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TENSION ENVELOPE COOP.
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
; * f Works by
Stranger Than Fiction
This Believing World
The Graphic Bible
How Odd of God
Something Went Wrong
That Man Heine
All Things Are Possible
Oh, Say 3 Can You See!
A Summation of Modern History
With Decorations and Maps
Myna and Lewis Browne
New York 1942
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
Copyright, 1942, by
All rights reserved no part of tliis m book
may be reproduced in any form without
permission in writing from the publisher,
except by a reviewer wno wishes to quote brief
passages in connection with a review written
for inclusion in magazine or newspaper.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
AMERICAN BOOK-STRATFORD PRESS, INC., NEW YORK
BOB AND DICK LISSNER
Who Asked for a True Mystery Story
"It has never been established that any author
ever wrote a strictly objective history perhaps
because there has never been any reader equal to
the exertion of wading through so dull a work"
A Cultural History of the Modern Age.
I. Came the Revolution 1
II. From Watt to What? 9
III. Suffer Little Children 18
IV. The Poor Shall Never Cease 27
V. The Rich Shall Never Rest 35
VI. A Man with a Plan 43
VII. The Religion of Manchesterism 51
VIII. The Black Life Spreads 61
IX. John Bull Takes a Ride 70
X. Arise Ye Workers ! 79
XI. 1848 The Fight That Failed 88
XII. The Brand of Gain 93
XIII. The Gospel According to Marx 103
XIV. Yankee Doodle Goes to Town 112
XV. Made in Germany 118
XVI. The Machine Grows Up 126
XVII. The Mind Stands Still 133
XVIIL Business Is Business 142
XIX. John Bull's Dilemma 150
XX. Goads to Empire 157
XXI. Philanthropy Plus Five per Cent 165
XXII. The Great White Lie 172
XXIII. Three Who Came Late 183
XXIV. Death for Sale 196
XXV. They Cry Peace, Peace ! 204
XXVI. And They Cry Havoc ! 213
XXVII. The First World War 226
XXVIII. The Bed Dawn 239
XXIX. The Plague of Nations '254
XXX. The Little Caesars 268
XXXI. Still the Machine Grows 279
XXXII. The Big Boom 285
XXXIII. The Great Crash 297
XXXIV. The Best Laid Plans 304
XXXV. A New Deal 313
XXXVI. Unmade in Germany 325
XXXVII. Total-Aryanism 333
XXXVIII. Came the Counter-Bevolution 343
MAPS AND CHARTS
England's Population Moves 15
Germany circa 1830 65
Italy circa 1830 68
Railroads circa 1848 72
Britain's Population 80
Europe's Industrial Centers circa 1847 90
The British Empire 167
The French Empire 173
The Russian Empire 177
Japan's Population 186
Japan Opens Up 187
The Race to Tunisia 190
The German Empire 192
Before and After Rhodes 198
The New Europe 261
What Germany Lost 264
Militarism: 1913 w. 1930 269
U.S.A. Industrial Production,, 1855-1935 286
Germany: Debts vs. Assets 291
Soviet Industrial Production, 1924-1931 315
U.S.A. Industrial Production., 1929-1933 320
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
I. CAME THE REVOLUTION
F YOU should ask what happened
in 1776, you would probably be
told It was the year when the Dec-
laration of Independence was
signed. But something else of im-
portance happened that year, and
in a way it was of even greater
importance. True, It attracted al-
most no attention at the time. All
the notice it got was one paragraph on an inside page of one
small-town British weekly. Yet in effect the incident was the
2 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
X marking the spot where mankind turned a corner. Right
about there mankind veered straight into the road to nowa-
The scene of the incident was a grimy little colliery not
far from Birmingham, in England. The date was the eighth
of March, 1776. There on that day, in the midst of a small
crowd of gaping onlookers, a pale, sober-eyed inventor
started up a new machine to pump water out of the mine. He
was a certain James Watt, age 40, tall, stoop-shouldered,
hair prematurely gray ; and his contraption was an iron
monster that ate fire, belched smoke, and pumped like hell.
Those who stood by and watched it were amazed.
Not that they had never seen a steam-pump before. Such
devices had already existed in England for fully seventy
years. (For that matter, the basic principle underlying them
had been knocking about in books for almost seventeen hun-
dred years!) Those earlier models, however, were crude,
leaky, feeble affairs. To keep them going was almost more
troublesome than pumping by hand.
But this machine of Watt's was in another class entirely.
It did not merely boil and hiss and cough and rattle. It actu-
ally worked. The piston hammered up and down as though
driven by a dozen devils, and gallons of water came sluicing
out at every stroke. Up and down went that piston, up and
down, up and down ; and with each stroke, whoosh came the
The crowd broke into cheers, and one man, an ironmaster
named Matthew Boulton, seemed hard put to keep from
dancing. There was a special reason in his case: he owned a
half-share in the invention. "Mr. Watt," he is known to have
confided, "I hope and flatter myself that we are at the eve
of a fortune!"
As it turned out, Mr. Boulton hoped and flattered himself
CAME THE REVOLUTION 3
aright. But, had he realized what the world was at the eve of,
one wonders whether the good man would not also have shud-
dered a little. For the monster which he had helped to let
loose on earth did more than bring him and his partner a
fortune; a great deal more.
It helped to bring the world a revolution.
To most people the word "revolution" suggests something
sudden, convulsive, spectacular. They picture mobs brandish-
ing scythes in flame-lit boulevards, bloody flags, bloodier
gutters, and high-born ladies going to their death uncowed.
But those are merely the superficial revolutions, the fleeting
storms on the sea of history, the momentary crinklings and
quakings in the external crust of the social earth. The really
serious revolutions work slowly, and for the most part deep
down. They work deep down and in stealth, gnawing the
ground out from under age-old traditions, and wrecking the
innermost order of life. They do not begin with chaos and
slaughter. They usually end with them.
And to that far graver kind belongs the revolution of
which I have just spoken. There was no building of barri-
cades to signal its outbreak, no looting of mansions, no mur-
der of gentry. For this revolution, being a serious one, did
not break out at all. Instead it crept in ... and went to work.
It quite literally went to work, for it was a revolution in
man's way of working. Until the coming of the steam-engine,
we humans were forced to rely primarily on brawn to make
life comfortable. We used the delicate muscles in our fingers,
the grosser muscles in our arms and legs, the still grosser
muscles in the hocks and hams of tamed beasts. As a result
we never did make life comfortable, not even approximately.
We were too muscle-bound. Strain and sweat as we might, we
could never produce even a steady supply of food for our-
4 SOMETHING WENT WBONG
selves, let alone enough fair clothing or sound shelter. All
through the ages we strained, we sweated, yet these things
we never achieved. And life was therefore lean, mean, and
sour with rancor. Men had to fight for the barest necessities ;
they had to fall out over the smallest crumbs. All society was
shabby, and all existence was harsh, because there were not
enough goods to go around.
True, we managed to survive, we got along but always
in considerable misery. And this left us chronically dissatis-
fied. After all, we were human beings, not dumb brutes. They
might be content merely to get along; but not we. No, we
had to get ahead.
That was why we kept seeking easier ways of doing things.
We did not seek them methodically, of course. Before modern
times" we did not really hunt for improvements ; we merely
pottered around till we somehow stumbled on them. Fortuity
was the mother of invention then.
Nevertheless we did make progress. First we hit on simple
tools like the hammer and the ax. Then came simple ma-
chines like the fire-drill and the pottery-wheel. The plow,
the wagon, the lens, the compass, the printing-press: all
these were devices which we invented to save ourselves labor.
(And also the battering-ram, the cannon, the thumbscrew,
the rack.) By the beginning of the Eighteenth Century we
had stumbled on so nrany shortcuts to production and de-
struction, too that we might almost have been satisfied.
But we were not. On the contrary, it was just then that
the urge to invent became at last conscious and resolute.
Europe, which had first stirred from its sleep in the Eleventh
Century, now finally stopped yawning and really went to
work. And that led to a revolution more infernal and also
more sublime than any other in human history. Thanks to it,
CAME THE REVOLUTION 5
man was able at last to acquire material abundance, and
thus equip himself to seek a sound spiritual life.
Ever and again there comes a time when a strange yeasti-
ness invades the race, and there is a stir somewhere on earth.
Why that happens, no one knows ; it just happens. It is like
spring : secret forces become brazen, buried seeds begin sud-
denly to bear. The Eighteenth Century was such a time. It
brought advance in almost every branch, of human activity :
in politics, science, morals, religion, even irreligion. But most
of all it brought advance in technology and in doing that it
accomplished what was mundanely most imperative of all.
Methods of manufacture which had been followed for ages
became almost abruptly no longer tolerable. Tools which had
been in constant use since the time of Tubal Cain were al-
most all at once discovered to be decrepit. Now a real hunt
started for technological improvements.
History records the names of more than five hundred in-
dividuals who developed inventions during that Eighteenth
Century. Some of these men were trained engineers, some
were actually scientists. Most, however, were mere amateurs :
tinkers, locksmiths, clockmakers, and hobby-riding curates.
For these, as for the professionals, it was in part a treasure
hunt, since an apt invention could be made to yield untold
wealth. But that was not the only lure, nor even the most
compelling one. The majority seem to have invented for the
sheer fun of it which was a lucky thing, seeing that fun was
about all that most of them ever got out of it. The wealth,
it appears, usually went to fellows who had a genius not so
much for mechanical invention as financial circumvention.
That, however, is another story. No matter who got the
money, the world got the inventions and they were great
ones. For example, there was, the flying-shuttle, the spinning-
jenny, and the coke-burning blast furnace. The first two
6 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
ripped the swaddling clothes off the textile industry, and the
third shattered the crib in which the metal industry had long
been confined. There was also the primitive sewing machine,
the primeval typewriter, the original mercury thermometer,
the first practical water-closet. . . .
Yet these remained minor achievements. We were still
hampered, for no matter how cunningly we contrived our
machines, we still had to rely largely on muscle to move
them. Even now most goods had to be literally manu-f&c-
tured "made by hand" and all technology continued to be
muscle-bound. True, we had long since learnt to harness the
streams and the winds ; but not very satisfactorily. Water-
mills could never be more than creaking, poky establish-
ments. As for windmills, they were too undependable for
almost anything save grinding corn. So, despite all our in-
ventiveness, we were only a little better off in A.B. 1775 than
in 1775 B.C. Now as then our main source of motive-power
was still brawn.
Finally, however, Watt produced his steam-engine, and
then we were free at last. Or rather, we had the means to
And the story of how we labored to make use of those
means is in large part the story of our age.
The story opens on a small, fog-swathed, grassy island
located in the North Atlantic: lat. 49 57' N. to 58 40' N.,
long. 6 14' W. to 1 46' E. This is in a way surprising, for
in the past the natives of that particular island had always
been markedly backward in industry. They had made good
in a small way in mining and agriculture, and in a large way
in piracy and other forms of commerce. But when it came
to manufacture, they had never been anything but yokels.
CAME THE KEVOLUTION 7
Almost their only exports had been iron, wool, tin, and
colonists all raw materials.
The national symbol of those islanders was a bluff, gamey s
heavy-j owled rustic squire named "John Bull" ; and this was
appropriate. Men after his image had dominated the tiny
realm for ages. As a result, relatively little attention had
been paid to so urban a pursuit as large-scale industry.
That had been left almost entirely to people living on the
mainland: Frenchmen, Flemings, Italians, and the like.
But then, belatedly, the islanders began to wake up. The
change set in around the middle of the Eighteenth Century,
and led swiftly to startling consequences. The very back-
wardness of those people gave them an advantage. Being
innocent of experience in large-scale industry, they dared
to experiment. Instead of copying the traditional methods
used on the mainland, they contrived new ones of their own.
Year after year they kept searching for ways whereby more
goods could be produced with less effort. And finally it was
in a sense their crowning achievement one of them per-
fected the steam-engine.
After that there was no stopping them. With a mighty
clatter and snort the iron monster heaved John Bull out of
the mud and he was ready to outrace all his competitors.
For the latter continued to use their slow-poking water-
mills. In part this was out of necessity. A paranoiac named
Napoleon happened to break loose just then on the Conti-
nent, and the people there became too busy shooting each
other to have time to build steam-engines. In addition, those
people were retarded by misguided thrift. They had con-
siderable capital tied up in their old-fashioned industrial
plants, so they hated to scrap them and start afresh. Besides,
being human, they were inclined to be stubborn. If watermills
8 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
were good enough for our fathers, they said, they're good
enough for us. So they held out against the steam-engine.
And, because they held out, they lost out.
It was one more instance of a familiar paradox in history :
when the time is ripe for a new advance in civilization, as
often as not it will be a people from the rear that will come
out in the lead. The Arabs proved that when they forged
ahead of the Europeans in the Eighth Century; and the
Europeans proved it again when they turned the tables in
the Thirteenth. There are those who say the Asiatics are
likely to repeat that story in the present century.
The explanation of this paradox is simple : he who builds
last is free to build best. That is, if he has the means. And
the British a hundred and fif ty years ago had means galore.
To begin with, their coffers were bursting with money gained
during centuries of trafficking on the seas. To boot, they had
a lively middle class with audacious ideas as to how money
should be employed. Most important, their tiny island con-
tained the iron out of which to forge the new engines, and
the coal with which to stoke them. It was, therefore, as
though God Himself had planned that the British should
triumph at this juncture.
Being a very God-fearing folk, the British readily fell in
with the plan. Before long they did triumph.
II. FROM WATT TO WHAT?
HAT came of Britain's triumph is
a matter of record. That nation
grew to be the richest and most
powerful on earth. Of course, it
had to pay a price for the victory,
and so high a price that some in-
sist the victory was really a defeat.
They publish books to prove it,
impassioned books full of glowing
accounts of what Britain was like in the "good old days."
Such authors, however, are usually better versed in rhetoric
than in history.
10 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
They can be clever, those authors; they can write with
verve and wit and caustic irony. Nevertheless, they are not
to be trusted. Enjoyed, yes; but not trusted. For they gloss
over the brute bleakness of existence in earlier times, the
grim want that stalked the land, and the frustration and
pain bred by that want. When they speak of "Merry Old
England," their language is truer than they realize. The
word "merry 35 is collaterally derived from the ancient Teu-
tonic murj, meaning "short" and that is precisely what
life was in old England. It was recurrently short of food and
chronically short of comfort. It was short of opportunity
for the poor, and enterprise among the rich. It was short of
roads to free the body, and schools to free the mind. In
short, it was short of ten thousand boons which later became
Life in those "good old days" was by later standards
hardly life at all. For the bulk of the populace it was a
process more like vegetation. Most people were like sessile
plants, bound fast to the clefts where they were born, and
knowing almost nothing of the great world all around them.
Want and ignorance bound them close to the soil, so close
that they were all but buried in it.
Yet it is difficult to deny one thing. Sorry as life may have
been in England before the coming of the Machine, imme-
diately thereafter it probably grew, for the buljc of the pop-
ulace, even sorrier.
There were reasons for this, but they can wait. First let us
look at the record. England got hold of mechanical power,
and overnight as time is reckoned in the history of a nation
she learnt to outreach and outsell all her industrial rivals.
Overnight that is, in about fifty years she made herself
the "workshop of the world."
But what a night it was ! Looking back on it one gets the
FROM WATT TO WHAT? 11
impression that a pestilence befell the land. Just as Britain
had once been ravaged by the Black Death, so did it now fall
prey to the Black Life. Coal became king, Iron became his
consort, and between them they brought on an indescribable
Reign of Squalor.
It was not all bad. Behind and beneath the squalor there
was grandeur of a sort: titanic heaving and straining and
upthrust. At bottom the development was inestimably good.
On the surface, however, the effect was awful. Whole counties
became scabby with slums, with hideous mounds of huts en-
crusted at the base of chimney-stacks. They were called
towns, but they were not really that. They were man-heaps.
At the top of these heaps stood a new class of masters:
tough-gutted fellows many of whom had come up from the
bottom, and all of whom seemed determined to stay up at
any cost. By and large they were raw as coal and hard as
iron. They were "masters" true enough but not in the
earlier sense of that term: because they had mastered a
trade. Instead it was because they had made themselves
masters of men.
And those at the bottom were a new class of slaves : mere
"hands" hired by the week to tend machines. They were
grimy, runty, cave-chested creatures, surly when sober, sav-
age when drunk, and sick almost all the time. They were sick
not alone in body but even more in spirit. And for good
reason. Their kind had always worked hard and endured
want, but formerly both work and want had followed a
familiar pattern. Usage had inured the common folk to
ancient wrongs; tradition had softened their deprivements.
Life in the past, no matter how wearisome, had at least pos-
sessed a lulling rhythm. Now it became just hell on wheels.
But that had to happen. It was one of the unavoidable
consequences of the advent of the Machine. Not that the Ma-
12 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
chine itself was to blame. It did bring the Black Life to
England and eventually to almost all the rest of the world
but it was no more culpable than is the shell for the death
it spreads on the battlefield. Nor, in a final sense, were the
owners of the Machine to blame. These were on a par with
conscript soldiers who do the firing in time of battle. Many
people will dispute that, but it seems true none the less. Those
owners the ^capitalists" as they came to be called were
hardly free agents in what they did. They were hounded by
the world in which they had their being, that world which
kept bellowing to them: "Be a capitalist, or else !"
Therefore, if we must have a villain, we might pick on that
world. We might and should blame the prevailing state
of mind for all the evils that ensued.
To understand that state of mind we must go back and see
just what happened. The piddling industry existing in
Great Britain in earlier days had been carried on chiefly
by independent craftsmen. In most instances, of course, these
were independent in name alone. In reality they were pris-
oners, for the wolf was always at their door. However, they
did enjoy at least one glory: the door was their very own.
They worked at home, using their own tools, and setting
the hours to suit their own convenience.
This was particularly true in the textile industry. Vil-
lagers would receive the raw wool or cotton from traveling
contractors, and work it up into finished goods on their own
little wheels and looms during the winter months. Then the
contractors would return, pay for the labor, and cart the
merchandise to market. This was called the a putting-out' ?
or "domestic" system, and it functioned quite passably in a
clumsy, sluggish way.
But then the new inventions started to crowd in. One man
discovered a way to speed up the process of combing the
FROM WATT TO WHAT? 13
raw cotton. Another hit on a device which enabled a single
pair of hands to spin several threads at one time. A third
developed a contraption for weaving the threads almost
automatically. Year in and year out more and more of such
improvements appeared, and they wrecked the "domestic 3 *
system. The new machines were too large to be installed in
village huts. Also they were too costly.
So another system arose. The pursuit called industry
acquired money-glands, and became Industrialism with the
"I" capitalized in more senses than one. Thus far those
glands had functioned almost solely in connection with com-
merce. Capitalists in other words, men who used money to
make money had confined their activities largely to buying
raw products in one place and selling them in another. Their
plants had consisted mainly of ships and warehouses, for
most of them had been pirates, brokers, or merchants.
Now they became manufacturers. An increasing number
of enterprising fellows got hold of capital in one way or
another, and started small factories. They built them pref-
erably in rocky gorges, because water-power was needed to
drive the huge new appliances. Then they went foraging for
workers. They didn't forage for them among the village
craftsmen. That would have been a waste of time. Those
cottagers were proud fellows, poor but proud and stubborn.
We're independent ! they cried. We'll sell what we make, but
we won't sell ourselves 1
So the upstart manufacturers passed them by. They could
afford to do that because they did not need craftsmen any-
way. With their new appliances all they needed was a corps
of dumb attendants. There had to be a certain number of
eyes to watch the whirling spindles, and as many hands to
mend any threads that broke. Nothing more. Even children
could perform tasks as simple as these.
14 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Wherefore the millowners went after children. Why not?
Children were cheaper to employ than adults, and also easier
There was, however, one difficulty. Children were hard to
find in the remote gullies where the water-powered mills had
to be located. But that problem was soon solved. Just who
showed the way is not recorded. All we know is that the way
began to be followed almost universally. The millowners hied
themselves to the nearest large cities to London, Liverpool,
Edinburgh and the like and charitably contracted to empty
The victims of these raids were not necessarily orphans.
The majority were just hapless waifs left on the hands of
the parish authorities by parents reduced to pauperdom.
(Merry Old England may have been short of many other
things, but never of paupers.) These "infants" as they were
called and often they were literally that, for they ranged
in age down to seven or even less were handed over to the
millowner ostensibly to be apprenticed to a trade. Actually
they became his chattels. If he was indulgent, he might see to
it that they washed on Sundays, so as to be fit to be marched
off to church. He might even teach them to spell out the Ten
Commandments, the Apostles 5 Creed, and other texts cal-
culated to improve their souls. But if he was like most, he
concerned himself only with their hands.
The millowner, after all, was not supposed to be a philan-
thropist. He was a businessman, and his first duty was to
keep his charges busy. So he did his duty. He kept the mites
at work twelve to fifteen hours each day. In return he fed
them with scraps and watery porridge, and gave them shelter
in sheds where they slept three and four in one bunk. More-
over, he was legally free to hold them on such terms until
they died or grew to be twenty-one.
./: -^ I^!?m
V 1W X-f i> . a * "S "5 c?,
^SSft \. :';.^"JfiA* ^ -n . . . n_ fk v
* * * ". * *
16 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Of course, if trade fell off and he had to close his mill, he
often considered himself also free to cart them off in the
dark of the night and dump them somewhere by the roadside.
Such were the circumstances in which the "factory sys-
tem" got started, and none save an occasional crank seemed
to see anything wrong with them. Sane and respectable peo-
ple took child-labor as much for granted as they did wife-
beating or smallpox. The children of poor folk had always
been made to earn their own keep. True, in the past such
children had usually earned it at home. They had worked
for their own parents, doing chores in the fields, or helping
out at the household looms. That, of course, was worlds re-
moved from the slavery to which the waifs were subjected
in the factories; but the difference went almost unnoticed.
Most people in those days were inclined to take slavery, too,
Even the good church-going folk were prone to take slav-
ery for granted. They had done so at least since 1565,
when good Queen Bess put England into the slave-trade with
a vessel named sweet irony! the Jesus. To be sure, the
right to keep a fellow-human in bondage had in the mean-
time been abolished throughout Great Britain. As the saying
went, "England's air is too pure to be breathed by a slave."
Apparently, however, it was not too pure to be breathed by
slave-traders. The Eighteenth Century saw Liverpool be-
come the world's center for that trade, and all classes in the
community yearned to invest money in it. "Many of the
smaller vessels that carry about 100 slaves," reports a con-
temporary historian, "are fitted out by attorneys, drapers,
ropers, grocers, tallow chandlers, barbers, and tailors,"
Such ships were constantly setting sail from Liverpool with
calico and guns to be bartered in Africa for human flesh,
FROM WATT TO WHAT? 17
which in turn was bartered in the New World for agricul-
tural produce, which in further turn was carried to England
to feed the machines and workers who produced the calico
and guns. Thus all Englishmen, the most benevolent no less
than the most villainous, were caught up in a vicious cycle
of slavery. The sugar they consumed was produced by slaves.
So was the tobacco they smoked, the rum, tea, and coffee
they drank, and most of the spices they relished. Above all,
the raw cotton on which the Lancashire mills were battening,
that too was produced by slaves.
Slavery was woven right into the warp and woof of British
life in that day. How then could reasonable folk be expected
to protest when it showed up in the factories ?
III. SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN
ONE thing went wrong right from
the start. The Machine should have
brought release to mankind but
instead it brought greater servi-
tude. Mankind, it appears, was not
yet ready for release. Too much
had come too soon, so the imme-
diate result was too bad. Indus-
trialism was like a fresh wine
poured into an old bottle. It had to take on the taste of that
which had been in the bottle before. Also the smell.
SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN 19
The evil of slavery crept into the new factories, and it
stayed in them. True, the millowners did eventually abandon
their raids on the orphanages, but hardly because of any
change of heart. No, the cause was a change in technology.
By that time the steam-engine had begun to come into
common use, and factories were no longer dependent on run-
ning streams for power. That meant industry could leave
the rocky gorges. Industry could move down into the valleys
where there were towns, and where children were commoner
Once that happened, the masters were able to become more-
masterful than ever. Formerly they had had lumbering
water-wheels to reckon with, so they had been able to crowd
at most a few score "hands" into each mill. But with the
new motive-power they could make room for hundreds. More-
over, it was clearly profitable to use hundreds, since a single
engine could turn appliances on three or four floors as
cheaply as on one. The advent of steam proved therefore
doubly advantageous. On the one hand it created a need for
more workers in the factories. On the other it enabled the
factories to spring up where more workers were to be found.
In general, the most favored towns were those with easiest
access to coal mines. That was unfortunate from the human
angle. Such sites lay necessarily along the canals, or down
on the river-flats, where there was little wind to clear away
the factory smoke. Consequently the factory populace was
condemned to live in abiding reek and gloom. But those who
selected the sites gave no thought to that. After all, they
were not out to build health-resorts.
The average industrialist gave thought to one thing alone :
maximum production at minimum cost. And now he was in a
position to achieve that end as never before. Having built
Ms new plant, he needed only to cry, "Suffer little children
20 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
to come unto me!" and straightway hundreds, thousands,
ame anc j suffered. Grown men, too, joined in the rush ; but
these the master was prone to turn away. Grown men de-
manded a grown man's wages. Women he liked better, for
they asked less. But the master's real welcome went out to
the children. They asked least of all.
So now the "apprentices" faded out of the industrial pic-
ture. Their place was taken by these other children who were
known technically but without conscious irony as "free."
The change delighted the average master. With "free" chil-
dren in his employ, it was really he who became free. He did
have to pay them wages; but on the other hand he was
spared the expense of providing board and care. His whole
relationship to them could be strictly impersonal and busi-
nesslike. "Apprentices" were legally wards of the govern-
ment, and this had sometimes led to nasty complications.
But "free" children belonged exclusively to their parents,
and these were usually in too desperate a plight to complain.
Consequently the masters were able to work the mites pretty
much as they pleased.
They did. Not that they were ogres. On the contrary, most
of those masters had right fine hearts ; but, unfortunately,
they were hearts of gold. Their one aim was to make money,
and apparently the one way to make money was to keep
paring the costs. Those who could manufacture most cheaply
could endure and prosper ; the rest had to go under. There-
fore generosity had to be forgotten. The world of industry
had become a jungle in which only the fiercest could survive.
Thus it came about that the "free" children were ex-
ploited as nakedly as ever the "apprentices" had been. Be-
fore dawn each day the factory whistles tore them from
SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN 21
their slumber, and set them scurrying in their wooden clogs
to reach the prisonhouse on time. Then for fourteen or fif-
teen hours they had to breathe dust and cough flue in the
dank, close, overheated sheds where the cotton-spindles
whirred. Sweat trickled into their red-lidded eyes as they
trotted back and forth in front of those spindles ; their legs
swelled, their backs ached, their heads throbbed harder than
the engines. Yet they had to keep going.
Listen to the testimony of Tommy Clarke, aged eleven,
as reported to a Parliamentary Committee in 1833:
"I go to the factory a little before six in the morning, some-
times at five, and work till nine at night. ... I can earn four shil-
lings [$1.00] a week, but my brother helps me. He is just seven.
I don't give him anything. If it was not my brother, I'd have to
pay him a shilling a week."
That was what went on in the cotton-mills. It was even
worse down in the mines. Babes of four or five were set to
guarding trap-doors in the damp, drafty, rat-infested
blackness. Older children were put to more strenuous tasks.
They had to lead the pit-donkeys that dragged the loaded
trucks through the tunnels ; or, if the borings were too small,
they themselves had to drag the trucks on all fours with the
aid of chains girdled around their naked loins. For this toil
the pay was sometimes as high as six shillings ($1.50) a
Unnatural? Of course it was unnatural. Every instinct in
the unhappy little tykes rebelled against such enslavement.
But what could they do? Between hunger and terror they
were helpless. The first drove them to work, and the second
kept them at it. For, once the children entered the factories
or the mines, terror dogged them unceasingly.
22 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Overseers whipped them if they came late in the morning,
and cursed and cuffed them if they dawdled during the day.
Listen again to Tommy Clarke:
"They always beat us if we lark, or go for water, or fall asleep
. . . Castles [the overseer] uses a rope thick as my thumb, doubles
it, and puts knots in it. ..."
Who was to blame? The overseers? Hardly. Those poor
devils hounded the children because they themselves were
hounded by the masters who in turn were hounded by one
another. It was "dog eat dog" all down the line.
But such things could not go on for ever. Eventually even
a few of the millowners and they among the richest ones
became revolted. All they could do, however, was plead with
the government to intervene. They argued that so long as
there were no legal curbs on the employment of children, so
long were some employers bound to practice abuses. And so
long as some did that, the rest had to follow suit. They were
forced to it by the pressure of competition.
That was sound logic ; nevertheless the government hung
back. Upright gentlemen arose to point out that free chil-
dren were involved, and the government therefore had no
right to interfere. That privilege belonged solely to the
individual parents. If the latter were too meek, or too de-
praved, to exercise the privilege, it was indeed very, very
sad. But better that some children should be denied sun and
air and health and life itself, than that all parents should be
robbed of their constitutional prerogatives. To counsel any-
thing else would be to Undermine the Family, and Destroy
the Sanctity of the Home!
The debate dragged on for years and years. Even after
the authorities were driven to the point of conceding the
SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN 28
need for reforms, they still balked at enforcing them by law.
As the Right Honorable Lord Lauderdale put it: "If the
legislature attempts to enforce a moral code for the people,
there is always the danger that every feeling of benevolence
will be extirpated I" That, of course, was unthinkable.
Finally, however, Parliament was simply compelled to take
effective action. After almost a generation of agitation, a
child-labor bill with real teeth in it was at last made law in
1819. But even then the victory was less than complete, for
the teeth were too few and too short. Nothing was said
about work in the mines, for almost all of these were owned
by noblemen. The new enactment applied solely to the cotton-
mills, and there its most drastic provision prohibited the
employment of children under the age of nine.
But by the time that law was passed, it was the parents,
not the children, who stood most in need of protection. The
fate that had trapped the young had at last overtaken the
grown folk too.
It was largely because too many peasants had come crowd-
ing into the factory towns. Year after year more and more
of them had come crowding in, careless of the misery await-
ing them because worse lay behind. For they were fugitives.
Something had come over the British countryside which had
not happened there in centuries. It was Change. For a thou-
sand years, even longer, life had gone on almost unaltered
in the rural regions. Generation after generation the fields
had been plowed with the same plows, the grain had been
threshed with the same flails, the sheep had been let out to
graze behind the same old hedgerows. But now, seemingly of
a sudden, everything had begun to change.
The reason is plain to us. What had occurred in industry
had begun to occur also in agriculture. The new technology
24 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
had penetrated to the farms, and it was revolutionizing
farm-life. New agricultural machinery had been developed,
and new schemes for fertilizing the soil and improving the
live-stock. Tilling and husbandry had begun to be "modern-
ized," and that took the ground out from under the poor
peasants. Most of them were mere tenants on great estates,
and they had neither the wit nor the means to adopt the new
agronomy. Only the landlords were in a position to do that.
Now, as a class these landlords were little inclined to try
anything new. Throughout the past they had been content
to hunt, drink, play politics, go to church and collect the
rents. They had been in a literal sense the lords: that is, the
"loaf-wards," the bread-keepers. The hard chore of bread-
winning they had left to their tenants.
Of late, however, some had begun to bestir themselves.
Not all of them, of course. No, most of the landowners con-
tinued to act like typical sons of riches, sitting on their
backgrounds and twiddling their titles. But a number did
get busy. They saw what was going on in the towns: how
the upstart industrialists were amassing fortunes, and put-
ting on airs. That irked those rural gentlemen. They decided
that they too would do a bit of amassing, for it looked easy.
They already owned potential capital in the form of land.
All they had to do was take full advantage of their owner-
ship in other words, become active capitalists.
They did do that. They ordered their tenants to clear off,
tore down the ancient hedges, purchased improved equip-
ment, and engaged managers to farm the estates on efficient,
large-scale, capitalistic lines.
That is why there was so much migration toward the in-
dustrial centers. A certain number of the peasants were able
to remain on the soil as cotters or hired laborers ; but the
rest had to move on. Some moved right out of the country.
SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN 25
They sold their belongings and bought passage to America,
Australia, South Africa any place where they could get
back to the soil.
Most commonly they emigrated to the United States, where
they took up homesteads on the frontier. If they were lucky
or lazy, they lived out their lives on those homesteads, and
so did their children and their children's children. More
usually they continued to move. By ox-cart they moved, by
paddle-boat, or on foot: first to Ohio or Tennessee, then to
Wisconsin or Kansas, then to Dakota or Oklahoma, They
kept moving westward, always believing
"When weVe wood and prairie land
Won by our toil,
Well reign like kings in fairy-land,
Lords of the soil."
But the Machine kept catching up with them. The Ma-
chine kept pushing them out. Even four generations later
many of their descendants were still being routed by that
nemesis. Having been "tractored out" of their forty acres in
Dakota or Oklahoma, they moved on then to Oregon or
California. But by that time the futility of their flight was
plain, for the only way they could try to escape from the
Machine then was in it. They made that final trek in old
That, however, is a story for later. Right now our con-
cern is with what happened in Great Britain when so many
peasants began to be driven from the manors. Only the
more fortunate were able to go to America. The rest, lacking
the means or the will, simply wandered to the nearest town.
They put their belongings on their backs, took their young
'uns by the hand, and tramped off to find jobs in the fac-
26 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
tories. Thousands did that, tens and hundreds of thousands:
"bewildered clods, ragged and hungry, who came begging for
jobs at any wage.
And the factory-owners were happy. They no longer cared
much at least, not very much if Parliament passed laws
against child-labor. They could get more than enough adult-
labor now at minimum pay.
Even the cottage craftsmen began to beg for jobs in the
factories. They had put up a stiff fight until now. In many
localities they had actually banded together and tried to
destroy the mills. Even now tens of thousands of them were
still struggling to hold out. It meant they had to go hungry
and bury themselves in debt, for they could not possibly
compete with the power-plants. The most diligent artisan
working at home could not produce nearly so much as any
child in a factory. True, the artisan's product was finer in
quality ; but that did not help. The great demand now was
for cheapness, not quality.
Nevertheless many artisans continued to cling to their
spinning-wheels and hand-looms. In most instances their
earnings were actually less than they could have received
in the mills, but they felt they were compensated in other
ways. A man who worked in his own home could sing at his
work if he felt like singing, or knock off in the middle of the
day and hoe turnips or go fishing. A man who worked in his
own home was his own master more or less. He was free
in a way.
So there were many in the land who stubbornly struggled
to carry on under the old "domestic" system. But they be-
came fewer year by year. Labor without j oy was bad ; but
labor without bread was worse. In at least the textile indus-
try it was already plain that the independent artisan was
IV. THE POOR SHALL NEVER
HE independent artisan was
doomed. He went down first in the
textile industry, and then in every
other that lent itself to large-scale
mechanization. If he could not get
hold of capital and make himself a
master, he had in most instances
only one alternative: let himself
be made a slave.
But not a docile slave. He drew the line there. He and his
kind were not savages who had been trapped in African
28 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
jungles and dragged in chains to another world. They were
Christian Britishers living in their own homeland. From
childhood they had been taught to sing, "Britons never,
never, never shall be slaves!" And, foolish as* it may have
been of them, they took that boast literally. Therefore, no
sooner did they begin to feel the yoke around their necks
than some of them started to balk.
At first they had a very effective way of balking, for
though driven like slaves, they were not actually chattel*
They still had the right to quit their jobs. True, this was
not much of a right, since if they quit they starved. But
and herein they had seen their one salvation if enough of
them in any factory got together and quit at the same time,
their employer faced ruin. If they went on strike indeed, if
they merely combined and threatened to do so they still
had some chance of redeeming themselves.
So they did combine and threaten to strike. The movement
started even before the close of the Eighteenth Century, and
at first the masters paid it little heed. Some even relished
the unrest so long as it broke out in the mills of their
competitors. Eventually, however, they learnt better. It be-
came clear to them that their hirelings had laid hold of an
exceedingly lethal weapon. Whereupon they ran to Parlia-
ment for help.
They got it. Parliament was controlled then by the landed
aristocrats, and these as a class had little love for the up-
start industrialists. Nevertheless, as between the latter and
the common workers, they knew well how to side. (The French
Revolution had just shown them what could happen when
the rabble got out of hand.) The lawmakers hastily decreed
(1799) that henceforth any workman who conspired with
any other workman to extort an increase of wages, or a de-
crease in hours, was liable to three months in jail! Further,
THE POOR SHALL NEVER CEASE 29
if any workman so much as attended a meeting called for
the purpose of plotting such extortion, or if he urged any
other workman to attend such a meeting, or if he gave aid
to the family of any worker convicted for attending such a
meeting, or if ... or if ... then he was likewise liable to
three months in jail!
That attended to. Parliament heaved a sigh and laid down
its pen. It felt that it had done its duty. The workers had
been, deprived of the one weapon still in their hands, and
now all seemed safe.
But all was not safe, for all was not well. The strikes
might cease, but the grievances remained. Want and squalor
and disease and resentment were still unmitigated in the
nether-world of the poor. Indeed, with each year, almost
with each day, these evils increased. Conditions had been
bad enough formerly. Wages had been so low that in some
places James Watt tells us this the workers had actually
stolen the grease out of the engines and used it for food.
Yet now the lot of the toilers was more grievous than ever.
There were some even in the upper-world of the rich who
saw this. One was a poet by the name of Shelley, who wrote
brave verses counseling the poor to
"Shake your chains to earth like dew . . .
Ye are many they are few."
Several other poets of the day most notably Byron and
Keats wrote verses in somewhat the same vein. But since
most of the poor were illiterate, and the rest were unliterary,
only fine ladies read those poems. That did not help much.
Similarly there were certain radical journalists and ec-
centric philosophers who espoused the cause of the lowly.
30 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
But their words, too, were largely wasted on the drawing-
For the rest, a small number of intensely religious folk
became wrought up over the situation. They realized only
part of what was happening, but that part was enough.
They saw that the masses were becoming debauched. The
favorite potion down in the nether-world had ceased to be
good, full-bodied ale. It was not even beer. What the poor
craved most now was gin. The stuff was sheer poison to mind
and body alike, yet they gulped down all they could get
The masses were becoming debauched and depraved. No
longer did they seek relaxation in dancing on the green. Now
they spent their every idle moment in reeking public-houses.
No longer could they be entertained by innocent Punch-and-
Judy shows, or tumbling bears, or wandering jugglers. They
preferred to watch what were called "up-and-down fights. 5 '
Two champions would square off on a cindery lot, or right
in the middle of the street, and maul, gouge, kick, and
throttle each other until one lay numb on the ground. This
was no new sport; but in former times it had been indulged
in only at the annual fairs. Now such combats were everyday
occurrences. So also were vicious wife-beatings, child-flog-
gings, and sudden, inexplicable mob riots. It was as though
some evil spell were creeping over the laboring-class, a dark
rage that had to vent itself in savagery and murder.
All this was very appalling to the more righteous folk
up above, and eventually it stirred some of them to action.
Curiously, however, these saw no link between depravity and
deprivation. For example, there was a great and good man
named William Wilberforce, who devoted most of his adult
life to grieving over the lot of the down-trodden. Yet when
he was a member of Parliament in 1799 he was among the
THE POOR SHALL NEVER CEASE 31
most eloquent supporters of the bill which made it a crime
for workers to strike.
Mr. Wilberf orce was typical of those pious uplifters. On
the one hand, they did very fervently want to help the poor.
On the other, they just as fervently did not want the poor
to help themselves. Possibly that was because these uplifters
were holy folk. Believing that the Lord would provide, and
knowing that they themselves were peculiarly close to the
Lord, they felt it should be left to them to hand out the pro-
They did hand them out. They distributed bread on occa-
sion, and also fuel and warm clothing. These, however, were
in their own eyes the least of their benevolences. Far more
precious, they believed, were the spiritual bounties which
they were in a position to give away. Their real mission, they
felt, was to restore the lowly to the light. Not to the sun-
light, of course; no, to the Light of God. Bring the poor
back to religion, they cried, and all would be well. The poor
would then turn to prayer for solace, and to virtuous deeds
for refreshment. They would become friendly, sober, and
docile. In a word, they would be saved and made safe.
Thus argued those holy uplifters. And they did more than
argue; they went to work. Mr. Wilberf orce set up head-
quarters at his fine home in Claphani, and began to gather
funds with which to purchase Bibles, tracts, and hymn books.
Then, arming his cohorts with these weapons, he sent them
forth to do battle.
Most of the warriors were high-minded spinsters, and it
must be recorded that they did do battle most valiantly.
With hearts full of love but jaws set a little grimly they
dared to venture into the toughest slums. They organized
Sunday schools, prayer circles, sewing guilds-, and refined
entertainments. It took courage to attempt such tasks, and
82 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
angelic patience to persist in them. The good ladies met with
surliness from the workers and rage on the part of the
masters. Often even the local curates were hostile. But, de-
spite all rebuffs, they persevered. They scolded gamblers,
pleaded with drunkards, wrestled with atheists, and drove
harlots out of town. They were like so many godly gadflies
in the dark stables where the poor were penned.
Nevertheless they did accomplish some good. The milk of
human kindness may have been a little sour in many of those
spinsters, but in the circumstances even sour milk was a
boon. For one thing, they did dispense a certain amount of
charity. For another, they taught a number of their charges
how to read. For a third, they helped to keep at least a few
of the rich from completely forgetting that the poor were
still human beings. These may have been sadly inadequate
benevolences ; yet they were better than none. In the light of
subsequent history they might even be ranked as important.
They were the seeds which eventually flowered into three re-
markable institutions: Organized Philanthropy, Mass Edu-
cation, and the Social Conscience.
Yes, those missionaries did do some good.
However, many years had to pass before the seeds they
planted could begin to burgeon. In part that was because
the seeds were never deliberately planted ; they were dropped
by accident. To make matters worse, for a long time the
seeds were poorly watered. The vast majority of the rich
refused to interest themselves in the nether-world of the
poor. They were hardly aware of its very existence. This
was not true, of course, of the actual industrialists. Most
of these were still small fellows who lived right next door
to their factories, and they could hardly help knowing the
conditions in the slums. Nevertheless, except in rare in-
THE POOR SHALL NEVER CEASE 33
stances, they made no effort to relieve those conditions. They
had more urgent things on their minds.
As for the rest of the rich, these seldom came within miles
of the slums. Even many who drew their main revenues from
those areas, the lordly owners of the coal-measures and the
knighted shareholders in the mills, even they and especially
their wives stayed away from them. They preferred to live
in the fashionable districts of London, or on fine estates in
the counties as yet unspoilt. If, on occasion, some business
necessity did drag them to the factory sites, they drew the
carriage curtains while traversing the alleyways, and held
handkerchiefs to their nostrils.
Even so, they could not help hearing rumor of what life
was like among the poor. The reports, however, were usually
of so offensive a nature that they simply refused to believe
them. Or else they shrugged their shoulders. They told them-
selves it was plainly God's will that the poor should be poor.
What was more, such was His will, they told themselves,
only because He loved the poor. Contemporary professors of
moral philosophy had proved that quite conclusively.
For example, there was the Reverend Dr. William Paley,
of the University of Cambridge: he had written what
amounted to a treatise to show that poverty was really a
privilege. The rich, he had argued, could afford to indulge
their every whim; therefore their appetites were prone to be
jaded. But the poor were always in need; therefore they
were able to get a thrill out of the least little windfall.
Again, the rich did not have to labor; therefore they could
never know the full joy of rest. The poor, on the other hand,
had to work hard all day long; therefore when night came
they could fall on their beds and really relax. Still again, the
rich had to worry about keeping up appearances. They had
to dress in the fashion, run big establishments, send their
34 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
sons to select schools, provide their daughters with seductive
dowries. Also they had to contribute to charity. The poor,
however, were burdened with no such responsibilities. All
they had to do was stay alive. Everything considered, there-
fore, the rich were positively to be pitied. It was the poor
who were the lucky ones.
That was one type of argument. In a sense it served the
gentry as their first line of defense against any pricks of
conscience. To be safe, they had a second line. This con-
sisted of the blunt assertion that poverty, whether good or
bad, was unavoidable. Had not God Himself declared through
Moses that "the poor shall never cease out of the land"?
Moreover, had not recent scientific research furnished sta-
tistical evidence to much the same effect? The Reverend Mr.
Malthus in his erudite Essay on the Principle of Population
had just proved at least, so it was generally believed that
the very Laws of Nature ordained that part of the popula-
tion must be eternally in a state of want.
Actually Malthus had proved nothing of the sort; nor
had he tried to do so. He was a kindly man with a fine scien-
tific bent and a stout moral purpose. But shallow readers,
misconstruing his thesis, insisted that it added up to some-
thing like this : The earth could produce just so much food
and no more; therefore there could never be enough to eat
save for just so many people. But since far more than that
number kept getting born, therefore the excess simply had
to starve. Poverty was "Nature's medicine." It prevented
the masses from growing ever more excessive, and thus en-
abled the classes to go well fed. Q.E.D. !
So the rich could feel secure from any qualms. Either
poverty was a blessing, in which case nothing need be done
to relieve it; or else it was a curse, in which case nothing
could be done.
V. THE RICH SHALL NEVER
EVERTHELESS the rich did have
their worries, plenty of them fc
Roughly, the rich were of two,
kinds, the old and the new; and
both worried themselves, if not
thin, at least gray. The chief bane
of the old rich was that they
were being crowded by the new.
Formerly the prime source of
wealth had been land. Even the merchant-pirates, once they
had grown to be merchant-princes, had invariably plowed
86 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
their gains into land. But since there was a limit to the
amount of land in the realm, there had always been a limit
to the number who could be wealthy. That neat arrange-
ment, however, was crumbling now, for wealth had acquired
a third dimension. Industrialism had created a rival source
of riches in machinery, and opportunity was therefore no
longer bounded by the horizon. The sky had become the
limit, and that meant more room on top.
So now there was a rush to get on top. Thousands of
creatures from the lower ranks were heaving, shoving, claw-
ing their way upward. The best of them were no doubt honest
enough, but only according to their lights and their lights,
being those of smoky milltowns, were not very bright. As
for the rest, they were just ruffians. Most of them were hard-
bitten fellows with foxy wits and tigerish wills who wasted
no time on gentlemanly scruples. They knew what they
wanted and went after it. Ruthlessly, remorselessly, they
went after what they wanted. If anyone dared to stand in
their way, they knocked him down and walked on his face.
Not all of the poor were crushed by industrialism. A num-
ber managed to clamber up the sides of the smoke-belching
juggernaut, and these rode high, wide, and handsome. They
grew rich and began to act like rajahs. They did not need
to be told that the words "rich'* and "rajah" and even
"regal" came from the same root ; they seemed to smell it
out. The moment they got hold of what they called "t*
brass," that moment they started to act brazen. They
learnt to strut, look down their noses, and clear their throats
with a sound like thunder for they had made themselves
high and mighty folk.
All of which was very trying to those who had been "born
high and mighty.
THE RICH SHALL NEVER REST 37
But the new rich too had their worries. The proof is this :
no matter how rich the newly rich grew., they kept struggling
to get richer. Relatively few in those early days thought to
build themselves palaces in which to make merry. Instead
they built more factories in order to make more money.
They kept saving and investing so as to get more savings to
invest. They had their cake but refused to eat It because
they felt they must acquire more cake not to eat.
Foolish? Not at all. There was sound reason for such con-
duct. These new-rich people could never feel completely
secure. Their wealth was invested in business, and business,
they had discovered, had its chronic ups and downs. Today
they might be rolling in wealth, and tomorrow be flounder-
ing in debt. Therefore they had to keep worrying about the
future. They had to keep saving for a rainy day even if
that meant living in a constant drizzle.
Now, in one way this persistent thrift was highly benefi-
cent. Because the capitalists were literally a "savvng" rem-
nant, all mankind was to some extent redeemed. Those cap-
italists were driven to build more and more factories, and
thus they enriched the world with more and more goods. And
the world needed goods. There had never been enough simple
necessities to go around, let alone pleasant comforts. At
last, however, that lack was on its way to being filled. A well
had been discovered which could provide waters of plenty
for the entire land, the entire earth. So it was good that
those who rushed to take possession of the well were impelled
to pump with all their might. Without plenty there could
never be health or joy or even common decency for the bulk
But though good, the arrangement was not perfect. Un-
fortunately, the pumpers pumped with more vigor than wis-
38 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
dom. This was only natural, since each man felt constrained
to get all the water he could out of his own spout. However,
the combined flood coming from so many spouts could not
always run off smoothly. The result? Every once in a while
the waters backed up and most of the pumpers got soaked.
No, the arrangement was very far from perfect. Thanks
to the new machinery, it was possible now to produce lots of
goods very cheaply. Once produced, however, the goods had
to be sold. But to whom? Certainly not to the rich. Flimsy
calico and coarse shoddy were no fit merchandise for such
folk ; nor were tin forks and spoons, or inch-thick mugs and
platters. The rich might buy a little of such stuff for their
servants, but for themselves they preferred hand-made goods.
These were more painstakingly contrived, more durable, and
usually more beautiful. In any case, they were less common,
and therefore more impressive.
Obviously, therefore, most of the factory-products had to
be sold to the poor. But just as obviously they could not be
sold to the poor at home. In the first place, these lacked the
price. The bulk of their wretched wages had to go for food
and lodging. In the second place, even had they had the
price, they would not have cared to buy all that was being
turned out. The new industrialism was too specialized and
unbalanced. For the most part its output was confined to
textiles and ironware. Therefore there simply had to be a
surplus of certain goods, and that surplus simply had to be
It was. Agents were sent out to forage for markets, and
before long England's foreign trade began to boom. Here,
for example, are the round figures for her annual export of
THE RICH SHALL NEVER REST 39
1780 $ 2,000,000
Within little more than a generation the word "Manchester"
became the hall-mark of cheap merchandise all around the
But there was one bedeviling element in this foreign trade :
it was chronically unstable. One year the demand for goods
seemed insatiable, and the next it was gone. Here a war
would suddenly destroy a market, there a famine, in a third
place a plague. Therefore there could be no steady pros-
perity at the source of supply. Now the British mills were
running day and night, and now they stood idle. That was
The situation had been different in former times, because
making and selling had then been confined largely to local
markets. Merchandising had been carried on from hand to
mouth, so there had been relatively few hazards. But now
that the hand was at such a distance from the mouth, any-
thing could happen and usually did.
There was another factor. In earlier days most of those
who did the making and selling belonged to guilds. Each
tradesman submitted to restrictions, and this insured a cer-
tain amount of common security. The guilds may have stulti-
fied progress, but they did at least prevent anarchy. All
that, however, was changed now. In this new age the mer-
chants and manufacturers were completely on their own.
The one law to which they subscribed was "Each for himself
and the devil take the hindmost," This was called the Com-
petitive System, but in effect it was not a system at all. It
was a chaos which showed promise or threat of some day
40 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
becoming congealed. In the meantime, though savagely stim-
ulating, it was almost as savagely confusing.
Here is an example of what could and did happen. In
1808 the British, having invaded Spain to drive out Napo-
leon, took occasion incidentally to extort a treaty which
opened up Spanish America to their trade. This was prac-
tically a virgin market, and when the British go-getters
learnt it was theirs for the raping, they fairly whooped for
joy. Had they taken time to make inquiries, they might have
been less jubilant. They would have discovered that South
America was still largely a jungle, and therefore hardly
nubile as a market. But those go-getters did not dare take
time. Each of them feared that his rivals would go and get
ahead of him. So all of them pounced together. A horde of
traders loaded ships to the gunwales and set off at once for
It was farcical. Within the space of a few weeks more cot-
ton goods were dumped in that port than the entire region
had consumed in the preceding twenty years. Huge bales
of fancy glassware arrived, giant crates of knickknacks
and Ebys. Even ice-skates were shipped out in the excite-
The final outcome, of course, was ruin. The adventure
ruined the merchants who had chartered the vessels, ruined
the manufacturers who had produced the wares, and ruined
the bankers who had advanced the funds. There was a small
panic when word of the fiasco got back to England. Banks in
London slammed their doors, and mills in Manchester pad-
locked their gates. Only the churches and the grog-shops
found much need to stay open.
That sort of thing happened over and over again. Now
there would be a crazy boom, and now a sickening collapse.
THE RICH SHALL NEVER REST 41
First the go-getters would lose their heads, then they would
lose their shirts. And nothing, it seemed, could be done about
it. The situation might have been less hopeless had these
ups and downs been due entirely to stupid blundering on the
part of individuals. But they were not. Almost from the
start the severest fluctuations were caused by a factor for
which not individuals but all society was to blame.
That factor was war. For more than twenty years, from
1792 to 1815, there was virtually incessant fighting in Eu-
rope; and during all those years the British mills reacted
like so many sweat glands to a fever. When the fighting was
intense, the mills worked day and night; when it slackened,
they fell idle. Boom and slump, boom and slump : so it went
for two mad decades. Until at last there came the mightiest
boom of all, and then prostration.
It was late in the year 1812 that this climacteric boom
began. Napoleon had finally taken one gamble too many : he
had dared to invade Russia. That gave his enemies their
chance. They waited until hunger, cold, and typhus wrecked
his army, and then they closed in for the kill. Russia, Prus-
sia, Sweden, and Austria rushed troops into the field. So did
England, Bavaria, Holland, and Denmark. And the wheels
of British industry began to whirl as never before. It was
their task to produce equipment for all those armies. (And
also this must be whispered for Napoleon's!) They had
to pour out shot and cannon, and muskets, sabers, flints,
and medals. They had to weave bunting for flags, shoddy for
uniforms, and cotton for shrouds.
That meant profits for the owners of those wheels. War
was a bonanza for them. All they could produce they could
sell, and all they sold brought them profit. So they herded
more and more infants into more and more factories to turn
out more and more goods to be shot away in more and more
4.2 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
battles. None stopped to ask what might happen when the
shooting ceased. None dared. It would have been foolish
why look a war horse in the mouth? Besides, it would have
So all who could crowd their way to the well of plenty
proceeded to pump and pump and pump. And they made
money. An inquisitive London magistrate named Patrick
Colquhoun tried to find out just how much money some peo-
ple were making in that day, and this is what he discovered.
In 1814 the average cash income of a worker's family was
$55 for the entire year! But the income of those who worked
the workers he counted 400,000 such, including the land-
lords was from $1,000 to $20,000 !
That estimate, to be sure, was merely a wild guess, but
since we lack a tamer one, we can ill afford to reject it. Even
if we do, we must still concede that the warring must have
brought profit to some people in England. For thirty months
it certainly kept enriching the businessmen. And then
VI. A MAN" WITH A PLAN-
war ended in 1815. Napoleon
was felled never to rise again, and
there was peace at last. But not
joy. Not for the British business-
men, at least. No, to them peace
brought only gloom. Even the
most powerful among them were
plunged into gloom. The weaker
ones writhed .in terror. They had
borrowed right and left to build mills and install machinery,
and now they were caught. Poor small fry, they had been
44 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Yet theirs was not the harshest agony. That was reserved
for the laborers. When peace pricked the industrial boom ?
the capitalists were merely out of luck. But the laborers
suffered more, for they were out of work.
This was something new. Wars had always brought hard
times in their wake; so had droughts, floods, pestilences,
and other "acts of God/ 9 In the past, however, the poor had
been able somehow to take care of themselves during such
crises. They had had their own cottages to give them shelter,
and their tiny fields and the surrounding forests to yield
them food. But it was different in 1816. By that time hun-
dreds of thousands of the poor were housed in towns where
they subsisted entirely off industry. Once industry foundered,
they were left stranded. Lacking money to pay the rent, they
were put out on the streets. Being far from woods in which
to pick berries or poach, they could do nothing but starve.
That spelled trouble, especially after the demobilized sol-
diers were added to the down-and-out mob. "Hard times
brought hard crimes. 35 The more the skies of England
emptied of smoke, the blacker they grew with hate. The
tougher fellows started to riot in the slums and loot in the
countryside. Even the timid took to throwing rocks at pass-
ing carriages. The unrest grew so widespread that the rich
began to take fright. It might have been better had they
taken thought, but that apparently was beyond them. In-
stead of taking thought they reached for a club. (Did not
tHoly Writ declare : "A whip for the horse, a bridle for the
jass, and a rod for the backs of fools"?) The Government
suppressed the right of free speech, suspended the law of
Habeas Corpus, organized a force of police spies, and called
out the militia.
It worked. Cowed by the show of force, the poor slunk
back into their kennels. What else could they do? They had
A MAN ;WITH A PLAN 45
been reared to believe that only their betters were privileged
to revolt. Besides, they were unarmed and unorganized.
That, however, did not end the unrest. Afraid to bite,
forbidden even to bark, the masses took to whimpering.
They whimpered so agonizingly that at last the rulers were
driven to relent a little. In I81T Parliament appointed a
"select committee" to inquire into ways and means of throw-
ing the poor a bone.
And thereupon something very strange occurred. A cer-
tain industrialist by the name of Robert Owen arose and
bluntly declared that a bone would not be enough. This Mr.
Owen, a homely young Welshman with a large nose and
gentle eyes, was already somewhat of a character in Great
Britain. Though himself a most prosperous employer, his
sympathies had always been with the workers. In this, it
must be said, he was not unique. Nevertheless he was cer-
Owen's whole career had been peculiar. He had left home
at the age of ten to make his way in the world, and before
he was twenty he had already established himself as a "cot-
ton lord" in Manchester. By the time he was twenty-six, he
and a group of partners were able to raise $300,000 to buy
one of the largest mills in Great Britain. It was situated at
New Lanark, near Glasgow, and employed some 2,000 work-
ers, of whom 500 were apprenticed waifs. Conditions in the
settlement were what one might expect. The millhands were
the terror of the countryside, always stealing, getting drunk,
and starting bloody brawls. Their bodies were filthy, their
minds were dull, and their spirits were morose and debauched.
Typical miUf oik.
But Robert Owen was not a typical .millowner. True, he
was monstrously energetic, always hustling, bustling, and
pushing ahead. At the same time, however, he was a man ol
46 SOMETHING WENT WKONG
some enlightenment. He had received very little education
as a child and that, characteristically, in a religious school
conducted by pious spinsters but he had since done a good
deal of reading and thinking. Among other things, he had
come to the conclusion that human beings behaved as they
did not because of their nature but their nurture. If, for
example, millf oik were prevailingly vicious, it was not at all
because they were born vicious. No, said this Mr. Owen, it
was because they lived in a vicious environment.
No sooner, therefore, did he take over the control of New
Lanark than he set out to create a better environment for
his workers. He could do only little to increase wages or
reduce hours his partners drew the line at that but he
was able to accomplish much in other directions. He reno-
vated the mills, improved the housing, cleaned up the village
streets, and opened a store where sound merchandise was
sold practically at cost. Most important of all, he estab-
lished a school. It was an extraordinary school because,
though intended for the children of workers, it lacked all
taint of snivelling piety. The one aim of the instruction was
to develop keen and happy minds in clean and healthy bodies.
The pupils were taught not alone how to read and write, but
also how to play and dance and get on together. And, in
part through the pupils, Owen tried to influence the parents.
He sought to make the latter take an interest in their work
and develop a pride in themselves.
On the face of it, the whole scheme was preposterous.
Nevertheless it worked. Little by little Owen got his mill-
hands to slough off their brutish ways and behave like decent
citizens. What was even more amazing, his efforts paid. The
more he spent on what his partners considered mad extrava-
gances, the handsomer were the dividends he produced.
A MAN WITH A PLAN 47
Within ten years Owen was able to pay back the entire orig-
inal cost of the mills, plus interest at five per cent.
Rumor of the marvel spread far and wide, and many im-
portant people journeyed to New Lanark to see the place
for themselves. One was no less a personage than the Grand
Duke Nicholas, later Tsar of Russia; and he, like the rest,
went away greatly bewildered. When Owen published a book
on his educational theories in 1813, Napoleon himself found
time to read it and scribble favorable comments in the mar-
gins. John Quincy Adams, then the American ambassador
in London, sent copies of that book to the governors of all
the states in the Union. "Mr. Owen the Philanthropist 55
grew to be a world figure. Despite his humble origin and pe-
culiar ideas, even dukes and cabinet ministers, even the Arch-
bishop of Canterbury, deigned to acknowledge his acquaint-
ance. Consequently, when he raised his voice during the crisis
of 1817, all Britain stopped to listen.
And this is what the country heard. Throwing the poor
a bone, said Owen, would never do. At best it might provide
momentary relief ; but this crisis called for a permanent
cure. Otherwise pauperism would grow worse and worse. It
would spread until the whole land became one vast poor-
house. Why? Because more goods could now be produced
with less human labor. This development, though calculated
to be a boon, was proving to be a calamity. Thousands upon
thousands of willing workers were losing their jobs. What
was to become of them? They could hardly be asked to
crawl off into a corner and die. Nor could they very well
be kept alive by the rest of the population. Plainly there
was only one solution: those multitudes would have to be
restored to gainful labor.
That was Owen's basic contention. Something very grave
48 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
had gone wrong, and it would take more than mere wishing
to set it right again. Machinery had thrown part of the
economic system out of kilter, and unless society imme-
diately adjusted that part, the whole system would surely
go to pieces.
But how was this adjustment to be made? Obviously not
by abolishing machinery. The only way out was to go for-
ward. And Owen thought he knew how. He had a Plan. Said
he: Collect all the unemployed in small colonies, give them
sufficient land and mechanical equipment, and then leave
them to provide for their own needs. Such a scheme might
sound fantastic; but, Owen insisted, he had thought it all
out, and he was sure it would work. (He was a very self-
confident man.) The essential thing, said he, was to let the
colonies be run as collective enterprises. The members must
work side by side in the fields and shops, live together in
one group of buildings, eat at a common table, and share
as equals in all privileges as well as duties. This would in-
sure a minimum of waste, a maximum of cooperation, and an
optimum of happiness. True, no member would be able to
wax rich; but neither would any be reduced to beggary.
Indeed, life would become so idyllic in those settlements for
the unemployed, that before long even the employed would
want to join them. And not merely in Great Britain, but all
over the earth. Whereupon such colonies would spring up
everywhere, and the whole earth would be turned into one
vast cooperative paradise !
That, in brief, was Robert Owen's Plan. He presented It
first to the "select committee" appointed by Parliament.
Then he hired a hall in London and announced it to the
world. The result was sensational. Owen's picture of the
Future, a smile on its dimpled cheeks and a ribbon in its
golden hair, was enough to soften even the toughest-headed
A MAN WITH A PLAN 49
folk. The leading newspapers editorialized on his idea, high
clerics preached on it, and fine gentlemen argued about it
over their port. The economic depression had already lasted
many months, and even the very rich were getting a bit
white around the gills. They were in a mood to listen to
almost any man with a plan for recovery and Robert Owen
was not just any man. Had he not amassed a fortune? There-
fore, despite their prejudices, even the roundest-bellied peo-
ple were tempted to take him seriously. For a while there
were many who considered him almost a Messiah.
But only for a while. Then, almost overnight, he was
metamorphosed into a fiend. The fault was in part his own.
He allowed himself to be dragged into a squabble with the
people who until then had been the chief pleaders for the
poor. These were the pietists, and they wanted to know
where God came into Owen's utopia. The man had given
elaborate specifications for the building of model tenements
in his colonies and for the building of nurseries, schools,
libraries, recreation halls; but he had not even mentioned
churches. What did he mean by that?
Owen was only too eager to tell them. He actually hired
a hall again, so as to be able to tell them out loud. Religion,
he roared, did not figure at all in his "villages of coopera-
tion." Moreover, he'd be damned before he'd ever let it be
smuggled into them. Said he:
"My friends, I tell you that the fundamental notions of every
religion have made man ... a weak, imbecile animal, a furious
bigot, a fanatic, a miserable hypocrite. And should these qualities
be carried into Paradise itself, a Paradise would no longer be
That finished him with the pietists. It helped to finish
him with all other respectable people. These discovered that
50 SOMETHING WENT WEONG
he was a heretic not alone about God, but also about mar-
riage and even money. He seemed bent on standing the world
on its head and shaking out all its dearest traditions. They
decided he must be mad.
Nevertheless Owen carried on. Failing to win the support
of the rich, he sought it from the poor and got it, after
a fashion. Eventually his movement acquired a name, and it
was a very good one. What made it good was the directness
with which it pointed to the crucial belief underlying all of
his utopian fantasies. According to that belief, the sole
way to end the woes of the world was through social rather
than individual action. Therefore his movement came to be
To most people in Owen's day, whether rich or poor, the
entire scheme seemed not merely absurd but even wicked.
They were sure, however, that it would never be taken se-
riously, so they let him go on preaching it.
He did. For more than forty years he continued to button-
hole statesmen and lecture to workmen in behalf of his idyl-
lic "Socialism. 5 *
Toward the last, however, even he seems to have despaired
of it a little. At the age of eighty-two he took up spiritual-
VII. THE RELIGION OF
OBERT OWEN failed and that
was only natural. Even, had he
been less indiscreet, or even had
his plan been less unworkable, he
would still have had to fail. The
world was not prepared for a man
of his sort, nor for a plan of any
sort at all.
By the world I mean, of course,
those people who had already begun to take possession of
it: the up-and-coming fellows, the go-getters, the business-
52 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
men. In their judgment and it was not altogether wrong
Owen was daft. True, there had been a moment when they
had thought otherwise. The prolonged slump after 1815 had
so shaken their nerves that they had almost accepted Owen's
prophecy that business never would recover. But then they
had got hold of themselves. Clenching their fists and gritting
their jaws, they had growled: Times must get better !
And, lo, times did get better! No one knew why; it just
happened. Gradually the old markets reopened on the Con-
tinent, and new ones were pried open in China and the
Americas. The demand for manufactured goods reasserted
itself, and the wheels of British industry began to turn
again. They turned slowly at first, then faster, faster. By
1822 they were whirring at top speed once more. New fac-
tories had to be erected then, and deeper shafts sunk into
the mines. More ships had to be built to fetch and carry
across the seas. It was almost another boom.
Owen had absolutely no chance after that. All his theoriz-
ing had been based on the premise that the system of "dog
eat dog" was done for. Machinery, he believed, had made
the fangs of the top dogs too sharp. But, once the post-war
crisis wore itself out, that system began to function better
than ever. At least, so it seemed to those who remained the
So they laughed at Owen and his socialism. Now they
were surer than ever that individualism was the one way of
salvation. Why draw up artificial plans for economic life?
Wasn't a natural plan already in existence? Of course! It
had been established by the very Architect of the Universe,
and was operating in ways as sure as they were beneficent.
Anyone could see that if only he cared to look.
Those businessmen really believed that. Faith in the divine
Tightness of individualism became a deep religion with them.
THE RELIGION OF MANCHESTERISM 53
Several scholarly books had already appeared which seemed
to validate such a religion, and more were being written day
by day. By curious coincidence, the first of those books ap-
peared in 1776, the very year James Watt installed his first
steam-engine. It was the handiwork of another Scotsman, a
sweet, high-minded professor of moral philosophy named
Adam Smith, and it bore the title, The Wealth of Nations.
A distinguished company of economists had since arisen to
amplify Adam Smith's ideas, and between them, they had
created a complete apology for capitalism. True, that had
not been their intention. They had set out to develop a
science of economics, and in a tentative way they had suc-
ceeded. But, as in the case of Malthus himself one of that
company their purpose was misunderstood, and most of
their findings were misapplied. Instead of functioning as a
science, their whole enterprise was made to serve as a the-
ology. It came to be called "Manchesterism," a very apt
name, for in the popular understanding it was a doctrine
which justified in principle what the Manchester millowners
were doing in' practice.
To be sure, the majority of those millowners did not give
a tuppenny-damn whether their behavior was justifiable or
no. All they cared was that it paid. But their behavior met
with considerable opposition, not merely from sundry cranks
who yearned for socialism, but far more redoubtably from
the landed aristocrats, most of whom had a nostalgia for
feudalism. It was therefore very necessary for the business-
men to show that capitalism was right as a matter of prin-
ciple. They had to prove that in cleaving to it they were
doing not alone well for themselves, but also good for
all mankind. They were very glad, therefore, that scholars
of unimpeachable integrity provided arguments which could
be made to seem to offer such proof.
54 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
It was unfair, of course, and certain of the scholars, most
notably the great John Stuart Mill, made loud protest. But
the businessmen refused to listen. The latter insisted that
though thinkers had evolved the theory of Manchesterism,
only doers could properly appreciate it. These might miss
some of its fine points, but not the really telling ones. And,
in their own estimate, the most telling of all was this : that
Manchesterism was not just a theory, but a gospel.
The crux of the gospel was the comforting doctrine that
capitalism was right. Why? Because it conformed to the
"Laws of Nature." The proof was simple. The mainspring
of capitalism was "enlightened self-interest" in plain talk,
greed. And was not greed altogether instinctive in human
nature? Again, the balance-wheel of the system was competi-
tion. And was not competition inherent in all animal nature?
Therefore there was nothing to worry about. The Cosmic
Clockmaker had apparently set everything in order, and it
was left for man merely to let the wheels grind. If each
individual would act "naturally" in other words, be as
greedy and competitive as possible then all humanity would
be better off. For, as the learned economists had shown, there
were "iron laws" functioning in economics no less than in
physics and chemistry. There was, for example, a law equal-
izing supply and demand, another regulating rents, a third
controlling wages. And any attempt on the part of mortals
to interfere with these "iron laws" was fated inexorably to
cause mischief, and end in failure. Therefore, hands off ! Let
Nature take its course !
An old French phrase became the popular slogan : Laissez-
faire, which might be vulgarly translated, "Let ? er go!"
There was no chance, it was said, that anything might go
too far. Not in the long run, at any rate. The relentless
THE RELIGION OF MANCHESTERISM 55
pressure of competition would see to that. The employer who
was too greedy, and tried to underpay his workers, would
soon find them drifting off to his rivals. The result? Either
he mended his ways, or he lost his business. Ditto for the
merchant who sought to overcharge his customers, and for
the landlord who attempted to mulct his tenants. Competi-
tion was like gravitation: a Force of Nature. You just
couldn't beat it.
True, competition was not yet working with perfect
smoothness. But this, it was argued, was because it had never
yet been given a proper chance. Competition was like the
mills of the gods : it ground slowly, and one had to be patient
with it. People should not complain because it caused in-
cidental hardships. That was what it was supposed to do,
and the more the better in the long run. The Profit System
was all the sounder because it was a Profit-and-Loss System.
Bankruptcies, foreclosures, panics, and the like, were a heal-
ing medicine. They kept purging the business world of the
reckless and the unfit, and thus served to make such catas-
trophes less and less possible. Eventually only the most com-
petent would be left in control, and then all would be lovely.
There would be steady profits for all the employers, steady
work for all the employees, and a steady flow of goods for
So let >er go !
Such, in the common view, was the gospel of Manchester-
ism, and in time it won the British middle class almost to a
man. Even the pious became its devotees. These were aware
that the creed reeked of paganism, but they refused to let
that repel them. They told themselves that "Nature" was
but another name for Providence, and the "Cosmic Clock-
56 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
maker" was obviously God. Thus they were able to make a
vulgarized Manchesterism part and parcel of their own dear
Here, for example, is a quotation from a contemporary
tract published by the pious Society for the Promotion of
"It is curious to observe how, through the wise and beneficent
arrangements of Providence, men do the greatest service to the
public when they are thinking of nothing but their own gain."
Curious, they called it; but they might also have said
wonderful. For the spreading belief in the righteousness of
capitalism was undoubtedly accomplishing wonderful results.
First of all, it was helping to clear the way so that the
capitalists might be free to pump with all their might and
thus it was enabling them to flood the world with merchan-
dise. By 1830 the noble historian, Lord Macaulay, could
arise in Parliament and boast with complete truth: "Our
houses are filled with conveniences which the kings of former
times might have envied. 55 To be sure, that gentleman was
referring solely to the houses of the rich. (It is not recorded
that he ever frequented any others.) But even the poor came
in for some share of the stream of goods. To quote a less
renowned writer of the period: "Two centuries ago, not one
person *in a thousand wore stockings; one century ago not
one person in five hundred wore them; now not one person
in a thousand is without them!" And what was true of
stockings was true also of shirts and shoes, of knives and
forks, even of books and pens. Capitalism was functioning
like an over-active gland within the body of industrialism,
speeding up all the vital processes and causing a veritable
explosion of progress.
THE RELIGION OF MANCHESTERISM 57
The effect was revolutionary really. For generations
there had been brave talk about Liberty, Equality, Fra-
ternity, and the Right to Happiness; but only now was
there much chance that those spiritual luxuries might be
attained. Why? Because only now was mankind beginning to
be supplied with enough material necessities. So long as
wealth remained scarce, power was easy to monopolize, and
tyranny was therefore hard to overthrow. So long as there
were too few goods to go around, some people were certain
to grab more than their just share of them, and privilege
was therefore bound to prevail. So long as means of com-
munication were slight, provincialism had to survive, and
that spelled unending strife. And, naturally, so long as tyr-
anny, privilege, and strife endured, the only right that man-
kind could conceivably enjoy was one to misery.
But now it looked as though those hoary evils would have
to go. The gospel of Manchesterism was against them, and
no sooner did it take hold than it refused to give them any
rest. See what happened in Britain. In the past all good
people there had been expected to "know their place. 55 And
keep it. They had been classified according to birth, the
definitely "well-born 55 being on top, the definitely "ill-born 55
at the bottom, and the rest milling around in between. But
the new creed thumbed its nose at all that. It insisted that
what counted was not birth but worth and what a man was
worth could best be measured by how much money Jie had
managed to save. Anything else was palpably "unnatural, 55
and therefore immoral. If a man had made good, he was
good, no matter what his origin. He belonged wherever he
could push himself. Manchesterism was absolutely adamant
on that point, and the result was a surge of social liberation
in Great Britain.
There was a surge also of religious liberation. After all,
58 SOMETHING WENT WRONG 6
If a man had the right to profit as he pleased, logically he
had also the right to profess as he pleased. He could be a
Jew., or a Catholic, or even an atheist, and still be a good
citizen so long as he paid his bills. Before long Parliament
began to erase every last mark of religious discrimination
from the law-books.
But above all there was a surge of political liberation.
Thus far Britain's government had been largely authori-
tarian, at least in principle. It had claimed the right to
direct the entire life of its subjects, regulating not alone
their comings and goings, but also their takings. In a word,
it had been essentially feudal. And Manchesterism could not
stand for that. So its devotees began to clamor that the
sole duty of the government was to maintain public order,
not to meddle in private enterprise. It should be a police-
man, not a nursemaid. The pushing capitalists demanded
^liberalism" in government by which they meant liberation
from governmental apron-strings.
And they got it.
They did not get it without a struggle, of course. For
a while it looked as though there might even be bloodshed.
The believers in authoritarian government, the so-called
"Tories," started out with one advantage: they were the
government. That left their opponents, the liberal "Whigs,"
legally helpless. Many a rural borough which had long since
been depopulated was still sending two members to the House
of Commons, whereas most of the new industrial towns
among them Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds were un-
able to send any members at all. Consequently most of the
seats in the Lower House, like all in the Upper, remained in
the possession of the landed gentlefolk.
And those gentlefolk refused to give them up. Not for
nothing had they been dubbed fTories, which was an old Irish
THE RELIGION OF MANCHESTEBISM 59
berm for bandits^ Under provocation they could act quite
ike bandits. Instead of surrendering their seats, they used
them, as battlements from which to snipe at the Whigs.
Whereupon the latter became equally tough. They too de-
served their nickname, which was originally a Scottish term
for horse-thieves. Seeing no other way to get what they
wanted, those Whigs turned around and aroused the masses.
They started to shout that the Tories were to blame for the
high price of bread which was true. The Tories were main-
taining a monstrous tariff on wheat in order to protect their
interests as agriculturists. Since the Whigs were opposed to
that tariff, it was easy for them to win the sympathy of the
Bread riots broke out in one town after another. Castles
were attacked, jails were demolished, and monuments were
burnt to the ground. Mobs in the capital went so far as to
throw rocks at the great Duke of Wellington, then the Prime
The Tories grew panicky. For more than a generation,
ever since the great revolution in France, they had lived in
terror of a mass uprising. They decided it might be wise to
compromise. One thing was plain: if they, the old rich, joined
forces with the new, the poor could still be kept where they
belonged. And that, after all, seemed to be the vital need.
So at length the landed gentlemen were forced to yield.
They permitted the passage of a Reform Bill in 1832 which
gave the urban upstarts a chance to have their full say in
That meant the beginning of the end of Tory power. The
Reform Bill did not establish political democracy in Eng-
land, for even now only moneyed men were allowed to vote.
But it did at least enfranchise the new industrial plutocracy.
Once the urban upstarts got the upper hand in the House of
60 SOMETHING WENT WBONG
Commons, they proceeded to break up the old feudal game y
scatter the stacked cards, and start a new deal. Socially the
well-born might continue to look down on the self-made. Po-
litically too they might try to hold themselves aloof. But
economically they were forced to strike up a partnership.
Eventually the aristocrats and plutocrats became almost
equally devoted to laissez-faire. Though their accents con-
tinued to differ, their voices became one in shouting to the
very heavens, "Let *er go !"
VIIL THE BLACK LIFE SPREADS
O THEY let 5 er go in Great Brit-
ain, and she went. What had been
a hard push before 1832, became
a wild rush after that date. Free
at last from governmental re-
straint, the capitalists began to
drive the industrial juggernaut
with all the brakes disconnected.
The pall of grime thickened over
the blighted valleys of Lancashire. It streaked out in the
wake of railroads until it enveloped half the other shires.
62 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Thousands of factories reared their tall, black, ugly throats
to belch sooty smoke against the sun. Tens of thousands of
trains uncoiled like long, black ugly snakes, and spat cinders
all over the landscape. Smoke and cinders spread everywhere.
They filled the sky, they covered the earth, they fouled the
streams, they buried the towns. Glasgow began to rival Man-
chester for noise and squalor. Liverpool, Birmingham, New-
castle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds, above all
London, grew bigger and blacker day by day. Slums were
exuded like pus from running boils. The Black Life ravaged
Nevertheless the net result was a gain. Machines multi-
plied, goods multiplied, and Britain "prospered."
Whereupon other lands grew envious. They too had their
go-getters, and these were not content to let the British
control the supply of plenty. They hungered to create wells
of their own, and pump at them to their own profit. So a cry
went up on the other side of the Channel, and even across
the Atlantic, for machines, machines, machines !
The British capitalists, hearing that cry, were much
moved. In the past all export of machinery had been for-
bidden by law; but now that ban was swept aside. There
was profit in selling machinery to foreigners, better profit
by far than could ever be derived from peddling machine-
products. Why then forbid it ?
True, such commerce did smack of selling the goose that
laid the golden eggs. In the long run it held out the threat
of ruining Britain's industry. But that consideration was
ignored, and for very cogent reasons. In the first place, it
was part of good capitalist theology that the long run
would take care of itself. In the second place, it was part of
good capitalist ethics always to sell whatever a customer
THE BLACK LIFE SPBEADS 63
would buy. In the third place, it was obvious that if the
precious goose was not sold. It would be stolen. The for-
eigners would simply build their own machines.
So there was a rush to claw fresh Iron out of the bowels
of Britain's earth, and a rush to forge the ore into equip-
ment. If the foreigners could not pay for this equipment,
the Britishers were all the more pleased. They themselves
advanced the money and thus made a double profit : an imme-
diate one on the sale, and a protracted one on the mortgage.
They went even further, and started industries, overseas en-
tirely on their own hook. Then, sending out their own mana-
gers to look after the enterprises, they sat at home and
raked in the revenues. This was the most profitable proce-
dure of all. It gave foreigners the privilege of feeding the
goose while the British collected the eggs.
The Black Life began to spread. At first, however, it
spread very slowly, for the rest of the world seemed not
quite ready yet for industrialism. Belgium alone succumbed
without much of a struggle, because there alone was the
basic situation somewhat akin to Great Britain's. Belgium's
soil contained plenty of coal and iron, the national spirit
was markedly middle-class, the peasantry was largely land-
less, and access to foreign markets was easy and secure. The
little country was palpably ripe for the Black Life.
English millwrights started to move in even before 1800,
and several of them prospered fabulously. One by the name
of Cockerill started an iron foundry at Liege which even-
tually, thanks to royal patronage, became almost the largest
in the world. Native go-getters were quick to emulate such
immigrants. They scrabbled for capital, bought machinery,
and set up "modern" lace factories, carpet works, and paper
64 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
mills. By 1830 Belgium was able to boast industrial centers
which were nearly as busy and fully as squalid as those of
Elsewhere, however, there was no such rapid development.
France, for example, continued to resist the Black Life even
after 1830. One reason was the stodginess of the rich there.
They were like tortoises who sullenly, stubbornly hug the
ground for fear they may be thrown on their backs. They
preferred to invest their wealth in land, not machinery. An-
other reason was the independence of the poor. Thanks to
the French Revolution, the bulk of the peasants owned their
own farms, and therefore had no need to beg for work in
factory towns. Finally, France was lacking in mineral re-
sources. Her coal-measures were broken and shallow, and
they lay too far from the deposits of iron. Twenty years
after James Watt could exclaim that England had gone
"steam-engine mad," there were just fifteen of his contrap-
tions in the entire realm of France. By 1830 there were
barely six hundred, and as late as 1840 there were fewer
than twenty-five hundred.
It was much the same in the United States. Before 1830
there was no large-scale industry over here at all, and even
after that date it was slow to develop. Large-scale industry
required money and machinery, and both these items had to
be imported from England. Few native enterprisers cared
to stoop to manufacturing, and those who did f or instance,
the Lowells, Cabots, and Lawrences in Massachusetts were
for the most part people of small means and modest station.
The established American capitalists saw more prestige and
safer profit in growing and shipping raw-stuffs : cotton, to-
bacco, sugar, and wheat.
Besides, there was a lack of cheap labor. In England a
millowner could get all the workers he needed at starvation
THE BLACK LIFE SPREADS 65
wages ; but not here. This was literally a free land because
it contained free land. The penniless immigrants who kept
arriving had a way of demanding what they considered a
living wage. If it was refused them in the towns on the
seaboard, they pushed off to the clearings on the frontier.
So here, as in France, industrialism merely took root. It
was unable to flourish yet.
GERMANY circa 1830
Not so much a nation as an area.
And elsewhere industrialism fared even worse. In Germany,
for example, it could hardly get even a start during that
generation. The political situation was primarily to blame.
The land was divided into some thirty-nine separate realms,
66 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
many no larger than a handkerchief lady's size. Each was
a power unto itself, boasting its own ruler, its own troops?
its own tariffs, often even its own coinage. Germany in the
early Nineteenth Century was a little like the Balkans in the
early Twentieth. It was not so much a nation as an area.
Consequently an ambitious businessman had almost no
chance there. He needed elbow-room, gangway, space in
which to let ? er go. Instead he was hemmed in by all those
frontiers. Worse still, behind each frontier there was usually
some flatulent potentate with his bottom glued to a throne
and his feet planted square in the path of progress.
And there seemed to be no way to mend this situation. A
businessman still ranked as a Burger, and that term told the
whole story of his plight. Centuries earlier, when gangsterism
had been universal in Europe, the least unsafe place for an
enterprising commoner had been the Burg, the "fortress,"
of the nearest gang-lord. That was where the merchants set
up their booths, the craftsmen their shops, and the trollops
their cribs. In time permanent markets developed around
these strongholds, and later on walled towns. Finally the
walls were torn down, and modern cities emerged. By 1830
this process was nearly complete in Germany but only in
a physical sense. Spiritually the walls endured, though they
were built of tradition now instead of stone. Those who had
once huddled behind them for protection were still there
If a burgher wanted to start a new business, he couldn't
simply go ahead and start it. First he had to fawn and bribe
and pull wires until the local officialdom deigned to grant
him permission. And thenceforth he had to let that official-
dom pry and poke into every detail of his business, for such
was still the law throughout most of Germany. The clay-
cold hand of feudalism had as yet been barely budged there,
THE BLACK LIFE SPREADS 67
and for that reason if no other actually there was many
another industrial expansion was all but impossible. Here
and there individual hustlers did manage to start modern
plants for example, Krupp in Essen and Borsig in Berlin
but these were usually very small, and they were operated
under the most maddening handicaps.
The lordly rulers abhorred industrialism. In the first
place, it was something new, and that made it abhorrent to
them on principle. They liked to quote their idol, Prince
Metternich, who used to say: "I detest even every New
Year's Day because it is new I" In the second place, they had
a very practical objection: industrialism menaced their in-
terests. True, it did promise to open up new sources of taxa-
tion, and thus yield them larger revenues. (And that was a
telling point, since most of those rulers were continually
rolling in debt.) But it also threatened to yield even larger
revenues to those from whom the taxes were to be extorted.
Scurvy upstarts would quickly get rich, and begin to think
themselves as good as their betters. The land would be over-
run by a lot of burghers on horseback. That would never do.
Better to have little and maintain the fear of the lords, than
acquire great treasure and turmoil therewith.
Such was the attitude of most of the trerman rulers.
Moreover, since they were the rulers, they were able to make
their attitude prevail.
Much the same was true in Italy. That land, too, was
carved up into many sovereign provinces Sardinia, Tus-
cany, Piedmont, Sicily, the Papal States, et cetera, et cetera
so there, too, industrial development had almost no chance.
There were other hindrances, most notably a lack of coal
and iron. But the worst hindrance seemed to be this political
fragmentation. It left the governing power in the hands of
petty autocrats whose minds were as closed as fists. In Pied-
68 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
mont, for example, a royal edict actually commanded the
preservation of illiteracy. Only those subjects who could
ITALY circa 1830
Tfttf rulers had minds as closed as fists.
boast an income of ov$r 1500 lire were permitted to learn
how to read and write! Jn much the same spirit, the Papal
States as late as 185! "prohibited the building of a railway
THE BLACK LIFE SPREADS 69
across the Romagna. The stated reason was that "railways
breed commerce, and commerce breeds sin"!
As for the regions farther to the east, Austria-Hungary,
Russia, and Turkey, there the autocrats were gross instead
of petty, so industrialism had no chance at all. Likewise in
Spain. In such countries the Black Life was as yet impos-
sible, for they were still swaddled in the cerements of the
IX. JOHN BULL TAKES A RIDE
O ENGLAND was able to retain
her lead. Indeed, she extended it
now. With the rest of the world
mulishly lagging behind, England
forged farther and farther ahead.
There seemed to be magic in ma-
chinery, for the more it grew, the
more it had to continue to grow.
The 1830's saw British industry
break all records for expansion. Several factors were re-
sponsible, but the chief was the critical need for better
JOHN BULL TAKES A RIDE 71
transportation. Wagons and barges were no longer adequate
to fetch and carry between the mines and mills and markets.
The country had to have railways.
It began to get them nt>w. Attempts had been made to
start railways in the early 1820's, but these had failed.
Horses had been used to move the trucks, or stationary
engines, or even sails. Not until a mechanic named George
Stephenson developed a sound locomotive did such transport
become really practical; and from then on progress was
swift and wonderful. In 1830 a line was inaugurated from
Liverpool to Manchester with a fanfare worthy of a corona-
tion. The very Duke of Wellington attended the ceremony,
and with him a whole host of lesser notables. Speeches were
made, whistles were tooted, and flag-waving mobs shouted
hip-hip-hooray. To cap it all, a former cabinet minister
crossed the tracks at the wrong moment and was run over
and killed. After that no one in England doubted that rail-
ways had a great future.
Tracks began to be laid all over the land. There was no
plan in their laying, no attempt at a unified system. Rails
were simply flung down and nailed fast wherever the builders
could buy or filch a right-of-way. They were crude iron rails
that buckled and sagged, and the clumsy high-wheeled trains
swayed terrifyingly. But who cared? At least the trains did
It was marvelous ! Never in the history of man had the
rate of land-travel averaged more than five miles an hour.
Even Napoleon in flight by coach from Russia had been
unable to exceed that speed. But now any ordinary man
going about his quite ordinary business could go four, five,
even six times as fast! Was that not marvelous?
News of the wonder spread throughout the civilized world
and at once there was wide eff ort at imitation. Several short
72 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
lines were started in the United States, in Belgium, in
France. Germany caught the fever, and Holland, Austria,
Italy. Even Russia succumbed to what was called there the
RAILROADS circa 1848
The Russians called it the "iron samovar' 9
Naturally, there was some opposition. Every new invention
aroused the hostility of one or another element in the popu-
lation. When the first railway line was projected in Bavaria,
the medical faculty of the University of Erlangen declared
that any vehicle moving faster than fifteen miles per hour
must surely make the passengers bleed at the nose. Else-
where on the Continent similar authorities gave warning that
JOHN BULL TAKES A BIDE 73
travel in tunnels might easily induce paralytic strokes. The
Vatican, as we have seen, objected to the innovation on moral
grounds, and innumerable Protestant divines quoted Scrip-
ture against it.
Nevertheless the railways continued to spread. At first
they spread most thickly in England, for that was where
they were most needed and where they could be best af-
forded. Fifty years of profitable manufacturing had already
begun to glut the country with capital. Fortunes were spent
to wangle franchises and buy up rights-of-way. Great for-
ests were leveled to furnish sleepers for the roadbeds ; deep
mines were scooped for iron to forge into rails. Tens of
thousands of navvies were set to gashing the countryside,
and soon all Britain was one mesh of metal tracks.
Railway building became a national mania. Crusty old
squires might curse because train-sparks set fire to their
haystacks. Doe-eyed poets might lament because cinders
soiled the dew in their bosky dells. But they cursed and la-
mented in vain. The day of the haystack had passed; only
smokestacks counted now. As for dew, what good was it?
The real need now was sweat. What England needed was
more men willing to sweat that there might be more engines
to give off smoke.
And England got such men. For example, there was
George Hudson: an immense sweaty blob of a man, round and
solid, with a thick square head nailed to wide square shoulders,
and a voice like a runaway train. He was just the type for
that day. He believed in himself and he believed in railways.
Also he was not squeamish. So he dug his stubby fingers into
England's soil and clawed tracks for all he was worth.
And how people loved him for it ! Thrice the city of York
elected him Lord Mayor, and for long all England hailed
him the "Railway King." When a grateful constituency
74 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
elected him to Parliament, a special train raced to London
to announce the glad tidings. The noblest lords fawned on
the man; the stingiest bankers showered him with credit.
Even the prim young Queen became a party to his schemes.
On one occasion he presented Victoria with a royal train-
carriage decorated with rare woods and shiny brass fittings,
and when she beheld it, her tight stays almost burst.
"Really," she gasped, "this is beautiful!"
It was beautiful, all right. Everything seemed beautiful
just then. The boom was at its height, and railway shares
were going up, up, up. The mines were busy, the mills were
busy, and jobs were so plentiful that some of the poor even
had sugar for their tea.
"God's in his heaven
All's right with the world!"
Thus sang a fellow who was making quite a success of poetry
at the time. Possibly he was indulging in sarcasm, but if he
was, few of his readers suspected it. The rest took Robert
Browning most solemnly, and from the depths of their
bosoms breathed "Amen!"
For to those people all was right with the world. They
were getting richer all the time, and with an ease undreamt
of even yesterday. Then one had needed cunning and dili-
gence to make money, an ability to think fast and a willing-
ness to work hard. A man had had to go out and start his
own little factory, work in it all day, worry about it all
night, and live and die cherishing little else. What pleasure
there had been in that had been the toilsome pleasure a
beaver knows, the grim, harsh, exacting fun enjoyed by an
ant. That was one reason why most of the real gentlefolk
had kept aloof from industry. They had preferred to hoard
their wealth, or sink it in land, or squander it on conspicuous
JOHN BULL TAKES A RIDE 75
luxuries. Had they put it into industry, they would have
had to put in their energies, too. They would have had to
become partners with raffish millwrights and traders. Their
stomachs could not stand that nor perhaps their brains.
But the situation had changed during the past decade or
two. Railways and other such giant undertakings required
investors rather than partners. They invited people to share
in the ownership of industry without bothering at all about
its operation. That seemed ideal. All one had to do, it ap-
peared, was buy certain pieces of paper, large ones hand-
somely engraved, and then sit baclc and wait for quarterly
dividends. Or, if one was impatient, one could sell those
pieces of paper at a higher price the next day or the next
month, and then go out and buy others.
For soon there was a wide variety of such certificates.
Some were called "bonds" or "debentures," and represented
straight loans on which interest was promised at a fixed
rate each year. Others were called "shares" or "equities,"
because these were supposed to entitle their owners to an
equitable share of the net profits. Bonds and shares alike
were called "securities," a very comforting term. One could
purchase securities in all sorts of enterprises located all
over the earth. A man living in England might make himself
part-owner of a railway in Germany, a tea-plantation in
Ceylon, a textile-plant in Poland, or a deposit of guano
bird-droppings ! in Peru. All he needed was the money to
buy the appropriate piece of paper.
The transaction was effected through an institution called
a stock exchange. There had been stock exchanges in Lon-
don and Amsterdam ever since the early 1600's, but formerly
such institutions had been patronized almost entirely by
professional speculators. Now, however, quite genteel people
started to crowd around. The exchanging could no longer be
76 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
done on street-corners, or in the back-rooms of smoky coffee-
houses. The brokers began to set up shop in granite edifices
built like Roman temples.
This happened most of all, of course, in England. Loose
capital was most abundant in that country; therefore its
owners were most tempted to play fast and loose. But much
the same thing occurred, in varying degree, wherever else
people felt money burning in their pockets. The boom swept
most of Europe, and shares rocketed to the sky. Higher and
higher they went, higher and higher.
The collapse came in 1847. Just what started it is still
uncertain, but we know well what brought it to a head.
Rumors leaked out in London of fraud in connection with
some of the new railway companies. It was whispered that
even George Hudson was involved. That was bad. Suddenly
the stock market began to sag. It sagged, recovered, and
then sagged lower than before. That was very bad. The
Queen's ministers rushed to the rescue. They wrote her a
speech and read it for her to Parliament a splendid speech
full of warm assurances that there was no cause for alarm.
Too late. Those who owned shares wanted more than as-
surances. They wanted cash.
And then the awful truth became known: there was no
cash! Where it had gone, no one seemed to know. (Actually,
most of it had never existed, except on paper.) The luckless
shareholders began to storm and rage. They collared George
Hudson, and bellowed, Where's our money? He had no an-
swer. The little eyes in his chunky head blinked and blinked.
JOHN BULL TAKES A RIDE 77
He just did not know. He could not tell them where even
his own money was gone.
Had they given him a chance, he might perhaps have
recollected. Like an alchemist in reverse he had turned gold
into iron, joining York to Darlington, Darlington to New-
castle, Newcastle to Manchester, and Manchester back to
York. In his own brash, reckless, rip-snorting way he had
done a fine job. But he was so shaken at the moment that he
forgot all about that. Everybody else forgot about that. All
they could remember was that once they had apparently had
money, and now it was gone.
And then what had happened so often before happened
again. With capital suddenly dried up, the machines began
to slow down. It was as though they had run out of oil* The
engines coughed, the wheels jammed, and the smoke paled
over the factory towns. Railway construction halted, forcing
scores of mines and foundries to close down. This threw
thousands of toilers out of work, leaving them unable to
buy goods. This in turn forced the mills which produced
those goods to close down, throwing more thousands out of
work, and rendering these likewise unable to buy goods.
That was how it went, down and down and out and out, till
at last the whole economy lay prostrate.
Nor did this happen merely in Great Britain. Capital had
spread far and wide, and once the supply of it thinned at
the center, it became thin everywhere else. As swiftly as
the new telegraph wires could stutter report of the collapse
in London, so swiftly did banks begin to close their doors
in Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, even St. Petersburg. Frock-
coated brokers clawed at their side-whiskers ; titled specula-
tors blew out their brains. They felt the world had come to
A fierce young German philosopher watched the crash
78 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
from Belgium, where he was living just then as a political
refugee. His name was Karl Marx, and he was greatly
stirred by what he saw. With a pen that jabbed the paper
he wrote :
"Commerce is at a standstill, the markets are glutted, products
keep piling up, hard cash and credit are gone, factories are closed
. . . liquidation follows upon liquidation, bankruptcy upon bank-
ruptcy. . . . The industrial gallop . . . after breakneck leaps^ ends
where it began in the ditch."
X. ARISE YE WORKERS!
O THEN there was revolution.
Even in England there was an
attempt at revolution in 1848. It
was made, naturally, by the work-
ers, for though the owners too
were in a plight now, they could
hardly blame the government for
it. The owners were the govern-
ment. But the workers were not,
and that gave them good reason to want a revolution.
For those British workers were no longer what they had
80 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
been In earlier times. In the first place, they were more nu-
merous. Their ranks had been swelled by both addition and
multiplication, addition from the countryside, and multipli-
cation in the towns. The entire population of Great Britain
had been increasing at a phenomenal rate since the coming
of the Machine, and the bulk of this increase had naturally
occurred among the town laborers. That was one reason why
they deserved to be called
the "proletariat." No
other element could keep
up with them when it came
to proliferating proles,
Laborers as a class had
always been heavy breed-
ers, but formerly most of
their offspring had died at
birth or soon thereafter.
Industrialism, h owever, had
changed all that. It had
created great wealth, and
a little of that wealth had
gone to advance medicine.
Doctors had become less
crude, midwives less filthy, and hospitals less rare and appall-
ing. Though morbidity had increased, mortality had fallen.
More people might be sickly now, but fewer sicknesses were
fatal. Certain plagues cholera, smallpox, and scurvy had
been all but wiped out. And famines had been robbed of their
terror. Most of the ships that sailed forth with factory
goods, came back laden with agricultural produce. That
meant more food for the British masses, more wheat and
meat and sugar and tea not to mention gin and bitters.
ARISE YE WORKERS! 81
As a result, those masses were able to multiply as never
This, to be sure, was not altogether a blessing for them.
As individuals, most of the laborers were glad enough to
have large families. It gratified their carnal instincts, satis-
fied their religious beliefs, and offered them a mite of finan-
cial security. Children were an economic asset now. They
could go into the factories and help support their parents.
But collectively the effect was calamitous. By increasing
so rapidly the poor made themselves cheap, and at the same
time made merchandise dear. They kept glutting the supply
of labor and draining the supply of goods. Consequently
their standard of living remained miserable.
True, it was not quite so miserable as in the first days of
industrialism. Wages had gone up slightly, hours had been
reduced to twelve or even ten a day, and the masters were no
longer uncontrollable slave-drivers. Parliament had been
forced to enact considerable factory legislation, especially
during the early 184<0*s. But this mean improvement did not
satisfy the workers. If anything, it made them the more
mutinous. A little leniency is a dangerous thing. So long as
the wage-earners had had their faces ground in the dust,
so long had they been blind and hopeless. But now they
could look up. Now they could raise their heads just a little
and see what was around them and above them. And a glare
of rancor came into their eyes.
For these creatures were no longer tame villagers. They
had become townsfolk and that made a difference. A vil-
lager had to be respectful to his betters : to the squire and
his fine lady, to the parson, to the bailiff. Whenever one of
these shouted, "Come here, my man!" instantly he came
running, hat in hand. That was the tradition, and no proper
villager dared break it. Also he had to behave respectably
82 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
among Ms neighbors, for they knew who he was, and they
had ways to make him feel it. Paul Pry lived next door,
Mrs. Grundy across the green, and with such folk looking
on, a body was too afraid even to think unconventionally,
let alone act that way.
But a townsman was free of such restraints. His betters,
usually, were a crowd of upstarts, and he was more prone
to cock a snoot at them than tip his hat. As for his neigh-
bors, most of them were total strangers. If they didn't like
how he behaved, he told them to go x themselves.
Centuries earlier, when cities had first begun to arise in
medieval Europe, there had been a proverb that "town air
makes one free." That proverb still held good. Many of the
factory workers in Great Britain had become free in at least
this: they were no longer so easy to overawe. Where once
they had been mice, now they were more like rats.
No wonder. Merely to live in those sooty, smoke-choked,
stinking slums, was enough to make men as mean as rats.
Sooty little houses like the droppings of some monstrous
goat stood back to back along sooty little alleyways. Row
on row they stood there, row on row, with privies in the
basements and drains outside the doors. No trees, no grass,
no touch of paint or sight of bloom ; nothing but sooty brick
and sooty slate and sooty iron and stone. And there in those
warrens the poor were crammed a family to a room or two.
There they had to cook and eat and sleep and multiply.
Home, sweet home !
In Manchester, it is recorded, a district housing seven
thousand souls was supplied at this time with but thirty-
three water-closets. In all of Lancashire only one town could
boast a public park. Many & slum lacked even wells, let
alone piped water. The poor had to trudge to the "better"
sections to fill their pails each day. Refuse was left in the
ARISE YE WORKERS! 83
gutters for the pigs to eat, or for the rains to wash away.
Street-lighting was all but unknown there where it was
most needed and almost the only time the police showed
up was when a strike was brewing.
Schools were few, supported by charity, and run not un-
like reformatories. Most of the teachers were starveling
monitors who knew little save that one should not spare the
rod. They would have made better animal-trainers. Hardly
one child out of thirty in all the land ever learned so much
as to read or write. In some counties the ratio was more
nearly one in three hundred.
Churches were less uncommon, but even they were not
much help. Here and there a devoted curate did manage to
spread a little cheer. An occasional churchman of the
"broad" variety dared go so far as to call himself a "Chris-
tian Socialist." These, however, were the rare, rare excep-
tion. The typical Man of God down in the slums was a
surpliced prig who merely went through motions ; or else he
was a jumping, thumping, foaming exhorter who roared of
the Wrath to Come.
That was why many of the slum-dwellers steered clear of
the churches. They preferred to hang around the corner pub.
The place might stink of beer and vomit, but at least it was
friendly. A worker could get drunk there, and that was fine.
When a worker got drunk he could feel like a lord. The ache
went out of his back, and also out of his soul. He could
forget the world he lived in, and be almost happy. "The
quickest way out of Manchester," ran the saying, "is
through the door of the nearest pub." Most of the workers
went through that door as often as they had the price. Or
But not all of them. Some had stronger wills or queasier
stomachs and these sought another way of escape. Usually
84 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
they were workmen who had learned to read, and who through
reading had learned to think. Not all the products of the
charity schools grew up to spell out nothing but religious
tracts. Some discovered the pamphlets published by Robert
Owen and his kind. Furtive little printing-shops in a dozen
different towns were putting out a flood of literature about
the "rights of labor," the "crimes of capital," and the virtue
of that thing called "Socialism." Such pamphlets were not
always easy to understand. Many of the words were strange,
the sentences were involved, and the print was usually close
and smeary. But those who read them, men with moving lips,
could get at least the gist of the pamphlets and that was
enough. They learned from them that it was foolish, nay
wicked, to try to deaden themselves to the world. A man's
duty, they learned, was not to forget the world, but fight it.
Whereupon they cloaked themselves in a mantle of wrath,
took up the sword of hate, and fought.
First they agitated against the law of 1799 which forbade
them to combine and strike. And when they got it rescinded
in 1825 they set out to organize militant unions through-
out the country. There had been unions all along in several
industrial sections, but these had usually masqueraded as
"burial societies" or "choral clubs." Now they came out into
the open, and began to flourish like morning-glories under
a hot sun. Robert Owen, who had become labor's tribune,
was talked into leading the movement, and by 1833 he had
more than a million members enrolled in one Grand National
Consolidated Trades Union.
At the same time again under Owen's influence small
cooperative stores were started in the factory slums. The
members pooled their pennies, bought flour and tea and can-
dles wholesale, and thus struggled to reduce the cost of
ARISE YE WORKERS! 85
living. By 1835 there were already some five hundred of these
stores in Great Britain.
Such things helped. The unions enabled the workers to
stand up to the millowners, and the cooperatives gave them
a way to hold down the shopkeepers. Because some of the
poor ceased to he meek, it began to look as though all might
cease to be poor some day.
Labor was on the march.
But then came 1847, and an abrupt halt. Worse: there
was actual rout. Jobs became so scarce that the workers
were glad to take them for any pay. The unions crumbled
and the cooperatives collapsed. Almost overnight everything
that labor had won seemed lost.
It was not the first time. Much the same thing had hap-
pened a decade earlier, then too as a direct result of a fi-
nancial panic. Dreadful convulsions had ensued then, pro-
longed strikes and bloody brawls. Birmingham was all but
laid waste in 1839. Mobs set fire to many factories there,
and plundered countless fine homes. The Duke of Wellington,
who suppressed the outbreak, later testified that in all his
experience he had never seen a city worse sacked.
But now the labor leaders knew better than to try blind
violence. Their first need, they realized, was a hold on Parlia-
ment ; otherwise the government would again be free to call
out the troops to shoot them down. In other words, the
workers had to wrest the right to vote. At present, only
the rich had that privilege, the male householders whose
dwellings had a rental value of at least ten pounds ($50.00)
a year. That, incredibly, was so steep a qualification that it
disfranchised nearly ninety-five percent of the population!
So a call went out to the workers to rise up and yell. They
SB SOMETHING WENT WRONG
were told to yell for a "People's Charter' 9 which would make
manhood suffrage universal in the land. Then the govern-
ment, which had once been aristocratic, and was now pluto-
cratic, would at last become actually democratic. At long
last it would be run by and for The People.
A queer character named Feargus O'Connor became the
leader of the agitation. He was a hulking, wild-eyed, fire-
breathing Irishman who had long been struggling to win the
masses to "Chartism/ 5 Now, in the hard winter of 184*78, he
saw his. chance. First he got millions of workers to sign a
monster petition demanding immediate enactment of the
"Charter. 3 * Then he called for a horde to march on London
and ram the petition down Parliament's throat. He set a
date for the event the tenth of April and picked a place
on the outskirts of the capital for the host to assemble.
The authorities did not like the sound of that. They
rapped out an order forbidding the march. But O'Connor
had the pluck of a madman he actually did end up in a
mad-house and he roared that the government could not
frighten him. Come the tenth of April, said he, and the work-
ers themselves would be the government!
The gentry in London began to shiver. Word reached them
that mobs were gathering in Manchester, Bristol, York, even
Edinburgh and Glasgow: ragged folk with hunger in their
bowels and fury in their eyes. The aged Duke of Wellington
was once more pressed into service. Troops were stationed at
the bridge-heads across the Thames, and guns were mounted
around the Houses of Parliament and the Bank. One hundred
and seventy thousand patriotic clerks and lackeys were en-
rolled as special constables.
At length the dread day dawned. The whole town waited,
taut with apprehension. Finally O'Connor appeared. But he
was not leading an army. He was riding in a hired cab,, the
ARISE YE WORKERS! 87
monster petition in Ms lap. Six million workers more or
less had been willing to sign that petition; but not even
fifty thousand had dared come along to present it. So he was
bringing it alone.
That was his finish. When O'Connor reached the House of
Commons, the honorable members waved him away with a
snort. They knew they had nothing more to fear from him or
They, the owners, were still the rulers in Great Britain.
XI. 1848 THE FIGHT THAT
UT the story was different on the
Continent. There 1848 became
known as the "Mad Year," for not
one class but two dared to rebel.
In France, Germany, and a dozen
other lands the financial collapse
left the burghers as sore as the
workers, so they combined and be-
gan to topple thrones all over the
place. Within six months there was hardly one old regime
left intact between the Atlantic and the Russian border.
1848 THE FIGHT THAT FAILED 8>
Suddenly, however, the storm gave out. Swift as had been
the revolution, even swifter came the reaction. Within an-
other six months most of the old regimes were back in power
Two factors were largely responsible for that reversal.
First, the revolution had lacked general support. It had been
engineered entirely by city folk, and industrialism had as yet
taken too little hold on the Continent for city folk to carry
decisive weight. The bulk of the people were peasants : slow,
dumb, torpid creatures afraid of change. They were the
"masses" in the original sense of that term: just dough to
be kneaded. (The Greek verb massein actually meant "to
knead.") They may not have been satisfied with the mean
life they led, but they had lived it so long that they could not
conceive of a better. So they refused to join the insurgents.
Instead, they actually rallied to the other side.
Even at that the revolution might have prevailed, for
what its supporters lacked in numbers they more than made
up in brashness and brains. But hardly had they stormed
the first battlements before they fell to quarreling among
themselves. The burghers discovered that the workers at
their side were out for more than had been bargained for.
The burghers wanted merely to abolish feudalism; but this,
it seemed, was not going to satisfy their allies. The workers
talked of abolishing capitalism as well !
Not all the workers talked that way, but those who did
were fearfully loud. Just what they wanted in the place of
capitalism was not quite clear even to themselves. Some spoke
of establishing "socialism," others "communism," still others
"anarchism." The good burghers recoiled in terror. Most of
them had never even heard those terms before. They had been
so busy struggling to get ahead that they had had no time to
90 SOMETHING .WENT WRONG
watch what was stirring among those they were leaving
But now they knew, and it made their flesh crawl.
i CE3STTEBS circa 1847
The Slack Life had taken hold.
Hostility to capitalism had been brewing on the Continent
for fully a generation already. As early as 1817, the year
Robert Owen sounded off in England, a treatise appeared in
France which attacked the system with a cleaver. Its author
was an ambitious, impoverished, half-cracked nobleman
named Claude Henri Saint-Simon, whose imagination was ex-
ceeded only by his naivete. According to him, capitalism was
1848 THE FIGHT THAT FAILED 91
the Ant i- Christ in the new world which was being created by
the Machine. Properly, said he, all the means of production
should be owned by the state, and their management left
solely to artists, scientists, and technicians. These should
form a new aristocracy more accurately, a technocracy
bound by vows to run the entire economy for the benefit of
the entire populace. This would ensure such a vastness of
wealth, and so little chance to hoard it, that all the present
ills would vanish at once. It would bring on practically the
Kingdom of Heaven.
Saint-Simon was naturally a laughing-stock in his day,
and when he died in 1825 after at least one attempt at
suicide his queer gospel seemed fated to die with him. But
it did not. Ten years later, by which time the Black Life had
finally begun to take hold in France, Saint- Simonism became
all the vogue in certain circles. Bright young engineers be-
came fascinated by the vision of a world reordered and run
by their kind. Bright young ladies, too, found the cult al-
luring, if only because it advocated complete equality and
intimacy of the sexes.
Soon, however, a number of rival cults appeared, for
newer prophets kept arising who sought to improve on Saint-
Simon. In France there were Blanqui, Fourier, Cabet, and
Proudhon ; in Germany there were Franz von Baader, Adam
Miiller, Rodbertus, and Hess. Each of these managed to at-
tract apostles who proceeded to evangelize with the most for-
midable zeaL They organized meetings in cafes and beer-halls,
and they argued endlessly in fashionable salons. They pub-
lished books, pamphlets, journals, broadsides, and occa-
sionally chalked slogans on palace walls.
Nevertheless the total effect was slight. Radicalism seemed
to appeal almost entirely to eccentrics: seedy noblemen,
frustrated ladies, hot-tempered poets, and sore-headed clerks.
92 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Good, honest toilers would give it hardly a sniff. That is, so
long as those toilers had jobs. But once their jobs were gone,
they began to take in radicalism by the lungful. They were
ready for it then, ready and savagely eager. The financial
panic of 1847 had thrown more than a hundred thousand
workers on the street in Paris alone. Lyons, too, swarmed
with jobless folk, and so did Cologne, Milan, Berlin, Vienna,
and every other newly blackened town.
We have already seen what ensued. The burghers, having
their own cause for rancor, urged the workers to turn on the
princes. But no sooner were the latter momentarily dislodged
than those same workers turned on the burghers. Armed
mobs came pouring out of the slums like lava out of the
bowels of the earth. In bands they came, in gangs, in droves,
"Blood must flow now,
Blood must flow now,
Blood, blood, blood I"
In hordes they came, bearing red flags and howling : "Long
live the Revolution ! . . . Down with ALL Masters !"
No wonder the burghers quailed. They saw that they had
thrown off a yoke only to put their necks in a noose. So they
began to back away and that gave the reactionaries their
chance. For a while the proletariat struggled to resist the
counter-attack. In Paris they barricaded the streets, and
fought pitched battles against the "loyalist" troops. They
fought from house to house, even from room to room. When
they ran out of gunpowder, they tried to stand their ground
with knives and sledge-hammers. They hurled rocks and
paving-stones, they poured hot lead from the roof tops. Not
until ten thousand of them lay dead or wounded were the
rest ready to give in.
Then the revolution was over.
XII. THE BRAND OF GAIN
UT the upheaval of 1848 had not
been entirely in vain. Though it
may not have cured anything, it
had at least lanced a few boils .
True, the hereditary princes did
manage to crawl back into the
saddle, but their seat was shaky^
and they knew it. The less impru-
dent took heed and tried to ride
with new care thenceforth. They gave over using whip and
spur, and began to hold out the oat-bag. The Austrian Em-
94 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
peror agreed to abolish serfdom, and Napoleon III of
France consented to legalize labor unions. The rulers of
Sardinia, Holland, Denmark, and Prussia promised to abide
by written constitutions.
The dead hand of feudalism continued to rest on most of
Europe, but less oppressively now. And one eventual result
was a new surge of prosperity. The burghers were somewhat
freer now politically. Moreover and this was supremely
telling gold had of a sudden come pouring out of a fabled
place called California. Thanks to the flood of new bullion
those burghers were able to make a fresh start economically.
The wheels of industry, which had been creaking since
1847, picked up speed again and began to hum. It was ab-
surd, in a way. Those wheels were made of iron and driven
by steam. Rationally their motion should have been no more
dependent on the supply of gold than is the sun's on the
noisiness of roosters. That, however, is beside the point. In-
dustrialism may not have needed the shiny metal, but cap-
italism did. And capitalism, it must never be forgotten, was
the vital gland that governed industrialism's growth. Conse-
quently a lucky strike by a hobo working on a cattle ranch
somewhere in the Wild West was able to start a boom
throughout the world.
The effect, naturally, was felt first and most sharply in
the United States. California had begun to yield more than
$50,000,000 worth of gold each year, so the nation was
free to run amuck with enterprise. Gone now was thfe old de-
pendence on England. Having money of their own at last,
the Americans grew more venturesome. Here, they saw, lay a
whole continent aching to disgorge its wealth. Red men had
roamed it for millennia, and white men for centuries, yet thus
far barely a corner of it had been even scratched. What was
needed was more machinery : more railroads, freighters, saw-
THE BRAND OF GAIN 95
mills, foundries, cotton looms, tool shops, and whiskey stills.
They got busy. Instead of importing machinery, they
learnt to make it for themselves. They built locomotives far
larger than any used in Europe, and steamboats far more
navigable and capacious. They developed totally new de-
vices : a mechanical reaper, a handy sewing machine, a prac-
tical typewriter, a rotary printing press. In 1831 an official
of the United States Patent Office had urged that it be aban-
doned on the ground that "small prospect remains of further
inventions." Now patents began to be issued at the rate of
more than forty a week!
American industry f ound its feet at last, and strode forth
like a young and slightly drunken giant. More and more
chimney stacks sprouted in New England, more and more
mine-shafts pocked the Appalachian hills. A black maze of
railways thickened around the Great Lakes, and steamboat
lines began to snake down every broad stream. Commerce
pushed farther and farther westward, traversing the plains,
the mountains, at last even the yonder sea. By 1860 the
Yankee traders were handling half the business of the port
All that took money and made money. The number of
banks doubled within the space of four years ; the number of
corporations quadrupled. Forgotten was the day when the
stockbrokers in New York had been satisfied to do their trad-
ing under an old buttonwood tree on Wall Street. Now they
moved into grand offices equipped with plush chairs and
gilded cuspidors. They could afford it. A boom was on, and
whoever had cash or could raise credit rushed to speculate.
English, French, and German capitalists reached out blindly
across the ocean to snatch up options, concessions, and
shares. A billion dollars were sunk into railroads alone, and
no one knows how much more into mines, mills, farms, docks,
96 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
stores, and fancy saloons. And profits went up, up, up.
People began to say the "Golden Age" had finally dawned.
The boom was not confined to America. The arteries of
business encircled almost half the earth now, and a distention
anywhere meant excitement everywhere. England reacted al-
most at once. Idle mills reopened in Manchester, and long-
silent foundries started to clank again in Birmingham. The
Americans needed supplies: pins, pans, engines, derricks,
shirts, shovels, and shootin* irons. True, they had begun to
produce such articles at home, but not in nearly sufficient
quantities or low enough prices. Only the English were in a
position to do that; so the English got busy. By 1855 their
exports were almost double what they had been in 1850.
The French, too, got busy. They were not up to much as
makers of humble wares, but when it came to fineries they
were peerless. No other people could match their silks, jewels,
scents, and ornaments. And now there was a new and vora-
cious market for such elegancies. Miners on a spree in San
Francisco liked to lavish fancy things on their fancy ladies ;
bankers in Philadelphia felt it their duty to swill champagne.
The French found reason to get very busy.
So did the Belgians. They had carpets to sell, and laces,
crystals, and fine linens ; also coal and iron. The Dutch, too,
got busy, for they had many ships to carry freight across
the seas, and also well-grounded banks to handle exchange.
Ultimately even the Germans, the Austrians, the Italians
started to get busy.
It did indeed appear to be the dawn of the "Golden Age,"
and those who basked in the aureate glow felt wonderful.
Their triumph was not complete yet, but it looked secure
now, absolutely secure. The world, it seemed, lay all before
THE BRAND OF GAIN 97
the middle-class folk, for them to make it over as they alone
thought best. The glories once mourned by Isaiah were to be
restored at last : merchants were to be princes, and traffick-
ers the lords of the earth.
Was that good? Yes on the whole. Merchants and traf-
fickers might have their grave limitations, yet as a class they
were far above those whom they supplanted. Though they
could see no farther than their noses, at least they were not
always looking toward their behinds. What they lacked in
tradition they more than made up in grit and enterprise.
True, they were prevailingly crude, and their rise brought
on a reign of ineffable vulgarity. They strutted, they
splurged, they wallowed in immoderation. Whatever was
bigger seemed to them better ; the more showy a thing the
more they thought it fine. They loved to clutter their dwell-
ings with bric-a-brac and junk, loved to heap every inch of
space with trophies of their money-chase. Floors sagged be-
neath the weight of monstrous statuary and crowded furni-
ture ; walls seemed ready to cave in beneath their burden of
paintings and tapestries. Thick curtains of velours covered
every window affording a vista; tasseled portieres reeking
of camphor barricaded every open door. Books too dull to
read were armored in bindings too heavy to hold and dis-
played on tables too rickety to support even one elbow.
Everything was overcarved, overpadded, overgilded, over-
done. It was as though the highest ideal of this new ruling
class was to domicile itself in warehouses.
The ostentation was worse than vulgar ; fundamentally it
was dishonest. These parvenus seemed bent on making every-
thing look grander, solider, at least costlier than it really
was. Plaster was fixed up to pass for marble, glass for onyx,
papier-mache for precious wood. The rubber plant in the bay
window was actually made of hemp and canvas ; the fruit out
98 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
the mantelpiece was really painted soap. Even the proud
posterior of the hostess was nothing but cotton-wadding. No
object was too humble to escape romantic fakery. The
butter-knife masqueraded as a Turkish dagger, the umbrella-
stand as a knight in armor, the boot-scraper as a sleeping
The yearning for pretension was so intense that it invaded
even the workshops. Boilers were ornamented with Doric
columns, wheels with tin posies, treadles with cast-iron vines.
All life seemed one frenzied hunger for make-believe.
But that was to be expected. The burghers as a class were
as yet too unsure of themselves to dare be themselves. Try as
they might, they could not shake off a sense of inferiority.
The trouble was that they had barely arrived in their Zion ;
they were not yet at home in it. Their whole conduct was so
lacking in grace because the world had not yet accorded
them that which the word grace had meant originally
It was merely a phase, however. There had been a time
when the nobility too had been boorish. Indeed, for long cen-
turies that class had been positively bestial. It is significant
that our very earliest record of the word "gentleman" as a
token of rank occurs in an indictment dated 1413 which
"Bobert Erdeswyke of Stafford^ gentilman^ . . . charged with
housebreaking, wounding with intent to kill, and procuring the
murder of one Thomas Page,, who was cut to pieces while on his
knees begging for his life/*
If the nobility could outgrow that sort of thing, surely
there was hope for the bourgeoisie.
All that the upstarts needed was time. Endowed as they
already were with money, brains, and enterprise, once granted
THE BRAND OF GAIN 99
time, they were bound to improve. Moreover and this was
the important point the bulk of mankind was bound to im-
prove with them. Businessmen could hardly do what priests
and soldiers had so often done: raise themselves to the status
of an aloof and exclusive caste. The very nature of their
economy dictated that they could thrive off society only in
the measure that they strove for it. Consequently, they were
at least for the present like a locomotive coupled to its
tender, like an army bound to its supply-train. Businessmen
could not really get ahead unless they dragged along all
Actually, they had already dragged it an enormous dis-
tance. Thanks to their insensate urge to multiply machines,
they had provided the race with almost limitless means to
health, wealth, and power. They had given man bowels of fire
and sinews of steel, endowing him with potential might to
make all Nature do his bidding.
Nor was that the whole of their achievement. More prow-
ess called for more freedom, and this too the upstarts had
wrested for mankind. Consider these achievements
Item, they had blasted the very foundations of feudal des-
potism, and set up a new order based on equal rights for all
who could grab them. Item, they had completely overturned
politics, converting the state from an effective agency of re-
straint into an ostensible guarantor of liberty. Item, they
had uprooted millions of laborers from the swamps of rural
doltishness, and turned them loose in towns to learn a more
galvanic way of life- Item, they had provided women with
means of support outside the home, and therewith cracked
the main prop of the age-old tyranny of male over female.
Item, they had created an imperative need for wider literacy
workers simply had to be able to read, even if it was only
the signs which declared, "No loitering here!" and thus
100 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
they had assured the eventual establishment of universal edu-
cation. Item, they had laced up whole continents with rails
and wires, and bridged wide seas with cables and steamboat
lines. Item, they had carried commerce to the remotest fast-
nesses, and rumor of civilization to the wildest tribes.
These were colossal, world-shaking achievements. They
provided, as has already been said, the first real chance of
attaining Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and all the other
ideals that noble philosophers had exalted, and brave revolu-
tionists had espoused. In effect they pushed back the night
and readied the earth for the dawn of a totally new era.
Of course, very few of the men who wrought those achieve-
ments had any idea of what they were really doing. All they
knew, and indeed all they cared to know, was that they them-
selves were getting ahead. And this lack of vision, though
natural enough, was a grievous defect. It explains why so
much pain and confusion accompanied the achievements. It
accounts for the thoughtless cruelties that so many capital-
ists visited on their hirelings, and for the needless distresses
that all of them inflicted on themselves. The booms and
slumps, the strikes and hunger marches, the filth, the ugli-
ness, the insane spoliation these and most of the other hor-
rors of the period were directly due to that shortsightedness.
The capitalists refused to look beyond their noses, and
darted after gain as bees dart for nectar blindly.
But, for all that, their rise was a blessing to mankind.
Like the bees, they wrought better than they knew, scatter-
ing pollen wherever they moved, and robbing only to enrich
the world they ransacked. Whether they would function thus
throughout the future was still uncertain, but none could
deny that they had functioned thus up to now.
No man living in that day loathed the capitalists more
lushly than did that German philosopher whose name has al-
THE BRAND OF GAIN 101
ready been mentioned, Karl Mars ; yet even lie had to give
them their due. Said he :
"The bourgeoisie, during its reign of scarce one hundred years,
has brought forth more massive and more colossal creative forces
than have all the preceding generations put together."
He was right.
But, as we shall see, Karl Marx had other things to say
about the bourgeoisie, and in at least one of them he was
equally right. It was that they were better able to bring
forth forces than control them. That was why their whole
career thus far had been marked by incessant mishaps. Each
advance had ended in a crash, each spurt in a headlong
sprawl. And this, said Mars, would continue. What had hap-
pened in 1816, and in 1825, 1837, and 1847, would happen
again. It was inevitable.
The good capitalists ignored him. Perhaps it was just as
well, for had they weighed his words they might have been
tempted to silence him for good. They themselves had abso-
lutely no misgivings as to what lay in store for the world.
The drunken boast first uttered in America in 1849 had be-
come a sober truth to them by now: this was the "Golden
Age." And it was here to stay. California seemed full of gold,
so there could never again be a scarcity of cash; and the
world seemed to be filling up with freedom, so there could
never again be political interference. Prosperity, therefore,
seemed assured forever and aye. The capitalists were ready
to bet on it.
They did bet on it.
And they lost.
102 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Out of a clear sky in the summer of 1857 a rocketing trust
company in Cincinnati blew up in debts. It was not much of
a disaster, but coming so abruptly it created sharp alarm.
The very next day many a depositor in New York ran to see
if his own bank was safe. He saw and was satisfied, but never-
theless withdrew his money. It seemed prudent to do that
just in case. But when more depositors did the same on the
second day, and still more on the third, things began to look
bad. Those New York banks, like all the others in the land,
had been over-optimistic. They had loaned out so much
money that they were $12,000,000 short of cash. Within a
week they had to close their doors.
Boston was next. Then Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago,
Montreal. The clatter of closing doors became so loud that
it was heard three thousand miles away in London. British
capital was heavily invested in the United States, and the
brokers on the Royal Exchange grew jumpy. They kept up
a bold front before strangers, but to their intimate clients
they whispered: " s e i i i Soon everybody was selling,
and not alone American securities, but British ones too.
The Times lumbered into action, solemnly informing its
readers that the financial situation had never been sounder
than right now. At this, like a rude punctuation mark, a
bank blew up in Glasgow. The next day banks started to blow
up all over Great Britain. Within a month they were blowing
up in Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Stockholm.
And Karl Marx, having prophesied it all, smacked his lips.
AKL MARX smacked Ms lips. He
was ill at the time, his wife was ill,
and he had no money to pay the
rent. Nevertheless he was full of
ghoulish glee. "I have not felt so
cozy since 1849," he wrote to his
That was just lite the man: al-
ways perverse. Even in appear-
ance he seemed perverse, especially in England, which was
where he was living now. He was short, chunky, and very
104 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
professorial-looting in a snuffy German way, with a huge
head framed in a thick forest of beard, and small red-lidded
eyes that flared defiantly. His clothes were always thread-
bare and stained, and he usually wore them as though he had
flung them on in the dark. He could rarely converse without
disagreeing, and rarely disagree without growing disagree-
able. He could be tender when he forgot himself, but most of
the time he snapped and barked. Perhaps that was because
his spiritual underpinning was all askew. He had been born
a Jew, baptized a Christian, and become an atheist. Or per-
haps it was because he was sickly. His stomach was weak, his
liver unmanageable, his nerves were jangled, and he suffered
But Karl Marx rates a chapter in our tale because, no
matter what his defects, he had ideas. And what ideas ! At
a time when capitalism was just coming into its own, he kept
insisting that it was already doomed.
Here was his argument. The sole aim of capitalism is to
increase profits, and therefore its constant effort is to reduce
costs. This leads to two stratagems, the first and most ob-
vious of which is to force each laborer to do more work for
less pay. That maneuver, however, can be carried just so
far and no farther. Laborers are merely human, and if
driven too hard will either die or rebel. Consequently the
capitalists have to resort to a second stratagem: they must
install more machinery. But even that has its drawbacks.
New machines throw men out of work, and until those men
can find other jobs, they are unable to do much spending.
Moreover, even when they do find other jobs, they can still
hardly do much spending, for they are in no position to
haggle over the wages they are offered. Usually they are glad
if they can get enough to keep themselves and their depend-
ents alive. Therefore the installation of new machinery solves
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARX 105
one problem only to create another. The capitalists equip
themselves to produce more goods, but leave proportionately
fewer people able to buy them.
And that, said Marx, was why capitalism had no future*
There was a crucial flaw In the system: the farther it was
pushed, the more it had to frustrate itself. True, it had man-
aged to work thus far, but only because it had been enjoying
its springtide. Even at that, it had already had its bad mo-
ments. Over and over again it had run into crises : financial
panics, industrial breakdowns, social prostrations. And it
was fated to continue to suffer such crises progressively
worse ones, too for they were not just strokes of bad luck.
They were part and parcel of the system itself. So long as
production was made to gallop and consumption to crawl, so
long were breakdowns absolutely unavoidable. Production
simply had to stall periodically in order to let consumption
But that sort of thing could not continue indefinitely.
Those periodic crises tended to make the structure more and
more top-heavy, since they kept battering the smaller cap-
italists and fattening the big ones. The latter were able to
buy up bankrupt plants at bargain prices when times were
bad, and thus they put themselves in a position to corner
more business when times got good again. It followed, there-
fore, that eventually the big capitalists would be doing al-
most all the business and then their tactics would necessar-
ily change. They would become monopolists. They would see
that they had nothing more to gain by the disorder born of
"free enterprise," so instead of continuing to compete, they
would begin to combine. In other words, they would seek to
end .the economic chaos by congealing it. They would form
super-trusts to regulate production and stabilize prices
and guarantee profits. And thus, having begun by looking no
106 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
farther than their own noses, they would end by filling noth-
ing but their own months. Ultimately the capitalists would
start to imitate the feudal tyrants whom they had once
hounded from power. They in turn would become in a literal
sense the lords the "bread keepers. 3 *
But, Marx hastened to add, that too would not last. "Ac-
cumulation of wealth at one pole," he explained, would be
"matched by accumulation of hunger, hardship, slavery, ig-
norance, brutality, and mental degradation at the other."
And such a situation could not possibly endure. True, there
had always been gross inequality among men, and in the past
it had been maintained without much difficulty. That, how-
ever, proved nothing. Conditions were different now, for the
Machine had come into the world, and the Machine made a
reign of oppression at once easier to start but harder to sus-
tain. For the victims were less scattered than in former times.
They were no longer poor peasants who lived lost in lonely
villages; they were townsfolk. They lived in packs, were
lashed in packs, got overworked and underpaid and kicked
around in packs. That did something to them. It encouraged
them to howl in packs. It taught them to band together in
unions, brotherhoods, confederations and fight.
This process had already started, and it was bound to
continue. At present even the most militant workers were
content to fight like guerillas, turning now on one employer,
now on another. Or they came shuffling up to the govern-
ments, hat in hand, and meekly begged for drop-in-the-bucket
reforms. This, however, would cease after a while. The nearer
capitalism approached its logical conclusion in the triumph
of a few monopolists, the more clearly would the oppressed
see the need for tougher tactics. By that time their ranks
would include not merely born workers, real proletarians, but
also many people from the bourgeois class. There would be
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARX 107
bankrupt shopkeepers among them, and ruined millwrights,
jobless technicians, and land-robbed farmers. Above all many
intellectuals would join them: men like Marx who had "raised
themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the
historical movement as a whole." That would mean better
leadership for the masses. The new recruits, though brought
down to the level of the mere "hands," would have heads
and know how to use them.
Then the real fight would begin. No more pleading and
nagging, no more furtive agitation and futile sabotage. This
would be the works.
War would break out along a front gashed clear across
the face of society. On that side would stand the owners, on
this the owned, and between the two a struggle would ensue
which could have only one possible outcome. The owners
would be swallowed up! The whole institution of private
property would be liquidated, and with it would go all the
economic anarchy, social tyranny, moral hypocrisy, and re-
ligious cant which that institution had so lavishly fostered.
And then? Then mankind would be free at last. With the
bourgeoisie gone, no class would be left to usurp privilege
and arouse resentment. Only the masses would remain, and
they would proceed to establish their own institutions. Just
as the aristocracy had brought forth feudalism, just as the
plutocracy had brought forth capitalism, just so would this,
the ultimate democracy, bring forth Communism !
Such, in the crudest outline, was Karl Marx's gospel. Nat-
urally, he himself did not call it that. He was ready to grant
indeed, he was scornfully insistent that other critics of
capitalism preached gospels. But not he. They were uplif ters,
but he was an upheaver. Proof? They kept talking about
what ought to happen, whereas he showed what must happen.
108 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
They staked all their predictions on faith, hope, and charity,
whereas he staked his solely on what he considered strict
That was why he preferred to call himself a "communist"
rather than a socialist. He did not want to be confused with
men like Robert Owen and Saint-Simon, apostles guided more
by their hearts than their heads. According to those men, the
chief objection to the capitalist system was that it was cruel,
and their dearest hope was that the capitalist class would
itself some day be moved to adopt a kindlier one. "Uto-
pians !" Marx called them with a curling lip. "They dream of
establishing castles in the air . . . pocket editions of the New
Jerusalem. 5 *
He himself claimed not to give a hang whether capitalism
was morally defensible. All he asked was whether it was eco-
nomically workable. And, since his calculations proved the
answer to be emphatically No, that settled the matter. Why
wish or weep for the bourgeoisie to relent? Better goad the
proletariat to revolt.
And Marx set out to do just that. "Thus far," said he,
"philosophers have been content merely to interpret the
world. The task now is to change it." So he devoted himself
to rhetoric as well as logic ; he became an agitator as well as
a theoretician. At the age of twenty-four, having written
himself out of a job as a liberal journalist in Cologne, he
moved to Paris, where he turned into an active radical. De-
ported a year later, he moved to Brussels, and there he and
another brash young German, Friedrich Engels, proceeded
to draw up a manifesto calling for world revolution. The
Panic of 1847 was at its height just then, and they felt the
time was ripe for such a call. They entitled the screed The
It was a brilliant document, clear, compact, and blast-
THE GOSPEL ACCOEDING TO MARX 109
ingly vehement. It opened with a staggering boast: "A
specter is hatmting Europe the specter of Communism. 39
And, ten thousand words later, it closed with a roaring chal-
lenge: "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their
chains. They have a world to win. Workers of aU countries,
Those words were written in December 1847, and was it
mere coincidence? hardly had they reached the printer when
some workers actually did begin to unite. They threw up
barricades in the streets of Paris and roared, "Vive la Revo-
Marx was beside himself when he heard the news. Now it
was coming, he thought. The French uprising was a con-
fused affair; few of the workers seemed to know what they
were fighting for. He felt he must tell them at once. Not
waiting even for his wife to pack, he rushed off to Paris,
Once there, however, he was swiftly disillusioned. Not even
the leaders, let alone the rank and file, would listen to him.
He decided to move on to Germany, where the insurrection-
ary movement was as yet less advanced. There, he felt, he
would have better luck. Engels j oined him, as did a number
of other Germans who had become converted to the com-
munist cause while in exile. Throughout the "Mad Year" of
1848 they went storming up and down their native land,
shouting to the workers to make this their revolution. It
would not be enough, they cried, to destroy feudalism. Capi-
talism too must go even though it had barely come yet in
But the German workers were relatively few, and almost
as difficult to convince as those in France. Far from winning
them over to the red revolution, Marx and his cohorts simply
scared the burghers into black counter-revolution.
110 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
The next year Marx was once more in flight. Completely
penniless now his aristocratic wife had to pawn the last of
her family plate to pay the fare the fugitive was forced to
take refuge in England. The bourgeoisie he so hated had
made that country the world's stronghold of liberalism, so
he knew he would be safe there. Settling his family in two
dingy rooms in a London slum, he got himself a visitor's
card to the British Museum. The Reading Room there was
quiet and full of books, and these were his chief needs now.
He was through with agitation for the present. "A new
revolution/ 5 he told his comrades, "can come only with a
new crisis. 9 ' Meantime there would have to be another boom,
and while that lasted he intended to devote himself to re-
search. He dreamed of writing a monumental treatise giving
all the philosophical, historical, and economic reasons why
capitalism could not possibly survive.
Day in and day out he repaired to the Museum, and from
ten to seven remained buried, beard and all, in notes. Occa-
sionally he took time off to write articles for liberal news-
papers, especially the New York Tribime, which was then
edited by Horace Greeley, an avowed socialist. At long inter-
vals he delivered lectures before small crowds of radical
workmen. For the rest, he subsisted off the charity of the
ever faithful Engels, who had taken a post in one of his
father's cotton-mills in Manchester.
It was a sad existence. More than once the family had
nothing to eat for days save bread and potatoes. Periodi-
cally Marx had to pawn his overcoat to pay the rent. Yet
he refused to abandon his" research. He dearly loved his wife
and children, but he insisted that the Cause came first. This
may seem strange, seeing that the man claimed to be an out-
and-out materialist, believing neither in God nor in the
soul. Nevertheless, that was how he behaved.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MARX ill
During eight long years he continued patiently to pile up
notes ; then, in the summer of 1857, he began to write furi-
ously. The crisis he had so long predicted had come at last,
and he wanted to get at least one volume done before he
was called back to the barricades. For he was utterly sure
that this time the Revolution would come.
Engels was equally sure of it. Gleefully he reported from
"The general aspect of the Exchange here has been altogether
delicious this past week. The [businessmen] grow black in the
face. ... I hear the Cookes., owners of the colossal factory on Ox-
ford Road, have sold their foxhounds. . . . [Another] has dis-
charged his servants and put a 'To Let* sign on his palace."
Engels himself had lost his money in the crash, but that
made him feel all the better. "The bourgeois filth of the last
seven years ... is washed off, and I am another man again."
As proof he confided that he was devoting all his time to the
study of military tactics I
And Marx, hearing these tidings, felt the blood pound in
his veins. It was coming nowl At last, he gloated, at last
it was coming!
But he was fooled.
XIV. YANKEE DOODLE GOES TO
ARX was fooled. What he had
hoped would be the beginning of
the end of capitalism, proved
merely to be more of the end of its
beginning. A revolution did come
after 1857 5 but it was quite unlike
the sort he had looked for. It was
confined at first to the United
States, and instead of toppling
the bourgeois tyrants," it actually set them more firmly on
their thrones. Eventually he himself recognized it as a revo-
YANKEE DOODLE GOES TO TOWN 113
lution; but at first, like everybody else, he called it merely
the American Civil War.
Today we can see that it was much more than that. The
ordeal which beset the United States in 1861 was related to
the upheaval on the Continent in 1848, and to the spasm
which shook England in 1832. In a veiled and confused yet
crucial way it, too, was a test of strength between the indus-
trial way of life and the agrarian.
When the Machine first reached this country it took root
in the North, and there alone was it able to make even small
headway. The ruling elements in the South were inclined to
despise the innovation, for they had black slaves to do their
hard labor. In this they were merely repeating history. The
slave-owners in ancient Greece had had a similar attitude
toward machinery ; so had the slave-owners in ancient Rome
and China and Mexico. These, it must be realized, had not
lacked the cunning to invent mechanical devices. We know
that because they did invent quite a number of them. To
cite but one instance, a Greek mathematician named Hero,
who lived in the First Century, actually built a working
steam-engine complete with cylinder, piston, valves, and
clacks. But did it occur to him to put the contraption to
practical use? It did not. Instead he installed it in a temple
to amaze the worshippers by the way it worked the doors.
That was typical. The clock and the compass, gunpowder
and the printing press these were all invented in relatively
ancient times. Yet until relatively modern times they were
kept mere playthings. Ingenious patricians with time on
their hands were continually thinking up cunning devices ;
but never with the idea of applying them to save toil. They
themselves did not toil, neither did any of their friends. They
had slaves for that. So why bother?
And that was precisely the attitude of the white gentry
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
who ran the South. In their eyes an interest in machinery
In the North, however, the very opposite held true. Bond-
age had long since been outlawed in that section, in part
because for climatic and other reasons it had too obviously
failed to pay. Having no slave-labor, the Northerners had
naturally been forced to try to save labor. Since this could be
done more easily in industry than In agriculture, there had
been an equally natural compulsion to favor the factory over
the farm. The great boom of the 1850's was almost entirely
confined to the North, and it equipped that region with so
much new machinery that it was able to manufacture six
times as much merchandise as the South. As a result the
interests of the North, especially New England, became in-
creasingly wrapped up in the fortunes of industrialism.
But, as the collapse of that boom had revealed, those for-
tunes were maddeningly insecure. When the Panic of 1857
finally waned, and the Yankee industrialists began to pick
themselves up from the dust, there was blood in their eyes.
They felt they had been betrayed. For years they had been
complaining that their foreign rivals had them at too great
a disadvantage especially the British, who were better
heeled financially, better equipped mechanically, better es-
tablished in the world markets, and freer to pay low wages.
For years, therefore, those Yankees had been pleading with
Congress to come to their aid. Specifically, they had asked
it to do these things: first, build high tariff walls to keep
out cheap foreign merchandise; second, lower all immigra-
tion bars so as to allow the importation of the cheapest for-
eign labor ; third, increase the subsidies to shippers who car-
ried American merchandise overseas; fourth, advance more
generous loans to men who offered to extend the railroads ;
fifth, create one stable national currency to replace the pres-
YANKEE DOODLE GOES TO TOWN 125
ent seven thousand varieties of unstable state bank notes ;
and sixth, free all the blacks so that they, too, might have
at least a little cash to spend.
But the Southerners had opposed that program to a
(white) man. Moreover, being superior politicians, they had
always been able to make Congress vote their way. Now,
however, the Northerners had their dander up. Throwing
caution to the winds, they forged a political alliance with
the radical farmers in the West, and elected a cagy frontier
lawyer named Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency. Where-
upon, there was war.
The Southerners decided to secede from the Union. They
felt they would rather have half a continent of their own
than a whole one run by damn Yankees. For those South-
erners had never become real nationalists. Like agrarians
everywhere else, their outlook had remained essentially pro-
vincial. Their minds were a little like the trees amid which
they dwelt moss-hung and as a result they could not see
very far. They believed that a citizen's first loyalty be-
longed not so much to his country as to his immediate coun-
The Northerners, however, had acquired a wider outlook.
They realized that the United States could never become
great unless it stayed big. The South with its capacity to
produce raw materials and consume manufactured goods
was absolutely essential to the nation's well-being. There-
fore, rather than let that region secede, they were ready to
lay it waste.
They did and grew rich in the process. No sooner was
the first gun fired at Fort Sumter than the entire North
re-echoed with a thunderous "Boom!" The war started a
frantic rise in production, for never before had there been
such ferocious consumption. And that gave the Northern
116 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
industrialists their chance. With the Government furnishing
the capital, and patriotism the incentive, they rushed to lay
hold of more and more machinery. Had the Southern plant-
ers lain awake nights worrying 1 how best to help their worst
enemies, they could not possibly have improved on what they
did when they invited that war.
At the time it was called the "Civil War," and later this
somewhat sinister name was softened to the 'War between
the States." In effect, however, it was the "Second American
Revolution." The first had secured the triumph of repub-
licanism on these shores; this insured the triumph of in-
For the boom, did not end with the carnage. The Yankees
had attended to politics as well as business during the war,
and had succeeded in putting their entire economic program
on the nation's law-books. An obliging Congress had built
towering tariff walls, legalized coolie-labor, reformed the
banking system, made the public treasury a trough, and
turned the black men into cash customers. So there was
every reason for the boom to continue.
Great years ensued for America, wondrous years full of
furious toil and fabulous achievement. An iron tAck was
laid clear to the Pacific, and hundreds of thousands of farm-
ers, miners, trulls, and gamblers sallied forth to gouge the
earth and one another. Silver and gold were discovered in
Nevada, and copper in northern Michigan. So many new
iron deposits were uncovered around Lake Superior that the
total output of the metal more than doubled within ten
years. The output of coal almost quadrupled within that
same period, and the output of steel increased precisely a
hundredfold. Petroleum was belatedly found to be good for
illumination as well as snake-bites, and a thousand farms in
YANKEE DOODLE GOES TO TOWN 117
western Pennsylvania suddenly bristled with derricks and
pumps. Myriads of new factories raised fuming throats to
the sky, and tens of myriads of new stores hung out "Open
for Business" signs. In San Francisco a "Palace Hotel" was
built containing eight hundred rooms, seven hundred and
fifty-five toilets, and nine thousand cuspidors.
Yankee Doodle had gone to town.
XV. MADE IN GERMANY
OCTOR MARX had erred. What
he had diagnosed as the death-
pangs of capitalism proved to be
merely more of its growing-pains.
The system reacted to the shock
of 1857 as it had to all the earlier
ones, stumbling only to recover
and go racing faster than before.
This happened not alone in the
United States. In Germany, too, the money-minded elements
were now goaded to make a final bid for power. And there
too they triumphed.
MADE IN GEEMANY 110
But not as completely. The German go-getters did get
much of what they wanted, but hardly in the way they
wanted It. Unhappily for them and, as it turned out, even
more unhappily for the whole world the feudal spirit was
peculiarly virile in Germany, and it was able to bring forth
at this critical juncture a supremely virulent man. His name
was Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck, and he was what
was called a Junker that is, a descendant of those medie-
val jwnge Herren ("young lords") who had hacked their
way eastward and colonized the Slavic borderlands.
The typical Junker was a sinewy, bull-necked, bear-
tempered gentleman who seemed to live only to fight, hunt,
drink, and keep his estate intact. He was at once sentimen-
tal and insensitive, conventional and profligate, shrewd yet
slow-witted. Bismarck shared all these traits except the last.
Perhaps that was because he was only half a Junker. His
mother was a city-bred woman, and came of a family of pro-
fessors and civil servants. But unfortunately he grew up to
hate her, and the intelligence she passed on to him served
only to help him balk all that she represented.
He spent four years at a good university, where he devoted
himself diligently to duelling, drinking, and the other stud-
ies deemed suited for a young Junker. In these he achieved
a notable record, and was rewarded at the age of twenty-one
with an appointment in the Prussian diplomatic service.
Finding the work uncongenial, he soon resigned and went
home to take over the management of the family estate. For
eight years he lived the riotous life of a maverick country
squire, only to be thrown at last by a pious young lady, har-
nessed in marriage, and converted into a model family man.
Domesticity's gain was humanity's loss. Thenceforth Bis-
marck vented his wilfulness in politics.
His purpose was clear almost from the beginning. It was
120 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
to create a greater Germany for the greater glory of his own
reactionary class. This was no light undertaking, for thus
far the idea of political expansion had appealed only to pro-
gressives. Most of the landowners were lumpishly provincial
in their outlook, and preferred to keep Germany a collection
of petty states. It was the burghers who favored the cause
of "nationalism, 5 * in part because they as a class had most to
gain if that cause triumphed. They would be freer to manu-
facture what and how they pleased, since they would no
longer be under the thumb of local princelings. Also they
would be able to sell farther afield, since they would no
longer be hampered by provincial frontiers. Again, they
would be in a better position to resist competition from
abroad, for they would cease to be so divided among them-
selves. Finally, they might even be able to cope with disaf-
fection at home.
This last item was particularly important. Most of the
German laborers had been serfs until yesterday, and the
abrupt shift to free life in raw factory settlements seemed to
be affecting them with peculiar intensity. They were grow-
ing insolent. What they needed, plainly enough, was some
sort of pious distraction, some safe enthusiasm like that
which Christianity had once been able to provide. For that
religion, being a product of the past, had lost much of its
influence in this new^ day. Laborers who worked amid modern
machines were hard to awe with tales of ancient miracles.
People who had to live in slums were hard to scare witli
threats of Hell. What was needed, therefore, was a new
That was where nationalism came in. It seemed just what
the situation called for, since it appealed to the most primi-
tive emotions and yet was as up-to-date as a steam-train.
Once a worker succumbed to it, he ceased to think of himself
MADE IN GERMANY 121
as anything but a citizen. He identified himself not with his
class but with his nation, and docilely agreed that he and his
employer, beings sons of one Fatherland, were brothers*
That made him safe.
So the burghers had very practical reasons for favoring
nationalism. In addition, however, they had even more com-
pelling spiritual ones. They learnt these usually from their
sons who attended the universities and heard erudite dis-
courses on the <c heroic German spirit, 5 ' the "eternal German
soul," and so forth. There had been a swelling flood of such
talk in the country ever since the time Napoleon had tem-
porarily reduced it to a parade ground for his troops. A
very learned, very virtuous, and very wordy professor of
philosophy named Johann Gottlieb Fichte had arisen then
and delivered a series of addresses which were destined to
become a new Holy Writ in certain intellectual circles. The
essence of Fichte* s preachment might be summed up in the
statement that though he doubted the existence of God, he
was sure that the Germans were His chosen people. They
alone, he insisted, spoke a really "pure" language, had cre-
ated a "genuine" art, and were capable of comprehending
"true" philosophy. Whereas the spirit of other peoples was
at best comparable to a bumbling bee,
"the German spirit is an eagle whose mighty body thrusts itself
on high and soars on strong and well-practiced wing into the
empyrean^ that it may come ever nearer the sun whereon it de-
lights to gaze/*
Fichte was appallingly successful. Pouring a thimbleful
of fact into a gallon of prejudice, adding a fistful of meta-
physical terms and mixing in plenty of metaphors, he had
stirred briskly and served piping-hot. And educated Ger-
mans learned to drink themselves berserk on the stuff.
122 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
The whole development, it should be realized, marked a
sharp break with the past. As recently as the Eighteenth
Century most German intellectuals had looked down on na-
tionalism. Their ideal had been cosmopolitanism. One of the
greatest of them, the poet Schiller, had cried: "Germans,
don't try to be a nation ! Be content to be human being* !"
And his words were widely echoed then.
But in the Eighteenth Century most intellectuals had
been aristocrats, at least in spirit, whereas now most of
them were brazenly bourgeois. Now they were usually the
sons of prosperous burghers, and like their fathers they
had sound practical reasons for favoring nationalism. The
triumph of that cause promised to enrich them with the
choice plums of officialdom which at present were still re-
served for the sons of noblemen. The would-be bureaucrats
therefore had a definite economic stake in nationalism. How-
ever, they rarely mentioned that.
Most of them, indeed, were not even conscious of it. They
honestly believed that their patriotic fervor sprang pure
and undefiled from the deepest depths of their ineffable Ger-
man souls. And this, it must be said, was equally true of
their fathers. Nationalism was no deliberately perpetrated
fraud. Had it been, it could neither have spread nor have en-
dured. Fundamentally it was as innocent as the measles.
Now Bismarck was obviously no proper Junker, or he would
have opposed nationalism on principle. Being an improper
one, however, he had intelligence enough to see that any such
opposition was doomed. The whole trend of civilization was
toward nationalism. Therefore he set out to do what seemed
to him the next best thing: capture the trend and divert its
course. Thus far nationalism had been a distinctly liberal
influence. It had sought to widen men's horizons, lengthen
their tethers, emancipate their minds. That was why its loud-
MADE IN GERMANY 123
est advocates thus far had always been the progressives, the
people who believed in Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Democ-
racy, Machinery, and every other portent of progress. Na-
tionalism spelled freedom to such folk, for it opened a way
of escape out of provincial confinement.
Bismarck made up his mind to change all that and he
succeeded. His opportunity came when, after fourteen years
of patient political climbing, he was appointed Prime Minis-
ter of Prussia. At once he set about enlarging the army, for
his whole scheme hinged on force. "Not by speeches or ma-
jority resolutions can the important questions of the day
be decided, but by blood and iron!" Those were his words
the very week he took office, and he lost no time in proving
that he meant them. First (1864) he ganged up with Aus-
tria to pounce on Denmark and filch the duchies of Schles-
wig and Holstein. Then (1866) he turned on Austria, and
throttled it into agreeing to Prussian suzerainty over most
of northern Germany. Finally (1870) he welcomed a war
with France, and in the heat of it welded Prussian rivets on
all the rest of the land.
Thus Germany emerged a political unit at last. What
countless burghers had failed to accomplish in sixty years,
one Junker managed to do in six. The various kingdoms,
duchies, and city-states had all been made part of one Em-
pire, and there were no longer internal tariffs to impede the
flow of commerce, or internal passports to restrict the drift
of labor. There was a uniform currency now, a uniform sys-
tem of weights and measures and also a uniform conscript
army. Germany was a real nation at last.
But not the sort of nation the burghers had dreamed of.
Instead of its existing for them, they were told they existed
for it. This Germany was not Liberal but Conservative, not
humanitarian but militaristic, not an ostensible democracy
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
but a gloved despotism. At bottom and even more on top
it was one vast Junkerdom.
The burghers did not like that.
But most of them grew reconciled in time. Though they
continued to oppose Bismarck throughout his long term in
office twenty-eight years their vehemence waned steadily.
One can understand why. They began to see that, despite
himself, Bismarck was really helping them.
His policy of blood and iron kept increasing the need for
coal and iron. Moreover, it kept providing the means to fill
that need. Bismarck had extorted a billion-dollar fine from
the French, and that had meant so much fresh capital for
German economic expansion. Also he had seized Alsace and
Lorraine, one a store of machine equipment and the other a
mine of metal resources. German industrialism could really
begin to flourish after that.
Now the German industrialists had the advantage once
enjoyed by the British: they were building last, and there-
fore could build best. They were free to adopt the most ad-
vanced techniques and install the very latest machinery. In
addition they possessed a certain advantage all their own:
they were forced to build as nationals rather than as indi-
viduals. Germany, thanks in part to Bismarck, had never
been allowed to succumb to the doctrine of laissez-faire. Its
government was still authoritarian, and private enterprise
was still subject to public control. And this, though irksome
to the enterprisers, proved in the long run distinctly help-
ful. It clamped brakes on murderous competition and sui-
cidal speculation. If profits were less spectacular, they were
also less unstable.
Nor was that all. Much as the German government might
control capital, it controlled labor even more. To be sure, it
also made an effort to care for labor, insuring all workers
MADE IN GERMANY 125
against sickness and unemployment, and paying them pen-
sions in old age. Bismarck had discovered that such benevo-
lences were highly prudent. They stole part of the thunder
from the socialists, and thus short-circuited their lightning.
The German workers were led to believe that they were true
children of the Fatherland, not stepchildren* Thus they were
encouraged to be loyal and docile. The thought of rebel-
lion grew so shocking to them that they became reluctant
even to strike.
That was immensely pleasing to the German capitalists.
It convinced some of them that Bismarck, though hardly
their friend, was yet their ally. And this conviction was
sound, for at the same time that he protected their rear he
also cleared a path for their advance. He fostered scientific
research at state expense, and thus assured them of a con-
stant supply of new inventions. He forced through legisla-
tion to raise the tariff walls, and therewith "protected" the
domestic markets. He encouraged every member of his diplo-
matic staff to be a tacit commercial agent, and by such
means helped German goods invade the foreign field. Above
all, he maintained a supremely powerful army, and with it
made known both at home and abroad that what he had
created was here to stay and grow.
It did grow.
XVI. THE MACHINE GROWS UP
OW industrialism was able to ac-
quire a new character. It grew not
merely bigger, but better. Ger-
many and the United States were
not content to copy British meth-
ods and mechanisms. They in-
vented totally new ones. Technol-
ogy experienced what amounted to
another revolution, one even more
profound and convulsive than the first. A hundred year
earlier it had shot up from infancy to adolescence. Now it
began to approach maturity.
THE MACHINE GROWS UP 127
Science deserves most of the credit for that. It had played
only a minor role in the earlier revolution, for scientists had
been relatively rare then, and usually too proud to apply
themselves to "practical" things. Most of the major inven-
tions of the late Eighteenth Century, like all of the minor
ones, had been fathered by amateurs. But it was altogether
different now* Technology had acquired the dignity of a
profession, and even highly-trained physicists and chemists
were willing to devote themselves to its problems. Invention
ceased to be a casual, rule-of-thumb, hit-or-miss affair pur-
sued by ardent hobbyists. The laboratory supplanted the
attic ; precise blueprints took the place of barn-made models.
Formerly science had looked down on industry as a
haughty princess might look down on a low-born swain.
Now, however, the swain had come up in the world, so milady
swallowed her pride and let him make her his wife. It was a
marriage of convenience, but its fruit was noble. Machines
began to appear which were not simply larger than any that
had come before, swifter, more efficient, less capricious. Many
were completely novel.
The great triumph of the late Eighteenth Century had
been the harnessing of steam-power. Now in the late Nine-
teenth Century came an even greater triumph: the harness-
ing of electricity. When an English chemist named Michael
Faraday devised a primitive dynamo in 1831, a prominent
politician is reported to have sneered, "What's it good for?"
To which Faraday supposedly replied: "You might put a
tax on it, sir!" And that is just what politicians were doing
a few decades later. A German engineer named Werner Sie-
mens developed a practical dynamo, and this coupled with
the alternator contrived by a Jugoslav scientist, Nikola
Tesla, eventually enabled an American inventor, Thomas A.
128 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Edison, to produce light and power and even justice by
electricity. The State of New York ceased to hang her capi-
tal offenders after 1888. Her solons decided it was more
civilized to "electrocute" them.
Simultaneously a second source of energy was discovered
in petroleum. In 1876 a German named N. Otto produced
a practical gasoline-engine, and ten years later another
German, Gottlieb Daimler, improved the device so that it
could be hooked to a bicycle or a wagon. Thus was born the
"horseless carriage." A French firm named Panhard and
Levassor clamped pneumatic tires on the contraption in
1892, another named Renault Brothers added gears in 1897,
and five years later an American named Henry Ford set up
shop in a barn in Detroit. Dawned the "Flivver Age."
Ford started out as an unlettered mechanic, and so did
most of the other men who succeeded in saddling the explo-
sive power of petroleum. They received their training as
wheelwrights, gas-fitters, or bicycle repairmen. Edison, who
did most to buckle the harness on electricity, sprang from
much the same class. But their practical achievements de-
pended fundamentally on theoretical discoveries, and they
knew it. That was why, once they went into production, they
unfailingly hired consultants who were trained scientists.
And they paid them well. Not extravagantly, of course, but
well enough especially when compared with what scientists
had once been paid. The great Michael Faraday, head of
the Royal Institution, had been content to work for $500 a
year, coal and candles included !
Even Ford found himself forced to hire trained scien-
tists. Edison, who had a far livelier intellect, recruited a
staff of them as soon as he sold his first patent. He knew it
would pay him. And it did*
THE MACHINE GROWS UP 129
The recruiting of scientists was found to pay in every
Industrial field. Geologists put new profit into mining, metal-
lurgists into smelting, physicists into steel-construction, hy-
draulists into cement-mixing, geneticists into agriculture.
Above all, chemists earned their salt. They found uncanny
ways to refine petroleum, cure rubber, preserve food, tan
leather, harden steel, synthesize dyestuffs* and conjure pre-
cious products out of sheer swill.
The earlier technology had been appallingly wasteful.
Valuable commodities had been allowed to pour down drains,
go up in smoke, fly away in the wind, pile up in refuse heaps.
Now there was an end to such profligacy. In one industry,
pork-packing, the "chemical engineers" wrought so won-
drously that their employers could boast that nothing went
to waste except the squeal!
All this meant more merchandise for the world, more to
eat and wear and enjoy. The London markets began to dis-
play fish from Newfoundland, lamb from Australia, dates
from Egypt, bananas from Honduras. Canned and bottled
goods became common everywhere. Prospectors on the Klon-
dike were able to feast on bully beef, and pauper children in
Glasgow had orange marmalade with their tea on Sun-
days. Textiles improved in quality and appearance. Leather
shoes began to displace wooden clogs, and cheap handker-
chiefs came to the relief of coat-sleeves.
Innumerable new conveniences and comforts crowded into
everyday use : sewing machines, bicycles, fountain pens, tooth
brushes, typewriters, rolled cigarettes, and rubber over-
shoes. All life was made at least potentially cleaner and more
healthful. Sanitary devices multiplied, surgical appliances
were improved, new and better medicines came on the mar-
ket, and false teeth were made that really fitted. And a new
130 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
brightness came into the world. The noxious, hissing gas-
jet which had just begun to supplant the oil lamp was al-
ready beginning to give way to the electric globe.
Rail-transport picked up new speed. The chuffing "iron
horse" became a sleek steel Pegasus capable of pulling a
train at seventy, eighty, ninety miles an hour. The first white
man to cross from Florida to California had spent eight
hard years on the journey. Now the same distance could be
traversed comfortably in half as many days.
Water-transport experienced an even profounder change*
The paddle-wheel steamboat had proved a failure on the
open sea, and as late as the 1870's almost all navigation had
still been carried on in sailing vessels. But now the screw-
propeller was introduced, new boilers were developed, weld-
ing replaced oakum and tar, and ocean voyages became as
regular as ferry crossings. Ships appeared that were veri-
table floating hotels, their decks turned into tennis courts,
their masts into derrick props. Seamen were still called
"sailors," but they were really engine-tenders.
Yet these changes, on land and sea alike, were mere im-
provements. The real revolution came when the dynamo and
the oil engine were perfected. These brought on the electric
street-car, the automobile, and eventually the airplane.
Thereafter man could really go places.
Even more wonderful: man could make places come to
him. He had already learned to do that back in the 1830's^
when the telegraph and the photograph first came into his
ken. But after 1876 he had the telephone, after 1891 the
motion picture, and after 1896 the wireless. Then his power
over space and time became almost limitless.
So the marriage of science and industry proved a very
princely event. It turned what had been a mere stream of
plenty into a roaring flood. That was good.
THE MACHINE GEOWS UP 131
But not perfect. The same thing happened now that had
happened a century earlier: technology was revolutionized,
but not psychology. Though the means were at hand to
make life infinitely more bountiful and beautiful* not enough
will emerged to take those means in hand. Man had, so to
speak, educated himself beyond his intelligence. He had
learned, but he had not understood. Therefore, despite all
his newly-acquired power, he remained weak.
One trouble was that he kept trying to fit his new ma-
chines to old designs. Just as he had built the first railway
cars to resemble stage-coaches, just so did he make the first
automobiles look like buggies. Pushing is easier than pull-
ing, and properly the motor should have been installed in
the rear. Instead it was put in front, for that was where the
horse had been. The most luxurious model was characteris-
tically dubbed a "limousine" because once upon a time
royal coaches had been drawn by horses bred in the French
province of Limousin. Even the humblest model usually
sported a flower-vase on the dashboard because people
were used to seeing a whip-socket there.
These may seem trivial details, but they are revealing. In-
stead of erecting a brave new world, technology was em-
ployed to shore up the slavish old one. Consider, for example,
what electricity might have accomplished now had it only
been given a chance. It might have dispelled the Black Life
within a generation. No longer was there any need to concen-
trate industry in blighted, smoke-choked valleys. Hign-
tension wires could deliver power to factories on mountain-
crags, or far out on open moors. The same was largely true
of commerce. The telephone was here, so why pile offices one
on top of the other? The automobile was coming, so why con-
tinue to crowd the already overcrowded shopping-center sf
132 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
The herding of humans had been physically imperative in
the steam-engine age. But not now.
Yet the herding actually increased. Though technologi-
cally wasteful, and socially disastrous, herding was finan-
cially profitable. Did it not improve real estate "values"? So
the population of New York more than tripled between 1870
and 1910; that of Chicago multiplied sevenfold. Birming-
ham, Alabama, which had not even existed in 1870, contained
over 130,000 inhabitants in 1910. Similar swarming oc-
curred in every other industrial region. Tenement areas kept
growing and growing. They suppurated in Osaka, in Johan-
nesburg, in Calcutta, in Madrid. Factory slums ceased to be
mere boils on the face of the earth; they became carbuncles.
Something that had gone wrong from the start kept going
XVII. THE MIND STANDS STILL
EVOLUTION is another word for
turn, and mankind had just made
a good one. It had again ferreted
out new and better means to ex-
ploit nature. But this good turn
deserved another and did not get
it. Properly not alone the means
should have been renovated, but
also the ends. Just as science had
been employed to direct the how of mating goods, just so
should it have been invoked to decide the when and where and
134 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
for whom. More than horse-sense was needed to run an econ-
omy driven by horse-power. Unhappily, however, that need
was not realized, and the second Industrial Revolution saw
the fallacy of the first repeated and compounded. Once more
a supply of new wine was spilled or spoiled because it was
poured into cracked old bottles.
The economic system remained what it had been before.
Commerce and industry continued to be carried on primarily
by private individuals seeking immediate private gain. All
the change that occurred was confined to method, not mo-
tive. Instead of growing essentially better, enterprises grew
This was especially true of the manufacturing enterprises.
See, for example, what happened in the United States. In
1900 that country actually had fewer cotton mills than in
1850 ; but the average amount of capital invested in each had
swelled from $68,100 to $442,882. There were only two hun-
dred additional iron and steel mills ; but the average annual
output of each had jumped from $43,650 to $1,203,545. The
number of factories making farm implements had been cut
almost in half; but the survivors were producing forty-eight
times as much merchandise.
The same thing happened in Great Britain, Germany, and
all the other industrial nations. In each the manufacturing
units waxed enormously in size and productivity. And this
of course was only natural. Just as one revolution in tech-
nology had forced the domestic workshops to give way to
small factories, just so did the next force the small factories
to give way to giant plants. To be sure, this second change
served to correct certain of the evils wrought by the first,
for it took part of the crude muddling and caprice out of in-
dustry. Mammoth establishments could afford to hire sci-
entists to develop new techniques. At the same time, they
THE MIND STANDS STILL
could not afford to foster all of the old abuses. It actually
paid them to install safety devices in their workrooms, and
to improve the lighting and sanitation. At times it even paid
them to raise the wages or reduce the hours. A small manu-
facturer could get stubborn when threatened with a strike.
He was free to close his shop and go off and sulk until his
workers gave in, or his funds gave out. But the president of
a great corporation had to reckon with his shareholders
and public opinion.
So far, so good. But so far was not far enough. This
growth of giant plants tended to buckle the economy's bal-
ance-wheel. Business was no longer a free-for-all scramble,
Any upstart could still start up ; but if he wanted to forge
ahead he had to form or join a gang. That boded no good for
the economy. Formerly a man had needed merely a little
money and a lot of enterprise to make good in the business
world ; but now the prerequisites seemed to be a lot of money
and even more caution. A man who was at best a capable
manufacturer could become at most a captain of industry.
He had to be a shrewd financier to become a general* That
boded no good at all. It put the fate of the economy into the
hands of men who were more eager to conspire than compete.
For example, there was John D. Rockefeller. He was an
extraordinary character who started out in a quite ordinary
way. Born of poor parents on a mortgaged farm, he set him-
self to learn bookkeeping, and then went out into the world
to make his fortune. With characteristic shrewdness he chose
a field in which men of his pious kind he was exceedingly
pious were as rare as they were needed. It was the petro-
leum industry, one of the newest in the world, and also about
the rawest. As late as the 1840's, petroleum had been used
solely as a quack medicine. Wandering mountebanks among
them John D.'s own father had hawked it as Seneca Oil,
136 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
a the one and only gemuwine Indian remedy for snake-bites ,
cholera morbus, liver troubles, bronchitis, and fits." Late in
the 1850 ? s, however, people discovered that it could also be
used for lighting and lubrication, and then there was a rush
to drill wells and build refineries. Cleveland, the railroad-
junction nearest the main oil-fields, became a boom town*
Fortunes were made there in a day, and lost in a night. It
was like San Francisco during the gold rush, only worse, for
no one knew just how much oil was "worth." In 1859 a barrel
of it fetched twenty dollars, and in 1861 fifty- two cents !
That was what appealed to young Mr. Rockefeller. He
abhorred gambling, but loved a sure thing ; and here he saw
one going to waste. Oil, he believed, could be made as stable
a commodity as coal or iron, and even more lucrative. All
that was needed was a little organization. So he got busy.
Finding himself two partners, he started a small oil refinery
in 1862 with a capital of four thousand dollars. Eight years
later he was the president of a million-dollar corporation
called the Standard Oil Company.
That, however, was only the beginning. As yet he had re-
sorted to none save quite conventional business methods, the
ones he might have learned from his own father. The time
came, however, when young John D. felt impelled to im-
prove on what he had been taught. Instead of continuing to
beat his competitors according to the rules, he set out to beat
His method was beautifully simple. First he quietly per-
suaded several of the largest refiners around Cleveland to
form a syndicate, and then he gently bludgeoned the rail-
roads into giving this syndicate special freight rates. That
accomplished, he turned to the smaller refiners in his locality
and blandly invited them to sell out or go broke. They sold
THE MIND STANDS STILL 137
But then there was a howl. Rockefeller had wriggled him-
self into a position where he had the actual producers of
petroleum by the throat, and the ultimate consumers by the
tail. Both those groups began to howl, and with such violence
that the railroads blanched and welched. So Rockefeller
tried another dodge. Hiring the lawyer who had led the cru-
sade against him, he evolved a new type of combine which
had no legal existence, and could do anything it wanted with-
out ever baring its face. He called it a "trust/ 5 and began to
recruit partners with the most elaborate stealth. He warned*
them not to disclose the scheme even to their wives, and
begged them not to build large houses, or start driving fast
horses, or reveal in any other way that big money had sud-
denly begun to come their way. He himself avoided extrava-
gance as though it were rum or tobacco. Despite that he soon
became one of the richest men in the land eventually the
very richest he would not buy either a yacht, or a race
horse, or a box at the opera, or a house on Fifth Avenue, or
even a private art gallery. His only indulgence was philan-
thropy, and even that he kept In those days largely secret.
This stealth, however, did not imply a sense of guilt on
his part. On the contrary, Mr. Rockefeller felt he was per-
forming a righteous mission. Was he not exorcising the devil
of competition? If he practiced guile, evasion, even deception
at times, it was because he recalled the Gospel injunction to
missionaries: "Be ye wise as serpents . . . lest they deliver
you up to the councils and scourge you in the synagogues.'*
Of course, he also remembered that the Bible said something
about being "harmless as doves" ; but he believed he was ful-
filling that injunction, too* Did he not teach Sunday School
The public, however, put a different evaluation on his con-
duct, especially after other businessmen began to copy his
138 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
monopolistic scheme. By 1887 a Senate Committee was
moved to thunder that the formation of trusts had spread
"like a disease through the entire commercial system of the
country." All sorts of industries had begun to be monop-
olized: whiskey, sugar, glass, copper, farm tools, coffins,
school slates, even castor-oil. A handful of timber barons had
bought up so many of the nation's forests that they could
have provided the logs for a bridge five miles wide clear
across the Atlantic. Rockefeller himself had succeeded in get-
ting control of nine-tenths of all the oil refineries in North
So a cry arose to "bust the trusts." It came first from the
myriads of little businessmen who had already been, or were
about to be, bust by the trusts. And the general public was
not far behind. In 1888, an election year, both the Repub-
lican and the Democratic parties proclaimed their bottom-
less horror of all "combinations of capital." In 1889 half a
dozen states passed laws against such combinations. In 1890
Congress itself joined the stampede, voting almost unani-
mously in favor of a sweeping "Anti-Trust Act." And in
1892, after fourteen months of stertorous litigation, the
Standard Oil Company, archetype of all the trusts, was or-
Was Rockefeller daunted? Not in the least. Nor were any
of the other panters after monopoly. Denied the right to
combine in "trusts," they combined in "pools," "trade-asso-
ciations," " joint-agreements," "communities of interest,"
and last and best of all "holding-companies."
This ultimate device was initiated in New Jersey, a small
state where big businessmen were able to do almost as they
pleased with the crumb-hungry legislature. By dint of various
kinds of suasion they prevailed on it to enact a law permit-
ting any corporation chartered in that state to buy an inter-
THE MIND STANDS STILL 139
cst in any other corporation chartered anywhere in the
country. That enabled monopoly to function behind a wall
that was, as the saying went, "horse-high, hog-tight, and
bull-strong." A similar law was soon enacted in Delaware,
which was an even smaller state with an even crumb-hungrier
legislature. By 1901 nearly two hundred giant holding-
companies were pyramiding one enterprise on top of another.
Between them they were already in control of capital to the
extent of over four billion dollars nearly twice the amount
of money in general circulation throughout the land.
Monopoly had won out in the United States.
It won out in Germany too, and there even more sweep-
ingly. Bismarck was in large part responsible for that. Being
feudal to the marrow, he loved monopoly. Did it not foster
authority and order? By the same token, Bismarck loathed
competition, for that spelled freedom and chaos. Had he had
the power, he would probably have consolidated all business
in the hands of the state, and run it like the army or the
school system. With some types of enterprise for example,
the railways and utilities he actually succeeded in doing
that. He made them government property.
Most enterprises, however, did not lend themselves to such
tactics, so Bismarck compromised. Unable to take them over,
he laid plans to keep them under, and therefore deliberately
encouraged the businessmen to organize among themselves.
He knew that the more they organized, the easier would they
be to keep in line.
Ajid most German businessmen fell in with his policy. They
had never been able to work up a really deep devotion to in-
dividualism. They had not been given the chance. Only yes-
terday they had been the vassals of princelings, and the vas-
sal spirit was still strong in them. They actually preferred
140 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
to work in teams. They abhorred scrambling; they liked to
But even in Britain, where individualism was almost a na-
tional cult, even there more and more businessmen began to
combine. The same was soon true in France and Belgium and
every other land that developed extensive industries. In
Japan fully 50% of all business fell into the hands of eight
families. Throughout the world there was a swift growth of
"trusts," "cartels, 5 * "syndicates," and similar monopolistic
devices. Everywhere there was a steady drift toward setting
production quotas, parceling out markets, and fixing prices.
It seemed to make little difference whether the phenomenon
was damned, blessed, or ignored; it came as irresistibly as
caution to an aging hound.
There were two reasons for this. In the first place, the
more that industrialism expanded, the more it had to be re-
duced to order and order was impossible without some con-
solidation and centralized control. In the second place, the
more that capitalism matured, the more it had to develop
prudence, for without prudence it seemed bound to claw itself
to shreds. It had been all very well for Adam Smith to advo-
cate unbridled competition. In his day the field of business
had been almost a wilderness, and there had been plenty of
room for all who cared to rush in and grab. But the situation
had changed since then. Competition had begun to prove it-
self inherently self-defeating, since the longer it was carried
on, the fewer were the competitors who could survive. Smith
had believed that the game would be umpired by an Unseen
Hand. Instead it had begun to fall prey to an ungloved fist.
Here then was one more thing that went wrong. Monopoly
did spell less chaos in industry, and thus definitely increased
the potential capacity to produce. At the same time, how-
ever, it tended to rig prices, and thus it choked the relative
THE MIND STANDS STILL 141
capacity to consume. That meant trouble for the economy,
even worse trouble than it had ever known before, Thus far
it had been run by little businessmen, so the incidental ills
had been likewise little. But now that big businessmen had
begun to take over, correspondingly big ills had to follow.
For those big businessmen, though superior in shrewdness,
were equally lacking in vision* They too could look no far-
ther than their noses. It never even occurred to them to ask
what an economic system was really for* They, like the rest,
took it for granted that the prime motive was merely the be-
getting of profit. Consequently, though they broke the old
rules of business, they continued to play the same game.
They too sought only to keep cutting costs and padding
But costs included the wages paid to labor, and if these
were held down, how was the bulk of the population to pay
high prices ? The whole arrangement was awry. Goods could
be produced, but to whom were they to be sold?
XVIII. BUSINESS IS BUSINESS
ISTRIBUTION was the snag. The
making of goods was easy now,
but selling them still remained a
problem. It would have been a
problem even had the economic
system not been so awry, for there
was a technical hump to hurdle.
Commerce had failed to become as
efficient as industry, largely be-
cause it had been slower to succumb to the big businessmen.
Considerable capital was required to start a modern
BUSINESS IS BUSINESS
manufacturing plant, but almost anyone could open a store
and almost anyone did. As a result, most trading con-
tinued to be carried on in ways as crude as they were hoary.
Usually it was conducted in dark and cluttered little shops
run by ferret-eyed vendors to whom each transaction was a
battle of wits. Prices were rarely marked. The shopkeeper
asked all he dared, the customer offered what he liked, and
then they chaffered to and fro till they struck a bargain or
parted scowling. Save perhaps for the absence of oaths, and
brandished fists, the whole procedure was precisely like that
which had obtained in the bazaars of ancient Babylon. The
first need, therefore, was improvement in the technique of
This did come, of course ; but all too slowly. One sign of
advance was the emergence of a new kind of retail establish-
ment called a "department store." Its inventor is said to
have been a Parisian merchant who opened an emporium in
1852 which lie named Le Bon Marche "the good bargain."
His success was modest at first, but he persevered, and in
time other merchants copied his idea. Department stores be-
gan to appear in most of the larger cities throughout Eu-
rope, and eventually even in many small ones in the United
Another mark of progress was the rise of what came to be
called the "chain store." This was an older type of institu-
tion, for there are records of its existence in ancient China
and Rome. Not until late in the Nineteenth Century, how-
ever, did it begin to become somewhat common. Shortly be-
fore the Civil War it occurred to two Yankee merchants that
if they bought tea right at the dock by the shipload and then
sold it widespread by the pound, they could cut prices and
still make a fine profit. So they started a concern which they
bravely named "The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Com-
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
pany," and proceeded to open small stores In one town after
another. Before long they too had imitators ; Indeed, so many
of them, that eventually half the groceries consumed in the
country were being bought from chain stores.
Still another advance was the invention of what came to be
known as the "dime store." In 1879 a bright young man
named F. W. Woolworth rented a small shop in Lebanon,
Pennsylvania, stocked it with notions and gimcracks, and put
a sign in the window reading, "No Article Over 5$." That
was a completely new wrinkle, and it caught on instantly.
Before this Mr. Woolworth died he was opening similar
shops even in Europe. Moreover, other merchants were emu-
lating him in Australia, Africa, and Asia.
Then there was the "mail-order" house. The first of these
to offer a general line of merchandise was founded in Chicago
in 1872 by a man named Montgomery Ward. Later other
such concerns arose in America, most notably Sears, Roebuck
and Company and the T. Eaton Company of Canada.
Eventually their like arose in most lands where there was
free rural delivery.
All these developments were obviously steps in the right
direction. True, they did crush the toes of the little shop-
keepers ; but see how they advanced the stride of the general
public. They enabled the middleman to buy in large quan-
tities, and thus tended to narrow the margin between what
the producer charged and the consumer had to pay. They
enforced plain marking of prices, and thus made the act of
purchase a simple rite instead of a minor brawL They en-
couraged standardization of brands, and thus helped take
some of the gamble out of shopping. Above all, they fostered
expansion, co-ordination, and efficient management, and thus
began to shorten the lag between mass-production and mass-
BUSINESS IS BUSINESS 145
The total effect, however , was far from adequate. These new
institutions never conquered more than a corner of the entire
retail field, and even within that corner the buying public
was still at a disadvantage. Prices might be marked, and
goods labelled, but the intrinsic quality of an article con-
tinued to be kept a secret. So far as that item was con-
cerned, the rule was still Caveat emptor, "Let the buyer
This, to be sure, was not universally true, for there had
been some growth of "co-operative stores" throughout this
period. Robert Owen had plowed the ground for them back
in the 1820's, but the seed had not taken firm root until after
1844. That year a group of laborers living in a Lancashire
milltown named Rochdale started a "buying club" based on
a new financial principle. They agreed to apportion the prof-
its according to the amount of goods each member bought,
and to disburse this profit not in cash but in capital shares
earning 5% interest. Thus they assured their enterprise of
a growing supply of capital, and at the same time gave
themselves an unflagging stimulus to seek its success. The
more they bought of its wares and they were sound wares,
fairly priced the more they appeared to increase their per-
The scheme proved so successful that it soon began to be
copied in the neighboring towns, and then throughout the
length and breadth of Europe. Even in the United States,
where individualism was most stoutly intrenched, a society
called the "Sovereigns of Industry" started to propagate co-
operative stores. By the middle of the 1870*s there was a
chain of them extending from Maine to Maryland.
But again the total effect was slight. These cooperatives
were able to form mere microscopic clearings in the jungle
of commerce, for they labored under crippling handicaps.
146 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
The whole might of capitalism was pitted against them, and
their own strength was chronically sapped bj lack of initi-
ative and excess of mismanagement. Therefore, despite their
patent virtues, they failed to win wide patronage. Even
where the cooperatives were least unsuccessful, in Great
Britain and Ireland, they were able to boast fewer than
2,000,000 members by 1901 barely 4% of the entire popu-
So the principle of Caveat emptor reigned unchecked, and
this naturally encouraged all sorts of abuses. Some mer-
chants did not hesitate to resort to outright villainy in their
eagerness to earn an extra penny. They adulterated flour
with plaster, whiskey with raw spirit, pepper with sawdust,
brown sugar with sand. They applied chemicals to tainted
meat to make it look fresh and colorful, or added embalming
fluid to milk to deter it from going sour. And though such
practices may have been exceptional, others which were gen-
eral were no less harmful in their ultimate effect. They put
such suspicion into the hearts of the buying public that
"sales resistance" became almost endemic.
This was no new affliction, but in the past it had not been
important. Goods had been so difficult to produce that it
had been almost an advantage if they were slow to sell. Now,
however, "sales resistance" threatened to throttle the entire
Ways simply had to be found to break that bottleneck
and found they were, in the course of time. They were hardly
the most intelligent ways, nor the most adequate ; but they
were at least adroit, and they did help a little. One stratagem
was to make goods look better than they really were. Shoddy
was fabricated to resemble pure wool, cotton was mercerized
to shine like silk, tin was plated to look like sterling silver.
Anything that was costly was reproduced in cunning coun-
BUSINESS IS BUSINESS 147
terfeit: jewelry, cut glass, leather, fur, and chinaware.
Machinery which might have produced sound wares was de-
liberately employed to turn out trash. For trash had a two-
fold virtue: it was cheap and did not last, and could there-
fore be sold easily and often.
But there were some people who could afford to buy costly
wares, and more who were slow to replace even cheap ones.
This created a need for a further stratagem, one that would
compel people to buy new merchandise before they could
wear out the old. So the fashion-craze was popularized. For-
merly fashions had changed only at long intervals, and they
had interested solely the rich. Now such changes were delib-
erately stimulated each year, and even the poor were en-
couraged to pursue them. A new profession arose, that of the
"fashion expert," and female apparel was re-designed re-
lentlessly. There was no effort to make the new styles more
sensible or more beautiful. The one ideal inspiring the entire
fuss and flurry was simply change. The feather was put here
instead of there, the bustle was raised, or lowered, or taken
off, or put back again that was all. The whole thing was
worse than silly; it was cruel, for it caused immeasurable
pain. Half the British navy could have been floated in the
tears of poor womenfolk struggling to make one year's ward-
robe do for the next. In addition it encouraged unconscion-
able waste. Essentially the whole artifice was nothing but a
That, however, was just what endeared it to the mer-
chants. A cancer consumed, and consumption was their chief
problem. They wanted to keep selling, and here was a means
of inducing the public to buy. Before long they began to
graft that cancer into other lines of merchandise : ornaments*
draperies, furniture, automobiles. The time came when even
the fashion in pet dogs was changed every year or two.
148 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
It was all done by means of propaganda. Every ruling
class in history had had to resort to propaganda, and the
stalwarts who were now struggling to become such a class
resorted to it hard. They advertised. Back in the Eighteenth
Century the current oracle. Dr. Johnson, had boasted that
^the trade of advertising is now so near to perfection that it
is not easy to propose any improvement." He spoke too soon.
More than a hundred years later improvements began to
come so fast that what had once been a mere trade suddenly
blossomed into a mighty profession. All the Muses were se-
duced into its employ, and most of the Furies too. The great-
est artists were hired to paint posters proclaiming the peculiar
virtues of some particular brand of soap, soup, or sausages.
Poets were paid to compose sonnets to that same end, and
humorists were engaged to grind out limericks and slogans.
Advertising multiplied and fructified till it threatened to
smother the whole earth.
Wherever one turned one could not escape the adjurations
to buy, buy, BUY! Glaring billboards were erected on the
housetops in the cities, and on the hillsides along the roads
and railways. Leaflets were scattered in the streets, free
samples were stuffed in the mails, and arty calendars were
hung in every kitchen and outhouse. The daily press began
to carry almost more advertising than news, and even learned
journals became freighted with commercial appeals.
In a sense it was a siege. Giant mortars of selling propa-
ganda were set to pounding at the buying public day and
night, Sundays included. And this seemed altogether neces-
sary. In the language of an American writer of the time, the
one sure prescription for business success had become:
"Early to bed, early to rise,
Work like hell, and advertise/*
BUSINESS IS BUSINESS 149
The whole system may have been foolish, and was certainly
wasteful, but the businessmen were convinced that no better
one could be devised. They badgered and wheedled and baited
and begged because they believed that thus alone could the
public be made to buy more goods. And it did buy more. The
rate of consumption within the industrialized countries in-
creased enormously as the years elapsed. But this, it must be
recorded, was due only incidentally to high-pressure sales-
manship. What helped far more was the increase in the pub-
lic's buying-power. Wages had been steadily rising during
all this period. No matter how the masters might struggle to
hold them down, the workers always found ways to force
them up. They joined unions and struck; or, better still,
they merely threatened to strike and then agreed to negoti-
ate. Where such methods were ineff ective, the workers started
riots and hurled bombs'. The result was that in England, for
example, the average wage nearly doubled between 1850 and
1900 ; in the United States it more than tripled.
That was good. The more the workers earned, the more
they were able to spend. But there was a cloud behind that
silver lining: by the time the workers had, say, twice as much
to spend, the merchants had at least three times as much to
sell. No matter how labor might advance, machinery ad-
So in the end the situation was little better than it had
been in the beginning. Despite all that the merchants thought
up, and even all that the manufacturers gave up, consump-
tion continued to lag behind production.
One more thing that had gone wrong from the start kept
XIX. JOHN BULL'S DILEMMA
OWHERE in the industrialized
world was home consumption able
to drain home production. Though
the machines were allowed to stand
idle all night, and periodically all
day too, they still turned out far
more than the domestic markets
could absorb. The only solution,
therefore, was to sell abroad. As
the years elapsed the great producing countries found them-
selves forced to do more and more selling abroad.
JOHN BULL'S DILEMMA 151
Great Britain especially felt that need. The sudden spurt
in the Industrial race toward the close of the I860 ? s had
goaded the British to install more machinery than ever. True,
it was not the best machinery. Radical innovation was rather
frowned on now by the typical British industrialist. He
feared it would entail too much renovation. A novel device
might require scrapping an old factory, and that would
mean writing off considerable capital. He did not care to do
that. Fpr that matter, he did not see the need. Hadn't the
old devices served him well enough in the past?
It was the German and American industrialists who showed
the sharper enterprise now, for they were less encumbered by
obsolete notions and obsolescent plants. As a result they
began to gain on the British. Not alarmingly, of course.
John Bull's juggernaut may have been less up-to-date, but
it still retained the advantage of bulk. In addition it was
more compact and better greased. It seemed able to keep
ahead on sheer momentum.
It did keep ahead, but only by hitting up a madcap pace.
Britain's annual output expanded stupendously between
1870 and 1900. Here are some figures of the increase :
Cotton goods 40%
Pig Iron 150%
And this increase meant so much more surplus to dispose of
Now once upon a happy time a surplus of manufactured
wares had presented no problem at all to the British. The
whole world had been eager to take it off their hands. But
conditions had changed since then. Other nations had got
hold of machinery, and these were manufacturing for them-
selves. Not as cheaply perhaps, for their equipment was less
152 SOMETHING WENT WBONG
extensive as yet. But they were making up for that handicap
by walling in their home markets with "protective" tariffs.
The United States had not been the only country to resort
to that maneuver. Germany had adopted it too, and so had
France, Italy, Austria, even Russia.
"Protection" was threatening to make the whole world a
maze of walls, and to John Bull that seemed outrageous. He
for his part believed in "Free Trade" all markets open to
all comers, everything fair and square, and may the best
man win. John Bull had been pursuing that policy in his own
realm ever since the 1840*s ? and he felt it ought to be pur-
sued everywhere else. To be sure, he himself stood to gain
most if that were done. His peerless industrial resources
would then enable him to continue outselling and undersell-
ing aH rivals. But this, he argued, was neither here nor
there. It was the principle of the thing that counted. Ac-
cording to the teachings of "economic liberalism," the most
profitable policy in the long run was to let competition
go the limit. "Protection" was therefore inexcusable. Its
whole aim was to put competition on a leash.
But John Bull argued in vain. His rivals refused to think
about the long run; they were too intent on winning the
short one. The latter agreed that "Economic Liberalism"
was a very noble ideal, and they hoped Britain would never
abandon it. For themselves, however, they preferred "Eco-
nomic Nationalism." That gave them a better chance in the
battle for business, since it enabled them to fight in packs
against the British who fought as individuals.
John Bull did not like that. Where was he going to sell
his goods if other nations continued to gang up against him?
At home? Impossible. Most of his subjects were too poor,
and most of his products were too specialized. Britain was
producing more textiles than ever, yet even less food ; it was
JOHN BULL'S DILEMMA 153
turning out whole mountains of ironmongery, but only hand-
fuls of fine wares. British industry could not conceivably
serve the British market alone; it was geared to serve the
whole wide world. So John Bull found himself with a growing
surplus on his hands and a growing ache in his head.
The problem was not confined to goods ; there was also a
growing surplus of capital to dispose of. John Bull had been
enriching himself hand over fist ever since he took to the
Machine. By 1870 his total capital amounted to nearly
thirty billion dollars fully twelve times what it had been in
1770. This was called Britain's "national wealth," but the
term was inaccurate. Most of the treasure belonged to the
very rich, and these were relatively very few. They could not
possibly spend all they had; nor would they try. They be-
lieved with something akin to religious fervor that their first
duty was not to spend but to invest. A thousand pounds to
them was not a thousand pounds. It was sixty pounds per
annum or more, if they could get a higher rate of interest.
This, as we have seen, was a good thing in one way. Had
the rich considered their increment a flower to be plucked,
instead of a seed to be replanted, the age-old curse of scar-
city might have endured forever and aye. Only because the
profits of British industry were plowed right back into it
was British industry able so swiftly to expand.
But the time came when that process seemed to reach a
saturation point. Britain might be Great in name, but it was
small in size. Once the basic mines and mills had been estab-
lished, and all the essential railways had been nailed down,
further industrial expansion necessarily yielded diminish-
ing returns. ^Consequently the British capitalists found
themselves forced more and more to look abroad for places
to invest their wealth. Not that there was no room for it at
home. The industrial plant may have been large enough, but
154 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
it was not nearly good enough. Much of Britain's mechan-
ical equipment had already become obsolete by 1870, and
almost all of it could have stood improvement. As for what
might be called the social plant, that was in unspeakable
No effort had yet been made to raze the slums which had
festered around the first factory sites. On the contrary,
these had been allowed, even encouraged, to spread. Crowd-
ing, squalor, stink, and grime were actually commoner in
1870 than they had been even in 1830. There were industrial
towns in England, containing tens of thousands of inhabit-
ants, which still lacked a single public park or public bath-
house. Schooling had been made universal, but almost all the
school-houses were as cramped as they were foul.. What few
free hospitals existed were so dreadful that even the deathly
sick fought against being taken to them.
And conditions in the British countryside, though less
sordid, were almost as squalid. There were, of course, many
beautiful estates and unspoiled woodlands, but these were
usually walled in and marked, "No Trespassing !" The com-
mon farmfolk had to subsist in the most abject surround-
ings, for they had been reduced to virtual pauperdom. Their
houses might be picturesque to look at, but they were
noisome to live in. What with their straw roofs and mud
walls and earthen floors and steaming dunghills, they were
not so much homes as lairs. In many respects life in the
British countryside was as primitive as it had been in the
To talk of an excess of capital in Britain was preposter-
ous. Actually there was not even nearly enough for all that
cried to be done in the land. The virus of the Black Life was
still raging in the industrial regions, and the ghost of the
Black Death continued to haunt the rural parts. To have
JOHN BULL'S DILEMMA 155
stamped out both would have called for public works cost-
But those who owned the billions were not interested in
public works. Public works did not yield dividends. Those
owners were cool even toward private works unless they
yielded high dividends. So they insisted on shipping more
and more of their capital abroad.
This, however, like shipping more and more goods, was
ceasing to be quite easy. Earlier in the century the British
had been able to invest to their heart's content on the Con-
tinent and in the United States ; but now the fairest oppor-
tunities in those regions were being snapped up by native
capitalists. Worse still: the latter were beginning to com-
pete with the British in every other part of the world. Ger-
mans were developing industries in Russia, Belgians were
building railroads in China, Frenchmen were opening up
mines in Mexico, Italians were starting plantations on the
North African coast.
No wonder John Bull began to fear he was in for trouble.
He had equipped himself to serve the world, and now he was
being denied the run of it. That spelled serious trouble. It
threatened to curtail his power not merely to sell and lend,
but also to buy and he had to do lots of buying.
He needed raw materials for his factories. The two basic
ones, coal and iron, were abundant right at home ; but there
were others quite as essential, especially in the newer indus-
trial processes, for which he had to forage overseas. He had
always had to go abroad for raw cotton. Now he had to do
likewise to get petroleum, rubber, manganese, brimstone,
copper, lac, and scores of other such commodities.
And even more vital than raw materials for his factories
was his need of food for the factory workers. John Bull still
156 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
liked to picture himself a country squire, but it was com-
pletely a pose. Agriculture had become at most a sideline
with him ; yet he had more need now of agricultural products
than ever before. By 1870 England and Wales alone con-
tained more than twenty-two million mouths that had to be
fed each day. By 1900 they numbered more than thirty-two
So John Bull had every reason to start worrying. He was
at the mercy of the world and the world's mercy, he had
learned, was nothing to rely on. He got ample proof of that
when the Civil War broke out in the United States. The
Southern ports were blockaded by the North, and that cut
off the supply of raw cotton to Lancashire. The result?
Lancashire, which lay full three thousand miles beyond the
range of the American guns, became as sore stricken as
though It were right inside the war-zone. The mills had to
close down, the millowners had to go bankrupt, and the mill-
workers had to roam the streets. Britain's most important
industry was all but paralyzed.
John Bull was never the same after that. He began to see
that if he intended to survive economically, he would have to
expand geographically. His empire of machines demanded
an empire of land.
He set out to get one.
XX. GOADS TO EMPIRE
HE BRITISH developed a raven-
ous appetite for land. It was not
the first time. Much the same thing
had happened in the early Six-
teenth Century, right after an
Italian adventurer in the hire of
Spain discovered a new world be-
yond the Atlantic. That discovery
had been largely accidental. In
the apt language of one historian, Christopher Columbus
set forth without knowing where he was going, got there
158 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
without knowing- where he was, and returned without know-
ing where he had been. But this ignorance was soon dis-
pelled, for half a dozen other European nations rushed to
hire adventurers of their own to comb the seas.
Their incentive was not so much greed as need. During
more than a thousand years hordes of dark-white tribesmen
had been pressing in on them from the East. Century after
century those tribesmen Huns, Arabs, Tartars, and Turks
had come storming in across Russia and Anatolia. And
now the nations at the western end of the European conti-
nent found themselves being pushed right into the sea. These
nations had waxed in population, and needed more living-
space than before. Instead they were being left with less
and less. So they had to move out.
It was sheer need, therefore, that led to the great explora-
tions of the Sixteenth Century. Those who took part in them
may have thought themselves adventurers, but in reality
they were more akin to refugees. Luckily, they found what
they were after, and much more of it than any of them had
dreamed. Land, they discovered, was everywhere. No matter
in what direction they sailed, invariably they found land
if they sailed far enough. Whereupon what had started as a
rout ended as a prowl. The Spaniards prowled, the Portu-
guese prowled, the French, the Dutch, and the Scandinavians
prowled. And the English, they prowled too.
But after a while they all began to tire of prowling. Even
the English tired of it though not until they had bagged
next to the largest collection of prizes. Thereafter they
continued to pick up colonies only absent-mindedly, in a sort
of kleptomania. And finally even that ceased. Halfway
through the Eighteenth Century the English seemed actu-
ally to sicken of colonies.
Note what happened when thirteen of Britain's choicest
GOADS TO EMPIRE U9
possessions dared to declare their independence in 1776.
'King George was forced to hire German mercenaries to go
out and fight the rebels. His own subjects, it seems, had
neither the time nor the will to bother about any revolution
in America. No wonder. They had a more exciting one on
their hands right at home.
The British nation had got itself embroiled in the Indus-
trial Revolution, and this, as we have seen, raised a new
class to power. Money-minded men, capitalists, got control
of Parliament, and these had little use for the Empire. The
pig-iron had entered their hearts, hardening tfiem so that
they could not respond to any appeal based on sentiment
alone. Even when their country was locked in a death-
grapple with France under Napoleon, they had insisted that
French holders of British bonds should be paid interest at
regular intervals. Right in the midst of their Crimean War
with Russia they gladly floated a loan for Russia through
the London banks. Such gestures were typical of those
money-minded men. In their eyes business came before patri-
otism or any other pleasure. ^-
It was natural, therefore, that they should bej&ool to-
ward the Empire. They felt it was a source oMiraste and
silly f ol-de-rol. It necessitated maintaining a*&rge army and
navy, and thus tied up capital which cowld be put to use in
industry. Besides, the Empire was a public institution run
by public officials for public pride and these capitalists
believed solely in private enterprises run by private indi-
viduals for private profit. They recoiled from the very word
"public," for it spelled government to them, and govern-
ment spelled officiousness, extravagance, taxation. They
were confirmed Liberals. "The less government the better !""
io they proceeded quite deliberately to neglect the Em-
160 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
pire. Some even urged that it be scrapped forthwith, but
these were branded Radicals and voted down. The majority
of the Liberals felt that Britain ought to retain a certain
number of colonies if only as dumping-grounds for convicts,
missionaries, black sheep, retired army colonels, and other
people who were in the way at home. Therefore instead of
scuttling the Empire, they left it to rot away at anchor.
This remained the official policy for nearly two genera-
tions from 1815 until about 1870. Britain might have
seized all of South America during that period ; but instead
she urged the United States to proclaim the "Monroe Doc-
trine." Twice the chieftain of the Fiji Islands offered to
deed her full sovereignty over his realm he was trying to
dodge a fine of $45,000 levied on him by the United States
but each time Britain resolutely refused. The only terri-
tories she seized in all those fifty-five years were three coal-
ing stations needed to protect her shipping, and a bit of
South African coastland where her colonists were being
troubled by the Boers. At the same time, she turned around
and granted complete autonomy to four of her largest de-
pendencies: Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, and New
But finally there was a revulsion. It was fomented by
the Tories, who had never reconciled themselves to the new
policy. They were opposed to it not alone because it was
new, but also because it was bad for them. They had heavy
stakes in the Empire, spiritual as well as material ones. In
the first place, it propagated all that was most dear to their
souls: warfare, glory, tradition, authority. In the second
place, it furnished many of them with that which they most
needed: government jobs. Men of good family but poor
means and that type had grown all too common in Tory
circles could hardly be expected to seek employment in
GOADS TO EMPIRE 161
"trade." They might marry Into "trade/ 5 but to stoop
lower than that would have been too demeaning. If such
personages were reduced to the necessity of actually work-
ing for a living, obviously their only fit employer was Her
Majesty the Queen.
So the Tories never ceased to wail against the neglect of
the Empire; and in the end their wailing toot effect. In
large part that was because they learnt to wail in the right
quarters. For one thing, they carried their agitation into
the so-called "public schools," which were actually private
academies attended exclusively by the male children of the
rich. They appealed there to the idealism of the youths,
ardently warning them that as true sons of Britain they
must grow up to think of more than mere money-making.
Nature had appointed them to fulfill a high destiny, the
highest ever assigned to any race. It was to tame the savage
peoples of the earth, curb the foolish ones, spread light and
civilization in short, make "cricket" universal. Years later
one of those youths, having grown up to become a poet, put
the whole message into four words. He called it "The White
That, however, was a distinctly secular notion, and could
appeal only to more or less paganized minds. (Was there
anything in the Bible distinguishing white men from black?)
England still contained innumerable very pious folk, so for
their benefit the same message was offered in another ver-
sion. They were assured that not merely Nature, but Christ
Himself expected every Englishman to do his duty; and
this duty was to spread not just civilization, but religion*
The White Man's Burden was really the Cross. Thus the
imperialists were able to recruit a following in the churches
as well as the schools. They readily granted that a mis-
sionary needed only the grace of God to do Ms holy work.
162 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
However, they argued, if in addition he had the support of
the Queen *s army, could he not do his work much faster?
But where the Tories won their readiest response was in
the common public-houses. There they were able to reach
the masses, and these proved peculiarly eager to shout hur-
rah for the Empire. The reasons were numerous, but they
all came down to one : imperialism offered those wage-slaves
a way of escape. To the more courageous among them it
held out the promise of physical escape. They saw themselves
riding pickaback on good old John Bull to lands where
there was enough food to eat, sweet air to breathe, and per-
haps ignorant natives whom they could make their wage-
slaves. As for the timid, they were drawn to imperialism
because it offered them a way of mental escape. Though they
themselves might never venture out to the colonies, they
wanted the satisfaction of at least knowing that the colonies
were there. They wanted to be able to read about them in
the penny press, and sing about them in the music-halls.
They wanted to be able to point them out on the map, and
gloat: "See 'em? They're all ours!"
Fools? Certainly they were fools. But to call them that is
to say no more than that they were human beings. Like all
human beings, they wanted to count for something, wanted
to feel important and imperialism gave them the means.
It served them precisely as nationalism was serving their
laggard contemporaries on the Continent, for imperialism
was nothing but nationalism boiling over. Both alike en-
abled the timid to puff themselves up until their heads reeled
and they could imagine themselves giants. Both alike
brought comfort to the downtrodden by encouraging them
to identify themselves with the treaders. And Britain, it
must be realized, contained millions who were downtrodden.
It is true that the lot of the average toiler there had im-
GOADS TO EMPIRE 163
proved somewhat. He had more to eat than in former times,
knew the taste of more comforts, and was less at the mercy
of his masters. But these gains, far from making him con-
tent, had served only to leave him the more frustrate. He
had managed to rise just high enough to see how low he
stood. This filled all his being with gall.
Yet what could he do ? How was he to allay his sense of
frustration? He could no longer easily steep himself in re-
ligion : he had lost the necessary innocence. He did not dare
shout for revolution : he did not have sufficient courage. He
could hardly keep getting drunk: he had too much sense
and not enough money. Apparently there was only one way
for him to assuage the misery in his soul. He had to drug
himself with patriotism.
And thus it came about that the Tories were able to whip
up a popular clamor for reviving the Empire. Nevertheless
the government refused to act. Parliament was still con-
trolled by the Liberals, and these were still averse to colo-
neering. Being good businessmen, they believed in economic
exploitation, not military exploits. Whereupon certain of
the wilder Tories decided to "dish the Whigs" as they had
once been dished by them. The latter, it will be recalled, had
managed to attain power in the 1830 5 s by enforcing a new
deal in politics which gave the urban upstarts the right to
vote. Now, thirty years later, the vanquished gentry set
out to turn the tables by going their victors one better.
They demanded votes for the urban downtrodden.
Here was irony with a vengeance. The highest in the land
struck up a partnership with the rabble. (How the ghost
of Feargus O'Connor, the old Chartist, must have roared!)
Haughty British aristocrats, musty dukes and crusty
squires, suddenly draped themselves in the mantle of right-
eousness and began to snort for more democracy.
164 SOMETHING .WENT WRONG
The turnabout was engineered largely by one man, and
he, significantly, was neither an aristocrat nor quite a Brit-
isher. His name was Benj amin Disraeli, and his grandfather
had been literally a merchant of Venice. Few characters in
modern history present a more fascinating psychological
study than does this "Dizzy." His whole career was like the
costume he affected dazzling, dashing, excessive. A Jew, it
has well been said, is just like anybody else, only more so;
and in at least that respect Disraeli was all too true to his
stock. Whatever he set out to do he overdid.
That may help to explain why he joined the Tories in the
first place. He wanted to prove himself thoroughly, utterly,
supremely a Britisher. It may also help to explain why, once
he joined them, he insisted on becoming their leader. He
must have felt that he needed to confirm what he had al-
ready proved. He it was who led the aristocrats into that
strange alliance with the mob. He was canny enough to see
that if the workers were given the vote, they would inev-
itably use it to send gentlemen rather than businessmen to
Parliament. And in this he was right at least temporarily.
When, in 1874, the enfranchised rabble got its first real
chance to flock to the polls, the Tories carried the elections
Then the Empire was reborn.
XXI. PHILANTHROPY PLUS
FIVE PER CENT
ITH the Tories in control of Par-
liament, and Disraeli in control
of the Tories, the dawn came np
like thunder on a new day in his-
tory. It was preceded by a stroke
of lightning: Britain snapped up
a block of shares in the vital Suez
Canal Company. And then the
thunder pealed forth: Britain's
Queen was formally proclaimed Empress of India, After
that, Disraeli retired to the House of Lords as the Earl of
166 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Beaconsfield. His work was done. He had slipped the leash
on the British lion, and now he could sit back and watch it
And how it did prowl! First it stalked westward out of
India to devour Baluchistan, then eastward to swallow Bur-
ma and Malaya., then northward to claw at Thibet. It
pounced on Wei-hai-wei on the coast of China, on Cyprus
in the Mediterranean, on Fiji, New Guinea, and countless
other islands in the South Seas. And then there was Africa.
Starting from the north, it bolted Egypt, Somaliland, Kenya,
Zanzibar, and most of the Sudan ; stalking from the south,
it seized Bechuanaland, Zululand, Matabeleland, Uganda,
and the Boer Republics.
For thirty years the British lion kept prowling and prey-
ing thus, and not until a fourth of the entire planet lay be-
tween its paws did it think to rest. Then, sinking to its
haunches, it seemed to glare at the sun and growl : Try and
set on me now!
Never before in history had any nation acquired so enor-
mous an empire, and the feat, needless to say, was not ac-
complished with ease. Luck certainly set the stage for it,
but pluck was what kept the show going. Whole armies of
hale young Englishmen and also Scotsmen, Welshmen,
Irishmen, and a hundred other breeds gave their lives to
wrest the new colonies. They were ambushed in mountain
passes and drowned in steaming swamps. Thirst tortured
them, fevers laid them low, boredom drove them mad. Those
soldiers were real heroes, God rest their souls 1
Yet it must be recorded that valor accounted for only
part of the triumph. Cunning accomplished even more. The
British employed every type of cunning from diplomatic
artfulness to brazen treachery. To be sure, compared with
168 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
earlier empire-builders and later ones their conduct was
almost saintly. But it could have been saintlier.
Consider, for example, how they helped themselves to
what was called Matabeleland. The inhabitants of that re-
gion were a ferocious Negro shepherd-folk who asked noth-
ing but to be left alone to roam and fight on the grassy
plateau which they had made their home. But one day in
1888 three Englishmen among them a fellow of All Souls
College, Oxford approached Lo Bengula, the Matabele
chief, with a proposition. They would give him, they said,
a thousand rifles, a hundred thousand cartridges, and also
a monthly stipend, if he would give them merely the right
to see if there was gold on the frontier of his realm. Lo
Bengula shook his head. His people, he said, wanted white
men to keep their distance. But when the delegation offered
to throw in a second-hand steamboat, covetousness and
champagne got the better of the chief. Trustingly, he put
his mark on a piece of paper, and the strangers departed.
But soon other strangers came, whole swarms of stran-
gers who proceeded to stake out claims as far as the hori-
zon. Apparently Lo Bengula had signed away the rights to
all the minerals in his entire domain. The white men had
that piece of paper to prove it, and waved it in his face
when he tried to order them away. Whereupon the chief dic-
tated a letter of protest to the fabled Queen who ruled over
those white men. Twice he wrote to her as one monarch to
another, requesting that she denounce the shabby trick that
had been played on him. But when a reply finally came, it
curtly informed Lo Bengula that he must surely be mis-
taken, since the Britishers involved in the dispute were
known to be most honorable gentlemen.
That was the last straw. Rallying his black braves, Lo
Bengula prepared for battle. Three months he fought like a
PHILANTHROPY PLUS FIVE PER CENT 169
hero and a savage until at last Ms whole army was cut
down. And then, having chased him into hiding, the white
victors proclaimed all his lands forfeit to their Queen.
That was a typical incident a bit flagrant perhaps, but
none the less typical. The pukka British attitude seemed to
be that a lie was not a lie unless it was told to someone im-
portant enough to deserve to be told the truth. That, ob-
viously, ruled out mere "natives," and in consequence the
path of British glory was paved thick with skulduggery.
Not as thick, certainly, as the path of Mongol glory in the
Thirteenth Century, or that of Nazi glory in the Twentieth.
But thick enough.
There was of course some suspicion of this at home, and
it aroused no little protest. The Socialists protested, the
Anarchists protested, and the brotherly-loving Quakers
shook their heads and deplored. But who cared to listen to
such folk? The ordinary Britisher preferred to believe that
the empire-builders were practically paragons of virtue.
Were they not carrying Christian decency into the sinks of
heathendom, and British civilization into the haunts of sav-
agery? Were they not teaching head-hunters to see the
naughtiness of their ways, and cannibals the indelicacy of
their diet? Were they not suppressing banditry, daughter-
slaughter, widow-killing, slave-snatching, and all the other
wicked practices which heathen breeds seemed to adore? Of
course they were!
So the cries of protest were drowned out in a chorus of
cheers. Eventually nearly everybody at home learnt to
cheer, including even the businessmen. For the latter tardily
discovered that they had been wrong about imperialism.
Apparently it was not at all an indulgence born of folly
and breeding waste. On the contrary, it seemed to be a
sound investment. It actually paid.
170 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Imperialism paid, first of all, because it compelled sav-
ages to put on clothes, taught them to crave forks, um-
brellas, and guns, and thus created new markets for British
goods. Moreover, being controlled by Britain, these markets
were safe from ever being "protected" against her.
Imperialism paid, secondly, because it opened up new
sources of raw materials. No longer need Lancashire depend
for its life on cotton imported from the United States.
Egypt could supply a far better grade, and India as good
a one far more reliably. Tin could be procured from
Malaya, zinc from Burma, hardwood from Ceylon, copra
from Fiji, bullion from South Africa, rubber from Central
Africa, hemp from the West Indies. Moreover, such com-
modities could be procured cheaply, since the British could
see to it that the natives did not learn about trade-unions.
And imperialism paid, finally, because it opened up new
fields for capital investment. Money was needed to clear
jungles, dig mines, dredge harbors, and lay out towns. It
was needed to build smelters, railways, docks, and ware-
houses. And British money naturally got the best chance to
finance such enterprises, since British officials ruled the
lands where they were started.
So it was no wonder that businessmen learned to cheer.
They came to see that the prowling lion bore a halo made
of solid gold. Before long, indeed, many businessmen were
not content merely to cheer. They personally took the lion
by the mane and tugged to show it just where to prowl.
There was Cecil Rhodes, for example: he tugged so hard
that he enriched Britain with more than half-a-million
square miles of African soil. At the same time he sieved
enough diamonds and gold out of that soil to enrich himself
with well over a hundred million dollars. But this, he be-
lieved, was as it should be. Imperialism, in his authoritative
PHILANTHROPY PLUS FIVE PER CENT 171
opinion, was nothing but "philanthropy plus five per cent.**
And most of the people back home seemed to agree. Only
the most skeptical Englishmen thought to analyze the na-
ture of the philanthropy, and only the most jaundiced
stopped to ask who got the five per cent. The rest were car-
ried away by the idea that a way had at last been found
whereby they could serve God and Mammon at one time.
The joke, of course, was on them. Whether they were really
serving God, only God knows; but most of them were cer-
tainly not serving Mammon. The average Englishman was
not making a ha'penny out of the colonies. On the contrary,
seeing that he had to foot the bill for the army and navy
and Colonial Office, he was really out of pocket.
Imperialism was actually a sound investment only for
those who actually did the investing. There was immense
profit in it, but solely for a few soldiers of fortune and cap-
tains of industry and princes of finance. Certain shipping
magnates made millions out of the colonies ; so did certain
promoters, importers, adventurers, and munitioneers. But
the rest of the home population got nothing out of them at
all at least, financially. This, however, was not generally
understood. It was imagined that what enriched some Eng-
lishmen, enriched all of them.
It did on paper. The proof of it was that after 1870
the "national wealth" of Great Britain began to grow on
paper at the rate of nearly a billion dollars a year.
XXII. THE GREAT WHITE LIE
UT Britain was not the only na-
tion to wake up suddenly to the
value of colonies. France discov-
ered it even sooner, and had she
not been halted by misadventure
at home, she might have seized
what became the lion's share. As
early as 1852 the ruler of France^
formerly a mere President, offi-
cially proclaimed himself an Emperor, for he had already
laid plans to coloneer all around the globe. Nor did he lose
THE GREAT WHITE LIE
any time in carrying out those plans. First he seized Al-
geria in North Africa, then New Caledonia in the South
Seas, then Cochin-China in the Far East. He even made a
clutch at Mexico. But in 1870 he committed the fatal blun-
der of tangling with Bismarck, and that finished him to-
gether with all his .proud schemes.
France became a republic once more, and for the next ten
years her rulers had too much trouble at home even to think
They called U (t la mission
of promoting adventure overseas- No sooner, however, did
the country pull itself together again, than it began shakily
to return to the prowl. The move was not entirely a matter
of choice. The French politicians saw the desperate need of
recouping what had been, lost in the War of 1870 land,
wealth, and above all pride ^and they also saw that this
need could not possibly be fulfilled by striking back at Ger-
many. Such a course would have spelled suicide. So instead
they decided to strike out in Africa and Asia. That at worst
entailed mere murder.
174 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Naturally, they did not call it murder, or even think It
such. They described it as "la mission civilisatrice." In the
language of Premier Jules Ferry : "The superior races have
the duty of civilizing the inferior ones." So the French be-
First they marched eastward out of Algeria to carry civi-
lization to Tunisia. That accomplished, they turned south-
ward to conquer the Sahara and all that was available of
the Sudan, Simultaneously they deployed inland through
the fever swamps on the African west coast to lay hold of
Senegal, Dahomey, much of Guinea, and all of the Northern
Congo. A titbit was filched in Somaliland on the east coast,
and this was followed up with a real mouthful consisting of
Madagascar in the south. At the same time they took the
precaution of "regularizing" their position in the Far East
by annexing Annam, Tonking, and Indo-China.
Within little more than twenty years the French politi-
cians were able to boast that all in the line of duty they
had acquired an empire approximately the size of the whole
In the meantime, however, half a dozen other nations had
become fired with "la mission civilisatrice. 99 The passion was
kindled even in Russia, a country which was in most mate-
rial respects completely barbarous. But the Russians them-
selves insisted that those respects, being merely material,
were really immaterial. They felt they had a right to go
a-missionizing because they were supremely advanced in
spiritual ways. They had a unique Soul, and were therefore
in duty bound to let its effulgence shine on others.
Not even the wisest or wordiest Russians seemed able
to describe that Soul with any precision; but that, it was
argued, merely proved how unique it was. Most authorities
THE GREAT WHITE LIE 175
on the subject were content simply to say that it was
Curiously, few Russians had known that they were thus
endowed until well into the Nineteenth Century. By that time
they had already devoted three hundred years to territorial
expansion, pushing westward out of Muscovy far into Po-
land, northward to the Arctic, southward to the Caspian,
and eastward actually to the Pacific. They even crossed to
Alaska and set up block-houses as far south as California.
But their motives during all that period had been admittedly
selfish. They had needed some occupation for their generals,
more land for their barons, better seaports for their mer-
chants, and larger revenues for their Tsars.
Eventually, however, something began to itch inside them,
and when they scratched a task at which they had devel-
oped marked proficiency lo, out came that Soul of theirs!
They immediately decided it had been there all along; but
this is more than doubtful. All the evidence indicates that
it was an importation from Western Europe, where the
manufacture of national souls had just become a major
intellectual industry. Being neither animal, vegetable, nor
mineral, that foreign notion had entered Russia duty-free.
And it began to flourish there like the cholera. First the
notion was taken up by the few liberals in the land: the ad-
vanced intellectuals, the more imaginative bureaucrats, and
the most enterprising merchants. These professed themselves
very proud of their Slavic Soul, but wanted to tuck in its
stirt-tail and make it look a bit more "Western.** Before
long, however, even the reactionaries succumbed to the fad,
and then it was given a new twist. These reactionaries in-
sisted that the Slavic Soul needed no "Westernizing"; it
was perfect as is. And in the end their attitude prevailed.
Almost everybody who was anybody in Russia learnt to call
176 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
himself a "Slavophil," and took to talking far into the
tea-soaked night about something called "Pan-Slavism." Os-
tensibly this was an idealistic project to unite all peoples
who spoke a Slavic tongue into one Soul-conscious family
headed by the "Little Father" who ruled from St. Peters-
burg, Actually it was nothing but the old Muscovite im-
perialism with its beard combed.
For the Tsarists were still eager for conquest. Though
their empire already included more than a sixth of the hab-
itable land on earth, they still lacked safe access to navi-
gable water. And that, one suspects, was why they began
to make such a to-do now about "Pan-Slavism." It gave
them a perfect excuse for hewing a corridor through the
Balkans and hacking out a door on the Mediterranean. The
Balkans were largely Slavic in population, yet they were
dominated almost entirely by Turkey and Austria-Hungary.
So the Tsarists could say it was their sacred duty to free
their "little brothers."
They did say that. Year in and year out they fomented
sedition and war in the Balkans. They stirred up the Bul-
garians, the Bosnians, the Moldavians, and the Herzegovin-
ians ; they intrigued with the Czechs, the Croats, the Slo-
vaks, the Slovenes, and the Serbs. That, they said, was what
their Soul required of them. It was their Mission.
Now, if even so backward a people as the Russians could
afford a mission, surely no advanced one could do less. Take
the Belgians, for example. True, they were a very small
people occupying what was no more than a sliver of country.
But they had made it a great center of industry, and had
acquired therewith much pride. No sooner did they learn
about "la mission civiluatrice" than they felt that they too
ought to take it up.
178 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
To take it up, however, was not enough. One had to have
some place to carry it and Belgium had no place. Unlike
some of the other minor European nations, Belgium had
not even existed during the earlier period of colonial ex-
pansion. Holland still retained much of the territory seized
during that period, especially in the East Indies. Portugal
could still boast vast dependencies in Africa, and fragments
all over the seven seas. Spain, too, had remnants of an em-
pire, and so had even Denmark. But Belgium had nothing.
This naturally distressed the little country, and espe-
cially her ruler, Leopold II, who was a man of large ambi-
tion as well as piety. He realized two things: first, that his
country deserved to have colonies, and second, that she was
too weak to fight for them. Accordingly he set out to get
them as a gift. That took brains, but he had them; it also
required influence, and he had that too. He was related to
the crowned heads of England, France, and Austria, and in
addition enjoyed high repute as a patron of religion, sci-
ence, and the ballet. So when half a dozen of the larger na-
tions fell to squabbling over which had a prior claim to the
Congo Basin, he was able to persuade them to leave it all
His sole desire, he assured them, was to do the high-
minded thing, and bring light into that "heart of darkness."
He talked of sending in an army of explorers, engineers,
and teachers, and of establishing a great network of hospi-
tals and missions. To some people this sounded perhaps a
shade too high-minded. As the Prince of Wales (later Ed-
ward VII) declared : "Philanthropy is all very well, but un-
less [Leopold's program] is practical, and gives a practical
result, it will not find that favor in the eyes of the English
public that it deserves." These misgivings, however, were
THE GREAT WHITE LIE 179
Once the Powers agreed to let the Belgian idealist take
the Congo, he proved himself almost disconcertingly practi-
cal. The region measured nearly a million square miles, and
Leopold at once decreed that every uncultivated inch of it
was state property. Since he was the state, and virtually all
of the region was uncultivated, he thus made himself the
personal owner of an area about ninety times the size of
Belgium. He called it the "Congo Free State. 9 '
To prove his heart was in the right place, he first got
rid of the Arab slave-traders. Then, to show his head was
there too, he proceeded to fill the place with his own slave-
drivers. Agents were stationed in the jungles to buy up
ivory and rubber on a commission basis: the less they paid
for the stuff, the higher was their bonus. If the natives
would not sell, the agents were left to devise their own
methods of persuasion.
They did devise them, and the results were as bloody as
they were lucrative. The natives were literally hounded to
death. Between forced labor, forced migrations, and recur-
rent pillage and massacre, half the entire population of the
Congo Free State was destroyed within fifteen years. But the
gain to King Leopold was impressive. One of the many cor-
porations which he organized to exploit the region made a net
profit of 1800% during the first four years. A second made
1700% in six years. A third which he owned outright yielded
him a personal income estimated at $1,500,000 a year. By
the turn of the century he was one of the richest men in
Nor was he the only one to gain. He had had to call on
the Belgian capitalists to help him finance the Congo de-
velopments, and these got their due compensation. So did
the thousands of Belgian valiants who went out to do the
180 SOMETHING WENT WBONG
actual developing: the explorers, soldiers, engineers, ad-
ministrators, and agents.
Even the Belgian masses came in for a share of the gain.
Not financially, of course. The Congo Free State might
have belonged to King Tutankhamen for all that the aver-
age Belgian got out of it financially. (Could he buy even a
tiny patch for his bicycle tire at a discount?) But the masses
did gain in other ways. First of all, they could feast their
eyes on the new splendor that their country was acquiring.
King Leopold was littering it with a glorious array of pal-
aces, fountains, theaters, monuments, museums, and gam-
bling casinos. Secondly, they could take pride in the thought
that their nation was doing its duty. Was it not bringing
light into the "heart of darkness"?
The yearning for colonies, it must be admitted, was mo-
tivated by more than mere desire for pelf. One can tell that
from the way the masses reacted in every land that rushed
to imperialize now. Consider, for example, the case of the
United States. The citizens of that republic certainly did
not need more territory. They already owned an area al-
most as large as the entire continent of Europe. Nor did
they lack opportunities for capitalist exploitation. They
had barely begun even to sample the resources buried in
their own soil, and they had a home market for immeasur-
ably more than they could produce. Nevertheless, they too
became possessed with the notion that they must go adven-
They got the notion primarily from the British, with
whom they had not alone financial but even closer spiritual
ties. When Rudyard Kipling published his brassy poem
about the "White Man's Burden, 5 * the Americans immedi-
THE GREAT WHITE LIE 181
ately assumed that lie meant it directly for them. It became
a standard recitation piece at their church socials and
school assemblies, and every sentimental and audacious soul
in the land began to crave to go a-burdeneering.
TJ. S. A. m EUROPE
. . . they certainly did not need more territory.
Of course, there was plenty of opposition. The leaders of
the Democratic Party went so far as to condemn imperial-
ism in their official platform. As one of those leaders ex-
ploded, "Uncle Sam ought to know better than start shoot-
ing everybody who doesn't speak English." All the sanest
elements joined in the opposition, and so did some of the
meanest. Parodists cut loose and sang
182 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
"Take up the White Man's burden,
Send forth your sturdy sons,
And load them down with whiskey,
And Testaments and guns.
Throw in a few diseases
To spread in tropic climes,
For those poor healthy niggers
Are quite behind the times. . . ."
But such sentiments were generally branded ignoble.
Americans with red blood in their veins preferred to listen
to handsome young Senator Albert J. Beveridge, who on
the tenth day of the Twentieth Century arose before the
Upper House of the United States Congress and cried :
"We will not renounce our part in the mission of the race,
trustee, under God, of the civilization of the world. . * . He has
marked the American people as His chosen Nation to finally lead
in the regeneration of the world. This is the divine mission of
America, and it holds for us all the profit, all the glory, all the
happiness possible to man. . . . What shall history say of us?
Shall it say that we renounced that holy trust, left the savage to
his base condition, the wilderness to the reign of waste, deserted
duty, abandoned glory ? . . . Shall it say that, called by events to
captain and command the proudest, ablest, purest race of history
in history's noblest work, we declined that great commission ? . . .
Pray God the time may never come when mammon and the love
of ease will so debase our blood that we will fear to shed it for
the flag and its imperial destiny !"
The Senator from Indiana did not pray in vain. That
same year the United States annexed the Philippines, Guam,
and Eastern Samoa, made a territorial possession of Ha-
waii, pressed negotiations for the purchase of the Danish
West Indies, put out feelers for the Galapagos Islands, and
dispatched 2,400 troops to help police the Chinese ports.
As imperialism went, that may not have been much. But
it looked like a good start.
XXIII. THREE WHO CAME LATE
NE summer day in 1853 a swarm
of half-naked yellow men on an
island in the North Pacific stood
and stared in awe and anger to-
ward the sea. Four incredible
black vessels had just entered the
bay, two of them propelled by
preposterous revolving fins, and
all four belching smoke. A swarm
of scows darted out from the beach, and besworded spokes-
men shouted up at the monsters to begone. It was against
184 SOMETHING WENT WEONG
the law, they shouted, for any barbarians "all same for-
eigners" to approach these Islands. During more than two
hundred and fifty years that had been the law, and what
few had dared transgress it had paid with their lives. There-
fore, cried the spokesman, "Ikke!" which in their language
meant "Get out!"
The barbarians, however, merely patted their cannons
and smiled. It appeared that they had a letter to deliver
to the Mikado of these islands from the Mikado of the
U. S. A. Moreover, they announced, they would not leave
until they had both delivered it and been promised an an-
Six months later they returned for the answer this time
in a squadron of ten smoke-belching vessels and now there
was not even an attempt to shoo them off. Instead they
were invited to land and celebrate, for the reply to the re-
quest contained in their letter was, Yes. Whereupon there
was much mutual bowing, rejoicing, and carousing, and an
interchange of presents. The barbarians had brought a
miniature steam-train for the Mikado, and also four vol-
umes of the Annals of Congress, two volumes of the Farm-
er's Guide, three "10-cent boxes of fine tea," eight yards of
scarlet broadcloth, one sheet-iron stove, one keg of whiskey,
and many other gifts. For the Empress there was a flowered
silk frock and an assortment of perfumery, and for the
numerous princes a variety of novelties including clocks,
pistols, a list of the United States Post Offices, and a copy
of Owen's Geology of Mirmesota (2 vols.) !
Thus was the fabled Empire of Nippon finally unsealed
to world trade. For centuries various nations in the West
had been hungering to peddle their goods to the Nipponese.
Now, apparently, the way was clear.
But things did not turn out quite as anticipated. Once
THREE WHO CAME LATE 185
the door to Japan was opened. It became not so much an en-
trance as an exit. The white man did not go in; the yellow
man came out. In little more than one generation the Jap-
anese learnt to do almost better than they could be done.
They began to sell even more than they could be sold.
This was certainly the most amazing turnabout in his-
tory. As late as 1853, Nippon might almost have been on
another planet for all it knew of the West and its ways.
It was completely a feudal realm dominated by local gang-
lords and their armed goon-squads. Life was as orderly as
in a prison camp, each man knowing his place, and keeping
it. The law prescribed where he might live, what he should
plant, how he should dress, and even how much he might
spend on festival days. None might leave the land, even as
none might enter it. For centuries the population was kept
at a dead level of about thirty million.
But then those Yankee frigates poked their guns into
Yeddo Bay, and Japan suddenly woke up. Busy-ness be-
came the national obsession. The traders, so long a despised
caste in Nippon, began to rush around with new-found in-
solence. They ganged up on the local gang-lords, took
away their swords, and helped revolutionize the government.
They encouraged the peasants to grow more rice, nurture
more silk-worms, and overspend not alone on festival but
even ordinary days. They herded the village craftsmen into
improvised factory-towns, and set them to spinning, weav-
ing, and carving by machinery. They bored coal-mines, built
railroads, erected stores and docks, and started shipping
lines. The Black Life took hold, and urban boils began to
break out all over the little country. Overnight Japan be-
came the Land of the Rising Smoke.
And that, of course, led to trouble. The smoke began to
get into the nation's eyes, and these, being peculiarly nar-
186 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
row, were acutely sensitive. Problems arose which had been
undreamed of in the merry i.e. "short" old days. Though
the main island of Japan was no larger than Great Britain,
and very much less fertile, its population leapt from thirty
to forty-five millions within a generation. How was the na-
tion to sustain so many millions? By selling manufactured
goods in exchange for food? But to manufacture one had
to have mineral resources, and Japan lacked these almost
as sorely as arable acres. All her coal was buried in narrow
seams far beneath the
surface, and there was
exceedingly little iron.
How and where were the
Japanese to get more?
They soon found out.
The little yellow men
were smart, and learnt
to solve their problems
almost as quickly as they
created them. To be sure,
their solution was not
perfect; but it was cer-
tainly no more imperfect
than any the white men had discovered. How could it be, see-
ing it was copied from them? Precisely twenty-one years
after the first American gunboats arrived to open up Nip-
pon, the first Nipponese gunboats sailed forth to open up
the island of Formosa !
Japan started to grab. Having got a toe hold in For-
mosa, she turned to secure a foothold in all the smaller
islands along the way. Then she reached northward to ex-
tort trade privileges from the Kingdom of Korea. Finally
in 1894 she dared to pick a quarrel with the giant Empire
THREE WHO CAME LATE 187
of China, and drubbed it so thoroughly that she was ac-
tually able to raise the Japanese flag on the mainland.
But at that point a growl came out of the West. Russia,
France, and Germany rose up in white indignation and told
JAPAK OFEK8 TJP
The little yellow men 'mere smart.
Japan she had gone too far. They were willing to let her
keep the islands she had snatched from China, and even the
gold indemnity but not the territory on the mainland.
This consisted of the southern tip of Manchuria, which be-
sides being fabulously rich in mineral resources, was of im-
mense strategic importance. It commanded the sea entrance
188 SOMETHING WENT WEONG
to Peking. Japan was "advised" to give it back. She knew
better than to refuse.
But thereupon the breath-sipping little yellow men were
given a lesson they never forgot. No sooner did they restore
what they had filched on the mainland than the great white
men turned around and blandly took it and much more
for themselves. Russia "leased" a broad corridor through
South Manchuria, Germany "leased" Shantung, France
"leased" Kiaochow Bay, and Britain "leased" Wei-hai-wei.
Whereupon a great bitterness entered the heart of Japan
and stayed there.
But Japan was not unique in that respect. A similar bit-
terness had already invaded the heart of Italy, and for
much the same cause. It so happened that Italy had been
only a little less belated than Japan in throwing off feudal-
ism. Moreover, she had encountered no less hardship in try-
ing to take on industrialism. As late as the 186Q*s Italy had
still been a collection of rival kingdoms, principalities, and
vassal states, most of them ruled by men as hostile to prog-
ress as the Nipponese samurai. Not until 1871 three years
after Tokyo was named the capital of a revolutionized Japan
did Rome at last become the capital of reunited Italy.
King Victor Emmanuel II, who had spent more than twenty
years scheming and warring to accomplish that feat, arose
then and cried : "Italy is now united and free ; it remains for
us henceforth to make her great and happy." But, as his
people were soon fated to learn, greatness and happiness
were easier to wish for than achieve.
Geography was against the Italians. Their country
lacked coal and iron and most of the other raw materials
essential for large-scale industrial development. At the same
time, owing to the exhausted condition of the soil, there was
THBEE WHO CAME LATE 180
little room even for agricultural development. All that Italy
produced in abundance was bambinos, and this served only
to complete the nation's plight. There .were so many mouths
to feed that nothing could be saved to start the factories
"which might have provided the means to feed those mouths
A considerable portion of the population had long been
compelled to feed itself abroad. Millions had to drift off
annually to the neighboring countries, or to America, and
though some returned with their savings, the net result at
home was sad. Those emigrants were mostly laborers, and
their savings were slight. The real profit went to their for-
eign employers and remained with them. Nor was that all.
The majority of the emigrants never returned at all, which
meant that Italy was being steadily drained of much of her
finest human material.
Now, being in a sense a new nation, Italy was all prickly
with patriotic pride, and the thought of her plight dis-
tressed her unendurably. She decided there was only one
thing for her to do: lay hold of colonies. Where? Obviously
in North Africa, which was close at hand, and Italian by
right of hoary title-deeds. Had not Rome owned the entire
North African coast fifteen hundred years earlier? Unfor-
tunately, much of it had recently been seized by France and
Great Britain; but not all. Tunisia was still unappropri-
ated, a quite sizable land actually almost half as large as
all of Italy and fairly fertile. Also it was rumored to con-
tain excellent mineral resources. Incidentally, it was the site
of ancient Carthage, and therefore in an historical sense
Rome's very own footstool.
Italy reached for it. Not brusquely, of course; she did
not dare. First she made and paid advances to the bank-
rupt Bey who ruled Tunisia in the name of Turkey; then
190 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
she encouraged hundreds of her landless peasants to mi-
grate there and start small farms; finally, she bought off
the British by purchasing at far too high a price the bit
of railway they had built between the city of Tunis and the
shore. Then the rulers of Italy felt they had everything
ready to make the snatch.
MCOO 'AMseaiA ,
THE RACE TO TUNISIA
The Italian* came too late.
But the rulers of France had precisely the same feeling
and moved faster. No sooner did the Italians acquire the
Tunis railway than the French provoked an ''incident"
across the border, in their own Algeria. It was not the first
time trouble had occurred there. The Colonial Office in Paris
could point to a list of 2,364 occasions on which Tunisian
warriors had raided the Algerian frontier during the pre-
THREE WHO CAME LATE 191
ceding decade. But now the French declared their patience
was at an end. They ordered their troops to march forth
and punish the raiders and then keep on marching. The
And thus the Italians were robbed of what they had so
carefully planned to steal. Tunisia became a French "pro-
tectorate/' and the approximate heirs of the Caesars had
to look elsewhere for a colony.
To look, however, was not enough. One had to have suffi-
cient guns to point at the quarry and also to shoo off all
other hunters. Italy lacked them. For a while she had high
hopes of bagging Ethiopia, a handsome expanse almost
three times the size of Italy, and alluringly undeveloped.
But again she was foiled, this time by the native ruler. In
1896 Italy sent out an army of 12,000 men to bring him
to heel ; but the black king mustered 90,000, and in a single
battle killed or captured more than half the invading host.
After that Italy waxed exceedingly bitter. For thirty
years she had spent herself to create an empire, yet in the
end what did she have? Here a flea-bitten port, there a few
rocky isles, in a third place an expanse of rotting jungle
or blistering duneland. At the end of a generation all her
dependencies together were failing to shelter half as many
Italians as had died merely to conquer them. Italy felt she
had a right to feel bitter.
And much the same was true of Germany. Like Japan
and Italy, Germany had started late as a nation. Unlike
them, however, she had started strong, and might easily
have gone on the prowl when colonies were still plentiful.
But Bismarck held her back. There were certain elements in
Germany missionaries, explorers, and overseas traders
who were wild with eagerness to see their country follow
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
right on Great Britain's heels. But Bismarck did not like
the look of those heels : they were too heavily shod. Besides,
he considered overseas possessions a luxury. "A colonial
policy for us," said he, "would be just like the silken sables
of Polish noblemen who have no shirts." Even when he was
offered colonies practically as a gift for example, the Sulu
Islands, Mozambique, and Indo-China he still shook his
That was his attitude throughout the 1870*s, and even
into the 1880V Finally, however, the tugging became too
much for him, and he was forced to slip the leash. But that
was all he would do. He absolutely refused to emulate the
statesmen of England and France, and shout encourage-
ment to his pack. If individual Germans went out and
grabbed colonies, he would back them up; but he certainly
would not lead them.
So the Germans came out poorly in the scramble for
. . . ...^ V:t*w>
THE GEHMAiN" EMPIRE
, . . relatively mean pickings. . . .
THREE WHO CAME LATE I9S
colonies. They did manage to sink their teeth into the flanks
of Africa, and also to bolt a number of islands in the Pa-
cific; but these were relatively mean pickings, both in size
and quality. They consisted almost entirely of stinking jun-
gle or parched wilderness, and were as widely scattered as
they were wretchedly peopled. By 1890 the French posses-
sions were more than three times as extensive as Germany's*
and contained almost five times as many inhabitants. The
British ones were twelve times as large, and contained thirty
times as many people.
To make matters even worse, most of the races that fell
into Germany's hands seemed to be peculiarly unmanage-
able. This, to be sure, may have been in part her own fault :
she was too prone to use her hands as fists. Her colonial
administrators had a way of confusing officiousness with
efficiency. They seemed unable to understand that wild fowl
resented being made to step like geese. As a result it looked
as though Germany would have to depopulate her wretched
colonies before she could start exploiting them. That was no
But then a new Kaiser ascended the throne, and the Bis-
marckian policy was summarily dropped. This new mon-
arch, Wilhelm II, was a cocky, blustering young man who
hid a weak mouth behind fierce mustachios, and liked to be
photographed in a spiked helmet and sword. One of his
arms was crippled from birth, and the same seems to have
been true of his mind. He was obsessed with the delusion
that he had been appointed by God to win Germany a
**place in the sun."
Bismarck had to resign. For twenty months the old Chan-
cellor struggled to curb his wild young liege-lord, but fi-
nally he was forced to give up. Wilhelm II would brook
neither criticism nor counsel. He said he knew precisely
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
what he wanted, and swore he would not rest till he got it.
And what he wanted was more and better colonies. Ger-
many, he bellowed, must expand. She must haye more room
for her people, more room for her trade, more room for her
army, more room for her pride. True, her total domain al-
ready comprised fully one and a half million square miles.
But the French owned four million square miles. Russia
owned more than eight million, Britain could boast twelve
million. Was that just? The Germans, after all, were no
longer a mere peasant folk content to produce fodder, beer,
and poetry. They had become one of the greatest industrial
nations on earth. They had already outstripped all the
others in the production of chemicals, toys, and cathartics.
They were rapidly outstripping them even in the production
of coal and iron. So they had to have more room. And he,
Friedrich Wilhelm Victor Albert, by the grace of God ninth
King of Prussia and third Kaiser of Germany, was going to
get it for them.
But that, he soon discovered, was easier to say than do.
He had come too late. All the desirable room in the world
seemed to be already either occupied or spoken for. Gone
was the day when one could acquire colonies by merely
lighting matches to scare poor natives. Now one had to
brandish guns against other white men. And that was risky,
especially when those other white men had as big or bigger
Here was the sort of thing the Kaiser found himself
forced to suffer. For years he kept casting covetous glances
at the Spanish-owned Philippines, but no sooner did he
think it safe to reach for them than the Americans and
English intervened. That happened in 1898, when the United
States, having picked a quarrel with Spain over Cuba, sent
a squadron racing into Manila Bay. By "chance"' a German
THREE WHO CAME LATE 195
squadron was already on the scene, and for a moment It
looked as though there might be a battle. But a British
squadron was also there, and It maneuvered itself Into such
a position that the Germans could not possibly shoot with-
out precipitating a war with England as well as America.
Result : the Kaiser did not get the Philippines.
It was much the same wherever else he turned. No matter
how strenuously he blustered, or how slyly he connived,
nearly always he was balked or bilked. And that made him
sore all through. It made his people sore, too. The Incessant
frustration rowelled their swollen pride. Worse still, it
cramped their swelling economy. So Germany, like
like Italy, became a country with a rancor in its soul.
That boded ill for the peace of the world.
XXIV. DEATH FOR SALE
T BODED ill for all mankind that
so many nations wanted to be-
come empires. There wasn't room
enough. The earth, after all, was
not the expanding universe. It was
no more than a fifth-rate planet
dancing like a midge around an
7i th -rate star. And that fact, long
considered merely true, began to
grow unpleasantly real now. Even as late as 1870 the earth
had seemed inexhaustibly vast. At that time fully half of it
DEATH FOE SALE 197
had not yet been even explored by Europeans. But by 1900
virtually every last comer of it with the exception of the
Polar regions had been not alone explored but claimed.
Where were the nations to go grabbing after that? For
none, not even those that had grabbed most, felt they had
grabbed enough. If you had colonies, you had to have safe
access to them, and that meant you had to have fortified
coaling-stations all along the route. Once you had such
coaling-stations, you had to acquire the valleys behind them,
and the highlands commanding those valleys. Imperialism
was like money: to keep what you already had, you always
had to get more. But where under the sun were so many
nations to get more?
Cecil Rhodes had a suggestion. Said he,
"Think of these stars that you see overhead at night. ... I
would annex planets if I could. I often think of that. It makes
me sad to see them so clear and yet so far."
But Rhodes was not typical. He could afford to talk like
that, poetically, whimsically, since he had already done more
than his bit in practical ways. He had plastered his name
across a region larger in size than all of France, Germany,
Belgium, and Holland combined. Other imperialists, having
been less successful, were less inclined to gaze at the stars
and sigh. Instead they glared at the earth and fumed.
That spelled trouble. Too many hands had been plunged
into the one small grab-bag which was the earth. Now that
almost all the prizes had been seized, there was nothing left
but for the hands to start grabbing from each other. That
spelled lots and lots of trouble.
The nations took to snarling at each other like tigers
over a dismembered carcass. More and more they snarled,
and every once in a while they pounced, or at least lashed
198 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
out* We have already seen how Japan pounced on China in
1894, and the United States on Spain in 1898. That same
year Britain lashed out at France because the latter sought
to snatch the Egyptian Sudan, and the next year Germany
BEFORE AND AFTER BHODES
He could afford to talk poetically.
bared her teeth because Britain had begun to rend the Boer
Republics. So it went year after yean
But it could not go on so forever. Sooner or later one of
those tigers was bound to lash too far, or pounce too wildly,
and then ? Even the most rabid of the tigers could see
what that foreboded. War would ensue, and then all might
be lost to the jackals. The tigers did not relish that pros-
DEATH FOR SALE 199
pect, and decided to gang up to prevent It. They formed
themselves into teams which were bound by treaties both
open and secret. Germany, Austria, and Italy joined fangs
for mutual protection; so did France, Russia, and Great
Britain. The smaller nations, not knowing which alliance
was less to be trusted, joined now one, now the other, now
both at the same time.
But this served only to make the situation all the more
perilous. Now the entire world was likely to become involved
if no, when war finally did come. Such was the plain out-
look even before the close of the Nineteenth Century, and it
grew ever plainer as the Twentieth unfolded. So a fierce
agitation arose for more "preparedness.* 5 Each nation be-
came convinced that unless it armed itself to the teeth, its
doom was sealed. All of them therefore rushed to lay hold
of more and mightier weapons. Great Britain doubled her
war equipment between 1895 and 1905, and Germany*
France, Austria, Italy, and Japan, struggled to do the
same. Even piddling powers like Portugal, Greece, and
Serbia began to gird themselves against the Day of the
Sword. The entire civilized world took on the appearance of
an armed camp.
It was mad stark, raving mad. Each nation claimed that
it was arming solely to preserve its own sovereignty. In
other words, it was wasting its substance in order to pre-
serve the right to be compelled to waste its substance. Could
anything have been madder than that?
Yet there seemed to be no way to stop it. Some individ-
uals, indeed, did not want to stop it. Take Basil Zaharoff,
for example. Just where he came from is still shrouded in
mystery. (Pious people claim there is less uncertainty as
to where he finally went.) He seems to have been born of
Greek parents in Asia Minor, and he is said to have started
200 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
life as one of those shabby "guides" who offer to procure
lively diversions for lonely travelers in Constantinople. If
that story is untrue, the more's the pity. Certainly Zaharoff
could not have found a fitter apprenticeship for his life-
work. Eventually he became a munitions-agent.
He proved his worth shortly after he got his first job.
The firm he represented, a German concern named Norden-
felt, had developed a new type of fighting-craft for which
it seemed unable to find any customers. It was a submarine,
and the naval experts of the maj or powers had declared the
contraption hopelessly impractical. The directors of Nor-
denfelt began to fear that all the cunning, labor, and money
they had put into the device would go to waste. But then
Zaharoff came to the rescue. Sidling up to the authorities
in Athens, he patriotically offered to deliver a submarine to
the Greek navy at a bargain price. On easy terms, too.
Those authorities could hardly have been ignorant of the
ancient adage about Greeks bearing gifts ; but they were
themselves Greeks, so the point of that adage was lost on
them. Instead of showing Zaharoff the door, they begged
him to show them where to sign.
With that deal consummated, the rest was easy. Rushing
off to Constantinople, Zaharoff presented himself before the
Turkish authorities and inquired how they would like to wake
up some fine morning and find Greek torpedoes zipping
about in the Dardanelles. They granted they would not like
it at all and ordered two submarines.
Then the race was on. If Turkey had under-water ships,
obviously Russia had to have them too ; if Russia, also Ger-
many; if Germany, also Britain and France. Before long the
diving monsters became standard equipment for all navies
the world over. Zaharoff became one of the owners of his
DEATH FOR SALE 201
There was no holding him down after that. He had tal-
ents, and he knew now j ust how to use them. His tongue was
glib in many languages, his voice was gentle, his mind was
sharp, and he could pass a bribe faster than you could say
Basil Zaharoff. Before the close of the century he was in
control of the English firm of Vickers, the greatest arma-
ment concern on earth. He became a British subject then,
and proved so loyal a one that eventually he was awarded
His loyalty, however, remained broad. During the war in
South Africa he sold arms not alone to the British, but also
to the Boers. Breadth of loyalty was a matter of principle
with him. He sold arms impartially to the French, the Ger-
mans, the Austrians, the Serbs, and every other people that
needed them. He even went out of his way to see to it that
they did need them. He bought up newspapers, generals,
cabinet ministers, occasionally even kings, and through
them stirred up all sorts of war alarms.
ZaharoiFs wealth and power grew legendary. Wherever
his lean, ferret-eyed, goat-bearded visage appeared, it was
recognized as that of the "Mystery Man of Europe." He was
universally hated, yet almost as universally fawned on.
France gave him a Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor,
Oxford certificated him a Doctor of Civil Law, Monte Carlo
hailed him as its patron saint. However, to the very last
he died in 1936 at the age of seventy-seven he was never
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
What shall we say of Sir Basil Zaharoff, G.C.B., G.B.E.,
D.CX. (Hon.)? That he was a rascal, a villain, a demon
who fed on human blood and bones? Perhaps. But in all fair-
ness we ought to add that he was merely a businessman. He
was a merchant, and like any other merchant, he tried to
202 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
sell all lie could, for as much as he could, to as many cus-
tomers as would buy. That was what he was there for. It
was none of his concern whether the goods he sold were
harmful. That was up to the customers. Caveat emptor!
Had ZaharofF refused to sell munitions, plenty of other
men would have been glad to oblige. As a matter of fact,
plenty of others did oblige. If they never became quite so
notorious as he, it was because they were less elaborately
mysterious, or less annoyingly successful. The Krupps in
Germany, Sir Hiram Maxim in England, Eugene Schneider
in France, Alfred Nobel in Sweden all these munitioneers,
together with all their associates, bankers, salesmen, and
press agents, were in principle just as guilty as that sinister
Greek. And just as innocent.
They were simply businessmen trying to earn an honest
penny by supplying a commodity in general demand. If, in-
cidentally, they did what they could to increase the demand,
it merely proved they were good businessmen. Ribbon-makers
went out of their way to aggravate feminine vanity; hair-
oil manufacturers deliberately excited masculine pride. Why
then should not munition-makers do their bit to inflame in-
ternational hatred? A good businessman had to see to it
that the penny he earned was pretty as well as honest.
Therefore, just as Zaharoff was no guiltier than any other
dealer in arms, just so were all of them no guiltier than the
dealers in almost anything else. Take the case of a man who
sold quicksilver. In earlier times his work had been distinctly
beneficent, since quicksilver had been primarily a medicine.
Now, however, that element had become essential in the manu-
facture of shells. Though mercury was still used to repair
the damage done by Venus, it was being used even more to
increase the havoc wrought by Mars. Consequently, all who
dealt in mercury were to some degree henchmen of Mars. The
DEATH FOR SALE 203
same was true of all who dealt in steel, copper, oil, nickel,
glycerine* brimstone, and a thousand other commodities.
Even the producers of so innocent a stuff as cotton were Im-
plicated in the armament industry. Without cotton there
could have been no smokeless gunpowder.
The armament industry had become an integral part of
the entire industrial system, and though it was obviously a
cancer, there appeared to be no way to cut it out. Indeed,
the very fact that it was a cancer made it seem all the more
valuable. Armaments were superbly destructive. They de-
stroyed not alone themselves, but also whatever came near
them. Therefore, in a perverse way, they were extremely use-
ful. They quickened consumption, and thus blasted room for
In addition, armaments were peculiarly salable, hence
highly profitable. Other wares had to be marketed to the
public, and the public was chronically short of cash. But
slaughter-goods were sold to governments, and governments
did not need cash. They could issue bonds that is, mort-
gages on the lands they ruled and thus raise ample credit.
So the armament industry, though a curse to humanity,
seemed a blessing to business. Even in times of peace it seemed
a blessing. Whenever business began to limp, it could reach
for the bloody crutch of armaments. Whenever there was a
slump, and ordinary goods became hard to sell, some busi-
nessman began to raise a clamor for more preparedness."
That was one way to keep the factories going. The unem-
ployed could be put to work making guns and shells and bat-
tleships. It would certainly have been wiser had they been put
to work making shirts and shoes and baby carriages. But
those businessmen could not afford to be wise ; they had to be
smart. They had to look out for their profits.
So they kept raising war-scares and got their profits.
XXV. THEY CRY PEACE, PEACE!
T WAS mad. The whole situation
was nightmare mad. Here was a
world ready for peace, a world
that needed peace ; yet it kept pre-
paring for war. No one in his right
mind wanted the sort of war for
which the powers were preparing.
A little skirmishing out in the col-
onies yes ! Raids on remote fron-
tiers, jungle battles fine, splendid ! Most good folk rather
liked that sort of thing. The average citizen found it cheery
THEY CRY PEACE, PEACE! 205
to sit by Ms fireside and read how C his ? * army had just done
in a lot of Moros, Tuaregs, or Fuzzy- Wuzzies. It made him
feel strong and proud yes, and civilized. But a real war?
That he definitely did not want.
He knew that he himself would have to fight in a real war ;
and unless he was very young, or burdened with an insuffer-
able wife, he did not really care to fight. This does not mean
that the average citizen had suddenly gone soft. He had been
soft for centuries. The proof of it is that not in centuries
had he willingly gone into battle. He had left that to profes-
sionals. Ever since Roman times almost all battling had been
done by mercenaries. That was why they were called "sol-
diers": they fought for solidi, "coins.** But the situation had
changed in the Nineteenth Century. The rise of nationalism
had made every citizen a soldier, and had turned fighting into
a public duty instead of a private privilege. Professional
armies still existed, but they were used largely to guard the
frontiers or police the colonies. In the event of real war, con-
script armies were expected to go into the field.
Virtually all the great powers, and most of the minor ones,
had made conscription the rule since the 1870's. Britain was
an exception, because it could rely on naval defense. The
United States, too, was an exception, because it was too re-
mote from powerful enemies. But even in these countries it was
understood that, should the need arise, every fit citizen would
be expected to join the colors. So the situation amounted to
this: all able-bodied males throughout the civilized world
were now potential cannon-fodder.
That was one reason why there was little eagerness to let
the cannons go off. Here and there one might come across
isolated individuals who still talked of war as something vir-
tuous and desirable; but they were almost as rare now as
pacifists had been a century earlier. Even in Prussia, the most
206 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
militaristic land in Christendom, the apostles of "war for
war's sake" were considered extremists. Elsewhere they were
commonly regarded as psychopaths. All right-minded people
had become convinced that war was stupid, wasteful, and
wicked. The very men who sold the cannons did not want to
see them go off. They realized that if that happened, their
own sons might get killed. Besides, those cannon-venders were
as a rule quite decent and humane men. The same was true of
most of the generals who ordered the cannons, and of most of
the politicians who signed the vouchers. As for the taxpayers
who footed the bill, they most emphatically did not want the
cannons to go off. Their heads were stuck in the muzzles.
What they wanted was peace.
And they had peace. Incredibly, more than thirty years
elapsed after 1871 without one major conflict. Of course,
there were many minor ones ; too many. But these, being con-
fined to the colonial regions, were considered merely colorful
incidents. Within Europe itself, indeed throughout all the
"civilized" world, there was approximate quiet for one entire
That was good. It gave certain healthy forces a chance to
assert themselves. Science was one of those forces, decency
was another, common-sense was a third. Such forces had
long been at work in the world, but largely underground.
They had seeped into hidden caves whence they had tun-
nelled stealthily, breaking to the surface only here, there, in
a third place. But now these breaks began to connect; the
welling waters flowed together. Men awoke to discover that
despite all the frontiers between nation and nation, common
ideas had begun to spread over the entire earth.
Not all men discovered this, nor most, nor even relatively
many. But some did. In every land some people discovered
THEY CRY PEACE, PEACE! 207
that they had comrades abroad. And they went out to meet
them. Like cells responding to some chemical attraction, peo-
ple with common interests began to collect and connect. For,
in addition to the will, they had the means now. Transporta-
tion and communication had become so vastly Improved that
distance was no longer a hindrance.
All sorts of International societies came into being. Be-
lievers In political democracy formed an Inter-Parliamentary
Union, agitators for economic democracy organized a So-
cialist International, feminists established a World Alliance
of Women for Suffrage. Protestants from various lands cre-
ated a Young Men's Christian Association, and Catholics
from the ends of the earth gathered in periodic Eucharistic
Congresses. Even the Jews, chronically a divided lot, began
to meet and squabble in Zionist conclaves. Scientists travelled
thousands of miles to convene in person with their fellow-
specialists, or at least subscribed to international journals
which published reports in several languages. Educators did
the same, and so did philanthropists, spiritists, stamp-col-
lectors, even athletes. The ancient Olympic meets, the last of
which had been held in A.D. 394, were revived on a world scale
The trend was so strong that even governments had to
yield to It. Formerly they had rarely convened save to divide
the loot after a war. Now they took to collaborating on the
everyday needs of life in peacetime. In 1875 some twenty-
three governments agreed to adopt the French metric system.
A permanent International Bureau of Weights and Measures
was set up in Paris to decide the standard length of the meter
and weight of the kilogram. That same year thirty govern-
ments founded a Universal Telegraph Union, and by 1882
twice that number had joined a Universal Postal Union. The
following year nineteen nations bound themselves to respect
208 SOMETHING WENT WEONG
each other's patent regulations, and in 1887 fifteen adopted
uniform copyright laws.
All this was good. It showed that the world was ceasing to
be a collection of cages, and that the word "foreign" might
ultimately lose its hoary meaning. Thus far that word had
had a hateful ring, for it had connoted a person on the other
side of what the Romans called the foris, the "door." But
now all doors were swinging wide.
The Machine was responsible. It could not tolerate closed
doors. The world had to be clear and open so that the mount-
ing flood of goods might flow unchecked. We have already
seen how the Machine levelled the provincial barriers in coun-
tries like Germany and Italy. Now it was beginning to do the
same to national barriers everywhere. It was making all men
neighbors, and insisting that they behave as such. So the
sudden flush of cosmopolitan activity was good indeed.
But it was no more than a flush. Only on small issues would
any governments agree to collaborate ; on all grave ones they
felt they must keep jealously apart. For they were suspicious
of one another and they had a right to be. Each nation
knew that every other was armed.
There was but one solution: disarmament. Unless all na-
tions agreed to beat their swords into plowshares, none
could trust that war would be no more; and without that
trust, none could truly prosper. One did not need to be a sage
to see that. The fact was so obvious that it could impress
even ordinary minds. And it did gradually. In one land
after another a persistent agitation got under way now to
call a final halt to warmongery. The movement was started,
naturally, by eccentric folk: pietists, anarchists, feminists,
and the like. But eventually it began to attract quite respect-
able people. Several minor statesmen took up the cause, and
THEY CRY PEACE, PEACE! 209
so did many major clerics, educators, and philanthropists.
Here and there even a retired munitions-maker gave himself
to it heart and purse. For example, there was Alfred Nobel,
a Swede who had made many millions out of high explosives.
Also there was Andrew Carnegie, an American who had
amassed a quarter of a billion out of steel. Cynics might sneer
that such men were merely paying hush-money to their con-
sciences. All the same, it was negotiable money, and bought
results. The dove's nest may indeed have been feathered with
guncotton and steel-shavings but it was feathered.
Pacifism became almost fashionable. By 1895 nearly four
hundred different societies were devoting themselves to it all
over the world, and between them they began to create a quite
impressive stir. Special trains were chartered to carry dele-
gates to periodic congresses at which extra wire-facilities
were installed to telegraph resolutions to cabinets and kings.
Huge printeries were kept busy turning out pacifist booklets,
leaflets, posters, and subscription blanks. Pacifist oratorical
contests were subsidized in colleges, pacifist sermons were
supplied free to preachers, pacifist lobbies "were installed in
all the major legislatures. A fierce crusade was launched to
teach children never, never to play with toy soldiers.
The net effect, however, was disappointing. It was almost
as though the pacifists were setting mouse-traps to catch the
hounds of war. No matter how they pleaded, how they pro-
tested, how they whimpered, how they stormed, never for an
instant were they able to halt the growth of armaments. Not
until 1898 was even one little gesture made in that direction,
and then it was initiated by the ruler least troubled by their
agitation. Nicholas II, Tsar of all the Russias, suddenly
came out that year in favor of a world agreement to check
the military race. He had his reasons. Russia had fallen
behind in that race. For nearly a decade she had been strug-
210 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
gling to build np an industrial plant, and most of the money
the country could scrape together had gone into railways,
mines, and factories. Now her ruler woke up to the fact that
in the event of war Russia was lost. Her armaments, espe-
cially in the artillery branch, had become hopelessly anti-
quated and there was no money on hand to buy fresh
equipment. The populace was already seething with sedition
because of the crushing taxes. And that was why Nicholas II
turned suddenly idealist. What could he lose?
But the pacifists did not ask why Nicholas II took up their
cause. All they cared was that he had done it. The moment
the Tsar issued a call for an international "N on- Augmenta-
tion of Arms Conference," their enthusiasm waxed so strident
that twenty-six sovereign governments including Siam
felt constrained to respond. On the 18th of May, 1899, one
hundred plenipotentiaries gathered at The Hague and pro-
ceeded to confer.
For ten weeks they conferred and conferred. Then, slightly
hoarse, they went home. The Russian delegates, however, did
not go straight home. They stopped over in Paris to see about
raising one more loan for their country. They knew that the
new military equipment would have to be bought after all.
The Hague Conference had failed. Almost all that the del-
egates had been able to agree upon was a pious resolution
that "the restriction of military expenditures ... is extremely
desirable for the increase of the material and moral welfare
So the race for "preparedness," already mad enough, grew
even madder. Formerly it had been largely confined to prepa-
rations for land conflict, but after 1899 its scope was widened
to include the sea. Germany was chiefly responsible for that,
or rather the man who had become Germany's Kaiser. On
THEY CRY PEACE, PEACE! 211
January 1, 1900, this might-drunk defective barked to the
"The first day of the new century sees My army in other
words, My people gathered around its standards, kneeling be-
fore the Lord of Hosts. . . . Even as My grandfather labored for
His army, so shall I in like manner relentlessly carry on and
carry through the reformation of My navy, to the end that . . ,
the German Empire may at last be in a position to win the place
which it has not yet attained."
He was as bad as his word. Then and there he ordered his
Reichstag to vote him nearly half a billion dollars to build
the largest navy afloat. This naturally perturbed the British,
for they felt that theirs must always be the largest navy. Un-
less they absolutely ruled the waves, how could they perma-
nently hold their far-flung shores? They had no illusions as
to what the Kaiser was up to. He might protest until his
mustachios wilted that "every German warship launched is
one more guarantee of peace on earth. 5 ' They knew better.
So a contest started between the two nations to see which
could outlaunch the other. Soon France joined in, and also
Russia. Japan, too, got busy, and that spurred the United
States to follow suit. Even Brazil and Austria, countries
which had formerly given little thought to heavy battlecraft,
began to spend millions now for what were called "dread-
The peace-workers grew frantic. They organized mass pro-
tests, circulated mass petitions, and camped in the ante-
rooms of embassies all over the earth. What they wanted was
another conference of the nations. Failing that, they warned,
civilization itself would be destroyed. It would sink and
drown in debt if not in gore.
And finally, in 1907, they got another conference. Again
212 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
it was Tsar Nicholas II who sent out the call, and again, the
meeting-place was The Hague. This time, however, eighteen
additional governments sent delegations, and the sessions
lasted not ten weeks but sixteen.
Yet again nothing real was accomplished. The second
Hague Conference, like the first, generated much fine sound
and fury ; so far as concrete results were concerned, however,
it got barely halfway to nowhere. The most hopeful thing it
did was pass a resolution to reconvene in 1915. . , .
XXVI. AND THEY CRY HAVOC!
OMETHING had gone wrong. Here
was a world that hungered to
thrive, that deserved to thrive ; yet
all the time it kept racing toward
suicide. It was surely a better world
than had ever existed in the past,
a cleaner, healthier, more orderly
world. Never before had men ex-
erted such mastery over nature;
never had so many children of men enjoyed as much abun-
dance. Slavery and serfdom were already things of the past,
214* SOMETHING WENT WRONG
and brutality of every sort seemed to be waning. The de-
mented were no longer kept in chains, and transgressors
were rarely subjected to public floggings. In many lands
there were laws forbidding cruelty even to animals. Religious
dissenters were ceasing to be commonly persecuted, and ra-
cial minorities were being less and less oppressed. Travel was
Increasing, for it no longer connoted travail, and even com-
mon people were sloughing off the provincialism that had so
long kept them doltish. Women were acquiring a new legal
status and social dignity. The masses were achieving un-
precedented political importance. The dream of universal
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and Prosperity appeared to
be growing a near reality at last. With all its faults, this
machine-turned, gilt-edged civilization of the early Twen-
tieth Century was certainly the best that mankind had ever
Nevertheless it seemed doomed, for a cancer was eating at
its vitals. By 1908 Europe alone had 4,000,000 men under
arms, and another 6,000,000 ready to snatch them up at a
moment's notice. By 1914 fully ninety per cent of all national
taxation throughout the world was being used to pay for
past or future wars. Even in the richest lands the govern-
ments were spending a thousandfold more money on battle-
craft than on scholarships. Everywhere life had to be de-
prived of nourishment because so much had to be squandered
on means of dealing death.
Something was radically wrong here, and even the most
gullible pacifists should have sensed as much. No matter how
trusting they might be, how soft and sentimental, at least a
little suspicion should have wormed its way into their minds
that more than mere perversity was at the bottom of it all.
But if such a suspicion did occur to them, few dared follow
it through. The rest recoiled, stabbed by a dread which was
AND THEY CRY HAVOC! 215
all the deeper because it was repressed. They could not bring
themselves to face the fact that militarism had become an
integral part of the economic system, that war had somehow
become a natural function of business indeed, that it was
business. Most pacifists, it must be realized, were proper
middle-class folk who took the capitalist system so much for
granted that they did not even know it had a name, let alone
a fault. They were therefore quite incapable of seeing the
connection between profit and slaughter.
This blindness, however, was not universal. There were
some people who were well aware that warmongery had eco-
nomic causes. And though these too called themselves paci-
fists, they were such only incidentally. The most vocal among
them insisted that before all else they were socialists.
On a chill, gray day in March, 1883, a small group of
foreign-looking mourners might have been seen gathered about
a fresh grave in a suburban London cemetery. One, a lean
bespectacled man wearing a fierce goatee, made a brief speech
in German. A second did the same in French. Then a third
stepped forward and launched into a formal eulogy. Sol-
emnly, with the air of one addressing all the ages to come,
he made known that the man here laid to rest had been pre-
cisely the greatest thinker of his generation. "His name and
his works," declared the eulogist, "will live on through the
It took faith to utter such words, for the buried man was
Karl Marx, and by 1888 even the police had half -forgotten
his existence. But the speaker was Friedrich Engels, and his
faith was abundant. That is easy to understand, for during
nearly fifty years Engels* life had been completely wrapped
up in that of Karl Marx. The real wonder lies in the fact that
Engels* faith was soon to prove justified. Hardly had the
216 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
flesh in that grave turned to mold when the ghost of Karl
Marx began to haunt half the countries on earth.
For socialism hegan to flourish then. It struck root like a
weed wherever industrialism had plowed up the soil, and
began to flourish uncontrollably. See what happened in the
land where Marx was born and whence he had had to flee.
By 1890, barely seven years after his death, nearly 1,500,000
Germans were voting a Socialist ticket. True, most of them
did not know just what that ticket stood for ; but all of them
had at least become convinced that that ticket had most to
offer them. By 1912 some 4,250,000 had arrived at that con-
viction fully a third of the entire German electorate.
That was not typical, since in no other land did socialism
advance as spectacularly. Yet it was symptomatic, for the
movement did make headway almost everywhere else. By 1911
it managed to attract a million votes in Austria, and by 1913
almost as many in Italy. In the French elections the fol-
lowing year it carried one-sixth of the total poll. Even in
Russia the movement took hold. Even in Japan. Even in the
And Karl Marx, more than any other one man, was re-
sponsible. To be sure, this that was spreading was hardly his
own kind of socialism. No longer was it a bramble of blood-red
thorns ; instead it had become a bower of pinkish blooms. Yet
the roots were one ; and, since Marx had done most to nour-
ish those roots, packing them tight in a rich humus of the-
ory and dosing them daily with the elixir of zeal, he most of
all deserved credit for their flowering.
He got it, too. The term Marxism came to be very nearly
a synonym for socialism. In some circles this identification
was of course bitterly resented. At one extreme there were
certain strict disciples who insisted that the Master's teach-
ings were being shamelessly betrayed. At the other there were
AND THEY CRY HAVOC! 217
certain skeptics who insisted that the movement would be
better off if those teachings were completely ignored. But
neither of these groups seemed able to recruit a mass follow-
ing. The successful socialist leaders were those who steered a
middle course, following Marx only where they thought he
was right, and for the rest going their own way.
Here was their argument. Marx, they said, had written as
a scientist, not a soothsayer. Though he had ventured to pre-
dict what must happen, he had done so solely by sighting
along the line of that which had already happened. He had
observed society become increasingly split into two unequal
classes, and from this he had deduced that the process would
continue until the inequality became too monstrous to endure.
So much wealth would be concentrated in the coffers of so
few, and so much misery would be pent up in the bellies of so
many, that smash! With one swift and terrible heave, the
oppressed would rend their chains and roll over on their
That, it had seemed to Marx, was the fated program. The
main social trend, he had insisted, pointed straight and in-
exorably toward revolution.
But was this still true? Hardly. It was plain to see that
the trend had changed since the time Marx made his first
observations. The rich were no longer growing fewer and
more despotic, nor were the poor sinking ever deeper in de-
spair. The bourgeois order, far from developing fatty degen-
eration, seemed to be waxing hardier all the time.
Marx had spoken too soon. Certain developments had oc-
curred during the latter part of the Nineteenth Century
which completely spoiled all his neat extrapolations. One was
political democracy : the laborers haJTacquired tEe right to
vote. A second was industrial democracy: the laborers had
learnt to organize and strike. As a class they were therefore
218 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
no longer impotent. They were still the bottom-dogs ; but,
whereas once they had been able to do nothing but whimper
and whine, now they could rear up and bite.
Nor was this all that had occurred. The middle-dogs, too
had failed to suffer according to schedule. The ranks of the
small proprietors, far from dwindling, had swelled prodi-
giously. So had the ranks of the salaried employees and the
professional people. All the petty exploiters they who were
themselves exploited had so increased in numbers and in-
fluence that they had become the very backbone of bourgeois
society. It was these middle-dogs now who believed most
ardently in the principles of * 'rugged individualism" ; it was
they who labored most obstreperously to preserve "f ree en-
terprise." That was why they fought tooth and nail against
the unions below, the trusts above, and the tariffs all around.
They wanted more competition, not less. For they were still
on the climb.
Marx had not reckoned on that. He had taken it for
granted that, as time passed, such people would give up all
idea of climbing. They would join the bottom-dogs and
snarlingly wait for the day when, as one pack, they could
turn and make a meal of the top-dogs. But had that hap-
pened? Had even one little sign appeared that it might
happen? No. On the contrary, those little fellows were clam-
bering with more zest now than ever. Even those nearest the
bottom, the so-called "white collar workers," even they were
still doing that or at least trying. In an economic sense
these white-collared folk were almost worse off than the
muffler-wearing laborers, for though their pay might be a
little higher, they had to spend much more on laundry. Yet
would they fall in with the laborers, join unions, strike? Not
likely. They had their pride ! Laborers, they insisted 3 worked
for mere wages ; but t hey received salaries.
AND THEY CRY HAVOC! 219
Yes, Marx had apparently spoken too soon. All but the
most slavish of his followers could see that now. Apparently
there never would be a revolution. The top-dogs would not
invite one, the middle-dogs would not allow one, and the
bottom-dogs would not start one. Capitalism would pass, of
course. There, it was felt, Marx had been correct, infallibly
correct. Capitalism was inherently so planless, so wanton, so
self -destructive, that it would just have to pass. Moreover,
socialism would certainly take its place. But the transition
would be gradual, not sudden. It would be achieved by means
of votes, not volleys.
That possibility, as a matter of fact, had been entertained
by Marx himself before he died. In a speech delivered in
Amsterdam on September 8, 1872, he had said : "There exist
countries like America, England, and . . . Holland, where
the workers may well be able to attain their ends by peaceful
means." Engels had lived long enough to go much further:
he had conceded that a peaceful transition might even be
a probability. No wonder, therefore, that many socialists
should be moved now to go the limit, and say that a peaceful
transition was a certainty.
Such a conviction began to be voiced first in England,
where a number of gifted intellectuals among them George
Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells joined an organization
called the Fabian Society, and began to urge a more "realis-
tic" approach to the whole problem of economic change.
Fabianism soon found its approximate counterpart in Ger-
many, where it was called Revisionism, and in France, where
it was known as Possibilism. Eventually the heresy invaded
every other land where Marx's teachings had attracted a
following. And in each it swept the field.
There was one exception : Russia. That, however, was easy
to understand. Industrialism had not reached the Tsar's
220 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
domains until the 1890's, and the succeeding years saw con-
ditions develop there which were almost more appalling than
those in England in the 1840*8. Consequently the Russian
socialists could read the Communist Manifesto as though it
were written in and for their own day. Only a minority of
them in their own language, the MensheviJci dared ques-
tion what it foretold. The majority the Bolsheviki re-
mained devoutly sure that the only conceivable outcome was
But that one exception went almost unnoticed. Most of
the socialists elsewhere in the world hardly knew that their
movement had even penetrated Russia. Certainly none imag-
ined that its career there would ever amount to much. The
destiny of socialism, they were all convinced, would be de-
cided entirely in the more advanced lands.
And immediate events seemed to prove them right. The
Russian radicals actually did attempt a revolution in 1905.
A stocky, broad-cheeked, bald-headed man who called him-
self Lenin, suddenly showed up in Moscow and began to
shout : "Comrades, to the barricades !" A younger firebrand
who operated under the name of Trotsky, set up a "Prole-
tarian Government'* in St. Petersburg. For months there
was mutiny, pillage, arson, and murder everywhere from
Poland to the Caucasus. But in the end nothing was accom-
plished. Soon the revolutionists fell out among themselves,
the Tsar's knout fell on them all, and the whole mad fire was
drowned in the blood of those who helped start it.
The moral seemed plain. It had been all very well for
Marx to call violence "the midwife of every old social order
pregnant with a new." But the world had changed since his
day. Midwives were no longer in good standing.
If the moderate socialists needed proof that they were
right, they felt they got it in 1905. Revolution had failed;
AND THEY CRY HAVOC! 221
therefore, they argued, the one hope for their cause lay in
evolution. There was no sense in outright radicalism that
is, trying to tear up capitalism by the radices, the "roots.**
It was wiser to try to trim the branches and graft healthier
growths into the trunk.
That became their official policy now. They entered poli-
tics, got their representatives elected to the various legisla-
tures, and started to trim and doctor with a hot and unre-
lenting zeal. It was not long, however, before they began to
see that the task before them was tougher than they had
anticipated. Their tender grafts kept dying in the seed, or
else got corrupted the moment they sprouted. And the
trimmed branches kept growing back. Worst of all, they dis-
covered a parasite grown around the whole tree which
seemed proof against any surgery. This was militarism.
The extreme socialists were equally aware of that para-
site, but they were inclined almost to relish its presence.
They rarely said so publicly they realized how shocking it
would sound but among themselves they gloatingly whis-
pered that militarism was in a perverse way their stoutest
ally. The more the nations armed, the surer were they to
go to war and, therefore, the sooner would come The Revo-
lution. The moderates, however, recoiled from that line of
reasoning. In the first place, they had no appetite for revo-
lution. In the second, they argued that war was as likely to
bring on something even worse; namely, reaction. A major
war, they argued, was almost sure to do that, since it would
give the old fighting caste a chance to get back into power.
Capitalism might go under, but only to restore feudalism.
That would make the goal of socialism even remoter than it
was right now.
So the moderates were all for peace. They made its preser-
vation one of the chief planks in their party platform, and
222 SOMETHING WENT WBONG
began to hammer on it hard. Their campaign, however, was
quite unlike that of the conventional workers for peace. The
latter kept appealing to the rulers of the world, and this,
said the socialists, was silly. All the rulers, whether crowned
or merely heeled, had a direct stake in capitalism. Did not
their very life depend on accumulating profits? To get prof-
its, they had to have markets ; to get markets, they had to
have empires ; and to get empires, they had to fight. So what
sense was there in begging them to be good and lay down
The only hope for peace lay not with the rulers but the
ruled. Only the common folk, they who got nothing out of
war save debt and pain and bloody anguish, they alone
could be expected to put an end to war. The one sensible
course, therefore, was to arouse the common folk.
Thus argued the majority of the socialists; and they did
more than argue. They organized. As early as 1889 they
called an international congress in Paris which sought to
frame a program of action for the workers everywhere.
Marx had convened a similar body twenty-five years earlier,
but his prime purpose had been to foment the class war.
This "Second International" was more interested in world
peace, and said so. It demanded the abolition of all standing
armies, laid a curse on all armed preparations, and insisted
that in every instance the people must be consulted before
war could be declared. The fact that no government paid heed
to these demands did not disturb the socialists. Their aim
was to be heard by the governed.
And, as time passed, they began to tell themselves that
they actually were being heard. One proof was the growing
tendency of the workers to elect socialists to the various na-
tional legislatures. That, it was felt, was more than a straw
in the wind. It was the thunder presaging the storm that
AND THEY CRY HAVOC! 223
must some day drown all the fires kindled by the "bourgeois
warmongers. 55 Socialist deputies were the sworn opponents
of all military adventures.
But there was another and even more impressive proof.
This was the increasing willingness of some of the workers
to go right over the heads of their governments. For exam-
ple, when France and Britain fell out over the Sudan in
1898, the trade unions in both countries publicly joined
hands to prevent hostilities. Much the same thing hap-
pened when France and Germany seemed about to come to
blows over Morocco, when Austria and Italy quarreled over
Trieste, and when Sweden was on the point of invading
Here was something new in the world. The fact was made
positively melodramatic at the Socialist Congress in 1904,
when the delegates from Russia and Japan, two countries
then actually at war, solemnly embraced in the presence of
the wildly applauding assembly. It began to look as though
Karl Marx had been right on at least one score. The workers
of all countries were uniting.
But not fast enough. The workers were not uniting nearly
fast enough. As a matter of fact, most of them were not
uniting even slowly. They were too patriotic. The cult of
nationalism had got hold of them like a drink, like a drug.
It had crept into their blood, their bones, the very marrow
of their bones. They were all swollen with nationalism, all
fevered and a craze with it. The fact that they were working-
men seemed to them incidental, even accidental. First and
last they were countrymen.
If only the socialist leaders had seen that ! Not that they
could have done much about it even if they had ; but at least
they might have tried. Instead they lunged at shadows.
224 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
They were too cocksure of the Tightness of their own atti-
tude, too blinded by the glare of rationalism in which their
own minds basked. Like Marx, they took it for granted that
man was primarily a creature of reason, not emotion. There-
fore, said they, the primary forces in society were those
which the intellect could comprehend in other words, those
rooted in material interests. Now, nationalism seemed to
spring from non-material interests. By its own boast, it was
something "spiritual." Did it not logically follow, therefore,
that nationalism, being non-material, must be immaterial?
Thus reasoned most of the Marxists, and it is hard to see
how they could have been more in error. First of all, na-
tionalism was by no means entirely non-material. Did it not
create jobs for some people, and profits for others? Did it
not spell power to politicians, circulation to publishers,
glory to military men, and wealth to munitioneers? Secondly,
even if nationalism really were non-material, that did not
necessarily make it immaterial. The "spiritual" still had a
tremendous hold on the average man. The time had not yet
arrived (would it ever?) when he could live by his head
alone; he had to follow what he called his heart. Thinking
required effort ; but to feel, to believe, to sink into the womb-
like embrace of faith that was sheer delight. And national-
ism provided that delight to the point of delirium.
All that, however, was largely lost on those fine intellec-
tuals who so optimistically hoped to arouse the masses
against war* They seemed as blind to the fell influence of
nationalism as were the conventional pacifists to that of
capitalism. Consequently their efforts were equally futile.
Forces had been let loose on earth which neither they nor
any other mortals could curb now. The seed of capitalism
working in the loins of industrialism had helped to litter the
earth with nationalism. This in turn had cross-bred with
AND THEY CBY HAVOC! 225
both the others to whelp imperialism, which in further turn
had cross-bred to bring forth militarism. Catastrophe was
Finally it came.
XXVIL THE FIRST WORLD WAR
HE miracle of it was that catas-i
trophe did not come sooner. The
stage was all set for it as early as
1907, and from then on it was
touch-and-go before some blunder-
ing hand would ring up the cur-
tain. There was a narrow escape
in 1908, when the Austro-Hun-
garian Empire suddenly darted
into the Balkans to snatch the Slav-speaking provinces of
Bosnia and Herzegovina, That enraged the Slavophils in St.
THE FIRST WORLD WAR 227
Petersburg, and had Russia not been so weak at the mo-
ment she had not recovered from her defeat at the hands
of Japan in 1905 she might have mobilized. Instead Rus-
sia did no more than growl.
But three years later there was another crisis. France
made a lunge to seize Morocco, and now Germany flew into
a passion. However, Britain threatened to come to France's
aid, so Germany cooled off. The Kaiser knew that his navy
was not yet large enough to take on that greatest of all
But the next year there was a whole series of crises. Italy
had declared war on Turkey in the hope of grabbing some-
thing in North Africa. That gave all the small Balkan states
Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Albania, Montenegro, and
Greece a chance to turn on Turkey. Before they were
through, however, they were turning on one another, and such
a bloody scramble ensued that for months the peace of all
Europe hung on threads. Austria prepared to invade Ser-
bia, Russia got ready to attack Austria, Germany warned
that she would go after Russia, and France seemed bound to
fall on the flank of Germany. At the twelfth hour a compro-*
mise was somehow arranged, and a treaty was solemnly
It was no more than a truce. Every nation knew it, for
each became panicky to add to its armaments. Germany en-
larged her standing army to 870,000 men. Belgium adopted
conscription, and France lengthened the term to three years.
Russia voted millions for more armaments, and England
hastened to build additional battleships. Even Australia and
New Zealand started to stock up with weapons.
Yet, despite all these frantic preparations indeed, be-
cause of them most people believed that war would never
come. They lulled themselves with the thought that they
228 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
were making war too terrible to be possible. Even the rulers
of the nations seemed to cherish that delusion. As late as the
spring of 1914 the Kaiser and the Tsar were still exchang-
ing letters couched in the most endearing terms. Right into
the summer of that year the diplomats of England and Ger-
many were amicably negotiating a secret agreement to
divide up what was left of the Portuguese Empire.
Amazing ! The writing was all over the wall, yet even those
who were putting it there failed to understand what it said.
So finally the wall fell in on them.
In the year of grace 1914, on the 28th of June St.
Vitus's Day according to the Christian calendar a hand-
some, stoutish, middle-aged couple arrived in a flea-infested
Bosnian town called Sarajevo. They were splendidly ar-
rayed, especially the man, who looked rather like a prosper-
ous baker dressed for a guild-masters* parade. Actually he
was the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir-apparent to the
Austro-Hungarian throne, and this was a state visit. The
town had been heavily beflagged for the occasion, and ar-
rangements had been made for great crowds to line the
route of the procession and cheer. These arrangements,
however, had apparently been imperfect, for only children,
stragglers, and gawking peasants stood in the muddy streets,
and these barely opened their mouths. Nevertheless the im-
perial visitors bowed and beamed as they drove past. They
knew their duty. This was a newly acquired province, and
its surly Slavic populace had to be won over somehow. They
bowed and beamed unremittingly.
But then all at once they became frozen. A black object
thrown from a roof-top was falling straight down on the
royal car. Just in time the Archduke reached out, caught it,
and flung it to the road. There was a blast, and two of his
THE FIRST WORLD WAR 229
adjutants in the next car slumped in their seats. After that
there was no more bowing and beaming.
When the procession finally reached the Town Hall, and
the red-faced mayor launched into the official speech of wel-
come, he found His Imperial Highness unreceptive. "Enough
of that!" the latter barked. "I pay you a visit, and you
greet me with bombs I" Then he stamped out, followed by
his wife, and clambered back into the open car. "Direct to
the hotel !" he snapped. The chauif eur hastened to obey, but
in his overeagerness he mistook the direction. Seeking to re-
turn to the right course by means of a short cut, he blun-
dered into a blind alley, and had to back out. In doing so he
almost ran down a bedraggled, hollow-eyed youth who stood
on the curb and stared. And then it happened.
That youth was one of the band of conspirators who had
tried to kill the Archduke an hour earlier. Since then he had
been hiding in back streets, too scared to make a second at-
tempt. But now all fear suddenly left him. He knew that
Destiny was on his side. Destiny had decided that he, Gavrflo
Printsip, was to be the avenger of Serbia's wrongs, and for-
ever a hero in Serbia's history books. Reaching into his
pocket, he pulled out a pistol, levelled it wildly, and fired
Nineteen million people fell dead.
That assassination started the First World War. No one
expected it to do that, least of all the assassin. Gavrilo Print-
sip was an ignorant, shiftless, half-crazed lout who had been
told that if the Austrian Archduke was killed, all the rest of
the Austrian imperialists would run to cover. But instead
they leaped up in rage. They suspected rightly that the
Serbian government was behind the crime. Serbia had long
been hoping to play a role in the Balkans like that which
230 SOMETHING WJENT WRONG
Prussia had played In Germany. Its politicians yearned to
create a great Yugoslav nation stretching from Italy to
Greece if not farther* The Austrians, however, had their
own plans for that region. They dreamed of making all of
it part of the Hapsburg Empire. And now, seeing a chance
to realize their dream, they drafted an ultimatum giving
Serbia just forty-eight hours to come crawling. This, they
hoped, would provoke the pugnacious little country to mobi-
lize, and thus sign its own death-warrant.
The trick worked but not quite in the way the tricksters
had anticipated. Serbia did mobilize, but so did her "big
brother," Russia. At this, Germany rushed to Austria's side,
whereupon France felt bound to join up with Russia. Seek-
ing to get at France, Germany invaded Belgium, and that
was the last straw for Great Britain. Then Turkey got
dragged in, then Japan, Portugal, Italy, Rumania, -Bul-
garia, Liberia, and also the United States. Before the war
was over, twenty-seven sovereign nations and five dominions
got dragged in.
Men began to kill one another. All over the world millions
of men put on special clothes and went out to kill one another.
They left the farms, the factories, the offices, the schools,
and marched off into the trenches to kill one another. More-
over this is the grimmest touch they went rejoicing. They
had somehow been made to believe that in this grave mo-
ment the sin of killing was no sin at all, but an act of grace.
So the slaughterers sang as they marched to the slaughter-
grounds, and their women and children strewed flowers and
cheered. That happened almost universally. The voice of the
people suddenly became the voice of Mars and it was not
all* done by ventriloquism. True, there was an enormous
amount of artificial stimulation. Glory-starved politicians
THE FIRST WORLD WAR 231
did put many a word into the mouth of the mob, and profit-
seeking businessmen certainly pulled many a string. But had
the mob not been amenable to such influences, it would never
have reacted as it did. Incredibly, the wild rejoicing that
broke out when the War first started was at least in part
Even those who had once been the most vehement pacifists
joined in the rejoicing. The very people who had formerly
stood' out as the noblest tribunes of world fraternity now
became the loudest shouters for world fratricide. Of course
there were exceptions. The Quakers, the Mennonites, and a
few other religious dissidents held fast. Here and there iso-
lated radicals held fast. But the rest of the erstwhile pacifists
were swept away like leaves in a whirlpool. This was true not
alone of the "sentimental" capitalists who had financed the
great peace societies ; it was almost as true of the "realistic"
socialists. For years the latter had sworn that they would
never fight in any '^bourgeois" war. They had even threat-
ened to call a general strike against any government that
dared ask them to fight. But, once put to the test, they suc-
cumbed with hardly a struggle. Their vaunted "class con-
sciousness" turned out to be no more than skin-deep. One
little prick, and patriotism came rushing out like blood from
a stuck artery.
Let me repeat : there were exceptions. The extremists, the
so-called "orthodox" Marxists, inveighed against the War
with enormous passion. That, however, was largely a matter
of tactics with them. Secretly they welcomed the conflict, for
they believed it could end only in revolution* They believed
that eventually the sheep would sicken of the slaughter, and
then they themselves would be able to ride herd. They would
be able to turn then to the masses and cry : Did we not warn
you? Did we not say you were being duped? Now follow us!
232 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
But there were some also among the moderate socialists
who stood out against the carnage, and in their case the
motive seems to have been less tactical. For example, there
was a gaunt, bent-kneed, lovable old sinner in America named
Eugene V. Debs who dared to stand up when the war-
hysteria in his country was at its height, and proclaim:
"I have no country to fight for ! My country is the earth !
I am a citizen of the world !" He, however, was a rare soul
and went to prison for it. Most of the other moderate social-
ists proved less intractable, and showed an eagerness to end
up in office rather than jail. Nor was this because they were
knaves. On the contrary, most of those capitulators appear
to have been honest to the core. At the core, however, they
were common clay, so they were friable.
All those men had been conditioned in childhood to believe
in their country. The schools they had attended had condi-
tioned them to believe in that; so had the storybooks they
had read, the songs they had sung, the games they had
played. And, once the war-crisis came, that early condition-
ing broke loose and overwhelmed them. Suddenly they found
themselves believing not merely in their country, but even in
those of its statesmen for whom they had formerly professed
the most hateful contempt. If they were English socialists
they cheered to the welkin when they heard Mr. Asquith pro-
claim : "We are fighting for the moral forces of humanity !"
If they were German socialists they roared themselves hoarse
when Herr Bethmann-Hollweg clarioned : "We must and will
fight our defensive war for right and freedom!" It was the
same if they happened to be French, or Russian, or Japa-
nese socialists. Despite all their boasted self-emancipation
from "bourgeois patriotism," almost invariably they fell to
applauding the most bourgeois of their own country's pa-
triots. They could not help it.
THE FIRST WORLD WAR
And if such men, avowed socialists, were impotent to
withstand the hysteria, what chance was there for conven-
tional folk? The latter had never even attempted to outgrow
their early conditioning. Never in all their lives had they so
much as questioned the rightness of nationalism. Therefore^
no sooner did the war tide begin to flow than they flung
themselves into it like fish out of a broken net. To most of
them the net was everyday existence, the monotony and
gray dreariness that had somehow overtaken ordinary life.
War seemed to open up a way of release. In time of peace
each day was like every other day, except perhaps Sunday
and that was like every other Sunday. Each day a man
had to get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, and then
sleep till it was time to get up and return to work. Not much
fun in that! A man wanted something to look forward to
when he got out of bed in the morning, something exciting,
something adventurous, something new. He wanted to feel
that he counted in the world, that he had a reason for living*
a reason for dying. He seemed to lack that in time of peace.
Industrialism, it must be realized, had made existence al-
most too orderly for most people. It had so mechanized life
that many a man had the feeling that he was hardly a man
at all any longer. He seemed part of a machine. He seemed
a mere thing hooked up to an engine or a workbench or a
counter or a desk. And he could not stand that. He was made
of flesh, not wood or pig-iron ; he had blood in his veins, not
ink or oil. He was a man, not a thing, and he wanted to act
up like a man. He wanted to go places, see marvels, laugh^
fight, and raise hell.
And that may have been the real reason why the masses
proved so avid for war now. True, they had not asked for
war; on the contrary, they had hoped it would not come.
Fundamentally they were as averse as ever to getting them-
234 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
selves blown to bits. But, once the die had been cast, once
that war was already declared, most of them felt a sense
almost of release. The average man was starved for a bit of
excitement. So long as his betters had insisted on quiet, he
had meekly swallowed his want and acted tame. He had tried
to vent his lusts in dreams and secret reveries. He had pored
over the reports of murder trials in the daily press, or rev-
elled in scenes of violence on the stage and in the movies. But
now he could dispense with those surrogates, for war prom-
ised him the real thing.
War set him free at last. It set him free to hate and curse,
free to shoot off guns and tear down cities. Moreover, he
was free to act thus out of duty. The very people who had
formerly told him he must be polite and full of loving kind-
ness now urged him to go out and shoot and kill. The silk-
hatted statesmen, the sag-bellied bankers, the clever chaps
who wrote for the newspapers, the holy men who thundered
from the pulpits, the poets, the philosophers, the college
presidents, the movie stars all the great folk whom the
average man had been taught to respect and revere these
suddenly began to tell him that his highest duty now was to
shoot and kill. Was it any wonder that he exulted when war
And thus it came about that the earth was turned into
a slaughterhouse. During four years there was carnage and
destruction beyond any true reckoning. To say that the War
caused so and so many people to die is to say next to noth-
ing. One must know how those people were made to die, in
what bloodiness and horror, after what retching and pain.
Some were killed instantly, being torn to shreds by shells, or
pierced through with bayonets, or swallowed up in icy seas.
Those were the lucky ones. Far more died only after hours
THE FIRST WORLD WAR 235
of thrashing about on barbed wire, weeks of hunger in
burnt-out villages, months of despair in prison camps. Mil-
lions upon millions died thus. They died of wounds, poisons,
sunstroke, freezing, thirst, exhaustion, and a dozen kinds of
plague. Some were young men with weapons in their hands ;
more were women and children caught between the lines.
Never before in all of recorded history had so many humans
been destroyed so cruelly in so short a space of time.
Yet even when all that is set down, the real cost of the
War is still untold. Many millions were killed, but they would
have died anyway in time. It was what the War did to the
living that left the lasting scars. It took millions of healthy
and reasonably decent youths, and set them to maiming and
killing by the clock. In addition it compelled whole popula-
tions to concentrate on supplying the means for maiming
and killing. No one can say just what psychological effect
that must have had; but who can doubt that it was pro-
found and evil? For centuries the race had been slowly build-
ing a living tissue of inhibitions to bind down the beast in
man. Now that tissue was clawed to shreds.
But there was also a material effect, and concerning' this
we have concrete facts and figures. During the first three
years, the direct cost of the War was $123,000,000 a day.
During the fourth it was $10,000,000 an hour. During the
last month alone . * . But why continue? Figures so astro-
nomical are meaningless. It is enough to say that the four
years of fighting brought more material destruction, and
resulted in sharper material impoverishment, than the world
was ever quite able to repair. This was not true, of course,
of the damage done right in the battle-zones. Actual com-
bat was confined to relatively small areas, and the loss in
crops destroyed, forests burned, ships sunk, roads and
bridges blasted, towns and villages gutted, was made up in
236 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
a very short while. The real hurt was done behind the lines,
for there the war disrupted the entire economy.
During four years the world failed to produce nearly as
much as it destroyed. Luckily, enough had been stored up
during previous years to keep civilization going on the
planet* Even so, the going became hard, especially toward
the last. This business of mass-murder was costly as well as
savage. Someone has estimated that it required $21,000 of
labor and material to kill a soldier in this war. (In Caesar's
time the cost had averaged 750.) To kill some nine million
soldiers consumed so much substance that in many places
the living were left nigh destitute.
The civilian population found itself forced to forego first
luxuries, then conveniences, finally even necessities. Ration-
ing of one sort or another became universal in the belliger-
ent countries. In some there was acute famine, and in most
there was chronic want. All over Europe, and down into
Asia Minor, millions began slowly to starve to death. Scurvy
broke out, typhus raged, and a new plague called influenza
It was beyond bearing. People were no longer inured to
such concentrated wretchedness. A century of progressive
betterment had made them less tough than their forebears.
They could still tolerate a certain amount of hardship, a
certain amount of insecurity, a certain amount of cold, hun-
ger, sickness, and general misery. Indeed, up to a limit such
evils were considered normal and inescapable. But what peo-
ple had to suffer in the course of the War so far exceeded
that limit that finally their spirits rebelled.
By the time that happened, the initial rejoicing was hardly
even a memory any more. The surge of elation at the out-
set of the War had long since petered out, for the populace
had discovered that warfare was no fun at all. Gone was the
THE FIRST WORLD WAR 237
day of pitched battling, wild charging, and heroic hand-to-
hand combat. The soldiers had to spend most of their time
fighting boredom in muddy trenches. For months on end
they had to sit around in dark and stinking dug-outs, their
eyes bleared, their bodies numb, and their chilblained hands
scratching for fleas. Rarely did they catch so much as a
glimpse of the enemy. When they fired, it was usually at un-
seen targets ; when they went "over the top,'* it was usually
to fight barbed-wire and piled sandbags. Mathematicians
somewhere in the rear worked out the objectives with the aid
of logarithm tables, and then transmitted the orders over
telephone-wires. The entire pursuit of mass-murder had be-
come almost as dull as running an abattoir.
The idea that war would bring relief from the tedium of
machine existence had turned out to be a fraud. The men at
the front very soon discovered that it was a fraud, and
eventually so did the people at home. The civilians found
themselves forced to build more factories than ever, and toil
in them right around the clock. It was all very well to sing,
"Keep the home-fires burning." The real need was to keep
the factory-boilers going. The entire population had to let
itself get caught up in an endless whirl of clanking machin-
ery. Oldsters and women and children had to go into facto-
ries and make shells by machinery, pack food by machinery,
wind bandages by machinery, nail coffins by machinery. All
life had to be run by machinery. For war was no longer the
sport it had been or seemed in former days. It had be-
come a bloody industry.
That was why the initial delirium was so short-lived. Peo-
ple discovered the truth about war, and the truth made them
sick. For a while they steeled themselves, gritting their teeth
and swearing to stick it out. But as year followed year with-
out sign of an end to the slaughter, the will began to weaken
238 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
on both sides and resolution gave way to revulsion. The
gritted teeth parted in a snarl. Faces drained of blood by
hunger and fatigue turned ominously livid with disgust. Sol-
diers began to mutiny at the front, and civilians rioted in the
capitals. We've had enough ! they cried.
So then there was an armistice. Neither side had won
can you win an earthquake? but one side was a little less
late to see that it had lost. Sullenly that side dragged out a
white flag and offered to call it a day.
After that came the night.
XXVIII. THE RED DAWN
FTER the War came revolution. It
broke out first in Russia, where
the established order began to
crack at the end of little more
than one year of military strain.
The Slavophils had miscalculated
in 1914. Like the imperialists in,
most other countries, they had ex-
pected the War to be brief and for
their own side profitable. When these expectations f ailed, all
240 SOMETHING WENT WRO&G
It deserved to collapse. The Tsar himself was a weakling,
and the Tsarina a neurotic witch. Their chief mentor was a
lousy monk named Rasputin, who was as coarse and lecher-
ous as he was pious and mad. The entire government had
the quality of aged carrion. Most offices were held by men
who were not even the best whom money could buy. They
were lazy men, grossly incompetent as well as corrupt. The
military authorities sent troops into battle without enough
ammunition, often without even enough guns ; and the civil
authorities were no less culpable. A regime so rotten could
not possibly fight a long war.
Rioting broke out in the capital as early as the spring of
1917. The transportation system had stalled, and there was
no flour in the bakers* shops. Twelve hundred locomotives
which had been allowed to freeze up during the hard winter
were still standing on the sidings like lumps of ice. Fifty*
seven thousand trucks which should have been feeding Petro-
grad were buried in snowdrifts. Women began to march in
the streets, famished children at their breasts. "Give us
bread !" they howled. They called their men out of the facto-
ries, and these too started to march and howl. A million
marching stomachs, all hungry, set up a howl that waxed
each hour more ominous. The government, taking fright,
summoned a division of Cossacks from the front. They were
leathery Mohammedan Cossacks who could be relied on to
fire when commanded. They did fire but on the police. Then
the Tsar abdicated.
That, however, failed to still the howling. Not the Tsar
but all Tsardom had to go now. It did. A new government
was improvised, a volubly liberal goverment headed by a
benevolently broad-minded prince. Too late. Even liberalism
would not do now, especially under the egis of a prince. So a
socialist was put in command. He was a typical moderate so-
cialist by the name of Alexander Kerensky, earnest, honest,
THE BED DAWN 241
eloquent, but a lawyer. Despite this, he might have brought
some order out of the chaos had he been given a chance. But
that chance entailed halting the War, and Britain and
France would not hear of that. He pleaded with them to
support the calling of an international conference of social-
ists to negotiate a reasonable peace. Food riots had already
occurred in Germany and Austria, and there was consider-
able reason to believe that such negotiations might succeed.
But the Allied rulers, having just drawn in the United
States on their side, were in no mood to treat with the enemy.
Nothing would satisfy them short of complete victory.
Had those rulers listened to Kerensky, you who read these
words, and I who write them, would be living in a different
world today. But they did not. Instead they ordered him to
continue fighting; and he obeyed. His country had entered
into a contract with the Allies, and to him a contract was
sacred. Was he not a lawyer?
That proved his undoing. The Russian state was beyond
the ministrations of a lawyer. What it needed was an un-
It got one on November 7, 1917. His name was Vladimir
Ilyitch Ulyanov, but he was better known to his followers
and the police as N. Lenin. He was a scrappy, red-bearded,
undersized man with a bald oversized head that bulged above
the brows like a gourd. He came of respectable middle-class
parentage his father had been a provincial schoolmaster
but from his youth he had been a fanatical Marxist. At the
age of twenty-one he had seen his older brother go to the
scaffold, at the age of twenty-seven he himself had been con-
demned to Siberia, and at the age of thirty he had had to
flee abroad. At the age of -fif ty- f seven he returned to take over
As an exile he had lived first in Germany, then in England,
242 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
then for years in Switzerland ; but never even for a day had
his mind been away from Russia. All the while that he had
lived abroad he had kept printing revolutionary propaganda
which was smuggled into the Tsar's domains and there dis-
tributed underground. His chief medium had been an inky
sheet which he called Iskra, "The Spark/* and with this he
had dreamed of setting all Russia afire.
That was what set him apart from a man like Kerensky.
As early as 1903 Lenin had drawn the line, for in that year
he had deliberately split the tiny Russian Socialist Party into
two splinters. The extremists, those who Relieved in total
revolution, and who were ready to give their lives to hasten
it, followed Lenin into his red BolsTiewk camp ; the rest, the
make-haste-slowly compromisers, the romantic sympathizers,
the discreet fellow-travelers, all these became the pink M en-
sJiemJci. At first the distinction had been vague, but it sharp-
ened after the fiasco of 1905, and grew lurid in 1914. The
beating of the war-drums made the Mensheviks blanch, but
turned the Bolsheviks redder than ever.
Lenin from his G.H.Q. in a Geneva attic sent forth the
command: "Convert the imperialist war into a civil war!"
And his followers inside Russia hastened to obey. They were
few but stealthy, disciplined, and boundlessly zealous : picked
men and women who were ready to die, let alone kill, in the
name of Marx. They fomented mutiny in the barracks, or-
ganized sabotage in the factories, and provoked riots in the
slums. Finally in March, 1917, when Tsardom collapsed,
they came out into the open and demanded that their leader
be allowed to come home.
Mobs greeted Lenin with bands and banners when he ar-
rived at the Petrograd railway station. They led him to the
Tsar's own waiting-room, handed him a bouquet of wilted
red roses, and then waited for his words of praise. Instead
THE BED DAWN 243
lie brandished his little fist in their faces and heaped them
with scorn. "This new government which you have accepted,"
he roared, "is not a people's government. It is a petty-
bourgeois oligarchy. ... It does not bring peace, it cannot
bring bread, it dare not bring freedom. ... It must be turned
Seven months later it was turned out.
Perhaps only a Lenin could have managed such a feat. His
chief accomplices were wordy fellows, and his mass following
was slight. The entire Bolshevik Party did not include a
quarter of one per cent of Russia's population. But Lenin
had faith, will, insight, and a genius for timing. He knew
when to wait and when to spring; moreover, once he sprang,
it was with both feet. All through the summer of 1917, and
into the autumn, he waited. He wanted to give Kerensky a
chance to lose out with the mob. Finally, late in October, he
passed the word to his lieutenants that the zero hour was
drawing near. Some demurred. They argued that their Party
was not yet nearly strong enough to take power. Lenin would
not listen. "If one hundred and fifty thousand landlords could
govern Russia in the interest of the rich," he snapped, "can-
not two hundred and forty thousand Bolsheviks do the same
in the interest of the poor?" That silenced the doubters
that and also the knowledge that though their Party was
small, its influence was great. Everywhere hot-eyed throngs
were shouting its slogans. Everywhere they were marching in
the streets and screaming: "Peace to the Soldiers, Bread to
the Workers, Land to the Peasants, all Power to the Soviets !"
So the authors of those slogans girded themselves for vio-
lence. They still continued to harangue the mobs and squab-
ble with Kerensky, but these were ruses to conceal their real
moves. Behind the scenes they organized a "Red Guard" of
disaffected soldiers, and equipped them with munitions stolen
244 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
from the arsenals. They won over key workers in the tele-
phone exchange, the power plant, the police stations. They
arrange I for mutinous sailors to bring a cruiser up the Neva
and hola its radio in readiness. Then, during the icy night of
November 7, 1917, they struck.
Twenty-four hours later, Petrograd was all theirs. Hardly
a shot had been fired, yet the Menshevik government had col-
lapsed, Kerensky was in flight, and the newspapers, the bar-
racks, even the banks had capitulated. The Red Flag was fly-
ing over the capital of one-sixth of the planet.
The next day a little man who had been an outlaw for
more than twenty years was proclaimed head of a new Russia.
Rising in his shabby clothes before the crowd of henchmen
who were now his government, he peered through the frosty
steam rising from their mouths, paused for their throaty
cheering to cease, and then quietly announced: "We shall
now proceed with the building of the Proletarian Socialist
That was characteristic of Lenin. In the midst of roaring
chaos he could stand calm, sure of himself, for he was not a
man. He was a theory made flesh. He believed that the root
of all social ill was private property, and this belief was so
firm in him, so pervasive, so absolute, that he could serenely
contemplate overturning the world to prove it true.
Rut the world, as we shall see, was unwilling to be over-
turned. Even Russia proved reluctant. The abolition of pri-
vate property entailed more than mere economic change. It
entailed the demolition of all that had sustained private
property, and all that was sustained by it. Religion, educa-
tion, morals, manners, sex relations, class relations, race re-
lations : these had all been molded by the traditional concept
of ownership. To abandon that concept meant to scrap all
THE RED DAWN
that was familiar in life and most people recoiled from do-
ing that. Even the poorest of the Russian poor, those to
whom the familiar had never been anything but harsh and
miserable, even they quailed before the prospect of starting
Lenin realized this, and was ready to act on the knowl-
edge. He reasoned that the masses could not be expected to
desire communism until they had tried it; moreover, they
would not try it unless 'forced to do so. He had read that in
the writings of Karl Marx what had he not read there? so
his course was clear. Following Marx to the letter, he set out
to create a "Dictatorship of the Proletariat."
What he achieved, of course, was at most a dictatorship
"for the proletariat. Lenin himself was no proletarian, and
neither were most of his collaborators. They were typical
intellectuals, sedentary and bookish men with faces pallid
from long nights of argument over tea and cigarettes. Trot-
sky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bucharin: these, like most of the
rest, were university men. Even Stalin, who eventually put so
many of the others to death, was the product of at least a
seminary. But here again Karl Marx offered justification.
Had he not prophesied, seventy years earlier, that "when the
class struggle nears the decisive hour ... a portion of the
bourgeois intellectuals . . . will go over to the proletariat . . .
and lay the foundation for its sway?"
So Lenin felt that he and his band had every right not
merely to seize power, but also to wield it. They called an
immediate halt to the war and ordered the soldiers home.
They confiscated all the private business enterprises and gave
them into the keeping of the workers. They expropriated all
the great estates and partitioned them for the use of the
peasantry. "Comrades," Lenin cried to the people, "take the
land, the grain, the factories, the goods, the railroads, and
246 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
protect them as the apple of your eye all these are hence-
forth your common property." All hereditary titles were
abolished, and all who believed in them were threatened with
death* The Orthodox Church was disestablished, and any
religious indoctrination was frowned on. Prostitution was
forbidden and free love declared quite all right. Divorce was
made as easy as marriage, and abortion as free as vaccina-
tion. Women were given complete social and political equal-
ity with men, and the order went forth: "Every housewife
must learn to run the government." Finally, all racial preju-
dice was proscribed.
It was a clean sweep. Apparently nothing was to remain
of the "bourgeois" past. Henceforth there was to be neither
rich nor poor, neither grand nor lowly, neither oppressor
nor oppressed. All alike were to bask in the sun of science,
all were to fill their lungs with the ozone of culture, all were
to wallow in the comforts produced by machinery. This new
Russia was going to be heaven on earth. And whoever dared
to say otherwise was given hell.
Nevertheless many people dared to say otherwise. Most of
the poor who were pious refused to accept the new order, and
so did all of the rich, whether pious or no. The Tsarists re-
fused, the Liberals refused, the Mensheviks refused, even the
Anarchists and Nihilists refused. Lenin and his band found
themselves forced to resort to ever-increasing violence. They
organized a pitiless Red Terror, and flung people into jail,
or stood them against the wall, on the least suspicion of
"counter-revolutionary leanings." There were months when
they sentenced almost as many people to death as were being
slaughtered on the fields of Flanders each and every hour.
Still the opposition persisted. Counter-revolutionary ar-
mies collected everywhere from Odessa to Vladivostok, and
a White Terror was pitted against the Red. Foreigners joined
THE RED DAWN 247
the crusade, for the entire capitalist world had decided that
Bolshevism must be crushed. First came armies of Germans
and Turks, and then regiments of British, French, Czech,
Polish, Rumanians, Japanese, and even American troops.
But in the end Bolshevism won out. Despite that the
armed crusade against it lasted nearly three years, and was
pressed on more than thirty fronts, Bolshevism managed
somehow to survive. Its chief savior was the man who toot
command of the Red defense, Leon Trotsky. His real name
was Bronstein, and he entered on his duties with absolutely
no military experience. He was a Jew by birth, a writer by
profession, and a revolutionist by inclination. However, he
had colossal nerve, vitality, and talent for organization, and
these more than made up for his ignorance of the manual-at-
arms. Throughout those three awful years he virtually lived
in an armored train, dashing from one front to another and
exhorting his tattered troops to stand their ground. They
did do that and more. By the close of 1920 they were driv-
ing the last of the counter-revolutionary armies into the sea.
Capitalism had only itself to thank for the defeat. It had
invited defeat by failing to give ground in time. Had the
Allies permitted Kerensky to take Russia out of the war,
Lenin might never have been able to seize power, let alone
retain it. And on the heels of that error, capitalism com-
mitted another. Having agreed that Bolshevism must be
crushed, the capitalist nations failed to cooperate and launch
a united offensive. They did not know how. Being capitalistic,
they knew only how to compete. Each of them feared to let
any other go very far in Russia lest it go too far and decide
not to leave. The British invaders devoted more thought to
thwarting the French and the French, the British than
248 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
either gave to fighting the Reds. The American troops spent
almost all their time getting in the way of the Japanese. Os-
tensibly those forces were all joined in a holy crusade; actu-
ally they were rivals. So in the end all of them were sent
By the beginning of 1921 the civil war was virtually over.
The Bolsheviks had won out, and all that remained for them
now was to make Bolshevism work out. But that task, they
already knew, was going to take time and something else.
The inscrutable logic or was it caprice? of history had
loaded the dice against them. It had enabled them to get to
power under conditions which seemed precisely the least favor-
able for the accomplishment of that for which they wanted
power. The day Petrograd fell into their grasp, they had
boasted to the world : "We, the Soviets of Worker, Soldier,
and Peasant delegates, are on the point of making an experi-
ment that has not had its like in history." But by the time
they had taken the rest of the land, they were inclined to use
a soberer tone. Though still sure that the experiment ought
to work, they were not so sure that it would.
It had finally dawned on the less impervious Bolsheviks
that they had perhaps gone at the experiment in the wrong
spirit. Their approach had been that of doctrinaires, not
scientists. Communism had been to them an immaculate con-
ception, and Marx a sort of Holy Ghost. They had not said :
Let's try collective ownership and see if it works. They had
set out with the fixed notion that it must work. And now they
could see all too plainly that it hadn't. Though the bour-
geoisie had long since been expropriated, and only sworn
devotees of the proletariat were running the economy, living
conditions were getting worse all the time. The workers were
arguing more than they were working, for they had been told
THE RED DAWN 249
they were the bosses now and what was the good of being a
boss if you couldn't take time off to argue? But argument
didn't produce goods. Less coal and iron were being mined
in a month in 1920 than had been delivered in a day in 1913.
So little leather was being tanned in 1921 that people even
in the cities were going barefoot. And, as a direct result, food
too was getting desperately scarce. The peasants were refus-
ing to grow more than just enough to feed themselves. What
was the use of producing a surplus when all you could get in
exchange for it was worthless paper-money? Nor did it help
much if the government sent armed agents to collect food by
force. The railways were in such disrepair that half the time
the loot went to rot before it could be delivered to the cities.
The fetid breath of hunger gathered like a pall over the
entire land, and such a howl went up as even Russia had never
heard before. For a generation the revolutionists had sung:
"Arise, ye prisoners of starvation !" Well, here they had arisen,
and what had it got them?
The fact was plain : total communism had failed. The Bol-
shevik surgeons had apparently been over-zealous. They had
hacked out the capitalist gland with such hammer-and-sickle
thoroughness that now the whole economy refused to func-
tion. With wages virtually abolished, and all profit-making
officially suppressed, the common man felt no incentive to
strive and contrive and bring forth plenty.
What to do? Should the Bolsheviks admit they had erred,
and restore the unspeakable gland? Many of them flew into a
rage at the very suggestion. All that was needed, they stormed,
was more terror. A little more violence, they insisted, a little
more pummelling and pounding, and the body would simply
have to come to life again. But there were others who knew
better. These could see that they had already exhausted the
potency of terror. Even the agents on whom they had to rely
250 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
to wield the terror, the soldiers and sailors and militiamen,
even they were beginning to balk. The only way out, there-
fore, was to relent. Lenin himself became convinced of that,
and made open confession of the fact. Whereupon a "New
Economic Policy" was adopted.
That happened in 1921. Private enterprise was permitted
to return though only on its knees. Whoever could scrape
together the necessary cash was permitted to open a store of
his own, or start a small factory, or hire laborers to till
rented land. Foreign capitalists were invited to lease conces-
sions, and native engineers were given contracts on a com-
mission basis. All the go-getters who still remained in the
land were once more allowed to man the pumps at the well
of plenty. To be sure, they could no longer pump as they
pleased. They had to confine themselves to the smallest
spouts, and hand over most of what they got out of them.
They were carefully watched and severely restrained and
remorselessly taxed. However, they were permitted to retain
at least a portion of the profit, and that seemed incentive
enough. Despite that the risks they ran were as great as the
rewards were small, they pumped with all their might. Like
the go-getters everywhere else in the world, their minds were
filled primarily with horse-sense. To get them going they had
to be shown a bag of oats.
Slowly the economy began to revive. Communism had
brought it within an inch of rigor mortis. Now, after the
merest whiff of capitalism, it was stirring again.
The Bolsheviks heaved a sigh and then scowled. They
were relieved, enormously relieved; yet at the same time they
were sore. It made them sore to think that they had saved the
Dictatorship of the Proletariat only by dint of yielding to
the bourgeoisie. But there was one consolation: they had
saved that Dictatorship. Now they could afford to wait
THE RED DAWN 251
awhile. They were still in power, so nothing was lost except
perhaps pride. And what was pride to good revolutionists?
All that counted was principle, and in that direction the
Bolsheviks felt they had not yielded an inch. For they still
believed in communism, and they were still determined to
make it work.
Their initial effort, they told themselves, had been doomed
from the start and not simply because they themselves had
been over-zealous. That, they were convinced, was more an
effect than a cause. They had failed primarily because they
had been compelled to launch their experiment in the wrong
country. Marx had looked for communism to come only after
capitalism had gone to seed. But in Russia capitalism had
never even properly sprouted. The Black Life had not reached
that country until around 1890, and even then it had been
unable to raise more than a few microscopic pocks on the
map. The native bourgeoisie had had little chance to equip
the realm with machines, and no chance at all to teach the
masses how to run them. Without an abundance of machines
and mechanics, there could not be an abundance of goods;
and without an abundance of goods, what could be commu-
nized except the lack of them ?
Nor was that all. Fate had condemned the Bolsheviks to
try their experiment not merely in one of the poorest places,
but also at the very poorest time. The Tsar's war had left
Russia bankrupt, and no sooner had Lenin tried to set up
his receivership than the civil war had come along and wiped
out most of the surviving assets. The shops had been looted,
the granaries were bare, the transportation system was all
but paralyzed, and the entire industrial plant lay in ruins.
Had there been any gold left in the national treasury, fresh
supplies might have been brought in from abroad. But there
was no gold. Nor, in the circumstances, was there any chance
252 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
of getting credit. The Bolshevists were left to raise their
country by its boot-straps and it had no boots. Was it any
wonder that they failed?
But that did not mean they were through. On the contrary,,
they felt they had barely started. The next step was to im-
port aid, and that meant they must export trouble. They
must spread communism abroad, for thus alone could they
hope to establish it at home. The whole world must be revo-
This, of course, had been their dream from the start. The
very day Lenin arrived in Petrograd in the spring of 1917
he had cried: "Soldiers, Sailors, Workers . . . already we
see the dawn of the world revolution!" And from that day
forth he and his comrades had tried to claw at the clouds
which persisted in obscuring that dawn.
During the first two years they had had to confine their
clawing to the sky over Russia, but after that, as much out
of desperation as desire, they dared to extend their reach.
In March, 1919, they invited sympathizers to come to Mos-
cow from the four corners of the earth and organize a "Com-
munist International." This, it was announced, would be the
"general staff of the world revolution," and its first task
would be the creation of communist parties in all the capi-
talist lands. Each of these parties would be expected to per-
form a twofold task: undermine the bourgeois government
in its own country, and seek to protect the proletarian one
in the Soviet Union. None save out-and-out revolutionists
could become members, and the discipline among them would
of course be absolute. The rank-and-file comrades would have
to obey the leaders of their local "cells" ; these in turn would
have to obey the leaders at the national headquarters ; these
in further turn would have to obey the men in control of the
"Comintern" at Moscow. And thus, from China to Chile,
THE BED DAWN 253
from Iceland to Tasmania, there would be one resolute effort
to hasten the Red Dawn.
The whole conception was typically Bolshevik in its vast-
ness and bravado, and when it was made public it created
terrible alarm all over the earth. Protestants swore that this
Comintern was more sinister even than the Order of Jesuits,
and Catholics branded it a double-damned Freemasonry. Re-
sponsible statesmen like the Right Honorable Winston
Churchill made the welkin crackle with their denunciations of
"a poisoned Russia, an infected Russia, a plague-bearing
Russia." The boast Karl Marx had uttered in 1848 had come
true with a vengeance : the "specter of communism" had be-
gun to haunt not alone Europe, but all the world.
And the Bolsheviks were elated. The greater the scare they
could throw into the capitalists, the more publicity they got
for themselves. And they believed in publicity. Once the "New
Economic Policy" began to yield revenues, the heads of the
Comintern actually took money from the Soviet Treasury to
buy publicity. They subsidized communist newspapers in all
the leading capitals, and created a world-wide network of
distributing centers for their literature and films. They or-
ganized strikes in the industrialized lands and fomented sedi-
tion in the colonial regions. Wherever there was a break in
the social tissue they wormed their way in and planted bacilli
of mutiny. For their only hope now lay in more revolution.
They felt that one-sixth of the planet did not provide scope
enough for their experiment, especially when it was so back-
ward and ravaged a sixth. If Bolshevism was to succeed, it
would have to spread. Farther and farther it would have to
Otherwise Bolshevism seemed doomed.
XXIX. THE PLAGUE OF NATIONS
UT Bolshevism did not spread. De-
spite all the efforts of the Commu-
nist International, no other coun-
try would go the way of Russia.
Many revolutions followed in the
wake of the War, but few of them
were directed hy Moscow, and
those few were all ill-fated. The
Hohenzollern Empire collapsed,
the Hapsburg Empire flew to pieces, the Turkish Empire
sank out of sight. The rulers of virtually all the defeated
THE PLAGUE OF NATIONS 255
countries were pushed from their thrones and sent packing.
But though their successors did not dare assume crowns,
neither would they stoop to wearing caps. They preferred to
put on silk hats.
That was symbolic. Those successors did not want to be
taken for proletarians. They had resorted to revolution only
in order to establish better bourgeois governments. There-
fore they insisted on dressing like proper bourgeois gentle-
men. Their idol was not Lenin but was a man named Wilson.
Mr. Woodrow Wilson was the most powerful man on earth
when the War came to an end. He was that not alone be-
cause he was the head of the world's richest nation, but even
more because he had made himself the oracle of the world's
most ardent hope. He was a tall lean man with a long lean
face that seemed to break in two when he smiled. He was a
great idealist, a great humanitarian, a great liberal, and a
great talker. He believed in God, Truth, Justice, Free Trade,
Democracy, Peace, Prayer, and his own conscience." He came
of a long line of Presbyterian ministers.
At the outset of the War he had done all in his power to
keep his country neutral. "We are too proud to fight," he
had proclaimed. Even after the conflict had entered its third
year he had still insisted that "the objects which the states-
men ... on both sides have in mind are virtually the same."
But then, having meanwhile been reelected to the Presidency,
he suddenly reversed his stand.
The reasons are not too obscure. One was the pressure of
popular sentiment. Native sympathy coupled with foreign
propaganda had at last persuaded the majority of Ameri-
cans that the Allies deserved to win. Another was the pres-
sure of national interest. Germany was a brashly aggres-
sive power, and there were good grounds for fear that if she
triumphed in the Old World, she would soon be reaching
256 SOMETHING WENT WEONG
toward the New. A third reason was the pressure of financial
anxiety. American industry had supplied the Allies with enor-
mous stores of munitions on credit. Finally, and perhaps
most potent of all, there was the pressure of Mr. Wilson's
sense of personal consecration. He felt it was his bounden
duty to bring about a "just" peace, and he belatedly realized
that to fulfill this duty he would first have to decide the War.
In effect he did decide it. Once America threw its enormous
weight on one side, the other did not stand a chance. For
America's weight was made up of more than sinew and fight-
ing gear. It included a promise. Mr. Wilson had sensed that
the swiftest way to end the War was to promise the people
on the other side that they might really win if they surren-
dered. Accordingly he had announced that, so far as his own
country was concerned, this War was being fought not for
loot, not for glory, but solely to establish a new order among
the nations of the earth. This new order, he had gone on to
particularize, would be one guaranteeing eternal peace and
universal freedom, for it would proscribe all secret diplomacy,
abridge all restraints on world traffic, reduce all armaments,
emancipate all subject peoples, and unite all nations in one
common fellowship. These principles, together with their
corollaries, he had called the "Fourteen Points," and in the
end they accomplished what ten times as many army divi-
sions could not have done. On the strength of those "Four-
teen Points 5 * the people on the other side did surrender.
An armistice was signed, and then Mr. Wilson set sail for
Europe to arrange the peace. Never in all history had any
man been received there with as great acclaim. People wanted
to kneel in his presence; they wept for joy wherever he ap-
peared. He had become more than a mere man to them: he
was the Messiah. Did he not bring assurance that a New Day
was about to dawn? Millions of people on both sides had en-
THE PLAGUE OF NATIONS 257
dared the War solely in the hope that peace would usher in
a better world. Now, they told themselves. President Wilson
would see to it that the hope was not betrayed.
That was one reason why they refused to succumb to Bol-
shevism. Mr. Wilson, they discovered, did not like Bolshevism.
What he liked, and what he wanted his f ellowmen to like, was
liberalism. The root of all evil, he insisted, lay in the realm
of politics rather than economics. What the world needed,
therefore, was merely more "democracy." If every govern-
ment would become like his own, a government of the people,
by the people, and for the people, then universal peace and
freedom would ensue as a matter of course. He was convinced
of that with a conviction as lofty as it was innocent. And a
populace grown sick of war and oppression was only too
ready to agree.
But this readiness, it turned out, was due largely to a mis-
apprehension. Most people in Europe, or at least those who
spoke for most people, seemed to think that the beginning
and end of liberalism was nationalism. They were obsessed
with the belief that all would be well merely if each folk with
an apparent identity of its own were given absolute sover-
eignty in a country all its own. The War was in part to
blame for that. The belligerent governments had done all in
their power to exacerbate nationalistic pride and prejudice.
They had done this not alone at home, in order to bolster
the fighting morale of their own people, but also abroad, in
the hope of wrecking that of the enemy. Each side had sent out
agents to stir up the subject peoples behind the other's lines.
Germany had promised national independence to the Finns
and Letts and Poles if they would revolt against the Tsar.
Britain had sworn to heap all sorts of glories on Arab sheikhs
if they would rise up against the Turks. Every oppressed
folk was encouraged to believe it would become free and sov-
258 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
ereign if only it would turn on its current oppressors. Even
the Jews were offered that bait.
So when the War was over, the world was left one mass of
nationalistic rashes. What might otherwise have been a mild
affliction, like acne in adolescence, had been aggravated into
a disfiguring plague. For let us be clear on one point: na-
tionalism would have spread even without the War. It was
one of the inescapable consequences of the spread of machin-
ery. Let us be clear also on a second point : this consequence
had definite social value. Nationalism spelled progress. It
blasted the shells of provincial clannishness, and set men free
to acquire broader loyalties. It forced sullen tribes to merge y
and encouraged subject races to rebel. All of which was good,
for it engendered growth.
But the War over stimulated the growth, and in doing so,
made it poisonous. It led people to believe that their new
horizons must necessarily be frontiers, and that the love they
felt for the folk inside them could be measured only by the
hate they bore toward all who belonged outside. It taught
people to equate cultural freedom with political sovereignty,
and national independence with the right to have an army
and a diplomatic corps. Though it educated many backward
races, it left them unenlightened; though it quickened their
minds, it also envenomed their hearts.
Mr. Wilson found that out before long, and the revelation
caused him much grief. In principle he had no objection to
nationalism. On the contrary, he considered it an essential
element in the new world order which he had planned. No
fewer than eight of his "Fourteen Points" dwelt on what he
called the "self-determination of nations." And all went well
so long as he continued to make speeches, for the "self-deter-
mination of nations" was a fine mouth-filling phrase. Once he
had to get down to business, however, he swiftly discovered
THE PLAGUE OF NATIONS 259
that the phrase was hard to digest. The more he chewed it,
the more it kept regurgitating. For just what was a nation?
Moreover, just how was it to determine itself?
Many answers were forthcoming, but no two of them quite
jibed. Whole throngs of theatrical-looking personages, some
in rented frock-coats, some in turbans and robes, queued up
in front of his office to tell him the "facts." They piled his
desk high with books, maps, and handsomely embossed reso-
lutions proving that the Armenians were a nation, and also
the Croatians, the Assyrians, the Moldavians, and the Bes-
sarabians. Apparently the Wends too were a nation, and the
Livs, the Letts, the Kurds, the Esths, the Jews, the Basques,
and of course the Irish. One delegate arrived from the Pontus
on the Euxine Sea with a documented plea for the restoration
of the kingdom of Mithradates the Great, which had been
destroyed in 47 B.C. ...
To have accepted all these claims would have meant carv-
ing the map of the Old World into a jig-saw puzzle. The
claims were too numerous, and also too conflicting. The vari-
ous nationalities did not merely crowd each other ; they over-
lapped. Ruthenians lived in the midst of Poles, Poles in the
midst of Czechs, Czechs in the midst of Hungarians, Hun-
garians in the midst of Rumanians, and Jews in the midst
of all. It was obvious that complete national self -determina-
tion could be achieved only through international exter-
In these circumstances there was but one way out for Mr.
Wilson. He had to compromise. Even had his task been less
impossible, he would still have had to compromise. After all,
he was not the sole arbiter of the peace. A certain Mr. David
Lloyd George had some say in the matter, and^o did an
even more certain M. Georges Clemenceau. Btewefen those two
gentlemen, one as smart as a fox and the other as fierce as a
260 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
tiger, the American could do little save play the mule. They
were infinitely wilier men than he, and unencumbered with his
fine visions. They had no thought of trying to set the world
to rights. All they wanted was to buttress certain imperial
wrongs. Lloyd George wanted to preserve Britain from ever
again being challenged on the sea, and Clemenceau wanted
to do the same for France on land. So they went to work on
t^eir stubbornly righteous colleague and bluffed, huffed, blan-
dished, and bargained till they got him around to what they
called "reason." After that it was the old, old story of the
voice being the voice of Jacob while the hands were the hands
of Esau. Mr. Wilson talked on and on about how the map
ought to be redrawn, and meanwhile those other gentlemen
They redrew it badly. Though many changes were made,
and all at the expense of the defeated nations, none seemed to
satisfy even the victors. The number of sovereign states in
Europe was increased from twenty-six to thirty-five, but that
merely meant seven thousand extra miles of frontier to
stumble over and fight about. The new boundaries were in-
tended to serve political expediency, so they failed to con-
form even to racial demands. The sovereign state of Poland
was allowed to include regions inhabited primarily by Ukrai-
nians, Lithuanians, or Jews. Czechoslovakia was made to
include compact minorities of Germans, Hungarians, and
other volubly non-Slavic folk. To make matters worse, eco-
nomic needs were almost entirely ignored. An industrial cen-
ter would be left on one side of a frontier, and its agricultural
hinterland on the other. Here would be the iron-mines, and
over there the coal-beds. Moreover, the lines running between
them would be no mere marks on the map. They would be a
solid chain of forts, custom sheds, and passport offices.
So there was trouble. The new pots of political sovereignty
THE PLAGUE OF NATIONS
began to seethe and boil over with, nationalistic rivalries*
Greece invaded Turkey. Rumanian, Czech, and Yugoslav
armies looted Hungary. Poland seized Wilno from Lithu-
ania, and Lithuania seized Memel from Germany. Italy tried
to take Fiume from Yugoslavia, and Yugoslavia did take
Montenegro from Montenegro. Everywhere there was con-
tention over boundaries, everywhere agitation against minor-
THE NEW EUROPE
. . . 7,000 extra miles of frontier.
This, however, had one supposedly redeeming feature. It
kept the people so excited about nationalism that they had
no chance to succumb to communism. Take the Poles for ex-
ample. Had the masses among them not been distracted by
patriotic passions, they would almost certainly have emu-
262 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
lated their neighbors to the east. They were equally poor and
downtrodden, and no less hungry to vent their spite. But
instead of venting it on the real wolf in their midst., they
vented it on scapegoats. They raged because Jews were too
active in the cities, and fumed because Ukrainians were too
numerous in certain rural parts. They swore at the Czechs
for "stealing" half of the Teschen area, and glared daggers
at the Lithuanians for having dared to "usurp" the city of
Wilno. It made no difference that the Jews had helped create
those cities, that the Ukrainians had first tilled those fields,
that Teschen was at least half Czech, that Wilno was almost
all Lithuanian. Nothing seemed to make any difference ex-
cept the accident of racial, cultural, or national different-
Such blindness was as menacing as it was perverse. Never-
theless it persisted. Why? For at least three reasons. First
of all, the masses apparently preferred to be blind. The
longer they could keep their eyes closed to baffling facts, the
freer were they to revel in exciting fictions. Secondly, the
leaders of the masses failed to recognize that it was a blind-
ness. Most of those leaders came from poor but bourgeois
homes, and they had been schooled to accept none save thor-
oughly bourgeois ideals. And by now nothing was more bour-
geois than nationalism. Thirdly, Great Britain and France
deliberately fostered the blindness, for they seemed better
able to get what they wanted if those from whom or through
whom they took it could not see. """"
So the blindness persisted. Even the Germans remained
blind, and they were one people who should surely have learnt
to see through nationalism by this time. If the War failed to
open their eyes, the subsequent peace ought to- have done the
job. Mr. Wilson had promised them that if they put down
their arms, and put out their Kaiser, they would be given an
THE PLAGUE OF NATIONS 268
equal voice with the victors in drawing up the final settle-
ment. But no sooner did they comply with these demands than
they found themselves treated like felons. For seven months
they were kept on tenter-hooks before they were permitted
even to show up officially at Versailles; and then, when the
permission was finally granted, it was only to learn that the
peace terms had already been settled.
Old Clemenceau presided at that historic session, and the
story of how he behaved was not soon forgotten in Germany.
Leaning back in his chair, he raised stony eyes to the German
delegates, and snapped: "Messieurs . . . the time has come
when we must settle our accounts. You have asked for peace.
We are ready to give you peace." Whereupon he handed
them a 230-page document, and told them to sign within
Clemenceau had his gloves on at the time he almost never
appeared without them but nevertheless his fingerprints
were all over that document. So were Lloyd George's. Like
the staunch patriots they were, they had done their duty well.
Here were some of the stipulations set down in that docu-
ment. First, Germany was to acknowledge full responsibility
for starting the War, and for causing all the consequent loss
and hardship. As partial penalty she was therefore com-
manded to surrender 15% of all the arable land she owned
in Europe, 10% of all her population there, 10% of her in-
dustrial plants, 12% of her livestock, 20% of her coal re-
serves, 50% of her lead, 60% of her iron ore, 70% of her
zinc, and also "the skull of the Sultan Mkwawa which was
removed from the Protectorate of German East Africa. 5 ' She
was further ordered to hand over all her colonies, and virtu-
ally all her investments and holdings in foreign lands. Her
navy, formerly second only to Great Britain's, was to be
completely wiped out, ajid her merchant marine reduced by
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
7^/a, -n d
WHAT GEHM^KTY LOST
. . . also the skull of the Sultan MJcwawfa.
nine-tenths. Her army was to be hacked down to one-seventh
the size of that of France, and her munition plants were to
remain under Allied control. Finally she was ordered to pay
five billion dollars in cash or commodities by May 1, 1921,
and also sign a blank check for the still unestimated cost of
repairing "all damage done to the civilian population of the
Allied and Associated Powers and to their property."
Such was the "Treaty of Versailles," and it well deserved
the name. The word "treaty" is derived from the Latin
tracto, meaning "drag violently," and rarely had it been
employed with greater aptness. On June 28, 1919, five years
to the day after a half -demented Balkan lad fired a pistol at
THE PLAGUE OF NATIONS 265
Sarajevo, Germany was dragged violently to Versailles and
made to sign.
But did that teach the country a lesson? It did not. Of
course, there were some Germans who got the point. There
were some who saw that their nation had landed at Versailles
primarily because it had started out from Potsdam. There
were some who realized the utter insanity of nationalistic
ambition in a world in which machinery commanded that all
men be kin. But these were few, and without solid influence.
The Kaiser may have fled, but his generals were still on hand
and so was a certain one of his corporals. The govern-
ment changed, the flag changed, even the style in moustaches
changed ; but the outlook of the people remained in one sense
the same. Now as ever, now indeed more than ever, their
dearest slogan was "DeutscJdand iiber alles!"
So here was still another thing that went wrong and this
was perhaps the gravest thing of all. Nationalism swelled up
poisonously and turned into rank chauvinism. This happened
not alone in Germany, but throughout Europe, indeed
throughout most of the world. People in any number of lands
became persuaded that to be true patriots they must be jin-
goes. They completely failed to realize that the progression
from family to tribe to province to nation must go on till the
scope of a man's loyalty encompassed all the earth. TJie na-
tion ^seemed to them the culmination. What they should have
recognized as a stage, they took to be a terminus. Instead of
using nationalism as a thoroughfare, they made it a blind-
To be sure, this did not happen universally. In many places
there were leaders who could see what plague was spreading,
and in at least one immense region a sharp effort was made,
to root it out. That region was the Soviet Union. Lenin and
266 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
his comrades were blind to many things, but never to the
menace of chauvinism. Their domain contained at least a
hundred and eighty different peoples who spoke almost a
hundred and fifty different tongues. To fight the plague of
clan bigotry was therefore utterly imperative. Those diverse
groups had to be taught to live together in peace and work
together in comity; otherwise there was no hope for com-
munism. The Bolsheviks had known that all along. (One of
them, a Georgian called Stalin, had written a thesis on the
subject as early as 1912.) Furthermore, they had realized
that coercion would never accomplish their aim. The Tsarists
had used coercion, and it had brought them nothing but grief.
The more they had labored to enforce uniformity on Rus-
sia's subject peoples, the more passionately had these re-
mained diverse. So the Bolsheviks had decided to try another
method. Instead of seeking to crush diversity by force, they
set out to undo it by dint of kindness. They granted each
national group complete cultural autonomy, and actively en-
couraged it to speak its own tongue, enjoy its own folkways,
conduct its own schools, theaters, and even police courts. But
and this was the big but no such group was permitted to
have its own army, or its own foreign office, or its own do-
mestic economy. All the soil and its resources, all the fac-
tories and their products, had to belong to all the Soviet
nationalities in common. Thus, it was hoped, none would find
cause to envy another, and none would feel impelled to try
to take away what another had. All groups would enjoy an
equal right to live, and therefore none would be tempted to
go out and kill.
That was the Bolshevik scheme, and it was succeeding.
Russians and Tartars, Cossacks and Jews, Armenians and
Georgians and even Ukrainians were becoming neighborly.
Just because all the Soviet nationalities were allowed to re-
THE PLAGUE OF NATIONS 267
main different, most of them seemed increasingly inclined to
merge. The Bolsheviks had apparently discovered a sure
antitoxin for nationalism. It was comradeship.
But this served only to make the Bolsheviks appear all the
more monstrous to the outside world. The average citizen in
the capitalist lands did not want to be cured of nationalism.
It had somehow become part of his being, part of his very
reason for being. Nationalism had become his religion. If that
went, what was left for him to live for?
XXX. THE LITTLE CAESARS
HE World War had been fought
for two different sets of reasons:
real ones and good ones. The real
reasons were concerned primarily
with real-estate, and they did not
come clearly to light until the
terms of peace were announced.
The good reasons, on the other
hand, were given intense publicity
from the very start, but once the conflict ended they inevi-
tably dropped out of sight. These good reasons on the
THE LITTLE CAESAES 269
side of the Allies were voiced by Mr. Wilson, and they
centered around two supremely noble aspirations : the world
must be saved from belligerency, and the world must be made
safe for democracy. Neither was even remotely realized.
Belligerency suffered only a token defeat, and even that
only for a moment. It is true that the chief defeated powers
were stripped of their arms. It is true also that nearly all
the victors and neutrals formed themselves into a "League
:: 1913 vs. 1930
of Nations" to prevent any further resort to arms. But
both stratagems proved of small avail. The world merely
demobilized ; it did not demilitarize. How could it when there
were more sovereign states now than before the War, and
therefore that much more room for rivalry and cause for
conflict? Not until after 1924?, by which time some of the
worst errors of the Treaty of Versailles had been partially
corrected, did the caldron of hate in Europe show signs of
beginning to cool. But it was a fleeting respite. The fires
were merely banted, and that only because the governments
seemed to need time to store up fresh fuel. By 1930 France
had 3,000,000 men in her first-line reserve and another
270 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
1,000,000 in her second line. In that year Italy had a re-
serve of 2,500,000 ; Poland had 1,700,000 ; Czechoslovakia
had 1,000,000. By 1935 the nations of the world were spend-
ing nearly four times as much on armaments as in 1913. It
was plain to see that the interlude of peace was being used
solely to prepare for more war.
And just as belligerency was not halted, so democracy
was not furthered. It is true that the World War wiped out
four imperial autocracies. It is true that the ensuing truce
saw six new states emerge as republics, and also five old ones.
It is true that by 1919 there was not a single monarch left
in all Europe who dared claim to rule as had his ancestors
by divine right. But it is equally true that, despite these
marks of apparent progress, the political tone throughout
the Old World actually retrogressed.
The myth of the divine right of kings was torn down only
to make way for a reality that was worse. That reality was
the demonic might of thugs. It emerged first, as we have
seen, in Russia. The Bolsheviks were precisely thugs, for like
the Hindu fanatics who bore that name originally they
tyrannized only out of a sense of righteousness. No matter
how noble Lenin's ends may have been, many of the means
that he employed were unspeakable. It may be argued that
he was hardly to blame for that. He had learnt those means
from the Tsarists, and was simply employing them more
efficiently. Perhaps he even deserved a measure of praise,
since he sincerely intended to abandon those means so soon
as he had attained his ends. Neither he nor any other respon-
sible Bolshevik regarded the Dictatorship of the Proletariat
as more than a makeshift. They all hoped to establish com-
plete democracy in the Soviet Union eventually. In their
own view, indeed, that hope was already better than half-
THE LITTLE CAESAES 271
realized. The formula for complete democracy, they liked to
argue, was comparable to that of water: two parts of the
hydrogen of economic equality, to one of the oxygen of po-
litical liberty. Well, they had already provided the first
and that was more than any capitalist government had ever
done. As for the second, they would provide that too as
soon as it seemed safe. And this promise was more than a
ruse. From all indications, the Bolsheviks really meant it.
Moreover, had they themselves been less fallible, and the
world around them less hostile, quite conceivably they might
have carried it out.
But it is vain to speculate on what might have happened.
All we know is what did happen, and it amounted to this:
the trend in the technique of government was thrown into
reverse. Thus far the prevailing tendency in politics had
been toward more and more freedom. Ever since at least the
Eighteenth Century there had been increasing revolt against
the ageless dogma that some people were fitted to rule and
the rest must necessarily be ruled. Now that dogma reas-
serted itself and not in the name of reaction, but revolu-
tion. Lenin insisted that only those men and women who had
proved themselves worthy of enrolment in his Communist
Party could possibly know how the country ought to be
run. Therefore they had not merely the right but the abso-
lute obligation to assume absolute dictatorial powers.
They did assume them. Moreover they managed to retain
them. Ajid the lesson was not lost on the world.
The War, it had been hoped, would make the whole world
safe for democracy. Instead it made much of it ripe for tyr-
anny. This was not evident at once. Most devotees of democ-
racy were inclined to raise their brows when they first heard
of the dictatorship in Russia. After all, they sighed, what
272 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
else could one expect in so backward a country? But before
long strange reports began to come out of Italy, and then
the sighs turned to gasps. Was it possible . . . ?
Yes, it was possible, all right. Proof? It actually happened.
Italy, which had had a parliamentary government ever since
its rebirth as a nation, had suddenly succumbed to a dic-
This is how it came about. Of all the victors, none emerged
from the War with less glory or loot than did Italy. Perhaps
that was no more than just, since no country had gone into
the War with less hoiior or passion. Nevertheless the adven-
ture had cost Italy dearly fifteen billion lire and seven
hundred thousand lives and when the time came for the
spoils to be divided, she felt she deserved her promised share.
She did not get it.
That made her people sore. Their hearts were sore, and
also their bellies. The country had been poor enough even
before the War; now it was virtually bankrupt. Commerce
and industry were at a standstill, and the cities were crowded
with jobless men. Agriculture had been neglected, and now
the peasants roamed the marshes for food. Before long the
currency began to lose its value, and then the government
lost all prestige. Italy seemed ready to sink into chaos. "The
sheeted dead did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets."
It was probably no more than a passing phase, but there
were many in the land who would not wait to find out.
Roughly these were of two kinds : dislocated workers looking
for jobs, and demobilized soldiers spoiling for trouble. Had
the two combined, Italy might possibly have gone the way of
Russia. But they did not combine, so the country went a
way all its own.
That way became known as Fascism, and it was blazed by
a tragi-comic character named Benito Mussolini. He was
THE LITTLE CAESARS 273
the son of a violent village Marxist, and had been born in
1883, the year Karl Marx died. His childhood was bitter,
and the taste remained with him throughout his life. As he
himself wrote years later:
"Poor, dreadfully poor was my home, poor and wretched my
whole existence. Where could I learn tenderness? At school, in
the cloister, in the world? Nowhere! Why then should people
wonder that I am taciturn, secretive, harsh, and stern?*'
He managed to pick up enough education to become a
country school teacher, but his weakness for brawling and
incendiary speech soon forced him into a career of vaga-
bondage. For ten years he wandered about as a political
agitator, eating regularly only when in jail. Finally, at the
age of twenty-nine, he became the editor of a socialist news-
paper in Milan.
Comrade Mussolini was ill-informed but opinionated, un-
sound but vehement, so he quickly attained wide fame as a
radical journalist. He attacked capitalism, nationalism, im-
perialism, monarchism, clericalism, and militarism with ex-
emplary comprehensiveness and abuse. When the War broke
out, he was all against Italy's going in. As late as Septem-
ber 1, 1914, he waved his clenched fist at the "bourgeois
war-mongers." Then, four days later, he suddenly joined
When next seen he was editing a newspaper of his own.
He had become an all-fustian jingo; so much so that when
his country did finally enter the War, he was nearly one
of the first to enlist. But a bout of stomach trouble fol-
lowed by an accident in a rear trench forced him to accept
an early discharge. "I take my place as a fighter in my
newspaper office, 55 he then declared.
The Armistice found him still clinging to that battle-
274 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
ment, but with guns shooting straight into the void. Now the
conflict raged within Italy, and he could not decide which
side to join. First he thought the workers stood the better
chance. They were launching strikes and riots throughout
the land. In the industrial north they were actually seizing
the factories, and in the agricultural south they were de-
manding division of the great estates. But, perhaps because
the masses had no Lenin to lead them, their assault soon
bogged down; whereupon Mussolini's mind became clear.
("I am like the beasts," he once said of himself. "I smell the
weather before it changes.") He sensed that the people on
top and the people on the bottom were deadlocked. The issue
therefore lay with the people in the middle. These were the
small businessmen, the salaried managers, the minor pro-
fessional people, the white-collar workers, and the farmers
who still owned a little land: what Marx had called the
"petty bourgeoisie." That class had long cherished a will to
power, but had not known how to assert it. Mussolini de-
cided to show the way.
He already had a small following of patriotic young
roustabouts who hawked his sheet on street-corners and in
cafs. To these he now added fresh recruits from among the
demobilized soldiers, dressed them all in formidable-looking
black shirts, and organized them into fasci, "bunches." He
gave them an ancient insignia consisting of a bundle of rods
tied around a battle-axe, and ordered them to salute with
outstretched arm as in ancient Rome. Then he turned them
loose to slug the "red workers" and curse the "war prof-
The government lacked not alone the might but also the
will to intervene, and this encouraged the **bunches" to grow
increasingly violent. Finally, in October, 1922, Mussolini
ordered them to march on Rome and demand political recog-
THE LITTLE CAESARS 275
nition. He himself, though their Duce ("leader"), remained
behind. He barricaded himself in his newspaper office in
Milan, and directed the "offensive" by telephone. Not until
word reached him that all was safe did he himself start to
march by Pullman car.
The next morning, clad in his black shirt, he presented
himself before the King. "I beg your Majesty to forgive me
for appearing in uniform," he puffed. "I have just come from
a bloodless battle which had to be fought." The King, a
bewildered little man, gave a bewildered little smile, and for-
mally appointed Mussolini his Prime Minister,
In 1912, Comrade Mussolini had written: "Imagine an
Italy in which thirty-six millions should all think the same
. . and you would have a kingdom of utter imbecility." Ten
years had elapsed since then, and his mind had apparently
changed. What he had once considered imbecility, now im-
pressed him as the only sanity.
His first objective was to imitate Lenin, and set himself
up as absolute dictator. This proved not over-difficult, since
he too had a pack of henchmen sworn to do his bidding. The
Fascists in Italy, like the Bolsheviks in Russia, formed no
more than a tiny minority of the population ; but they were
hand-picked, disciplined, and determined. In addition, they
had the guns right from the start they had infiltrated
into the army so they were irresistible. Officially and other-
wise the Fascist Party became the "Black Guard** of the
Mussolini took over completely. He smashed the trade
unions and thus routed his former comrades, the "Marxian"
socialists. He outlawed Freemasonry, and thus closed a vital
channel through which tjjie "Liberal" capitalists had been ac-
customed to wielding influence. He ordered the priests to stay
276 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
out of politics, and thus spiked any chance of effective oppo-
sition by the Church. He made Fascist house-organs of all
the newspapers, personal mouth-organs of all broadcasting
stations, turned Parliament into a sounding-board, and the
King into a ventriloquist's dummy. He set out to regiment
public speech, private trade, personal habits, and communal
traits. Whoever dared protest was clubbed, jailed, banished,
or murdered. "To remove rebels from circulation," said
Mussolini, "is merely national prophylactics." In this, as in
so much else, he was still imitating Lenin. "There are those, 55
Mussolini thundered, "who must be crushed by the truth
before they can understand it. 55
The Duce's "truth," however, was quite unlike that of the
Bolshevik leader. He was not interested in creating a new
world, but in reviving an old country. He yearned to turn
the clock back and restore the Roman Empire.
But such a miracle could not be accomplished by force
alone. Suasion was necessary. Accordingly Mussolini re-
sorted to the tactics of the ancient Roman demagogues, and
set out to give the rabble "bread and circuses. 55
He found it easy to provide the circuses. He was a born
actor, and knew just how to stage a show. He organized
monster patriotic gatherings which he usually addressed
from balconies, thus lending height to his chunky frame, and
bringing out all the massiveness of his prognathous jaw. He
caused his likeness usually set in a fierce scowl to be dis-
played in shop-windows, pasted on hoardings, flashed on cin-
ema screens, and hung in all public buildings. He ordered
that the first spelling-lesson for children should be devoted
to the text : "The Duce is always right. 55 He further ordered
that all loyal citizens should swear allegiance by reciting
THE LITTLE CAESARS 277
I believe in the State, apart from which I can never attain full
I believe in the Sacred Destiny of Italy, which is to exert the
greatest spiritual influence on the world.
I believe I must obey the Duce, for apart from obedience there
is no well-being.
He encouraged the young and the old to keep marching,
singing, saluting, and obeying, and thus sought to make
all life one round of joy.
But the task of providing bread proved more difficult*
Having seized power on the excuse that Italy must be saved
from communism, he could hardly turn around and adopt
the communist economy. At the same time he realized it was
impossible to save the country by means of old-fashioned
capitalism. He therefore improvised an economy of Ms own
which, if neither fish nor fowl, was at least good red her-
ring. He called it the "Corporative State," and its apparent
intent was to distract capital as well as labor by diverting
both from their own wants to those of the nation. The rich
were allowed to keep their property, but with, the stipulation
that the nation had first claim on the profit. The poor were
expected to keep their place, but on the understanding that
the nation would raise it to glory. As for the in-between
people, these were going to run the nation. Italy's govern-
ment was to be a Dictatorship of the Salariat.
Here was something new under the sun. Thus far it had
been taken for granted that the bourgeoisie could be over-
thrown only to raise the proletariat to power. Conservatives
and radicals alike had believed that a modern economy must
necessarily be either capitalistic or socialistic. Now a third
possibility had emerged : a nationalistic economy. What that
foreboded, Mussolini himself did not know yet. He was es-
278 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
sentially a careerist, and worried more about the how of his
going than the where. Having flung himself on the bosom
of Fame, his fiercest concern was to hang on.
And this which was true of Mussolini, was equally true of
his imitators. For he acquired many imitators before long.
In one country after another wilful men set themselves up
as dictators : Kemal Pasha in Turkey, Horthy in Hungary,
Primo de Rivera in Spain, Pilsudsld in Poland, Smetona in
Lithuania. . , . And not any of these little Caesars knew
where they were going. They were just going.
And more and more of the world went with them.
OLITICALLY the world had be-
gun to retrogress. There were
more frontiers now to divide man-
kind, and behind most of them
there was less freedom, less inde-
pendence, less understanding. In
one country after another men
seemed deliberately bent on turn-
ing back the clock of civilization.
As yet, however, all they moved was the hands. They had
not thought yet to reach behind the dial to stop the
280 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
works. Therefore, though the world retrogressed politically,
it still continued to forge ahead industrially. The War had
wound up the springs of production, and enormously en-
larged the wheels. The ravening demand for more and still
more armaments had forced all the advanced countries to
expand their factories to the limit. Even then they had not
been able to produce enough, so they had had to recruit the
help of the backward ones. Spain was induced to open up
her mines. Egypt and India were encouraged to build mod-
ern mills. Giant processing plants were started in Malaya,
Bolivia, Alaska, and Manchuria. Industrialism exploded and
littered the entire globe with machinery.
And this machinery continued to function after the War
ended. It even expanded then, for that was the way of ma-
chinery, always to feed on its own growth. By 1928 Japan
was producing five times as much cotton print as in 1914,
six times as much steel, and seven times as many woolen
goods. China had 3,500,000 textile spindles by 1930, and
India nearly 8,500,000. The industrial population of South
Africa more than tripled. Palestine, where production had
formerly been confined almost entirely to religious relics,
suddenly developed into a land flowing with orange juice
That was good. Not perfect, certainly, but at any rate
good. Immediately it might cause severe affliction, robbing
the old industrial countries of their established markets,
and blighting many former agrarian ones with the Black
Life. Immediately it might and did provoke vast dislo-
cation and distress. But ultimately it gave promise of bring-
ing plenty to regions which in the past had never known
anything but want. That was indisputably good.
And another thing happened now which was even better.
Industrialism did not merely expand ; it immensely improved.
STILL THE MACHINE GROWS 281
Its whole character matured, and so prodigiously that ob-
servers began to say a "third" Industrial Revolution had
got under way. The first had been ushered in by the clatter-
Ing steam-engine, the second by the spluttering electric-
battery, and now the purring dynamo was heading the
All the established sources of energy water, wind, fire,
and lightning were being harnessed with a new effective-
ness. Hydro-electric plants were being erected which could
feed power to motors hundreds of miles away. Single tur-
bines were built that were capable of yielding as much energy
as three million men straining with all their might. The gaso-
line engine was brought to a new stage of perfection, and so
was the oil-burning Diesel engine. An accounting made in
1930 revealed that every human being on earth had been
invested with the power of four hundred slaves.
Yet even more striking 1 than this increment of physical
energy was the accession of mechanical efficiency. The dream
of many an early inventor became realized at last : machines
appeared that worked almost automatically. Human beings
needed merely to press buttons, and steel forged itself, dough
turned into bread, ships steered precise courses, cows gave
their milk, and eggs nestled tenderly in crates. Raw wool fed
into one end of a machine was washed by it, combed, fluffed,
spun into yarn, dyed, woven into cloth, cut into lengths,
rolled into bolts, wrapped, labelled, and stacked ready for
shipment. Raw tobacco was similarly metamorphosed into
packaged cigarettes, and ambiguous foodstuffs into canned
soup or bottled sandwich-spread.
Any number of once complicated, arduous, and monoto-
nous tasks had somehow become magically swift and simple.
Man was now removed by two degrees from the actual bur-
dens of toil. In the beginning he had had to wield tools, and
282 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
then he had had to tend machinery. Now motors and photo-
electric cells did both. Moreover, the motors never wearied,
nor did the "electric eyes" ever wander or blink.
The processes of industry began to take on a new nature.
They grew not merely more efficient than ever in the past ;
they became hushed, clean, almost dreamlike. That was what
helped to make them so much more efficient. The great tech-
nicians had always known this, but the little industrialists
had never believed them. The latter had imagined that clean-
liness was a luxury, and silence a sign of impotence. James
Watt tells us
"I have once or twice trimmed the engine to end its stroke
gently . . . but Mr. cannot sleep unless it seems quite
furious. . . * Horrible noise serves to convey great ideas of power
to the ignorant, who seem to be no more taken with modest merit
in an engine than in a man/*
But now the ignorant were no longer in command of in-
dustry. Though they might still claim to own the machines,
they had long since ceased to run them. That task had been
taken over by salaried experts, and these were in a position
at last to enforce their own standards. The one thing they
most abominated was waste, any kind of waste waste mo-
tion, waste noise, waste smoke, waste space. See, for exam-
ple, what feats of thrift they performed in connection with
refuse. They gathered up the cottonseed which had formerly
been thrown away at the gin, and used it to produce felt,
rope, flour, lard, writing paper, salad oil, fertilizer, face
cream, roofing tar, laxatives, and nitroglycerin. They took
the maize that had once been thrown to the hogs and turned
it into oil, soap, glue, laundry starch, breakfast food, tan-
ner's sugar, and again! nitroglycerin.
All that was good to a degree. Unhappily, however, the
STILL THE MACHINE GROWS 283
degree was insufficient. The improvement was too largely
confined to the processes of industry rather than its pur-
poses. The men who wrought the improvement were inter-
ested solely in technology, not sociology. They were just as
eager to increase the production of nitroglycerin as soap.
A good plant, in their eyes, was merely one that worked well,
regardless of whether it produced mustard plasters or mus-
tard gas. They were scientists, they insisted, not world-
savers. Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and
earn their salaries.
That was, of course, a tragic limitation, and it contrib-
uted eventually to world disaster. The technologists were
penny wise but pound foolish. Immediately, however, their
penny-wisdom brought rich rewards. For one thing, it in-
creased the supply of goods. For another, it decreased the
blight of squalor. For a third, it created a new kind of love-
liness. Boiler-rooms began to take on the air of cathedral
naves ; machine-shops acquired the look of well-run labora-
tories. In part that was because there was no longer any
effort at prettification, no longer any passion for sticking
iron posies and curlicues on machinery- Now the command-
ing urge was to simplify, to let the Machine be itself, to let
it fulfil its function without apology or pretense. The gain
was twofold. Now the Machine was able to become a thing
of beauty as well as a source of goods.
Production billowed like smoke from a volcano, and the
whole earth filled up with merchandise. This was due^not
alone to the existence of more machines, but also to the
presence of more people to tend them. Women had entered
industry in unprecedented numbers ever since the War. In
addition, thanks to the declining death-rate, a larger pro-
portion of the population was adult. The world-production
of coal and iron and silk almost doubled between 1910 and
284 SOMETHING WENT WEONG
1930. Every other commodity from aluminum to zinc in-
creased in abundance. Meat became more plentiful, fruit and
vegetables more variegated. The yield of wheat leapt from
3,250,000 bushels in 1910 to 4,500,000 In 1930.
And what was true of raw-stuffs was truer still of manu-
factured wares. Completely new products appeared on the
market: synthetic fabrics, plastics, metals, lacquers, and
dyes. At the same time familiar products acquired a novel
charm and cheapness. Clothing increased in quality as well
as quantity. Mass-production brought the styles of Paris
within the means of typists and shoe-clerics* wives. Housing
improved, and sanitary facilities began to flush the world.
There was actually a beginning of slum clearance in several
lands. The automobile became commonplace all over the
globe, and also the tractor, the airplane, the telephone, the
cinema, and finally the radio. Arabs began to cross the des-
ert in air-conditioned busses, and Thibetans learnt to tune
in Moscow on their crystal sets. Books multiplied, micro-
scopes multiplied, vaccines, insecticides, spectacles, safety
razors, tooth brushes, sewing machines, and refrigerators
multiplied. Contraceptive aids, those supreme labor-saving
devices, began to be produced so cheaply that they found a
market even in China.
At last the promise born with the Machine was being
surely realized. Thus far the world had seen no more than
the first faint glimmer of the Day of Plenty.
Now the sun was out.
XXXII. THE BIG BOOM
HE sun was out, and it warmed
one land especially the United
States. The First World War had
served it much as the Napoleonic
Wars had once served Great Brit-
ain. The Americans were able to
turn the apple of discord into
hard cider and go on a spree*
Thus far they had always been on
the receiving end in their commercial dealings with Europe
and had had to pay for it at heavy interest. Now the tables
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
were turned. Not America but Europe had to do the buying
and borrowing ; and not Europe, but America, raked in the
profits. Even before the United States came around to en-
tering the War, it had already ceased to be a debtor nation.
Eventually it became the world's record creditor.
And it remained that.
The country had not
alone managed to collect
the richest store of gold ;
it had also succeeded in
erecting t^e mightiest
hive of industry. This
gave it an unbeatable ad-
vantage once a battle-
battered Europe began to
try to mend itself. The
War Boom, after a sick-
ening post-war slump,
gave way to a peace boom.
Europe needed food, Eu-
rope needed clothing, Eu-
rope needed machinery,
Europe needed credit,
America sold her food,
America sold her cloth-
ing, America sold her
machinery, America gave
That was how America's peace boom got under way on
a gust of foreign trade. Once launched, however, it caught a
domestic wind, and then it went higher than a kite. That
wind was caused by many factors, but the chief was prob-
ably the explosion of the automobile industry. A crotchety
THE BIG BOOM 287
manufacturer whose name has already been mentioned,
Henry Ford, got the notion that the surest way to profit by
the "horseless carriage 55 was to mate it not bigger and
fancier, but simpler and cheaper. As early as 1908 he de-
cided to concentrate on a single model which could be assem-
bled out of standard parts with a minimum amount of fum-
bling and fitting. To speed up the process and speed was
his abiding obsession he borrowed an idea from the Chi-
cago meat-packers. They used an overhead trolley to swing
the carcasses down a line of butchers, so he introduced a
"conveyor belt" to carry the automobile parts to his me-
chanics. That saved time, and time was money. By 1914
Henry Ford was able to turn out 700 cars a day. Even then
he was not satisfied. He kept improving and extending the
assembly lines until by 1922 he was producing 4,000 cars
a day, and by 1924 as many as 7,000.
Other automobile makers began to imitate him. By 1929
one firm in Milwaukee was turning out a complete chassis
every eight seconds, fully 10,000 in a day. That year the
total output of automobiles reached a peak of 5,000,000
This alone would have been enough to create a surge of
prosperity, for it stimulated production in a hundred aux-
iliary industries: tin, rubber, petroleum, glass, timber, up-
holstery, and first-aid kits. Roads had to be built, and also
garages, gasoline stations, hot-dog stands, hotels, motels,
and morgues. Mechanics had to be supplied with overalls,
insurance agents with calling-cards, and traffic-cops with
Yet even greater than the direct effect of the automobile
itself was the influence exerted by the way in which it was
manufactured. Ford made America "mass-production con*
288 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
scious." Every up-and-coming industrialist sought to stand-
ardize his product, and turn it out on an assembly line.
Every conceivable article from a pin to a locomotive began
to be fabricated with the aid of conveyor belts. The United
States began to wallow in something no country had ever
achieved before: actual abundance. By 1929 it was able to
boast nearly as many automobiles as families, almost as
many telephones, twice as many daily newspapers, five times
as many monthly magazines. There were enough shoe fac-
tories to make seven pairs of shoes for every man, woman,
and child in the land. The tobacco factories were actually
producing 97,000,000,000 cigarettes a year.
Americans had been proud of their productivity in 1914,
for their industrial plant had been able to turn out twenty-
three billion dollars' worth of merchandise that year. By
1929 it was turning out more than three times as much.
The merchandise was not all good, of course. On the con-
trary, some of it was harmful, more was tawdry, and much
was worthless. There were worms in many of the canned
foods, toxins in most of the patent medicines. The cheaper
furniture was held together by glue, and the cheaper textiles
by starch. Most of the newspapers were full of lies, many of
the magazines were full of filth, and almost all of the movies
were full of imbecility. More often than not the shoes,
pinched, the shirts shrank, the clothes shredded in a season,
and the stockings tore in a day.
Nevertheless they sold. The very shoddiness of such wares
helped to make them sell. People were forced to keep buying
because so little that they bought would last. And of course
there were other compulsions. Advertising goaded people to
want things, more and more things. Poets like Stephen Vin-
cent Benet might lament that
THE BIG BOOM 289
". . . when the last moon-shiner buys his radio,
And the last, lost, wild-rabbit of a girl
Is civilized with a mail-order dress,
Something will pass that was American
And all the movies will not bring it back."
But those who had goods to sell were not interested in bring-
ing anything back. Their one aim was to push everything
forward. That was why they advertised.
They persuaded people to replace not alone the articles
that didn't last, but even those that could and did. This was
not too difficult: the sellers merely extended the fashion-
craze. No matter how durable an object might be, invari-
ably a way was found to make it swiftly obsolete. An auto-
mobile that would run at all had to be built stoutly enough
to run for six or eight years. So the body-styles were changed
annually. Any radio that would really work was likely to
keep on working until even Amos 5 n* Andy ran out of breath.
So the cabinets were built differently each season.
A thousand stratagems were employed to stimulate peo-
ple to buy, stratagems as old as Christmas and as new as
Mother's Day. And people bought.
Not that they had the cash. How could they have the cash
when the bulk of them were workers? True, wages had gone
up somewhat, especially in the mass-production industries.
As early as 1914, Henry Ford had astounded the world by
announcing that henceforth the least he would pay any of
his employees was $5 a day. By 1926 he had raised the base-
rate to $7. But the work was seasonal, and unless his em-
ployees could find other jobs when he laid them off, their
earnings barely averaged $150 a month. That, obviously,
was not enough to provide cash for luxuries. It was not even
enough for ordinary necessities. A government survey re-
290 SOMETHING WENT WKONG
vealed that in 1929 a "standard" Ford worker's family was
able to spend throughout the entire year
$7.69 for amusements
4.23 for laundry
1.66 for literature
1.08 for domestic help
9.62 for religion
Yet such a worker was receiving relatively high wages.
The average industrial laborer did not earn more than $100
a month during 1929, and the average white-collar worker
only $117. In July of that year the best month the aver-
age farm laborer earned barely $50, no board included.
Between 1919 and 1927 all the farm families in the country
had an average monthly income of $63 in cash. In 1929 fully
a third of the entire population of the country was living
on the level of bare subsistence.
Nevertheless goods got sold. How? On credit. What had
once been the prerogative of the rich became the privilege
of the poorest of the poor now. Almost anybody could buy
almost anything on the "installment plan. 9 * And almost
everybody did. The idea of buying goods on the basis of "a
dollar down and the rest when they catch you" proved irre-
sistibly alluring. Consequently, although wages went up
barely 12 % during the seven fat years beginning in 1922,
purchasing power went up more than 22 %. People bought
not alone houses on installments, but permanent waves, ob-
stetrical operations, even funerals. It meant, of course, that
they paid high prices, and steeped themselves deep in debt.
But what did they care? "The Lord is my shepherd," they
sang, "I should worry!" Or else they snickered: "Wouldn't
it be funny if we could afford to live the way we do ?"
And thus the land began to heave and rock with what was
said to be prosperity.
2.0 1 j-
THE BIG BOOM 291
The effect, naturally, was soon felt abroad, especially in
Europe. Even Germany, the stricken heart of Europe,
started to pulse again with what some people took to be
prosperity. And there too the secret of it all was credit.
Germany was supposed to pay fabulous reparations for
the damage she had done in "causing" the War. These sums
were supposed to go to the Allies, who were then supposed to
pass them on in payment
of their debts to America.
But how was Germany to
provide the sums in the
first place? The War had
worn her out, and the
peace had left her pros-
trate. Between economic
depletion, political dis-
sension, and monetary
inflation, she was reduced
to complete bankruptcy.
Obviously there was only
one way to put her in a
<2 i Lp lim *^r i i I I j^
position to hand out cash, I * """ "I I
and that was to give her
credit. So it was given.
England, Holland, and
Switzerland gave/ part, and the United States gave the rest.
It was a case of /handouts-across-the-sea. Between 1924 and
1928 Germany received some six billion marks in credit, and
returned mark this! only five and a half billion in cash.
Immediately,, therefore, she seemed to profit by the whole
Immediately everybody seemed to profit. Germany got
credit with which to renovate her factories, France and her
292 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
satellites got cash with which to expand their factories, and
the United States got encouragement at 6% to advance
more credit. It was all mad, of course. What would happen
once the process of renovation and expansion was complete,
and production got into full swing? There would be no place
to sell. The domestic markets would be glutted because the
masses within each country would be too poor to buy. More-
over, the foreign markets would be closed because most coun-
tries had walled themselves in with tariff barriers. Eventu-
ally, therefore, the borrowers would no longer be able to
incur new debts, for they would be failing to pay the interest
on their old ones. So then the chief lender, Uncle Sam, would
have to turn into Uncle Shylock, and the whole crazy merry-
go-round would inevitably collapse. Anyone with the wit and
will to look ahead could see that that was as sure as ...
But very few people had that much wit, and even fewer
the will. Why worry about the future ? A good capitalist was
supposed to let the future take care of itself. Sufficient unto
the day was the profit thereof.
So those in charge of the merry-go-round let it go faster
and faster. More speed created not alone greater profit but
also a stouter illusion of security. It increased the giddiness
and thus lessened the temptation to try to think. Even
those who were paid to think, the statesmen and economists,
even they seemed reluctant to try. They preferred to go
round and round with the world, and hope for the best.
This was true in every capitalist land, but most of all, of
course, in the United States. There the giddiness grew so in-
tense that people actually began to think it normal. They
began to say a "New Era" had arrived. Henceforth there
could never again be unemployment, misery, or class-conflict.
THE BIG BOOM 293
True, there were at least a million laborers still out of work
in the country, two million families in distress, and never a
day without strikes. But these were dismissed as passing phe-
nomena. Between mass production, high wages, installment
buying, and a sound Republican administration, this coun-
try was definitely assured of more and more prosperity with
each new day.
Such things were not merely said; they were believed.
Moreover* they were said and believed not merely by com-
mon folk, but by the most noted in the land. Even Mr. Her-
bert Hoover, already the Secretary of Commerce, and soon
to be the President, solemnly declared, "The poorhouse is
vanishing from among us." The idea that prosperity had
been made permanent became a national dogma, and all
right-thinking citizens felt it their duty to gamble on it. Of
course, they did not call it gambling. They called it "invest-
ing in the future." But by any other name, it was still gam-
bling. Some people gambled in real estate, others in dreamy
mining ventures, but most gambled in registered stocks and
bonds. Wall Street became the National Shrine, and literally
millions rushed to lay their offerings on its counters.
The rich and the learned, the righteous and the worldly-
wise, all began to worship the Golden Bull. Businessmen took
to spending more time in brokers* offices than in their own
factories or stores. Union officials grew to find the Dow-
Jones averages more enthralling even than the baseball
scores. Window-cleaners eavesdropped on financiers for ru-
mors of "pools. " Chorus girls sacrificed what was left of
their virtue for "inside tips." Shopkeepers, schoolteachers,
parsons, and widowed mothers took their life-savings out of
the bank to "play the market." People mortgaged their
homes and borrowed on their insurance to get more and
more money to buy "securities." They borrowed on the "se-
294 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
curities" themselves, paying the brokers as much as 9%
interest in order to be able to hold shares that had never paid
even 6% dividends.
For those people were not thinking of the dividends. Most
of them did not expect to hold their shares long enough to
get the dividends. They were buying for the rise. Stocks were
going up. The "bulls' 5 had broken loose, and it looked as
though one need merely grab a tail to get a free ride to
Eldorado. Every day, every hour, every minute the stocks
kept going up. Not all of them, of course, but most of them,
or nearly most. Radio Corporation of America, after knock-
ing about for years at a few dollars a share, leapt to $94 in
1928, and $549 in 1929.
That was the great year 1929. By then every significant
index pointed to trouble. Ominous things were already hap-
pening in Europe : unemployment was mounting, demagogues
were running wild, and governments were finding it more and
more difficult to meet their obligations. Even in America the
ground was beginning to crack. Most of the billions that had
gone into the stock-market had been used to create "capital
goods" that is, to develop factories, mines, and other pro-
ductive enterprises. Now that those enterprises were begin-
ning to fulfil their purpose, the country was heaping up with
"consumer goods." But where were the consumers ? Who was
going to buy all the automobiles that crammed the ware-
houses, all the skirts and shirts and shovels and shoes that
piled up in the stores ?
Purchasing power was not keeping up with production;
not nearly. Wages had been rising barely 1%% a year,
whereas the output of goods had been swelling at the rate of
4% a year. To be sure, the wage-earners could buy on the
installment plan but not indefinitely. It was all very well
to let people get up to their necks in debt, but if they went
THE BIG BOOM 295
deeper than that, they were no longer able to pay through
the nose. That was why there was a necessary limit to con-
sumer credit and the limit had already been reached. The
proof of it was that merchandise already purchased on con-
sumer credit was beginning increasingly to return. The buy-
ers were failing to meet the monthly payments.
That was a storm-warning, and some who recognized it
knew enough to run to cover. They dumped their stocks and
ducked into cellars made tight and snug with cash or gov-
ernment bonds. But the few that behaved thus were subjected
to general ridicule. They were called fools, old fogies, fel-
lows without faith, fellows without vision, fellows too dumb
to understand that a "New Era" had arrived.
The storm-warnings multiplied. Unemployment kept in-
creasing, and so did the case-loads of the charity organiza-
tions. Merchants who still found time to look at their shelves
began to notice that they were not emptying nearly fast
enough. But did Wall Street take heed? It did not. The Re-
publican Party had just been returned to office for the third
successive term, and Wall Street knew that the Republican
Party was the "Party of Prosperity/' Mr. Herbert Hoover
had been elected the President, and Wall Street knew that
Mr. Herbert Hoover was a millionaire and sound. So why
Stocks continued to rise. All through the summer of 1929
they continued to rise higher and higher. American Can rose
to 160, to 170, to 181%. New York Central climbed to 250,
yet went on climbing. General Electric hit 396. Too high,
brother? Don't be silly! Look at Morgan he's still buying!
Look at Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Astor, Whitney they're
all buying ! And they're on the inside ! They know! So buy,
296 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Brother did buy, and sister too. Fish peddlers brought
their smelly dollar bills to the brokers to buy "sump'n you
tink good. Boss I" Waitresses pooled their dimes and rushed
to the brokers to take a "flyer." Everybody bought, and
stock quotations rose higher and higher. They rose higher
. . . still higher . . . and yet still higher.
XXXIII. THE GREAT CRASH
HEN came the Deluge. Thunder
pealed aU through September,
1929, but the great wise men on
Wall Street and even more the
little wise guys on Main Street
refused to take heed. The sudden
and recurrent breaks in the stock
market were dismissed as "techni-
cal adjustments." There were fur-
ther and sharper breaks in early October ; but still the specu-
lators remained bullish. One of the high priests at the
298 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
National Shrine, Mr. Charles E. Mitchell of the National
City Bank, looked up from his altar and pontificated : "The
American Markets generally are now in a healthy con-
Instantly prices rallied but only to sag again the next
week. On October 23 there was a break that carried some
stocks down more than ninety points. Knees began to quake
then, and faces grayed. The next morning a number of stocks
could find no buyers at any price, and then even the high
priests became alarmed. They had advanced more than six
and a half billion dollars to the speculators. Should they call
in those loans and start a panic? Or should they sit tight
and risk bankruptcy? A conference was hastily summoned in
the Holy of Holies the directors* room of J. P. Morgan &
Company and throughout the land anxious hearts pounded
louder than the tickers. Finally, at 1 : 15 P.M., word came of
the decision. Mr. Richard Whitney, then floor-operator for
the Morgan company later floor-sweeper in Sing Sing
strode into the Exchange and bid for a block of U. S. Steel
at twelve points above the current price. Salvation! Imme-
diately stocks ceased to fall. Some even began to climb.
Not for long, however. The public, reassured by the mir-
acle on Black Thursday, started to buy again. But those
who had worked the miracle began to sell. Quietly, gently,
they eased themselves of their burdens. Four days this con-
tinued, four fevered days during which all who were sup-
posed to be in the know talked "long," and all who were
behind the show sold "short."
Then, on October 29, it happened.
The storm finally broke, and it tore the bottom right out
from under the market. The rush of selling orders jammed
the tickers, choked the telephone wires, wrecked the teletype
machines. Within half an hour of the opening of the Ex-
THE GREAT CBASH 299
change, more than a million shares had been dumped on the
counters. By noon the volume of trading had passed the
eight million mark. When the closing gong tolled the end of
that stark raving day, nearly sixteen and a half million
shares had changed hands. The National Shrine had become
the Wailing Wall.
The Big Bull Market had collapsed. The vaunted New
Era was no more. What had happened so often before, had
happened once again: having begun by losing their heads,
the businessmen had ended by losing their shirts. And even
their hides, this time. The Panic of 1837 had been bad, that
of 1857 even worse, and in 1875 and 1893 others had come
which had proved still worse. Yet all those four together did
not equal the one that now befell the United States. The
investment structure became a shambles. What had so long
been called "securities," became mere paper flying before the
At first all authoritative voices insisted on screaming that
there was no cause for alarm. "Don't sell America short P*
they screamed. The President naturally refrained from
screaming; he spoke calmly, as became one in so august an
office. But what Mr. Hoover said calmly might just as well
have been screamed, for it was no less delusory, and no more
effective. Time and again he cleared his throat, moistened his
lips, and shakily asserted: "We have now passed the worst.
. . . Prosperity is just around the corner." But where was
The panic deepened and spread. During 1931 alone some
2000 banks had to close their doors ; 28,000 business firms
went bankrupt. That same year 39 % of the largest corpora-
tions in the country lost money, and half of the major rail-
roads went into receivership-
300 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
And conditions grew even worse in 1932.
People ceased to call it merely a panic ; it had become The
Depression. A corner had been reached at last, but behind it
lurked prostration. Goods would not move. No matter at
what price they were offered, they would not move.
By January, 1931, wheat was selling at the lowest price
in two hundred and fifty years. Nevertheless, millions of
poor people failed to eat more bread. By the end of that
year the wholesale price of textiles was down 32%. Never-
theless those millions failed to buy new clothes. It was not
that they did not want such things. They wanted them so
badly that they were ready to steal them. But they could not
buy them. They had always lacked cash, and now the mer-
chants would not give them credit. How could one give credit
to people who had no jobs?
For unemployment had increased appallingly. Even be-
fore October, 1929, there were already some 2,000,000 jobless
people in the country. A year later there were 4,000,000;
two years later, 7,000,000; three years later, 13,000,000.
The national economy went into a tailspin. More unemploy-
ment meant less purchasing power, and therefore still less
manufacturing, and therefore still more unemployment, and
therefore . . . By the end of 1932 there were 35% fewer peo-
ple at work in the factories than in 1929. To make matters
worse, those who did have jobs were getting lower wages.
Factory payrolls had fallen off by 54s%. To make matters
still worse, agricultural income, which had been low even
during the Boom, sank actually lower by some 57%. The net
result was that common purchasing power was reduced by
some thirty billion dollars approximately as much as the
country had spent to fight the World War.
That was why goods failed to move. The masses lacked the
means to get at them. Millions had to spend all they could
THE GREAT CRASH 301
earn or beg merely to lay hold of enough food to keep flesh
on their bones. If they had anything left over often even if
they hadn't they helped themselves to liquor and tobacco.
Of all the major industries, only liquor despite that it was
illegal and tobacco seemed able to prosper.
Evil days fell on the land, evil days and months and years*
Breadlines formed in the cities, and foul squatter settle-
ments "Hoovervilles," they were ironically called gath-
ered like scabs over the city dumps. Dispossessed farmers
sold their plows and mules, piled their families into old
Fords, and started wandering in search of a place where
there was food. A horde of ex-soldiers marched on Washing-
ton and encamped there in shacks until driven off by fire and
tear-gas. Skilled workers became hoboes ; bookkeepers be-
came hoboes ; teachers, lawyers, even former bankers became
hoboes. Boys just out of high school, and girls who dressed
like boys, began to rove about in packs. Crime increased
everywhere ; gangsterism broke all bounds. Evil days fell on
And it was even worse abroad. A good deal of the world
had been living off American capital ever since the War.
Eleven billion dollars had come pouring out of the United
States between 1917 and 1924, and another three billion
Idollars between 1924 and 1928. Most of the money had gone
to Europe, where it had been used first to set the economy
back on its feet, and then to keep it moving. Once this sup-
port was withdrawn, only one thing could happen,
Europe's economy collapsed.
In a sense it was dragged down, for the Americans did not
simply stop lending money to Europe; they began to de-
mand that what had already been borrowed should be re-
turned. They called in their short-term loans, and asked for
302 SOMETHING WENT WBONG
the interest on the long-term ones. Moreover, they wanted
payment in cash. They would not take goods. They already
had more goods than they knew what to do with. They
For a while they got gold. But after a year the supply
began to give out in Central Europe, and then the situation
grew critical. By May 1931 the chief bank in Vienna began
to totter, and its collapse threatened to drag the entire na-
tion into bankruptcy. The German banks, being heavily in-
volved in Austria's economy, rushed to the rescue. This,
however, left them so weakened that they in turn began to
cave in. The British banks struggled to shore them up, only
to weaken themselves in further turn. All Europe teetered
on the brink of financial chaos. The whole world teetered
At the last moment President Hoover took it on himself
to propose a year's moratorium on international debts. Too
late. In July every bank in Germany had to close its doors.
In September Great Britain had to refuse to honor its notes
in gold. By the end of 1931 fourteen other nations among
them Sweden, Japan, Siam, Chile, Persia were off the gold
Half the world had gone over the brink.
The blame was laid, of course, at the door of the United
States. Though this country had ceased to demand gold, it
was still refusing to buy goods. Formerly it had been the
world's largest customer for raw materials, and the second
largest for manufactured wares. But now, with the domestic
markets glutted, and the foreign ones choked, importation
necessarily had to decline. By the end of 1931 the United
States was importing less than a third as much as in 1928.
That meant unemployment in the tin mines in Malaya, the
silk mills in Japan, the rubber groves in Java, the coffee
THE GREAT CRASH SOS
plantations in Brazil. It meant unemployment in the English
woolen mills, the German dye works, the Czech glove f acto-
ries, the Italian felt looms. By the summer of 1932 there
were nearly 14,000,000 Europeans out of work. In Germany
half the young men between the ages of 16 and 32 were
The horror spread from the cities to the villages. Once the
urban masses began to pull in their belts, food began to fall
in price. Debt-ridden farmers found that interest charges
which they had once been able to meet with a hundred bushels
of wheat could not be settled now with less than two hun-
dred. That drove them still deeper into debt, forced them to
sell their cattle, finally left them bare. The word mortgage
began to recover its original meaning "death-grip." Peas-
ants in China had to let their sons become bandits. In Japan
they hired out their daughters, as whores. In the Balkans
they took to wearing animal skins and eating rats.
Despair stalked the earth. Men could not understand this
evil that had befallen them. Had it been a famine, they
would at least have seen a reason for their hunger. Had there
been an earthquake, they would have known why they were
shelterless. But food was rotting in the granaries and fields ;
everywhere shops and dwellings stood empty. Yet millions
throughout the world were begging for a crust to eat, mil-
lions were sleeping under bridges or in the open fields.
Something had gone wrong. Everybody knew now that
something had gone very wrong.
XXXIV. THE BEST LAID PLANS
HE Depression spread like a creep-
ing paralysis over every land on
earth except one. That was the
Soviet Union. Lenin had died and
Trotsky was in exile, but the gov-
ernment they had established was
still in power there. It was domi-
nated now by a man named Dzhu-
gashvili, alias Stalin: a hulking,
heavy-footed, hammer-fisted Georgian who had been a faith-
ful Bolshevik conspirator from his youth. During all the
THE BEST LAID PLANS 305
years that Lenin had directed the movement from Geneva,
Stalin had carried on underground at home. He had raised
funds often with a gun to send to Lenin, and had dis-
tributed the smuggled literature which those funds made pos-
sible. When the Revolution finally came in 1917, he received
his reward. He was made a member of Lenin's cabinet.
Seven years later, when Lenin died, most people expected
his mantle to fall on Trotsky. That is almost certainly what
would have happened had the question been put to a general
vote. But the decision rested with the Communist Party, not
the people. It did not rest even with the whole Party, but
merely with the head men; and among these Trotsky had
many enemies. The chief of them was this Stalin, and he was
as shrewd as he was implacable. He had all the gifts of a
ward-boss, and he began to exercise them now on a conti-
nental scale. By dint of playing on the fears and jealousies
of the other commissars, he got them to kick Trotsky down
and finally out.
That happened in 1927, and led swiftly to the inaugura-
tion of a new policy. Trotsky, like Lenin and most of the
other leading Bolsheviks, had never ceased to believe that
what had happened in Russia would soon have to happen
elsewhere. Most of them had lived elsewhere during prolonged
periods of exile, and no matter how far they had roamed,
invariably they had run into revolutionists. Indeed, wrapped
up as they were in the radical movement, they had rarely
met any foreigners who were not revolutionists. From this
they had naturally concluded that the whole world crawled
with revolutionists, and that it waited only for a signal be-
fore all of them started turning every country upside down.
But Stalin believed otherwise. Only once in his life had he
ever set foot outside the Russian Empire, and then it had
been only to smuggle himself to Prague to attend a Party
306 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
conclave. Being so ignorant of conditions abroad, he was
less mistaken about them. Peasant that he was, he had a
peasant's ingrained conviction that foreign lands and for-
eign peoples must necessarily be completely unlike his own.
And events had seemed to prove his conviction sound.
Despite all the fierce work and fiercer talk of the Comin-
tern, no other country had gone the way of Russia. Hungary
had made a lurch in that direction in 1919, but only to be
dragged right back. There had been a moment in 1923 when
Germany almost lurched, and in 1926 when England was
rumored to be almost on the point of lurching; but in both
cases nothing had happened. Even China, after having sup-
posedly sprawled over in 1925, somehow recoiled in 1927.
Stalin could draw only one deduction from those facts :
the capitalist world was not yet ready for revolution. And
from that deduction he could draw only one corollary: if
the revolutionary economy was ever to prevail, it would
have to be worked out first within the Soviet Union alone.
So that became his program now: "Socialism in one
After all, reasoned Stalin, the Soviet Union was certainly
big enough a country. It comprised, according to common
calculation, fully a sixth of the habitable globe. Its popu-
lation was almost as vast as that of all North America, and
its resources were said to be even vaster. True, the Soviet
population was relatively backward, and the Soviet re-
sources were largely buried. But surely there was a way to
At worst, according to Stalin, there was the familiar
bourgeois way. But Marx, he believed, had long since ex-
posed the folly of that way, and so had history, even though
tardily. Wherever a government had encouraged laissez-
faire, wherever it had "let *er go," there invariably the econ-
THE BEST LAID PLANS 307
omy had sooner or later come a cropper. The "bourgeois way
did work, but not beyond a certain point and even up to
that point only in a blind, muddled, and destructive fashion.
Therefore Stalin was all for trying another way, the one
that Marx had labelled "proletarian." Instead of relying on
rampant individual enterprise, this insisted on employing
only collective effort. Lenin had started out with that in
mind in 1917, and though he had turned aside in 1921, he
had never lost sight of his original intention. His New Eco-
nomic Policy, with its grudging concessions to petty capi-
talism, had been no more than an enforced detour. Now, six
years later, Stalin felt it was time to return to the high road.
Conditions in the Soviet Union were no longer so dire as
they had been in 1921. The wreckage caused by the War
and the Revolution had been partially repaired, and there
was once more a little capital in the treasury. The New Eco-
nomic Policy had laid its golden egg, so Stalin decided it
was safe to liquidate that goose. All the country needed
now, he believed, was a good big incubator to hatch out the
egg and bring forth a new kind of gosling.
And it was going to be a better kind. Stalin was still
enough of a Bolshevik to be absolutely insistent on that. The
same was true of all his henchmen. Nature, they insisted,
would have to be taken in hand, and made to do what it was
told. No more barnyard anarchy, no more loose cackling and
looser enterprise. The Soviet economy would be made to
grow as no economy had ever grown before. Why? Because
every detail of the growth was going to be thought out in
advance. And not the economy alone, but also the culture.
All life in the Soviet Union was going to be made to ad-
vance according to a Plan.
It was a fantastic idea, yet it was undertaken most grimly.
A commission of some seven hundred experts was appointed
308 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
to draw up and execute what was called the PiatUetJca, the
"Five-Year Plan" ; and by 1928 the schedules were all com-
plete, the maps and charts all drawn. Within the next five
years, it was proudly announced, the output of coal and oil
was going to be doubled, that of iron trebled, that of elec-
tricity quadrupled. The cost of production was going to be
reduced by 33%, and the yield per man-hour increased by
100%. Fifty-five million acres one fifth of all the peasant
holdings were going to be collectivized and tilled with the
latest mechanical equipment. Common schooling was going
to be so increased that illiteracy would be practically wiped
out, and enough scientific institutes were going to be estab-
lished to train all the needed technicians. In five years the
Soviet Union was going to "take and overtake" the capital-
ist standard of living!
Naturally, there would be a price to pay. In money-terms
the program would cost the equivalent of almost thirty-
three billion dollars. And who would provide this sum? The
workers, of course. Each worker would have to subscribe at
least a week's wages to a State Loan with which to prime the
pump, and thenceforth all would have to pump as they had
never pumped before. That, after all, was how capital was
created in the bourgeois lands. The only difference was that
there the workers, though they did all of the actual pump-
ing, got little of the profit. Here, on the contrary, they were
going to get every penny of it.
Propaganda of that sort was hard to resist, especially
when conducted as the Kremlin did conduct it. Every organ
of publicity was in its hands, and all of them were made to
blare the same tune unremittingly. Party orators were sent
to harangue the workers in the factories, the peasants in the
fields, the children in the schools. All the journalists were
brought into the campaign; so were all the poets, all the
THE BEST LAID PLANS 309
novelists, all the actors on both stage and screen. The aver-
age man could no more resist the clamor than he could a
tidal wave. It bowled him over, and set him threshing about
in a sea of foamy enthusiasm.
There was some dissent, of course. In the fat grainlands
of the Ukraine there was some very bitter dissent. Many of
the abler, or luckier, or greedier peasants down there had
waxed relatively rich under the New Economic Policy. These
were naturally loath to give up their riches. They burned
their crops and slaughtered their cattle rather than turn
them over to the collectives. But that did them no good. If
they were outspoken in their dissent they were shot or
dragged away in chain-gangs. If they were merely sullen,
they were driven into a corner of their lands and left to
starve. That, to be sure, did not do the country much good
either. Famine swept the grainlands, and the fetid breath of
hunger returned to the cities. But it did at least crush the
Yet terror was only a minor factor in the success of the
campaign. The major one was true zeal. It may not have
been spontaneous zeal, but once kindled it flamed hot and
wild. Millions of workers subscribed not a week's pay to the
State Loan, but a month's and even more. Tens of millions
worked not alone harder, but longer and for no extra money.
They exhausted themselves merely to win a badge, or to
carry a flag, or to get their names on honor-rolls. Men and
women joined "shock-brigades," and competed to see which
team could accomplish most in the least time. Production-
contests were voluntarily arranged between factories, be-
tween farm groups, between railway lines, even between
prison gangs. Work was made a form of sport, but with a
touch of war desperation added, and also a touch of reli-
310 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
And prodigies were performed. The oil industry was well
on its way to completing its five-year assignment at the end
of two. Soon the automobile industry was almost equally
ahead of schedule, and so was the farm-tool industry. The
whole campaign advanced at such a pace that before long
a demand arose for a new goal. More and more people began
to urge that the Five-Year Plan be finished in four. Just
who gave them that idea, they did not know, and the Krem-
lin saw no reason to tell them. But once they did get it, they
were given no chance to let it go. Wherever they turned they
were confronted with the slogan: "The Five- Year Plan in
Four!" It was in all the newspapers, on all the hoardings,
over every public building, inside every factory hall. Peo-
ple read it on the paper napkins in the restaurants, on the
wooden benches in the parks, even on whitewashed walls of
The campaign succeeded. Fast as people had worked be-
fore, now they worked even faster. Not better, of course.
There was no time for that. Merely faster. Sweat poured
from them as they toiled faster and faster. The miners
sweated, the farmers sweated, the machinists, the clerks, and
the bookkeepers sweated. All the rivers in Russia ran with
sweat. And the Five- Year Plan was finished in four.
True, it was finished very imperfectly. If some industries
over-fulfilled their assignments, others did not even approach
them. And all achieved their results by forgetting all about
quality. The clothed and boots were abominably made out
of the most abominable materials. The household wares were
as flimsy and crude as any Great Britain had misbegotten
in the first days of her own unplanned industrial surge.
Many of the machines were faultily constructed, and even
more were wrecked by faulty mechanics. Some of the new
factories began to crumble even before the scaff olding around
THE BEST LAID PLANS 311
them could be removed. One o the largest, an automobile
factory at Nizhni-Novgorod that had been expected to turn
out 144,000 cars a year, had to be closed within three
months of its much-celebrated opening.
To make matters worse, not merely was quality over-
looked, but quantity was overstated. Too-zealous bookkeep-
ers had added where they should have subtracted, and mul-
tiplied where they should have added. Every total had to be
heavily discounted to allow for error or warm-hearted fraud.
Nevertheless the achievement was stupendous. Nearly two-
thirds of the agricultural land was collectivized and at least
partially mechanized. School attendance was more than dou-
bled, and illiteracy was about decimated. High up in the
Urals a monster steel-plant was erected, and around it a
brand-new town housing 180,000 people. Way down in Tur-
kestan a former American I.W.W. had carried through the
construction of a railway traversing 1,100 miles of desert
and rock. A giant dam had been flung across the river
Dnieper to provide a head of water for an electric plant gen-
erating 900,000 horsepower. The gangrenous slums around
the oil-wells at Baku had been supplanted by a garden, city
on the heights, with clubs, schools, hospitals, an electric rail-
way, and pure water piped from reservoirs ninety miles
away. Stalingrad on the Volga was made a little Detroit,
Magnitogorsk a potential Pittsburgh, Kharkov another
Kansas City. The commissars began to boast that their
country had made as much industrial progress in four years
as any capitalist nation had achieved in forty.
The idea of drawing a blueprint for economic growth had
apparently worked. It had worked so well, or at least so
spectacularly, that even before all the figures could be to-
talled the Kremlin decided to launch a Second Five- Year
Plan. This, it was announced, would plug the holes in the
312 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
First, and round out the level of progress. More attention
would be paid to quality in basic construction, and more to
quantity in consumer goods. Prices would be reduced by
40 % 9 real wages increased by 100%, and the trade turn-
over multiplied by from 250% to 300%. The masses were
going to be provided with more and better houses, more and
faster trains, more and smoother roads. There were going
to be neckties for the men, lipsticks for the women, foun-
tain pens for the students, and rubber dolls for the tots.
There was even going to be enough white bread !
And once more the masses fell to with a will. Once more
they began to sweat as they labored, and grin through their
sweat. They knew they were making progress. Every day
now, every hour, life was improving under the Red Star.
Goods were multiplying, and with them was coming good-
ness. That at least was what those masses told themselves.
The achieving of material abundance, they believed, would
soon bring all sorts of spiritual abundance in its wake. Al-
ready there was talk of how Stalin was preparing a new
Constitution for the country, one guaranteeing complete
freedom and civil liberty. That meant the Dictatorship was
about to end, or at least about to begin to end. The Soviet
Union was going to taste the joys of full democracy at last.
So there was ample reason for the Soviet masses to grin
as they sweated. They were making progress.
XXXV. A NEW DEAL,
LMOST everywhere else in the
world there was cold despair, but
in the Soviet Union people wal-
lowed in hope. Everywhere else un-
employment kept mounting, but in
the Soviet Union there were more
jobs than hands. Everywhere else
the economy withered, but in the
Soviet Union it appeared to be all
buds and blooms.
The contrast was so stark that people everywhere else be-
314 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
gan to scratch their heads and wonder. Not all the people
there did that, nor most, nor even relatively many. But
these who did were usually the sort who could attract atten-
tion, for they had heads that towered, and they knew how to
wonder out loud. Most of them were mettlesome intellec-
tuals, or militant workers, or active humanitarians, and they
exercised an influence out of all proportion to their numbers.
Some went to Russia to see for themselves what was happen-
ing, and of these the most vocal came back with ecstatic re-
ports. Said one of them, a famous American journalist and
cynic named Lincoln Steff ens : "I have seen the Future, and
it works !" And myriads who never went to Russia took such
reports as gospel truth. They repeated them, expatiated on
them, rhapsodized about them. Thus there was created a
The general attitude toward communism began to change
somewhat in most capitalist lands. At first it had been one
of horror, and then one of contempt. Now an increasing
number of people started to accord the movement a grudg-
ing admiration. Quite respectable people caught themselves
worrying whether those crazy Bolsheviks might be right
after all. Not in everything, of course. Not, for example, in
their advocacy of violent revolution. There they were no
better than criminals. Nor in their acceptance of political
dictatorship. There they were just plain fools. But what
about that idea of theirs about economic planning? That
certainly seemed to be working. No matter how one dis-
counted their figures and distrusted their tales, the fact re-
mained that they had achieved a triumph. They had hoisted
the half -dead Russian bear out of the dust, bound his
wounds, cured his mange, put a gleam in his eye, and set him
coasting on roller-skates. And all within half a decade. They
had taken a region that had never caught up even with the
A NEW DEAL
Nineteenth Century, and in
half a decade pushed it smack
into the middle of the Twen-
tieth. And all without any
financial aid from abroad.
That seemed nothing short of
a miracle. Yet it wasn't really
a miracle, for see how it had
been accomplished. No prayer,
no mumbo- jumbo. The com-
munists had simply drawn a
blueprint of what they wanted,
and then had worked like hell
to carry it out.
More and more people in
the capitalist lands began to
argue thus. And more and
more began to ask themselves
a question. At first hesitantly,
then almost with bravado,
they began to ask themselves :
If the communists can do a
thing like that, why can't we?
It was a blasphemous ques-
tion in a way, blasphemous
because it challenged the first
principle of capitalism. Ac-
cording to that principle, a
plan was already in existence,
a perfect one ordained by
Nature. All respectable peo-
ple had believed that for a
hundred years or more. They
the U.S.S.R. people grinned
316 SOMETHING WENT WEONG
had universally taken it for granted that, thanks to the mys-
lerious beneficence of some Inscrutable Force, if each man
would only mind his own business, all men would prosper in
the end. But now people were less sure of that. The Depres-
sion had made them a lot less sure of that. All along they
had let Nature take its course and look where it had landed
That was why many people in the capitalist lands were
ready now to indulge in blasphemy. Their faith in the capi-
talist system had been shaken. All along that system had
promised to bring prosperity, and until 1929 it had given
proof that it might fulfil the promise. Had it not multiplied
the machines that multiplied goods, and flooded the earth
with plenty? Had it not humbled the feudal lordlings, and
given the common folk a chance to rise? Of course it had ! By
every gross standard it had improved life for the man in the
street, and even for the man in the alley. That was why both
had accepted capitalism, and had identified it with civiliza-
tion and progress. But now? Now they were not so sure.
Though they might still believe in that system, they had
finally become convinced that it needed to be taken in hand.
Their attitude might be likened to that of vassals toward
a king who in his prime had been able to shower them with
favors, and who for that reason had been forgiven all his
sins. Though he had lied and cheated, though he had often
been cruel and always been selfish, those vassals had been
reluctant to complain. After all, was he not in his own ca-
pricious way making them rich and powerful? Far from
complaining, they had hailed him to the skies, and had[
howled down all who dared do otherwise.
But that was in the past. Since then the monarch's sins
had caught up with him. The excesses he had so long in-
dulged in had begun to tell at last, and his prowess had sud-
A NEW DEAL 317
denly waned. Proof? Look at his condition right now. He
was prostrate. He had fallen all of a heap in 1929, and had
not stirred since then. True, he had broken down many times
before. Once in about every ten years he had reeled and slid
under the table. In the past, however, he had always snored
when piled into bed. Now he was barely able to breathe. In
the past he had always begun to stir after at most a few
months. This time he was still in a stupor after three years.
So the truth was out: His Majesty was no longer the man
he used to be.
What then was to be done ? Should he be dragged out and
thrown to the dogs ? No, that was neither feasible nor poli-
tic. The most powerful courtiers were still faithful to the
old reprobate^ and these would fight hard in his defense.
Besides, what guarantee was there that a new king would
prove any better? For that matter, how was there to be any
agreement as to who the new king should be? It was wiser,
therefore, to do nothing drastic. It was wiser to try reform
rather than revolution. First the sick ruler ought to be dosed
with stimulants to bring him back to life. Then, once on his
feet again, he ought to be told to behave. And made to be-
have. A strict regimen ought to be imposed on him, and
precautions taken to see that he kept it. Thus the invalid
would not alone be restored to vigor ; he might even be made
more vigorous than before. And then his vassals would be
able to enjoy even greater beneficence at his hands. . . .
That, in crude analogy, was how many people began to
feel about capitalism. They did not want to destroy it. On
the contrary, their one desire was to keep it from destroying
itself. To do that, however, they felt they must rein it in a
And this they began to do now. In Britain a coalition
government proceeded to pass "Marketing Acts'* and other
318 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
measures to take some of the spleen out of laissez-faire. In
France a little later an avowedly socialist government be-
gan to move in on the banks, and nationalize various indus-
tries. In the Scandinavian countries flagrantly radical cabi-
nets gave increasing support to the cooperative movement.
In Spain a revolutionary government overthrew the mon-
archy, and formally announced, "The Spanish State is a
workers' Republic." And in the United States the old Demo-
cratic Party set out to establish a "New Deal."
Of all those developments, the last was the most portentous
and impressive. It was directed by a handsome individual
named Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was at once a gen-
tleman and a politician, a sportsman and a paralytic, a man
who could keep his gaze on the stars and his ear to the
ground. He had stupendous courage, energy, charm, and
humor. In addition and this was decisive he had a most
beautiful voice. The day he took office was perhaps the
darkest in his country's history. All the banks had been
closed to prevent a total collapse of the financial structure.
Industry was threatened with strangulation, and commerce
seemed on the point of death. Terror had closed over the
entire land, for millions of citizens faced the prospect of
losing every cent they had saved. It was a day so fearful
that only a Titan could hope to save it. Luckily such a one
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was there, and when he raised
his voice, the day was saved. For tens of millions could hear
that voice they had their radios and there was assurance
in it, clear, strong, ringing assurance that made every lis-
tener's heart beat anew. Said he :
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself nameless, un-
reasoning, UB justified terror. . . . This great nation will endure as
it has endured, will revive and will prosper. . . . The people of
A NEW DEAL 319
the United States have not failed ... [it is] the rulers of the ex-
change of mankind's goods [who] have failed, through their own
stubbornness and their own incompetence. , . . Their efforts have
been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. . . . They have
no wsion, and where there Is no vision the people perish." . . .
That was talking. That was good, plain, knuckle-hard
talking. And it was followed at once by just that kind of
action. Months earlier Mr. Roosevelt had promised the peo-
ple a "New Deal/ 3 and now he set out to give it to them.
During those months a hand-picked group of young advis-
ers his "brain trust/ 9 it was called had helped him draw
up a plan of action.
Four problems had to be solved at once. The first was un-
employment, which had become a choking embolism in the
blood-stream of the economy. There were perhaps 15,000,-
000 people who were out of jobs, and most of them had to
be staked until they could find jobs. The second problem
was farm poverty, which had developed chronic ulcers in the
economy's stomach. Agricultural prices were so low that
crops were fetching less than they cost to raise. Some 30,-
000,000 farm-folk were faced with foreclosure on their lands
unless the government came at once to their aid. The third
problem was industrial stagnation, which was fast crippling
the economy's limbs. With so many workers unemployed, so
many farmers out of funds, and most of the foreign markets
closed, the owners of the machines were naturally refusing
to produce more goods. And, most exigent of* all, there was
finally the problem of the financial breakdown, for that
threatened to paralyze the economy's entire nervous sys-
tem. The banks had to be immediately rehabilitated, the
stock exchanges had to be reformed, and the whole monetary
structure had to be made over.
A man less brave than President Roosevelt or more sapi-
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
u, S. A.
ent might have quailed before tasks so tremendous. But he
sailed right into them with both fists flying. He set hundreds
of thousands, eventually millions, of people to work draining
swamps, building roads, painting murals, giving concerts,
and carrying out a thousand other good or makeshift proj-
ects. He extended loans to the debt-ridden farmers, and
paid them subsidies in order to raise farm prices. He tried
to end the chaos in busi-
ness by setting up codes
of "fair practice 5 * in
commerce and industry.
He buttressed the labor
unions, nailed a floor un-
der wages, hammered a
ceiling over work-hours,
and prohibited the em-
ployment of children. He
encouraged the cities to
build model tenements,
and inaugurated stupen-
dous rural reclamation
schemes. He patched up
the banking system, built
dykes to restrain stock
the credit structure, and revalued the dollar. He castigated
the "economic royalists," pleaded for the "forgotten man,"
inveighed against "horse-and-buggy" methods, and gave new
luster to the "democratic way of life." He cajoled the Legis-
lature, scared the Judiciary, moved the center of power from
Wall Street to Washington, and restored the word "Presi-
dency" to its original meaning namely, "front seat." He
soaked the rich, he fed the poor, he challenged the mighty,
A NEW DEAL 321
he cheered the downtrodden. He connived and contrived and
set the whole nation in a whirl. And in the end he managed
to check the Depression.
But that was all he managed to do. President Roosevelt
never succeeded in achieving the general well-being which he
had said would come with the New Deal. He failed even to
restore the partial prosperity which had marked the late
lamented New Era. In the circumstances, however, nothing
else was to be expected. Even had he been less hindered by
opposition from, the right, and less troubled by impatience
on the left, he would still have failed. For from the beginning-
to the end he was not quite sure where he wanted to go, let
alone just how he was to get there. He liked to think that he
had a plan, and kept insisting that all his stratagems were
carefully considered parts of "a connected, logical whole."'
Actually, however, he was improvising most of the time.
Skilled navigator that he was, he knew he had to tack with
the wind. His vessel, he realized, was no mere raft like that
which Stalin commanded. It was a tall clipper, heavily
freighted, and carrying passengers who screamed at every
lurch. That made Mr. Roosevelt's task exceedingly difficult.
Here was his problem. On the one hand he wanted to re-
vive capitalism ; on the other, and at the same time, he wanted
to reform it. To accomplish the first he had to give the
businessmen fresh confidence, and to accomplish the second
he necessarily had to deprive them of that confidence. As a
result, whatever he did with his right hand he had to undo
with his left. So how could he plan?
The New Deal was at best a rough draft, or rather a series
of rough drafts no two of which were quite consistent. Neces-
sarily, therefore, there had to be confusion. For evidence one
need merely look at what the New Deal was forced to do to
322 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
aid agriculture. Essentially the farmers were the purest of
all capitalists since they had never learnt to combine among
themselves and reduce production when prices were low. Con-
sequently, the Depression had hit them harder than any
other capitalists. They had been literally knocked out, and
the government could see only one way to set them on their
feet again. That way, apparently, was to teach them how to
become corrupt. The government had to show them that
if they produced less, they would be able to profit more. So
the farmers were actually paid not to grow all they could
of wheat, cotton, and certain other "over-produced" crops.
They were actually paid to slaughter their brood-animals.
A New Deal sworn to create abundance went out of its way
to enforce scarcity.
The stratagem was monstrous, and yet apparently un-
avoidable. Most of the other capitalist countries had had to
resort to it in one form or another. Brazil was destroying
millions of pounds of coffee each year in order to keep up
the price in the world market. Ceylon was intentionally al-
lowing many tea-plantations to go to seed, and Borneo was
deliberately letting the jungle smother the rubber groves.
It was mad, and people knew it was mad. Yet they could
see no better way to extricate themselves from the blind
alley into which they had somehow blundered. Consider, for
example, what was done in Europe. Desperate to relieve her
unemployment problem, Holland put thousands of men to
work planting wheat in lands reclaimed from the Zuyder
Zee. But when these new fields began to bear, more wheat
was harvested than the market could absorb. What to do?
Donate the surplus to the poor, and let them turn it into
bread? No, that would wreck the current price of wheat. So
instead the' surplus was dumped in Denmark, where there
was a demand for cheap hog-fodder. But no sooner was that
A NEW DEAL 323
done than a new problem arose. The Danish pigs, having no
respect for economics, took advantage of their improved
diet to grow inordinately fat and fecund. Before long Den-
mark found herself with more pigs on her hands than could
possibly be sold at a profit. Again what to do? Bring the
price of pigs so low that even the poorest might have bacon
for breakfast? Certainly not! That would ruin the estab-
lished market. So instead the pork was turned into fertilizer,
and then dumped in Holland to be spread on the new wheat-
fields that had been reclaimed in the Zuyder Zee ! . . .
If the New Deal failed, it was because America, like every
other capitalist land, was still wedded to an old error. People
there continued to believe that a system born into a world
cramped by scarcity was fit for a world swollen with abun-
dance. The capitalist system had been good in its day. Not
perfect, but definitely good. Now, however, its day was pass-
ing perhaps even quite past. Yet most people continued
to behave as though it were still present. They continued to
climb over stiles which had long since been chopped up for
kindling wood. They persisted in scrambling over high walls
which had long ago crumbled into dust. They were blind.
Most people were blind. Their eyes were still adjusted to the
darkness which had reigned in former times. Now that they
found themselves in the noonday glare, they were slow to
discover that they need no longer grope.
But they would learn eventually. Some had already begun
to learn. The New Deal proved that. Despite all its limita-
tions, despite all its confusions and evasions, the New Deal
offered irrefutable proof that some people had begun to
learn. For that phenomenon was not confined to the United
States. It showed up in one form or another in many lands.
A few have already been mentioned Britain, France, Scan-
324 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
dinavia, Spain and there were others. For example, there
was Palestine, where small but immensely impressive feats of
progress were achieved during this period. Then there was
Mexico, there was Chile, above all there was China. In each
of those countries, and many more which might be named,
a will asserted itself now to make the Machine fulfil its
Yes, in many lands many people were beginning to realize
at last why there was hunger in the midst of plenty, and
strife where there was room only for peace. It was because
psychology had failed to keep up with technology, because
the ways of thought had lagged too far behind the needs of
life. And the realization was leading to action. Rulers were
being elected, or at least accepted, who were obviously bent
on getting things done and good things, progressive things.
They were men who, though they might move slowly, were
determined to move ahead. This was happening in many
But not in all.
XXXVI. UNMADE IN GERMANY
OT in all lands was thete that will
to forge ahead along the path of
peace and progress. Not in Ger-
many, for example. There quite
the opposite became true, and it is
not hard to understand why. In
Germany too many people had
come to identify peace with shame
and progress with despair.
Consider what those people had had to endure since the
War. First the humiliation of defeat, then the ordeal of po-
326 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
litical revolution, then the drawn-out agony of financial
chaos, then the sharp fever of artificial prosperity, finally
the full horror of the Depression. It was too much. To be
sure, the Russians had suffered worse; but they, after all,
were Russians. The Germans were a more sensitive folk, at
least to slights ; also they were less inured to bleak misery.
They were a proud people who had been schooled by arro-
gant rulers. They had a high culture and had been taught
they deserved the highest place among the nations of the
earth. Instead they felt themselves reduced almost to the
So they were disgruntled. Even before the War they had
been disgruntled, and insofar as they had had any choice in
the matter, that was why they had entered it. They had
hoped to lay hold of an empire befittingly grand for a nation
so great as they believed their own to be. But they had lost,
and the smart of failure had left them sorer than before.
Moreover, the soreness kept waxing, for their victorious ri-
vals, persisted in rubbing salt into their wounds. Many Ger-
mans had shown a willingness to rise above their defeat in
battle. They had admitted the error of the Kaiser's bloody
course, and had set up a new government sworn to seek pros-
perity by pursuing peace. It was a strenuously democratic
government headed by men ardent for a better order in the
world. Had that government been given a fair chance, it
might have succeeded.
But it was not given a fair chance. Certain other nations,
especially France, were afraid to give it a chance, and this
encouraged more and more Germans to refuse to do so. From
the outset there had been much internal opposition to the
new government. The old monarchists had opposed it because
it was republican, and the former militarists because it was
pacifist. The big industrialists had opposed it because it
UNMADE IN GERMANY 327
was too socialistic, and the more radical workers because it
was not socialistic enough. And these hostile elements grew
increasingly belligerent as the years passed. Every evil born
of the War ? and every hardship entailed by the Peace, was
blamed on the struggling regime. It was blamed because an
inflation ruined the lower middle class and enriched a horde
of classless profiteers. It was blamed because many German
youths began to despise the martial spirit, and because many
German maidens took to bobbing their hair. It was blamed
for the growth of modern art and birth-control and nudism
and unemployment. Also it was blamed because it tolerated
Nevertheless the government managed to survive for a
while. Indeed, after 1924 it almost thrived. That was because
the worst features of the Treaty of Versailles had finally
been mitigated, and more and more foreign capital had be-
gun to flow into the land. Mention has already been made of
the many billions that were loaned to Germany, and though
most of the money had to be handed out again as "repara-
tions," the rest remained in the country to finance a boom.
It was a fairly considerable boom while it lasted.
But then came 1929. No more building of new factories.
There was no money for that and less need. The factories
that had already been built could not find markets for their
goods. Construction ceased, production waned, and unem-
ployment grew fearfully. Even the young men, they who
were always the last to be fired, even they lost their jobs
now. By 1930 nearly half the young men in the country were
looking for work. And when it became clear to them that no
work was to be found, they began to look for trouble.
Every other capitalist country was swept by the scythe of
Depression, but in most of them there was sufficient stored
wealth to blunt the stroke. The little shopkeepers and their
328 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
kind could live off what they had tucked away in buried
socks ; the utterly destitute could turn to their governments
for doles. In Germany, however, nearly all the socks had
been emptied during the inflation ten years earlier. More-
over, the government was completely broke. Other countries
could devalue their currencies, and thus needle their foreign
trade. Germany did not dare. She was too fearful of reeling
into another inflation. So she struggled to keep standing
and the scythe cut off her head.
Then Hitler took over.
Herr Adolf Hitler was Germany's vengeance on the
world, and it was a tragic vengeance, for he was a tragic
character. He had been born into a household that crawled
with hate, for his father, a petty customs official in an Aus-
trian bordertown, had been literally and otherwise a bastard.
3?he man had drunk heavily, married inveterately, and bul-
lied all whom he dared. He had died in his cups in 1903,
leaving a sick widow, a small pension, and numerous chil-
dren of whom Adolf was the youngest. The boy was not
prepossessing. He had sullen eyes, fidgety hands, and a
moody passion for idling. His bent seemed to be toward
painting, and when he was seventeen he went to Vienna in the
hope of winning a scholarship at the Art Academy there.
But his application was rejected he had more genius than
talent and he was forced into casual labor. That made his
spleen run over. He had to become a vagrant, living off
scraps and sleeping in flop-houses: one more country-boy
who had failed to make good in the city. For eight years he
had to exist thus, homeless, nameless, and choking with
spleen. Finally, when he was twenty-five, the War broke out
and he found relief.
The War brought him relief because it gave him some-
UNMADE IN GERMANY 329
thing to live for. No longer was he a lonely one lost in a
void. Once he joined the army, he had a place to sleep, a uni-
form to wear, a job to do, and a gun with which to do it. He
"belonged. After so many years of aimless drifting, that was
a very sweet boon.
But then the War ended. The cause for which he had
fought went down to defeat, and he was left once more a
nobody possessing nothing and belonging nowhere. He could
not stand it. Four years of war had stiffened his spine and
left a twitch in his trigger-finger. Instead of succumbing to
despair, he became a demagogue.
The stricken country had begun to breed political parties
much as a carcass breeds worms, so it was not difficult for
Hitler to find a platform. In Munich he attached himself to
a group of seedy cranks and noisy bar-flies who had organ-
ized what they called the "German Workers Party. 5 * Al-
most at once he became their leader, for though he seemed to
know even less than some of the others, he was able to ex-
press himself more vehemently. His ideas were as vague as
his grammar was faulty; his gesticulations were as grace-
less as his voice was harsh. But there was a deep and queer
fury in the young man, and when he arose to speak it leaped
out and inflamed all who listened. Soon there were hundreds
who flocked to hear him, soon tens of hundreds. Most of them
were impoverished and frustrate folk, and they flocked to
hear him for the best of reasons. They could huddle for
warmth around the blaze of his spirit, and get drunk on the
raw liquor of his words.
Hitler knew what those people wanted, for that same want
had been in himself. They wanted to be told it was not their
own fault that they were failures. They wanted to believe it
was all because they had been cheated, robbed, betrayed.
And they wanted to be assured that this treachery would
330 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
not go unavenged. More than anything else they craved a
warrant that they would yet be able to rise up and prove
So Hitler gave them that warrant. He told them that ene-
mies within their own midst had conspired against them,
that Jews, Jesuits, Marxists, Freemasons, all sorts of dark
un-German forces, had plotted to bring them low. And he
swore that if they, the "true" Germans, would only put their
trust in him, if they would but let him take complete charge,
he would annihilate those enemies and raise Germany to its
proper place in the sun. He would make the nation so
mighty that all others would tremble in its presence. He
would prove to the whole world that "true" Germans were
the greatest people on earth.
And his listeners believed him. They believed because they
wanted to believe, and also because they could see that he
himself believed. So they did put their trust in him, more
and more of them did that, and eventually he was actually
able to wrest the authority he craved. It took time, of course.
At first the majority of the Germans were inclined to laugh
at "Handsome Adolf." He was slight and sallow, and when
on his guard looked rather like an assistant floor-walker who
still hoped for promotion. He wore a preposterous moustache*
let a mop of hair fall over his brow, and usually had dan-
druff on his coat-collar. He did not drink or smoke or eat
meat; and from all reports he had never been married or
anything. Some believed he was a homosexual, but others
said he was too abnormal even for that. Most educated Ger-
mans were quite embarrassed that such a creature should be
able to attract any following at all.
Nevertheless he was allowed to carry on. The government,
being liberal, felt it had no right to suppress him. It merely
UNMADE IN GERMANY 331
prayed that the public would not give him support. And so
long as jobs were fairly plentiful, so long as times were rela-
tively good, most of the public did not give him support. On
the contrary, it looked on the man as a maniac.
But then came the Depression. Now Hitler was able to
win millions of followers. He might be a madman, but most
Germans were being driven mad, so they could not help look-
ing to him as a leader. Sane men had governed Germany for
more than ten years now, and what had they accomplished?
Adolf Hitler claimed to be directing a revolution; actu-
ally he was being swept along by a revulsion. In part it was
a revulsion against the kind of government that had ruled
Germany since the War ; but basically it was something far
graver. Basically, as we shall see, it was a revulsion against
the whole trend of civilization since the Eighteenth Century.
That trend had been toward a broader use of reason and a
wider grant of freedom. People had believed that science
could solve every earthly problem, and that democracy would
destroy every social ill. They had believed that they needed
merely to continue doing as they had done, constantly in-
venting more and better machines, constantly yielding more
and greater liberties, constantly printing more and braver
books, constantly producing more and readier comforts, and
inevitably the whole world would become a Paradise.
But the Depression put an end to all that at least in
Germany. After 1929 the bulk of the people there began
almost to loathe the faith they had formerly cherished. They
felt it was a false faith, a lie as gross as the paunch on a
profiteer. As early as 1918 millions of Germans had already
begun to doubt that faith; but they had closed their eyes
and clamped their jaws and struggled to swallow their sus-
332 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
picions. Now, however, they knew. The Depression had
thrust an iron claw down their throats, and now they were
retching up all that had so long roiled inside them.
Yet had that been the whole of the story, the worst might
not have ensued. The Depression would have passed, taking
the nausea with it, and the Germans would have begun to
accept the old faith all over again. They would have learnt
once more to believe in the possibility of progress. That, as
we have seen, was what did happen in other lands. But in
Germany the revulsion was too intense. It left the people so
sickened that many of them would not hear of any "new
deals." They wanted to have done with the game itself. They
no longer had any desire for what the world called progress.
They wanted to retreat. They wanted to go back to the sort
of life they imagined their ancestors had lived, a life simple
and earthy, harsh and heroic, slow as the seasons, stark as
the thunder-clouds, bloody as the slaughter-pits.
So they took to shouting, "Heil Hitler !"
HE Germans succumbed to Hitler
for the same reason that the
Americans elected Roosevelt, and
the Russians accepted Stalin : they
believed he could save them. Hit-
ler, too, had a program, and it
seemed to appeal to the Germans
precisely because it was the op-
posite of both Roosevelt's and
Stalin's. The latter two, though profoundly dissimilar, had
at least one thing in common : they were headed in the same
334 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
direction. Both aimed to make the Machine fulfil its promise ;
both sought to make life more abundant and urbane; both
were obviously progressive. But Hitler's program? that
was just as obviously regressive. In most respects it was
comparable to the program which Mussolini had already ini-
tiated in Italy, the chief difference being that Hitler seemed
bent on regressing with greater thoroughness and speed. He
came of a people who were peculiarly gifted for thorough-
ness, and his own frenetic nature made him a demon for
speed. Besides and this may well have been the most telling
factor he was sincere. Hitler, unlike Mussolini, was no mere
careerist. Regression to him was more than an expedient. It
was a matter of principle.
Hitler believed that mankind had gone astray. Ever since
the dawn of modern times the race had been painfully strug-
gling to develop its intellectual faculties and curb its pas-
sions. It had been laboring with all its might to be "ra-
tional." The prevailing philosophy had scorned fanaticism,
and bigotry, and had insisted that people must think things
through, see both sides of the question in short, be "scien-
tific." And most people who were at all educated had actu-
ally tried to follow that prescription, or had at least known
that they ought to try. But not Hitler. To him the whole
idea of rationalism seemed perverse. He was a mystic, and
insisted that intuition was a far surer guide to truth than
cogitation. The fact that this made him appear an eccentric
merely proved to him how grievously mankind had been mis-
led. It revealed how much damage had been done because the
schools had set out to "enlighten" the young rather than
indoctrinate them. "Education," declared Hitler, "ought to
be confined to broad and general convictions . . . drummed
into the minds and hearts of the people by incessant repe-
Hitler believed that truth was essentially non-rational,
even irrational, and for that reason if no other he simply
could not help being regressive. Irrationalism was the cor-
nerstone which the builders of the modern world had most
contemptuously rejected. They had seen what evil effects it
had had in the past: how it had enforced scarcity, cemented
ignorance, buttressed despotism, and blocked progress.
These, however, were precisely the effects which Hitler most
ardently desired. He did not consider them evil at all. On
the contrary, from where he stood, high on a mountain of
supermania, they looked good. So he set out to achieve
His first task, therefore, was necessarily one of destruc-
tion. He had to demolish the entire ideological framework
that sustained modern civilization. He had to assail not
alone rationality, but also liberty, equality, fraternity, ur-
banity, and every other ideal of the Liberal Age. And that
was just what he did do. Right from the start he inveighed
against liberty. Most people, he insisted, did not want it
anyway. They were inherently slavish, and wanted nothing
but discipline. Moreover, said he, it was not merely foolish
but criminal to try to make them over. People had no valid
right to individual freedom since in reality they had no indi-
vidual being. Only that to which they belonged, their herd,
their nation, their State, that alone had real individuality.
Therefore that alone might call its soul its own; the State
alone could properly claim the privilege of doing as it
pleased. Moreover, to exercise that privilege the State was
in duty bound to deny it to all citizens. The State must
absolutely control everything said or done or even thought
within its domain. It must be "totalitarian" and not just
temporarily, ajs the stupid Bolsheviks said, but forever.
And what was true of liberty was equally true of equal-
336 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
ity. Hitler was all against it. People were not all of one
kind biologically, so why should they be of one class so-
cially? Females, for example, were obviously less strong than
males. Did it not follow, therefore, that they deserved fewer
privileges? The feminist trend of modern times seemed to
Hitler a "sin against Nature." Women, he believed, were fit
at best only to mate with men, never to compete with them.
Therefore he insisted that they ought to be put back where
they had always belonged in the kitchen cooking, or in
bed bearing children.
Moreover, the men themselves were not all of equal capac-
ity, so even among them there ought to be no equal rights.
A few were obviously born to lead, and the rest as obviously
to follow. The male population of each state ought there-
fore to be sorted out and arranged in levels. A "natural"
society was one built like a pyramid, with power grading
down from the wilful Dictator on the pinnacle to the witless
horde at the base. To achieve that, of course, the old aris-
tocratic principle must be revived, but made to function in
a new way now or rather in the oldest way of all. Rank
must be decided not on the basis of wealth or breeding, but
solely on each man's innate capacity for leadership. More-
over, this capacity must first be recognized from above, and
only then acknowledged from below. None could be elected
to exercise authority; all must be appointed. Even the Dic-
tator must be appointed by himself.
Moreover, the same arrangement must be established
among the various race's, for these too were obviously not
of one quality. Some were inherently superior, and others
as inherently inferior. Consequently it was "unnatural" to
talk of world-fraternity. Hitler was convinced that the
Brotherhood of Man was nothing but a diabolical lie in-
vented by Jews and disseminated by Bolsheviks in order to
"corrupt the blood of their betters." Just what he meant
by "blood" was more than a little vague he was anti-
semantic as well as anti-Semitic but nevertheless he used
the word constantly. "Blood," he insisted, was the one im-
portant criterion of nationality. Therefore there must be no
mingling, no mixing, no crossing the boundaries set by dif-
ferences of "blood." The fact that science had failed to
discover any such differences meant nothing to Hitler. He
was a confirmed ir rationalist, so he had small respect for
science. All he cared about was the "dictates of the Eternal
Will," and these informed him that brotherhood was proper
solely within the herd.
Did that mean that outside the herd there must always
be hostility? Certainly, said Hitler. "The obligation in ac-
cordance with the Eternal Will that dominates this universe
[is] to promote the victory of the better and stronger races,
and to demand the submission of the worse and weaker."
Therefore any race that wished to fulfil its divine obliga-
tion would necessarily have to gird for battle. Realizing that
its welfare was dependent primarily on warfare, it would
have to assign the bulk of its industry to the production of
effective slaughter-goods, and devote most of its education
to the training of efficient slaughterers. And not just for a
time. No, forever.
That, of course, would entail hardship ; but, said Hitler,
so much the better. The more hardship a race inflicted on
itself, the tougher it became, and hence the more capable of
wresting power. And that, after all, was the object most to
be desired in life. A race worthy to be called noble did not
want comfort. It wanted Power. To what end? So that it
might be able to conquer all other races. And after it had
conquered them might it then relax and seek comfort ? Oh,
no ! If it ever did that it would become soft, and be con-
338 SOMETHING WENT WEONG
quered. Therefore whatever made for ease, all amenity and
urbanity, all grace and charm and creature convenience, all
that must be forgotten. The most virtuous use that could be
made of machines was to produce the weapons that would
destroy machines. The only excuse for cities was: that they
were the arsenals producing the means to demolish cities. If
that meant that ultimately the world would be rid of ma-
chines and empty of cities, well and good. Perhaps only in
such a world, one bare and primeval, could the good life be
restored. Only in a world stark of comfort could life again
become stark in the German sense: that is, "strong." Then
man would once more be able to live as had his ancestors:
harshly, dangerously, like the beasts. Existence would be
sweet again with the bitterness of pain, and warm with the
terror of death. Man could come back into his own and his
own would be the wilderness.
Such, by implication if not admission, was the program
which Hitler offered his people and the world. What it
entailed was- clear in every paragraph. It was an assault on
all that mankind had been consciously striving for since at
least the Eighteenth Century, It was an assault on all the
bastions of the spirit that had been built with so great toil
in modern times. It was against reason, liberty, equality,
fraternity, peace, progress, and the pursuit of happiness.
More : in its admiration for the berserk, and its lust to revert
to the bucolic, it was fundamentally against the Machine.
Consequently, it aimed to frustrate all that the political
revolutions in America and France and Russia had preached,
and undo all that the Industrial Revolution throughout the
world had begun to achieve. In substance it was a panicky
scream, for total counter-revolution.
To be sure, Hitler himself did not say it was that. Quite
possibly he did not even know it. In any event, what he did
say was so confused and confusing that it was long before
the world got the point. Even many of Hitler's most devoted
followers failed to see where he was bound to drag them.
The more foolish among them did not try to see, and the
rest did not dare to look. Yet his conduct even while still a
slum-scouring agitator should have made the truth all too
plain. If in no other way, he surely betrayed himself by the
curious ferocity with which he inveighed against the Jews.
Whatever else the Jews may have been, first and foremost
they were a symbol. They more than any other group on
earth bespoke the modern spirit, for to that spirit they
owed their very life. Not their existence, of course that
dated from ancient days but their life as free humans.
Such life virtually ceased for them in the medieval era, and
it was not renewed again until the dawn of modern times.
And that was why they were such devotees of the modern
spirit. In a certain sense they were that spirit incarnate
with all its faults as well as virtues.
To benighted folk the Jews had always appeared to be a
sinister element, and in one small sense this impression was
correct. The Latin sinister means "left," and there is no
denying that the Jews were inordinately prone to be leftish.
There was a reason. At the time of the French Revolution it
was solely the radicals seated on the left benches of the
Estates-General who urged the emancipation of the Jews.
And this remained true in France and everywhere else from
then on. Always and everywhere it was the forces on the
left that spoke up for the Jew. Naturally so, for those forces
believed in progress, and they recognized that the Jew was
peculiarly adapted to help that cause. Nor was this solely
because Jews knew that reaction brought them persecution.
The Gypsies knew that too, yet they never became agents of
340 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
progress. The American Negroes knew it, so did the Hindu
untouchables, yet those elements and countless others that
stood to gain under the auspices of progress nevertheless
remained stubbornly conservative. The decisive factor in the
case of the Jew seems to have been that he was conditioned
for progress by his natural habitat. Progress was primarily
a product of the city, and the Jew was primarily a city
That explains his spectacular advance in the Machine
Age. Industrialism, it must be remembered, arose in the
cities, so the Jew was able to rise with it. He was already
at home in the cities, and had been at home in them for at
least a thousand years. Ever since the Dark Ages, when the
law had forbidden him to own land, he had had no other
way to live than as a trafficker in goods or gold. Conse-
quently, when the Machine arrived he was all prepared to
climb aboard. Industrialism required capital, and he was the
man to advance it; industrialism produced wares, and he
was the man to sell them ; industrialism agglomerated work-
ers, and he was the man to help them organize. He could
read and write, and he could count ; he had the cunning born
of persecution and the daring born of desperation. There-
fore he was at an advantage now. All the talents bred in him
by forty generations of urban life were able to flourish with
the triumph of urban enterprise.
The Jew became the arch-capitalist, the arch-socialist,
and also the arch-intellectual. For the city did more than
bring forth factories and slums. It spawned universities,
academies, conservatories, libraries. Consequently the Jew
was able to move in on these, too. It was no accident that he
became a leader in the arts and the learned professions. Now
that the Machine had come into the world, there was more
time and money to devote to cultural pursuits ; and ninety-
nine out of every hundred Jews at least in the West
lived right around the places where that devotion was most
hotly pursued. It was as natural for the Jews to become
prize scholars as it was for the sea-girt Swedes to become
And that helps to account for the queer violence of Hit-
ler's hostility to the Jews. He preached anti-Semitism for
more than mere demagogic reasons. He genuinely believed
that in fighting Israel he was, as he himself put it, "working
in the spirit of the Almighty Creator/' For to him the
Almighty Creator was in a quite literal sense a pagan god
that is, a deity of the pagus, the "countryside." And Israel
had become the living symbol of the city. Therefore Hitler
had no choice. The restoration of the primeval way of life
necessarily entailed the destruction of the culture bred in
cities, and that in turn absolutely required the obliteration
of any influence wielded by Jews. The man who had once
been denied a scholarship in Vienna may have been deranged;
but he was consistent.
All that, however, was largely lost on the world until too
late. When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, most
people imagined that he would turn out to be at most an-
other Mussolini. The latter had been frothing much the same
reactionary doctrines for fully a decade already. Had he
not repeatedly called liberty a "putrid carcass," and equal-
ity a "weakling's filthy dream"? Had he not roared from
a hundred balconies that war alone can make a people
"great"? Yet thus far Mussolini had apparently managed
to do very little harm. Some people were inclined to argue
that he had even done some good. Had he not made the Ital-
ian trains run on time?
But there was a difference. Though Fascism too was an
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
attempt to reverse the trend of civilization, it carried little
of the threat inherent in Nazism. That was because Italy
was relatively a backward country. (Note how few Jews it
contained.) Though Mussolini too had set out to turn the
clock back, he had been able at most to move the hands. He
had been impotent to tamper with the works, because in
Italy the works did not amount to much. But in Germany
they were colossal. Even Britain did not have as good an
industrial plant, and only the United States had a better
one. With Hitler in command of Germany, the tide of prog-
ress was really in danger of being turned.
The major force behind that tide had been the Machine,
and now Hitler was in a position to throw the Machine it-
self into reverse. He was in a position to put horse-power
behind his drive for world power. James Watt had labored
for years to contrive a little steam-engine capable of empty-
ing a coal mine of water. Hitler needed merely to throw a
switch, and a whole nation of engines stood ready to flood
the world with blood.
The world, however, failed to see that. It stared but it
did not see until too late.
By then the switch had already been thrown.
XXXVIII. CAME THE COUNTER-
ITLER set out to turn the course
of civilization, and at first there
seemed to be neither the means nor
the will to stop him. The elements
that should have offered resistance
from the start were too divided
among themselves, and what was
worse too confused within them-
selves. On the one hand there were
the liberal capitalists, on the other the radical socialists,
and had the two combined in time, they might have broken
SOMETHING WENT WRONG
Hitler's legs before he could take his first step. But they
did not combine. How could they, seeing that both dreaded
him less than they distrusted each other? True, there was
much talk for a while about establishing a "united front"
against him, but it was merely talk. AH it created was a
fa9ade behind which each of the nominal allies connived with
the actual enemy. The rulers of Britain and France secretly
hoped to see Hitler march on Russia, and for that reason if
no other they did nothing to keep him from arming. They
even helped him. At the eleventh hour, however, the rulers
of Russia agreed to supply him with food and fuel if he
would march instead against Britain and France. That gave
Hitler his chance. Soon he was marching all over Europe.
It was the Napoleonic story over again, but with one
hair-raising difference. This time the conqueror was a re-
actionary. When Napoleon invaded Poland, he decreed the
abolition of serfdom; when Hitler overran that land he
introduced forced labor. Wherever Napoleon encountered
ghetto walls, he tore them down; wherever Hitler saw a
chance he put them up. These were typical contrasts, and
they reflect more than a mere intellectual disparity between
two men. Basically they reveal the spiritual cleavage be-
tween two eras. Napoleon had been the champion of a revolu-
tion, and his success was due in large part to the fact that
in his day the world had been ready for revolution. If Hitler
could enjoy a similar success a hundred and thirty years
later, it was obviously because by then the world had be-
come just as ready for revulsion.
And there lies the crux of this whole story. If hundreds
of millions of people were willing to give in to Hitler, it was
because at heart they had already given out. They had
CAME THE COUNTER-EEVOLUTION 345
momentarily lost faith in their own way of life. So much
had gone wrong with it that they had hegun to think the
way itself might not be right. Hitler was therefore more an
effect than a cause. He did not initiate the revulsion against
progress ; he merely implemented it. He was not the woiwd
"but the gangrene.
The main force making for progress had been the Ma-
chine, and one must remember that the Machine had always
been resented in certain quarters. The duller lords had re-
sented it, and so had the prouder peasants and craftsmen.
The more precious poets had resented it, and so had any
number of moody philosophers. And certain of these had
known how to articulate their resentment. Highly gifted men
for example Wagner, Thoreau, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche,
Spengler, Chesterton these as well as scores of misanthropic
hacks had worked themselves into an ivory-towering rage
against industrialism. And the literature born of that rage
had had considerable influence. Even had it been less bril-
liant and more logical it would still have had some effect,
for it voiced a feeling that lurked in the hearts of most
Most people, it must be realized, had never really taken
to the Machine ; they had merely put up with it. They had
accepted it with reluctance, even with repugnance, much as
an impoverished maiden might accept a suitor who was rich
but looked ugly and stern. The fault lay with themselves, of
course. They did not try to understand the Machine. It was
something new in life, and to enjoy it to the full, indeed to
enjoy it at all, the human race had to develop a new way
of living. Morals and politics, manners and economics, all
these had to be made over completely. Common thought had
to become more rational, private enterprise more orderly,
346 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
and collective effort more universal in its scope. Liberty^
equality, and fraternity had to become actual and world-
But most people failed to realize that. Fundamentally
they were like the peasant in the runaway locomotive who
cannot comprehend why it will not start when he says
"Giddap !" or stop when he shouts "Whoa !"
That was why industrialism caused such chaos when it
came roaring into the world, why it flung up so much horror
and spewed forth so much filth. To be sure, these evils were
somewhat alleviated with time; but not fast enough, and
never adequately. Progress was indeed achieved, but more
by default than intention. Mankind never really marched
toward betterment ; it backed into it. So the Black Life per-
sisted. Even after a hundred and fifty years it was still
virulent wherever it had been able to take root.
Nor was that the worst. Even had amelioration come more
swiftly and surely, most people might still have nursed a
grudge against the Machine. That was because the Machine
enforced the growth of an order which they found hard on
their nerves. It created a life that seemed to be all push, all
g? g? g The lights were too bright, the noises too loud,
the tempo too swift and febrile. Almost all existence was
made urban even in the remote countryside it was at least
sub-urban and most people had a difficult time adjusting
themselves to the change. At bottom they were still what
their ancestors had been: peasants. During thousands of
years they had lived one kind of life, and here they were
being asked to learn to live another almost overnight. They
just couldn't do it. They were told to rush, and they didn't
want to rush. Not all the time, at least. In the past they
had rushed only when there was killing to be done, or some
other fine hot passion to indulge. The rest of the time they
CAME THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION 347
had idled. And that was still their desire. Most of the time
they wanted to move slowly like the sun, like the seasons,
like the growing things in the earth.
This constant rushing around made them tired. Not
physically tired ; they could have stood that. No, mentally
tired. The ordinary man had more time on his hands now,
yet he seemed to find less leisure. There were too many
things to want, too many strangers to face, too many prob-
lems to worry about. Nearly every aspiration of this new
way of life was a strain on the ordinary man. The strain
may have been unconscious, and a small price to pay for
what it bought, but that did not make it any the less tiring.
Take liberty, for example: that was very tiring. Instead
of allowing a man to sit back and wait for orders, it told
him he must up and think for himself. Where once he had
been able to lean on the crutch of tradition or authority,
now he had to stand on his own feet. Wasn't that tiring?
Or take equality. According to that principle, a man no
longer had a right to be content with the lot to which he
had been born. He had to improve it, make it as good as the
best, or write himself down a failure. And it was even worse
for a woman. Where once she had been forbidden to think
herself the equal of a man, now she was scorned if she
thought anything else. Moreover, she was expected not alone
to think that but to prove it. She had to earn her own living,
insist on her own freedom, and expect a seat in a crowded
subway only if she fought for it. Could anything have been
more tiring than that?
Or take this obligation of indiscriminate fraternity.
Whether a man liked it or not, he just had to accept it now.
The Machine had so churned up the population that it was
almost impossible any longer to live exclusively with one's
own kind. Strangers were all over the place. One had to
348 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
learn to get along not alone with people who came from
foreign lands, but even with those who never left them. That
was perhaps the most tiring demand of all.
The convenient buffer of distance had been all but de-
stroyed by the Machine. The iron fingers of industrialism
had fastened themselves around the planet and crushed it
all into one tiny pellet. No advanced country could exist
unto itself any longer, for none could provide for all its
needs. Even so enormous a country as the United States was
unable to do that. It might be able to get along without
Swiss cheese, Scotch whiskey, Cayenne pepper, and West-
phalian ham. But what about Sumatran rubber, Bolivian
tungsten, Canadian nickel, or Malayan tin? Without these,
and a hundred other imported commodities, American indus-
try was ready for the junk-pile. And that was truer still of
all other countries. The whole world had become one small
settlement in which all nden were next-door neighbors. But
most of them did not care to have so many neighbors. They
had been willing enough to talk about the ideal of the Broth-
erhood of Man, but now they were called on to practice it.
There was a great deal in this machine-powered civiliza-
tion that hurt. Bright professors and liberal preachers might
say it was a salutary hurt, but that did not help much. Only
one thing helped, and that was the thought of what could
be gained at the price of the pain. For this civilization cer-
tainly offered compensations for the strain it imposed on
mankind. At any rate, it had offered them. It had produced
more physical convenience, more cultural enlightenment,
more democracy, decency, urbanity, and prosperity than had
ever existed on earth before. Thanks to industrialism, the
general well-being had advanced farther in five generations
than in any fifty preceding ones.
CAME THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION 349
And so long as that advance continued, there was rela-
tively little complaint. Now and again some sweet-souled
poet might whimper that machinery was blighting the earth,
or some bear-tempered philosopher might roar that city life
was corrupting the race ; but the population as a whole had
paid little heed. Most people had refused to turn against
the Machine so long as it had kept clanking. They had
been content to put up with urban life so long as it had
continued to give them a chance to rise. If they suffered a
certain amount of nervous strain, they had stood for it
much as a glutton stands for the heartburn after a good
That was why industrial civilization had been able to
advance so spectacularly for at least a century and a half*
People had tolerated it because they had believed it could
fulfil its promises. They had seen it fulfil them at least
partially. They had seen opportunities expand, and ameni-
ties increase, and generosity grow more common on every
side. And this had engendered a widespread buoyancy, an
almost universal optimism. Everywhere there had been the
feeling that day by day in every way the world was getting
better and better.
But then there was a sickening jolt. It came just when
optimism seemed most in order, for by that date all the
basic problems of technology had been virtually solved*
The Machine was no longer the hideous, rattling monster it
had been in early times. It had outgrown its infancy, out-
grown even its adolescence. Now it was almost a mature
thing, clean, swift, and beautifully efficient. Gone was the
need to pack its cogs with human flesh, gone the need to oil
its wheels with human sweat. The Machine was becoming
very nearly automatic, and man was free at last to advance
as never before. At last the means were within his grasp to
350 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
banish want forever, and with it the cause of most of the
woe that had plagued him since the beginning of time. Now
he had a chance really to get ahead.
But he lost it. Just as he began to get into a stride, the
earth suddenly quaked, and he stumbled. The great World
War set the whole earth quaking, and man fell flat on his
face. That should have served as a warning ; but it did not.
Once the War ended, and man could find his feet again, he
brushed himself off and started to run on just as blindly as
before. And even more wildly. Capitalism was allowed to
grow increasingly monopolistic, and nationalism more and
more rabid. So only one thing could ensue and it did.
Came the Depression, and man fell a second time. The very
heavens seemed to crumble now, the earth's foundations fled,
and man fell so hard this time that he could not so quickly
find his feet again. In some lands it looked as though he
would never find them.
Whereupon panic broke loose. Hundreds of millions of
people became distraught and desperate. The worst afflicted
were of course the young, those who had grown up since the
War, for they felt they had been betrayed. Where, they
asked, were the promises that their elders had so often made
them, where the jobs to take, the ladders to climb, the for-
tunes to lay hold of? Where were the opportunities that
were supposed to knock on their door? Where, for that mat-
ter, was the door? It had been carried off by the landlord
or chopped down for kindling wood. It had vanished to-
gether with almost everything else that had once provided
at least seeming security. Faith had vanished. Hope had van-
nished. Only a little doled-out charity remained, and even
that seemed about to vanish. Was it any wonder, therefore,
that so many young ones turned desperate? The sins of
CAME THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION 351
their parents had been visited on them too heavily. All the
Imperfections of the past had piled up on them, all the blun-
ders caused by haste, all the crimes bred by greed, and
this was the worst all the stupidities born of mental sloth.
Who then can blame those young ones if they grew violent?
Rage seemed to be the only emotion befitting that genera-
tion, black rage against all that its forebears had done or
dreamed. What had been latent from the very beginning had
a chance to become overt and overwhelming now. Dema-
gogues arose everywhere to preach open revolt against the
whole scheme of liberal civilization. They took wild words
out of Hitler's mouth just as he had taken them out of
Mussolini's and damned every influence that had helped
create the modern way of life. And great multitudes flocked
to listen and cheer. They were sick of that way of life, sick
and tired of it because they felt it had failed them. What-
ever had been good about it had not been good enough. Sc
now they were ready to believe it had been all bad.
And it was this that enabled Hitler to march and con-
quer. His battles were half-won even before he began to
march, for those who might have halted him had at first
hardly half a mind to try.
But only at first. Then they caught hold of themselves;
late, but not too late, they turned and made a stand. Luckily
the spirit of counter-revolution, though widespread, had
never become universal. There were people left in the world
who had not ceased to believe in the possibility of progress,
people who were convinced that the real wave of the future
could never be a backwash to the past. In every land there
were some people like that, and in some lands there were
many. And that was what saveid the day.
Only for a while but what an evil while ! were the forces
852 SOMETHING WENT WRONG
of reaction able to sweep all before them. They had the big-
ger tanks and the newer bombers and the fiercer will then.
The believers in progress had allowed themselves to be caught
off their guard. They had argued while the others armed;
they had relied on reason while the others primed their guns.
But they woke up in time. Just in time they woke up to the
J ate awaiting them unless they made a stand. They saw then
that more was at stake than the mastery of certain lands, or
the primacy of a certain people. A way of life was at stake.
It had always been a faulty way, but by contrast with
that which now threatened to take its place, it looked very
nearly perfect. Those who had not yet abandoned it began
to recall all the good things it had already yielded: the
plenitude, the cleanness, the health and comfort and every-
day decency. They recalled how it had wiped out the curse
of slavery, lessened the blight of poverty, released women
from their subservience to men, and men from their thraldom
to lords. They bethought themselves of all it had done to
foster science, and of the prodigies it had accomplished
through the spread of education. They remembered suddenly
how it had begun to give a new quality to life, a new richness
and roundness and meaning. And thereupon a fire flooded
their bones, and they made ready (at last!) really to fight.
It was a calamitous thing, they knew, to have to fight for
civilization. Fighting for it would necessarily leave it maimed.
But, they reasoned, better a maimed civilization than a dead
So they girded themselves and fought.
And they won. They had by far the greater resources, so
it was inevitable that they should win in the end. But that
end was only the beginning. After the war came the peace,
and this time, having learnt their lesson, men sought to make
it truly a sound and lasting peace. They were not content
CAME THE COUNTER-REVOLUTION 353
merely to redraw the map ; they set out to remake the world.
For they knew then how drastically it needed to be remade,
how desperately it needed to be rebuilt stone by stone from
the very foundations. They realized at last why so much had
gone wrong in the past. It was because so little effort had
ever been made to set things right. Six generations had failed
to perceive that the Machine was a new thing under the sun,
and that, if it was to serve them as it could and should, they
must create a new earth.
But then came that seventh generation, and it knew better.
Or did it?
Adams, John Quincy: 47.
Ade, George: 148.
Advertising: 144; 288 ff.
Apprentices: in industry , 14 ff.;
Austria-Hungary: 69; 229-30.
Baader, Franz von: 91.
Beaconsfield, Earl of: 165-6.
Belgium: industrialization, 63-4;
imperialism, 176 ff.
Ben6t, Stephen Vincent: 288-9.
Beveridge, Senator Albert J.: 182.
Birmingham, Ala.: 132.
Birmingham, England: 2.
Bismarck: career, 119 ff.; favors
monopolies, 139; 173; on im-
perialism, 191-2; resigns, 193.
Black Life: in Britain, 11 ff.; in
Russia, 251; 280; 846.
Blast furnace: 5.
Bolsheviki: 220; 242 ff.
Boer Republics: 166.
Boulton, Matthew: 2.
Britain, Great: starts industrial-
ism, 6 ff.; "domestic" industry,
12; factory system, 13; agri-
culture, 23 ff.; foreign trade,
38; socialism, 45 ff. ; capital-
ism, 51 ff.; railways, 70 ff.;
Chartism, 79 If. ; growth of
population, 80; rise of wages,
149; capitalist dilemma, 150
jff.; imperialism, 157 ff.; wutp
o/ empire, 167.
Browning, Robert: 74.
Burgher: derivation of term, 66.
California: gold rush, 94.
Capitalism: theory, 52 ff.; merits,
99 if. ; criticism, 104 ff. ; tw #<?r-
many, 124; under New Deal,
Carnegie, Andrew: 209.
Caveat emptor: 145.
Chain Stores: 143.
Children: enter industry, 14 ff.;
"free," 20 ff.; child-labor laws,
China: 186; 280.
Christian Socialists: 83.
Civil War, U. S.: causes, 113-5;
effect on U. S., 116; effect on
Clarke, Tommy: 21, 22.
Clemenceau, George: 259-60; 263.
Colquhoun, Patrick: 42.
Columbus, Christopher, 157.
Comintern: 252-3; 306.
Communism: theory, 104 ff.; 216 ff.;
vs. war, 231.
Communist International: 252-3;
Communist Manifesto, The: 108-9;
Competitive system: 39; 54 ff.
Congo, Belgian: 178-80.
Contraceptive aids : 284.
Cooperative Stores: 84-5; 145-6.
Corporative State: 277.
Crimean War: 159.
Czechoslovakia: 260; 270.
Daimler, Gottlieb: 128.
Debs, Eugene V.: 232.
Declaration of Independence: 1.
Democracy: in U.8.S.R., 270-1.
Department Stores: 143.
Depression, 1929: 297 ff.; in Ger-
Dictatorship : in Russia, 270-1.
Diesel engines: 281.
Dime Stores: 144.
Disarmament: 208 ff.
Disraeli, Benjamin, 164 ff.
Du Fonts: 202.
Dzugashvili: see StaUn.
Eaton, T., Co.: 144.
Edison, Thomas A.: 127; 128.
Education: Origin of mass educa-
Edward VII: 178.
Eighteenth Century: character of,
Engels, Friedrich: 108; 109; 111;
England: see Britain.
Erlangen, University of: 72.
Eucharistic Congresses: 207.
Fabian Society: 219.
Faraday, Michael: 127; 128,
Fascism: 272 ff.
Fashion: 147; 289.
Ferry, Jules: 174.
Fichte, Johann Gottlieb: 121.
Fiji Islands: 160; 166.
Five-Year Plan: 308 ff.
Ford, Henry: 128; 287 ff.; 289-90.
Foreign: etymology of, 208.
Fourteen Points: 256-7; 258.
France: industrialization, 64; So-
cialism, 90-3; 96; imperialism,
172 ff.; Franco-Prussian War,
173 ; in Tunisia, 190-1 ; 269.
Franco-Prussian War: 123.
Franz Ferdinand, Archduke: 288 ff.
Gasoline engine: 281.
Gentleman: first use of term, 98.
Germany: before industry, 65 ff.;
Revolution 1848, 109; Bis-
marck, 119 ff.; unification, 123;
monopolies, 139; imperialism,
191 ff.; 210 ff.; socialism, 216;
World War, 263-4; post-War,
291-2; Depression, 302; Hitler,
Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.:
Great Britain: see Britain.
Greeley, Horace: 110,
Hague Conferences: 210-2.
Hapsburg Empire: 254.
Hitler, Adolf: 328 ff.
Hohenzollern Empire: 254.
Holding companies: 138-9.
Holland: 178; 322.
Hoover, Herbert: 293, 295, 299, 302.
Hudson, George: 78 ff.
Imperialism: nationalism, 162;
profits of, 170 ff.; evils of,
India: 166; 280.
Industrial Revolution: first, 1 ff.;
second, 126 ff.; third, 218 ff.;
effect on imperialism, 159 ff.
Installment Plan: 290.
Internationalism: 207 ff.
Inter-Parliamentary Union: 207.
Italy: before industrialization, 67-
9; imperialism, 188 ff.; 261;
270; Fascism, 272 ff.; 342.
Japan: monopolies, 140; opened up,
183 ff.; 280; 303.
Jews: 164; 207; 262; 339-41.
Johnson, Dr., on advertising: 148.
Jugoslavia: see Yugoslavia.
Kemal Pasha: 278.
Kerensky, Alexander: 240-1; 243;
Kiaochow Bay: 188.
Laissez-faire: 54 ff.
Lauderdale, Lord: 23.
Lenin, N.: 220; 241 ff.; 255; 265;
270; 271; 274-6; 305.
Leopold II.: 178 ff.
Lincoln, Abraham : 115.
Liverpool slave-trade: 16.
Lloyd George, David: 259-60.
Lo Bengula: 168-9.
Lords: etymology of, 24.
Macaulay, Lord: 56.
Mail-order business : 144.
Manchester: in proverb, 83.
Manchesterism: 53 ff.
Marx, Karl: 78; 101; 103 ff.; 112;
118 ; 215 ; 216 ff.; 219; 220.
Marxists: 221 ff.; 231 ff.
Masses: derivation of term, 89,
Matabeleland: 166; 168-9.
Maxim, Sir Hiram: 202.
Mennonites : 231 .
Mercury (quicksilver) : 202.
Merry: etymology of, 10.
Metric System: 207.
Metternich, Prince: 67.
Militarism: 196 ff,; 214; 269 ff.
Mithradates the Great: 259.
Monroe Doctrine: 160.
Montgomery Ward: 144.
Morgan, J. P., Co.: 298.
Mortgage: derivation of, 303.
Mother's Day: 289.
Motion Pictures: 130.
Miiller, Adam: 91.
Mussolini, Benito: 272 ff.; 334; 341.
Napoleon: 7; 41; 43; 47; rate of
travel, 71 ; 344.
Napoleon III: 94.
Napoleonic War: effect on British
industry, 41 ff.; aftermath,
Nationalism: 120 ff.; economic, 152;
<m<# imperialism, 162-3; >os-
TFar, 257 ff.; in Germany, 265;
in Soviet Union, 265-6.
Nazism: 325 ff.
New Caledonia: 173.
"New Deal": 318 ff.
"New Economic Policy": 250 ff.;
"New Era": 292.
New Guinea: 166.
New Lanark: 46 ff.
New York City: 132.
New York Tribune: 110.
Nicholas, Grand Duke: 47.
Nicholas II: 209-10; 212.
Nippon: see Japan.
Nobel, Alfred: 202; 209.
O'Connor, Feargus: 86-7; 163.
Olympic Games: 207.
Orphan-labor: see Apprentices.
Otto, N. A.: 128.
Owen, Robert: career, 45 ff. ; 51 ; 84;
90; 108; 145.
Pacifism: 204 ff.; 214-5.
Pagan: etymology of, 341.
Palace Hotel: 117.
Palestine: 280; 324.
Paley, Dr. William: 33.
Panhard & Levassor: 128.
Panics: 1808, 40; 1816, 43 ff.; 1837,
85, 299; 1847, 76 ff.; 108; 1851,
111, 114, 299; 1989, 297 ff.
Papal States: 68.
Patent Office, U.S.: 95.
Petroleum: 185 ff.
Philanthropy, Organized: 32.
Poland: 260; 261.
Postal Union: 207.
Printsip, Gavrilo: 229.
Profit System: 55.
Proletariat: etymology of, 80.
Radio Corporation of America: 294
Railways : 70 ff . ; map of, 1848; 72.
Reform Bill, 1832:59.
Renault Brothers: 128.
Revolutions: two kinds of, 3.
Rhodes: 170-1; 197-8.
Rivera, Primo de: 278.
Rochdale Cooperatives : 145.
Rockefeller, John D.: 135 ff.
Roosevelt, Franklin Delano: 318 ff.
Russia: under Tsars, 174; map of
empire, 177; socialism, 219-20;
1905 Rev*, 220; World War, 239
ff.; 1917 Rev., 241 ff.; Five-
Saint-Simon, Claude Henri: 90-1;
Samovar, iron: 72.
San Francisco: 117.
Schles wig-Hoist em: 123.
Schneider, Eugene: 202.
Science in industry: 127 ff.
Sears, Roebuck & Co.: 144.
Second International: 222.
Shaw, George Bernard: 219.
Siemens, Werner: 127.
Slavery: in Britain, 16 ff.; effect on
Slavophils: 176; 239.
Smith, Adam: 53; 140.
Socialism: origin of term, 50; vs.
communism, 108; Bismarck vs.,
125; spreads, 216 ff.; vs. war,
221 ff.;231 ff.
Society for the Promotion of Chris-
tian Knowledge: 56.
Soldier: etymology of, 205.
South Africa: 280.
Sovereigns of Industry: 145.
Soviet Union: see Russia.
Spinning- jenny: 5.
Stalin: 245; 266; 304 ff.; 321.
Standard Oil Co.: 136; 138.
Steam-engine : 2 ff.
Steffens, Lincoln: 314.
Stephenson, George: 71.
Stock Exchanges: 75.
Strikes: see Unions.
Sudan: 166; 174.
Suffrage, World Alliance of Women
Telegraph Union: 207.
Tesla, Nikola: 127.
Times, The (London) : 102.
Tories: origin of term; 58-9.
Treaty: derivation of word, 265.
Trotsky, Leon: 220; 245; 247; 304;
Trusts: origin of, 137.
Tunisia: 174, 189-91.
Turkish Empire: 254.
Ulyanov, V. I.: see Lenin.
Unions, Labor: in Britain, 28, 84-5.
United States: early industry, 64-5;
"Golden Age/' 94-5; Civil War,
112 ff. ; monopolies, 134 ff. ; im-
perialism, 180-2; opens up
Japan, 183 ff.; World War,
255 ff., 285 ff.; "New Era/'
286 ff.; Depression, 297 ff.;
"N&w Deal/' 318 ff.
Versailles, Treaty of: 263-4; 269;
Victor Emmanuel II: 188.
Victoria, Queen: 74.
Wall Street: 293.
Ward, Montgomery: 144.
Watt, James: 2 ff.; 6; 29; 53; 64;
Wei-hai-wei: 166; 188.
Wellington, Duke of: 59; 71; 85.
Wells, H.G,: 219.
Whigs: origin of term, 59.
White Man's Burden: 161; parody,
Whitney, Richard : 298. Young Men's Christian Association :
Wilberforce, William: 30 ff. 20T.
Wilhelm II: 193-5; 210-1. Yugoslavia: 261.
Wilson, Woodrow : 255 ff . Zaharoff, Basil : ' 199-202.
Wireless: 130. Zanzibar: 166.
Woolworth, F. W.: 144. Zionism: 207.
World War 1 : 226 ff. ; cost, 236. Zinoviev: 245.
Yeddo Bay: 185. Zuyder Zee: 322-8.