George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century

By Archibald Henderson | Go to book overview
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The Internationalist

BEFORE THE WAR OF 1914-1918, Shaw OBLIGINGLY INFORMED ENGLAND, France and Germany how to prevent it. After the war started, he informed Germany how she might have crushed Russia without bringing England and France into the war; and informed England how she might have prevented Germany from going to war at all. After the war, he pointed out that Lloyd George, by his proposed policy at the Washington Conference for Limitation of Armament, was fomenting war between Great Britain and the United States. None of these pronouncements was taken seriously, except by a few myopic patriots and psychopathic letter writers.

In 1919 Shaw published Peace Conference Hints,1 which attracted wide attention, in the United States and on the Continent, as well as in England. He therein made clear that England's doctrine of the command of the seas was the equivalent of the Monroe Doctrine, and that these doctrines were dictated in each case by national necessity. England resolutely maintained that her fleet was a guardian of the liberties of Europe as a sort of maritime police force. I noted during a visit in 1910 that England was seething with bitterness and hatred against Germany for her naval program, which was hotly denounced as a deliberate and provocative threat. Not long after the war began, the London Times was demanding the total destruction of the German fleet--a demand finally fulfilled at Scapa Flow. Shaw elaborately outlines British foreign policy, "planned with all England's accustomed resolution, patience, craft, force, and triumphant success"--although in Common Sense About the War he had denounced the English as cowardly, muddle-headed, unphilosophic, incompetent as military critics, lacking in elementary foresight! The policy of encirclement, the accumulation of ammunition for the fleet, the secret agreement with Belgium, the understanding with France: all prove that "England was, up to the limit of her engagements, by far the best prepared of all the belligerents. . . . Germany was not hopelessly blockaded, but outwitted, outprepared, outgeneralled, outfought, outflown, outgassed, outtanked, outraided, outbombed. . . ." Shaw denounced the government's policy as militaristic and never deviated from the view that England did not want to postpone the war.

Constable & Co., London, 1919.


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George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century
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