"war to end war"

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton2 at BTINTERNET.COM
Mon Feb 15 20:21:14 UTC 2010

A few mild caveats ...

> From: "Jonathan Lighter"

> As everybody knows, H. G. Wells coined a famous phrase in the title of
> _The
> War that Will End War_ (N.Y.: Duffield, 1914).
> Because events fell short of Wells's promise, the idea has circulated that
> only a privileged idiot and tool of the Crown could have come up with so
> transparent a propaganda justification for imperialism.  (Never mind that
> Wells himself was a socialist and prewar pacifist who believed that the
> Kaiser had to be contained.)

Perhaps not a "privileged idiot", but surely Wells (whether the opprobrium
of the term is justified or not) would have fitted perfectly among those
Lenin later termed "useful idiots" (more kindly indexed as fellow-travelers
or left leaning liberals)?

> According to the fire-breathing _International Socialist Review_ XV
> (Sept.,
> 1914), pp. 186-187,

"Fire-breathing" as a descriptive epithet?  Hm ...

According to the ever useful, and I hope in this case accurate, Wiki, the
_International Socialist Review_, founded in 1900, was between 1908 and 1918
(the period from which Jon's quotation dates) to be found firmly supporting
the Industrial Workers of the World.

While I wouldn't entirely quarrel with a description of the ISR, and by
extension the Wobblies, as "fire-breathing," it might be more charitable to
describe them as radical anarcho-syndicalists, even premature Fourth
Internationalists (Trotsky seems to have been pretty consistently in favour
of them).

> =93In its propaganda the attitude of the [sic] International Socialism has
> been against war. We detest war so bitterly that we are ready to go to war
> to end war. WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!=94
> The idealistic notion that a war might be fought successfully to prevent
> future wars (suggested by Marx though not in those words) extended
> across the political spectrum.

Maybe not the entire political spectrum.  I realise that it's tricky, not to
speak of injudicious, to extend either ideas or personalities back in time,
but I doubt if Stalin would have approved of the idea of an (international)
"war to end all wars."  The internationalization of the socialist struggle
(as against a commitment to prioritise the survival of socialism in Russia)
was one of the ideological as opposed to personal factors behind the split
between Trotsky and Stalin.

On the other hand, I am, after all, a Brit, and find USAmerican politics in
all its varieties somewhat baffling, so I may have managed to get something
stunningly wrong in my comments above.  If so, I can only apologise in


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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