H. G. Wells: a political life.
Wells's schooling took place at Mrs Knott's Dame School (1871-1874) and Thomas Morley's Commercial Academy (1874-1880) in Bromley. Although the curriculum was restricted, he proved an able pupil, learning the "three Rs," basic French, and bookkeeping. He was perfectly equipped to take up a retail apprenticeship. As an apprentice, however, Wells proved unsatisfactory. He worked for brief spells at the Rodgers and Denyer drapery in Windsor (1880), as a pupil-teacher in Wookey (which ended when the headmaster's qualifications were found to be substandard and the school was closed down) (1880), at Cowap's chemists in Midhurst (1881), and again as a trainee draper at Hyde's Drapery Emporium in Southsea (1881-1883). After two miserable years at Hyde's, Wells demanded his mother release him from his indenture or face suicide, and she relented. In September 1883, he enrolled at Midhurst Grammar School (where he had briefly attended Latin classes during his chemist's apprenticeship in 1881) and became a pupil-teacher on an annual salary of 20 [pounds sterling]. While at the grammar school, Wells sat a number of Education Department examinations and won a scholarship to study for a science degree at the Normal School of Science, South Kensington. In September 1884, Wells enrolled at the Normal School, where he studied briefly under T. H. Huxley. He began well only to end his course in 1887 without a degree. Despite his lack of academic success, Wells's time at the Normal School saw him take up amateur journalism. He founded and edited the Science Schools Journal (1886-1887), and got involved in London socialist politics through participation in the School Debating Society and by attending open meetings of the Fabian Society and William Morris's Kelmscott House soirees. There, he heard Morris, George Bernard Shaw, Graham Wallas, and "a sprinkling of foreigners, who discoursed with passion, and a tendency to length, in what they evidently considered was the English tongue" (Experiment in Autobiography 193).
Wells's first public utterance of his political views occurred at a Debating Society meeting on October 15, 1886, where he delivered a paper entitled "Democratic Socialism." To Wells, socialism meant "a banding together of men for the purpose of mutual happiness" ("Normal School of Science and Royal School of Mines Debating Society" 23), and this banding together would be achieved through "'the merging of the individual in the State'" (qtd. in "Normal School" 24). In practical terms, Wells suggested "that the State produces and the individual consumes" and so "the supreme government of the country would be the Council of the head managers of the departments of State exertion--Production, Distribution, and Defence" ("Normal School" 24). He concluded his paper by stating,
I have merely tried, in my feeble way, to say something for a more equitable social arrangement, implying greatly increased comfort for the majority and little diminution of anything for the deserving upper classes of to-day, save the sense of superiority founded on cloth, linen, land, and metal." (qtd. in "Normal School" 24)
Although Wells does not define here "the deserving upper classes," his meaning became clear on January 11, 1889 when he again addressed the Debating Society on the subject of socialism. Wells began this second paper by declaring that the abolition of "inheritance and property other than an individual's own work" was "the entire object of the new and enlightened order of Socialists." He then announced that "The Marx Socialism ... is a new thing based on Darwinism, and therefore fundamentally different" from the utopian socialism of the early nineteenth century ("Mr H. G. Wells on Socialism" 153). In defining what he believed Marxism represented, Wells came out against Fabianism: "The Municipalization of the individual, advocated by such Fabians as Mrs Besant and (in a lesser degree) Mr Bernard Shaw, was denounced as Communism" and while "Scientific Socialism aimed at equality of opportunity ... the unscientific Socialism of the Fabian aspired to equality of condition" (153). Wells then departed even further from orthodox socialism "as to state his acceptance and welcome of the theories of Dr Malthus, and to hint [at] a discouragement of what are known in some circles as voluntary checks. What is called over-population and competition he seemed to regard as the salt that keeps the body of the organic kingdoms from decay" (153-154).
In sum, Wells's early socialism simply represented the abolition of class barriers. He wished for free competition between individuals in society regardless of their social backgrounds. The state's role in such a society would be to regulate the means of "Production, Distribution, and Defence" in order to enable meritocratic competition. As a Darwinian who accepted Thomas Malthus's theory of population, Wells rejected population control. He believed that biological competition within a meritocratic society would elevate the able while leading to the elimination of the uncompetitive. By advocating the abolition of private property and inheritance, Wells aimed to ensure that this elimination would not target the poor alone but would also condemn the inadaptable children of the wealthy.
After 1889, Wells's budding political interests hibernated for some years while he carved out a career for himself as an educator and a writer. In July 1887, following his departure from the Normal School, he had already taken up a schoolmaster's post at Holt Academy, North Wales, but after just a month he was forced to resign following a severe footballing accident in which he suffered a crushed kidney. After a long convalescence during which he earned an occasional income drawing biological and geological diagrams for Birkbeck Institute, Wells returned to teaching. He became assistant schoolmaster at Henley House School, Kilburn, in May 1889. The following year, he completed his science degree by correspondence with the University of London and immediately became a tutor with the University Tutorial College where he coached students for the University of London science degree.
As well as establishing himself in the teaching profession, Wells began publishing regular periodical articles from 1891. In addition to light-entertainment pieces, he wrote an abundance of popular-science essays and many articles on educational theory. His major early breakthrough occurred with the publication of "The Rediscovery of the Unique" (1891) in the Fartnightly Review, an essay which established his belief in the uniqueness of all things (from atoms to bullets to chairs to persons) and his rejection of classification as a scientific approach. This position impacted significantly on Wells's political thought as he rejected class-war notions in favour of stressing the power of education and the provision of equal opportunities as methods for the liberation of the exploited and the repressed.
Wells remained at the University Tutorial College until May 1893 when a further breakdown in his health compelled him to abandon teaching. He was by that time earning a regular income from writing, but not enough to maintain himself and his wife, Isabel Mary Wells (1865-1931) (whom he had married in October 1891). However, his time away from the classroom allowed him to concentrate all his efforts on writing, and from 1894 he became a prolific short-story writer and a leading contributor to the Pall Mall Gazette and its sister paper, the Pall Mall Budget. The following year Wells regularised his income from journalism by being appointed theatre critic for the Pall Mall Gazette and a reviewer for the Saturday Review. With a steady income from writing now assured, Wells focused on longer works and made his breakthrough as a novelist in 1895 when he published The Time Machine to critical acclaim.
His literary success coincided with the breakdown of his marriage, and in 1895 Wells divorced Isabel and married his former student, Amy Catherine ("Jane") Robbins (1872-1927). Although Wells became a serial philanderer, producing two illegitimate children (with Amber Reeves [Anna Jane Kinnaird nee Blanco-White, 1909- ] and Rebecca West [Anthony Panther West, 1914-1987]), his second marriage lasted until Jane's death and produced two sons, George Philip (1901-1985) and Frank Richard (1903-1982).
Following the publication of The Time Machine, Wells's literary fortunes changed forever. Although he continued to suffer severe breakdowns in health until 1899, he rapidly became a wealthy man by publishing--in successive years--The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898). Although The Time Machine portrays a fantastic vision of late-Victorian class relations projected forward to the year 802,701 (with the working-class Morlocks cannibalising the upper-class Eloi), and although When the Sleeper Wakes (1899) tells the story of a comatose socialist awakening under a ruthless oligarchy in the year 2100 before attempting to lead a popular revolution against the tyrant, Ostrog, Wells did not re-enter the public political arena until the turn of the new century.
From 1902, Wells published a series of sociological works which dealt with international relations, social class, education, and reproduction. These were Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought (1902), Mankind in the Making (1903), and A Modern Utopia (1905). Anticipations was Wells's first effort at futurological speculation. It suggests the emergence of transnational power blocs (including a "Federal Europe" ) moving towards a "New Republic dominating the world" (262). Wells also predicts the elimination of the "passively wealthy" (84) and the "uneducated inadaptable peasants and labourers" (82) through the rise of a technocratic class of "mechanics and engineers" (85). Anticipations shows Wells guilty of eugenic zeal in his wish to eliminate the inefficient types by commending "the nation that most resolutely picks over, educates, sterilizes, exports, or poisons its People of the Abyss" (212). Although his eugenics would persist into the 1930s (Partington, "H. G. Wells's Eugenic Thinking of the 1930s and 1940s"), Wells immediately tempered the harsher aspects of it. He did so by using Mankind in the Making (1903) to ridicule Francis Galton's positive eugenics programme in favour of educational policies, and by portraying a highly regulated world state in A Modern Utopia (1905) where eugenic choices would be offered to couples considering marriage though without recourse to compulsion (Partington, "The Death of the Static: H. G. Wells and the Kinetic Utopia"). In a discussion of eugenics sponsored by the Sociological Society in 1904, Wells responded to Galton's proposals for the promotion of marriage between "judges and bishops and such like eminent persons" (Wells, "Eugenics: Its Definition, Scope and Aims" 10) with ridicule. He stated that "It is in the sterilization of failures, and not in the selection of successes for breeding, that the possibility of an improvement of the human stock lies" (11). However, Wells felt the biological definition of "failure" was inadequate at that time: he asserts that "we are, as a matter of fact, not a bit clear what points to breed for and what points to breed out" (Mankind 40). In Mankind in the Making, Wells saw education as the best method for improving the quality of the human race although he also favoured the state payment of mothers in A Modern Utopia and elsewhere.
Anticipations received a tremendous reception and led to Wells's emergence as a serious socio-political thinker. The most significant result of his futurological utterances was his invitation to join the Co-efficients Club, a cross-party dining group initiated by Beatrice and Sidney Webb, which "met monthly throughout the [parliamentary] session between 1902 and 1908 to discuss the future of this perplexing, promising and frustrating Empire of ours" (Experiment 650-651). Among those who attended were Sir Edward Grey, Lord Milner, L. S. Amery, R. B. S. Haldane, Lord Robert Cecil, Josiah Wedgwood, C. F. G. Masterman, and Bertrand Russell. According to Russell:
All members except Wells and myself were imperialists and looked forward without too much apprehension to a war with Germany.... Matters came to a head when Sir Edward Grey, then in Opposition, advocated what became the policy of the Entente with France and Russia, which was adopted by the Conservative Government some two years later, and solidified by Sir Edward Grey when he became Foreign Secretary. I spoke vehemently against this policy, which I felt led straight to world war, but no one except Wells agreed with me.
Wells also opposed the notion of Empire Free Trade by asserting that "The British Empire ... had to be the precursor of a world-state or nothing" (Experiment 652).
His acquaintance with leading political thinkers, facilitated by the Co-efficients Club meetings, increased Wells's confidence as a public figure, and when in 1903 Shaw and Wallas nominated him for membership of the Fabian Society, he gladly accepted. The Society had been created in 1884 as a forum for middle-class socialists to devise ways of achieving socialism through persuasion (as opposed to the more revolutionary and populist approaches of the Social Democratic Federation [SDF] and the Socialist League). It advocated the "inevitability of gradualness" and the "permeation" of existing political parties as the way to achieve socialism; it was prolific in producing pamphlets and books (including the influential Fabian Essays in Socialism [Shaw]) and sent speakers to address public meetings. However, its membership was deliberately restricted to successful professionals and public employees. Its strategy was to be an influential vanguard rather than a popular organisation; it would influence decision-makers through social networking, and convert the public to their municipal model of socialism through lectures and cheap publications.
On joining the Fabians, Wells could do no right. During his first year of membership, he presented a paper entitled "The Question of Scientific Administrative Areas in Relation to Municipal Undertakings," and while it was intended as a practical speech on administrative reorganisation, it did contain within it a clear attack on the Fabian municipalisation policy. Wells begins the paper by outlining his moderate socialism. He asserts that his "repudiation of property affects only the common interests of the community, the land it occupies, the services in which all are interested, the necessary minimum of education, and the sanitary and economic interaction of one person or family group upon another"; in short, he seeks "to ensure equality of opportunity and freedom for complete individual development to every citizen" (Mankind 400). Then, turning to the administration of local government, he argues that most municipal corporations are pathetically small, and he suggests Britain should be regionalised based on commuter distances. Not only would regional control be a more efficient approach to municipalisation, but also its relevance to the middle classes would guarantee it their support, and--through the collection of local rates over a wider area--make it financially more viable. Without such a change in administrative scale, Wells feels that "A clipped and regulated private ownership--a private company, for example, with completely published accounts, taxed dividends, with a public representative upon its board of directors and parliamentary powers--may be an infinitely more honest, efficient, and controllable public service than a badly elected or badly appointed board of governors or officials" (Mankind 402).
This attack on the scale of Fabian municipalisation--grounded as it was in practical proposals--was generously received by Wells's hearers. It even led to the investigation and publication of The New Heptarchy Series of Fabian tracts (1905-1906), which considered the application of administration to specific municipal services. Nonetheless, Wells's penchant for criticism of the Society was clearly present from the start. In his next important speech, entitled "Faults of the Fabian" and delivered on February 9, 1906, his Fabian listeners were somewhat less tolerant of his criticisms. Claiming that the world was ripe for socialism, Wells declares in his speech, "So far from our being a little band of true believers in an individualistic or quite unenlightened and hostile world, we are, I hold, an extraordinarily inadequate and feeble organization in the midst of a world that teems with undeveloped possibilities of support and help for the cause we profess to further" (391). After acknowledging the work done by working-class socialist groups such as the SDF and the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in the industrial towns of northern England, Scotland, and Wales, Wells points out that "there remains for us an enormous field still untouched in which we not only may work, but in which I hold we ought to be working most strenuously now, and that is in the field of socialistic propaganda among the educated classes and the middle classes.... MI this great mass needs educating for socialism, and then organizing for socialism, and we are doing scarcely anything, and except for isolated individual efforts, a book here, a word in season there, nobody seems to be doing anything in that direction" (392). Finally, Wells calls on the Fabian Society to end its exclusivity and become something of a mass movement:
Make socialists and you will achieve socialism; there is no other way. Democratic socialism is the only possible sane and living socialism. The only possible socialistic state is a state which is understood, upheld, willingly and cheerfully lived, by the great mass of its people. Even were it possible to achieve really socialistic institutions in our insidious way, what would it all amount to? We should have the body of socialism without its spirit, we should have won our Utopia with labour and stress--and behold it would be stillborn! (401)
Within a year, Wells feels, the Society can muster 10,000 members if only it increases its staff, makes membership simpler, encourages young and enthusiastic members to become actively involved and increases its output of publications. As a model of this last suggestion, Wells gifted the Society This Misery of Boots, his only Fabian pamphlet, which became a bestseller, was translated into several languages, and continued to be printed into the 1920s. (Even in this propagandist publication, Wells takes the opportunity to mock Fabian socialism. He writes that "You will find Socialists about ... who will assure you that some odd little jobbing about municipal gas and water is Socialism, and back-stairs intervention between Conservative and Liberal the way to the millennium. You might as well call a gas jet in the lobby of a meeting-house, the glory of God in Heaven!" )
"Faults of the Fabian" was considered a direct challenge to the Society's "old gang," which dominated its Executive (Shaw, Sidney Webb, Hubert Bland, and Edward Pease). However, in response to it the Executive did establish a Special Committee to investigate Wells's suggestions and to report its findings. As the proposer of change, Wells was permitted to select the committee himself, and it "consisted of the Rev. Stewart Headlam, Mrs Bernard Shaw, and G. R. S. Taylor of the Executive; Dr Stanton Coit, W. A. Colegate, Dr Haden Guest, Sydney Olivier, Mrs Pember Reeves, H. G. Wells, and Mrs Wells" (Pease 166). After eight months, the Special Committee produced a report in October 1906. It recommended the publication of more books and tracts as well as a popular weekly news-sheet, the establishment of Society branches throughout the country, a fixed minimum subscription, a rewritten constitution, the abandonment of the policy of "permeation" in favour of running candidates for parliamentary election "in harmonious cooperation with other Socialist and Labour bodies," and the adoption of the name "British Socialist Party" (Pease 169). It also suggested an enlargement of the Society's Executive Committee and the establishment of subcommittees for Publishing, Propaganda, and General Purposes. In response to the Special Committee's Report, the Executive Committee produced its own Report. It supported the enlargement of the Executive, agreed to the abolition of certain restrictions on membership, and backed the publication of a weekly news-sheet. The two Reports were sent to the Society's members, and a series of meeting were held to discuss them, a series which culminated in those of March 8 and June 14, 1907. At the earlier of the two meetings, Shaw moved acceptance of the Executive's Report, but Wells--rather than counter this motion by proposing adoption of the Special Committee's Report--moved to amend the Executive's Report by calling on the Executive to resign to allow for elections of a new, larger Executive. This new Executive should implement the Special Committee's Report in full. According to Pease, the amendment posed the question, "Was the Society to be controlled by those who had made it or was it to be handed over to Mr Wells?" (173), and it "delivered [Wells] into the hands of his more experienced opponents by virtually challenging the Society to discard them and enter on a regenerated career under his guidance" (174). The meeting adjourned to consider Wells's amendment, and at the final meeting on the subject Shaw told Wells his amendment amounted to "a motion of want of confidence" in the Executive. He asked him to withdraw the amendment to allow the Special Committee's Report to be considered on a point-by-point basis (174). Shaw's response to Wells's amendment made the latter appear unreasonable, so Wells agreed to the withdrawal and, by so doing, his challenge for the Fabian leadership came to an end--although he did subsequently serve on the Fabian Executive.
Although Wells was unsuccessful in dislodging the Fabian "old gang," his efforts to turn the Fabian Society into a more popular, crusading socialist organisation did result in some positive changes. Most importantly, the combination of his personality and the stir he caused within the Society saw its membership soar from around 500 in 1905 to 1267 in March 1907 (including 90 new members in that month alone) (Pease 173). This increased membership also led to the establishment of Fabian branches around the country, especially in the universities. Wells also managed to have the Society's Basis rewritten so that it supported "equal citizenship for men and women" (177). The expanded Executive, elected in April 1907, contained a greater balance with 12 "old gang" and nine Wellsian members. Wells himself came fourth in the poll behind Sidney Webb, Pease, and Shaw. The following year, Wells again came fourth and was joined on the Executive by his wife (who served until 1910).
At the same time as Wells was embroiled in the battle to reform the Fabian Society, he inadvertently got caught up in a debate on marriage and the family which damaged his literary reputation and threatened to tarnish, by association, the good name of Fabianism. In 1906, he published a fantasy novel, In the Days of the Comet, in which a world on the verge of industrial conflict and international war is transformed by the vapours of a passing comet. This transformation results in a society based on mutual cooperation and global peace. Within this larger picture, the main character, Leadford, is also transformed. He casts aside his thoughts of jealously murdering his sweetheart, Nettie, and her lover, Verrall, and instead agrees to live as a menage a quatres with them and his new beloved, Anna. The conclusion to the novel caused outrage, and "Wells found himself denounced in press and pulpit as an advocate of promiscuity" (Mackenzie & Mackenzie 334) and the keeping of "wives in common" (Socialism and the Family 56-57). The Fabian leaders, especially the Webbs, were worried by the bad publicity Fabian socialism was receiving, and they privately condemned Wells's moral laxity. In order to contain the situation and provide a clear picture of socialist attitudes to marriage and the family, Wells published Socialism and the Family in which he "refutes the charge that Socialism tends to Free Love, and states pretty completely the real attitude of Modern Socialism to family life" (Socialism front cover).
Wells begins the pamphlet with a criticism of the existing bourgeois family, and especially the power of the husband and father therein: "to this day in our own community, for all such mitigations and euphemisms, the ownership of the head of the family is still a manifest fact. He votes. He keeps and protects. He determines the education and professions of his children. He is entitled to monetary consolation for any infringement of his rights over wife or daughter" (28-29). According to Wells, the result of this paterfamilias is that "The educated girl resents the proposed loss of her freedom in marriage, the educated married woman realizes as well as resents the losses of scope and interest marriage entails" (36), and "The birth-rate falls--and falls. The family fails more and more in its essential object" (51). As opposed to this reality, Wells declares that "the Socialist position is a denial of property in human beings; ... women and children, just as much as men and things, must cease to be owned. Socialism indeed proposes to abolish altogether the patriarchal family amidst whose disintegrating ruins we live, and to raise women to an equal citizenship with men" (56). In practical terms, this proposal means removing the legal powers of the husband within the family, giving the state a regulatory role, and making the mother the head of the household: "The State will pay for children born legitimately in the marriage it will sanction. A woman with healthy and successful offspring will draw a wage for each one of them from the State, so long as they go on well. It will be her wage. Under the State she will control her child's upbringing" (58-59). In his article "The Endowment of Motherhood," published in the Daily Mail on June 22, 1910, Wells changed the emphasis of his policy--no doubt as a result of his break with Fabianism--to the advantage of the wealthy by suggesting that "People of that excellent class which spends over a hundred a year on each child ought to get about that much from the State, and people from the class which spends five shillings a week per head on them would get about that, and so on" (An Englishman Looks at the World 232).
In Socialism and the Family, Wells was not explicit about the sanctions the state would take against parents who did not care for their children adequately, but some sort of punishment is implied when he writes that "Socialism denies altogether the right of anyone to beget children carelessly and promiscuously, and for the prevention of disease and evil births alike, the Socialist is prepared for an insistence upon intelligence and self-restraint quite beyond the current practice" (58). Although his Modern Utopia of the previous year was still not unambiguous, he did suggest there certain of the state's powers. Thus, he outlined the expected characteristics of the prospective parent: "you must be above a certain minimum of personal efficiency, and this you must show by holding a position of solvency and independence in the world; you must be above a certain age, and a certain minimum of physical development, and free of any transmissible disease. You must not be a criminal unless you have expiated your offence" (184). If a parent fell below these standards,
we will, for the sake of humanity, take over the innocent victim of your passions, but we shall insist that you are under a debt to the State of a peculiarly urgent sort, and one you will certainly pay, even if it is necessary to use restraint to get payment out of you: it is a debt that has in the last resort your liberty as a security, and, moreover, if this thing happens a second time, or if it is disease or imbecility you have multiplied, we will take an absolutely effectual guarantee that neither you nor your partner offends again in this matter. (184)
In short, in exchange for new rights and the provision of social security for mothers, certain responsibilities would be expected, and penalties would be exerted where those responsibilities were not fulfilled. While parenthood would be strictly regulated, however, Wells stressed that, where no children were involved, "the private morals of an adult citizen are no concern for the State" (205) and "The wide range of relationships that are left possible, within and without the marriage code, are entirely a matter for the individual choice and imagination" (206).
Wells promoted his endowment-of-motherhood scheme throughout the Edwardian period, notably in his 1911 novel The New Machiavelli, in which the Webbs are wickedly lampooned as the Baileys. However, he failed in his effort "to amend [the Fabian Basis] to work in a scheme for children's allowances to make women independent" (Mackenzie & Mackenzie 350), and he used this further defeat at the hands of the "old gang" as an excuse to resign from the Fabian Society in September 1908: "A scheme which proposes to leave mother and child economically dependent upon the father is to me not Socialism at all but a miserable perversion of Socialism" (Correspondence 2: 224).
In June 1907, as his campaign to radicalise the Fabian Society and amend its Basis was beginning to peter out, Wells was involved in another public controversy which arose out of an article he published in the New Age entitled "The Socialist Movement and Socialist Parties." In the article, Wells comes out in opposition to the creation of a distinctly socialist party by arguing that the socialist movement should be "an attempt to create a force of conviction in the community" rather than "an attempt to utilise forces in the community" (105). Wells wants socialists to be free of party constraints in order to work out their positions on all aspects of life, argue their case, and convert the public (especially the middle-class public) to their cause. Although "With regard to property and economic organisation the Labour Party is soundly socialist" and thus "if the Fabian Society cannot be kept out of politics altogether it should act as an organisation in close co-operation with the Labour Party," Wells feels that socialism ought to deal with much more than economics, and as there is no socialist consensus on moral issues, women's emancipation, constitutional reform, or the future of the empire, "it would be far better if the Fabian Society did not act at all in the political field" (105). It would be far more profitable to the movement if socialists spend their time on the "free intellectual development of Socialism" (105).
However, formulating socialism is only one reason why socialists should remain outside the constraints of party organisations. Wells also believes that a specifically socialist party would prove antagonistic to those members of the middle classes who are sympathetic to the aims of socialism but would not go so far as to label themselves socialists. Such people
are not prepared to fall into line with a militant specialised rendering of Socialism; in spite of their admission of the truth of the general Socialist propositions, they still retain their old class or party sympathies and tone, they are Conservatives or Liberals or Labourites by habit, or because they think that much immediate good can be done by Conservative or Liberal or Labour organisations. (105)
Wells believes socialists should strive to win the hearts and minds of such wavering electors, and support socialistic candidates regardless of the party to which they belong. Such a tactic, according to Wells, differs from Fabian permeation, for "The conception of permeation carries with it to my mind ... a flavour of insidious substitution" (106) while Wells emphasises "the supreme need of outspoken statement and open confession of our Socialist faith" ("A Note on Methods of Controversy"). According to Wells, the result of this two-pronged extra-parliamentary approach would be simple: "Develop by writing, speaking, teaching the socialist habit of mind and socialist ideas of public organisation, and all parties and public institutions will become in different measure socialist parties and tools" ("Socialist Movement" 106).
Wells's article provoked a wide response in the pages of the New Age, including immediate editorial support:
does anybody deny that it is highly probable, as Mr Wells contends, that the creation of a definitely and avowedly Socialist political party would necessarily imperil just that freedom of discussion which is so essential to sound conclusions in the future? ... [A] free platform for Socialist discussion must be kept at all costs; and if that should prove incompatible with a Socialist Party, it is the latter that must be sacrificed. ("A Socialist Party" 104)
Further support was expressed by Frank Brewster, who also desired a "free platform" for socialists (Brewster 127), Clifford Sharp, who felt that "the more an individual concerns himself with practical politics the less he retains the capacity for thinking freely on the broader issues and implications of Socialism" (Sharp "Is a Political Socialist Party Necessary?" 185), and F. B. Kirkman, who wrote "I sincerely trust that Mr Wells will stick to his guns, and offer an absolutely uncompromising opposition to the creation, especially by the Fabian Society, of a new Socialist organisation" (Kirkman 207). Opposition to Wells's article was also apparent although it was fragmented across several positions, with Cecil Chesterton desiring a socialist party to attract socialists from all social classes and to cooperate with the Labour Party during elections and in parliament (Chesterton), S. G. Hobson seeing Wells as a "permeator" and describing the difference between him and his fellow Fabians as "not one of substance but of terminology" (Hobson 169), and J. Wild asserting that all socialists should support the Labour Party (Wild).
Although Wells's time as a Fabian was primarily spent criticising his colleagues, he did endeavour to spell out his version of socialism. In March 1908, he published a comprehensive exposition, New Worlds for Old (subtitled A Plain Account of Modern Socialism for the 1909 "popular edition'). The book sold well. It was reprinted five times in the following six years; it was revised in 1909 and 1914; and it was called "the most persuasive and the most immediately important tract on Socialism that I have ever seen" by Arnold Bennett (Bennett). In the study, Wells analyses the history of the socialist movement: he praises the "utopian socialists" for their demonstrations that deliberate human effort can change society; he credits Marx with internationalising socialism and giving it a democratic dimension; and he acknowledges the Fabians' recognition of the need for capable administration in a socialist society. Now, Wells feels that socialists need to marshal human effort, the international and democratic spirit, and capable administration to enact a socialist society through large-scale planning and regulation. According to Wells, socialism "is the denial that chance impulse and individual will and happening constitute the only possible methods by which things may be done in the world" so that "In place of disorderly individual effort, each man doing what he pleases, the Socialist wants organized effort and a plan" (New Worlds  22, 26). Wells was especially keen to see state planning in two areas of public policy: the rearing of children and the control of production and distribution.
On the former point, Wells returns to his position in Socialism and the Family by arguing that "The whole measure of progress in a generation is the measure in which the children improve in physical and mental quality, in social co-ordination, in opportunity, upon their parents" (New Worlds  28). Restating his advocacy of the endowment of motherhood and his opposition to the patriarchal family, Wells insists that
parentage can no longer be regarded as an isolated private matter; that the welfare of the children is of universal importance, and must, therefore, be finally a matter of collective concern. The State, which a hundred years ago was utterly careless of children, is now every year becoming more and more their Guardian, their Over-Parent. (New Worlds  39)
On the latter point, Wells insisted that private property must be reconsidered in a socialist society:
The Socialist holds that the community as a whole should be inalienably the owner and administrator of the land, of raw materials, of values and resources accumulated from the past, and that private property must be of a terminable nature, reverting to the community, and subject to the general welfare. (New Worlds  88)
However, far from taking a Proudhonian stance, Wells advocates nationalisation with compensation as well as offering further concessions to expropriated owners. So, while he asserts that the "State will be the sole banker ... just as it will be the universal landlord" and advocates the nationalisation of railways, canals, coal mines, "the milk trade, the drink trade, slaughtering, local traffic, lighting and power supply," he also suggests that former landowners and captains of industry would benefit from security of position under socialism through the alteration of their status from owners of private concerns to managers of state concerns (New Worlds  145, 184).
Despite the radical tenor of Wells's socialism, in New Worlds for Old he is fundamentally a gradualist. Having criticised the Fabians for trying to achieve socialism in an "insidious way," he asserts that "Expropriation must be a gradual process, a process of economic and political readjustment, accompanied at every step by an explanatory educational advance" (New Worlds  163). Wells rejects the notion of public opinion as expressed through parliamentary elections, but he believes very strongly in nurturing what he calls the "collective mind" (New Worlds  283), and it is in this regard that he feels his socialism progresses beyond that of his predecessors. As "We need free speech, free discussion, free publication, as essentials for a wholesome Socialist State," therefore "Education must precede the Socialist State" (New Worlds  208, 116). In advancing socialism through education rather than as the "exotic communism of the eighties," New Worlds far Old, according to Clifford Sharp, "marks an epoch in the history of English Socialism" (Sharp, Review 413). That centrality of education to Wells's political commitment would increase considerably as his worldview matured during the interwar period.
In New Worlds far Old, Wells identified in education an issue which further separated his socialism from that of "old gang" Fabianism and other variants. However, in the North-West Manchester by-election of April 24, 1908, the socialist condemnation of Wells's support for the Liberal, Winston Churchill, and Wells's criticism of the Social Democratic Party's Dan Irving as well as the Conservative William Joynson-Hicks, also contributed to Wells's desire to withdraw from organised socialist politics for some years.
The by-election came about as a result of Churchill's appointment as President of the Board of Trade, which compelled him to seek re-election. Churchill had won North-West Manchester in the 1906 Liberal landslide although it had previously been a Conservative seat since its creation in 1885, with no socialist candidate contesting it prior to 1908. Indeed, in that year, the seat was considered so hopeless for the left that the Labour Party declined to field a candidate, and there was much consternation among the leaders of the labour movement when the SDP parachuted Dan Irving into the seat late in the campaign. Nonetheless, a New Age editorial of May 2, 1908 was representative of left opinion when it stated that "we shall not easily forgive the political imbecility of the local Socialists in running a candidate at all whose chances were so ludicrously small.... But when once the bee was in the local bonnet, we hold that Socialists everywhere had only one alternative to supporting Irving: that was to lay low and say nuffin [sic]" ("Revolution or Evolution"). This being the general sentiment, it was something of a shock for socialists to read, in the Daily News of April 21, an open letter from Wells to the electors of North-West Manchester encouraging them to reject Irving in favour of Churchill.
Wells begins his letter by summarising what he believes to be the desires of Mancunian socialists:
You desire the development of a constructive State which shall exist for all men and be served by all men, the establishment of a wider security and comfort and of a definite minimum of welfare below which no one should be allowed to fall. You wish to see men living less and less for the mean end of private gain, and the accumulation of wealth and more and more for the nobler purposes of public service and honour.
Concerning the SDP candidate, however, he states that "It is quite possible that, misled by the wide application of the Socialist name, you may think that these ends will be best forwarded by voting for the professedly Socialist candidate, Mr Irving." However, "Mr Irving ... is representative not of Socialism as a whole ... but of that extreme, old-fashioned, and implacable type of Socialist theory, limited, doctrinaire, and cantankerous, which has done so much to retard the development of a sound and statesmanlike propaganda in Great Britain," so "the diversion of your vote, which would, I assume, go otherwise to Mr Winston Churchill, will simply favour the return of an exceptionally undesirable person, Mr Joynson-Hicks" (Correspondence 2:214, 215, 214-215). Behind Wells's seeming support for tactical voting to keep the Conservative candidate out, however, lay his fundamental belief in gradualism, as he had earlier revealed in New Worlds for Old. In concluding his letter, Wells asserts that "The political system of tomorrow must develop, we are fully persuaded, out of the traditions of the governing class of to-day. And though Mr Churchill is not a Socialist ... we recognise ... in his recent assertion of the need of a national minimum, a spirit entirely in accordance with the spirit of our movement, and one with which it is both our duty and intention to go just as far as we can" (Correspondence 2: 216).
Although Wells's support for Churchill was criticised by his fellow socialists, no attempt was made to defend Irving's candidacy itself. Rather, Wells was rebuked on principle, with a New Age editorial declaring that "if Mr Wells's advice had been followed, there would at this moment by no ILP" ("Notes of the Week" 502) while C. H. Norman and Sydney Herbert both queried the integrity of the Fabian Society, with the latter asking "do the other members of the Fabian Executive endorse the action of their colleague? If not, it is their duty to let the public know this fact with as little delay as possible" (Norman; Herbert). Only George Sturt came out in support of Wells:
If the Liberals are going slowly, is that a reason for obstructing their way? Were it not wiser to help them, as Mr Wells suggests? For you see, barring miracles, there is nothing to fall back upon but the growth of "goodwill" in English brains; and it looks as if the Liberal party is going about as fast as the nation is prepared to follow. (Sturt)
In supporting the Liberal Churchill, Wells was putting into practice the arguments he made the previous year in his article "The Socialist Movement and Socialist Parties" and, like Sturt, was advocating a pragmatic socialism, one which supported the most progressive candidate regardless of party while at the same time propagating an "outspoken statement and open confession of our Socialist faith" ("A Note").
With Wells's embarrassment over the North-West Manchester by election and his failure to capture the Fabian leadership, to reform its Basis, or to persuade it to endorse his "Endowment of Motherhood" scheme, he finally resigned from the Fabian Executive in September 1908, and he withdrew from organised politics for a time--although he was not completely silent on political questions. He continued advocating his "Endowment of Motherhood" policy up to 1914 and declared himself in favour of proportional representation in 1912 (An Englishman 229-234, 53). Of more significance, however, was his publication of a series of articles under the title "The Labour Unrest," which offered an analysis of the industrial conflict of 1911-1912.
According to David Powell, "By 1910 unemployment was at its highest since 1886 and still rising, while the purchasing power of the pound had fallen by almost a quarter since 1895 and was still falling" (93). These facts, combined with the Liberal government's willingness to use troops to break strikes, led to working-class support for strike action as a political weapon, the rise in influence of syndicalism, and the rapid creation of general unions along with their use of sympathetic strikes. The first taste of national unrest occurred during 1911 when the newly formed Transport Workers' Federation came out in support of a Port of London seamen's strike, which quickly escalated into a national strike and brought the country's major ports and its railway network to a standstill. Although the port disputes were settled through government-backed negotiations, the Miners' Federation of Great Britain raised the stakes on March 1, 1912 by calling out its million members over a pay dispute--the largest strike Britain had ever experienced. With an industrial shutdown looming due to lack of coal, the government quickly tabled the Wages Mining Bill which, when passed on March 12, established a miners' minimum wage. Believing that the spirit of industrial relations had changed for ever, Wells published "The Labour Unrest" in the middle-class, conservative Daily Mail, in an effort to identify for its readers the general causes of the industrial disputes and to suggest general solutions to the class antagonism which had clearly emerged over the previous two years.
Wells begins "The Labour Unrest" with this warning: "It may be that we are in the opening phase of a real and irreparable class war" (An Englishman 43). While earlier generations of workers took industrial action "for definite increments of wages or definite limitations of toil," the new generation "is beginning now to strike for unprecedented ends--against the system, against the fundamental conditions of labour, to strike for no defined ends at all, perplexingly and disconcertingly" (43-44). According to Wells, this increased militancy was due to "elementary education, a Press very cheap and free, and a period of great general affluence" (62) as well as "the tendency of newspaper, theatre, cinematograph show and so forth ... to fill [the worker's] mind with ideas of ways of living infinitely more agreeable and interesting than his own" (56). The workers were being radicalised by their experience of affluence amid unemployment and low wages. As Wells puts it,
a still more powerful set of influences which is steadily turning our Labour struggles ... into movements that are gravely and deliberately revolutionary ... is the obvious devotion of a large and growing proportion of the time and energy of the owning and ruling classes to pleasure and excitement, and the way in which this spectacle of amusement and adventure is now being brought before the eyes and into the imagination of the working man. (55-56)
This contrast between the experiences of the classes resulted, according to Wells, in distrust by the worker, and "His distrust is so profound that he ceases not only to believe in the employer, but he ceases to believe in the law, ceases to believe in Parliament, as a means to that tolerable life he desires." It is this distrust, "the most demoralising of social influences," which had been provoking "a strike, and--if by repressive tactics we make it so--a criminal strike" over the previous twelve months. If the situation were to continue unresolved, then "that means revolution; if you crush out the hope of that, then sabotage and a sullen general sympathy for anarchistic crime" (45-46, 55). In order to prevent such social dissolution, Wells proposes a number of socio-political adjustments which would improve class relations and ultimately abolish the working class altogether.
The first change Wells wishes to see is in the relationship between the ruling class and the workers. He asserts that "we prosperous people" must "justify ourselves" because "Heroism and a generous devotion to the common good are the only effective answer to distrust" (47, 48). The ruling class must recognise its responsibility for bringing social peace, and this recognition means treating working people with a new dignity: "all of us who have leisure and opportunity have to set ourselves very strenuously to the problem ... of establishing a new method of co-operation with those who seem to be definitely decided not to remain wage-earners for very much longer" (60-61). In other words, "we need something in the nature of a social contract" (50). Wells wished to see government and captains of industry negotiating with workers' organisations to create
schemes for a more permanent type of employment and for a direct participation of the worker in the pride, profits, and direction of the work. Such schemes admit of wide variations between a mere bonus system, a periodic tipping of the employees to prevent their striking, and a real and honest co-partnery [sic].... From such ideas one passes very readily to the conception of guild-managed businesses, in which the factor of capital would no longer stand out as an element distinct from and contrasted with the proprietorship of the workers. One sees the worker ... as an annuitant and perhaps ... a receiver of royalties during his declining years. (64)
In sum, Wells's demand of the ruling class is for it to eliminate the wage-earner altogether. "Humanity is rebelling against the continuing existence of a labour class as such," he declared,
and I can see no way by which our present method of weekly wages employment can change by imperceptible increments into a method of salary and pension--for it is quite evident that only by reaching that shall we reach the end of these present discontents.... We need nothing less than a national plan of social development if the thing is to be achieved. (70)
With the proposal to eliminate the wage-earner, Wells recognises that "we have to discover a new, more equable way of getting the world's work done," especially the less savoury occupations like "road-making, mining, railway work ... a considerable amount of building" (60-61, 67-68). But he asks, "Why should we employ people to do the bulk of these things at all? Why should we not as a community do them ourselves? Why, in other words, should we not have a labour conscription and take a year or so of service from everyone in the community, high or low?" (67-68). Here Wells borrows a suggestion made by William James in his Maral Equivalent of War (1910). Wells seeks to solve the economic problem of a classless society while agreeing with James on the moral value of such conscription: "I believe this [conscription] would be of enormous moral benefit to our strained and relaxed community. I believe that in making labour a part of everyone's life and the whole of nobody's life lies the ultimate solution of these industrial difficulties" (67-68).
Having addressed class relations and the problem of getting unsavoury work done, Wells suggests two further palliatives to working-class unrest. First, given the distrust of the government by the workers, Wells advocates electoral reform: abolishing the first-past-the-post method in favour of "proportional representation with large constituencies" (52-53). Such a method, Wells believes, would "destroy the machinery of the party system" and "no longer put the independent representative man at a hopeless disadvantage against the party nominee" (52-53). His second palliative would be a "vigorous development of the attempts that are already being made, in garden cities, garden suburbs, and the like, to re-house the mass of our population in a more civilised and more agreeable manner" (64).
Although Wells had predicted such a conflict in his imaginative writings for years (see The War in the Air  and The World Set Free , for example), when World War I broke out in 1914 Wells was taken as much by surprise as the rest of Europe and, given his internationalism and socialism, many contemporaries were shocked when he immediately declared himself a supporter of the war. He declared that he wished to see an end to "Kaiser-Krupp power" and asserted that "Every sword that is drawn against Germany now is a sword drawn for peace" (War That Will End War 78, 22). Indeed, the "sword of peace" represented Wells's position precisely, for in 1917 he declared himself a "pacifist" who wanted to "make peace by beating the armed man until he gives in and admits the error of his ways, disarming him and reorganising the world for the forcible suppression of military adventures in the future" (War and the Future 193).
Although pro-war, Wells never was a nationalist. He saw the war as ideological rather than "racial." He wrote: "Let us not be blinded by the passions of war into confusing a people with its government and the artificial Kultur of a brief century" (What is Coming? 198) and "Our quarrel is with the Empire of the Germans, not with a people but with an idea" (War That Will End War 51). He prophesied in the title of his first wartime publication that it would be The War That Will End War (1914). He vociferously attacked left-wing pacifism by writing that "The so-called labour papers are perhaps less representative of British Labour than any other section of the press; the Labour Leader, for example, is the organ of such people as Bertrand Russell, Vernon Lee, Morel, academic rentiers who know about as much of the labour side of industrialism as they do of cock-fighting" (War and the Future 251), but he nonetheless took up the cause of labour on issues such as food scarcity and prices, the standard of living, and industrial democracy. He also supported some policies advanced by labour organisations. Indeed, as soon as the war broke out he condemned the "'automobile-driving villadom,' the 'Tariff Reform and [the] damn Lloyd George and Keir Hardie' class ... [which] has been swarming to the shops, buying up the food of the common people" (War That Will End War 25-26). In order to prevent these developments, Wells urged the government:
to get to work at once in every locality, requisitioning all excessive private stores of food or gold coins--they can be settled for after the war--not only the stores of the private food-grabbers, but also the stores of the speculative wholesalers who are holding up prices to the retail shops.... Under every county council food committees should be formed at once to report on the necessities of the general mass and conduct inquiries into hoarding and the seizure and distribution of hoards, small and great. (War That Will End War 27)
In addition to advocating immediate government action to ensure the availability of basic necessities, Wells quickly came to realise that the war offered the opportunity to reform, and indeed transform the British capitalist economy into a socialised one. "Do Liberals realise that the individualist capitalist system is helpless now?" he asked while observing that
The State takes over flour mills and the food supply, not merely for military purposes, but for the general welfare of the community. The State controls the railways with a sudden complete disregard of shareholders.... If the State sees fit to keep hold upon these things for good, or loosen its hold only to improve its grip, I question if there is very much left in the minds of men, even after the mere preliminary sweeping of the last two weeks, to dispute possession. (War That Will End War 66-67, 64)
Far from being a wartime expedient, Wells suggested that "we may turn our present social necessities to the most enduring social reorganization; with an absolute minimum of effort now, we may help to set going methods and machinery that will put the feeding and housing of the population and the administration of the land out of the reach of private greed and selfishness for ever" (War That Will End War 67-68). Two years into the war, Wells saw this process gathering pace. He believed that "the end of the war will see, not only transit, but shipping, collieries, and large portions of the machinery of food and drink production and distribution no longer under the administration of private ownership, but under a sort of provisional public administration" (What is Coming? 112). Out of wartime necessity Wells believed that a cultural shift was occurring in Britain, and that behind the expanded state "is an idea, a new idea, the idea of the nation as one great economic system working together.... The reality is a vast interdependent national factory that would have seemed incredible to Fourier" (What is Coming? 113). ]he one ingredient missing from the formula, which Wells wanted to put to rights, was the involvement of organised labour: "If there is to be any such rapid conversion of the economic machinery as the opportunities and necessities of this great time demand, then labour must be taken into the confidence of those who would carry it through. It must be reassured and enlightened. Labour must know clearly what is being done; it must be an assenting co-operator" (What is Coming? 117-118). Labour had also to be assured long-term security in place of the uncertainty of the pre-war fluctuating labour market: "Very few private employers can bargain with a man upon the lifetime scale; but the nationalized industry can. It can pay in that attractive of all wages, security; it can guarantee a man's ultimate leisure and independence" (Elements of Reconstruction 65). If such "co-partnery," as advocated by Wells in his "Labour Unrest" articles of 1912, were brought about,
I believe that out of the ruins of the nineteenth century system of private capitalism that this war has smashed for ever, there will arise, there does even now arise, in this strange scaffolding of national munition factories and hastily nationalised public services, the framework of a new economic and social order based upon national ownership and service. (What is Coming? 123)
As well as advocating what he considered to be the labour-friendly policy of nationalisation, Wells also went into print during the war to support E. D. Morel's suggestions about the position of Africa after the war (made in The African Problem and the Peace Settlement ). Although Wells objected to Morel's pacifism, he respected Morel's knowledge about Africa since the days of the latter's crusade against slavery and torture in the Belgian Congo. Morel argued for an end to imperial control of sub-Saharan Africa, and, instead, advocated the establishment of an international agency to supervise the region, the limitation of European exploitation, and the provision of education and training to the indigenous peoples with a view to eventual self-government.
Wells supported these general proposals, for he recognised not only the need to protect Africans from exploitation but also the danger which the international division of labour held for British workers. He suggested, for instance, that "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 he warned against the potential use of Africans in any future conflict, for "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" (In the Fourth Fear: Anticipations of a World Peace 46, 43). In order to ensure African development and native contentment, Wells argued that "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," and continued "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" (Fourth Fear 46, 47-48). Wells enthusiastically endorsed Morel's argument by concluding 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" (49). While an advocate for human rights in Africa, Wells also saw such measures as being palliatives to prevent a rapid postwar imperial collapse as he believed "The age of 'expansion,' the age of European 'empires' is near its end. No one who can read the signs of the times in Japan, in India, in China, can doubt it. It ended in America a hundred years ago; it is ending now in Asia; it will end last in Africa, and even in Africa the end draws near" (What is Coming? 241). The choice for Britain was a gradual withdrawal from empire or ultimate expulsion, and a policy of respect and education in Africa was the only way to achieve the former.
As well as a new postwar deal for labour and the imperial subject-peoples, Wells saw during the war further justification for women's legal equality with men. Writing in 1916, he declares "The girls who have faced death and wounds so gallantly in our cordite factories ... have killed for ever the poor argument that women should not vote because they had no military value. Indeed, they have killed every argument against their subjection" (What is Coming? 177-178). Furthermore, he feels attitudes would have to change to accommodate the new self-confidence of women after the war:
I do not believe that this invasion by women of a hundred employments hitherto closed to them is a temporary arrangement that will be reversed after the war.... The world after the war will have to adjust itself to this extension of women's employment, and to this increase in the proportion of self-respecting, self-supporting women. (179-180)
Although Wells's social concerns during the war accorded with his pre-war position, his main preoccupation during the conflict was the advocacy of a postwar settlement which would prevent the occurrence of such an imbroglio again* From as early as 1914, he identified a number of changes in international affairs that would make for a more peaceful world in the future, and he elaborated these throughout the remainder of the conflict* They were control of armaments manufacture and the arms trade; the creation of an international organisation for the preservation of peace; and the use of federal arrangements in areas of the world where national boundaries could not be easily delineated.
In line with his desire to see major British industries permanently nationalised, Wells sought "the absolute abolition throughout the world of the manufacture of weapons for private gain" (War That Will End War 40). Not only must "All the plant for the making of war material throughout the world ... be taken over by the Government of the State in which it exists" but trade in armaments must be absolutely forbidden (44). Indeed, Wells felt that only a "few great industrial states [are] capable of producing modern war equipment [and] they should absolutely close the supply of such material to all other states in the world" (275). In order to regulate armaments production, he believed "it will be possible to establish a world council for the regulation of armaments as the natural outcome of this war" (46).
The restriction of arms production to the "few great industrial states" and the establishment of a "world council for the regulation of armaments" formed the kernel of Wells's developing thoughts on the creation of a postwar international peace organisation. Such an organisation was already present in Wells's mind from the beginning of the conflict when he wrote of "a Peace League that will control the globe" (67-68). Wells initially believed such an agency would emerge following the rapid defeat of Germany and be set up under neutral American pressure by liberal elements within the British and French governments. However, as the war dragged on and an overwhelming victory for either side came to seem unlikely, Wells placed his hopes on war weariness among the belligerents and the negotiation of a "League of Peace" although still with neutral American pressure as a liberalising influence, a League which would take the form of "an International Tribunal for the discussion and settlement of international disputes" (276). All chafing issues between states would be referred to the International Tribunal. These would include "new tariff, quarantine, alien exclusion, or the like legislation affecting international relations" and "the control of all staple products." The Tribunal "should administer the sea law of the world, and control and standardise freights in the common interests of mankind," and "it would be further necessary to set up an International Boundary Commission ... to re-draw the map of Europe, Asia, and Africa" (276-277, 278). This constituted Wells's model of an International Tribunal throughout the war with one significant change: from early 1918, he insisted that a "League of Free Nations" should "possess power and exercise power, powers must be delegated to it" (In the Fourth Fear 28), and that meant that it must "practically control the army, navy, air forces, and armament industry of every nation in the world" (36). In order to facilitate the establishment of such an international body, Wells was an early member of the League of Free Nations Association, which was established in 1918. It was a liberal organisation, which set itself up as a rival to the pacifist League of Nations Society. The two organisations' objectives were so similar, however, that in 1919 they agreed to merge, and they took a new name: the League of Nations Union--of which Wells was briefly a member.
With the end to private armaments manufacture and trade and the establishment of a "League of Free Nations," Wells felt that the final issue to be resolved after the war would be the just delineation of national boundaries. Before the map of Europe was redrawn, however, Wells insisted that there must be "no new bitterness of 'conquered territories' to come into existence to disturb the future peace of Europe" (War That Will End War 52). In terms of redrawing borders, Wells felt that Western Europe would be straightforward: Belgium and Luxembourg would be restored, and Alsace-Lorraine and the Danish parts of Schleswig-Holstein would be repatriated to France and Denmark, respectively. In Eastern Europe and the Balkans, however, Wells envisaged greater complications for which "the substitution of Swiss associations for the discredited Imperialisms and kingdoms" (55-56) would serve well. Thus the areas of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires which contained peoples of mixed ethnicity should be federalised into cantons, with the cantons being small homogeneous units within large multiethnic states. Such a solution, to be overseen by the "League of Free Nations," would end imperial adventures in Eastern Europe and the Balkans while creating states strong enough to coexist in the League with their erstwhile imperial overlords.
Although jubilant at the coming of peace in 1918, Wells was disappointed with the postwar settlement both in Britain and internationally. The socialised state which Wells heralded during the war was rolled back, and the capitalist economy was reintroduced with no continued role for labour; British imperialism was strengthened after the war with several German and Ottoman territories falling under British "protection"; and private armaments-manufacture continuing unhindered. Worst of all for Wells: despite his advocacy of a "League of Free Nations," the eventual League of Nations was rejected by America; excluded Germany, Russia and Turkey; and became in effect "a league of 'representatives' of foreign offices" (Outline of History  2: 740). Writing in 1920, Wells asserted that "What the world needs is no such league of nations as this nor even a mere league of peoples, but a world league of men. The world perishes unless sovereignty is merged and nationality subordinated" (2: 752), and he foresaw that "the general history of the twentieth century henceforth will be largely the amendment or reversal of the more ungenerous and unscientific arrangements of the Treaty of 1919" (2: 740). Wells's disillusionment with the League of Nations led him to quit the League of Nations Union, and he spent the rest of his life criticising the League as a worse international body than no league at all.
With the end of the war, Wells's interests in political affairs continued both domestically and internationally. Although he generally rejected Marxist analysis, he became intrigued during World War I with the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. He sympathised with its republicanism, its central planning, and its rejection of traditional diplomacy. In 1920, therefore, he took a trip to Russia to assess the initial achievements of the Bolshevik regime. He visited Moscow and St Petersburg, and met a number of leading Russians including the writer, Maxim Corky; the physiologist, Ivan Pavlov; and the country's new leader, Vladimir Lenin.
Following his trip, Wells published his thoughts on the Bolshevik regime in Russia in the Shadows; his experiences did not change his attitude towards Marxism. Assessing the ideology, he writes: "The crude Marxist philosophy which divides all men into bourgeoisie and proletariat, which sees all social life as a stupidly simple 'class war,' had no knowledge of the conditions necessary for the collective mental life" (57-58) and, he continues:
In regard to the intellectual life of the community one discovers that Marxist Communism is without plans and without ideas. Marxist Communism has always been a theory of revolution, a theory not merely lacking in creative and constructive ideas, but hostile to creative and constructive ideas. Every Communist orator has been trained to contemn "Utopianism," that is to say, has been trained to contemn intelligent planning. (59-60)
In the absence of a theory of society, the Bolsheviks might have collapsed in Russia except for their tremendous self-belief. According to Wells,
From end to end of Russia, and in the Russian-speaking community throughout the world, there existed only one sort of people who had common general ideas upon which to work, a common faith and a common will, and that was the Communist party.... It was and it is the only sort of administrative solidarity possible in Russia.... The Communist Party, however one may criticise it, does embody an idea and can be relied upon to stand by its idea. So far it is a thing morally higher than anything that has yet come against it. (76-77)
While Wells considers Communist solidarity the mortar holding Russia together, he also has a real appreciation for the leadership shown by Lenin in the early years of the revolution: "In him I realised that Communism could after all, in spite of Marx, be enormously creative.... He at least has a vision of a world changed over and planned and built afresh" (161-162). While praising Lenin's creativity, Wells errs on the side of caution when considering what Lenin could achieve in the Russia of the 1920s: "He is throwing all his weight into a scheme for the development of great power stations in Russia to serve whole provinces with light, with transport, and industrial power.... Can one imagine a more courageous project in a vast flat land of forests and illiterate peasants, with no water power, with no technical skill available, and with trade and industry at the last gasp?" (158-159). Wells ultimately feels that the discipline of the Communist Party is the sustaining factor in Russia rather than Lenin's leadership. Writing on the occasion of the dictator's death, Wells wrote "For most practical purposes the work of Lenin was over before 1920. His death now or a little later will make only the smallest difference in the destinies of Russia" (A Year of Prophesying 110). Writing of the party, however, Wells felt that "it is from the red root of Communist theory that the new Russian order will grow. It is manifestly destined to be a very great system, a United States in the Old World, stretching from the Baltic to the Pacific" (112). For all his dislike of Marx, his rejection of Communist ideology and his scepticism about Lenin's ambitious plans, Wells was confident that "The only possible Government that can stave off such a final collapse of Russia now is the present Bolshevik Government.... There is now no alternative to that Government possible" (Russia 173).
In Russia in the Shadows, Wells gives a balanced assessment of the new Bolshevik government's strengths and weaknesses, but he also attempts to disabuse his readers of the many misconceptions about the regime. When Wells considers the state of Russia before the revolution and the rise of the Bolsheviks to power, his views are clear:
It falsifies the whole world situation, it sets people altogether astray in their political actions, to assert that the frightful destitution of Russia to-day is to any large extent the result merely of Communist effort; that the wicked Communists have pulled down Russia to her present plight, and that if you can overthrow the Communists everyone and everything in Russia will suddenly become happy again. Russia fell into its present miseries through the world war and the moral and intellectual insufficiency of its ruling and wealthy people. (66)
As a sterile ideology Communism, according to Wells, is incapable of creating a revolution, but as a popular movement it is well placed to take advantage of the failings of its rivals: "Communism is not a dragon that devours healthy States; it is rather the scavenger of the rotten and fallen. You cannot say, for example, that Communism is either very strong or spreading very rapidly as an aggressive doctrine in Europe. And yet it may still come to prevail over great parts of Europe" (A Year of Prophesying 112).
Wells was very sceptical about the possibility of a Communist Europe, for he believed liberal European capitalism would pull itself together. However, in America and throughout the European empires, the situation might be very different: "There is a considerable dread of Communist activities in America. That is very largely due to an uneasy conscience, aware of a great mass of unassimilated immigrant labour very unfairly treated and very inadequately educated.... There may be a future for Communism there, and there will probably be a big movement towards Communism in the industrial centres of India and China and Japan. But in Europe I think that the Communist drive has passed its maximum and that the popular mind is moving onward to a more constructive and hopeful type of Socialism" (Prophesying 244). Wells's ultimate hope was for a socialist world where Europe would develop out of a dying capitalism along social democratic lines, Russia would liberalise its rigid Communism, and the two spheres would find a common socialist ground:
The Communist movement is a part of the present world, it is a shadow cast by existing economic absurdities, it is a current reaction. In five-and-twenty years' time the projects of a scientific Socialism will have converted and absorbed most of the youthful enthusiasm and resentful energy that now finds its expression in Communism. Communism is a phase, a bitter and sterile experiment, in the development of the Socialist idea. Socialism is its parent and its heir. The movement for the organised exploitation of the whole world in the collective interest existed before the Communist Party, and will be going on long after that party is a quaint tradition. (241)
With his disappointment at both the postwar settlement and the Bolsheviks' efforts in Russia, Wells returned to institutional political activism in 1922 in an effort to influence both domestic reconstruction and international policy. In that year, he joined the Labour Party and agreed to stand as its candidate in the unwinnable University of London constituency, a solid Conservative seat since its creation in 1868. As part of his campaign, Wells delivered a number of speeches at the university, and published two addresses: an "electoral letter" to his constituents, and a leaflet entitled The World, Its Debts, and the Rich Man. In these publications, Wells outlines Britain's priorities and specifies what he considers the Labour Party's strengths. In his "electoral letter," Wells condemns war profiteering, wild financial speculation in the money markets, and unproductive business enterprise. According to Wells, all of these are leaching on the country's wealth without providing useful commodities or significant levels of employment. Due to their class affiliations, Wells also condemns the Liberal and Conservative parties for not legislating to curtail excessive profits and financial speculation as well as for not initiating social-reform policies to aid in the country's reconstruction. He also criticises the old parties' maintenance of high military-expenditure and their use of the League of Nations as an extension of the foreign office even as they refused membership to Germany, Russia, and Turkey at a time when international reconciliation should be Britain's foreign policy focus.
Wells presents the postwar Labour Party as a "one-nation" party. Unlike the Communist Party, it is not an ideological monolith: "although it includes a Socialist Wing--and I personally am a Socialist--the Labour Party is not, as a Party, a Socialist Party. It includes many men of a more cautious and more limited formula" (The World, Its Debts, and the Rich Man 11). Wells also asserts that in contrast to the sectionalism of the Liberals and Conservatives the Labour Party no longer restricts itself to merely working-class representation:
To-day the Labour Party stands for all the creative work in the State--from the work of the field labourer to the work of the doctor, journalist, teacher, minister, works manager, and scientific investigator amid the strained, shattered, wasteful, and the life-destroying confusion in which we live to-day. It is not necessarily antagonistic to the interests and claims of property, honestly administered for production and the general welfare, but it is set steadily and systematically against all unproductive and parasitic property and against merely acquisitive business "enterprises." ... Its leading maxim is the welfare of all before the gains of any class or coterie. (Correspondence 3: 115)
In international relations, Wells advocates a strong British role in assisting the advance of greater global economic-integration:
I am a firm believer in the urgent need for world controls in international affairs. But it is plain common sense that such world controls must represent all the main Powers in the world ... . We have to do what we can with and for the League of Nations, and particularly we have to sustain its World Labour organisation, but we have never to forget how provisional and experimental a body it is and the urgent need in which it stands for a drastic reconstruction that will give Germany, Russia, Turkey, and other excluded Powers a sense of equal and honourable cooperation. (Correspondence 3: 116)
Having developed his general position in his "electoral letter," Wells uses his second electoral publication to identify certain areas of policy, primary amongst them being the "Capital Levy." The Capital Levy was a national Labour Party policy which involved a one-off-tax on large, uninvested savings. The levy would only have significant effect on savings of over 20,000 [pounds sterling], but it was believed that it would halve the annual interest-payments on Britain's war debt. Wells uses his pamphlet to explain the effects of the Capital Levy. He calls it an "Anti-Waste" policy and stresses the small number of very rich people who would be affected by it. At the same time, he highlights, rhetorically, the areas for investment which would be opened up through the lightening of the burden of war debt. According to Wells, the Labour Party,
is opposed to the waste of life and human possibility by under-education. It is opposed to waste of health and industrial efficiency through bad housing and under-feeding. It is opposed to the waste of good habits of industry and of technical skill through unemployment. It is opposed to waste in productive efficiency, such as we find when we leave the extraction of coal in the private hands of the surface owner of the land. It is opposed to waste in economic friction due to the private ownership and profit-seeking of the transport system. And, above all, it is opposed to waste of time in dealing with the supremely urgent question of our time--these impossible debts that burthen all the world. (The World, Its Debts, and the Rich Man 8)
Far from being antagonistic to capital, Wells assures his constituents that "We stand for creative compromise. We are ready for frank co-operation with every sort of industrial and financial leadership which is really working for productive and creative ends" (12).
Despite his "one-nation" stance, Wells failed to win over the privileged alumni of the University of London. At the general election of November 15, 1922, he came bottom of the poll; his Conservative namesake, Sir Sydney Russell-Wells, was returned comfortably.
University of London 1922 Sir Sydney Russell-Wells (Conservative) 4,037 Professor Frederick Pollard (Liberal) 2,593 H. G. Wells (Labour) 1,420
The 1922 general election returned a Conservative majority, but, within a year and in accordance with that party's election pledge, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin called a further general election to be fought specifically on the issue of tariff reform, with the Conservatives favouring the introduction of protective tariffs and Labour and the two factions of the Liberal Party opposing protection. Thus, late in 1923 Wells prepared for a rematch for the University of London seat.
As part of his second campaign, Wells issued four election leaflets, Socialism and the Scientific Motive (1923), an "electoral letter," The Labour Ideal of Education (1923), and A Walk Along the Thames Embankment (1923) (the last of these being an excerpt from Chapter One of New Worlds for Old ). Having fought the earlier election as a "one nation," anti-waste, internationalist candidate, Wells attempted to broaden his appeal in the rerun by arguing the potentially wide appeal of socialism in a mixed economy and by declaring himself solidly in favour of free trade.
On the question of socialism, Wells dismisses the argument that collectivism leads to uniformity and suggests that morally "in theory all of us are Communists [and] we are all extreme individualists": "we all repudiate selfishness; we all say, in theory 'Each for all and all for each,' and justify almost every political attitude we take up by an appeal to the greatest common benefit" while simultaneously "we all believe that we do our best work when we are free to choose the work we want to do, and free to do it each in the way we think best" (Socialism and the Scientific Motive 2). Thus, to Wells "the argument that circles about the words 'Socialism' and 'Capitalism' is not one of opposites at all, but an argument of more or less. In nearly every one of its practical applications it is a question of expediency and practical efficiency" (2). Wells demonstrates the wide--if unrecognised--appeal of socialism by pointing out that "We are living in a mixed system to-day. Our system is partly a Socialistic system. Even now we are not living under a pure 'profit' system. Almost all the fundamental, vital work of the world is done by people who are not working for profit" (2-3). By this analysis, Wells asserts:
We of the Labour Party know that ... the progress of technical science, the advance of educational work, and the advance in general intelligence of the community render it possible for a modern community to get coal, to carry on transport, to conduct agriculture and many other general services of that sort, with highly paid managers under popular control on a far higher level of efficiency than is possible on a private ownership basis working for private profit. (4)
In sum, Wells supports "the limitation of property to personal things," while asserting that "Absolute Private Property in land, natural resources and the apparatus of public services, is a robbery of the community by the individual" (Wells' Social anticipations 134).
Having maintained the practical benefits of socialism in a modern society, Wells turns to the "free trade vs. protection" debate, and, from an internationalist perspective, argues the evils of protection for a country such as Britain. First, he presents the historical argument by asserting that "Our country has never been a subsisting economy. Several millions of our population have lived upon imports paid for by past and present exports" (Correspondence 3: 159) and, so, attempts to "successfully readjust" the "greatly undeveloped home market" must not be attempted "simply by barring manufactured imports and making food dear" (Correspondence 3: 160). In opposition to protection, Wells suggests "a more general diffusion of spending power" (Correspondence 3: 160) through the application of the Capital Levy, which would tax savings of over 5,000 [pounds sterling] and "be applied mainly to the relief of the taxation of the ordinary man, and so it will release money for ordinary spending" (Correspondence 3: 160-161). This simple mechanism for "priming the pump" demonstrates Wells's advocacy of Keynesian economics long before Keynes' theories had gained wide acceptance. (Wells was probably influenced by Keynes' 1923 volume, A Tract on Monetary Reform, which Wells reviewed on January 19, 1924 [A Year of Prophesying 97-101].)
While Wells clearly considers protectionism to be against Britain's national economic interests, he also opposes it on internationalist grounds. He declares that "Tariffs are international acts, a milder form of war.... Theoretically, they are as justifiable as an army or a navy--and their active use is likely to prove as ruinous as warfare to the common man" (Correspondence 3: 160). He prefers a friendly free-trade policy, and "the necessity of rooting peace deeply" through "a fundamental reconstruction of the League of Nations" (Correspondence 3: 161). Indeed, so enfeebled does Wells consider the League by 1923 that he suggests "Rather at first a league of two or three countries with a real community of purpose--or two or three such leagues--than a lax assembly admitting to its councils such countries as France and Italy which openly flaunt [sic] its fundamental ideas" (Correspondence 3: 161).
While the result of the election of December 5, 1923 produced "a Labour Party in sight, not of power, but of office," in the University of London contest Wells again came bottom of the poll despite his best efforts (A Year of Prophesying 87). He could take some heart, however, from the fact that he was the only candidate to increase his vote, and that on a lower overall turnout.
University of London 1923 Sir Sydney Russell-Wells (Conservative) 3,833 Professor Frederick Pollard (Liberal) 2,180 H. G. Wells (Labour) 1,427
With his second electoral defeat, Wells declared an end to his parliamentary ambitions. Free from party entanglements, he took up his independent pen and proceeded to comment upon the activities of Ramsay MacDonald's government and the future of centre-left representation. His first opportunity to consider the Labour government's activities came in the Westminster Gazette, which had commissioned him to write a weekly column on national and international affairs between September 1923 and September 1924. He began by considering its education policy. Although he accused the government of showing "conservative discretion" and equated it to "a rather left-handed Liberal Cabinet" by noting that the "Social Revolution is in no hurry to arrive," Wells was interested in C. P. Trevelyan's appointment as education minister. He insisted that the "immediate test of the Labour Government's quality will be its treatment of national education" (A Year of Prophesying 121). Despite his accusation of "conservatism," he still believed that the party was committed to "a highly organised community inspired not by profit-hunting but by the spirit of co-operative service, and working and producing abundantly for the common good." Education policy was, thus, central to the party's objectives, Wells felt, as it "is impossible for a Labour Government to realise its ideal ... with the British population at the present level of education." "To raise that level," Wells asserted, "is a necessary condition to the successful extension of public service into economic life and the replacement of the money scramble by economic order" (122). With that said, Wells then proceeded to offer Trevelyan a number of policy suggestions. Writing in February 1924, Wells sought the lengthening of the school career. He stated that the "public infant school must be the day-nursery of the poor" and "education must go on at least to the age of sixteen" (123, 122). In terms of content, he suggested education "must include a general knowledge of the history of the world and mankind, the elements of political and economic science, some knowledge of the methods and scope of biological and physical science, and a reasonable acquaintance with and use of at least one foreign language" (122). Finally, Wells urged the empowerment of pupils in directing their own education; he argued that as "children are already differentiating after twelve, there must be a choice of studies, [for] one child's education is another child's poison" (124).
If Wells was hopeful for education in February 1924, he was already disillusioned by March when the government announced its military spending. Labour's decision in that month to built five new Royal Navy cruisers was greeted with outrage by many on the left, including Wells, who wrote,
These cruisers are to cost five million pounds ... and they are to give employment to some few thousands of men. Meanwhile I gather that the educational clauses of that magnificent Labour programme which was to have kept the next generation at school (and off the crowded labour market) until it reached the age of sixteen are to be crippled--a la Fisher--for want of funds. (141)
Wells's anger at Labour's naval rearmament policy went further than simply criticising the diversion of social spending. To him, the action would have a massive impact on Britain's foreign relations, for while he believed Labour's "recognition of Russia is all to the good," he felt that "The guns of those five cruisers, though not one of them [will] ever materialise and though they will certainly prove obsolete weapons before they can ever be finished, will have blown the prestige of the British Labour Government as a possible European peacemaker to smithereens" (121, 139-140). Wells believed that Labour's decision was a cynical, short-sighted vote-winning manoeuvre: "One does not buy a weapon without an enemy in view, and I am altogether at a loss to see what enemy Mr MacDonald has in view--unless it is the Conservative candidates in the shipbuilding constituencies" (140). Two months after the "cruisers revelation," Wells was still expressing his anger, for he saw the revelation as just the first act of the government's betrayal of its manifesto commitments. In summarising Labour's disappointing performance, Wells ticked off the abandoned policies which he himself had campaigned on just five months earlier: "Instead of some genuine effort towards disarmament there has been the most foolish treatment possible of the business of the five cruisers. There has not even been a gesture towards the nationalisation of transport, mines, and the production of staple commodities.... The Capital Levy has gone behind a screen" (180).
Despite his disappointment with the Labour government, Wells continued to support the two liberal parties (Labour and Liberal) against what he described as "Baldwinism[:] a Danger to the World" (The Way the World Is Going 89). Wells felt that the Conservative foreign policy of 1924 to 1929 was leading straight to another European war: with relations with Russia broken off and Russia being "impressed with the idea that Great Britain is the enemy of the Soviet Government," with "the failure to get to an understanding with the United States upon the issue of disarmament," and, especially, with the government having "carried its support of the aggressive and reactionary Mussolini dictatorship to a pitch which amounts to a virtual betrayal of both France and the republican regime in Germany" (92, 91, 90). For Wells, "upon the development of a Franco-German friendship hangs all the hope we have of a great future for Europe," so British policy should have been directed to fostering such a friendship (90). Believing that "The paralysis of English liberalism carries with it the paralysis of progress throughout the world," in late 1927 Wells makes an examination of the support-base of the centre-left parties and tries to devise ways of ensuring their return to office at the next general election (83).
While recognising the differences in their historical support, Wells believes that the ideological gulf between the Liberal and Labour parties is insignificant compared with that between them and the Conservatives. Reflecting on MacDonald's first government, for instance, Wells observes that "In power the Labour politicians have shown themselves mild snobs, socially ignorant rather than virtuous, and pathetically anxious to assure the world that there is no danger of 'Socialism in our time.' They are Liberals in red ties who have to cater for the earnestness of the young supporter" (84-85). Labour is liberal because it is too timid to be socialist while the Liberals have learnt from the Edwardian "New Liberals" and such able thinkers as Keynes that social and economic laissez-faire is no longer a practical proposition. On the other hand,
either a Liberal or a Labour Government would release educational progress, check armament, relieve the world from a fear of adventures against Russia and China sustained more or less furtively by Britain, break the ugly association with Mussolini, show a living regard for free speech and private freedom, and reassure the forces of peace and civilization in France, Germany, Poland, and Hungary. (86)
The only areas of difference Wells recognises between the Liberal and Labour parties are that "The Liberals might be rather more economical and skimpy over social services and the Labour people more snobbish and more extravagant over the army, navy, and air services." So, on the whole, a Liberal-Labour "blend might indeed be better than either party, faults might cancel out" (95-96).
Given such ideological affinities between the two centre-left parties, Wells feels that a combined anti-Conservative approach would sweep them into power whereas divisions on the left would let the Conservatives back into office. Wells's consideration of the situation produces two related strategies, one to be exercised by the parties' supporters and the other to be negotiated by their leaderships. At the grassroots level, Wells advocates "the formation of a series of new local political organizations, beside, and independent of, the local official Liberal and Labour Parties" which would rally the anti-Conservative vote. Such organisations would create "a block of voters who will vote primarily against the Government and only secondarily for either Liberal or Labour." This use of tactical voting would lead to "a vote in each constituency for whichever of these two political parties secured the largest vote against the Conservatives at the preceding contest, irrespective of all their bletherings [sic] against each other. One would vote Liberal here or one would vote Labour there in order not to waste one's vote" (87). With the creation of a grassroots anti-Conservative movement, Wells believes that the Liberal and Labour party leaders would feel compelled to negotiate a strategy themselves for the ousting of the Conservatives and, Wells declares, "Like the majority of people in Great Britain, I want a coalition of the Liberal and Labour Parties. That plainly is our salvation" (95-96). Legitimised by the grassroots movement, such a coalition government would be the complementary parliamentary strategy to return a liberal government.
A stumbling block to the creation of such a centre-left coalition, however, is the leadership of Ramsay MacDonald. Wells is frustrated that "The poor little Daily Herald under his influence spends most of its ammunition on the Liberals," and he feels that "people like ... Mr Ramsay MacDonald are incurably set upon their party follies" (95, 96). These sentiments, combined with MacDonald's unimpressive performance as prime minister, lead Wells to "look for some sort of leadership beyond mere party strategy in the approaching struggle" (96). While acknowledging "Henderson, Thomas, Clynes [as] all surely Ministers in a coalition," Wells asserts that "Snowden ... is the man who can best lead the British Empire, under a Coalition Government, back to sanity, security, and the service of peace" as he "is more generally respected and would be more willingly trusted than any other contemporary (97).
Despite Wells's urgings, however, the 1929 general election returned a minority Labour government under MacDonald's leadership. It refused to work formally with the Liberal Party. Furthermore, when the economic crisis of the world depression reached Britain two years later, it was to the Conservatives primarily that MacDonald turned when he formed a national government. He thereby condemned the official Labour Party to opposition for nearly a decade and drove a wedge between the pro- and anti-free trade Liberals. That division ended that party's parliamentary significance for over forty years. Labour's self-destruction as a progressive party disillusioned Wells, leading him to note, in 1938, that the
Labour Party ... is ... a heavy drag on intelligent reconstruction.... Labour parties have failed to become anything but trade-union parties and trade unionism is nothing more than the defensive organization of the workers under a private capitalistic system. Its natural tactics are defensive and obstructive. It aims at shorter hours, better pay and a restraint upon dismissals. It is unable to imagine a new system. (World Brain 111)
While continuing to vote Labour for the rest of his life, his faith in party politics, shaken after 1924, was destroyed in 1931, and he declared that "'end' is the word for what any definitely Labour politician seems likely to do in the way of creative reconstruction" (112).
With the onslaught of the Great Depression, Wells's concerns focused more than ever on international questions. In such works as The Open Conspiracy: Blue Prints for a World Revolution (1928), The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1932), and World Brain (1938), he developed the theory of functionalism. He advocated for world government and such educational schemes as a world encyclopaedia and a "world braid' (an internet-like resource for organising information). In 1933, he was elected president of the International PEN Club, the writers' human-rights organisation, on behalf of which he visited the Soviet Union in 1934 in a failed effort to establish a Russian branch. In 1934, he signed up to the Basis of the Federation of Progressive Societies and Individuals, and wrote the introduction to its manifesto in which he called for "collective production," a "world system of money and credit," the "organization of a World Pax" through an end to private armaments-manufacture and "the progressive abrogation of national sovereignty," the "modernization of education throughout the world," and the guarantee of "free speech, free publication, and the right of free movement throughout the world" (Introduction 15-16). In 1936, he became the first president of the Education Section of the British Association, and he toured Australia in 1939 on its behalf. On the domestic front, he was a signatory of the "Next Five Years" manifesto, which "called for a coherently planned reconstruction of the nation's economic life, for readjustment of the social order, for preservation as well as imaginative development of the land we inherit, and for a vigorous effort to strengthen the collective peace system" (Liberty and Democratic Leadership 309-310). Within and without these organisations, Wells's chief efforts were concentrated on establishing world peace and greater international cooperation.
During the 1930s, Wells came to insist more and more upon the need for a world revolution; however, his was to be a revolution in ideas and planning rather than a violent overthrow of existing regimes. He had already identified Soviet Russia as a key, if flawed, inspiration during his meeting with Lenin in 1920, and during the 1930s, with some qualifications, his enthusiasm continued. That decade, however, also saw the emergence of the "New Deal" in the USA, and for Wells the emergence of Soviet and American state-planning offered a glimmer of hope that the world was moving towards his envisaged world revolution. Throughout the interwar period, Wells kept abreast of developments in the Soviet Union and continued promoting friendly relations with it. In a 1927 essay, for instance, he reiterated that "the existing Government of Russia is the only possible Government there at the present time" and "the only hope of saving the vast areas and resources of European and Asiatic Russia for civilization lies in getting to some working compromise with that Government and co-operating in its development" (The Way the World is Going 108). The following year, he commented that "Stalin is evidently a determined, uncompromising Communist, resolved to arrest any relapse of the Russian community towards either capitalism or Christianity" although he did express his displeasure at Stalin's expulsion of "that able saviour of the Soviet republic in its direst military need, Trotsky" (Outline of History  1125). Despite his concerns about Stalin's move towards personal rule, Wells was an enthusiastic advocate of the Five-Year Plan, explaining that,
The whole Soviet Union is in the throes of a great experiment, the most far-reaching and extraordinary attempt to reconstruct economic life that has ever been made.... In five years if the Plan succeeds, Russia is to become a land of huge estates directed by the people's government.... The Soviet Union is to become one huge producing organization working its estates for the common benefit. (1125)
Wells's enthusiasm for the Five-Year Plan, however, was tempered by two concerns. First, he feared that Russia might be moving ahead too quickly, as "With political institutions of the most provisional sort, without even the skeleton of an efficient civil service, without freedom of criticism and suggestion, using indeed to this day terroristic methods of the crudest and bloodiest sort, she has attempted to evoke an exhaustively planned economic organization of more than a hundred million people which shall buy and sell as one merchant" (The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Manhind 505-506). Second, in order for Russia to succeed, Wells insisted that socio-political reforms would have to be introduced alongside the economic: "A wide education, a free, intellectual atmosphere, and a whole class, not merely of technicians, but of capable men with common ideas and a common sense of responsibility, are called for. An ego-centred autocrat, with a political party disciplined to death, a Press bureau, and a secret police, is no substitute for that" (After Democracy 188).
This lack of intellectual freedom continued to perplex Wells throughout the 1930s and during the Second World War. Wells felt that, under Stalin, "The country is still living on the mental impetus of Lenin and the democratic socialism of the nineteenth century" (The Fate of Homo Sapiens 263), and that it was the "inertia of Lenin's doctrines [which] carried the country through the supreme efforts of the first Five Year Plan" (The New America 18). While expressing a personal liking for Stalin, Wells stated that,
I have been disillusioned about him mainly by those foolish films of personal propaganda he has allowed to be made, Lenin in October, for example. Therein Trotsky is elaborately belittled and Stalin made the all-wise hero of the story. He stands over Lenin. Modestly but firmly he indicates the strategic points in the map and tells him what to do. Apparently he is trying to distort the whole history of the revolution for his personal glorification. (The Fate of Homo Sapiens 263)
By 1935, Wells felt that "In no sense now is Russia still a revolutionary country: it has become a dogmatic country" (The New America 18), and by 1941, as Stalin's world prestige was at its pinnacle due to Russia's involvement in the Second World War, Wells was writing: "I am afraid (because I like him) that Stalin has played his part in the world" (Guide to the New Worm 131). Despite these concerns, however, Wells continued to view Russia as a global model. He argued that "Towards the ends her government seeks so passionately, hastily, bitterly and clumsily, the economic order of the whole world is moving slowly but surely" and that she "upholds the tattered banner of world-collectivity and remains something splendid and hopeful in the spectacle of mankind" (The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind 505-506, 507).
Simultaneously with his interest in Stalin's Five-Year Plan, Wells became increasingly interested in developments in the United States. As democratic regimes followed Italy's and Poland's earlier examples and gave way during the 1930s to dictatorships in Portugal, Germany, Spain, and elsewhere, Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal (undertaken without any threat to America's democratic structure) became a beacon of liberal state-planning. Wells explained the rise of the dictators by noting that "Power--gigantic power--has come to us and we can use it only in mutual injury according to the methods of the warring past. Plenty overwhelms us and we do not know how to distribute or use the wealth we can now produce" (The New America 9). He believed that the world economy was out of gear, and that world leaders had to "tackle the huge triple problem": "the politico-war problem, the unemployment problem and the finance-monetary problem" in order to correct it (32, 13). In Russia, the Five-Year Plan was attempting to reconstruct that country's economy; in America, Wells felt, Roosevelt's New Deal was attempting to do the same. Although Wells was a supporter of the New Deal, he was not uncritical. He was enthused, for instance, by the massive public-works programmes being instituted, especially the Tennessee Valley Authority and similar power projects throughout the country, but he felt the government was not being bold enough in taking on private enterprise. Thus, commenting on Harry Hopkins's Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Wells considered it,
a half-hearted attempt to create a sort of embryo of a socialist state, in which there shall be no profiteering, within the great body of the profiteering system. Mr Hopkins is... setting the unemployed to grow and make things, furniture, cotton goods, soaps, shoes, canned goods, and so forth for themselves, bartering among themselves. But in deference to the voting strength of the private trader, work relief is putting nothing upon the open market. (70-71)
Wells visited Roosevelt's America on four occasions (1934, 1935, 1937, and 1940), and he witnessed the ups and downs of the American recovery. Despite Congressional setbacks and significant opposition to Roosevelt's policies, Wells believed that his "New Deal involves such collective controls of the national business that it would be absurd to call it anything but socialism" (The Fate of Homo Sapiens 273), especially "If speculative profits are to be eliminated, if the process of price regulation is to go on" as Wells felt it must (The New America 75-76). Throughout the 1930s, Wells felt that "Both Roosevelt and Stalin were attempting to produce a huge, modern, scientifically organised, socialist state" (275), and this feeling led him to believe that a Moscow--Washington axis was required to drag the world out of depression and away from war. During his visit to Russia in 1934, Wells attempted to persuade Stalin that such an axis could be created:
It seems to me that what is taking place in the United States is a profound reorganisation, the creation of [a] planned, that is socialist economy. You and Roosevelt begin from two different starting-points. But is there not a relation in ideas, a kinship of ideas and needs, between Washington and Moscow? (Stalin and Wells 4).
Stalin denied the kinship. He argued that Roosevelt's objective was to save capitalism while Russia was creating a socialist state. Wells, however, disputed this argument on two grounds: first, by suggesting that "If we begin with the State control of the banks and then follow with the control of the heavy industries, of industry in general, of commerce, etc., such an all-embracing control will be equivalent to the State ownership of all branches of national economy. This will be the process of socialisation"; second, by saying "It seems to me that instead of stressing the antagonism between the two worlds, we should, in the present circumstances, strive to establish a common tongue for all the constructive forces" (7, 5-6). Nonetheless, Wells's gradualism made no impression, and although he finished the interview by pointing out that "At the present time there are in the world only two persons to whose opinion, to whose every word, millions are listening--you and Roosevelt," it was clear that a Russo-American initiative to end the world depression was not on the agenda (18). Indeed, by 1940 Wells felt that Russia had become "no more than a nationalised imperialism" (The Rights of Man 105).
With the rise of aggressive nationalism on the one hand and national isolationism on the other, Wells observed the world heading towards a second World War. When the Second World War broke out, however, he did not opt for bitter recriminations but immediately launched himself into a new campaign--for a "Universal Rights of Man." Even before the war broke out, Wells had expressed concern about the breakdown of democracy, both globally and in Britain itself, in The Fate of Homo Sapiens. With the tightening of Air Raid Precautions (ARP) throughout 1939, Wells became concerned about their impact on civil rights, and--though an advocate for ARP--he sought guarantees that any sacrifice of rights would be balanced by greater government transparency and popular input into decision-making. (These guarantees became particularly crucial with the establishment of the "electoral truce" from September 1939 and the passing of the Prolongation of Parliament Act in 1940, an Act which effectively postponed a general election until the conclusion of hostilities in Europe.)
In The Fate of Homo Sapiens, Wells begins his defence of democracy in conventional liberal terms by declaring that "democracy means the subordination of the state to the ends and welfare of the common individual" and that a "modern democratic community would frustrate its own declared aims without a complete, detailed, legal framework enforced by a judiciary and a police acting strictly under the law" (56, 58). He also asserts that "the consent of the governed in a democracy ... must be a continuing consent. It must be subject to sustained revision and renewal," and he maintains that "law must be world law and equally protective of every individual human being" (59, 64). To this liberal-internationalist stance, however, Wells then appends two more radical aspects of his definition of democracy. First, he states that democracy "is socialism. It sets its face against all abuse of the advantages of ownership"; second, he argues that "freedom and equality are incomplete without freely accessible knowledge and free and open discussion" (64, 6667). Thus, from a seemingly "small government" position, Wells develops his definition of democracy to allow for "big government" overseen by legal checks and balances. Although his first "Universal Rights of Man" would not appear for over a month after the publication of The Fate of Homo Sapiens (with Britain's declaration of war on Germany occurring in the intervening period), it is clear that even during peacetime, human-rights concerns are creeping into Wells's thought.
Wells formally launched his "Universal Rights of Man" campaign in a series of three letters to The Times between September 26 and October 25, 1939. In the first, he welcomes the debate on war aims by declaring that "it recalls the war aims controversy of 1917-18" (Correspondence 4: 235). While he dismisses the League of Nations as "a poor and ineffective outcome" of that controversy, he commends the spirit (but not the achievements) of the Bolshevik revolution and "the fundamental nobility of the conception of a world-wide international system of social justice, a world peace, from which the incentive of private profit was to be eliminated" (236). He hopes that the new war-aims discussion will occur "in an atmosphere of extreme candour and mutual toleration," in "open discussion, even the discussion of treason and revolution" (237). In his second letter, dated September 30, Wells defends himself against the charge in a Times editorial of being "materialistic" ("The End and the Means"). He reasserts the need "for hard thinking, honesty, outspokenness, and mutual toleration" as well as "for lucid world explanations that will save us from another repetition of the 'settlement' of 1918-20" (Correspondence 4: 238). Enthused by the "considerable response ... in America and elsewhere" and by "the views and comments of a number of very able people" which his letters received, Wells submits a third letter to The Times which aims to present "precisely what we are fighting for" without attempting the "practical impossibility of making any statement in terms of boundaries, federations, and political readjustments" (242). In short, he submits "a trial statement of the Rights of Man brought up to date" (242).
Wells's proposal for a new human-rights charter received immediate and continuing support, with suggestions for revisions coming from around the world. The Daily Herald, under the championship of its science correspondent Peter Ritchie Calder, published Wells's initial Rights document and opened its pages to debate from the general public. A "drafting committee under the chairmanship of Lord Sankey, consisting of Lord Horder, Sir Norman Angell, Miss Margaret Bondfield, Sir Richard Gregory, Mrs Barbara Wootton, Sir John Orr, Mr Francis Williams and myself, with Mr Ritchie Calder as secretary" was established to refine the document in light of international opinion ('42 to '44 37). Between 1939 and 1944, Wells reprinted the evolved Rights document in nine of his books and pamphlets; it appeared in dozens of languages in innumerable journals and newspapers throughout the world; and a German-language edition was distributed by the Royal Air Force over occupied Europe during the course of its bombing raids. Although Wells's "Universal Rights of Man" was, according to Geoffrey Robertson (20-23) and Francesca Klug (89-91) a historically timely document, much of its content self-consciously re-emphasised rights which already existed in law in the "Atlantic world" in such documents as the English Magna Carta (1215), the American Bill of Rights (1789) and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789) (The New World Order 138). Thus, Wells's document asserted the right to life, private property and personal liberty, freedom of movement, thought, discussion and worship, and freedom from violence. In keeping with contemporary sentiments, it also included the protection of minors.
At this level, Wells's Rights document was a universalised extension of the liberal principles which had entered Western thought during the Enlightenment. By scrutinising the wording of the document carefully, however, it is also clear that Wells sought not only individual freedom but the introduction of social and economic regulations and the enforcement of rights by an international agency which would transform the world into a confederation of collectivist states overseen by a world authority. Thus, at a regulatory level, the "Right to Earn Money" (clause four) asserts that " buying and holding and selling for profit without service is not lawful. That is speculation" while "Duty and Freedom" (clause three) states that "No one shall be forced to work. But the community must find him suitable work when he asks for it. It is his right" and the "Right to Know" (clause seven) says "He has a right to the teaching and information and news necessary for him to make the fullest use of his powers" ('42 to "44 46, 47). From the "small government" notions of policing peoples' rights and freedoms, these three clauses demonstrate Wells's vision for "big government" by introducing greater ethics into capitalism and insisting on states' responsibilities to provide work and meaningful education for all their citizens. Perhaps even more radically, however, Wells's document ends with the assertion that the "Rights of Man are in his nature and cannot be changed" and "Rulers, rajahs, governments, directors, are no more than servants of those rights" and "are bound by this Law" (47, 48). By placing these rights above governments and by universalising them, Wells seeks to hold governments legally accountable for their actions, and he, thereby, creates a framework through which international relations can operate without the need for world wars. Pre-emptive legal actions, while possibly requiring armed force to back them up, can contain conflicts through the prosecution of national leaders in an international court or through localised wars duly approved by an international agency.
Although Wells's "Universal Rights of Man" document appears to be a radical departure from his gradualism of earlier decades, in fact it simply confirmed it. For Wells felt that his document was simply an evolution of the principle of human rights first established by Magna Carta since "It has been the practice of what are called the democratic or Parliamentary countries to meet every enhancement and centralisation of power in the past by a definite and vigorous reassertion of the individual rights of man" (The Common Sense of War and Peace 83). Wells's reformist principles, therefore, had not changed, although his gradualism was necessarily accelerated by the turn of events. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Wells became convinced that humanity was at risk of extermination if the cycle of world wars could not be stopped and so, writing in 1941, he declared that "All war is now civil war. ... World unity under a common law is now the only alternative to chaos" (Guide to the New World 66). While the creation of a world state had been a desire of Wells's from as early as 1901, by the 1940s he no longer felt that Cosmopolis was a political choice; it was inevitable and, given the rapid advance of technology and the huge productive power in the world, it had to be regulated and controlled:
the successful organisation of the more universal and penetrating collectivism that is now being forced upon us all, will be frustrated in its most vital aspect unless its organisation is accompanied by the preservative of a new Declaration of the Rights of Man, that must, because of the increasing complexity of the social structure, be more generous, detailed and explicit than any of its predecessors. Such a Declaration must become the common fundamental law of all communities and collectivities assembled under the World Pax. (The New World Order 138)
In order to save humankind from destruction and to bring the war to a speedier conclusion, Wells asserted that "the current discussion of 'War Aims' may very effectively be transformed into the propaganda of this new Declaration of the Rights of Man" (The Rights of Man 168).
Propagating the "Universal Rights of Man" was Wells's main preoccupation during the Second World War, but he saw human rights as just one aspect of a reconstructed postwar world order. As early as 1940, he was insisting on "a world settlement based in the three ideas of socialism, law and knowledge" as "the only way of escape from deepening disaster" (The New World Order 147). Furthermore, he insisted that the settlement be global, for he believed that "The age of sovereign states, which began with the prehistoric city communities, has ended, and this present chaos is its downfall" (Phoenix 13) since "These sovereign governments have given us nothing but inconclusive wars on a larger and larger scale" (The Rights of Man 103). In the place of sovereign nation-states, Wells desired "a unifying federation to override and consolidate the present dangerous fragmentation of the direction of human affairs." The powers to be exercised by such a world federation would be "the limitation and supersession (1) of political sovereignty, (2) of the private ownership and direction of the general economic organisation of mankind and (3) of the master and subject relationship, by an equalitarian fundamental law throughout the world" (Phoenix 60-61). Wells did not envisage the establishment of a world parliament, but believed many of the tasks of a world federation could be undertaken by functional agencies through "a system of federally cooperative world authorities with powers delegated to them by the existing governments" (181-182). Such authorities would include a "disarmament commission, a reparations commission, an international commission for the restoration of the displaced populations, an air and general transport commission, and a commission for the restoration of production by some readjustment of money and barter" as well as "a world control of hygiene, education and information" (The Common Sense of War and Peace 58, 94). Indeed, in the postwar world, such an education commission would be crucial as "World reconstruction involves nothing less than the re-education of the whole world" (Phoenix 75).
During the course of the war, Wells saw the basis of his federal world-state emerging out of the activities of the Allied powers in the "inter-Allied boards for supply, shipping, and other economic matters" being discussed between the British and French governments during 1939 and 1940 and, later, in the more detailed British-American cooperation (Hancock and Gowing 180). Wells considered the inter-Allied boards as forms of "war-welded federation," and he believed that internationalists like himself must insist upon "the preservation of the ad hoc war-welded federalisms that are being brought into existence now, function by function, and their extension to the whole world, as a permanent peace settlement." As Wells saw it, "The longer the inevitable international commissions that would be set up stay in being, and the more extensive they are, the less disposed reasonable men will be to part with them, and the more effectively will they block the way against the old order, or the old disorder, sneaking back to its outworn localisations and appropriations" (The Common Sense of War and Peace 96, 59-60). Throughout the war, and especially with the American and Soviet entries into the conflict, Wells's enthusiasm for the potential of an interlocking world federation increased until he envisaged it controlling almost all aspects of life. He declared in 1942 that "a Revolutionary Reconstruction of the world includes the abolition of private property except in quite personal and intimate things"; he felt that "anything that could be done by the federal government should be done by that government and not divided up among regional particularisms, and so on, down to the minimum unit" (Phoenix 62, 110). Ultimately, he believed: "As the new methods get into working order the national governments will vanish, softly and unobtrusively, from the lay-out of the world" (181-182). So, Wells's world state, rather like the Communist state of Friedrich Engels, was to pass from "political rule over men to the administration of things and the guidance of the processes of production" (Engels 66).
Although he continued publishing into his final year, Wells's health deteriorated rapidly from 1942 onwards. His last book, Mind at the End of Its Tether (1945), suggested a final despair about humanity's prospects although "in 1945, when he was already near to dying, he had himself conveyed to the poll to register a cross [i.e. vote] for [the Labour Party] in St Marylebone" (Cole 288). The following year and just over a month before he died, he roused himself to publish an article in the Socialist and New Leader in which he called on King George VI to abdicate over his alleged links to Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists ("That Mosley Money!"). On August 13, 1946, Wells died. He was cremated in Golders Green, London, three days later. After the service, his ashes were scattered from an aircraft over the Solent by his sons Anthony West and G. P. Wells.
H. G. Wells was a prolific writer, an educator, and a world statesman; he was a socialist and a cosmopolitan. While his legacy is manifold, three areas stand out in which he is especially significant.
First, Wells was responsible for broadening socialism into areas beyond economic questions--such as women's liberation and educational reform--and making it a holistic ideology. As William J. Hyde observed a decade after Wells's death, "From his initial and confuted propaganda program for the Fabian Society to his last work, his life was one long promotion of the socialist idea. His was the appeal for a social order of 'constructive design,' an end in which every self-seeking aim would be subordinated in a State devoted to collective aims and racial well-being" (234). Margaret Cole said of him just two years after his death, "'H. G.' in his lifetime inspired countless thousands of the eager self-immolatory young with the faith that freedom-with-democracy-and-Socialism could be realised 'in our time,' as the ILP used to say.... He was the leaven--the anarchic, human leaven--which prevented, and still prevents, our movement from becoming a soulless organisation" (288).
Second, Wells placed global human rights on the political agenda. His advocacy influenced the achievement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and global human rights remains a central issue in human affairs today. Writing of Wells's "Universal Rights of Man" campaign, the international human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson has noted it "was a far-sighted demand for what he [Wells] was the first to call a 'New World Order,' in which fundamental human rights, enforced by law, would protect individuals against governments of whatever political complexion" (22).
Third, Wells asserted that nationalism and the independence of the nation-state were no longer tenable. He created the climate of opinion in the interwar period which made the establishment of such transnational bodies as the United Nations, but especially the European Union and its precursors, possibilities in the years after the Second World War as well as other, less successful movements for world government. As W. Warren Wagar pointed out in 1961, "Certainly much more than any other single man he was instrumental in creating the climate of opinion in which the various world government societies founded since 1939 have flourished in the West" (H. G. Wells and the World State 274). Returning to Wells's influence in 2004, Wagar added: "He never wavered in his commitment to a world state [and] I regard him as one of the most significant minds at work in the twentieth century, and one of the few whose worldview remains fresh and imperative today" (H. G. Wells: Traversing Time 277).
Despite the many changes that have occurred since Wells's death, these three issues--the socialism of everyday life, the protection of human rights, and the movement for greater transnational integration--remain imperative in their evolved forms, and Wells's role in placing them on the global political agenda promises him a lasting significance in The Shape of Things to Came: The Ultimate Revolution (1933). Perhaps Wells himself, in his "auto-obituary" published in 1943, most accurately gauged his own significance when he called himself "a reef-building coral polyp," and stated that "Scarcely anything remains of him now, and yet, without him and his like, the reef of common ideas on which our civilisation stands today could never have arisen" ("My Auto-Obituary" 119).
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