George Walford: The Intellectual and the People

The Intellectual and the People

[“Dear Mr. Walford, Many thanks for your letter of 26th June, and for the pamphlet ‘The Intellectual and the People.’ I have read it with interest and would like to discuss it with you. I have been working along somewhat similar lines for many years, in an unsystematised way.” – George Orwell, 30 June 1945]

I. Who Are “The People”?

Recent developments in Greece, Poland, Belgium, France and elsewhere have emphasised the existence of widely divergent views as to the political and economic future of these countries. Opinions which have been suppressed during the years of enemy occupation spring vigorously and often violently into prominence so soon as the repression is ended; the governments of the other United Nations, each with its distinctive attitude and outlook, also take part, and the situation becomes so complicated as almost to defy analysis. Even within those countries which are not most immediately affected, attitudes towards the problems of reconstruction in the liberated countries arise from a range of outlooks so widely divergent as to appear almost irreconcilable. Within Britain, for example, some are prepared to support the Premier in whatever decisions he may take, others maintain that no solution is possible without a thorough reorganisation of society as a whole.

The terms Left- and Right-wing cover most of these outlooks and their supporters, but there are large numbers of people (perhaps the largest single group) who are content to express no definite opinion, do not attach themselves to any political position, and seem prepared to give at least passive acquiescence to the policy of whatever government is in power, whether it be Socialist or Conservative. The workers being very much in the majority, it is not surprising that most of these people should belong to that class, but they are also found in considerable numbers among the middle and upper classes.

This is the group which we shall refer to as “the people,” as distinct from Liberals, Conservatives, Communists, or supporters of any other definite political position.

Clearly distinguished from this group are those who attempt to penetrate beneath the surface of political events and arrive at the underlying causes; those, in a word, who are interested in political theory – the intellectuals. Members of this group also are to be found among all economic classes.

We are, of course, not the first to perceive this distinction; on the contrary, there appears to be a considerable body of opinion which regards with serious misgivings the apparent gulf between those who take an intelligent, critical interest in social problems and those who are concerned with them (if at all in a sporadic and superficial fashion. We have all heard such remarks as: “The people are themselves responsible for the present condition of society; they should take more interest in politics.” Or, to take more specific examples:

I have now worked in most parts of the Country, North South, East and the Midlands, and in London and the surrounding suburbs; and everywhere the greatest enemy is apathy. This appalling unconcern and non-political consciousness of the electorate was even more pronounced in Rusholme than elsewhere. The attitude we encountered most frequently on the doorsteps was complete and abysmal dejection, utter disillusionment regarding all political parties, and an abandonment of hope – a sort of stoical acceptance of life as it is lived now, Without the realisation that something better could be forthcoming. One felt a great and overwhelming pity for these people… (I. Bailey in Common Wealth Review, Aug. 1944)

You might think that it would be the natural desire of every man to develop as an independent personality, but this does not seem to be true. Because they are either economically or psychologically predisposed there are many people who find safety in numbers, happiness in anonymity, and dignity in routine. They ask for nothing better than to be sheep under a shepherd, soldiers under a captain, slaves under a tyrant. The few that must expand become the shepherds, the captains and leaders of these Willing followers. (Herbert Read in The Philosophy of Anarchism, p.9.)

Some at least of the intellectuals are becoming unpleasantly aware of the extent of their separation from the people. Further, an indirect admission that such a division exists lies in every statement of the hope or belief that at some future date the masses will come to take an active, intelligent interest in social problems, will adopt an attitude similar to that of the intellectuals. When Professor Levy, for example, says:

By striving to permeate social life with the spirit of critical foresight, by seeking to guide conduct with accurate knowledge, science may yet carve out a new future for mankind. (Science and the Changing World, p.106.)

it evidently follows that as yet social life is not permeated with the spirit of critical foresight.

Sometimes this consciousness becomes sufficiently intense to produce a defeatist attitude. Between the wars more than one intellectual attempted to solve the problem by joining the Fascists, and more recently the American Communist Party was disbanded, its leader, Earl Browder, making a statement to the effect that the American masses were not sufficiently advanced for a distinct Communist organisation to serve any useful purpose.

Such cases, however, are rather the exception than the rule. It is not difficult to see that this must be so – if the consciousness of a gap between themselves and the people were general among political intellectuals it would be at least irrational of them to persist in using the methods and procedures which have been in vogue during the century or more in which this division has appeared.

So far we have been concerned only to show that there is some reason for believing that a separation exists; it is also important to see how far the intellectuals are removed from the masses. In our opinion it is hardly too much to say that the extent of the division cannot be exaggerated. Consider these two quotations, the first from a highly successful scheme of mass advertising,[1] the second from a journal which, while intended for the mass, is actually limited in circulation to a small number of intellectuals:

The happiest snappiest paper… gripping features in to-day’s issue – drunkard’s daughter became a queen. Her marriage caused a revolution. British sergeant flogged to death by blacks. Blood-curdling story of one of the vilest of military crimes on record. Romantic story of only Film star who is a great-grandmother. A teetotaller, but loves playing ‘drunk’ parts. In 400 passionate love letters a woman revealed to lover her diabolical plot to poison her husband… EVERYBODY’S HAPPY WITH EVERYBODY’S.” (Advertisement for Everybody’s Weekly, quoted in This England Annual, 1937.)

The Socialist Party of Great Britain.
(1) That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (i.e. land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced. (2) That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce, and those who produce but do not possess. (3) That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution and their democratic control by the whole people. (Printed in every issue of the Socialist Standard, monthly organ of the Socialist Party of Great Britain.)

Large numbers of people are almost ignorant of the very existence of political intellectuals. As concerns the people as a whole, the intellectuals are suflficiently remote for the masses to take no interest whatever in the conflicts and oppositions between the various intellectual groups. Trotskyist may oppose Communist, Communist Socialist, and Anarchist everybody; to adapt Kipling, there may be

… nine-and-ninety ways
Of deciding what Marx says,
And every single one of them (according to all the others) is wrong.

Yet the film or football fan, the reader of Tit-Bits or the News of the World, the polo or golf enthusiast, is unaware of any difference between them, so far removed are the political intellectuals from his sphere of interest.

Since this is merely introductory, enough has perhaps been said to indicate the subject-matter of this pamphlet. We have made out at least a prima facie case to show that there is a gap – and a wide one – between the intellectuals and the people. One thing more. The masses show no signs of disturbance at the thought of a separation between themselves and the intellectuals; these latter, on the other hand, if their theories are to be realised in practice, must obtain some considerable mass support.

The existence of a gap between the intellectuals and the masses is a matter of indifference to the mass, but a critical problem for the intellectuals. So long as this problem remains unsolved it is difficult to see how they can exercise any considerable influence on social development.

II. Left! Right!

We are not alone in believing that there is a very close relationship between “intellectual ” and Left-wing – both Mr. Churchill and the Daily Herald agree with us. In his New Year Message (1945) to the Primrose League, Mr. Churchill quoted with approval a speech by Disraeli:

In a progressive country change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change, which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws, the traditions of the people, or in deference to abstract principles and arbitrary and general doctrines.

The Daily Herald commented :

It is true that the Right draws its inspiration from the past, whereas the Left looks to the future; it is true that the Right tends to be the Party of expediency and opportunism, whereas the Left tends to be the Party of theory and abstract principle… (Daily Herald, January 2nd, 1945.)

(Communists also are in favour of expediency, but with an important difference. Briefly, the Communist maintains a theory of expediency, whereas the Conservative merely acts expediently.)

We cannot simply identify the Mass with the Right-wing, for, as we have already indicated, a large number of people (probably the largest single group) associate themselves with no political position. It will be seen, however, that the ideology of this group is more akin to that of the Conservatives, who tend to distrust abstract theorising, than to that of the Left-wing, which is greatly concerned with the validity of its theory.

There is no lack of evidence of the Conservative distrust of theory. We give two examples:

The Tory mind has always had a distaste for those abstract principles so dear to the Iacobin, the Radical, the Socialist and the Communist. The Rights of Man, Democratic Ideas, Abstract Justice, Social Contracts, all the stock-in-trade of the Encyclopaedist and the doctrinaire, are to the Tory mind dangerous idols upon whose altars the happiness of peoples has been sacrificed over and over again. (Sir R. M. Banks: The Conservative Outlook, p.7.)

… the beliefs of the Right are descended from the belief of a great mass of people held for hundreds of years, based on the observation of life and not on a priori reasoning. These beliefs are first a humility of the intellect and therefore a trust in continuity; a conviction that whatever has worked once may work again; and finally a certain optimism, believing that external affairs are on balance friendly to mankind, that they are good, albeit good and irrational… (Sir Walter Elliot: Toryism and the Twentieth Century, p.4.)

Other instances are to be found in such accounts of the Tory outlook as Bryant’s Spirit of Conservatism, and there are some particularly well-selected examples in L. S. Stebbing’s Thinking to Some Purpose.

Further evidence of the Left-wing’s greater concern with theory is to be found on the shelves of the public libraries. There are usually several shelves of books on Socialism, Communism and other “advanced” theories, but very few works on Conservatism, and even these are commonly prefaced with an apology. The attitude of many Conservative authors appears to be: “We Conservatives are plain, practical men, and we don’t believe in a lot of book-learning, but we can’t let the Left-wing have it all their own way.”

III Will the People Think?

This lack of contact between the Left-wing and the people, when it is recognised, is often regarded as a temporary state of affairs, arising from present conditions. There is, however, strong evidence in favour of the view that it is something fundamental and enduring.

One fact which would seem almost to establish that it is very far from being simply a question of conditions is that the majority of those who have come to understand and support Left-Wing theory live under the same conditions, broadly speaking, as the majority of those who have not.

Fundamental to Left-wing theory is the claim that any difference which may exist between the conditions of different sections of the working-class is negligible when compared with the contrast between the conditions of this class as a whole and the capitalist class as a whole. Yet a minority of the workers and a small but significant number of the “bourgeoisie,” have come to take a critical, more or less scientific interest in social problems and political theory, while the great majority in each class are content to ignore such matters.

When different people react in such different ways to similar conditions, how can it be maintained that the conditions are the determining factor?

What then is it that determines whether a man shall support the Left-wing or remain politically uninterested? Comparison of the majority of Left-wing journals with the popular and Right-wing press will show that the former make considerably greater demands on the intelligence of their readers. This is not due to any wilful obscurantism on the part of the Left-wing; such theories are not capable of expression in terms which appeal to the masses at their present intellectual level. Consider this example:

Everywhere… the common people of this earth are saying ‘We’ve had enough of the centuries of privilege and tyranny, of oligarchy and dictatorship; through centuries of struggle we, with our hands and labour, have created the means to potential sufficiency .’ (Common Wealth Review, January, 1945.)

“Oligarchy,” “means to potential sufiiciency ” – who ever heard a common man (a non-intellectual) speak like that?

Should this not carry conviction, we suggest trying to reword the quotation from the Socialist Standard on p.3 into the style of the advertisement for Everybody’s.

If the gap between the people and the intellectual is to be closed by their coming to understand what he is talking about, then, say some intellectuals, the general level of intelligence must be raised. “Intelligence” is a term with which we are all familiar, but which it is extremely difficult to define precisely. One of the few questions, however, on which practically all psychologists are agreed, is that no amount of training can increase it. (For a rather fuller treatment of this point, see Understanding the Mass Mind, in this same series.)

Here the objection may well arise that the Left-wing intellectuals do not simply assert that they will eventually receive mass support; they also claim to show the mechanism whereby this will come about. Maintaining that they represent the economic interests of the workers, they argue that when, following improvements in education and what is alleged to be an inevitable worsening of their conditions, the workers come to realise that they will be exploited so long as the present system endures, it must follow that they will finally become convinced supporters of one or other of the “advanced” parties.

There is an ambiguity in this argument. It may be put as a paradox: the workers as a whole display very little interest in their economic interests. The Left-wing may stand for changes which would benefit the masses, but it is at least inaccurate to represent it as expressing the wishes of the people as a whole.

More important is the unwarranted assumption that the workers – or the members of any other class – will necessarily adopt the course of action which reason indicates as being objectively to their advantage. It is hardly necessary for us to prove that so far the broad masses have not shown any great enthusiasm for Socialism or Communism, (Soviet Russia is no exception to this. The mass of the supporters – mainly illiterate peasants – of the Bolshevik Revolution no more understood or desired Socialism or Communism than they did the Binomial Theorem. The Revolution was largely carried through on the slogan “Peace, Bread, and the Land to the Peasants,” which is pretty far removed from theoretical Communism and even today Communist Party members form a very small minority of the Russian people.) This lack of enthusiasm for advanced ideas is commonly explained as being largely a result of the limited resources of the Left-wing – it is sometimes argued that only a minority of the people have yet come into contact with Left-wing theory. This may or may not be true; in any case it does not follow that if the Left-wing are ever able to carry on really wide-spread campaigns they will attract mass support, for the evidence shows that of those who have encountered these theories only a minority have accepted them.

One party in particular, the Socialist Party of Great Britain (an extreme Left-wing body, not to be confused with the Labour Party) puts forward what is admitted by many of its opponents to be an extremely logical and consistent proof of its argument that the problems facing modern society can only be solved by the abolition of private property. One of its pamphlets, Socialism, sold some 20,000 copies in one edition up to 1933,when it went out of print (since re-issued). This may seem a small number when compared with the 3,000,000 weekly circulation (pre-war) of the News of the World, but it becomes significant when related to the fact that this organisation, having been in existence for nearly half a century, has a membership which fluctuates around 500.  In this group of 20,000 then, more than 97%, having come into contact with advanced Left-wing theory, failed to support it.  So far as we are aware, the organisation concerned has offered no explanation of what is surely an important fact.

To take a less extreme example, it will hardly be denied that Trade Unionists receive every encouragement to support the Labour Party, yet how many of them do so?  About one in three – out of 6,725,000 affiliated to the T.U.C., only 2,237,307 are sufficiently interested to pay the political levy of one penny per week.

These facts are surely sufficient to justify our doubts as to whether the overwhelming mass of the people will become logically convinced of the truth of Left-wing theory and support it unswervingly because it is in their economic interest to do so. When, further, we find that those best qualified to express an opinion on the factors motivating human activity – the psychologists – are almost unanimous in maintaining that rational self-interest plays a negligible part, something stronger than doubt seems to be in order.

Much of Freud’s work goes to show that our actions arise largely from motives of which we are not conscious – indeed, that our conscious thought is commonly the rationalisation of unconscious desires.  When he refers to “a strict determination of mental life,” it is these hidden processes which he conceives to be the determining factors.  MacDougall, referring to a writer who had attempted “in all seriousness” to prove that unreasonable action is possible and actually achieved occasionally, comments: “The real problem is how do men ever come to act morally or reasonably?” and later refers to “This false assumption that men are guided by enlightened self-interest.” (Introduction to Social Psychology, pp. 7-9).

IV. The Failure of Fascism

The intellectuals generally admit – indeed, they frequently proclaim – that mass support is indispensable if socially effective action is to be undertaken:

Communists have always urged that Socialism must become the will of the people before it can be realised. (R. W. Robson, in Essentials of Communist Theory, p.14 published by the Communist Party.)

Or, more traditionally, Marx writes of the revolutionary movement involving “the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness” (The German Ideology 69) and Engels, in his introduction to Marx’s Class Struggles in France (27) declares:

Where it is a question of the complete transformation of the social organisation, the masses themselves must also be in it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake.

The Labour Party, being emphatically in favour of constitutional methods, obviously needs an enlightened and enduring majority before its theories can be put into practice. At the last General Election the Labour Party gained an over-all majority in Parliament but were supported by only about one-third of the electorate. Of the other two thirds, just over half supported other parties and – most significant of all – just under half did not even vote. When one further considers that the Labour propaganda was not by any means confined to logical persuasion but also included, largely for expedient reasons a considerable measure of appeal to emotions, patriotic sentiment and other irrational factors, it is evident that this result is far from showing that the masses have become convinced and enduring supporters of the Left-wing and Socialism.

Theory without enduring mass support is ineffective.

We have tried to show that it is at least improbable that such enduring support will be forthcoming. Let us now look at the question from another angle and ask whether it is necessary to bring people and intellectuals together, or whether a mass movement lacking theory is competent to solve the basic problems facing society.

None of the British political parties completely rejects logic, and none of them is, in the fullest possible sense of the term a mass movement. To find an organisation which satisfies these conditions we must go to the Fascist States.

Fascism, of course, is the mass movement par excellence, eliciting fervent support not only from the politically unconscious, but even from the nation’s school-children; there is abundant evidence to show that its attitude towards logic and consistent theory is one of emphatic rejection:

Fascism is real insurrection – an insurrection of feeling – a mutiny of men against the conditions of the modern world. It is completely characteristic of this aspect of Fascism… that the movement should have grown to full strength without either logical theory behind it or cut and dried programme in front of it. The men who built Fascism in Italy and Germany… leave theories to the intellectuals and programmes to the democrats who have betrayed them with programmes for a century. The Fascist… acts, in fact, instinctively, and not theoretically (James Drennan, spokesman for the B.U.F., quoted by Melvin Rader in No Compromise, p.33.)

To take another example, we have Mussolini’s statement from his contribution to Encyclopedia Italiana (Vol. XIV):

Fascism was not the nursling of a doctrine worked out beforehand with detailed elaboration; it was born of the need for action and was itself from the beginning practical rather than theoretical. (Quoted in Day to Day Pamphlet, No. 18, p. 8.)

Has Fascism succeeded where the democracies failed? Hardly; some problems it suppressed – rearmament provided a temporary solution for unemployment – but only at the cost of sowing a rich crop of future trouble for itself. It endeavoured to regard War – perhaps the greatest of our problems – as something highly desirable, but this was rather an aggravation than a solution.

Returning to Britain we find that the Conservative Party displays less interest in theory and receives, as a rule, more mass support, than any other party. Its most fervent supporter will hardly claim that the Conservative Party has succeeded in solving the major problems of modern society. It may have introduced more reforms than any other party but still, after many decades of predominantly Conservative government, unemployment, war, malnutrition and many other evils persist and even appear to be increasing. It is not for lack of support that Conservatism has not yet succeeded; it appears reasonable to conclude that an inadequate theory and approach to social problems is one important factor.

To sum up: a mass movement, lacking theory, is no more effective than theory lacking mass support.

V. Are the Masses To Blame?

The Left-wing is more interested in theory and generally receives less support than the Right. To take the extremes, Anarchism, which devotes the greater part of its energies to establishing the validity of its ideas, is supported by only a few intellectuals, while Fascism, which despises and rejects logical consistency, has aroused and sustained a fury of mass support unapproached by any democratic movement.

On the one hand we have theory without the masses; on the other, the masses without theory. Neither of these alone is competent to solve the big problems which confront human society today. Rejection of theory in order to obtain mass support leads to Fascism; alternatively, so long as theory is confined to a small minority it remains socially inoperative. It appears obvious that the problem is one of combination of theory with mass support. How is this to be achieved?

We have seen that it is at least improbable that the masses will come to embrace theory; the problem, therefore, is not to be solved by providing the intellectuals with more or more effective means of propaganda. Certainly their present lack of resources (which, by the way, would appear to be as much a result as a cause of their lack of support) may have the consequence that some of the people never hear their message, but the fact still remains that of those who have come into contact with Left-wing theory only a small minority have accepted it. Further, that the masses are almost completely indifferent to their separation from the intellectuals shows that for them the problem does not exist; they can, therefore, hardly be held responsible for their failure to solve it.

The intellectuals are in a very different position. They have tried – and failed – to solve social problems and, as we have tried to show, underlying the general futility of their efforts lies this fundamental problem of their separation from the people.

It is sometimes recognised that the masses have failled to embrace theory; what is very seldom perceived is that this is also the failure of theory to embrace the masses.

More simply: when we find, as in this case, a problem which existing theory does not enable us to solve, we must not – if our approach is to be scientific – expect the problem to fit itself to our theories; we must not simply go on believlng that the mass will eventually behave as our theory tells us it ought to behave. When theory comes into conflict with the facts it is theory which must be re-examined. This in fundamental to the scientific approach and is, in fact, often insisted upon by Left-wing writers.

V. What Can be Done?

We do not propose to embark upon an exhaustive criticism of existing political theory. Sufficient evidence has been brought forward to give some grounds for believing that the present lack of influence of the intellectuals will continue so long as their theory fails to embrace the mass. The existence of a problem has been shown; We have now to give some indication of the lines along which, it appears to us, a solution may most usefully be sought.

In recent years some few of the intellectuals, observing the growing separation between the people and those who claim to express working-class interests, have become dissatisfied with Left-Wing theory and have begun to seek some other explanation of the political structure. Those who Went over to Fascism are the outstanding example; but there are others who instead of simply rejecting science, have endeavoured to apply its methods to this newly-recognised problem. There are, for example, Drucker, (The End of Economic Man), Nathan (The Psychology of Fascism), Freud (Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, Civilisation and its Discontents) and, of course, the whole school of Social or Group psychologists: MacDougall, Trotter, Le Bon and others. With few exceptions these attempts at a new approach have started from the recognition that an analysis of the economic structure of society does not lead to a satisfactory understanding of political groups and of their relations one to another. It is coming to be recognised that important factors underlying men’s actions are to be found within the human mind. As Freud expresses it:

… we cannot see why the systems we have ourselves created should not… ensure protection and well-being for us all. To be sure, when we consider how unsuccessful our efforts to safeguard against suffering in this particular have proved, the suspicion dawns upon us that a bit of unconquerable nature lurks concealed behind this difficulty as well-in the shape of our own mental constitution. (Civilisation and its Discontents, p.43.)

What these workers have not yet achieved is the demonstration of any systematic relationship between the various political groups. MacDougall, for instance, in his book The Group Mind, has a chapter heading “The Mind of a Nation,” under which he does not even mention the existence of a variety of political opinions. This is true of the Group Psychologists generally, and both Nathan and Drucker are almost exclusively concerned with Fascism, making little attempt to relate it to other political outlooks.

Yet it seems obvious that an essential factor in the understanding of Fascism is a conception of its relationship to, for example, Conservatism and Communism. Similarly, the existence of an irrational mass is generally admitted by these workers, but they usually ignore the question of its relationship to the intelilectual minority.

It seems, in fact, that the science of political psychology is still in that very early stage, which all sciences have to pass through, when there exists not even an agreed system of classification. Note how carefully Freud dissociates himself from those who light-heartedly apply the terms proper to psycho-analysis to the interpretation of political tendencies and events:

I would not say that… an attempt to apply psycho-analysis to civilised society would be fanciful or doomed to fruitlessness. But it behoves us to be very careful, not to forget that after all we are dealing only with analogies, and that it is dangerous, not only with men but also with concepts, to drag them out of the region where they originated and have matured, the diagnosis of collective neuroses, moreover, will be confronted by a special difficulty. In the neurosis of an individual we can use as a starting-point the contrast between the patient and his environment which we assume to be ‘normal,’ no such background as this would be available for any society similarly affected… ” (Civilisation and its Discontents, p.141.)

There is, however, a line of approach to these problems which is proof at least against this criticism, since it does not involve the postulation of any norm from which other outlooks are then said to be deviations. (What follows here is a brief resumé of one or two of the results of H. Walsby’s researches – most readers will probably be familiar with his name from other pamphlets in this series.)

By an analysis of the various political positions in evidence today it can be shown that each of them is the expression, in this particular sphere, of an outlook on the world in general,
or an “ideology.” As Walsby expresses it:

When we come to examine their history we find that the ideological layers have grown, or evolved, one out of the other. Each layer – which can be regarded as a level of mental organisation – contains within itself a distinctive and basic set of assumptions, or presuppositions, to which those who occupy the layer are largely unconsciously attached by the strong emotional tie of identification. Again, these different but related sets of assumptions, which underlie and colour the various political and philosophical interpretations of events indicate stages in the development of a continuous repressive process beginning with the birth of each individual. (Walsby, The Domain of ldeologies)

These ideologies, or levels of consciousness, form an evolutionary system, underlying the apparently haphazard and unsystematic relationships between the various political positions.

On this basis the separation of the intellectuals from the masses becomes comprehensible, can be related to our understanding of society as a whole. Expressing different stages in the evolution of mind,these two social groups are seen to be related much as are two different levels in the system of organic evolution.

One point must be made quite clear: the progress of organic evolution has not involved the elimination of the preponderance of the lower forms of animal life – the amoeba and the jelly-fish still exist alongside of man. The Challenger expedition 1872-6 “showed that most of the living matter in the world is contained in the microscopic plant forms – that float at and near the surface ” of the sea. (Singer: Short History of Science. Oxford, 1941.) Similarly with the evolution of mind; the mental attitude characteristic of the mass is, compared with that of the intellectuals, primitive and undeveloped; still it subsists, and there seems little evidence to show that it can ever be eliminated. Freud, speaking of religion “as understood by the ordinary man” (i.e. the idea of the Deity as “a greatly exalted father”) says:

The whole thing is so patently infantile, so incongruous with reality, that to one whose attitude towards humanity is friendly it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life. (Civilisation and its Discontents, p.23.)

Painful though it may be, this survival of primitive attitudes appears to be a tact which we must accept. Once it is accepted, however, once this conception of an evolution of mind is grasped, then our position in regard to the mass is radically altered. No longer are we confined to announcements as to how people ought to think, or as to the attitude they must adopt if civilisation is to be saved. Our attitude becomes rather that of the scientist towards his subject-matter, an attitude summed up by Bacon in the phrase: “Nature is never conquered unless obeyed.” Similarly, not until this relationship between the intellectual and the mass is understood and accepted – and who is to do this if not the intellectuals? – will it become possible tohcontrol the development of society. Trying to construct a planned society without knowing why men believe what they do is like trying to build a bridge without knowing the strength of one’s materials.

[1] We understand from the Editor of Everybody’s Weekly that this advertisement no longer represents the editorial policy of that journal. It should not be thought, however, that this indicates a change in the mass mentality. Here are e.g. some headlines from the current News of the World (28/10/45): “Murderer Dug Grave in Gale”; “Hooded Woman’s Body in Riddle of Sands”; “Sawed up Woman’s Body to Radio Music”; “Pushed Girl into Canal at Night”; “Soldier of 19 Assaulted Two Nurses”; “Secrets of ‘Septic Circle'”; “Schoolgirl Accused of Axe Murder”; “Arsenal Defence in Shreds.” (Circulation over 4,000,000.)

March 1945
November 1945