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(A protest and a warning addressed to the peoples of Europe)
by Edward Carpenter
Never again must this Thing happen. The time has come -- if the human
race does not wish to destroy itself in its own madness -- for men
to make up their minds as to what they will do in the future; for
now indeed is it true that we are come to the cross-roads, we stand
at the Parting of the Ways.
The rapid and enormous growth of scientific invention makes it obvious
that Violence ten times more potent and sinister than that which
we are witnessing to-day may very shortly be available for our use -- or
abuse -- in War. On the other hand who can doubt that the rapid growth
of interchange and understanding among the peoples of the world is
daily making Warfare itself, and the barbarities inevitably connected
with it, more abhorrent to our common humanity?
Which of these lines are we to follow? Along which path are we to go?
This is a question which the mass -- peoples of Europe in the future -- and
not merely the Governments --- will have seriously to ponder and decide.
That bodies of men -- as has happened a hundred times in the trenches
in Northern France and even on the Eastern Front -- should exchange
morning salutations and songs in humorous amity, and then at a word
of command should fall to shooting each other;
That peasants and artisans, and shopkeepers and students and
schoolmasters, who have no quarrel whatever, who on the whole rather
respect and honour each other, should with explosive bombs deliberately
blow one another to bits so that even their own mothers could not
That human beings should use every devilish invention of science
with the one purpose of maiming, blinding, destroying those against
whom they have no personal grudge or grievance;
All this is sheer madness.
Only a short time ago a private soldier said to me: "Yes, we had
got to be such friends with those Bavarians in the trenches over
against us that if we had returned there again I believe nothing
could have made us fight with each other; but of course that point
was perceived and we were moved to another part of the Line."
What a criticism in a few words on the whole War!
A hundred times this or something similar has happened, and a hundred
and a thousand times these 'enemies' who have madly mutilated each
other have -- a few minutes later -- been only too glad to dress each
other's wounds and share the last contents of their water-bottles.
By all the heart-rending experiences which have now become so common
and familiar to us;
By the fact that to-day there is hardly a family over the greater
part of Europe that is not grieving bitterly over the loss of some
dearest member of its circle;
By the white faces of the women clad in black, whom one sees everywhere
in the streets of Berlin and Brussels and Paris and Vienna, of London
and Milan and Belgrade and Petrograd;
By the sufferings of famine-stricken Poland, ravaged already three
or four times in the last two years by opposing and alternate armies;
By the awful sufferings of the six or seven million Jews of the
Russian Pale, hounded homeless in winter to and, fro over the frozen
earth the old men and women and children perishing of exposure,
fatigue, and starvation;
By the agony of Serbia, and the despair of Belgium;
This must not be again!
By the five or six million actual combatants already slain; and,
the strange spectacle of millions of Women (over half a million
in Britain, more in France, multitudes in Germany and America)
manufacturing man-destroying explosive shells in ceaseless stream
by day and night;
(And it is estimated that on the average some fifty shells are expended
for every one man slain)
By the terrified faces -- as of drowning men -- of those suffering in
countless hospitals from shell-shock; by their trembling hands and,
limbs and horrible dreams at night -- pursued by an ever-living horror;
By the curses of the tender-hearted friend who collects in No-man's-land
between the lines the scattered fragments of his comrade's
body -- the dabs of flesh, the hand, the head he knows so well, a boot
with a foot still in it -- and puts them all together in a sack for
By the silent stupefaction of wives and mothers trying vainly to
picture to themselves a death which cannot be pictured; by the insane
laughter of those who having witnessed these things can no longer
This must not be again!
By the beach at Gallipoli covered with the prostrate and writhing
forms of men exhausted and emaciated with dysentery, who have crawled
down from the hills only to lie out there in the terrible sun tormented
with flies and thirst, or to shiver through the frosty night, waiting
for the tardy arrival of the Hospital Ship;
By the hundreds of bodies thrown at the last into the sea at sunrise,
for their unceremonious end;
And each poor body for all its loathsome state so loved, so loved
by some one far away;
By the dear Lord who in the beautiful legend descended for three
days into Hell that he might redeem mankind; but these have lived
in an actual Hell for weeks and months together --
This must not be again!
By the growth and expansion of Science (God forgive the word!) which
will inevitably make each future war more devilish and inhuman than
By the cry of the black and coloured peoples of the Earth who have
for long enough already said how hard and cruel the faces of the
white men seemed to them, and who now think how black their souls are;
By the hardness of heart, the insensitiveness of a certain kind,
which during a century or more now has been bred by the institutions
By the habitual betrayal, through long periods of 'prosperity' and
`peace,' of men by their fellows -- of the weak by the powerful, of
the generous by the mean, of the simple and thoughtless by the crafty
By the huge dividends declared by Armament Firms; by the
international agreements of these firms with one another, even to
cozen their own respective Governments;
By the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of innocent folk trampled
underfoot in the ditch of competition, the mad, race in which the
devil takes the hindmost;
By the treacherous internal warfare of the ordinary industrial life
of every country, the secret betrayal and murder of bodies and souls
for profit -- at last written out in letters of blood and fire across
the continents, for all to behold --
This must not be again !
Let the Allies by all means accuse Germany of world-ambition and
world-plunder, and let the German people accuse their Prussian lords
but let every nation also search its own heart and accuse itself.
For have not the lords of every nation set before themselves the
same goal, the goal of world-ambition and glory and 'empire' and
plunder? And have not the mass-peoples of every nation stood meanly
by and acclaimed the fraud, nor spoken out against it, silently
consenting to these things in the prospect of some advantage also
Have not all the nations without exception acted meanly and dastardly
towards the out lying black races, and even towards those more
civilized peoples whom they thought weaker than themselves -- and now
in the stress of war are they not finding that their own rights
and liberties are being slowly filched from them?
Yes, that is, the end of Glory and of Greed.
But the day of glory is departed. The newspapers, it is true,
still keep up the phrase. They talk of a battalion "covering itself
with glory." But the men themselves do not talk so. They know
too well what it all means. They see no glory in covering themselves
with the blood of their brothers of the opposing trenches; with
whom a few moments before they were joining in songs and jokes.
They only say: Now that we have begun, we will see it through -- but
it must not be Again.
Never I think in all the history of the world has there been a thing
so great in its way as the present British Army and Navy. This enormous
force, raised -- except for a small remnant -- by Voluntary enlistment
from all classes of the nation, and inspired more by a general and
protective sense towards the Motherland than by anything else, has
fulfilled what it considered to be its duty and its honour with a
devotion and a heroism unsurpassed. It were impossible to stay
and recount its many wonderful deeds.
A young officer said to me one day -- "Horrible as the whole thing
is, yet it almost seems worth while, when you think of the splendid
things done -- and done too in such a simple matter-of-fact way: when
you think of all the love and devotion poured out, and the lives
our men have given one for the sake of another."
Great indeed is the spirit of such an army, great its magnanimity,
its simplicity of mind, its unself-consciousness, its single
concentration on its purpose.
Yet perhaps the most surprising thing about our men is that they
have done all this with so little hatred in their hearts for the enemy.
Whatever the Germans may have felt, and whatever the French, the
Britishers have just done their fighting in their own nonchalant
way "because they had to" -- with scarcely a shadow of malice or
revenge -- rather with that respect for a doughty opponent which
always distinguishes the true fighter.
Think of that quaint story (Between The Lines, by Boyd Cable, pp 188 ff)
of the German Burschen in their trenches, singing with pious enthusiasm
the Song of Hate (probably commanded and compelled, poor devils, to sing it)
and our men for days secretly listening, learning the words, practicing
the tune on their muffled, mouth-organs; till having got it all
complete they one morning, burst it forth in full chorus on the
astonished Teutons, nor failed at the end to blaze out
"Gott strafe England" at the top of, their voices as if they really
meant it -- and then subsided into a roar of laughter. They simply would
not take the German "Hate" seriously.
Well, what can an enemy do with such an army? It would seem indeed
to be invincible.
The other surprising thing about this Army is (but it is also in
part true of the Russians and others) that the members of it not
only bear so little malice in their heart of hearts against the
enemy, but that all the time they (or nine-tenths of them) are giving
their life-blood, for a Country which in hardly any available or
adequate sense can really be said to belong to them.
Not one man of ours in ten, probably not one in a hundred, has any
direct rights or interest in his native soil; and the Motherland
has too often (at any rate in the past) turned out a stepmother
who disowned him later when crippled in her service.
He is told that he is fighting for his country, but he finds that
his real privilege is to die at the foot of a Trespass-board on some
rich man's estate, singing bravely to the last that "Britons never,
never shall be slaves!" He is told that he is defending his hearth
and his home, and to prove that that is so, he is sent out on a
far campaign to further some dubious scheme -- in Mesopotamia! I think
we cannot refuse to say that the good temper and they single-heartedness
and the single mindedness of the British soldier are beyond all
But, in another way, how admirable and how great has the French
soldier proved himself to be!
The passion of Patriotism, the sheer love of their own country
(in the case of the French, more truly "their own" than in the
case of the British) has swept through France in a wave of devotion
which consumed in its flame, one may almost say, the energies and
the treasures of every household. To protect their beautiful land,
their divine mistress, from violation by the German hordes was a
thing for which all men -- artists, literary men and all -- were glad
When at Meaux the French army (reorganized and reinforced) broke
through the German centre and fell upon Von Kluck's left flank
(his right being already threatened by the French Sixth Army),
they were surely not men who fought, but spirits rather -- many of
them almost ghosts, white with the fatigues and privations of a
long retreat; but to save their beloved Paris they faced the enemy
with a fury that nothing could resist.
A miracle was wrought (talk of Angels at Mons, it was Devils at Meaux),
and Germany in that moment was defeated -- even though it took two
years more to make her acknowledge her defeat.
Think of Lieutenant Pericard who in a trench full of corpses at
Bois-brule cried, suddenly entranced, in a loud voice, "Debout les morts!"
and in a moment, as it were, the souls of their dead comrades were
around his men, inspiring them to victory.
When again at Verdun week after week and month after month the French
army endured tine almost hourly mass-attacks of the enemy battalions
and the deluge of their shells (eight million shells, it is estimated
the Germans threw in ten weeks), it still, though heavily punished,
stood solid, and the whole of France stood solid behind it. France
never doubted the conclusion; and the conclusion was never doubtful.
We have spoken of `glory,' but the day of ` la gloire ' has departed.
France herself has ceased to speak of it -- and there can be no better
proof than that, of the change that has come over the minds of men .
France has emerged from the War a changed nation. The people who
in 1870 made ribald verses and sang cynical songs over the plight
of their country are now no more, and France emerges serious, resolute,
to the great work which she has before her -- of building the great
first Democratic State of Europe and becoming the corner-stone of
the future European Confederation.
And what shall we say of the German army? (In the moment and merely
for the sake of brevity I leave the Belgians, Russians, Italians
and Serbians aside.)
When I think of the great German army now scattered over Europe,
fighting along that immense line (including the Austrian portion)
of some 1,400 miles in extent; when I think of this on the whole so
wonderfully goodhearted, genial, sociable people, these regiments
of Westphalians, Wurtemburgers, Saxons, Bavarians, Hungarians, these
men and boys from the fields and farms of Posen and Pomerania, the
forests of Thuringia, the vineyards of the Rhine or the vegetable
gardens of the Palatinate, these students from the Universities
and scholars from the Technical Schools; plunged in this insane War,
fighting in very truth for they know not what, and pouring out their
life-blood, like water in obedience to the long-prepared schemes
of their rulers -- I am seized with an immense pity.
They have been told they are fighting to save their Fatherland.
And as far as our argument is concerned it does not matter how
falsely they have been instructed or what grain of actual truth
there may be in the contention.
The point is that the vast majority of them believe this to be
true; and they too, dear children, are giving their lives for their
hearths and homes -- they too are leading this hateful existence in
trenches and mines, called to it by what seems to them a good
conscience, and carried onward (in company with those they have
left at home) in the mad millrace of public opinion.
However we may, blame the German High Command -- and certainly we must
blame those in power, who over such a long period deliberately
prepared this war, and at the last so suddenly launched it upon
However we may blame the German High Command, we cannot refuse
to acknowledge the really great qualities of their general Army:
its extraordinary courage and devotion, its versatility and resource.
As to its goodheartedness, that is proved by the endless stories
of spontaneous friendliness shown by the German troops even to
their enemies, the individual rapprochements on occasions, the
succour to the wounded, the Christmas songs and celebrations, and
by the fact of advances of this kind so often coming first from
the German side.
As to its good sense, that element certainly has not been wanting.
Among the stories' above-mentioned as coming from the Front is one
which I have every reason to believe is true. The Saxons one day,
in their trenches thirty or forty yards away, put up a blackboard
on which was written: "The English are fools!" The board was
of course peppered with bullets, and went drown. Presently it
reappeared with "The French are fools!" written on it. Being
duly peppered again it went down, and came up with "The Russians
are fools!" Same treatment. But when it, or a similar board,
appeared for the fourth time, lo! the inscription was "The Austrians
are fools!"; and when it appeared for the fifth time, "The
Germans are fools!"; and the sixth time, "We are all fools!"
I don't think there could be much better sense than that.
And to think that the insane policy of a Government or Governments
should bring about the wholesale slaughter of such mien as all
these that I have described.
To think that the longer such a war goes on, the less heroic and
generous it becomes, and the more dominated by hatred and revenge -- by
the wish to score a military victory or the desire to secure mere
political and commercial advantages.
To think that nations who consider themselves civilized should be
thus acting: so contrary to the natural laws and instincts of
humanity that often in order for a bayonet charge men must be primed
with liquor to the verge of intoxication .
We need not go further.
Of the three great nations primarily involved those indeed of
which we can speak most confidently, knowing them best -- it is
intolerable to think they should thus mutilate and destroy each other.
All we can say is: Never again must this thing happen!
When one thinks of the whole dread Coil and Entanglement, and,
what it is for, the mind reels in despair.
When one thinks of the marvellous scientific ingenuity and skill,
directed in a kind of diabolic concentration on the one purpose
Of the huge guns, the 12.5's, weighing 40 tons apiece, and boxed
and rifled to the nicety of the thousandth part of an inch (I have
watched them being made at Sheffield).
Of the larger 15 in. guns, with range of 13 or 14 miles, so accurate
that the shells thrown at that distance will deviate hardly a couple
of yards to the right hand or the left of their line of fire (and in
the Jutland battle the firing opened at nearly 11 miles).
Of the still larger guns even now being constructed.
Of the shells themselves varying from a few pounds to nearly, a ton
in weight, and so delicately fashioned that the moment of their
explosion can be positively timed to the tenth part of a second:
When one thinks of the ingenuity put into aeroplanes and airships,
and almost entirely with a view to the destruction of life;
Of the automatic steering of submarine torpedoes by means of gyroscopes,
so that when deviated by any obstacle or accident from their set
course they will actually return of themselves to that course again;
Of the everlasting duel going on in any one country between armour
plates and projectiles but of course always between the armour
plates of one firm and the projectiles of another (since obviously
for any one firm to prove its own inferiority in either line would
be bad business)!
Of the competition even now in progress between the Russian
universities for the invention of a new explosive or a new gas
more devastating than any hitherto produced;
Of the weighty Advisory Committee of scientific Experts sitting
permanently in Britain for the discussion and handling of the
technical problems of the War;
When one thinks of what a Paradise all this ingenuity, all this
expenditure of labour and treasure, might make of our mortal Earth -- if
it were only decently employed;
That Great Britain alone has already spent on the War enough to
provide every family in the whole kingdom with a comfortable cottage
and an acre of land;
When further one thinks of all the mass of human material there
is, such as we have already described -- of the very finest quality,
and fit to build the most splendid races and cities "the sun
ever shone upon" -- and then that it is being used for these utterly
How heart-rending the waste and the folly! How disgusting the sin
of those who are responsible!
But to-day surely the armies themselves of these three countries
are beginning to see through the illusions which have been dangled
before then so long by those in power -- the "My-country -- right-or-wrong"
kind of Patriotism which has so often been evoked only in order
to serve the plots of private schemers;
They are surely beginning to see that the directing of State-policy
and foreign relations must no longer be left in the hands of a
few highborn diplomats (mostly ignorant of the actual modern world
amid which they live), but must be subject to the severest scrutiny
and surveillance by the people at large and their representatives;
They are beginning to see that if courage, devotion to an Idea,
love of the Father- or Mother-land, Fidelity of comrade to comrade,
Efficiency, daring in Adventure, exactness in Organization, and
so forth, are the qualities which in the past have made the profession
of arms great and glorious, it is these very qualities which will
be demanded and evoked for all future time in the great free
armies of Industry.
For with the cessation of Militarism as the leading principle
of national life must inevitably come the liberation of Industry -- else
the last state of our societies will indeed be worse than the first.
Truly there is nothing very exhilarating about Industry as it has
in modern times been conceived, and one does not altogether wonder
that all down the centuries the man with the sword has despised
the man with the hoe, since the latter has generally been little
better than a slave.
But when once Labour is freed -- or rather when once it frees itself -- from
the thraldom, of the old Feudal system, and finally from the fearful
burden of modern Capitalism -- when once it can lift its head and
see the great constructive vision of the new society which awaits
it -- then surely it will perceive that all the great qualities we
have named as exhibited in the past in the old destructive Warfare,
and now become the splendid heritage of the peoples of Europe,
will be necessary and will have a field for their exercise in the
beneficent constructive conquests of Nature and the building up
on Earth of that great City of the Sun which for so many ages has
been the dream and inspiration of Man.
And of the old mad Warfare it will then say This odious and inhuman
Thing must never be again!
In conclusion, and to look to the future:
I think we may see that the new conception of life will only come
through the peeling off in the various nations of the old husks
of the diplomatic, military, legal, and commercial classes, with
their antiquated, narrow-minded and profoundly. irreligious and
inhuman standards -- those husks which have so long restricted and
strangulated the growing life within.
It will only come with the determination of the workers
(that is, of everybody) to produce things useful, profitable, and
beautiful, in free and rational co-operation -- things useful because
deliberately made for use, things profitable for all because not
made for the gain of the few, and things beautiful because of the
joy and gladness wrought into their very production.
Simultaneously with this peeling off, of the Old, and disclosure
of the New, will of necessity appear -- indeed it is taking shape
already the blossom of international solidarity and federation -- the
common cause of Humanity and of Labour liberated over the world.
Naturally such process will not mature all at once. It may, bit
that the four Western nations, England, France, Italy and Belgium,
combining with some of the neutral States, will constitute the first
European Federationor at any rate the nucleus of a Federation
destined, as it expands to absorb within its borders Germany herself
(of course when she shall have taken on her true republican form)
and the other States in due succession.
Such Federation when firmly consolidated might, it is not unlikely,
still retain for a long period a military system, of some kind,
if only for its own protection against outlying and non European
dangers; but that military system would be small and secondary.
It right reasonably be no more dominant or meddlesome than the
military system of China has been during the last thousand years
in comparison with the massive imperturbability of the great
Chinese Empire itself.
Meanwhile let us remember how important it is for the future of
the world that each nation and people should be free to contribute
its special quality and character to the whole; nor be ridden-over
roughshod by the others;
That each should contribute, in Trade or otherwise, its special
gifts or facilities; and that the Internationalism which already
rules in labour affairs and in Commerce and Science and Fashion
and Finance and Philanthropy and Literature and Art and Music,
should at last be recognized in Politics.
Let us further remember how important it is that every man and woman
should insist on the rights of Personality to preserve sacred his
or her most intimate sense of selfness and duty the very,
essence of Freedom.
Though I do not, for instance, think that a refusal to fight
under any condition or circumstance can reasonably be maintained
to its logical conclusion, and though I certainly would not engage
myself to refuse to fight in any and every case. Still, I do
honour and respect the genuine conscientious objectors (of whom
there are great numbers) very sincerely.
Some of them may, be narrow-minded and faddist (as conscience often is),
but let us remember that the great things of History have been
initiated by such folk.
It was they who barred and broke the gladiatorial games at Rome;
it was they, who, steered the "Mayflower" across the Atlantic,
and started the great Republic of the United States;
And it is they, who are possibly sowing the seed a great Movement
which will spread all over Europe, and ultimately by opposing
compulsory military service inaugurate a world-era of Peace.
(For certainly, without Conscription the Continental Powers would
never have become involved in the present war)
Let us recognize the right and the duty of each man to ponder these
world-problems for himself: to play his part and to make his own
voice heard in the solution of them.
Let us recognize the falsity of Science divorced from the Heart,
and begin to-day to create a political, an economic, and a material
world which shall be the true and satisfying expression of the real
Let us acknowledge even at the last that the War may have been
a, necessary evil to show us by contrast the way, of deliverance;
Let us render, homage to those who have given their lives in it;
let us vow that their great sacrifice shall not be in vain, but
shall consecrate for us a new purpose and a new ideal;
Let us believe that Love, not Hatred, is the power by which in the
end the World will be saved;
And let us pray that a Heroism equal to that, shown to-day in the
cause of Destruction may urge us in the future towards a great
and glorious Constructive era in social life -- and inspire us
with a new hope:
Out of purgatory to build a paradise, in which the ugliness,
vulgarity, sordidness and cruelty of the present scheme of things
will be repeated.