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Title: Revolutionist's Handbook and Pocket Companion
Author: Shaw, George Bernard, 1856-1950
Language: English
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The Revolutionist's Handbook and Pocket Companion


George Bernard Shaw


Writing as: JOHN TANNER, M.I.R.C.  (Member of the Idle Rich Class).


"No one can contemplate the present condition of the masses of the
people without desiring something like a revolution for the better."
Sir Robert Giffen.  Essays in Finance, vol. ii. p. 393.


A revolutionist is one who desires to discard the existing social order
and try another.

The constitution of England is revolutionary.  To a Russian or
Anglo-Indian bureaucrat, a general election is as much a revolution as a
referendum or plebiscite in which the people fight instead of voting.
The French Revolution overthrew one set of rulers and substituted
another with different interests and different views.  That is what a
general election enables the people to do in England every seven years
if they choose.  Revolution is therefore a national institution in
England; and its advocacy by an Englishman needs no apology.

Every man is a revolutionist concerning the thing he understands.  For
example, every person who has mastered a profession is a sceptic
concerning it, and consequently a revolutionist.

Every genuine religious person is a heretic and therefore a

All who achieve real distinction in life begin as revolutionists.  The
most distinguished persons become more revolutionary as they grow older,
though they are commonly supposed to become more conservative owing to
their loss of faith in conventional methods of reform.

Any person under the age of thirty, who, having any knowledge of the
existing social order, is not a revolutionist, is an inferior.


Revolutions have never lightened the burden of tyranny: they have only
shifted it to another shoulder.




If there were no God, said the eighteenth century Deist, it would be
necessary to invent Him.  Now this XVIII century god was deus ex
machina, the god who helped those who could not help themselves, the god
of the lazy and incapable.  The nineteenth century decided that there is
indeed no such god; and now Man must take in hand all the work that he
used to shirk with an idle prayer.  He must, in effect, change himself
into the political Providence which he formerly conceived as god; and
such change is not only possible, but the only sort of change that is
real.  The mere transfiguration of institutions, as from military and
priestly dominance to commercial and scientific dominance, from
commercial dominance to proletarian democracy, from slavery to serfdom,
from serfdom to capitalism, from monarchy to republicanism, from
polytheism to monotheism, from monotheism to atheism, from atheism to
pantheistic humanitarianism, from general illiteracy to general
literacy, from romance to realism, from realism to mysticism, from
metaphysics to physics, are all but changes from Tweedledum to
Tweedledee: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.  But the changes
from the crab apple to the pippin, from the wolf and fox to the house
dog, from the charger of Henry V to the brewer's draught horse and the
race-horse, are real; for here Man has played the god, subduing Nature
to his intention, and ennobling or debasing Life for a set purpose.  And
what can be done with a wolf can be done with a man.  If such monsters
as the tramp and the gentleman can appear as mere by-products of Man's
individual greed and folly, what might we not hope for as a main product
of his universal aspiration?

This is no new conclusion.  The despair of institutions, and the
inexorable "ye must be born again," with Mrs Poyser's stipulation, "and
born different," recurs in every generation.  The cry for the Superman
did not begin with Nietzsche, nor will it end with his vogue.  But it
has always been silenced by the same question: what kind of person is
this Superman to be?  You ask, not for a super-apple, but for an eatable
apple; not for a superhorse, but for a horse of greater draught or
velocity.  Neither is it of any use to ask for a Superman: you must
furnish a specification of the sort of man you want.  Unfortunately you
do not know what sort of man you want.  Some sort of goodlooking
philosopher-athlete, with a handsome healthy woman for his mate,

Vague as this is, it is a great advance on the popular demand for a
perfect gentleman and a perfect lady.  And, after all, no market demand
in the world takes the form of exact technical specification of the
article required.  Excellent poultry and potatoes are produced to
satisfy the demand of housewives who do not know the technical
differences between a tuber and a chicken.  They will tell you that the
proof of the pudding is in the eating; and they are right.  The proof of
the Superman will be in the living; and we shall find out how to produce
him by the old method of trial and error, and not by waiting for a
completely convincing prescription of his ingredients.

Certain common and obvious mistakes may be ruled out from the beginning.
For example, we agree that we want superior mind; but we need not fall
into the football club folly of counting on this as a product of
superior body.  Yet if we recoil so far as to conclude that superior
mind consists in being the dupe of our ethical classifications of
virtues and vices, in short, of conventional morality, we shall fall out
of the fryingpan of the football club into the fire of the Sunday
School.  If we must choose between a race of athletes and a race of
"good" men, let us have the athletes: better Samson and Milo than Calvin
and Robespierre.  But neither alternative is worth changing for: Samson
is no more a Superman than Calvin.  What then are we to do?



Let us hurry over the obstacles set up by property and marriage.
Revolutionists make too much of them.  No doubt it is easy to
demonstrate that property will destroy society unless society destroys
it.  No doubt, also, property has hitherto held its own and destroyed
all the empires.  But that was because the superficial objection to it
(that it distributes social wealth and the social labor burden in a
grotesquely inequitable manner) did not threaten the existence of the
race, but only the individual happiness of its units, and finally the
maintenance of some irrelevant political form or other, such as a
nation, an empire, or the like.  Now as happiness never matters to
Nature, as she neither recognizes flags and frontiers nor cares a straw
whether the economic system adopted by a society is feudal,
capitalistic, or collectivist, provided it keeps the race afoot (the
hive and the anthill being as acceptable to her as Utopia), the
demonstrations of Socialists, though irrefutable, will never make any
serious impression on property.  The knell of that over-rated
institution will not sound until it is felt to conflict with some more
vital matter than mere personal inequities in industrial economy.  No
such conflict was perceived whilst society had not yet grown beyond
national communities too small and simple to overtax Man's limited
political capacity disastrously.  But we have now reached the stage of
international organization.  Man's political capacity and magnanimity
are clearly beaten by the vastness and complexity of the problems forced
on him.  And it is at this anxious moment that he finds, when he looks
upward for a mightier mind to help him, that the heavens are empty.  He
will presently see that his discarded formula that Man is the Temple of
the Holy Ghost happens to be precisely true, and that it is only through
his own brain and hand that this Holy Ghost, formally the most nebulous
person in the Trinity, and now become its sole survivor as it has always
been its real Unity, can help him in any way.  And so, if the Superman
is to come, he must be born of Woman by Man's intentional and
well-considered contrivance.  Conviction of this will smash everything
that opposes it.  Even Property and Marriage, which laugh at the
laborer's petty complaint that he is defrauded of "surplus value," and
at the domestic miseries of the slaves of the wedding ring, will
themselves be laughed aside as the lightest of trifles if they cross
this conception when it becomes a fully realized vital purpose of the

That they must cross it becomes obvious the moment we acknowledge the
futility of breeding men for special qualities as we breed cocks for
game, greyhounds for speed, or sheep for mutton.  What is really
important in Man is the part of him that we do not yet understand.  Of
much of it we are not even conscious, just as we are not normally
conscious of keeping up our circulation by our heart-pump, though if we
neglect it we die.  We are therefore driven to the conclusion that when
we have carried selection as far as we can by rejecting from the list of
eligible parents all persons who are uninteresting, unpromising, or
blemished without any set-off, we shall still have to trust to the
guidance of fancy (alias Voice of Nature), both in the breeders and the
parents, for that superiority in the unconscious self which will be the
true characteristic of the Superman.

At this point we perceive the importance of giving fancy the widest
possible field.  To cut humanity up into small cliques, and effectively
limit the selection of the individual to his own clique, is to postpone
the Superman for eons, if not for ever.  Not only should every person be
nourished and trained as a possible parent, but there should be no
possibility of such an obstacle to natural selection as the objection of
a countess to a navvy or of a duke to a charwoman.  Equality is
essential to good breeding; and equality, as all economists know, is
incompatible with property.

Besides, equality is an essential condition of bad breeding also; and
bad breeding is indispensable to the weeding out of the human race.
When the conception of heredity took hold of the scientific imagination
in the middle of last century, its devotees announced that it was a
crime to marry the lunatic to the lunatic or the consumptive to the
consumptive.  But pray are we to try to correct our diseased stocks by
infecting our healthy stocks with them?  Clearly the attraction which
disease has for diseased people is beneficial to the race.  If two
really unhealthy people get married, they will, as likely as not, have a
great number of children who will all die before they reach maturity.
This is a far more satisfactory arrangement than the tragedy of a union
between a healthy and an unhealthy person.  Though more costly than
sterilization of the unhealthy, it has the enormous advantage that in
the event of our notions of health and unhealth being erroneous (which
to some extent they most certainly are), the error will be corrected by
experience instead of confirmed by evasion.

One fact must be faced resolutely, in spite of the shrieks of the
romantic.  There is no evidence that the best citizens are the offspring
of congenial marriages, or that a conflict of temperament is not a
highly important part of what breeders call crossing.  On the contrary,
it is quite sufficiently probable that good results may be obtained from
parents who would be extremely unsuitable companions and partners, to
make it certain that the experiment of mating them will sooner or later
be tried purposely almost as often as it is now tried accidentally.  But
mating such couples must clearly not involve marrying them.  In
conjugation two complementary persons may supply one another's
deficiencies: in the domestic partnership of marriage they only feel
them and suffer from them.  Thus the son of a robust, cheerful, eupeptic
British country squire, with the tastes and range of his class, and of a
clever, imaginative, intellectual, highly civilized Jewess, might be
very superior to both his parents; but it is not likely that the Jewess
would find the squire an interesting companion, or his habits, his
friends, his place and mode of life congenial to her.  Therefore
marriage, whilst it is made an indispensable condition of mating, will
delay the advent of the Superman as effectually as Property, and will be
modified by the impulse towards him just as effectually.

The practical abrogation of Property and Marriage as they exist at
present will occur without being much noticed.  To the mass of men, the
intelligent abolition of property would mean nothing except an increase
in the quantity of food, clothing, housing, and comfort at their
personal disposal, as well as a greater control over their time and
circumstances.  Very few persons now make any distinction between
virtually complete property and property held on such highly developed
public conditions as to place its income on the same footing as that of
a propertyless clergyman, officer, or civil servant.  A landed
proprietor may still drive men and women off his land, demolish their
dwellings, and replace them with sheep or deer; and in the unregulated
trades the private trader may still spunge on the regulated trades and
sacrifice the life and health of the nation as lawlessly as the
Manchester cotton manufacturers did at the beginning of last century.
But though the Factory Code on the one hand, and Trade Union
organization on the other, have, within the lifetime of men still
living, converted the old unrestricted property of the cotton
manufacturer in his mill and the cotton spinner in his labor into a mere
permission to trade or work on stringent public or collective
conditions, imposed in the interest of the general welfare without any
regard for individual hard cases, people in Lancashire still speak of
their "property" in the old terms, meaning nothing more by it than the
things a thief can be punished for stealing.  The total abolition of
property, and the conversion of every citizen into a salaried
functionary in the public service, would leave much more than 99 per
cent of the nation quite unconscious of any greater change than now
takes place when the son of a shipowner goes into the navy.  They would
still call their watches and umbrellas and back gardens their property.

Marriage also will persist as a name attached to a general custom long
after the custom itself will have altered.  For example, modern English
marriage, as modified by divorce and by Married Women's Property Acts,
differs more from early XIX century marriage than Byron's marriage did
from Shakespear's.  At the present moment marriage in England differs
not only from marriage in France, but from marriage in Scotland.
Marriage as modified by the divorce laws in South Dakota would be called
mere promiscuity in Clapham.  Yet the Americans, far from taking a
profligate and cynical view of marriage, do homage to its ideals with a
seriousness that seems old fashioned in Clapham.  Neither in England nor
America would a proposal to abolish marriage be tolerated for a moment;
and yet nothing is more certain than that in both countries the
progressive modification of the marriage contract will be continued
until it is no more onerous nor irrevocable than any ordinary commercial
deed of partnership.  Were even this dispensed with, people would still
call themselves husbands and wives; describe their companionships as
marriages; and be for the most part unconscious that they were any less
married than Henry VIII.  For though a glance at the legal conditions of
marriage in different Christian countries shews that marriage varies
legally from frontier to frontier, domesticity varies so little that
most people believe their own marriage laws to be universal.
Consequently here again, as in the case of Property, the absolute
confidence of the public in the stability of the institution's name,
makes it all the easier to alter its substance.

However, it cannot be denied that one of the changes in public opinion
demanded by the need for the Superman is a very unexpected one.  It is
nothing less than the dissolution of the present necessary association
of marriage with conjugation, which most unmarried people regard as the
very diagnostic of marriage.  They are wrong, of course: it would be
quite as near the truth to say that conjugation is the one purely
accidental and incidental condition of marriage.  Conjugation is
essential to nothing but the propagation of the race; and the moment
that paramount need is provided for otherwise than by marriage,
conjugation, from Nature's creative point of view, ceases to be
essential in marriage.  But marriage does not thereupon cease to be so
economical, convenient, and comfortable, that the Superman might safely
bribe the matrimonomaniacs by offering to revive all the old inhuman
stringency and irrevocability of marriage, to abolish divorce, to
confirm the horrible bond which still chains decent people to drunkards,
criminals, and wasters, provided only the complete extrication of
conjugation from it were conceded to him.  For if people could form
domestic companionships on no easier terms than these, they would still
marry.  The Roman Catholic, forbidden by his Church to avail himself of
the divorce laws, marries as freely as the South Dakotan Presbyterians
who can change partners with a facility that scandalizes the old world;
and were his Church to dare a further step towards Christianity and
enjoin celibacy on its laity as well as on its clergy, marriages would
still be contracted for the sake of domesticity by perfectly obedient
sons and daughters of the Church.  One need not further pursue these
hypotheses: they are only suggested here to help the reader to analyse
marriage into its two functions of regulating conjugation and supplying
a form of domesticity.  These two functions are quite separable; and
domesticity is the only one of the two which is essential to the
existence of marriage, because conjugation without domesticity is not
marriage at all, whereas domesticity without conjugation is still
marriage: in fact it is necessarily the actual condition of all fertile
marriages during a great part of their duration, and of some marriages
during the whole of it.

Taking it, then, that Property and Marriage, by destroying Equality and
thus hampering sexual selection with irrelevant conditions, are hostile
to the evolution of the Superman, it is easy to understand why the only
generally known modern experiment in breeding the human race took place
in a community which discarded both institutions.



In 1848 the Oneida Community was founded in America to carry out a
resolution arrived at by a handful of Perfectionist Communists "that we
will devote ourselves exclusively to the establishment of the Kingdom of
God."  Though the American nation declared that this sort of thing was
not to be tolerated in a Christian country, the Oneida Community held
its own for over thirty years, during which period it seems to have
produced healthier children and done and suffered less evil than any
Joint Stock Company on record.  It was, however, a highly selected
community; for a genuine communist (roughly definable as an intensely
proud person who proposes to enrich the common fund instead of to spunge
on it) is superior to an ordinary joint stock capitalist precisely as an
ordinary joint stock capitalist is superior to a pirate.  Further, the
Perfectionists were mightily shepherded by their chief Noyes, one of
those chance attempts at the Superman which occur from time to time in
spite of the interference of Man's blundering institutions.  The
existence of Noyes simplified the breeding problem for the Communists,
the question as to what sort of man they should strive to breed being
settled at once by the obvious desirability of breeding another Noyes.

But an experiment conducted by a handful of people, who, after thirty
years of immunity from the unintentional child slaughter that goes on by
ignorant parents in private homes, numbered only 300, could do very
little except prove that Communists, under the guidance of a Superman
"devoted exclusively to the establishment of the Kingdom of God," and
caring no more for property and marriage than a Camberwell minister
cares for Hindoo Caste or Suttee, might make a much better job of their
lives than ordinary folk under the harrow of both these institutions.
Yet their Superman himself admitted that this apparent success was only
part of the abnormal phenomenon of his own occurrence; for when he came
to the end of his powers through age, he himself guided and organized
the voluntary relapse of the communists into marriage, capitalism, and
customary private life, thus admitting that the real social solution was
not what a casual Superman could persuade a picked company to do for
him, but what a whole community of Supermen would do spontaneously.  If
Noyes had had to organize, not a few dozen Perfectionists, but the whole
United States, America would have beaten him as completely as England
beat Oliver Cromwell, France Napoleon, or Rome Julius Cæsar.  Cromwell
learnt by bitter experience that God himself cannot raise a people above
its own level, and that even though you stir a nation to sacrifice all
its appetites to its conscience, the result will still depend wholly on
what sort of conscience the nation has got.  Napoleon seems to have
ended by regarding mankind as a troublesome pack of hounds only worth
keeping for the sport of hunting with them.  Cæsar's capacity for
fighting without hatred or resentment was defeated by the determination
of his soldiers to kill their enemies in the field instead of taking
them prisoners to be spared by Cæsar; and his civil supremacy was
purchased by colossal bribery of the citizens of Rome.  What great
rulers cannot do, codes and religions cannot do.  Man reads his own
nature into every ordinance: if you devise a superhuman commandment so
cunningly that it cannot be misinterpreted in terms of his will, he will
denounce it as seditious blasphemy, or else disregard it as either crazy
or totally unintelligible.  Parliaments and synods may tinker as much as
they please with their codes and creeds as circumstances alter the
balance of classes and their interests; and, as a result of the
tinkering, there may be an occasional illusion of moral evolution, as
when the victory of the commercial caste over the military caste leads
to the substitution of social boycotting and pecuniary damages for
duelling.  At certain moments there may even be a considerable material
advance, as when the conquest of political power by the working class
produces a better distribution of wealth through the simple action of
the selfishness of the new masters; but all this is mere readjustment
and reformation: until the heart and mind of the people is changed the
very greatest man will no more dare to govern on the assumption that all
are as great as he than a drover dare leave his flock to find its way
through the streets as he himself would.  Until there is an England in
which every man is a Cromwell, a France in which every man is a
Napoleon, a Rome in which every man is a Cæsar, a Germany in which every
man is a Luther plus a Goethe, the world will be no more improved by its
heroes than a Brixton villa is improved by the pyramid of Cheops.  The
production of such nations is the only real change possible to us.



But would such a change be tolerated if Man must rise above himself to
desire it?  It would, through his misconception of its nature.  Man does
desire an ideal Superman with such energy as he can spare from his
nutrition, and has in every age magnified the best living substitute for
it he can find.  His least incompetent general is set up as an
Alexander; his king is the first gentleman in the world; his Pope is a
saint.  He is never without an array of human idols who are all nothing
but sham Supermen.  That the real Superman will snap his superfingers at
all Man's present trumpery ideals of right, duty, honor, justice,
religion, even decency, and accept moral obligations beyond present
human endurance, is a thing that contemporary Man does not foresee: in
fact he does not notice it when our casual Supermen do it in his very
face.  He actually does it himself every day without knowing it.  He
will therefore make no objection to the production of a race of what he
calls Great Men or Heroes, because he will imagine them, not as true
Supermen, but as himself endowed with infinite brains, infinite courage,
and infinite money.

The most troublesome opposition will arise from the general fear of
mankind that any interference with our conjugal customs will be an
interference with our pleasures and our romance.  This fear, by putting
on airs of offended morality, has always intimidated people who have not
measured its essential weakness; but it will prevail with those
degenerates only in whom the instinct of fertility has faded into a mere
itching for pleasure.  The modern devices for combining pleasure with
sterility, now universally known and accessible, enable these persons to
weed themselves out of the race, a process already vigorously at work;
and the consequent survival of the intelligently fertile means the
survival of the partizans of the Superman; for what is proposed is
nothing but the replacement of the old unintelligent, inevitable, almost
unconscious fertility by an intelligently controlled, conscious
fertility, and the elimination of the mere voluptuary from the
evolutionary process.[1] Even if this selective agency had not been
invented, the purpose of the race would still shatter the opposition of
individual instincts.  Not only do the bees and the ants satisfy their
reproductive and parental instincts vicariously; but marriage itself
successfully imposes celibacy on millions of unmarried normal men and
women.  In short, the individual instinct in this matter, overwhelming
as it is thoughtlessly supposed to be, is really a finally negligible

[1] The part played in evolution by the voluptuary will be the same as
that already played by the glutton.  The glutton, as the man with the
strongest motive for nourishing himself, will always take more pains
than his fellows to get food.  When food is so difficult to get that
only great exertions can secure a sufficient supply of it, the glutton's
appetite develops his cunning and enterprise to the utmost; and he
becomes not only the best fed but the ablest man in the community.  But
in more hospitable climates, or where the social organization of the
food supply makes it easy for a man to overeat, then the glutton eats
himself out of health and finally out of existence.  All other
voluptuaries prosper and perish in the same way; way; and this is why
the survival of the fittest means finally the survival of the
self-controlled, because they alone can adapt themselves to the
perpetual shifting of conditions produced by industrial progress.



The need for the Superman is, in its most imperative aspect, a political
one.  We have been driven to Proletarian Democracy by the failure of all
the alternative systems; for these depended on the existence of Supermen
acting as despots or oligarchs; and not only were these Supermen not
always or even often forthcoming at the right moment and in an eligible
social position, but when they were forthcoming they could not, except
for a short time and by morally suicidal coercive methods, impose
superhumanity on those whom they governed; so, by mere force of "human
nature," government by consent of the governed has supplanted the old
plan of governing the citizen as a public-schoolboy is governed.

Now we have yet to see the man who, having any practical experience of
Proletarian Democracy, has any belief in its capacity for solving great
political problems, or even for doing ordinary parochial work
intelligently and economically.  Only under despotisms and oligarchies
has the Radical faith in "universal suffrage" as a political panacea
arisen.  It withers the moment it is exposed to practical trial, because
Democracy cannot rise above the level of the human material of which its
voters are made.  Switzerland seems happy in comparison with Russia; but
if Russia were as small as Switzerland, and had her social problems
simplified in the same way by impregnable natural fortifications and a
population educated by the same variety and intimacy of international
intercourse, there might be little to choose between them.  At all
events Australia and Canada, which are virtually protected democratic
republics, and France and the United States, which are avowedly
independent democratic republics, are neither healthy, wealthy, nor
wise; and they would be worse instead of better if their popular
ministers were not experts in the art of dodging popular enthusiasms and
duping popular ignorance.  The politician who once had to learn how to
flatter Kings has now to learn how to fascinate, amuse, coax, humbug,
frighten, or otherwise strike the fancy of the electorate; and though in
advanced modern States, where the artizan is better educated than the
King, it takes a much bigger man to be a successful demagogue than to be
a successful courtier, yet he who holds popular convictions with
prodigious energy is the man for the mob, whilst the frailer sceptic who
is cautiously feeling his way towards the next century has no chance
unless he happens by accident to have the specific artistic talent of
the mountebank as well, in which case it is as a mountebank that he
catches votes, and not as a meliorist.  Consequently the demagogue,
though he professes (and fails) to readjust matters in the interests of
the majority of the electors, yet stereotypes mediocrity, organizes
intolerance, disparages exhibitions of uncommon qualities, and glorifies
conspicuous exhibitions of common ones.  He manages a small job well: he
muddles rhetorically through a large one.  When a great political
movement takes place, it is not consciously led nor organized: the
unconscious self in mankind breaks its way through the problem as an
elephant breaks through a jungle; and the politicians make speeches
about whatever happens in the process, which, with the best intentions,
they do all in their power to prevent.  Finally, when social aggregation
arrives at a point demanding international organization before the
demagogues and electorates have learnt how to manage even a country
parish properly much less internationalize Constantinople, the whole
political business goes to smash; and presently we have Ruins of
Empires, New Zealanders sitting on a broken arch of London Bridge, and
so forth.

To that recurrent catastrophe we shall certainly come again unless we
can have a Democracy of Supermen; and the production of such a Democracy
is the only change that is now hopeful enough to nerve us to the effort
that Revolution demands.



Why the bees should pamper their mothers whilst we pamper only our
operatic prima donnas is a question worth reflecting on.  Our notion of
treating a mother is, not to increase her supply of food, but to cut it
off by forbidding her to work in a factory for a month after her
confinement.  Everything that can make birth a misfortune to the parents
as well as a danger to the mother is conscientiously done.  When a great
French writer, Emil Zola, alarmed at the sterilization of his nation,
wrote an eloquent and powerful book to restore the prestige of
parentage, it was at once assumed in England that a work of this
character, with such a title as Fecundity, was too abominable to be
translated, and that any attempt to deal with the relations of the sexes
from any other than the voluptuary or romantic point of view must be
sternly put down.  Now if this assumption were really founded on public
opinion, it would indicate an attitude of disgust and resentment towards
the Life Force that could only arise in a diseased and moribund
community in which Ibsen's Hedda Gabler would be the typical woman.  But
it has no vital foundation at all.  The prudery of the newspapers is,
like the prudery of the dinner table, a mere difficulty of education and
language.  We are not taught to think decently on these subjects, and
consequently we have no language for them except indecent language.  We
therefore have to declare them unfit for public discussion, because the
only terms in which we can conduct the discussion are unfit for public
use.  Physiologists, who have a technical vocabulary at their disposal,
find no difficulty; and masters of language who think decently can write
popular stories like Zola's Fecundity or Tolstoy's Resurrection without
giving the smallest offence to readers who can also think decently.  But
the ordinary modern journalist, who has never discussed such matters
except in ribaldry, cannot write a simple comment on a divorce case
without a conscious shamefulness or a furtive facetiousness that makes
it impossible to read the comment aloud in company.  All this ribaldry
and prudery (the two are the same) does not mean that people do not feel
decently on the subject: on the contrary, it is just the depth and
seriousness of our feeling that makes its desecration by vile language
and coarse humor intolerable; so that at last we cannot bear to have it
spoken of at all because only one in a thousand can speak of it without
wounding our self-respect, especially the self-respect of women.  Add to
the horrors of popular language the horrors of popular poverty.  In
crowded populations poverty destroys the possibility of cleanliness; and
in the absence of cleanliness many of the natural conditions of life
become offensive and noxious, with the result that at last the
association of uncleanliness with these natural conditions becomes so
overpowering that among civilized people (that is, people massed in the
labyrinths of slums we call cities), half their bodily life becomes a
guilty secret, unmentionable except to the doctor in emergencies; and
Hedda Gabler shoots herself because maternity is so unladylike.  In
short, popular prudery is only a mere incident of popular squalor: the
subjects which it taboos remain the most interesting and earnest of
subjects in spite of it.



Unfortunately the earnest people get drawn off the track of evolution by
the illusion of progress.  Any Socialist can convince us easily that the
difference between Man as he is and Man as he might become, without
further evolution, under millennial conditions of nutrition,
environment, and training, is enormous.  He can shew that inequality and
iniquitous distribution of wealth and allotment of labor have arisen
through an unscientific economic system, and that Man, faulty as he is,
no more intended to establish any such ordered disorder than a moth
intends to be burnt when it flies into a candle flame.  He can shew that
the difference between the grace and strength of the acrobat and the
bent back of the rheumatic field laborer is a difference produced by
conditions, not by nature.  He can shew that many of the most detestable
human vices are not radical, but are mere reactions of our institutions
on our very virtues.  The Anarchist, the Fabian, the Salvationist, the
Vegetarian, the doctor, the lawyer, the parson, the professor of ethics,
the gymnast, the soldier, the sportsman, the inventor, the political
program-maker, all have some prescription for bettering us; and almost
all their remedies are physically possible and aimed at admitted evils.
To them the limit of progress is, at worst, the completion of all the
suggested reforms and the levelling up of all men to the point attained
already by the most highly nourished and cultivated in mind and body.

Here, then, as it seems to them, is an enormous field for the energy of
the reformer.  Here are many noble goals attainable by many of those
paths up the Hill Difficulty along which great spirits love to aspire.
Unhappily, the hill will never be climbed by Man as we know him.  It
need not be denied that if we all struggled bravely to the end of the
reformers' paths we should improve the world prodigiously.  But there is
no more hope in that If than in the equally plausible assurance that if
the sky falls we shall all catch larks.  We are not going to tread those
paths: we have not sufficient energy.  We do not desire the end enough:
indeed in more cases we do not effectively desire it at all.  Ask any
man would he like to be a better man; and he will say yes, most piously.
Ask him would he like to have a million of money; and he will say yes,
most sincerely.  But the pious citizen who would like to be a better man
goes on behaving just as he did before.  And the tramp who would like
the million does not take the trouble to earn ten shillings: multitudes
of men and women, all eager to accept a legacy of a million, live and
die without having ever possessed five pounds at one time, although
beggars have died in rags on mattresses stuffed with gold which they
accumulated because they desired it enough to nerve them to get it and
keep it.  The economists who discovered that demand created supply soon
had to limit the proposition to "effective demand," which turned out, in
the final analysis, to mean nothing more than supply itself; and this
holds good in politics, morals, and all other departments as well: the
actual supply is the measure of the effective demand; and the mere
aspirations and professions produce nothing.  No community has ever yet
passed beyond the initial phases in which its pugnacity and fanaticism
enabled it to found a nation, and its cupidity to establish and develop
a commercial civilization.  Even these stages have never been attained
by public spirit, but always by intolerant wilfulness and brute force.
Take the Reform Bill of 1832 as an example of a conflict between two
sections of educated Englishmen concerning a political measure which was
as obviously necessary and inevitable as any political measure has ever
been or is ever likely to be.  It was not passed until the gentlemen of
Birmingham had made arrangements to cut the throats of the gentlemen of
St. James's parish in due military form.  It would not have been passed
to this day if there had been no force behind it except the logic and
public conscience of the Utilitarians.  A despotic ruler with as much
sense as Queen Elizabeth would have done better than the mob of grown-up
Eton boys who governed us then by privilege, and who, since the
introduction of practically Manhood Suffrage in 1884, now govern us at
the request of proletarian Democracy.

At the present time we have, instead of the Utilitarians, the Fabian
Society, with its peaceful, constitutional, moral, economical policy of
Socialism, which needs nothing for its bloodless and benevolent
realization except that the English people shall understand it and
approve of it.  But why are the Fabians well spoken of in circles where
thirty years ago the word Socialist was understood as equivalent to
cut-throat and incendiary?  Not because the English have the smallest
intention of studying or adopting the Fabian policy, but because they
believe that the Fabians, by eliminating the element of intimidation
from the Socialist agitation, have drawn the teeth of insurgent poverty
and saved the existing order from the only method of attack it really
fears.  Of course, if the nation adopted the Fabian policy, it would be
carried out by brute force exactly as our present property system is.
It would become the law; and those who resisted it would be fined, sold
up, knocked on the head by policemen, thrown into prison, and in the
last resort "executed" just as they are when they break the present law.
But as our proprietary class has no fear of that conversion taking
place, whereas it does fear sporadic cut-throats and gunpowder plots,
and strives with all its might to hide the fact that there is no moral
difference whatever between the methods by which it enforces its
proprietary rights and the method by which the dynamitard asserts his
conception of natural human rights, the Fabian Society is patted on the
back just as the Christian Social Union is, whilst the Socialist who
says bluntly that a Social revolution can be made only as all other
revolutions have been made, by the people who want it killing, coercing,
and intimidating the people who dont want it, is denounced as a
misleader of the people, and imprisoned with hard labor to shew him how
much sincerity there is in the objection of his captors to physical

Are we then to repudiate Fabian methods, and return to those of the
barricader, or adopt those of the dynamitard and the assassin?  On the
contrary, we are to recognize that both are fundamentally futile.  It
seems easy for the dynamitard to say "Have you not just admitted that
nothing is ever conceded except to physical force?  Did not Gladstone
admit that the Irish Church was disestablished, not by the spirit of
Liberalism, but by the explosion which wrecked Clerkenwell prison?"
Well, we need not foolishly and timidly deny it.  Let it be fully
granted.  Let us grant, further, that all this lies in the nature of
things; that the most ardent Socialist, if he owns property, can by no
means do otherwise than Conservative proprietors until property is
forcibly abolished by the whole nation; nay, that ballots, and
parliamentary divisions, in spite of their vain ceremony, of discussion,
differ from battles only as the bloodless surrender of an outnumbered
force in the field differs from Waterloo or Trafalgar.  I make a present
of all these admissions to the Fenian who collects money from
thoughtless Irishmen in America to blow up Dublin Castle; to the
detective who persuades foolish young workmen to order bombs from the
nearest ironmonger and then delivers them up to penal servitude; to our
military and naval commanders who believe, not in preaching, but in an
ultimatum backed by plenty of lyddite; and, generally, to all whom it
may concern.  But of what use is it to substitute the way of the
reckless and bloodyminded for the way of the cautious and humane?  Is
England any the better for the wreck of Clerkenwell prison, or Ireland
for the disestablishment of the Irish Church?  Is there the smallest
reason to suppose that the nation which sheepishly let Charles and Laud
and Strafford coerce it, gained anything because it afterwards, still
more sheepishly, let a few strongminded Puritans, inflamed by the
masterpieces of Jewish revolutionary literature, cut off the heads of
the three?  Suppose the Gunpowder plot had succeeded, and set a Fawkes
dynasty permanently on the throne, would it have made any difference to
the present state of the nation?  The guillotine was used in France up
to the limit of human endurance, both on Girondins and Jacobins.
Fouquier Tinville followed Marie Antoinette to the scaffold; and Marie
Antoinette might have asked the crowd, just as pointedly as Fouquier
did, whether their bread would be any cheaper when her head was off.
And what came of it all?  The Imperial France of the Rougon Macquart
family, and the Republican France of the Panama scandal and the Dreyfus
case.  Was the difference worth the guillotining of all those unlucky
ladies and gentlemen, useless and mischievous as many of them were?
Would any sane man guillotine a mouse to bring about such a result?
Turn to Republican America.  America has no Star Chamber, and no feudal
barons.  But it has Trusts; and it has millionaires whose factories,
fenced in by live electric wires and defended by Pinkerton retainers
with magazine rifles, would have made a Radical of Reginald Front de
Boeuf.  Would Washington or Franklin have lifted a finger in the cause
of American Independence if they had foreseen its reality?

No: what Cæsar, Cromwell, Napoleon could not do with all the physical
force and moral prestige of the State in their hands, cannot be done by
enthusiastic criminals and lunatics.  Even the Jews, who, from Moses to
Marx and Lassalle, have inspired all the revolutions, have had to
confess that, after all, the dog will return to his vomit and the sow
that was washed to her wallowing in the mire; and we may as well make up
our minds that Man will return to his idols and his cupidities, in spite
of "movements" and all revolutions, until his nature is changed.  Until
then, his early successes in building commercial civilizations (and such
civilizations, Good Heavens!) are but preliminaries to the inevitable
later stage, now threatening us, in which the passions which built the
civilization become fatal instead of productive, just as the same
qualities which make the lion king in the forest ensure his destruction
when he enters a city.  Nothing can save society then except the clear
head and the wide purpose: war and competition, potent instruments of
selection and evolution in one epoch, become ruinous instruments of
degeneration in the next.  In the breeding of animals and plants,
varieties which have arisen by selection through many generations
relapse precipitously into the wild type in a generation or two when
selection ceases; and in the same way a civilization in which lusty
pugnacity and greed have ceased to act as selective agents and have
begun to obstruct and destroy, rushes downwards and backwards with a
suddenness that enables an observer to see with consternation the upward
steps of many centuries retraced in a single lifetime.  This has often
occurred even within the period covered by history; and in every
instance the turning point has been reached long before the attainment,
or even the general advocacy on paper, of the levelling-up of the mass
to the highest point attainable by the best nourished and cultivated
normal individuals.

We must therefore frankly give up the notion that Man as he exists is
capable of net progress.  There will always be an illusion of progress,
because wherever we are conscious of an evil we remedy it, and therefore
always seem to ourselves to be progressing, forgetting that most of the
evils we see are the effects, finally become acute, of long-unnoticed
retrogressions; that our compromising remedies seldom fully recover the
lost ground; above all, that on the lines along which we are
degenerating, good has become evil in our eyes, and is being undone in
the name of progress precisely as evil is undone and replaced by good on
the lines along which we are evolving.  This is indeed the Illusion of
Illusions; for it gives us infallible and appalling assurance that if
our political ruin is to come, it will be effected by ardent reformers
and supported by enthusiastic patriots as a series of necessary steps in
our progress.  Let the Reformer, the Progressive, the Meliorist then
reconsider himself and his eternal ifs and ans which never become pots
and pans.  Whilst Man remains what he is, there can be no progress
beyond the point already attained and fallen headlong from at every
attempt at civilization; and since even that point is but a pinnacle to
which a few people cling in giddy terror above an abyss of squalor, mere
progress should no longer charm us.



After all, the progress illusion is not so very subtle.  We begin by
reading the satires of our fathers' contemporaries; and we conclude
(usually quite ignorantly) that the abuses exposed by them are things of
the past.  We see also that reforms of crying evils are frequently
produced by the sectional shifting of political power from oppressors to
oppressed.  The poor man is given a vote by the Liberals in the hope
that he will cast it for his emancipators.  The hope is not fulfilled;
but the lifelong imprisonment of penniless men for debt ceases; Factory
Acts are passed to mitigate sweating; schooling is made free and
compulsory; sanitary by-laws are multiplied; public steps are taken to
house the masses decently; the bare-footed get boots; rags become rare;
and bathrooms and pianos, smart tweeds and starched collars, reach
numbers of people who once, as "the unsoaped," played the Jew's harp or
the accordion in moleskins and belchers.  Some of these changes are
gains: some of them are losses.  Some of them are not changes at all:
all of them are merely the changes that money makes.  Still, they
produce an illusion of bustling progress; and the reading class infers
from them that the abuses of the early Victorian period no longer exist
except as amusing pages in the novels of Dickens.  But the moment we
look for a reform due to character and not to money, to statesmanship
and not to interest or mutiny, we are disillusioned.  For example, we
remembered the maladministration and incompetence revealed by the
Crimean War as part of a bygone state of things until the South African
war shewed that the nation and the War Office, like those poor Bourbons
who have been so impudently blamed for a universal characteristic, had
learnt nothing and forgotten nothing.  We had hardly recovered from the
fruitless irritation of this discovery when it transpired that the
officers' mess of our most select regiment included a flogging club
presided over by the senior subaltern.  The disclosure provoked some
disgust at the details of this schoolboyish debauchery, but no surprise
at the apparent absence of any conception of manly honor and virtue, of
personal courage and self-respect, in the front rank of our chivalry.
In civil affairs we had assumed that the sycophancy and idolatry which
encouraged Charles I.  to undervalue the Puritan revolt of the XVII
century had been long outgrown; but it has needed nothing but favorable
circumstances to revive, with added abjectness to compensate for its
lost piety.  We have relapsed into disputes about transubstantiation at
the very moment when the discovery of the wide prevalence of theophagy
as a tribal custom has deprived us of the last excuse for believing that
our official religious rites differ in essentials from those of
barbarians.  The Christian doctrine of the uselessness of punishment and
the wickedness of revenge has not, in spite of its simple common sense,
found a single convert among the nations: Christianity means nothing to
the masses but a sensational public execution which is made an excuse
for other executions.  In its name we take ten years of a thief's life
minute by minute in the slow misery and degradation of modern reformed
imprisonment with as little remorse as Laud and his Star Chamber clipped
the ears of Bastwick and Burton.  We dug up and mutilated the remains of
the Mahdi the other day exactly as we dug up and mutilated the remains
of Cromwell two centuries ago.  We have demanded the decapitation of the
Chinese Boxer princes as any Tartar would have done; and our military
and naval expeditions to kill, burn, and destroy tribes and villages for
knocking an Englishman on the head are so common a part of our Imperial
routine that the last dozen of them has not called forth as much pity as
can be counted on by any lady criminal.  The judicial use of torture to
extort confession is supposed to be a relic of darker ages; but whilst
these pages are being written an English judge has sentenced a forger to
twenty years penal servitude with an open declaration that the sentence
will be carried out in full unless he confesses where he has hidden the
notes he forged.  And no comment whatever is made, either on this or on
a telegram from the seat of war in Somaliland mentioning that certain
information has been given by a prisoner of war "under punishment." Even
if these reports are false, the fact that they are accepted without
protest as indicating a natural and proper course of public conduct
shews that we are still as ready to resort to torture as Bacon was.  As
to vindictive cruelty, an incident in the South African war, when the
relatives and friends of a prisoner were forced to witness his
execution, betrayed a baseness of temper and character which hardly
leaves us the right to plume ourselves on our superiority to Edward III.
at the surrender of Calais.  And the democratic American officer
indulges in torture in the Philippines just as the aristocratic English
officer did in South Africa.  The incidents of the white invasion of
Africa in search of ivory, gold, diamonds, and sport, have proved that
the modern European is the same beast of prey that formerly marched to
the conquest of new worlds under Alexander, Antony, and Pizarro.
Parliaments and vestries are just what they were when Cromwell
suppressed them and Dickens derided them.  The democratic politician
remains exactly as Plato described him; the physician is still the
credulous impostor and petulant scientific coxcomb whom Molière
ridiculed; the schoolmaster remains at best a pedantic child farmer and
at worst a flagellomaniac; arbitrations are more dreaded by honest men
than lawsuits; the philanthropist is still a parasite on misery as the
doctor is on disease; the miracles of priestcraft are none the less
fraudulent and mischievous because they are now called scientific
experiments and conducted by professors; witchcraft, in the modern form
of patent medicines and prophylactic inoculations, is rampant; the
landowner who is no longer powerful enough to; set the mantrap of
Rhampsinitis improves on it by barbed wire; the modern gentleman who is
too lazy to daub his face with vermilion as a symbol of bravery employs
a laundress to daub his shirt with starch as a symbol of cleanliness; we
shake our heads at the dirt of the middle ages in cities made grimy with
soot and foul and disgusting with shameless tobacco smoking; holy water,
in its latest form of disinfectant fluid, is more widely used and
believed in than ever; public health authorities deliberately go through
incantations with burning sulphur (which they know to be useless)
because the people believe in it as devoutly as the Italian peasant
believes in the liquefaction of the blood of St Januarius; and
straightforward public lying has reached gigantic developments, there
being nothing to choose in this respect between the pickpocket at the
police station and the minister on the treasury bench, the editor in the
newspaper office, the city magnate advertizing bicycle tires that do not
side-slip, the clergyman subscribing the thirty-nine articles, and the
vivisector who pledges his knightly honor that no animal operated on in
the physiological laboratory suffers the slightest pain.  Hypocrisy is
at its worst; for we not only persecute bigotedly but sincerely in the
name of the cure-mongering witchcraft we do believe in, but callously
and hypocritically in the name of the Evangelical creed that our rulers
privately smile at as the Italian patricians of the fifth century smiled
at Jupiter and Venus.  Sport is, as it has always been, murderous
excitement; the impulse to slaughter is universal; and museums are set
up throughout the country to encourage little children and elderly
gentlemen to make collections of corpses preserved in alcohol, and to
steal birds' eggs and keep them as the red Indian used to keep scalps.
Coercion with the lash is as natural to an Englishman as it was to
Solomon spoiling Rehoboam: indeed, the comparison is unfair to the Jews
in view of the facts that the Mosaic law forbade more than forty lashes
in the name of humanity, and that floggings of a thousand lashes were
inflicted on English soldiers in the XVIII and XIX centuries, and would
be inflicted still but for the change in the balance of political power
between the military caste and the commercial classes and the
proletariat.  In spite of that change, flogging is still an institution
in the public school, in the military prison, on the training ship, and
in that school of littleness called the home.  The lascivious clamor of
the flagellomaniac for more of it, constant as the clamor for more
insolence, more war, and lower rates, is tolerated and even gratified
because, having no moral ends in view, we have sense enough to see that
nothing but brute coercion can impose our selfish will on others.
Cowardice is universal; patriotism, public opinion, parental duty,
discipline, religion, morality, are only fine names for intimidation;
and cruelty, gluttony, and credulity keep cowardice in countenance.  We
cut the throat of a calf and hang it up by the heels to bleed to death
so that our veal cutlet may be white; we nail geese to a board and cram
them with food because we like the taste of liver disease; we tear birds
to pieces to decorate our women's hats; we mutilate domestic animals for
no reason at all except to follow an instinctively cruel fashion; and we
connive at the most abominable tortures in the hope of discovering some
magical cure for our own diseases by them.

Now please observe that these are not exceptional developments of our
admitted vices, deplored and prayed against by all good men.  Not a word
has been said here of the excesses of our Neros, of whom we have the
full usual percentage.  With the exception of the few military examples,
which are mentioned mainly to shew that the education and standing of a
gentleman, reinforced by the strongest conventions of honor, esprit de
corps, publicity and responsibility, afford no better guarantees of
conduct than the passions of a mob, the illustrations given above are
commonplaces taken from the daily practices of our best citizens,
vehemently defended in our newspapers and in our pulpits.  The very
humanitarians who abhor them are stirred to murder by them: the dagger
of Brutus and Ravaillac is still active in the hands of Caserio and
Luccheni; and the pistol has come to its aid in the hands of Guiteau and
Czolgosz.  Our remedies are still limited to endurance or assassination;
and the assassin is still judicially assassinated on the principle that
two blacks make a white.  The only novelty is in our methods: through
the discovery of dynamite the overloaded musket of Hamilton of
Bothwellhaugh has been superseded by the bomb; but Ravachol's heart
burns just as Hamilton's did.  The world will not bear thinking of to
those who know what it is, even with the largest discount for the
restraints of poverty on the poor and cowardice on the rich.

All that can be said for us is that people must and do live and let live
up to a certain point.  Even the horse, with his docked tail and bitted
jaw, finds his slavery mitigated by the fact that a total disregard of
his need for food and rest would put his master to the expense of buying
a new horse every second day; for you cannot work a horse to death and
then pick up another one for nothing, as you can a laborer.  But this
natural check on inconsiderate selfishness is itself checked, partly by
our shortsightedness, and partly by deliberate calculation; so that
beside the man who, to his own loss, will shorten his horse's life in
mere stinginess, we have the tramway company which discovers actuarially
that though a horse may live from 24 to 40 years, yet it pays better to
work him to death in 4 and then replace him by a fresh victim.  And
human slavery, which has reached its worst recorded point within our own
time in the form of free wage labor, has encountered the same personal
and commercial limits to both its aggravation and its mitigation.  Now
that the freedom of wage labor has produced a scarcity of it, as in
South Africa, the leading English newspaper and the leading English
weekly review have openly and without apology demanded a return to
compulsory labor: that is, to the methods by which, as we believe, the
Egyptians built the pyramids.  We know now that the crusade against
chattel slavery in the XIX century succeeded solely because chattel
slavery was neither the most effective nor the least humane method of
labor exploitation; and the world is now feeling its way towards a still
more effective system which shall abolish the freedom of the worker
without again making his exploiter responsible for him.

Still, there is always some mitigation: there is the fear of revolt; and
there are the effects of kindliness and affection.  Let it be repeated
therefore that no indictment is here laid against the world on the score
of what its criminals and monsters do.  The fires of Smithfield and of
the Inquisition were lighted by earnestly pious people, who were kind
and good as kindness and goodness go.  And when a negro is dipped in
kerosene and set on fire in America at the present time, he is not a
good man lynched by ruffians: he is a criminal lynched by crowds of
respectable, charitable, virtuously indignant, high-minded citizens,
who, though they act outside the law, are at least more merciful than
the American legislators and judges who not so long ago condemned men to
solitary confinement for periods, not of five months, as our own
practice is, but of five years and more.  The things that our moral
monsters do may be left out of account with St. Bartholomew massacres
and other momentary outbursts of social disorder.  Judge us by the
admitted and respected practice of our most reputable circles; and, if
you know the facts and are strong enough to look them in the face, you
must admit that unless we are replaced by a more highly evolved
animal--in short, by the Superman--the world must remain a den of
dangerous animals among whom our few accidental supermen, our
Shakespears, Goethes, Shelleys, and their like, must live as
precariously as lion tamers do, taking the humor of their situation, and
the dignity of their superiority, as a set-off to the horror of the one
and the loneliness of the other.



It may be said that though the wild beast breaks out in Man and casts
him back momentarily into barbarism under the excitement of war and
crime, yet his normal life is higher than the normal life of his
forefathers.  This view is very acceptable to Englishmen, who always
lean sincerely to virtue's side as long as it costs them nothing either
in money or in thought.  They feel deeply the injustice of foreigners,
who allow them no credit for this conditional highmindedness.  But there
is no reason to suppose that our ancestors were less capable of it than
we are.  To all such claims for the existence of a progressive moral
evolution operating visibly from grandfather to grandson, there is the
conclusive reply that a thousand years of such evolution would have
produced enormous social changes, of which the historical evidence would
be overwhelming.  But not Macaulay himself, the most confident of Whig
meliorists, can produce any such evidence that will bear
cross-examination.  Compare our conduct and our codes with those
mentioned contemporarily in such ancient scriptures and classics as have
come down to us, and you will find no jot of ground for the belief that
any moral progress whatever has been made in historic time, in spite of
all the romantic attempts of historians to reconstruct the past on that
assumption.  Within that time it has happened to nations as to private
families and individuals that they have flourished and decayed, repented
and hardened their hearts, submitted and protested, acted and reacted,
oscillated between natural and artificial sanitation (the oldest house
in the world, unearthed the other day in Crete, has quite modern
sanitary arrangements), and rung a thousand changes on the different
scales of income and pressure of population, firmly believing all the
time that mankind was advancing by leaps and bounds because men were
constantly busy.  And the mere chapter of accidents has left a small
accumulation of chance discoveries, such as the wheel, the arch, the
safety pin, gunpowder, the magnet, the Voltaic pile and so forth: things
which, unlike the gospels and philosophic treatises of the sages, can be
usefully understood and applied by common men; so that steam locomotion
is possible without a nation of Stephensons, although national
Christianity is impossible without a nation of Christs.  But does any
man seriously believe that the chauffeur who drives a motor car from
Paris to Berlin is a more highly evolved man than the charioteer of
Achilles, or that a modern Prime Minister is a more enlightened ruler
than Cæsar because he rides a tricycle, writes his dispatches by the
electric light, and instructs his stockbroker through the telephone?

Enough, then, of this goose-cackle about Progress: Man, as he is, never
will nor can add a cubit to his stature by any of its quackeries,
political, scientific, educational, religious, or artistic.  What is
likely to happen when this conviction gets into the minds of the men
whose present faith in these illusions is the cement of our social
system, can be imagined only by those who know how suddenly a
civilization which has long ceased to think (or in the old phrase, to
watch and pray) can fall to pieces when the vulgar belief in its
hypocrisies and impostures can no longer hold out against its failures
and scandals.  When religious and ethical formulae become so obsolete
that no man of strong mind can believe them, they have also reached the
point at which no man of high character will profess them; and from,
that moment until they are formally disestablished, they stand at the
door of every profession and every public office to keep out every able
man who is not a sophist or a liar.  A nation which revises its parish
councils once in three years, but will not revise its articles of
religion once in three hundred, even when those articles avowedly began
as a political compromise dictated by Mr Facing-Both-Ways, is a nation
that needs remaking.

Our only hope, then, is in evolution.  We must replace the man by the
superman.  It is frightful for the citizen, as the years pass him, to
see his own contemporaries so exactly reproduced by the younger
generation, that his companions of thirty years ago have their
counterparts in every city crowd, where he had to check himself
repeatedly in the act of saluting as an old friend some young man to
whom he is only an elderly stranger.  All hope of advance dies in his
bosom as he watches them: he knows that they will do just what their
fathers did, and that the few voices which will still, as always before,
exhort them to do something else and be something better, might as well
spare their breath to cool their porridge (if they can get any).  Men
like Ruskin and Carlyle will preach to Smith and Brown for the sake of
preaching, just as St Francis preached to the birds and St Anthony to
the fishes.  But Smith and Brown, like the fishes and birds, remain as
they are; and poets who plan Utopias and prove that nothing is necessary
for their realization but that Man should will them, perceive at last,
like Richard Wagner, that the fact to be faced is that Man does not
effectively will them.  And he never will until he becomes Superman.

And so we arrive at the end of the Socialist's dream of "the
socialization of the means of production and exchange," of the
Positivist's dream of moralizing the capitalist, and of the ethical
professor's, legislator's, educator's dream of putting commandments and
codes and lessons and examination marks on a man as harness is put on a
horse, ermine on a judge, pipeclay on a soldier, or a wig on an actor,
and pretending that his nature has been changed.  The only fundamental
and possible Socialism is the socialization of the selective breeding of
Man: in other terms, of human evolution.  We must eliminate the Yahoo,
or his vote will wreck the commonwealth.



As to the method, what can be said as yet except that where there is a
will, there is a way?  If there be no will, we are lost.  That is a
possibility for our crazy little empire, if not for the universe; and as
such possibilities are not to be entertained without despair, we must,
whilst we survive, proceed on the assumption that we have still energy
enough to not only will to live, but to will to live better.  That may
mean that we must establish a State Department of Evolution, with a seat
in the Cabinet for its chief, and a revenue to defray the cost of direct
State experiments, and provide inducements to private persons to achieve
successful results.  It may mean a private society or a chartered
company for the improvement of human live stock.  But for the present it
is far more likely to mean a blatant repudiation of such proposals as
indecent and immoral, with, nevertheless, a general secret pushing of
the human will in the repudiated direction; so that all sorts of
institutions and public authorities will under some pretext or other
feel their way furtively towards the Superman.  Mr Graham Wallas has
already ventured to suggest, as Chairman of the School Management
Committee of the London School Board, that the accepted policy of the
Sterilization of the Schoolmistress, however administratively
convenient, is open to criticism from the national stock-breeding point
of view; and this is as good an example as any of the way in which the
drift towards the Superman may operate in spite of all our hypocrisies.
One thing at least is clear to begin with.  If a woman can, by careful
selection of a father, and nourishment of herself, produce a citizen
with efficient senses, sound organs, and a good digestion, she should
clearly be secured a sufficient reward for that natural service to make
her willing to undertake and repeat it.  Whether she be financed in the
undertaking by herself, or by the father, or by a speculative
capitalist, or by a new department of, say, the Royal Dublin Society, or
(as at present) by the War Office maintaining her "on the strength" and
authorizing a particular soldier to marry her, or by a local authority
under a by-law directing that women may under certain circumstances have
a year's leave of absence on full salary, or by the central government,
does not matter provided the result be satisfactory.

It is a melancholy fact that as the vast majority of women and their
husbands have, under existing circumstances, not enough nourishment, no
capital, no credit, and no knowledge of science or business, they would,
if the State would pay for birth as it now pays for death, be exploited
by joint stock companies for dividends, just as they are in ordinary
industries.  Even a joint stock human stud farm (piously disguised as a
reformed Foundling Hospital or something of that sort) might well, under
proper inspection and regulation, produce better results than our
present reliance on promiscuous marriage.  It may be objected that when
an ordinary contractor produces stores for sale to the Government, and
the Government rejects them as not up to the required standard, the
condemned goods are either sold for what they will fetch or else
scrapped: that is, treated as waste material; whereas if the goods
consisted of human beings, all that could be done would be to let them
loose or send them to the nearest workhouse.  But there is nothing new
in private enterprise throwing its human refuse on the cheap labor
market and the workhouse; and the refuse of the new industry would
presumably be better bred than the staple product of ordinary poverty.
In our present happy-go-lucky industrial disorder, all the human
products, successful or not, would have to be thrown on the labor
market; but the unsuccessful ones would not entitle the company to a
bounty and so would be a dead loss to it.  The practical commercial
difficulty would be the uncertainty and the cost in time and money of
the first experiments.  Purely commercial capital would not touch such
heroic operations during the experimental stage; and in any case the
strength of mind needed for so momentous a new departure could not be
fairly expected from the Stock Exchange.  It will have to be handled by
statesmen with character enough to tell our democracy and plutocracy
that statecraft does not consist in flattering their follies or applying
their suburban standards of propriety to the affairs of four continents.
The matter must be taken up either by the State or by some organization
strong enough to impose respect upon the State.

The novelty of any such experiment, however, is only in the scale of it.
In one conspicuous case, that of royalty, the State does already select
the parents on purely political grounds; and in the peerage, though the
heir to a dukedom is legally free to marry a dairymaid, yet the social
pressure on him to confine his choice to politically and socially
eligible mates is so overwhelming that he is really no more free to
marry the dairymaid than George IV was to marry Mrs Fitzherbert; and
such a marriage could only occur as a result of extraordinary strength
of character on the part of the dairymaid acting upon extraordinary
weakness on the part of the duke.  Let those who think the whole
conception of intelligent breeding absurd and scandalous ask themselves
why George IV was not allowed to choose his own wife whilst any tinker
could marry whom he pleased?  Simply because it did not matter a rap
politically whom the tinker married, whereas it mattered very much whom
the king married.  The way in which all considerations of the king's
personal rights, of the claims of the heart, of the sanctity of the
marriage oath, and of romantic morality crumpled up before this
political need shews how negligible all these apparently irresistible
prejudices are when they come into conflict with the demand for quality
in our rulers.  We learn the same lesson from the case of the soldier,
whose marriage, when it is permitted at all, is despotically controlled
with a view solely to military efficiency.

Well, nowadays it is not the King that rules, but the tinker.  Dynastic
wars are no longer feared, dynastic alliances no longer valued.
Marriages in royal families are becoming rapidly less political, and
more popular, domestic, and romantic.  If all the kings in Europe were
made as free to-morrow as King Cophetua, nobody but their aunts and
chamberlains would feel a moment's anxiety as to the consequences.  On
the other hand a sense of the social importance of the tinker's marriage
has been steadily growing.  We have made a public matter of his wife's
health in the month after her confinement.  We have taken the minds of
his children out of his hands and put them into those of our State
schoolmaster.  We shall presently make their bodily nourishment
independent of him.  But they are still riff-raff; and to hand the
country over to riff-raff is national suicide, since riff-raff can
neither govern nor will let anyone else govern except the highest bidder
of bread and circuses.  There is no public enthusiast alive of twenty
years' practical democratic experience who believes in the political
adequacy of the electorate or of the bodies it elects.  The overthrow of
the aristocrat has created the necessity for the Superman.

Englishmen hate Liberty and Equality too much to understand them.  But
every Englishman loves and desires a pedigree.  And in that he is right.
King Demos must be bred like all other Kings; and with Must there is no
arguing.  It is idle for an individual writer to carry so great a matter
further in a pamphlet.  A conference on the subject is the next step
needed.  It will be attended by men and women who, no longer believing
that they can live for ever, are seeking for some immortal work into
which they can build the best of themselves before their refuse is
thrown into that arch dust destructor, the cremation furnace.

[Transcriber's Note: Shaw promoted spelling reform of his own invention.
His spelling reform included not using apostrophes for contractions,
thus this text has 'dont' instead of 'don't' and -iz- instead of -is-
even in words which standard English, both British or American, spells
with -is-, for example: partizan, artizan.  He had the goal of making
spelling more phonetic.  He spelled it 'Shakespear'.  He spelled
'Caesar' with an ae ligature.  He used diacritical on French words and

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