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

Is It Peace or War? A Reply by
Dr. Alfred R. Wallace (S659: 1908)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Printed in the 14 August 1908 number of Public Opinion (London). Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S659.htm

    [[p. 202]] DR. ALFRED R. WALLACE has sent us the following reply to our article of last week on "Is it Peace or War?":--

    "The statements to which you call attention in your issue of Aug. 7 are most serious, and, if they are wholly correct, most alarming. In the Clarion of same date, R. Blatchford reiterates his former statements as to the preparations of Germany, not only of an enormous fleet, but of a correspondingly extensive flotilla of transports, capable of landing 200,000 men on our Eastern coasts, but of serving no other imaginable purpose.

The "Clarion's" Statement

    "In the same paper, Mr. A. M. Thompson declares it to be an equally well-known fact that the fundamental reason for these preparations is not the mere lust of power and conquest by the military party, but the need for expansion of financial and commercial interests. He declares that 'The German manufacturing districts, overbrimming with exportable products,' lie landlocked behind Denmark and Holland, whose integrity is guaranteed by Great Britain, backed by France and Russia.

    "The implication is that these vast preparations of army, fleet, and transports are for the express purpose, when the fitting moment comes, of attacking our Home Fleet on at least equal terms, invading our country with an overwhelming force, and at the same time, with an equally powerful army, taking possession of Denmark and Holland with all their ports, to which the transports can return to bring reinforcements for the invading army in the shortest possible time.

Germany in 1870

    "When we remember the marvellous precision with which, in 1870, the German armies invaded France, and marched, ever-conquering, to the siege of Paris, we can hardly doubt that the suggested programme against ourselves can be successfully carried out; and, if the facts and intentions are as stated, and some means of satisfying the aspirations of German commerce and German militarism are not devised, will almost certainly be attempted, and, if attempted, will probably succeed. Then, of course, such of our Colonies and possessions as Germany specially covets will be either seized by force or obtained as the price of the evacuation of our country.

The "Clarion" and Labour

    "In the same issue of the Clarion Robert Blatchford has an article on 'The Danger of War,' which, I regret to say, is in my opinion, most unfair to the Labour Party, whose resolution as to the relations between the British and German peoples he either misrepresents or misunderstands. To this the leaders of that party will, no doubt, reply. But his article is, I fear, at the same time, by its almost Jingo spirit, calculated to provoke German criticism or even animosity. For he strongly maintains that we are quite innocent, the Germans alone being the guilty party. He says: 'I may point out that it is not a danger of collision between two equally guilty Governments, but a danger of unprovoked, unjustifiable, and wicked attack by an autocratic ruler upon an inoffensive people.' Then, after challenges to the Labour leaders, he goes on as follows:--

    " 'I repeat my statement:--

    " '(1) There is grave and present danger of a German attack upon this country.

    " '(2) This danger exists because we are not prepared for war.

    " '(3) We are not prepared for war because the ruling classes do not trust the people, and because the people do not trust the ruling classes.'

    "Although no one admires more than I do Robert Blatchford's great life-work for humanity and Socialism, he here, in my opinion, stultifies himself by adopting the tone and the arguments of the most aggressive Jingoism. Our hands, forsooth, are clean! We are wholly in the right! Germany has no just cause of offence against us! Our only course is to prepare at any cost to resist her attacks! This surely is Jingoism run mad, and, as coming from a Socialist and a Humanitarian, is nothing less than amazing.

Our Imperialism

    "Let us, therefore, try to look at the matter not from any high ethical standpoint of right and justice, which, unfortunately has no place in practical politics, but from those ideals of national superiority and well-being which prevail among the governing classes of all the Great Powers (our own included), and which they all, either openly or secretly, are aiming at. These are--extent of territory, world-wide commerce, great and increasing population, enormous wealth, and, finally, the Imperial rule over vast territories of subject peoples. Every one of these desired results are, in my opinion--and, I had supposed, in the opinion of all Socialists and lovers of freedom as the first essential of human progress--false ideals, except in so far as they arise naturally as the concomitants of a true civilisation; but they are, nevertheless, the ideals of modern Governments.

Our Superiority

    "Now, owing to a series of favourable conditions, we ourselves, more than a century ago, obtained a decided superiority in most of these elements of greatness, and during the past century we have taken every opportunity of increasing our advantages, due mainly to our naval and manufacturing superiority, which culminated about fifty years ago; and we have done this from the one point of view of supposed self-interest, with no regard whatever for the actual or possible desires of other nations. As the result of this abnormal growth, the other Great Powers now find all the most suitable regions for European colonisation and commercial expansion monopolised by us, or our countrymen. The whole of temperate North America is thus held by people of English race. We have also the whole of Australia and New Zealand, and by far the largest and best portions of South Africa. In addition to all this, we have an enormous Empire in India, and our full share of the tropical regions of all the continents and islands.

Our Boast of Empire

    "And we are proud of all this. We boast of our Empire on which 'the sun never sets'; and lose no opportunity of expressing our determination and vaunting our ability to keep it. Again and again we have waged unjust wars, as those against China, Burma, Egypt, and North-West India; while our last exploit--the most unjust and disgraceful of all--was the conquest of the two Boer Republics, after a petty quarrel deliberately founded on fraud and aggression, and a war begun on false pretences and culminating in such an orgy of devastation and bloodshed and the breaking of treaties as to make every lover of justice and humanity ashamed of being the fellow-countrymen of those who were responsible for it.

"To Be Left Alone"

    "And now, Robert Blatchford assures the world that all we want is peace! All we ask is to be left alone to enjoy our ill-gotten wealth and territories! How very good of us! How virtuous of us to want peace when there is nothing more to be got by war! And how conciliatory it is to tell the Germans that they must be content to let us possess the earth in quiet and that we cannot allow them even to absorb a few remaining bits of Europe or Asia, which we do not want ourselves, but which we are determined they shall not have. And We have just taken final possession of Egypt--also in defiance of the most solemn promises to Europe [[p. 203]] of a speedy and definite evacuation.

"Our Own House"

    "And to think that all the time we have been thus plundering and blundering over the whole globe, our people at home remain plunged in a slough of pauperism and misery of greater extent than ever before. Oh, the pity of it! That we have been ever seeking to conquer other lands, to subjugate alien peoples, to heap up the wealth of the few, but have always found it quite impossible so to order our own house that no willing worker should ever be in want of the mere necessaries of a decent, a healthy, and a contented life.

The Two-Power Standard

    "The outlook is, indeed, for us a desperate one; and I see myself only two possible ways of honourably avoiding a not remote catastrophe--though both courses will, I know, be regarded as Utopian.

    "The first is that our Government, our rulers generally, and the most influential of our newspapers should renounce altogether our claim to interfere (except peacefully as the friend of all parties alike) in the internal relations of the Continental Powers; that we should abandon the insolent determination to keep Our navy equal to that of the two most powerful navies of the other Great Powers, and that we begin at once to amend our shipbuilding programme so as to keep it up to the one-Power rather than the two-Power standard.

    "In the existing state of the political world, with Germany and the United States already superior to us in population and fully our equals in wealth and civilisation, any other pretension must lead to ultimate ruin. Is it not probable that German-speaking Austria will before long throw in her lot with existing Germany and form an Empire which will hardly be content to allow us any longer to interfere with whatever it considers to be its legitimate expansion?

    But if, instead of persisting in these irritating and provocative claims, for which there is no logical or ethical justification, we directed our whole energy to the amelioration of the social condition of our people at home, and also took some immediate and effective measures for the initiation of self-government in Ireland, in Egypt, and in India, we should almost certainly disarm the active opposition of the other Powers. Thus alone shall we secure 'Peace with Honour.'

The Socialist Alternative

    "But if we will not do this--if we continue making claims to superiority which are an offence, and increasing our armaments, which are a defiance, then the only hope I can see for us is that the growth of Socialism, both among ourselves and in Germany, may be so rapid during the next few years that Socialists may become powerful enough in both Legislatures to ensure a programme of peace and mutual goodwill, before which all the objects for which wars are now waged will sink into insignificance.

    "With the earnest hope that one or the other of these solutions may commend itself to all real lovers of freedom for others equally with ourselves,--I am, Yours truly,

    "Alfred R. Wallace."

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