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Book Review: “God's Fifth Column” By William Gerhardie

By Dr Gideon Polya

06 May, 2014

William Gerhardie's brilliant anti-war book “God's Fifth Column. A biography of the Age 1890-1940” [1] should be a must-read for all people around the world as we mark in 2014 the centenary of the start of World War 1, the “war to end all wars”  that was inexorably succeeded by the 5-fold greater carnage of World War 2 and thence the prospect of annihilation of nearly all of humanity in a nuclear World War 3 or through climate genocide from climate change inaction.  

William Gerhardie (original spelling Gerhardi; 1895-1977) was British but lived as a child in Russia where his father was in the cotton trade. He volunteered in WW1 and was sent to Russia with military intelligence. An Oxford University graduate, William Gerhardie, became an acclaimed novelist in the 1920s with his novels “ Futility” (1922), “The Polyglots” (1925), “Doom” (1928) and “Resurrection” (1934), and other works.  He published an autobiography, “Memoirs of a polyglot: The autobiography of William Gerhardie” (1931) and co-authored “The Casanova Fable: A Satirical Revaluation” with Hugh Kingsmill (1934). He subsequently became reclusive, living  impoverished in London where he worked on his non-fiction masterwork “God's Fifth Column. A biography of the Age 1890-1940” that was discovered among his papers  and thence published posthumously in 1981 by Hodder & Stoughton (page references below are to the 1990 Hogarth Press edition [1]) .

William Gerhardie's “God's Fifth Column” provides a rich account of the ideas, manners, mentality and motivation of 2 sets of people in the run up to WW1 and thence to WW2 – on the one hand, the wonderful humanitarian writers such as Anton Chekhov, Lev Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky, Henrik Ibsen, Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw. D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Emile Zola, Anatole France, Marcel Proust, Herman Hesse, and Walt Whitman, and on the other,  the English, French, German, Austrian, Italian  and Russian kings, emperors, generals, statesmen,  diplomats and other Establishment  figures, male and female, who inexorably led the world to disaster and of whom the best that could be said in hindsight was that they had good table manners. The term “fifth column” derived from Fascist Nationalist  Franco colleague General Mola boasting that in addition to his 4 columns advancing on Republican-held Madrid he had supporters inside the city, described by the Republican defenders  as a “fifth column”  (page 61). To Gerhardi,  “God's Fifth Column” are those elements  that wittingly  or unwittingly  sabotage defective human social constructs.

One gets a good sense of the book simply from the numerous chapter headings in the 5 books of William Gerhardie's “God's Fifth Column” [explanatory notes are provided below in square brackets]:

Book One. The 1890s:   (1)  Medieval survivals, (2) Margot [Asquith nee Tennant], (3), The Empress Frederic (mother of Kaiser Wilhelm II and eldest daughter of Queen Victoria], (4), The Kaiser, (5), Failure of a Mission {Treaty of Berlin 1878 between the major European powers], (6), [Tsar] Alexander III and his subjects, (7), [terrorist] Alexander Ulianov [his brother Vladimir was Lenin] and minority rights,  (8), Anton Chehov [Chekhov], John Morley [Viscount Morley], F.E. Smith [Earl of Birkenhead] - and the people (9), The case of D.H. Lawrence,  (10), The case of Chehov,  {11), Bismark, William II, and “The Blessing of Labor” [Kaiser Wilhelm's precursor to “Arbeit macht Frei” before Auschwitz], (12),  Papa Hitler and der Drang nach oben [the drive to the top], (13), George Curzon [Lord Curzon, India Viceroy 1899-1905, Lord President of the Council 1916-1919, UK Foreign Minister 1919-1924]  – artists of action, (14) More Margot [wife of UK PM Herbert Henry Asquith, PM 1908-1916],  (15) Arthur Balfour [UK PM 1902-1905, Leader of the Opposition 1906-1911, First Lord of the Admiralty 1915-1916, Foreign Minister(1916-1919), (16), The Souls [re Establishment literary pretension], (17),  Divine sabotage [the Comic Spirit  as God's Fifth Column], (18), [English] Predilection  for [respectable] mediocrity [e.g. Lloyd George, Winston Churchill], (19), Tory democracy [the right kind of people], (20), The newly rich, (21) [ Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” ] Tolstoy, (22),  William II again visits Alexander III, (23), [William Jennings] Bryan  visits Tolstoy [re pacifism], (24), Walt Whitman, (25), Tchaikowski's despair, (26),  [Tsar] Nicholas II, Lenin , Oscar Wilde, (27), The Law versus the creator of beautiful things [Oscar Wilde], (28), Singing captives [more on Oscar Wilde], (28), Immortals meet in a clinic [Chekhov, Tolstoy, Gorki], (29) The physiognomy of the age [Tolstoy, Chekhov, and Nicholas II's International Conference, The Hague 1999].

Book 2. The 1900s. (31) The Boer War  [British barbarity against the “White” Boers  upsets the “civilized world” notably Russia, France and Germany], (32),  Boston and Paris [Emile Zola on  Dreyfus, Marcel Proust, Henry James, death of Oscar Wilde], (33), In at the death [heavily related Royalty gather for the 1901 funeral  of Queen Victoria and Coronation of Edward VII] , (34), Towards the Statute of Westminster – and beyond [Royal power and former White colonies' figure head], (35), Hierarchies of intellect [comparing  G.B. Shaw, Anton Chekhov, Rudyard Kipling, Friedrich Nietsche, Lev Tolstoy], (36), Lenin and the class struggle [Karl Marx, English “superiority”, American égalitarianism], (37), The Hella meeting [Prince Bülow, Ambassador von Tschirschky,  Russian Foreign Minister Count Lambsdorff, Kaiser Wilhelm II, Tsar Nicholas II), (38), Shaw and Tolstoy, Chehov and Gorky, (39), Design for murder [Tolstoy, Nicholas II and Christian “love thy neighbour'], (40),  It is better to burn that to marry [Tolstoy, Countess Sophia Tolstoya, Count Tolstoy's diaries   and Vladimir Chertkov], (41), Pope, Kaiser and pariah [German and Italian discussions], (42),  Lenin and usury, (43), The death of Chehov, (44), King Edward [VII] and the Entente Cordiale, (45), Tangier [UK wants Egypt, France wants Morocco, Germany wants something too], (46), The Yellow Peril [Kaiser, Tsar, Russo-Japanese War], (47), The Liberals [Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman UK PM 1906-1908, Herbert Henry Asquith UK PM 1908-1916, Mrs Asquith, Lloyd George UK PM 1916-1922], (48) Hitler in the dosshouse, (49), Death of King Edward VII [1910], (50) Tolstoy dies [1910; Sonia Tolstoya, Vladimir Chertkov].

Book 3. The 1910s: (51), America takes a hand [1910 plan for an international peace-keeping force, (52), [President Woodrow Wilson's friend] Colonel House and [US Ambassador to UK 1913-1918] Walter Page come to Europe, (53), 1914 or Alice in Wonderland [assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914;  only 5 weeks later UK ultimatum to Germany – declaration of war -  on 4 August 1914], (54), National sovereignties are powder kegs [Serbia, Austria Germany, Russia] , (55), The Tsar's daughters [which prince to marry?], (56), [French President] Poincaré visits Nicholas II [on 20 July 1914] , (57), The Kaiser's argument [in his Memoirs about German paranoia; 28 July 1914 WW1 begins with Austria-Hungary attacking  Serbia], (58), Impotent power [Mrs Asquith on 30 July 1914: “We are on the brink of a European War”], (59) Preventive mobilization {Kaiser warned Tsar to cancel mobilization], (60), Preventive ultimatums [Liddell Hart specifies 3 key human causes of war: Austrian FM Leopold von Berchtold, Austrian Chief of Staff Conrad von Hoetzendorf, and German Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke], (61), Moltke: master strategist – and more tears [Ballin, German shipping magnate: war was still easily avoidable], (62), The directing brain: the Empress [Alexandra Feodorovna], (63), Sir Edward Grey  [UK FM 1905-1916; German ultimatum to France], (64) The right to lend [“to Lenin that was what the whole quarrel was about”], (65) Two scraps of paper [4 August 1014 UK declaration of war on Germany over Belgian neutrality], (66), Berlin and London [Mrs Asquith: “We were at war. I left to go to bed , and, as I was pausing at the foot of the staircase, I saw Winston Churchill with a happy face striding towards the double doors of the Cabinet room” (p220), (67), :In a state of war [“it was twenty-five years almost to the month before Winston again confessed to sunshine in his heart when another  ultimatum remained unanswered on September 3rd, 1939” (p220), (68), “Curiouser and curiouser - ” [Alice says “Why, why, why?”; Lord Kitchener, Mrs Asquith, Lord Chaplin], (69), Free will: two camps of necessity {Asquith versus Lord Kitchener; “When one reflects upon the safeguards taken by solicitors on behalf of a ward in Chancery…” yet no safeguards against war], (70), The perpetuum mobile [“And valiantly they went forward to be slain like cattle by others just like them”], (71), The unpredictable and incalculable [Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Haig, and the mass murder of war], (72), Lenin changes places with Nicholas [1917 Bolshevik revolution], (73), The execution of the Romanovs, (74), France the compassionate [Marshall Foch., Armistice], (75), Congratulations [ “Firing ceased along the entire Western front on November  11th at 11 o'clock in the morning”; Rudyard Kipling: “But who shall restore us our children?”], (76), [US President] Woodrow Wilson [Senator Lodge opposes peacemaker Wilson with resultant “patched up rag of a treaty” (of Versailles)].

Book 4. The 1920s: (77), The age of journalism [“ If journalism and modern advertising are debased forms of literature, propaganda is debased journalism”] , (78), The uninhibited [the Wild Party], (79) The spirit of modern Russia [Art and “socialist realism”; “Goethe also marveled that … it should have proved beyond the wit of man to devise a system whereby the balance between freedom and coercion could be adjusted automatically” (page 283)],  (80), The death of Proust [Marcel Proust, Samuel Beckett], (81), Poets, princes, premiers, and pigs, (82) Political Protestantism [“The rise of Fascism, Italian  and German, was a form of Protestantism  – political middle-class Protestantism – against proletarian orthodoxy” (page 299)].

Book 5. the 1930s: (83), The collocations of the suffering unit [“The world certainly did not want a second world war. It was, again, trapped into it, this time by the Nazis and Fascists revelling openly in their principles of violence and deceit. Our real fault was not that we were not armed, but that we had failed to bring about a universal change if heart when, having won the First World War, we had the opportunity to do so between 1918 and 1930” (page 303)], (84), The funeral [of King George V], (85), Abdication [of Edward VIII] and coronation [of George VI in 1936], (86), Homunculus {Hitler's appeal to racism   and patriotism – “the triumph of the lowbrow in politics” (page 314)] , (87), September [  Hitler and Chamberlain's appeasement], (88), Munich and after  [Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain], (89),    The amoeba of war [Czechoslovakia, Poland; “How came it about that one so cautious, so well–trained in conservative business methods, as Mr Chamberlain, should have, overnight, become a reckless gambler?” (page 324) ], (90), Before the bombs [London, Moscow, Chamberlain, Molotov],  (91), The strutting male {Ribbentrop, Molotov, the non-aggression pact; “[imperialist] womb in which Hitler is conceived…[from] the temporising eupepticism that wars in principle are respectable, manageable, and inevitable , that “defence will always keep pace with attack”(page 330), (92), Hitler and Gertrude Stein [“Hitler reminds one of Gertrude Stein in his fanatical worship of mindlessness” and  “homicidal lunatics” (page 332)] , (93), The perpetual mobile [“How is mankind to rid itself of adolescents who contrive to climb into the signal box?” (page 333)] , (94), Old favourites [Chamberlain  declares war on Germany, 3 September 1939; “Winston Churchill's House of Commons speech, an hour later, about the “sunshine in his heart” jarred on our taught sensibilities” (page 336)], (95), Locusts [war-making Germans compared  to thermotropic locusts “But their movements are due not so much to the heat of the sun as by Mars” ].

Epilogue: “ Everyone, save the people living deceptively on their memories, wants a new world. What kind of world is it to be?” (page 341, [1]) . William Gerhardie then sets out his vision of a new world  in which the curse of “sovereignty” is minimized; all people receive an entitlement of education, democratic participation, opportunity, cultural security  and a minimum unearned income for all; and scientists and economists govern  expertly  for the benefit of the 99% rather than for the One Percenters.

William Gerhardie summarizes the thrust of “God's Fifth Columns” in writing about the 1899 European powers conference at The Hague  (p86, the 1990 Hogarth Press edition [1]): “Had Russia sent Tolstoy, France Anatole France, England Bernard Shaw, and Germany, say, Herman Hesse, they could have achieved a permanent world peace by signing away with alacrity, for good and all, each on behalf of his respective country – and more power to his elbow! – that altogether fantastic “sovereignty” which is the alpha and omega of all the inane mischief, all the useless,  never-ending bloodshed in the world.” Gerhardie came up with a brilliant suggestion of one-on-one meetings of national representatives to solve conflicts, initially between kings and Emperors (e.g between British WW1 head of state George V - George Frederick Ernest Albert; 3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 until his death; a grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and the first cousin of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany – and his cousin Kaiser Wilhelm) and thence between respective Prime Ministers, respective other statesmen, respective ambassadors (all of which failed before WW1) and finally between respective “ordinary people”,  at which point, for example, respective  “ordinary” industrial  workers or housewives would decide not to sentence themselves, their children and millions of their fellow citizens to ghastly deaths but to opt instead for economic compromises, economic cooperation, amity, sporting competitions, and cultural exchanges. Gerahardie's scheme involved internment of the unsuccessful interlocutors – from “head of Government” down to “trade union leader, worker, artist, doctor, dentist or musician - in a neutral or the other's country.

After  proposing this scheme – “the one available to a child who can in an emergency stop an express train by pulling the communications cord” -  in the middle of the book (Chapter 51, page 188),   Gerhardie sadly comments on the failure of the 1910 American Congress plan for an international peace-keeping force: “America's timely counsel of common sense went unheeded by Europe, with two world wars to follow as the price of Foreign Office sagacity”.(page 189). Gerhardie comments on the Kaiser's rejection of: “a method he had marginally annotated as “Rubbish” when Nicholas II in July 1914 had telegraphed his view that the conflict should be relegated for arbitration at the International Tribunal at The Hague ” (page 195, [1]).

The power of ordinary people was eventually realized with the fall of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and of  his cousin Tsar Nicholas II of Russia . However no such luck in Britain . According to Robin Cook writing in The Guardian (2004) : “[George Bernard] Shaw's polemic on the folly of the British government in participating in the first world war was so magnificent that it immediately made him the target of patriots on the home front. His books were removed from libraries, his plays from London 's West End and the son of prime minister Asquith called for him to be shot. True to its long tradition of liberal vacillation, the Guardian refused to publish a letter from him because "one's duty now is to encourage and unite people". Shaw's response to these critics was an uncompromising call to the soldiers of both armies to "shoot their officers and go home”” [2].

 The Mainstream media then as now utterly deceived and disempowered the ordinary people. Thus John Pilger (outstanding expatriate Australian UK writer and journalist) reviewing “The First Casualty” by Phillip Knightley (2003) [3]: When I read the first edition of this remarkable book twenty-five years ago, I was struck by the following quotations. During the First World War, Prime Minister David Lloyd George told C P Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian: "If the people really knew [the truth] the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don't know and can't know" [4].

Such lying and jingoistic attitudes still prevail. into the 21st century. Thus Australia took part with the UK and the US in the illegal and war criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003 (zero Australian combat deaths but 1.5 million violent Iraqi deaths, 1.2 million avoidable Iraqi deaths from war-imposed deprivation and 0.8 million under-5 year old Iraqi infant deaths, 90% avoidable and due to gross violation of the Geneva Convention by the war criminal US Alliance [5]). John Valder, a former president of the conservative Australian Liberal Party, condemned the invasion as a war crime and called for the persecution of US President George W. Bush (aka Dubbya), UK PM Tony Blair (aka Bliar) and Australian Liberal PM John Howard (aka “Honest John” Howard) as war criminals (2004): “ Bush, Blair, and Howard, as leaders of the three members of the coalition of the willing, inflicted enormous suffering on the people of Iraq. And, as such, they are criminals. I believe the only deterrent to a repetition of the Iraq situation is punishment in some form as war criminals" [6]. In contrast, the taxpayer –funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation (the ABC, Australia's equivalent of the endlessly censoring  UK BBC and which has an appalling record of censorship) egregiously understated human cost of  the Iraq War (2.7 million dead, 5-6 million refugees) as “a war that left tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,500 American soldiers dead, many more wounded and 1.75 million Iraqis displaced, after the 2003 US-led invasion unleashed brutal sectarian fighting” [7] (see). Further, the ABC responded to John Pilger's incisive condemnation f the Iraq War by obtaining top QC legal advice that he would face prosecution the new Anti-Terrorism Bill if he returned to Australia [8].

“Honest John” Howard was recently awarded an Honorary  Doctorate of Laws by the University of New South Wales (its highest honour) [9].. In 2014 “Honest John” Howard made his collected papers publicly available in a deal with the University of NSW [10]. The University of NSW has a sorry record of alleged involvement in scientific fraud and has exchange programs with 5 university and/or  and research institutions in nuclear terrorist, democracy-by-genocide Apartheid Israel [11] where  forests on ethnically cleansed Indigenous Palestinian  land have been named after PM John Howard and other right-wing and war-making Australian political figures [12]. The first such JNF forest was created in 1917 to honour the Australian forces who conquered Palestine [12] and the pro-Zionist Labor Gillard Government issued stamps in English and Hebrew to commemorate this. The  Australian ANZAC Surafend Massacre of about 100 Palestinians commenced the Palestinian Genocide (2 million deaths from violence, 0.1 million, or from violently-imposed deprivation, 1.9 million, since 1936, 6 million Palestinian excluded from living in Palestine, 4.3 million Occupied Palestinians living under Israeli guns and Apartheid Israeli military rule without human rights,  of 12 million Palestinians only 0.8 million Palestinian Israelis  permitted to vote for the government ruling all of Palestine [13]; and horrendous Apartheid Israeli child abuse against 3 million exiled Palestinian children outside of Palestine, 2.2 million Occupied Palestinian children, 0.9 million Palestinian Israeli children, 2 million Jewish Israeli children, 5 million Jewish children in general worldwide, 750 million Muslim children, 3 billion Third World children and indeed potentially, through worsening climate genocide, all 3.5 billion children of the world [14, 15]).

While William Gerhardie dealt in detail with  Arthur Balfour (1848- 1930), an extremely wealthy, Cambridge Trinity College-trained  philosopher steel industry heir at 21 and UK PM 1902-1905, violent suppressor of the Irish agrarian poor, Leader of the Opposition 1906 – 1911 , First Lord of the Admiralty 1915-1916, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 1916-1919,   war profiteer,  warmonger, snob and thieving, racist author  of the infamous Balfour Declaration that allocated the newly-conquered land of the Palestinians as a Jewish Homeland (albeit with the rapidly ignored caveat of no detriment to either Jews or Indigenous Palestinians:  “ His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country ” [16]).  Balfour famously declared (as one of Britain 's richest people) “ Nothing matters very much and few things matter at all” [17] .

Gerhardie commented on childless and unmarried Balfour thus : “Dear Arthur , whose hand in Irish politics in the closing  century was to pave the way for De Valera, and whose hand in making the peace by pandering to the senile cynicism of Clemenceau was to pave the way for Hitler, and whose early graduation and long experience in diplomacy was to culminate in an achievement which set the Jews and Arabs by the ears in Palestine”(page 87 [1]). According to Jewish British Zionist and historian Professor Sir Martin Gilbert, the Balfour Declaration (1917) was made to get traitorous Russian Zionists  to try to keep Russia in the war  (they were unsuccessful) [18].  12 million variously grossly violated Indigenous  Palestinians  today can well understand the racist, humanity-despising mentality of Arthur Balfour that enabled him to dispassionately declare “ Nothing matters very much and few things matter at all”.

William Gerhardie quotes a bitter Walt Whitman on the futility  of a perverted world (p69): “The melancholy prudence of the abandonment of such a great being as man is, to the toss and pallor of years to money making, with all their scorching days and icy nights, and all their stifling deceits and underhand dodgings, or infinitesimals of parlors, or shameless stuffing while other s starve, and all the loss of the bloom and the odor of the earth . and of the  flowers and atmosphere, and of the sea, and of the true taste of men and women you pass or have to do with in youth or middle age, and the insuing sickness and desperate revolt at the close of a life without elevation or naïveté (even if you have achieved a secure 10,000 a year and election to Congress), and the ghastly chatter of a death without serenity or majesty, is the great fraud upon modern civilization.”  

Gerhardie saw WW1 and thence WW2 as fundamentally deriving from competing national economic systems that wanted a fair share or more than a fair share of  dominating world markets for national Establishment profit (“the scramble for world markets”). Restricted from domestic sales of goods to the impoverished workers producing them, the imperialist powers sought to export goods and accompanying debt to the world at large.   

Gerhardie details the dichotomy between “Aristotelian  [empiricism] exploitation of reason for purposes of power” and “the Platonic Idea of truth and beauty hiding behind the shadow of material form”. (page 274). One is reminded by the view of brilliant  Hungarian mathematician  and outstanding number theory problem-solver Paul Erdös who made the distinction between, on the one hand,  applied mathematics and creating better models for reality from the atom to the universe [this culminating power-wise in the hydrogen bomb], and pure mathematics deriving elegant proofs for pure equations that are utterly independent of physical reality [19]. (I must note that Paul Erdös came to our home for lunch in Hobart , Tasmania , when I was a teenager, and I was most impressed as a child when instead of using a fork he lined up half a dozen peas on a butter-smeared knife).

Gerhardie fulminates against journalism and its role in war: "The Aristotelian exploitation of reason for purposes of power can be traced in advertising, in  politics, and particularly in journalism, which is a debased Aristotelian form of using human failings and weaknesses to extract power by deliberately exploiting these failings and weaknesses. Literature is an intuitive communication of the Platonic Idea of truth and beauty hiding behind the shadow of its material form. If journalism and modern advertising are debased forms of literature, propaganda is debased journalism. But journalism as exploitation of suspense, trading as it does on human restlessness, is equally despicable whether it takes the form of detective fiction, films, plays or magazine stores. Art, communicating the eternal reality of the Platonic Idea which invests objects and persons alike with the breath of life, is constitutive, not conceptual, and as such it is independent of artificial stimulants. The criterion of a genuine work of literature is that you can open it at any page to savour each passage for itself, without the narcotic of induced  excitement in the shape of knowing what has come before and speculating on what is to happen next, commonly called "a plot". If a book is worth reading at all it is worth reading more than once... This, then, is the exploitation of the Word for profit - the generic term of this remunerative if thoroughly un-Platonic pursuit being "journalism"... After this to the final deception - national propaganda - is not not far to sink. Propaganda is indeed is the last refuge of journalism."

“God's Fifth Column” concludes (in about 1942) with a final Epilogue chapter “The Future” that provides  useful glimpse of what the world  could be like after the defeat of German Nazism in WW2: “God's Fifth Column, sabotaging all inconclusive formations, works towards the building of a human society resting upon the only foundation acceptable to God. Having considered the self-satisfied physiognomy of the Age during the last 5 decades, foaming at the mouth in the present sixth, the question naturally poses itself: Do you want to go back to it? The answer will probably be that, in so far as the preceding five decades have caused the explosion of the 1940s, they may not be repeated. Everyone, save the people living deceptively on their memories, wants a new world. What kind of world is it to be?” (page 341, [1]).

Gerhardie envisages a New World dominated by an overwhelming consensus of ordinary people and a “world that will include with the noblest and best elements of communism  the vitalising principle of individual free enterprise, while eschewing the names associated in the opposite camp only with the noxious aspects of the conflicting economic systems. We want a world in which the gold standard is replaced by the human standard, the dollar unit by the human unit. We want a world in which every adult human being receives as his birthright, in universal currency, say, one dollar a day, that dollar being a regulated in relation to world-market prices as to form the irreducible standard of his daily subsistence, the inducement to work springing, not from abject necessity but from the common human wish to augment his comfort and embellish his existence …we want scientific world control on the one hand, and personal liberty on the other... We want the League of Nations palace to expand into a World Academy of scientists and economists instructed so to balance the housekeeping accounts of the planet as to encourage, within an adjustable framework of world control, the free play for private initiative. We want them to do precisely that which made Goethe wonder why so comparatively easy an equation should have been beyond the wit of man to work out and maintain: the balancing of an automatic system whereby the violent swinging of the pendulum, whether of politics or economics, is perpetually neutralised, and the defeat of liberty by oligarchy perpetually obviated. The demand is for stability ensuring mobility; uniformity of educational prestige ensuring individual diversity; the economic revolution of universal endowment ensuring a contented conservatism; the pooling of national sovereignties in a supranational order accentuating, far from obliterating, the true cultural development of individual nations. We want the common people to come into their legacy of leisure and culture in order to shed their commonness and become uncommon. We want the meek to inherit the earth. We want our nations to inherit and cherish their cultures” {pages 341-34, [1]).

 21st century Epilogue

André Gide wrote (1891) that “Toutes choses son dites déjà, mais comme personne n' écoute, il faut toujours recommencer” (“Everything has been said before; but since nobody listens, we have to keep going back and beginning all over again” [20, 21]. As variously sourced to George Santayana, “History ignored yields history repeated” , this being the theme of my huge book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of  British History” [22]. A search of the BBC for “William Gerhardie” reveals one reference  only and that  to his novel “The Polyglots” – “Gods Fifth Column” has been consigned to oblivion by the BBC. The Australian ABC ( Australia 's equivalent of the  UK BBC) has similarly hidden  William Gerhardie and “Gods Fifth Column”  away as unfit for its audience to read, know about or think about.  As long as the neoliberal One Percenters and their lackeys censor horrendous reality, history is condemned to be repeated. Yet Western Mainstream media have an appalling record of  lying by omission and lying by commission that utterly sabotages rational risk management for societal safety [23-31].  

I have a mantra that I endlessly espouse, specifically “Peace is the only way but silence kills and silence is complicity”. “Peace is the only way” is obvious to all sane people but not to “homicidal lunatics” of the kind described by William Gerhardie. Indeed Gerhardie was despairingly reduced to elementary school child-based arguments (if a child can “get it” why then can't adults? ) e.g. “ “the [approach]  available to a child who can in an emergency stop an express train by pulling the communications cord” (page 188, [1]). Ostensible “democracy” is now widespread but the extraordinary concentration of wealth (with 1% one percent of the world's population owning over 40% of the world's assets, with the bottom half holding 1% [32]) has transformed democracies into Murdochracies, Lobbyocracies and Corporatocracies in which Big Money purchases people, politicians, parties, polices, public perception f reality and political power. Radical transformation of the media (via the Internet) and radical action by the 99% are required to disempower the neoliberal One Percenters and save Humanity from different and possibly terminal repetitions of the kind of WW1 and WW2 horrors that impelled the writing of “God's Fifth Column” by William Gerhardie. .  .

WW1 was associated with 5.5 million military dead and 4.1 million military  missing on the Allied side and 4.4 million military killed and 3.6 million missing on the German side  [33 ]. Civilian casualties were minimal if one sets aside the 50-100  million dead from the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic that would have been spread by returning soldiers, especially in the British  Empire (17 million such deaths in India [34]). .WW2 was associated with 16 million military dead and about 80 million civilian deaths on the Allied side and 8 million military  dead and 4 million civilian dead on the Axis side [35].  The Allied civilian dead included 30 million Slavs, Jews and Gypsies killed by the Nazis in the EWW2 European Holocaust , 40 million Chinese deaths in the WW2 Chinese Holocaust under Japanese Occupation (1937-1945), and 6-7 million Indians deliberately starved to death in 1942-1945 Bengali Holocaust by the British with Australian complicity [22, 36-38].  

However the world is facing far worse  mass mortality from poverty, and potentially near-terminal mass mortality from nuclear weapons,  and global warming. Avoidable mortality from First World-imposed deprivation has killed 1.3 billion people since 1950, mostly in the Developing World [36]. Currently 18 million people die annually from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease in a worsening Global Avoidable Mortality  Holocaust in the Third World (minus China ) on Spaceship Earth with the US in charge of the flight deck. Nuclear weapons with the capacity to wipe out Humanity are currently held by the US, UK, France, Russia, China, Pakistan , India, Apartheid Israel and North Korea (South Africa gave up its Apartheid Israel-acquired nuclear weapons after the collapse of South African Apartheid in 1993). Carbon burning currently kills 7 million people each year with climate change per se killing another 0.5 million [39 - 41]. However climate change inaction is predicted to kill 10 billion people this century [42]. Hence the urgency of  listening  to the likes of William Gerhardie and disempowering the genocidal, ecocidal and indeed terracidal  One Percenters.

Ideas similar to those of  William Gerhardie  have been taken up by others. Thus the idea of World Government is implicit in the post-WW2 United Nations. UK writer George Monbiot has argued for a World  Parliament with national representation based on population size (i.e. One Person One Vote) [43]. Australian writer Pramod David Khristy has advocated a World Parliament and education and humanity-based censorship to eliminate religion-based violence [44]. Gerhardie's notion of unearned income (1 pound per day, 365 pounds per year) is implicit in the welfare state and the ideal of an evolving social humanism that maximized human opportunity, health and happiness and is an alternative to the clearly failed currently–dominant neoliberalism that maximizes the wealth of the smart and advantaged.  One Percenters and their supportive aspirants [45, 46]. Indeed I have argued for a global tax that would lift Third World incomes to several thousand dollars  annually,  and if properly applied and accompanied by peace, good primary health care, high literacy and good governance in general, would abolish the Global Avoidable Mortality Holocaust that is killing 18 million people each year [36]. Put simply, Gerhardie's idea of a socialist safety net  with the human nature-impelled opportunity to “get ahead”  is now a necessity if we are to save the planet.

Finally, one must note for balance in hindsight  that William Gerhardie (1895-1977)  was an English  Christian and a member of the British Empire . There is no mention of India in his book nor of the Indian Holocaust  in which 1.8 billion Indians died avoidably from deprivation under the rapacious British Empire which inflicted  genocide on a global scale [22, 36]. Nor in dealing with “little Belgium ” invaded by Germany in 1914 does Gerhardie make any reference to the 10 million Congolese butchered by the Belgians to encourage rubber and ivory collection [36]. However one must also note that European atrocities such as the 2 century British-imposed  Indian Holocaust are still deleted from contemporary Mainstream  histories in the 21st century and Mainstream  censorship would have ensured that William Gerhardie would not have been aware of them 70 years ago [22, 36].

What can we decent, “little” people do to save us from the remorselessly worsening One Percenter scenario? Decent people must (a) inform everyone they can (especially children who are facing a massive threat from climate injustice and intergenerational inequity [40]) , (b) urge and apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against all people, politicians, parties,  companies, corporations and countries disproportionately  involved  in the current, neoliberal, Gadarene rush to disaster, and (c)  urge and indeed effect public trials of the war criminals and climate criminals   (if need be by non-government tribunals of eminent people and indeed by Children's Courts).

Thus, for example, 12 million people have died from violence or from war-imposed deprivation, half of them children,  in the post-1990, Zionist–promoted US War on Muslims [47] .  Thus anti-racist  Jewish British  writer Harold Pinter in his Nobel Prize Acceptance speech declared “We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'. How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice” [48]. 12 million? More than enough, I would have thought. As we approach the centenary of  the start of World War I all decent people must reject the accompanying right-wing jingoism and demand an end to war and zero tolerance for warmongers.


[1].  William Gerhardie,  “God's Fifth Column. A biography of the Age 1890-1940” (Hodder & Stoughton, 1981; The Hogarth Press, 1990,  with editing and an Introduction by Michael Holroyd and Robert Skidelsky).

[2]. Robin Cook , “The power of unreasonable man”, The Guardian, 2 October 2004: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/oct/02/society.politics and in ”Fabian Thinkers: 120 years of progressive thought”, published by the Fabian Society.

[3]. Phillip Knightley, “The First Casualty”.

[4]. John Pilger quoting Phillip Knightley  in “The people don't know and can't know”, Evatt Foundation, 13 March 2003 : http://evatt.org.au/news/people-dont-know-and-cant-know.html .

[5]. “Iraqi Holocaust Iraqi Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/iraqiholocaustiraqigenocide/ .

[6]. “Howard is a war criminal; says former colleague”, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 July 2004: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/07/18/1090089035899.html .

[7]. “ US military marks end of its Iraq war”, ABC News,  16 December 2011: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-12-15/us-military-marks-end-of-its-war-in-iraq/3733982 .

[8]. “Seditious opinion? Lock ‘em up!”, Media Watch, ABC TV,  24 October 2005: http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s1489465.htm .

[9]. “UNSW honours former PM John Howard”, UNSW Newsroom, 21 June 2013: http://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/general/unsw-honours-former-pm-john-howard .

[10]. Ross Peake, “John Howard's papers available at University of NSW ”, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 March 2014: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/john-howards-papers-available-at-university-of-nsw-20140320-3552w.html .

[11]. University of NSW International , “Exchange Partners”; http://www.international.unsw.edu.au/partners/academicinstitution/?country=52&exchange_partner_type = .

[12]. Jewish National Fund of Australia, “JNF's projects in Australia ”: http://www.jnf.org.au/Page/JNF-Australias-projects-in-Israel.cfm .

[13]. “Palestinian Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/ .

[14]. Gideon Polya. “Zionist-Perverted Western Mainstream Media  Ignore Horrendous US Alliance And Apartheid Israeli Child Abuse”,  Countercurrents, 29 April 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya290414.htm .

[15]. Gideon Polya, “ Horrendous Pro-Zionist, Zionist And Apartheid Israeli Child Abuse Exposed”, Countercurrents , 21 April 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya210414.htm .

[16]. Balfour Declaration, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balfour_Declaration .

[17]. Arthur Balfour, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Balfour .

[18].  Martin Gilbert (1994), The First World War  (Holt) (p373).

[19]. Paul Hoffman, “The Man who Loved Only Numbers. The story of Paul Erdos and the search for mathematical truth”.

[20]. André Gide, Le Traité du Narcisse” (1891).

[21]. Allan Walker, “Everything has been said”(a canon for LW) (2002-2014), performed by Astra Choir, 2nd Lawrence Whiffin Concert, Melbourne , 4 May 2014.

[22]. Gideon Polya, “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History”, now available for free perusal on the web: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com.au/  .

[23]. “Censorship by the BBC”: https://sites.google.com/site/censorshipbythebbc/ .

[24]. “Boycott Murdoch media”: https://sites.google.com/site/boycottmurdochmedia/  .

[25].  “Censorship by The Conversation”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/censorship-by  .

[26]. “Mainstream media censorship”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/home  . 

[27].  “Mainstream media lying”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammedialying/  .

[28].  “Censorship by The Age”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/censorship-by-the-age .  

[29]. “Censorship by ABC Late Night Live”: https://sites.google.com/site/censorshipbyabclatenightlive/   .

[30].   "Censorship by ABC Saturday Extra": https://sites.google.com/site/censorshipbyabclatenightlive/censorship-by-abc-sat  .  

[31]. “ABC fact-checking unit & incorrect reportage by the ABC ( Australia 's BBC)”: https://sites.google.com/site/mainstreammediacensorship/abc-fact-checking-unit .

[32]. Joan Erakit, “A tale of two worlds”, Inter Press Service, 2 May 2014: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/01/tale-two-worlds/ .

[33]. “World War I”, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I .

[34]. “1918 flu pandemic”, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1918_flu_pandemic .

[35]. ‘World War II”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II .

[36]. Gideon Polya, “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950”, this including an avoidable mortality-related history of every country since Neolithic times and now available  for free perusal on the web: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/body-count-global-avoidable-mortality_05.html .

[37]. Edward Herman and David Peterson, “The Politics of Genocide”.

[38]. Gideon Polya, “Book Review: “The Politics of Genocide” by Edward Herman and David Peterson”, Countercurrents , 5 December, 2011: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya051211.htm .

[39].  “Are we doomed? Too late to save earth?", 300.org: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/are-we-doomed .

[40]. “Climate Justice & Intergenerational Equity”:   https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/climate-justice .

[41]. “2011 climate change course”: https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/2011-climate-change-course .

[42]. “Climate Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/ .

[43]. George Monbiot, “The best way to give the poor a real voice is through a world parliament”, Guardian, 24 April 2007: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/apr/24/comment.politics1 .   

[44]. Pramod David Khristy. “Imagine. A book on race, religion and patriotism”.

[45]. Brian Ellis, “Social Humanism. A New Metaphysics”.

[46]. Gideon Polya , “Book Review: “Social Humanism. A New Metaphysics” By Brian Ellis -  Last Chance To Save Planet?”,  Countercurrents , 19 August, 2012: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya190812.htm .

[47]. “Muslim Holocaust Muslim Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/muslimholocaustmuslimgenocide/ .

[48].  Harold Pinter, “Art, Truth and Politics”, Countercurrents, 8 December 2005: http://www.countercurrents.org/arts-pinter081205.htm .

Dr Gideon Polya has been teaching science students at a major Australian university for 4 decades. He published some 130 works in a 5 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London , 2003). He has published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://globalbodycount.blogspot.com/ ); see also his contributions “Australian complicity in Iraq mass mortality” in “Lies, Deep Fries & Statistics” (edited by Robyn Williams, ABC Books, Sydney, 2007: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/stories/s1445960.htm ) and “Ongoing Palestinian Genocide” in “The Plight of the Palestinians (edited by William Cook, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010: http://mwcnews.net/focus/analysis/4047-the-plight-of-the-palestinians.html ). He has published a revised and updated 2008 version of his 1998 book “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (see: http://janeaustenand.blogspot.com/ ) as biofuel-, globalization- and climate-driven global food price increases threaten a greater famine catastrophe than the man-made famine in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million Indians in the “forgotten” World War 2 Bengal Famine (see recent BBC broadcast involving Dr Polya, Economics Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen and others: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/social-economic-history/listen-the-bengal-famine ). When words fail one can say it in pictures - for images of Gideon Polya's huge paintings for the Planet, Peace, Mother and Child see: http://sites.google.com/site/artforpeaceplanetmotherchild/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonpolya/ .




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