List Of Contents | Contents of Utopia of Usurers and other Essays
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as to be almost imperceptible.  The old sailor knew the ropes; even if he
knew the rope's end.  Consequently, when any of these revolted, they were
concerned with things they knew, pains, practical impossibilities, or the
personal record.

But They Know

The apprentice cried "Clubs?"  and cracked his neighbours' heads with the
precision and fineness of touch which only manual craftsmanship can give.
The housewives who flatly refused to cook the hot dinner knew how much or
how little, cold meat there was in the house.  The sailor who defied
discipline by mutinying at the Nore did not defy discipline in the sense
of falling off the rigging or letting the water into the hold.  Similarly
the modern proletariat, however little it may know, knows what it is
talking about.

But the curious thing about the educated class is that exactly what it
does not know is what it is talking about.  I mean that it is startlingly
ignorant of those special things which it is supposed to invoke and keep
inviolate.  The things that workmen invoke may be uglier, more acrid, more
sordid; but they know all about them.  They know enough arithmetic to know
that prices have risen; the kind Levantine gentleman is always there to
make them fully understand the meaning of an interest sum; and the
landlord will define Rent as rigidly as Ricardo.  The doctors can always
tell them the Latin for an empty stomach; and when the poor man is treated
for the time with some human respect (by the Coronet) it almost seems a
pity he is not alive to hear how legally he died.

Against this bitter shrewdness and bleak realism in the suffering classes
it is commonly supposed that the more leisured classes stand for certain
legitimate ideas which also have their place in life; such as history,
reverence, the love of the land.  Well, it might be no bad thing to have
something, even if it were something narrow, that testified to the truths
of religion or patriotism.  But such narrow things in the past have always
at least known their own history; the bigot knew his catechism; the
patriot knew his way home.  The astonishing thing about the modern rich is
their real and sincere ignorance--especially of the things they like.


Take the most topical case you can find in any drawing-room: Belfast.
Ulster is most assuredly a matter of history; and there is a sense in
which Orange resistance is a matter of religion.  But go and ask any of
the five hundred fluttering ladies at a garden party (who find Carson so
splendid and Belfast so thrilling) what it is all about, when it began,
where it came from, what it really maintains? What was the history of
Ulster?  What is the religion of Belfast?  Do any of them know where
Ulstermen were in Grattan's time; do any of them know what was the
"Protestantism" that came from Scotland to that isle; could any of them
tell what part of the old Catholic system it really denied?

It was generally something that the fluttering ladies find in their own
Anglican churches every Sunday.  It were vain to ask them to state the
doctrines of the Calvinist creed; they could not state the doctrines of
their own creed.  It were vain to tell them to read the history of
Ireland; they have never read the history of England.  It would matter as
little that they do not know these things, as that I do not know German;
but then German is not the only thing I am supposed to know.  History and
ritual are the only things aristocrats are supposed to know; and they
don't know them.

Smile and Smile

I am not fed on turtle soup and Tokay because of my exquisite intimacy
with the style and idiom of Heine and Richter.  The English governing
class is fed on turtle soup and Tokay to represent the past, of which it
is literally ignorant, as I am of German irregular verbs; and to represent
the religious traditions of the State, when it does not know three words
of theology, as I do not know three words of German.

This is the last insult offered by the proud to the humble.  They rule
them by the smiling terror of an ancient secret.  They smile and smile;
but they have forgotten the secret.


The curious position of the Krupp firm in the awful story developing
around us is not quite sufficiently grasped.  There is a kind of academic
clarity of definition which does not see the proportions of things for
which everything falls within a definition, and nothing ever breaks beyond
it.  To this type of mind (which is valuable when set to its special and
narrow work) there is no such thing as an exception that proves the rule.
If I vote for confiscating some usurer's millions I am doing, they say,
precisely what I should be doing if I took pennies out of a blind man's
hat.  They are both denials of the principle of private property, and are
equally right and equally wrong, according to our view of that principle.
I should find a great many distinctions to draw in such a matter.  First,
I should say that taking a usurer's money by proper authority is not
robbery, but recovery of stolen goods.  Second, I should say that even if
there were no such thing as personal property, there would still be such a
thing as personal dignity, and different modes of robbery would diminish
it in very different ways.  Similarly, there is a truth, but only a
half-truth, in the saying that all modern Powers alike rely on the
Capitalist and make war on the lines of Capitalism.  It is true, and it is
disgraceful.  But it is _not_ equally true and equally disgraceful.  It is
not true that Montenegro is as much ruled by financiers as Prussia, just
as it is not true that as many men in the Kaiserstrasse, in Berlin, wear
long knives in their belts as wear them in the neighbourhood of the Black
Mountain.  It is not true that every peasant from one of the old Russian
communes is the immediate servant of a rich man, as is every employee of
Mr.  Rockefeller.  It is as false as the statement that no poor people in
America can read or write.  There is an element of Capitalism in all
modern countries, as there is an element of illiteracy in all modern
countries.  There are some who think that the number of our
fellow-citizens who can sign their names ought to comfort us for the
extreme fewness of those who have anything in the bank to sign it for, but
I am not one of these.

In any case, the position of Krupp has certain interesting aspects.  When
we talk of Army contractors as among the base but active actualities of
war, we commonly mean that while the contractor benefits by the war, the
war, on the whole, rather suffers by the contractor.  We regard this
unsoldierly middleman with disgust, or great anger, or contemptuous
acquiescence, or commercial dread and silence, according to our personal
position and character.  But we nowhere think of him as having anything to
do with fighting in the final sense.  Those worthy and wealthy persons who
employ women's labour at a few shillings a week do not do it to obtain the
best clothes for the soldiers, but to make a sufficient profit on the
worst.  The only argument is whether such clothes are just good enough for
the soldiers, or are too bad for anybody or anything.  We tolerate the
contractor, or we do not tolerate him; but no one admires him especially,
and certainly no one gives him any credit for any success in the war.
Confessedly or unconfessedly we knock his profits, not only off what goes
to the taxpayer, but what goes to the soldier.  We know the Army will not
fight any better, at least, because the clothes they wear were stitched by
wretched women who could hardly see; or because their boots were made by
harassed helots, who never had time to think.  In war-time it is very
widely confessed that Capitalism is not a good way of ruling a patriotic
or self-respecting people, and all sorts of other things, from strict
State organisation to quite casual personal charity, are hastily
substituted for it.  It is recognised that the "great employer," nine
times out of ten, is no more than the schoolboy or the page who pilfers
tarts and sweets from the dishes as they go up and down.  How angry one is
with him depends on temperament, on the stage of the dinner--also on the
number of tarts.

Now here comes in the real and sinister significance of Krupps.  There are
many capitalists in Europe as rich, as vulgar, as selfish, as rootedly
opposed to any fellowship of the fortunate and unfortunate.  But there is
no other capitalist who claims, or can pretend to claim, that he has very
appreciably _helped_ the activities of his people in war.  I will suppose
that Lipton did not deserve the very severe criticisms made on his firm by
Mr. Justice Darling; but, however blameless he was, nobody can suppose
that British soldiers would charge better with the bayonet because they
had some particular kind of groceries inside them.  But Krupp can make a
plausible claim that the huge infernal machines to which his country owes
nearly all of its successes could only have been produced under the
equally infernal conditions of the modern factory and the urban and
proletarian civilisation.  That is why the victory of Germany would be
simply the victory of Krupp, and the victory of Krupp would be simply the
victory of Capitalism.  There, and there alone, Capitalism would be able
to point to something done successfully for a whole nation--done (as it
would certainly maintain) better than small free States or natural
democracies could have done it.  I confess I think the modern Germans
morally second-rate, and I think that even war, when it is conducted most
successfully by machinery, is second-rate war.  But this second-rate war
will become not only the first but the only brand, if the cannon of Krupp
should conquer; and, what is very much worse, it will be the only
intelligent answer that any capitalist has yet given against our case that
Capitalism is as wasteful and as weak as it is certainly wicked.  I do not
fear any such finality, for I happen to believe in the kind of men who
fight best with bayonets and whose fathers hammered their own pikes for
the French Revolution.


Among the cloudy and symbolic stories in the beginning of the Bible there
is one about a tower built with such vertical energy as to take a hold on
heaven, but ruined and resulting only in a confusion of tongues.  The
story might be interpreted in many ways--religiously, as meaning that
spiritual insolence starts all human separations; irreligiously, as
meaning that the inhuman heavens grudge man his magnificent dream; or
merely satirically as suggesting that all attempts to reach a higher
agreement always end in more disagreement than there was before.  It might
be taken by the partially intelligent Kensitite as a judgment on Latin
Christians for talking Latin.  It might be taken by the somewhat less
intelligent Professor Harnack as a final proof that all prehistoric
humanity talked German.  But when all was said, the symbol would remain
that a plain tower, as straight as a sword, as simple as a lily, did
nevertheless produce the deepest divisions that have been known among men.
In any case we of the world in revolt--Syndicalists, Socialists, Guild
Socialists, or whatever we call ourselves--have no need to worry about the
scripture or the allegory.  We have the reality.  For whatever reason,
what is said to have happened to the people of Shinak has precisely and
practically happened to us.

None of us who have known Socialists (or rather, to speak more truthfully,
none of us who have been Socialists) can entertain the faintest doubt that
a fine intellectual sincerity lay behind what was called "L'Internationale."
It was really felt that Socialism was universal like arithmetic.  It
was too true for idiom or turn of phrase.  In the formula of Karl Marx men
could find that frigid fellowship which they find when they agree that two
and two make four.  It was almost as broadminded as a religious dogma.

Yet this universal language has not succeeded, at a moment of crisis, in
imposing itself on the whole world.  Nay, it has not, at the moment of
crisis, succeeded in imposing itself on its own principal champions.
Herve is not talking Economic Esperanto; he is talking French.  Bebel is
not talking Economic Esperanto; he is talking German.  Blatchford is not
talking Economic Esperanto; he is talking English, and jolly good English,
too.  I do not know whether French or Flemish was Vandervelde's nursery
speech, but I am quite cerrain he will know more of it after this struggle
than he knew before.  In short, whether or no there be a new union of
hearts, there has really and truly been a new division of tongues.

How are we to explain this singular truth, even if we deplore it?  I
dismiss with fitting disdain the notion that it is a mere result of
military terrorism or snobbish social pressure.  The Socialist leaders of
modern Europe are among the most sincere men in history; and their
Nationalist note in this affair has had the ring of their sincerity.  I
will not waste time on the speculation that Vandervelde is bullied by
Belgian priests; or that Blatchford is frightened of the horse-guards
outside Whitehall.  These great men support the enthusiasm of their
conventional countrymen because they share it; and they share it because
there is (though perhaps only at certain great moments) such a thing as
pure democracy.

Timour the Tartar, I think, celebrated some victory with a tower built
entirely out of human skulls; perhaps he thought _that_ would reach to
heaven.  But there is no cement in such building; the veins and ligaments
that hold humanity together have long fallen away; the skulls will roll
impotently at a touch; and ten thousand more such trophies could only make
the tower taller and crazier.  I think the modern official apparatus of
"votes" is very like that tottering monument.  I think the Tartar "counted
heads," like an electioneering agent.  Sometimes when I have seen from the
platform of some paltry party meeting the rows and rows of grinning
upturned faces, I have felt inclined to say, as the poet does in the "The
Vision of Sin"-"Welcome fellow-citizens,
Hollow hearts and empty heads."

Not that the people were personally hollow or empty, but they had come on
a hollow and empty business: to help the good Mr. Binks to strengthen the
Insurance Act against the wicked Mr. Jinks who would only promise to
fortify the Insurance Act.  That night it did not blow the democratic gale.
Yet it can blow on these as on others; and when it does blow men learn
many things.  I, for one, am not above learning them.

The Marxian dogma which simplifies all conflicts to the Class War is so
much nobler a thing than the nose-counting of the parliaments that one
must apologise for the comparison.  And yet there is a comparison.  When
we used to say that there were so many thousands of Socialists in Germany,
we were counting by skulls.  When we said that the majority consisting of
Proletarians would be everywhere opposed to the minority, consisting of
Capitalists, we were counting by skulls.  Why, yes; if all men's heads

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