A disturbing treatise
Anthony M. Ludovici
The New English Weekly 34, 194849, pp. 163164
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To the historian of the future, who may be tempted to romance about the progress of civilization throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, here is a book, (it has already provoked some controversy in this journal) which is likely to prove a wholesome check. * In Advance to Barbarism, the anonymous author, who writes with a reserve and moderation which make his indictment all the more impressive, shows the steadily increasing unscrupulousness of civilised methods of warfare in recent times. Nor is it easy to dispute his conclusion that all the humane limitations set throughout the Christian era to the total-war practices of primitive mankind have lately been so recklessly disregarded that, despite all our advanced and ingenious weapons, we are right back in barbarism, at least in the sphere of war. The fact that our acquiescence in this abandonment of all scruple has established a precedent which may well, at some future date, recoil on our own heads, is not the least disquieting of the warnings contained in this short but disturbing treatise. And we are left hoping, or rather praying, that we may never have to pay the full penalty of having in September 1943 accepted our Prime Minister's view that "there are no lengths of violence to which we will not go" in order to extirpate our enemy. The book abounds with examples, drawn from history, of a milder, more humane and more civilized mood. Some of these actually hail from a period as recent as that covering the South African War. But such recent survivals of the more chivalrous temper of seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe are rare, and the general impression is that, even after "civilized methods had long been accepted in land warfare," in the seventeenth century, England, as least, did not shine conspicuously as a scrupulous combatant. To wrest submission from an enemy by harassing or actually wounding and killing his civilian population one of the many revivals of old barbaric methods which we have lately witnessed and to expect the homeland to approve, only became possible, as the author points out, when "a limitless capacity to believe without reason and to hate without a cause was . . . prized as an essential quality of the good citizen." The question suggests itself whether it is now not too late to repent and reform? Have we, both in regard to our warlike methods, our attitude to prisoners of war, and our treatment, above all, of conquered enemy territory, established precedents which cannot 'now by any means in our power, be wiped out? If we have, says A Jurist, in so many words, and we ever lose a World War, then without a doubt "we are for it."
Many readers may wonder why a book which is at once so outspoken and brave, should have been published anonymously. They may think that any author who makes so bold a stand for decency and good-breeding ought to have been only too proud to be identified and duly honoured. Such readers have either forgotten or have not yet observed the deplorable changes that have come over the English world in recent years. For centuries we have basked in the admiration of the Continent owning to our reputation for Freedom Freedom of Speech, the Right of Private Judgment, and, above all, the Right with impunity to disagree both with the majority in the land and with the policies of the powers that be.
Alas! These were largely fair-weather principles! A man cannot today hold certain ideas and express them without being penalized. Ideologies have revived a form of persecution which Buckle thought dead for all time in
* Advance to Barbarism by A. JURIST. (Thomson & Smith, Ltd. Crn. 8vo. pp. 176. Price 12/6d.).
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these islands; and today the penalty for stating unpalatable and above all unpopular truths may so greatly outweigh any credit one may earn for stating them that discretion has become more than ever the better part of valour.
At least, this is how I explain the anonymity of the author of this book.