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by H.G. WellsNovember 26th, 2022
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Whatever some of us among the Allies may say, the future of Germany lies with Germany. The utmost ambition of the Allies falls far short of destroying or obliterating Germany; it is to give the Germans so thorough and memorable an experience of war that they will want no more of it for a few generations, and, failing the learning of that lesson, to make sure that they will not be in a position to resume their military aggressions upon mankind with any hope of success. After all, it is not the will of the Allies that has determined even this resolve. It is the declared and manifest will of Germany to become predominant in the world that has created the Alliance against Germany, and forged and tempered our implacable resolution to bring militarist Germany down. And the nature of the coming peace and of the politics that will follow the peace are much more dependent upon German affairs than upon anything else whatever.
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What is Coming? by H. G. Wells, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. THE OUTLOOK FOR THE GERMANS


Section 1

Whatever some of us among the Allies may say, the future of Germany lies with Germany. The utmost ambition of the Allies falls far short of destroying or obliterating Germany; it is to give the Germans so thorough and memorable an experience of war that they will want no more of it for a few generations, and, failing the learning of that lesson, to make sure that they will not be in a position to resume their military aggressions upon mankind with any hope of success. After all, it is not the will of the Allies that has determined even this resolve. It is the declared and manifest will of Germany to become predominant in the world that has created the Alliance against Germany, and forged and tempered our implacable resolution to bring militarist Germany down. And the nature of the coming peace and of the politics that will follow the peace are much more dependent upon German affairs than upon anything else whatever.

This is so clearly understood in Great Britain that there is scarcely a newspaper that does not devote two or three columns daily to extracts from the German newspapers, and from letters found upon German killed, wounded, or prisoners, and to letters and descriptive articles from neutrals upon the state of the German mind. There can be no doubt that the British intelligence has grasped and kept its hold upon the real issue of this war with an unprecedented clarity. At the outset there came declarations from nearly every type of British opinion that this war was a war against the Hohenzollern militarist idea, against Prussianism, and not against Germany.

In that respect Britain has documented herself to the hilt. There have been, of course, a number of passionate outcries and wild accusations against Germans, as a race, during the course of the struggle; but to this day opinion is steadfast not only in Britain, but if I may judge from the papers I read and the talk I hear, throughout the whole English-speaking community, that this is a war not of races but ideas. I am so certain of this that I would say if Germany by some swift convulsion expelled her dynasty and turned herself into a republic, it would be impossible for the British Government to continue the war for long, whether it wanted to do so or not. The forces in favour of reconciliation would be too strong. There would be a complete revulsion from the present determination to continue the war to its bitter but conclusive end.

It is fairly evident that the present German Government understands this frame of mind quite clearly, and is extremely anxious to keep it from the knowledge of the German peoples. Every act or word from a British source that suggests an implacable enmity against the Germans as a people, every war-time caricature and insult, is brought to their knowledge. It is the manifest interest of the Hohenzollerns and Prussianism to make this struggle a race struggle and not merely a political struggle, and to keep a wider breach between the peoples than between the Governments. The "Made in Germany" grievance has been used to the utmost against Great Britain as an indication of race hostility. The everyday young German believes firmly that it was a blow aimed specially at Germany; that no such regulation affected any goods but German goods. And the English, with their characteristic heedlessness, have never troubled to disillusion him. But even the British caricaturist and the British soldier betray their fundamental opinion of the matter in their very insults. They will not use a word of abuse for the Germans as Germans; they call them "Huns," because they are thinking of Attila, because they are thinking of them as invaders under a monarch of peaceful France and Belgium, and not as a people living in a land of their own.

In Great Britain there is to this day so little hostility for Germans as such, that recently a nephew of Lord Haldane's, Sir George Makgill, has considered it advisable to manufacture race hostility and provide the Hohenzollerns with instances and quotations through the exertions of a preposterous Anti-German League. Disregarding the essential evils of the Prussian idea, this mischievous organisation has set itself to persuade the British people that the Germans are diabolical as a race. It has displayed great energy and ingenuity in pestering and insulting naturalised Germans and people of German origin in Britain--below the rank of the Royal Family, that is--and in making enduring bad blood between them and the authentic British. It busies itself in breaking up meetings at which sentiments friendly to Germany might be expressed, sentiments which, if they could be conveyed to German hearers, would certainly go far to weaken the determination of the German social democracy to fight to the end.

There can, of course, be no doubt of the good faith of Sir George Makgill, but he could do the Kaiser no better service than to help in consolidating every rank and class of German, by this organisation of foolish violence of speech and act, by this profession of an irrational and implacable hostility. His practical influence over here is trivial, thanks to the general good sense and the love of fair play in our people, but there can be little doubt that his intentions are about as injurious to the future peace of the world as any intentions could be, and there can be no doubt that intelligent use is made in Germany of the frothings and ravings of his followers. "Here, you see, is the disposition of the English," the imperialists will say to the German pacifists. "They are dangerous lunatics. Clearly we must stick together to the end." ...

The stuff of Sir George Makgill's league must not be taken as representative of any considerable section of British opinion, which is as a whole nearly as free from any sustained hatred of the Germans as it was at the beginning of the war. There are, of course, waves of indignation at such deliberate atrocities as the Lusitania outrage or the Zeppelin raids, Wittenberg will not easily be forgotten, but it would take many Sir George Makgills to divert British anger from the responsible German Government to the German masses.

That lack of any essential hatred does not mean that British opinion is not solidly for the continuation of this war against militarist imperialism to its complete and final defeat. But if that can be defeated to any extent in Germany by the Germans, if the way opens to a Germany as unmilitary and pacific as was Great Britain before this war, there remains from the British point of view nothing else to fight about. With the Germany of Vorwaerts which, I understand, would evacuate and compensate Belgium and Serbia, set up a buffer state in Alsace-Lorraine, and another in a restored Poland (including Posen), the spirit of the Allies has no profound quarrel at all, has never had any quarrel. We would only too gladly meet that Germany at a green table to-morrow, and set to work arranging the compensation of Belgium and Serbia, and tracing over the outlines of the natural map of mankind the new political map of Europe.

Still it must be admitted that not only in Great Britain but in all the allied countries one finds a certain active minority corresponding to Sir George Makgill's noisy following, who profess to believe that all Germans to the third and fourth generation (save and except the Hanoverian royal family domiciled in Great Britain) are a vile, treacherous, and impossible race, a race animated by an incredible racial vanity, a race which is indeed scarcely anything but a conspiracy against the rest of mankind.

The ravings of many of these people can only be paralleled by the stuff about the cunning of the Jesuits that once circulated in ultra-Protestant circles in England. Elderly Protestant ladies used to look under the bed and in the cupboard every night for a Jesuit, just as nowadays they look for a German spy, and as no doubt old German ladies now look for Sir Edward Grey. It may be useful therefore, at the present time, to point out that not only is the aggressive German idea not peculiar to Germany, not only are there endless utterances of French Chauvinists and British imperialists to be found entirely as vain, unreasonable and aggressive, but that German militarist imperialism is so little representative of the German quality, that scarcely one of its leading exponents is a genuine German.

Of course there is no denying that the Germans are a very distinctive people, as distinctive as the French. But their distinctions are not diabolical. Until the middle of the nineteenth century it was the fashion to regard them as a race of philosophical incompetents. Their reputation as a people of exceptionally military quality sprang up in the weed-bed of human delusions between 1866 and 1872; it will certainly not survive this war. Their reputation for organisation is another matter. They are an orderly, industrious, and painstaking people, they have a great respect for science, for formal education, and for authority. It is their respect for education which has chiefly betrayed them, and made them the instrument of Hohenzollern folly. Mr. F.M. Hueffer has shown this quite conclusively in his admirable but ill-named book, "When Blood is Their Argument." Their minds have been systematically corrupted by base historical teaching, and the inculcation of a rancid patriotism. They are a people under the sway of organised suggestion. This catastrophic war and its preparation have been their chief business for half a century; none the less their peculiar qualities have still been displayed during that period; they have still been able to lead the world in several branches of social organisation and in the methodical development of technical science. Systems of ideas are perhaps more readily shattered than built up; the aggressive patriotism of many Germans must be already darkened by serious doubts, and I see no inherent impossibility in hoping that the mass of the Germans may be restored to the common sanity of mankind, even in the twenty or thirty years of life that perhaps still remain for me.

Consider the names of the chief exponents of the aggressive German idea, and you will find that not one is German. The first begetter of Nietzsche's "blond beast," and of all that great flood of rubbish about a strange superior race with whitish hair and blue eyes, that has so fatally rotted the German imagination, was a Frenchman named Gobineau. We British are not altogether free from the disease. As a small boy I read the History of J.R. Green, and fed my pride upon the peculiar virtues of my Anglo-Saxon blood. ("Cp.," as they say in footnotes, Carlyle and Froude.) It was not a German but a renegade Englishman of the Englishman-hating Whig type, Mr. Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who carried the Gobineau theory to that delirious level which claims Dante and Leonardo as Germans, and again it was not a German but a British peer, still among us, Lord Redesdale, who in his eulogistic preface to the English translation of Chamberlain's torrent of folly, hinted not obscurely that the real father of Christ was not the Jew, Joseph, but a much more Germanic person. Neither Clausewitz, who first impressed upon the German mind the theory of ruthless warfare, nor Bernhardi, nor Treitschke, who did as much to build up the Emperor's political imagination, strike one as bearing particularly German names. There are indeed very grave grounds for the German complaint that Germany has been the victim of alien flattery and alien precedents. And what after all is the Prussian dream of world empire but an imitative response to the British empire and the adventure of Napoleon? The very title of the German emperor is the name of an Italian, Caesar, far gone in decay. And the backbone of the German system at the present time is the Prussian, who is not really a German at all but a Germanised Wend. Take away the imported and imposed elements from the things we fight to-day, leave nothing but what is purely and originally German, and you leave very little. We fight dynastic ambition, national vanity, greed, and the fruits of fifty years of basely conceived and efficiently conducted education.

The majority of sensible and influential Englishmen are fully aware of these facts. This does not alter their resolution to beat Germany thoroughly and finally, and, if Germany remains Hohenzollern after the war, to do their utmost to ring her in with commercial alliances, tariffs, navigation and exclusion laws that will keep her poor and powerless and out of mischief so long as her vice remains in her. But these considerations of the essential innocence of the German do make all this systematic hostility, which the British have had forced upon them, a very uncongenial and reluctant hostility. Pro-civilisation, and not Anti-German, is the purpose of the Allies. And the speculation of just how relentlessly and for how long this ring of suspicion and precaution need be maintained about Germany, of how soon the German may decide to become once more a good European, is one of extraordinary interest to every civilised man. In other words, what are the prospects of a fairly fundamental revolution in German life and thought and affairs in the years immediately before us?

Section 2

In a sense every European country must undergo revolutionary changes as a consequence of the enormous economic exhaustion and social dislocations of this war. But what I propose to discuss here is the possibility of a real political revolution, in the narrower sense of the word, in Germany, a revolution that will end the Hohenzollern system, the German dynastic system, altogether, that will democratise Prussia and put an end for ever to that secretive scheming of military aggressions which is the essential quarrel of Europe with Germany. It is the most momentous possibility of our times, because it opens the way to an alternative state of affairs that may supersede the armed watching and systematic war of tariffs, prohibitions, and exclusions against the Central Empires that must quite unavoidably be the future attitude of the Pledged Allies to any survival of the Hohenzollern empire.

We have to bear in mind that in this discussion we are dealing with something very new and quite untried hitherto by anything but success, that new Germany whose unification began with the spoliation of Denmark and was completed at Versailles. It is not a man's lifetime old. Under the state socialism and aggressive militarism of the Hohenzollern regime it had been led to a level of unexampled pride and prosperity, and it plunged shouting and singing into this war, confident of victories. It is still being fed with dwindling hopes of victory, no longer unstinted hopes, but still hopes--by a sort of political bread-card system. The hopes outlast the bread-and-butter, but they dwindle and dwindle. How is this parvenu people going to stand the cessation of hope, the realisation of the failure and fruitlessness of such efforts as no people on earth have ever made before? How are they going to behave when they realise fully that they have suffered and died and starved and wasted all their land in vain? When they learn too that the cause of the war was a trick, and the Russian invasion a lie? They have a large democratic Press that will not hesitate to tell them that, that does already to the best of its ability disillusion them. They are a carefully trained and educated and disciplined people, it is true[4]; but the solicitude of the German Government everywhere apparent, thus to keep the resentment of the people directed to the proper quarter, is, I think, just one of the things that are indicative of the revolutionary possibilities in Germany. The Allied Governments let opinion, both in their own countries and in America, shift for itself; they do not even trouble to mitigate the inevitable exasperation of the military censorship by an intelligent and tactful control. The German Government, on the other hand, has organised the putting of the blame upon other shoulders than its own elaborately and ably from the very beginning of the war. It must know its own people best, and I do not see why it should do this if there were not very dangerous possibilities ahead for itself in the national temperament.

[4] A recent circular, which Vorwaerts quotes, sent by the education officials to the teachers of Frankfurt-am-Main, points out the necessity of the "beautiful task" of inculcating a deep love for the House of Hohenzollern (Crown Prince, grin and all), and concludes, "All efforts to excuse or minimise or explain the disgraceful acts which our enemies have committed against Germans all over the world are to be firmly opposed by you should you see any signs of these efforts entering the schools."

It is one of the commonplaces of this question that in the past the Germans have always been loyal subjects and never made a revolution. It is alleged that there has never been a German republic. That is by no means conclusively true. The nucleus of Swiss freedom was the German-speaking cantons about the Lake of Lucerne; Tell was a German, and he was glorified by the German Schiller. No doubt the Protestant reformation was largely a business of dukes and princes, but the underlying spirit of that revolt also lay in the German national character. The Anabaptist insurrection was no mean thing in rebellions, and the history of the Dutch, who are, after all, only the extreme expression of the Low German type, is a history of the most stubborn struggle for freedom in Europe. This legend of German docility will not bear close examination. It is true that they are not given to spasmodic outbreaks, and that they do not lend themselves readily to intrigues and pronunciamentos, but there is every reason to suppose that they have the heads to plan and the wills to carry out as sound and orderly and effective a revolution as any people in Europe. Before the war drove them frantic, the German comic papers were by no means suggestive of an abject worship of authority and royalty for their own sakes. The teaching of all forms of morality and sentimentality in schools produces not only belief but reaction, and the livelier and more energetic the pupil the more likely he is to react rather than accept.

Whatever the feelings of the old women of Germany may be towards the Kaiser and his family, my impression of the opinion of Germans in general is that they believed firmly in empire, Kaiser and militarism wholly and solely because they thought these things meant security, success, triumph, more and more wealth, more and more Germany, and all that had come to them since 1871 carried on to the nth degree.... I do not think that all the schoolmasters of Germany, teaching in unison at the tops of their voices, will sustain that belief beyond the end of this war.

At present every discomfort and disappointment of the German people is being sedulously diverted into rage against the Allies, and particularly against the English. This is all very well as long as the war goes on with a certain effect of hopefulness. But what when presently the beam has so tilted against Germany that an unprofitable peace has become urgent and inevitable? How can the Hohenzollern suddenly abandon his pose of righteous indignation and make friends with the accursed enemy, and how can he make any peace at all with us while he still proclaims us accursed? Either the Emperor has to go to his people and say, "We promised you victory and it is defeat," or he has to say, "It is not defeat, but we are going to make peace with these Russian barbarians who invaded us, with the incompetent English who betrayed us, with all these degenerate and contemptible races you so righteously hate and despise, upon such terms that we shall never be able to attack them again. This noble and wonderful war is to end in this futility and--these graves. You were tricked into it, as you were tricked into war in 1870--but this time it has not turned out quite so well. And besides, after all, we find we can continue to get on with these people." ...

In either case, I do not see how he can keep the habitual and cultivated German hate pointing steadily away from himself. So long as the war is going on that may be done, but when the soldiers come home the hate will come home as well. In times of war peoples may hate abroad and with some unanimity. But after the war, with no war going on or any prospect of a fresh war, with every exploiter and every industrial tyrant who has made his unobtrusive profits while the country scowled and spat at England, stripped of the cover of that excitement, then it is inevitable that much of this noble hate of England will be seen for the cant it is. The cultivated hate of the war phase, reinforced by the fresh hate born of confusion and misery, will swing loose, as it were, seeking dispersedly for objects. The petty, incessant irritations of proximity will count for more; the national idea for less. The Hohenzollerns and the Junkers will have to be very nimble indeed if the German accomplishment of hate does not swing round upon them.

It is a common hypothesis with those who speculate on the probable effects of these disillusionments that Germany may break up again into its component parts. It is pointed out that Germany is, so to speak, a palimpsest, that the broad design of the great black eagle and the imperial crown are but newly painted over a great number of particularisms, and that these particularisms may return. The empire of the Germans may break up again. That I do not believe. The forces that unified Germany lie deeper than the Hohenzollern adventure; print, paper and the spoken word have bound Germany now into one people for all time. None the less those previous crowns and symbols that still show through the paint of the new design may help greatly, as that weakens under the coming stresses, to disillusion men about its necessity. There was, they will be reminded, a Germany before Prussia, before Austria for the matter of that. The empire has been little more than the first German experiment in unity. It is a new-fangled thing that came and may go again--leaving Germany still a nation, still with the sense of a common Fatherland.

Let us consider a little more particularly the nature of the mass of population whose collective action in the years immediately ahead of us we are now attempting to forecast. Its social strata are only very inexactly equivalent to those in the countries of the Pledged Allies. First there are the masses of the people. In England for purposes of edification we keep up the legend of the extreme efficiency of Germany, the high level of German education, and so forth. The truth is that the average elementary education of the common people in Britain is superior to that of Germany, that the domestic efficiency of the British common people is greater, their moral training better, and their personal quality higher. This is shown by a number of quite conclusive facts of which I will instance merely the higher German general death-rate, the higher German infantile death-rate, the altogether disproportionate percentage of crimes of violence in Germany, and the indisputable personal superiority of the British common soldier over his German antagonist. It is only when we get above the level of the masses that the position is reversed. The ratio of public expenditure upon secondary and higher education in Germany as compared with the expenditure upon elementary education is out of all proportion to the British ratio.

Directly we come to the commercial, directive, official, technical and professional classes in Germany, we come to classes far more highly trained, more alert intellectually, more capable of collective action, and more accessible to general ideas, than the less numerous and less important corresponding classes in Britain. This great German middle class is the strength and substance of the new Germany; it has increased proportionally to the classes above and below it, it has developed almost all its characteristics during the last half-century. At its lower fringe it comprehends the skilled and scientifically trained artisans, it supplies the brains of social democracy, and it reaches up to the world of finance and quasi-state enterprise. And it is the "dark horse" in all these speculations.

Hitherto this middle class has been growing almost unawares. It has been so busy coming into existence and growing, there has been so much to do since 1871, that it has had scarcely a moment to think round the general problem of politics at all. It has taken the new empire for granted as a child takes its home for granted, and its state of mind to-day must be rather like that of an intelligent boy who suddenly discovers that his father's picturesque and wonderful speculations have led to his arrest and brought the brokers into the house, and that there is nothing for it but to turn to and take control of the family affairs.

In Germany, the most antiquated and the most modern of European states, the old dynastic Germany of the princes and junkers has lasted on by virtue of exceptional successes and prestige into the world of steel and electricity. But their prestige has paled before the engineering of Krupp; their success evaporates. A new nation awakens to self-consciousness only to find itself betrayed into apparently irreconcilable hostility against the rest of mankind....

What will be the quality of the monarch and court and junkerdom that will face this awaking new Germany?

The monarch will be before very long the present Crown Prince. The Hohenzollerns have at least the merit of living quickly, and the present Emperor draws near his allotted term. He will break a record in his family if he lives another dozen years. So that quite soon after the war this new disillusioned Germany will be contemplating the imperial graces of the present Crown Prince. In every way he is an unattractive and uninspiring figure; he has identified himself completely with that militarism that has brought about the European catastrophe; in repudiating him Germany will repudiate her essential offence against civilisation, and his appears to be the sort of personality that it is a pleasure to repudiate. He or some kindred regent will be the symbol of royalty in Germany through all those years of maximum stress and hardship ahead. Through-out the greater part of Germany the tradition of loyalty to his house is not a century old. And the real German loyalty is racial and national far more than dynastic. It is not the Hohenzollern over all that they sing about; it is Deutschland. (And--as in the case of all imperfectly civilised people--songs of hate for foreigners.) But it needed a decadent young American to sing:

"Thou Prince of Peace,
Thous God of War,"

to the dismal rhetorician of Potsdam. Real emperors reconcile and consolidate peoples, for an empire is not a nation; but the Hohenzollerns have never dared to be anything but sedulously national, "echt Deutsch" and advocates of black-letter. They know the people they have to deal with.

This new substantial middle mass of Germany has never been on friendly terms with the Germany of the court and the landowner. It has inherited a burgerlich tradition and resented even while it tolerated the swagger of the aristocratic officer. It tolerated it because that sort of thing was supposed to be necessary to the national success. But Munich, the comic papers, Herr Harden, Vorwaerts, speak, I think, for the central masses of German life far more truly than any official utterances do. They speak in a voice a little gross, very sensible, blunt, with a kind of heavy humour. That German voice one may not like, but one must needs respect it. It is, at any rate, not bombastic. It is essentially honest. When the imperial eagle comes home with half its feathers out like a crow that has met a bear; when the surviving aristocratic officers reappear with a vastly diminished swagger in the biergartens, I believe that the hitherto acquiescent middle classes and skilled artisan class of German will entirely disappoint those people who expect them to behave either with servility or sentimental loyalty. The great revolutionary impulse of the French was passionate and generous. The revolutionary impulse of Germany may be even more deadly; it may be contemptuous. It may be they will not even drag emperor and nobles down; they will shove them aside....

In all these matters one must ask the reader to enlarge his perspectives at least as far back as the last three centuries. The galaxy of German monarchies that has over-spread so much of Europe is a growth of hardly more than two centuries. It is a phase in the long process of the break-up of the Roman Empire and of the catholic system that inherited its tradition. These royalties have formed a class apart, breeding only among themselves, and attempting to preserve a sort of caste internationalism in the face of an advance in human intelligence, a spread of printing, reading, and writing that makes inevitably for the recrudescence of national and race feeling, and the increasing participation of the people in government.

In Russia and England these originally German dynasties are meeting the problems of the new time by becoming national. They modify themselves from year to year. The time when Britain will again have a Queen of British race may not be very remote. The days when the affairs of Europe could be discussed at Windsor in German and from a German standpoint ended with the death of Queen Victoria, and it is only in such improvised courts as those of Greece and Bulgaria that the national outlook can still be contemplated from a foreign standpoint and discussed in a foreign tongue. The age when the monarchical system made the courts of three-quarters of Europe a German's Fatherland has ended for ever. And with that, the last rational advantage of monarchy and royalist sentimentality disappears from the middle-class German's point of view.

So it seems to me that the following conclusions about the future of Germany emerge from these considerations. It is improbable that there will be any such revolution as overthrew French Imperialism in 1871; the new Prussian Imperialism is closer to the tradition of the people and much more firmly established through the educational propaganda of the past half-century. But liberal forces in Germany may nevertheless be strong enough to force a peace upon the Hohenzollern empire so soon as any hopes of aggressive successes die away, before the utmost stage of exhaustion is reached, early in 1917, perhaps, or at latest in 1918. This, we suppose, will be a restrictive peace so far as Germany is concerned, humiliating her and hampering her development. The German Press will talk freely of a revanche and the renewal of the struggle, and this will help to consolidate the Pledged Allies in their resolve to hold Germany on every front and to retard her economic and financial recovery. The dynasty will lose prestige gradually, the true story of the war will creep slowly into the German consciousness, and the idea of a middle-class republic, like the French Republic, only defensively militant and essentially pacific and industrial, will become more and more popular in the country.

This will have the support of strong journalists, journalists of the Harden type for example. The dynasty tends to become degenerate, so that the probability of either some gross scandals or an ill-advised reactionary movement back to absolutism may develop a crisis within a few years of the peace settlement. The mercantile and professional classes will join hands with the social democrats to remove the decaying incubus of the Hohenzollern system, and Germany will become a more modern and larger repetition of the Third French republic. This collapse of the Germanic monarchical system may spread considerably beyond the limits of the German empire. It will probably be effected without much violence as a consequence of the convergence and maturity of many streams of very obvious thought. Many of the monarchs concerned may find themselves still left with their titles, palaces, and personal estates, and merely deprived of their last vestiges of legal power. The way will thus be opened for a gradual renewal of good feeling between the people of Germany and the western Europeans. This renewal will be greatly facilitated by the inevitable fall in the German birth-rate that the shortage and economies of this war will have done much to promote, and by the correlated discrediting of the expansionist idea. By 1960 or so the alteration of perspectives will have gone so far that historians will be a little perplexed to explain the causes of the Great War. The militarist monomania of Germany will have become incomprehensible; her Welt Politik literature incredible and unreadable....

Such is my reading of the German horoscope.

I doubt if there will be nearly so much writing and reading about the Great War in the latter half of the twentieth century as there was about Napoleon at the end of the nineteenth. The Great War is essentially undramatic, it has no hero, it has no great leaders. It is a story of the common sense of humanity suppressing certain tawdry and vulgar ideas and ambitions, and readjusting much that was wasteful and unjust in social and economic organisation. It is the story of how the spirit of man was awakened by a nightmare of a War Lord.... The nightmare will fade out of mind, and the spirit of man, with revivified energies, will set about the realities of life, the re-establishment of order, the increase of knowledge and creation. Amid these realities the great qualities of the Germans mark them for a distinguished and important rôle.

Section 3

The primary business of the Allies is not reconciliation with Germany. Their primary concern is to organise a great League of Peace about the world with which the American States and China may either unite or establish a permanent understanding. Separate attempts to restore friendship with the Germans will threaten the unanimity of the League of Peace, and perhaps renew the intrigues and evils of the Germanic dynastic system which this war may destroy. The essential restoration of Germany must be the work of German men speaking plain sense to Germans, and inducing their country to hold out its hand not to this or that suspicious neighbour but to mankind. A militarist Germany is a Germany self-condemned to isolation or world empire. A Germany which has returned to the ways of peace, on the other hand, will be a country that cannot be kept out of the system of civilisation. The tariff wall cannot but be lowered, the watchful restrictions cannot but be discontinued against such a Germany. Europe is a system with its heart half used, so long as Germany is isolated. The German population is and will remain the central and largest mass of people in Europe. That is a fact as necessary as the Indianism of India.

To reconstruct modern civilisation without Germany would be a colossal artificial task that would take centuries to do. It is inconceivable that Germany will stand out of Europeanism so long as to allow the trade routes of the world to be entirely deflected from her. Her own necessities march with the natural needs of the world.

So that I give the alliance for the isolation of Germany at the outside a life of forty years before it ceases to be necessary through the recovered willingness of the Germans to lay aside aggression.

But this is not a thing to be run at too hastily. It may be easily possible to delay this national general reconciliation of mankind by an unreal effusion. There will be no advantage in forcing the feelings of the late combatants. It is ridiculous to suppose that for the next decade or so, whatever happens, any Frenchmen are going to feel genial about the occupation of their north-east provinces, or any Belgians smile at the memory of Dinant or Louvain, or the Poles or Serbs forgive the desolation of their country, or any English or Russians take a humorous view of the treatment their people have had as prisoners in Germany. So long as these are living memories they will keep a barrier of dislike about Germany. Nor is it probable that the ordinary German is going to survey the revised map of Africa with a happy sense of relief, or blame no one but himself for the vanished prosperity of 1914. That is asking too much of humanity. Unless I know nothing of Germany, Germany will bristle with "denkmals" to keep open all such sores. The dislike of Germany by the allied nations will be returned in the hostility of a thwarted and disappointed people. Not even the neutrals will be aloof from these hostilities and resentments. The world will still, in 1950 or so, be throwing much passion into the rights and wrongs of the sinking of the Lusitania. There will be a bitterness in the memories of this and the next generation that will make the spectacle of ardent Frenchmen or Englishmen or Belgians or Russians embracing Germans with gusto--unpleasant, to say the least of it.

We may bring ourselves to understand, we may bring ourselves to a cold and reasonable forgiveness, we may suppress our Sir George Makgills and so forth, but it will take sixty or seventy years for the two sides in this present war to grow kindly again. Let us build no false hopes nor pretend to any false generosities. These hatreds can die out only in one way, by the passing of a generation, by the dying out of the wounded and the wronged. Our business, our unsentimental business, is to set about establishing such conditions that they will so die out. And that is the business of the sane Germans too. Behind the barriers this war will have set up between Germany and Anti-Germany, the intelligent men in either camp must prepare the ultimate peace they will never enjoy, must work for the days when their sons at least may meet as they themselves can never meet, without accusation or resentment, upon the common business of the World Peace. That is not to be done by any conscientious sentimentalities, any slobbering denials of unforgettable injuries. We want no Pro-German Leagues any more than we want Anti-German Leagues. We want patience--and silence.

My reason insists upon the inevitableness and necessity of this ultimate reconciliation. I will do no more than I must to injure Germany further, and I will do all that I can to restore the unity of mankind. None the less is it true that for me for all the rest of my life the Germans I shall meet, the German things I shall see, will be smeared with the blood of my people and my friends that the wilfulness of Germany has spilt.

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This book is part of the public domain. H. G. Wells (2004). What is Coming? A Forecast of Things after the War. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022, from

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