Home > Uncategorized > H.G. Wells: Mars will sit like a giant above all human affairs and his speech is blunt and plain

H.G. Wells: Mars will sit like a giant above all human affairs and his speech is blunt and plain

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

H.G. Wells: Selections on war

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H.G. Wells
What is Coming?
A Forecast of Things after the War
(1916)
Excerpts

hg-wells

Nations in Liquidation

The war has become a war of exhaustion. One hears a great deal of the idea that “financial collapse” may bring it to an end. A number of people seem to be convinced that a war cannot be waged without money, that soldiers must be paid, munitions must be bought; that for this money is necessary and the consent of bank depositors; so that if all the wealth of the world were nominally possessed by some one man in a little office he could stop the war by saying simply, “I will lend you no more money.”

Now, as a matter of fact, money is a power only in so far as people believe in it and Governments sustain it. If a State is sufficiently strong and well organised, its control over the money power is unlimited. If it can rule its people, and if it has the necessary resources of men and material within its borders, it can go on in a state of war so long as these things last, with almost any flimsy sort of substitute for money that it chooses to print. It can enrol and use the men, and seize and work the material. It can take over the land and cultivate it and distribute its products. The little man in the office is only a power because the State chooses to recognise his claim. So long as he is convenient he seems to be a power. So soon as the State is intelligent enough and strong enough it can do without him. It can take what it wants, and tell him to go and hang himself. That is the melancholy ultimate of the usurer. That is the quintessence of “finance.” All credit is State-made, and what the State has made the State can alter or destroy.

The owner and the creditor have never had any other power to give or withhold credit than the credit that was given to them. They exist by sufferance or superstition and not of necessity.

It is the habit of overlooking this little flaw in the imperatives of ownership that enables people to say that this war cannot go on beyond such and such a date – the end of 1916 is much in favour just now – because we cannot pay for it. It would be about as reasonable to expect a battle to end because a landlord had ordered the soldiers off his estate. So long as there are men to fight and stuff to fight with the war can go on. There is bankruptcy, but the bankruptcy of States is not like the bankruptcy of individuals. There is no such thing among States as an undischarged bankrupt who is forbidden to carry on. A State may keep on going bankrupt indefinitely and still carry on. It will be the next step in our prophetic exercise to examine the differences between State bankruptcy and the bankruptcy of a subject of the State.

The belligerent Powers are approaching a phase when they will no longer be paying anything like twenty shillings in the pound. In a very definite sense they are not paying twenty shillings in the pound now. That is not going to stop the war, but it involves a string of consequences and possibilities of the utmost importance to our problem of what is coming when the war is over.

The exhaustion that will bring this war to its end at last is a process of destruction of men and material. The process of bankruptcy that is also going on is nothing of the sort. Bankruptcy destroys no concrete thing; it merely writes off a debt; it destroys a financial but not an economic reality. It is, in itself, a mental, not a physical fact…

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Mars will sit like a giant above all human affairs for the next two decades, and the speech of Mars is blunt and plain. He will say to us all: “Get your houses in order. If you squabble among yourselves, waste time, litigate, muddle, snatch profits and shirk obligations, I will certainly come down upon you again. I have taken all your men between eighteen and fifty, and killed and maimed such as I pleased; millions of them. I have wasted your substance – contemptuously. Now, mark you, you have multitudes of male children between the ages of nine and nineteen running about among you. Delightful and beloved boys. And behind them come millions of delightful babies. Of these I have scarcely smashed and starved a paltry hundred thousand perhaps by the way. But go on muddling, each for himself and his parish and his family and none for all the world, go on in the old way, stick to your ‘rights,’ stick to your ‘claims’ each one of you, make no concessions and no sacrifices, obstruct, waste, squabble, and presently I will come back again and take all that fresh harvest of life I have spared, all those millions that are now sweet children and dear little boys and youths, and I will squeeze it into red pulp between my hands, I will mix it with the mud of trenches and feast on it before your eyes, even more damnably than I have done with your grown-up sons and young men. And I have taken most of your superfluities already; next time I will take your barest necessities.”

So the red god, Mars; and in these days of universal education the great mass of people will understand plainly now that that is his message and intention. Men who cannot be swayed by the love of order and creation may be swayed by the thought of death and destruction…There, I think, is the overriding argument that will burst the proprietorships and divisions and boundaries, the web of ineffectiveness that has held the world so long.

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