Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad, the son of Edwin Joad, a university lecturer,was born in Durham on 12th August, 1891. His father became a school inspector and moved the family to Southampton. Cyril attended the Dragon School, Oxford, and Blundell's School, Tiverton, before entering Balliol College, in 1910, to study philosophy.
Joad later recalled: "Whatever they had to teach me I had assimilated. Admittedly I had learned nothing for myself; but then I had never been encouraged to think that learning for one-self was either possible or desirable. As a result I went up to Oxford ignorant of the major events that have determined the history of the Western world and made our civilization what it is."
According to Jason Tomes: "Greek philosophy fascinated Joad, whose enthusiasm for Plato and Aristotle led not only to a first in literae humaniores (1914) but also to a contemporary brand of radical positivism." Joad was also influenced by the socialist ideas of G. D. H. Cole, H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw and in 1912 he joined the Fabian Society. Joad argued that "Shaw became for me a kind of god. I considered that he was not only the greatest English writer of his time (I still think that), but the greatest English writer of all time (and I am not sure that I don't still think that too)."
In his autobiography, Under the Fifth Rib (1932), Joad wrote: "The dominating interest of my University career, an interest which has largely shaped my subsequent outlook on life, was Socialism. And my Socialism was by no means the mere undergraduate pose which what I have said hitherto may have suggested. Admittedly I and my Socialist contemporaries talked a good deal of inflated nonsense; admittedly we played with theories as a child plays with toys from sheer intellectual exuberance. But we also did a considerable amount of hard thinking."
Joad was especially impressed by the writings of G. D. H. Cole. "Cole's Socialism in those days-for all I know, it has been so ever since - was what it is customary to call Left Wing. Already he was finding the Fabian Society timid and slow; soon he was to break away from it and become, with S. G. Hobson, the joint originator of Guild Socialism. Meanwhile he advocated a new militancy in labour disputes, urged that workers should strike in and out of season."
Joad was also a supporter of women's suffrage and he joined the Men's Political Union for Women's Suffrage. He later recalled: "I hobnobbed with emancipated feminists who smoked cigarettes on principle, drank Russian tea and talked with an assured and deliberate frankness of sex and of their own sex experiences, and won my spurs for the movement by breaking windows in Oxford Street for which I spent one night in custody."
Joad left Oxford University in the summer of 1914. "I left Oxford a revolutionary Socialist, convinced that our social arrangements were contemptible, that they were not so of necessity but could be improved, but that nothing short of a change in the economic structure of Society would improve them. Such a change, I considered, would inevitably involve violence and in all probability an armed conflict between classes. This conflict, therefore, I believed - I suppose that I must have believed it; it seems incredible enough to me now - desirable."
In 1914 he found employment in the labour exchanges department of the Board of Trade and talked about "infusing the civil service with a socialist ethos". By this time he had become a pacifist and on the outbreak of the First World War he joined the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF), an organisation formed by Clifford Allen and Fenner Brockway, that encouraged men to refuse war service. Joad later recalled: "When the war came, I never for a moment thought of it as other than a gigantic piece of criminal folly; the nation, I considered, had simply gone mad, and it was incumbent upon a wise man to stay quiet until the fit had passed. Never for a moment did it occur to me that it was my duty to participate in the madness by learning to fight. On the contrary, I thought that I ought to do whatever I could to avoid being implicated. I was, therefore, a potential conscientious objector from the first, my objection being based not on religious grounds but on a natural reluctance on the part of a would-be rational and intelligent individual to participate in an orgy of public madness."
The No-Conscription Fellowship required its members to "refuse from conscientious motives to bear arms because they consider human life to be sacred." The group received support from public figures such as Bertrand Russell, Philip Snowden, Bruce Glasier, Robert Smillie, C. H. Norman, William Mellor, Arthur Ponsonby, Guy Aldred, Alfred Salter, Duncan Grant, Wilfred Wellock, Maude Royden, Max Plowman and Rev. John Clifford.
As Martin Ceadel, the author of Pacifism in Britain 1914-1945 (1980) has pointed out: "Joad's similarly acute aversion to suffering can be linked to the (heterosexual) hedonism and love of sensual pleasure for which he was notorious. Highly gifted, but restless and opportunistic, he was a puckish and lightweight amalgam of Bertrand Russell (who believed Joad plagiarized his ideas) and H. G. Wells, tending to the former's iconoclastic optimism rather than to the latter's Olympian seriousness."
Joad married Mary White in 1915 and moved to Westhumble, near Dorking. Over the next few years she gave birth to a son and two daughters. Joad joined the Independent Labour Party and contributed book reviews and articles to left-wing journals, such as the Daily Herald and New Statesman. He also wrote two books on philosophy, Common Sense Ethics (1921) and Common Sense Theology (1922). Jason Tomes has argued: "Joad declared Christianity moribund and rejoiced that clergymen would be extinct by 1960. Unreason in every shape was his foe: superstition, romanticism, psychoanalysis, and also outmoded social convention... What reforms did reason require? Easier divorce and birth control, legalized abortion and sodomy, an end to Sunday trading laws and performing animals, sterilization of the feeble-minded, total disarmament, and less frequent baths."
Joad left his wife in 1921 and moved to Hampstead in London with a student teacher named Marjorie Thomson. This was the first of many mistresses. His biographer has pointed out: "Sexual desire, he opined, resembled a buzzing bluebottle that needed to be swatted promptly before it distracted a man of intellect from higher things... Female minds lacked objectivity; he had no interest in talking to women who would not go to bed with him. A surprising number would - notwithstanding his increasingly gnome - like appearance. Joad was short and rotund, with bright little eyes, round, rosy cheeks, and a stiff, bristly beard. He dressed in old tweeds of great shabbiness as a test: anyone who sneered at his clothing was too petty to merit acquaintance."
In 1925 Joad was expelled from the Fabian Society for sexual misbehaviour during a summer school he was attending. He admitted in his autobiography, Under the Fifth Rib (1932): "I started my adult life, as I have recounted, with such high hopes of women, that the process of disillusionment has left a bitterness behind. If I was never sentimental enough to expect women to be soul mates, at least I thought to treat them as intellectual equals. It was a shock to find that the equality had been imposed by myself upon unequals who resented it. If only women could have remained at the silent-film stage, all would have been well; but the invention of talking has been as disastrous in women as it has in the cinema."
Joad remained a socialist and went to visit the Soviet Union in 1930. "There were no rich and in the towns no poor; all citizens were living on incomes ranging from about, £100 to £200 a year. What is more, the Bolsheviks had succeeded in establishing a society in which the possession of money had been abolished as a criterion of social value. The effects were far-reaching, and, so far as I could see, entirely beneficial. The snobbery of wealth, which is so important a factor in the social life of Anglo-Saxon communities, was absent. There was no ostentation and no display, and the contemporary fat man, complete with fur coat, white waistcoat, champagne and cigars, was missing. It was only when one returned to England that one realized by contrast the vulgarity of wealth... The Russians, admittedly, are poor and live badly, but the sting is removed from poverty if it is not outraged by the continual spectacle of others' wealth. I cannot believe that complete equality of income would not produce similar effects here, and, if snobbery and vulgarity were eliminated from English society, the gain would be incalculable." However, as a pacifist he rejected the idea of violent revolution.
In 1930 Joad obtained the post of head of philosophy at Birkbeck College. Joad retained an interest in politics and impressed with the views of Oswald Mosley he joined his New Party. In 1932 Joad set up the Federation of Progressive Societies and Individuals (FPSI). According to Martin Ceadel, the organisation was "an attempt - with the master's blessing - to implement the Wellsian vision of an enlightened elite of intellectuals uniting to plan rational solutions for the problems of the world."
In January 1932 Mosley met Benito Mussolini in Italy. Mosley was impressed by Mussolini's achievements and when he returned to England he disbanded the New Party and replaced it with the British Union of Fascists. Joad was horrified with Mosley's move towards fascism and along with John Strachey refused to join the BUF.
Joad remained a pacifist and was a member the of the National Peace Council, No More War, the National Civil Liberties Union and the Next Five Years Group. On 9th February 1933 he persuaded the Oxford Union to resolve by 275 votes to 153 "That this house will under no circumstances fight for its King and Country".
With his books, Guide to Modern Thought (1933) and Guide to Philosophy (1936), Joad became Britain's most popular philosopher. He remained a pacifist and he wrote a pamphlet during this period entitled What Fighting Means about the First World War: "Men were burned and tortured; they were impaled, blinded, disembowelled, blown to fragments; they hung shrieking for days and nights on barbed wire with their insides protruding, praying for a chance bullet to put an end to their agony; their faces were blown away and they continued to live."
Joad had a terrible fear of the growth of fascism in Europe and was a supporter of the Popular Front government in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. He joined with Emma Goldman, Rebecca West, Sybil Thorndyke and Fenner Brockway to establish the Committee to Aid Homeless Spanish Women and Children.
Joad was deeply shocked by the way the West had allowed Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to help Francisco Franco gain power in Spain. He abandoned his pacifism as he felt it was contributing to the inevitability of war. As his old friend Fenner Brockway pointed out: "There is no doubt that the society resulting from an anarchist victory (during the Spanish Civil War) would have far greater liberty and equality than the society resulting from a fascist victory. Thus I came to see that it is not the amount of violence used which determines good or evil results, but the ideas, the sense of human values, and above all the social forces behind its use. With this realisation, although my nature revolted against the killing of human beings just as did the nature of those Catalonian peasants, the fundamental basis of my old philosophy disappeared."
On the outbreak of the Second World War he offered his services to the Ministry of Information. This idea was rejected but in January 1941, Joad became a member of the panel of the BBC radio programme The Brains Trust. The programme was a great success and Joad became a well-known public figure. His favourite expression, "It depends what you mean by..." became a popular catch-phrase. However, the Conservative Party complained about his "socialistic" answers.
After the war he purchased a farm in Hampshire. He rejoined the Labour Party but lost a by-election for the Combined Scottish Universities in 1946. Joad continued to write and blamed President Harry Truman for the Cold War and the nuclear arms race.
On 12th April 1948, Joad was convicted of "unlawfully travelling on the railway without having previously paid his fare and with intent to avoid payment." He was fined £2 but as a result of the conviction he was sacked from The Brains Trust team. He was also told that he had lost all chance of gaining a peerage.
Joad was now in poor health and was confined to bed. In 1952 he published The Recovery of Belief. In the book he endorsed Christianity and the Anglican Church. He died of cancer at his home, 4 East Heath Road, Hampstead, London, on 9th April 1953. As Jason Tomes has pointed out: "Cyril Joad was an outstanding educator, a tireless proponent of progressive causes, and one of the best-known broadcasters of the 1940s. His religious conversion alienated radical agnostics who might otherwise have kept his reputation alive."
I rather gather that they are swept by alternate waves of aestheticism and science - but in my time politics was the thing that mattered. Politics was in the air, and it was difficult to escape the contagion. The Fabian Society was in its hey-day, and most men at Oxford with any pretensions to be thought advanced were members of it. Complete with statistics we confounded Liberals and Tories in debate, read papers on State management, wrote articles on "workers' control", and introduced socialist theories into academic essays. The years 1910-14 were years of great industrial unrest; even in Oxford there were strikes, and at strikers' meetings we had our first taste of the joys of political oratory. I remember being fined for leading a procession of Oxford tram strikers to the Martyrs' Memorial where I addressed them in a revolutionary speech of blood, fire and thunder. Then, as always, public speaking went to my head. The spectacle of an audience helpless before you, the knowledge that for the time it is a passive receptacle to be filled with the content of your ideas, the feeling that you can make it thrill to the sound of your voice, vibrate in sympathy with your every mood, these things were, and to me they still are, the closest approximation to the sense of power that I have ever experienced. In my youth they intoxicated me. I spoke in season and out of season at College debating societies, took a pride in being the licensed buffoon of the Oxford Union, and practised the arts of orgiastic demagogy at meetings of discontented workers...
The dominating interest of my University career, an interest which has largely shaped my subsequent outlook on life, was Socialism. And my Socialism was by no means the mere undergraduate pose which what I have said hitherto may have suggested. Admittedly I and my Socialist contemporaries talked a good deal of inflated nonsense; admittedly we played with theories as a child plays with toys from sheer intellectual exuberance. But we also did a considerable amount of hard thinking.
Like most of my contemporaries I am accustomed to '"think of my generation - I am forty - as one of iconoclasm and revolt. We grew up in a world still littered with the lay figures of Victorian morality; delightedly we punctured them, and out came some sawdust and a little bran. Shaw and Wells, the gods of my generation, were like men opening the windows of a rather stuffy room, letting in air and light and laughter, and those of us who as young men tried humbly to follow in their wake, thought of ourselves as tremendous iconoclasts breaking down the false idols of Victorian prudery and convention and respectability. And that our revolt might not be deemed a purely academic affair, we did a little defiant
free loving-strictly on principle, of course-shocked our elders and gained our latch-keys.
In all this activity our leader was G. D. H. Cole. He had recently published The World of Labour, the first book of its kind on the subject, which speedily became a standard work. Cole's Socialism in those days-for all I know, it has been so ever since-was what it is customary to call Left Wing. Already he was finding the Fabian Society timid and slow; soon he was to break away from it and become, with S. G. Hobson, the joint originator of Guild Socialism. Meanwhile he advocated a new militancy in labour disputes, urged that workers should strike in and out of season, if only because of the salutary training and the added class consciousness that came of striking, and became the protagonist of what was called "The New" or "The Industrial Unionism". The distinctive feature of The New Unionism was its tendency to regard strikes not merely as devices for raising wages or shortening hours, but as levers to undermine capitalist society. When the undermining process was sufficiently advanced, the last and greatest strike would effect its downfall.
Of these more ambitious projects I was only a luke-warm supporter. I was ardent enough as a Socialist, but I was an orthodox Socialist, drinking the pure milk of the Fabian doctrine on which I had been nourished.
Shaw became for me a kind of god. I considered that he was not only the greatest English writer of his time (I still think that), but the greatest English writer of all time (and I am not sure that I don't still think that too). Performances of his plays put me almost beside myself with intellectual excitement. I remember that I had to leave the theatre the first time I saw Fanny's First Play - I was too excited to sit still in my seat-and, when I first met him in the flesh at a luncheon party at Oxford given by Sir Gilbert Murray, I felt like a third-rate curate meeting an incarnation of his deity. I trembled at the knees, sweated at the palm, and my tongue was so dry that I could not speak.
As the influence of Shaw was chiefly responsible for my becoming what it is customary to call an "intellectual", I shall try to indicate what the main factors in that influence were. I do not mean that I am going to enumerate the main points of Shaw's teaching - it is conceivable that he might repudiate much of what I shall say - I want to describe only what chiefly came home to me. As he would put it himself, what I got from him was the nearest thing to his doctrine of which my mind and temperament were capable.
In the first place, there was a view of modern society as essentially inequitable. It was a society in which the wealth and luxury of the few outraged the poverty and misery of the many from whom it was derived. The government was in the hands of a small privileged class which legislated in such a way as to perpetuate the anomalies on which it throve, and so-called social reforms were mere sops to take the revolutionary edge off the worker's discontent, concessions, the least possible, deliberately made by the governing classes as an assurance and a guarantee of their continued tenure of power. The main ground for objecting to this state of affairs was not so much emotional as rational; it was unjust, but it was more than unjust; it was foolish. It was foolish of society to organize its affairs on this basis, when by dint of a little hard thinking it could organize them much more to the satisfaction of its members on some other basis, and it was particularly foolish of the workers to put up with a state of affairs which it only required a little unity and determination to remove. Why, then, did they not achieve the necessary unity, and display the necessary determination? Partly because their movement was rent with jealousy and dissension; even more because they were not sensitive enough to feel the degradation of their position, class conscious enough to conceive a policy of class abolition, or far-sighted enough to plan the various stages of its evolution, had they conceived it...
The style of writing was intended to be moulded on that of Shaw's prefaces. Among other things I considered Shaw to be the greatest living writer of English prose; in fact I regarded Swift alone of all writers as his equal. The outstanding merit of Shaw's style is effectiveness of assertion; taking my cue from him I endeavoured, by vigorously asserting, to supply the place of the literary arts and graces of which I knew myself to be largely incapable. Poetry, for example, I could not read as a young man, and I have come to it slowly and much against the grain as a middle-aged one. As for writing it, I can honestly say that, alone among the intelligent young of my acquaintance, I have never committed a line of would-be serious verse to paper. I also tried to copy Shaw's immensely complicated interlocking sentences in which the device of stating what is in effect a series of separate assertions by means of relative clauses cunningly fitted into the structure of the sentence by dependence on a remote main verb, secures an implicit assent for propositions which, stated explicitly, would immediately be repudiated.
As my views in general were derived from books rather than from life, so in particular and inevitably were my views of women. I conceived myself to have learnt from my reading that women were the equals of men, denied their proper place in society by the same selfishness embodied in vested interests as impeded the realization of Socialism. Those were the days of the agitation for women's suffrage, which was culminating in attacks upon property and the harassing of eminent persons.
I joined the Men's Political Union for Women's Enfranchisement, hobnobbed with emancipated feminists who smoked cigarettes on principle, drank Russian tea and talked with an assured and deliberate frankness of sex and of their own sex experiences, and won my spurs for the movement by breaking windows in Oxford Street for which I spent one night in custody. But perhaps the most vivid memory of these feminist experiences is that of courting surreptitiously the daughter of an Oxford landlady, prevailing upon her, after immense difficulty, to come with me to Brighton for the week-end, planning the necessary arrangements with the most elaborate secrecy, concocting an ingenious alibi to enable her to explain her
absence to her mother, and then finding the mother at the railway station to see me off, where I duly received her blessing for my enterprise in assisting to emancipate women from the shackles of convention.
I only mention this simple-minded advocacy of feminism as an extreme example of the academic rationalism which in these days characterized my opinions. I had had, it should be noted, practically no experience of women; I did not in the least know what women were like. But my reason, countenanced and encouraged by Shaw, told me that their difference from men was limited to a difference in function touching the procreation of children, a difference which, I was assured, was not relevant to the performance of functions appertaining to the other departments of life. Politically, socially and intellectually women were the equals of men; this equality should, I thought, inform personal relations and receive explicit recognition from society. My reason, supported by Shaw, further assured me that there was no reason why I should abstain from sexual intercourse with a woman merely because we had not been through a preliminary ceremony in the shrine of an obsolete religion where an incantation had been pronounced over us by a priest.
Looking back, I can date the change from a meal which I had with Mr. H. D. Harben in the autumn of 1914 and the homily which it provoked. H. D. Harben was a Socialist; he was rich, he was a gentleman, and he had a large place in the country. He was also an ardent suffragist. Suffragettes, let out of prison under the "Cat and Mouse Act", used to go to Newlands to recuperate, before returning to prison for a fresh bout of torture. When the county called, as the county still did, it was embarrassed to find haggard-looking young women in dressing-gowns and djibbahs reclining on sofas in the Newlands drawing-room talking unashamedly about their prison experiences. This social clash of county and criminals at Newlands was an early example of the mixing of different social strata which the war was soon to make a familiar event in national life. At that time it was considered startling enough, and it required all the tact of Harben and his socially very competent wife to oil the wheels of tea-table intercourse, and to fill the embarrassed pauses which punctuated any attempt at conversation.
I started my adult life, as I have recounted, with such high hopes of women, that the process of disillusionment has left a bitterness behind. If I was never sentimental enough to expect women to be soul mates, at least I thought to treat them as intellectual equals. It was a shock to find that the equality had been imposed by myself upon unequals who resented it. If only women could have remained at the silent-film stage, all would have been well; but the invention of talking has been as disastrous in women as it has in the cinema.
It is in my attitude to political and social questions that I have changed most radically since, a young man of twenty-three, I went down from Oxford in the summer of 1914. I left Oxford a revolutionary Socialist, convinced that our social arrangements were contemptible, that they were not so of necessity but could be improved, but that nothing short of a change in the economic structure of Society would improve them. Such a change, I considered, would inevitably involve violence and in all probability an armed conflict between classes. This conflict, therefore, I believed - I suppose that I must have believed it; it seems incredible enough to me now - desirable.
I had always regarded war as criminal, but believing war among civilized nations to be practically impossible, had never given the subject much thought. I was not alone in this belief, which most of the intellectuals of my generation shared. When the war came, I never for a moment thought of it as other than a gigantic piece of criminal folly; the nation, I considered, had simply gone mad, and it was incumbent upon a wise man to stay quiet until the fit had passed.
Never for a moment did it occur to me that it was my duty to participate in the madness by learning to fight. On the contrary, I thought that I ought to do whatever I could to avoid being implicated. I was, therefore, a potential conscientious objector from the first, my objection being based not on religious grounds but on a natural reluctance on the part of a would-be rational and intelligent individual to participate in an orgy of public madness. So far as concerned any moral obligation I conceived myself to have in the matter, I thought it my duty to try and stop the war by any means in my power. I did, in fact, write a number of violent anti-war articles in Pacifist papers and took part in Pacifist meetings which were almost invariably broken up by persons who believed themselves to be fighting, among other things, for free speech. I emphasize this attitude of mine not because I am particularly proud of it, but because it may help to render intelligible my astonishment that it was adopted by so few of my fellow intellectuals, who disbelieving like myself in the possibility of war until it came, condemning it as an outrage on civilization when it did come, nevertheless with very few exceptions either went out to kill themselves, or more frequently hounded on young men to do their killing for them?
Men were burned and tortured; they were impaled, blinded, disembowelled, blown to fragments; they hung shrieking for days and nights on barbed wire with their insides protruding, praying for a chance bullet to put an end to their agony; their faces were blown away and they continued to live.
The Great War of 1914-18, breaking out as it did when I had just reached manhood, has played so large a part in forming my views of human nature and of human society, it has contributed so largely to the formation of my deepest political convictions, that I feel I must say something of the considerations which have made me an uncompromising Pacifist. I believe that war is the greatest evil that afflicts mankind; I believe that the next war will destroy our civilization, and I believe that nothing but the refusal of a sufficient number of human beings to fight, whatever the circumstances may be, can prevent it. These beliefs I hold with considerable emotional intensity; in fact, I feel so much more strongly about them than about any others, that the whole of my attitude to politics is coloured by them. I must try, then, to say in some little detail why I hold them. I propose to consider first the various arguments of those who hold that war, although always regrettable, is sometimes necessary, who hold even that the necessity may sometimes do good, in the light of my own experience of the Great War....
It is sometimes argued that circumstances arise in which war is the course which religion dictates. So far is this from being the case, that war violates every principle of the religion in which Western civilization professes to believe. During the last war this became so obvious that every effort was made to suppress the teaching of Christ and to prevent it from being known. Persons who drew attention to the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount were persecuted, while conscientious objectors who endeavoured to act in accordance with them were abused, imprisoned, placed in solitary confinement and tortured. The record of what was done to conscientious objectors during the war does not make pleasant reading. Meanwhile the Christian religion remained, as it had always been, the official religion of all the belligerent countries, the assistance of the Almighty was simultaneously invoked by all the combatants, and atheists were looked upon with disfavour as being likely to cause Him offence.
I have summarized as best I can some of the considerations which have made me for good or ill a Pacifist before all things. I have imbibed such a horror of violence and physical suffering, that I have come to
regard the primary object of all political activity as the prevention of those situations in which they occur.
I am still a Socialist and believe that a reconstruction of society involving the communal ownership of the means of production and distribution would be an immense improvement. I am also convinced that equality of income irrespective of services rendered to the community is an essential pre-requisite of a civilized society. In Russia, when I visited it in 1930, to all intents and purposes there was such equality.
There were no rich and in the towns no poor; all citizens were living on incomes ranging from about, £100 to £200 a year. What is more, the Bolsheviks had succeeded in establishing a society in which the possession of money had been abolished as a criterion of social value. The effects were far-reaching, and, so far as I could see, entirely beneficial. The snobbery of wealth, which is so important a factor in the social life of Anglo-Saxon communities, was absent. There was no ostentation and no display, and the contemporary fat man, complete with fur coat, white waistcoat, champagne and cigars, was missing. It was only when one returned to England that one realized by contrast the vulgarity of wealth. The first English "fat lady" featuring jewels, lap dogs and cosmetics, whom I saw on return seemed an outrage. The Russians, admittedly, are poor and live badly, but the sting is removed from poverty if it is not outraged by the continual spectacle of others' wealth. I cannot believe that complete equality of income would not produce similar effects here, and, if snobbery and vulgarity were eliminated from English society, the gain would be incalculable.
But, although I still desire most of the ends which Socialists advocate, I no longer believe that revolution is the only method of securing them. On the contrary, I believe that, so far as Western European countries are concerned, it would preclude their achievement for many generations to come by destroying such civilization as we possess. Finally, I do not believe that, even if a revolution were able to achieve an economic millennium and did in fact achieve it, the result would be worth the price in human misery and suffering that it would involve. Thus I have learned to curb my expectations and to modify my demands in respect of the future of our society. Socialism I still think a good, but I am less certain that it is realizable in its old form than I used to be. In many moods I am inclined to think that the Marxians are right in holding that the difficulties involved in the supersession of Capitalism are too great to be overcome without a violent struggle; and this violent struggle it seems to me essential at all costs to avoid. If its avoidance means that Socialism must be regarded as impracticable, then we must get on without it as best we can. I have seen in Russia how nearly war, civil war and revolution destroyed civilization. In England, I am convinced, with our more closely interlocked and economically interdependent society, a revolution would mean death by starvation for thousands.
All this means that I am a Pacifist first and a Socialist second. I am too convinced of the magnitude of human folly and the horror of human suffering to be prepared to provoke the one and risk the other by seeking to improve our obviously defective social system by any abrupt or sudden change. This conclusion, born perhaps of the complacencies of material comfort and the timidities of middle age and in any event allied with them, has radically changed my attitude to politics. It is not so much that I hold different views - ever since I grew up I have been a Pacifist, an Internationalist and a Socialist - but they are differently emphasized.
A Charter for Rationalists. Examples of such goods are the following. I put them in the form of a programme which twentieth-century rationalists might do well to adopt.
(1) Repeal of the divorce laws; it should be made as easy for people to get divorced as to get married.
(2) Repeal of the laws against what is called unnatural vice. I have never been able to see that sodomy does harm, or to understand why it should be persecuted with such malignant ferocity.
(3) Diffusion of birth-control knowledge, including the provision of information and advice with regard to birth-control at all Government and Local Authority clinics and of birth-control appliances at all chemists' shops.
(4) Repeal of laws penalizing abortion as a criminal offence.
(5) Sterilization of the feeble-minded.
(6) Abolition of the censorship of plays, films and books.
(7) Abolition of all restrictions on Sunday games, plays, entertainments, etc.
(8) Disendowment and Disestablishment of the Church. If people want priests and churches to put them in, I do not see why they should not be expected to pay for their upkeep.
(9) Preservation of the amenities of the countryside, including compulsory town and country planning, restriction on ribbon development, access for walkers to mountains, moorlands and wild places, and the provision of national parks.
(10) Prohibition of exhibitions of performing animals.
(11) Abolition of all licensing restrictions.
(12) Complete disarmament. Involving the abolition of the army, navy and air-force.
These are the main points in a modern rationalist's charter. If they were embodied in legislation, the general level of public health and happiness would, I am convinced, be sensibly improved. For my part at any rate, soft middle-aged man that I am, with a status to maintain and goods to lose, I am prepared to abjure revolutionary activity and to devote my energy to the task of persuading my fellow-beings of the desirability of such measures as I have enumerated.
Taking his place at the "King and Country" debate (after several other refusals) was Cyril Joad (1891-1953) who, as a result, attained prominence as an exponent of pacifism based on an identical belief (expressed in an autobiography in 1932) "that of all the evil things in the world, physical pain is by far the worst". If Nichols's sensitivity to the mutilation of young men in war can in part be attributed to his homosexuality, Joad's similarly acute aversion to suffering can be linked to the (heterosexual) hedonism and love of sensual pleasure for which he was notorious. Highly gifted, but restless and opportunistic, he was a puckish and lightweight amalgam of Bertrand Russell (who believed Joad plagiarized his ideas) and H. G. Wells, tending to the former's iconoclastic optimism rather than to the latter's Olympian seriousness. After twenty years professing to be a revolutionary I.L.P. socialist, Joad - like many others-changed his views after the 1931 crisis. After a flirtation with Mosley's New Party, Joad in 1932 set up the Federation of Progressive Societies and Individuals (F.P.S.I.) as an attempt-with the master's blessing - to implement the Wellsian vision of an enlightened elite of intellectuals uniting to plan rational solutions for the problems of the world.
The F.P.S.I. began with strong pacifist overtones: it declared its long-term aim to be a world government but, according to its Manifesto: "As first steps this involves (i) progressive disarmament by example on the part of this country, and (ii) war resistance on the part of individuals in the event of an outbreak of hostilities". For Joad, therefore, its significance was as a bridge from his former revolutionary socialism to the "utilitarian" pacifism for which he was best known in the thirties. Although he always saw himself as a philosophical rationalist his thinking, particularly on pacifism, was highly emotional: hence its popular appeal. Characteristic of his method was his evocation, in a No More War Movement pamphlet published in 1932, of the horror of the Great War.... Joad also ceased exclusively to consider his emotional feelings about war and began to appreciate the limitations of non-violence as a means of preventing it.
Take D. H. Lawrence for instance. One of the reasons why I have never been able to give this considerable author his due arises from his preoccupation with sex. Now I do not mean that I am not concerned with
sex; on the contrary, I am and hope that I shall continue to be concerned with it continually. But the concern is practical not theoretical. The theory of sex has ceased for me to be a subject, as its practice has ceased to be a problem. That literature is a substitute for life is profoundly true of the literature of sex. Speaking generally, one only wants to read books about sex when one is sexually maladjusted, and this applies not only to the crude appeal of frankly pornographic literature to the sexually starved, but
to the literary and imaginative treatment of the problems of the sexually ill-adjusted. It is the distressing amount of sexual maladjustment that accounts for the vogue of the biting, scratching, cursing, hating and ferociously loving men and women of Lawrence's novels. I am not saying that all this sexual violence is not very well in its way, and as good a subject for literature as any other; but the variety of the methods by which men and women manage to consummate, or ridiculously to frustrate the consummation of their natural desires, is not a particularly interesting form of literature to one whose demands in this department are on the whole reasonably well provided for. The vogue of Lawrence and Joyce would, I imagine, only be possible among sexually starved peoples like the English and Americans. But, when all allowance is made for the bias of an Edwardian, I still think that it is possible to pick a quarrel with modern literature on the ground of its adhesion to the prevailing cult of unreason.
What with writing and lecturing - I write on an average two books a year and in term-time give nine lectures a week, sometimes more - seeing editors, reviewing a couple of books a week, entertaining visitors, meeting old friends and attracting new ones, making the thousand and one contacts which are necessary to keep my mind fresh and bright, attending meetings and conferences, answering from ten to a dozen letters a day, playing games - chess and bridge, as well as tennis and a little vestigial hockey - keeping my eye on my children, making love, overeating and sleeping off its effects, I am pretty busy and on the whole succeed in keeping the enemy boredom at arm's length.
I have settled down to a middle-age medium kind of existence, which finds in effort and endeavour the chief happiness of life, and bases itself on the maxim that the only way to avoid being miserable is not to have leisure enough to wonder whether you are happy or not. The defect of the method is an inability to rest. I never dare leave myself with nothing to do for fear of an attack of boredom, and, no doubt, I am wearing out very rapidly in consequence. I never go anywhere but I take a book, and I never pass a day without writing. To write in the morning after breakfast has for me become as habitual as ... well, as a physiological function; perhaps it is a physiological function, and books should be regarded as the excrement of the brain.
I map out the day, often the week, in advance. Every hour, every moment must be occupied. And the occupation must be as varied as possible. If it is tennis from two to four to-day, it must be the cinema tomorrow; if I am going to a theatre to-night, I must dine out tomorrow and the next night spend quietly at home. If it is Miss X and a French lunch in Soho on Monday, it must be a party of men with beer and a steak on Tuesday. Thus my life consists of a series of tasks, engagements and planned diversions. Most involve effort, most in one form or another require the exercise of my faculties at full stretch, demanding activity of intellect or application of will, speed of foot or quickness of eye, rapidity of decision or charm turned on tap-like for special purposes. I take even my periods of rest strenuously; I do not lounge in an arm-chair by the fire, or in a hammock on the lawn; I go to bed. In fact, I do not know how to rest; I can only sleep.
The great catches of life are the snares of youth, and, until one has found them out, one's life is bound to provide a surplus of pain over pleasure. The first catch is that love will last. Strong love, especially strong first love of the romantic kind is, as is well known, a most upsetting occurrence. Love inflames the passions, intoxicates the senses, clouds the judgment, destroys the perspective. It causes the loving male to endow the loved female .not only with the desirability of a Venus, but with the virtues of a Madonna, the intelligence of an Athene and the practical ability of a first-rate housewife, and assures him that in comparison with the possession of the person of this epitome of all the excellences, nothing in the world is of the slightest importance.
Finally, it assures the lover that his feelings are permanent. None of these beliefs is true, and all contribute to deepen the disillusionment which ensues when the hot fit passes; but none brings a disillusion quite so bitter as the discovery that it does pass. Love is the bait on the hook of life, whereby men and women are induced to take those steps which are necessary to the continuance of the species. Two people may be hopelessly and utterly imcompatible; they may have no single taste in common and share no single preference or prejudice; they may belong to different classes or countries or races; they may be of different colours; they may hate one another in their hearts. Yet, once the bait so cunningly compounded of sexual attractiveness and sentimental romanticism is presented, the infatuated pair are no more free to refuse it than a starving dog is free to refuse a proferred bone. Once the bait is swallowed, there is no further need of love, and though kindliness and affection may succeed, that is the best one can hope. Unappeased, love is a devouring hunger, a pain past all bearing. Fulfilled, it becomes its own parody, turns homely and dwindles at best into something small and gracious, at worst into something small and ugly. The shock of finding all this out is considerable but salutary. It has the effect of inoculation, and if repeated often enough, gradually confers immunity. Immunity means the exposure of the catch of love.
Pleasure, it seems, is not to be pursued directly. Pleasure is not itself a state, but an accompaniment of other states; not itself a process, but, like coke, a by-product of other processes; not an object, but a grace that attends activities directed to other objects. The road to happiness is not direct but roundabout, and, much as we may desire it, we may not go straight to what we desire. In this respect happiness is like beauty and sleep. Many people hold, though falsely, that there is nothing a man may not win, if he is sufficiently determined to win it. "Where there is a will, there is a way," they say, and, even though there be no way to the moon, for the common run of things the proverb contains its grain of truth. But with happiness it is not so.
The kingdom of happiness, like the kingdom of beauty, is not to be taken by storm, any more than it is to be purchased by dollars.
Set out to seek happiness and it will elude you: throw yourself body and soul into your work, devote yourself to some cause, lift yourself up out of the selfish pit of vanity and desire, which is the self, by giving yourself to something which is greater than self, and on looking back you will find that you have been happy. Happiness, in short, is not a house that can be built by men's hands; it is a flower that surprises you, a song which you hear as you pass the hedge, rising suddenly and simply in the night and dying down again. For my part, I have found that happiness is bound up in some important way with the full development of every side of my nature. Such development is the fruit of unremitting activity and effort, and, since I have been and on the whole am happy, I had better end by giving the recipe which I have learned to follow, the creed by which I try to live.
C. E. M. Joad, the popular philosopher, was an engaging figure, good-natured and a fluent conversationalist. Joad was at the height of his fame as a member of the 'Brains Trust' - probably the most celebrated of all radio programmes at a time when there was virtually no television - but had found himself in trouble for persistently travelling without a railway ticket. A less ebullient spirit would have been dampened by so conspicuous a humiliation and many public figures would probably have retired altogether into private life. But not so Joad. When a fellow guest at the dinner remarked that he had to go down to Brighton for something or other next weekend, Joad from the far end of the table piped up in his peculiar high-pitched voice: 'If you are travelling to Brighton, let me tell you, you have no need to book any further than Three Bridges. When you get there, you must hop out and nip across the line."