E. M. Forster wrote: “I believe in aristocracy… Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages… On they go – an invincible army, yet not a victorious one. The aristocrats, the elect, the chosen, the Best People – all the words that describe them are false, all attempts to organize them fail”:
Two Cheers for Democracy (1939)
The novelist E. M. Forster had much more faith in democracy than other Bloosburyites (like Clive Bell). As Forster put it:
“Democracy is not a Beloved Republic really, and never will be. But it is less hateful than other contemporary forms of government, and to that extent it deserves our support. It does start from the assumption that the individual is important, and that all types are needed to make a civilization… The people I admire most are those who are sensitive and want to create something or discover something, and do not see life in terms of power, and such people get more of a chance under a democracy than elsewhere… the society which allows them most liberty is a democracy”.
“What I Believe” (1939) in Two Cheers for Democracy.
That’s the title of one essay in my forthcoming book Debating Faith. Here is an example of Bell’s amazing elitism:
” How are the civilizing few to be supplied with the necessary security and leisure save at the expense of the many?… Civilization requires the existence of a leisured class, and a leisured class requires the existence of slaves – of people, I mean, who give some part of their surplus time and energy to the support of others…[the select few must be above] the soul-destroying dominion of circumstances”:
Clive Bell, Civilization (1928), pp. 175-176.
Writing in 1928 when Hitler and Mussolini were getting going, the Bloomsbury art critic Clive Bell had no time for “men of action” who threatened freedom of thought:
“Action in itself is worthless…Real men and women of action.. do not as a rule make wars and massacres, do not domineer over the weak and provoke the strong, meddle with their neighbours and turn the world upside down from altruistic motives. These things they do because only in doing can they assert themselves. What is called a man or woman of action is almost always a deformed and deficient artist who yearns to express himself or herself but, unable to express by creating, must assert by interfering. Such people are our misfortune, and there are a good many o them… They must have power, they must impose themselves, they must interfere. They are the makers of nations and empires, and the troublers of peace…They must impose their standards and ways of life…. They can and do impose external uniformity and discipline… they have nothing better to do than seek power, and as the majority is stupid and docile, they generally get it”:
[ Civilization, 1928, pp. 159-160]