'The Open Conspiracy': H.G. Wells Plots The World Empire

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Re: 'The Open Conspiracy': H.G. Wells Plots The World Empire

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Icarus, or The Future of Science
by Bertrand Russell



I. Introductory

Mr. Haldane's Daedalus has set forth an attractive picture of the future as it may become through the use of scientific discoveries to promote human happiness. Much as I should like to agree with his forecast, a long experience of statesmen and government has made me somewhat sceptical. I am compelled to fear that science will be used to promote the power of dominant groups, rather than to make men happy. Icarus, having been taught to fly by his father Daedalus, was destroyed by his rashness. I fear that the same fate may overtake the populations whom modern men of science have taught to fly. Some of the dangers inherent in the progress of science while we retain our present political and economic institutions are set forth in the following pages.

This subject is so vast that it is impossible, within a limited space, to do more than outline some of its aspects. The world in which we live differs profoundly from that of Queen Anne's time, and this difference is mainly attributable to science. That is to say, the difference would be very much less than it is but for various scientific discoveries, but resulted from those discoveries by the operation of ordinary human nature. The changes that have been brought about have been partly good, partly bad; whether, in the end, science will prove to have been a blessing or a curse to mankind, is to my mind, still a doubtful question.

A science may affect human life in two different ways. On the one hand, without altering men's passions or their general outlook, it may increase their power of gratifying their desires. On the other hand, it may operate through an effect upon the imaginative conception of the world, the theology or philosophy which is accepted in practice by energetic men. The latter is a fascinating study, but I shall almost wholly ignore it, in order to bring my subject within a manageable compass. I shall confine myself almost wholly to the effect of science in enabling us to gratify our passions more freely, which has hitherto been far the more important of the two.

From our point of view, we may divide the sciences into three groups: physical, biological, and anthropological. In the physical group I include chemistry, and broadly speaking any science concerned with the properties of matter apart from life. In the anthropological group I include all studies especially concerned with man: human physiology and psychology (between which no sharp line can be drawn), anthropology, history, sociology, and economics. All these studies can be illuminated by considerations drawn from biology; for instance, Rivers threw a new light on parts of economics by adducing facts about landed property among birds during the breeding season. But in spite of their connection with biology --- a connection which is likely to grow closer as time goes on --- they are broadly distinguished from biology by their methods and data, and deserve to be grouped apart, at any rate in a sociological inquiry.

The effect of the biological sciences, so far, has been very small. No doubt Darwinism and the idea of evolution affected men's imaginative outlook; arguments were derived in favour of free competition, and also of nationalism. But these effects were of the sort that I propose not to consider. It is probable that great effects will come from these sciences sooner or later. Mendelism might have revolutionized agriculture, and no doubt some similar theory will do so sooner or later. Bacteriology may enable us to exterminate our enemies by disease. The study of heredity may in time make eugenics an exact science, and perhaps we shall in a later age be able to determine at will the sex of our children. This would probably lead to an excess of males, involving a complete change in family institutions. But these speculations belong to the future. I do not propose to deal with the possible future effects of biology, both because my knowledge of biology is very limited, and because the subject has been admirably treated by Mr. Haldane. {1}

The anthropological sciences are those from which, a priori, we might have expected the greatest social effects, but hitherto this has not proved to be the case, partly because these sciences are mostly still at an early stage of development. Even economics has not so far had much effect. Where it has seemed to have, this is because it advocated what was independently desired. Hitherto, the most effective of the anthropological sciences has been medicine, through its influence on sanitation and public health, and through the fact that it has discovered how to deal with malaria and yellow fever. Birth-control is also a very important social fact which comes into this category. But although the future effect of the anthropological sciences (to which I shall return presently) is illimitable, the effect up to the present has been confined within fairly narrow limits.

One general observation to begin with. Science has increased man's control over nature, and might therefore be supposed likely to increase his happiness and well-being. This would be the case if men were rational, but in fact they are bundles of passions and instincts. An animal species in a stable environment, if it does not die out, acquires an equilibrium between its passions and the conditions of its life. If the conditions are suddenly altered, the equilibrium is upset. Wolves in a state of nature have difficulty in getting food, and therefore need the stimulus of a very insistent hunger. The result is that their descendants, domestic dogs, over-eat if they are allowed to do so. When a certain amount of something is useful, and the difficulty of obtaining it is diminished, instinct will usually lead an animal to excess in the new circumstances. The sudden change produced by science has upset the balance between our instincts and our circumstances, but in directions not sufficiently noted. Over-eating is not a serious danger, but over-fighting is. The human instincts of power and rivalry, like the dog's wolfish appetite will need to be artificially curbed, if industrialism is to succeed.

II. Effects of the Physical Sciences

Much the greatest part of the changes which science has made in social life is due to the physical sciences, as is evident when we consider that they brought about the industrial revolution. This is a trite topic, about which I shall say as little as my subject permits. There are, however, some points which must be made.

First, industrialism still has great parts of the earth's surface to conquer. Russia and India are very imperfectly industrialized; China hardly at all. In South America there is room for immense development. One of the effects of industrialism is to make the world an economic unit: its ultimate consequences will be very largely due to this fact. But before the world can be effectively organized as a unit, it will probably be necessary to develop industrially all the regions capable of development that are at present backward. The effects of industrialism change as it becomes more wide-spread; this must be remembered in any attempt to argue from its past to its future.

The second point about industrialism is that it increases the productivity of labour, and thus makes more luxuries possible. At first, in England, the chief luxury achieved was a larger population with an actual lowering of the standard of life. Then came a golden age when wages increased, hours of labour diminished, and simultaneously the middle-class grew more prosperous. That was while Great Britain was still supreme. With the growth of foreign industrialism, a new epoch began. Industrial organizations have seldom succeeded in becoming world-wide, and have consequently become national. Competition, formerly between individual firms, is now mainly between nations, and is therefore conducted by methods quite different from those contemplated by the classical economists.

Modern industrialism is a struggle between nations for two things, markets and raw materials, as well as for the sheer pleasure of domination. The labour which is set free from providing the necessaries of life tends to be more and more absorbed by national rivalry. There are first the armed forces of the State; then those who provide munitions of war, from the raw minerals up to the finished product; then the diplomatic and consular services; then the teachers of patriotism in schools; then the Press. All of these perform other functions as well, but the chief purpose is to minister to international competition. As another class whose labours are devoted to the same end, we must add a considerable proportion of the men of science. These men invent continually more elaborate methods of attack and defence. The net result of their labours is to diminish the proportion of the population that can be put into the fighting line, since more are required for munitions. This might seem a boon, but in fact war is now-a-days primarily against the civilian population, and in a defeated country they are liable to suffer just as much as the soldiers.

It is science above all that has determined the importance of raw materials in international competition. Coal and iron and oil, especially, are the bases of power, and thence of wealth. The nation which possesses them, and has the industrial skill required to utilize them in war, can acquire markets by armed force, and levy tribute upon less fortunate nations. Economists have underestimated the part played by military prowess in the acquisition of wealth. The landed aristocracies of Europe were, in origin, warlike invaders. Their defeat by the bourgeoisie in the French Revolution, and the fear which this generated in the Duke of Wellington, facilitated the rise of the middle class. The wars of the eighteenth century decided that England was to be richer than France. The traditional economist's rules for the distribution of wealth hold only when men's actions are governed by law, i. e. when most people think the issue unimportant. The issues that people have considered vital have been decided by civil war or wars between nations. And for the present, owing to science, the art of war consists in possessing coal, iron, oil, and the industrial skill to work them. For the sake of simplicity, I omit other raw materials, since they do not affect the essence of our problem.

We may say, therefore, speaking very generally, that men have used the increased productivity which they owe to science for three chief purposes in succession: first, to increase the population; then, to raise the standard of comfort; and, finally, to provide more energy to war. This last result has been chiefly brought about by competition for markets, which led to competition for raw materials, especially the raw materials of munitions.

III. The Increase of Organization

The stimulation of nationalism which has taken place in modern times is, however, due very largely to another factor, namely the increase of organization, which is of the very essence of industrialism. Wherever expensive fixed capital is required, organization, on a large scale is of course necessary. In view of the economies of large scale production, organization in marketing also becomes of great importance. For some purposes, if not for all, many industries come to be organized nationally, so as to be in effect one business in each nation.

Science has not only brought about the need for large organizations, but also the technical possibility of their existence. Without railways, telegraphs and telephones, control from a centre is very difficult. In ancient empires, and in China down to modern times, provinces were governed by practically independent satraps or proconsuls, who were appointed by the central government, but decided almost all questions on their own initiative. If they displeased the sovereign, they could only be controlled by civil war, of which the issue was doubtful. Until the invention of the telegraph, ambassadors had a great measure of independence, since it was often necessary to act without waiting for orders from home. What applied in politics applied also in business: an organization controlled from the centre had to be very loosely knit, and to allow much autonomy to subordinates. Opinion as well as action was difficult to mould from a centre, and local variations marred the uniformity of party creeds.

Now-a-days all this is changed. Telegraph, telephone, and wireless make it easy to transmit orders from a centre: railways and steamers make it easy to transport troops in case the orders are disobeyed. Modern methods of printing and advertising make it enormously cheaper to produce and distribute one newspaper with a large circulation than many with small circulations; consequently, in so far as the Press controls opinion, there is uniformity, and, in particular, there is uniformity of news. Elementary education, except in so far as religious denominations introduce variety, is conducted on a uniform pattern decided by the State, by means of teachers whom the State has trained, as far as possible, to imitate the regularity and mutual similarity of machines produced to standard. Thus the material and psychological conditions for a great intensity of organization have increased pari passu, but the basis of the whole development is scientific invention in the purely physical realm. Increased productivity has played its part, by making it possible to set apart more labour for propaganda, under which head are to be included advertisement, the cinema, the Press, education, politics, and religion. Broadcasting is a new method likely to acquire great potency as soon as people are satisfied that it is not a method of propaganda.

Political controversies, as Mr. Graham Wallas has pointed out, ought to be conducted in quantitative terms. If sociology were one of the sciences that had affected social institutions (which it is not), this would be the case. The dispute between anarchism and bureaucracy at present tends to take the form of one side maintain that we want no organization, while the other maintains that we want as much as possible. A person imbued with the scientific spirit would hardly even examine these extreme positions. Some people think that we keep our rooms too hot for health, others that we keep them too cold. If this were a political question, one party would maintain that the best temperature is the absolute zero, the other that it is the melting point of iron. Those who maintained any intermediate position would be abused as timorous time-servers, concealed agents of the other side, men who ruined the enthusiasm of a sacred cause by tepid appeals to mere reason. Any man who had the courage to say that our rooms ought to be neither very hot nor very cold would be abused by both parties, and probably shot in No Man's Land. Possibly some day politics may become more rational, but so far there is not the faintest indication of a change in this direction.

To a rational mind, the question is not: Do we want organization or do we not? The question is: How much organization do we want, and where and when and of what kind? In spite of a temperamental leaning to anarchism, I am persuaded that an industrial world cannot maintain itself against internal disruptive forces without a great deal more organization than we have at present. It is not the amount of organization, buts its kind and its purpose, that causes our troubles. But before tackling this question, let us pause for a moment to ask ourselves what is the measure of the intensity of organization in a given community.

A man's acts are partly determined by spontaneous impulse, partly by the conscious or unconscious effects of the various groups to which he belongs. A man who works (say) on a railway or in a mine, is, in his working hours almost entirely determined in his actions by those who direct the collective labour of which he forms part. If he decides to strike, his action is again not individual, but determined by his Union. When he votes for Parliament, party caucuses have limited his choice to one of two or three men, and party propaganda has induced him to accept in toto one of two or three blocks of opinions which form the rival party programmes. His choice between the parties may be individual, but it may also be determined by the action of some group, such as a trade union, which collectively supports one party. His newspaper-reading exposes him to great organized forces; so does the cinema, if he goes to it. His choice of a wife is probably spontaneous, except that he must choose a woman of his own class. But in the education of his children he is almost entirely powerless: they must have the education which is provided. Organization thus determines many vital things in his life. Compare him to a handicraftsman or peasant-proprietor who cannot read and does not have his children educated, and it becomes clear what is meant by saying that industrialism has increased the intensity of organization. To defines this term we must, I think, exclude the unconscious effects of groups, except as causes facilitating the conscious effects. We may define the intensity of organization to which a given individual is subject as the proportion of his acts which is determined by the orders or advice of some group, expressed through democratic decisions or executive officers. The intensity of organization in a community may then be defined as the average intensity for its several members.

The intensity of organization is increased not only when a man belongs to more organizations, but also when the organizations to which he already belongs play a larger part in his life, as, for example, the State plays a larger part in war than in peace.

Another matter which needs to be treated quantitatively is the degree of democracy, oligarchy, or monarchy in an organization. No organization belongs completely to any one of the three types. There must be executive officers, who will often in practice be able to decide policy, even if in theory they cannot do so. And even if their power depends upon persuasion, they may so completely control the relevant publicity that they can always rely upon a majority. The directors of a railway company, for instance, are to all intents and purposes uncontrolled by the shareholders, who have no adequate means of organizing an opposition if they should wish to do so. In America, a railroad president is almost a monarch. In party politics, the power of leaders, although it depends upon persuasion, continually increases as printed propaganda becomes more important. For these reasons, even where formal democracy increases, the real degree of democratic control tends to diminish, except on a few questions which rouse strong popular passions.

The result of these causes is that, in consequence of scientific inventions which facilitate centralization and propaganda, groups become more organized, more disciplined, more group-conscious and more docile to leaders. The effect of leaders on followers is increased, and the control of events by a few prominent personalities becomes more marked.

In all this there would be nothing very tragic, but for the fact, with which science has nothing to do, that organization is almost wholly national. If men were actuated by the love of gain, as the older economists supposed, this would not be the case; the same causes which have led to national trusts would have led to international trusts. This has happened in a few instances, but not on a sufficiently wide scale to affect politics or economics very vitally. Rivalry is, with most well-to-do energetic people, a stronger motive than love of money. Successful rivalry requires organization of rival forces; the tendency is for a business such as oil, for example, to organize itself into two rival groups, between them covering the world. They might, of course, combine, and they would no doubt increase their wealth if they did so. But combination would take the zest out of life. The object of a football team, one might say, is to kick goals. If two rival teams combined, and kicked the ball alternately over the two goals, many more goals would be scored. Nevertheless no one suggest that this should be done, the object of a football team being not to kick goals but to win. So the object of a big business is not to make money, but to win in the contest with some other business. If there were no other business to be defeated, the whole thing would become uninteresting. This rivalry has attached itself to nationalism, and enlisted the support of the ordinary citizens of the countries concerned; they seldom know what it is that they are supporting, but, like the spectators at a football-match, they grow enthusiastic for their own side. The harm that is being done by science and industrialism is almost wholly due to the fact that, while they have proved strong enough to produce a national organization of economic forces, they have not proved strong enough to produce an international organization. It is clear that political internationalism such as the League of Nations was supposed to inaugurate, will never be successful until we have economic internationalism, which would require, as a minimum, an agreement between various national organizations dividing among them the raw material and markets of the world. This, however, can hardly be brought about while big business is controlled by men who are so rich as to have grown indifferent to money, and to be willing to risk enormous losses for the pleasure of rivalry.

The increase of organization in the modern world has made the ideals of liberalism wholly inapplicable. Liberalism, from Montesquieu to President Wilson, was based upon the assumption of a number of more or less equal individuals or groups, with no differences so vital that they were willing to die sooner than compromise. It was supposed that there was to be free competition between individuals and between ideas. Experience has shown, however, that the existing economic system is incompatible with all forms of free competition except between States by means of armaments. I should wish, for my part, to preserve free competition between ideas, though not between individuals and groups, but this is only possible by means of what an old-fashioned liberal would regard as interferences with personal liberty. So long as the sources of economic power remain in private hands, there will be no liberty except for the few who control those sources.

Such liberal ideals as free trade, free press, unbiased educated, either already belong to the past or soon will do so.
One of the triumphs of early liberalism in England was the establishment of parliamentary control of the army; this was the casus belli in the Civil War, and was decided by the Revolution of 1688. It was effective so long as Parliament represented the same class from which army officers were drawn. This was still the case with the late Parliament, but may cease to be the case with the advent of a Labour Government. Russia, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Bavaria have shown in recent years how frail democracy has become; east of the Rhine it lingers only in outlying regions. Constitutional control over armaments must, therefore, be regarded as another liberal principle which is rapidly becoming obsolete.

It would seem probable that, in the next fifty years or so, we shall see a still further increase in the power of governments, and a tendency for governments to be such as are desired by the men who control armaments and raw materials. The forms of democracy may survive in western countries, since those who possess military and economic power can control education and the press, and therefore can usually secure a subservient democracy. Rival economic groups will presumably remain associated with rival nations, and will foster nationalism in order to recruit their football teams.

There is, however, a hopeful element in the problem. The planet is of finite size, but the most efficient size for an organization is continually increased by new scientific inventions. The world becomes more and more of an economic unity. Before very long the technical conditions will exist for organizing the whole world as one producing and consuming unit. If, when that time comes, two rival groups contend for mastery, the victor may be able to introduce that single world-wide organization that is needed to prevent the mutual extermination of civilized nations. The world which would result would be, at first, very different from the dreams of either liberals or socialists; but it might grow less different with the lapse of time. There would be at first economic and political tyranny of the victors, a dread of renewed upheavals, and therefore a drastic suppression of liberty. But if the first half-dozen revolts were successfully repressed, the vanquished would give up hope, and accept the subordinate place assigned to them by the victors in the great world-trust. As soon as the holders of power felt secure, they would grow less tyrannical and less energetic. The motive of rivalry being removed, they would not work so hard as they do now, and would soon cease to exact such hard work from their subordinates. Life at first might be unpleasant, but it would at least be possible, which would be enough to recommend the system after a long period of warfare. Given a stable world-organization, economic and political, even if, at first, it rested upon nothing but armed force, the evils which now threaten civilization would gradually diminish, and a more thorough democracy than that which now exists might become possible. I believe that, owing to men's folly, a world-government will only be established by force, and therefore be at first cruel and despotic. But I believe that it is necessary for the preservation of a scientific civilization, and that, if once realized, it will gradually give rise to the other conditions of a tolerable existence.

IV. The Anthropological Sciences

It remains to say something about the future effects of the anthropological sciences. This is of course extremely conjectural, because we do not know what discoveries will be made. The effect is likely to be far greater than we can now imagine, because these sciences are still in their infancy. I will, however, take a few points on which to hang conjectures. I do not wish to be supposed to be making prophecies: I am only suggesting possibilities which it may be instructive to consider.

Birth-control is a matter of great importance, particularly in relation to the possibility of a world-government, which could hardly be stable if some nations increased their population much more rapidly than others. At present, birth-control is increasing in all civilized countries, though in most it is opposed by governments. This opposition is due partly to mere superstition and desire to conciliate the Catholic vote, partly to the desire for large armies and severe competition between wage-earners, so as to keep down wages. In spite of the opposition of governments, it seems probable that birth-control will lead to a stationary population in most white nations within the next fifty years. There can be no security that it will stop with a stationary population; it may go on to the point where the population diminishes.

The increase in the practice of birth-control is an example of a process contrary to that seen in industrialism: it represents a victory of individual over collective passions. Collectively, Frenchmen desire that France should be populous, in order to be able to defeat her enemies in war. Individually, they desire that their own families should be small, in order to increase the inheritance of their children and to diminish the expense of education. The individual desire has triumphed over the collective desire, and even, in many cases, over religious scruples. In this case, as in most others, the individual desire is less harmful to the world than the collective desire: the man who acts from pure selfishness does less damage than the man who is actuated by ``public spirit.'' For, since medicine and sanitation have diminished the infant death-rate, the only checks to over-population that remain (apart from birth-control) are war and famine. So long as this continues to be the case, the world must either have a nearly stationary population, or employ war to produce famine. The latter method, which is that favoured by opponents of birth-control, has been adopted on a large scale since 1914; it is however somewhat wasteful. We require a certain number of cattle and sheep, and we take steps to secure the right number. If we were as indifferent about them as we are about human beings, we should produce far too many, and cause the surplus to die by the slow misery of under-feeding. Farmers would consider this plan extravagant, and humanitarians would consider it cruel. But where human beings are concerned, it is considered the only proper course, and works advocating any other are confiscated by the police if they are intelligible to those whom they concern.

It must be admitted, however, that there are certain dangers. Before long the population may actually diminish. This is already happening in the most intelligent sections of the most intelligent nations; government opposition to birth-control propaganda gives a biological advantage to stupidity, since it is chiefly stupid people who governments succeed in keeping in ignorance. Before long, birth-control may become nearly universal among the white races; it will then not deteriorate their quality, but only diminish their numbers, at a time when uncivilized races are still prolific and are preserved from a high death-rate by white science.

This situation will lead to a tendency --- already shown by the French --- to employ more prolific races as mercenaries. Governments will oppose the teaching of birth-control among Africans, for fear of losing recruits. The result will be an immense numerical inferiority of the white races, leading probably to their extermination in a mutiny of mercenaries. If, however, a world-government is established, it may see the desirability of making subject races also less prolific, and may permit mankind to solve the population question. This is another reason for desiring a world-government.

Passing from quantity to quality of population, we come to the question of eugenics. We may perhaps assume that, if people grow less superstitious, government will acquire the right to sterilize those who are not considered desirable as parents. This power will be used, at first, to diminish imbecility, a most desirable object. But probably, in time, opposition to the government will be taken to prove imbecility, so that rebels of all kinds will be sterilized. Epileptics, consumptives, dipsomaniacs and so on will gradually be included; in the end, there will be a tendency to include all who fail to pass the usual school examinations. The result will be to increase the average intelligence; in the long run, it may be greatly increased. But probably the effect upon really exceptional intelligence will be bad. Mr. Micawber, who was Dickens's father, would hardly have been regarded as a desirable parent. How many imbeciles ought to outweigh one Dickens I do not profess to know.

Eugenics has, of course, more ambitious possibilities in a more distant future. It may aim not only at eliminating undesired types, but at increasing desired types. Moral standards may alter so as to make it possible for one man to be the sire of a vast progeny by many different mothers. When men of science envisage a possibility of this kind, they are prone to a type of fallacy which is common also in other directions. They imagine that a reform inaugurated by men of science would be administered as men of science would wish, by men similar in outlook to those who have advocated it. In like manner women who advocated votes for women used to imagine that the woman voter of the future would resemble the ardent feminist who won her the vote; and socialist leaders imagine that a socialist State would be administered by idealistic reformers like themselves. These are, of course, delusions; a reform, once achieved, is handed over to the average citizen. So, if eugenics reached the point where it could increase desired types, it would not be the types desired by present-day eugenists that would be increased, but rather the type desired by the average official. Prime Ministers, Bishops, and others whom the State considers desirable might become the fathers of half the next generation. Whether this would be an improvement it is not for me to say, as I have no hope of ever becoming either a Bishop or a Prime Minister.

If we knew enough about heredity to determine, within limits, what sort of population we would have, the matter would of course be in the hands of State officials, presumably elderly medical men. Whether they would really be preferable to Nature I do not feel sure. I suspect that they would breed a subservient population, convenient to rulers but incapable of initiative. However, it may be that I am too sceptical of the wisdom of officials.

The effects of psychology on practical life may in time become very great. Already advertisers in America employ eminent psychologists to instruct them in the technique of producing irrational belief; such men may, when they have grown more proficient, be very useful in persuading the democracy that governments are wise and good. Then, again, there are the psychological tests of intelligence, as applied to recruits for the American army during the war. I am very sceptical of the possibility of testing anything except average intelligence by such methods, and I think that, if they were widely adopted, they would probably lead to many persons of great artistic capacity being classified as morons. The same thing would have happened to some first-rate mathematicians. Specialized ability not infrequently goes with general disability, but this would not be shown by the kind of tests which psychologists recommend to the American government.

More sensational than tests of intelligence is the possibility of controlling the emotional life through the secretions of the ductless glands. It will be possible to make people choleric or timid, strongly or weakly sexed, and so on, as may be desired. Differences of emotional disposition seem to be chiefly due to secretions of the ductless glands, and therefore controllable by injections or by increasing or diminishing the secretions. Assuming an oligarchic organization of society, the State could give to the children of holders of power the disposition required for command, and to the children of the proletariat the disposition required for obedience. Against the injections of the State physicians the most eloquent Socialist oratory would be powerless. The only difficulty would be to combine this submissiveness with the necessary ferocity against external enemies; but I do not doubt that official science would be equal to the task.

It is not necessary, when we are considering political consequences, to pin our faith to the particular theories of the ductless glands, which may blow over, like other theories. All that is essential in our hypothesis is the belief that physiology will in time find ways of controlling emotion, which it is scarcely possible to doubt. When that day comes we shall have the emotions desired by our rulers, and the chief business of elementary education will be to produce the desired disposition, no longer by punishment or moral precept, but by the far surer method of injection or diet. The men who will administer this system will have a power beyond the dreams of the Jesuits, but there is no reason to suppose that they will have more sense than the men who control education to-day. Technical scientific knowledge does not make men sensible in their aims, and administrators in the future, will be presumably no less stupid and no less prejudiced than they are at present.


It may seem as though I had been at once gloomy and frivolous in some of my prognostications. I will end, however, with the serious lesson which seems to me to result. Men sometimes speak as though the progress of science must necessarily be a boon to mankind, but that, I fear, is one of the comfortable nineteenth-century delusions which our more disillusioned age must discard. Science enables the holders of power to realize their purposes more fully than they could otherwise do. If their purposes are good, this is a gain; if they are evil, it is a loss. In the present age, it seems that the purposes of the holders of power are in the main evil, in the sense that they involve a diminution, in the world at large, of the things men are agreed in thinking good. Therefore, at present, science does harm by increasing the power of rulers. Science is no substitute for virtue; the heart is as necessary for a good life as the head.

If men were rational in their conduct, that is to say, if they acted in the way most likely to bring about the ends that they deliberately desire, intelligence would be enough to make the world almost a paradise. In the main, what is in the long run advantageous to one man is also advantageous to another. But men are actuated by passions which distort their view; feeling an impulse to injure others, they persuade themselves that it is to their interest to do so. They will not, therefore, act in the way that is in fact to their own interest unless they are actuated by generous impulses which make them indifferent to their own interest. This is why the heart is as important as the head. By the ``heart'' I mean, for the moment, the sum-total of kindly impulses. Where they exist, science helps them to be effective; where they are absent, science only makes men more cleverly diabolic.

It may be laid down as a general principle to which there are few exceptions that, when people are mistaken as to what is to their own interest, the course they believe to be wise is more harmful to others than the course that really is wise. There are innumerable examples of men making fortunes because, on moral grounds, they did something which they believed to be contrary to their own interests. For instance, among early Quakers there were a number of shopkeepers, who adopted the practice of asking no more for their goods than they were willing to accept, instead of bargaining with each customer, as everybody else did. They adopted this practice because they held it to be a lie to ask more than they would take. But the convenience to customers was so great that everybody came to their shops and they grew rich. (I forget where I read this, but if my memory serves me it was in some reliable source.) The same policy might have been adopted from shrewdness, but in fact no one was sufficiently shrewd. Our unconscious is more malevolent than it pays us to be; therefore the people who do most completely what is in fact to their interest are those who, on moral grounds, do what they believe to be against their interest.

For this reason, it is of the greatest importance to inquire whether any method of strengthening kindly impulses exists. I have no doubt that their strength or weakness depends upon discoverable physiological causes; let us assume that it depends upon the glands. If so, an international secret society of physiologists could bring about the millennium by kidnapping, on a given day, all the rulers of the world, and injecting into their blood some substance which would fill them with benevolence towards their fellow-creatures. Suddenly M. Poincare would wish well to Ruhr miners, Lord Curzon to Indian nationalists, Mr. Smuts to the natives of what was German South West Africa, the American government to its political prisoners and its victims in Ellis Island. But alas, the physiologists would first have to administer the love-philtre to themselves before they would undertake such a task. Otherwise, they would prefer to win titles and fortunes by injecting military ferocity into recruits. And so we come back to the old dilemma: only kindliness can save the world, and even if we knew how to produce kindliness we should not do so unless we were already kindly. Failing that, it seems that the solution which the Houynhnms adopted towards the Yahoos, namely extermination, is the only one; apparently the Yahoos are bent on applying it to each other.

We may sum up this discussion in a few words. Science has not given men more self-control, more kindliness, or more power of discounting their passions in deciding upon a course of action. It has given communities more power to indulge their collective passions, but, by making society more organic, it has diminished the part played by private passions. Men's collective passions are mainly evil; far the strongest of them are hatred and rivalry directed towards other groups. Therefore at present all that gives men power to indulge their collective passions is bad. That is why science threatens to cause the destruction of our civilization. The only solid hope seems to lie in the possibility of world-wide domination by one group, say the United States, leading to the gradual formation of an orderly economic and political world-government. But perhaps, in view of the sterility of the Roman Empire, the collapse of our civilization would in the end be preferable to this alternative.



1: See his Daedalus, or Science and the Future. (Russell's note.)
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Re: 'The Open Conspiracy': H.G. Wells Plots The World Empire

Postby admin » Sun Oct 13, 2019 12:42 am

James Joyce: H.G. Wells reviews "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man"
by H.G. Wells
The New Republic
March 8, 1917




A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce . . . is a book to buy and read and lock up, but it is not a book to miss. Its claim to be literature is as good as the claim of the last book of Gulliver’s Travels.

It is no good trying to minimize a characteristic that seems to be deliberately obtruded. Like Swift and another living Irish writer, Mr. Joyce has a cloacal obsession. He would bring back into the general picture of life aspects which modern drainage and modern decorum have taken out of ordinary intercourse and conversation. Coarse, unfamiliar words are scattered about the book unpleasantly, and it may seem to many, needlessly. If the reader is squeamish upon these matters, then there is nothing for it but to shun this book, but if he will pick his way, as one has to do at times on the outskirts of some picturesque Italian village with a view and a church and all sorts of things of that sort to tempt one, then it is quite worth while. And even upon this unsavory aspect of Swift and himself, Mr. Joyce is suddenly illuminating. He tells at several points how his hero Stephen is swayed and shocked and disgusted by harsh and loud sounds, and how he is stirred to intense emotion by music and the rhythms of beautiful words. But no sort of smell offends him like that. He finds olfactory sensations interesting or aesthetically displeasing, but they do not make him sick or excited as sounds do. This is a quite understandable turn over from the more normal state of affairs. Long ago I remember pointing out in a review the difference in the sensory basis of the stories of Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir J. M. Barrie; the former visualized and saw his story primarily as picture, the latter mainly heard it. We shall do Mr. Joyce an injustice if we attribute a normal sensory basis to him and then accuse him of deliberate offense.

It is by far the most living and convincing picture that exists of an Irish Catholic upbringing.

But that is by the way. The value of Mr. Joyce’s book has little to do with its incidental insanitary condition. Like some of the best novels in the world it is the story of an education; it is by far the most living and convincing picture that exists of an Irish Catholic upbringing. It is a mosaic of jagged fragments that does altogether render with extreme completeness the growth of a rather secretive, imaginative boy in Dublin. The technique is startling, but on the whole it succeeds. Like so many Irish writers from Sterne to Shaw, Mr. Joyce is a bold experimentalist with paragraph and punctuation. He breaks away from scene to scene without a hint of the change of time and place; at the end he passes suddenly from the third person to the first; he uses no inverted commas to mark off his speeches.

The first trick I found sometimes tiresome here and there, but then my own disposition, perhaps acquired at the blackboard, is to mark off and underline rather fussily, and I do not know whether I was so much put off the thing myself as anxious, which after all is not my business, about its effect on those others; the second trick, I will admit, seems entirely justified in this particular instance by its success; the third reduces Mr. Joyce to a free use of dashes. One conversation in this book is a superb success, the one in which Mr. Dedalus carves the Christmas turkey; I write with all due deliberation that Sterne himself could not have done it better; but most of the talk flickers blindingly with these dashes, one has the same wincing feeling of being flicked at that one used to have in the early cinema shows. I think Mr. Joyce has failed to discredit the inverted comma.

The interest of the book depends entirely upon its quintessential and unfailing reality. One believes in Stephen Dedalus as one believes in few characters in fiction. And the peculiar lie of the interest for the intelligent reader is the convincing revelation it makes of the limitations of a great mass of Irishmen. Mr. Joyce tells us unsparingly of the adolescence of this youngster under conditions that have passed almost altogether out of English life. There is an immense shyness, a profound secrecy, about matters of sex, with its inevitable accompaniment of nightmare revelations and furtive scribblings in unpleasant places, and there is a living belief in a real hell. The description of Stephen listening without a doubt to two fiery sermons on that tremendous theme, his agonies of fear, not disgust at dirtiness such as unorthodox children feel but just fear, his terror-inspired confession of his sins of impurity to a strange priest in a distant part of the city, is like nothing in any boy’s experience who has been trained under modern conditions. Compare its stuffy horror with Conrad’s account of how under analogous circumstances Lord Jim wept.

The interest of the book depends entirely upon its quintessential and unfailing reality.

And a second thing of immense significance is the fact that everyone in this Dublin story, every human being, accepts as a matter of course, as a thing in nature like the sky and the sea, that the English are to be hated. There is no discrimination in that hatred, there is no gleam of recognition that a considerable number of Englishmen have displayed a very earnest disposition to put matters right with Ireland, there is an absolute absence of any idea of a discussed settlement, any notion of helping the slow-witted Englishman in his three-cornered puzzle between North and South.

It is just hate, a cant cultivated to the pitch of monomania, an ungenerous violent direction of the mind. That is the political atmosphere in which Stephen Dedalus grows up, and in which his essentially responsive mind orients itself. I am afraid it is only too true an account of the atmosphere in which a number of brilliant young Irishmen have grown up. What is the good of pretending that the extreme Irish “patriot” is an equivalent and parallel of the English or American liberal? He is narrower and intenser than any English Tory. He will be the natural ally of the Tory in delaying British social and economic reconstruction after the war. He will play into the hands of the Tories by threatening an outbreak and providing the excuse for a militarist reaction in England. It is time the American observer faced the truth of that.

No reason is that why England should not do justice to Ireland, but excellent reason for bearing in mind that these bright-green young people across the Channel are something quite different from the liberal English in training and tradition, and absolutely set against helping them. No single book has ever shown how different they are, as completely as this most memorable novel.
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Re: 'The Open Conspiracy': H.G. Wells Plots The World Empire

Postby admin » Sun Oct 13, 2019 12:46 am

One of Wells’s Worlds
by John Maynard Keynes
The New Republic
January 31, 1927




Mr. Wells, in The World of William Clissold, presents, not precisely his own mind as it has developed on the basis of his personal experience and way of life, but—shifting his angle—a point of view based on an experience mainly different from his own, that of a successful, emancipated, semi-scientific, not particularly high-brow, English business man. The result is not primarily a work of art. Ideas, not forms, are its substance. It is a piece of educational writing—propaganda, if you like—an attempt to convey, to the very big public, attitudes of mind already partly familiar to the very small public.

The book is an omnium gatherum. I will select two emergent themes of a quasi-economic character. Apart from these, the main topic is women and some of their possible relationships in the modern world to themselves and to men of the Clissold type. This is treated with great candor, sympathy, and observation. It leaves, and is meant to leave, a bitter taste.

The first of these themes is a violent protest against conservatism, an insistent emphasis on the necessity and rapidity of change, the folly of looking backwards, the danger of inadaptibility. Mr. Wells produces a, curious sensation, nearly similar to that of some of his earlier romances, by contemplating vast stretches of time backwards and forwards which give an impression of slowness (no need to hurry in eternity), yet accelerating the Time Machine as he reaches the present day so that now we travel at an enormous pace and no longer have millions of years to turn round in. The conservative influences in our life are envisaged as dinosaurs whom literal extinction is awaiting just ahead. The contrast comes from the failure of our ideas, our conventions, our prejudices to keep up with the pace of material change. Our environment moves too much faster than we do. The walls of our traveling compartment are bumping our heads. Unless we hustle, the traffic will run us down. Conservatism is no better than suicide. Woe to our dinosaurs!

This is one aspect. We stand still at our peril. Time flies. But there is another aspect of the same thing—and this is where Clissold comes in. What a bore for the modern man, whose mind in his active career moves with the times, to stand still in his observances and way of life! What a bore are the feasts and celebrations with which London or New York crowns success! What a bore to go through the social contortions which have lost significance, and conventional pleasures which no longer please! The contrast between the exuberant, constructive activity of a prince of modern commerce and the lack of an appropriate environment for him out of office hours is acute. Moreover, there are wide stretches in the career of moneymaking which are entirely barren and non-constructive. There is a fine passage in the first volume about the profound, ultimate boredom of City men. Clissold's father, the company promoter and speculator, falls first into megalomania and then into fraud, because he is bored. I do not doubt that this same thing is true of Wall Street. Let us, therefore, mold with both hands the plastic material of social life into our own contemporary image.

We do not merely belong to a latter-day age—we are ourselves in the literal sense older than our ancestors were in the years of our maturity and our power. Mr. Wells brings out strongly a too much neglected feature of modern life, that we live much longer than formerly, and, what is more important, prolong our health and vigor into a period of life which was formerly one of decay, so that the average man can now look forward to a duration of activity which hitherto only the exceptional could anticipate. I can add, indeed, a further fact, which Mr. Wells overlooks (I think), likely to emphasize this yet further in the next fifty years as compared with the last fifty years—namely, that the average age of a rapidly increasing population is much less than that of a stationary population. For example, in the stable conditions to which England and probably the United States also, somewhat later, may hope to approximate in the course of the next two generations, we shall somewhat rapidly approach to a position in which, in proportion to population, elderly, people (say, sixty-five years of age and above) will be nearly 100 percent, and middle-aged people (say, forty-five years of age and above), nearly 50 percent more numerous than in the recent past. In the nineteenth century, effective power was in the hands of men probably not less than fifteen years older on the average than in the sixteenth century; and before the twentieth century is out, the average may have risen another fifteen years, unless effective means are found, other than obvious physical or mental decay, to make vacancies at the top. Clissold (in his sixtieth year, he it noted) sees more advantage and less disadvantage in this state of affairs than I do. Most men love money and security more, and creation and construction less, as they get older; and this process begins long before their intelligent judgment on detail is apparently impaired. Mr. Wells’s preference for an adult world over a juvenile, sex-ridden world may be right. But the margin between this and a middle-aged, money-ridden world is a narrow one. We are threatened, at the best, with the appalling problem of the able-bodied “retired,” of which Mr. Wells himself gives a sufficient example in his desperate account of the regular denizens of the Riviera.

We are living, then, in an unsatisfactory age of immensely rapid transition in which most, but particularly those in the vanguard, find themselves and their environment ill-adapted to one another, and are for this reason far less happy than their less sophisticated forebears were, or their yet more sophisticated descendants need be. This diagnosis, applied by Mr. Wells to the case of those engaged in the practical life of action, is essentially the same as Mr. Edwin Muir’s, in his deeply interesting volume of criticism. Transition, to the case of those engaged in the life of art and contemplation. Our foremost writers, according to Mr. Muir, are uncomfortable in the world—they can neither support nor can they oppose anything with a full confidence, with the result that their work is inferior in relation to their talents compared with work produced in happier ages—jejune, incomplete, starved, anaemic, like their own feelings to the universe.

In short, we cannot stay where we are; we are on the move—on the move, not necessarily either to better or to worse, but just to an equilibrium. But why not to the better? Why should we not begin to reap spiritual fruits from our material conquests? If so, whence is to come the motive power of desirable change? This brings us to Mr. Wells’s second theme.

Mr. Wells describes in the first volume of Clissold his hero's disillusionment with socialism. In the final volume he inquires if there is an alternative. From whence are we to draw the forces which are “to change the laws, customs, rules, and institutions of the world”? “From what classes and types are the revolutionaries to be drawn ? How are they to be brought into cooperation? What are to be their methods?” The labor movement is represented as an immense and dangerous force cf destruction, led by sentimentalists and pseudo-intellectuals, who have “feelings in the place of ideas.” A constructive revolution cannot possibly be contrived by these folk. The creative intellect of mankind is not to be found in these quarters, but amongst the scientists and the great modern business men. Unless we can harness to the job this type of mind and character and temperament, it can never be put through—for it is a task of immense practical complexity and intellectual difficulty. We must recruit our revolutionaries, therefore, from the Right, not from the Left. We must persuade the type of man whom it now amuses to create a great business, that there lie waiting for him yet bigger things which will amuse him more. This is Clissold’s “Open Conspiracy.” Clissold’s direction is to the Left—far, far to the Left; but he seeks to summon from the Right the creative force and the constructive will which is to carry him there. He describes himself as being temperamentally and fundamentally a liberal. But political Liberalism must die “to be born again with firmer features and a clearer will.”

Clissold is expressing a reaction against the Socialist party which very many feel, including Socialists. The remolding of the world needs the touch of the creative Brahma. But at present Brahma is serving science and business, not politics or government. The extreme danger of the world is, in Clissold’s words, lest, “before the creative Brahma can get to work, Siva, in other words the passionate destructiveness of labor awakening to its now needless limitations and privations, may make Brahma's task impossible.” We all feel this, I think. We know that we need urgently to create a milieu in which Brahma can get to work before it is too late. Up to a point, therefore, most active and constructive temperaments in every political camp are ready to join the Open Conspiracy.

What, then, is it, that holds them back? It is here, I think, that Clissold is in some way deficient and apparently lacking in insight. Why do practical men find it more amusing to make money than to join the Open Conspiracy? I suggest that it is much the same reason as that which makes them find it more amusing to play bridge on Sundays than to go to church. They lack altogether the kind of motive, the possession of which, if they had it, could be expressed by saying that they had a creed. They have no creed, these potential open conspirators, no creed whatever. That is why—unless they have the luck to be scientists or artists—they fall back on the grand substitute motive, the perfect ersatz, the anodyne for those who in fact want nothing at all—money. Clissold charges the enthusiasts of labor that they have “feelings in the place of ideas.” But he does not deny that they have feelings. Has not, perhaps, poor Mr. Cook something which Clissold lacks? Clissold and his brother Dickon, the advertising expert, flutter about the world seeking for something to which they can attach their abundant libido. But they have not found it. They would so like to be Apostles. But they cannot. They remain business men.

I have taken two themes from a book which contains dozens. They are not all treated equally well. Knowing the Universities much better than Mr. Wells does, I declare that his account contains no more than the element of truth which is proper to a caricature. He underestimates altogether their possibilities—how they may yet become temples of Brahma which even Siva will respect. But Clissold, taken altogether, is a great achievement, a huge and meaty egg from a glorious hen, an abundant outpouring of an ingenious, truthful, and generous spirit.

Though we talk about pure art as never before, this is not a good age for pure artists j nor is it a good one for classical perfections. Our most pregnant writers today are full of imperfections; they expose themselves to judgment; they do not look to be immortal. For these reasons, perhaps, we, their contemporaries, do them and the debt we owe them less than justice. What a debt every intelligent being owes to Bernard Shaw! What a debt also to H. G. Wells, whose mind seems to have grown up alongside his readers’, so that, in successive phases, be has delighted us and guided our imaginations from boyhood to maturity.

John Maynard Keynes was a British economist whose books include The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.
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Re: 'The Open Conspiracy': H.G. Wells Plots The World Empire

Postby admin » Sun Oct 13, 2019 12:50 am

H.G. Wells' Interview With Stalin Helped Change the Fundamental Principles of Liberalism
by Malcolm Cowley
The New Republic
April 23, 1935




I doubt that any other interview of the last ten years was more dramatic, more interesting as a clear statement of two positions or, in a sense, more absurdly grotesque than H.G. Wells’s interview with Stalin.

They met in Moscow on July 23 of last year and talked through an interpreter for nearly three hours. Wells gives a one-sided story in the last chapter of his “Experiment in Autobiography.” The official text of the interview can now be had in a pamphlet issued by International Publishers for two cents. A longer pamphlet, costing fifty cents in this country, was published in London by The New Statesman and Nation. It contains both the interview and an exchange of letters in which Bernard Shaw is keener and wittier than Wells or J.M. Keynes. There is, unfortunately, no letter from Stalin. We know what Wells thinks about him; it would be instructive to hear what Stalin thinks about Wells.

The drama of their meeting lay in the contrast between two systems of thought. Stalin, with full authority, was speaking for communism, for the living heritage of Marx and Engels and Lenin. Wells is not an official figure and was speaking for himself; but he spoke with the voice of Anglo-American liberalism. Stalin represented the class-conscious proletariat of all countries. Wells claimed to represent the interests of humanity as a whole, but he actually defended the middle-class-conscious technical workers. Stalin advocated revolution and Wells argued against violence. He pictured a new world-order achieved painlessly by education and by a sudden miracle of the human spirit. Stalin was too busy creating a new order to disengage its outlines form the excavations of the Moscow subway and the scaffolding that surrounds the House of the Soviets. Furthermore, there was a contrast of age and country between the two men, Stalin representing the iron age in Russia and Wells the hopefulness and trust in the future of England before the First World War.

The burlesque quality of their meeting lay in the purpose that Wells carried to Moscow. During the spring of that year he had visited America and had been enthralled by the New Deal. Brain-Trusters familiar with his own books (these, indeed, are the source of the Brain Trust) had unfolded to him “a view of the world which seemed to contain all I had ever learned and thought.” He spent an evening in the White House and decided that Roosevelt was “the most effective transmitting instrument possible for the coming of the new world order.” At the same time, he perceived a striking similarity between Washington and Moscow. The two governments differed in method, but the end they sought, “a progressively more organized big-scale production, was precisely the same.” Therefore he determined to bring them together. He thought, modestly, “If Stalin is as able as I am beginning to think him, then he must be seeing many things as I am seeing them.” He would urge Stalin to forswear Marx, to forsake the proletariat, to forget all his outdated nonsense about class hostility, and immediately to join with Roosevelt in a united front—against what? Against nothing in the world but the “mental tangles, egocentric preoccupations, obsessions, misconceived phrases, bad habits of thought, subconscious fears and dreads and plain dishonesty in people’s minds” that are today the sole obstacles standing in the way “to the attainment of universal freedom and abundance.” That was his proposal. Imagine a Mohammedan missionary setting out to convince the Pope that he ought to renounce the Bible and make pilgrimage to Mecca, after being circumcised. Then imagine Wells in the Kremlin, if you can.

Short-legged, long-waisted, smiling, armed with an ingratiatingly candid self-esteem, he makes his proclamations of faith and international good will to the interpreter, who writes them down and repeats them in Russian. Stalin, after politely asking Mr. Wells’s permission to smoke, sucks at his big pipe and gives his answers slowly. Wells rushes on to new subjects. The two men are talking in different worlds, Stalin in the iron present, Wells in the golden future; there is no meeting of minds. Yet this failure to communicate is not Stalin’s fault. He listens patiently, he considers everything Wells has to say and answers it point by point, without haste or condescension, exactly as if he were trying to explain the aims of the Russian revolution to a slow-witted but influential worker in the Putilov factory. Wells, on the other hand, hardly listens at all. Wells is the apostle, Wells is bearing a message, Wells is pursuing his own ideas with inexorable deafness. At the end of three hours he goes away, having forgotten nothing and learned nothing, except that Stalin cannot be liberalized.

It is an absurd situation, and it is also mildly tragic. If Wells had asked the right questions and had listened to the answers, he would not have been converted to Stalin’s point of view, but at least he would have been able to measure some of his own ideas against reality. Several of the proposals he made in the tracts and novels of his middle period are now being tested in the Soviet Union. Thus, he once suggested that there ought to be a caste of Samurai, men and women who would dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to the task of guiding a new society. Membership in this caste would be voluntary and open to everyone who could meet the qualifications and the severe disciplinary tests. It is obvious that the real organization standing nearest to Wells’s Samurai is the Russian Communist Party, and he might have learned how it functioned. Again, Wells has always dreamed of technically trained administrators given power to remake the world; they have some of this power under the Soviets. He had always emphasized the ideal of planning, and Stalin could have told him about some of the difficulties that must be overcome when planning is attempted on a continental scale. But Wells in the Kremlin asked no practical questions.

In recent years, such questions have ceased to concern him deeply. He has fixed his mind on the future so obstinately, he has wished and schemed and plotted so long for Utopia, that he is beginning to think it is just around the corner. “The socialist world-state,” he says, “has become a tomorrow as real as today.” But Wells’s world-state of tomorrow will be created suddenly and without shedding blood by an Open Conspiracy of middle-class technicians. It has nothing whatever to do with the socialist state that exists today in a sixth of the world, after being violently created by a proletarian revolution. Stalin can have that real state, with all its problems; Wells would rather clutch his dream.
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Re: 'The Open Conspiracy': H.G. Wells Plots The World Empire

Postby admin » Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:01 am

The Godfather of American Liberalism: H. G. Wells: novelist, historian, authoritarian, anticapitalist, eugenicist, and advisor to presidents
by Fred Siegel
City Journal
Spring 2009



A generation of American liberals, including Walter Lippmann, Margaret Sanger, and the editors of The New Republic, regarded Wells as a visionary. THE GRANGER COLLECTION

Modern American liberalism, as it emerged in the 1920s, was animated by a revolt against the masses. Liberal thinkers accused the great unwashed of smothering creative individuals in a blanket of materialist, spiritually empty cultural conformity. The liberal project was, so to speak, to refound America by replacing its business civilization—a “dictatorship of the middle class,” as Vernon Parrington put it—with a new, more highly evolved leadership. But along with the ideal of the spontaneous, creative individual, liberals also embraced government economic planning, which depended on making people more predictable. The tension between the two aspirations was resolved, rhetorically at least, by proposing to place power in the hands of scientists, academics, artists, and professionals, a new and truly worthy aristocracy that could govern based on what was good for both leaders and the led.

These antidemocratic and elitist assumptions were nowhere better illustrated than in the extraordinary career of a Briton, H. G. Wells. Wells is best remembered today as the author of such late-nineteenth-century socio-scientific fantasies as The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The Invisible Man. But he was much more than that. His political writing achieved extraordinary influence in America, not just through his defense of liberal freedoms such as free speech but through his hostility to population growth, capitalism, and democracy itself.

Herbert George Wells was already a renowned writer of fiction when in 1901 he published the nonfiction work Anticipations of the Reactions of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought. The book’s scientific prescriptions to cure social diseases turned the novelist into a seer, both in England and in America, where Anticipations had already been serialized in the North American Review. More than any other intellectual of the time, Wells spoke to two enormous nineteenth-century shifts: the growth of giant industries, which undercut the old assumptions about the sovereignty of the individual; and Darwinism’s concussive reassignment of humanity from the spiritual to the natural world, which begged for prophets of a naturalized humanity.

Numerous fin de siècle writers had looked backward at a century of material and mechanical progress, both to praise its achievements and to condemn its running sore, the seemingly permanent misery of the urban working class. But Wells looked ahead, asserting that the future as well as the past had a pattern. He argued inductively about the nature of what was likely to come, based on the way the telephone, telegraph, and railroad had shrunk the world, and he populated his predictions with a dramatic cast of collective characters. Some he loathed: the idle, parasitic rich; the “vicious helpless pauper masses,” the “People of the Abyss”; and the yapping politicians and yellow journalists whom he considered instruments of patriotism and war.

But if these people were leading the world on the path to hell, there were also the redeemers, the “New Republicans,” the “capable men” of vision who might own the future. These scientist-poets and engineers could, Wells thought, redirect the Darwinian struggle away from a descent into savagery and toward a new and higher ground. Building on the social and sexual ideals of nineteenth-century utopian reformers, Wells generated a complete cosmology, a scientific socialism to compete with Marxism, which, he thought, reduced the complexities of life to simpleminded slogans of class war. Outflanking the Marxists on their own ground, he called for a different kind of struggle, a “revolt of the competent” against the confines of conventional middle-class morality.

The conventions of Anglo-American family life, Wells believed, blocked the path toward a more highly evolved future. On one side was a “normal, ordinary world which is on the whole satisfied with itself” and encompasses “the great mass of men”—the bovine “Normal Life” of workers, clerks, and small businessmen. Opposite it stood an “ever advancing better world, pushing through this outworn husk in the minds and wills of creative humanity,” a “Great State” led by the creative class, a richly textured life that might be possible if only the new men of science could displace the vote-buying of electoral politics.

Well before Mussolini, still a revolutionary socialist in the early twentieth century, and at roughly the same time as Lenin, Wells—in the book that he called the “keystone to the main arch of my work”—gave up not only on democracy but on organized labor as a transformative force. All three men rejected what might be described as social democracy, that is, the attempt to use political means to redress the inadequacies of capitalism. Instead, each proposed a new class, a vanguard to carry forward a postcapitalist social order.

In A Modern Utopia, written in 1905, Wells updated John Stuart Mill’s culturally individualist liberalism in light of the horizons opened by Darwin and Francis Galton, the founder of eugenics. Biologically, argues the book’s narrator, the “species is the accumulation of the experiments of all its successful individuals since the beginning.” That means, he says, that the “people of exceptional quality must be ascendant.” Further, “the better sort of people, so far as they can be distinguished, must have the fullest freedom of public service.”

What provides the possibility for such freedom is eugenics. Wells has no use for the iron laws of Marxism, but he replaces them with the iron laws of Malthus and Darwin. “From the view of human comfort and happiness, the increase of population that occurs at each advance in human security is the greatest evil of life,” he writes. “The extravagant swarm of new births” that created the masses was “the essential disaster of the 19th century.” Man’s propensity to reproduce will always outstrip his productive capacity, even in an age of machinery. Worse, the “base and servile types,” who are little more than the “leaping, glittering confusion of shoaling mackerel on a sunlit afternoon,” are the most fecund.

In Anticipations, Wells had already argued horrifyingly that the “nation that most resolutely picks over, educates, sterilizes, or poisons its People of the Abyss” would be ascendant. For the base and servile types, death would mean merely “the end of the bitterness of failure.” It was “their portion to die out and disappear.” The New Republicans would have “little pity and less benevolence” for the untermenschen, “born of unrestrained lusts . . . and multiplying through sheer incontinence and stupidity.”

In A Modern Utopia, Wells, stung by criticism of Anticipations, backed off, but only partway. “Idiots,” “drunkards,” “criminals,” “lunatics,” “congenital invalids,” and the “diseased” would “spoil the world for others,” Wells again argued. But their depredations required “social surgery,” not total extermination. That meant preventing people below a set income and intelligence from reproducing, as well as isolating the “failures” on an island so that better folk could live unfettered by government intrusion. Remove the unfit, and there will be no need for jails or prisons, which are places “of torture by restraint.” Illiberalism enables liberalism.

Wells’s “Samurai,” an updated version of the New Republicans, would keep track of their charges through a centralized thumbprint index of all the earth’s inhabitants. Latter-day Puritans in everything except sex, the Samurai would lead lives of irreproachable rectitude, abjuring tobacco, alcohol, trade, and games, which they could neither join nor watch. These elect, “the clean and straight” men and women capable “of self-devotion, of intentional courage, of honest thought, and steady endeavour,” would rule in the name of the new godhead: Progress through Science. As Wells would later put it, science was to be “king of the world.”

Wells saw America, which wasn’t weighted down by ancient traditions, as the best chance for his ideas to come to fruition. A host of British visitors, from Fanny Trollope and Charles Dickens to Robert Louis Stevenson, could barely contain their disdain for their backwoods American cousins. But Wells—an anti–Henry James who saw himself as a self-made man—exulted in the absence of an established church, the embodiment of the irrational past. “Up to the point of its equality of opportunity,” he wrote, “surely no sane Englishman can do anything but admire the American state.” His 1904 nonfiction book Mankind in the Making welcomed a possible reunion of Britain and the United States based, as he saw it, on their common racial stock.

At the same time, Wells showed deep concerns about America. A socialist critic of American capitalism, he was revulsed by the “inhuman energy” of New York’s immigrant masses. In the Days of the Comet (1906) portrayed overproduction by a rapacious “gang of energetic, narrow-minded” American ironmongers as a threat to English social stability. Wells also thought that American democracy provided too much leeway to the poltroons who ran the political machines and the “fools” who supported them. The “immigrants are being given votes,” he argued, but “that does not free them, it only enslaves the country.”

In The Future in America, an account of his first trip to these shores in 1906 that was serialized in American and British magazines, Wells rightly pointed out that America was essentially “the central part of the European organism without either the dreaming head or the subjugated feet.” But that wasn’t a good thing, he claimed. In England, modern men of money “had become part of a responsible ruling class”; in America, the absence of an aristocracy had left the country without that sense of “state responsibility” that was necessary “to give significance to the whole.” The upshot was that “the typical American has no sense of the state. . . . He has no perception that his business activities, his private employments, are constituents in a larger collective process.” Further, Wells argued, America’s can-do commercialism was “crushing and maiming a great multitude of souls.” “The greatest work which the coming century has to do,” he wrote, “is to build up an aristocracy of thought and feeling which shall hold its own against the aristocracy of mercantilism” and its allies “materialism and Philistinism.”

In the course of his visit to the U.S., Wells was befriended by Jane Addams, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens, who arranged for a visit to the White House. Teddy Roosevelt, an avid reader, was delighted to talk for hours with Wells about the growing class divisions in America, which had been exacerbated by the confluence of rapid industrialization and rapid immigration. Roosevelt had rightly read The Time Machine as an anticipation of deepened class divisions hardened over time into an overworld and an underworld. The president became “gesticulatory,” his voice “straining,” Wells remembered. “Suppose after all,” Roosevelt said slowly, “that should prove to be right, and that it all ends in your butterflies and morlocks. That doesn’t matter now. The effort’s real”—Roosevelt’s reform effort to curb the power of giant monopolies, that is. “It’s worth going on with. It’s worth it—even then.”

“My hero in the confused drama of human life,” Wells wrote in The Future in America, “is intelligence; intelligence inspired by constructive passion. There is a demi-god imprisoned in mankind.” Three years before Herbert Croly’s pathbreaking book The Promise of American Life totemized Roosevelt as the incarnation of a new liberal politics that deployed Hamiltonian means to achieve Jeffersonian ends, Wells presented TR as the demigod incarnate, the very symbol of “the creative will in man.” Here was the man of the future—“traditions,” noted Wells, “have no hold on him”—a model of the Samurai. “I know of no other,” said Wells, “a tithe so representative of the creative purpose, the goodwill in men as he.”

By 1920, The Nation could describe Wells as “the most influential writer in English of our day.” Wells’s version of socialism, with its barbed attacks on Victorian gentility and its promise of sexual and artistic liberation, was far more appealing to American intellectuals than the bureaucratic droning of the Fabians or the dogmatism of the Marxists.

For many, noted historian Henry May, Wells was “the most important social prophet.” The social critic Randolph Bourne described Wells’s “religious” impact, his “power of seeming to express for us the ideas and dilemmas which we feel spring out of our modernity”—a power that was nothing less than “magical.” Walter Lippmann—the leading political commentator for the first half of the twentieth century, whose writing for The New Republic and whose books Drift and Mastery and Public Opinion shaped the emergence of modern liberalism—saw Wells as one of those “invaluable men who happen along occasionally with the ability to give hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind.” And here is literary critic Floyd Dell:

Suddenly there came into our minds the magnificent and well-nigh incredible conception of Change. . . . gigantic, miraculous change, an overwhelming of the old in ruin and an emergence of the new. Into our eternal and changeless world came H. G. Wells prophesying its ending, and the Kingdom of Heaven come upon earth; the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll, and all the familiar things of earth pass away utterly—so he seemed to cry out to our astounded ears.

Wells’s extraordinary influence sprang in part from the elitism of American intellectuals. Critic Van Wyck Brooks, for example, the first American to write a book on Wells, approvingly heard echoes of Nietzsche’s supermen in the Samurai: they were “delegates of the species, experimenting, searching for new directions; they instinctively view themselves as explorers for the race, as disinterested agents. . . . Their self-development [is] the method by which the Life Impulse discovers and rewards itself, and pushes on to ever wider and richer manifestations.” Once a new class of professionals and engineers came into its own, Brooks explained, conveying the conventional wisdom among advanced liberals, “democracy as we know it” would “pass away.” “Without doubt,” wrote Brooks, “Wells has altered the air we breathe and made a conscious fact in many minds the excellence that resides in certain kinds of men and modes of living and odiousness that resides in others.” Dell, and Lippmann too, believed themselves members of the new aristocracy of mind and character.

Other major public figures in the U.S. acknowledged Wells’s impact. Margaret Sanger, a leading feminist, militant proponent of the First Amendment, and champion of birth control and eugenics—all causes shared by Wells—believed that the author had “influenced the American intelligentsia more than any other one man.” The naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch, looking back on the 1920s, noted of Wells that “a whole surviving generation might appropriately sing in the words of the popular ballad of their days, ‘You made me what I am today.’ ” To assess Wells and George Bernard Shaw, Krutch asserted, “would come pretty close to assessing the aims, the ideals, the thinking and one might almost say, the wisdom and folly of a half-century.”

During World War I, Wells—like his admirers at The New Republic, the new magazine where he published regularly and whose name was redolent of the heroes of Anticipations—had been both an ardent antinationalist and a strong supporter of Woodrow Wilson’s vision of a new world to emerge from the terrible bloodshed. But liberal hopes for international comity were dashed, and postwar bewilderment and disillusion created an extraordinary demand for answers. Why had all civilized standards broken down in the course of the first total war? Why had so much sacrifice come to so little? Why had a war to protect the status quo ante been so destabilizing? Why was it being followed not by peace but by revolution?

Anyone who could offer “a clue, any clue, to the riddle,” said the historian J. Carlton Hayes, “was assured a large and attentive audience.” Lenin was the first off the mark, ascribing the war to the cupidity of capitalism and offering Communist internationalism as the means to peace. For perplexed Americans struggling to make sense of America’s new role in the world, Wells provided an alternative internationalist answer. His massive, two-volume The Outline of History (1920) became the best-selling nonfiction book of the decade, a sort of secular Bible, complete with creation story—in this case, Darwinian—and a promise of redemption if advances in communications and man’s intelligence were allowed to minimize the scourge of nationalism by creating a world government led by the Samurai.

Humanity, Wells said, had a common origin that allowed for a shared path toward its goal, which was “to create and develop a common consciousness and a common stock of knowledge which may serve and illuminate” reality. The recent war was the product of an “educational breakdown” in which the retrograde ideals of nationalism and patriotism had been allowed to metastasize. “There can be no peace now, we realize, but a common peace in all the world,” Wells wrote, “no prosperity but a general prosperity. But there can be no common peace and prosperity without common historical ideas.”

The Outline’s aim was to establish that common heritage, to forge the consciousness that merged “the narrow globe of the individual experience” into a “wider being,” a Jung-like shared identity as a species searching for the higher evolutionary path. In the future, Wells predicted, anticipating the liberationist ideas of the sixties, “man will breathe sweetness and generosity and use his mind and hands cleanly and exactly. He will feel better, will be better, think better, see, taste, and hear better than men do now. His undersoul will no longer be a mutinous cavern of ill-treated suppressions and of impulses repressed without understanding.” Golden youths would lead lives of deliciously complete sexual and emotional fulfillment.

When Wells came to New York in 1921 to cover the Washington Naval Conference for the New York World and London’s Daily Mail, he was received, noted the respected radical Max Eastman, as “reporter-judge.” The widely shared sense of Wells as “a priest-like teacher” brought him, said Eastman, “to his highest point at that momentous or meant to be momentous conference.” At the disarmament talks, Wells received more deference than the major nationalities’ official delegates did. A banquet “was tendered to him at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel by Ralph Pulitzer, the proprietor of the New York World,” reported Eastman, “and the outstanding dignitaries of the city—legal, political, financial, journalistic, literary—were invited to it.”

Over the next decade, Wells would meet with Presidents Harding and Hoover at the White House. But while he was still publicly lionized, his intellectual influence began to decline. Some liberals, disillusioned by the war’s outcome and angered by the hysteria of the postwar Red Scare, saw in Wells’s optimism the simplicities of a “Fabian schoolmarm,” as one critic put it, stuck in the hopeful years before the war. Soviet sympathizers similarly mocked him as “the last of the Great Parlor Socialists.”

As the bootsteps of both fascism and Communism began stamping down his influence, Wells wrote a 1924 essay, “The Spirit of Fascism: Is There Any Good in It at All?” The answer: a resounding no. “Moscow and Rome are alike in this, that they embody the rule of a minority conceited enough to believe that they have a clue to the tangled incoherencies of human life, and need only sufficiently terrorize criticism and opposition to achieve a general happiness,” Wells wrote. As elitist as his rivals but nonetheless liberal, he explained that “neither recognizes the enormously tentative quality of human institutions, and the tangled and scarcely explored difficulties in the path of social reconstruction.” At the same time, both fascists and Communists were too democratic for Wells, having attained power, as he saw it, by an ill-advised appeal to the masses. “The underlying fact in all these matters,” he concluded, was that “the common uneducated man is a violent fool in social and public affairs.”

Though Wells would always be critical of Marxism, he viewed the Soviet experiment as proof of his foresight. In What Are We to Do with Our Lives? (1931), he wrote, “The idea of reorganizing the affairs of the world on quite a big scale, which was ‘Utopian,’ and so forth, in 1926 and 1927, and still ‘bold’ in 1928, has now spread about the world until nearly everybody has it. It has broken out all over the place, thanks largely to the mental stimulation of the Russian Five Year Plan.” But drawing again on Marx’s “utopian” predecessors, he promised an anodyne adaptation of Soviet central planning shorn of police-state thuggery. He called for a “great central organization of economic science,” which “would necessarily produce direction; it would indicate what had best be done here, there, and everywhere.” But “it would not be an organization of will, imposing its will upon a recalcitrant race; it would be a direction, just as a map is a direction.” A map, he explained, “imposes no will on anyone, breaks no one in to its ‘policy.’ And yet we obey our maps.”

The book fell flat. As one critic put it, “Wells is the mostly highly imaginative human being living,” but “his intellect can’t keep pace with his imagination.” By 1932, a frustrated Wells found his superior wisdom bypassed time and again by the superior mass appeal of fascism and Communism. In a talk at Oxford provocatively titled “Liberal Fascism,” he called for liberalism to be “born again.” After his customary denunciation of parliamentary politics as an anachronism, he let out his frustrations, calling for fascist means to serve liberal ends by way of a liberal elite as “conceited” and as power-hungry as its rivals. “I suggest that you study the reinvigoration of Catholicism by Loyola,” Wells said. “I am asking for a Liberal Fascisti.” It was also to Communism that “we shall have to turn—we outsiders, that is, the young people with foresight for enlightened Nazis; I am proposing that you consider the formation for a greater Communist Party; a western response to Russia.”

Wells thought he had found that Western response in 1934, when he met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and with key members of FDR’s Brains Trust. “My impression of both him and Mrs. Roosevelt,” he wrote, “is that they are unlimited people, entirely modern in the openness of their minds and the logic of their actions.” Here, for a time at least, was another political hero with whom he could identify wholeheartedly. FDR was “continually revolutionary in the new way without ever provoking a stark revolutionary crisis,” wrote the ever-certain Wells. “I do not say that the President has these revolutionary ideas in so elaborate and comprehensive a form as they have come to me, [but] unless I misjudge him, they will presently possess him altogether.” Indeed, FDR was “the most effective transmitting instrument possible for the coming of the new world order,” and in Brains Trusters Raymond Moley, Felix Frankfurter, and Rex Tugwell, Wells found the nucleus of the new elite, those who were destined to take full power in time.

Wells retained his judgment of FDR even after meeting with Stalin four months later in his capacity as president of Poets, Essayists, and Novelists (PEN), an international association dedicated to defending freedom of speech. Wells, noted Malcolm Cowley, the philo-Stalinist literary critic of The New Republic, was “not an official figure,” but when he met with Stalin, “he spoke with the voice of Anglo-American liberalism.” Seeking to outflank Stalin, he told the Soviet dictator, “It seems to me that I am more to the Left than you. I think the old system is closer to the end than you think.” Wells asked an unimpressed Stalin to abandon the class struggle on the grounds that the future lay with the Royal Society, the leading British academy, which had called scientific planning the best path to the future. Stalin, echoing Lenin’s earlier reaction to Wells—after a friendly 1920 meeting, the revolutionary had found the seer “incurably middle-class”—responded with a lecture on the unavoidably bourgeois character of experts.

Wells thought the loss of freedom for Russian writers was temporary and seemed to accept Stalin’s insistence that vigorous debate within the party took place. Despite Stalin’s impermeability, Wells concluded that “I have never met a man more candid, fair and honest, and it is to these qualities and to nothing occult and sinister, that he owes his tremendous undisputed ascendancy in Russia. . . . No one is afraid of him and everyone trusts him.” Wells summed up the differences between Washington and Moscow by arguing that “the one is a receptive and coordinating brain center; the other is a concentrated and personal direction.” The aim sought, “a progressively more organized big-scale community,” was “precisely the same.” The New Republic and The Nation were churning out similar conclusions weekly.

Still, Wells placed his hopes for the future on FDR, not on Stalin. In 1935, he did a series of articles on the New Deal for Collier’s, extolling FDR’s program as a model for the world. But Wells had little new to say. He was still a major figure in America but no longer a major influence, and when eventually he soured on the New Deal as not having attained his exalted expectations, it was to scant effect.

In Germany, of course, the eugenics and central planning that Wells touted soon led in directions that the futurist didn’t anticipate. Wells attempted to explain away Hitler as “the screaming little defective in Germany”—an explanation for which George Orwell had only contempt. But Orwell nonetheless recognized Wells’s extraordinary impact. “I doubt whether anyone who was writing books between 1900 and 1920, at any rate in the English language, influenced the young so much,” Orwell wrote. “The minds of all of us . . . would be perceptibly different if Wells had never existed.”

Orwell was right. It was Wells who made it respectable, even before World War I, for liberals in England and America to demean their own native democratic culture in the name of an imagined antidemocratic World State. And it was Wells, with his stature as the prophet of the future, who taught upper-middle-class liberals that they were entitled to govern in the name of social evolution.

Fred Siegel is a City Journal contributing editor, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and a professor at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.
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Re: 'The Open Conspiracy': H.G. Wells Plots The World Empire

Postby admin » Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:09 am

Utopian Pessimist: The works, world view, and women of H. G. Wells
by Adam Kirsch
The New Yorker
October 10, 2011



In his sex life, as in his political and scientific views, Wells considered himself a representative of a freer, more rational future.

Looking back on his life, at the age of sixty-five, H. G. Wells concluded that it could be written only as a comedy. “Imperfection and incompleteness are the certain lot of all creative workers,” he wrote in “Experiment in Autobiography,” his entertainingly candid memoir. “The life story to be told of any creative worker is therefore by its very nature, by its diversions of purpose and its qualified success, by its grotesque transitions from sublimation to base necessity and its pervasive stress towards flight, a comedy.”

In this tolerant spirit, he was more than willing to acknowledge the unevenness of his literary achievement. No writer as prolific as Wells could possibly hope for Flaubertian perfection: between 1895, when he made his sensational début with “The Time Machine,” and his death, in 1946, he published more than a hundred books. After the early “scientific romances”—gripping stories about time travel, invisibility, and alien invasion which made Wells the father of modern sci-fi—he produced best-sellers of all kinds. There were Dickensian comedies, like “Kipps” and “The History of Mr. Polly”; topical novels, like “Ann Veronica” (about the suffragette movement) and “Mr. Britling Sees It Through” (about the First World War); groundbreaking works of futurology, like “Anticipations,” in which he predicted everything from suburbanization to aerial warfare; and his autodidact’s masterpiece, “The Outline of History,” which compressed all of human achievement into two volumes, and sold millions of copies around the world.

The flood of Wells’s prose lifted him from the respectable poverty in which he was raised to wealth and international fame. In his memoirs, he writes proudly about his meetings with Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Lenin, and Stalin. Writing in 1941, George Orwell—whose own nom de plume sounds like a tribute to Herbert George Wells—declared that “thinking people who were born about the beginning of this century are in some sense Wells’s own creation. . . . The minds of all of us, and therefore the physical world, would be perceptibly different if Wells had never existed.”

Yet this praise comes in the course of a devastating essay, “Wells, Hitler and the World State,” in which Orwell finally judges Wells to be obsolete, “a shallow, inadequate thinker” whose Edwardian vision of human progress has been thoroughly falsified by history. All of his best writing was done before the First World War, Orwell concludes; after that, he merely “squandered his talents.” David Lodge, whose new novel, “A Man of Parts” (Random House; $26.95), is a lightly fictionalized retelling of Wells’s life, has the aged writer sharing this view. Lodge’s Wells imagines what his obituaries will say: “All the emphasis will be on the first half of his life—up to, say, 1920.” Michael Sherborne, whose recent biography, “H. G. Wells: Another Kind of Life” (Peter Owen; $35), is a brisk and witty complement to Lodge’s novel, issues an even sterner verdict: “If a hemorrhage had carried Wells off in 1898, how would we see him now? His reputation would have been very different, probably much higher, and it would rest squarely on the scientific romances.”

Surely no writer could be cheered by the thought that posterity would judge the last forty-eight years of his life an anticlimax. Indeed, the “imperfection and incompleteness” that, to Wells, made a comedy of creative effort are exactly what make the greatest artists’ lives into tragedies. Lodge, in a previous novel, “Author, Author,” gave the same kind of fictional treatment to Henry James’s life, focussing on the notorious failure of James’s 1895 stage play, “Guy Domville.” The image of James taking a bow to the jeers and catcalls of the audience has become one of the primal scenes of modernism, and James is revered as “the Master” partly because of his willingness to wager everything—popularity, fortune, happiness, life—on his vision of artistic perfection. “We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have,” one James character declares. “Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

Wells, who was in the audience at James’s fiasco and learned from the experience, had his own, considerably more chipper approach to the literary life. “It scarcely needs criticism to bring home to me that much of my work has been slovenly, haggard and irritated, most of it hurried and inadequately revised, and some of it as white and pasty in its texture as a starch-fed nun,” he admitted. But he was not unduly bothered by this: “I have to overwork, with all the penalties of overworking in loss of grace and finish, to get my work done.” Nor, for that matter, did Wells believe that he had any great gifts to squander. “The brain upon which my experiences have been written is not a particularly good one. If there were brain-shows, as there are cat and dog shows, I doubt if it would get even a third class prize,” he insisted.

The contrast between James’s and Wells’s approaches to literature was too significant for their friendship to be unaffected. Lodge fills “A Man of Parts” with quotations from original sources, including a number of the letters that James wrote to Wells congratulating him on each new publication. These are masterpieces of passive aggression, each piece of flattery swathing a shard of reproof. The protagonist of “Kipps,” James wrote, is “not so much a masterpiece as a mere born gem”; “the more one thought about this metaphor,” Lodge’s Wells muses, “the less credit it gave the novelist for artistry, and the more it seemed to attribute his achievement to luck.” A later Wells novel brought James’s compliments on “your capacity for chewing up the thickness of the world in such enormous mouthfuls, while you fairly slobber, so to speak, with the multitudinous taste.”

After such dubious praise, it was hardly surprising when James took to print to attack “The Younger Generation” of English novelists, including Wells, whose fictional technique he compared to a man squeezing a sponge out of an open window. In response, Wells devoted much of his novel “Boon” to mocking James, memorably comparing his laborious prose style to a hippopotamus trying to pick up a pea. This contretemps brought their friendship to a close, but it twinned them in the eyes of posterity—so much so that it seems natural for Lodge to follow a novel about James with one about Wells.

What kept Wells at his desk for so many productive hours, if not James’s “madness of art”? There’s no doubt what answer Wells himself would give. The goal of his writing, he maintained, was not personal glory or lasting beauty but the betterment of mankind. His life’s work was “the attempt to disentangle the possible drift of life in general and of human life in particular from the confused stream of events, and the means of controlling that drift, if such are to be found.” He thought of himself as essentially not a novelist but a social scientist, who tried “to make a practically applicable science out of history and sociology.”

Wells’s self-image as a man of science had very deep roots. As a teen-ager, he fought hard against his parents’ plans to make him a draper’s apprentice. Instead, he cobbled together enough schooling to win a scholarship to study at the Normal School of Science (now the Royal College of Science), under Thomas Huxley, a famous biologist and disciple of Darwin. Wells’s record as a student was inglorious—after three years, he failed to pass his qualifying exams—but the ambition to be taken seriously as some kind of scientist never left him. In 1943, he prevailed upon the University of London to give him a Ph.D. for a work that purported to be a dissertation, but was really just another of his quasi-scientific essays, “On the Quality of Illusion in the Continuity of the Individual Life.” The school was “stretching a point in awarding him a doctorate on the strength of it,” Sherborne writes, but since it had already given him an honorary doctorate of literature, it must have seemed that it couldn’t hurt to gratify Wells’s lifelong wish.

Wells may not have been an expert in any particular scientific field, but he believed wholeheartedly in the idea of science, especially when it came to the rational government of human beings. In book after book, novels and nonfiction alike, Wells hammered home the message that humanity could improve its lot only by entrusting power to a self-selected caste of enlightened technicians, who would rule according to the dictates of science. At different times, he called this virtuous élite the New Republicans, the Samurai, and the Open Conspiracy; it can be thought of as an idealized version of the Fabian Society, the élite socialist group to which Wells briefly belonged. He first described this caste in “Anticipations,” the 1901 book he called “the keystone to the main arch of my work.” “The dominant men of the new time,” he writes, will “all be artists in reality, with a passion for simplicity and directness and an impatience of confusion and inefficiency,” dedicated to creating the “future world state to which all things are pointing.”

The program Wells hoped to implement was socialist and progressive. He was a strong believer in free speech and free thought, and in the elimination of war through international coöperation. During the First World War, these convictions led him to work for the establishment of the League of Nations; during the Second, he helped to draft a manifesto that became a basis for the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In “Ann Veronica,” he describes the atmosphere of intellectual ferment in which he thrived: “a great discontent with and criticism of life as it is lived, [and] a clamorous confusion of ideas for reconstruction—reconstruction of the methods of business, of economic development, of the rules of property, of the status of children, of the clothing and feeding and teaching of everyone.”

Wells was also, like many progressives of his time, a believer in eugenics, and he could write with disconcerting eagerness about which categories of human beings would be put to death in his utopian state. “The New Republic,” he wrote in “Anticipations,” would have no use for “a multitude of contemptible and silly creatures, fear-driven and helpless and useless, unhappy or hatefully happy in the midst of squalid dishonour, feeble, ugly, inefficient, born of unrestrained lusts, and increasing and multiplying through sheer incontinence and stupidity.” In the shining future, Wells wrote, the élite would feel good about killing off such people, because “they will have an ideal that will make killing worth the while.”

Clearly, this vision of progress is hard to reconcile with anything as old-fashioned as democracy. One of Wells’s books was titled “After Democracy,” and he once wrote, “We want the world ruled, not by everybody, but by a politically minded organization open, with proper safeguards, to everybody.” The Italian Fascists and especially the Soviet Communist Party were good examples of what he had in mind: “If Russia has done nothing else for mankind, the experiment of the Communist Party is alone sufficient to justify her revolution.” He had a particular admiration for Stalin, whom he found less intellectually sophisticated than Lenin, but humanly superior: “I have never met a man more candid, fair and honest, and to those qualities it is, and to nothing occult and sinister, that he owes his tremendous undisputed ascendancy in Russia.”

Neither Lodge nor Sherborne quotes that bit of character analysis, and they seem to agree that it would be unkind to hold Wells too strictly to account for all of his numerous published opinions. This is especially true when it comes to his obsessive anti-Semitism. “Read in the shadow of the Holocaust,” Sherborne pleads, “Wells’s references to Jews may cause some discomfort, but he was writing before the Holocaust, and his alternating praise and criticism of Jews . . . does not condemn him to the category of anti-Semites occupied by Belloc, Pound and Eliot.”

This is true, but only because Wells belonged to a different anti-Semitic tradition: not of the nationalist right but of the progressive left. He believed that the Jews were responsible for the invention of nationalism, and blamed them for clinging stubbornly to their parochial identity. (Lodge quotes his view that Nazism was merely “inverted Judaism.”) It is hard to read his 1939 book “The Fate of Homo Sapiens,” with its chapter on “The Jewish Influence,” without feeling that Wells, while appalled by Nazism and opposed to anti-Semitic persecution, rather felt that the Jews had it coming. Sherborne complains about the tendency of recent critics of Wells to dwell on the worst aspects of his political thought, but at least criticizing him means taking his ideas seriously—as seriously as Orwell did when he wrote “1984,” which reads like a dystopian rebuttal to Wells’s sinister utopian fantasies.

If Wells is neither a great literary artist, which he never claimed to be, nor an admirable political thinker, which he certainly did claim to be, then why do we continue to care about him? The best reason lies in the science-fiction novels he turned out with such amazing speed at the very beginning of his career. Wells was not the creator of the genre—Jules Verne explored the romance of modern technology decades before Wells wrote his scientific romances. But as the continuing movie adaptations of his work make clear, Wells remains our contemporary in a way that Verne does not. This is because of the conviction of utter hopelessness that runs through all Wells’s science fiction. As different as he was from Henry James, he possessed a full measure of what James called “the imagination of disaster.” He belonged to a generation that grew up in the bright shadow of “The Origin of Species,” and entered adulthood to the strains of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra.”

Relativism and nihilism were Wells’s inheritance, and the power of his scientific romances comes from the way he gives these ideas dramatic form. In “The Time Machine,” the narrator travels to the year 802,701, only to find that every vestige of human achievement, and humanity itself, has disappeared. In “The War of the Worlds,” an attack by technologically advanced Martians shows how contemptible a place humanity occupies in the universe; repeatedly, Wells writes that the Martians are to humans as humans are to beasts. If these stories continue to get told and retold, to the point that they seem more like folk stories than like the inventions of a single mind, it is because we are still living with the trauma of mankind’s demotion by science. Wells had a gift that was perhaps even rarer than the gift of being a great novelist: he represented an era by dreaming its nightmares for it.

Wells’s way of writing and living—provisional, pragmatic, epicurean—was his principled response to a universe in which ultimate values seemed an illusion. And if Wells’s life was a comedy, the biggest, most rueful laughter came from the sex scenes. That is why miniature black-and-white photos of naked women cavort across the cover of “A Man of Parts,” and you don’t have to read far to figure out that the “parts” of which Lodge’s Wells is made are preëminently private: “ ‘Is that your . . .?’ Amber whispered. ‘That is my erect penis,’ he said, ‘a column of blood, one of the marvels of nature, a miracle of hydraulic engineering.’ ‘It’s enormous,’ she said.’ ”

According to Lodge’s count, Wells “must have had well over a hundred women in his lifetime.” The tally includes two wives, four or five long-term mistresses, and two teen-age daughters of fellow-leaders of the Fabian Society. Several important writers are on the list—Rebecca West, Elizabeth von Arnim, Margaret Sanger, Martha Gellhorn (possibly)—as well as one probable Soviet spy, Moura Budberg, Wells’s last great love. There was also at least one lunatic, Hedwig Gatternigg, who started out as one of his many casual conquests—what Wells liked to call his passades—but proved harder than most to get rid of. Finally, she turned up at his house wearing nothing but an overcoat, brandishing a razor and declaring that if he didn’t have sex with her immediately she would kill herself. She managed to get in a few superficial cuts before Wells and the porter disarmed her and turned her over to the police. Fortunately for Wells, his friendship with England’s leading press barons allowed him to keep the whole story out of the papers.

Remarkably, given this Leporello-scale catalogue, Wells fathered only two children out of wedlock—one deliberately, with the young Fabian Amber Reeves, and one accidentally, with West. On the latter occasion, Lodge explains, the presence of a housekeeper made it impossible for the lovers to get into the bedroom, where Wells kept his “French letters.” “He considered himself a skilled exponent of coitus interruptus,” Lodge writes, “but on this occasion, sprawled on top of Rebecca, with one foot on the floor, he slipped on a rug and the sudden change of position caused him to ejaculate before he could withdraw. . . . ‘You’ll find a bidet in there,’ he said. ‘I should make very thorough use of it.’ ”

It all sounds like good material for a sex farce. If “A Man of Parts” does not read that way, it is partly because, as these samples suggest, Lodge’s prose is not exactly carefree. Lodge is well known both as a literary scholar and as the author of satirical campus novels like “Nice Work” and “Small World.” Writing about a historical figure, however, the novelist’s wit is usually smothered by the scholar’s conscientiousness. Long passages of “A Man of Parts” read as simple biography, and Lodge recounts much more than he dramatizes.

He also seems a little uncomfortable writing directly about sex, a reticence that, he points out, Wells shared: “He had never felt any urge to describe the sexual act and its variations in his fiction—it was the sort of discourse he preferred to keep private, confined to his love letters and pillow talk.” When it comes to the main event, Lodge tends to resort to elegant variation: his Wells has “vigorous and joyful intercourse” at one moment, “torrid and jungly intercourse” at another. And there is something a little clinical about the way he has Wells, after an unusual dry spell, “release the pent seed of three weeks’ abstinence.” By contrast, Sherborne’s puns at least have the advantage of sprightliness: describing Wells’s wedding night, he writes, “The only maidenhead he knew about was the one on the road to Reading.”

Wells knew that his sex life was unusually eventful, and he expected posterity to want to know about it. After completing “Experiment in Autobiography,” he went on to write a private “Postscript,” in which he could be more explicit about “sexual events and personal intimacies.” Not published until 1984, under the title “H. G. Wells in Love,” it supplies much of the material for Lodge’s novel. Here Wells talks about his sexually disappointing first marriage to his cousin Isabel, and his equally passionless second marriage to Amy Catherine Robbins, known as Jane, who settled more or less happily into the role of the great man’s friend, secretary, and enabler. “She had always regarded my sexual imaginativeness as a sort of constitutional disease; she stood by me patiently, unobtrusively waiting for the fever to subside,” Wells writes. “Perhaps if she had not been immune to such fevers I should not have gone astray.”

It is moving to read of Wells’s happy, liberating surprise at discovering that there were, in fact, women who liked sex as much as he did. Yet, just as he denied being an unusually talented writer, so he demurred, “I have never been able to discover whether my interest in sex is more than normal. There is no meter yet for that sort of thing.” The only difference between him and the average product of Victorian England, he suspected, was that “I have had no considerable restraints from the outside upon realizing my imaginations. . . . Except in so far as affection put barriers about me, I have done what I pleased so that every bit of sexual impulse in me has expressed itself. Most other men probably have as much or more drive, I suspect, but less outlet.”

In his sex life, as in his political and scientific views, Wells considered himself a representative of a freer, more rational future. “My story of my relations with women . . . would not be worth the telling if it were merely my particular story,” he said. “But it is really a tale of a world of dislocated sexual relations and failure to adjust.” What Wells practiced might be described as serial monogamy alternating with meaningless promiscuity, which describes the sex lives of many or most people in the Western world today. This sexual regime has its own discontents, and people still write novels about them, but both the discontents and the novels are different in kind, not just in degree, from what they were a century ago.

Agood way to measure the change is to compare “A Man of Parts,” with its matter-of-fact, even staid, copulations, to Wells’s novel “Ann Veronica.” That book tells the story of a liberated middle-class girl who moves to London, becomes a suffragette, and falls in love with her married science teacher, Mr. Capes. There is nothing approaching a sex scene in the book, and Wells minimizes Ann Veronica’s crime against the institution of marriage by making clear that Capes is separated from his wife. But the forthrightness of her pursuit—“ ‘I want you. I want you to be my lover. I want to give myself to you. . . . Is that plain?’ she asked”—put the novel beyond the pale in 1909. Lodge quotes a reviewer who denounced Wells’s vision of “a community of scuffling stoats and ferrets, unenlightened by a ray of duty or abnegation.” Sherborne has an even choicer example, from a critic who declared, “I would as soon send a daughter of mine to a house infected with diphtheria or typhoid fever as put that book into her hands.”

Such readers would have been even more apoplectic had they known about the love affair on which “Ann Veronica” was based. This was Wells’s grand passion for Amber Reeves, the brilliant, nineteen-year-old daughter of a leading Fabian. Amber was just one of a series of young women who threw themselves at Wells, begging him to initiate them in the secrets of sex. “Encyclopedias and medical textbooks can only tell you so much,” Lodge has her complain in “A Man of Parts,” just before she experiences the miracle of hydraulic engineering. Eventually Amber prevailed upon Wells to give her a child, and the couple escaped complete social ruin only thanks to Amber’s complaisant admirer Rivers Blanco White, who agreed to marry her and raise Wells’s daughter as his own.

What attracted Amber Reeves and Rebecca West and so many others was not Wells’s physical presence—a malnourished childhood had left him short and slight, until he became short and stout with age—but what he represented. Wells sincerely believed in sexual frankness and women’s liberation, at a time when Victorian chastity was curdling into a burdensome hypocrisy. He makes this plain in his description of Capes, one of many characters in his fiction based squarely on himself: “Surely Capes was different. Capes looked at one and not over one, spoke to one, treated one as a visible concrete fact. . . . Anyhow, he did not sentimentalize her.”

Just how little Wells sentimentalized sex becomes clear in his memoir. He made an exception for his wives and two or three of his mistresses, but the rest of his passades, he wrote, “had much the same place in my life that fly-fishing or golfing has in the life of many busy men.” One might say that with sex, as with art, Wells was too modern a man to bother about what James called the doubt, the passion, and the task. He wrote and loved pragmatically, hygienically, in order to discharge certain energies and accomplish certain goals. That is why, paradoxical though it may sound, Henry James’s famous celibacy is more fertile for our imaginations than Wells’s amorousness—just as James’s artistry is more compelling than Wells’s productivity. James believed that the way he lived and wrote had a permanent symbolic value, and believing it made it true.

Wells’s deepest conviction, on the other hand, can be heard in the last pages of his novel “Tono-Bungay,” in which a journey through London down the Thames becomes a metaphor for the mutability of all human things. “The river passes—London passes, England passes,” Wells writes. “We are all things that make and pass striving upon a hidden mission, out to the open sea.” The problem he set himself was how to combine that mission, his furious devotion to human progress, with a cool certainty that the end of all progress would be entropy, devolution, nullity. The way he lived this paradox, even more than his books, is what makes Wells, still, an exemplary modern man.

Adam Kirsch is a poet, critic, and the author of, most recently, “The Global Novel: Writing the World in the 21st Century.”
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Re: 'The Open Conspiracy': H.G. Wells Plots The World Empire

Postby admin » Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:17 am

New Republic
by Spartacus Educational
Accessed: 10/12/19



Dorothy Straight and her husband, Willard Straight, were both deeply influenced by The Promise of American Life, a book written by the journalist, Herbert Croly. In 1914 Croly was invited to meet Dorothy and Willard at their Long Island home. While there, Croly commented that Norman Hapgood, the recently appointed editor of Harper's Weekly, had failed to turn it into the liberal journal that America needed. Dorothy suggested that the three of them should start their own journal.

The first edition of the New Republic appeared on 7th November, 1914. Willard Straight supplied the money and Herbert Croly became its first editor. The magazine was run by a small editorial board that included Croly's friend, Walter Lippmann. All outside contributions were submitted to the editorial board and had to be accepted by all members before it could appear in the magazine. Early contributors included Walter Weyl, Randolph Bourne, Charles Beard, Amy Lowell, Henry Brailsford and H. G. Wells.

When it was first published, the New Republic had 32 pages, including self-cover, and contained no illustrations. Its first edition sold 875 copies but after a year the circulation reached 15,000. The New Republic became a strong supporter of Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive movement.

On the outbreak of the First World War, Herbert Croly argued for American neutrality. The New Republic published articles by British critics of the war such as Norman Angell and Harold Laski. However, after the sinking of the Lusitania, Croly urged American entry into war. After Congress declared war on Germany, the New Republic gave Woodrow Wilson its full support. This upset those that still believed in neutrality and Max Eastman, editor of The Masses, complained that the New Republic had become a mouthpiece of President Wilson.

After the war Herbert Croly became much more critical of Woodrow Wilson and described the Versailles Treaty as "a peace of annihilation". He also disliked the League of Nations, an organisation that "would perpetuate rather than correct the evils of the treaty." Sales of the New Republic reached 43,000 during the First World War but declined during the 1920s.

Willard Straight died during the influenza epidemic in 1918 but Dorothy Straight continued to fund what had now become a loss-making venture. Herbert Croly continued to persuade some of the most prominent literary figures in the United States and Britain to write for the journal. This included Edmund Wilson, Waldo Frank, Jane Addams, Bertrand Russell, H. G. Wells, Virginia Woolf and John Maynard Keynes.

Bruce Bliven replaced Herbert Croly as editor of the New Republic in 1930. Bliven continued the tradition of the New Republic to argue for left of centre solutions to America's problems and in 1932 supported the socialist candidate, Norman Thomas, for president. Four years later, Bliven switched to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Writers who wrote for the New Republic between the wars included H. L. Mencken, John Dos Passos, Willa Cather and Michael Gold. In 1946 Henry A. Wallace became editor and under his leadership circulation reached a all-time high of nearly 100,000. Wallace resigned in December, 1947, when he decided to run for the presidency. He was replaced by Michael Whitney Straight, the son of the magazine's founders. Circulation of the New Republic fell to 30,000 in the 1950s and one commentator described it as "that faint voice of the left".
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Re: 'The Open Conspiracy': H.G. Wells Plots The World Empire

Postby admin » Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:07 am

Part 1 of 2

The Idea of a League of Nations: "What has happened is essentially this, that the natural limitations upon warfare which have existed hitherto appear to have broken down."
by Herbert George Wells
The Atlantic
January, 1919



The 10th annual session of the League of Nations meets in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 15, 1930.AP

H. G. WELLS, Chairman



Unification of human affairs, to the extent at least of a cessation of war and a worldwide rule of international law, is no new idea; it can be traced through many centuries of history. It is found as an acceptable commonplace in a fragment, De Republica, of Cicero. It has, indeed, appeared and passed out of the foreground of thought, and reapeared there, again and again.

Hitherto, however, if only on account of the limitations of geographical knowledge, the project has rarely been truly world-wide, though in some instances it has comprehended practically all the known world. Almost always there has been an excluded fringe of barbarians and races esteemed as less than men.

The Roman Empire realized the idea in a limited sphere and in a mechanical, despotic fashion. It was inherent in the propaganda of Islam—excluding the unbeliever. It may be said that the political unity of Christendom overriding states and nations was the orthodox and typical doctrine of the Middle Ages. The individual states were regarded as being, in the nature of things, members of one great body politic, presided over by the Pope, or the Emperor, or both. It was the idea of the world supremacy of the Empire which inspired Dante's De Monarchia; but, as Lord Bryce has remarked, 'Dante's book was an epilogue instead of a prophecy.'

It cannot be claimed that history shows any continuously progressive movement of human affairs from a dispersed to a unified condition. Rather it tells a story of the oscillating action of separatist and unifying forces. And the process of civilization itself, if we use the word in its narrower and older sense of the elaboration of citizenship in a political and social organization, and exclude mechanical and scientific progress from it, has on the whole been rather on the side of fragmentation. It was, for example, much easier for loosely organized tribes and village communities scattered over wide areas to coalesce into vague and often very extensive 'nations,' like the Scythians and Thracians, or to cooperate in 'amplictyonics,' or federations, like the small peoples of central Greece, than for highly developed city-states or fully organized monarchies, possessing a distinctive culture and religion and definite frontiers, to sink these things in any larger union. For such higher forms of political organization, enlargement occurred mainly through conquest., which created unstable empire systems of subject and subordinate peoples under the sway—which might of course be the assimilative sway—of a dominant nation, rather than real unifications.

The Renaissance presents a phase in history in which a large vague unification (Christendom) is seen to be breaking up simultaneously with the appearance of a higher grade of national organization. Machiavelli, with his aspiration toward a united Italy, involving a distintegration of the Empire, opened the phase of the national state in Europe, which reached its fullest development in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Before the Renaissance Europe was far more of a unity than it was at the close of the reign of Queen Victoria, when it consisted mainly of a group of nations, with their national edges sharpened and hardened almost to a maximum, each aspiring to empire and each acutely suspicious of and hostile to its neighbors. The idea of international organization for peace seemed far more Utopian to the normal European intelligence in 1900 than it would have done eight hundred years before.

But while those political and social developments which constitute civilization in the narrower sense of the word were tending to make human societies, as they became more elaborately organized, more heterogeneous and mutually unsympathetic, there were also coming into play throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for the first time, upon a quite unprecedented scale, another series of forces diametrically opposed to human separations. They worked, however, mutely, because the world of thought was unprepared for them. Unprecedented advances in technical and scientific knowledge were occurring, and human cooperation and the reaction of man upon man, not only in material but also in mental things, was being made enormously more effective than it had ever been before. But the phrases of international relationship were not altering to correspond. Phrases usually follow after rather than anticipate reality, and so it was that at the outbreak of the Great War in August, 1914, Europe and the world awoke out of a dream of intensified nationality to a new system of realities which were entirely antagonistic to the continuance of national separations.

It is necessary to state very plainly the nature of these new forces. Upon them rests the whole case for the League of Nations as it is here presented. It is a new case. It is argued here that these forces give us powers novel in history and bring mankind face to face with dangers such as it has never confronted before. It is maintained that, on the one hand, they render possible such a reasoned coordination of human affairs as has never hitherto been conceivable, and that, on the other, they so enlarge and intensify the scope and evil of war and of international hostility as to give what was formerly a generous aspiration more and more of the aspect of an imperative necessity. Under the lurid illumination of the world war, the idea of world-unification has passed rapidly from the sphere of the literary idealist into that of the methodical, practical man, and the task of an examination of its problems and possibilities, upon the scale which the near probability of an actual experiment demands, is thrust upon the world.

All political and social institutions, all matters of human relationship, are dependent upon the means by which mind may react upon mind and life upon life, that is to say upon the intensity, rapidity, and reach of mental and physical communication. In the history of mankind, the great phases seem all to be marked by the appearance of some new invention which facilitates trade or intercourse, and may be regarded as the operating cause of the new phase. The invention of writing, of the wheel and the road, of the ship, of money, of printing, of letters of exchange, of joint-stock undertakings and limited liability, mark distinct steps in the enlargement of human intercourse and cooperation from its original limitation within the verbal and traditional range of the family or tribe.

A large part of the expansion of the Roman Empire, apart from its overseas development, may be considered, for example, as a process of road-making and bridge-building. Even its trans-Mediterranean development was a matter of road-making combined with ship-building. The Roman Empire, like the Chinese, expanded on land to an extremity determined by the new method of road-communication; and sought to wall itself in at last at the limits of its range from its centres of strength. The new chapter of the human story again, which began with the entry of America and the Oceanic lands upon the stage of history, was the direct outcome of that bold sailing out upon the oceans which the mariner's compass, and the supersession of the galley by the development of sails and rigging, rendered possible. The art of printing from movable types released new powers of suggestion, documentation, and criticism, which shattered the old religious organization of Christendom, made the systematic investigations and records of modern science possible, and created the vast newspaper-reading democracies of to-day. The whole of history could, indeed, be written as a drama of human nature reacting to invention.

And we live to-day in a time of accelerated inventiveness and innovation, when a decade modifies the material of inter-communication far more extensively than did any century before, in range, swiftness, and intensity alike. Within the present century, since 1900, there have been far more extensive changes in these things than occurred in the ten centuries before Christ. Instead of regarding Around the World in Eighty Days as an amazing feat of hurry, we can now regard a flight about the globe in fifteen or sixteen days as a reasonable and moderate performance. The teaching of history compels us to recognize in these new facilities factors which will necessarily work out into equally revolutionary social and political consequences. It is the most obvious wisdom to set ourselves to anticipate as far as we can, so as to mitigate and control, the inevitable collisions and repercussions of mankind that are coming upon us. Even if we were to suppose that this rush of novel accelerating contrivances would be presently checked,—and there is little justification for any such supposition,—it would still behoove us to work out the influence which the things already achieved will have upon our kind.

And it is not simply an increase of range and swiftness that we have to consider here, though these are the aspects that leap immediately to the eye. There has also been, for example, a very great increase in the possible vividness of mental impact. In education and in the agencies of journalism and propaganda, there has been an increase of power at present incalculable, owing to vast strides in the printing of pictures, and to the cinematograph, the gramaphone, and similar means of intense world-wide information and suggestion.


While all these things, on the one hand, point plainly now to such possibilities of human unification and world unanimity as no one could have dreamed of a hundred years ago, there has been, on the other hand, a change, an intensification, of the destructive processes of war which opens up a black alternative to this pacific settlement of human affairs. The case as it is commonly stated in the propaganda literature for a League of Nations is a choice between, on the one hand, a general agreement on the part of mankind to organize a permanent peace, and on the other, a progressive development of the preparation for war and the means of conducting war which must ultimately eat up human freedom and all human effort, and, as the phrase goes, destroy civilization. We shall find as we proceed that these simple oppositions do not by any means state all the possibilities of the case; but for a moment or so it will be convenient to confine our attention to this enhancement of the cost, burden, and destructiveness of belligerence which scientific and technical progress has made inevitable.

What has happened is essentially this, that the natural limitations upon warfare which have existed hitherto appear to have broken down. Hitherto there has been a certain proportion between the utmost exertion of a nation at war and the rest of its activities. The art and methods of war have had a measurable relation to the resources of the community as a whole, so that it has been possible for nations to be well armed by the standards of the time and yet to remain vigorous and healthy communities, and to wage successful wars without exhaustion.

To take a primitive example, it was possible for the Zulu people, under King Chaka, to carry warfare as it was then understood in South Africa—a business of spearmen fighting on foot—to its utmost perfection, and to remain prosperous and happy themselves, whatever might be the fate they inflicted upon their neighbors. And even the armies of Continental Europe, as they existed before the Great War, were manifestly bearable burdens, because they were borne. But the outbreak of that struggle forced upon the belligerents, in spite of the natural conservatism of all professional soldiers, a rapid and logical utilization of the still largely neglected resources of mechanical and chemical science; they were compelled to take up every device that offered, however costly it might be; they could not resist the drive toward scientific war which they had themselves released. In warfare the law of the utmost immediate exertion rules; the combatant who does not put in all his possible energy is lost. In four brief years, therefore, Europe was compelled to develop a warfare monstrously out of proportion to any conceivable good which the completest victory could possibly achieve for either side.

We may take as a typical instance of this logical and necessary exaggeration which warfare has undergone the case of the 'tank.' The idea of a land ironclad was an old and very obvious one, which had been disliked and resisted by military people for many years. The substantial basis of the European armies of 1914 was still a comparatively inexpensive infantry, assisted by machineguns and field-guns and cavalry. By 1918 the infantry line is sustained by enormous batteries of guns of every calibre, firing away an incredible wealth of ammunition; its structure includes the most complicated system of machine-gun nests and strong posts conceivable, and every important advance is preceded by lines of aeroplanes and sustained by fleets of these new and still developing weapons, the tanks. Every battle sees scores of these latter monsters put out of action. Now, even the primitive tank of 1917 costs, quite apart from the very high running expenses, something between seven and ten thousand pounds. At that stage it was still an expedient on trial and in the rough. But its obvious corollary in movable big-gun forts with ammunition tenders—forts which will probably be made in parts and built up near to the point of use, however costly they may be—is practically dictated if war is to continue. So too is a production of light and swift types of tank that will serve many of the purposes of cavalry.

If war is to continue as a human possibility, this elaboration of the tank in scale and species follows inevitably. A mere peace of the old type is likely to accelerate rather than check this elaboration. Only a peace that will abolish the probability of war from human affairs can release the nations from the manifest necessity of cultivating the tank, multiplying the tank, and maintaining a great manufacture and store of tanks, over and above all the other belligerent plants which they had to keep going before 1914. And these tanks will supersede nothing—unless perhaps, to a certain extent, cavalry. The tank, growing greater and greater and more numerous and various, is manifestly, therefore, one new burden—one of many new burdens—which must rest upon the shoulders of mankind henceforth, until the prospect of war can be shut off from international affairs. It is foolish to ignore these grimly budding possibilities of the tank. There they are, and they cannot be avoided if war is to go on.

But the tank is only one of quite a multitude of developments, which are bound to be followed up if the modern war-process continues. There is no help for it. In every direction there is the same story to be told—if war is still to be contemplated as a possibility—of an unavoidable elaboration of the means of war beyond the scale of any conceivable war end.

As a second instance, let us take the growth in size, range, and destructiveness of the air war. Few people realize fully what a vast thing the air-service has become. A big aeroplane of the raider type may cost anything up to twenty thousand pounds; the smallest costs not much less than a thousand. The pilot and the observer are of the very flower of the youth of the country; they have probably cost society many thousands of pounds' worth of upbringing and education, and they have made little or no productive contribution to human resources. And these costs units have been multiplied enormously. From a poor hundred or so of aerial planes at the outset of the war, Great Britain alone has expanded her air forces until she has an output of thousands of new machines a month, aerodromes abound throughout the country, and there is scarcely a corner of England where the hum of the passing aeroplane is not to be heard. Now all this vast plant of aeroplane factories and instruction aerodromes must be kept up, once it has been started, war or no war, until war is practically impossible. It may be argued, perhaps, that during a peace-spell some portion of this material may be applied to civil air-transport; but the manufacturers have made it abundantly clear that this project does not strike them as reasonable or desirable; their industry has been created as an armament industry and an armament industry they wish it to remain. And besides this opposition of the interested profiteer, we have to remember that the aeroplane has imported into warfare possibilities of surprise hitherto undreamed of. So long as a sudden declaration of war, or an attack preceding a declaration of war, is possible, it is imperative now, not only that the air force of a country should be kept always in striking condition, but that the whole vast organization of coastal and frontier anti-aircraft defenses should be equally ready. Tens of thousands of men, most of them economically very valuable, must keep watch day and night, prepared at any moment to flash into warfare again.

The same story of a tremendous permanent expansion of war-equipment could be repeated in a score of parallel instances drawn from the land war and sea war. Enormous new organizations of anti-submarine flotillas, of minefield material and its production, of poison-gas manufacture and the like, have been called into existence, and must now remain as going concerns so long as war is likely to be renewed.

But enough examples have been cited here to establish the reality of this present unrestricted, illimitable, disproportionate growth of the war-process in comparison with all other human processes. Mars has become the young cuckoo in the nest of human possibilities, and it is—to state the extreme alternatives—a choice before mankind, whether we will drift on toward a catastrophe due to that overgrowth, or so organize the world as effectually to restrain and reduce warfare.

It is not impossible to adumbrate the general nature of the catastrophe which threatens mankind if war-making goes on. Modern warfare is not congenial to the working masses anywhere. No doubt the primitive form of warfare, a murderous bickering with adjacent tribes, is natural enough to uneducated men; but modern warfare, and still more the preparation for it, involves distresses, strains, and a continuity of base and narrow purpose quite beyond the patience and interest of the millions of ordinary men who find no other profit in it but suffering. The natural man is more apt for chaotic local fighting than for large-scale systematic fighting. Hatred campaigns and a sustained propaganda are needed to keep up the combatant spirit in a large modern state, even during actual hostilities; and in the case of Russia we have a striking example of the distaste a whole population may develop for the war-strain, even during the war and with the enemy at its gates.

What is likely to happen, then, when the working masses of Central and Western Europe, being no longer sustained by the immediate excitement of actual war, find themselves still obliged to go on, year after year, producing vast masses of war-material, pledged to carry a heavy burden of war loan rentiers on their backs, and subjected to an exacerbated conscription? Possibly, so far as the rentier burden on the worker goes, a great rise in prices and wages will relieve the worker to some extent, but only at the cost of acute disappointment and distress at another social level. There is a dangerously narrowing limit now to the confidence of the common man in the intelligence and good faith of those who direct his affairs; and the probability of a cruel confused class-war throughout Europe, roughly parallel in its methods to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, and released by a similar loss of faith in leaders and government, appears at the end of the vista of waste of directive energy and natural resources, completing that waste of energy and resources into which the belligerent systems of Europe, the German Empire being the chief and foremost, have led mankind. Systematic force, overstrained and exhausted, will then give place to chaotic force, and general disorganization will ensue. Thereafter the world may welter in confusion for many generations, through such ruinous and impoverished centuries as close the Roman imperial story, before it develops the vitality for an effective reorganization.

Such, roughly, is the idea of the phrase 'downfall of civilization' as used in discussions like these. It is a vision of the world as a social system collapsing chaotically, not under the assault of outer barbarians, but beneath the pressure of this inevitable hypertrophy of war.


Let us now look a little more closely between the two extremes of possibility we have stated in the preceding section, between a world-unanimity for peace, on the one hand,—Everyman's World League of Nations,—and a world-collapse under the overgrowth of war-organization and material, on the other.

The affairs of the world are now in a posture which enables us to dismiss the idea of a world hegemony for Germany, or for any other single power, as a fantastic vanity.

We have to consider, however, the much greater probability of a group of the more powerful states, including perhaps a chastened Germany, agreeing among themselves to organize and enforce peace in the world for ever. This would give us still a third type of league which we may call the League of the Senior States. It is perhaps the most probable of all the possibilities.

And, on the other hand, we have assumed, quite crudely, in the first section that the forces of popular insurrection are altogether destructive of organization, whereas there may be as yet unmeasured constructive and organizing power in the popular mind. There is a middle way between a superstitious belief in unguided democracy and a frantic hatred of it. Concurrently, for example, with the earlier phases of Bolshevik anarchy in Petrograd and Moscow, there seems to have been for a time a considerable development of cooperative production and distribution throughout European and Asiatic Russia. Mingled with much merely destructive and vindictive insurrectionism, there may be a popular will to order, reaching out to cooperate with all the sound and liberal forces of the old system of things. We can only guess as yet at the possibilities of a collective will in these peasant and labor masses of Europe which now read and write and have new-born ideas of class-action and responsibility. They will be ill-informed, they may be emotional, but they may have vast reserves of common sense. Much may depend upon the unforeseeable accident of great leaders. Nearly every socialist and democratic organization in the world, it is to be noted, now demands the League of Nations in some form, and men may arise who will be able to give that stir quite vague demand force and creative definition. A failure to achieve a world guaranty of peace on the part of the diplomatists at a peace conference may lead, indeed, to a type of insurrection and revolution not merely destructive but preparatory. It is conceivable. The deliberate organization of peace, as distinguished from a mere silly clamor for peace, may break out at almost any social level, and in the form either of a constructive, an adaptive, or a revolutionary project.

We have not, therefore, here, a case of a clear cut choice of two ways; there is a multitude of roads which may converge upon the permanent organization of world peace, and an infinitude of thwarting and delaying digressions may occur. Complicating and mitigating circumstances may, and probably will, make this antagonism of war and peace a lengthy and tortuous drama. There may be many halts and setbacks in the inevitable development of war; belligerence may pause and take breath on several occasions before its ultimate death flurry.

Such delays, such backwater phases and secondary aspects, must not confuse the issue and hide from us the essential fact of the disappearance of any real limitation upon the overgrowth of war in human life. That unlimited overgrowth is the probability which is driving more and more men to study and advocate this project of a League of Nations, because they are convinced that only through counter-organization of the peace-will in mankind can the world be saved from a great cycle of disasters, disorder, and retrogression.

And it does not follow, because the origins and motives of the will for such a world-league are various, that they involve a conflict over essentials, as to the character of the final result. It is the declared belief of many of the promoters of the world-league movement that a careful analysis of the main factors of its problems, a scientific examination of what is possible, what is impossible, what is necessary, and what is dangerous, must lead the mass of reasonable men in the world, whatever their class, origins, traditions, and prejudices, to a practical agreement upon the main lines of this scheme for the salvation of mankind. It is believed that the clear, deliberate, and methodical working out of the broad problems and riddles of the world-league idea will beve a sufficient compelling force to bring it within the realm of practical possibility.


But at this point it is advisable to take up and dispose of a group of suggestions which contradict our fundamental thesis, which is, that war is by its nature illimitable. War is, we hold here, a cessation of law, and in war therefore, it is impossible to prevent permanently the use of every possible device for injury, killing, and compulsion which human ingenuity can devise or science produce. Our main argument for a League of Nations rests on that. But there are people who do not accept as a fact the illimitable nature of war. They fall back upon the theory that the horrors of the Great War are due to a sort of accidental relapse into savagery on the part of the German people, and that future wars can and will be conducted under restrictions imposed by humanity and chivalry. They believe that war can become a conventional Ordeal by Battle, in which the nations shall deliberately refrain from putting forth their full strength, and shall agree to abide by the decision of a struggle between limited armies, operating, like the champions in a tournament or a prize-fight, under an accepted code of rules.

This is, we hold, a delusion. Our case is that the nations can agree far more easily to abolish war than to restrict war.

It is true that in the Great War Germany has carried her theories of ruthlessness to self-defeating extremes. She has done many deeds which recoiled upon herself—deeds inspired by a sort of ferocious pedantry which inflicted very small material damage upon the Allies, but hardened their resolution and brought thousands, nay, millions of recruits to their ranks. None the less must we face the fact that, individual stupidities apart, the German theory of war is the only logical one.

If it be said that, in past times, nations fought with comparatively small armies, and often accepted defeat without having thrown anything like their full strength into the struggle—the objection is met by a twofold answer. Firstly, the logic of war, the law—as we have termed it elsewhere—of the utmost effort, had not yet been thoroughly thought out. Primitive peoples in general—and the same applies to all but the most civilized and sophisticated of modern states—are guided in matters of war and peace more by their emotions than by their reason. They are lazy, as peoples, and muddle-headed. They fight because they are angry; they stop because they are tired; they cease pursuing the enemy because they want to attend to the harvest. It is the mark of a highly organized and intellectualized government to subordinate national emotions to the remorseless logic of the case. And the logic of war was reserved for Napoleon to express in practice and Clausewitz to formulate in theory.

But the second answer goes more to the root of the matter: namely, that the strength which a nation can put into the field is limited by many conditions both material and psychological, and that, if we examine into these conditions, we shall often find that what may seem to us, on the face of it, an insignificant effort, was in very truth the greatest of which, at the given moment, the nation was capable. It is a quite new social fact, a creation of the last fifty years, to have a central government supplied with exact information about all its resources in men, money, and material, and with means of organization and control which enable it, at the cost of some delay and friction, to exploit those resources to the last inch. When Babylon was captured by the Medes, we are told, there were parts of the city itself which were unaware of the fact for several days; and there must have been vast islands of population in the country which, so far as their personal experience went, never knew. But that sort of thing has passed.

If we look into the history of warfare, we find that it has completed a cycle and is now returning to its starting-point. A nomadic horde of the barbarous ages was 'a nation in arms' in the full sense of the word. Having no fixed place of abode, it had no civil—as distinct from military—population. The whole people—old men, women, and children included—took part in the toils and perils of war. There were no places of security in which the weak and the defenseless could take refuge. Everyone's life was forfeit in case of disaster; therefore everyone took part in the common defense. Modern warfare, with its air fleets, its submarines, and its 'big Berthas,' is more and more restricting the area of immunity from military peril and reverting to these primitive conditions.

Agricultural life and city settlements brought with them the distinction between combatants and non-combatants; but still, in the normal state, every able-bodied citizen was a soldier. The citizen took his place as a matter of course in the militia of his country, leaving to old men and women, or to slaves and captives, the guardianship of field and vineyard, flock and herd. Only when wealth and luxury had reached a certain pitch did the habit of employing denationalized mercenaries creep in. Then came the time when the mercenaries encountered nomadic or thoroughly mobilized 'nations in arms,' and civilization went to the wall.

In the Middle Ages, the feudal chief, the dominant, soldierly, often predatory personality, gathered his vassals around him for purposes of offense and defense, while the cultivation of the soil devolved on the villains or serfs. Thus war became the special function of a military caste, and, as in the Wars of the Roses, campaigns were often carried on with comparatively little disturbance to the normal life of the country. When the royal power crushed or absorbed that of the barons, the centralized monarchy everywhere recruited a standing army, often consisting largely of foreign mercenaries, as the bulwark of its security and the instrument of its will. It was quite natural that dynastic wars, and wars in which the common people of the contending nations had little or no interest, should be fought out on a restricted scale by these specialized military machines. Frederick the Great employed a mercenary army as the nucleus for a national militia; and so lately as the beginning of the last century, this system was celebrated as ideal by the noted military authority who was the immediate predecessor of Clausewitz.

With Napoleon came the Nation in Arms; and the military history of the intervening years has consisted of the ever completer concentration upon warlike purposes of the whole powers and resources of the great European peoples.

If it be asked why this logical evolution of the idea of war has taken so many centuries to work itself out, the main reason—among many others—may be stated in two words: munitions and transport. Before the age of machines, it was impossible to arm and clothe immense multitudes of men; before the days of McAdam and Stephenson, it was impossible to move such multitudes and, still more, to keep them supplied with food and munitions. Again we find ourselves insisting upon the vital importance of transit methods in this, as in nearly all questions of human interaction. The size of armies has steadily grown with the growth of means of communication. The German wars of 1863-70 were the first in which railways played any considerable part, and the scale of operations in 1870-71 was quite unprecedented.

What is the chief new factor since the days of St. Privat and Sedan? The aeroplane, most people would reply; possibly it may become so, but thus far a less picturesque invention has been of even greater influence—the motor-lorry. No one can go anywhere near the Western Front without realizing that the gigantic scale of this struggle is almost wholly dependent upon motor-traction. Had not the internal-combustion engine been invented, the war would probably have been over long ago; and at all events millions of men would still be alive and well who now lie dead or crawl mutilated over the face of the earth.

Seen in this light, the invention of the motor may appear to have been due to a special interference of Satan in human affairs. But that is an unphilosophical view to take. Our race must perfect its power over matter before it can wisely select the ends to which it will apply that power. The idea of war had to work itself out to the full and demonstrate its own immpossibility, before man could find the insight and the energy to put it behind him and have done with it. Thanks to Prussian ambition and Prussian philosophy, the demonstration has now been completed. The idea of war has revealed itself in its full hideousness. All the world has come to look upon it as a sort of mythological monster which, if left to itself, will periodically reemerge from hell, to devour the whole youth and the whole wealth of civilized mankind. It is useless to dream of clipping the wings or paring the claws of the dragon. It must be slain outright if it is not to plan unthinkable havoc with civilization; and to that end the intelligence and the moral enthusiasm of the world are now, as we see, addressing themselves.
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Re: 'The Open Conspiracy': H.G. Wells Plots The World Empire

Postby admin » Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:07 am

Part 2 of 2

I (Part Two)

Any people have said to themselves like Jeannette in the touching old ballad, —

If I were King of France, or, still better, Pope of Rome.
I’d have no fighting men abroad, no weeping maids at home;
All the world should be at peace, or, if kings must show their might,
Then let those who make the quarrels be the only men to fight.

But even Jeannette evidently realized that the idea of making the fate of a tribe or a nation depend upon the fortunes of one or two selected champions was but a pious aspiration, which not even the King of France or the Pope of Rome could translate into practical politics.

There is one theory, indeed, which, if we accept its initial postulate, would make limited warfare logical. If battle be regarded as the trial of a cause before the judgment-seat of God, there is no sound reason for pouring huge armies into it. It is manifest that God can deliver his verdict in the result of a duel of one against one, quite as well as in the result of a war between whole nations in arms. On this theory, war would be an extension to politics of the ‘wager of battle’ between individuals — a method of obtaining a supernatural ruling, indistinguishable in principle from the drawing of lots or tossing of a coin. But although men have always talked, and still talk, of ’appealing to the God of Battles,′ they have never shown any disposition to accept, save at the last gasp, a judgment which ran counter to their passions or their cupidities. Whatever may have been their professions, their practical belief has always been that ’God is on the side of the big battalions,′ or, in other words, that war is a part of the natural order of things, the immeasurable network of cause and effect, and no more subject to special interventions of Providenec than commerce, or navigation, or any other form of human activity. Nor is there any reason to suppose that they will ever believe otherwise. If it be difficult to conceive them, in their disputes, abiding by the awards of impartial reason, it is a hundred times more difficult to conceive them accepting the wholly unreasonable awards of artificially and arbitrarily restricted violence.

These truths are so obvious that it may seem idle to insist upon them. Nobody, it may be said, proposes that Paris and Berlin should in future settle their disputes, like Rome and Alba Longa, by selecting three champions apiece and setting them to cut each others’ throats. In this crude and elementary form, indeed, the proposal does not appear; but disguised applications of the same principle are constantly commended in the writings of those who, holding war to be eternally inevitable, seeks refuge from sheer despair in the belief that it is possible to subject it to rule and limit, and say to it, ’Thus far shalt thou go and no further.′ They cannot or will not see that any conventional limitation is foreign to its very essence. It is perfectly possible, and consonant with human nature that nations should agree not to appeal to force, and should hold to that agreement even when one or the other believes itself to have suffered injustice. But it is utterly impossible and inconsistent with human nature that, having appealed to force, they should agree to exercise it only within limits, and accept impoverishment, humiliation, servitude, — in a word, defeat, — rather than transgress the stipulated boundaries.

It may be objected that codes of law have in fact been devised for the partial humanization of war, and that not until the present time has any civilized belligerent made a practice of disregarding them. But these so-called laws of war have always been conventions of mutual advantage — rules which all parties held it to be, on the whole, to their own interest to observe. The German WarBook quite frankly places the chief sanction of such trammels upon military action not in humanity, but in the fear of reprisals. We do not deny that man is an emotional being, and even in the midst of his fiercest fighting there are horrors from which the decent man, and even the decent multitude, instinctively recoils. Decent men do not, as a rule want to hurt their wounded prisoners, they rather like to pet them; and they regard people who do otherwise as blackguards. And no doubt it is largely these emotional mercies and generosities which have brought about those rules of chivalry or scruples of religion which form the supposed ‘redeeming features’ of war. But the necessities of war completely override all such weaknesses as soon as these begin to endanger actual military interests. And the logic of war tolerates them only as cheap concessions to a foolish popular psychology. It must be remembered that undisguised atrocities on a stupendous scale — such, for instance as the massacre in cold blood of whole regiments of helpless prisoners would be too strong for the stomach of even the most brutalized people, and would tend to bring war into discredit with all but its monomaniac votaries. If we look closely enough, we shall find that all Geneva Conventions and such palliative ordinances, though excellent in intention and good in their immediate effects, make ultimately for the persistence of war as an institution. They are sops to humanity, devices for rendering war barely tolerable to civilized mankind, and so staving off the inevitable rebellion against its abominations.


Criticisms of the project of a League of Nations have consisted hitherto largely of the statement of difficulties and impediments, rather than of reasons for rejection of the project. All such criticisms are helpful in so far as they enable us to map out the task before us, but none are adequate as conclusive objections. Few of the advocates of an organized world-peace fail to recognize the magnitude of the task to which they invite men to set themselves. But their main contention is that there is really no alternative to the attempt but resignation to long years of human suffering and disaster, and therefore that, however difficult the enterprise may be, it has to be faced. The recital of the difficulties is, they say, a stimulus to thought and exertion rather than a deterrent.

And there are certain objections to the undertaking as such that must be taken up and dealt with in a preliminary discussion.

There is, first, an objection which it will be convenient to speak of as the ’Biological Objection.′ It is stated in various forms, and it peeps out and manifests itself in the expressed thoughts and activities of quite a number of people who do not seem to have formulated it completely. But what many of these objectors think and what still more feel may be expressed in some such phraseology as this: —

Life is conflict and is begotten of conflict. All the good qualities of life are the result of the tragic necessities of survival. Life, stripped down to its fundamental fact, is the vehement urgency of individuals or groups of individuals to survive, and to reproduce and multiply their kind. The pressure of individual upon individual and of species upon species sharpens the face of life and is the continuing impetus and interest in life. The conception of life without war is a collection, therefore, not simply utopian but millennial. It is a proposal that every kind and sort and type of humanity should expand and increase without limit in a small world of restricted resources. It is, in fact, absurd. It is an impossible attempt to arrest and stereotype a transient phase of human life. It is inviting paralysis as a cure for epilepsy. It is a dream of fatigued minds. Terrible as the scope and nature of human warfare have become, it has to be faced. The more destructive it is, the more rapid the hardening and evolution of the species life and history move cyclically from phase to phase, and perhaps such an apparent retrogression as we mean when we talk of the breakdown of civilization, may be only part of a great rhythm in the development of the species. Let us gather together with our own kind, and discipline and harden ourselves, in a heroic resolve to survive in the unavoidable centuries of harsh conflict ahead of us.

Now, here is a system of objection not lightly to be brushed aside. True, the element of mutual conflict in life is often grossly overstated and the element of mutual help suppressed. But, although overstated, there are valid criticisms here of any merely negative league of nations project, any mere proposal to end war without replacing it by some other collective process. There do seem to be some advocates of the league whose advocacy is little more than a cry of terror at the disappearance of established wealth, the loss of wasted leisure, and the crumbling of accepted dignities. Those who have faith in the possibility of a world league are bound — just as the Socialist is bound — to produce some assurances of a control over the blind pressure of population, that may otherwise swamp the world with prolific low grade races. They are bound to show that their schemes are compatible with a series of progressive readjustments, and not an attempt to restore and stereotype the boundaries, the futile institutions, and the manifest injustices of the world of 1914, with only armaments abolished. They are bound to show that exceptional ability and energy will have, not merely scope, but fuller scope for expression, achievement, and perpetuation, in the new world to which they point us, than in the old. In the years to come, as in the whole past history of life, individual must compete against individual, type against type.

But having made these admissions, we may then go on to point out two fundamental misconceptions which entirely vitiate the biological argument as an argument for the continuation of war as a method of human selection. It is falsely assumed, first, that modern war is a discriminatory process, selecting certain types as against certain other types; whereas it is largely a catastrophic and indiscriminate process and secondly, that belligerent states are in the nature of biological units super-individuals, which either triumph or are destroyed; whereas they are systems of political entanglement of the most fluid, confused, and transitory description. They neither reproduce their kind nor die; they change indefinitely: the children of the defeated state of to-day may become the dominant citizens of its victorious competitor in a generation or so. They do not even embody traditions or ideas: France, which went into the Revolutionary wars at the end of the eighteenth century to establish the Republican idea throughout Europe, emerged as an empire; and the defeat of the Russian by the German imperialism led to Lenin’s ’dictatorship of the proletariat.′

The essence of success in the biological struggle for existence is preferential reproduction; whereas the modern war process takes all the sturdier males to kill and be killed haphazard, while it sends all the more intelligent and energetic girls into munition factories, substitute work, and suchlike sterilizing occupations. If it prefers any type for prosperity and multiplication, it is the alert shirker, the able tax-dodger, and the war profiteer; if it breeds anything it breeds parasites. The vital statistics of Germany, which is certainly the most perfect as a belligerent of all the belligerent states engaged, show already tremendous biological injuries. Germany in the first four years of the war had lost by the fall in her birth-rate alone nearly 2,600,000 lives, approximately 40,000 per million of the population; Hungary, in the same period, lost 1,500,000 (about 70,000 per million), the United Kingdom 500,000 (or about 10,000 per million). Add to this loss of lives the under-nutrition of the millions that were born and their impoverished upbringing. These things strike at the victors as well as at the vanquished. They are entirely indiscriminate as among good types and bad, while on the whole the battlefield destroys rather the good than the ’unfit for service,′ who remain at home to breed.

The whole process which, on a vaster scale, has brought Europe to its present plight may be seen in miniature among the tribes of the Indian frontier. Go up the Khyber Pass and stand on the ridge above Ali Masjid. In front lies a desolate valley, flanked by barren mountains under a blistering sun. On the slopes to right and left, at intervals of about a thousand yards, are oblong inclosures each with brown walls and a little loop-holed tower at one corner. These inclosures are the villages of the Pathan tribes which inhabit the valley, and in the towers are men with rifles, waiting their chance to shoot man or boy who may rashly expose himself outside a neighboring village. For all or nearly all of them are at feud with each other, and though the causes of their warfare are forgotten, it is a point of honor and pride with them never to become reconciled. There have been, roughly, three stages in the history of these feuds. In the first, men fought with knives, daggers, and other primitive weapons, and the result may have been, as a German would argue, ’biologically good.′ The fittest survived, the population was kept from increasing beyond the number which an inhospitable soil would support, the arts of peace, such as they were, could be pursued without serious interruption.

The second stage was reached when the flint-lock rifle came on the scene and took the place of knife and dagger. With this the vendetta necessarily became more of a national industry; but the weapon was short of range and irregular in its killing power, and there was still a fair chance of survival, and a certain presumption that the better or more skillful man would escape. But before the end of the nineteenth century the village marksmen had possessed themselves of the Martini-Henry and other long range, high-velocity rifles, brought from Europe by the gunrunners of the Persian Gulf. At this, the third stage, the biological merits of village warfare manifestly began to disappear. The village marksman in his mud-tower now makes the whole valley his zone of fire. Cultivation becomes impossible in the no-man’s land between village and village: only behind the cover of the village wall can men sow or plough or reap, tether their cattle, or graze their sheep. Every village must be provided with a communication-trench, so that its inhabitants may pass under cover to the sanctuary — guaranteed twice in the week — of the government-protected road which runs down the centre of the valley. The question now is, not whether the vendetta is biologically good, but whether the tribes can at all survive under it; and weary officials, at a loss to solve the vexed problem which they offer to the government of India, have been heard to suggest that if a few machine guns could be conveyed to the village marksmen and installed in the mudtowers, there would soon be no frontier problem at all.

The question which the civilized world has now to consider is, whether it can survive, or its life be more tolerable than that of these tribesmen under a vendetta of high explosives.

So that when the biological critics says, ’Life is conflict,′ we reply, without traversing his premises, that war has ceased to be conflict and has become indiscriminate catastrophe, and that the selective processes that enlarge and enrich life can go on far more freely and effectively in a world from which this blundering, disastrous, non-selective, and even possibly dysgenic form of wastage is banished. But we have to bear in mind that this reply puts upon those who are preparing schemes for a League of Nations the onus of providing for progress, competition, and liberty under the restraints of such a scheme.


It may be worth while to take up and consider here a group of facts that are sometimes appealed to as a justification of war. It is alleged that there has been an extraordinarily rapid development of mechanical, chemical, and medical science since 1914, and a vast and valuable accumulation of experience in social and industrial organization. There has been great mental stimulation everywhere; people have been forced out of grooves and idle and dull ways of living into energetic exertion; there has been, in particular, a great release and invigoration of feminine spirit and effort. The barriers set up by the monopolization of land and material by private owners for selfish ends have been broken down in many cases.

There can be no denying the substantial truth in these allegations. Indisputably there has been such a release and stimulation. But this is a question of proportion between benefits and losses. And all this stir, we argue, has been bought at too great a cost. It is like accelerating the speed of a ship by burning its cargo and timbers as fuel. At best, it is the feverish and wasteful reaping of a long accumulated harvest.

We must remember that a process may be evil as a whole, while in part it is beneficial. It would be stupid to deny that for countless minds the Great War has provided an enlightening excitcment that could have been provided in no other way. To deny that, would be to assert the absolute aimlessness and incoherence of being. But while this harvest of beneficial by-products of the war is undeniable, there is no evidence of any fresh sowing, or, if the process of belligerence and warlike preparation is to continue, of any possibility of an adequate fresh sowing of further achievements. The root from which all the shining triumphs of technical and social science spring, we must remember, is the quiet and steadfast pursuit of pure science and philosophy and literature by those best endowed for these employments. And if the greedy expansion of the war-process is to continue, — and we have shown that without an organized world-peace it must continue, — there is nothing to reassure us of the cotinuance of that supply of free and vigorous educated intelligence, in which alone that root can flourish. On the contrary, it is one of the most obvious and most alarming aspects of the war-process that university education has practically ceased in Europe; Europe is now producing only schoolboys, and the very schools are understaffed and depleted. The laboratories of the English public schools are no longer making the scientific men of the future, they are making munitions. It is all very well for the scientific man of fifty to say that at last he has got his opportunity; but that is only a momentary triumph for science. Where now is the great scientific man for the year 1930? Smashed to pieces in an aeroplane, acting as a stretcher-bearer, or digging a trench. And what, unless we can secure the peace of the world, will become of the potential scientific men of 1950? Suppose it to be possible to carry on this a present top-heavy militarist system for so long a period as that, what will have happened then to our potential Faradays, Newtons, and Darwins? They will be, at best, half educated; they will be highly trained soldiers, robbed of their intellectual inheritance and incapable of rendering their gifts to the world. The progress of knowledge will be slowing down toward stagnation.


A considerable amount of opposition to the League of Nations movement may be classified under the heading of Objections from precedent and prepossession. The mind is already occupied by the idea of attachment to some political sytem which stands in the way of a world-league. These objections vary very much in intellectual quality. Nevertheless, even the most unintelligent demand some attention, because numerically these antatgonists form considerable masses. Collectively, in their unorganized way, they produce a general discouragement and hostility far more formidable than any soundly reasoned case against an organized world-peace.

The objection from prepossession is necessarily protean; it takes various forms because men’s prepossessions are various: but ’There never has been a League of Nations, and there never will be,′ may be regarded as the underlying idea of most of these forms. And the objector relapses upon his pre-possession as the only possible thing. A few years ago people were saying ’Men have never succeeded in flying, and they never will.′ And we are told, particularly by people who have obviously never given human nature ten minutes thought in their lives, that world-unity is ’against human nature.′ To substantiate these sweeping negatives, the objector will adduce a heterogeneous collection of instances to show the confusions and contradictions of the human will, and a thousand cases of successful mass-cooperations will be ignored: we are moved to doubt at last whether human beings did ever suppress piracy, develop a railway system, or teach a whole population to read and write. If the individual objector is carefully examined, it will be found at times that he is under the sway of some narrow and intense mental inhibition, based on personal habits or experiences. Some of these inhibitions, if they are traced to their source, will be found to be even absurdly narrow. The objector dislikes the idea of a World-League of Nations because it is ’international,′ or, worse, ’cosmopolitan,′ and he has got into the habit of associating these words with shady finance or anarchist outrages or the white-slave traffic. Or he has had uncomfortable experiences in hotels abroad, or he has suffered in his business from foreign competition. Many of the objections that phrase themselves in some such formulas as ’People will never stand it,′ or ’You do not understand the intensity of feeling,′ are indeed rather cases for Jung and Freud than for serious dialectics. But from such levels of unreasoned hostility we can ascend to much more reasoned and acceptable forms of prepossessions which must be met with a greater respect.

Most human beings are ’patriotic.′ They have a pride, quite passionate in quality, in the race or nation to which they belong: an affection identical in nature with, and sometimes as intense as, that which they feel for family and home, for a certain atmosphere of thought and behavior, for a certain familiar landscape and atmosphere, for certain qualities none the less real because they are often exquisitely indefinable. And they are jealous for this ‘national’ quality of theirs — at times almost as men are jealous for their wives. Now, how far does this group of feelings stand in the way of a League of Nations project? A number of vigorous speakers and writers do certainly play upon this jealousy. They point out that the League of Nations project, as it develops, involves controls, not merely of military, but of economic concerns — controls by councils or committees upon which every country will see a majority of ’foreigners,′ and they exaggerate and intensify to the utmost the suggestion of unlimited interference on the part of these same ’foreigners,′ with the most intimate and sacred things.

One eloquent writer, for example (Mr. Belloc), declares that the League of Nations would place us all ‘at the mercy of a world-police’; and another (Mr. I. D. Colvin) declares that the council of a League of Nations would own all our property as the British now ‘own’ the empire; an unfortunate parallel, if we consider the amount of ownership exercised by the British Government over the life and affairs of a New Zealander or a Hindu.

Perhaps the most effective answer to this sort of thing is to be found in current instances. One might imagine from these critics that at present every government in the world was a national government; but in spite of such instances as Sweden and France, national governments are the exception rather than the rule. There are very few nationalities in the world now which are embodied in a sovereign government. There is no sovereign state of England, for example. The English, the Scotch, and the Welsh, all strongly marked and contrasted nationalities, live in an atmosphere of mutual criticism and cordial cooperation. (Consider again the numerous nations in the British Empire, which act in unison through the Imperial Government, imperfect and unrepresentative as it is; consider the dissolving nationalities in the American melting-pot; consider the Prussians and Saxons in the German Empire. What is there in common between an Australian native, a London freethinker, a Bengali villager, a Uganda gentleman, a Rand negro, an Egyptian merchant, and a Singapore Chinaman, that they should all be capable of living as they do under one rule and one peace, and with a common collective policy, and yet be incapable of a slightly larger cooperation with a Frenchman, a New Englander, or a Russian? The Welshman is perhaps the best instance of all, to show how completely participation in a great political synthesis is compatible with intense national peculiarity and self-respect.

But if one looks closely into the objections of these ‘anti-foreign’ alarmists, it will usually become clear that the real prejudice is not a genuine patriotism at all: the objection is not to interference with the realities of national life, but to interference with national aggression and competition, which is quite a different thing. The ‘British’ ultra-patriot, who begins by warning us against the impossibilitv of having ‘foreigners’ interfering in our national life, is presently warning us against the interference of ‘foreigners’ with ’our ′ empire or ‘our’ predominant over-seas trade.

It is curious to see in how many instances certain conventional ideas never properly analyzed, dominate the minds of the critics of the League of Nations project. Many publicists, it becomes evident, think of international relations in terms of ’Powers,′ mysterious entities of a value entirely romantic and diplomatic. International politics are for them only thinkable as a competition of those powers; they see the lives of states as primarily systems of conflict. A ‘power’ to them means the sort of thing which was brought to perfection in Europe in the eighteenth century, in the courts of Versailles, Potsdam, St. Petersburg, and at St. James’s, and it means nothing else in the world to them. It is, in fact, a conspiracy against other and competing powers, centering round an aggressive Foreign Office and availing itself of nationalist prejudice rather than of national self-respect. Patriotism is, indeed, not something that the power represents: it is something upon which the power trades. To this power idea the political life of the last two centuries has schooled many otherwise highly intelligent men and by it their minds are now invincibly circumscribed and fixed. They can disregard the fact that the great majority of men in the world live out of relation to any such government with astonishing ease. The United States, Canada, China, India, Australia, South America, for example, show us masses of mankind whose affairs are not incorporated in any ’power,′ as the word is understood in diplomatic jargon; and quite recently the people of Russia have violently broken away from such an idea of the state, and show small disposition to revert to it. These objectors are in fact thinking still in terms of the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe — a very special phase in history. But the fixity of their minds upon this old and almost entirely European idea of international politics as an affair of competitive foreign offices has its value for those who are convinced of the need of a new order of human relationships, because it opens up so clearly the incompatibility with the pressing needs of the present time of the European conceptions of a foreign office and of diplomacy as a secretive chaffering for advantages.

Upon this point we cannot be too clear: it is not nationality that is threatened by the League of Nations, it is this ‘power’ obsession, which used national feeling in an entirely Machiavellian spirit. And this power idea carries with it much more mischief than the threat of sudden war and the attendant necessities of armament. It is about the nuclei of these European power systems that the current conceptions of economic warfare and territorial exploitation have grown. It is to them that we owe the conception of peace as a phase of military preparation during which there is a systematic attempt to put rivals at an economic disadvantage. And it will be clear that an abandonment of the idea of the world as a conflict of powers involves not merely the abandonment of ideas essentially militarist, but also the abandonment of the idea of the world as a conflict of economic systems.

So, as we penetrate these common prepossessions of an age which is now drawing to a close, the positive as compared with the negative side of the League of Nations proposal opens out. Behind the primarily negative project of ’no war upon earth,′ appears as a necessary corollary a new economic phase in history, in which there will be a collective regard for the common weal of mankind. The examination and elaboration of the possibilities of economic world-control, already immensely foreshadowed by the gigantic poolings that have been forced upon the powers allied against Germany, is one of the most rapidly expanding chapters in the study of the League of Nations project.


Another considerable body of criticism hostile to the League of Nations proposal is grouped about certain moral facts. Before concluding these introductory remarks, it is advisable to discuss this, not merely in order to answer so much of it as amounts to an argument against the world-league project, but also because it opens out before us the real scope of the League of Nations proposal. There seems to be a disposition in certain quarters to underestimate the scale upon which a League of Nations project can be planned. It is dealt with as if it were a little legal scheme detached from the main body of human life. It seems to be assumed that some little group of ’jurists,′ sitting together in a permanent conference at The Hague or in New York, will be able to divert the whole process of humanity into new channels, to overcome the massive, multitudinous, and tremendous forces that make for armed conflict and warfare among men, and to inaugurate a new era of peace throughout the world.

The change we contemplate here is not to be so easily achieved. It is a project of world-politics, and there is no modest way of treating such a project. It would be better left alone than treated timidly. It is a change in which nations and political and educational svstems are the counters, and about which we must think, if we are to think effectively, in terms of the wealth of nations and millions of men. It is a proposal to change the life and mentality of everyone on earth.

Now the thought of those who direct their attention to the moral probabilities of a world-peace turns largely upon the idea of loyalty. They apprehend man as a creature of intense essential egotism, who has to be taught and trained very painfully and laboriously to unselfishness, and the substitution of great and noble ends for base and narrow ones. They argue that he was in his origins a not very social creature who has been forced by his own inventions into a larger circle of intercourse. He had learned his first unselfishness from his mother in the family group; he had been tamed into devotion by the tribe and his tribal religion; the greater dangers of a solitary life had enforced these subjugations upon him. But he still relapses very readily into base self-seeking. His loyalty to his nation may easily become a mere extension of his personal vanity; his religious faith a cloak for hatred of and base behavior toward unbelievers. In times of peace and security, the great forms in which he lives do so tend to degenerate. And the great justification of war from this point of view is that it creates a phase of national life in which a certain community of sacrifice to a common end, a certain common faithfulness and helpfulness, is exacted as a matter of course from every citizen. Men are called upon to die, and all are called upon to give help and suffer privations. War gives reality to loyalty. It is the fire that makes fine the clay of solidarity. The war-phase has been hitherto a binding and confirming phase in the life of communities, while peace has been a releasing and relaxing phase. And if we are to contemplate a state of the world in which there is to be no warfare, we must be prepared also, these critics argue, for a process of moral disintegration.

The late Professor William James found enough validity in this line of thought to discuss it very seriously. In his essay on ‘The Moral Equivalent of War’ he deals very illuminatingly with this question. He agrees that to relieve the consciousness of ordinary men from the probability of war without substituting any other incentive to devotion, may be a very grave social loss. His own suggestion for giving every citizen a sense of obligation and ownership in the commonwealth for weaving the ideas of loyalty and service, that is, into every life, is to substitute the collective war of mankind against ignorance, confusion, and natural hardships, for the war between man and man; to teach this, not only theoretically, but by the very practical expedient of insisting upon a period of compulsory state service for every citizen, male or female. He proposes to solve at the same time this moral problem and an equally grave social problem by making the unskilled or semi-skilled part of the labor in the (nationalized) mines, in the (nationalized) fisheries, in hospitals, in many types of factory, and so forth a public service. Personal freedom, he insists, has invariably been bought, and must always be bought by responsible participation in the toils and cares of that system of law and service which constitutes the framework of human liberty.

It would be idle to deny the substantial truth in this type of criticism of peace. To recognize it is to sweep out of one’s mind all dreams of a world-peace contrived by a few jurists and influential people in some odd corner of the world’s administrative bureaus. Permanent world-peace must necessarily be a great process and state of affairs, greater, indeed, than any warprocess, because it must anticipate, comprehend, and prevent any warprocess, and demand the understanding, the willing and conscious participation of the great majority of human beings. We, who look to it as a possible thing, are bound not to blind ourselves to, or conceal from others, the gigantic and laborious system of labors, the immense tangle of cooperations, which its establishment involves. If political institutions or social methods stand in the way of this great good for mankind it is fatuous to dream of compromises with them. A world peace organization cannot evade universal relationships.

It is clear that, if a world-league is to be living and enduring, the idea of it and the need and righteousness of its service must be taught by every educational system in the world. It must either be served by, or be in conflict with, every religious organization; it must come into the life of everyone, not to release men and women from loyalty, but to demand it for itself.

The answer to this criticism that the world-peace will release men from service, is therefore, that the world-peace is itself a service. It calls, not as war does, for the deaths, but for that greater gift, the lives, of men. The League of Nations cannot be a little thing; it is either to be a great thing in the world, an overriding idea of a greater state, or nothing. Every state aims ultimately at the production of a sort of man, and it is an idle and a wasteful diplomacy, a pandering to timidities and shams, to pretend that the World-League of Nations is not ultimately a state aiming at that ennobled individual whose city is the world.
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Re: 'The Open Conspiracy': H.G. Wells Plots The World Empire

Postby admin » Wed Nov 06, 2019 12:04 am

The Evolution of H.G. Wells
H.G. Wells by Norman and Jeanne MacKenzie Simon and Schuster, 487 pp., $10
by Greg Lawless
The Harvard Crimson
December 14, 1973

THE FIRST complete biography of Herbert George Wells comes at no better time. With the comet Kohoutek whispering across the winter skies, and new visions of apocalypse conveniently centering themselves around its strange apparition, science is experiencing one of its cyclical, popular questionings. While Kohoutek harkens back to one of Wells's more obscure works, In The Days of The Comet, another more recent scientific popularization revives what was a major issue in Wells's life and works. That is the great debate of nature vs. nurture, genetics vs. environment, Shockley vs. the sane world. For, throughout Wells's works, there is a recurring pattern of ideas which centers around the stark determinism of Darwinian evolution, the possible effects it may have if inferior men continue to breed, and the need for an enlightened (ie. genetically superior) elite to rule the world. This pattern looms large in H.G. Wells, an enlightening--if limited--new biography by Norman and Jeanne MacKenzie.

The biographical approach is exciting. Relying on a thorough investigation of meticulously collected documents, letters, unpublished manuscripts, and personal accounts, the MacKenzies have set out to sketch in detail the growth and development of Wells's ideas. The man behind the ideas is sometimes obscured, but in many cases his overpowering, prolific writings justify the technique, just as their raw energy and wide scope sometimes dwarfed Wells himself in his own day. At times, however, this is slightly annoying--if not downright disconcerting. Wells, after all, led a colorful life, as a pulp-writer, a man of letters, a radical politician, and a libertine par excellence.

The rise of H.G. Wells from a boy in extreme poverty to a man of influence in the early twentieth century is infinitely more intriguing than analogous stories on this side of the Atlantic about Carnegie or Rockefeller. Wells was born in 1866 to a fanatically fundamentalist mother and a relatively impotent cricket-playing father perched ominously close to the bottom rung of a socially immobile ladder of Victorian society. Relying mostly on his raw intelligence, voracious reading habits, and an outstanding ability to cram, Wells was able to avoid the draper's life his mother had so carefully planned for him. 'Bertie' was the youngest child--spoiled, frail, and often "dreamy." Later in life, this same dreamy imagination would spring Wells into the public eye via his scientific romances. Fro the time being, it sparked his curiosity and led to honors grades in school. After a rather torturous two years as a draper's apprentice, he was finally able to find some schooling and, in 1885, gain entrance into London University. It was here that many of Wells's strongest ideas were formulated. T.H. Huxley, one of his teachers in the first year, but by no means his mentor (Wells recounts saying only two words to the man, "Hello, Professor."), was to be a guiding inspiration for the rest of his life. What promised to be a stellar academic career faded quickly the following year when Wells began to find radical politics more interesting than intellectual pursuits. At the same time, inspired by Huxley, he was cutting his teeth on Marxism--Darwin's theory of evolution.

These would prove central to his scientific romances of the 1890s: The Invisible Man, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The First Men in the Moon. Wells saw in Darwinism the basic roots of man's decay: natural selection would eventually separate the weak and the strong into two distinct classes. The powerful class would oppressively dominate the subservient one, using it for whatever means it wished. This theme is best seen in The Time Machine, where the cave-dwelling Morlocks lord over the gentle, but inferior Eloi. The War of the Worlds reflects a different kind of Darwinism, where the Martians kill off the "weak and the silly," leaving the earth to begin again, ruled by the strong. The MacKenzies are sensitive enough to perceive Wells's frustrated attempts to synthesize evolution and entropy into apocalypse as a projection of his own sense of personal collapse from chronic lung disease. But this is an exception. They often fail to explore the full influence of his personal life on his work beyond a superficial level.

AS ENGLAND turned towards novelty in both the arts and sciences at the turn of the century, Wells turned more and more towards realistic social prophecy, and a new optimism in which free will and determinism would control Darwinism. In Anticipations he talks of a new "Human Ecology" which could help predict "biological, intellectual, and economic consequences." At the forefront of his "free will" is a new "mass of capable men," engendered by sterilization programs in which mankind can "tolerate no dark corners where the people of the abyss may fester." In A Modern Utopia, these supermen are called Samurai. And even though they rule over a socialist state, it is they--and not the masses--who are the key to the society. His gigantic Outline of History is more Wells than history, as again, nations and cultures rise because of a ruling elite, and fall on account of a natural social selection.

Throughout the thirty years of his scientific romances and prophecies Wells was in a constant state of emotional flux. His first marriage to his cousin, Isabel, in 1893 lasted only two years. He then married his mistress, Amy Robbins, and soon asked her to "accept" his promiscuous ways with other women. She accepted it, but certainly Wells's life was profoundly affected by his short-term infatuations. The MacKenzies explore his wanderlust as one of his deep-seeded conflicts between rationalism and irrationalism--and this seems to make a great deal of sense. Wells always saw in science both a new order that would prove mankind's salvation and the apocalyptic reaper.

BY THE END of his life, Wells had embraced and then rejected his literary friends, Henry James, Arnold Bennett; and his socialist friends in the Fabian Society, including George Bernard Shaw. In 1946, after two world wars, he wrote Mind at the End of its Tether. Here Wells finally resolves his classic conflict: The mind, in the evolutionary process, in the creation of visionary socialist societies, could simply not be counted on at all.

Wells's imagination soared to unequaled heights in the early parts of the twentieth century. But its unfirm grasp of reality and its reliance on magical science--which at times predicted many real things to come--was too shaky. It had to fall. The MacKenzies have captured much of that capitulation in H.G. Wells. In a way, they have missed a lot, too. Their strict chronological progression never really succeeds in making Wells lifelike. He remains, to a certain extent, a flat two-dimensional shadow lurking behind an endless series of documents and letters. His works are too simply explained away by his life. Biographies should give life to their subjects. But perhaps Wells will always be an invisible man.
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