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An Englishman Looks at the World by H. G. Wells

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impoverished and second-rate country. It will certainly do no more than
that, if in any part of the world there is to be found a people capable
of taking up this gigantic question in a greater spirit. Perhaps there
is no such people, and the conflicts and muddles before us will be
world-wide. Or suppose that it falls to our country in some strange way
to develop a new courage and enterprise, and to be the first to go
forward into this new phase of civilisation I foresee, from which a
distinctive labouring class, a class that is of expropriated
wage-earners, will have almost completely disappeared.

Now hitherto the utmost that any State, overtaken by social and economic
stresses, has ever achieved in the way of adapting itself to them has
been no more than patching.

Individuals and groups and trades have found themselves in imperfectly
apprehended and difficult times, and have reluctantly altered their ways
and ideas piecemeal under pressure. Sometimes they have succeeded in
rubbing along upon the new lines, and sometimes the struggle has
submerged them, but no community has ever yet had the will and the
imagination to recast and radically alter its social methods as a whole.
The idea of such a reconstruction has never been absent from human
thought since the days of Plato, and it has been enormously reinforced
by the spreading material successes of modern science, successes due
always to the substitution of analysis and reasoned planning for trial
and the rule of thumb. But it has never yet been so believed in and
understood as to render any real endeavour to reconstruct possible. The
experiment has always been altogether too gigantic for the available
faith behind it, and there have been against it the fear of presumption,
the interests of all advantaged people, and the natural sloth of
humanity. We do but emerge now from a period of deliberate
happy-go-lucky and the influence of Herbert Spencer, who came near
raising public shiftlessness to the dignity of a national philosophy.
Everything would adjust itself--if only it was left alone.

Yet some things there are that cannot be done by small adjustments, such
as leaping chasms or killing an ox or escaping from the roof of a
burning house. You have to decide upon a certain course on such
occasions and maintain a continuous movement. If you wait on the burning
house until you scorch and then turn round a bit or move away a yard or
so, or if on the verge of a chasm you move a little in the way in which
you wish to go, disaster will punish your moderation. And it seems to
me that the establishment of the world's work upon a new basis--and that
and no less is what this Labour Unrest demands for its pacification--is
just one of those large alterations which will never be made by the
collectively unconscious activities of men, by competitions and survival
and the higgling of the market. Humanity is rebelling against the
continuing existence of a labour class as such, and I can see no way by
which our present method of weekly wages employment can change by
imperceptible increments into a method of salary and pension--for it is
quite evident that only by reaching that shall we reach the end of these
present discontents. The change has to be made on a comprehensive scale
or not at all. We need nothing less than a national plan of social
development if the thing is to be achieved.

Now that, I admit, is, as the Americans say, a large proposition. But we
are living in a time of more and more comprehensive plans, and the mere
fact that no scheme so extensive has ever been tried before is no reason
at all why we should not consider one. We think nowadays quite serenely
of schemes for the treatment of the nation's health as one whole, where
our fathers considered illness as a blend of accident with special
providences; we have systematised the community's water supply,
education, and all sorts of once chaotic services, and Germany and our
own infinite higgledy-piggledy discomfort and ugliness have brought home
to us at last even the possibility of planning the extension of our
towns and cities. It is only another step upward in scale to plan out
new, more tolerable conditions of employment for every sort of worker
and to organise the transition from our present disorder.

The essential difficulty between the employer and the statesman in the
consideration of this problem is the difference in the scope of their
view. The employer's concern with the man who does his work is day-long
or week-long; the statesman's is life-long. The conditions of private
enterprise and modern competition oblige the employer to think only of
the worker as a hand, who appears and does his work and draws his wages
and vanishes again. Only such strikes as we have had during the past
year will rouse him from that attitude of mind. The statesman at the
other extremity has to consider the worker as a being with a beginning,
a middle, an end--and offspring. He can consider all these possibilities
of deferring employment and making the toil of one period of life
provide for the leisure and freedom of another, which are necessarily
entirely out of the purview of an employer pure and simple. And I find
it hard to see how we can reconcile the intermittency of competitive
employment with the unremitting demands of a civilised life except by
the intervention of the State or of some public organisation capable of
taking very wide views between the business organiser on the one hand
and the subordinate worker on the other. On the one hand we need some
broader handling of business than is possible in the private adventure
of the solitary proprietor or the single company, and on the other some
more completely organised development of the collective bargain. We have
to bring the directive intelligence of a concern into an organic
relation with the conception of the national output as a whole, and
either through a trade union or a guild, or some expansion of a trade
union, we have to arrange a secure, continuous income for the worker, to
be received not directly as wages from an employer but intermediately
through the organisation. We need a census of our national production, a
more exhaustive estimate of our resources, and an entirely more
scientific knowledge of the conditions of maximum labour efficiency. One
turns to the State.... And it is at this point that the heart of the
patriotic Englishman sinks, because it is our national misfortune that
all the accidents of public life have conspired to retard the
development of just that body of knowledge, just that scientific breadth
of imagination which is becoming a vital necessity for the welfare of a
modern civilised community.

We are caught short of scientific men just as in the event of a war with
Germany we shall almost certainly be caught short of scientific sailors
and soldiers. You cannot make that sort of thing to order in a crisis.
Scientific education--and more particularly the scientific education of
our owning and responsible classes--has been crippled by the bitter
jealousy of the classical teachers who dominate our universities, by the
fear and hatred of the Established Church, which still so largely
controls our upper-class schools, and by the entire lack of
understanding and support on the part of those able barristers and
financiers who rule our political life. Science has been left more and
more to men of modest origin and narrow outlook, and now we are
beginning to pay in internal dissensions, and presently we may have to
pay in national humiliation for this almost organised rejection of
stimulus and power.

But however thwarted and crippled our public imagination may be, we have
still got to do the best we can with this situation; we have to take as
comprehensive views as we can, and to attempt as comprehensive a method
of handling as our party-ridden State permits. In theory I am a
Socialist, and were I theorising about some nation in the air I would
say that all the great productive activities and all the means of
communication should be national concerns and be run as national
services. But our State is peculiarly incapable of such functions; at
the present time it cannot even produce a postage stamp that will stick;
and the type of official it would probably evolve for industrial
organisation, slowly but unsurely, would be a maddening combination of
the district visitor and the boy clerk. It is to the independent people
of some leisure and resource in the community that one has at last to
appeal for such large efforts and understandings as our present
situation demands. In the default of our public services, there opens an
immense opportunity for voluntary effort. Deference to our official
leaders is absurd; it is a time when men must, as the phrase goes, "come

We want a National Plan for our social and economic development which
everyone may understand and which will serve as a unifying basis for all
our social and political activities. Such a plan is not to be flung out
hastily by an irresponsible writer. It can only come into existence as
the outcome of a wide movement of inquiry and discussion. My business in
these pages has been not prescription but diagnosis. I hold it to be the
clear duty of every intelligent person in the country to do his utmost
to learn about these questions of economic and social organisation and
to work them out to conclusions and a purpose. We have come to a phase
in our affairs when the only alternative to a great, deliberate
renascence of will and understanding is national disorder and decay.

Sec. 6

I have attempted a diagnosis of this aspect of our national situation. I
have pointed out that nearly all the social forces of our time seem to
be in conspiracy to bring about the disappearance of a labour class as
such and the rearrangement of our work and industry upon a new basis.
That rearrangement demands an unprecedented national effort and the
production of an adequate National Plan. Failing that, we seem doomed to
a period of chronic social conflict and possibly even of frankly
revolutionary outbreaks that may destroy us altogether or leave us only
a dwarfed and enfeebled nation....

And before we can develop that National Plan and the effective
realisation of such a plan that is needed to save us from that fate, two
things stand immediately before us to be done, unavoidable preliminaries
to that more comprehensive work. The first of these is the restoration
of representative government, and the second a renascence of our public
thought about political and social things.

As I have already suggested, a main factor in our present national
inability to deal with this profound and increasing social disturbance
is the entirely unrepresentative and unbusinesslike nature of our
parliamentary government.

It is to a quite extraordinary extent a thing apart from our national
life. It becomes more and more so. To go into the House of Commons is to
go aside out of the general stream of the community's vitality into a
corner where little is learnt and much is concocted, into a specialised
Assembly which is at once inattentive to and monstrously influential in
our affairs. There was a period when the debates in the House of Commons
were an integral, almost a dominant, part of our national thought, when
its speeches were read over in tens of thousands of homes, and a large
and sympathetic public followed the details of every contested issue.
Now a newspaper that dared to fill its columns mainly with parliamentary
debates, with a full report of the trivialities the academic points, the
little familiar jokes, and entirely insincere pleadings which occupy
that gathering would court bankruptcy.

This diminishing actuality of our political life is a matter of almost
universal comment to-day. But it is extraordinary how much of that
comment is made in a tone of hopeless dissatisfaction, how rarely it is
associated with any will to change a state of affairs that so largely
stultifies our national purpose. And yet the causes of our present
political ineptitude are fairly manifest, and a radical and effective
reconstruction is well within the wit of man.

All causes and all effects in our complex modern State are complex, but
in this particular matter there can be little doubt that the key to the
difficulty lies in the crudity and simplicity of our method of election,
a method which reduces our apparent free choice of rulers to a
ridiculous selection between undesirable alternatives, and hands our
whole public life over to the specialised manipulator. Our House of
Commons could scarcely misrepresent us more if it was appointed
haphazard by the Lord Chamberlain or selected by lot from among the
inhabitants of Netting Hill. Election of representatives in one-member
local constituencies by a single vote gives a citizen practically no
choice beyond the candidates appointed by the two great party
organisations in the State. It is an electoral system that forbids
absolutely any vote splitting or any indication of shades of opinion.
The presence of more than two candidates introduces an altogether
unmanageable complication, and the voter is at once reduced to voting
not to secure the return of the perhaps less hopeful candidate he likes,
but to ensure the rejection of the candidate he most dislikes. So the
nimble wire-puller slips in. In Great Britain we do not have Elections
any more; we have Rejections. What really happens at a general election
is that the party organisations--obscure and secretive conclaves with
entirely mysterious funds--appoint about 1,200 men to be our rulers, and
all that we, we so-called self-governing people, are permitted to do is,
in a muddled, angry way, to strike off the names of about half of these
selected gentlemen.

Take almost any member of the present Government and consider his case.
You may credit him with a lifelong industrious intention to get there,
but ask yourself what is this man's distinction, and for what great
thing in our national life does he stand? By the complaisance of our
party machinery he was able to present himself to a perplexed
constituency as the only possible alternative to Conservatism and Tariff
Reform, and so we have him. And so we have most of his colleagues.

Now such a system of representation is surely a system to be destroyed
at any cost, because it stifles our national discussion and thwarts our
national will. And we can leave no possible method of alteration
untried. It is not rational that a great people should be baffled by the
mere mechanical degeneration of an electoral method too crudely
conceived. There exist alternatives, and to these alternatives we must
resort. Since John Stuart Mill first called attention to the importance
of the matter there has been a systematic study of the possible working
of electoral methods, and it is now fairly proved that in proportional
representation, with large constituencies returning each many members,
there is to be found a way of escape from this disastrous embarrassment
of our public business by the party wire-puller and the party nominee.

I will not dwell upon the particulars of the proportional representation
system here. There exists an active society which has organised the
education of the public in the details of the proposal. Suffice it that
it does give a method by which a voter may vote with confidence for the
particular man he prefers, with no fear whatever that his vote will be
wasted in the event of that man's chance being hopeless. There is a
method by which the order of the voter's subsequent preference is
effectively indicated. That is all, but see how completely it modifies
the nature of an election. Instead of a hampered choice between two, you
have a free choice between many. Such a change means a complete
alteration in the quality of public life.

The present immense advantage of the party nominee--which is the root
cause, which is almost the sole cause of all our present political
ineptitude--would disappear. He would be quite unable to oust any
well-known and representative independent candidate who chose to stand
against him. There would be an immediate alteration in type in the House
of Commons. In the place of these specialists in political getting-on
there would be few men who had not already gained some intellectual and
moral hold upon the community; they would already be outstanding and
distinguished men before they came to the work of government. Great
sections of our national life, science, art, literature, education,
engineering, manufacture would cease to be under-represented, or
misrepresented by the energetic barrister and political specialist, and
our Legislature would begin to serve, as we have now such urgent need of
its serving, as the means and instrument of that national conference
upon the social outlook of which we stand in need.

And it is to the need and nature of that Conference that I would devote
myself. I do not mean by the word Conference any gathering of dull and
formal and inattentive people in this dusty hall or that, with a jaded
audience and intermittently active reporters, such as this word may
conjure up to some imaginations. I mean an earnest direction of
attention in all parts of the country to this necessity for a studied
and elaborated project of conciliation and social co-operation We cannot
afford to leave such things to specialised politicians and
self-appointed, self-seeking "experts" any longer. A modern community
has to think out its problems as a whole and co-operate as a whole in
their solution. We have to bring all our national life into this
discussion of the National Plan before us, and not simply newspapers and
periodicals and books, but pulpit and college and school have to bear
their part in it. And in that particular I would appeal to the schools,
because there more than anywhere else is the permanent quickening of our
national imagination to be achieved.

We want to have our young people filled with a new realisation that
History is not over, that nothing is settled, and that the supreme
dramatic phase in the story of England has still to come. It was not in
the Norman Conquest, not in the flight of King James II, nor the
overthrow of Napoleon; it is here and now. It falls to them to be actors
not in a reminiscent pageant but a living conflict, and the sooner they
are prepared to take their part in that the better our Empire will
acquit itself. How absurd is the preoccupation of our schools and
colleges with the little provincialisms of our past history before A.D.
1800! "No current politics," whispers the schoolmaster, "no
religion--except the coldest formalities _Some parent might object_."
And he pours into our country every year a fresh supply of gentlemanly
cricketing youths, gapingly unprepared--unless they have picked up a
broad generalisation or so from some surreptitious Socialist
pamphlet--for the immense issues they must control, and that are
altogether uncontrollable if they fail to control them. The universities
do scarcely more for our young men. All this has to be altered, and
altered vigorously and soon, if our country is to accomplish its
destinies. Our schools and colleges exist for no other purpose than to
give our youths a vision of the world and of their duties and
possibilities in the world. We can no longer afford to have them the
last preserves of an elderly orthodoxy and the last repository of a
decaying gift of superseded tongues. They are needed too urgently to
make our leaders leader-like and to sustain the active understandings of
the race.

And from the labour class itself we are also justified in demanding a
far more effectual contribution to the National Conference than it is
making at the present time. Mere eloquent apologies for distrust, mere
denunciations of Capitalism and appeals for a Socialism as featureless
as smoke, are unsatisfactory when one regards them as the entire
contribution of the ascendant worker to the discussion of the national
future. The labour thinker has to become definite in his demands and
clearer upon the give and take that will be necessary before they can be
satisfied. He has to realise rather more generously than he has done so
far the enormous moral difficulty there is in bringing people who have
been prosperous and at an advantage all their lives to the pitch of even
contemplating a social reorganisation that may minimise or destroy their
precedence. We have all to think, to think hard and think generously,
and there is not a man in England to-day, even though his hands are busy
at work, whose brain may not be helping in this great task of social
rearrangement which lies before us all.


(_June, 1912_.)

To have followed the frequent discussions of the Labour Unrest in the
Press is to have learnt quite a lot about the methods of popular
thought. And among other things I see now much better than I did why
patent medicines are so popular. It is clear that as a community we are
far too impatient of detail and complexity, we want overmuch to
simplify, we clamour for panaceas, we are a collective invitation to

Our situation is an intricate one, it does not admit of a solution
neatly done up in a word or a phrase. Yet so powerful is this wish to
simplify that it is difficult to make it clear that one is not oneself a
panacea-monger. One writes and people read a little inattentively and
more than a little impatiently, until one makes a positive proposal
Then they jump. "So _that's_ your Remedy!" they say. "How absurdly
inadequate!" I was privileged to take part in one such discussion in
1912, and among other things in my diagnosis of the situation I pointed
out the extreme mischief done to our public life by the futility of our
electoral methods. They make our whole public life forensic and
ineffectual, and I pointed out that this evil effect, which vitiates our
whole national life, could be largely remedied by an infinitely better
voting system known as Proportional Representation. Thereupon the
_Westminster Gazette_ declared in tones of pity and contempt that it was
no Remedy--and dismissed me. It would be as intelligent to charge a
doctor who pushed back the crowd about a broken-legged man in the street
with wanting to heal the limb by giving the sufferer air.

The task before our community, the task of reorganising labour on a
basis broader than that of employment for daily or weekly wages, is one
of huge complexity, and it is as entirely reasonable as it is entirely
preliminary to clean and modernise to the utmost our representative and
legislative machinery.

It is remarkable how dominant is this disposition to get a phrase, a
word, a simple recipe, for an undertaking so vast in reality that for
all the rest of our lives a large part of the activities of us, forty
million people, will be devoted to its partial accomplishment. In the
presence of very great issues people become impatient and irritated, as
they would not allow themselves to be irritated by far more limited
problems. Nobody in his senses expects a panacea for the comparatively
simple and trivial business of playing chess. Nobody wants to be told
to "rely wholly upon your pawns," or "never, never move your rook";
nobody clamours "give me a third knight and all will be well"; but that
is exactly what everybody seems to be doing in our present discussion
And as another aspect of the same impatience, I note the disposition to
clamour against all sorts of necessary processes in the development of a
civilisation. For example, I read over and over again of the failure of
representative government, and in nine cases out of ten I find that this
amounts to a cry against any sort of representative government. It is
perfectly true that our representative institutions do not work well and
need a vigorous overhauling, but while I find scarcely any support for
such a revision, the air is full of vague dangerous demands for
aristocracy, for oligarchy, for autocracy. It is like a man who jumps
out of his automobile because he has burst a tyre, refuses a proffered
Stepney, and bawls passionately for anything--for a four-wheeler, or a
donkey, as long as he can be free from that exploded mechanism. There
are evidently quite a considerable number of people in this country who
would welcome a tyrant at the present time, a strong, silent, cruel,
imprisoning, executing, melodramatic sort of person, who would somehow
manage everything while they went on--being silly. I find that form of
impatience cropping up everywhere. I hear echoes of Mr. Blatchford's
"Wanted, a Man," and we may yet see a General Boulanger prancing in our
streets. There never was a more foolish cry. It is not a man we want,
but just exactly as many million men as there are in Great Britain at
the present time, and it is you, the reader, and I, and the rest of us
who must together go on with the perennial task of saving the country by
_firstly_, doing our own jobs just as well as ever we can, and
_secondly_--and this is really just as important as firstly--doing our
utmost to grasp our national purpose, doing our utmost, that is, to
develop and carry out our National Plan. It is Everyman who must be the
saviour of the State in a modern community; we cannot shift our share in
the burthen; and here again, I think, is something that may well be
underlined and emphasised. At present our "secondly" is unduly
subordinated to our "firstly"; our game is better individually than
collectively; we are like a football team that passes badly, and our
need is not nearly so much to change the players as to broaden their
style. And this brings me, in a spirit entirely antagonistic, up against
Mr. Galsworthy's suggestion of an autocratic revolution in the methods
of our public schools.

But before I go on to that, let me first notice a still more
comprehensive cry that has been heard again and again in this
discussion, and that is the alleged failure of education generally.
There is never any remedial suggestion made with this particular outcry;
it is merely a gust of abuse and insult for schools, and more
particularly board schools, carrying with it a half-hearted implication
that they should be closed, and then the contribution concludes. Now
there is no outcry at the present time more unjust or--except for the
"Wanted, a Man" clamour--more foolish. No doubt our educational
resources, like most other things, fall far short of perfection, but of
all this imperfection the elementary schools are least imperfect; and I
would almost go so far as to say that, considering the badness of their
material, the huge, clumsy classes they have to deal with, the poorness
of their directive administration, their bad pay and uncertain outlook,
the elementary teachers of this country are amazingly efficient. And it
is not simply that they are good under their existing conditions, but
that this service has been made out of nothing whatever in the course of
scarcely forty years. An educational system to cover an Empire is not a
thing that can be got for the asking, it is not even to be got for the
paying; it has to be grown; and in the beginning it is bound to be thin,
ragged, forced, crammy, text-bookish, superficial, and all the rest of
it. As reasonable to complain that the children born last year were
immature. A little army of teachers does not flash into being at the
passing of an Education Act. Not even an organisation for training those
teachers comes to anything like satisfactory working order for many
years, without considering the delays and obstructions that have been
caused by the bickerings and bitterness of the various Christian
Churches. So that it is not the failure of elementary education we have
really to consider, but the continuance and extension of its already
almost miraculous results.

And when it comes to the education of the ruling and directing classes,
there is kindred, if lesser reason, for tempering zeal with patience.
This upper portion of our educational organisation needs urgently to be
bettered, but it is not to be bettered by trying to find an archangel
who will better it dictatorially. For the good of our souls there are no
such beings to relieve us of our collective responsibility. It is clear
that appointments in this field need not only far more care and far more
insistence upon creative power than has been shown in the past, but for
the rest we have to do with the men we have and the schools we have. We
cannot have an educational purge, if only because we have not the new
men waiting. Here again the need is not impatience, not revolution, but
a sustained and penetrating criticism, a steadfast, continuous urgency
towards effort and well-planned reconstruction and efficiency.

And as a last example of the present hysterical disposition to scrap
things before they have been fairly tried is the outcry against
examinations, which has done so much to take the keenness off the edge
of school work in the last few years. Because a great number of
examiners chosen haphazard turned out to be negligent and incompetent as
examiners, because their incapacity created a cynical trade in cramming,
a great number of people have come to the conclusion, just as
examinations are being improved into efficiency, that all examinations
are bad. In particular that excellent method of bringing new blood and
new energy into the public services and breaking up official gangs and
cliques, the competitive examination system, has been discredited, and
the wire-puller and the influential person are back again tampering with
a steadily increasing proportion of appointments....

But I have written enough of this impatience, which is, as it were,
merely the passion for reconstruction losing its head and defeating its
own ends. There is no hope for us outside ourselves. No violent changes,
no Napoleonic saviours can carry on the task of building the Great
State, the civilised State that rises out of our disorders That is for
us to do, all of us and each one of us. We have to think clearly, and
study and consider and reconsider our ideas about public things to the
very utmost of our possibilities. We have to clarify our views and
express them and do all we can to stir up thinking and effort in those
about us.

I know it would be more agreeable for all of us if we could have some
small pill-like remedy for all the troubles of the State, and take it
and go on just as we are going now. But, indeed, to say a word for that
idea would be a treason. We are the State, and there is no other way to
make it better than to give it the service of our lives. Just in the
measure of the aggregate of our devotions and the elaborated and
criticised sanity of our public proceedings will the world mend.

I gather from a valuable publication called "Secret Remedies," which
analyses many popular cures, that this hasty passion for simplicity, for
just one thing that will settle the whole trouble, can carry people to a
level beyond an undivided trust in something warranted in a bottle. They
are ready to put their faith in what amounts to practically nothing in a
bottle. And just at present, while a number of excellent people of the
middle class think that only a "man" is wanted and all will be well with
us, there is a considerable wave of hopefulness among the working class
in favour of a weak solution of nothing, which is offered under the
attractive label of Syndicalism. So far I have been able to discuss the
present labour situation without any use of this empty word, but when
one finds it cropping up in every other article on the subject, it
becomes advisable to point out what Syndicalism is not. And incidentally
it may enable me to make clear what Socialism in the broader sense,
constructive Socialism, that is to say, is.


"Is a railway porter a railway porter first and a man afterwards, or is
he a man first and incidentally a railway porter?"

That is the issue between this tawdrification of trade unionism which is
called Syndicalism, and the ideals of that Great State, that great
commonweal, towards which the constructive forces in our civilisation
tend. Are we to drift on to a disastrous intensification of our present
specialisation of labour as labour, or are we to set to work steadfastly
upon a vast social reconstruction which will close this widening breach
and rescue our community from its present dependence upon the reluctant
and presently insurgent toil of a wages-earning proletariat? Regarded as
a project of social development, Syndicalism is ridiculous; regarded as
an illuminating and unintentionally ironical complement to the implicit
theories of our present social order, it is worthy of close attention.
The dream of the Syndicalist is an impossible social fragmentation. The
transport service is to be a democratic republic, the mines are to be a
democratic republic, every great industry is to be a democratic republic
within the State; our community is to become a conflict of inter-woven
governments of workers, incapable of progressive changes of method or of
extension or transmutation of function, the whole being of a man is to
lie within his industrial specialisation, and, upon lines of causation
not made clear, wages are to go on rising and hours of work are to go on
falling.... There the mind halts, blinded by the too dazzling vistas of
an unimaginative millennium And the way to this, one gathers, is by
striking--persistent, destructive striking--until it comes about.

Such is Syndicalism, the cheap Labour Panacea, to which the more
passionate and less intelligent portion of the younger workers,
impatient of the large constructive developments of modern Socialism,
drifts steadily. It is the direct and logical reaction to our present
economic system, which has counted our workers neither as souls nor as
heads, but as hands. They are beginning to accept the suggestions of
that method. It is the culmination in aggression of that, at first,
entirely protective trade unionism which the individual selfishness and
collective short-sightedness and State blindness of our owning and
directing and ruling classes forced upon the working man. At first trade
unionism was essentially defensive; it was the only possible defence of
the workers, who were being steadily pressed over the margin of
subsistence. It was a nearly involuntary resistance to class debasement.
Mr. Vernon Hartshorn has expressed it as that in a recent article. But
his paper, if one read it from beginning to end, displayed, compactly
and completely, the unavoidable psychological development of the
specialised labour case. He began in the mildest tones with those now
respectable words, a "guaranteed minimum" of wages, housing, and so
forth, and ended with a very clear intimation of an all-labour

If anything is certain in this world, it is that the mass of the
community will not rest satisfied with these guaranteed minima. All
those possible legislative increments in the general standard of living
are not going to diminish the labour unrest; they are going to increase
it. A starving man may think he wants nothing in the world but bread,
but when he has eaten you will find he wants all sorts of things beyond.
Mr. Hartshorn assures us that the worker is "not out for a theory." So
much the worse for the worker and all of us when, like the mere hand we
have made him, he shows himself unable to define or even forecast his
ultimate intentions. He will in that case merely clutch. And the obvious
immediate next objective of that clutch directly its imagination passes
beyond the "guaranteed minima" phase is the industry as a whole.

I do not see how anyone who desires the continuing development of
civilisation can regard a trade union as anything but a necessary evil,
a pressure-relieving contrivance an arresting and delaying organisation
begotten by just that class separation of labour which in the commonweal
of the Great State will be altogether destroyed. It leads nowhither; it
is a shelter hut on the road. The wider movement of modern civilisation
is against class organisation and caste feeling. These are forces
antagonistic to progress, continually springing up and endeavouring to
stereotype the transitory organisation, and continually being defeated.

Of all the solemn imbecilities one hears, surely the most foolish is
this, that we are in "an age of specialisation." The comparative
fruitfulness and hopefulness of our social order, in comparison with any
other social system, lies in its flat contradiction of that absurdity.
Our medical and surgical advances, for example, are almost entirely due
to the invasion of medical research by the chemist; our naval
development to the supersession of the sailor by the engineer; we sweep
away the coachman with the railway, beat the suburban line with the
electric tramway, and attack that again with the petrol omnibus, oust
brick and stonework in substantial fabrics by steel frames, replace the
skilled maker of woodcuts by a photographer, and so on through the
whole range of our activities. Change of function, arrest of
specialisation by innovations in method and appliance, progress by the
infringement of professional boundaries and the defiance of rule: these
are the commonplaces of our time. The trained man, the specialised man,
is the most unfortunate of men; the world leaves him behind, and he has
lost his power of overtaking it. Versatility, alert adaptability, these
are our urgent needs. In peace and war alike the unimaginative,
uninventive man is a burthen and a retardation, as he never was before
in the world's history. The modern community, therefore, that succeeds
most rapidly and most completely in converting both its labourers and
its leisure class into a population of active, able, unhurried,
educated, and physically well-developed people will be inevitably the
dominant community in the world. That lies on the face of things about
us; a man who cannot see that must be blind to the traffic in our

Syndicalism is not a plan of social development. It is a spirit of
conflict. That conflict lies ahead of us, the open war of strikes,
or--if the forces of law and order crush that down--then sabotage and
that black revolt of the human spirit into crime which we speak of
nowadays as anarchism, unless we can discover a broad and promising way
from the present condition of things to nothing less than the complete
abolition of the labour class.

That, I know, sounds a vast proposal, but this is a gigantic business
altogether, and we can do nothing with it unless we are prepared to deal
with large ideas. If St. Paul's begins to totter it is no good propping
it up with half a dozen walking-sticks, and small palliatives have no
legitimate place at all in this discussion. Our generation has to take
up this tremendous necessity of a social reconstruction in a great way;
its broad lines have to be thought out by thousands of minds, and it is
for that reason that I have put the stress upon our need of discussion,
of a wide intellectual and moral stimulation of a stirring up in our
schools and pulpits, and upon the modernisation and clarification of
what should be the deliberative assembly of the nation.

It would be presumptuous to anticipate the National Plan that must
emerge from so vast a debate, but certain conclusions I feel in my bones
will stand the test of an exhaustive criticism. The first is that a
distinction will be drawn between what I would call "interesting work"
and what I would call "mere labour." The two things, I admit, pass by
insensible gradations into one another, but while on the one hand such
work as being a master gardener and growing roses, or a master cabinet
maker and making fine pieces, or an artist of almost any sort, or a
story writer, or a consulting physician, or a scientific investigator,
or a keeper of wild animals, or a forester, or a librarian, or a good
printer, or many sorts of engineer, is work that will always find men of
a certain temperament enthusiastically glad to do it, if they can only
do it for comfortable pay--for such work is in itself _living_--there
is, on the other hand, work so irksome and toilsome, such as coal
mining, or being a private soldier during a peace, or attending upon
lunatics, or stoking, or doing over and over again, almost mechanically,
little bits of a modern industrial process, or being a cash desk clerk
in a busy shop, that few people would undertake if they could avoid it.

And the whole strength of our collective intelligence will be directed
first to reducing the amount of such irksome work by labour-saving
machinery, by ingenuity of management, and by the systematic avoidance
of giving trouble as a duty, and then to so distributing the residuum of
it that it will become the whole life of no class whatever in our
population. I have already quoted the idea of Professor William James of
a universal conscription for such irksome labour, and while he would
have instituted that mainly for its immense moral effect upon the
community, I would point out that, combined with a nationalisation of
transport, mining, and so forth, it is also a way to a partial solution
of this difficulty of "mere toil."

And the mention of a compulsory period of labour service for everyone--a
year or so with the pickaxe as well as with the rifle--leads me to
another idea that I believe will stand the test of unlimited criticism,
and that is a total condemnation of all these eight-hour-a-day,
early-closing, guaranteed-weekly-half-holiday notions that are now so
prevalent in Liberal circles. Under existing conditions, in our system
of private enterprise and competition, these restrictions are no doubt
necessary to save a large portion of our population from lives of
continuous toil, but, like trade unionism, they are a necessity of our
present conditions, and not a way to a better social state. If we rescue
ourselves as a community from poverty and discomfort, we must take care
not to fling ourselves into something far more infuriating to a normal
human being--and that is boredom. The prospect of a carefully inspected
sanitary life, tethered to some light, little, uninteresting daily job,
six or eight hours of it, seems to me--and I am sure I write here for
most normal, healthy, active people--more awful than hunger and death.
It is far more in the quality of the human spirit, and still more what
we all in our hearts want the human spirit to be, to fling itself with
its utmost power at a job and do it with passion.

For my own part, if I was sentenced to hew a thousand tons of coal, I
should want to get at it at once and work furiously at it, with the
shortest intervals for rest and refreshment and an occasional night
holiday, until I hewed my way out, and if some interfering person with a
benevolent air wanted to restrict me to hewing five hundredweight, and
no more and no less, each day and every day, I should be strongly
disposed to go for that benevolent person with my pick. That is surely
what every natural man would want to do, and it is only the clumsy
imperfection of our social organisation that will not enable a man to do
his stint of labour in a few vigorous years and then come up into the
sunlight for good and all.

It is along that line that I feel a large part of our labour
reorganisation, over and beyond that conscription, must ultimately go.
The community as a whole would, I believe, get far more out of a man if
he had such a comparatively brief passion of toil than if he worked,
with occasional lapses into unemployment, drearily all his life. But at
present, with our existing system of employment, one cannot arrange so
comprehensive a treatment of a man's life. There is needed some State or
quasi-public organisation which shall stand between the man and the
employer, act as his banker and guarantor, and exact his proper price.
Then, with his toil over, he would have an adequate pension and be free
to do nothing or anything else as he chose. In a Socialistic order of
society, where the State would also be largely the employer, such a
method would be, of course, far more easily contrived.

The more modern statements of Socialism do not contemplate making the
State the sole employer; it is chiefly in transport, mining, fisheries,
forestry, the cultivation of the food staples, and the manufacture of a
few such articles as bricks and steel, and possibly in housing in what
one might call the standardisable industries, that the State is imagined
as the direct owner and employer and it is just in these departments
that the bulk of the irksome toil is to be found. There remain large
regions of more specialised and individualised production that many
Socialists nowadays are quite prepared to leave to the freer initiatives
of private enterprise. Most of these are occupations involving a greater
element of interest, less direction and more co-operation, and it is
just here that the success of co-partnery and a sustained life
participation becomes possible....

This complete civilised system without a specialised, property-less
labour class is not simply a possibility, it is necessary; the whole
social movement of the time, the stars in their courses, war against the
permanence of the present state of affairs. The alternative to this
gigantic effort to rearrange our world is not a continuation of muddling
along, but social war. The Syndicalist and his folly will be the avenger
of lost opportunities. Not a Labour State do we want, nor a Servile
State, but a powerful Leisure State of free men.


Sec. 1

For many years now I have taken a part in the discussion of Socialism.
During that time Socialism has become a more and more ambiguous term. It
has seemed to me desirable to clear up my own ideas of social progress
and the public side of my life by restating them, and this I have
attempted in this essay.

In order to do so it has been convenient to coin two expressions, and to
employ them with a certain defined intention. They are firstly: The
Normal Social Life, and secondly: The Great State. Throughout this essay
these expressions will be used in accordance with the definitions
presently to be given, and the fact that they are so used will be
emphasised by the employment of capitals. It will be possible for anyone
to argue that what is here defined as the Normal Social Life is not the
normal social life, and that the Great State is indeed no state at all.
That will be an argument outside the range delimited by these

Now what is intended by the Normal Social Life here is a type of human
association and employment, of extreme prevalence and antiquity, which
appears to have been the lot of the enormous majority of human beings as
far back as history or tradition or the vestiges of material that supply
our conceptions of the neolithic period can carry us. It has never been
the lot of all humanity at any time, to-day it is perhaps less
predominant than it has ever been, yet even to-day it is probably the
lot of the greater moiety of mankind.

Essentially this type of association presents a localised community, a
community of which the greater proportion of the individuals are engaged
more or less directly in the cultivation of the land. With this there is
also associated the grazing or herding over wider or more restricted
areas, belonging either collectively or discretely to the community, of
sheep, cattle, goats, or swine, and almost always the domestic fowl is
commensal with man in this life. The cultivated land at least is usually
assigned, temporarily or inalienably, as property to specific
individuals, and the individuals are grouped in generally monogamic
families of which the father is the head. Essentially the social unit is
the Family, and even where, as in Mohammedan countries, there is no
legal or customary restriction upon polygamy, monogamy still prevails as
the ordinary way of living. Unmarried women are not esteemed, and
children are desired. According to the dangers or securities of the
region, the nature of the cultivation and the temperament of the people,
this community is scattered either widely in separate steadings or drawn
together into villages. At one extreme, over large areas of thin pasture
this agricultural community may verge on the nomadic; at another, in
proximity to consuming markets, it may present the concentration of
intensive culture. There may be an adjacent Wild supplying wood, and
perhaps controlled by a simple forestry. The law that holds this
community together is largely traditional and customary and almost
always as its primordial bond there is some sort of temple and some sort
of priest. Typically, the temple is devoted to a local god or a
localised saint, and its position indicates the central point of the
locality, its assembly place and its market. Associated with the
agriculture there are usually a few imperfectly specialised tradesmen, a
smith, a garment-maker perhaps, a basket-maker or potter, who group
about the church or temple. The community may maintain itself in a state
of complete isolation, but more usually there are tracks or roads to the
centres of adjacent communities, and a certain drift of travel, a
certain trade in non-essential things. In the fundamentals of life this
normal community is independent and self-subsisting, and where it is not
beginning to be modified by the novel forces of the new times it
produces its own food and drink, its own clothing, and largely
intermarries within its limits.

This in general terms is what is here intended by the phrase the Normal
Social Life. It is still the substantial part of the rural life of all
Europe and most Asia and Africa, and it has been the life of the great
majority of human beings for immemorial years. It is the root life. It
rests upon the soil, and from that soil below and its reaction to the
seasons and the moods of the sky overhead have grown most of the
traditions, institutions, sentiments, beliefs, superstitions, and
fundamental songs and stories of mankind.

But since the very dawn of history at least this Normal Social Life has
never been the whole complete life of mankind. Quite apart from the
marginal life of the savage hunter, there have been a number of forces
and influences within men and women and without, that have produced
abnormal and surplus ways of living, supplemental, additional, and even
antagonistic to this normal scheme.

And first as to the forces within men and women. Long as it has lasted,
almost universal as it has been, the human being has never yet achieved
a perfect adaptation to the needs of the Normal Social Life. He has
attained nothing of that frictionless fitting to the needs of
association one finds in the bee or the ant. Curiosity, deep stirrings
to wander, the still more ancient inheritance of the hunter, a recurrent
distaste for labour, and resentment against the necessary subjugations
of family life have always been a straining force within the
agricultural community. The increase of population during periods of
prosperity has led at the touch of bad seasons and adversity to the
desperate reliefs of war and the invasion of alien localities. And the
nomadic and adventurous spirit of man found reliefs and opportunities
more particularly along the shores of great rivers and inland seas.
Trade and travel began, at first only a trade in adventitious things, in
metals and rare objects and luxuries and slaves. With trade came writing
and money; the inventions of debt and rent, usury and tribute. History
finds already in its beginnings a thin network of trading and slaving
flung over the world of the Normal Social Life, a network whose strands
are the early roads, whose knots are the first towns and the first

Indeed, all recorded history is in a sense the history of these surplus
and supplemental activities of mankind. The Normal Social Life flowed on
in its immemorial fashion, using no letters, needing no records, leaving
no history. Then, a little minority, bulking disproportionately in the
record, come the trader, the sailor, the slave, the landlord and the
tax-compeller, the townsman and the king.

All written history is the story of a minority and their peculiar and
abnormal affairs. Save in so far as it notes great natural catastrophes
and tells of the spreading or retrocession of human life through changes
of climate and physical conditions it resolves itself into an account of
a series of attacks and modifications and supplements made by excessive
and superfluous forces engendered within the community upon the Normal
Social Life. The very invention of writing is a part of those modifying
developments. The Normal Social Life is essentially illiterate and
traditional. The Normal Social Life is as mute as the standing crops; it
is as seasonal and cyclic as nature herself, and reaches towards the
future only an intimation of continual repetitions.

Now this human over-life may take either beneficent or maleficent or
neutral aspects towards the general life of humanity. It may present
itself as law and pacification, as a positive addition and
superstructure to the Normal Social Life, as roads and markets and
cities, as courts and unifying monarchies, as helpful and directing
religious organisations, as literature and art and science and
philosophy, reflecting back upon the individual in the Normal Social
Life from which it arose, a gilding and refreshment of new and wider
interests and added pleasures and resources. One may define certain
phases in the history of various countries when this was the state of
affairs, when a countryside of prosperous communities with a healthy
family life and a wide distribution of property, animated by roads and
towns and unified by a generally intelligible religious belief, lived in
a transitory but satisfactory harmony under a sympathetic government. I
take it that this is the condition to which the minds of such original
and vigorous reactionary thinkers as Mr. G.K. Chesterton and Mr. Hilaire
Belloc for example turn, as being the most desirable state of mankind.

But the general effect of history is to present these phases as phases
of exceptional good luck, and to show the surplus forces of humanity as
on the whole antagonistic to any such equilibrium with the Normal Social
Life. To open the book of history haphazard is, most commonly, to open
it at a page where the surplus forces appear to be in more or less
destructive conflict with the Normal Social Life. One opens at the
depopulation of Italy by the aggressive great estates of the Roman
Empire, at the impoverishment of the French peasantry by a too
centralised monarchy before the revolution, or at the huge degenerative
growth of the great industrial towns of western Europe in the nineteenth
century. Or again one opens at destructive wars. One sees these surplus
forces over and above the Normal Social Life working towards unstable
concentrations of population, to centralisation of government, to
migrations and conflicts upon a large scale; one discovers the process
developing into a phase of social fragmentation and destruction and
then, unless the whole country has been wasted down to its very soil,
the Normal Social Life returns as the heath and furze and grass return
after the burning of a common. But it never returns in precisely its old
form. The surplus forces have always produced some traceable change; the
rhythm is a little altered. As between the Gallic peasant before the
Roman conquest, the peasant of the Gallic province, the Carlovingian
peasant, the French peasant of the thirteenth, the seventeenth, and the
twentieth centuries, there is, in spite of a general uniformity of life,
of a common atmosphere of cows, hens, dung, toil, ploughing, economy,
and domestic intimacy, an effect of accumulating generalising
influences and of wider relevancies. And the oscillations of empires and
kingdoms, religious movements, wars, invasions, settlements leave upon
the mind an impression that the surplus life of mankind, the
less-localised life of mankind, that life of mankind which is not
directly connected with the soil but which has become more or less
detached from and independent of it, is becoming proportionately more
important in relation to the Normal Social Life. It is as if a different
way of living was emerging from the Normal Social Life and freeing
itself from its traditions and limitations.

And this is more particularly the effect upon the mind of a review of
the history of the past two hundred years. The little speculative
activities of the alchemist and natural philosopher, the little economic
experiments of the acquisitive and enterprising landed proprietor,
favoured by unprecedented periods of security and freedom, have passed
into a new phase of extraordinary productivity. They had added
preposterously and continue to add on a gigantic scale and without any
evident limits to the continuation of their additions, to the resources
of humanity. To the strength of horses and men and slaves has been added
the power of machines and the possibility of economies that were once
incredible The Normal Social Life has been overshadowed as it has never
been overshadowed before by the concentrations and achievements of the
surplus life. Vast new possibilities open to the race; the traditional
life of mankind, its traditional systems of association, are challenged
and threatened; and all the social thought, all the political activity
of our time turns in reality upon the conflict of this ancient system
whose essentials we have here defined and termed the Normal Social Life
with the still vague and formless impulses that seem destined either to
involve it and the race in a final destruction or to replace it by some
new and probably more elaborate method of human association.

Because there is the following difference between the action of the
surplus forces as we see them to-day and as they appeared before the
outbreak of physical science and mechanism. Then it seemed clearly
necessary that whatever social and political organisation developed, it
must needs; rest ultimately on the tiller of the soil, the agricultural
holding, and the Normal Social Life. But now even in agriculture huge
wholesale methods have appeared. They are declared to be destructive;
but it is quite conceivable that they may be made ultimately as
recuperative as that small agriculture which has hitherto been the
inevitable social basis. If that is so, then the new ways of living may
not simply impose themselves in a growing proportion upon the Normal
Social Life, but they may even oust it and replace it altogether. Or
they may oust it and fail to replace it. In the newer countries the
Normal Social Life does not appear to establish itself at all rapidly.
No real peasantry appears in either America or Australia; and in the
older countries, unless there is the most elaborate legislative and
fiscal protection, the peasant population wanes before the large farm,
the estate, and overseas production.

Now most of the political and social discussion of the last hundred
years may be regarded and rephrased as an attempt to apprehend this
defensive struggle of the Normal Social Life against waxing novelty and
innovation and to give a direction and guidance to all of us who
participate. And it is very largely a matter of temperament and free
choice still, just where we shall decide to place ourselves. Let us
consider some of the key words of contemporary thought, such as
Liberalism, Individualism, Socialism, in the light of this broad
generalisation we have made; and then we shall find it easier to explain
our intention in employing as a second technicality the phrase of The
Great State as an opposite to the Normal Social Life, which we have
already defined.

Sec. 2

The Normal Social Life has been defined as one based on agriculture,
traditional and essentially unchanging. It has needed no toleration and
displayed no toleration for novelty and strangeness. Its beliefs have
been on such a nature as to justify and sustain itself, and it has had
an intrinsic hostility to any other beliefs. The God of its community
has been a jealous god even when he was only a tribal and local god.
Only very occasionally in history until the coming of the modern period
do we find any human community relaxing from this ancient and more
normal state of entire intolerance towards ideas or practices other than
its own. When toleration and a receptive attitude towards alien ideas
was manifested in the Old World, it was at some trading centre or
political centre; new ideas and new religions came by water along the
trade routes. And such toleration as there was rarely extended to active
teaching and propaganda. Even in liberal Athens the hemlock was in the
last resort at the service of the ancient gods and the ancient morals
against the sceptical critic.

But with the steady development of innovating forces in human affairs
there has actually grown up a cult of receptivity, a readiness for new
ideas, a faith in the probable truth of novelties. Liberalism--I do not,
of course, refer in any way to the political party which makes this
profession--is essentially anti-traditionalism; its tendency is to
commit for trial any institution or belief that is brought before it. It
is the accuser and antagonist of all the fixed and ancient values and
imperatives and prohibitions of the Normal Social Life. And growing up
in relation to Liberalism and sustained by it is the great body of
scientific knowledge, which professes at least to be absolutely
undogmatic and perpetually on its trial and under assay and

Now a very large part of the advanced thought of the past century is no
more than the confused negation of the broad beliefs and institutions
which have been the heritage and social basis of humanity for immemorial
years. This is as true of the extremest Individualism as of the
extremest Socialism. The former denies that element of legal and
customary control which has always subdued the individual to the needs
of the Normal Social Life, and the latter that qualified independence of
distributed property which is the basis of family autonomy. Both are
movements against the ancient life, and nothing is more absurd than the
misrepresentation which presents either as a conservative force. They
are two divergent schools with a common disposition to reject the old
and turn towards the new. The Individualist professes a faith for which
he has no rational evidence, that the mere abandonment of traditions and
controls must ultimately produce a new and beautiful social order; while
the Socialist, with an equal liberalism, regards the outlook with a
kind of hopeful dread, and insists upon an elaborate readjustment, a new
and untried scheme of social organisation to replace the shattered and
weakening Normal Social Life.

Both these movements, and, indeed, all movements that are not movements
for the subjugation of innovation and the restoration of tradition, are
vague in the prospect they contemplate. They produce no definite
forecasts of the quality of the future towards which they so confidently
indicate the way. But this is less true of modern socialism than of its
antithesis, and it becomes less and less true as socialism, under an
enormous torrent of criticism, slowly washes itself clean from the mass
of partial statement, hasty misstatement, sheer error and presumption
that obscured its first emergence.

But it is well to be very clear upon one point at this stage, and that
is, that this present time is not a battle-ground between individualism
and socialism; it is a battle-ground between the Normal Social Life on
the one hand and a complex of forces on the other which seek a form of
replacement and seem partially to find it in these and other doctrines.

Nearly all contemporary thinkers who are not too muddled to be
assignable fall into one of three classes, of which the third we shall
distinguish is the largest and most various and divergent. It will be
convenient to say a little of each of these classes before proceeding to
a more particular account of the third. Our analysis will cut across
many accepted classifications, but there will be ample justification for
this rearrangement. All of them may be dealt with quite justly as
accepting the general account of the historical process which is here

Then first we must distinguish a series of writers and thinkers which
one may call--the word conservative being already politically
assigned--the Conservators.

These are people who really do consider the Normal Social Life as the
only proper and desirable life for the great mass of humanity, and they
are fully prepared to subordinate all exceptional and surplus lives to
the moral standards and limitations that arise naturally out of the
Normal Social Life. They desire a state in which property is widely
distributed, a community of independent families protected by law and an
intelligent democratic statecraft from the economic aggressions of large
accumulations and linked by a common religion. Their attitude to the
forces of change is necessarily a hostile attitude. They are disposed to
regard innovations in transit and machinery as undesirable, and even
mischievous disturbances of a wholesome equilibrium. They are at least
unfriendly to any organisation of scientific research, and scornful of
the pretensions of science. Criticisms of the methods of logic,
scepticism of the more widely diffused human beliefs, they would
classify as insanity. Two able English writers, Mr. G.K. Chesterton and
Mr. Belloc, have given the clearest expression to this system of ideals,
and stated an admirable case for it. They present a conception of
vinous, loudly singing, earthy, toiling, custom-ruled, wholesome, and
insanitary men; they are pagan in the sense that their hearts are with
the villagers and not with the townsmen, Christian in the spirit of the
parish priest. There are no other Conservators so clear-headed and
consistent. But their teaching is merely the logical expression of an
enormous amount of conservative feeling. Vast multitudes of less lucid
minds share their hostility to novelty and research; hate, dread, and
are eager to despise science, and glow responsive to the warm, familiar
expressions of primordial feelings and immemorial prejudices The rural
conservative, the liberal of the allotments and small-holdings type, Mr.
Roosevelt--in his Western-farmer, philoprogenitive phase as
distinguished from the phase of his more imperialist moments--all
present themselves as essentially Conservators as seekers after and
preservers of the Normal Social Life.

So, too, do Socialists of the William Morris type. The mind of William
Morris was profoundly reactionary He hated the whole trend of later
nineteenth-century modernism with the hatred natural to a man of
considerable scholarship and intense aesthetic sensibilities. His mind
turned, exactly as Mr. Belloc's turns, to the finished and enriched
Normal Social Life of western Europe in the middle ages, but, unlike Mr.
Belloc, he believed that, given private ownership of land and the
ordinary materials of life, there must necessarily be an aggregatory
process, usury, expropriation, the development of an exploiting wealthy
class. He believed profit was the devil. His "News from Nowhere"
pictures a communism that amounted in fact to little more than a system
of private ownership of farms and trades without money or any buying and
selling, in an atmosphere of geniality, generosity, and mutual
helpfulness. Mr. Belloc, with a harder grip upon the realities of life,
would have the widest distribution of proprietorship, with an alert
democratic government continually legislating against the protean
reappearances of usury and accumulation and attacking, breaking up, and
redistributing any large unanticipated bodies of wealth that appeared.
But both men are equally set towards the Normal Social Life, and
equally enemies of the New. The so-called "socialist" land legislation
of New Zealand again is a tentative towards the realisation of the same
school of ideas: great estates are to be automatically broken up,
property is to be kept disseminated; a vast amount of political speaking
and writing in America and throughout the world enforces one's
impression of the widespread influence of Conservator ideals.

Of course, it is inevitable that phases of prosperity for the Normal
Social Life will lead to phases of over-population and scarcity, there
will be occasional famines and occasional pestilences and plethoras of
vitality leading to the blood-letting of war. I suppose Mr. Chesterton
and Mr. Belloc at least have the courage of their opinions, and are
prepared to say that such things always have been and always must be;
they are part of the jolly rhythms of the human lot under the sun, and
are to be taken with the harvest home and love-making and the peaceful
ending of honoured lives as an integral part of the unending drama of

Sec. 3

Now opposed to the Conservators are all those who do not regard
contemporary humanity as a final thing nor the Normal Social Life as the
inevitable basis of human continuity. They believe in secular change, in
Progress, in a future for our species differing continually more from
its past. On the whole, they are prepared for the gradual
disentanglement of men from the Normal Social Life altogether, and they
look for new ways of living and new methods of human association with a
certain adventurous hopefulness.

Now, this second large class does not so much admit of subdivision into
two as present a great variety of intermediaries between two extremes. I
propose to give distinctive names to these extremes, with the very clear
proviso that they are not antagonised, and that the great multitude of
this second, anti-conservator class, this liberal, more novel class
modern conditions have produced falls between them, and is neither the
one nor the other, but partaking in various degrees of both. On the one
hand, then, we have that type of mind which is irritated by and
distrustful of all collective proceedings which is profoundly
distrustful of churches and states, which is expressed essentially by
Individualism. The Individualist appears to regard the extensive
disintegrations of the Normal Social Life that are going on to-day with
an extreme hopefulness. Whatever is ugly or harsh in modern
industrialism or in the novel social development of our time he seems to
consider as a necessary aspect of a process of selection and survival,
whose tendencies are on the whole inevitably satisfactory. The future
welfare of man he believes in effect may be trusted to the spontaneous
and planless activities of people of goodwill, and nothing but state
intervention can effectively impede its attainment. And curiously close
to this extreme optimistic school in its moral quality and logical
consequences, though contrasting widely in the sinister gloom of its
spirit, is the socialism of Karl Marx. He declared the contemporary
world to be a great process of financial aggrandisement and general
expropriation, of increasing power for the few and of increasing
hardship and misery for the many, a process that would go on until at
last a crisis of unendurable tension would be reached and the social
revolution ensue. The world had, in fact, to be worse before it could
hope to be better. He contemplated a continually exacerbated Class War,
with a millennium of extraordinary vagueness beyond as the reward of
the victorious workers. His common quality with the Individualist lies
in his repudiation of and antagonism to plans and arrangements, in his
belief in the overriding power of Law. Their common influence is the
discouragement of collective understandings upon the basis of the
existing state. Both converge in practice upon _laissez faire_. I would
therefore lump them together under the term of Planless Progressives,
and I would contrast with them those types which believe supremely in
systematised purpose.

The purposeful and systematic types, in common with the Individualist
and Marxist, regard the Normal Social Life, for all the many thousands
of years behind it, as a phase, and as a phase which is now passing, in
human experience; and they are prepared for a future society that may be
ultimately different right down to its essential relationships from the
human past. But they also believe that the forces that have been
assailing and disintegrating the Normal Social Life, which have been, on
the one hand, producing great accumulations of wealth, private freedom,
and ill-defined, irresponsible and socially dangerous power, and, on the
other, labour hordes, for the most part urban, without any property or
outlook except continuous toil and anxiety, which in England have
substituted a dischargeable agricultural labourer for the independent
peasant almost completely, and in America seem to be arresting any
general development of the Normal Social Life at all, are forces of wide
and indefinite possibility that need to be controlled by a collective
effort implying a collective design, deflected from merely injurious
consequences and organised for a new human welfare upon new lines. They
agree with that class of thinking I have distinguished as the
Conservators in their recognition of vast contemporary disorders and
their denial of the essential beneficence of change. But while the
former seem to regard all novelty and innovation as a mere inundation to
be met, banked back, defeated and survived, these more hopeful and
adventurous minds would rather regard contemporary change as amounting
on the whole to the tumultuous and almost catastrophic opening-up of
possible new channels, the violent opportunity of vast, deep, new ways
to great unprecedented human ends, ends that are neither feared nor

Now while the Conservators are continually talking of the "eternal
facts" of human life and human nature and falling back upon a conception
of permanence that is continually less true as our perspectives extend,
these others are full of the conception of adaptation, of deliberate
change in relationship and institution to meet changing needs. I would
suggest for them, therefore, as opposed to the Conservators and
contrasted with the Planless Progressives, the name of Constructors.
They are the extreme right, as it were, while the Planless Progressives
are the extreme left of Anti-Conservator thought.

I believe that these distinctions I have made cover practically every
clear form of contemporary thinking, and are a better and more helpful
classification than any now current. But, of course, nearly every
individual nowadays is at least a little confused, and will be found to
wobble in the course even of a brief discussion between one attitude and
the other. This is a separation of opinions rather than of persons. And
particularly that word Socialism has become so vague and incoherent that
for a man to call himself a socialist nowadays is to give no indication
whatever whether he is a Conservator like William Morris, a
non-Constructor like Karl Marx, or a Constructor of any of half a dozen
different schools. On the whole, however, modern socialism tends to fall
towards the Constructor wing. So, too, do those various movements in
England and Germany and France called variously nationalist and
imperialist, and so do the American civic and social reformers. Under
the same heading must come such attempts to give the vague impulses of
Syndicalism a concrete definition as the "Guild Socialism" of Mr. Orage.
All these movements are agreed that the world is progressive towards a
novel and unprecedented social order, not necessarily and fatally
better, and that it needs organised and even institutional guidance
thither, however much they differ as to the form that order should

For the greater portion of a century socialism has been before the
world, and it is not perhaps premature to attempt a word or so of
analysis of that great movement in the new terms we are here employing.
The origins of the socialist idea were complex and multifarious never at
any time has it succeeded in separating out a statement of itself that
was at once simple, complete and acceptable to any large proportion of
those who call themselves socialists. But always it has pointed to two
or three definite things. The first of these is that unlimited freedoms
of private property, with increasing facilities of exchange,
combination, and aggrandisement, become more and more dangerous to
human liberty by the expropriation and reduction to private wages
slavery of larger and larger proportions of the population. Every school
of socialism states this in some more or less complete form, however
divergent the remedial methods suggested by the different schools. And,
next, every school of socialism accepts the concentration of management
and property as necessary, and declines to contemplate what is the
typical Conservator remedy, its re-fragmentation. Accordingly it sets up
not only against the large private owner, but against owners generally,
the idea of a public proprietor, the State, which shall hold in the
collective interest. But where the earlier socialisms stopped short, and
where to this day socialism is vague, divided, and unprepared, is upon
the psychological problems involved in that new and largely
unprecedented form of proprietorship, and upon the still more subtle
problems of its attainment. These are vast, and profoundly, widely, and
multitudinously difficult problems, and it was natural and inevitable
that the earlier socialists in the first enthusiasm of their idea should
minimise these difficulties, pretend in the fullness of their faith that
partial answers to objections were complete answers, and display the
common weaknesses of honest propaganda the whole world over. Socialism
is now old enough to know better. Few modern socialists present their
faith as a complete panacea, and most are now setting to work in earnest
upon these long-shirked preliminary problems of human interaction
through which the vital problem of a collective head and brain can alone
be approached.

A considerable proportion of the socialist movement remains, as it has
been from the first, vaguely democratic. It points to collective
ownership with no indication of the administrative scheme it
contemplates to realise that intention. Necessarily it remains a
formless claim without hands to take hold of the thing it desires.
Indeed in a large number of cases it is scarcely more than a resentful
consciousness in the expropriated masses of social disintegration. It
spends its force very largely in mere revenges upon property as such,
attacks simply destructive by reason of the absence of any definite
ulterior scheme. It is an ill-equipped and planless belligerent who must
destroy whatever he captures because he can neither use nor take away. A
council of democratic socialists in possession of London would be as
capable of an orderly and sustained administration as the Anabaptists in
Munster. But the discomforts and disorders of our present planless
system do tend steadily to the development of this crude socialistic
spirit in the mass of the proletariat; merely vindictive attacks upon
property, sabotage, and the general strike are the logical and
inevitable consequences of an uncontrolled concentration of property in
a few hands, and such things must and will go on, the deep undertow in
the deliquescence of the Normal Social Life, until a new justice, a new
scheme of compensations and satisfactions is attained, or the Normal
Social Life re-emerges.

Fabian socialism was the first systematic attempt to meet the fatal
absence of administrative schemes in the earlier socialisms. It can
scarcely be regarded now as anything but an interesting failure, but a
failure that has all the educational value of a first reconnaissance
into unexplored territory. Starting from that attack on aggregating
property, which is the common starting-point of all socialist projects,
the Fabians, appalled at the obvious difficulties of honest
confiscation and an open transfer from private to public hands,
conceived the extraordinary idea of _filching_ property for the state. A
small body of people of extreme astuteness were to bring about the
municipalisation and nationalisation first of this great system of
property and then of that, in a manner so artful that the millionaires
were to wake up one morning at last, and behold, they would find
themselves poor men! For a decade or more Mr. Pease, Mr. Bernard Shaw,
Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb, Mrs. Besant, Dr. Lawson Dodd, and their
associates of the London Fabian Society, did pit their wits and ability,
or at any rate the wits and ability of their leisure moments, against
the embattled capitalists of England and the world, in this complicated
and delicate enterprise, without any apparent diminution of the larger
accumulations of wealth. But in addition they developed another side of
Fabianism, still more subtle, which professed to be a kind of
restoration in kind of property to the proletariat and in this direction
they were more successful. A dexterous use, they decided, was to be made
of the Poor Law, the public health authority, the education authority,
and building regulations and so forth, to create, so to speak, a
communism of the lower levels. The mass of people whom the forces of
change had expropriated were to be given a certain minimum of food,
shelter, education, and sanitation, and this, the socialists were
assured, could be used as the thin end of the wedge towards a complete
communism. The minimum, once established, could obviously be raised
continually until either everybody had what they needed, or the
resources of society gave out and set a limit to the process.

This second method of attack brought the Fabian movement into
co-operation with a large amount of benevolent and constructive
influence outside the socialist ranks altogether. Few wealthy people
really grudge the poor a share of the necessities of life, and most are
quite willing to assist in projects for such a distribution. But while
these schemes naturally involved a very great amount of regulation and
regimentation of the affairs of the poor, the Fabian Society fell away
more and more from its associated proposals for the socialisation of the
rich. The Fabian project changed steadily in character until at last it
ceased to be in any sense antagonistic to wealth as such. If the lion
did not exactly lie down with the lamb, at any rate the man with the gun
and the alleged social mad dog returned very peaceably together. The
Fabian hunt was up.

Great financiers contributed generously to a School of Economics that
had been founded with moneys left to the Fabian Society by earlier
enthusiasts for socialist propaganda and education. It remained for Mr.
Belloc to point the moral of the whole development with a phrase, to
note that Fabianism no longer aimed at the socialisation of the whole
community, but only at the socialisation of the poor. The first really
complete project for a new social order to replace the Normal Social
Life was before the world, and this project was the compulsory
regimentation of the workers and the complete state control of labour
under a new plutocracy. Our present chaos was to be organised into a
Servile State.

Sec. 4

Now to many of us who found the general spirit of the socialist movement
at least hopeful and attractive and sympathetic, this would be an almost
tragic conclusion, did we believe that Fabianism was anything more than
the first experiment in planning--and one almost inevitably shallow and
presumptuous--of the long series that may be necessary before a clear
light breaks upon the road humanity must follow. But we decline to be
forced by this one intellectual fiasco towards the _laissez faire_ of
the Individualist and the Marxist, or to accept the Normal Social Life
with its atmosphere of hens and cows and dung, its incessant toil, its
servitude of women, and its endless repetitions as the only tolerable
life conceivable for the bulk of mankind--as the ultimate life, that is,
of mankind. With less arrogance and confidence, but it may be with a
firmer faith, we declare that we believe a more spacious social order
than any that exists or ever has existed, a Peace of the World in which
there is an almost universal freedom, health, happiness, and well-being
and which contains the seeds of a still greater future, is possible to
mankind. We propose to begin again with the recognition of those same
difficulties the Fabians first realised. But we do not propose to
organise a society, form a group for the control of the two chief
political parties, bring about "socialism" in twenty-five years, or do
anything beyond contributing in our place and measure to that
constructive discussion whose real magnitude we now begin to realise.

We have faith in a possible future, but it is a faith that makes the
quality of that future entirely dependent upon the strength and
clearness of purpose that this present time can produce. We do not
believe the greater social state is inevitable.

Yet there is, we hold, a certain qualified inevitability about this
greater social state because we believe any social state not affording a
general contentment, a general freedom, and a general and increasing
fullness of life, must sooner or later collapse and disintegrate again,
and revert more or less completely to the Normal Social Life, and
because we believe the Normal Social Life is itself thick-sown with the
seeds of fresh beginnings. The Normal Social Life has never at any time
been absolutely permanent, always it has carried within itself the germs
of enterprise and adventure and exchanges that finally attack its
stability. The superimposed social order of to-day, such as it is, with
its huge development of expropriated labour, and the schemes of the
later Fabians to fix this state of affairs in an organised form and
render it plausibly tolerable, seem also doomed to accumulate
catastrophic tensions. Bureaucratic schemes for establishing the regular
lifelong subordination of a labouring class, enlivened though they may
be by frequent inspection, disciplinary treatment during seasons of
unemployment, compulsory temperance, free medical attendance, and a
cheap and shallow elementary education fail to satisfy the restless
cravings in the heart of man. They are cravings that even the baffling
methods of the most ingeniously worked Conciliation Boards cannot
permanently restrain. The drift of any Servile State must be towards a
class revolt, paralysing sabotage and a general strike. The more rigid
and complete the Servile State becomes, the more thorough will be its
ultimate failure. Its fate is decay or explosion. From its debris we
shall either revert to the Normal Social Life and begin again the long
struggle towards that ampler, happier, juster arrangement of human
affairs which we of this book, at any rate, believe to be possible, or
we shall pass into the twilight of mankind.

This greater social life we put, then, as the only real alternative to
the Normal Social Life from which man is continually escaping. For it we
do not propose to use the expressions the "socialist state" or
"socialism," because we believe those terms have now by constant
confused use become so battered and bent and discoloured by irrelevant
associations as to be rather misleading than expressive. We propose to
use the term The Great State to express this ideal of a social system no
longer localised, no longer immediately tied to and conditioned by the
cultivation of the land, world-wide in its interests and outlook and
catholic in its tolerance and sympathy, a system of great individual
freedom with a universal understanding among its citizens of a
collective thought and purpose.

Now, the difficulties that lie in the way of humanity in its complex and
toilsome journey through the coming centuries towards this Great State
are fundamentally difficulties of adaptation and adjustment. To no
conceivable social state is man inherently fitted: he is a creature of
jealousy and suspicion, unstable, restless, acquisitive, aggressive,
intractable, and of a most subtle and nimble dishonesty. Moreover, he is
imaginative, adventurous, and inventive. His nature and instincts are as
much in conflict with the necessary restrictions and subjugation of the
Normal Social Life as they are likely to be with any other social net
that necessity may weave about him. But the Normal Social Life has this
advantage that it has a vast accumulated moral tradition and a minutely
worked-out material method. All the fundamental institutions have arisen
in relation to it and are adapted to its conditions. To revert to it
after any phase of social chaos and distress is and will continue for
many years to be the path of least resistance for perplexed humanity.

This conception of the Great State, on the other hand, is still
altogether unsubstantial. It is a project as dream-like to-day as
electric lighting, electric traction, or aviation would have been in the
year 1850. In 1850 a man reasonably conversant with the physical science
of his time could have declared with a very considerable confidence
that, given a certain measure of persistence and social security, these
things were more likely to be attained than not in the course of the
next century. But such a prophecy was conditional on the preliminary
accumulation of a considerable amount of knowledge, on many experiments
and failures. Had the world of 1850, by some wave of impulse, placed all
its resources in the hands of the ablest scientific man alive, and asked
him to produce a practicable paying electric vehicle before 1852, at
best he would have produced some clumsy, curious toy, more probably he
would have failed altogether; and, similarly, if the whole population of
the world came to the present writer and promised meekly to do whatever
it was told, we should find ourselves still very largely at a loss in
our project for a millennium. Yet just as nearly every man at work upon
Voltaic electricity in 1850 knew that he was preparing for electric
traction, so do I know quite certainly, in spite of a whole row of
unsolved problems before me, that I am working towards the Great State.

Let me briefly recapitulate the main problems which have to be attacked
in the attempt to realise the outline of the Great State. At the base of
the whole order there must be some method of agricultural production,
and if the agricultural labourer and cottager and the ancient life of
the small householder on the holding, a life laborious, prolific,
illiterate, limited, and in immediate contact with the land used, is to
recede and disappear it must recede and disappear before methods upon a
much larger scale, employing wholesale machinery and involving great
economies. It is alleged by modern writers that the permanent residence
of the cultivator in close relation to his ground is a legacy from the
days of cumbrous and expensive transit, that the great proportion of
farm work is seasonal, and that a migration to and fro between rural and
urban conditions would be entirely practicable in a largely planned
community. The agricultural population could move out of town into an
open-air life as the spring approached, and return for spending,
pleasure, and education as the days shortened. Already something of this
sort occurs under extremely unfavourable conditions in the movement of
the fruit and hop pickers from the east end of London into Kent, but
that is a mere hint of the extended picnic which a broadly planned
cultivation might afford. A fully developed civilisation, employing
machines in the hands of highly skilled men, will minimise toil to the
very utmost, no man will shove where a machine can shove, or carry where
a machine can carry; but there will remain, more particularly in the
summer, a vast amount of hand operations, invigorating and even
attractive to the urban population Given short hours, good pay, and all
the jolly amusement in the evening camp that a free, happy, and
intelligent people will develop for themselves, and there will be
little difficulty about this particular class of work to differentiate
it from any other sort of necessary labour.

One passes, therefore, with no definite transition from the root problem
of agricultural production in the Great State to the wider problem of
labour in general.

A glance at the countryside conjures up a picture of extensive tracts
being cultivated on a wholesale scale, of skilled men directing great
ploughing, sowing, and reaping plants, steering cattle and sheep about
carefully designed enclosures, constructing channels and guiding sewage
towards its proper destination on the fields, and then of added crowds
of genial people coming out to spray trees and plants, pick and sort and
pack fruits. But who are these people? Why are they in particular doing
this for the community? Is our Great State still to have a majority of
people glad to do commonplace work for mediocre wages, and will there be
other individuals who will ride by on the roads, sympathetically, no
doubt, but with a secret sense of superiority? So one opens the general
problem of the organisation for labour.

I am careful here to write "for labour" and not "of Labour," because it
is entirely against the spirit of the Great State that any section of
the people should be set aside as a class to do most of the monotonous,
laborious, and uneventful things for the community. That is practically
the present arrangement, and that, with a quickened sense of the need of
breaking people in to such a life, is the ideal of the bureaucratic
Servile State to which, in common with the Conservators, we are bitterly
opposed. And here I know I am at my most difficult, most speculative,
and most revolutionary point. We who look to the Great State as the
present aim of human progress believe a state may solve its economic
problem without any section whatever of the community being condemned to
lifelong labour. And contemporary events, the phenomena of recent
strikes, the phenomena of sabotage, carry out the suggestion that in a
community where nearly everyone reads extensively travels about, sees
the charm and variety in the lives of prosperous and leisurely people,
no class is going to submit permanently to modern labour conditions
without extreme resistance, even after the most elaborate Labour
Conciliation schemes and social minima are established Things are
altogether too stimulating to the imagination nowadays. Of all
impossible social dreams that belief in tranquillised and submissive and
virtuous Labour is the wildest of all. No sort of modern men will stand
it. They will as a class do any vivid and disastrous thing rather than
stand it. Even the illiterate peasant will only endure lifelong toil
under the stimulus of private ownership and with the consolations of
religion; and the typical modern worker has neither the one nor the
other. For a time, indeed, for a generation or so even, a labour mass
may be fooled or coerced, but in the end it will break out against its
subjection, even if it breaks out to a general social catastrophe.

We have, in fact, to invent for the Great State, if we are to suppose
any Great State at all, an economic method without any specific labour
class. If we cannot do so, we had better throw ourselves in with the
Conservators forthwith, for they are right and we are absurd. Adhesion
to the conception of the Great State involves adhesion to the belief
that the amount of regular labour, skilled and unskilled, required to
produce everything necessary for everyone living in its highly elaborate
civilisation may, under modern conditions, with the help of scientific
economy and power-producing machinery, be reduced to so small a number
of working hours per head in proportion to the average life of the
citizen, as to be met as regards the greater moiety of it by the payment
of wages over and above the gratuitous share of each individual in the
general output; and as regards the residue, a residue of rough,
disagreeable, and monotonous operations, by some form of conscription,
which will demand a year or so, let us say, of each person's life for
the public service. If we reflect that in the contemporary state there
is already food, shelter, and clothing of a sort for everyone, in spite
of the fact that enormous numbers of people do no productive work at all
because they are too well off, that great numbers are out of work, great
numbers by bad nutrition and training incapable of work, and that an
enormous amount of the work actually done is the overlapping production
of competitive trade and work upon such politically necessary but
socially useless things as Dreadnoughts, it becomes clear that the
absolutely unavoidable labour in a modern community and its ratio to the
available vitality must be of very small account indeed. But all this
has still to be worked out even in the most general terms. An
intelligent science of economics should afford standards and
technicalities and systematised facts upon which to base an estimate.
The point was raised a quarter of a century ago by Morris in his "News
from Nowhere," and indeed it was already discussed by More in his
"Utopia." Our contemporary economics is, however, still a foolish,
pretentious pseudo-science, a festering mass of assumptions about buying
and selling and wages-paying, and one would as soon consult Bradshaw or
the works of Dumas as our orthodox professors of economics for any
light upon this fundamental matter.

Moreover, we believe that there is a real disposition to work in human
beings, and that in a well-equipped community, in which no one was under
an unavoidable urgency to work, the greater proportion of productive
operations could be made sufficiently attractive to make them desirable
occupations. As for the irreducible residue of undesirable toil, I owe
to my friend the late Professor William James this suggestion of a
general conscription and a period of public service for everyone, a
suggestion which greatly occupied his thoughts during the last years of
his life. He was profoundly convinced of the high educational and
disciplinary value of universal compulsory military service, and of the
need of something more than a sentimental ideal of duty in public life.
He would have had the whole population taught in the schools and
prepared for this year (or whatever period it had to be) of patient and
heroic labour, the men for the mines, the fisheries, the sanitary
services, railway routine, the women for hospital, and perhaps
educational work, and so forth. He believed such a service would
permeate the whole state with a sense of civic obligation....

But behind all these conceivable triumphs of scientific adjustment and
direction lies the infinitely greater difficulty on our way to the Great
State, the difficulty of direction. What sort of people are going to
distribute the work of the community, decide what is or is not to be
done, determine wages, initiate enterprises; and under what sort of
criticism, checks, and controls are they going to do this delicate and
extensive work? With this we open the whole problem of government,
administration and officialdom.

The Marxist and the democratic socialist generally shirk this riddle
altogether; the Fabian conception of a bureaucracy, official to the
extent of being a distinct class and cult, exists only as a
starting-point for healthy repudiations. Whatever else may be worked out
in the subtler answers our later time prepares, nothing can be clearer
than that the necessary machinery of government must be elaborately
organised to prevent the development of a managing caste in permanent
conspiracy, tacit or expressed, against the normal man. Quite apart from
the danger of unsympathetic and fatally irritating government there can
be little or no doubt that the method of making men officials for life
is quite the worst way of getting official duties done. Officialdom is a
species of incompetence. This rather priggish, teachable, and
well-behaved sort of boy, who is attracted by the prospect of assured
income and a pension to win his way into the Civil Service, and who then
by varied assiduities rises to a sort of timidly vindictive importance,
is the last person to whom we would willingly entrust the vital
interests of a nation. We want people who know about life at large, who
will come to the public service seasoned by experience, not people who
have specialised and acquired that sort of knowledge which is called, in
much the same spirit of qualification as one speaks of German Silver,
Expert Knowledge. It is clear our public servants and officials must be
so only for their periods of service. They must be taught by life, and
not "trained" by pedagogues. In every continuing job there is a time
when one is crude and blundering, a time, the best time, when one is
full of the freshness and happiness of doing well, and a time when
routine has largely replaced the stimulus of novelty. The Great State
will, I feel convinced, regard changes in occupation as a proper
circumstance in the life of every citizen; it will value a certain
amateurishness in its service, and prefer it to the trite omniscience of
the stale official. On that score of the necessity or versatility, if on
no other score, I am flatly antagonistic to the conceptions of "Guild
Socialism" which have arisen recently out of the impact of Mr. Penty and
Syndicalism upon the uneasy intelligence of Mr. Orage.

And since the Fabian socialists have created a widespread belief that in
their projected state every man will be necessarily a public servant or
a public pupil because the state will be the only employer and the only
educator, it is necessary to point out that the Great State presupposes
neither the one nor the other. It is a form of liberty and not a form of
enslavement. We agree with the older forms of socialism in supposing an
initial proprietary independence in every citizen. The citizen is a
shareholder in the state. Above that and after that, he works if he
chooses. But if he likes to live on his minimum and do nothing--though
such a type of character is scarcely conceivable--he can. His earning is
his own surplus. Above the basal economics of the Great State we assume
with confidence there will be a huge surplus of free spending upon
extra-collective ends. Public organisations, for example, may distribute
impartially and possibly even print and make ink and paper for the
newspapers in the Great State, but they will certainly not own them.
Only doctrine-driven men have ever ventured to think they would. Nor
will the state control writers and artists, for example, nor the
stage--though it may build and own theatres--the tailor, the dressmaker,
the restaurant cook, an enormous multitude of other busy
workers-for-preferences. In the Great State of the future, as in the
life of the more prosperous classes of to-day, the greater proportion of
occupations and activities will be private and free.

I would like to underline in the most emphatic way that it is possible
to have this Great State, essentially socialistic, owning and running
the land and all the great public services, sustaining everybody in
absolute freedom at a certain minimum of comfort and well-being, and
still leaving most of the interests, amusements, and adornments of the
individual life, and all sorts of collective concerns, social and
political discussion, religious worship, philosophy, and the like to the
free personal initiatives of entirely unofficial people.

This still leaves the problem of systematic knowledge and research, and
all the associated problems of aesthetic, moral, and intellectual
initiative to be worked out in detail; but at least it dispels the
nightmare of a collective mind organised as a branch of the civil
service, with authors, critics, artists, scientific investigators
appointed in a phrensy of wire-pulling--as nowadays the British state
appoints its bishops for the care of its collective soul.

Let me now indicate how these general views affect the problem of family
organisation and the problem of women's freedom. In the Normal Social
Life the position of women is easily defined. They are subordinated but
important. The citizenship rests with the man, and the woman's relation
to the community as a whole is through a man. But within that limitation
her functions as mother, wife, and home-maker are cardinal. It is one of
the entirely unforeseen consequences that have arisen from the decay of
the Normal Social Life and its autonomous home that great numbers of
women while still subordinate have become profoundly unimportant They
have ceased to a very large extent to bear children, they have dropped
most of their home-making arts, they no longer nurse nor educate such
children as they have, and they have taken on no new functions that
compensate for these dwindling activities of the domestic interior. That
subjugation which is a vital condition to the Normal Social Life does
not seem to be necessary to the Great State. It may or it may not be
necessary. And here we enter upon the most difficult of all our
problems. The whole spirit of the Great State is against any avoidable
subjugation; but the whole spirit of that science which will animate the
Great State forbids us to ignore woman's functional and temperamental
differences. A new status has still to be invented for women, a Feminine
Citizenship differing in certain respects from the normal masculine
citizenship. Its conditions remain to be worked out. We have indeed to
work out an entire new system of relations between men and women, that
will be free from servitude, aggression, provocation, or parasitism. The
public Endowment of Motherhood as such may perhaps be the first broad
suggestion of the quality of this new status. A new type of family, a
mutual alliance in the place of a subjugation, is perhaps the most
startling of all the conceptions which confront us directly we turn
ourselves definitely towards the Great State.

And as our conception of the Great State grows, so we shall begin to
realise the nature of the problem of transition, the problem of what we
may best do in the confusion of the present time to elucidate and render
practicable this new phase of human organisation. Of one thing there
can be no doubt, that whatever increases thought and knowledge moves
towards our goal; and equally certain is it that nothing leads thither
that tampers with the freedom of spirit, the independence of soul in
common men and women. In many directions, therefore, the believer in the
Great State will display a jealous watchfulness of contemporary
developments rather than a premature constructiveness. We must watch
wealth; but quite as necessary it is to watch the legislator, who
mistakes propaganda for progress and class exasperation to satisfy class
vindictiveness for construction. Supremely important is it to keep
discussion open, to tolerate no limitation on the freedom of speech,
writing, art and book distribution, and to sustain the utmost liberty of
criticism upon all contemporary institutions and processes.

This briefly is the programme of problems and effort to which my idea of
the Great State, as the goal of contemporary progress, leads me.

The diagram on p. 131 shows compactly the gist of the preceding
discussion; it gives the view of social development upon which I base
all my political conceptions.


produces an increasing surplus of energy and opportunity, more
particularly under modern conditions of scientific organisation and
power production; and this through the operation of rent and of usury
tends to
(a) release and (b) expropriate
| |
an increasing proportion of the population to become:
| |
under no urgent compulsion divorced from the land and
to work living upon uncertain wages
|3 |2 |1 |1 2 3|
| | which may degenerate degenerate | |
| | into a waster class into a sweated, | |
| | \ overworked, | |
| | \ violently | |
| | \ resentful | |
| | \ and destructive | |
| | \ rebel class | |
| | \ / | |
| | and produce a | |
| | | |
| which may become which may become |
| a Governing the controlled |
| Class (with waster regimented |
| elements) in and disciplined |
| an unprogressive Labour Class of |
| Bureaucratic <-----------------> an unprogressive |
| SERVILE STATE Bureaucratic |
| |
which may become which may be
the whole community rendered needless
of the GREAT STATE by a universal
working under various compulsory year
motives and inducements or so of labour
but not constantly, service together
nor permanently with a scientific
nor unwillingly organisation
of production,
and so reabsorbed
by re-endowment
into the Leisure
Class of the


Sec. 1


I want to say as compactly as possible why I do not believe that
conscription would increase the military efficiency of this country, and
why I think it might be a disastrous step for this country to take.

By conscription I mean the compulsory enlistment for a term of service
in the Army of the whole manhood of the country. And I am writing now
from the point of view merely of military effectiveness. The educational
value of a universal national service, the idea which as a Socialist I
support very heartily, of making every citizen give a year or so of his
life to our public needs, are matters quite outside my present
discussion. What I am writing about now is this idea that the country
can be strengthened for war by making every man in it a bit of a

And I want the reader to be perfectly clear about the position I assume
with regard to war preparations generally. I am not pleading for peace
when there is no peace; this country has been constantly threatened
during the past decade, and is threatened now by gigantic hostile
preparations; it is our common interest to be and to keep at the maximum
of military efficiency possible to us. My case is not merely that
conscription will not contribute to that, but that it would be a
monstrous diversion of our energy and emotion and material resources
from the things that need urgently to be done. It would be like a boxer
filling his arms with empty boxing-gloves and then rushing--his face
protruding over the armful--into the fray.

Let me make my attack on this prevalent and increasing superstition of
the British need for conscription in two lines, one following the other.
For, firstly, it is true that Britain at the present time is no more
capable of creating such a conscript army as France or Germany possesses
in the next ten years than she is of covering her soil with a tropical
forest, and, secondly, it is equally true that if she had such an army
it would not be of the slightest use to her. For the conscript armies in
which Europe still so largely believes are only of use against conscript
armies and adversaries who will consent to play the rules of the German
war game; they are, if we chose to determine they shall be, if we chose
to deal with them as they should be dealt with, as out of date as a
Roman legion or a Zulu impi.

Now, first, as to the impossibility of getting our great army into
existence. All those people who write and talk so glibly in favour of
conscription seem to forget that to take a common man, and more
particularly a townsman, clap him into a uniform and put a rifle in his
hand does not make a soldier. He has to be taught not only the use of
his weapons, but the methods of a strange and unfamiliar life out of
doors; he has to be not simply drilled, but accustomed to the difficult
modern necessities of open order fighting, of taking cover, of
entrenchment, and he has to have created within him, so that it will
stand the shock of seeing men killed round about him, confidence in
himself, in his officers, and the methods and weapons of his side.
Body, mind, and imagination have all to be trained--and they need
trainers. The conversion of a thousand citizens into anything better
than a sheep-like militia demands the enthusiastic services of scores of
able and experienced instructors who know what war is; the creation of a
universal army demands the services of many scores of thousands of not
simply "old soldiers," but keen, expert, modern-minded _officers_.

Without these officers our citizen army would be a hydra without heads.
And we haven't these officers. We haven't a tithe of them.

We haven't these officers, and we can't make them in a hurry. It takes
at least five years to make an officer who knows his trade. It needs a
special gift, in addition to that knowledge, to make a man able to
impart it. And our Empire is at a peculiar disadvantage in the matter,
because India and our other vast areas of service and opportunity
overseas drain away a large proportion of just those able and educated
men who would in other countries gravitate towards the army. Such small
wealth of officers as we have--and I am quite prepared to believe that
the officers we have are among the very best in the world--are scarcely
enough to go round our present supply of private soldiers. And the best
and most brilliant among this scanty supply are being drawn upon more
and more for aerial work, and for all that increasing quantity of highly
specialised services which are manifestly destined to be the real
fighting forces of the future. We cannot spare the best of our officers
for training conscripts; we shall get the dismallest results from the
worst of them; and so even if it were a vital necessity for our country
to have an army of all its manhood now, we could not have it, and it
would be a mere last convulsion to attempt to make it with the means at
our disposal.

But that brings me to my second contention, which is that we do not want
such an army. I believe that the vast masses of men in uniform
maintained by the Continental Powers at the present time are enormously
overrated as fighting machines. I see Germany in the likeness of a boxer
with a mailed fist as big as and rather heavier than its body, and I am
convinced that when the moment comes for that mailed fist to be lifted,
the whole disproportionate system will topple over. The military
ascendancy of the future lies with the country that dares to experiment
most, that experiments best, and meanwhile keeps its actual fighting
force fit and admirable and small and flexible. The experience of war
during the last fifteen years has been to show repeatedly the enormous
defensive power of small, scientifically handled bodies of men. These
huge conscript armies are made up not of masses of military muscle, but
of a huge proportion of military fat. Their one way of fighting will be
to fall upon an antagonist with all their available weight, and if he is
mobile and dexterous enough to decline that issue of adiposity they will
become a mere embarrassment to their own people. Modern weapons and
modern contrivance are continually decreasing the number of men who can
be employed efficiently upon a length of front. I doubt if there is any
use for more than 400,000 men upon the whole Franco-Belgian frontier at
the present time. Such an army, properly supplied, could--so far as
terrestrial forces are concerned--hold that frontier against any number
of assailants. The bigger the forces brought against it the sooner the
exhaustion of the attacking power. Now, it is for employment upon that
frontier, and for no other conceivable purpose in the world, that Great
Britain is asked to create a gigantic conscript army.

And if too big an army is likely to be a mere encumbrance in war, it is
perhaps even a still graver blunder to maintain one during that conflict
of preparation which is at present the European substitute for actual
hostilities. It consumes. It produces nothing. It not only eats and
drinks and wears out its clothes and withdraws men from industry, but
under the stress of invention it needs constantly to be re-armed and
freshly equipped at an expenditure proportionate to its size. So long as
the conflict of preparation goes on, then the bigger the army your
adversary maintains under arms the bigger is his expenditure and the
less his earning power. The less the force you employ to keep your
adversary over-armed, and the longer you remain at peace with him while
he is over-armed, the greater is your advantage. There is only one
profitable use for any army, and that is victorious conflict. Every army
that is not engaged in victorious conflict is an organ of national
expenditure, an exhausting growth in the national body. And for Great
Britain an attempt to create a conscript army would involve the very
maximum of moral and material exhaustion with the minimum of military
efficiency. It would be a disastrous waste of resources that we need
most urgently for other things.

Sec. 2

In the popular imagination the Dreadnought is still the one instrument
of naval war. We count our strength in Dreadnoughts and
Super-Dreadnoughts, and so long as we are spending our national
resources upon them faster than any other country, if we sink at least
L160 for every L100 sunk in these obsolescent monsters by Germany, we
have a reassuring sense of keeping ahead and being thoroughly safe. This
confidence in big, very expensive battleships is, I believe and hope,
shared by the German Government and by Europe generally, but it is,
nevertheless, a very unreasonable confidence, and it may easily lead us
into the most tragic of national disillusionments.

We of the general public are led to suppose that the next naval war--if
ever we engage in another naval war--will begin with a decisive fleet
action. The plan of action is presented with an alluring simplicity. Our
adversary will come out to us, in a ratio of 10 to 16, or in some ratio
still more advantageous to us, according as our adversary happens to be
this Power or that Power, there will be some tremendous business with
guns and torpedoes, and our admirals will return victorious to discuss
the discipline and details of the battle and each other's little
weaknesses in the monthly magazines. This is a desirable but improbable
anticipation. No hostile Power is in the least likely to send out any
battleships at all against our invincible Dreadnoughts. They will
promenade the seas, always in the ratio of 16 or more to 10, looking for
fleets securely tucked away out of reach. They will not, of course, go
too near the enemy's coast, on account of mines, and, meanwhile, our
cruisers will hunt the enemy's commerce into port.

Then other things will happen.

The enemy we shall discover using unsportsmanlike devices against our
capital ships. Unless he is a lunatic, he will prove to be much stronger
in reality than he is on paper in the matter of submarines,
torpedo-boats, waterplanes and aeroplanes. These are things cheap to
make and easy to conceal. He will be richly stocked with ingenious
devices for getting explosives up to these two million pound triumphs of
our naval engineering. On the cloudy and foggy nights so frequent about
these islands he will have extraordinary chances, and sooner or later,
unless we beat him thoroughly in the air above and in the waters
beneath, for neither of which proceedings we are prepared, some of these
chances will come off, and we shall lose a Dreadnought.

It will be a poor consolation if an ill-advised and stranded Zeppelin or
so enlivens the quiet of the English countryside by coming down and
capitulating. It will be a trifling countershock to wing an aeroplane or
so, or blow a torpedo-boat out of the water. Our Dreadnoughts will cease
to be a source of unmitigated confidence A second battleship disaster
will excite the Press extremely. A third will probably lead to a
retirement of the battle fleet to some east coast harbour, a refuge
liable to aeroplanes, or to the west coast of Ireland--and the real
naval war, which, as I have argued in an earlier chapter, will be a war
of destroyers, submarines and hydroplanes, will begin. Incidentally a
commerce destroyer may take advantage of the retirement of our fleet to
raid our trade routes.

We shall then realise that the actual naval weapons are these smaller
weapons, and especially the destroyer, the submarine, and the
waterplane--the waterplane most of all, because of its possibilities of
a comparative bigness--in the hands of competent and daring men. And I
find myself, as a patriotic Englishman, more and more troubled by doubts
whether we are as certainly superior to any possible adversary in these
essential things as we are in the matter of Dreadnoughts. I find myself
awake at nights, after a day much agitated by a belligerent Press,
wondering whether the real Empire of the Sea may not even now have
slipped out of our hands while our attention has been fixed on our
stately procession of giant warships, while our country has been in a
dream, hypnotised by the Dreadnought idea.

For some years there seems to have been a complete arrest of the British
imagination in naval and military matters. That declining faculty, never
a very active or well-exercised one, staggered up to the conception of a
Dreadnought, and seems now to have sat down for good. Its reply to every
demand upon it has been "more Dreadnoughts." The future, as we British
seem to see it, is an avenue of Dreadnoughts and Super-Dreadnoughts and
Super-Super-Dreadnoughts, getting bigger and bigger in a kind of
inverted perspective. But the ascendancy of fleets of great battleships
in naval warfare, like the phase of huge conscript armies upon land,
draws to its close. The progress of invention makes both the big ship
and the army crowd more and more vulnerable and less and less effective.
A new phase of warfare opens beyond the vista of our current programmes.
Smaller, more numerous and various and mobile weapons and craft and
contrivances, manned by daring and highly skilled men, must ultimately
take the place of those massivenesses. We are entering upon a period in
which the invention of methods and material for war is likely to be more
rapid and diversified than it has ever been before, and the question of
what we have been doing behind the splendid line of our Dreadnoughts to
meet the demands of this new phase is one of supreme importance.

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