Skip to comments.The Progressive Wellsian State
Posted on 09/25/2006 12:30:05 PM PDT by inpajamas
There are relatively few individuals today who would not take offence to being called a fascist. This was not always so; for before and during the 1930s even though Western liberal societies in general rejected philosophies of fascism, the term had nowhere near the stigma that it does today, and many were drawn to the concept.
One individual who embraced the ideas of both fascism and liberalism was HG Wells. Before Hitler and Mussolini brought infamy to the term fascism, Wells referred to himself as a liberal fascist and put forward a theory of revolutionary praxis centered around a concept he described as 'liberal fascism'. The end result envisioned was an authoritarian elite ruling over a global liberal utopia, a benevolent oligarchy for the good of mankind.
Liberalism today in large would reject any association with fascism; in actuality what they reject is the old terminology. Fascism in theory need not contain the harsh elements of Nazism and as a concept presented under a different name it fits in perfectly with a socialist agenda. When analyzing the ideas and philosophies of liberalism today, if in comparison we look back at Wells' concept of liberal fascism, we have a very close match. Yes, Wells' liberal fascism is still alive, but that is not what it is called - It is called progressive.
The so called progressive movement today is the result of an evolution of thought. We can trace its roots further back but it begins to take shape and becomes more defined around the turn of the 19th century with the introduction of Darwinism and eugenics.
There are many names that can be invoked into this discourse; however to be exhaustive would take volumes. Thus, I have chosen to focus on HG Wells due to his various writings which serves as a basic cumulative representative of many philosophies and conclusions of like-minded contemporaries. Not only so, but Wells was a visionary who was described as a prophetic imaginative social reformer, a man ahead of his time; and if modern liberalism is a religion then HG Wells is one of its prophets.
It is evident in reading Wells books the uncanny accuracy in discussion of modern trends which have been fulfilled up until our time.
A most astounding foresight is in Wells novel The World Set Free(published 1914) where he discusses a future war of nuclear weaponry, which includes an excellent description of a chain reaction, even going so far as to use the term "atomic bombs." This became part of a self fulfilling prophesy for in 1932 the physicist Leó Szilárd read the book, then conceived the idea of a nuclear chain reaction in 1933 and filed for the patents in 1934.
In an article which appeared in the November 28, 2005 issue of the New Yorker entitled "Imagining the Worst: How a literary genre anticipated the modern world," author Tom Reiss writes the following about Wells book:
When the book appeared, no physicists thought that an artificially induced chain reaction--which Wells called "the disease of matter"--was possible. Wells based the science in his story on research by the British physicists Frederick Soddy and Ernest Rutherford, both of whom dismissed the idea (Rutherford called it "moonshine.") In 1932, however, Leo Szilard, a Hungarian physicist working at the Institute of Theoretical Physics, in Berlin, read the novel in a German translation. The following year, while on a walk in London, Szilard had an epiphany in which he conceived how a nuclear weapon might actually be built. He subsequently sent the first chapter of Wells' book to Sir Hugo Hirst, the founder of British General Electric, accompanied by a letter in which he wrote, "The forecast of the writers may prove to be more accurate than the forecast of the scientists. The physicists have conclusive arguments as to why we cannot create at present new sources of energy...I am not so sure whether they do not miss the point."...
The book's main character is the nuclear chain reaction itself;: a phenomenon portrayed in such intimate and creepy detail that it seems almost like a living thing...The last part of the book takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, where...[m]ost of the capital cities of the world were burning, millions of people had already perished, and over great areas government was at an end .
Not only did Wells have the distinction of publishing a book containing a detailed conception of nuclear energy in 1914; a passage from that book immediately brings to mind the concept of nuclear suitcase devices:
All through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the amount of energy that men were able to command was continually increasing...Destruction was becoming so facile that any little body of malcontents could use it; it was revolutionizing the problems of police and internal rule. Before the last war began it was a matter of common knowledge that a man could carry about in a handbag an amount of latent energy sufficient to wreck half a city ..
After this Wells immediately began work on another book which was published in1920 entitled The Last War. In this work the world is brought to the utter brink of total destruction at which point the remaining leadership in the world unites and finds overwhelming support with the earth's war weary population against those devoted to war. In the end they create a single global government that will oversee the banning of war and nuclear weapons, and work toward the creation of an advanced liberal utopia. This book is less a science fiction novel and more a booklet used by Wells to espouse and advance his social belief system.
This marked a distinct era in HG Wells life whereas before 1920 Wells had already established his recognition as a master of science fiction with works such as "The Time Machine," "The Invisible Man," "The War of the Worlds," and "The Island of Dr. Moreau." From this point on Wells would become more of an activist concentrating his efforts on affecting global change by offering a collection of essays, books, and novels, which often began with the world rushing to catastrophe, until people realize a better way of living. It is not surprising then to know that it was Wells who penned the slogan The war to end all war believing the League of Nations to be the beginning of fulfillment of his vision.
George Orwell covered this aspect of Wells life in a scathing essay entitled Wells, Hitler and the World State in which Orwell makes other very insightful observations which apply to like-minded Wellsian progressives up until today.
As for Wells, he was certain that the destruction of the world was inevitable in the future unless we dissolved the power of the war-natured nation state and created a global system of controls. He outlined a plan which he called The Open Conspiracy and published a book by the same name in 1928. It was HG Wells blueprint for world revolution which at the crux was essentially the creation of a culture war. Wells envisioned a global movement consisting of loosely connected individuals, groups, and non-governmental organizations, where those of every class who were sympathetic to the cause would unite and openly defy traditions and established institutions of authority, to gradually change the world systems of government.
He followed with numerous other works promoting his ideas including a book published in 1940 entitled The New World Order in which he states that world socialism was inevitable and that there would be a painful transition period as it approached, Quote:
"... when the struggle seems to be drifting definitely towards a world social democracy, there may still be very great delays and disappointments before it becomes an efficient and beneficent world system. Countless people ... will hate the new world order ... and will die protesting against it.
When we attempt to evaluate its promise, we have to bear in mind the distress of a generation or so of malcontents, many of them quite gallant and graceful-looking people." -- H. G. Wells, in his book entitled "The New World Order" (1939)
A number of other quotes found in Wells writing were assemble in a well researched essay THE NEW WORLD ORDER: A Critique and Chronology By Dennis L. Cuddy, Ph.D. These quotes contain the crux of Wells blueprint to save humanity, which with adaptations is being followed today.
.1928 - The Open Conspiracy: Blue Prints for a World Revolution by H. G. Wells is published.
A Fabian Socialist, Wells writes: "The political world of the Open Conspiracy must weaken, efface, incorporate and supersede existing governments....The Open Conspiracy is the natural inheritor of socialist and communist enthusiasms; it may be in control of Moscow before it is in control of New York.... The character of the Open Conspiracy will now be plainly displayed.... It will be a world religion. This large loose assimilatory mass of groups and societies will be definitely and obviously attempting to swallow up the entire population of the world and become the new human community...."
1933 - The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells: Wells predicts a Second World:
War will begin in or about 1940, originating from a German-Polish dispute. After 1945 there would be an increasing lack of public safety in "criminally infected" areas. The plan for the "Modern World-State" would succeed on its third attempt (about 1980), and come out of something that occurred in Basra, Iraq. At this point, the book states, "Russia is ready to assimilate. Is eager to assimilate." Although the world government "had been plainly coming for some years, although it had been endlessly feared and murmured against, it found no opposition prepared anywhere.
[Authors note:] Although The Shape of Things to Come is a speculative novel, there have been two failed attempts to create a world government, starting with the League of Nations (1919), followed by the United Nations (1945).
Continue Cuddys chronicle:
1934 - Experiment in Autobiography by H.G. Wells.
The author states that "The organization of this that I call the Open Conspiracy... which will ultimately supply teaching, coercive and directive public services to the whole world, is the immediate task before all rational people... a planned world-state is appearing at a thousand points.... When accident finally precipitates it, its coming is likely to happen very quickly....Sometimes I feel that generations of propaganda and education may have to precede it.... Plans for political synthesis seem to grow bolder and more extensive.... There must be a common faith and law for mankind....The main battle is an educational battle."
Wells ability to foresee the shape of things to come was in some instances uncanny. Not only was he able to envision progress, social trends, and advancements in modern technologies, he also possessed an awareness of the dangers which these new sources of power would pose as they developed.
It is then rather dismaying that one with such an ability to grasp future problems and perils would be so deficient in his own ideas for a solution. In his search for the answer his determinations were ever evolving, and he revised his book The Open Conspiracy a number of times. He also published it under a different name with more revisions believing it vital, but perceiving its inadequacy and incoherency.
A problem with Wells, as with his modern day counterparts, is their absolute faith in reason. As Orwell suggested, Wells is too sane to understand the modern world. It is no different now where modern day intellectuals attempt to apply rational solutions to an irrational world ruled by despots and power-greedy politicos who disregard all reason but their own.
In the battle for the destiny of mankind, history trumps reason.
Wells study of evolutionary biology under "Darwin's Bulldog" T. H. Huxley had a profound impact on his world views as evidenced by the reoccurring themes of biological and social evolution in his writings.
Wells was convinced that humanitys only choices were to become one and evolve to a higher level, or face annihilation at a future date. Due to his belief in evolution he remained optimistically certain that the former would be the case until his latter days when hope gave way to fatalism.
Over time Wells had observed that rather than approaching the envisioned utopia which he had anticipated, it seemed civilization was slipping away and devolving into barbarity even as it advanced materialistically. In his last work Mind at the End of Its Tether written in 1945, Wells is despondent and admits as much, concluding that human existence is destined to be extinguished with virtually little or no hope at all of salvation.
By this time the world was wrapping up another bloody bout of progress and latter that same year Wells would live to see Hiroshima and Nagasaki become a prelude into the future he had imagined 31years prior. He died August 13, 1946.
Wells fears for the future were not unreasonable, and in this age not unimaginable. Rather, it is his hopes that are unrealistic, the hope that all men would be humane to all other men, and that those wielding the utmost power would not abuse it but use it only for good.
There are today many more proponents for a world federation with a central controlling authority than in Wells time - And while it would seem the world environment is not yet conducive for it, as there are still many obstacles - As HG Wells inferred, global change could come in a moment with a cataclysmic event.
Considering the choice between annihilation and a controlled global society as set forth by Wells, of the two it is hard to imagine which could turn out for the worse; or if either could follow as a result of the other.
There is a third option, however, it is neither a catastrophe nor a solution, but there must be the will for it. That is, to prolong the days of peace by strength while pursuing a policy to promote free and sovereign nations abroad, as was done in Wells' time.
By R.A. Sprinkle
Wells has been described an atheist; however, he wrote that he did believe that something existed but he was uncertain as to what. He rejected traditional concepts of religion; yet, in The Open Conspiracy he allows a place for religion in society. It is likely that Wells, as a believer in social evolution saw religion as being too big a beast to slay at the time; taking it on at would only hinder the process of elevation to the next level. Once a certain level was attained in the future, religion would eventually be replaced by reason through a natural process of enlightenment and fade away.
On Social engineering
Wells predicted In his 1933, "The Shape of Things to Come" that a new field of inquiry, which he termed Social Psychology, would arise and become the "soul of the race" by developing social control techniques which would systematically re-train the masses. After WW II, the core of British and American psychological warfare leadership created such a field to pursue worldwide social engineering.
Wells sought for a change-agent to implement his Open Conspiracy and traveled to Germany, Russia, and the USA meeting with Hitler, Stalin and Roosevelt to find such an agent.After failing to find one he was approached by native British fascist, Oswald Moseley who offered his movement. Wells rejected the offer by pointing out that, "what we need is some more liberal fascists."
He believed the US to be the most suitable to big about the revolution and although both the communist and fascist movements evinced some of the desired qualities of his vanguard, even so, it was fascism rather than communism which came closest to Wells' ideal.
Is this someone's dissertation? Is there a theme that I missed?
This is impossible since true religion works in tandem with reason and vive versa. Cannot have one without the other.
This was the whole point of the Pope's speech the other day. (I'm a christian who is definitely not a Catholic but I did like that speech!)
Aside from Wells' science fiction, my only exposure to Wells has been his "Outline of History" that is a good book for an overview of history.
It is, but he may have stolen a lot of it: more here.
There are people out there who express what could be called "Wellsian" ideas or a "Wellsian" world view, but I doubt they'd acknowledge him as an intellectual forebearer. He's too Victorian or Edwardian and too associated with SF for today's intellectual circles.
bump for later
Orwell was a much clearer thinker than Wells.
Ping. Not exactly Edmund Burke, but worth a read.
I agree, even reason is based in the faith that facts will or will not change. Whether anyone wishes to believe it or not, you must have faith in something to fuction at all.
"Those who do not believe in God do not believe in nothing, they believe in anything"
For some, the theme is a gradual process that evolves as a result of knowledge over time, for others it comes as a surprise later if it doesn't.
The difficulty with this as in all Fabian socialism and in Marxist historiography as well is the base assumptions first that the history of man may be placed into a pattern of social progress, and second that it may be extrapolated into an inevitable end, which unsurprisingly turns out to be the ideal society imagined by those discerning the patterns. This requires a certain underlying innocence that is untouched by the rough and tumble of actual historical knowledge. One can squint hard enough to make a cat look like a dog if that is what one hopes to see, but that doesn't make it one.
But the whole inevitable progress toward socialism hadn't yet broken so visibly from its predictions (recall that the Communist Manifesto was half a century old by that time) as to disabuse a True Believer of a fervent hope that somehow it might yet prove correct, the predictions not being wrong, but premature. That is the very soul of modern progressivism. But history proceeds unheedingly, and as it diverges further and further from the predictions the latter's adherents retreat further and further into their fantasy worlds where it all might just really come true. It becomes less a matter of innocence and more a matter of a genuine mental pathology.
I question whether Wells or Shaw might properly be described as fascist, however. When we're splitting hairs this fine some definition of fascism must be agreed upon and that's not an easy matter. Fascists can certainly be socialists and vice versa; the Nazis were certainly socialist by definition, but Mussolini's interpretation, the original, seems to me somewhat less so. But the Fabians were not particularly enamored of the State as the ultimate expression of politics (nor were the Bolsheviks, originally). They expected, as did Marx, that the State would wither away, and the Fascists did not. In fact, the Fascists were correct in this inasmuch as the withering away of the State is yet to manifest itself after multiple attempts to establish the conditions under which it may do so, under Communism. It may, however, and in the event was overthrown forcibly by those free people who would have none of it. It is those free people who have diverged history from its supposedly inevitable course, and that is why the progressives, despite their best intentions, have become the enemies of freedom.
All IMHO, of course.
Wells described himself as a liberal fascist. The concept of fascism does not have to be centered on nationalism, it can be applied to religion or economics and Wells' liberal fascism was unique in that it was applied to thought. His effective nationalism was internationalism where the collective body of the 'enlightened'ones were a 'type' of master race. It was his belief that over the ages they would eventually elevate the world into a Utopian society while eliminating 'primitive' and 'inferior' beliefs and ways of thinking. This mindset drives much of what we currently see taking place in politics, global economics, and the world in general.
I have termed this Wellsian mindset Ideofascism and wrote a rambling essay under that heading. It is far from perfect; but nonetheless it contains the concept of how fascism is applied to an ideological movement, such as that practiced by the 'progressives' today.
Thanks for posting the link to this:
When, in 1920, Florence Deeks finally received her rejected manuscript a feminist history of the world from Macmillan after eight months, she couldn't understand why it appeared in such bad condition, the pages worn, torn and dog-eared. Later that year, when she read H.G. Wells's new book, The Outline of History, published by Macmillan, she felt a chill. There were so many similarities to her own work: shared themes, organization, word choice, even the same mistakes.
I knew about this but this gives more details.