The War That Will End War

by H.G. Wells

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Chapter V - The Most Necessary Measures in the World

In this smash-up of empires and diplomacy, this utter disaster of international politics, certain things which would have seemed ridiculously Utopian a few weeks ago have suddenly become reasonable and practicable. One of these, a thing that would have seemed fantastic until the very moment when we joined issue with Germany and which may now be regarded as a sober possibility, is the absolute abolition throughout the world of the manufacture of weapons for private gain. Whatever may be said of the practicability of national disarmament, there can be no dispute not merely of the possibility but of the supreme necessity of ending for ever the days of private profit in the instruments of death. That is the real enemy. That is the evil thing at the very centre of this trouble.

At the very core of all this evil that has burst at last in world disaster lies this Kruppism, this sordid enormous trade in the instruments of death. It is the closest, most gigantic organisation in the 41world. Time after time this huge business, with its bought newspapers, its paid spies, its agents, its shareholders, its insane sympathisers, its vast ramification of open and concealed associates, has defeated attempts at pacification, has piled the heap of explosive material higher and higher—the heap that has toppled at last into this bloody welter in Belgium, in which the lives of four great nations are now being torn and tormented and slaughtered and wasted beyond counting, beyond imagining. I dare not picture it—thinking now of who may read.

So long as the unstable peace endured, so long as the Emperor of the Germans and the Krupp concern and the vanities of Prussia hung together, threatening but not assailing the peace of the world, so long as one could dream of holding off the crash and saving lives, so long was it impossible to bring this business to an end or even to propose plainly to bring this business to an end. It was still possible to argue that to be prepared for war was the way to keep the peace. But now everyone knows better. The war has come. Preparation has exploded. Outrageous plunder has passed into outrageous bloodshed. All Europe is in revolt against this evil system. There is no going back now to peace; our men must die, in heaps, in thousands; we cannot delude ourselves with dreams of easy victories; we must all suffer endless miseries and 42anxieties; scarcely a human affair is there that will not be marred and darkened by this war. Out of it all must come one universal resolve: that this iniquity must be plucked out by the roots. Whatever follies still lie ahead for mankind this folly at least must end. There must be no more buying and selling of guns and warships and war-machines. There must be no more gain in arms. Kings and Kaisers must cease to be the commercial travellers of monstrous armament concerns. With the Goeben the Kaiser has made his last sale. Whatever arms the nations think they need they must make for themselves and give to their own subjects. Beyond that there must be no making of weapons in the earth.

This is the clearest common sense. I do not need to argue what is manifest, what every German knows, what every intelligent educated man in the world knows. The Krupp concern and the tawdry Imperialism of Berlin are linked like thief and receiver; the hands of the German princes are dirty with the trade. All over the world statecraft and royalty have been approached and touched and tainted by these vast firms, but it is in Berlin that the corruption has centred, it is from Berlin that the intolerable pressure to arm and still to arm has come, it is at Berlin alone that the evil can be grappled and killed. Before this there was no reaching it. It was useless to dream even of disarmament 43while these people could still go on making their material uncontrolled, waiting for the moment of national passion, feeding the national mind with fears and suspicions through their subsidised Press. But now there is a new spirit in the world. There are no more fears; the worst evil has come to pass. The ugly hatreds, the nourished misconceptions of an armed peace, begin already to give place to the mutual respect and pity and disillusionment of a universally disastrous war. We can at last deal with Krupps and the kindred firms throughout the world as one general problem, one worldwide accessible evil.

Outside the circle of belligerent States, and the States which, like Denmark, Italy, Rumania, Norway and Sweden, must necessarily be invited to take a share in the final re-settlement of the world’s affairs, there are only three systems of Powers which need be considered in this matter, namely, the English and Spanish-speaking Republics of America and China. None of these States is deeply involved in the armaments trade, several of them have every reason to hate a system that has linked the obligation to deal in armaments with every loan. The United States of America is now, more than ever it was, an anti-militarist Power, and it is not too much to say that the Government of the United States of America holds in its hand the power to sanction or prevent this most urgent need of mankind. 44If the people of the United States will consider and grasp this tremendous question now; if they will make up their minds now that there shall be no more profit made in America or anywhere else upon the face of the earth in raw material; if they will determine to put the vast moral, financial and material influence the States will be able to exercise at the end of this war in the scale against the survival of Kruppism, then it will be possible to finish that vile industry for ever. If, through a failure of courage or imagination, they will not come into this thing, then I fear if it may be done. But I misjudge the United States if, in the end, they abstain from so glorious and congenial an opportunity.

Let me set out the suggestion very plainly. All the plant for the making of war material throughout the world must be taken over by the Government of the State in which it exists; every gun factory, every rifle factory, every dockyard for the building of warships. It may be necessary to compensate the shareholders more or less completely; there may have to be a war indemnity to provide for that, but that is a question of detail. The thing is the conversion everywhere of arms-making into a State monopoly, so that nowhere shall there be a ha’porth of avoidable private gain in it. Then, and then only, will it become possible to arrange for the gradual dismantling of this industry which is destroying 45humanity, and the reduction of the armed forces of the world to reasonable dimensions. I would carry this suppression down even to the restriction of the manufacture and sale of every sort of gun, pistol, and explosive. They should be made only in Government workshops and sold only in Government shops; there should not be a single rifle, not a Browning pistol, unregistered, unrecorded, and untraceable in the world. But that may be a counsel of perfection. The essential thing is the world suppression of this abominable traffic in the big gear of war, in warships and great guns.

With this corruption cleared out of the way, with the armaments commercial traveller flung down the back-stairs he has haunted for so long—and flung so hard that he will be incapacitated for ever—it will become possible to consider a scheme for the establishment of the peace of the world. Until that is done any such scheme will remain an idle dream. But him disposed of, the way is open for the association of armed nations, determined to stamp out at once every recrudescence of aggressive war. They will not be totally disarmed Powers. It is no good to disarm while any one single Power is still in love with the dream of military glory. It is no good to disarm while the possibility of war fever is still in the human blood. The intelligence of the whole world must watch for febrile symptoms and prepare to allay them. But after this struggle one 46may count on the pacific intentions of at least the following States: The British Empire, France, Italy, and all the minor States of the north and west; the United States has always been a pacific Power; Japan has had its lesson and is too impoverished for serious hostilities; China has never been aggressive; Germany also, unless this war leads to intolerable insults and humiliations for the German spirit, will be war-sick. The Spanish and Portuguese-speaking Republics of America are too busy developing materially to dream of war on the modern scale, and the same may presently be true of the Greek, Latin and Slav communities of south-east Europe if, as I hope and believe, this war leads to the rational rearrangement of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 1915 will indeed find this world a strangely tamed and reasonable world.

There is only one doubtful country, Russia, and for my own part I do not believe in the wickedness and I doubt the present power of that stupendous barbaric State. Finland and a renascent Polish kingdom at least will be weight on the side of peace. It will be indeed the phase of supreme opportunity for peace. If there is courage and honesty enough in men, I believe it will be possible to establish a world council for the regulation of armaments as the natural outcome of this war. First, the trade in armaments must be absolutely killed. And then the next supremely important measure to secure the 47peace of the world is the neutralisation of the sea.

It will lie in the power of England, France, Russia, Italy, Japan and the United States, if Germany and Austria are shattered in this war, to forbid the further building of any more ships of war at all; to persuade, and if need be, to oblige the minor Powers to sell their navies and to refuse the seas to armed ships not under the control of the confederation. To launch an armed ship can be made an invasion of the common territory of the world. This will be an open possibility in 1915. It will remain an open possibility until men recover from the shock of this conflict. As that begins to be forgotten so this will cease to be a possibility again—perhaps for hundreds of years. Already human intelligence and honesty have contrived to keep the great American lakes and the enormous Canadian frontier disarmed for a century. Warlike folly has complained of that, but it has never been strong enough to upset it. What is possible on that scale is possible universally, so soon as the armament trader is put out of mischief. And with the Confederated Peace Powers keeping the seas and guaranteeing the peaceful freedom of the seas to all mankind, treating the transport of armed men and war material, except between one detached part of a State and another, as contraband, and impartially blockading all belligerents, those who know best the 48significance of the sea power will realise best the reduction in the danger of extensive wars on land.

This is no dream. This is the plain common sense of the present opportunity.

It may be urged that this is a premature discussion, that this war is still undecided. But, indeed, there can be no decision to this war for France and England at any rate but the defeat of Germany, the abandonment of German militarism, the destruction of the German fleet, and the creation of this opportunity. Nothing short of that is tolerable; we must fight on to extinction rather than submit to a dishonouring peace in defeat or to any premature settlement. The fate of the world under triumphant Prussianism and Kruppism for the next two hundred years is not worth discussing. There is no conceivable conclusion to this war but submission at Berlin. There is no reasonable course before us now but to give all our strength for victory and the establishment of victory. The end must be victory or our effacement. What will happen after our effacement is for the Germans to consider.

A war that will merely beat Germany a little and restore the hateful tensions of the last forty years is not worth waging. As an end to all our effort it will be almost as intolerable as defeat. Yet unless a body of definite ideas is formed and promulgated now things may happen so. And so now, while there is yet time, the Liberalism of France 49and England must speak plainly and make its appeal to the Liberalism of all the world, not to share our war indeed, but to share the great ends for which we are so gladly waging this war. For, indeed, sombrely enough England and France and Belgium and Russia are glad of this day. The age of armed anxiety is over. Whatever betide, it must be an end. And there is no way of making it an end but through these two associated decisions, the abolition of Kruppism and the neutralisation of the sea.


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