In the work for international peace, as in other fields of human endeavor, there must be a division of labor; among others, a division of labor between technicians and educators.
Mr. Arthur Henderson is one of the technicians, a statesman devising plans for peace and leading the way for their acceptance. Norman Angell, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1933, is one of the educators, one of those who instruct public opinion, who pave the way for reforms which the statesmen attempt to carry out. His share in this educational task has been original and influential.
Ralph Norman Angell Lane is a farmer’s son from Norfolk who will be sixty years old next Boxing Day1. His health was never strong and in his youth he lived several years in California. Thus he established contacts with the United States and with American public opinion which he has kept up throughout life. He became a journalist, and when first I met him – now more than twenty years ago – he was the business manager of the Paris edition of the Daily Mail and had been living in France for some years. His intimate knowledge of public opinion in three of the big powers of the world has qualified him superbly for his chosen work.
I remember that he was rather insistent on the point that he was not on the editorial staff of that jingo-paper. He explained to me that his job was to buy paper and printer’s ink for it. But, he added with a little smile, he was on very good terms with the newspaper king, Lord Northcliffe2, «and thus I can manage when occasion offers to get some sensible stuff into his papers».
Norman Angell was then already a famous writer. His first book, Patriotism under Three Flags3, which appeared in 1903 and which discussed problems rising out of the South African War, had passed quite unnoticed. Then in 1909, he published a little book of some hundred pages, Europe’s Optical Illusion4, and he awoke one morning to find himself famous.
A book’s success is more often than not a haphazard thing. Norman Angell’s book fell into the hands of Lord Esher, a high court official and a personal friend of King Edward5. And Lord Esher saw to it that this book became known. Edition followed edition, and in the following year of 1910, Norman Angell published a new, partly revised, and considerably expanded edition entitled The Great Illusion, which appeared in tens, if not hundreds, of thousands and was translated into twenty-five foreign languages.
What was still more remarkable, Lord Esher’s discreet but efficient propaganda also won over a wealthy man to Norman Angell’s ideas. He was persuaded to donate a large sum of money to the Garton Foundation, so named for the donor6, with the objective of making Norman Angell’s ideas known through research, lectures, and publications.
What is the «Greet Illusion» which Norman Angell wishes to explode?
In few – and therefore insufficient – words, it is this: war is a quite inadequate method for solving international disputes; war does not carry any advantage, not even to the victors, least of all any economic advantage. This thesis the author supports by applying some representative tests: If war – a victorious war – were economically advantageous, then the citizens of those big powers which have built their world empires through victorious wars would be better off than the citizens of small pacific nations. Statistics of capital and revenues in these two categories of nations furnish proof that this is not so. Dutch stocks and Swedish, Swiss stocks and Norwegian, stand higher on the world’s exchanges than those of Great Britain, of France, of Germany, not to mention those of czarist Russia.
Does war increase trade, asks Norman Angell, and his answer is: in a world of division of labor, the products constitute wealth only if you can get rid of them. War which impoverishes your clients in the victorious as well as in the defeated nation, war which hinders if it does not strangle trade tends to make merchandise valueless; at any rate it takes away the profit.
Most convincing of all is the sixth chapter of the book, entitled «The Indemnity Futility».
Here I want to make a little jump in my chronology. Last year, twenty-four years after the first edition of his book, Norman Angell made an exceptional experiment. He reedited his book of 1910, adding an introduction and a postscript. Nearly sixty years old he subjected the work of his youth to his own revision and judgment. Some chapters he rewrote – not to modify them but to summarize and bring them up to date.
But there was one chapter which was printed, word for word, as in 1910. It was this sixth chapter «The Indemnity Futility». Norman Angell tells us that when the book was published for the first time, part of his contention – in fact, the entire basic theory of this chapter – was made the object of severe criticism; indeed, it had been rejected entirely by both an English and a French economist. Their criticism had shaken his belief in his own theories enough to make him qualify his assertions in later editions.
Now – after we have experienced what Mr. Keynes has called The Economic Consequences of the Peace7 – Norman Angell thinks that he can reprint, word for word, what he said in 1910; namely, that it is futile to impose a war indemnity. Such indemnity is simply unpayable unless the creditor nation is willing to receive it in the form of imports, and against this form of payment citizens will raise violent protest, calling it «dumping», «unfair competition», a violation of the very principles of the protectionist duties imposed for their benefit.
The tragedy – or tragicomedy – of «reparations» has proved the validity of Norman Angell’s views. He had based his argument on the consequences so tragic for the economy of victorious Germany-of the five milliard gold francs war indemnity paid by France after the Franco-German war of 1870-1871. His argument was rejected by the experts. Now the illusion bubble of the 225 milliard gold marks indemnity to be paid by Germany has burst before our very eyes. Now we all think Norman Angell quite right. He states it coolly without scorn or haughtiness, just with a somewhat tired, disillusioned smile on his pale face.
I take up my chronological thread and return to the first edition of his chief work.
The Great Illusion in its turn created certain illusions in those who read the book superficially (or who only heard about it). Because Norman Angell had proved war to be foolish, to be a bad business proposition, many believed that he had said there would be no more war in Europe. Against this misinterpretation Norman Angell at once protested with the greatest heat. He asked: «Why then do I pursue my fight against war?» Indeed, why should pacifists continue their frequently thankless and unpopular work if they believe that war will never occur any more? Rational people do not try to break down an open door.
The final chapter of The Great Illusion presents a convincing plea for a change in foreign policy from that of a war policy to one of international cooperation and peace. If this is not made, war, he says, will be inevitable. The fact that we are living in a world of international interdependence makes it imperative that we organize the international community of nations accordingly, basing the community on the common interests which bind nations together, relinquishing the principle of isolated national defence, providing collective security through common effort by erecting an international authority which can replace the prevailing international anarchy.
Norman Angell is a great writer and journalist. He possesses the greatest gift of the pamphleteer, the gift of saying the same thing again and again, but in new ways, with new and apt illustrations. He has been compared with Swift and with Cobden8 . That is high praise, but well-deserved praise. He is fundamentally different from both of them. He does not have Swift’s cutting contempt. Nor has he Cobden’s persuasive and magnetic eloquence, which drew tens of thousands to his meetings and carried the cause of free trade to victory in less than a generation, both in England and in Europe – alas, for all too short a time.
Norman Angell towers as high as Swift or Cobden. But his is another kind of genius; he is not a poet as was Swift, nor a preacher as was Cobden. Norman Angell speaks to the intellect. He is cool and clear. He has a profound belief in reason and in rationalism. He is convinced that at long last reason will prevail when we succeed in sweeping away the mists of illusion and intellectual error.
It is this belief which supported him through the World War, through the reparations tragedy, and through the bitter postwar disappointments.
And he has had the courage of his convictions. Immediately after the outbreak of the World War, he founded – with E. D. Morel, Ramsay MacDonald, Charles Trevelyan, and Arthur Ponsonby – the Union of Democratic Control9 , the first plank of whose platform was the introduction of public and parliamentary control of foreign policy in constitutional practice. He and his comrades believed in the educative influence of public discussion. Thus could the mists of illusion be dissipated.
In his book of 1915, Prussianism and Its Destruction, he demonstrated that war was inefficient as a means of eradicating human error. You cannot kill ideas with bullets. And he showed that «Prussianism» – militarism – was not a phenomenon indigenous to Germany only. Of course he was denounced as pro-German, as were his colleagues.
Norman Angell also traveled widely in the United States, giving lectures and leading study groups, all the while fighting for his ideas. He came into close contact with President Wilson and had a share in the development of Wilson’s plan for a League of Nations.
After the war he criticized the peace settlement, particularly its economic stipulations. From 1929 to 1931 he sat in the House of Commons as a member of the Labor Party behind Mr. Henderson. In the last few years, in books and lectures he has concentrated his efforts on attempts to clarify certain problems of social psychology. In his Unseen Assassins (1932) he unmasks the prejudices and the misconceptions in the human mind on which selfish interests and ambitious politicians can play in order to lead the people to the perilous paths of the policy of force and war. I should like also to mention two chapters he wrote last year for a book I have seen in bookstore windows here in Oslo, The Intelligent Man’s Way to the Prevention of War10.
It is mankind’s deep tragedy that it so rarely sees reality. We all have in our eyes «the splint of the goblin looking glass» (as Sigrid Undset has called one of her books)11. We see what we desire to see, not naked reality. Or we have before our eyes mists, stereotypes inherited from our parents, from our grandparents, even from our great-grandparents. Intellectually we are wearing the cast-off clothes of our ancestors, and we do not see, we do not understand that they no longer fit us.
And our statesmen, who of necessity are obliged to work with the material which the people through «public opinion» offer them, toil in the same mist, in the same cast-off clothing, though to be just, many of them taken individually have their eyes open above the mists.
Time and again Norman Angell returns to this metaphor – «the mist». We read on the first page of the last edition of The Great Illusion: «This book endeavors to clear away the mists which prevent so many from seeing the road.»
Few people, if any, have done as much as Sir Norman to remove «the splint of the goblin looking glass» in our eyes, to clear away the mists which prevent us from seeing the road we should travel. He has done it, and he goes on doing it, because he has a profound and warm belief in what he calls in one of his books «the potential rationalism of mankind».
Let us hope that his optimism may be vindicated.
* Mr. Lange, himself a co-recipient of the Peace Prize for 1921, was introduced by Mr. Stang, chairman of the Committee, to an audience assembled in the auditorium of the Nobel Institute on December 10, 1934. Since Sir Norman Angell, the laureate for 1933 (a year in which the prize had been reserved), was unable to attend the award ceremony, Mr. Cecil Dormer, British minister in Oslo, accepted the prize in his name and announced that Sir Norman would come to Oslo in the spring of 1935 to deliver his Nobel lecture. The English translation of Mr. Lange’s speech used here is basically that appearing in Les Prix Nobel en 1934, with certain editorial changes, as well as some minor emendations made after comparison with the Norwegian text in Les Prix Nobel.
1. «Boxing Day» in England, the first weekday after Christmas, gets its name from the practice of giving Christmas «boxes» or gifts to postmen, etc. Ralph Norman Angell Lane, born on December 26, 1872, used the shortened version of his name for the first time as the author of The Great Illusion.
9. Edmund Dene Morel (1873-1924), British author, member of Parliament, expert on politics of Africa. (James) Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937), British statesman, prime minister (1924; 1929-1935). Charles Philips Trevelyan (1870-1958), member of Parliament, minister for education (1924; 1929-1931). Arthur Ponsonby (1871-1946), British diplomat, parliamentarian, author. The union of Democratic Control was founded in August, 1914.
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