There are several things which are unusual about this book. The format is (for England) unusual: the price is unusual: and the fact that it is introduced to the public by no less than fifteen "leaders of opinion" is unusual. Since there is no editor to explain these things the publisher may, perhaps, be forgiven for taking his place.
The most unusual thing of all is, of course, the text itself. It sets forth the results of quite the most important piece of constructive thinking which (so it seems to me) has yet been given to the question of disarmament. The unique character of the book is suggested by its title: here, for the first time, are set out the rudiments of a science of disarmament-- the bricks with which the art of statesmanship may build.
And because Major Lefebure approaches his subject scientifically he gives us more hope than we have ever had before. After reading his book we need no longer talk vaguely about the desirability of disarmament, or hopelessly because we know that total disarmament is at present quite impracticable: we are for the first time able to say "Let us prohibit A, limit B in this respect or that, and leave C unrestricted: such a compromise will leave each nation with armaments which they will recognise as sufficient for national safety, but will also (owing to the time-lag required for conversion and development, and to other factors) make it almost impossible for a nation to embark on war."
It has always seemed to me certain that only the most radical and uncompromising change in the economic structure of the world will give our children's children, after perhaps centuries of misery, the kind of civilisation in which war will be for ever impossible. Now Major Lefebure shows us the one chance in a hundred of preventing war within the present system: if it were one chance in ten million we should be contemptible did we not give it the most anxious consideration.
Feeling this about the book I also felt that to publish it as such books are ordinarily published would be frivolous and irresponsible.
Scientific Disarmament is nearly twice as long as the average modern novel: it is unsubsidised: the topic is what is known as a "serious" one: and the manner in which it is treated holds out to the reader no hope of light amusement. The current practice is to print a small edition of such a work on "good" paper, to bind it in the best cloth with gilt lettering, and to fix the price at about fifteen shillings. When a book is of real importance, there can be only one excuse for thus limiting its sale to the comparatively rich--that a lower price is economically impossible.
I do not believe it: if it is true--if four or five thousand people are indeed unwilling to buy a book such as this for the price of 5s.--then Major Lefebure is wasting his work, for he is addressing a people careless, with a shameful light-heartedness, of their own impending doom.
This same consideration which led to the lowering of price--the feeling that here was a book which must be given its chance of being widely read--suggested also the series of introductions which follow. If we refrain, Major Lefebure and I, from expressing our thanks to the writers, it is because gratitude in connection with such a theme would be an impertinence.