Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Anticipations and Hopes for the
Immediate Future (S610: 1904)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: This short essay was commissioned by a German newspaper, but on seeing what Wallace had written they were unwilling to print it. It ended up on page one of the 1 January 1904 issue of The Clarion (London). To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S610.htm


    I am looking to the coming year with no expectation of any great change, political or social, but with a hope and belief that the great movement among the workers in favour of a more rational and more equitable system of government and of social organisation will continue to grow, as it has been growing during the last few years. I trust that, in the more advanced countries--especially in Germany and France--it may become sufficiently powerful, even within the coming year, to exercise a decided control over the reactionary party, and even be able to initiate, and perhaps to secure, some important legislation for the extension of individual freedom, and for checking military expenditure.

    As to the future (limiting ourselves here to the twentieth century), I look forward to the same movement as destined to produce great and beneficent results.

    The events of the past few years must have convinced all advanced thinkers that it is hopeless to expect any real improvement from the existing governments of the great civilised nations, supported and controlled, as they are, by the ever-increasing power of vast military and official organisations.

    These organisations are a permanent menace to liberty, to national morality, and to all real progress towards a rational social evolution. It is these which have given us during the first years of this new century examples of national hypocrisy and crimes against liberty and humanity--to say nothing of Christianity--almost unequalled in the whole course of modern history.

    Scarcely was the ink dry of the signatures of their representatives at the Hague Conference, where they had expressed the most humane and elevated ideas as to the necessity for reduction of armaments, for the amelioration of the horrors of war, and for the principle of arbitration in the settlement of national difficulties, than we find all the chief signatories engaged in destroying the liberties of weaker peoples, without any rational cause, and often in opposition to the principles of their own constitutions, or to solemn promises by their representatives or in actual treaties.

    England carried fire and sword into South Africa, and has robbed two republics of the independence guaranteed to them after a former unjust annexation; a crime aggravated by hypocrisy in the pretence that British subjects were treated as "helots," whereas their own Committee of Inquiry into the War has now demonstrated that it was a pure war of conquest, in order to secure territory and gold mines, determined on years before, and only waiting a favourable opportunity to carry into effect.

    The United States, against their own "Declaration of Independence" and the fundamental principles of their Constitution, have taken away the liberties of two communities--the one, Porto Rico, by mere overwhelming power; the other, the Philippines, after a bloody war against a people fighting for their independence, the only excuse being that they had been purchased, land and people, from their former conquerors and oppressors.

    Russia itself, the originator of the Peace Conference, forthwith persecutes Jews and Doukhobors on account of their religion, and takes away the solemnly guaranteed liberties from the Finns, a people more really civilised than their persecutors.

    All three of these Governments, as well as Germany and France, invaded China, and committed barbarities of slaughter, with reckless devastation and plunder, which will degrade them for all time in the pages of history.

    Such are the doings of the official and military rulers of nations which claim to be in the first rank of civilisation and religion! And there is really no sign of any improvement. But, for the first time in the history of the world, the workers--the real sources of all wealth and of all civilisation--are becoming educated, are organising themselves, and are obtaining a voice in municipal and national Governments. So soon as they realise their power, and can agree upon their aims, the dawn of the new era will have begun.

    The first thing for them to do is to strengthen themselves by unity of action, and then to weaken, and ultimately to abolish, militarism. The second aim should be to limit the bureaucracy, and make it the people's servant, instead of its master. The third, to reorganise and simplify the entire legal profession, and the whole system of law, criminal and civil; to make justice free for all, to abolish all legal recovery of debts, and all advocacy paid for by the parties concerned. The fourth, and greatest of all, will be to organise labour, to abolish inheritance, and thus give equality of opportunity to everyone alike. This alone will establish, first, true individualism (which cannot exist under present social conditions), and, this being obtained, will inevitably lead to voluntary association for all the purposes of life, and bring about a social state adapted to the stage of development of each nation and of each successive age.

    This, in my opinion, is the ideal which the workers (manual and intellectual workers alike) of every civilised country should keep in view. For the first time in human history, these workers are throwing aside international jealousies and hatreds; the peoples of all nations are becoming brothers, and are appreciating the good qualities inherent in each and all of them. They will, therefore, be guilty of folly, as well as crime, if they much longer permit their rulers to drill them into armies, and force them to invade, and rob, and kill each other.

    The people are always better than their rulers. But the rulers have power, wealth, tradition, and the insatiable love of conquest and of governing others against their will. It is, then, in the People alone that I have any hope for the future of humanity.


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