the bounds of some old English borough.

4 September, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 31701
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 3:18 am


The other day I was turning out the drawers of a bureau, and I came upon a little collection of printed cards and papers, the agenda and minutes of a dinner- discussion club of which I was a member far back in the days of good King Edward, when Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was raising the banner of Tariff Reform. It was a small club of thirteen, and I was the least in it; never a government then or since that has not contained a member or so of it; and the aim of all our talks was to sharpen our ideas about the Empire to which we belonged and to come to some sort of agreement, if we could, about what we wanted to do with it and how we had to serve it. We never came to any agreement; Tariff Reform cleft us from the beginning, but I doubt if any one of us failed to give something or to learn much in these agreeable encounters.

I sat recalling these old discussions and linking them with writings of mine that preceded and followed them. I have been writing and thinking and talking about the Empire for thirty years. My ideas have changed and expanded; my knowledge has grown, I have moved with the times. Except that I have put more of it on record and so checked my steps more exactly, my thoughts and feelings about the Empire have probably been very like the thoughts and feelings of thousands of mediocre liberal Englishmen, It is interesting to recall some of the chief phases of the story.

I have had a phase of disillusionment about the Empire since 1919 so intense that I have come near to a complete antagonism to "Imperialism." But as I sit over these papers and think not merely of my own reactions, but of some of the "Empire builders" and Empire rulers I have known — Sir Harry Johnston, Sir Hugh Clifford, Lord Olivier, for example — I find myself still reluctant to turn against all the dreams of that liberal Imperialism of twenty years ago. For twenty years ago I was a firm believer in the great importance of the British Empire to mankind, and as hostile as I am to-day to the Nationalisms that set themselves up against it.

I am still — I am even more — anti-nationalist to-day. I see no good at all in people getting together into groups to exaggerate and overvalue their own peculiarities and run down, exclude, and injure the rest of mankind, I find nothing charming in the faked-up national costumes — ^which are all alike all over Europe, women in muslin caps and bits of red and black stuff, and men in pearl buttons — national arts — thumby bits of wood carving, pottery and lace that are even more the same thing everywhere — national dialects, national literatures, and national symbols, which pretend to discursiveness but really aim to pickle a dismal uniformity of petty localism, conceit, narrow-mindedness and customary tyranny, throughout the continent I am all for Cosmopolis and the high-road, and when I find nationalism rising to intricate interferences with trade and money, the free movement of men and goods about this none too large a planet, boastings, hostilities, armies, and the strangulation of the general welfare in the interests of the gangs exploiting patriotic instincts, my lack of enthusiasm deepens to positive hatred.

I think I was born cosmopolitan. I could never sympathise completely, though I realised the reality of their peculiar grievances, with the preference of the southern Irish to be lords upon their own dunghills rather than partners of the Ulstermen, the English, Scotch, and Welsh in the world adventure of the Empire, and, though I had qualms about the aims and methods of Cecil Rhodes and Dr. Jameson, I thought it was better to keep South Africa united and part of a great world system than to permit two illiberal republics to monopolise the Kaffir vitality and mineral wealth of a great region that should benefit all humanity. I have never found Nationalism even a plausible excuse for the sterilisation of some great area of potential wealth because a backward people happened to live upon it. The whole earth is for the whole race.

But even in those dinner club discussions of twenty years ago very marked divergencies of opinion and spirit became manifest. Our opening discussion was upon the possibility of an Imperial Zollverein, and that question, we found, went to the very root of our ideas. Did we want to unite the Empire, economically, financially, politically, militarily, against the rest of the world or not? Was it to be a closed fist in imitation of the Teutonic Zollverein, or an open hand to all the world?

I recall with satisfaction that it was I who appealed to geography and introduced the figure of the open hand. Our British fingers, I argued, spread over the whole keyboard of the world. We could never sound a uniform note. Canada, India, New Zealand, were incurably divergent, except in the idea of a common peace, and that uniformity in diversity was our asset. We had the confidence of foreign states in our tropical and other "raw product" possessions, because we stood — in those days — not for monopolisation, but the open door. The less assertive we were, the more possible it would be for other kindred powers to work with us and work out forms of co-operation with us in our task of coalescing and evolving into a world-wide civilisation.

That sort of idea about the empire was very prevalent in those days of twenty years ago. Kipling went about calling upon Americans and Germans, and indeed all Europe, to take up the "White Man’s Burthen" — and at the time of its first issue that memorable burden was intended to be something quite other than a mere bundle of loot. The Rhodes scholarships are another fossil good intention which remains to us from that age of potential incorporation. Americans and Germans at least were to be made like-minded with the British at Oxford! The idea of the eventual amalgamation of the Empire with other Powers in some comprehensive world control was, indeed, constantly cropping up. This involved no more thought of overcoming or conquering other competitors than did the big series of bank and industrial amalgamations that have occurred in Great Britain since the war. It was a pool we had in mind. The Empire was seen as the pacific precursor of a practical world State, Our "raw material" possessions were seen as part of the common estate of the human race, our share in a trusteeship; our Navy as a world police that might be at last as denationalised as the Knights Templars. These expansive possibilities were what attracted me to that club, and that, if I may name him, was what attracted Mr. Bertrand Russell, v/ho was also one of our thirteen.

But against us we found from the outset a group of Empire patriots, who were all for the Empire of the clenched fist. They were fierce fellows who believed that life was a violent struggle and that what one had in the world had to be held savagely against all comers. They did not want to unite the world, they wanted to subdue it to their conception of what was British. Whatever was British was right — things, Lords and Commons, our remarkable orthography, Ascot and the Derby, cricket and the Boat Race, the faithful Sikh and Simla, and the Navy. The outer world had to admire us, serve our purposes, and carry itself humbly towards us. They were, in fact, glorified Nationalists; their Imperialism was merely Nationalism distended, arrogant, intolerant of rivalry. Our fiercest member at every feast prepared our minds for war with Germany. He saw things quite simply: we had the best place in the world, and Germany wanted to take it, and we had to prepare for a fight. Education, efficiency of production, these Imperialists of the clenched fist saw only as necessary evils forced upon us by German competition. Their attitude to the Empire was what one might call the United Services attitude, a pose of unquestioning devotion. It is the exact parallel of the devotion that surrounded the German Kaiser in his glorious days. "The Empire right or wrong,” they said, "whatever it was, whatever it became, whatever it did.”

Naturally and logically they wanted a tariff wall and indeed every sort of wall about this divine reserve of earth, great armies and an overwhelming fleet, and outside it nations as poor, divided, and incapable of disturbing it as possible. That was the Nationalist-Imperialist idea as distinct from the Cosmopolitan-Imperialist idea that Russell and I embodied.

One evening when I was absent and the attendance was exceptionally low, there was a great dispute between Russell and four of the Nationalist-Imperialists. They were ready, they said, to die for the Empire, or commit any informality to serve it. Russell said there were quite a number of things on which he put a higher value than the Empire, and that if it came to a choice on these cases he would be against the Empire. This opinion I share. But that night the talk grew heated, and Russell, without waiting for the next meeting and reinforcements, resigned, and we saw him no more. Which was a pity, because one great charm of those discussions was the depth of the crevasses we found between us, and Russell was certainly the centre of the deepest crevasse system of all.

This incident, however, did pose for me quite plainly what is after all the essential question for all of us so far as our political lives go, whether the political system we live in is to be regarded as an end in itself, a divine unquestionable thing, or whether it is to be considered merely a transitory means to a greater end, to be judged on its merits, to be used, altered, and in the end gradually or completely replaced by something better. The Roman citizen was compelled to worship the Empire like a god, the Empire indivisible and eternal. Many people in Europe and America would impose the same uncritical abjection towards the American Constitution or the British Empire. You must salute, you must stand, stiff and stupid. Behind this personal abjection lurks moral corruption, a sort of collective scoundrelism. You must not trade fair and square, you must favour "Empire" goods. You must not publish scientific truth, but make whatever you discover an "Empire" secret. You may spy, you may lie for the "Empire’s" sake. Such "loyalty" I repudiate as an insult to humanity. I refuse my pinch of incense on that altar.

And I will go on to say that a British Empire which does not seem to me to be realising the wide and generous dreams of the liberal imperialism with which the century began is of no use to me, and I do not believe the Universe will suffer it to continue. For ten years I have seen the Empire going heavily and dully about its business; I have seen it made an excuse for much meanness and clumsy violence. It suffers in credit and direction by the hard "loyalty" of stupid adherents and stupid representatives who do not understand how gracious and mighty a civilising organisation it could be. They control it and they cripple it. It carries a vast crowd of parasites who snatch monopolies and profits in its name. It has lost moral prestige in Ireland, in India, in China, and before all the world. Enormously. Perhaps even fatally. To-day, what is it doing? Officially, I mean. Is it showing any intelligent sympathy for the efforts of the more progressive Chinese to found a modern State amid the ruins of the antiquated Manchu system, or is it just bullying and blustering in the confusion? Is it displaying the slightest generosity to the struggles of its fallen and shattered ally and helper, Russia, to reconstruct its economic life? Is it building up a free and friendly modern India? In the past it did great things for Japan, and it gave unity and freedom to and won the fellowship of Canada and South Africa, Is it doing anything to compare with these former feats to-day? Why is it engaging in a childish wrangle with the equally reprehensible Government of the United States about which is to have the biggest navy? For what on earth are these navies wanted now? It is improving its tanks, I gather; is it improving its educational machinery? What is it doing with its manhood? What chance has a boy of distinguished gifts born son of a miner under the shadow of the Duke of Northumberland?

How much of its tremendous resources is at the disposal of scientific research? In the measure of the available wealth and man-power, which is doing the most for scientific work to-day — Moscow or London? Has the British Empire made, indeed, one fine, great and ennobling gesture towards the future unity of mankind for the past ten years? Wembley! Rodeos and military tattoos! Immeasurable things could be done with the vast opportunity of the British Empire, but are they being even attempted?

I put these questions to myself, and I put them to the reader.

It would be all too easy to fly off into an attitude of anti-imperialism, and say with the Communists, "These Imperialisms are evil things; let us destroy them.” But they are not inherently evil things. To destroy Imperial systems with nothing to replace them is simply to leap backward because one is not going forward fast enough. The British Empire is not a thing to destroy; it is a thing to rescue. But the time for rescue is now — and the need is urgent. It has to be rescued from the arrogant flag-worshipping class and from the tariff monopoly adventurers who at present are in control. It has to be saved from its "patriots" and its "patriot" Government. We have seen the great civilised States of Central Europe humiliated and brought to disaster by just that same combination of exasperating militarism with industrial nationalism that now imperils Great Britain. Are we in our turn to tread that path? We want the Empire of the open hand. We want an Empire which is not an end but a means.

18 September, 1927  
Site Admin
Posts: 31701
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 3:25 am


In this world of great and irregular change, in this Western civilisation which is gradually becoming world-wide, men and women are living longer, more healthily and more abundantly than they have ever done before. But in many respects they seem to be living much less abundantly than they could do. One of the most remarkable facts in our present astonishing spectacle of life is the now quite considerable accumulation of life-enlarging inventions that, so far as the generality goes, are being put to no use at all or to extremely limited and unsatisfactory uses.

These things wait. Or, like the excessive birthday presents of a spoilt child, some are partially unpacked and put aside for future consideration. And some have been broken. Science and invention have given these things to that spoilt child, the ordinary man of to-day. He has still to learn the full benefit of them.

The most striking of these ill-appreciated gifts is flying. For the last ten years at least safe, swift, delightful air travel round about this entrancingly bright and various planet of ours has been available for mankind at considerably less than the cost of ordinary first-class rail or steamship travel. When I write "available for mankind,” I do not mean that it is available for the reader or myself. I mean that if mankind had been able to take it up, it would have been available for us and all other individuals willing to pay the charges, charges so low that almost any well-paid worker would have had a reasonable use of this means of transport at his command. And when I say safe, I mean safer than ordinary travel by rail or ship; and by swift I mean travelling at some- thing like a hundred miles an hour, and by delightful — smooth, beautiful and in the sweetest air. I have flown fairly often. I know what I am writing about, I know the happiness and wonder of flying, and I know that its present rarity, danger, and unattractiveness are not due to any defects in the aeroplane or airship itself — physical science and mechanical invention have failed at no point in the matter — but mainly, almost entirely, to the financial, administrative, and political difficulties of aviation.

The business and administrative side is not up to the mechanical side; it is so plainly and unenterprisingly behind that I, for example, am beginning to despair altogether of my once confident hope of flying very agreeably round the world before I die. I have a nostalgia for the coloured gorges of South Algeria, for the Great Wall of China, for the scorched jungles of India and the palaces of Ambar, and if I had my rights as a civilised man I should be able to fly down over them all in a handful of days. Never shall I set eyes on them.

I have flown fairly often but I fly no longer. I find it too uncomfortable, irregular, and stupidly dangerous. In the old days flying was a novel experience; one flew for the fun of the thing, and there was no objection whatever to an element of danger in the affair. In the experimental days one had no more right to complain of danger in an airplane than in big-game hunting. And it was fair to make one wait for a favourable day and a good machine. But those sporting days are past. It is one thing to get killed in a hopeful and daring experiment on the edge of things known, and quite another to be drowned or smashed or roasted to death on an omnibus route because a certain number of able but restricted gentlemen in control of the business have — with all sorts of excellent excuses for doing so — sent one off in an overworked, perfunctorily inspected, or over-loaded machine. I have seen enough of European flying services not to wish to see any more of them until the whole thing is under " entirely new management.”

Nearly every one of the series of horrible accidents that have so powerfully retarded the expansion of European passenger air travel was a foretellable disaster. Sooner or later these tragedies were inevitable under current conditions. I have crossed the Channel at about two thousand feet with both engines popping away dismally, and got to Lympne by a miracle, and the only thing that astonished me when at last one of these things flopped into the water was that no one was drowned. Hardly more than half of the passenger flights I have made got through according to schedule, and I suppose I have spent almost as many hours at Le Bourget and Lympne and Amsterdam and Prague — and Heaven knows which is the least attractive promenade! — waiting about for machines that did not turn up or could not be put right, as I have in the air. I do not complain of delays due to bad weather. What has most wasted my time and endangered my life, in my attempts to be an up-to-date traveller, has been that there were not enough machines and pilots to run the service properly and safely.

Never in any case of forced landing have I known a fresh machine appear to take on the passengers — only last month I saw that twelve dismal passengers were landed in the wilderness of Puckeridge, in Kent, to get to London by train at God knows what hour of the evening — and only at Prague have I ever observed a number of reserve machines having a reasonable rest and overhaul.

Now I am not reflecting here on the personal capacity and honesty of any of the people concerned with the European air services. I live quite outside the feuds and competitions, ambitions and disappointments of that queer world. Whenever I state such facts as these, plain and simple and easily verifiable, about the European air services, the air press becomes extremely heated and defensively rude about it — but the facts remain facts. For ten years Europe has been pottering, dangerously and ineffectively, with this glorious possibility of air transport about the globe, and it seems no nearer to its realisation to-day than it was in 1919. And the reason for this, I submit, is because the old world cannot produce a financial and administrative organisation of a sufficient largeness, power, and scope to handle the thing effectively.  

It needs only common knowledge and a few grains of commonsense to realise that the exploitation of the air, as a means of safe, happy and generally available travel, is hopeless without the expenditure of capital on the scale of, say, fifty million pounds, plus secure wayleaves over Europe and most of Asia and Africa. On that scale it would be the most obviously easy and profitable of undertakings. On that scale a number of main routes could be prepared and lit between all the chief cities from Dublin, Lisbon, and Stockholm to Vladivostok and Capetown, and a sufficient supply of machines and a sufficiently big organisation could be developed to ensure that, except during very unfavourable phases of the weather, a machine, a pilot, and an assistant in perfect condition would be ready to start as passengers accumulated during certain hours of departure specified for each aerodrome, with still plentiful machines in reserve. Then the travelling public would know what to expect.

One could put together one’s valise in the morning in London, and dine and hear some music in Munich, spend a second pleasant evening in the Crimea after a day above the Danube, and so over the Taurus to Bagdad, and into the sunshine of India by the fourth or fifth evening. Once people were sure of the services they would begin to flow steadily along the established routes. Their numbers and the seasons of their coming would become more and more calculable; with that the fares would fall and the passengers multiply. Air services can be far more elastic things than train services. It is a most intricate thing to rearrange trans-continental expresses, but an air service can turn over its machines from one air route to another as occasion requires with an ease impossible to any other form of transport. If it have enough; if it is on that scale. In a few years the international air service would represent not millions, but thousands of millions, of capital value, and would be sustaining a vast industry beside which the motor-car industry of the world would seem a small affair. But the business cannot get started unless it starts with assurance and security. And that means an initial effort quite beyond the futile pottering of to-day. All the world at present cannot get together into one united effort enough capital to give aviation that start.

So it doesn’t start. It doesn’t get on. It seems highly probable that twenty years hence we shall be muckering about with air travel very much as we are doing to-day. It will be as fitful, unpunctual, and uncertain. The tale of needless air tragedies will have lengthened. A great majority of air passengers will still be in the air as a rather daring "experience" for the first and last time.

Let me repeat that I am not criticising the galaxy of brilliant, energetic, and enterprising people who are the magnates of the air world to-day. I do not suggest that any one could, under these conditions, do better than they are doing. In what may prove, I fear, a vain effort to propitiate the air press, I am prepared to concede that they are all without invidious exceptions quite marvellous people. What I am saying here reflects upon their peerlessness hardly at all. I am calling attention to the net in which their great abilities seem to be caught, and the barriers set to their benefactions. If a shadow of blame creeps into my comments, it is that with a modest gallantry they make what they can out of a necessarily cramped business, and do not complain loudly and vehemently enough against these things that prevent them year after year from opening up those world airways that would lead to a more united and happier life for mankind.

The crux of the business lies in the comparative under- development of the financial and business and political worlds in respect to the vast expansion of mechanical and economic possibility. We talk a lot of nonsense nowadays about Big Business. There is really no Big Business in the world to-day. No business big enough. There are a number of banking and industrial combinations in existence much larger than any that preceded them, and the fact that they are larger than their predecessors blinds us to the fact that they are not large enough for their jobs. Shipping, the world trade in many staple products, cry aloud for unification also — but for the present let us stick to this simple case of the air. Business is entangled with finance, finance with politics, and when we begin to look into this riddle of why that fifty million pounds trust does not appear, secure its concessions and its wayleaves, and get to work upon a real world air service, we discover, as a first effectual barrier, national boundaries. We find every single country of the European patchwork messing about dwarfishly with its own " national aviation and placing every possible impediment in the way of "foreign" air development.

Now effective air travel has to be internationalised from the start. The aeroplane makes leaps of three or four hundred miles, and there is hardly any sense in going up in a machine — in Europe, at least — unless you mean to come down in another country. It is as sensible to hope for an air transport system developed on national lines as it would be to hope for aninteroceanic railway system through the coalescence of mile and half-mile of bits of line built, each at its own sweet will, to its own design and gauge, by every village and township en route. Here I will not rouse the deep and passionate emotions of patriotism in the reader by any general condemnation of national partisanship, but from the point of view of air development merely and solely, nationalism is an unmitigated nuisance.

At present the only areas of the world’s surface capable of being brought under one control for air exploitation are firstly the European and Asiatic areas under Soviet government, alliance, or influence; secondly, the United States of America and their continent; and, thirdly, the territories, protectorates, allies, and dependents of the British Empire east and south of Palestine — as far as Malaya, Australia, and the Cape. The development of Soviet flying is retarded by comparative poverty and the under-development of the huge regions concerned; the United States is a railway-made unity, with admirably organised rail transport and powerful railway influences for air services to fight, and with none of the separating channels, inland seas, and so forth that make flying so desirable in the western part of the Old World; while, as for the third great flying area, the steamship- created British Empire, it is, aerially speaking, decapitated. You cannot fly from the British Isles to the vast dominions round and about the Indian Ocean without infringing foreign territory. I see no hope that any one of these three areas, so handicapped, will be able to initiate practicable air services for general use, and still less can I see any hope of our existing sovereign powers going so far as to coalesce for air development with their neighbours. That would involve a reversal of the entire drift of nationalist feeling.

But, given such a miracle, given for example a pooling of German and Russian and Chinese air interests, backbone lines could be created from the North Sea to the Pacific and to Peking and Anatolia,, to which every other air line in the Old World would be compelled to articulate. But even if one supposes a sufficient liberality of the principals to make such an enterprise practicable, it is difficult to imagine the Foreign Offices and the War Offices of the rest of the "Powers" permitting such a Germano-Russian-Chinese system to develop without a great war. For if they did not make a great war of it they would presently have to go out of business.

These are my reasons for doubting if men will be able to use the gift and glory of flying, fully and abundantly, for very many years to come. We shall crawl because we are old-fashioned patriots instead of flying as some day good cosmopolitans will. But the reaction of our time-honoured and beloved political institutions upon flying is not merely negative. We do not just go without this beautiful thing. Our patriotic passions demand something more positive than that. Our flags demand, not only abstinences, but blood and burnt offerings. If, on the one hand, the custodians of our national distinctness block the development of safe flying, they do, on the other hand, work with considerable vigour to develop dangerous flying. However much air transport may limp and lag, there is no cessation of research, within the limits of the military intelligence, into the possibilities of war aviation.

In the year 1926, a year of profound peace, technically speaking, the English R.A.F. killed eighty-three young men. The numbers killed show a considerable advance upon 1925. France, Italy, America show comparable losses. Germany, lucky land, does not appear in this massacre. She is forbidden to kill her young aviators in spite of all patriotic cravings to do so; she is devoting them therefore to an air transport service, that in spite of many handicaps, is already the best in Europe. Since the Great Peace, while you and I have been going about our various little concerns, some thousands of young men, not common young men, but picked human beings, exceptionally courageous and well bred and well made, have been dashed to pieces and burnt alive, to the end that when presently the nations have sufficiently forgotten the last war to be guided into the next, flying shall not fail in its contribution to the spectacle. These splendid young men have been killed, just as the carefully chosen youths of the Aztec nation were killed, to propitiate the national gods. Even in peace-time these sacred monsters had to be kept alive by the blood of the young. These gallant youngsters have been learning to fly in hazardous ways, or they have been practising the throwing of explosive bombs and poison bombs at the imaginary homes and refuges of offending foreigners below, and they have paid the penalty. Very great advances, we are assured, are being made every year in the destructiveness, deadliness, and general disgustingness of the air offensive at the price of these deaths.

There is no need to elaborate this monstrous contrast further. What has been said is sufficient to establish the thesis that for a century, human affairs have been developing at an unequal pace, that while our economic and political ideas and methods have made only sluggish and insecure advances, mechanical science has so progressed as entirely to outscale them. This instance of the air is only one vivid instance of what is happening to most of the economic and industrial affairs of mankind. Governments are not helping, not fostering, the huge and desirable reorganisations that are possible. Politicians live by keeping alive feuds and hatreds. Governments subsist upon old sentiments and traditions; there is no such thing as a progressive creative Government in the world any- where, to accept and use in a full and proper fashion the gifts science and invention now hold out to us. The chief recognition of progress by Governments everywhere takes the form of attempts to turn the gifts of progress into weapons to kill progress. And the chief riddle before mankind on its way to that world peace, that larger, happier, nobler, and fuller life which certainly awaits it, is the riddle of how to introduce into its methods of government that idea of progress, which has given us the key to these vast treasures, and so convert the nationalist parochialisms of to-day, stage by stage and surely and conclusively, into the world commonweal, which is the essential condition of their exploitation.

20 February, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 31701
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 6:58 am


I HAVE never abused the Senate of the United States.

No sign of gratitude have I ever had from any of these ninety-six gentlemen for this extraordinary treatment. Extraordinary it is. Everybody except myself abuses the Senate. It turned down American participation in the League of Nations, to the edification of all mankind. It prevents the United States tangling itself up in treaties, understandings, and complications of the balance of power description. It makes the United States "different" in the world of international affairs. America’s representatives abroad never represent her. What the President signs to-day the Senate revokes to-morrow. The New World would not be half such a fresh world if it were not for the Senate.

Lately the scolding of the Senate has broken out with revived bitterness. At Geneva somebody from America agreed to a treaty against the use of poison gas in warfare, a very silly and mischievous treaty from any points of view. The Senate cast it out. Embittered idealists declare that this is due to "lobbying" by the American chemical industries. Why the American chemical industries should not lobby upon a question of this sort passes my comprehension. They know about it. Why should all the arrangements for the warfare of the future be left to the gold-laced gentlemen who pose as naval and military experts? The Senate has saved poison gas for warfare. I hope the Senate will continue to stand for every sort of disagreeable novelty in warfare. I hope the Senate will save disease germs for warfare and make a stand about poisoning the water supply. Let war be war and not merely a tedious cruel game under rules. The more various, open, perplexing and unpleasant the available methods of warfare are to professional soldiers, the less likely the world is to get another large and deliberate war.

Let us consider how fresh wars are most likely to arise, and what classes of people lean most heavily towards war. There can be little dispute that the enormous majority of human beings nowadays hates and dreads the idea of war; that most financial interests have become chary of using its possibility as a threat in the game of wealth acquisition; and that industrialism and trade contemplate an extensive outbreak as unalloyed disaster. Little bullying punitive wars against small and uncivilised peoples may still appeal to powerful groups exploiting natural resources, but even these minor affairs seem to evoke a greater distaste than they used to do. The war-makers who are trying to force Britain into hostilities with China and the United States into a Mexican adventure are meeting with an extremely stiff opposition. Half a century ago, both adventures would have gone with a click.

The minority which favours war is very largely the professionally belligerent class officers, their women-kind, and every sort of person who upon occasion wears uniform and a sword and is entitled to a salute. Salutes are ten times more intoxicating than absolute alcohol. They reassure the arrogant; they allay all doubts. This salutable minority is very strongly entrenched in the political traditions and misconceptions of mankind. It has an air of being in the scheme of things. Its heads are highly placed. And it is picturesque. It photographs easily and is, by that alone, assured of a steady newspaper publicity. It commands a great supply of bands. It is the custodian of the flag. The facts that it may be dangerous and useless weigh but lightly in the common mind against such attractions.

One may doubt if the generality of adorned and salutable soldiers in the world really want war. They want the possibility of war, of course, the world parcelled up into competing nations, and so forth, because otherwise they could have no professional careers, no inferiors to salute them, and might at any time be retrenched out of existence. They have to "defend" us against the soldiers next door, and the soldiers next door have to "defend" the other fellows against our team, and there you are. That is primary. But war itself one may doubt their hunger for, and quite evidently war to the utmost is not to the professional soldier’s taste. It is part of the general absurdity with which human affairs are at present conducted that when we want a discussion of disarmament or the mitigation and prevention of war we consult "naval and military experts," existing by and for professional war, and quite naturally they advise us on strictly professional lines. They set their faces against all disturbing novelties that would oblige them to learn their trade anew or against any proposals that might abolish their profession, and they do their best to make warfare honourable, comfortable, and dignified for military gentlemen. This, as people say, is only human nature. They want nice wars. They will provide the spectacle, they will face the more sportsmanlike toils and dangers of the entertainment, and the taxpayers, the civilians and the common herd, the "men,” will bear the less agreeable part of the burthen and stand the racket of the subsequent clearing-up.

These charges are sustained by the proceedings of the experts who have been discussing "disarmament" at Geneva under the auspices of the League — as one might call it — for the Preservation of Distinct Nations and Established Boundaries for Ever. The whole tenor of their activities is to retain war as a standing institution, by restricting its expensiveness and keeping its horrors within the bounds of human endurance. Aeroplanes are to be defined as war aeroplanes (to be used) and peace aeroplanes (not to be used). Navies are to be restricted to so many battleships a side. Unsportsmanlike tools and particularly submarines are to be forbidden. Professional soldiers found killed by poker blows or poisoned food or other illegitimate means are to be restored to life by the League of Nations umpires. Nations found playing more soldiers than are allowed by the rules will be disqualified. Such, at least, is the spirit of these entertaining researches, though the complete scheme has still to be produced. So protected, there is no reason why the professional soldier, dressed in full uniform, from spurs to feathers, and the professional sea-dog in blue and gold lace should not strut about the world, "defending" us all, to the very end of time.

The virtuous proposals of President Coolidge for further naval agreement are open to precisely the same objection as these Geneva schemes. They would bar invention. They would professionalise and trade unionise war. Except as paymaster and victim they would eliminate the civilian.

My friend, Mr, J, B. S, Haldane, has called this disposition of the military authorities to give a pleasant and honourable quality to war, "Bayardism,” because the Chevalier Bayard, that peerless knight, felt such a funk and detestation of gunpowder that he put every musketeer who fell into his hands to death. Donne, on the other hand, says Brigadier- General Hartley — who is really not such a soldier as that sounds, seeing that he is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a distinguished chemist — preaching in St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1621, thanked God for artillery because it brought wars to a quicker end, Mr. Haldane has written one of the most instructive and well-informed books about Chemical Warfare that exist; he knows about ten times as much in this field as most of the worthy gentlemen in gold lace, tabs, badges, labels, swords, belts, and suchlike adornments who would in practice have to mismanage it, and his brains are certainly ten times as good. Consequently his book, which gives away every point of importance concerning gas warfare, is treated as light literature, and the real professional soldiers will torture and kill scores of thousands of conscripts before they learn, horribly and slowly, what he so charmingly tells them in his little volume.

Just as in the Great War — when in 1914 the French and British soldiers were a quarter of a century behind- hand with trench warfare, and not a military expert in Europe would attempt the tank until 1916, although its use and necessity as a solution of the trench blockade had been quite lucidly discussed and set forth by civilians as early as 1903. Brigadier-General Hartley still returns at times to read papers about gas warfare to the Army folk he supplemented so effectively during the war, though no one supposes they want to take him seriously now. He has made it clear that a country in which everybody, man, woman, and child, has a specially efficient gas-mask handy may face the next great war with a certain qualified equanimity, and his anxiety about the gas discipline of troops trained since 1918 is only too manifest in all he says and does in this connection. Meanwhile at the Royal College of Science in London, young engineers and chemists are beguiled away from their studies in order to learn saluting and flourishing about with swords, bayonets, and battle axes in a Cadet corps.

At present the British Army, which is perhaps the liveliest, most industrious technically, and, according to its lights, the most nearly up-to-date of all the old armies now surviving in the world, is working out methods of fighting that are not much more than twenty years behind the level of contemporary thought and intelligence. Having resisted the tank for twelve years, having muffed the tank outrageously in the war, the British Army is now evidently quite enslaved by the tank. It plays with tanks all day and dreams of them at nights. It exhibits them with childish pride to Colonial Premiers and Indian princes. It has dinky one-man tanks now and great big land battleships and transport tanks and shock tanks. Cavalry is at last at a discount, and the Air Force practises deadly stunts and does musical drill at pageants very prettily. Perhaps a new generation of military men, accustomed in their younger days to driving motor-cars to the public danger, is responsible for this change of heart, this sudden glorification of the once-hated tank. But it is to be hoped for the sake of England and all the world that these exercises will never get beyond the gravity of an expensive amusement for the British military authorities.

Because, quite apart from the aeroplane gas attack, which is the really modern mode of warfare, if warfare we must have, there are a score of ways of countering a tank rush. This tank rush of which the British Army seems to be dreaming now is as out of date as those vast cavalry charges the German Emperor loved to rehearse before 1914. There are pitfalls, there are trailing land torpedoes, gas-poisoned belts, and zones of sudden flame that would make tanks mere cooking-pots, A committee of half a dozen alert and intelligent specialists of the type of Mr. Haldane and General Hartley, men who have given their minds to biology, chemistry, mechanics and suchlike sensible pursuits instead of mere soldiering, could work out twenty schemes to make tanks impossible in a month or so. The tank may have been all very well in 1907 or thereabouts; 1914 was the time for it. It was the winning card in the days when Lord Kitchener turned it down as a "mechanical toy.” Now the only excuse for thinking of it at all is that the professional soldiers against whom the British professionals will be pitted will probably be even more backward and unintelligent than they are. Given a war on the basis of "Back to 1903,”and all may be well with England.

There is nowadays, however, much more danger than there ever was before that some strange new outcast country, Soviet Russia, for example, with German science to help her — or even with her own sedulously stimulated science — will refuse to play the recognised soldiers’ game according to the rules, and resort directly to chemists, biologists, and engineers for some entirely unchivalrous way of destroying a military force. Suppose this eccentric outcast to concentrate on that. It would need to have a good supply of aviators and aeroplanes, but no man has ever yet discovered how to prevent the instantaneous conversion of a civil aeroplane into a military one; and also it would have to have access to great chemical works. But given these things, and men to operate them, that enemy need not have ten thousand soldiers in uniform. It could hold up the huge tank rush by a few simple expedients of the type I have glanced at above, and it could set about locating, chasing, and annihilating every sort of general headquarters and political and directive centre of the orthodox military people — with gas and germs.

The idea would be to tarnish, suffocate, blister, and bum the gentlemen in gold lace, and their political associates behind them, to the pitch of entire disorganisation. There would be no necessity to pester the general enemy population except in regions of chemical industrialism. That eminent air-archaeologist, Mr. O. G. S. Crawford, can teach any ground soldier who cares to learn how difficult, how almost impossible it would be, to conceal the lay-out of vital military centres from an acute air observer. Still less easy would it be to conceal plant for the accumulation and distribution of munitions. In a little while the front-line trenches would be telephoning to deaf ears, and the tanks of the great offensive, until their petrol was all used up, would be wandering back like sheep without a shepherd.

That sort of thing, a defensive trench and tank-trap system, and an air and gas offensive against vital spots, is the really contemporary form of war — if we must have war. That is the best way of achieving disaster for the other side. It is, from first to last, a job for technicians and artisans. There is no more use for drilled troops in it than there is for the Greek phalanx. The military experts as a class loathe and detest the new methods, and will do everything they can to set up a flimsy barrier of treaties against their use, for the simple reason that they abolish the military class. The whole world owes a debt of gratitude to the American Senate for thwarting their endeavours.

It may seem paradoxical at first, but it is not nearly as paradoxical as it sounds, to say that the evolution of war is abolishing the soldier altogether. Suppose we drop considering whether war is out of date or whether it pays, and assume that it is still a current concern. It does not follow in the least that we still want soldiers to wage it. I am inclined to think that on most scores we do not. If we were not so profoundly obsessed by tradition and romance, I think we should come to see that now, even for the direct purposes of war, for the defence of a state from intruders, for the destruction of peoples and institutions that have aroused our animosity to the murder pitch, and for the imposition of some national or imperial will on recalcitrant populations, all these handsome individuals running about or galloping about in tabs and buttons and gold lace are of no earthly use at all. We keep them because we are creatures of habit and wont. We endure them because we have still to realise how unnecessary they are. But the soldier in uniform is as out of date to-day as the man in armour was in 1600.

Drill, uniform, salutes, and the segregation of soldiers from most human interests and all mental stimuli in barracks and camps have always been so deeply impressed upon our minds as the proper way of war, that it is only nowadays that this question becomes debatable. Few of us realise how much of the old soldiering is already superseded. Flags have long since disappeared from the modern battlefield. To-day they wave chiefly for public occasions, at political meetings, and in the advertisements of goods not otherwise attractive. Military bands leave their instruments at home, or take them only as far as the base, and the common soldier is deprived of all his conspicuous regimental characters and clapped into a severely practical outfit directly fighting begins. But we still think that the disciplines and recognisable uniforms demanded by the mass fighting of departed conditions are somehow imperative if war is to continue. We have not yet made full allowance for the fact that while victory in the past was generally conceded to rigidity, obstinacy, and a blind obedience, it is now more and more the reward of flexibility, knowledge, invention, and a witty use of modern resources. It is the country that has the courage to scrap its army most completely which may come nearest winning in the next great war — if human foolishness does contrive another great war and a final delirium.

But while the abandonment of an army as the instrument of warfare and the handing over the business of defensive and offensive killing as a special problem to chemists, biologists, and engineers would probably increase the military efficiency of a country very greatly, it would also greatly diminish its disposition for war. The man of science and organising ability would be much more likely to regard war as a tiresome distraction than as a great and glorious opportunity. The needs and ambitions of the uniform-wearing classes would cease to be a power in the land because they would cease to be in the land. They would have dropped out altogether in favour of the Haldanes and Hartleys and practical people of that kind, who would probably prefer to work in laboratory overalls.

To me it seems almost certain that neither the war of 1870 nor the Great War would have occurred if France and Germany had remained republics after 1848, France succumbed to Napoleon III, who was nothing if not Napoleonic. Germany after 1870 set out to be a great modern state, and she found herself fatally entangled with a dynasty whose chief interest in life was to exhibit itself in belligerent costumes and attitudes. Each of the countries, when it reverted to monarchy, broke out into a vivid rash of uniforms, and after that the disease had to run its course. German militarism was not a necessity to an expanding Germany; it was a reversion that wrecked an expanding Germany. Germany to-day is much more likely to take a great place in a united Europe than she ever was before, because of the wholesome surgery that has been done upon her. She has had her Hohenzollerns removed. Her state of health will be displayed and judged by the disappearance of uniforms from her complexion.

Several European countries, in spite of the monstrous futile victories and ineffective defeats of the Great War, are still gravely infected by these antiquated armies and their traditions and sentimentalities. But in view of what has been advanced in this article, it is quite possible that the free advancement of belligerent science may be the true way to achieve the peace of mankind. The improvement of war may be synonymous with the ending of war.

6 March, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 31701
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:06 am


Let us assume that a great number of people in the world want peace, permanent world peace. We have to assume this because there is no way of proving it, and it is open to very considerable doubt. But it is a prevalent habit to assert as much. If it is true, then there is amazingly little effort to realise this aspiration. Those people who want permanent world peace carry inaggressiveness too far. Nowhere in the world do I find any evidence of a real, strenuous effort to establish the peace of the world on sure foundations. Nowhere do I find really clear-headed, resolute efforts on a scale commensurate to the task to restrain the processes that will inevitably develop into warfare in the not very remote future.

Many readers will no doubt rebel against this statement. They will point to the League of Nations, League of Nations Unions and Societies, innumerable declarations by prominent people, "No More War" organisations, and so forth and so on. I admit a prevalent sentimentality in the matter. I can even believe that if the peace of the world could be secured for ever by a show of hands, there would be a considerable majority in its favour. I am convinced, too, that wars in the future, even at the outset, will not be undertaken with the gusto with which we all set about the Great War. But if a man has an idiot incendiary in his house, it is no good for him to go about saying, "No more fire,” unless he has the matches locked up, the fires guarded, and the idiot watched. Since 1914, in spite of vast volumes of pious intention, hardly anything of practical value has been done to prevent future wars.

Peace talk bores many people. And it is interesting to note that it bores them. Among the hundreds of thousands who will glance over this article there are thousands, especially among the younger contingent, who will probably be killed or maimed in war. The present reader has a fairly good chance of having some of his face blown out at the back of his head, or his hips smashed to splinters, or his viscera dispersed rather painfully, or some such surprising experience — it always seems to surprise them — by one of the missiles that will be flying about in great abundance when the next fighting is under way. It is a touching manifestation of the careless bravery of our race that this probability does not seem to move them to any appreciable effort to avert such a culmination of their careers. Until it happens they seem rather to enjoy the prospect, and after it has happened their opinion loses any weight in the matter.

Still more of my readers will be maimed or impoverished and wasted by the coming war, but they never seem to think they will draw bad numbers until they get them, and after they have got them, like the fox that lost its tail, the common reaction seems to be a more or less conscious desire to see the experience spread to those still intact. And for most women and girls war is as good as a richly sentimental film that moves them to tears and pity. While it converts great multitudes of men into a muddy mixture of rags of flesh and uniform, it greatly enhances the economic importance of women and their value as nurses, war-wives, and the inspirers of heroic sacrifices. The feminine disapproval of war is an outward and visible gentleness that is entirely compatible with a very considerable readiness to face it bravely and to discourage effective efforts to prevent it. This widespread objection to war of which we hear so much does not go very deep into people’s hearts; it certainly does not stir them as religious hatred or unfamiliar customs can stir them, and it is a complete delusion to regard it as in itself an operative cause preventing war.

One real test of pacifist sincerity is to be found in the pose towards national independence. To any one who will sit down for five minutes and face the facts squarely it must be evident that the organisation of world peace, so that wars will be impossible and disarmament secure, involves some sort of federal authority in the world’s affairs. At some point there must be the certainty of a decision upon all disputes of races and peoples and nations that would otherwise necessitate war. And this authority must clearly have the power to enforce its decisions. Whatever navies and armies survive, other than police forces for local and definite ends, must be under the control of this central authority. It may be a committee of national representatives or what you will, but central authority there must be. Pax Mundi, like the Pax Romana or the Pax Britannica, must be the only sovereign power within its realm. If you are not prepared to see your own country and your own flag so far subordinated to collective control, whatever protestations of peaceful intentions you make are either made unintelligently or else in bad faith. Your country cannot be both independent and restricted. Either you are for Cosmopolis or you are for war.

It is interesting to note how many excellent people boggle at this obvious alternative. They declare they are for peace, first, last, and all the time; they belong to this or that association for universal arbitration or for propaganda on behalf of the League of Nations, they advocate disarmament, and all the while they shirk the plain logical consequences of these pretensions, which are, in one word, disloyalty to their own government. The idea of loyalty is unquestioning obedience, complete devotion; "our country, right or wrong.” We abandon easy and natural poses and stiffen up to a mechanical salute at the first note of the national anthem. By that we indicate that, before all other things, and even to the sacrifice of our lives, we are prepared to serve, support, and sustain the free and separate existence, alleged collective prosperity, natural destiny, necessary expansion, honour, and glory of our own sovereign government, its Empire and its subjects, against right, reason, justice, the knavish tricks of foreigners (and practically that is all foreigners are supposed to do), the stars in their courses, or the welfare of mankind. We put our nationality first in our hearts and souls and lives. We regard our country as something primary and eternal. We must never think of it subordinated nor imagine that its separateness can end. It is to go on for all time just as it is, only more so The rest of the world may go to the devil. If patriotism is not all that, then what is patriotism?

Now, I maintain that in this matter you cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. You cannot be an advocate of organised world peace and a full and complete patriot also. A great number of worthy people are trying to achieve this impossibility. If we subtract them from the total of those who are "working for world peace," I doubt if any large number of people remain. The patriotic attitude seems to be a much more natural and satisfactory one than the cosmopolitan. It is much easier to adhere to a government that exists than to get at cross- purposes with all the honour and procedure of your own country in order to work for one that does not and never may exist. Patriotism is rich with associations; it is romantic and poetic. It is always nice and strengthening to hate and despise something, and patriotism gives you the whole outer world for that sustaining use. Its chief drawback is that it takes you along roads that end sooner or later in war, and that, in spite of the professional soldiers, war becomes more frightful, disgusting, destructive, and futile every year. And another drawback is that it restricts your movements to your own dear country, and that on the rest of this small planet you must travel about as a latent enemy and a potential spy.

Nor do the logical consequences of a desire for world peace end with the sacrifice of complete national freedom in the matter of disarmament and in diplomatic action. These concern merely the material and forms of war. The underlying cause of most recent wars seems to be the treatment of each sovereign community as a separate economic system in hostile competition with all the rest, and the consequent struggle to secure priority in markets and exclusive or privileged access to supplies of raw material. Arrangements for disarmament and arbitration may delay conflicts and render warfare clumsier and more sluggish, exhausting, and painful, but they will do little or nothing to prevent the ultimate resort to war, so long as we are living under the assumption that there is a struggle for existence, an unavoidable competition for vital material, between sovereign states. Unless people are prepared to accept the idea that the economic life of the world can be regarded and controlled as one system to the general advantage of the race, their aspirations for a universal peace will remain the most unreal of all possible aspirations. Separate economic systems must compete, jostle, must forestall, and must drive, for all their virtuous protestations, towards a tussle.

No doubt the reorganisation of the world’s affairs and the world’s ideas to the form of an economic unity is a gigantic task. But it is not a bit of good preparing palm branches and hosannahs for the final pacification of mankind unless we believe and intend that that gigantic task will and shall be done.

When some central body determines the distribution of raw material and staple commodities throughout the world, when these movements are lubricated by transactions in a common currency, then, and only then, is a stable world peace a reasonable proposition.

And it is not only trade and business that have to be brought to the scale of world affairs, but the movements of population demand a similar unified control. We have to remember that the idea of world peace runs counter to the general processes of nature. Nature’s way with species seems always to have been multiplication up to the limits of subsistence and a consequent struggle to survive. This has not always produced happy or dignified results; the hyena, the wart-hog, thousands of species of parasites that seem very cruel, hideous, and vile to us, have been brought to their present state of survival efficiency by this struggle. War, both internecine and external, is nature’s way. But we are told by the moving spirits of what is called the birth control movement that mankind need be driven no longer by population pressure. If they are right in saying that, then world peace is possible. If they are wrong it is not. If they are wrong, then the Italians and Japanese are justified in breeding like rabbits, clamouring to grab land from more restrained populations, and threatening war. If they are wrong, there is an excuse for the Italian threats against the French, and for the Japanese claims to a foothold in Australia and California. But if their increase is a preventable increase due to the sinful ignorance fostered by a repressive Government, then those "expansion"-seeking people cease to appear as heroic aggressors and become instead merely philoprogenitive nuisances in the commonweal of mankind. Apparently birth-rates fall as knowledge increases; the lower the standard of life, the greater the breeding. It is clear that unless there is a common protection of knowledge and information throughout the world, this biological suffocation of peace possibilities must continue. Civilisation will remain restricted by the militant protective necessities imposed upon it by such slum-breeding regions as Fascist Italy, Japan and Bengal. The space-consuming communities must arm against them. So here again we see a clear incompatibility between any hope of world peace and the sovereign freedom of individual states.

I suppose that this article is what amiable supporters of the dear League of Nations at Geneva will call a "pessimistic" article. It is not in the least pessimistic, but it does attempt to indicate something of the scale and quality of the task if peace is indeed to be established for ever in the world. The Anglo-Saxon community in particular suffers from a delusion that afternoon meetings (with tea), small regular subscriptions to societies with noble intentions, the circulation of nicely printed reports, and a polite and deferential attitude towards all that is respected and influential in life, may be considered not merely as progressive activities, but as all that is required in the way of progressive activities. This job calls for something much rougher and more fundamental. I do not see how we can avoid the conclusion that the search for world peace, since it is a project to subordinate our sovereign government to something larger, comes near to or passes the legal definition of treason. Moreover, the necessary conditions for world peace bring us into sharp conflict not simply with the ordinary patriot but with much that is regarded by large sections of people as current morality. And, as a further obstacle, such views must necessarily antagonise big interests entrenched behind tariff walls and currency advantages. A real world peace movement must be a revolutionary movement in politics, finance, industrialism, and the daily life alike. It is not a proposed change in certain formal aspects of life; it is a proposal to change the whole of life. People are allowed to go about talking of world peace now, not because their views are regarded as acceptable, but because they are supposed to be incoherent and ineffective. As the conditions of world peace are made plainer and as the movement for world peace becomes more distinctly practicable, that present tolerance is unlikely to continue. The first phase when any creative movement passes from the realm of mere talk towards realisation is resistance and persecution. The first sign that an attack is approaching its objective is that shots and shell take effect, amateurism vanishes, men fall, and the strain and effort mount steeply to the climax. My impression is that at present the movement for world peace is still at a considerable distance from its objective. One may doubt, indeed, whether any of these various League of Nations Unions and "No More War" societies that play about in the sun of popular approval can be regarded as even a preliminary assembly for the main attack. Great revolutions in human affairs need time to incubate, and the price of the peace of the world means an effort whose duration will have to be measured by lifetimes. I believe that such an effort will be made, but I believe it is a delusion to say that it has even begun.

12 June, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 31701
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:16 am


Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy is one of the most vivid and provocative members of the House of Commons. He qualifies great abilities by a certain tactlessness which has won him an unpopularity altogether beyond his merits. The other day, for example, when he was in America he confided to an interviewer, who quoted some trivial comment I had made upon the Labour Party, that I had "gone gaga." In that manner he made reverence to my seniority of twenty years. He now asks me to say something for his forthcoming book, "Will Civilisation Crash?" It is, I assume, a respite from the gaga sentence; and gladly do I halt on the road to Dr. Voronoff or the crematorium to salute the still-unmellowed vigour of my friend's intelligence.

He has done a very useful, very competent, very stimulating book. I am happy to recommend it. I do not think it would be easy to better his summary of the complex of forces that make for war in the world today. He has a good clear sense of fact, and of the size of a fact and the weight of a fact; and if, in his culminating chapter "The Only Road" he does a little seem to fade, it is only where we all fade. Because, although the omens of another great war are as plain now as they were in 1907, the forces to which one can turn to stem the drift seem relatively even more confused and feeble than they were in the days when King Edward the Peacemaker flitted amiably about the Continent. David Lubin made his treaties for economic controls with every country upon earth, the League of Nations Society met thinly ever and again to hear the discreet counsels of Sir Willoughby Dickinson and Mr. Aneurin Williams, and Sir Charles Walston preached a federal constitution for Europe.

In those days one relied very much on the common sense of mankind. I will confess I was taken by surprise by the Great War. Yet I saw long ahead how it could happen, and wove fantastic stories about it, I let my imagination play about it, but at the bottom of my heart I did not feel and believe it would really be let happen. I did not suspect that Lord Grey, the German Emperor, and the rest of them were incompetent to that pitch. And when at last it did happen, and that profession of ruthless insensitive mediocrities, the military profession, was given power for four years of stupid, clumsy, and inconclusive massacre and destruction, I still clung to a delusion that at the end the commonsense of mankind would say quite definitely, "Never again,” to any such experience, and would be prepared to revise its ideas of nationality, empire loyalty, race competition, and propagation, soundly and effectively as soon as it could for a moment struggle out of the mud and blood and reek in which it was entangled. Whether the phrase "the war to end war” was my contribution to the world or not, I cannot now remember. My mistake was in attributing any commonsense to mankind.

To-day the huge majority of people in the world think no more about the prevention of war than a warren of rabbits thinks about the suppression of shotguns and ferrets. They just don’t want to be bothered about it. It is amazing how they accept the things that will presently slaughter them.

The other day my wife and I were sitting on the lawn of a pleasant seaside hotel. Charming young people in pretty wraps raced down to the water to bathe: others came chatting from the tennis courts. The sea front below was populous with a happy crowd; the sands gay with children. The faint sounds of a distant band on the pier were punctuated rather quaintly by practice gunfire from a distant fort. About us, in chairs of the most comfortable sort, sat the mature and prosperous, smiling pleasantly at the three military aeroplanes that manoeuvred overhead. "Wonderful!" they said.

Of the hundreds of people in sight then, many scores will certainly be killed in horrible ways if war comes in the next twenty years, they will be suffocated by lethal gases, tom to ribbons by explosives, sent limping and crying for help with frightful mortal mutilations, buried and smashed and left to die under collapsed buildings. Many more will be crippled; most perhaps impoverished. But they weren’t worrying. They weren’t taking life as seriously as that. Across the trim turf came a group of military officers, discussing some oafish "idea "of a landing, of "operations," and so forth, and casting no shadow at all upon the smiling people about them. Just the same fine sort of fellows they were, agreeably dull-witted, as sent hundreds of thousands of Englishmen to cruel and useless deaths in France.

They passed, and we heard a note of anxiety from an adjacent bathchair. So after all there was some one who saw it as well as ourselves! We listened, but it was only an old gentleman worried by the morning’s newspaper, vexed at the last reprieve of Sacco and Vanzetti and troubled by another fall in the British birth-rate. He was expostulating about it to his stout and elderly wife, who assented as by habit and seemed chiefly preoccupied with her knitting.

He did not know what the world was coming to, he said. Lucky old boy! He never may.

I doubt if there was a human being in sight who was ever likely to read Commander Kenworthy’s admirable chapter on the application of Science in Battle or his other on War in the Air, and learn the pleasures awaiting those whose share in the next war may include a whiff of diphenyl chloroarsine. Perhaps they will know everything that is practically important about this delicious substance long before they know its name. They may even try to call it by some quite wrong name before they choke. It is very conveniently administered by air bomb in the form of an intensely irritating smoke which can penetrate most gas masks yet devised. Says the "1926 Manual of Chemical Warfare" quoted by Commander Kenworthy: —

"In man slight and transitory nasal irritation is appreciable after an exposure of five minutes to as little as one part of diphenyl chloroarsine in two hundred million parts of air, and as the concentration is in- creased the irritation shows itself sooner and in rapidly increasing severity. Marked symptoms are produced by exposure to one part of diphenyl chloroarsine in fifty million parts of air, and it may be stated in general that this concentration forms the limit of tolerance of ordinary individuals for an exposure lasting five minutes. A concentration of one part in ten million will probably incapacitate a man within a minute from the pain and distress, and nausea and vomitting accompany an exposure of from two to three minutes of this concentration. . , , These substances are generally used to cause such sensory irritation that the victim is unable to tolerate a respirator."

Then the victim tears it off, and the other gas with which the region has been soaked, the killing gas, gets him.

When the lieutenant-commander raised the question of teaching the use of gas masks to children in the infant schools during the debate on the Air Estimates in the House of Commons in 1927, he was greeted with laughter by the members present. Nothing could better illustrate the happy carelessness with which we move towards the next catastrophe. The air manoeuvres over London this past summer have demonstrated clearly that it will be almost impossible to prevent the copious gassing of that great warren within a few hours of the opening of any new European conflict of first-class rank.

The gravest chapters in this book are not so much the recital of the novel and enhanced horror, for civilians quite as much as for soldiers, of the next war, as the excellent and disturbing study of the gathering rivalry of the United States and Britain in naval affairs, and the discussion of the possibility of a war between these two halves of the English-speaking world. The stupid professionalism of the experts is largely to blame, and the still more stupid readiness of the present governments in both Britain and America to follow the lead of these obsessed gentlemen. Whether a war between the United States and Great Britain is to be regarded as a tolerable possibility does not enter into the philosophy of the naval monomaniacs on either side of the water. Their business is to make Britain "safe" from the United States and the United States "safe" from Britain, and they are quite capable of calculating on Japan as an ally in such a war. The wholesome brotherly jealousy of our two peoples is to be fostered and inflamed in the cause of armament and preparedness to the fighting pitch. The rivalries of industrialists and oil manipulators are to be dragged into the elaborating quarrel.

The reader must turn to Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy’s book to realise how far this obscene foolery with human welfare has gone already and how easily it may go further. He shows how step by step the trouble may be worked up until the two great masses of English-speaking people find themselves upon different sides in the alliances of a new war that will outdo all the destructions and miseries of 1914, as that outdid the Napoleonic wars.

Very good and convincing, too, is the summary of the activities of the League of Nations, and the very complete demonstration that that ill-planned and ill-supported assembly has fallen back even from the poor courage of its earlier enterprises. As a means of settlement for minor international difficulties, which the states concerned want settled, it has a considerable usefulness, but as a guarantee against graver quarrels it is beneath contempt.

It is more than useless because it is dangerous; a great number of people in Europe and America are persuaded that it is a sort of war preventative, and that when they have paid their subscription to a local branch of the League of Nations Union and been to a lecture or a garden-party once a year under its auspices, they have done all that they can be reasonably required to do to secure world peace for ever. Upon many such excellent people the existence of the League of Nations acts as a mischievous opiate. They would be far more actively and intelligently at work against the war-makers, if it did not exist to lull them into a false security.

But when I reach Chapter the Nineteenth, which is to tell us what is to be done, I find, as I have remarked already, a certain fading in the tones of our author’s voice. He is for an alliance to suppress war; and he points out very clearly that the United States, Great Britain, Holland, and Switzerland could prohibit war to all the rest of the world to-morrow — if they chose. Between them they

"control the finance of the whole world. No nations breaking the peace could hope for any financial help against their combined boycott. England, America, and Holland between them control the greater part of the world’s supplies of petroleum, Russia being the only large scale producer of oil in an independent position. England and Holland between them control the world’s supplies of rubber. England and America between them control the greater part of the world’s supplies of cotton and copper, Russia again producing comparatively small quantities of cotton and copper independently. England and France and Belgium, if she adhered, as is highly probable, control the greater part of the tropically produced edible fats. Most of the wool and jute is controlled by the British Empire.

"Without money, oil, cotton, wool, rubber, copper, zinc, jute, tin, or edible fats no war on the modern scale could be waged for very long, A very large proportion of the meat and wheat of the world would also be controlled by this group of peace-keepers. Do not let us involve ourselves in complications about aggressive Powers or who is to blame in any war. To do so would simply be to cloud the issue.”

Let us, in short, simply put our collective foot down and say, "Stop that war!" and it will stop.

That is an excellent passage. It should be given out as a dictation lesson in every school in the English-speaking world. We, just ourselves, can stop war almost completely.

But who are "we"?

America, Britain, Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland, with France and Germany in accord, will be the reply. But in what form are they to do it! There the lieutenant-commander boggles and remains vague. Because you see there is no way of getting these powers together except by getting them together, and that means a federal merger of so much of their independent sovereignty as concerns their foreign relations. Before we can have peace these powers must form a league to enforce peace. That means no tinpot debating society of every state, big or little, barbaric or civilised, strong or feeble, at Geneva, with no powers worth speaking about, but a real permanent league and alliance of these, the only really war-potent states, and a sincere surrender of independent action on the part of all of them for the general good. Well, not one of the communities named is even slightly prepared for such a step. It would shock them more than any declaration of war could possibly do. And until the common sense of these communities can be raised to the level of realising this, they will continue to drift as they are drifting — to another shattering war catastrophe.

I suspect that the author of this book before me knows that as well as I do. But there is Hull to consider. What would happen to the lieutenant-commander’s majority if he advocated plainly and simply putting the Empire under a greater League? I quite realise he cannot afford to take so grave a risk of extinction and frustration.

A phrase, now popular in America, seized upon him in the ensuing hesitation, and was for the moment "The Only Road.” Yet it is not a road out or anything like a road. It is just another piece of empty fruit- less American "idealism” utterly worthless to the world at large. War is to be "outlawed.” A wonderful word! Senator Borah finds the phrase suit his voice, and I gather it has the approval of that champion international visitor and retriever of foreign orders and honorary degrees. President Nicholas Murray Butler. Between these gentlemen and Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy I note much friendliness and intimacy exists. He has been in windy, unsubstantial company, where phrases and good feeling count for more than effective action. You are to "outlaw" war. You are just to make a treaty between the powers concerned saying as much — and there you are! You leave those powers completely untrammelled by their declaration. Indeed, you leave everything as it was before. But you say it.

Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy gives a treaty projected by Mr. Houghton, "speaking in his private capacity as a citizen"— and only so far in earnest — which is probably the most vacuous treaty ever proposed. At present, peace, for an indefinite period, exists legally between all these great powers; nevertheless "a hundred years’ peace agreement between the United States and Great Britain and, perhaps, other Powers" is to be signed with much fuss and ceremony — "in the most solemn manner.” I can see the impressive gatherings that could be imposed upon the affair, the parties, the megaphoned and broadcast speeches, the grip of hand and hand, the noble, rich, respectable emotions. Royalty would have to be present, and Washington — it would surely be Washington — would be as full of silk hats and uniforms as a Buckingham Palace garden-party. No intimations of any method of settling all possible issues conclusively without war are made in this resonant phantom of a proposal. To do that would be to limit sovereignty.

I am sorry I cannot share Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy’s faith in this magic word "Outlawry "and its stately solemnisation. I accept all his premonitions of another great war; they are only too convincing; but I believe that the ending of war is a far more complex, laborious, and difficult task than such mere gesticulations as this imply. A great change is needed in the teaching of history and the training of the young citizen, a substitution of a biological for a merely economic and political conception of human life, before we can begin to hope for the secure establishment of these world controls upon which alone an enduring world peace can be sustained.

In the meantime the most effective resistance to the approach of another great war lies in the expressed determination now of as many people as possible that they will have nothing to do with it, that they will not fight in it, work for it, nor pay taxes when it comes — whatever sort of war it is.

Pacificism is very ineffective, and has an unpleasant flavour if it is adopted after war has arrived; the time for active pacificism is while peace still rules. People who have made no effort to avert war cannot very well resist and grumble when through their tacit invitation war takes hold of them. The last war was a war to end war, and the politicians and statesmen have not made good. So now is the time for a great pacificist effort. Now is the time for people who want to delay and avert a catastrophe before the more deliberate organisation of a world peace can be achieved, to make it clear that the war-makers will have to reckon with immense defections. That is the really practicable anti-war measure to attempt now, but it is much more likely to lead to jail than to impressive ceremonial junketings at the White House.

2 October, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 31701
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to Ancien Regime

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests