1970s >> 1971 >> no-798-february-1971

50 Years Ago: 50 Years Ago: H. G. Wells as Historian

It is Mr. Wells’ opinion that the ruling class of today can be persuaded by reasonable, humanitarian arguments or by far-sighted self interest to bring about a ‘re-adjustment’ of society which will gradually abolish exploitation and class distinctions. This opinion we cannot share. It is opposed by the whole teaching of history. No ruling class when faced by discontent and revolt ever acted in such a manner. To expect our present rulers to do so is to wallow in superstition rather than stand foursquare to science.

Why does Mr. Wells make no mention whatever in his review of the nineteenth century, of the Paris Commune? This was no mere political episode, but an object lesson in sociology, and, as such, one of the most significant occurrences of the centenary. Mr. Wells is no ‘drum and trumpet’ historian, but to him as to the common run of bourgeois historians, the Commune is taboo. With its 100,000 working-class victims the Paris Commune tears aside the veil of hypocrisy and humanitarian cant which envelopes the social relations of our day and reveals naked the power lust of the capitalist class. The more recent history of the class struggle in Russia, Finland, Germany and Hungary but confirms and strengthens our view. It is indeed difficult to conceive that Mr. Wells, with his knowledge, really believes in the tactic of moralising the capitalist class. In the present writer’s opinion, Mr. Wells knows better. But as an experienced and ‘successful’ writer and journalist, camouflage (to be polite) is one of the tools of his trade.

(From a review of H. G. Wells’ Outline of History by R. W. Housley. Socialist Standard February 1921).