Whether it is attainable, how it can be attained, and what sort
of world a world at peace will have to be.
First Published . . January 1940.

IN THIS SMALL BOOK I want to set down as compactly,
clearly and usefully as possible the gist of what I have learnt
about war and peace in the course of my life. I am not going to
write peace propaganda here. I am going to strip down certain
general ideas and realities of primary importance to their
framework, and so prepare a nucleus of useful knowledge for
those who have to go on with this business of making a world
peace. I am not going to persuade people to say “Yes, yes” for a
world peace; already we have had far too much abolition of war
by making declarations and signing resolutions; everybody
wants peace or pretends to want peace, and there is no need to
add even a sentence more to the vast volume of such
ineffective stuff. I am simply attempting to state the things we
must do and the price we must pay for world peace if we really
intend to achieve it.
Until the Great War, the First World War, I did not bother very
much about war and peace. Since then I have almost
specialised upon this problem. It is not very easy to recall
former states of mind out of which, day by day and year by
year, one has grown, but I think that in the decades before 1914
not only I but most of my generation – in the British Empire,
America, France and indeed throughout most of the civilised
world – thought that war was dying out.
So it seemed to us. It was an agreeable and therefore a readily
acceptable idea. We imagined the Franco-German War of
1870-71 and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 were the final
conflicts between Great Powers, that now there was a Balance
of Power sufficiently stable to make further major warfare
impracticable. A Triple Alliance faced a Dual Alliance and
neither had much reason for attacking the other. We believed
war was shrinking to mere expeditionary affairs on the
outskirts of our civilisation, a sort of frontier police business.
Habits of tolerant intercourse, it seemed, were being
strengthened every year that the peace of the Powers remained
There was in deed a mild armament race going on; mild by our
present standards of equipment; the armament industry was a
growing and enterprising on; but we did not see the full
implication of that; we preferred to believe that the increasing
general good sense would be strong enough to prevent these
multiplying guns from actually going off and hitting anything.
And we smiled indulgently at uniforms and parades and army
manoeuvres. They were the time-honoured toys and regalia of
kings and emperors. They were part of the display side of life
and would never get to actual destruction and killing. I do not
think that exaggerates the easy complacency of, let us say,
1895, forty-five years ago. It was a complacency that lasted
with most of us up to 1914. In 1914 hardly anyone in Europe or
America below the age of fifty had seen anything of war in his
own country.
The world before 1900 seemed to be drifting steadily towards a
tacit but practical unification. One could travel without a
passport over the larger part of Europe; the Postal Union
delivered one’s letters uncensored and safely from Chile to
China; money, based essentially on gold, fluctuated only very
slightly; and the sprawling British Empire still maintained a
tradition of free trade, equal treatment and open-handedness to
all comers round and about the planet. In the United States you
could go for days and never see a military uniform. Compared
with to-day that was, upon the surface at any rate, an age of
easy-going safety and good humour. Particularly for the North
Americans and the Europeans.
But apart from that steady, ominous growth of the armament
industry there were other and deeper forces at work that were
preparing trouble. The Foreign Offices of the various sovereign
states had not forgotten the competitive traditions of the
eighteenth century. The admirals and generals were
contemplating with something between hostility and
fascination, the hunger weapons the steel industry was gently
pressing into their hands. Germany did not share the selfcomplacency
of the English-speaking world; she wanted a
place in the sun; there was increasing friction about the
partition of the raw material regions of Africa; the British
suffered from chronic Russophobia with regard to their vast
apportions in the East, and set themselves to nurse Japan into a
modernised imperialist power; and also they “remembered
Majuba”; the United States were irritated by the disorder of
Cuba and felt that the weak, extended Spanish possessions
would be all the better for a change of management. So the
game of Power Politics went on, but it went on upon the
margins of the prevailing peace. There were several wars and
changes of boundaries, but they involved no fundamental
disturbance of the general civilised life; they did not seem to
threaten its broadening tolerations and understandings in any
fundamental fashion. Economic stresses and social trouble
stirred and muttered beneath the orderly surfaces of political
life, but threatened no convulsion. The idea of altogether
eliminating war, of clearing what was left of it away, was in the
air, but it was free from any sense of urgency. The Hague
Tribunal was established and there was a steady dissemination
of the conceptions of arbitration and international law. It really
seemed to many that the peoples of the earth were settling
down in their various territories to a litigious rather than a
belligerent order. If there was much social injustice it was
being mitigated more and more by a quickening sense of social
decency. Acquisitiveness conducted itself with decorum and
public-spiritedness was in fashion. Some of it was quite honest
In those days, and they are hardly more than half a lifetime
behind us, no one thought of any sort of world administration.
That patchwork of great Powers and small Powers seemed the
most reasonable and practicable method of running the
business of mankind. Communications were far too difficult for
any sort of centralised world controls. Around the World in
Eighty Days, when it was published seventy years ago, seemed
an extravagant fantasy. It was a world without telephone or
radio, with nothing swifter than a railway train or more
destructive than the earlier types of H.E. shell. They were
marvels. It was far more convenient to administer that world of
the Balance of Power in separate national areas and, since there
were such limited facilities for peoples to get at one another
and do each other mischiefs, there seemed no harm in ardent
patriotism and the complete independence of separate
sovereign states.
Economic life was largely directed by irresponsible private
businesses and private finance which, because of their private
ownership, were able to spread out their unifying transactions
in a network that paid little attention to frontiers and national,
racial or religious sentimentality. “Business” was much more of
a world commonwealth than the political organisations. There
were many people, especially in America, who imagined that
“Business” might ultimately unify the world and governments
sink into subordination to its network.
Nowadays we can be wise after the event and we can see that
below this fair surface of things, disruptive forces were steadily
gathering strength. But these disruptive forces played a
comparatively small rôle in the world spectacle of half a
century ago, when the ideas of that older generation which still
dominates our political life and the political education of its
successors, were formed. It is from the conflict of those
Balance of Power and private enterprise ideas, half a century
old, that one of the main stresses of our time arises. These ideas
worked fairly well in their period and it is still with extreme
reluctance that our rulers, teachers, politicians, face the
necessity for a profound mental adaptation of their views,
methods and interpretations to these disruptive forces that once
seemed so negligible and which are now shattering their old
order completely.
It was because of this belief in a growing good-will among
nations, because of the general satisfaction with things as they
were, that the German declarations of war in 1914 aroused such
a storm of indignation throughout the entire comfortable world.
It was felt that the German Kaiser had broken the tranquillity of
the world club, wantonly and needlessly. The war was fought
“against the Hohenzollerns.” They were to be expelled from the
club, certain punitive fines were to be paid and all would be
well. That was the British idea of 1914. This out-of-date war
business was then to be cleared up once for all by a mutual
guarantee by all the more respectable members of the club
through a League of Nations. There was no apprehension of
any deeper operating causes in that great convulsion on the part
of the worthy elder statesmen who made the peace. And so
Versailles and its codicils.
For twenty years the disruptive forces have gone on growing
beneath the surface of that genteel and shallow settlement, and
twenty years there has been no resolute attack upon the riddles
with which their growth confronts us. For all that period of the
League of Nations has been the opiate of liberal thought in the
To-day there is war to get rid of Adolf Hitler, who has now
taken the part of the Hohenzollerns in the drama. He too has
outraged the Club Rules and he too is to be expelled. The war,
the Chamberlain-Hitler War, is being waged so far by the
British Empire in quite the old spirit. It has learnt nothing and
forgotten nothing. There is the same resolute disregard of any
more fundamental problem.
Still the minds of our comfortable and influential ruling-class
people refuse to accept the plain intimation that their time is
over, that the Balance of Power and uncontrolled business
methods cannot continue, and that Hitler, like the
Hohenzollerns, is a mere offensive pustule on the face of a
deeply ailing world. To get rid of him and his Nazis will be no
more a cure for the world’s ills than scraping will heal measles.
The disease will manifest itself in some new eruption. It is the
system of nationalist individualism and unco-ordinated
enterprise that is the world’s disease, and it is the whole system
that has to go. It has to be reconditioned down to its
foundations or replaced. It cannot hope to “muddle through”
amiably, wastefully and dangerously, a second time.
World peace means all that much revolution. More and more of
us begin to realise that it cannot mean less.
The first thing, therefore that has to be done in thinking out the
primary problems of world peace is to realise this, that we are
living in the end of a definite period of history, the period of
the sovereign states. As we used to say in the eighties with
ever-increasing truth: “We are in an age of transition”. Now we
get some measure of the acuteness of the transition. It is a
phase of human life which may lead, as I am trying to show,
either to a new way of living for our species or else to a longer
or briefer dégringolade of violence, misery, destruction, death
and the extinction of mankind. These are not rhetorical phrases
I am using here; I mean exactly what I say, the disastrous
extinction of mankind.
That is the issue before us. It is no small affair of parlour
politics we have to consider. As I write, in the moment,
thousands of people are being killed, wounded, hunted,
tormented, ill-treated, delivered up to the most intolerable and
hopeless anxiety and destroyed morally and mentally, and there
is nothing in sight at present to arrest this spreading process
and prevent its reaching you and yours. It is coming for you and
yours now at a great pace. Plainly in so far as we are rational
foreseeing creatures there is nothing for any of us now but to
make this world peace problem the ruling interest and direction
of our lives. If we run away from it it will pursue and get us.
We have to face it. We have to solve it or be destroyed by it. It
is as urgent and comprehensive as that.
BEFORE WE EXAMINE WHAT I have called so far the
“disruptive forces” in the current social order, let me underline
one primary necessity for the most outspoken free discussion of
the battling organisations and the crumbling institutions amidst
which we lead our present uncomfortable and precarious lives.
There must be no protection for leaders and organisations from
the most searching criticism, on the plea that out country is or
may be at war. Or on any pretence. We must talk openly,
widely and plainly. The war is incidental; the need for
revolutionary reconstruction is fundamental. None of us are
clear as yet upon some of the most vital questions before us, we
are not lucid enough in our own minds to be ambiguous, and a
mumbling tactfulness and indirect half-statements made with
an eye upon some censor, will confuse our thoughts and the
thoughts of those with whom we desire understanding, to the
complete sterilisation and defeat of every reconstructive effort.
We want to talk and tell exactly what our ideas and feelings
are, not only to our fellow citizens, but to our allies, to neutrals
and, above all, to the people who are marshalled in arms
against us. We want to get the same sincerity from them.
Because until we have worked out a common basis of ideas
with them, peace will be only an uncertain equilibrium while
fresh antagonisms develop.
Concurrently with this war we need a great debate. We want
every possible person in the world to take part in that debate. It
is something much more important than the actual warfare. It is
intolerable to think of this storm of universal distress leading
up to nothing but some “conference” of diplomatists out of
touch with the world, with secret sessions, ambiguous
“understandings.” . . . Not twice surely can that occur. And yet
what is going to prevent its recurring?
It is quite easy to define the reasonable limits of censorship in a
belligerent country. It is manifest that the publication of any
information likely to be of the slightest use to an enemy must
be drastically anticipated and suppressed; not only direct
information, for example, but intimations and careless betrayals
about the position and movements of ships, troops, camps,
depots of munitions, food supplies, and false reports of defeats
and victories and coming shortages, anything that may lead to
blind panic and hysteria, and so forth and so on. But the matter
takes on a different aspect altogether when it comes to
statements and suggestions that may affect public opinion in
one’s own country or abroad, and which may help us towards
wholesome and corrective political action.
One of the more unpleasant aspects of a state of war under
modern conditions is the appearance of a swarm of individuals,
too clever by half, in positions of authority. Excited, conceited,
prepared to lie, distort and generally humbug people into states
of acquiescence, resistance, indignation, vindictiveness, doubt
and mental confusion, states of mind supposed to be
conductive to a final military victory. These people love to
twist and censor facts. It gives them a feeling of power; if they
cannot create they can at least prevent and conceal. Particularly
they poke themselves in between us and the people with whom
we are at war to distort any possible reconciliation. They sit,
filled with the wine of their transitory powers, aloof from the
fatigues and dangers of conflict, pulling imaginary strings in
people’s minds.
In Germany popular thought is supposed to be under the
control of Herr Dr Goebbels; in Great Britain we writers have
been invited to place ourselves at the disposal of some Ministry
of Information, that is to say at the disposal of hitherto obscure
and unrepresentative individuals, and write under its advice.
Officials from the British Council and the Conservative Party
Headquarters appear in key positions in this Ministry of
Information. That curious and little advertised organisation I
have just mentioned, the creation I am told of Lord Lloyd, that
British Council, sends emissaries abroad, writers, well-dressed
women and other cultural personages, to lecture, charm and
win over foreign appreciation for British characteristics, for
British scenery, British political virtues and so forth. Somehow
this is supposed to help something or other. Quietly,
unobtrusively, this has gone on. Maybe these sample British
give unauthorised assurances but probably they do little
positive harm. But they ought not to be employed at all. Any
government propaganda is contrary to the essential spirit of
democracy. The expression of opinion and collective thought
should be outside the range of government activities altogether.
It should be the work of free individuals whose prominence is
dependent upon the response and support of the general mind.
But here I have to make amends to Lord Lloyd. I was led to
believe that the British Council was responsible for Mr.
Teeling, the author of Crisis for Christianity, and I said as much
in The Fate of Homo Sapiens. I now unsay it. Mr. Teeling, I
gather, was sent out upon his journeys by a Catholic
newspaper. The British Council was entirely innocent of him.
It is not only that the Ministries of Information and Propaganda
do their level best to divert the limited gifts and energies of
such writers, lecturers and talkers as we possess, to the
production of disingenuous muck that will muddle the public
mind and mislead the enquiring foreigner, but that they show a
marked disposition to stifle any free and independent utterances
that my seem to traverse their own profound and secret plans
for the salvation of mankind.
Everywhere now it is difficult to get adequate, far-reaching
publicity for outspoken discussion of the way the world is
going, and the political, economic and social forces that carry
us along. This is not so much due to deliberate suppression as
to the general disorder into which human affairs are dissolving.
There is indeed in the Atlantic world hardly a sign as yet of that
direct espionage upon opinion that obliterates the mental life of
the intelligent Italian or German or Russian to-day almost
completely; one may still think what one likes, say what one
likes and write what one likes, but nevertheless there is already
an increasing difficulty in getting bold, unorthodox views heard
and read. Newspapers are afraid upon all sorts of minor counts,
publishers, with such valiant exceptions as the publishers of
this matter, are morbidly discreet; they get Notice D to avoid
this or that particular topic; there are obscure boycotts and trade
difficulties hindering the wide diffusion of general ideas in
countless ways. I do not mean there is any sort of organised
conspiracy to suppress discussion, but I do say that the Press,
the publishing and bookselling organisations in our free
countries, provide a very ill-organised and inadequate
machinery for the ventilation and distribution of thought.
Publishers publish for nothing but safe profits; it would
astound a bookseller to tell him he was part of the world’s
educational organisation or a publisher’s traveller, that he
existed for any other purpose than to book maximum orders for
best sellers and earn a record commission – letting the other
stuff, the highbrow stuff and all that, go hang. They do not
understand that they ought to put public service before gain.
They have no inducement to do so and no pride in their
function. Theirs is the morale of a profiteering world.
Newspapers like to insert brave-looking articles of
conventional liberalism, speaking highly of peace and
displaying a noble vagueness about its attainment; now we are
at war they will publish the fiercest attacks upon the enemy –
because such attacks are supposed to keep up the fighting spirit
of the country; but any ideas that are really loudly and clearly
revolutionary they dare not circulate at all. Under these baffling
conditions there is no thorough discussion of the world outlook
whatever, anywhere. The democracies are only a shade better
than the dictatorships in this respect. It is ridiculous to
represent them as realms of light at issue with darkness.
This great debate upon the reconstruction of the world is a
thing more important and urgent than the war, and there exist
no adequate media for the utterance and criticism and
correction of any broad general convictions. There is a certain
fruitless and unproductive spluttering of constructive ideas, but
there is little sense of sustained enquiry, few real interchanges,
inadequate progress, nothing is settled, nothing is dismissed as
unsound and nothing is won permanently. No one seems to
hear what anyone else is saying. That is because there is no
sense of an audience for these ideologists. There is no effective
audience saying rudely and obstinately: “What A. has said,
seems important. Will B. and C., instead of bombinating in the
void, tell us exactly where and why they differ from A.? And
now we have got to the common truth of A., B., C., and D.
Here is F. saying something. Will he be so good as to correlate
what he has to say with A., B., C., and D.?”
But there is no such background of an intelligently observant
and critical world audience in evidence. There are a few people
here and there reading and thinking in disconnected fragments.
This is all the thinking our world is doing in the face of
planetary disaster. The universities, bless them! are in uniform
or silent.
We need to air our own minds; we need frank exchanges, if we
are to achieve any common understanding. We need to work
out a clear conception of the world order we would prefer to
this present chaos, we need to dissolve or compromise upon
our differences so that we may set our faces with assurance
towards an attainable world peace. The air is full of the
panaceas of half-wits, none listening to the others and most of
them trying to silence the others in their impatience. Thousands
of fools are ready to write us a complete prescription for our
world troubles. Will people never realise their own ignorance
and incompleteness, from which arise this absolute necessity
for the plainest statement of the realities of the problem, for the
most exhaustive and unsparing examination of differences of
opinion, and for the most ruthless canvassing of every
possibility, however unpalatable it may seem at first, of the
Before anything else, therefore, in this survey of the way to
world peace, I put free speech and vigorous publication. It is
the thing best worth fighting for. It is the essence of your
personal honour. It is your duty as a world citizen to do what
you can for that. You have not only to resist suppressions, you
have to fight your way out of the fog. If you find your
bookseller or newsagent failing to distribute any type of
publication whatever – even if you are in entire disagreement
with the views of that publication – you should turn the weapon
of the boycott upon the offender and find another bookseller or
newsagent for everything you read. The would-be world citizen
should subscribe also to such organisation as the National
Council for Civil Liberties; he should use any advantage his
position may give him to check suppression of free speech; and
he should accustom himself to challenge nonsense politely but
firmly and say fearlessly and as clearly as possible what is in
his mind and to listen as fearlessly to whatever is said to him.
So that he may know better either through reassurance or
correction. To get together with other people to argue and
discuss, to think and organise and then implement thought is
the first duty of every reasonable man.
This world of ours is going to pieces. It has to be reconstructed
and it can only be effectively reconstructed in the light. Only
the free, clear, open mind can save us, and these difficulties and
obstructions on our line of thought are as evil as children
putting obstacles on a railway line or scattering nails on an
automobile speed track.
This great world debate must go on, and it must go on now.
Now while the guns are still thudding, is the time for thought. It
is incredibly foolish to talk as so many people do of ending the
war and then having a World Conference to inaugurate a new
age. So soon as the fighting stops the real world conference, the
live discussion, will stop, too. The diplomats and politicians
will assemble with an air of profound competence and close the
doors upon the outer world and resume – Versailles. While the
silenced world gapes and waits upon their mysteries.
AND NOW LET US come to the disruptive forces that have
reduced that late-nineteenth-century dream of a powerful world
patchwork of more and more civilised states linked by an everincreasing
financial and economic interdependence, to
complete incredibility, and so forced upon every intelligent
mind the need to work out a new conception of the World that
ought to be. It is supremely important that the nature of these
disruptive forces should be clearly understood and kept in
mind. To grasp them is to hold the clues to the world’s present
troubles. To forget about them, even for a moment, is to lose
touch with essential reality and drift away into minor issues.
The first group of these forces is what people are accustomed
to speak of as “the abolition of distance” and “the change of
scale” in human operations. This “abolition of distance” began
rather more than a century ago, and its earlier effects were not
disruptive at all. It knit together the spreading United States of
America over distances that might otherwise have strained their
solidarity to the breaking-point, and it enabled the sprawling
British Empire to sustain contacts round the whole planet.
The disruptive influence of the abolition of distance appeared
only later. Let us be clear upon its essential significance. For
what seemed like endless centuries the swiftest means of
locomotion had been the horse on the high-road, the running
man, the galley and the uncertain, weather-ruled sailing ship.
(There was the Dutchman on skates on skates on his canals, but
that was an exceptional culmination of speed and not for
general application.) The political, social and imaginative life
of man for all those centuries was adapted to these limiting
conditions. They determined the distances to which marketable
goods could conveniently be sent, the limits to which the ruler
could send his orders and his solders, the bounds set to getting
news, and indeed the whole scale of living. There could be very
little real community feeling beyond the range of frequent
Human life fell naturally therefore into areas determined by the
interplay between these limitations and such natural obstacles
as seas and mountains. Such countries as France, England,
Egypt, Japan, appeared and reappeared in history like natural,
necessary things, and though there were such larger political
efforts as the Roman Empire, they never attained an enduring
unity. The Roman Empire held together like wet blottingpaper;
it was always falling to pieces. The older Empires,
beyond their national nuclei, were mere precarious tributelevying
powers. What I have already called the world
patchwork of the great and little Powers, was therefore, under
the old horse-and-foot and sailing-ship conditions, almost as
much a matter of natural necessity as the sizes of trees and
Within a century all this has been changed and we have still to
face up to what that change means for us.
First came steam, the steam-railway, the steamship, and then in
a quickening crescendo came the internal combustion engine,
electrical traction, the motor car, the motor boat, the aeroplane,
the transmission of power from central power stations, the
telephone, the radio. I feel apologetic in reciting this wellknown
story. I do so in order to enforce the statement that all
the areas that were the most convenient and efficient for the
old, time-honoured way of living, became more and more
inconveniently close and narrow for the new needs. This
applied to every sort of administrative area, from municipalities
and urban districts and the range of distributing businesses, up
to sovereign states. They were – and for the most part they still
are – too small for the new requirements and far too close
together. All over the social layout this tightening-up and
squeezing together is an inconvenience, but when it comes to
the areas of sovereign states it becomes impossibly dangerous.
It becomes an intolerable thing; human life cannot go on, with
the capitals of most of the civilised countries of the world
within an hour’s bombing range of their frontiers, behind which
attacks can be prepared and secret preparations made without
any form of control. And yet we are still tolerant and loyal to
arrangements that seek to maintain this state of affairs and treat
it as though nothing else were possible.
The present war for and against Hitler and Stalin and Mr.
Chamberlain and so forth, does not even touch upon the
essential problem of the abolition of distance. It may indeed
destroy everything and still settle nothing. If one could wipe
out all the issues of the present conflict, we should still be
confronted with the essential riddle, which is the abolition of
the boundaries of most existing sovereign states and their
merger in some larger Pax. We have to do that if any
supportable human life is to go on. Treaties and mutual
guarantees are not enough. We have surely learnt enough about
the value of treaties during the last half-century to realise that.
We have, because of the abolition of distance alone, to gather
human affairs together under one common war-preventing
But this abolition of distance is only one most vivid aspect of
the change in the conditions of human life. Interwoven with
that is a general change of scale in human operations. The past
hundred years has been an age of invention and discovery
beyond the achievements of the preceding three millennia. In a
book I published eight years ago, The Work, Wealth and
Happiness of Mankind, I tried to summarise the conquest of
power and substances that is still going on. There is more
power expended in a modern city like Birmingham in a day
than we need to keep the whole of Elizabethan England going
for a year; there is more destructive energy in a single tank than
sufficed the army of William I for the conquest of England.
Man is able now to produce or destroy on a scale beyond
comparison greater than he could before this storm of invention
began. And the consequence is the continual further dislocation
of the orderly social life of our great-great-grandfathers. No
trade, no profession, is exempt. The old social routines and
classifications have been, as people say, “knocked silly”. There
is no sort of occupation, fisheries, farming, textile work, metal
work, mining which is not suffering from constant
readjustment to new methods and facilities. Our traditions of
trade and distribution flounder after these changes. Skilled
occupations disappear in the general liquefaction.
The new power organisations are destroying the forests of the
world at headlong speed, ploughing great grazing areas into
deserts, exhausting mineral resources, killing off whales, seals
and a multitude of rare and beautiful species, destroying the
morale of every social type and devastating the planet. The
institutions of the private appropriation of land and natural
resources generally, and of private enterprise for profit, which
did produce a fairly tolerable, stable and “civilised” social life
for all but the most impoverished, in Europe, America and
East, for some centuries, have been expanded to a monstrous
destructiveness by the new opportunities. The patient, nibbling,
enterprising profit-seeker of the past, magnified and equipped
now with the huge claws and teeth the change of scale has
provided for him, has torn the old economic order to rags.
Quite apart from war, our planet is being wasted and
disorganised. Yet the process goes on, without any general
control, more monstrously destructive even than the continually
enhanced terrors of modern warfare.
Now it has to be made clear that these two things, the manifest
necessity for some collective world control to eliminate warfare
and the less generally admitted necessity for a collective
control of the economic and biological life of mankind, are
aspects of one and the same process. Of the two the
disorganisation of the ordinary life which is going on, war or
no war, is the graver and least reversible. Both arise out of the
abolition of distance and the change of scale, they affect and
modify each other, and unless their parallelism and
interdependence are recognised, any projects for world
federation or anything of the sort are doomed inevitably to
That is where the League of nations broke down completely. It
was legal; it was political. It was devised by an ex-professor of
the old-fashioned history assisted by a few politicians. It
ignored the vast disorganisation of human life by technical
revolutions, big business and modern finance that was going
on, of which the Great War itself was scarcely more than a byproduct.
It was constituted as though nothing of that sort was
This war storm which is breaking upon us now, due to the
continued fragmentation of human government among a
patchwork of sovereign states, is only one aspect of the general
need for a rational consolidation of human affairs. The
independent sovereign state with its perpetual war threat,
armed with the resources of modern mechanical frightfulness,
is only the most blatant and terrifying aspect of that same want
of a coherent general control that makes overgrown,
independent, sovereign, private business organisations and
combinations, socially destructive. We should still be at the
mercy of the “Napoleons” of commerce and the “Attilas” of
finance, if there was not a gun or a battleship or a tank or a
military uniform in the world. We should still be sold up and
Political federation, we have to realise, without a concurrent
economic collectivisation, is bound to fail. The task of the
peace-maker who really desires peace in a new world, involves
not merely a political but a profound social revolution,
profounder even than the revolution attempted by the
Communists in Russia. The Russian Revolution failed not by
its extremism but through the impatience, violence and
intolerance of its onset, through lack of foresight and
intellectual insufficiency. The cosmopolitan revolution to a
world collectivism, which is the only alternative to chaos and
degeneration before mankind, has to go much further than the
Russian; it has to be more thorough and better conceived and
its achievement demands a much more heroic and more
steadfast thrust.
It serves no useful purpose to shut our eyes to the magnitude
and intricacy of the task of making the world peace. These are
the basic factors of the case.
NOW HERE IT IS necessary to make a distinction which is far
too frequently ignored. Collectivisation means the handling of
the common affairs of mankind by a common control
responsible to the whole community. It means the suppression
of go-as-you-please in social and economic affairs just as much
as in international affairs. It means the frank abolition of profitseeking
and of every devise by which human+beings contrive
to be parasitic on their fellow man. It is the practical realisation
of the brotherhood of man through a common control. It means
all that and it means no more than that.
The necessary nature of that control, the way to attain it and to
maintain it have still to be discussed.
The early forms of socialism were attempts to think out and try
out collectivist systems. But with the advent of Marxism, the
larger idea of collectivism became entangled with a smaller
one, the perpetual conflict of people in any unregulated social
system to get the better of one another. Throughout the ages
this has been going on. The rich, the powerful generally, the
more intelligent and acquisitive have got away with things, and
sweated, oppressed, enslaved, bought and frustrated the less
intelligent, the less acquisitive and the unwary. The Haves in
every generation have always got the better of the Have-nots,
and the Have-nots have always resented the privations of their
So it is and so in the uncollectivised world it has always been.
The bitter cry of the expropriated man echoes down the ages
from ancient Egypt and the Hebrew prophets, denouncing those
who grind the faces of the poor. At times the Have-nots have
been so uneducated, so helplessly distributed among their more
successful fellows that they have been incapable of social
disturbance, but whenever such developments as plantation of
factory labour, the accumulation of men in seaport towns, the
disbanding of armies, famine and so forth, brought together
masses of men at the same disadvantage, their individual
resentments flowed together and became a common
resentment. The miseries underlying human society were
revealed. The Haves found themselves assailed by resentful,
vindictive revolt.
Let us note that these revolts of the Have-nots throughout the
ages have sometimes been very destructive, but that invariably
they have failed to make any fundamental change in this old,
old story of getting and not getting the upper hand. Sometimes
the Have-nots have frightened or otherwise moved the Haves to
more decent behaviour. Often the Have-nots have found a
Champion who has ridden to power on their wrongs. Then the
ricks were burnt or the châteaux. The aristocrats were
guillotined and their heads carried on exemplary pikes. Such
storms passed and when they passed, there for all practical
purposes was the old order returning again; new people but the
old inequalities. Returning inevitably, with only slight
variations in appearance and phraseology, under the condition
of a non-collective social order.
The point to note is that in the unplanned scramble of human
life through the centuries of the horse-and-foot period, these
incessantly recurring outbreaks of the losers against the
winners have never once produced any permanent amelioration
of the common lot, or greatly changed the features of the
human community. Not once.
The Have-nots have never produced the intelligence and the
ability and the Haves have never produced the conscience, to
make a permanent alteration of the rules of the game. Slave
revolts, peasant revolts, revolts of the proletariat have always
been fits of rage, acute social fevers which have passed. The
fact remains that history produces no reason for supposing that
the Have-nots, considered as a whole, have available any
reserves of directive and administrative capacity and
disinterested devotion, superior to that of the more successful
classes. Morally, intellectually, there is no reason to suppose
them better.
Many potentially able people may miss education and
opportunity; they may not be inherently inferior but
nevertheless they are crippled and incapacitated and kept down.
They are spoilt. Many specially gifted people may fail to “make
good” in a jostling, competitive, acquisitive world and so fall
into poverty and into the baffled, limited ways of living of the
commonalty, but they too are exceptions. The idea of a rightminded
Proletariat ready to take things over is a dream.
As the collectivist idea has developed out of the original
propositions of socialism, the more lucid thinkers have put this
age-long bitterness of the Haves and the Have-nots into its
proper place as part, as the most distressing part, but still only
as part, of the vast wastage of human resources that their
disorderly exploitation entailed. In the light of current events
they have come to realise more and more clearly that the need
and possibility of arresting this waste by a world-wide
collectivisation is becoming continually more possible and at
the same time imperative. They have had no delusions about
the education and liberation that is necessary to gain that end.
They have been moved less by moral impulses and sentimental
pity and so forth, admirable but futile motives, as by the intense
intellectual irritation of living in a foolish and destructive
system. They are revolutionaries not because the present way of
living is a hard and tyrannous way of living, but because it is
from top to bottom exasperatingly stupid.
But thrusting athwart the socialist movement towards
collectivisation and its research for some competent directive
organisation of the world’s affairs, came the clumsy initiative
of Marxism with its class-war dogma, which has done more to
misdirect and sterilise human good-will than any other
misconception of reality that has ever stultified human effort.
Marx saw the world from a study and through the hazes of a
vast ambition. He swam in the current ideologies of his time
and so he shared the prevalent socialist drive towards
collectivisation. But while his sounder-minded contemporaries
were studying means and ends he jumped from a very
imperfect understanding of the Trades Union movement in
Britain to the wildest generalisations about the social process.
He invented and antagonised two phantoms. One was the
Capitalist System; the other the Worker.
There never has been anything on earth that could be properly
called a Capitalist System. What was the matter with his world
was manifestly its entire want of system. What the Socialists
were feeling their way towards was the discovery and
establishment of a world system.
The Haves of our period were and are a fantastic miscellany of
people, inheriting or getting their power and influence by the
most various of the interbreeding social solidarity even of a
feudal aristocracy or an Indian caste. But Marx, looking rather
into his inner consciousness than at any concrete reality,
evolved that monster “System” on his Right. Then over against
it, still gazing into that vacuum, he discovered on the Left the
proletarians being steadily expropriated and becoming classconscious.
They were just as endlessly various in reality as the
people at the top of the scramble; in reality but not in the mind
of the Communist seer. There they consolidated rapidly.
So while other men toiled at this gigantic problem of
collectivisation, Marx found his almost childlishy simple
recipe. All you had to do was to tell the workers that they were
being robbed and enslaved by this wicked “Capitalist System”
devised by the “bourgeoisie”. They need only “unite”; they had
“nothing to lose but their chains”. The wicked Capitalist
System was to be overthrown, with a certain vindictive
liquidation of “capitalists” in general and the “bourgeoisie” in
particular, and a millennium would ensue under a purely
workers’ control, which Lenin later on was to crystallise into a
phrase of supra-theological mystery, “the dictatorship of the
proletariat”. The proletarians need learn nothing, plan nothing;
they were right and good by nature; they would just “take
over”. The infinitely various envies, hatreds and resentments of
the Have-nots were to fuse into a mighty creative drive. All
virtue resided in them; all evil in those who had bettered them.
One good thing there was in this new doctrine of the class war,
it inculcated a much needed brotherliness among the workers,
but it was balanced by the organisation of class hate. So the
great propaganda of the class war, with these monstrous
falsifications of manifest fact, went forth. Collectivisation
would not so much be organised as appear magically when the
incubus of Capitalism and all those irritatingly well-to-do
people, were lifted off the great Proletarian soul.
Marx was a man incapable in money matters and much
bothered by tradesmen’s bills. Moreover he cherished absurd
pretensions to aristocracy. The consequence was that he
romanced about the lovely life of the Middle Ages as if he were
another Belloc and concentrated his animus about the
“bourgeoisie”, whom he made responsible for all those great
disruptive forces in human society that we have considered.
Lord Bacon, the Marquis of Worcester, Charles the Second and
the Royal Society, people like Cavendish and Joule and Watt
for example, all became “bourgeoisie” in his inflamed
imagination. “During its reign of scarce a century”, he wrote in
the Communist Manifesto, “the bourgeoisie has created more
powerful, more stupendous forces of production than all
preceding generations rolled into one . . . . What earlier
generations had the remotest inkling that such productive
forces slumbered within the wombs of associated labour?”
“The wombs of associated labour!” (Golly, what a phrase!) The
industrial revolution which was a consequence of the
mechanical revolution is treated as the cause of it. Could facts
be muddled more completely?
And again: ” . . . the bourgeois system is no longer able to cope
with the abundance of wealth it creates. How does the
bourgeoisie overcome these crises? On the one hand, by the
compulsory annihilation of a quantity of the productive forces;
on the other, by the conquest of new markets and the more
thorough exploitation of old ones. With what results? The
results are that the way is paved for more widespread and more
disastrous crises and that the capacity for averting such crises is
“The weapons” (Weapons! How that sedentary gentleman in
his vast beard adored military images!) “with which the
bourgeoisie overthrew feudalism are now being turned against
the bourgeoisie itself.
“But the bourgeoisie has not only forged the weapons that will
slay it; it has also engendered the men who will use these
weapons – the modern workers, the proletarians.”
And so here they are, hammer and sickle in hand, chest stuck
out, proud, magnificent, commanding, in the Manifesto. But go
and look for them yourself in the streets. Go and look at them
in Russia.
Even for 1848 this is not intelligent social analysis. It is the
outpouring of a man with a B in his bonnet, the hated
Bourgeoisie, a man with a certain vision, uncritical of his own
sub-conscious prejudices, but shrewd enough to realise how
great a driving force is hate and the inferiority complex.
Shrewd enough to use hate and bitter enough to hate. Let
anyone read over that Communist Manifesto and consider who
might have shared the hate or even have got it all, if Marx had
not been the son of a rabbi. Read Jews for Bourgeoisie and the
Manifesto is pure Nazi teaching of the 1933-8 vintage.
Stripped down to its core in this fashion, the primary falsity of
the Marxist assumption is evident. But it is one of the queer
common weakness of the human mind to be uncritical of
primary assumptions and to smother up any enquiry into their
soundness in secondary elaboration, in technicalities and
conventional formulæ. Most of our systems of belief rest upon
rotten foundations, and generally these foundations are made
sacred to preserve them from attack. They become dogmas in a
sort of holy of holies. It is shockingly uncivil to say “But that is
nonsense”. The defenders of all the dogmatic religions fly into
rage and indignation when one touches on the absurdity of their
foundations. Especially if one laughs. That is blasphemy.
This avoidance of fundamental criticism is one of the greatest
dangers to any general human understanding. Marxism is no
exception to the universal tendency. The Capitalist System has
to be a real system, the Bourgeoisie an organised conspiracy
against the Workers, and every human conflict everywhere has
to be an aspect of the Class War, or they cannot talk to you.
They will not listen to you. Never once has there been an
attempt to answer the plain things I have been saying about
them for a third of a century. Anything not in their language
flows off their minds like water off a duck’s back. Even Lenin –
by far the subtlest mind in the Communist story – has not
escaped this pitfall, and when I talked to him in Moscow in
1920 he seemed quite unable to realise that the violent conflict
going on in Ireland between the Catholic nationalists and the
Protestant garrison was not his sacred insurrection of the
Proletariat in full blast.
To-day there is quite a number of writers, and among them
there are men of science who ought to think better, solemnly
elaborating a pseudo-philosophy of science and society upon
the deeply buried but entirely nonsensical foundations laid by
Marx. Month by month the industrious Left book Club pours a
new volume over the minds of its devotees to sustain their
mental habits and pickle them against the septic influence of
unorthodox literature. A party Index of Forbidden Books will
no doubt follow. Distinguished professors with solemn delight
in their own remarkable ingenuity, lecture and discourse and
even produce serious-looking volumes, upon the superiority of
Marxist physics and Marxist research, to the unbranded
activities of the human mind. One tries not to be rude to them,
but it is hard to believe they are not deliberately playing the
fool with their brains. Or have they a feeling that revolutionary
communism is ahead, and are they doing their best to
rationalise it with an eye to those red days to come? (See
Hogben’s Dangerous Thoughts.)
Here I cannot pursue in any detail the story of the Rise and
Corruption of Marxism in Russia. It confirms in every
particular my contention that the class-war idea is an
entanglement and perversion of the world drive towards a
world collectivism, a wasting disease of cosmopolitan
socialism. It has followed in its general outline the common
history of every revolt of the Have-nots since history began.
Russia in the shadows displayed an immense inefficiency and
sank slowly to Russia in the dark. Its galaxy of incompetent
foremen, managers, organisers and so forth, developed the
most complicated system of self-protection against criticism,
they sabotaged one another, they intrigued against one another.
You can read the quintessence of the thing in Littlepage’s In
Search of Soviet Gold. And like every other Have-not revolt
since the dawn of history, hero worship took possession of the
insurgent masses. The inevitable Champion appeared. They
escape from the Czar and in twenty years they are worshipping
Stalin, originally a fairly honest, unoriginal, ambitious
revolutionary, driven to self-defensive cruelty and inflated by
flattery to his present quasi-divine autocracy. The cycle
completes itself and we see that like every other merely
insurrectionary revolution, nothing has changed; a lot of people
have been liquidated and a lot of other people have replaced
them and Russia seems returning back to the point at which it
started, to a patriotic absolutism of doubtful efficiency and
vague, incalculable aims. Stalin, I believe, is honest and
benevolent in intention, he believes in collectivism simply and
plainly, he is still under the impression that he is making a
good thing of Russia and of the countries within her sphere of
influence, and he is self-righteously impatient of criticism or
opposition. His successor may not have the same
But I have written enough to make it clear why we have to
dissociate collectivisation altogether from the class war in our
minds. Let us waste no more time on the spectacle of the
Marxist putting the cart in front of the horse and tying himself
up with the harness. We have to put all this proletarian
distortion of the case out of our minds and start afresh upon the
problem of how to realise the new and unprecedented
possibilities of world collectivisation that have opened out
upon the world in the past hundred years. That is a new story.
An entirely different story.
We human+beings are facing gigantic forces that will either
destroy our species altogether or lift it to an altogether
unprecedented level of power and well-being. These forces
have to be controlled or we shall be annihilated. But
completely controlled they can abolish slavery – by the one sure
means of making these things unnecessary. Class-war
communism has its opportunity to realise all this, and it has
failed to make good. So far it has only replaced one autocratic
Russia by another. Russia, like all the rest of the world, is still
facing the problem of the competent government of a collective
system. She has not solved it.
The dictatorship of the proletariat has failed us. We have to
look for possibilities of control in other directions. Are they to
be found?
A friendly adviser reading the passage on p.47 protests against
“the wombs of associated labour” as a mistranslation of the
original German of the Manifesto. I took it from the translation
of Professor Hirendranath Mukherjee in an Indian students’
journal, Sriharsha, which happened to be at my desk. But my
adviser produces Lily G. Aitken and Frank C. Budgen in a
Glasgow Socialist Labour Press publication, who gave it as
“the lap of social labour”, which is more refined but pure
nonsense. The German word is “schoss”, and in its widest sense
it means the whole productive maternal outfit from bosom to
knees and here quite definitely the womb. The French
translation gives “sein”, which at the first glance seems to carry
gentility to an even higher level. But as you can say in French
that an expectant mother carries her child in her “sein”, I think
Professor Mukherjee has it. Thousands of reverent young
Communists must have read that “lap” without observing its
absurdity. Marx is trying to make out that the increase of
productive efficiency was due to “association” in factories. A
better phrase to express his (wrong-headed) intention would
have been “the co-ordinated operations of workers massed in
WE HAVE NOW TO examine these disruptive forces a little
more closely, these disruptive forces which are manifestly
overstraining and destroying the social and political system in
which most of us have been reared. At what particular points in
our political and social life are these disruptive forces
discovering breaking-points?
Chief among these breaking-points, people are beginning to
realise more and more clearly, is the common, half-educated
young man.
One particular consequence of the onrush of power and
invention in our time, is the release of a great flood of human
energy in the form of unemployed young people. This is a
primary factor of the general political instability.
We have to recognise that humanity is not suffering, as most
animal species when they suffer to do, from hunger or want in
any material form. It is threatened not by deficiency but by
excess. It is plethoric. It is not lying down to die through
physical exhaustion; it is knocking itself to pieces.
Measured by any standards except human contentment and
ultimate security, mankind appears to be much wealthier now
than in 1918. The qualities of power and material immediately
available are much greater. What is called productivity in
general is greater. But there is sound reason for supposing that
a large part of this increased productivity is really a swifter and
more thorough exploitation of irreplaceable capital. It is a
process that cannot go on indefinitely. It rises to a maximum
and then the feast is over. Natural resources are being
exhausted at a great rate, and the increased output goes into war
munitions whose purpose is destruction, and into sterile
indulgences no better than waste. Man, “heir of the ages”, is a
demoralised spendthrift, in a state of galloping consumption,
living on stimulants.
When we look into the statistics of population, there is
irrefutable proof that everywhere we are passing a maximum
(see for this Enid Charles’ The Twilight of Parenthood, or R.
R. Kuczynski’s Measurement of Population Growth) and that a
rapid decline is certain not only in Western Europe bur
throughout the world. There is sound reason for doubting the
alleged vast increase of the Russian people (see Souvarine’s
Stalin). Nevertheless, because of the continually increasing
efficiency of productive methods, the relative pressure of this
new unemployed class increases. The “mob” of the twentieth
century is quite different from the almost animal “mob” of the
eighteenth century. It is a restless sea of dissatisfied young
people, of young men who can find no outlet for their natural
urgencies and ambitions, young people quite ready to “make
trouble” as soon as they are shown how.
In the technically crude past, the illiterate Have-nots were
sweated and overworked. It was easy to find toil to keep them
all busy. Such surplus multitudes are wanted no more. Toil is
no longer marketable. Machines can toil better and with less
These frustrated multitudes have been made acutely aware of
their own frustration. The gap of their always partly artificial
disadvantage has been greatly diminished because now they all
read. Even for incidental employment it has been necessary to
teach them that, and the new reading public thus created has
evoked a press and literature of excitement and suggestion. The
cinema and the radio dazzle them with spectacles of luxury and
unrestricted living. They are not the helpless Hodges and
factory fodder of a hundred years ago. They are educated up to
what must have been the middle-class level in 1889. They are
indeed largely a squeezed-out middle class, restless, impatient
and as we shall see extremely dangerous. They have
assimilated almost all of the lower strata that were formerly
illiterate drudges.
And this modernised excess population has no longer any
social humility. It has no belief in the infallible wisdom of its
rulers. It sees them too clearly; it knows about them, their
waste, vices and weaknesses, with an even exaggerated
vividness. It sees no reason for its exclusion from the good
things of life by such people. It has lost enough of its inferiority
to realise that most of that inferiority is arbitrary and artificial.
You may say that this is a temporary state of affairs, that the
fall in population will presently relieve the situation, by getting
rid of this surplus of the “not wanted”. But it will do nothing of
the sort. As population falls, consumption will fall. Industries
will still be producing more and more efficiently for a
shrinking market and they will be employing fewer and fewer
hands. A state of five million people with half a million of
useless hands, will be twice as unstable as forty million with
two million standing off. So long as the present state of affairs
continues, this stratum of perplexed young people “out of it”
will increase relatively to the total community.
It is still not realised as clearly as it should be, how much the
troubles of the present time are due to this new aspect of the
social puzzle. But if you will scrutinise the events of the past
half century in the light of this idea, you will see more and
more convincingly that it is mainly through this growing mass
of unfulfilled desire that the disruptive forces manifest
The eager and adventurous unemployed young are indeed the
shock troops in the destruction of the old social order
everywhere. They find guidance in some confident Party or
some inspired Champion, who organises them for revolutionary
or counter-revolutionary ends. It scarcely matters which. They
become Communists or they become Fascists, Nazis, the Irish
Republican Army, Ku Klux Klansmen and so forth and so on.
The essence is the combination of energy, frustration and
discontent. What all such movements have in common, is a
genuine indignation at the social institutions that have begotten
and then cold-shouldered them, a quasi-military organisation
and the resolve to seize power for themselves embodied in their
leaders. A wise and powerful government would at any cost
anticipate and avert these destructive activities by providing
various and interesting new employment and the necessary
condition for a satisfying successful life for everyone. These
young people are life. The rise of the successful leader only
puts off the trouble for a time. He seizes power in the name of
his movement. And then? When the seizure of power has been
effected, he finds himself obliged to keep things going, to
create justification for his leadership, exciting enterprises,
A leader of vision with adequate technical assistance might
conceivedly direct much of the human energy he has embodied
into creative channels. For example he could rebuild the dirty,
inadequate cities of our age, turn the still slovenly country-side
into a garden and play-ground, re-clothe, liberate and stimulate
imaginations, until the ideas of creative progress became a
habit of mind. But in doing this he will find himself confronted
by those who are sustained by the pre-emptions and
appropriations of the old order. These relatively well-off people
will bargain with him up to the last moment for their money
and impede his seizure and utilisation of land and material
resources, and will be further hampered by the fact that in
organising his young people he has had to turn their minds and
capacities from creative work to systematic violence and
militant activities. It is easy to make an unemployed young man
into a Fascist or gangster, but it is hard to turn him back to any
decent social task. Moreover the Champion’s own leadership
was largely due to his conspiratorial and adventurous quality.
He is himself unfit for a creative job. He finds himself a fighter
at the head of a fighting pack.
And furthermore, unless his country is on the scale of Russia
and the United States, whatever he attempts in order to make
good his promises of an abundant life, has to be done in face of
that mutual pressure of the sovereign states due to the abolition
of distance and change of scale which we have already
considered. He has no elbow-room in which to operate. The
resultant of these convergent difficulties is to turn him and his
fighting pack releasing flux of predatory war.
Everywhere in the world, under varying local circumstances,
we see governments primarily concerned with this supreme
problem of what to do with these young adults who are
unemployable under present conditions. We have to realise that
and bear it constantly in mind. It is there in every country. It is
the most dangerous and wrong-headed view of the world
situation, to treat the totalitarian countries as differing
fundamentally from the rest of the world.
The problem of reabsorbing the unemployable adult is the
essential problem in all states. It is the common shape to which
all current political dramas reduce. How are we to use up or
slake this surplus of human energy? The young are the live core
of our species. The generation below sixteen or seventeen has
not yet begun to give trouble, and after forty, the ebb of vitality
disposes men to accept the lot that has fallen to them.
Franklin Roosevelt and Stalin find themselves in control of
vast countries under-developed or so misdeveloped that their
main energies go into internal organisation or reorganisation.
They do not press against their frontiers therefore and they do
not threaten war. The recent Russian annexations have been
precautionary-defensive. But all the same both Russia and
America have to cater for that troublesome social stratum quite
as much as Europe. The New Deal is plainly an attempt to
achieve a working socialism and avert a social collapse in
America; it is extraordinarily parallel to the successive
“policies” and “Plans” of the Russian experiment. Americans
shirk the word “socialism”, but what else can one call it?
The British oligarchy, demoralised and slack with the
accumulated wealth of a century of advantage, bought off
social upheaval for a time by the deliberate and socially
demoralising appeasement of the dole. It has made no adequate
effort to employ or educate these surplus people; it has just
pushed the dole at them. It even tries to buy off the leader of
the Labour Party with a salary of £2000 a year. Whatever we
may think of the quality and deeds of the Nazi or Fascist
regimes or the follies of their leaders, we must at any rate
concede that they attempt, however clumsily, to reconstruct life
in a collectivist direction. They are efforts to adjust and
construct and so far they are in advance of the British ruling
class. The British Empire has shown itself the least
constructive of all governing networks. It produces no New
Deals, no Five Year Plans; it keeps on trying to stave off its
inevitable dissolution and carry on upon the old lines – and
apparently it will do that until it has nothing more to give away.
“Peace in our time”, that foolishly premature selfcongratulation
of Mr Chamberlain, is manifestly the guiding
principle of the British elder statesman. It is that natural desire
we all begin to feel after sixty to sit down comfortably
somewhere. Unprogressive tranquillity they want at any price,
even at the price of a preventive war. This astonishing bunch of
rulers has never revealed any conception whatever of a
common future before its sprawling Empire. There was a time
when that Empire seemed likely to become the nexus of a
world system, but now manifestly it has no future but
disintegration. Apparently its rulers expected it to go on just as
it was for ever. Bit by bit its component parts have dropped
away and become quasi-independent powers, generally after an
unedifying struggle; Southern Ireland for example is neutral in
the present war, South Africa hesitated.
Now, and that is why this book is being written, these people,
by a string of almost incredible blunders, have entangled what
is left of their Empire in a great war to “end Hitler”, and they
have absolutely no suggestion to offer their antagonists and the
world at large, of what is to come after Hitler. Apparently they
hope to paralyse Germany in some as yet unspecified fashion
and then to go back to their golf links or the fishing stream and
doze by the fire after dinner. That is surely one of the most
astounding things in history, the possibility of death and
destruction beyond all reckoning and our combatant
governments have no idea of what is to follow when the
overthrow of Hitler is accomplished. They seem to be as void
of any sense of the future, as completely empty-headed about
the aftermath of their campaigns, as one of those American
Tories who are “just out against F.D.R. Damn him!”
So the British Empire remains, paying its way down to ultimate
bankruptcy, buying itself a respite from the perplexing
problems of the future, with the accumulated wealth and power
of its past. It is rapidly becoming the most backward political
organisation in the world. But sooner or later it will have no
more money for the dole and no more allies to abandon nor
dominions to yield up to their local bosses, and then possibly
its disintegration will be complete (R.I.P.), leaving intelligent
English people to line up at last with America and the rest of
the intelligent world and face the universal problem. Which is:
how are we to adapt ourselves to these mighty disruptive forces
that are shattering human society as it is at present constituted?
In the compressed countries which have little internal scope
and lack the vast natural resources of the Russian and Atlantic
communities, the internal tension makes more directly for
aggressive warfare, but the fundamental driving-force behind
their aggressiveness is still the universal trouble, that surplus of
young men.
Seen in this broader vision, the present war falls into its true
proportions as a stupid conflict upon secondary issues, which is
delaying and preventing an overdue world adjustment. That is
may kill hundreds of thousands of people does not alter that.
An idiot with a revolver can murder a family. He remains an
From 1914 to 1939 has been a quarter of a century of folly,
meanness, evasion and resentment, and only a very tedious and
copious historian would attempt to distribute the blame among
those who had played a part in the story. And when he had
done it, what he had done would not matter in the least. An
almost overwhelmingly difficult problem has confronted us all,
and in some measure we have all of us lost our heads in the
face of it, lost our dignity, been too clever by half, pinned
ourselves to cheap solutions, quarrelled stupidly among
ourselves. “We have erred and strayed . . . . We have lest
undone those things that we ought to have done and we have
done those things which we ought not to have done and there is
no health in us.”
I do not see any way to a solution of the problem of World
Peace unless we begin with a confession of universal wrongthinking
and wrong-doing. Then we can sit down to the
question of a solution with some reasonable prospect of finding
an answer.
Now let us assume that “we” are a number of intelligent men,
German, French, English, American, Italian, Chinese and so
forth, who have decided in consequence of the war and in spite
of the war, while the war is still going on, to wipe out all these
squabbling bygones from our minds, and discuss plainly and
simply the present situation of mankind. What is to be done
with the world? Let us recapitulate the considerations that so
far have been brought in, and what prospects they open, if any,
of some hopeful concerted action, action that would so
revolutionise the human outlook as to end war and that hectic
recurrent waste of human life and happiness, for ever.
Firstly then it has been made apparent that humanity is at the
end of an age, an age of fragmentation in the management of its
affairs, fragmentation politically among separate sovereign
states and economically among unrestricted business of
organisations competing for profit. The abolition of distance,
the enormous increase of available power, root causes of all our
troubles, have suddenly made what was once a tolerable
working system – a system that was perhaps with all its
inequalities and injustices the only practicable working system
in its time – enormously dangerous and wasteful, so that it
threatens to exhaust and destroy our world altogether. Man is
like a feckless heir who has suddenly been able to get at his
capital and spend it as though it were income. We are living in
a phase of violent and irreparable expenditure. There is an
intensified scramble among nations and among individuals to
acquire, monopolise and spend. The dispossessed young find
themselves hopeless unless they resort to violence. They
implement the ever-increasing instability. Only a
comprehensive collectivisation of human affairs can arrest this
disorderly self-destruction of mankind. All this has been made
plain in what has gone before.
This essential problem, the problem of collectivisation, can be
viewed from two reciprocal points of view and stated in two
different ways. We can ask, “What is to be done to end the
world chaos?” and also “How can we offer the common young
man a reasonable and stimulating prospect of a full life?”
These two questions are the obverse and reverse of one
question. What answers one answers the other. The answer to
both is that we have to collectivise the world as one system
with practically everyone playing a reasonably satisfying part in
it. For sound practical reasons, over and above any ethical or
sentimental considerations, we have to devise a collectivisation
that neither degrades nor enslaves.
Our imaginary world conference then has to turn itself to the
question of how to collectivise the world, so that it will remain
collectivised and yet enterprising, interesting and happy enough
to content that common young man who will otherwise
reappear, baffled and sullen, at the street corners and throw it
into confusion again. To that problem the rest of this book will
address itself.
As a matter of fact it is very obvious that at the present time a
sort of collectivisation is being imposed very rapidly upon the
world. Everyone is being enrolled, ordered about, put under
control somewhere – even if it is only in an evacuation or
concentration camp or what not. This process of
collectivisation, collectivisation of some sort, seems now to be
in the nature of things and there is no reason to suppose it is
reversible. Some people imagine world peace as the end of that
process. Collectivisation is going to be defeated and a vaguely
conceived reign of law will restore and sustain property,
Christianity, individualism and everything to which the
respectable prosperous are accustomed. This is implicit even on
the title of such a book as Edward Mousley’s Man or
Leviathan? It is much more reasonable to think that world
peace has to be the necessary completion of that process, and
that the alternative is a decadent anarchy. If so, the phrase for
the aims of liberal thought should be no Man or Leviathan but
Man masters Leviathan.
On this point, the inevitability of collectivisation as the sole
alternative to universal brigandage and social collapse, our
world conference must make itself perfectly clear.
Then it has to turn itself to the much more difficult and
complicated question of how.
LET US, EVEN AT the cost of a certain repetition, look a little
more closely now into the fashion in which the disruptive
forces are manifesting themselves in the Western and Eastern
In the Old World the hypertrophy of armies is most
conspicuous, in America it was the hypertrophy of big
business. But in both the necessity for an increasing collective
restraint upon uncoordinated over-powerful business or
political enterprise is more and more clearly recognised.
There is a strong opposition on the part of great interests in
America to the President, who has made himself the spear-head
of the collectivising drive; they want to put the brake now on
his progressive socialisation of the nation, and quite possibly,
at the cost of increasing social friction, they may slow down the
drift to socialism very considerably. But it is unbelievable that
they dare provoke the social convulsion that would ensue upon
a deliberate reversal of the engines or upon any attempt to
return to the glorious days of big business, wild speculation and
mounting unemployment before 1927. They will merely slow
down the drive. For in the world now all roads lead to
socialism or social dissolution.
The tempo of the process is different in the two continents; that
is the main difference between them. It is not an opposition.
They travel at different rates but they travel towards an
identical goal. In the Old World at present the socialisation of
the community is going on far more rapidly and thoroughly
than it is in America because of the perpetual war threat.
In Western Europe now the dissolution and the drive towards
socialisation progress by leaps and bounds. The British
governing class and British politicians generally, overtaken by
a war they had not the intelligence to avert, have tried to atone
for their slovenly unimaginativeness during the past twenty
years in a passion of witless improvisation. God knows what
their actual war preparations amount to, but their domestic
policy seems to be based on an imperfect study of Barcelona,
Guernica, Madrid and Warsaw. They imagine similar
catastrophes on a larger scale – although they are quite
impossible, as every steady-headed person who can estimate
the available supplies of petrol knows – and they have a terrible
dread of being held responsible. They fear a day of reckoning
with their long-bamboozled lower classes. In their panic they
are rapidly breaking up the existing order altogether.
The changes that have occurred in Great Britain in less than a
year are astounding. They recall in many particulars the social
dislocation of Russia in the closing months of 1917. There has
been a shifting and mixing-up of people that would have
seemed impossible to anyone in 1937. The evacuation of
centres of population under the mere exaggerated threat of air
raids has been of frantic recklessness. Hundreds of thousands
of families have been broken up, children separated from their
parents and quartered in the homes of more or less reluctant
hosts. Parasites and skin diseases, vicious habits and insanitary
practices have been spread, as if in a passion of equalitarian
propaganda, the slums of such centres as Glasgow, London and
Liverpool, throughout the length and breadth of the land.
Railways, road traffic, all the normal communications have
been dislocated by a universal running about. For a couple of
months Great Britain has been more like a disturbed ant-hill
than an organised civilised country.
The contagion of funk has affected everyone. Public
institutions and great business concerns have bolted to remote
and inconvenient sites; the BBC organisation, for example,
scuffled off headlong from London, needlessly and
ridiculously, no man pursuing it. There has been a wild
epidemic of dismissals, of servants employed in London, for
example, and a still wilder shifting of unsuitable men to novel,
unnecessary jobs. Everyone has been exhorted to serve the
country, children of twelve, to the great delight of conservativeminded
farmers, have been withdrawn from school and put to
work on the land, and yet the number of those who have lost
their jobs and cannot find anything else to do, has gone up by
over 100,000.
There have been amateurish attempts to ration food, producing
waste here and artificial scarcity there. A sort of massacre of
small independent businesses is in progress mainly to the
advantage of the big provision-dealing concerns, who changed
in a night from open profiteers to become the “expert” advisers
of food supply. All the expertise they have ever displayed has
been the extraction of profits from food supply. But while
profits mount, taxation with an air of great resolution sets itself
to prune them.
The British public has always been phlegmatic in the face of
danger, it is too stout-hearted and too stupid to give way to
excesses of fear, but the authorities have thought it necessary to
plaster the walls with cast, manifestly expensive, posters,
headed with a Royal Crown, “Your courage, your resolution,
your cheerfulness will bring us victory.”
“Oh yus,” said the London Cockney. “You’ll get the victory all
right. Trust you. On my courage, my resolution, my
cheerfulness; you’ll use up ‘Tommy Atkins’ all right. Larf at
‘im in a kindly sort of way and use him. And then you think
you’ll out him back again on the dust-heap. Again? Twice?”
That is all too credible. But this time our rulers will emerge
discredited and frustrated from the conflict to face a
disorganised population in a state of mutinous enquiry. They
have made preposterous promises to restore Poland and they
will certainly have to eat their words about that. Or what is
more probable the government will have to give place to
another administration which will be able to eat those words
for them with a slightly better grace. There is little prospect of
Thanksgiving Services or any Armistice night orgy this time.
People at home are tasting the hardships of war even more
tediously and irritating than the men on active service.
Cinemas, theatres, have been shut prematurely, black-outs have
diminished the safety of the streets and doubled the tale of road
casualties. The British crowd is already a sullen crowd. The
world has not seen it in such a bad temper for a century and
half, and, let there be no mistake about it, it is far less in a
temper with the Germans than it is with its own rulers.
Through all this swirling intimidating propaganda of civil
disorder and a systematic suppression of news and criticism of
the most exasperating sort, war preparation has proceeded. The
perplexed and baffled citizen can only hope that on the military
side there has been a little more foresight and less hysteria.
The loss of confidence and particularly confidence in the
government and social order is already enormous. No one feels
secure, in his job, in his services, in his savings, any longer.
People lose confidence even in the money in their pockets. And
human society is built on confidence. It cannot carry on without
Things are like this already and it is only the opening stage of
this strange war. The position of the ruling class and the
financial people who have hitherto dominated British affairs is
a peculiar one. The cast of the war is already enormous, and
there is no sign that it will diminish. Income tax, super tax,
death duties, taxes on war profits have been raised to a level
that should practically extinguish the once prosperous middle
strata of society altogether. The very wealthy will survive in a
shorn and diminished state, they will hang on to the last, but
the graded classes that have hitherto intervened between them
and the impoverished masses of the population, who will be
irritated by war sacrifices, extensively unemployed and asking
more and more penetrating questions, will have diminished
greatly. Only by the most ingenious monetary manipulation, by
dangerous tax-dodging and expedients verging on sheer
scoundrelism, will a clever young man have the ghost of a
chance of climbing by the old traditional money-making ladder,
above his fellows. On the other hand, the career of a public
employee will become continually more attractive. There is
more interest in it and more self-respect. The longer the war
continues, the completer and more plainly irreparable will be
the dissolution of the old order.
Now to many readers who have been incredulous of the
statement of the first section of this book, that we are living in
the End of an Age, to those who have been impervious to the
account of the disruptive forces that are breaking up the social
order and to the argument I have drawn from them, who may
have got away from all that, so to speak, by saying they are
“scientific” or “materialistic” or “sociological” or “highbrow”,
or that Providence that has hitherto displayed such a marked
bias in favour of well-off, comfortable, sluggish-minded people
is sure to do something nice for them at the eleventh hour, the
real inconveniences, alarms, losses and growing disorder of the
life about them may at last bring a realisation that the situation
in Western Europe is approaching revolutionary conditions. It
will be a hard saying for many people in the advantage-holding
classes, and particularly if they are middle-aged, that the older
has already gone to pieces can never be put back. But how can
they doubt it?
A revolution, that is to say a more or less convulsive effort at
social and political readjustment, is bound to come in all these
overstrained countries, in Germany, in Britain and universally.
It is more likely than not to arise directly out of the
exasperating diminuendos and crescendos of the present war,
as a culminating phase of it. Revolution of some sort we must
have. We cannot prevent its onset. But we can affect the course
of its development. It may end in utter disaster or it may release
a new world, far better than the old. Within these broad limits it
is possible for us to make up our minds how it will come to us.
And since the only practical question before us is the question
of how we will take this world revolution we cannot possibly
evade, let me recall to your attention the reasons I have
advanced in the second section of this book for the utmost
public discussion of our situation at the present time. And also
let me bring back to mind the examination of Marxism in the
fourth section. There it is shown how easily a collectivist
movement, especially when it is faced by the forcible-feeble
resistances and suppressions of those who have hitherto
enjoyed wealth and power, may degenerate into an oldfashioned
class-war, become conspiratorial, dogmatic and
inadaptable, and sink towards leader worship and autocracy.
That apparently is what has happened in Russia in its present
phase. We do not know how much of the original revolutionary
spirit survives there, and a real fundamental issue in the world
situation is whether we are to follow in the footsteps of Russia
or whether we are going to pull ourselves together, face the
stern logic of necessity and produce a Western Revolution,
which will benefit by the Russian experience, react upon
Russia and lead ultimately to a world understanding.
What is it that the Atlantic world finds most objectionable in
the Soviet world of to-day? Is it any disapproval of collectivism
as such? Only in the case of a dwindling minority of rich and
successful men – and very rarely of the sons of such people.
Very few capable men under fifty nowadays remain
individualists in political and social matters. They are not even
fundamentally anti-Communist. Only it happens that for
various reasons the political life of the community is still in the
hands of unteachable old-fashioned people. What are called
“democracies” suffer greatly from the rule of old men who have
not kept pace with the times. The real and effective
disapproval, distrust and disbelief in the soundness of the
Soviet system lies not in the out-of-date individualism of these
elderly types, but in the conviction that it can never achieve
efficiency or even maintain its honest ideal of each for all and
all for each, unless it has free speech and an insistence upon
legally-defined freedoms for the individual within the
collectivist framework. We do not deplore the Russian
Revolution as a Revolution. We complain that it is not a good
enough Revolution and we want a better one.
The more highly things are collectivised the more necessary is
a legal system embodying the Rights of Man. This has been
forgotten under the Soviets, and so men go in fear there of
arbitrary police action. But the more functions your
government controls the more need there is for protective law.
The objection to Soviet collectivism is that, lacking the
antiseptic of legally assured personal freedom, it will not keep.
It professes to be fundamentally a common economic system
based on class-war ideas; the industrial director is under the
heel of the Party commissar; the political police have got
altogether out of hand; and the affairs gravitate inevitably
towards an oligarchy or an autocracy protecting its incapacity
by the repression of adverse comment.
But these valid criticisms merely indicate the sort of
collectivisation that has to be avoided. It does not dispose of
collectivism as such. If we in our turn do not wish to be
submerged by the wave of Bolshevisation that is evidently
advancing from the East, we must implement all these valid
objections and create a collectivisation that will be more
efficient, more prosperous, tolerant, free and rapidly
progressive than the system we condemn. We, who do not like
the Stalinised-Marxist state, have, as they used to say in British
politics, to “dish” it by going one better. We have to confront
Eastern-spirited collectivism with Western-spirited
Perhaps this may be better put. We may be giving way to a subconscious
conceit here and assuming that the West is always
going to be thinking more freely and clearly and working more
efficiently than the East. It is like that now, but it may not
always be like that. Every country has had its phases of
illumination and its phases of blindness. Stalin and Stalinism
are neither the beginning nor the end of the collectivisation of
We are dealing with something still almost impossible to
estimate, the extent to which the new Russian patriotism and
the new Stalin-worship, have effaced and how far they have
merely masked, the genuinely creative international
communism of the revolutionary years. The Russian mind is
not a docile mind, and most of the literature available for a
young man to read in Russia, we must remember, is still
revolutionary. There has been no burning of the books there.
The Moscow radio talks for internal consumption since the
Hitler-Stalin understanding betray a great solicitude on the part
of the government to make it clear that there has been no
sacrifice of revolutionary principle. That witnesses to the
vitality of public opinion in Russia. The clash between the
teachings of 1920 and 1940 may have a liberating effect on
many people’s minds. Russians love to talk about ideas. Under
the Czar they talked. It is incredible that they do not talk under
That question whether collectivisation is to be “Westernised” or
“Easternised”, using these words under the caveat of the
previous paragraph, is really the first issue before the world today.
We need a fully ventilated Revolution. Our Revolution has
to go on in the light and air. We may have to accept
sovietisation à la Russe quite soon unless we can produce a
better collectivisation. But if we produce a better
collectivisation it is more probable than not that the Russian
system will incorporate our improvements, forget its reviving
nationalism again, debunk Marx and Stalin, so far as they can
be debunked, and merge into the one world state.
Between these primary antagonists, between Revolution with
its eyes open and Revolution with a mask and a gag, there will
certainly be complications of the issue due to patriotism and
bigotry and the unteachable wilful blindness of those who do
not want to see. Most people lie a lot to themselves before they
lie to other people, and it is hopeless to expect that all the
warring cults and traditions that confuse the mind of the race
to-day are going to fuse under a realisation of the imperative
nature of the human situation as I have stated it here.
Multitudes will never realise it. Few human+beings are able to
change their primary ideas after the middle thirties. They get
fixed in them and drive before them no more intelligently than
animals drive before their innate impulses. They will die rather
than change their second selves.
One of the most entangling of these disconcerting secondary
issues is that created by the stupid and persistent intrigues of
the Roman Catholic Church.
Let me be clear here. I am speaking of the Vatican and of its
sustained attempts to exercise a directive rôle in secular life. I
number among my friends many Roman Catholics who have
built the most charming personalities and behaviour systems on
the framework provided them by their faith. One of the
loveliest characters I have ever known was G. K. Chesterton.
But I think he was just as fine before he became a Catholic as
afterwards. Still he found something he needed in Catholicism.
There are saints of all creeds and of none, so good are better
possibilities of human nature. Religious observances provide a
frame that many find indispensable for the seemly ordering of
their lives. And outside the ranks of “strict” observers many
good people with hardly more theology than a Unitarian, love
to speak of goodness and kindness as Christianity. So-and-so is
a “good Christian”. Voltaire, says Alfred Noyes, the Catholic
writer, was a “good Christian”. I do not use the word
“Christianity” in that sense because I do not believe that
Christians have any monopoly of goodness. When I write of
Christianity, I mean Christianity with a definite creed and
militant organisation and not these good kind people, good and
kind but not very fastidious about the exact use of the words.
Such “good Christians” can be almost as bitterly critical as I am
of the continual pressure upon the faithful by that inner group
of Italians in Rome, subsidised by the Fascist government, who
pull the strings of Church policy throughout the world, so as to
do this or that tortuous or uncivilised thing, to cripple
education, to persecute unorthodox ways of living.
It is to the influence of the Church that we must ascribe the
foolish support by the British Foreign Office of Franco, that
murderous little “Christian gentleman”, in his overthrow of the
staggering liberal renascence of Spain. It is the Roman Catholic
influence the British and French have to thank, for the fantastic
blundering that involved them in the defence of the impossible
Polish state and its unrighteous acquisitions; it affected British
policy in respect to Austria and Czechoslovakia profoundly,
and now it is doing its utmost to maintain and develop a
political estrangement between Russia and the Western world
by its prejudiced exacerbation of the idea that Russia is “anti-
God” while we Westerners are little children of the light,
gallantly fighting on the side of the Cross, Omnipotence,
Greater Poland, national sovereignty, the small uneconomic
prolific farmer and shopkeeper and anything else you like to
imagine constitutes “Christendom”.
The Vatican strives perpetually to develop the present war into
a religious war. It is trying to steal the war. By all the
circumstances of its training it is unteachable. It knows no
better. It will go on – until some economic revolution robs it of
its funds. Then as a political influence it may evaporate very
rapidly. The Anglican Church and many other Protestant sects,
the wealthy Baptists, for example, follow suit.
It is not only in British affairs that this propaganda goes on.
With the onset of war France becomes militant and Catholic. It
has suppressed the Communist Party, as a gesture of
resentment against Russia and a precaution against post-war
collectivisation. The Belgian caricaturist Raemaekers is now
presenting Hitler day after day as a pitiful weakling already
disposed of and worthy of our sympathy, while Stalin is
represented as a frightful giant with horns and a tail. Yet both
France and Britain are at peace with Russia and have every
reason to come to a working understanding with that country.
The attitude of Russia to the war has on the whole been cold,
contemptuous and reasonable.
It is not as if these devious schemes can take us somewhere; it
is not that this restoration of the Holy Roman Empire is a
possibility. You confront these Catholic politicians, just as you
confront the politicians of Westminster, with these two cardinal
facts, the abolition of distance and the change of scale. In vain.
You cannot get any realisation of the significance of these
things into those idea-proofed skulls. They are deaf to it, blind
to it. They cannot see that it makes any difference at all to their
long-established mental habits. If their minds waver for a
moment they utter little magic prayers to exorcise the gleam.
What, they ask, has “mere size” to do with the soul of man,
“mere speed, mere power”? What can the young do better than
subdue their natural urgency to live and do? What has mere life
to do with the religious outlook? The war, these Vatican
propagandists insist, is a “crusade” against modernism, against
socialism and free thought, the restoration of priestly authority
is its end; our sons are fighting to enable the priest to thrust his
pious uncleanliness once again between reader and book, child
and knowledge, husband and wife, sons and lovers. While
honest men are fighting now to put an end to military
aggression, to resume indeed that “war to end war” that was
aborted to give us the League of Nations, these bigots are
sedulously perverting the issue, trying to represent it as a
religious war against Russia in particular and the modern spirit
in general.
The well-trained Moslem, the American fundamentalists, the
orthodox Jew, all the fixed cultures, produce similar irrelevant
and wasteful resistances, but the Catholic organisation reaches
further and is more persistent. It is frankly opposed to human
effort and the idea of progress. It makes no pretence about it.
Such cross-activities as these complicate, delay and may even
sabotage effectively every effort to solve the problem of a lucid
collectivisation of the world’s affairs, but they do not alter the
essential fact that it is only through a rationalisation and
coalescence of constructive revolutionary movements
everywhere and a liberal triumph over the dogmatism of the
class war, that we can hope to emerge from the present
wreckage of our world.
LET US NOW TAKE up certain vaguely constructive
proposals which seem at present to be very much in people’s
minds. They find their cardinal expression in a book called
Union Now by Mr Clarence K. Streit, which has launched the
magic word “Federation” upon the world. The “democracies” of
the world are to get together upon a sort of enlargement of the
Federal constitution of the United States (which produced one
of the bloodiest civil wars in all history) and then all will be
well with us.
Let us consider whether this word “Federation” is of any value
in organising the Western Revolution. I would suggest it is. I
think it may be a means of mental release for many people who
would otherwise have remained dully resistant to any sort of
This Federation project has an air of reasonableness. It is
attractive to a number of influential people who wish with the
minimum of adaptation to remain influential in a changing
world, and particularly is it attractive to what I may call the
liberal-conservative elements of the prosperous classes in
America and Great Britain and the Oslo countries, because it
puts the most difficult aspect of the problem, the need for
collective socialisation, so completely in the background that it
can be ignored. This enables them to take quite a bright and
hopeful view of the future without any serious hindrance to
their present preoccupations.
They think that Federation, reasonably defined, may suspend
the possibility of war for a considerable period and so lighten
the burden of taxation that the present crushing demands on
them will relax and they will be able to resume, on a slightly
more economical scale perhaps, their former way of living.
Everything that gives them hope and self-respect and preserves
their homes from the worst indignities of panic, appeasement,
treason-hunting and the rest of it, is to be encouraged, and
meanwhile their sons will have time to think and it may be
possible so to search, ransack and rationalise the Streit project
as to make a genuine and workable scheme for the socialisation
of the world.
In The Fate of Homo sapiens I examined the word “democracy”
with some care, since it already seemed likely that great
quantities of our young men were to be asked to cripple and
risk their lives for its sake. I showed that it was still a very
incompletely realised aspiration, that its complete development
involved socialism and a level of education and information
attained as yet by no community in the world. Mr Streit gives a
looser, more rhetorical statement – a more idealistic statement,
shall we say? – of his conception of democracy, the sort of
statement that would be considered wildly exaggerated even if
it was war propaganda, and though unhappily it is remote from
any achieved reality, he proceeds without further enquiry as if it
were a description of existing realities in what he calls the
“democracies” of the world. In them he imagines he finds
“governments of the people, by the people, for the people”.
In the book I have already cited I discuss What is Democracy?
And Where is Democracy? I do my best there to bring Mr Streit
down to the harsh and difficult facts of the case. I will go now a
little more into particulars in my examination of his project.
His “founder democracies” are to be: “The American Union,
the British Commonwealth (specifically the United Kingdom,
the Federal Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of
Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Ireland),
the French Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Swiss
Confederation, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.”
Scarcely one of these, as I have shown in that former book, is
really a fully working democracy. And the Union of South
Africa is a particularly bad and dangerous case of race tyranny.
Ireland is an incipient religious war and not one country but
two. Poland, I note, does not come into Mr Streit’s list of
democracies at all. His book was written in 1938 when Poland
was a totalitarian country holding, in defiance of the League of
Nations, Vilna, which it had taken from Lithuania, large areas
of non-Polish country it had conquered from Russia, and
fragments gained by the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. It
only became a democracy, even technically and for a brief
period, before its collapse in September 1939, when Mr
Chamberlain was so foolish as to drag the British Empire into a
costly and perilous war, on its behalf. But that is by the way.
None of these fifteen (or ten) “founder democracies” are really
democracies at all. So we start badly. But they might be made
socialist democracies and their federation might be made
something very real indeed – at a price. The U.S.S.R. is a
federated socialist system, which has shown a fairly successful
political solidarity during the past two decades, whatever else it
has done or failed to do.
Now let us help Mr Streit to convert his “federation” from a
noble but extremely rhetorical aspiration into a living reality.
He is aware that this must be done at a price, but I want to
suggest that that price is, from what I judge to be his point of
view, far greater, and the change much simpler, more general
and possibly even closer at hand, than he supposes. He is
disposed to appeal to existing administrative organisations, and
it is questionable whether they are the right people to execute
his designs. One of the difficulties he glosses over is the
possible reluctance of the India Office to hand over the control
of India (Ceylon and Burma he does not mention) to the new
Federation Government, which would also, I presume, take
charge of the fairly well governed and happy fifty-odd million
people of the Dutch East Indies, the French colonial empire, the
West Indies and so on. This, unless he proposes merely to rechristen
the India Office, etc., is asking for an immense
outbreak of honesty and competence on the part of the new
Federal officialdom. It is also treating the possible contribution
of these five or six hundred million of dusky peoples to the
new order with a levity inconsistent with democratic ideals.
Quite a lot of these people have brains which are as good or
better than normal European brains. You could educate the
whole world to the not very exalted level of a Cambridge
graduate in a single lifetime, if you had schools, colleges,
apparatus and teachers enough. The radio, the cinema, the
gramophone, the improvements in both production and
distribution, have made it possible to increase the range and
effectiveness of a gifted teacher a thousandfold. We have seen
intensive war preparations galore, but no one has dreamt yet of
an intensive educational effort. None of us really like to see
other people being educated. They may be getting an advantage
over our privileged selves. Suppose we overcome that primitive
jealousy. Suppose we speed up – as we are now physically able
to do – the education and enfranchisement of these huge
undeveloped reservoirs of human capacity. Suppose we tack
that on the Union Now idea. Suppose we stipulate that
Federation, wherever it extends, means a New and Powerful
Education. In Bengal, in Java, in the Congo Free State, quite as
much as in Tennessee or Georgia or Scotland or Ireland.
Suppose we think a little less about “gradual enfranchisement”
by votes and experiments in local autonomy and all these old
ideas, and a little more about the enfranchisement of the mind.
Suppose we drop that old cant about politically immature
There is one direction in which Mr Streit’s proposals are open
to improvement. Let us turn to another in which he does not
seem to have realised all the implications of his proposal. This
great Union is to have a union money and a union customs-free
economy. What follows upon that? More I think than he
There is one aspect of money to which the majority of those
that discuss it seem to be incurably blind. You cannot have a
theory of money or any plan about money by itself in the air.
Money is not a thing in itself; it is a working part of an
economic system. Money varies in its nature with the laws and
ideas of property in a community. As a community moves
towards collectivism and communism, for example, money
simplifies out. Money is a necessary in a communism as it is in
any other system, but its function therein is at its simplest.
Payment in kind to the worker gives him no freedom of choice
among the goods the community produces. Money does.
Money becomes the incentive that “works the worker” and
nothing more.
But directly you allow individuals not only to obtain goods for
consumption, but also to obtain credit to produce material for
types of production outside the staple productions of the state,
the question of credit and debt arises and money becomes more
complicated. With every liberation of this or that product or
service from collective control to business or experimental
exploitation, the play of the money system enlarges and the
laws regulating what you may take for it, the company laws,
bankruptcy laws and so forth increase. In any highly developed
collective system the administration will certainly have to give
credits for hopeful experimental enterprises. When the system
is not collectivism, monetary operations for gain are bound to
creep in and become more and more complicated. Where most
of the substantial side of life is entrusted to uncoordinated
private enterprise, the intricacy of the money apparatus
increases enormously. Monetary manipulation becomes a
greater and greater factor in the competitive struggle, not only
between individuals and firms, but between states. As Mr Streit
himself shows, in an excellent discussion of the abandonment
of the gold standard, inflation and deflation become devices in
international competition. Money becomes strategic, just as
pipe lines and railways can become strategic.
This being so it is plain that for the Federal Union a common
money means an identical economic life throughout the Union.
And this too is implied also in Mr Streit’s “customs-free”
economy. It is impossible to have a common money when a
dollar or a pound, or whatever it is, can buy this, that or the
other advantage in one state and is debarred from anything but
bare purchases for consumption in another. So that this Federal
Union is bound to be a uniform economic system. There can be
only very slight variations in the control of economic life.
In the preceding sections the implacable forces that make for
the collectivisation of the world or disaster, have been exposed.
It follows that “Federation” means practically uniform
socialism within the Federal limits, leading, as state after state
is incorporated, to world socialism. There manifestly we carry
Mr Streit farther than he realises he goes – as yet. For it is fairly
evident that he is under the impression that a large measure of
independent private business is to go on throughout the Union.
I doubt if he imagines it is necessary to go beyond the partial
socialisation already achieved by the New Deal. But we have
assembled evidence to show that the profit scramble, the wild
days of uncorrelated “business” are over for ever.
And again though he realises and states very clearly that
governments are made for man and not man for governments,
though he applauds the great declarations of the Convention
that created the American Constitution, wherein “we the people
of the United States” overrode the haggling of the separate
states and established the American Federal Constitution,
nevertheless he is curiously chary of superseding any existing
legal governments in the present world. He is chary of talking
of “We the people of the world”. But many of us are coming to
realise that all existing governments have to go into the melting
pot, we believe that it is a world revolution which is upon us,
and that in the great struggle to evoke a Westernised World
Socialism, contemporary governments may vanish like straw
hats in the rapids of Niagara. Mr Streit, however, becomes
extraordinarily legal-minded at this stage. I do not think that he
realises the forces of destruction that are gathering and so I
think he hesitates to plan a reconstruction upon anything like
the scale that may become possible.
He evades even the obvious necessity that under a Federal
Government the monarchies of Great Britain, Belgium,
Norway, Sweden, Holland, if they survive at all, must becomes
like the mediatised sovereigns of the component states of the
former German Empire, mere ceremonial vestiges. Perhaps he
thinks that, but he does not say it outright. I do not know if he
has pondered the New York World Fair of 1939 nor the
significance of the Royal Visit to America in that year, and
thought how much there is in the British system that would
have to be abandoned if his Federation is to become a reality.
In most of the implications of the word, it must cease to be
“British”. His Illustrative Constitution is achieved with an
altogether forensic disregard of the fundamental changes in
human conditions to which we have to adapt ourselves or
perish. He thinks of war by itself and not as an eruption due to
deeper maladaptations. But if we push his earlier stipulations to
their necessary completion, we need not trouble very much
about that sample constitution of his, which is to adjust the
balance so fairly among the constituent states. The abolition of
distance must inevitably substitute functional associations and
loyalties for local attributions, if human society does not break
up altogether. The local divisions will melt into a world
collectivity and the main conflicts in a progressively unifying
Federation are much more likely to be these between different
world-wide types and associations of workers.
So far with Union Now. One of Mr Streit’s outstanding merits
is that he has had the courage to make definite proposals on
which we can bite. I doubt if a European could have produced
any such book. Its naïve political legalism, its idea of salvation
by constitution, and its manifest faith in the magic beneficence
of private enterprise, are distinctly in the vein of an American,
almost a pre-New Deal American, who has become, if
anything, more American, through his experiences of the
deepening disorder of Europe. So many Americans still look on
at world affairs like spectators at a ball game who are capable
of vociferous participation but still have no real sense of
participation; they do not realise that the ground is moving
under their seats also, and that the social revolution is breaking
surface to engulf them in their turn. To most of us – to most of
us over forty at any rate – the idea of a fundamental change in
our way of life is so unpalatable that we resist it to the last
Mr Streit betrays at times as vivid a sense of advancing social
collapse as I have, but it has still to occur to him that that
collapse may be conclusive. There may be dark ages, a relapse
into barbarism, but somewhen and somehow he thinks man
must recover. George Bernard Shaw has recently been saying
the same thing.
It may be worse that that.
I have given Mr Streit scarcely a word of praise, because that
would be beside the mark here. He wrote his book sincerely as
a genuine contribution to the unsystematic world conference
that is now going on, admitting the possibility of error,
demanding criticism, and I have dealt with it in that spirit.
Unfortunately his word has gone much further than his book.
His book says definite things and even when one disagrees with
it, it is good as a point of departure. But a number of people
have caught up this word “Federation”, and our minds are
distracted by a multitude of appeals to support Federal projects
with the most various content or with no content at all.
All the scores and hundreds of thousands of nice people who
are signing peace pledges and so forth a few years ago, without
the slightest attempt in the world to understand what they
meant by peace, are now echoing this new magic word with as
little conception of any content for it. They did not realise that
peace means so complicated and difficult an ordering and
balancing of human society that it has never been sustained
since man became man, and that we have wars and preparatory
interludes between wars because that is a much simpler and
easier sequence for our wilful, muddle-headed, suspicious and
aggressive species. These people still think we can get this new
and wonderful state of affairs just by clamouring for it.
And having failed to get peace by saying “Peace” over and over
again, they are now with an immense sense of discovery saying
“Federation”. What must happen to men in conspicuous public
positions I do not know, but even an irresponsible literary man
like myself finds himself inundated with innumerable lengthy
private letters, hysterical post-cards, pamphlets from budding
organisations, “declarations” to sign, demands for
subscriptions, all in the name of the new panacea, all as vain
and unproductive as the bleating of lost sheep. And I cannot
open a newspaper without finding some eminent contemporary
writing a letter to it, saying gently, firmly and bravely, the same
word, sometimes with bits of Union Now tacked on to it, and
sometimes with minor improvements, but often with nothing
more than the bare idea.
All sorts of idealistic movements for world peace which have
been talking quietly to themselves for years and years have
been stirred up to follow the new banner. Long before the Great
War there was a book by Sir Max Waechter, a friend of King
Edward the Seventh, advocating the United States of Europe,
and that inexact but flattering parallelism to the United States
of America has recurred frequently; as a phase thrown out by
Monsieur Briand for example, and as a project put forward by
an Austrian-Japanese writer, Count Coudenhove-Kalergi, who
even devised a flag for the Union. The main objection to the
idea is that there are hardly any states completely in Europe,
except Switzerland, San Marino, Andorra and a few of the
Versailles creations. Almost all the other European states
extend far beyond the European limits both politically and in
their sympathies and cultural relations. They trail with them
more than half mankind. About a tenth of the British Empire is
in Europe and still less of the Dutch Empire; Russia, Turkey,
France, are less European than not; Spain and Portugal have
their closest links with South America.
Few Europeans think of themselves as “Europeans”. I, for
example, am English, and a large part of my interests,
intellectual and material, are Transatlantic. I dislike calling
myself “British” and I like to think of myself as a member of a
great English-speaking community, which spreads irrespective
of race and colour round and about the world. I am annoyed
when an American calls me a “foreigner” – war with America
would seem to me just as insane as war with Cornwall – and I
find the idea of cutting myself off from the English-speaking
peoples of America and Asia to follow the flag of my Austrian-
Japanese friend into a federally bunched-up European
extremely unattractive.
It would, I suggest, be far easier to create the United States of
the World, which is Mr Streit’s ultimate objective, than to get
together the so-called continent of Europe into any sort of
I find most of these United States of Europe movements are
now jumping on to the Federation band-wagon.
My old friend and antagonist, Lord David Davies, for instance,
has recently succumbed to the infection. He was concerned
about the problem of a World Pax in the days when the League
of Nations Society and other associated bodies were
amalgamated in the League of Nations Union. He was struck
then by an idea, an analogy, and the experience was unique for
him. He asked why individuals went about in modern
communities in nearly perfect security from assault and
robbery, without any need to bear arms. His answer was the
policeman. And from that he went on to the question of what
was needed for states and nations to go their ways with the
same blissful immunity from violence and plunder, and it
seemed to him a complete and reasonable answer to say “an
international policeman”. And there you were! He did not see,
he is probably quite incapable of seeing, that a state is
something quite different in its nature and behaviour from an
individual human+being. When he was asked to explain how
that international policeman was to be created and sustained, he
just went on saying “international policeman”. He has been
saying it for years. Sometimes it seems it is to be the League of
Nations, sometimes the British Empire, sometimes an
international Air Force, which is to undertake this grave
responsibility. The bench before which the policeman is to hale
the offender and this position of the lock-up are not indicated.
Finding our criticisms uncongenial, his lordship went off with
his great idea, like a penguin which has found an egg, to
incubate it alone. I hope he will be spared to say “international
policeman” for many years to come, but I do not believe he has
ever perceived or ever will perceive that, brilliant as his
inspiration was, it still left vast areas of the problem in
darkness. Being a man of considerable means, he has been able
to sustain a “New Commonwealth” movement and publish
books and a periodical in which his one great idea is elaborated
rather than developed.
But I will not deal further with the very incoherent multitude
that now echoes this word “Federation”. Many among them
will cease to cerebrate further and fall by the wayside, but
many will go on thinking, and if they go on thinking they will
come to perceive more and more clearly the realities of the
case. Federation, they will feel, is not enough.
So much for the present “Federalist” front. As a fundamental
basis of action, as a declared end, it seems hopelessly vague
and confused and, if one may coin a phrase, hopelessly
optimistic. But since the concept seems to be the way to release
a number of minds from belief in the sufficiency of a League of
Nations, associated or not associated with British Imperialism,
it has been worth while to consider how it can be amplified and
turned in the direction of that full and open-eyed world-wide
collectivisation which a study of existing conditions obliges us
to believe is the only alternative to the complete degeneration
of our species.
LET US RETURN TO our main purpose, which is to examine
the way in which we are to face up to this impending World
To many minds this idea of Revolution is almost inseparable
from visions of street barricades made of paving-stones and
overturned vehicles, ragged mobs armed with impromptu
weapons and inspired by defiant songs, prisons broken and a
general jail delivery, palaces stormed, a great hunting of ladies
and gentlemen, decapitated but still beautiful heads on pikes,
regicides of the most sinister quality, the busy guillotine, a
crescendo of disorder ending in a whiff of grapeshot. . . .
That was one type of Revolution. It is what one might call the
Catholic type of Revolution, that it is to say it is the ultimate
phase of a long period of Catholic living and teaching. People
do not realise this and some will be indignant at its being stated
so barely. Yet the facts stare us in the face, common
knowledge, not to be denied. That furious, hungry, desperate,
brutal mob was the outcome of generations of Catholic rule,
Catholic morality and Catholic education. The King of France
was the “Most Christian King, the eldest son of the Church”, he
was master of the economic and financial life of the
community, and the Catholic Church controlled the intellectual
life of the community and the education of the people
absolutely. That mob was the outcome. It is absurd to parrot
that Christianity has never been tried. Christianity in its most
highly developed form has been tried and tried again. It was
tried for centuries fully and completely, in Spain, France, Italy.
It was responsible for the filth and chronic pestilence and
famine of medieval England. It inculcated purity but it never
inculcated cleanliness. Catholic Christianity had practically
unchallenged power in France for generations. It was free to
teach as it chose and as much as it chose. It dominated the
common life entirely. The Catholic system in France cannot
have reaped anything it did not sow, for no other sowers were
allowed. That hideous mob of murderous ragamuffins we are
so familiar with in pictures of the period, was the final harvest
of its regime.
The more Catholic reactionaries revile the insurgent common
people of the first French Revolution, the more they condemn
themselves. It is the most impudent perversion of reality for
them to snivel about the guillotine and the tumbrils, as though
these were not purely Catholic products, as though they came
in suddenly from outside to wreck a genteel Paradise. They
were the last stage of the systematic injustice and ignorance of
a strictly Catholic regime. One phase succeeded another with
relentless logic. The Maseillaise completed the life-cycle of
In Spain too and in Mexico we have seen undisputed
educational and moral Catholic ascendancy, the Church with a
free hand, producing a similar uprush of blind resentment. The
crowds there also were cruel and blasphemous; but Catholicism
cannot complain; for Catholicism hatched them. Priests and
nuns who had been the sole teachers of the people were
insulted and outraged and churches defiled. Surely if the
Church is anything like what it claims to be, the people would
have loved it. They would not have behaved as though
sacrilege was a gratifying relief.
But these Catholic Revolutions are only specimens of one
single type of Revolution. A Revolution need not be a
spontaneous storm of indignation against intolerable indignities
and deprivations. It can take quite other forms.
As a second variety of Revolution, which is in sharp contrast
with the indignation-revolt in which so many periods of
unchallenged Catholic ascendancy have ended, we may take
what we may call the “revolution conspiracy”, in which a
number of people set about organising the forces of discomfort
and resentment and loosening the grip of the government’s
forces, in order to bring about a fundamental change of system.
The ideal of this type is the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia,
provided it is a little simplified and misunderstood. This,
reduced to a working theory by its advocates, is conceived of as
a systematic cultivation of a public state of mind favourable to
a Revolution together with an inner circle of preparation for a
“seizure of power”. Quite a number of Communist and other
leftish writers, bright young men, without much political
experience, have let their imaginations loose upon the
“technique” of such an adventure. They have brought the Nazi
and Fascist Revolutions into the material for their studies.
Modern social structure with its concentration of directive,
information and coercive power about radio stations, telephone
exchangers, newspaper offices, police stations, arsenals and the
like, lends itself to quasi-gangster exploitation of this type.
There is a great rushing about and occupation of key centres, an
organised capture, imprisonment or murder of possible
opponents, and the country is confronted with fait accompli.
The regimentation of the more or less reluctant population
But a Revolution need be neither an explosion nor a coup
d’état. And the Revolution that lies before us now as the only
hopeful alternative to chaos, either directly or after an interlude
of world communism, is to be attained, if it is attained at all, by
neither of these methods. The first is too rhetorical and chaotic
and leads simply to a Champion and tyranny; the second is too
conspiratorial and leads through an obscure struggle of
masterful personalities to a similar end. Neither is lucid enough
and deliberate enough to achieve a permanent change in the
form and texture of human affairs.
An altogether different type of Revolution may or may not be
possible. No one can say that it is possible unless it is tried, but
one can say with some assurance that unless it can be achieved
the outlook for mankind for many generations at least is
hopeless. The new Revolution aims essentially at a change in
directive ideas. In its completeness it is an untried method.
It depends for its success upon whether a sufficient number of
minds can be brought to realise that the choice before us now is
not a choice between further revolution or more or less
reactionary conservatism, but a choice between so carrying on
and so organising the process of change in our affairs as to
produce a new world order, or suffering an entire and perhaps
irreparable social collapse. Our argument throughout has been
that things have gone too far ever to be put back again to any
similitude of what they have been. We can no more dream of
remaining where we are than think of going back in the middle
of a dive. We must go trough with these present changes, adapt
ourselves to them, adjust ourselves to the plunge, or be
destroyed by them. We must go through these changes just as
we must go through this ill-conceived war, because there is as
yet no possible end for it.
There will be no possible way of ending it until the new
Revolution defines itself. If it is patched up now without a
clear-headed settlement understood and accepted throughout
the world, we shall have only the simulacrum of a peace. A
patched-up peace now will not even save us from the horrors of
war, it will postpone them only to aggravate them in a few
years time. You cannot end this war yet, you can at best
adjourn it.
The reorganisation of the world has at first to be mainly the
work of a “movement” or a Party or a religion or cult, whatever
we choose to call it. We may call it New Liberalism or the New
Radicalism or what not. It will not be a close-knit organisation,
toeing the Party line and so forth. It may be a very loose-knit
and many faceted, but if a sufficient number of minds
throughout the world, irrespective of race, origin or economic
and social habituations, can be brought to the free and candid
recognition of the essentials of the human problem, then their
effective collaboration in a conscious, explicit and open effort
to reconstruct human society will ensue.
And to begin with they will do all they can to spread and
perfect this conception of a new world order, which they will
regard as the only working frame for their activities, while at
the same time they will set themselves to discover and
associate with themselves, everyone, everywhere, who is
intellectually able to grasp the same broad ideas and morally
disposed to realise them.
The distribution of this essential conception one may call
propaganda, but in reality it is education. The opening phase of
this new type of Revolution must involve therefore a campaign
for re-invigorated and modernised education throughout the
world, an education that will have the same ratio to the
education of a couple of hundred years ago, as the electric
lighting of a contemporary city has to the chandeliers and oil
lamps of the same period. On its present mental levels
humanity can do no better than what it is doing now.
Vitalising education is only possible when it is under the
influence of people who are themselves learning. It is
inseparable from the modern idea of education that it should be
knit up to incessant research. We say research rather than
science. It is the better word because it is free from any
suggestion of that finality which means dogmatism and death.
All education tends to become stylistic and sterile unless it is
kept in close touch with experimental verification and practical
work, and consequently this new movement of revolutionary
initiative, must at the same time be sustaining realistic political
and social activities and working steadily for the
collectivisation of governments and economic life. The
intellectual movement will be only the initiatory and
correlating part of the new revolutionary drive. These practical
activities must be various. Everyone engaged in them must be
thinking for himself and not waiting for orders. The only
dictatorship he will recognise is the dictatorship of the plain
understanding and the invincible fact.
And if this culminating Revolution is to be accomplished, then
the participation of every conceivable sort of human+being
who has the mental grasp to see these broad realities of the
world situation and the moral quality to do something about it,
must be welcomed.
Previous revolutionary thrusts have been vitiated by bad
psychology. They have given great play to the gratification of
the inferiority complexes that arise out of class disadvantages.
It is no doubt very unjust that anyone should be better educated,
healthier and less fearful of the world than anyone else, but that
is no reason why the new Revolution should not make the
fullest use of the health, education, vigour and courage of the
fortunate. The Revolution we are contemplating will aim at
abolishing the bitterness of frustration. But certainly it will do
nothing to avenge it. Nothing whatever. Let the dead past
punish its dead.
It is one of the most vicious streaks in the Marxist teaching to
suggest that all people of wealth and capacity living in a
community in which unco-ordinated private enterprise plays a
large part are necessarily demoralised by the advantages they
enjoy and that they must be dispossessed by the worker and
peasant, who are presented as endowed with a collective virtue
capable of running all the complex machinery of a modern
community. But the staring truth of the matter is that an uncoordinated
scramble between individuals and nations alike,
demoralises all concerned. Everyone is corrupted, the filching
tramp by the roadside, the servile hand-kissing peasant of
Eastern Europe, the dole-bribed loafer, as much as the woman
who marries for money, the company promoter, the industrial
organiser, the rent-exacting landlord and the diplomatic agent.
When the social atmosphere is tainted everybody is ill.
Wealth, personal freedom and education, may and do produce
wasters and oppressive people, but they may also release
creative and administrative minds to opportunity. The history
of science and invention before the nineteenth century confirms
this. On the whole if we are to assume there is anything good in
humanity at all, it is more reasonable to expect it to appear
when there is most opportunity.
And in further confutation of the Marxist caricature of human
motives, we have the very considerable number of young
people drawn from middle-class and upper-class homes, who
figure in the extreme left movement everywhere. It is their
moral reaction to the “stuffiness” and social ineffectiveness of
their parents and their own sort of people. They seek an outlet
for their abilities that is not gainful but serviceable. Many have
sought an honourable life – and often found it, and death with it
– in the struggle against the Catholics and their Moorish and
Fascist helpers in Spain.
It is a misfortune of their generation, that so many of them have
fallen into the mental traps of Marxism. It has been my absurd
experience to encounter noisy meetings of expensive young
men at Oxford, not one of them stunted physically as I was by
twenty years of under-nourishment and devitalised upbringing,
all pretending to be rough-hewn collarless proletarians in
shocked revolt against my bourgeois tyranny and the modest
comfort of my declining years, and reciting the ridiculous classwar
phrases by which they protected their minds from any
recognition of the realities of the case. But though that attitude
demonstrates the unstimulating education of their preparatory
and public schools, which had thrown them thus uncritical and
emotional into the problems of the undergraduate life, it does
not detract from the fact that they had found the idea of
abandoning themselves to a revolutionary reconstruction of
society, that promised to end its enormous waste of potential
happiness and achievement, extremely attractive,
notwithstanding that their own advantages seemed to be
reasonably secure.
Faced with the immediate approach of discomfort, indignity,
wasted years, mutilation – death is soon over but one wakes up
again to mutilation every morning – because of this illconceived
war; faced also by the reversion of Russia to
autocracy and the fiscal extinction of most of the social
advantages of their families; these young people with a leftish
twist are likely not only to do some very profitable reexamination
of their own possibilities but also to find
themselves joined in that re-examination by a very considerable
number of others who have hitherto been repelled by the
obvious foolishness and insincerity of the hammer and sickle
symbols (workers and peasants of Oxford!) and the
exasperating dogmatism of the orthodox Marxist. And may not
these young people, instead of waiting to be overtaken by an
insurrectionary revolution from which they will emerge greasy,
unshaven, class-conscious and in incessant danger of
liquidation, decide that before the Revolution gets hold of them
they will get hold of the Revolution and save it from the
inefficiency, mental distortions, disappointments and
frustrations that have over-taken it in Russia.
This new and complete Revolution we contemplate can be
defined in a very few words. It is (a) outright world-socialism,
scientifically planned and directed, plus (b) a sustained
insistence upon law, law based on a fuller, more jealously
conceived resentment of the personal Rights of Man, plus (c)
the completest freedom of speech, criticism and publication,
and sedulous expansion of the educational organisation to the
ever-growing demands of the new order. What we may call the
eastern or Bolshevik Collectivism, the Revolution of the
Internationale, has failed to achieve even the first of these three
items and it has never even attempted the other two.
Putting it at its compactest, it is the triangle of Socialism, Law
and Knowledge, which frames the Revolution which may yet
save the world.
Socialism! Become outright collectivists? Very few men of the
more fortunate classes in our old collapsing society who are
over fifty will be able to readjust their minds to that. It will
seem an entirely repulsive suggestion to them. (The average
age of the British Cabinet at the present time is well over
sixty.) But it need not be repulsive at all to their sons. They will
be impoverished anyhow. The stars in their courses are seeing
to that. And that will help them greatly to realise that an
administrative control to administrative participation and then
to direct administration are easy steps. They are being taken
now, first in one matter and then in another. On both sides of
the Atlantic. Reluctantly and often very disingenuously and
against energetic but diminishing resistances. Great Britain,
like America, may become a Socialist system with a definitive
Revolution, protesting all the time that it is doing nothing of
the sort.
In Britain we have now no distinctively educated class, but all
up and down the social scale there are well-read men and
women who have thought intensely upon these great problems
we have been discussing. To many of them and maybe to
enough of them to start the avalanche of purpose that will
certainly develop from a clear and determined beginning, this
conception of Revolution to evoke a liberal collectivised world
may appeal. And so at last we narrow down our enquiry to an
examination of what has to be done now to save the
Revolution, what the movement or its Party – so far as it may
use the semblance of a Party will do, what its Policy will be.
Hitherto we have been demonstrating why a reasonable man, of
any race or language anywhere, should become a “Western”
Revolutionary. We have now to review the immediate activities
to which he can give himself.
LET US RESTATE THE general conclusions to which our
preceding argument has brought us.
The establishment of a progressive world socialism in which
the freedoms, health and happiness of every individual are
protected by a universal law based on a re-declaration of the
rights of man, and wherein there is the utmost liberty of
thought, criticism and suggestion, is the plain, rational
objective before us now. Only the effective realisation of this
objective can establish peace on earth and arrest the present
march of human affairs to misery and destruction. We cannot
reiterate this objective too clearly and too frequently. The
triangle of collectivisation, law and knowledge should embody
the common purpose of all mankind.
But between us and that goal intervenes the vast and deepening
disorders of our time. The new order cannot be brought into
existence without a gigantic and more or less co-ordinated
effort of the saner and abler elements in the human population.
The thing cannot be done rapidly and melodramatically. That
effort must supply the frame for all sane social and political
activities and a practical criterion for all religious and
educational associations. But since our world is
multitudinously varied and confused, it is impossible to narrow
down this new revolutionary movement to any single class,
organisation or Party. It is too great a thing for that. It will in its
expansion produce and perhaps discard a number of
organisations and Parties, converging upon its ultimate
objective. Consequently, in order to review the social and
political activities of sane, clear-headed people to-day, we have
to deal with them piecemeal from a number of points of view.
We have to consider an advance upon a long and various front.
Let us begin then with the problem of sanity in face of the
political methods of our time. What are we to do as voting
citizens? There I think the history of the so-called democracies
in the past half-century is fairly conclusive. Our present
electoral methods which give no choice but a bilateral choice to
the citizen and so force a two-party system upon him, is a mere
caricature of representative government. It has produced upon
both sides of the Atlantic, big, stupid, and corrupt party
machines. That was bound to happen and yet to this day there is
a sort of shyness in the minds of young men interested in
politics when it comes to discussing Proportional
Representation. They think it is a “bit faddy”. At best it is a side
issue. Party politicians strive to maintain that bashfulness,
because they know quite clearly that what is called Proportional
Representation with the single transferable vote in large
constituencies, returning a dozen members or more, is
extinction for the mere party hack and destruction for party
The machine system in the United States is more elaborate,
more deeply entrenched legally in the Constitution and illegally
in the spoils system, and it may prove more difficult to
modernise than the British, which is based on an outworn caste
tradition. But both Parliament and Congress are essentially
similar in their fundamental quality. They trade in titles,
concessions and the public welfare, and they are only amenable
in the rough and at long last to the movements of public
opinion. It is an open question whether they are much more
responsive to popular feeling than the Dictators we denounce
so unreservedly as the antithesis of democracy. They betray a
great disregard of mass responses. They explain less. They
disregard more. The Dictators have to go on talking and
talking, not always truthfully but they have to talk. A dumb
Dictator is inconceivable.
In such times of extensive stress and crisis as the present, the
baffling slowness, inefficiency and wastefulness of the party
system become so manifest that some of its worst pretences are
put aside. The party game is suspended. His Majesty’s
Opposition abandons the pose of safeguarding the interests of
the common citizens from those scoundrels upon the
government benches; Republican and Democrats begin to cross
the party line to discuss the new situation. Even the men who
live professionally by the Parliamentary (Congressional)
imposture, abandon it if they are sufficiently frightened by the
posture of affairs. The appearance of an All-Party National
Government in Great Britain before very long seems inevitable.
Great Britain has in effect gone socialist in a couple of months;
she is also suspending party politics. Just as the United States
did in the great slump. And in both cases this has happened
because the rottenness and inefficiency of party politics stank
to heaven in the face of danger. And since in both cases Party
Government threw up its hands and bolted, is there any
conceivable reason why we should let it come back at any
appearance of victory or recovery, why we should not go ahead
from where we are to a less impromptu socialist regime under a
permanent non-party administration, to the reality if not to the
form of a permanent socialist government?
Now here I have nothing to suggest about America. I have
never, for example, tried to work out the consequences of the
absence of executive ministers from the legislature. I am
inclined to think that is one of the weak points in the
Constitution and that the English usage which exposes the
minister to question time in the House and makes him a prime
mover in legislation affecting his department, is a less
complicated and therefore more democratic arrangement than
the American one. And the powers and functions of the
President and the Senate are so different from the consolidated
powers of Cabinet and Prime Minister, that even when an
Englishman has industriously “mugged up” the constitutional
points, he is still almost as much at a loss to get the living
reality as he would be if he were shown the score of an opera
before hearing it played or the blue prints of a machine he had
never seen in action. Very few Europeans understand the
history of Woodrow Wilson, the Senate and his League of
Nations. They think that “America”, which they imagine as a
large single individual, planted the latter institution upon
Europe and then deliberately shuffled out of her responsibility
for it, and they will never think otherwise. And they think that
“America” kept out of the war to the very limit of decency,
overcharged us for munitions that contributed to the common
victory, and made a grievance because the consequent debt was
not discharged. They talk like that while Americans talk as if
no English were killed between 1914 and 1918 (we had
800,000 dead) until the noble American conscripts came
forward to die for them (to the tune of about 50,000). Savour
for example even the title of Quincy Howe’s England expects
every American to do his Duty. It’s the meanest of titles, but
many Americans seem to like it.
On my desk as I write is a pamphlet by a Mr Robert Randall,
nicely cyclostyled and got up. Which urges a common attack on
the United States as a solution of the problem of Europe. No
countries will ever feel united unless they have a common
enemy, and the natural common enemy for Europe, it is
declared, is the United States. So to bring about the United
States of Europe we are to begin by denouncing the Monroe
doctrine. I believe in the honesty and good intentions of Mr
Robert Randall; he is, I am sure, no more in the pay of
Germany, direct or indirect, than Mr Quincy Howe or Mr Harry
Elmer Barnes; but could the most brilliant of Nazi war
propagandists devise a more effective estranging suggestion? . .
But I wander from my topic. I do not know how sane men in
America are going to set about relaxing the stranglehold of the
Constitution, get control of their own country out of the hands
of those lumpish, solemnly cunning politicians with their great
strong jowls developed by chewing-gum and orotund speaking,
whose photographs add a real element of frightfulness to the
pages of Time, how they are going to abolish the spoils system,
discover, and educate to expand a competent civil service able
to redeem the hampered promises of the New Deal and pull
America into line with the reconstruction of the rest of the
world. But I perceive that in politics and indeed in most things,
the underlying humour and sanity of Americans are apt to find
a way round and do the impossible, and I have as little doubt
they will manage it somehow as I have when I see a street
performer on his little chair and carpet, all tied up with chains,
waiting until there are sufficient pennies in the hat to justify
These differences in method, pace and tradition are a great
misfortune to the whole English-speaking world. We English
people do not respect Americans enough; we are too disposed
to think they are all Quincy Howes and Harry Elmer Barneses
and Borahs and suchlike, conceited and suspicious anti-British
monomaniacs, who must be humoured at any cost; which is
why we are never so frank and rude with them as they deserve.
But the more we must contain ourselves the less we love them.
Real brothers can curse each other and keep friends. Someday
Britannia will give Columbia a piece of her mind, and that may
clear the air. Said an exasperated Englishman to me a day or so
ago: “I pray to God they keep out of the end of this war
anyhow. We shall never hear the last of it if they don’t. . . .”
Yet at a different pace our two people are travelling towards
identical ends, and it is lamentable that a difference of accent
and idiom should do more mischief than a difference of
So far as Great Britain goes things are nearer and closer to me,
and it seems to me that there is an excellent opportunity now to
catch the country in a state of socialisation and suspend party
politics, and keep it at that. It is a logical but often disregarded
corollary of the virtual creation of All-Party National
Governments and suspension of electoral contests, that since
there is no Opposition, party criticism should give place to
individual criticism of ministers, and instead of throwing out
governments we should set ourselves to throw out individual
administrative failures. We need no longer confine our choice
of public servants to political careerists. We can insist upon
men who have done things and can do things, and whenever an
election occurs we can organise a block of non-party voters
who will vote it possible for an outsider of proved ability, and
will at any rate insist on a clear statement from every
Parliamentary candidate of the concrete service, if any, he has
done the country, of his past and present financial
entanglements and his family relationships and of any title he
possesses. We can get these necessary particulars published and
note what newspapers decline to do so. And if there are still
only politicians to vote for, we can at least vote and spoil our
voting cards by way of protest.
At present we see one public service after another in a mess
through the incompetent handling of some party hack and the
unseen activities of interested parties. People are asking already
why Sir Arthur Salter is not in control of Allied Shipping again,
Sir John Orr directing our food supply with perhaps Sir
Fredrick Keeble to help him, Sir Robert Vansittart in the
Foreign Office. We want to know the individuals responsible
for the incapacity of our Intelligence and Propaganda
Ministries, so that we may induce them to quit public life. It
would be quite easy now to excite a number of anxious people
with a cry for “Competence not Party”.
Most people in the British Isles are heartily sick of Mr
Chamberlain and his government, but they cannot face up to a
political split in wartime, and Mr Chamberlain sticks to office
with all the pertinacity of a Barnacle. But if we do not attack
the government as a whole, but individual ministers, and if we
replace them one by one, we shall presently have a government
so rejuvenated that even Mr Chamberlain will realise and
accept his superannuation. Quite a small body of publicspirited
people could organise an active Vigilance Society to
keep these ideas before the mass of voters and begin the
elimination of inferior elements from our public life. This
would be a practical job of primary importance in our political
regeneration. It would lead directly to a new and more efficient
political structure to carry on after the present war has
collapsed or otherwise ended.
Following upon this campaign for the conclusive interment of
the played-out party system, there comes the necessity for a
much more strenuous search for administrative and technical
ability throughout the country. We do not want to miss a single
youngster who can be of use in the great business of making
over Great Britain, which has been so rudely, clumsily and
wastefully socialised by our war perturbations, so that it may
become a permanently efficient system.
And from the base of the educational pyramid up to its apex of
higher education of teachers, heads of departments and
research, there is need for such a quickening of minds and
methods as only a more or less organised movement of sanely
critical men can bring about. We want ministers now of the
highest quality in every department, but in no department of
public life is a man of creative understanding, bold initiative
and administrative power so necessary as in the Education
So tranquil and unobtrusive has been the flow of educational
affairs in the British Empire that it seems almost scandalous,
and it is certainly “vulgar”, to suggest that we need an
educational Ginger Group to discover and support such a
minister. We want a Minister of Education who can shock
teachers into self-examination, electrify and rejuvenate old
dons or put them away in ivory towers, and stimulate the
younger ones. Under the party system the Education Ministry
has always been a restful corner for some deserving party
politician with an abject respect for his Alma Mater and the
permanent officials. During war time, when other departments
wake up, the Education Department sinks into deeper lethargy.
One cannot recall a single British Education Minister, since
there have been such things in our island story as Ministers for
Education, who signified anything at all educationally or did
anything of his own impulse that was in the least worth while.
Suppose we found a live one – soon – and let him rip!
There again is something to be done far more revolutionary
than throwing bombs at innocent policemen or assassinating
harmless potentates or ex-potentates. And yet it is only asking
that an existing department be what it pretends to be.
A third direction in which any gathering accumulation of sanity
should direct its attention is the clumsy unfairness and
indirectness of our present methods of expropriating the former
well-to-do classes. The only observable principle seems to be
widows and children first. Socialisation is being effected in
Britain and America alike not by frank expropriation (with or
without compensation) but by increasing government control
and increasing taxation. Both our great communities are going
into socialism backward and without ever looking round. This
is good in so far as that technical experience and directive
ability is changed over step by step from entirely private
employment to public service, and on that side sane and helpful
citizens have little to do beyond making the process conscious
of itself and the public aware of the real nature of the change,
but it is bad in its indiscriminate destruction of savings, which
are the most exposed and vulnerable side of the old system.
They are expropriated by profit-control and taxation alike, and
at the same time they suffer in purchasing power by the
acceleration of that process of monetary inflation which is the
unavoidable readjustment, the petition in bankruptcy, of a
community that has overspent.
The shareholding class dwindles and dies; widows and
orphans, the old who are past work and the infirm who are
incapable of it, are exposed in their declining years to a painful
shrinkage of their modes of living; there is no doubt a
diminution of social waste, but also there is an indirect
impoverishment of free opinion and free scientific and artistic
initiative as the endless societies, institutions and services
which have enriched life for us and been very largely supported
by voluntary subscriptions, shrivel. At present a large
proportion of our scientific, artistic, literary and social workers
are educated out of the private savings fund. In a class-war
revolution these economically very defenceless but socially
very convenient people are subjected to vindictive humiliation –
it is viewed as a great triumph for their meaner neighbours – but
a revolution sanely conducted will probably devise a system of
terminable annuities and compensation, and of assistance to
once voluntary associations, which will ease off the social
dislocations due to the disappearance of one stratum of
relatively free and independent people, before its successors,
that is to say the growing class of retired officials, public
administrators and so forth, find their feet and develop their
own methods of assertion and enterprise.
LET US TURN NOW to another system of problems in the
collectivisation of the world, and that is the preservation of
liberty in the socialist state and the restoration of that
confidence without which good behaviour is generally
This destruction of confidence is one of the less clearly
recognised evils of the present phase of world-disintegration. In
the past there have been periods when whole communities or at
least large classes within communities have gone about their
business with a general honesty, directness and sense of
personal honour. They have taken a keen pride in the quality of
their output. They have lived through life on tolerable and
tolerant terms with their neighbours. The laws they observed
have varied in different countries and periods, but their general
nature was to make an orderly law-abiding life possible and
natural. They had been taught and they believed and they had
every reason to believe: “This (that or the other thing) is right.
Do right and nothing, except by some strange exceptional
misfortune, can touch you. The Law guarantees you that. Do
right and nothing will rob you or frustrate you.”
Nowhere in the world now is there very much of that feeling
left, and as it disappears, the behaviour of people degenerates
towards a panic scramble, towards cheating, over-reaching,
gang organisation, precautionary hoarding, concealment and all
the meanness and anti-social feeling which is the natural
outcome of insecurity.
Faced with what now amounts to something like a moral
stampede, more and more sane men will realise the urgency for
a restoration of confidence. The more socialisation proceeds
and the more directive authority is concentrated, the more
necessary is an efficient protection of individuals from the
impatience of well-meaning or narrow-minded or ruthless
officials and indeed from all the possible abuses of advantage
that are inevitable under such circumstances to our still
childishly wicked breed.
In the past the Atlantic world has been particularly successful
in expedients for meeting this aspect of human nature. Our
characteristic and traditional method may be called the method
of the fundamental declaration. Our Western peoples, by a
happy instinct, have produced statements of Right, from Magna
Carta onwards, to provide a structural defence between the
citizen and the necessary growth of central authority.
And plainly the successful organisation of the more universal
and penetrating collectivism that is now being forced upon us
all, will be frustrated in its most vital aspect unless its
organisation is accompanied by the preservative of a new
Declaration of the Rights of Man, that must, because of the
increasing complexity of the social structure, be more
generous, detailed and explicit than any of its predecessors.
Such a Declaration must become the common fundamental law
of all communities and collectivities assembled under the
World Pax. It should be interwoven with the declared war aims
of the combatant powers now; it should become the primary
fact in any settlement; it should be put before the now
combatant states for their approval, their embarrassed silence
or their rejection.
In order to be as clear as possible about this, let me submit a
draft for your consideration of this proposed Declaration of the
Rights of Man – using “man” of course to cover every
individual, male or female, of the species. I have endeavoured
to bring in everything that is essential and to omit whatever
secondary issues can be easily deduced from its general
statements. It is a draft for your consideration. Points may have
been overlooked and it may contain repetitions and superfluous
“Since a man comes into this world through no fault of his
own, since he is manifestly a joint inheritor of the
accumulations of the past, and since those accumulations are
more than sufficient to justify the claims that are here made for
him, it follows:
“(1) That every man without distinction of race, of colour or of
professed belief or opinions, is entitled to the nourishment,
covering, medical care and attention needed to realise his full
possibilities of physical and mental development and to keep
him in a state of health from his birth to death.
“(2) That he is entitled to sufficient education to make him a
useful and interested citizen, that special education should be
so made available as to give him equality of opportunity for the
development of his distinctive gifts in the service of mankind,
that he should have easy access to information upon all matters
of common knowledge throughout his life and enjoy the utmost
freedom of discussion, association and worship.
“(3) That he may engage freely in any lawful occupation,
earning such pay as the need for his work and the increment it
makes to the common welfare may justify. That he is entitled to
paid employment and to a free choice whenever there is any
variety of employment open to him. He may suggest
employment for himself and have his claim publicly
considered, accepted or dismissed.
“(4) That he shall have the right to buy or sell without any
discriminatory restrictions anything which may be lawfully
bought or sold, in such quantities and with such reservations as
are compatible with the common welfare.”
(Here I will interpolate a comment. We have to bear in mind
that in a collectivist state buying and selling to secure income
and profit will be not simply needless but impossible. The
Stock Exchange, after its career of four-hundred-odd-years,
will necessarily vanish with the disappearance of any rational
motive either for large accumulations or for hoarding against
deprivation and destitution. Long before the age of complete
collectivisation arrives, the savings of individuals for later
consumption will probably be protected by some development
of the Unit Trust System into a public service. They will
probably be entitled to interest at such a rate as to compensate
for that secular inflation which should go on in a steadily
enriched world community. Inheritance and bequest in a
community in which the means of production and of all
possible monopolisation are collectivised, can concern little
else than relatively small, beautiful and intimate objects, which
will afford pleasure but no unfair social advantage to the
“(5) That he and his personal property lawfully acquired are
entitled to police and legal protection from private violence,
deprivation, compulsion and intimidation.
“(6) That he may move freely about the world at his own
expense. That his private house or apartment or reasonably
limited garden enclosure is his castle, which may be entered
only with consent, but that he shall have the right to come and
go over any kind of country, moorland, mountain, farm, great
garden or what not, or upon the seas, lakes and rivers of the
world, where his presence will not be destructive of some
special use, dangerous to himself nor seriously inconvenient to
his fellow-citizens.
“(7) That a man unless he is declared by a competent authority
to be a danger to himself and to others through mental
abnormality, a declaration which must be annually confirmed,
shall not be imprisoned for a longer period than six days
without being charged with a definite offence against the law,
nor for more than three months without public trial. At the end
if the latter period, if he has not been tried and sentenced by
due process of law, he shall be released. Nor shall he be
conscripted for military, police or any other service to which he
has a conscientious objection.
“(8) That although a man is subject to the free criticism of his
fellows, he shall have adequate protection from any lying or
misrepresentation that may distress or injure him. All
administrative registration and records about a man shall be
open to his personal and private inspection. There shall be no
secret dossiers in any administrative department. All dossiers
shall be accessible to the man concerned and subject to
verification and correction at his challenge. A dossier is merely
a memorandum; it cannot be used as evidence without proper
confirmation in open court.
“(9) That no man shall be subjected to any sort of mutilation or
sterilisation except with his own deliberate consent, freely
given, nor to bodily assault, except in restraint of his own
violence, nor to torture, beating or any other bodily
punishment; he shall not be subjected to imprisonment with
such an excess of silence, noise, light or darkness as to cause
mental suffering, or to imprisonment in infected, verminous or
otherwise insanitary quarters, or be put into the company of
verminous or infectious people. He shall not be forcibly fed nor
prevented from starving himself if he so desire. He shall not be
forced to take drugs nor shall they be administered to him
without his knowledge and consent. That the extreme
punishments to which he may be subjected are rigorous
imprisonment for a term of not longer than fifteen years or
(Here I would point out that there is nothing in this to prevent
any country from abolishing the death penalty any country from
abolishing the death penalty. Nor do I assert a general right to
commit suicide, because no one can punish a man for doing
that. He has escaped. But threats and incompetent attempts to
commit suicide belong to an entirely different category. They
are indecent and distressing acts that can easily become a
serious social nuisance, from which the normal citizen is
entitled to protection.)
“(10) That the provisions and principles embodied in this
Declaration shall be more fully defined in a code of
fundamental human rights which shall be made easily
accessible to everyone. This Declaration shall not be qualified
nor departed from upon any pretext whatever. It incorporates
all previous Declarations of Human Right. Henceforth for a
new ear it is the fundamental law for mankind throughout the
whole world.
“No treaty and no law affecting these primary rights shall be
binding upon any man or province or administrative division of
the community, that has not been made openly, by and with the
active or tacit acquiescence of every adult citizen concerned,
either given by a direct majority vote of his publicly elected
representatives. In matters of collective behaviour it is by the
majority decision men must abide. No administration, under a
pretext of urgency, convenience or the like, shall be entrusted
with powers to create or further define offences or set up bylaws,
which will in any way infringe the rights and liberties
here asserted. All legislation must be public and definite. No
secret treaties shall be binding on individuals, organisations or
communities. No orders in council or the like, which extend the
application of a law, shall be permitted. There is no source of
law but the people, and since life flows on constantly to new
citizens, no generation of the people can in whole or in part
surrender or delegate the legislative power inherent in
There, I think, is something that keener minds than mine may
polish into a working Declaration which would in the most
effective manner begin that restoration of confidence of which
the world stands in need. Much of it might be better phrased,
but I think it embodies the general good-will in mankind from
pole to pole. It is certainly what we all want for ourselves. It
could be a very potent instrument indeed in the present phase
of human affairs. It is necessary and it is acceptable.
Incorporate that in your peace treaties and articles of federation,
I would say, and you will have a firm foundation, which will
continually grow firmer, for the fearless cosmopolitan life of a
new world order. You will never get that order without some
such document. It is the missing key to endless contemporary
And if we, the virtuous democracies, are not fighting for these
common human rights, then what in the name of the nobility
and gentry, the Crown and the Established Church, the City,
The Times and the Army and Navy Club, are we common
British peoples fighting for?
AND NOW, HAVING COMPLETED our picture of what the
saner elements in human society may reasonably work for and
hope for, having cleared away the horrible nightmares of the
class war and the totalitarian slave-state from our imaginations,
we are able to attack the immediate riddles of international
conflict and relationship with some hope of a general solution.
If we realise to the depths of our being that a world settlement
based in the three ideas of socialism, law and knowledge, is not
only possible and desirable, but the only way of escape from
deepening disaster, then manifestly our attitude towards the
resentments of Germany, the prejudices of America or Russia,
the poverty and undernourishment of India or the ambitions of
Japan, must be frankly opportunist. None of these are primary
issues. We sane men must never lose sight of our ultimate
objective, but our methods of getting there will have to vary
with the fluctuating variations of national feeling and national
There is this idea of federalism upon which I have already
submitted a criticism in chapter seven. As I have shown there,
the Streit proposals will either take you further or land you
nowhere. Let us assume that we can strengthen his proposals to
the extent of making a socialistic economic consortium and
adhesion to that Declaration of Rights, primary conditions for
any federal union; then it becomes a matter of mood and
occasion with what communities the federal association may be
begun. We can even encourage feeble federal experiments
which do not venture even so far as that along the path to
sanity, in the certainty that either they will fade out again or
else that they will become liberal realities of the type to which
the whole world must ultimately conform. Behind any such
half-hearted tentatives an educational propaganda can be active
and effective.
But when it comes to the rate and amount of participation in
the construction of a rational world order we can expect from
any country or group of countries, we are in a field where there
is little more than guessing and haphazard generalisations about
“national character” to work upon. We are dealing with masses
of people which may be swayed enormously by a brilliant
newspaper or an outstandingly persuasive or compelling
personality or by almost accidental changes in the drift of
events. I, for example, cannot tell how far the generality of
educated and capable people in the British Empire now may
fall in with our idea of accepting and serving a collectivism, or
how strong their conservative resistance may be. It is my own
country and I ought to know it best, and I do not know it
detachedly enough or deeply enough to decide that. I do not see
how anyone can foretell these swirls and eddies of response.
The advocacy of such movements of the mind and will as I am
speaking of here is in itself among the operating causes in
political adjustment, and those who are deepest in the struggle
are least able to estimate how it is going. Every factor in
political and international affairs is a fluctuating factor. The
wise man therefore will not set his heart upon any particular
drift or combination. He will favour everything that trends
towards the end at which he aims.
The present writer cherishes the idea that the realisation of a
common purpose and a common cultural inheritance may
spread throughout all the English-speaking communities, and
there can be no harm in efforts to give this concrete expression.
He believes the dissociation of the British Empire may
inaugurate this great synthesis. At the same time there are
factors making for some closer association of the United States
of America with what are called the Oslo powers. There is no
reason why one of these associations should stand in the way of
the other. Some countries such as Canada rest already under
what is practically a double guarantee; she has the security of
the Monroe Doctrine and the protection of the British fleet.
A Germany of eighty million people which has been brought to
acquiesce in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and which is
already highly collectivised, may come much earlier to a
completely liberal socialist regime than Great Britain or France.
If she participates in a consortium for the development of what
are called the politically backward regions of the world, she
may no longer be disposed for further military adventures and
further stress and misery. She may enter upon a phase of social
and economic recovery so rapid as to stimulate and react upon
every other country in the world. It is not for other countries to
dictate her internal politics, and if the German people want to
remain united as one people, in federated states or in one
centralised state, there is neither righteousness nor wisdom
preventing them.
The Germans like the rest of the world have to get on with
collectivisation, they have to produce their pattern, and they
cannot give themselves to that if they are artificially divided up
and disorganised by some old-fashioned Quai d’Orsay scheme.
They must do the right thing in their own way.
That the belligerent tradition may linger on in Germany for a
generation or so, is a risk the Atlantic powers have to take. The
world has a right to insist that not simply some German
government but the people generally, recognise unequivocably
and repeatedly, the rights of man asserted in the Declaration,
and it is disarmed and that any aggressive plant, any war plane,
warship, gun or arsenal that is discovered in the country shall
be destroyed forthwith, brutally and completely. But that is a
thing that should not be confined to Germany. Germany should
not be singled out for that. Armament should be an illegality
everywhere, and some sort of international force should patrol
a treaty-bound world. Partial armament is one of those
absurdities dear to moderate-minded “reasonable” men.
Armament itself is making war. Making a gun, pointing a gun
and firing it, are all acts of the same order. It should be illegal
to construct anywhere upon earth, any mechanism for the
specific purpose of killing men. When you see a gun it is
reasonable to ask: “Whom is that intended to kill?”
Germany’s rearmament after 1918 was largely tolerated
because she played off British Russophobia against the Russian
fear of “Capitalist” attack, but that excuse can no longer serve
any furtive war-mongers among her people after her pact with
Released from the economic burdens and restrictions that
crippled her recovery after 1918, Germany may find a full and
satisfying outlet for the energy of her young men in her
systematic collectivisation, raising the standard of her common
life deliberately and steadily, giving Russia a lead in efficiency
and obliging the maundering “politics” and discursive
inattention of the Atlantic world to remain concentrated upon
the realities of life. The idea of again splitting up Germany into
discordant fragments so as to postpone her ultimate recovery
indefinitely, is a pseudo-democratic slacker’s dream. It is
diametrically opposed to world reconstruction. We have need
of the peculiar qualities of her people, and the sooner she
recovers the better for the whole world. It is preposterous to
resume the policy of holding back Germany simply that the old
order may enjoy a few more years of self-indulgence in
England, France and America.
A lingering fear of German military aggression may not be
altogether bad for the minor states of South-Eastern Europe and
Asia Minor, by breaking down their excessive nationalism and
inducing them to work together. The policy of the sane man
should be to welcome every possible experiment in
international understandings duplicate and overlap one another,
so much the better. He has to watch the activities of his own
Foreign Office with incessant jealousy, for signs of that
Machiavellian spirit which foments division among foreign
governments and peoples and schemes perpetually to frustrate
the progressive movement in human affairs by converting it
into a swaying indecisive balance of power.
This book is a discussion of guiding principles and not of the
endless specific problems of adjustment that arise on the way to
a world realisation of collective unity. I will merely glance at
that old idea of Napoleon the Third’s, the Latin Union, at the
possibility of a situation in Spanish and Portuguese South
America parallel to that overlap of the Monroe Doctrine and
the European motherlands which already exists in practice in
the case of Canada, nor will I expatiate upon the manifold
possibilities of sincere application of the Declaration of the
Rights of Man to India and Africa – and particularly to those
parts of the world in which more or less black peoples are
awakening to the realities of racial discrimination and
I will utter a passing warning against any Machiavellian
treatment of the problem of Northern and Eastern Asia, into
which the British may be led by their constitutional
Russophobia. The Soviet collectivism, especially if presently it
becomes liberalised and more efficient through a recovery from
its present obsession by Stalin, may spread very effectively
across Central Asia and China. To anyone nourished mentally
upon the ideas of an unending competition of Powers for
ascendancy for ever and ever, an alliance with Japan, as
truculent and militarised a Japan as possible, will seem the
most natural response in the world. But to anyone who has
grasped the reality of the present situation of mankind and the
urgent desirableness of world collectivisation, this immense
unification will be something to welcome, criticise and assist.
The old bugbear of Russia’s “designs upon India” may also
play its part in distorting the Asiatic situation for many people.
Yet a hundred years of mingled neglect, exploitation and
occasional outbreaks of genuine helpfulness should have taught
the British that the ultimate fate of India’s hundreds of millions
rests now upon no conquering ruler but wholly and solely upon
the ability of the Indian peoples to co-operate in world
collectivisation. They may learn much by way of precept and
example from Russia and from the English-speaking world, but
the days for mere revolt or for relief by a change of masters
have passed. India has to work out for itself, with its own
manner of participation in the struggle for a world order,
starting from the British raj as a datum line. No outside power
can work that out for the Indian peoples, nor force them to do it
if they have no will for it.
But I will not wander further among these ever-changing
problems and possibilities. They are, so to speak, wayside
eventualities and opportunities. Immense though some of them
are they remain secondary. Every year or so now the shifting
channels of politics need to be recharted. The activities and
responses of the sane man in any particular country and at any
particular time will be determined always by the overruling
conception of a secular movement towards a single world
order. That will be the underlying permanent objective of all
his political life.
There is, however, another line of world consolidation to which
attention must be drawn before we conclude this section, and is
what we may call ad hoc internationalism is admirably set forth
in Leonard Woolf’s International Government, a classic which
was published in 1916 and still makes profitable reading.
The typical ad hoc organisation is the Postal Union, which
David Lubin, that brilliant neglected thinker, would have had
extended until it controlled shipping and equalised freights
throughout the world. He based his ideas upon his practical
experience of the mail order business from which he derived
his very considerable fortune. From that problem of freight
adjustment he passed to the idea of a controlled survey of
world, so that a shortage here or a glut there could be foreseen
and remedied in time. He realised the idea in the form of the
International Institute of Agriculture at Rome, which in its
heyday made treaties like an independent sovereign power for
the supply of returns from nearly every government upon earth.
The war of 1914 and Lubin’s death in 1919 checked the
development of this admirable and most inspiring experiment
in ad hoc internationalism. Its history is surely something that
should be made part of the compulsory education of every
statesmen and publicist. Yet never in my life have I met a
professional politician who knew anything whatever or wanted
to know anything about it. It didn’t get votes; it seemed
difficult to tax it; what was the good of it?
Another ad hoc organisation which might be capable of a
considerable extension of its functions is the Elder Brethren of
Trinity House, who control the lighthouses and charting of the
seas throughout the world. But it would need a very
considerable revision and extension of Mr Woolf’s book and,
in spite of the war stresses that have delayed and in some cases
reversed their development, it would be quite beyond our
present scope, to bring up to date the lengthening tale of ad hoc
international networks, ranging from international business
cartels, scientific and technical organisations, white-slave-trade
suppression and international police co-operation, to health
services and religious missions. Just as I have suggested that
the United States and Great Britain may become complete
socialisms unawares, so it is a not altogether impossible dream
that the world may discover to its great surprise that it is
already practically a cosmopolis, through the extension and
interweaving of these ad hoc co-operations. At any rate we
have this very powerful collateral process going on side by side
with the more definite political schemes we have discussed.
Surveying the possibilities of these various attacks upon the
complicated and intricate obstacles that stand between us and a
new and more hopeful world order, one realises both the
reasons for hope in that great possibility and the absurdity over
over-confidence. We are all like soldiers upon a vast
battlefield; we cannot be sure of the trend of things; we may be
elated when disillusionment is rushing headlong upon us; we
may be on the verge of despair, not knowing that our
antagonists are already in collapse. My own reactions vary
between an almost mystical faith in the ultimate triumph of
human reason and good-will, and moods of stoical
determination to carry on to the end in the face of what looks
like inevitable disaster. There are quantitative factors in the
outlook for which there are no data; there are elements of time
and opportunity beyond any estimating. Every one of these
activities we have been canvassing tends to delay the drift to
destruction and provides a foothold for a further counteroffensive
against the adversary.
In the companion predecessor to this book, The Fate of Homo
sapiens, I tried to drive home the fact that our species has no
more reason to believe it can escape defeat and extinction, than
any other organism that plays or has played its part in the
drama of life. I tried to make clear how precarious is our
present situation, and how urgent it is that we should make a
strenuous effort at adjustment now. Only a little while ago it
seemed as though that was an appeal to a deaf and blind world,
invincibly set in its habitual ways into the question whether this
inclination towards pessimism reflected a mood or phase in
myself, and I threw out a qualifying suggestion or so; but for
my own part I could not find any serious reason to believe that
the mental effort that was clearly necessary if man was to
escape that fate that marched upon him would ever be made.
His conservative resistances, his apathy, seemed incurable.
Now suddenly everywhere one meets with alarmed and open
and enquiring minds. So far the tremendous dislocations of the
present war have been immensely beneficial in stripping off
what seemed to be quite invincible illusions of security only a
year ago. I never expected to live to see the world with its eyes
as widely open as they are to-day. The world has never been so
awake. Little may come of it, much may come of it. We do not
know. Life would amount to nothing at all if we did.
THERE WILL BE NO day of days then when a new world
order comes into being. Step by step and here and there it will
arrive, and even as it comes into being it will develop fresh
perspectives, discover unsuspected problems and go on to new
adventures. No man, no group of men, will ever be singled out
as its father or founder. For its maker will be not this man nor
that man nor any man but Man, that being who is in some
measure in every one of us. World order will be, like science,
like most inventions, a social product, an innumerable number
of personalities will have lived fine lives, pouring their best
into the collective achievement.
We can find a small-scale parallel to the probable development
of a new world order in the history of flying. Less than a third
of a century ago, ninety-nine people out of a hundred would
have told you that flying was impossible; kites and balloons
and possibly even a navigable balloon, they could imagine;
they had known of such things for a hundred years; but a
heavier then air machine, flying in defiance of wind and
gravity! That they knew was nonsense. The would-be aviator
was the typical comic inventor. Any fool could laugh at him.
Now consider how completely the air is conquered.
And who did it? Nobody and everybody. Twenty thousand
brains or so, each contributing a notion, a device, an
amplification. They stimulated one another; they took off from
one another. They were like excited ganglia in a larger brain
sending their impulses to and fro. They were people of the most
diverse race and colour. You can write down perhaps a hundred
people or so who have figured conspicuously in the air, and
when you examine the rôle they have played, you will find for
the most part that they are mere notorieties of the Lindbergh
type who have put themselves modestly but firmly in the
limelight and can lay no valid claim to any effective
contribution whatever. You will find many disputes about
records and priority in making this or that particular step, but
the lines of suggestion, the growth and elaboration of the idea,
have been an altogether untraceable process. It has been going
on for not more than a third of a century, under our very eyes,
and no one can say precisely how it came about. One man said
“Why not this?” and tried it, and another said “Why not that?”
A vast miscellany of people had one idea in common, an idea
as old as Dædalus, the idea that “Man can fly”. Suddenly,
swiftly, it got about – that is the only phrase you can use – that
flying was attainable. And man, man as a social being, turned
his mind to it seriously, and flew.
So it will certainly be with the new world order, if ever it is
attained. A growing miscellany of people are saying – it is
getting about – that “World Pax is possible”, a World Pax in
which men will be both united and free and creative. It is of no
importance at all that nearly every man of fifty and over
receives the idea with a pitying smile. Its chief dangers are the
dogmatist and the would-be “leader” who will try to suppress
every collateral line of work which does not minister to his
supremacy. This movement must be, and it must remain, manyheaded.
Suppose the world had decided that Santos Dumont or
Hiram Maxim was the heaven-sent Master of the Air, had
given him the right to appoint a successor and subjected all
experiments to his inspired control. We should probably have
the Air Master now, with an applauding retinue of yes-men,
following the hops of some clumsy, useless and extremely
dangerous apparatus across country with the utmost dignity and
self-satisfaction . . . .
Yet that is precisely how we still set about our political and
social problems.
Bearing this essential fact in mind that the Peace of Man can
only be attained, if it is attained at all, by an advance upon a
long and various front, at varying speed and with diverse
equipment, keeping direction only by a common faith in the
triple need for collectivism, law and research, we realise the
impossibility of drawing any picture of the new order as though
it was as settled and stable as the old order imagined itself to
be. The new order will be incessant; things will never stop
happening, and so it defies any Utopian description. But we
may nevertheless assemble a number of possibilities that will
be increasingly realisable as the tide of disintegration ebbs and
the new order is revealed.
To begin with we have to realise certain peculiarities of human
behaviour that are all too disregarded in general political
speculation. We have considered the very important rôle that
may be played in our contemporary difficulties by a clear
statement of the Rights of Man, and we have sketched such a
Declaration. There is not an item in that Declaration, I believe,
which a man will not consider to be a reasonable demand – so
far as he himself is concerned. He will subscribe to it in that
spirit very readily. But when he is asked not only to concede by
the same gesture to everybody else in the world, but as
something for which he has to make all the sacrifices necessary
for its practical realisation, he will discover a reluctance to “go
so far as that”. He will find a serious resistance welling up from
his sub-conscious and trying to justify itself in his thoughts.
The things he will tell you will be very variable; but the word
“premature” will play a large part in it. He will display a
tremendous tenderness and consideration with which you have
never credited him before, for servants, for workers, for aliens
and particularly for aliens of a different colour from himself.
They will hurt themselves with all this dangerous liberty. Are
they fit, he will ask you, for all this freedom? “Candidly, are
they fit for it?” He will be slightly offended if you will say, “As
fit as you are”. He will say in a slightly amused tone, “But how
can you say that?” and then going off rather at a tangent, “I am
afraid you idealise your fellow-creatures.”
As you press him, you will find this kindliness evaporating
from his resistance altogether. He is now concerned about the
general beauty and loveliness of the world. He will protest that
this new Magna Carta will reduce all the world to “a dead level
of uniformity”. You will ask him why must a world of free-men
be uniform and at a dead level? You will get no adequate reply.
It is an assumption of vital importance to him and he must
cling to it. He has been accustomed to associate “free” and
“equal”, and has never been bright-minded enough to take these
two words apart and have a good look at them separately. He is
likely to fall back at this stage upon that Bible of the impotent
genteel, Huxley’s Brave New World, and implore you to read
it. You brush that disagreeable fantasy aside and continue to
press him. He says that nature has made men unequal, and you
reply that that is no reason for exaggerating the fact. The more
unequal and various their gifts, the greater is the necessity for a
Magna Carta to protect them from one another. Then he will
talk of robbing life of the picturesque and the romantic and you
will have some difficulty in getting these words defined.
Sooner or later it will grow clear that he finds the prospect of a
world in which “Jack’s as good as his Master” unpleasant to the
last degree.
If you still probe him with questions and leading suggestions,
you will begin to realise how large a part the need for glory
over his fellows plays in his composition (and incidentally you
will note, please, you own secret satisfaction in carrying the
argument against him). It will become clear to you, if you
collate the specimen under examination with the behaviour of
children, yourself and the people about you, under what urgent
necessity they are for the sense of triumph, of being better and
doing better than their fellows, and having it felt and
recognised by someone. It is a deeper, steadier impulse than
sexual lust; it is a hunger. It is the clue to the unlovingness of
so much sexual life, to sadistic impulses, to avarice, hoarding
and endless ungainful cheating and treachery which gives men
the sense of getting the better of someone even if they do not
get the upper hand.
In the last resort this is why we must have law, and why Magna
Carta and all its kindred documents set out to defeat human
nature in defence of the general happiness. Law is essentially
an adjustment of that craving to glory over other living things,
to the needs of social life, and it is more necessary in a
collectivist society than in any other. It is a bargain, it is a
social contract, to do as we would be done by and to repress
our extravagant egotisms in return for reciprocal concessions.
And in the face of these considerations we have advanced
about the true nature of the beast we have to deal with, it is
plain that the politics of the sane man as we have reasoned
them out, must anticipate a strenuous opposition to this primary
vital implement for bringing about the new world order.
I have suggested that the current discussion of “War Aims”
may very effectively be transformed into the propaganda of this
new Declaration of the Rights of Man. The opposition to it and
the attempts that will be made to postpone, mitigate, stifle and
evade it, need to be watched, denounced and combatted
persistently throughout the world. I do not know how far this
Declaration I have sketched can be accepted by a good
Catholic, but the Totalitarian pseudo-philosophy insists upon
inequality of treatment for “non-Aryans” as a glorious duty.
How Communists would respond to its clauses would, I
suppose, depend upon their orders from Moscow. But what are
called the “democracies” are supposed to be different, and it
would be possible now to make that Declaration a searching
test of the honesty and spirit of the leaders and rulers in whom
they trust. These rulers can be brought to the point by it, with a
precision unattainable in any other fashion.
But the types and characters and authorities and officials and
arrogant and aggressive individuals who will boggle at this
Declaration and dispute and defy it, do not exhaust the
resistances of our unregenerate natures to this implement for
the establishment of elementary justice in the world. For a far
larger proportion of people among the “democracies” will be
found, who will pay it lip service and then set about
discovering how, in their innate craving for that sense of
superiority and advantage which lies so near the core of our
individuals wills, they may unobtrusively sabotage it and cheat
it. Even if they only cheat it just a little. I am inclined to think
this disingenuousness is a universal weakness. I have a real
passion for serving the world, but I have a pretty keen
disposition to get more pay for my service, more recognition
and so on than I deserve. I do not trust myself. I want to be
under just laws. We want law because we are all potential lawbreakers.
This is a considerable digression into psychology, and I will do
no more than glance at how large a part this craving for
superiority and mastery has played in the sexual practices of
mankind. There we have the ready means for a considerable
relief of this egotistical tension in mutual boasting and
reassurance. But the motive for his digression here is to
emphasise the fact that the generalisation of our “War Aims”
into a Declaration of Rights, though it will enormously simplify
the issue of the war, will eliminate neither open and heartfelt
opposition nor endless possibilities of betrayal and sabotage.
Nor does it alter the fact that even when the struggle seems to
be drifting definitely towards a world social democracy, there
may still be very great delays and disappointments before it
becomes an efficient and beneficent world system. Countless
people, from maharajas to millionaires and from pukkha sahibs
to pretty ladies, will hate the new world order, be rendered
unhappy by frustration of their passions and ambitions through
its advent and will die protesting against it. When we attempt
to estimate its promise we have to bear in mind the distress of a
generation or so of malcontents, many of them quite gallant and
graceful-looking people.
Ant it will be no light matter to minimise the loss of efficiency
in the process of changing the spirit and pride of administration
work from that of an investing, high-salaried man with a
handsome display of expenditure and a socially ambitious wife,
into a relatively less highly-salaried man with a higher standard
of self-criticism, aware that he will be esteemed rather by what
he puts into his work than by what he gets out of it. There will
be a lot of social spill, tragi-comedy and loss of efficiency
during the period of the change over, and it is better to be
prepared for that.
Yet after making allowances for these transitional stresses we
may still look forward with some confidence to certain phases
in the onset of World Order. War or war fear will have led
everywhere to the concentration of vast numbers of workers
upon munition work and the construction of offensive and
defensive structures of all sorts, upon shipping, internal
communications, replacement structures, fortification. There
will be both a great accumulation and control of material and
constructive machinery and also of hands already growing
accustomed to handling it. As the possibility of conclusive
victory fades and this war muddle passes out of its distinctively
military phase towards revolution, and as some sort of Peace
Congress assembles, it will be not only desirable but necessary
for governments to turn over these resources and activities to
social reconstruction. It will be too obviously dangerous and
wasteful to put them out of employment. They must surely
have learnt now what unemployment means in terms of social
disorganisation. Governments will have to lay out the world,
plan and build for peace whether they like it or not.
But it will be asked, “Where will you find the credit to do
that?” and to answer this question we must reiterate that fact
that money is an expedient and not an end. The world will have
the material and the hands needed for a reconditioning of its
life everywhere. They are all about you now crying out to be
used. It is, or at any rate it has been, the function of the
contemporary money-credit system to bring worker and
material together and stimulate their union. That system always
justified its activities on that ground, that is its claim to exist,
and if it does not exist for that purpose then for what purpose
does it exist and what further need is there for it? If now the
financial mechanism will not work, if it confronts us with a non
possumus, then clearly it resigns its function.
Then it has to get out of the way. It will declare the world has
stopped when the truth will be that the City has stopped. It is
the counting-house that has gone bankrupt. For a long time
now an increasing number of people have been asking
questions about the world counting-house, getting down at last
to such fundamental questions as “What is money?” and “Why
are Banks?” It is disconcerting but stimulating to find that no
lucid answer is forthcoming.
One might have imagined that long before this one of the many
great bankers and financial experts in our world would have
come forward with a clear and simple justification for the
monetary practices of to-day. He would have shown how
completely reasonable and trustworthy this money-credit
system was. He would have shown what was temporarily
wrong with it and how to set it working again, as the electrician
does when the lights go out. He would have released us from
our deepening distress about our money in the Bank, our little
squirrel hoard of securities, the deflating lifebelt of property
that was to assure our independence to the end. No one of that
quality comes forward. There is not so much as a latter-day
Bagehot. It dawns upon more and more of us that it is not a
system at all and never has been a system, that it is an
accumulation of conventions, usages, collateral developments
and compensatory expedients, which creaks now and sways
more and more and gives every sign of a complete and
horrifying social collapse.
Most of us have believed up to the last moment that somewhere
distributed among the banks and city offices in a sort of world
counting-house, there were books of accounts, multitudinous
perhaps and intricate, but ultimately proper accounts. Only now
is it dawning upon comfortable decent people that the
counting-house is in a desperate mess, that codes seem to have
been lost, entries made wrong, additions gone astray down the
column, records kept in vanishing ink. . . .
For years there has been a great and growing literature about
money. It is very various but it has one general characteristic.
First there is a swift exposure of the existing system as wrong.
Then there is a glib demonstration of a new system which is
right. Let this be done or that be done, “let the nation own its
own money”, says one radio prophet earnestly, repeatedly,
simply, and all will be well. These various systems of doctrine
run periodicals, organise movements (with coloured shirt
complete), meet, demonstrate. They disregard each other flatly.
And without exception all these monetary reformers betray
signs of extreme mental strain.
The secret trouble in their minds is gnawing doubt that their
own proper “plan”, the panacea, is in some subtle and
treacherous way likely to fail them if it is put to the test. The
internal fight against this intolerable shadow betrays itself in
their outer behaviour. Their letters and pamphlets, with
scarcely an exception, have this much in common with the
letters one gets from lunatics, that there is a continual resort to
capital letters and abusive terms. They shout out at the slightest
provocation or none. They are not so much shouting at the
exasperating reader who remains so obstinate when they have
been so clear, so clear, as at the sceptical whisper within.
Because there is no perfect money system by itself and there
never can be. It is a dream like the elixir vitæ or perpetual
motion. It is in the same order of thought.
Attention has already been drawn, in our examination of Mr
Streit’s proposals for Union Now, to the fact that money varies
in its nature and operations with the theory of property and
distribution on which society is based, that in a complete
collectivism for example it becomes little more than the check
handed to the worker to enable him to purchase whatever he
likes from the resources of the community. Every detachment
of production or enterprise from collective control (national or
cosmopolitan) increases the possible functions of money and so
makes a different thing of it. Thus there can be endless species
of money – as many types of money as there are types and
varieties of social order. Money in Soviet Russia is a different
organ from money French or American money. The difference
can be as wide as that between lungs and swimming bladders
and gills. It is not simply a quantitative difference, as so many
people seem to imagine, which can be adjusted by varying the
rate of exchange or any such contrivance, it goes deeper, it is a
difference in quality and kind. The bare thought of that makes
our business and financial people feel uncomfortable and
confused and menaced, and they go on moving their bars of
gold about from this vault to that, hoping almost beyond hope
that no one will say anything more about it. It worked very well
for a time, to go on as though money was the same thing all the
world over. They will not admit how that assumption is failing
to work now.
Clever people reaped a certain advantage from a more or less
definite apprehension of the variable nature of money, but since
one could not be a financier or business director without an
underlying faith in one’s right to profit by one’s superior
cleverness, there did not seem to be any reason for them to
make a public fuss about it. They got their profits and the flats
got left.
Directly we grasp this not very obscure truth that there can be,
and are, different sorts of money dependent on the economic
usages or system in operation, which are not really
interchangeable, then it becomes plain that a collectivist world
order, whose fundamental law is such a Declaration of Rights
as we have sketched, will have to carry on its main, its primary
operations at least with a new world money, a specially
contrived money, differing in its nature from any sort of money
conventions that have hitherto served human needs. It will be
issued against the total purchasable output of the community in
return for the workers’ services to the community. There will
be no more reason for going to the City for a loan than for
going to the oracle at Delphi for advice about it.
In the phase of social stress and emergency socialisation into
which we are certainly passing, such a new money may begin
to appear quite soon. Governments finding it impossible to
resort to the tangled expedients of the financial counting-house,
may take a short cut to recuperation, requisition the national
resources within their reach and set their unemployment hands
to work by means of these new checks. They may carry out
international barter arrangements upon an increasing scale. The
fact that the counting-house is in a hopeless mess because of its
desperate attempts to ignore the protean nature of money, will
become more manifest as it becomes less important.
The Stock Exchange and Bank credit and all arts of loaning and
usury and forestalling will certainly dwindle away together as
the World Order establishes itself. If and when World Order
establishes itself. They will be superseded, like egg-shells and
foetal membranes. There is no reason for denouncing those who
devised and worked those methods and institutions as
scoundrels and villains. They did honestly according to their
lights. They were a necessary part of the process of getting
Homo sapiens out of his cave and down from his tree. And
gold, that lovely heavy stuff, will be released from its vaults
and hiding-places for the use of the artist and technician –
probably at a price considerably below the present quotations.
Our attempt to forecast the coming World Order is framed then
in an immense and increasing spectacle of constructive activity.
We can anticipate a rapid transfiguration of the face of the earth
as its population is distributed and re-distributed in accordance
with the shifting requirements of economic production.
It is not only that there is what is called a housing shortage in
nearly every region of the earth, but most of the existing
accommodation, by modern standards, is unfit for human
occupation. There is scarcely a city in the world, the new world
as well as the old, which does not need to have half its
dwelling-places destroyed. Perhaps Stockholm, reconditioned
under a Socialist regime, may claim to be an exception; Vienna
was doing hopefully until its spirit was broken by Dollfuss and
the Catholic reaction. For the rest, behind a few hundred main
avenues and prospects, sea and river fronts, capitols, castles
and the like, filthy slums and rookeries cripple childhood and
degrade and devitalise its dulled elders. You can hardly say
people are born into such surroundings; they are only half born.
With the co-operation of the press and the cinema it would be
easy to engender a world-wide public interest and enthusiasm
for the new types of home and fitment that are now attainable
by everyone. Here would be an outlet for urban and regional
patriotism, for local shame and pride and effort. Here would be
stuff to argue about. Wherever men and women have been rich
enough, powerful enough and free enough, their thoughts have
turned to architecture and gardening. Here would be a new
incentive to travel, to see what other towns and country-sides
were doing. The common man on his holidays would do what
the English milord of the seventeenth century did; he would
make his Grand Tour and come back from his journeys with
architectural drawings and notions for home application. And
this building and rebuilding would be a continuing process, a
sustained employment, going on from good to better, as the
economic forces shifted and changed with new discoveries and
men’s ideas expanded.
It is doubtful in a world of rising needs and standards if many
people would want to live in manifestly old houses, any more
than they would want to live in old clothes. Except in a few
country places where ancient buildings have wedded
themselves happily to some local loveliness and become quasinatural
things, or where some great city has shown a brave
facade to the world, I doubt if there will be much to preserve.
In such large open countries as the United States there has been
a considerable development of the mobile home in recent years.
People haul a trailer-home behind their cars and become
seasonal nomads. . . . But there is no need to expatiate further
on a limitless wealth of possibilities. Thousands of those who
have been assisting in the monstrous clumsy evacuations and
shiftings of population that have been going on recently, must
have had their imaginations stirred by dim realisation of how
much better all this might be done, if it were done in a new
spirit and with a different intention. There must be a multitude
of young and youngish people quite ripe for infection by this
idea of cleaning up and resettling the world. Young men who
are now poring over war maps and planning annexations and
strategic boundaries, fresh Maginot lines, new Gibraltars and
Dardanelles, may presently be scheming the happy and healthy
distribution of routes and residential districts in relation to this
or that important region of world supply for oil or wheat or
water-power. It is essentially the same type of cerebration,
better employed.
Considerations of this sort are sufficient to supply a
background of hopeful activities to our prospective world
order. But we are not all architects and gardeners there are
many types of minds and many of those who are training or
being trained for the skilled co-operations of warfare and the
development of a combatant morale, may be more disposed to
go on with definitely educational work. In that way they can
most easily gratify the craving for power and honourable
service. They will face a world in extreme need of more
teachers and fresh-minded and inspiring teachers at that. At
every level of educational work from the kindergarten to the
research laboratory, and in every part of the world from
Capricornia to Alaska and from the Gold Coast to Japan, there
will be need of active workers to bring minds into harmony
with new order and to work out, with all the labour saving and
multiplying apparatus available, cinema, radio, cheap books
and pictures and all the rest of it, the endless new problems of
human liaison that will arise. There we have a second line of
work along which millions of young people may escape the
stagnation and frustration which closed in upon their
predecessors as the old order drew to its end.
A sturdy and assertive variety of the new young will be needed
for the police work of the world. They will be more disposed
for authority and less teaching or creative activities than their
fellows. The old proverb will still hold for the new order that it
takes all sorts to make a world, and the alternative to driving
this type of temperament into conspiracy and fighting it and, if
you can, suppressing it, is to employ it, win it over, trust it, and
give it law behind it to respect and enforce. They want a loyalty
and this loyalty will find its best use and satisfaction in the
service of world order. I have remarked in the course of such
air travel as I have done, that the airmen of all nations have a
common resemblance to each other and that the patriotic virus
in their blood is largely corrected by a wider professionalism.
At present the outlook before a young airmen is to perish in a
spectacular dog-fight before he is five and twenty. I wonder
how many of them really rejoice in that prospect.
It is not unreasonable to anticipate the development of an ad
hoc disarmament police which will have its greatest strength in
the air. How easily the spirit of an air police can be denationalised
is shown by the instance of the air patrols on the
United States-Canadian border, to which President Roosevelt
drew my attention. There is a lot of smuggling along that
border and the planes now play an important part in its
suppression. At first the United States and Canada had each
their own planes. Then in a wave of common sense, the two
services were pooled. Each plane now carries a United States
and Canadian customs officer. When contraband is spotted the
plane comes down on it and which officer acts is determined by
the destination of the smuggled goods. There we have a pattern
for a world struggling through federation to collective unity.
An ad hoc disarmament police with its main strength in the air
would necessarily fall into close co-operation with the various
other world police activities. In a world where criminals can fly
anywhere, the police must be able to fly anywhere too. Already
we have a world-wide network of competent men fighting the
white-slave traffic, the drug traffic and so forth. The thing
begins already.
All this I write to provide imaginative material for those who
see the coming order as a mere blank interrogation. People talk
much nonsense about the disappearance of incentive under
socialism. The exact opposite is the truth. It is the obstructive
appropriation of natural resources by private ownership that
robs the prosperous of incentive and the poor of hope. Our
Declaration of Human rights assures a man the proper
satisfaction of all his elementary needs in kind, and nothing
more. If he wants more than that he will have to work for it,
and the healthier he is and the better he is fed and housed, the
more bored he will be by inactivity and the more he will want
something to do. I am suggesting what he is likely to do in
general terms, and that is as much as one can do now. We can
talk about the broad principles upon which these matters will
be handled in a consolidating world socialism, but we can
scarcely venture to anticipate the detailed forms, the immense
richness and variety of expression, an ever-increasing number
of intelligent people will impose upon these primary ideas.
But there is one more structural suggestion that it may be
necessary to bring into our picture. So far as I know it was first
broached by that very bold and subtle thinker, Professor
William James, in a small book entitled The Moral Equivalent
of War. He pointed out the need there might be for a
conception of duty, side by side with the idea of rights, that
there should be something in the life of every citizen, man or
woman alike, that should give him at once a sense of personal
obligation to the World State. He brought that into relation
with the fact that there will remain in any social order we can
conceive, a multitude of necessary services which by no sort of
device can be made attractive as normal life-long occupations.
He was not thinking so much of the fast-vanishing problem of
mechanical toil as the such irksome tasks as the prison
warder’s, the asylum attendant’s; the care of the aged and
infirm, nursing generally, health and sanitary services, a certain
residuum of clerical routine, dangerous exploration and
experiment. No doubt human goodness is sufficient to supply
volunteers for many of these things, but are the rest of us
entitled to profit by their devotion? His solution is universal
conscription for a certain period of the adult life. The young
will have to do so much service and take so much risk for the
general welfare as the world commonwealth requires. They will
be able to do these jobs with the freshness and vigour of those
who know they will presently be released, and who find their
honour through performance; they will not be subjected to that
deadening temptation to self-protective slacking and
mechanical insensitiveness, which assails all who are thrust by
economic necessity into these callings for good and all.
It is quite possible that a certain percentage of these conscripts
may be caught by the interest of what they are doing; the
asylum attendant may decide to specialise in psychotherapeutic
work; the hospital nurse succumb to that curiosity
which underlies the great physiologist; the Arctic worker may
fall in love with his snowy wilderness. . . .
One other leading probability of a collectivist world order has
to be noted here, and that is an enormous increase in the pace
and amount of research and discovery. I write research, but by
that I mean that double-barrelled attack upon ignorance, the
biological attack and the physical attack, that is generally
known as “Science”. “Science” comes to us from those
academic Dark Ages when men had to console themselves for
their ignorance by pretending that there was a limited amount
of knowledge in the world, and little chaps in caps and gowns
strutted about, bachelors who knew all that there was to be
known. Now it is manifest that none of us know very much,
and the more we look into what we think we know, the more
hitherto undetected things we shall find lurking in our
Hitherto this business of research, which we call the “scientific
world”, has been in the hands of very few workers indeed. I
throw out the suggestion that in our present-day world, of all
the brains capable of great and masterful contributions to
“scientific” thought and achievement, brains of the quality of
Lord Rutherford’s, or Darwin’s or Mendel’s or Freud’s or
Leonardo’s or Galileo’s, not one in a thousand, not one in a
score of thousands, ever gets born into such conditions as to
realise its opportunities. The rest never learn a civilised
language, never get near a library, never have the faintest
chance of self-realisation, never hear the call. They are undernourished,
they die young, they are misused. And of the
millions who would make good, useful, eager secondary
research workers and explorers, not one in a million is utilised.
But now consider how things will be if we had a stirring
education ventilating the whole world, and if we had a
systematic and continually more competent search for
exceptional mental quality and a continually more extensive net
of opportunity for it. Suppose a quickening public mind implies
an atmosphere of increasing respect for intellectual
achievement and livelier criticism of imposture. What we call
scientific progress to-day would seem a poor, hesitating,
uncertain advance in comparison with what would be
happening under these happier conditions.
The progress of research and discovery has produced such
brilliant and startling results in the past century and a half that
few of us are aware of the small number of outstanding men
who have been concerned in it, and how the minor figures
behind these leaders trail off into a following of timid and illprovided
specialists who dare scarcely stand up to a public
official on their own ground. This little army, this “scientific
world” of to-day, numbering I suppose from head to tail, down
to the last bottle-washer, not a couple of hundred thousand
men, will certainly be represented in the new world order by a
force of millions, better equipped, amply co-ordinated, free to
question, able to demand opportunity. Its best will be no better
than our best, who could not be better, but they will be far more
numerous, and its rank and file, explorers, prospectors,
experimental team workers and an encyclopædic host of
classifiers and co-ordinators and interpreters, will have a
vigour, a pride and confidence that will make the laboratories
of to-day seem half-way back to the alchemist’s den.
Can one doubt that the “scientific world” will break out in this
way when the revolution is achieved, and that the development
of man’s power over nature and over his own nature and over
this still unexplored planet, will undergo a continual
acceleration as the years pass? No man can guess beforehand
what doors will open then nor upon what wonderlands.
These are some fragmentary intimations of the quality of that
wider life a new world order can open to mankind. I will not
speculate further about them because I would not have it said
that this book is Utopian or “Imaginative” or anything of that
sort. I have set down nothing that is not strictly reasonable and
practicable. It is the soberest of books and the least original of
books. I think I have written enough to show that it is
impossible for world affairs to remain at their present level.
Either mankind collapses or our species struggles up by the
hard yet fairly obvious routes I have collated in this book, to
reach a new level of social organisation. There can be little
question of the abundance, excitement and vigour of living that
awaits our children upon that upland. If it is attained. There is
no doubting their degradation and misery if it is not.
There is nothing really novel about this book. But there has
been a certain temerity in bringing together facts that many
people have avoided bringing together for fear they might form
an explosive mixture. Maybe they will. They may blast through
some obstinate mental barriers. In spite of that explosive
possibility, that explosive necessity, it may be this remains
essentially an assemblage, digest and encouragement of now
prevalent but still hesitating ideas. It is a plain statement of the
revolution to which reason points an increasing number of
minds, but which they still lack resolution to undertake. In The
Fate of Homo sapiens I have stressed the urgency of the case.
Here I have assembled the things they can and need to do. They
had better summon up their resolution.

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