Mr. WELLS has also written the following novels:
LOVE AND MR. LEWISHAM KIPPS MR. POLLY THE WHEELS OF CHANCE THE NEW MACHIAVELLI ANN VERONICA TONO BUNGAY MARRIAGE BEALBY THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS THE WIFE OF SIR ISAAC HARMAN THE RESEARCH MAGNIFICENT MR. BRITLING SEES IT THROUGH THE SOUL OF A BISHOP
The following fantastic and imaginative romances:
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS THE TIME MACHINE THE WONDERFUL VISIT THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU THE SEA LADY THE SLEEPER AWAKES THE FOOD OF THE GODS THE WAR IN THE AIR THE FIRST MEN IN THE MOON IN THE DAYS OF THE COMET THE WORLD SET FREE
And numerous Short Stories now collected in One Volume under the title of
THE COUNTRY OF THE BLIND
A Series of books upon Social, Religious and Political questions:
ANTICIPATIONS (1900) MANKIND IN THE MAKING FIRST AND LAST THINGS NEW WORLDS FOR OLD A MODERN UTOPIA THE FUTURE IN AMERICA AN ENGLISHMAN LOOKS AT THE WORLD WHAT IS COMING? WAR AND THE FUTURE GOD THE INVISIBLE KING
And two little books about children's play, called:
FLOOR GAMES and LITTLE WARS
IN THE FOURTH YEAR
ANTICIPATIONS OF A WORLD PEACE
H. G. WELLS
AUTHOR OF "MR. BRITLING SEES IT THROUGH," "THE WAR AND THE FUTURE," "WHAT IS COMING?" "THE WAR THAT WILL END WAR," "THE WORLD SET FREE," "IN THE DAYS OF THE COMET," AND "A MODERN UTOPIA"
In the latter half of 1914 a few of us were writing that this war was a "War of Ideas." A phrase, "The War to end War," got into circulation, amidst much sceptical comment. It was a phrase powerful enough to sway many men, essentially pacifists, towards taking an active part in the war against German imperialism, but it was a phrase whose chief content was its aspiration. People were already writing in those early days of disarmament and of the abolition of the armament industry throughout the world; they realized fully the element of industrial belligerency behind the shining armour of imperialism, and they denounced the "Krupp-Kaiser" alliance. But against such writing and such thought we had to count, in those days, great and powerful realities. Even to those who expressed these ideas there lay visibly upon them the shadow of impracticability; they were very "advanced" ideas in 1914, very Utopian. Against them was an unbroken mass of mental habit and public tradition. While we talked of this "war to end war," the diplomatists of the Powers allied against Germany were busily spinning a disastrous web of greedy secret treaties, were answering aggression by schemes of aggression, were seeing in the treacherous violence of Germany only the justification for countervailing evil acts. To them it was only another war for "ascendancy." That was three years and a half ago, and since then this "war of ideas" has gone on to a phase few of us had dared hope for in those opening days. The Russian revolution put a match to that pile of secret treaties and indeed to all the imperialist plans of the Allies; in the end it will burn them all. The greatest of the Western Allies is now the United States of America, and the Americans have come into this war simply for an idea. Three years and a half ago a few of us were saying this was a war against the idea of imperialism, not German imperialism merely, but British and French and Russian imperialism, and we were saying this not because it was so, but because we hoped to see it become so. To-day we can say so, because now it is so.
In those days, moreover, we said this is the "war to end war," and we still did not know clearly how. We thought in terms of treaties and alliances. It is largely the detachment and practical genius of the great English-speaking nation across the Atlantic that has carried the world on beyond and replaced that phrase by the phrase, "The League of Nations," a phrase suggesting plainly the organization of a sufficient instrument by which war may be ended for ever. In 1913 talk of a World League of Nations would have seemed, to the extremest pitch, "Utopian." To-day the project has an air not only of being so practicable, but of being so urgent and necessary and so manifestly the sane thing before mankind that not to be busied upon it, not to be making it more widely known and better understood, not to be working out its problems and bringing it about, is to be living outside of the contemporary life of the world. For a book upon any other subject at the present time some apology may be necessary, but a book upon this subject is as natural a thing to produce now as a pair of skates in winter when the ice begins to bear.
All we writers find ourselves engaged perforce in some part or other of a world-wide propaganda of this the most creative and hopeful of political ideas that has ever dawned upon the consciousness of mankind. With no concerted plan we feel called upon to serve it. And in no connection would one so like to think oneself un-original as in this connection. It would be a dismaying thing to realize that one were writing anything here which was not the possible thought of great multitudes of other people, and capable of becoming the common thought of mankind. One writes in such a book as this not to express oneself but to swell a chorus. The idea of the League of Nations is so great a one that it may well override the pretensions and command the allegiance of kings; much more does it claim the self-subjugation of the journalistic writer. Our innumerable books upon this great edifice of a World Peace do not constitute a scramble for attention, but an attempt to express in every variety of phrase and aspect this one system of ideas which now possesses us all. In the same way the elementary facts and ideas of the science of chemistry might conceivably be put completely and fully into one text-book, but, as a matter of fact, it is far more convenient to tell that same story over in a thousand different forms, in a text-book for boys here, for a different sort or class of boy there, for adult students, for reference, for people expert in mathematics, for people unused to the scientific method, and so on. For the last year the writer has been doing what he can—and a number of other writers have been doing what they can—to bring about a united declaration of all the Atlantic Allies in favour of a League of Nations, and to define the necessary nature of that League. He has, in the course of this work, written a series of articles upon the League and upon the necessary sacrifices of preconceptions that the idea involves in the London press. He has also been trying to clear his own mind upon the real meaning of that ambiguous word "democracy," for which the League is to make the world "safe." The bulk of this book is made up of these discussions. For a very considerable number of readers, it may be well to admit here, it can have no possible interest; they will have come at these questions themselves from different angles and they will have long since got to their own conclusions. But there may be others whose angle of approach may be similar to the writer's, who may have asked some or most of the questions he has had to ask, and who may be actively interested in the answers and the working out of the answers he has made to these questions. For them this book is printed.
H. G. WELLS.
It is a dangerous thing to recommend specific books out of so large and various a literature as the "League of Nations" idea has already produced, but the reader who wishes to reach beyond the range of this book, or who does not like its tone and method, will probably find something to meet his needs and tastes better in Marburg's "League of Nations," a straightforward account of the American side of the movement by the former United States Minister in Belgium, on the one hand, or in the concluding parts of Mr. Fayle's "Great Settlement" (1915), a frankly sceptical treatment from the British Imperialist point of view, on the other. An illuminating discussion, advocating peace treaties rather than a league, is Sir Walter Phillimore's "Three Centuries of Treaties." Two excellent books from America, that chance to be on my table, are Mr. Goldsmith's "League to Enforce Peace" and "A World in Ferment" by President Nicholas Murray Butler. Mater's "Societe des Nations" (Didier) is an able presentation of a French point of view. Brailsford's "A League of Nations" is already a classic of the movement in England, and a very full and thorough book; and Hobson's "Towards International Government" is a very sympathetic contribution from the English liberal left; but the reader must understand that these two writers seem disposed to welcome a peace with an unrevolutionized Germany, an idea to which, in common with most British people, I am bitterly opposed. Walsh's "World Rebuilt" is a good exhortation, and Mugge's "Parliament of Man" is fresh and sane and able. The omnivorous reader will find good sense and quaint English in Judge Mejdell's "Jus Gentium," published in English by Olsen's of Christiania. There is an active League of Nations Society in Dublin, as well as the London and Washington ones, publishing pamphlets and conducting propaganda. All these books and pamphlets I have named happen to lie upon my study table as I write, but I have made no systematic effort to get together literature upon the subject, and probably there are just as many books as good of which I have never even heard. There must, I am sure, be statements of the League of Nations idea forthcoming from various religious standpoints, but I do not know any sufficiently well to recommend them. It is incredible that neither the Roman Catholic Church, the English Episcopal Church, nor any Nonconformist body has made any effort as an organization to forward this essentially religious end of peace on earth. And also there must be German writings upon this same topic. I mention these diverse sources not in order to present a bibliography, but because I should be sorry to have the reader think that this little book pretends to state the case rather than a case for the League of Nations.
I. THE WAY TO CONCRETE REALIZATION
II. THE LEAGUE MUST BE REPRESENTATIVE
III. THE NECESSARY POWERS OF THE LEAGUE
IV. THE LABOUR VIEW OF MIDDLE AFRICA
V. GETTING THE LEAGUE IDEA CLEAR IN RELATION TO IMPERIALISM
VI. THE WAR AIMS OF THE WESTERN ALLIES COMPACTLY STATED
VII. THE FUTURE OF MONARCHY
VIII. THE PLAIN NECESSITY FOR A LEAGUE
X. THE RECENT STRUGGLE FOR PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN GREAT BRITAIN
XI. THE STUDY AND PROPAGANDA OF DEMOCRACY
IN THE FOURTH YEAR
THE LEAGUE OF FREE NATIONS
THE WAY TO CONCRETE REALIZATION
More and more frequently does one hear this phrase, The League of Nations, used to express the outline idea of the new world that will come out of the war. There can be no doubt that the phrase has taken hold of the imaginations of great multitudes of people: it is one of those creative phrases that may alter the whole destiny of mankind. But as yet it is still a very vague phrase, a cloudy promise of peace. I make no apology therefore, for casting my discussion of it in the most general terms. The idea is the idea of united human effort to put an end to wars; the first practical question, that must precede all others, is how far can we hope to get to a concrete realization of that?
But first let me note the fourth word in the second title of this book. The common talk is of a "League of Nations" merely. I follow the man who is, more than any other man, the leader of English political thought throughout the world to-day, President Wilson, in inserting that significant adjective "Free." We western allies know to-day what is involved in making bargains with governments that do not stand for their peoples; we have had all our Russian deal, for example, repudiated and thrust back upon our hands; and it is clearly in his mind, as it must be in the minds of all reasonable men, that no mere "scrap of paper," with just a monarch's or a chancellor's endorsement, is a good enough earnest of fellowship in the league. It cannot be a diplomatist's league. The League of Nations, if it is to have any such effect as people seem to hope from it, must be, in the first place, "understanded of the people." It must be supported by sustained, deliberate explanation, and by teaching in school and church and press of the whole mass of all the peoples concerned. I underline the adjective "Free" here to set aside, once for all, any possible misconception that this modern idea of a League of Nations has any affinity to that Holy Alliance of the diplomatists, which set out to keep the peace of Europe so disastrously a century ago.
Later I will discuss the powers of the League. But before I come to that I would like to say a little about the more general question of its nature and authority. What sort of gathering will embody it? The suggestions made range from a mere advisory body, rather like the Hague convention, which will merely pronounce on the rights and wrongs of any international conflict, to the idea of a sort of Super-State, a Parliament of Mankind, a "Super National" Authority, practically taking over the sovereignty of the existing states and empires of the world. Most people's ideas of the League fall between these extremes. They want the League to be something more than an ethical court, they want a League that will act, but on the other hand they shrink from any loss of "our independence." There seems to be a conflict here. There is a real need for many people to tidy up their ideas at this point. We cannot have our cake and eat it. If association is worth while, there must be some sacrifice of freedom to association. As a very distinguished colonial representative said to me the other day: "Here we are talking of the freedom of small nations and the 'self-determination' of peoples, and at the same time of the Council of the League of Nations and all sorts of international controls. Which do we want?"
The answer, I think, is "Both." It is a matter of more or less, of getting the best thing at the cost of the second-best. We may want to relax an old association in order to make a newer and wider one. It is quite understandable that peoples aware of a distinctive national character and involved in some big existing political complex, should wish to disentangle themselves from one group of associations in order to enter more effectively into another, a greater, and more satisfactory one. The Finn or the Pole, who has hitherto been a rather reluctant member of the synthesis of the Russian empire, may well wish to end that attachment in order to become a free member of a worldwide brotherhood. The desire for free arrangement is not a desire for chaos. There is such a thing as untying your parcels in order to pack them better, and I do not see myself how we can possibly contemplate a great league of freedom and reason in the world without a considerable amount of such preliminary dissolution.
It happens, very fortunately for the world, that a century and a quarter ago thirteen various and very jealous states worked out the problem of a Union, and became—after an enormous, exhausting wrangle—the United States of America. Now the way they solved their riddle was by delegating and giving over jealously specified sovereign powers and doing all that was possible to retain the residuum. They remained essentially sovereign states. New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, for example, remained legally independent. The practical fusion of these peoples into one people outran the legal bargain. It was only after long years of discussion that the point was conceded; it was indeed only after the Civil War that the implications were fully established, that there resided a sovereignty in the American people as a whole, as distinguished from the peoples of the several states. This is a precedent that every one who talks about the League of Nations should bear in mind. These states set up a congress and president in Washington with strictly delegated powers. That congress and president they delegated to look after certain common interests, to deal with interstate trade, to deal with foreign powers, to maintain a supreme court of law. Everything else—education, militia, powers of life and death—the states retained for themselves. To this day, for instance, the federal courts and the federal officials have no power to interfere to protect the lives or property of aliens in any part of the union outside the district of Columbia. The state governments still see to that. The federal government has the legal right perhaps to intervene, but it is still chary of such intervention. And these states of the American Union were at the outset so independent-spirited that they would not even adopt a common name. To this day they have no common name. We have to call them Americans, which is a ridiculous name when we consider that Canada, Mexico, Peru, Brazil are all of them also in America. Or else we have to call them Virginians, Californians, New Englanders, and so forth. Their legal and nominal separateness weighs nothing against the real fusion that their great league has now made possible.
Now, that clearly is a precedent of the utmost value in our schemes for this council of the League of Nations. We must begin by delegating, as the States began by delegating. It is a far cry to the time when we shall talk and think of the Sovereign People of the Earth. That council of the League of Nations will be a tie as strong, we hope, but certainly not so close and multiplex as the early tie of the States at Washington. It will begin by having certain delegated powers and no others. It will be an "ad hoc" body. Later its powers may grow as mankind becomes accustomed to it. But at first it will have, directly or mediately, all the powers that seem necessary to restrain the world from war—and unless I know nothing of patriotic jealousies it will have not a scrap of power more. The danger is much more that its powers will be insufficient than that they will be excessive. Of that later. What I want to discuss here now is the constitution of this delegated body. I want to discuss that first in order to set aside out of the discussion certain fantastic notions that will otherwise get very seriously in our way. Fantastic as they are, they have played a large part in reducing the Hague Tribunal to an ineffective squeak amidst the thunders of this war.
A number of gentlemen scheming out world unity in studies have begun their proposals with the simple suggestion that each sovereign power should send one member to the projected parliament of mankind. This has a pleasant democratic air; one sovereign state, one vote. Now let us run over a list of sovereign states and see to what this leads us. We find our list includes the British Empire, with a population of four hundred millions, of which probably half can read and write some language or other; Bogota with a population of a million, mostly poets; Hayti with a population of a million and a third, almost entirely illiterate and liable at any time to further political disruption; Andorra with a population of four or five thousand souls. The mere suggestion of equal representation between such "powers" is enough to make the British Empire burst into a thousand (voting) fragments. A certain concession to population, one must admit, was made by the theorists; a state of over three millions got, if I remember rightly, two delegates, and if over twenty, three, and some of the small states were given a kind of intermittent appearance, they only came every other time or something of that sort; but at The Hague things still remained in such a posture that three or four minute and backward states could outvote the British Empire or the United States. Therein lies the clue to the insignificance of The Hague. Such projects as these are idle projects and we must put them out of our heads; they are against nature; the great nations will not suffer them for a moment.
But when we dismiss this idea of representation by states, we are left with the problem of the proportion of representation and of relative weight in the Council of the League on our hands. It is the sort of problem that appeals terribly to the ingenious. We cannot solve it by making population a basis, because that will give a monstrous importance to the illiterate millions of India and China. Ingenious statistical schemes have been framed in which the number of university graduates and the steel output come in as multipliers, but for my own part I am not greatly impressed by statistical schemes. At the risk of seeming something of a Prussian, I would like to insist upon certain brute facts. The business of the League of Nations is to keep the peace of the world and nothing else. No power will ever dare to break the peace of the world if the powers that are capable of making war under modern conditions say "No." And there are only four powers certainly capable at the present time of producing the men and materials needed for a modern war in sufficient abundance to go on fighting: Britain, France, Germany, and the United States. There are three others which are very doubtfully capable: Italy, Japan, and Austria. Russia I will mark—it is all that one can do with Russia just now—with a note of interrogation. Some day China may be war capable—I hope never, but it is a possibility. Personally I don't think that any other power on earth would have a ghost of a chance to resist the will—if it could be an honestly united will—of the first-named four. All the rest fight by the sanction of and by association with these leaders. They can only fight because of the split will of the war-complete powers. Some are forced to fight by that very division.
No one can vie with me in my appreciation of the civilization of Switzerland, Sweden, or Holland, but the plain fact of the case is that such powers are absolutely incapable of uttering an effective protest against war. Far less so are your Haytis and Liberias. The preservation of the world-peace rests with the great powers and with the great powers alone. If they have the will for peace, it is peace. If they have not, it is conflict. The four powers I have named can now, if they see fit, dictate the peace of the world for ever.
Let us keep our grip on that. Peace is the business of the great powers primarily. Steel output, university graduates, and so forth may be convenient secondary criteria, may be useful ways of measuring war efficiency, but the meat and substance of the Council of the League of Nations must embody the wills of those leading peoples. They can give an enduring peace to the little nations and the whole of mankind. It can arrive in no other way. So I take it that the Council of an ideal League of Nations must consist chiefly of the representatives of the great belligerent powers, and that the representatives of the minor allies and of the neutrals—essential though their presence will be—must not be allowed to swamp the voices of these larger masses of mankind.
And this state of affairs may come about more easily than logical, statistical-minded people may be disposed to think. Our first impulse, when we discuss the League of Nations idea, is to think of some very elaborate and definite scheme of members on the model of existing legislative bodies, called together one hardly knows how, and sitting in a specially built League of Nations Congress House. All schemes are more methodical than reality. We think of somebody, learned and "expert," in spectacles, with a thin clear voice, reading over the "Projected Constitution of a League of Nations" to an attentive and respectful Peace Congress. But there is a more natural way to a league than that. Instead of being made like a machine, the League of Nations may come about like a marriage. The Peace Congress that must sooner or later meet may itself become, after a time, the Council of a League of Nations. The League of Nations may come upon us by degrees, almost imperceptibly. I am strongly obsessed by the idea that that Peace Congress will necessarily become—and that it is highly desirable that it should become—a most prolonged and persistent gathering. Why should it not become at length a permanent gathering, inviting representatives to aid its deliberations from the neutral states, and gradually adjusting itself to conditions of permanency?
I can conceive no such Peace Congress as those that have settled up after other wars, settling up after this war. Not only has the war been enormously bigger than any other war, but it has struck deeper at the foundations of social and economic life. I doubt if we begin to realize how much of the old system is dead to-day, how much has to be remade. Since the beginnings of history there has been a credible promise of gold payments underneath our financial arrangements. It is now an incredible promise. The value of a pound note waves about while you look at it. What will happen to it when peace comes no man can tell. Nor what will happen to the mark. The rouble has gone into the Abyss. Our giddy money specialists clutch their handfuls of paper and watch it flying down the steep. Much as we may hate the Germans, some of us will have to sit down with some of the enemy to arrange a common scheme for the preservation of credit in money. And I presume that it is not proposed to end this war in a wild scramble of buyers for such food as remains in the world. There is a shortage now, a greater shortage ahead of the world, and there will be shortages of supply at the source and transport in food and all raw materials for some years to come. The Peace Congress will have to sit and organize a share-out and distribution and reorganization of these shattered supplies. It will have to Rhondda the nations. Probably, too, we shall have to deal collectively with a pestilence before we are out of the mess. Then there are such little jobs as the reconstruction of Belgium and Serbia. There are considerable rectifications of boundaries to be made. There are fresh states to be created, in Poland and Armenia for example. About all these smaller states, new and old, that the peace must call into being, there must be a system of guarantees of the most difficult and complicated sort.
I do not see the Press Congress getting through such matters as these in a session of weeks or months. The idea the Germans betrayed at Brest, that things were going to be done in the Versailles fashion by great moustached heroes frowning and drawing lines with a large black soldierly thumbnail across maps, is—old-fashioned. They have made their eastern treaties, it is true, in this mode, but they are still looking for some really responsible government to keep them now that they are made. From first to last clearly the main peace negotiations are going to follow unprecedented courses. This preliminary discussion of war aims by means of great public speeches, that has been getting more and more explicit now for many months, is quite unprecedented. Apparently all the broad preliminaries are to be stated and accepted in the sight of all mankind before even an armistice occurs on the main, the western front. The German diplomatists hate this process. So do a lot of ours. So do some of the diplomatic Frenchmen. The German junkers are dodging and lying, they are fighting desperately to keep back everything they possibly can for the bargaining and bullying and table-banging of the council chamber, but that way there is no peace. And when at last Germany says snip sufficiently to the Allies' snap, and the Peace Congress begins, it will almost certainly be as unprecedented as its prelude. Before it meets, the broad lines of the settlement will have been drawn plainly with the approval of the mass of mankind.
THE LEAGUE MUST BE REPRESENTATIVE
A Peace Congress, growing permanent, then, may prove to be the most practical and convenient embodiment of this idea of a League of Nations that has taken possession of the imagination of the world. A most necessary preliminary to a Peace Congress, with such possibilities inherent in it, must obviously be the meeting and organization of a preliminary League of the Allied Nations. That point I would now enlarge.
Half a world peace is better than none. There seems no reason whatever why the world should wait for the Central Powers before it begins this necessary work. Mr. McCurdy has been asking lately, "Why not the League of Nations now?" That is a question a great number of people would like to echo very heartily. The nearer the Allies can come to a League of Free Nations before the Peace Congress the more prospect there is that that body will approximate in nature to a League of Nations for the whole world.
In one most unexpected quarter the same idea has been endorsed. The King's Speech on the prorogation of Parliament this February was one of the most remarkable royal utterances that have ever been made from the British throne. There was less of the old-fashioned King and more of the modern President about it than the most republican-minded of us could have anticipated. For the first time in a King's Speech we heard of the "democracies" of the world, and there was a clear claim that the Allies at present fighting the Central Powers did themselves constitute a League of Nations.
But we must admit that at present they do so only in a very rhetorical sense. There is no real council of empowered representatives, and nothing in the nature of a united front has been prepared. Unless we provide beforehand for something more effective, Italy, France, the United States, Japan, and this country will send separate groups of representatives, with separate instructions, unequal status, and very probably conflicting views upon many subjects, to the ultimate peace discussions. It is quite conceivable—it is a very serious danger—that at this discussion skilful diplomacy on the part of the Central Powers may open a cleft among the Allies that has never appeared during the actual war. Have the British settled, for example, with Italy and France for the supply of metallurgical coal after the war? Those countries must have it somehow. Across the board Germany can make some tempting bids in that respect. Or take another question: Have the British arrived at common views with France, Belgium, Portugal, and South Africa about the administration of Central Africa? Suppose Germany makes sudden proposals affecting native labour that win over the Portuguese and the Boers? There are a score of such points upon which we shall find the Allied representatives haggling with each other in the presence of the enemy if they have not been settled beforehand.
It is the plainest common sense that we should be fixing up all such matters with our Allies now, and knitting together a common front for the final deal with German Imperialism. And these things are not to be done effectively and bindingly nowadays by official gentlemen in discreet undertones. They need to be done with the full knowledge and authority of the participating peoples.
The Russian example has taught the world the instability of diplomatic bargains in a time of such fundamental issues as the present. There is little hope and little strength in hole-and-corner bargainings between the officials or politicians who happen to be at the head of this or that nation for the time being. Our Labour people will not stand this sort of thing and they will not be bound by it. There will be the plain danger of repudiation for all arrangements made in that fashion. A gathering of somebody or other approved by the British Foreign Office and of somebody or other approved by the French Foreign Office, of somebody with vague powers from America, and so on and so on, will be an entirely ineffective gathering. But that is the sort of gathering of the Allies we have been having hitherto, and that is the sort of gathering that is likely to continue unless there is a considerable expression of opinion in favour of something more representative and responsible.
Even our Foreign Office must be aware that in every country in the world there is now bitter suspicion of and keen hostility towards merely diplomatic representatives. One of the most significant features of the time is the evident desire of the Labour movement in every European country to take part in a collateral conference of Labour that shall meet when and where the Peace Congress does and deliberate and comment on its proceedings. For a year now the demand of the masses for such a Labour conference has been growing. It marks a distrust of officialdom whose intensity officialdom would do well to ponder. But it is the natural consequence of, it is the popular attempt at a corrective to, the aloofness and obscurity that have hitherto been so evil a characteristic of international negotiations. I do not think Labour and intelligent people anywhere are going to be fobbed off with an old-fashioned diplomatic gathering as being that League of Free Nations they demand.
On the other hand, I do not contemplate this bi-cameral conference with the diplomatists trying to best and humbug the Labour people as well as each other and the Labour people getting more and more irritated, suspicious, and extremist, with anything but dread. The Allied countries must go into the conference solid, and they can only hope to do that by heeding and incorporating Labour ideas before they come to the conference. The only alternative that I can see to this unsatisfactory prospect of a Peace Congress sitting side by side with a dissentient and probably revolutionary Labour and Socialist convention—both gatherings with unsatisfactory credentials contradicting one another and drifting to opposite extremes—is that the delegates the Allied Powers send to the Peace Conference (the same delegates which, if they are wise, they will have previously sent to a preliminary League of Allied Nations to discuss their common action at the Peace Congress), should be elected ad hoc upon democratic lines.
I know that this will be a very shocking proposal to all our able specialists in foreign policy. They will talk at once about the "ignorance" of people like the Labour leaders and myself about such matters, and so on. What do we know of the treaty of so-and-so that was signed in the year seventeen something?—and so on. To which the answer is that we ought not to have been kept ignorant of these things. A day will come when the Foreign Offices of all countries will have to recognize that what the people do not know of international agreements "ain't facts." A secret treaty is only binding upon the persons in the secret. But what I, as a sample common person, am not ignorant of is this: that the business that goes on at the Peace Congress will either make or mar the lives of everyone I care for in the world, and that somehow, by representative or what not, I have to be there. The Peace Congress deals with the blood and happiness of my children and the future of my world. Speaking as one of the hundreds of millions of "rank outsiders" in public affairs, I do not mean to respect any peace treaty that may end this war unless I am honestly represented at its making. I think everywhere there is a tendency in people to follow the Russian example to this extent and to repudiate bargains in which they have had no voice.
I do not see that any genuine realization of the hopes with which all this talk about the League of Nations is charged can be possible, unless the two bodies which should naturally lead up to the League of Nations—that is to say, firstly, the Conference of the Allies, and then the Peace Congress—are elected bodies, speaking confidently for the whole mass of the peoples behind them. It may be a troublesome thing to elect them, but it will involve much more troublesome consequences if they are not elected. This, I think, is one of the considerations for which many people's minds are still unprepared. But unless we are to have over again after all this bloodshed and effort some such "Peace with Honour" foolery as we had performed by "Dizzy" and Salisbury at that fatal Berlin Conference in which this present war was begotten, we must sit up to this novel proposal of electoral representation in the peace negotiations. Something more than common sense binds our statesmen to this idea. They are morally pledged to it. President Wilson and our British and French spokesmen alike have said over and over again that they want to deal not with the Hohenzollerns but with the German people. In other words, we have demanded elected representatives from the German people with whom we may deal, and how can we make a demand of that sort unless we on our part are already prepared to send our own elected representatives to meet them? It is up to us to indicate by our own practice how we on our side, professing as we do to act for democracies, to make democracy safe on the earth, and so on, intend to meet this new occasion.
Yet it has to be remarked that, so far, not one of the League of Nations projects I have seen have included any practicable proposals for the appointment of delegates either to that ultimate body or to its two necessary predecessors, the Council of the Allies and the Peace Congress. It is evident that here, again, we are neglecting to get on with something of very urgent importance. I will venture, therefore, to say a word or two here about the possible way in which a modern community may appoint its international representatives.
And here, again, I turn from any European precedents to that political outcome of the British mind, the Constitution of the United States. (Because we must always remember that while our political institutions in Britain are a patch-up of feudalism, Tudor, Stuart, and Hanoverian monarchist traditions and urgent merely European necessities, a patch-up that has been made quasi-democratic in a series of after-thoughts, the American Constitution is a real, deliberate creation of the English-speaking intelligence.) The President of the United States, then, we have to note, is elected in a most extraordinary way, and in a way that has now the justification of very great successes indeed. On several occasions the United States has achieved indisputable greatness in its Presidents, and very rarely has it failed to set up very leaderly and distinguished men. It is worth while, therefore, to inquire how this President is elected. He is neither elected directly by the people nor appointed by any legislative body. He is chosen by a special college elected by the people. This college exists to elect him; it meets, elects him, and disperses. (I will not here go into the preliminary complications that makes the election of a President follow upon a preliminary election of two Presidential Candidates. The point I am making here is that he is a specially selected man chosen ad hoc.) Is there any reason why we should, not adopt this method in this new necessity we are under of sending representatives, first, to the long overdue and necessary Allied Council, then to the Peace Congress, and then to the hoped-for Council of the League of Nations?
I am anxious here only to start for discussion the idea of an electoral representation of the nations upon these three bodies that must in succession set themselves to define, organize, and maintain the peace of the world. I do not wish to complicate the question by any too explicit advocacy of methods of election or the like. In the United States this college which elects the President is elected on the same register of voters as that which elects the Senate and Congress, and at the same time. But I suppose if we are to give a popular mandate to the three or five or twelve or twenty (or whatever number it is) men to whom we are going to entrust our Empire's share in this great task of the peace negotiations, it will be more decisive of the will of the whole nation if the college that had to appoint them is elected at a special election. I suppose that the great British common-weals over-seas, at present not represented in Parliament, would also and separately at the same time elect colleges to appoint their representatives. I suppose there would be at least one Indian representative elected, perhaps by some special electoral conference of Indian princes and leading men. The chief defect of the American Presidential election is that as the old single vote method of election is employed it has to be fought on purely party lines. He is the select man of the Democratic half, or of the Republican half of the nation. He is not the select man of the whole nation. It would give a far more representative character to the electoral college if it could be elected by fair modern methods, if for this particular purpose parliamentary constituencies could be grouped and the clean scientific method of proportional representation could be used. But I suppose the party politician in this, as in most of our affairs, must still have his pound of our flesh—and we must reckon with him later for the bloodshed.
These are all, however, secondary considerations. The above paragraph is, so to speak, in the nature of a footnote. The fundamental matter, if we are to get towards any realization of this ideal of a world peace sustained by a League of Nations, is to get straight away to the conception of direct special electoral mandates in this matter. At present all the political luncheon and dinner parties in London are busy with smirking discussions of "Who is to go?" The titled ladies are particularly busy. They are talking about it as if we poor, ignorant, tax-paying, blood-paying common people did not exist. "L. G.," they say, will of course "insist on going," but there is much talk of the "Old Man." People are getting quite nice again about "the Old Man's feelings." It would be such a pretty thing to send him. But if "L. G." goes we want him to go with something more than a backing of intrigues and snatched authority. And I do not think the mass of people have any enthusiasm for the Old Man. It is difficult again—by the dinner-party standards—to know how Lord Curzon can be restrained. But we common people do not care if he is restrained to the point of extinction. Probably there will be nobody who talks or understands Russian among the British representatives. But, of course, the British governing class has washed its hands of the Russians. They were always very difficult, and now they are "impossible, my dear, perfectly impossible."
No! That sort of thing will not do now. This Peace Congress is too big a job for party politicians and society and county families. The bulk of British opinion cannot go on being represented for ever by President Wilson. We cannot always look to the Americans to express our ideas and do our work for democracy. The foolery of the Berlin Treaty must not be repeated. We cannot have another popular Prime Minister come triumphing back to England with a gross of pink spectacles—through which we may survey the prospect of the next great war. The League of Free Nations means something very big and solid; it is not a rhetorical phrase to be used to pacify a restless, distressed, and anxious public, and to be sneered out of existence when that use is past. When the popular mind now demands a League of Free Nations it demands a reality. The only way to that reality is through the direct participation of the nation as a whole in the settlement, and that is possible only through the direct election for this particular issue of representative and responsible men.
THE NECESSARY POWERS OF THE LEAGUE
If this phrase, "the League of Free Nations," is to signify anything more than a rhetorical flourish, then certain consequences follow that have to be faced now. No man can join a partnership and remain an absolutely free man. You cannot bind yourself to do this and not to do that and to consult and act with your associates in certain eventualities without a loss of your sovereign freedom. People in this country and in France do not seem to be sitting up manfully to these necessary propositions.
If this League of Free Nations is really to be an effectual thing for the preservation of the peace of the world it must possess power and exercise power, powers must be delegated to it. Otherwise it will only help, with all other half-hearted good resolutions, to pave the road of mankind to hell. Nothing in all the world so strengthens evil as the half-hearted attempts of good to make good.
It scarcely needs repeating here—it has been so generally said—that no League of Free Nations can hope to keep the peace unless every member of it is indeed a free member, represented by duly elected persons. Nobody, of course, asks to "dictate the internal government" of any country to that country. If Germans, for instance, like to wallow in absolutism after the war they can do so. But if they or any other peoples wish to take part in a permanent League of Free Nations it is only reasonable to insist that so far as their representatives on the council go they must be duly elected under conditions that are by the standards of the general league satisfactorily democratic. That seems to be only the common sense of the matter. Every court is a potential conspiracy against freedom, and the League cannot tolerate merely court appointments. If courts are to exist anywhere in the new world of the future, they will be wise to stand aloof from international meddling. Of course if a people, after due provision for electoral representation, choose to elect dynastic candidates, that is an altogether different matter.
And now let us consider what are the powers that must be delegated to this proposed council of a League of Free Nations, if that is really effectually to prevent war and to organize and establish and make peace permanent in the world.
Firstly, then, it must be able to adjudicate upon all international disputes whatever. Its first function must clearly be that. Before a war can break out there must be the possibility of a world decision upon its rights and wrongs. The League, therefore, will have as its primary function to maintain a Supreme Court, whose decisions will be final, before which every sovereign power may appear as plaintiff against any other sovereign power or group of powers. The plea, I take it, will always be in the form that the defendant power or powers is engaged in proceedings "calculated to lead to a breach of the peace," and calling upon the League for an injunction against such proceedings. I suppose the proceedings that can be brought into court in this way fall under such headings as these that follow; restraint of trade by injurious tariffs or suchlike differentiations or by interference with through traffic, improper treatment of the subjects or their property (here I put a query) of the plaintiff nation in the defendant state, aggressive military or naval preparation, disorder spreading over the frontier, trespass (as, for instance, by airships), propaganda of disorder, espionage, permitting the organization of injurious activities, such as raids or piracy. Clearly all such actions must come within the purview of any world-supreme court organized to prevent war. But in addition there is a more doubtful and delicate class of case, arising out of the discontent of patches of one race or religion in the dominions of another. How far may the supreme court of the world attend to grievances between subject and sovereign?
Such cases are highly probable, and no large, vague propositions about the "self-determination" of peoples can meet all the cases. In Macedonia, for instance, there is a jumble of Albanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Greek and Rumanian villages always jostling one another and maintaining an intense irritation between the kindred nations close at hand. And quite a large number of areas and cities in the world, it has to be remembered, are not homogeneous at all. Will the great nations of the world have the self-abnegation to permit a scattered subject population to appeal against the treatment of its ruling power to the Supreme Court? This is a much more serious interference with sovereignty than intervention in an external quarrel. Could a Greek village in Bulgarian Macedonia plead in the Supreme Court? Could the Armenians in Constantinople, or the Jews in Roumania, or the Poles in West Prussia, or the negroes in Georgia, or the Indians in the Transvaal make such an appeal? Could any Indian population in India appeal? Personally I should like to see the power of the Supreme Court extend as far as this. I do not see how we can possibly prevent a kindred nation pleading for the scattered people of its own race and culture, or any nation presenting a case on behalf of some otherwise unrepresented people—the United States, for example, presenting a case on behalf of the Armenians. But I doubt if many people have made up their minds yet to see the powers of the Supreme Court of the League of Nations go so far as this. I doubt if, to begin with, it will be possible to provide for these cases. I would like to see it done, but I doubt if the majority of the sovereign peoples concerned will reconcile their national pride with the idea, at least so far as their own subject populations go.
Here, you see, I do no more than ask a question. It is a difficult one, and it has to be answered before we can clear the way to the League of Free Nations.
But the Supreme Court, whether it is to have the wider or the narrower scope here suggested, would be merely the central function of the League of Free Nations. Behind the decisions of the Supreme Court must lie power. And here come fresh difficulties for patriotic digestions. The armies and navies of the world must be at the disposal of the League of Free Nations, and that opens up a new large area of delegated authority. The first impulse of any power disposed to challenge the decisions of the Supreme Court will be, of course, to arm; and it is difficult to imagine how the League of Free Nations can exercise any practical authority unless it has power to restrain such armament. The League of Free Nations must, in fact, if it is to be a working reality, have power to define and limit the military and naval and aerial equipment of every country in the world. This means something more than a restriction of state forces. It must have power and freedom to investigate the military and naval and aerial establishments of all its constituent powers. It must also have effective control over every armament industry. And armament industries are not always easy to define. Are aeroplanes, for example, armament? Its powers, I suggest, must extend even to a restraint upon the belligerent propaganda which is the natural advertisement campaign of every armament industry. It must have the right, for example, to raise the question of the proprietorship of newspapers by armament interests. Disarmament is, in fact, a necessary factor of any League of Free Nations, and you cannot have disarmament unless you are prepared to see the powers of the council of the League extend thus far. The very existence of the League presupposes that it and it alone is to have and to exercise military force. Any other belligerency or preparation or incitement to belligerency becomes rebellion, and any other arming a threat of rebellion, in a world League of Free Nations.
But here, again, has the general mind yet thought out all that is involved in this proposition? In all the great belligerent countries the armament industries are now huge interests with enormous powers. Krupp's business alone is as powerful a thing in Germany as the Crown. In every country a heavily subsidized "patriotic" press will fight desperately against giving powers so extensive and thorough as those here suggested to an international body. So long, of course, as the League of Free Nations remains a project in the air, without body or parts, such a press will sneer at it gently as "Utopian," and even patronize it kindly. But so soon as the League takes on the shape its general proposition makes logically necessary, the armament interest will take fright. Then it is we shall hear the drum patriotic loud in defence of the human blood trade. Are we to hand over these most intimate affairs of ours to "a lot of foreigners"? Among these "foreigners" who will be appealed to to terrify the patriotic souls of the British will be the "Americans." Are we men of English blood and tradition to see our affairs controlled by such "foreigners" as Wilson, Lincoln, Webster and Washington? Perish the thought! When they might be controlled by Disraelis, Wettins, Mount-Battens, and what not! And so on and so on. Krupp's agents and the agents of the kindred firms in Great Britain and France will also be very busy with the national pride of France. In Germany they have already created a colossal suspicion of England.
Here is a giant in the path....
But let us remember that it is only necessary to defeat the propaganda of this vile and dangerous industry in four great countries. And for the common citizen, touched on the tenderest part of his patriotic susceptibilities, there are certain irrefutable arguments. Whether the ways of the world in the years to come are to be the paths of peace or the paths of war is not going to alter this essential fact, that the great educated world communities, with a social and industrial organization on a war-capable scale, are going to dominate human affairs. Whether they spend their power in killing or in educating and creating, France, Germany, however much we may resent it, the two great English-speaking communities, Italy, Japan China, and presently perhaps a renascent Russia, are jointly going to control the destinies of mankind. Whether that joint control comes through arms or through the law is a secondary consideration. To refuse to bring our affairs into a common council does not make us independent of foreigners. It makes us more dependent upon them, as a very little consideration will show.
I am suggesting here that the League of Free Nations shall practically control the army, navy, air forces, and armament industry of every nation in the world. What is the alternative to that? To do as we please? No, the alternative is that any malignant country will be free to force upon all the rest just the maximum amount of armament it chooses to adopt. Since 1871 France, we say, has been free in military matters. What has been the value of that freedom? The truth is, she has been the bond-slave of Germany, bound to watch Germany as a slave watches a master, bound to launch submarine for submarine and cast gun for gun, to sweep all her youth into her army, to subdue her trade, her literature, her education, her whole life to the necessity of preparations imposed upon her by her drill-master over the Rhine. And Michael, too, has been a slave to his imperial master for the self-same reason, for the reason that Germany and France were both so proudly sovereign and independent. Both countries have been slaves to Kruppism and Zabernism—because they were sovereign and free! So it will always be. So long as patriotic cant can keep the common man jealous of international controls over his belligerent possibilities, so long will he be the helpless slave of the foreign threat, and "Peace" remain a mere name for the resting phase between wars.
But power over the military resources of the world is by no means the limit of the necessary powers of an effective League of Free Nations. There are still more indigestible implications in the idea, and, since they have got to be digested sooner or later if civilization is not to collapse, there is no reason why we should not begin to bite upon them now. I was much interested to read the British press upon the alleged proposal of the German Chancellor that we should give up (presumably to Germany) Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt, and suchlike key possessions. It seemed to excite several of our politicians extremely. I read over the German Chancellor's speech very carefully, so far as it was available, and it is clear that he did not propose anything of the sort. Wilfully or blindly our press and our demagogues screamed over a false issue. The Chancellor was defending the idea of the Germans remaining in Belgium and Lorraine because of the strategic and economic importance of those regions to Germany, and he was arguing that before we English got into such a feverish state of indignation about that, we should first ask ourselves what we were doing in Gibraltar, etc., etc. That is a different thing altogether. And it is an argument that is not to be disposed of by misrepresentation. The British have to think hard over this quite legitimate German tu quoque. It is no good getting into a patriotic bad temper and refusing to answer that question. We British people are so persuaded of the purity and unselfishness with which we discharge our imperial responsibilities, we have been so trained in imperial self-satisfaction, we know so certainly that all our subject nations call us blessed, that it is a little difficult for us to see just how the fact that we are, for example, so deeply rooted in Egypt looks to an outside intelligence. Of course the German imperialist idea is a wicked and aggressive idea, as Lord Robert Cecil has explained; they want to set up all over the earth coaling stations and strategic points, on the pattern of ours. Well, they argue, we are only trying to do what you British have done. If we are not to do so—because it is aggression and so on and so on—is not the time ripe for you to make some concessions to the public opinion of the world? That is the German argument. Either, they say, tolerate this idea of a Germany with advantageous posts and possessions round and about the earth, or reconsider your own position.
Well, at the risk of rousing much patriotic wrath, I must admit that I think we have to reconsider our position. Our argument is that in India, Egypt, Africa and elsewhere, we stand for order and civilization, we are the trustees of freedom, the agents of knowledge and efficiency. On the whole the record of British rule is a pretty respectable one; I am not ashamed of our record. Nevertheless the case is altering.
It is quite justifiable for us British, no doubt, if we do really play the part of honest trustees, to remain in Egypt and in India under existing conditions; it is even possible for us to glance at the helplessness of Arabia, Palestine, and Mesopotamia, as yet incapable of self-government, helpless as new-born infants. But our case, our only justifiable case, is that we are trustees because there is no better trustee possible. And the creation of a council of a League of Free Nations would be like the creation of a Public Trustee for the world. The creation of a League of Free Nations must necessarily be the creation of an authority that may legitimately call existing empires to give an account of their stewardship. For an unchecked fragmentary control of tropical and chaotic regions, it substitutes the possibility of a general authority. And this must necessarily alter the problems not only of the politically immature nations and the control of the tropics, but also of the regulation of the sea ways, the regulation of the coming air routes, and the distribution of staple products in the world. I will not go in detail over the items of this list, because the reader can fill in the essentials of the argument from what has gone before. I want simply to suggest how widely this project of a League of Free Nations swings when once you have let it swing freely in your mind! And if you do not let it swing freely in your mind, it remains nothing—a sentimental gesture.
The plain truth is that the League of Free Nations, if it is to be a reality, if it is to effect a real pacification of the world, must do no less than supersede Empire; it must end not only this new German imperialism, which is struggling so savagely and powerfully to possess the earth, but it must also wind up British imperialism and French imperialism, which do now so largely and inaggressively possess it. And, moreover, this idea queries the adjective of Belgian, Portuguese, French, and British Central Africa alike, just as emphatically as it queries "German." Still more effectually does the League forbid those creations of the futurist imagination, the imperialism of Italy and Greece, which make such threatening gestures at the world of our children. Are these incompatibilities understood? Until people have faced the clear antagonism that exists between imperialism and internationalism, they have not begun to suspect the real significance of this project of the League of Free Nations. They have not begun to realize that peace also has its price.
THE LABOUR VIEW OF MIDDLE AFRICA
I was recently privileged to hear the views of one of those titled and influential ladies—with a general education at about the fifth standard level, plus a little French, German, Italian, and music—who do so much to make our England what it is at the present time, upon the Labour idea of an international control of "tropical" Africa. She was loud and derisive about the "ignorance" of Labour. "What can they know about foreign politics?" she said, with gestures to indicate her conception of them.
I was moved to ask her what she would do about Africa. "Leave it to Lord Robert!" she said, leaning forward impressively. "Leave it to the people who know."
Unhappily I share the evident opinion of Labour that we are not blessed with any profoundly wise class of people who have definite knowledge and clear intentions about Africa, that these "people who know" are mostly a pretentious bluff, and so, in spite of a very earnest desire to take refuge in my "ignorance" from the burthen of thinking about African problems, I find myself obliged, like most other people, to do so. In the interests of our country, our children, and the world, we common persons have to have opinions about these matters. A muddle-up in Africa this year may kill your son and mine in the course of the next decade. I know this is not a claim to be interested in things African, such as the promoter of a tropical railway or an oil speculator has; still it is a claim. And for the life of me I cannot see what is wrong about the Labour proposals, or what alternative exists that can give even a hope of peace in and about Africa.
The gist of the Labour proposal is an international control of Africa between the Zambesi and the Sahara. This has been received with loud protests by men whose work one is obliged to respect, by Sir Harry, Johnston, for example, and Sir Alfred Sharpe, and with something approaching a shriek of hostility by Mr. Cunninghame Graham. But I think these gentlemen have not perhaps given the Labour proposal quite as much attention as they have spent upon the details of African conditions. I think they have jumped to conclusions at the mere sound of the word "international." There have been some gross failures in the past to set up international administrations in Africa and the Near East. And these gentlemen think at once of some new Congo administration and of nondescript police forces commanded by cosmopolitan adventurers. (See Joseph Conrad's "Out-post of Civilization.") They think of internationalism with greedy Great Powers in the background outside the internationalized area, intriguing to create disorder and mischief with ideas of an ultimate annexation. But I doubt if such nightmares do any sort of justice to the Labour intention.
And the essential thing I would like to point out to these authorities upon African questions is that not one of them even hints at any other formula which covers the broad essentials of the African riddle.
What are these broad essentials? What are the ends that must be achieved if Africa is not to continue a festering sore in the body of mankind?
The first most obvious danger of Africa is the militarization of the black. General Smuts has pointed this out plainly. The negro makes a good soldier; he is hardy, he stands the sea, and he stands cold. (There was a negro in the little party which reached the North Pole.) It is absolutely essential to the peace of the world that there should be no arming of the negroes beyond the minimum necessary for the policing of Africa. But how is this to be watched and prevented if there is no overriding body representing civilization to say "Stop" to the beginnings of any such militarization? I do not see how Sir Harry Johnston, Sir Alfred Sharpe, and the other authorities can object to at least an international African "Disarmament Commission" to watch, warn, and protest. At least they must concede that.
But in practice this involves something else. A practical consequence of this disarmament idea must be an effective control of the importation of arms into the "tutelage" areas of Africa. That rat at the dykes of civilization, that ultimate expression of political scoundrelism, the Gun-Runner, has to be kept under and stamped out in Africa as everywhere. A Disarmament Commission that has no forces available to prevent the arms trade will be just another Hague Convention, just another vague, well-intentioned, futile gesture.
And closely connected with this function of controlling the arms trade is another great necessity of Africa under "tutelage," and that is the necessity of a common collective agreement not to demoralize the native population. That demoralization, physical and moral, has already gone far. The whole negro population of Africa is now rotten with diseases introduced by Arabs and Europeans during the last century, and such African statesmen as Sir Harry Johnston are eloquent upon the necessity of saving the blacks—and the baser whites—from the effects of trade gin and similar alluring articles of commerce. Moreover, from Africa there is always something new in the way of tropical diseases, and presently Africa, if we let it continue to fester as it festers now, may produce an epidemic that will stand exportation to a temperate climate. A bacterium that may kill you or me in some novel and disgusting way may even now be developing in some Congo muck-heap. So here is the need for another Commission to look after the Health of Africa. That, too, should be of authority over all the area of "tutelage" Africa. It is no good stamping out infectious disease in Nyasaland while it is being bred in Portuguese East Africa. And if there is a Disarmament Commission already controlling the importation of arms, why should not that body also control at the same time the importation of trade gin and similar delicacies, and direct quarantine and such-like health regulations?
But there is another question in Africa upon which our "ignorant" Labour class is far better informed than our dear old eighteenth-century upper class which still squats so firmly in our Foreign and Colonial Offices, and that is the question of forced labour. We cannot tolerate any possibilities of the enslavement of black Africa. Long ago the United States found out the impossibility of having slave labour working in the same system with white. To cure that anomaly cost the United States a long and bloody war. The slave-owner, the exploiter of the black, becomes a threat and a nuisance to any white democracy. He brings back his loot to corrupt Press and life at home. What happened in America in the midst of the last century between Federals and Confederates must not happen again on a larger scale between white Europe and middle Africa. Slavery in Africa, open or disguised, whether enforced by the lash or brought about by iniquitous land-stealing, strikes at the home and freedom of every European worker—and Labour knows this.
But how are we to prevent the enslavement and economic exploitation of the blacks if we have no general watcher of African conditions? We want a common law for Africa, a general Declaration of Rights, of certain elementary rights, and we want a common authority to which the black man and the native tribe may appeal for justice. What is the good of trying to elevate the population of Uganda and to give it a free and hopeful life if some other population close at hand is competing against the Baganda worker under lash and tax? So here is a third aspect of our international Commission, as a native protectorate and court of appeal!
There is still a fourth aspect of the African question in which every mother's son in Europe is closely interested, and that is the trade question. Africa is the great source of many of the most necessary raw materials upon which our modern comforts and conveniences depend; more particularly is it the source of cheap fat in the form of palm oil. One of the most powerful levers in the hands of the Allied democracies at the present time in their struggle against the imperial brigands of Potsdam is the complete control we have now obtained over these essential supplies. We can, if we choose, cut off Germany altogether from these vital economic necessities, if she does not consent to abandon militant imperialism for some more civilized form of government. We hope that this war will end in that renunciation, and that Germany will re-enter the community of nations. But whether that is so or not, whether Germany is or is not to be one of the interested parties in the African solution, the fact remains that it is impossible to contemplate a continuing struggle for the African raw material supply between the interested Powers. Sooner or later that means a renewal of war. International trade rivalry is, indeed, only war—smouldering. We need, and Labour demands, a fair, frank treatment of African trade, and that can only be done by some overriding regulative power, a Commission which, so far as I can see, might also be the same Commission as that we have already hypothesized as being necessary to control the Customs in order to prevent gun-running and the gin trade. That Commission might very conveniently have a voice in the administration of the great waterways of Africa (which often run through the possessions of several Powers) and in the regulation of the big railway lines and air routes that will speedily follow the conclusion of peace.
Now this I take it is the gist of the Labour proposal. This—and no more than this—is what is intended by the "international control of tropical Africa." I do not read that phrase as abrogating existing sovereignties in Africa. What is contemplated is a delegation of authority. Every one should know, though unhappily the badness of our history teaching makes it doubtful if every one does know, that the Federal Government of the United States of America did not begin as a sovereign Government, and has now only a very questionable sovereignty. Each State was sovereign, and each State delegated certain powers to Washington. That was the initial idea of the union. Only later did the idea of a people of the States as a whole emerge. In the same way I understand the Labour proposal as meaning that we should delegate to an African Commission the middle African Customs, the regulation of inter-State trade, inter-State railways and waterways, quarantine and health generally, and the establishment of a Supreme Court for middle African affairs. One or two minor matters, such as the preservation of rare animals, might very well fall under the same authority.
Upon that Commission the interested nations, that is to say—putting them in alphabetical order—the Africander, the Briton, the Belgian, the Egyptian, the Frenchman, the Italian, the Indian the Portuguese—might all be represented in proportion to their interest. Whether the German would come in is really a question for the German to consider; he can come in as a good European, he cannot come in as an imperialist brigand. Whether, too, any other nations can claim to have an interest in African affairs, whether the Commission would not be better appointed by a League of Free Nations than directly by the interested Governments, and a number of other such questions, need not be considered here. Here we are discussing only the main idea of the Labour proposal.
Now beneath the supervision and restraint of such a delegated Commission I do not see why the existing administrations of tutelage Africa should not continue. I do not believe that the Labour proposal contemplates any humiliating cession of European sovereignty. Under that international Commission the French flag may still wave in Senegal and the British over the protected State of Uganda. Given a new spirit in Germany I do not see why the German flag should not presently be restored in German East Africa. But over all, standing for righteousness, patience, fair play for the black, and the common welfare of mankind would wave a new flag, the Sun of Africa representing the Central African Commission of the League of Free Nations.
That is my vision of the Labour project. It is something very different, I know, from the nightmare of an international police of cosmopolitan scoundrels in nondescript uniforms, hastening to loot and ravish his dear Uganda and his beloved Nigeria, which distresses the crumpled pillow of Sir Harry Johnston. But if it is not the solution, then it is up to him and his fellow authorities to tell us what is the solution of the African riddle.
GETTING THE LEAGUE IDEA CLEAR IN RELATION TO IMPERIALISM
It is idle to pretend that even at the present time the idea of the League of Free Nations has secure possession of the British mind. There is quite naturally a sustained opposition to it in all the fastnesses of aggressive imperialism. Such papers as the Times and the Morning Post remain hostile and obstructive to the expression of international ideas. Most of our elder statesmen seem to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing during the years of wildest change the world has ever known. But in the general mind of the British peoples the movement of opinion from a narrow imperialism towards internationalism has been wide and swift. And it continues steadily. One can trace week by week and almost day by day the Americanization of the British conception of the Allied War Aims. It may be interesting to reproduce here three communications upon this question made at different times by the present writer to the press. The circumstances of their publication are significant. The first is in substance identical with a letter which was sent to the Times late in May, 1917, and rejected as being altogether too revolutionary. For nowadays the correspondence in the Times has ceased to be an impartial expression of public opinion. The correspondence of the Times is now apparently selected and edited in accordance with the views upon public policy held by the acting editor for the day. More and more has that paper become the organ of a sort of Oxford Imperialism, three or four years behind the times and very ripe and "expert." The letter is here given as it was finally printed in the issue of the Daily Chronicle for June 4th, 1917, under the heading, "Wanted a Statement of Imperial Policy."
Sir,—The time seems to have come for much clearer statements of outlook and intention from this country than it has hitherto been possible to make. The entry of America into the war and the banishment of autocracy and aggressive diplomacy from Russia have enormously cleared the air, and the recent great speech of General Smuts at the Savoy Hotel is probably only the first of a series of experiments in statement. It is desirable alike to clear our own heads, to unify our efforts, and to give the nations of the world some assurance and standard for our national conduct in the future, that we should now define the Idea of our Empire and its relation to the world outlook much more clearly than has ever hitherto been done. Never before in the history of mankind has opinion counted for so much and persons and organizations for so little as in this war. Never before has the need for clear ideas, widely understood and consistently sustained, been so commandingly vital.
What do we mean by our Empire, and what is its relation to that universal desire of mankind, the permanent rule of peace and justice in the world? The whole world will be the better for a very plain answer to that question.
Is it not time for us British not merely to admit to ourselves, but to assure the world that our Empire as it exists to-day is a provisional thing, that in scarcely any part of the world do we regard it as more than an emergency arrangement, as a necessary association that must give place ultimately to the higher synthesis of a world league, that here we hold as trustees and there on account of strategic considerations that may presently disappear, and that though we will not contemplate the replacement of our flag anywhere by the flag of any other competing nation, though we do hope to hold together with our kin and with those who increasingly share our tradition and our language, nevertheless we are prepared to welcome great renunciations of our present ascendency and privileges in the interests of mankind as a whole. We need to make the world understand that we do not put our nation nor our Empire before the commonwealth of man. Unless presently we are to follow Germany along the tragic path her national vanity and her world ambitions have made for her, that is what we have to make clear now. It is not only our duty to mankind, it is also the sane course for our own preservation.
Is it not the plain lesson of this stupendous and disastrous war that there is no way to secure civilization from destruction except by an impartial control and protection in the interests of the whole human race, a control representing the best intelligence of mankind, of these main causes of war.
(1) The politically undeveloped tropics;
(2) Shipping and international trade; and
(3) Small nationalities and all regions in a state of political impotence or confusion?
It is our case against the Germans that in all these three cases they have subordinated every consideration of justice and the general human welfare to a monstrous national egotism. That argument has a double edge. At present there is a vigorous campaign in America, Russia, the neutral countries generally, to represent British patriotism as equally egotistic, and our purpose in this war as a mere parallel to the German purpose. In the same manner, though perhaps with less persistency, France and Italy are also caricatured. We are supposed to be grabbing at Mesopotamia and Palestine, France at Syria; Italy is represented as pursuing a Machiavellian policy towards the unfortunate Greek republicans, with her eyes on the Greek islands and Greece in Asia. Is it not time that these base imputations were repudiated clearly and conclusively by our Alliance? And is it not time that we began to discuss in much more frank and definite terms than has hitherto been done, the nature of the international arrangement that will be needed to secure the safety of such liberated populations as those of Palestine, of the Arab regions of the old Turkish empire, of Armenia, of reunited Poland, and the like?
I do not mean here mere diplomatic discussions and "understandings," I mean such full and plain statements as will be spread through the whole world and grasped and assimilated by ordinary people everywhere, statements by which we, as a people, will be prepared to stand or fall.
Almost as urgent is the need for some definite statement about Africa. General Smuts has warned not only the Empire, but the whole world of the gigantic threat to civilization that lies in the present division of Africa between various keenly competitive European Powers, any one of which will be free to misuse the great natural resources at its disposal and to arm millions of black soldiers for aggression. A mere elimination of Germany from Africa will not solve that difficulty. What we have to eliminate is not this nation or that, but the system of national shoving and elbowing, the treatment of Africa as the board for a game of beggar-my-neighbour-and-damn-the-niggers, in which a few syndicates, masquerading as national interests, snatch a profit to the infinite loss of all mankind. We want a lowering of barriers and a unification of interests, we want an international control of these disputed regions, to override nationalist exploitation. The whole world wants it. It is a chastened and reasonable world we live in to-day, and the time for white reason and the wide treatment of these problems is now.
Finally, the time is drawing near when the Egyptian and the nations of India will ask us, "Are things going on for ever here as they go on now, or are we to look for the time when we, too, like the Africander, the Canadian and the Australian, will be your confessed and equal partners?" Would it not be wise to answer that question in the affirmative before the voice in which it is asked grows thick with anger? In Egypt, for example, we are either robbers very like—except for a certain difference in touch—the Germans in Belgium, or we are honourable trustees. It is our claim and pride to be honourable trustees. Nothing so becomes a trustee as a cheerful openness of disposition. Great Britain has to table her world policy. It is a thing overdue. No doubt we have already a literature of liberal imperialism and a considerable accumulation of declarations by this statesman or that. But what is needed is a formulation much more representative, official and permanent than that, something that can be put beside President Wilson's clear rendering of the American idea. We want all our peoples to understand, and we want all mankind to understand that our Empire is not a net about the world in which the progress of mankind is entangled, but a self-conscious political system working side by side with the other democracies of the earth, preparing the way for, and prepared at last to sacrifice and merge itself in, the world confederation of free and equal peoples.
This letter was presently followed up by an article in the Daily News, entitled "A Reasonable Man's Peace." This article provoked a considerable controversy in the imperialist press, and it was reprinted as a pamphlet by a Free Trade organization, which distributed over 200,000 copies. It is particularly interesting to note, in view of what follows it, that it was attacked with great virulence in the Evening News, the little fierce mud-throwing brother of the Daily Mail.
The international situation at the present time is beyond question the most wonderful that the world has ever seen. There is not a country in the world in which the great majority of sensible people are not passionately desirous of peace, of an enduring peace, and—the war goes on. The conditions of peace can now be stated, in general terms that are as acceptable to a reasonable man in Berlin as they are to a reasonable man in Paris or London or Petrograd or Constantinople. There are to be no conquests, no domination of recalcitrant populations, no bitter insistence upon vindictive penalties, and there must be something in the nature of a world-wide League of Nations to keep the peace securely in future, to "make the world safe for democracy," and maintain international justice. To that the general mind of the world has come to-day.
Why, then, does the waste and killing go on? Why is not the Peace Conference sitting now?
Manifestly because a small minority of people in positions of peculiar advantage, in positions of trust and authority, and particularly the German reactionaries, prevent or delay its assembling.
The answer which seems to suffice in all the Allied countries is that the German Imperial Government—that the German Imperial Government alone—stands in the way, that its tradition is incurably a tradition of conquest and aggression, that until German militarism is overthrown, etc. Few people in the Allied countries will dispute that that is broadly true. But is it the whole and complete truth? Is there nothing more to be done on our side? Let us put a question that goes to the very heart of the problem. Why does the great mass of the German people still cling to its incurably belligerent Government?
The answer to that question is not overwhelmingly difficult. The German people sticks to its militarist imperialism as Mazeppa stuck to his horse; because it is bound to it, and the wolves pursue. The attentive student of the home and foreign propaganda literature of the German Government will realize that the case made by German imperialism, the main argument by which it sticks to power, is this, that the Allied Governments are also imperialist, that they also aim at conquest and aggression, that for Germany the choice is world empire or downfall and utter ruin. This is the argument that holds the German people stiffly united. For most men in most countries it would be a convincing argument, strong enough to override considerations of right and wrong. I find that I myself am of this way of thinking, that whether England has done right or wrong in the past—and I have sometimes criticized my country very bitterly—I will not endure the prospect of seeing her at the foot of some victorious foreign nation. Neither will any German who matters. Very few people would respect a German who did. But the case for the Allies is that this great argument by which, and by which alone, the German Imperial Government keeps its grip upon the German people at the present time, and keeps them facing their enemies, is untrue. The Allies declare that they do not want to destroy the German people, they do not want to cripple the German people; they want merely to see certain gaping wounds inflicted by Germany repaired, and beyond that reasonable requirement they want nothing but to be assured, completely assured, absolutely assured, against any further aggressions on the part of Germany.
Is that true? Our leaders say so, and we believe them. We would not support them if we did not. And if it is true, have the statesmen of the Allies made it as transparently and convincingly clear to the German people as possible? That is one of the supreme questions of the present time. We cannot too earnestly examine it. Because in the answer to it lies the reason why so many men were killed yesterday on the eastern and western front, so many ships sunk, so much property destroyed, so much human energy wasted for ever upon mere destruction, and why to-morrow and the next day and the day after—through many months yet, perhaps—the same killing and destroying must still go on.
In many respects this war has been an amazing display of human inadaptability. The military history of the war has still to be written, the grim story of machinery misunderstood, improvements resisted, antiquated methods persisted in; but the broad facts are already before the public mind. After three years of war the air offensive, the only possible decisive blow, is still merely talked of. Not once nor twice only have the Western Allies had victory within their grasp—and failed to grip it. The British cavalry generals wasted the great invention of the tanks as a careless child breaks a toy. At least equally remarkable is the dragging inadaptability of European statecraft. Everywhere the failure of ministers and statesmen to rise to the urgent definite necessities of the present time is glaringly conspicuous. They seem to be incapable even of thinking how the war may be brought to an end. They seem incapable of that plain speaking to the world audience which alone can bring about a peace. They keep on with the tricks and feints of a departed age. Both on the side of the Allies and on the side of the Germans the declarations of public policy remain childishly vague and disingenuous, childishly "diplomatic." They chaffer like happy imbeciles while civilization bleeds to death. It was perhaps to be expected. Few, if any, men of over five-and-forty completely readjust themselves to changed conditions, however novel and challenging the changes may be, and nearly all the leading figures in these affairs are elderly men trained in a tradition of diplomatic ineffectiveness, and now overworked and overstrained to a pitch of complete inelasticity. They go on as if it were still 1913. Could anything be more palpably shifty and unsatisfactory, more senile, more feebly artful, than the recent utterances of the German Chancellor? And, on our own side—
Let us examine the three leading points about this peace business in which this jaded statecraft is most apparent.
Let the reader ask himself the following questions:—
Does he know what the Allies mean to do with the problem of Central Africa? It is the clear common sense of the African situation that while these precious regions of raw material remain divided up between a number of competitive European imperialisms, each resolutely set upon the exploitation of its "possessions" to its own advantage and the disadvantage of the others, there can be no permanent peace in the world. There can be permanent peace in the world only when tropical and sub-tropical Africa constitute a field free to the commercial enterprise of every one irrespective of nationality, when this is no longer an area of competition between nations. This is possible only under some supreme international control. It requires no special knowledge nor wisdom to see that. A schoolboy can see it. Any one but a statesman absolutely flaccid with overstrain can see that. However difficult it may prove to work out in detail, such an international control must therefore be worked out. The manifest solution of the problem of the German colonies in Africa is neither to return them to her nor deprive her of them, but to give her a share in the pooled general control of mid-Africa. In that way she can be deprived of all power for political mischief in Africa without humiliation or economic injury. In that way, too, we can head off—and in no other way can we head off—the power for evil, the power of developing quarrels inherent in "imperialisms" other than German.
But has the reader any assurance that this sane solution of the African problem has the support of the Allied Governments? At best he has only a vague persuasion. And consider how the matter looks "over there." The German Government assures the German people that the Allies intend to cut off Germany from the African supply of raw material. That would mean the practical destruction of German economic life. It is something far more vital to the mass of Germans than any question of Belgium or Alsace-Lorraine. It is, therefore, one of the ideas most potent in nerving the overstrained German people to continue their fight. Why are we, and why are the German people, not given some definite assurance in this matter? Given reparation in Europe, is Germany to be allowed a fair share in the control and trade of a pooled and neutralized Central Africa? Sooner or later we must come to some such arrangement. Why not state it plainly now?
A second question is equally essential to any really permanent settlement, and it is one upon which these eloquent but unsatisfactory mouthpieces of ours turn their backs with an equal resolution, and that is the fate of the Ottoman Empire. What in plain English are we up to there? Whatever happens, that Humpty Dumpty cannot be put back as it was before the war. The idea of the German imperialist, the idea of our own little band of noisy but influential imperialist vulgarians, is evidently a game of grab, a perilous cutting up of these areas into jostling protectorates and spheres of influence, from which either the Germans or the Allies (according to the side you are on) are to be viciously shut out. On such a basis this war is a war to the death. Neither Germany, France, Britain, Italy, nor Russia can live prosperously if its trade and enterprise is shut out from this cardinally important area. There is, therefore, no alternative, if we are to have a satisfactory permanent pacification of the world, but local self-development in these regions under honestly conceived international control of police and transit and trade. Let it be granted that that will be a difficult control to organize. None the less it has to be attempted. It has to be attempted because there is no other way of peace. But once that conception has been clearly formulated, a second great motive why Germany should continue fighting will have gone.
The third great issue about which there is nothing but fog and uncertainty is the so-called "War After the War," the idea of a permanent economic alliance to prevent the economic recuperation of Germany. Upon that idea German imperialism, in its frantic effort to keep its tormented people fighting, naturally puts the utmost stress. The threat of War after the War robs the reasonable German of his last inducement to turn on his Government and insist upon peace. Shut out from all trade, unable to buy food, deprived of raw material, peace would be as bad for Germany as war. He will argue naturally enough and reasonably enough that he may as well die fighting as starve. This is a far more vital issue to him than the Belgian issue or Poland or Alsace-Lorraine. Our statesmen waste their breath and slight our intelligence when these foreground questions are thrust in front of the really fundamental matters. But as the mass of sensible people in every country concerned, in Germany just as much as in France or Great Britain, know perfectly well, unimpeded trade is good for every one except a few rich adventurers, and restricted trade destroys limitless wealth and welfare for mankind to make a few private fortunes or secure an advantage for some imperialist clique. We want an end to this economic strategy, we want an end to this plotting of Governmental cliques against the general welfare. In such offences Germany has been the chief of sinners, but which among the belligerent nations can throw the first stone? Here again the way to the world's peace, the only way to enduring peace, lies through internationalism, through an international survey of commercial treaties, through an international control of inter-State shipping and transport rates. Unless the Allied statesmen fail to understand the implications of their own general professions they mean that. But why do they not say it plainly? Why do they not shout it so compactly and loudly that all Germany will hear and understand? Why do they justify imperialism to Germany? Why do they maintain a threatening ambiguity towards Germany on all these matters?