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Apr 9, 2021
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On the experiences of H.G. Wells as an economist

The English writer believed that the monetary system of the capitalist world has long been perverted

This year marks 155 years since the birth of 75 years since the death of the famous English writer H.G. Wells… In Russia he is known from the science fiction novels “The Time Machine”, “The Invisible Man”, “The War of the Worlds”, “The First People on the Moon”, “The Island of Dr. Moreau”, “War in the Air”, etc. After the First World War in The writer’s work underwent a turning point: he switched to a genre that can be called “social fiction”, “utopia”, “projecting the future”, began to show an increased interest in natural sciences, anthropology, psychology, history, sociology, economics. The writer believed that it is possible to improve the world and a person, first of all, with the help of sciences and bringing the results of these sciences to every person.

Wells saw one of the most important directions in improving education in the development of good textbooks that would give a holistic picture of the world, and not crush the subject. He conceived and wrote a trilogy that included a general picture of natural science (with an emphasis on biology), world history and a picture of society. In 1925 came out A Short History of Mankind… In 1931 appeared Life science, in 1932 the work was published The Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind… Of the three books, only Brief History of Humanity has been translated into Russian (the first edition in Russian appeared in 1924 in Petrograd).

Throughout the trilogy, I would like to draw your attention to the book “Labor, Wealth and Happiness of the Human Race.” It contains the history of man’s assimilation of nature, and issues of agriculture, household, trade and distribution of labor products, the role of the state in economic life. Particular attention is paid to what is called management today. In the center – questions of money circulation and finance.

It is curious that we find recollections of Wells’ preparation of this work in his Autobiography. Charlie Chaplin, a friend of an English writer. He notes that one of the working titles for the book was Anatomy of Money. Several people helped Wells write the book. The communication between the writer and the famous English economist played a role John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). The writer was friends with the Keynes family, whose wife was a famous Russian ballerina Lydia Lopukhova… Wells once threw a phrase about the spouses: “… She’s smarter than anyone else, and Keynes has the best brains in the country.”… In turn, Keynes also closely followed Wells’s work, positively assessing his work, The Open Conspiracy, published in 1928.

The book “Labor, Wealth and Happiness of the Human Race” was not very lucky. Wells sat down to write it exactly on the eve of Black Thursday, which erupted on the New York Stock Exchange in October 1929 and set off the world economic crisis. The book was published at the height of the crisis – at the beginning of 1932, then people had no time for smart books. According to the encyclopedias, the work was translated into a foreign language only once: in 1932 it was published in German.

It is worth noting Wells’ attempt to look at economics through the prism of biology and psychology. I do not exclude that such a view was suggested to the writer By Herbert Spencer and by the same Keynes. The first is one of the founders of evolutionism, the founder of the organic school in sociology. And the originality of Keynes as an economist lay in the fact that he explained economic processes by a number of psychological laws, which he formulated in his work “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” (1936).

Another major work of Wells is “Modern Utopia” (1905), where the writer gropes for approaches to building an ideal model of the economy. It already contained sketches of ideas later developed in The Open Conspiracy (1928) and The New World Order (1940). In The New World Order, some of Wells’s thoughts on economic issues are presented in their most complete form (later he only repeated himself).

The new world order in Wells’s understanding is a single world state with a single world government. The preservation of national states, according to the writer, will inevitably provoke interstate conflicts that can develop into world wars. According to Wells, politicians at the beginning of the twentieth century “slept through” the First World War, believing the conclusions of intellectuals who enthusiastically noted the widespread internationalization of economic life at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries, the strengthening of the economic and financial interdependence of states. They say that wars became unprofitable for big capital, because they broke the networks of cross-border financial, trade and economic ties. However, politicians did not take into account the fact that in addition to interstate conflicts in the world, sharp contradictions appeared between financial and industrial groups. The struggle of monopolies for world sales markets, spheres of capital investment, sources of raw materials gave rise to the First World War. Wells’ observation is correct and not original here. In 1916 he wrote about this V. Lenin in the work “Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism”. Lenin pointed to the struggle of monopoly capital for the division and redivision of the world as the cause of the world war, and Lenin’s explanation of the reasons for the war was deeper than that of Wells. Both, however, agree that the rule of monopolies can be ended only by abolishing capitalism and replacing it with socialism. However, for the Marxist Lenin it is the socialism of the dictatorship of the proletariat, for Herbert Wells it is the “soft” Fabian version.

Wells believed that war was the best time to move from capitalism to socialism. War leads to a general mobilization of resources under the leadership of the state – production, material, human. And at the end of the war, this mobilization should be redirected into a creative channel – the restoration and development of the civil economy. Perhaps Keynes gave Wells a hint here, saying that economic crises can be overcome and even prevented by supporting demand with the help of the state. During a war, the state purchases weapons, military equipment, in peacetime it is obliged to fight unemployment and underutilization of production capacities. Moreover, the state can order anything: the construction of roads, the construction of dams and other irrigation facilities, the creation of new technologies. Something like a “new course” Franklin Roosevelt 1930s (Wells saw signs of socialism in Roosevelt’s “New Deal”).

Where to get money for the implementation of projects that save society? Wells writes: “Governments will have to present to the world a plan for building a peaceful life, whether they like it or not. But they will be asked: “Where do you get loans to do this?”… And the writer gives an answer in which he reveals the true meaning of money, utterly distorted by usurious capitalism: “… We must once again remind that money is a means, not an end. The world will have sufficient material and labor resources to rebuild its life everywhere. And they all just cry out to be used. The function of the modern monetary system is, or at any rate was, to bring workers to the material and to stimulate their association. This system has always justified its existence by the fact that one cannot do without it here, and if it does not exist for this purpose, then why does it exist then and what is the need for it then? “

Wells’ rhetorical question implies that the capitalist world’s monetary system has long been perverted. That it does not exist for creation and public good, but for the enrichment of the bourgeoisie, primarily that part of it that is associated with money capital. Such a monetary system should be destroyed by rebuilding the old system. A system, the purpose of which is to combine the main factors of production – labor, means of production and raw materials to create the products that society needs.

Wells’s works contain harsh criticism of banks, stock exchanges, speculation. He wrote: “Stock Exchange and Bank Credit, and Skills of Borrowing, Usury and Preemptive Play (apparently referring to futures transactions. – VC.)undoubtedly, every one of them will disappear when the World Order is established … They will be thrown out like eggshells or fruit shells “… However, the ideas of what socialism should be like for H.G. Wells remained vague. Fabian socialism was understood by him in a limited way – as a denial of usurious and speculative capitalism.

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