The Hour Of Decision: Part Two

II. World Powers And World Wars.


THE "world crisis" of these years is, as the phrase itself shows, taken far too indifferently, too lightly, or too simply, according to the standpoint, the interests, or the horizon of the observer. It is regarded as a crisis in production, in unemployment, in currency, in war debts and reparations, in home or foreign policy, and above all as the result of the World War, which, people think, could have been avoided by a greater degree of honesty and skill on the diplomatists’ part. They talk, with a look askance at Germany in particular, of the desire for war and of war guilt. Naturally, Isvolsky, Poincare`, and Grey, could they have foreseen the condition of their countries today, would have given up their intention of bringing about the political result they desired – the complete encirclement of Germany – by the war of which the strategical introduction was the operations in Tripoli in 1911 and the Balkans in 1912. But even so, it is doubtful whether that mighty discharge could have been postponed by even as much as one decade given the strained situation, which was not merely political; though certainly the distribution of forces might have been different and less grotesque. Facts are ever stronger than men, and the sphere of possibility is, even for a great statesman, much narrower than the layman imagines. And, historically, what would have been changed?

The form, the tempo of the catastrophe, not the catastrophe itself. It was the inevitable close of a century of Western development which had been working up towards it since Napoleon.

We have entered upon the age of the world wars. It began in the nineteenth century and will outlast the present and probably the next. It signifies the transition from the eighteenth-century world of states to the Imperium mundi. It corresponds to the two terrible centuries between Cannae and Actium, which led from the form of the Hellenistic world of states, of which Rome and Carthage were two, to the Imperium Romanum. Just as the latter embraced the field of the Classical civilization and its radiations, that is, the Mediterranean world – so will the former be the destiny of our globe for an indefinite period of time. Imperialism is an idea, whether its supporters and executors are aware of the fact or not. In our own case it may perhaps never be fully realized. It may be crossed by other ideas which come to life outside the boundaries of the world of the "White" nations, but it underlies, as the tendency of a great historical form, everything that is now going on.

We live today "between ages". The Western world of states was in the eighteenth century a structure of a strict style, a style which governed also the contemporary creations of music and mathematics.1 These states and this style expressed distinction of form not only in what they were but in what they did and thought.

Everywhere there ruled an ancient and powerful tradition. There were aristocratic conventions of government, of opposition, of diplomatic and warlike interstate relations, of admission of defeat and of challenges and concessions at the peace table. Honour still played an undisputed role. Everything proceeded ceremoniously and politely as in a duel.

After Peter the Great had founded a state of Western form at Petersburg,2 the word "Europe" began to come into common use among Western peoples and, as is customary, to slip unnoticed into practical political thought and the trend of history. Till then it had been a scholar’s term in geographical science, which since the discovery of America had developed on the lines of cartography. It is significant that the Turkish Empire, at that time a real world-power which embraced the whole Balkan peninsula and parts of southern Russia, was instinctively kept off these maps. And Russia itself counted actually only as the Petersburg Government. How many Western diplomats knew enough of Astrakhan, Nizhni-Novgorod, even Moscow, to think of them as part of "Europe"? The frontier of Western civilization was always placed at the point where German colonization had come to a standstill.

Of this Europe Germany formed the centre – not as a State, but as the battlefield of actual States. Here were made, mostly with German blood, the decisions as to whom India, South Africa, and North America should belong to.

In the East lay Russia, Austria, and Turkey; in the West, Spain and France, the two declining colonial empires from whom the island England wrested the supremacy – in the case of the Spaniards, definitively in 1713, in the case of the French from 1763 onward. England became the leading power in this system, not only as state, but as style. She grew very rich as compared with "the Continent" - she has never quite regarded herself as part of "Europe" - and funded his wealth in the form of hired soldiers, sailors, and whole states, whom she subsidized to fight the island’s battles.

At the end of the century Spain had long ceased to be a great power, and France was on the way to following her example. Both were old and exhausted nations, proud but weary, looking towards the past, but lacking the true ambition – which is to be strictly differentiated from jealousy – to continue to play a creative part in the future.

Had Mirabeau’s plans of 1789 succeeded, there would have arisen a more or less permanent constitutional monarchy, content in essence to satisfy the rentier taste of the bourgeoisie and the peasantry. Under the Directorate it looked as if the country, resigned and sick of ideals as it was, would have welcomed any form of government that would guarantee outward and inward peace. But then came Napoleon, an Italian who had chosen Paris as the base of his schemes for power, and created in his armies the type of the last Frenchman, who upheld France as a great power for fully a century – a type brave, elegant, bragging, rough, fond of killing, plundering, destroying, all for its own sake without any object – with the result that none of these victories brought France the smallest permanent advantage in spite of the incredible bloodshed. Only her fame increased, not even her honour. At bottom it was a Jacobin ideal, which, in contrast to the Girondist ideal of the small business man and the philistine, had behind it never the majority but always the power. The polite forms of the ancien regime in politics were ousted by others definitely plebeian. The nation was an incoherent mass, war the conscription of masses, battles the waste of human life, the brutal peace treaties the unmannered diplomacy of the pettifogging lawyer. Yet England needed all Europe and her own total wealth to destroy this creation of a single man, which still lived on as an idea. At the Congress of Vienna, the eighteenth century triumphed once more over the Modern Age, and the term "conservative" came in.

But it was only an apparent victory, and the result of it was constantly in question for the rest of the century. Metternich (whose political vision, say what one will about his personality, penetrated further into the future than any post-Bismarckian statesman’s) was mercilessly clear on this point: "My private belief is that the old Europe is at the beginning of its end. I, who am determined to go down with it, shall know how to do my duty. The new Europe, on the other hand, is still in the state of becoming; between end and beginning there will be chaos". It was only to put off this chaos as long as possible that the system of a balance of power among the great nations arose, beginning with the Holy Alliance between Austria, Prussia, and Russia. Treaties were concluded, alliances sought, congresses held, to prevent any political upset of "Europe" - which it could not have borne. When, in spite of this, a war broke out between individual powers, the neutrals armed at once in order to maintain the balance at the conclusion of peace, even though minor shiftings of frontiers had taken place – the Crimean War is a classic example. One new formation only resulted: Germany, the personal creation of Bismarck, became a great power, and, what is more important, it lay in the centre of the existing system. In this simple fact lies the germ of a tragedy which nothing could be done to prevent. But as long as Bismarck ruled – and he did rule in Europe, even more than at one time Metternich – no change took place in the general political picture. Europe kept itself to itself; no one interfered in its affairs. The world powers were without exception European powers. And the dread that this state of things might come to an end – Bismarck’s cauchemar des coalitions comes under this heading – oriented the diplomacy of all states concerned.

Nevertheless by 1878 the age was already ripe for the first world war. The Russians stood before Constantinople, England wanted to intervene, France and Austria too; the war would at once have spread to Asia an Africa, and perhaps America; for the threat to India from Turkestan, the question of a protectorate for Egypt and the Suez Canal, and Chinese problems all emerged, and behind everything the beginning of rivalry between London and New York showed that England’s sympathy with the Southern States in the War of Secession had not been forgotten. It was Bismarck’s personal supremacy alone that shifted the decision of the great power-problems, for which there was no peaceful solution, to the future – though at a cost. In place of real wars there was no competitive arming for potential wars. This meant a new form of war, in which the parties vied with each other in the number of soldiers, of guns, of inventions, of the available sums of gold, which increased the tension almost to breaking point.3 And precisely at that time, though the Europe of Bismarck’s day remained oblivious of it, Japan, under Mutsuhito (1869), began to develop into a great power of the European brand with army, tactics, and armament-industry; and the United States was drawing the logical conclusion from the Civil War of 1861-5, in which the settler and planter element succumbed to the coal, industry, bank and bourse element, and the dollar commenced to play a part in the world.

From the end of the century the decay of this state system has become quite obvious – though not for the statesmen in charge, among whom there are no longer any outstanding figures. They all wear themselves out in the usual combinations, alliances, and agreements; trust to luck for external peace, for which standing armies present the security, during their term of office, and conceive of the future as a prolongation of the present. An over all the cities of Europe and North America there is triumphant shouting over the "progress of mankind" as demonstrated by the length of railways and leading articles, the height of factory chimneys and Radical election figures, and the thickness of armour-plating and the wads of share-certificates in safes.

The Shouting drowns the thunder of American guns at Havana and Manila and even that of the new Japanese howitzers at Port Arthur, by which the little yellow men, spoilt and admired by foolish Europe, demonstrated the precariousness of the basis on which its technical superiority stood and gave Russia, whose gaze never really left its western frontier, a most emphatic reminder of Asia’s existence.

All the same, Russia had just then reason enough to be occupied with "Europe". It was clear that Austria-Hungary would not, or would barely, survive the death of the Emperor Franz Josef, and it was a question of what forms the new organization of these vast areas would take and whether war could be avoided. For not only were there various schemes and trends – mutually exclusive – in the interior of the Danubian Empire, but hopeful neighbouring countries also had ideas, and beyond them again would welcome a conflict there as enabling them to pursue their own aims elsewhere. Europe’s state system, as a unity, was at the end of the world war, postponed in 1878, threatened to break out on account of the same problems on the same spot. And in 1912 it happened.

Meanwhile the system began to pass into a form which still persists today and bears a resemblance to the Orbis terrarum of the Late-Hellenic and Roman centuries. In those days the old Greek city states, including Rome and Carthage, lay in the centre and all around them the "circle of countries," which furnished the armies and the money for their decisions.4 Macedonia, Syria, and Egypt rose from the heritage of Alexander the Great; Africa and Spain from that of Carthage; Rome had conquered North and South Italy, and Caesar added to these - Gaul. The struggle as to who should control the coming Imperium was fought, from Hannibal and Scipio down to the time of Antony and Octavian, on material supplied by the great border areas. And just so did relations develop in the last decades before 1914. A great power of the European order was a State which kept some hundred thousands of men under arms on European soil and possessed gold and materials enough to be able, in case of need, to multiply them tenfold in a calculable time; and behind these it had control of extensive border areas in other continents, which with their navel bases, colonial troops, and population of raw-material producers and production-absorbers, formed the basis for the wealth and consequently the military striking-force of the homeland. This was more or less the actual form of the British Empire, French West Africa, and Russian Asia, whereas in Germany the narrow outlook of ministers and parties lost for her the opportunity throughout several decades of founding a great colonial empire in central Africa, which in wartime would have been a power, even without being linked to the homeland, and would in any case have prevented a complete blockade by sea. The hasty endeavour to divide up the available remainder of the world in spheres of influence had as a result the gravest friction between Russia and England in Persia and the Gulf of Chi-li, between England and Germany in Morocco, and between all these powers of China.

Everywhere there were occasions for a great war, which seemed always on the point of breaking out, with a strange variety in the distribution of the warring parties – in the case of Fashoda and in the Russo-Japanese War, Russia and France were on the one side, England and Japan on the other – until at last it broke, in 1914, in a wholly meaningless form. It was a siege of Germany, as the "empire of the centre," by the whole world; the last attempt on the old lines to fight out great distant problems on German soil, without rhyme or reason as regards object and site. The war would have assumed a totally different form, different aims, and a different ending, had it been possible to induce Russia to conclude a separate peace with Germany, for this would inevitably have brought her over to the side of the Central powers. In the form it took, the war was a foredoomed failure. Its great problems are today as far from solution as ever, and could never have been solved by alliances between such natural enemies as England and Russia, Japan and America.

This war marks the end of all traditions of the grand diplomacy of which Bismarck was the last representative. Not one among the deplorable later statesmen understood his task and the historical position of his country. More than one has since confessed to being driven, at his wits’ end and unprotesting, into the movement of events. And so the fact that was "Europe" went to a stupid and undignified death.

Who won, who was beaten? In 1918 we thought we knew. And France at least still clings rigidly to her conviction, because she dare not morally surrender the last idea of her political existence as a great power, the revanche. But how about England? Or Russia? Has Kleist’s short story Der Zweikampf been staged here on a world historical scale? Was it "Europe" that was beaten? Or the forces of tradition? The truth is, a new form of world has arisen, as the precondition for future crises which must one day set in with crushing force. Russia has been reconquered morally by Asia, and it is doubtful if the British Empire any longer has its centre of gravity in Europe. The rest of "Europe" lies now between Asia and America – between Russia and Japan in the East and between North America and the British Dominions in the West – and consists substantially only of: Germany, which is taking up her old position as a frontier against "Asia"; Italy, which is a power as long as Mussolini lives and may perhaps acquire in the Mediterranean the wider base for a true world-power; and France, who once more considers herself lord of Europe and to whose political system the League of Nations and the group of south-eastern states belong. But these are all possibly, or probably, evanescent phenomena. The transformation of the world’s political forms proceeds apace, and no one can imagine what the maps of Asia, Africa, and even America will look like a few decades hence.


WHAT Metternich meant by the "chaos" that he tried to avert from Europe as long as possible by resigned and uncreative activity, by concentrating on preserving the existing state of things, was not so much the decay of the system of states, with its balance of power, as the parallel decay of the dignity of the State (Staatshoheit) even in the individual countries, a conception which is now almost lost to us. What we recognize as "order" today, and express in "Liberal" constitutions, is nothing but anarchy become a habit. We call it democracy, parliamentarianism, national self-government, but in fact it is the mere non-existence of a conscious responsible authority, a government – that is, a true State.

Human history in the period of the high cultures is the history of political forces. The form of this history is war. But peace is also part of it, for it is the continuation of war with different means – the attempt of the vanquished to shake off the consequences of the war in the shape of treaties, the attempt of the victor to maintain them. A State represents the "being in condition" 5 of a national unit trained and set up by it for real and potential wars.

When the "form" is very high, it has in itself the value of a victorious war, which is won without weapons and solely by the weight of the force ready to come into play. If form is poor, it approximates to continuous defeat in the State’s relation to other powers. States are purely political units, units of radiated power. They are not units bound up with race, language, or religion, but stand above these. Whenever they coincide or mingle with such elements, their strength usually declines and never increases, in consequence of the inward contradiction. Internal politics exist only to secure the strength and unity of external politics, and when they pursue different aims of their own, decay sets in and the State gets "out of form".

For a power to be "in form", as a State among states, it must have the strength and unity in its leadership, its government, and its authority, without which the State has no real existence. State and government constitute the same form whether considered as existence or as activity. The powers of the eighteenth century were "in form", a form strictly defined by the dynastic tradition of court and society and to a great extent identical with it. The ceremonial, the tact of good society, the polite manners observed in bargaining and negotiating were but a visible expression of it. England, too, was in form: her island situation was a substitute for certain important features of a State, and parliamentary government was an eminently aristocratic and effective form, established by ancient usage, of doing business. France became involved in a revolution, not because "the people" opposed absolutism – which no longer existed – nor because of the poverty and indebtedness of the country – for these were far greater elsewhere – but because authority was in process of dissolution. All revolutions start from the decline of State supremacy. A street insurrection can never have this effect; it is a mere consequence. A modern republic is nothing but the ruin of a monarchy that has given itself up.

With the nineteenth century the powers pass from the form of dynastic states into that of national states. But what, exactly, does this mean? Nations – that is, civilized peoples – had of course been there long before. Moreover, on the whole they coincided with the spheres of authority of the great dynasties. These nations were ideas, in the sense in which Goethe speaks of the idea of his existence: the inward form of a significant life which, unaware and unobserved, inspires every deed and every word. But "la nation" in the sense of 1789 was a Rationalistic and Romantic ideal, a wish-picture of expressly political, not say social tendency. In this shallow age no one is able to distinguish the two. An ideal is the product of reflection, a conception or proposition which has to be formulated before one can "have" it. Accordingly it shortly becomes a catchword which one uses without spending anymore thought on it. Ideas, on the other hand, are wordless. Their vessels are seldom, if ever, aware of them, and for others they can hardly be conveyed in words. They must be felt in visualized happenings, described in actual realizations. Definition they defy. Neither wishes nor aims concern them. They are the obscure urge which attains form in human life and soars fatefully and directionally over the individual existence: thus the idea of Romanness, the idea of the Crusades, the Faustian idea of striving after the infinite.

Real nations are ideas, even today. But what nationalism signifies, since 1789, is shown by the very fact that it confuses its mother-tongue with the written language of the city, where everyone learns to read and write – with the language, therefore, of newspapers and pamphlets that preach to all the "rights" of the nation and its pressing need of being delivered from this, that, or the other. Real nations are, like every living organism, of high internal structural complication and constitute a kind of order by their mere existence. But political Rationalism understands by a "nation" freedom from and struggle against any sort of order. "Nation" is for Rationalism analogous to mass, a formless structureless thing, rulerless and aimless. This it calls "the sovereignty of the people." It forgets significantly the matured thought and feeling of the peasantry, it scorns the manners and customs of true folk-life, among which, and in a high degree, is respect for authority. It knows not respect, but only principles, derived form theories, of which the chief is the plebeian one of "equality" –namely, substitution of quantity for the detested quality, and of number for the coveted talent. Modern nationalism replaces the people by the masses. It is revolutionary and urban through and through.

Most sinister of all is the ideal of a nation governed "by itself". A nation cannot of course govern itself any more than an army can lead itself – it has to be governed, and as long as it possesses healthy instincts, it likes to be governed. But something quite different is meant: the notion of popular representation is from the first the leading principle of every such movement. Persons who designate themselves "representatives" of the people come along and recommend themselves as such. They have no intention whatever of "serving the people"; they intend to make the people serve them in their more or less sordid aims, of which the gratification of vanity is the least harmful. They oppose the forces of tradition in order to set up themselves in its place. They oppose the State order, because it hampers their own form of activity. They oppose every kind of authority, because they wish to be responsible to no one, and themselves evade all responsibility.

No constitution contains a court of appeal before which parties might have to justify themselves. They oppose above all the cultured form of the State, which has slowly grown up and matured, because they do not possess it within themselves as the good society of the eighteenth century possessed it, and therefore feel it as a form of compulsion – which it is not for culture-people. Thus we get the "democracy" of the century – not form, but formlessness in every sense as a principle – parliamentarianism – constitutional anarchy – the republic – the negation of every kind of authority.

And so European states got "out of form" in proportion as they were more "progressively" governed. This was the chaos which moved Metternich to oppose democracy irrespective of its tendency, in the Romantic type of the Wars of Liberation as well as the Rationalistic type of the Bastille-stormers – both of which were combined in 1848 – and to be equally conservative in his attitude towards all reforms. Since then parties have been formed in all countries; that is, side by side with individual idealists there arose groups of business politicians of doubtful origin and more than doubtful ethics: journalists, advocates, financiers, literary hacks, party agents. They governed by representing their own interests. Monarchs and ministers had invariably been responsible to someone, if only to public opinion. These groups alone were accountable to nobody. The press, originally the organ of public opinion, had long since begun to serve the man who subsidized it; elections, once the expression of that opinion, brought in as victorious the party with the biggest money behind it. If nevertheless there still existed a kind of State order, or conscientious ruling, of authority, it resided in remnants of the eighteenth-century form, which persisted in the form of monarchy, however constitutional, of the officer-corps, of diplomatic tradition; and as regards England in age-old parliamentary usage (particularly in the Upper House) and in the two-party system. To these remnants was due everything that the State succeeded in bringing about in spite of parliaments.. Had Bismarck not been able to upon his king, he promptly have succumbed to the democracy. Political dilettantism, whose arena was parliament, regarded these forces of tradition with suspicion and hatred. It opposed them on principle and without restraint or thought for the external consequences. And thus, everywhere, home politics became a sphere which made demands on experienced statesmen that were quite out of relation to its importance, wasting their time and strength, and causing them to forget – and to will to forget – the original meaning of statesmanship, which is the direction of external policy. This condition of things is the anarchic intermezzo known today as democracy, which leads from the destruction of monarchial State supremacy by way of political, plebeian Rationalism to the Caesarism of the future. There are already signs, in the dictatorial tendencies of our time, of this Caesarism, which is destined to assume the unlimited mastery over the ruins of historical tradition.


AMONG the gravest signs of the decay of State authority is the fact that in the course of the nineteenth century economics came to be considered more important than politics. Few of those who are at all in touch with present-day decisions will deny this with any conviction. Not only is political power regarded as an element in public life whose first, if not sole, task is to serve the nation’s economics – it is also expected to conform entirely to the desires and views of this economics and, in a word, to be at the disposal of the economic leaders. This is now the situation, far and wide, and the consequences may be read in the history of our time.

Actually, politics and economics cannot be separated in the life of a nation, for they are (as must be repeated again and again) two sides of the same life. But they stand to each other in the capacity of the navigation of a vessel and the destination of its freight. On board, it is the captain, not the merchant whose goods are carried, who has priority. If the impression prevails today that economic leadership is the more powerful element, this is because political leadership has degenerated into partisan anarchy and hardly deserves the name of leadership at all, so that by contrast the economic leadership appears to tower above it. But when one house is left standing amid the ruins after an earthquake, it is not necessarily the most important one. In history, when it is moving on "in good form" and is not tumultuous or revolutionary, the economic leader has never been the one to make decisions. He adapts himself to the political considerations and serves them with the means that are in his hands. Without a strong policy there has never and nowhere been a healthy economic system, although materialistic theories teach the contrary. Adam Smith, the founder of political economy, treated economic existence as the true human life, money-making as the meaning of history, and was wont to describe statesmen as dangerous animals; yet this very England became what it became – the foremost country, economically speaking, in the world – owing, not to the merchants and factory-owners, but to genuine politicians like the two Pitts, whose grandiose foreign policy was carried through often in the teeth of violent opposition from the short-sighted economists. They were pure statesmen, too, who carried on the struggle against Napoleon up to the verge of a financial crash, because they saw further ahead than the balancing of next year’s budget – the normal limit of our political horizon today. But as things are now, the inadequacy of our leading statesmen, who themselves for the most part have interests in private concerns, allows business to intervene authoritatively in important decisions. However, it is business in its widest implication: not only banks and firms, with or without party protection, but also the concerns dealing with the raising of wages and shortening of hours which call themselves Labour parties. The last is the logical result of the first, and therein lies the tragic side of every economic system which tries to be its own political security. This again was first seen in 1789, among the Girondists, who tried to make the business interests of the well-to-do bourgeoisie the justification for the existence of State powers, and later, under Louis Philippe, the bourgeois king, this was to a great extent realized. The notorious motto: "Enrichissez-vous" entered into political morals. It was only too well understood and obeyed, and that not only by trade and commerce and the politicians themselves, but also by the wage-earning class, which at that time (1848) likewise took advantage of the decline of State authority for their own ends. And now the economic tendency become uppermost in the stealthy form of revolution typical of the century, which is called democracy and demonstrates itself periodically, in revolts by ballot or barricade on the part of the masses, and by the upsetting of cabinets and voting down the budget on the part of the people’s representatives. This was the case in England, where the Free Trade doctrine of the Manchester school was applied by the trade unions to the form of goods called "labour" and eventually received theoretical formulation in the "Communist Manifesto" of Marx and Engels. And so was completed the dethronement of politics by economics, of the State by the counting-house, of the diplomatist by the trade-union leader; and it is here and not in the sequelae of the World War that the seeds of the present economic crisis will be found. This whole crushing depression is purely and simply the result of the decline of State power.

Yet the century might have taken warning by historical experience. No economic enterprises have ever really attained their end without the support of a politically ambitious government. It is quite wrong to speak of the "raids" of the Vikings, with whom the command of the sea began for the Western world. Obviously they were out for booty – whether in the form of land, men, or treasure was another question – but the Viking ship was a State in itself, and the plan, the high command, and the tactics of the voyage were pure policy. When the ship grew into a fleet, states were founded on the strength of it – and with a most pronounced authority behind them too, as in Normandy, England, and Sicily. The German Hansa would remained an economic great power had Germany itself became a political one. It was when this mighty federation of cities came to and end – it occurred to no one to regard its protection as a duty of the German State – that Germany fell out of the great world economic combinations of the West. Only in the nineteenth century did it find its way back, and then not through private enterprise, but solely through Bismarck’s political achievements, which inspired the Imperialistic advance of the German economic system.

Maritime imperialism, the expression of the Faustian striving towards infinity, began to assume large forms from the time when the economic outlet in the direction of Asia was politically barred by the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453. This was the deeper motive for the discovery of the oversea trade route to the East Indies by the Portuguese and the discovery of America by the Spaniards – with the great powers of the period behind them. The dominant motives, in individuals, were no doubt ambition, love of adventure, delight in battle and danger, thirst for gold – certainly not mere "good business". The discovered countries were to be conquered and ruled over; they were to strengthen the power of the Habsburgs in European combinations. The vision of an empire over which the sun never set was a political vision, the consequence of superior statesmanship and only as such a field for economic reward. It was the same when England won the primacy – not through her economic strength (which did not at first exist), but through the wise regimen of the nobility, Tory and Whig alike. England gained her wealth by battles and not by bookkeeping and speculation. That is why the English people, for all its "Liberal" thinking and talking, remained in practice the most conservative in Europe; conservative, that is, in the sense of preserving all past forms of power and even to the smallest ceremonial details, for all that they might smile or laugh outright at them So long as no more powerful new form was in sight, so long were all the old ones retained: the two-party system, the Government’s way of detaching itself from Parliament when making decisions, the House of Lords and the monarchy as braking elements in critical situations. This instinct has saved England time upon time, and if it should now die out, it will mean the loss, not only of political, but of economic position in the world. Neither Mirabeau, Talleyrand, Metternich, nor Wellington understood anything about economics. Undoubtedly they found pretexts in it – but how much worse if, in their place, an economic expert had tried to dictate politics! Once imperialism falls into the hands of economic and materialistic business men and ceases to be high policy, it very quickly sinks from the level of the interests of the economic governing class to that of the class war of the actual workers, and thus the great economic systems become disintegrated – and pull down the great powers with them into the abyss.


OF all expressions of the "national" revolutions that have happened since 1789 the most fertile in consequences was the nineteenth-century standing army. The professional armies of dynastic states was replaced by mass armies formed on the basis of universal conscription. This was, fundamentally, a Jacobin ideal. The levee en masse of 1792 expressed the nation as mass, which was meant to be organized on a basis of perfect equality, in contrast to the old nation of steady growth and class ordering. But the Rights of Man enthusiasts soon made the discovery that the wild onsets of these uniformed masses produced something quite unexpected: a glorious, barbaric, and quite untheoretical joy in danger, mastery, and victory. It was the relic of healthy race-instinct, the trace of Nordic heroism left in these nations. Blood was once more stronger than mind. The theoretical enthusiasm for the ideal of a nation in arms had had a quite other, more conscious, more Rationalistic aim than the discharge of these elementary impulses, as in Germany, where during – and especially after – the Wars of Liberation, which led up to the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, these armies, "in which there was no distinction between high and low, rich and poor," were conceived of as furnishing the model for a future nation in which all differences of rank, possessions, and ability were in some way to be removed. This was the secret thought of many of the volunteers of 1813, but equally that of literary "Young Germany" – Heine, Herwegh, Freiligrath – and many men of the Paulskirche,6 as, for instance, Uhland. The principle of inorganic equality was for them crucial. Men of the stamp of Jahn and Arndt had no notion that it was Equality that had first sounded the cry of "Vive la nation" in the September massacres of 1792.

They forgot, too, one basic fact. The Romanticism of their Volkslieder sang only the heroism of the common soldier, but the inner worth of these armies (at first amateurs in the calling of arms), their spirit, their discipline, and their training, depended upon the quality of the officer-corps, whose adequacy was due entirely to eighteenth-century traditions. With the Jacobins also a body of soldiers

was morally worth precisely as much as its officer, who had trained it by his example. Napoleon confessed at St. Helena that he would not have been beaten had he had for his superb fighting material a corps of officers like the Austrian, a corps in which chivalrous traditions of loyalty, honour, and silent self-discipline still survived. Once the command wavers in its intentions and its attitude – or itself abdicates, as in 1918 – the bravest regiment becomes on the spot a cowardly and helpless herd.

Given the rapid disintegration of the forms of power in Europe, it was a wonder that this means of power held out against it. Yet in fact it did so. The great armies were the most conservative element of the nineteenth century. It was they and not the debilitated monarchy, the nobility, or even the church that upheld the form of State authority and enabled it to cope with the anarchic tendencies of Liberalism. "What will come out of all this ruin," wrote Metternich7 in 1849, "no one today can tell. An element of force has arisen, not only in Austria, but in the whole of hard-pressed Europe. This element is called: standing armies. Unfortunately it is only a conserving, not a creative element, and it is creativeness that is wanted." And, indeed, it was wholly on the strict ideals of the officer-corps – to the level of which the rank and file had been trained – that all depended. In the local riots and insurrections that happened in 1848 and later, the responsibility of failure was always traceable to moral inferiority in the officers. Would-be

political generals who considered themselves entitled by their military rank to make statesmanlike decisions and act according to them have always existed – in Spain and France as in Prussia and Austria – but the officer-corps as a whole always declined to hold political opinions of its own. In 1830, 1848, 1870, it was the armies that stood firm, not he crowns.

It was the armies, also, which averted war from 1870 onward, for no one dared to set this mighty force in motion for fear of its incalculable effect. Hence the abnormal state of peace between 1870 and 1914, which renders it almost impossible for us to see how things really lay.8 In the place of direct wars we have the indirect variety, in the form of a steady increase of war-preparedness, of the pace of armament and technical invention: a war in which there are similarly victories, defeats, and shortlived peace treaties.9 But this method of disguised warfare presupposes a national wealth such as only countries with an extensive industrial system have amassed – to a great extent the wealth, in so far as it represented capital, actually consisted in the industrial system – and the existence of the system presupposed supplies of coal, on which all industries depended.10 Money is needed to wage war, and still more money for war preparations. Industrialism therefore became in itself a weapon. The more productive it was, the more certainly could its success be gauged in advance.

Every furnace, every machine-factory increased war-preparedness. The prospect of successful operations became more and more dependant upon the possibility of unlimited consumption of material – above all, munitions. Only gradually did this fact grow familiar. In the peace negotiations of 1871 Bismarck still laid all the stress on strategic points like Metz and Belfort, and none at all on the Lorraine mining area. But once the whole relation between economics and war, between coal and cannon, was realized, a revulsion set in: a strong economic system came to be regarded as the all-important premiss for war; it was now the first consideration, and at once the cannon began to be used to obtain coal.11 The decline of the State as a concept in consequence of all-grasping parliamentarianism soon followed. The economic system – from trust to trade union – began to play its part in governing and in influencing the aims and methods of foreign policy by its vote. Colonial and oversea policy became a struggle for the marketing areas and raw-material sources of industry, and among these sources oil became more and more important. For petroleum was beginning to threaten – nay, to oust – coal. Without the oil motor, automobiles, airplanes, and submarines would have been impossible.

The same tendency was seen in preparation for sea warfare.12 When the American Civil War began, armed merchantmen were practically on a level with the contemporary warships. Three years later, armoured vessels were the sea-ruling type. Out of these ships evolved, at a feverish pace of construction, ever larger and more powerful types, of which each in turn became out of date in a few years. These were the floating fortresses of the turn of the century, monstrous machines which on account of their coal requirements became ever more dependant upon coastal bases. The old rivalry for supremacy between sea and land began in a certain sense to incline landwards. Whoever had the naval bases, with their docks and reserves of material, ruled the sea irrespective of the size of the fleet. "Rule Britannia" depended on the last resort upon England’s wealth of colonies, which were there for the sake of the ships and not vice versa. Therein lay the importance of Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, Singapore, the Bermudas, and numerous other strategic bases. The meaning of war, the decisive battle at sea, was lost sight of. The enemy fleet was shut off from the coast by way of rendering it helpless. There was never anything at sea corresponding to the operations plan of a general staff, never a decision fought out to the end by these battle squadrons. The theoretical dispute on the value of Dreadnought after the Russo-Japanese War was due to the fact that Japan had built the type, but had not yet tested it. In the World War, too, the battleships lay quiet in the harbours. They might as well not have existed. Even the battle of Skagerrack (Jutland) was only a surprise, the offer of a battle, which the English fleet evaded as well as it could. Few indeed of the great ships that have been put out of service within the last fifty years as obsolete have fired a shot at an enemy of equal standing. And the development of the air arm today makes it doubtful whether the day of armoured ships is not altogether past. The Corsair warfare may perhaps be the only thing left.

In the course of the World War a complete transformation took place on land. The national mass-armies, which had been developed to the extreme limit of their possibilities and constituted a weapon that, in contrast to the battle fleet, was really "used up", ended in the trenches, where the siege of Germany was carried on by assaults and sorties until the capitulation. Quantity triumphed over quality, mechanism over life. The great numbers put an end to the type of mobility that Napolean had introduced into tactics, particularly in the campaign of 1805 which led in a few weeks through Ulm to Austerlitz, and that the Americans had enhanced in 1861-5 by the use of railways. The World War, too, would have been impossible both as to form and as to duration without the railways, which enabled Germany to shift whole armies between East and West.

Two really great revolutions in the conduct of war in world history have been brought about by a sudden increase in mobility: the one was in the first centuries after 1000 B.C when at some point in the wide plains between the Danube and the Amur the saddle-horse made its appearance. Mounted armies were far superior to foot-soldiers.13

They could appear and vanish again without offering the enemy any chance of attacking or pursuing them. In vain did the nations, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, set up mounted troops alongside their infantry, for the latter hampered the freedom of movement of the horse. Equally vain was the encircling of the Roman, and of the Chinese, Imperium with walls and ditches. (The Chinese Wall still runs across half of Asia, and the Roman Limes in the Syrian-Arabian desert has just been discovered). It was not possible to assemble the armies behind these walls with the speed demanded by surprise attacks, and the Chinese, Indian, Roman, Arabian, and Western worlds, with their settled peasant populations, succumbed again and again in helpless terror to the Parthians, Huns, Scythians, Mongols, and Turks. It is as if peasantry and life in the saddle were spiritually irreconcilable. It was still superior speed that gave victory to the hordes of Genghis Khan.

The second transformation we are experiencing in our time – the replacing of the horse by the "horse power" of Faustian technics. Right up to the first world war it was precisely the old and famous cavalry regiments of Western Europe which, more than any other arm, were haloed with the pride of chivalry and adventurousness and heroism. For centuries they were true Vikings of the land. More and more they came to stand for the genuine vocation and life of the soldier, in a far higher degree than the infantry of universal service. In the future it will be different. Aircraft and tank squadrons are taking their place. Mobility will be thereby intensified from the limit of organic possibilities to the inorganic possibilities of the machine – but, as it were, of the individual machine – which, however, unlike the impersonal drum-fire of the trenches, presents grand openings for personal heroism.

More significant even than this critical decision between mass and mobility, another factor intervenes in the fate of standing armies which will inevitably prove fatal to the nineteenth-century principle of universal national conscription. The decline of authority, the substitution of party for State – in a word, progressive anarchy – had up till 1914 stopped short of the army. So long as there remained an officer-corps to train a rapidly changing body of men, there remained also the ethical value of military honour, fidelity, and silent obedience, the spirit of Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Wellington – that is, the eighteenth century – and the chivalresque attitude to life. This great element of stability was first shaken in the war of positions, when hastily-trained young officers were set to deal with older troops which had years of war service. Here, again, the long peace of 1870 to 1914 suspended a development which was bound to accompany the progressive decline in the "form" of nations. The ranks, including the lower grades of the officer-corps (who saw the world from below, because they were leaders not by profession but to meet a passing need), came to have their own view of political possibilities. This view was, needless to say, imported from outside, either from the enemy or through the propaganda and disintegration "cells" of the Radical parties in their own countries, and with this view came the impulse to think out ways of imposing it. Thus did the element of anarchy enter he army, the one institution which had so far baffled it. And after the War it continued its work in all the barracks of peace-time standing armies. Moreover the plain man of the people had, like the professional politician and the Radical leader, for forty years dreaded and exaggerated the unknown effect which modern armies would have, upon both foreign armies and insurgents, and therefore hardly even considered the possibility of resisting them.14 The Social-Democrats had given up the idea of a revolution long before the War – it was merely a phrase in their program – and one company was sufficient to hold thousands of excited civilians in check. But the War proved how negligible the effect even of a strong force with heavy artillery can be upon our stone-built cities, when there is house-to-house defence. The regular army lost its nimbus of invincibility vis a` vis revolutions. Nowadays a conscript has a very different idea about it all from that which he had before the War. As a result he has lost the consciousness of being a mere object of the commanding force. I am very doubtful whether, for instance, in France a general mobilization against a dangerous enemy could be carried out at all. What is to happen if the masses refuse to be conscripted? And what is the value of such troops, when one does not know how far their moral disintegration has gone or on what fraction of the men one can really rely? This is the end of that universal conscription which in 1792 had the impetus of national war-enthusiasm behind it and started with voluntary armies of professional soldiers, who swarmed round some popular leader or were fired by some great aim. In all the Cultures – consider, for instance, the substitution of paid professional armies for the conscripted Roman peasant armies after Marius, and the consequences – this has been the way to Caesarism and is at bottom the instinctive revolt of the blood, of the reserve of race-instinct, of the primitive will-to-power, against the material forces of money and intellect, anarchist theories, and the speculation which exploits them – the way from democracy to plutocracy.15

These materialistic and plebian forces have since the end of eighteenth century proceeded quite logically to adopt other means of fighting that were closer to their modes of thought and experience. Side by side with armies and navies, used to an increasing extent for purposes remote from the nations themselves and serving solely the business aims of individual groups – the name "Opium War" is a drastic comment on this – there arose methods of economic warfare, which often enough led in "peace" time to battles, victories, and peace treaties that were purely economic. Real soldiers, like Moltke, let us say, scorned these methods and undoubtedly underestimated their effect. All the more did they appeal to "modern" statesmen who in consequence of their upbringing and disposition, thought first in terms of economics and only then (and perhaps) politically. The growing dissolution of State authority

through parliamentarianism afforded the opportunity to exploit the organs of governmental power in this direction. Above all, in England, which by the middle of the nineteenth century had become a "nation of shopkeepers", an enemy power was not to be overthrown by military, but ruined by economic, rivalry, and at the same time retained as a purchaser of English goods. That has been the intention of free-trade "Liberal" imperialism since Robert Peel. Napoleon conceived of the Continental blockade as a purely military measure because he had no other available against England. On the Continent he created only new dynasties, whereas Pitt founded trading and plantation colonies in distant lands. The war of 1914, however, was fought by England, not on France’s behalf nor on Belgium’s, but for the sake of the "week-end", to dispose of Germany, if possible, for good, as an economic rival. In 1916 there set in, side by side with the military war, a systematic economic war, to be carried on when the other came inevitably to an end, and from then onward the war aims were oriented more and more in that direction. The Treaty of Versailles was not intended to create a state of peace but to organize the relation of forces in such a way that this aim could at any time be secured by fresh demands and measures. Hence the handing over of the colonies and the merchant fleet, the seizure of bank bonds, property and patents in all countries, the severance of industrial areas like upper Silesia and the Saar valley, the inauguration of the Republic – by which it was expected (and correctly) that industry would be undermined by the power assumed by trade unions – and finally the reparations, which England, at least, intended not as war indemnification but as a permanent burden on German industry until it should collapse.

But with this there set in, quite contrary to the expectation of the powers which had dictated the treaty, a new economic war, in which we are still engaged and which accounts for a very considerable part of the present "world economic crisis". The distribution of power in the world had been completely changed by the strengthening of the United States and its high finance and by the new form of the Russian Empire. The opponents and the methods were changed. The present-day war with economic weapons (which may later be accounted a second world war) produced wholly new forms in the Bolshevik economic offensive expressed in the Five Year Plan; the attack by dollars and francs on the pound sterling; the inflations engineered by foreign exchanges which destroyed the whole contents of national exchequers; autarchy of economic systems which may be carried to the extent of wiping out exports from the opposing powers and therewith the whole economic system and the means of existence for great nations; and the Dawes and Young plans, which represent the attempts of financial groups to force whole states to do forced labour for the banks. What it really amounts to is that the life of one’s own nation has to be gained at the cost of destroying that of others. It is the struggle on the keel of the overturned boat. And when all other means are exhausted, then the oldest and most primitive, the military means, will come into their own again. The more strongly armed power will force the weaker one to give up its economic defensive, capitulate, and disappear, Cannon are in the last resort stronger than coal. There is not telling how this economic war will end, but it is certain that it will finally restore to the State as authority its historical rights, based on voluntary, and therefore reliable, thoroughly trained, and highly mobile armies – and will push back economics to the second place, where they belong.


IN this age of transition, of formlessness "between the ages", which is probably still far short of the summit of confusion and passing forms, new tendencies pointing towards the distant future are faintly outlining themselves. The powers which are destined to wage the final war for supremacy on this planet are beginning to shape themselves into form and position; only one of them can give the Imperium mundi its name, and that provided that no terrible fate destroys it before completion. Nations of a new order are about to arise which are not as those of today, summations of individuals of equal rank and of like speech, nor as those of yesterday, when, as in the Renaissance, one recognized with an assurance that rested on the style, the soul of it, a painting, a battle, a face, an idea, a form of moral outlook and opinion as Italian – although there was as yet no Italian State in existence. The Faustian nations of the end of the twentieth century will be elective affinities of men with a common feeling about life, with the same imperatives of a strong will and naturally with the same language, but without their knowledge of that language constituting either a hall-mark or a limitation. They will be men if race – not in the sense of today’s belief in race, but in my sense of it as a matter of strong instincts, among them that superior eye for the things of reality that the cosmopolitans and authors today can no longer distinguish from the flash of mere intelligence; in short, men who feel themselves born and called to be masters. What matters number? It only tyrannized over the last century, which bowed the knee to quantity. A man means a great deal as opposed to a mass of slavish souls, pacifists and world-improvers who yearn for quiet at any cost, even that of "liberty". It is the transition from the populus Romanus of the time of Hannibal to the representatives of Romanness in the first century, who in part, witness Marius and Cicero, were not "Romans" at all.

It seems as if Western Europe had lost its authoritative significance, but, except as regards politics, this is only apparently so. The idea of Faustian civilization grew up here. Here are its roots, and here it will win the final victory in its history or swiftly perish. Decisions, wherever made, are made an account of the Western world, though not for its money or happiness, but for its soul’s sake. But at present the power has been transferred to the border areas of Asia and America. In the one the power spreads over the largest inland mass of the globe; in the other – the United States and the British Dominions – over the two world-historical oceans connected by the Panama Canal. Yet none of the world powers of today stands so firmly that one can say with certainly that it will still be a power in a hundred or in fifty years, or even exist at all.

What is a power in the grand style today? A state, or state-like structure, with a government which has world-political aims and probably also the power to enforce them by whatever means it relies upon – armies, navies, political organization, credits, mighty banking or industrial groups with the same interests, and lastly and above all a strong strategic position on the globe. We may name them all after the million-cities in which power and the spirit of that power are garnered. Compared with them, whole countries and peoples are no more than "the provinces".16

First of all there is "Moscow", mysterious and to Western thought and feeling quite incalculable, the decisive factor for Europe since 1812 (when it still belonged to it as a State), but since 1917 for the whole world. The triumph of the Bolsheviks signifies historically something quite other than political socialism or theoretical economics. Asia has regained Russia, which "Europe" in the shape of Peter the Great had annexed. The conception "Europe" therefore disappears again from practical political thought – or ought to do so if we had any outstanding statesmen. But this "Asia" is an Idea, and an idea with a future too. Race, language, popular customs, religion, in their present form, are a matter of comparative indifference. All or any of them can and will be fundamentally transformed. What we see today, then, is simply the new kind of life which a vast land has conceived and will presently bring forth. It is not definable in words, neither is its bearer aware of it. Those who attempt to define, establish, lay down a program for the future are confusing life with a phrase, as does the ruling Bolshevism, which is not sufficiently conscious of its own West-European, Rationalistic, and cosmopolitan origin.

The population of this mightiest of the earth’s inland areas is unassailable from outside. Distance is a force politically and militarily, which has not yet been conquered. Napoleon came to know this. What good does it do the enemy to occupy areas no matter how immense? To make even the attempt impossible the Bolsheviks have transferred the centre of gravity of their system farther and farther eastward. The great industrial areas which are important to power-politics have one and all been built up east of Moscow, for the greater part east of the Urals as far as the Altai and on the south down to the Caucasus. The whole area west of Moscow – White Russia, the Ukraine, once from Riga to Odessa the most vital portion of the Tsar’s Empire – forms today a fantastic glacis against "Europe". It could be sacrificed without a crash of the whole system. But by the same token any idea of an offensive from the West has become senseless. It would be a thrust into empty space.

This Bolshevik rule is not a State in our sense of the word, as Petrine Russia was. It consists – like Kipchak the Empire of the "Golden Horde" in the Mongolian period – of a ruling horde, called the Communist Party, with its chieftains and almighty Khan and a downtrodden, defenceless mass of people some hundred times as large. Of genuine Marxism there is very little except in names and programs. Actually there is a Tartar-like absolutism, which disturbs and exploits the world regardless of any limits save those of caution, grim, cruel, with murder as a routine administrative method, constantly in presence of the possibility of a Genghis Khan rising to roll up Asia and Europe.

The real Russian has remained nomadic in his life-feeling, just as the northern Chinese, Manchu, and Turcoman have done.17 His home is not the village, but the endless plain, Little Mother Russia. The soul of this endless landscape drives him to wander without a goal. The "will" is lacking. The Germanic life-feeling has a goal to be won, whether this be a distant land, the solution of a problem, a God, power, fame, or riches, but here peasant families, mechanics, and labourers wander from one neighbourhood to another, from factory to factory, not of necessity, but driven by a hidden urge. No repressive measure of the Soviets has succeeded in stopping this, although it makes impossible the founding of a stock of trained workers bound up with their work – a fact that of itself foredooms to failure the attempt to build up and maintain an economic system on West-European lines.

But is the Communist program really still taken seriously – that is, as an ideal to which millions of human beings have been sacrificed and for the sake of which millions more are condemned to starvation and poverty? Or is it just an extremely effective means of defence against the downtrodden masses – above all, the peasants – and of attack against the hated non-Russian world, which is to be disintegrated before it is overthrown?18 Obviously there would be no startling change if, one day, the Communist principle were dropped in deference to the requirements of power-policy. Names would be altered: the administrative branch of the economic system would be called "firms", commissions "control boards", and the Communists themselves "shareholders", and for that matter the form of Western capitalism has found its way in long ago.

But this power can conduct no foreign wars, either to West or to East, otherwise than by propaganda. The system is far too artificial, for it still has the West-European Rationalistic features inherited from the literary underworld of Petersburg. It would not survive a defeat, since it could not even survive a victory; the Moscow bureaucracy if confronted with a victorious general would be lost and Soviet Russia would be succeeded by some other Russia, the ruling horde being probably massacred. But this would mean only the overthrow of the Marxian type of Bolshevism, whereas the nationalist-Asiatic type would reach gigantic proportions unchecked. Is the Red Army really reliable, and employable? And has the officer-corps the requisite professional and moral qualities? What is shown in the Moscow parades is simply the picked regiments of reliable Communists, the actual bodyguard of those in authority, and from the provinces we hear only of suppressed conspiracies. And are the railways, aircraft, and munitioning industries capable of standing a really serious test? The Russian attitude in Manchuria and the non-aggression pacts in the West certainly disclose a determination to avoid a military test in any circumstances. Those other means, economic annihilation of the enemy and, above all, revolution – not as an ideal aim, but as a weapon, as England and France used it against Germany in 1918 – are less dangerous and more effective.

Japan, on the contrary, holds a very strong position. She is almost unassailable by sea owing to her conformation as a chain of islands, the narrow channels between which can be securely barred by minefields, submarines, and aircraft, so as to put the China Sea out of reach of any foreign fleet. Further, she has secured in Manchuria a slice of the mainland which will be of enormous importance economically (the soya-bean has already destroyed the lucrative value of the coconut and oil palms in the South Seas and West Africa) and whose population grows at an incredible rate19, while its definitive boundaries have not yet been fixed. The least attempt by the Bolsheviks to take military measures against this shifting of power would lead to the taking of Vladivostok, Eastern Mongolia, and probably Peking. The only practical counteracting influence is the Red Revolution in China, but since the founding of the Kuomintang this has come to grief again and again through "capitalist" attacks – namely, the buying-off of generals and whole armies from one side or another. Immemorially old "Fellaheen" peoples20 such as the Indian and Chinese can never again play an independent part in the world of the great powers. They can change their masters, drive one out – as, for example, the Englishman from India – but it is only to succumb to another. They will never again produce a form of political existence of their own. For that they are too old, too rigid, too used up. Even the form of their present rebelliousness, together with its aims – liberty, equality, parliament, republic, Communism, and the like – is without exception imported from Western Europe and Moscow. They constitute objects and war resources for foreign powers, their countries are battlefields for the decisive battles of foreigners, though precisely for that reason they may achieve immense, if transitory, importance.

Russia and Japan undoubtedly have their eyes fixed on the potential uses of these peoples and are working in secret by methods which the "Whites" neither know or see. But does Japan really stand as firm today as at the time of the war with Russia? Then there reigned the old, proud, honourable, and courageous ruling class of the Samurai, one of the best examples of "race" that the world has known. Today, however, one hears of Radicals, strikes, Bolshevist propaganda, and murdered ministers. Has this splendid State already passed the peak of its existence, poisoned by the Democratic and Marxian decay-forms of the White nations – and this at the moment when the struggle for the Pacific is entering on its decisive phase? If it still possesses its old offensive power, then, given its incomparable strategic position on the sea, it can deal with any enemy combination. But who can seriously be considered as an enemy here? Certainly not Russia, and equally no West-European power. Nowhere can the decline of all these states from their former political status be so clearly gauged as in this connexion. Not much nore than twenty years ago Port Arthur, Wei-Hai-Wai and Kiau-chau were "occupied" and the partition of China into the spheres of interest for the Western was in full swing. Once the Pacific problem was a European one. Now not even England ventures to carry out the development of Singapore which was planned several decades ago. It was to have been the mighty base for the British navy in time of Asiatic complications, but the question is now: could it be held against Japan and France, once the latter can use the overland route through Hither India? On the other hand, if England retires from her former position in these seas, thereby exposing Australia to the Japanese pressure, that continent will certainly leave the Empire and attach itself to America. America is the only serious opponent, but how strong is even she at this point on the water, not-withstanding the Panama Canal? San Francisco and Hawaii lie much too far apart to serve as naval bases against Japan; the Philippines can scarcely be held, and Japan has potential allies against New York in Latin America, whose significance does not diminish through not being talked about.


Is the United States a power with a future? Before 1914 superficial observers talked of unlimited possibilities after they had looked about them for a week of two, and post-war "society" from Western Europe, compounded of snobs and mobs, for full of enthusiasm for "husky" young America as being far superior to ourselves – nay, positively a model for us to follow. But for purposes of durable form records and dollars must not be taken to represent the spiritual strength and depth of the people to whom they belong; neither must sport be confused with race-soundness nor business intelligence with spirit and mind. What is "hundred per cent Americanism"? A mass existence standardized to a low average level, a primitive pose, or a promise for the future?

All we know is that so far there is neither a real nation nor a real State. Can both of these develop out of the knocks of fate, or is this possibility excluded by the very fact of the Colonial type, whose spiritual past belongs elsewhere and is now dead? The American does not talk of State or Mother Country like the Englishman, but of "this country". Actually what it amounts to is a boundless field and a population of trappers, drifting from town to town in the dollar-hunt, unscrupulous and dissolute; for the law is only for those who are not cunning or powerful enough to ignore it.

The resemblance to Bolshevik Russia is far greater than one imagines. There is the same breadth of landscape, which firstly, by excluding any possibility of successful attack by an invader, consequently excludes the experience of real national danger, and, secondly, by making the State not indispensable, prevents the development of any true political outlook. Life is organized exclusively from the economic side and consequently lacks depth, all the more because it contains nothing of that element of historic tragedy, of great destiny, that has widened and chastened the soul of Western peoples through the centuries. Their religion, originally a strict from of Puritanism, has become a sort of obligatory entertainment, and the War was a novel sport. And there is the same dictatorship there as in Russia (it does not matter that it is imposed by society instead of a party), affecting everything – flirtation and church-going, shoes and lipstick, dances and novels a` la mode, thought, food, and recreation – that in the Western world is left to the option of individuals. There is one standardized type of American, and, above all, American woman, in body, clothes, and mind; any departure from or open criticism of the type arouses public condemnation in New York as in Moscow. Finally, there is an almost Russian form of State socialism or State capitalism, represented by the mass of trusts, which, like the Russian economic administrations, systematically standardize and control every detail of production and marketing. These are the real lords of the land in both cases. It is the Faustian will-to-power, but translated from organic growth to soulless mechanization. Dollar-imperialism, which pervades the whole of America down to Santiago and Buenos Aires and seeks to undermine and eliminate West-European (and, above all, English) trade, is entirely analogous in its control of economic trends by political power to Bolshevik imperialism. The Bolshevik motto: "Asia for Asiatics," too, corresponds in principle to the present-day conception of the Monroe Doctrine for Latin America – namely, all America for the economic power of the United States. This is the ultimate meaning of the founding of "independent" republics like Cuba and Panama, of the intervention in Nicaragua and the overthrow by the might of the dollar of unaccommodating presidents right down to the extreme South.

But this "liberty" of existence on the purely economic basis, free of state and law, has its other side. Out of it has arisen a sea-power which is beginning to be stronger than England’s and controls two oceans. Colonial possessions have arisen: the Philippines, Hawaii, islands of the West Indies. And business interests and English propaganda dragged the country deeper and deeper into the first world war, even to the extent of military participation. But the United States has thereby become a leading element in international politics, whether it would or no, and it must either now learn to think and act internally and externally in accordance with a State policy or else, in its present form, disappear. There is now no going back. Is the "Yankee" equal to this difficult task? Does he stand for an indestructible kind of life or is he only a fashion in physical, mental, and moral clothing? And, moreover, how many inhabitants of the country are there who inwardly do not belong to this ruling Anglo-Saxon type? Quite apart from the Negroes, the immigrants during the twenty years before the War included – with only a small proportion of Germans, English, and Scandinavians – no less than fifteen million Poles, Russians, Czechs, Balkan Slavs, Eastern Jews, Greeks, inhabitants of Asia Minor, Spaniards, and Italians. The greater part of these have not been incorporated in Americanism, but form an alien, foreign-thinking, and very prolific proletariat with its spiritual home in Chicago. They, too, desire unrestricted economic war, but have a different conception of it.

Granted, there is no Communist party. But neither did this exist as an organization for election purposes in the Tsarist regime. And in the one country as in the other, there is a mighty underworld of an almost Dostoievsky sort, with its own urge to power, its own methods of destruction and of business, which, in consequence of the corruption prevailing in the organs of public administration and security, extends upwards into very prosperous strata of society – especially as regards that alcohol-smuggling which has intensified political and social demoralization to the extreme. It embraces both the professional criminal class and secret societies of the Ku Klux Klan order, Negroes and Chinese as well as the uprooted elements of all European stocks and races, and it possesses some very effective organizations, certain of which are of long standing, such as the Italian Camorra , the Spanish Guerrilla, the Russian Nihilists before 1917, and the agents of the Cheka later. Lynching, kidnapping, and attempts to assassinate, murder, robbery, and arson are all well-tested methods of political-economic propaganda. In spacious, thinly peopled areas revolutions have necessarily a different form from that which they take in West-European cities. The Latin-American revolutions give incessant proof of this. Here there is no powerful State to be overthrown by fighting an army of old traditions, but neither is there one which can guarantee the existing order by the respect inspired by its existence. What is called "government" is here liable to melt away suddenly. Even before the War the trusts had often enough to defend their works in strikes by their own fortifications and machine-guns. In the "Land of Liberty" there is only the resolve of free men to help themselves – the revolver in the hip-pocket is an American invention – but this form of defence is as freely available for those in possession as for the rest. Only a short time ago the farmers in Iowa besieged a few towns and threatened them with starvation if they did not buy their products at a decent price. Not many years since, anyone using the word "revolution" in connexion with this country would have been called an idiot. Today such ideas are quite in order. What will the masses of the unemployed do – I repeat, the majority are not "hundred per cent Americans" – when their sources of relief are exhausted and there is no State support because there is no organized State with exact and honest statistics and control of those in want? Will they fall back on their fists and their common economic interest with the underworld? And will the intellectually primitive upper class, obsessed as it is by the thought of money, reveal all at once, in face of this danger, dormant moral forces that will lead to the real construction of a State and to spiritual preparedness to sacrifice possessions and blood to it, instead of regarding war as a means of gaining wealth as hitherto? Or will the special economic interests of individual areas still pull the most weight and, as once before in 1861, lead to the disintegration of the country into separate states such as, say, the industrial North-East, the farming region of the Middle West, the Negro states of the South, and the area beyond the Rockies?

Leaving out Japan, which only desires to carry out undisturbed her imperialistic plans in eastern Asia and Australia, there is but one power which would do anything and make any sacrifice to bring about this disintegration: England. It has done this before, stopping just short of a declaration of war – namely, in 1862-4 during the War of Secession. Warships and privateers for the Southern States were built or brought in British harbours at that time. These were then armed and manned in European waters – the Alabama even with British marines – and proceeded to burn and sink the North’s merchant ships wherever they encountered them. England was then the undisputed mistress of the seas. This was the one reason which kept Washington from declaring war. The "Freedom of the Seas" meant the English freedom to trade, and nothing more. Since 1918 that is at an end. England, which in the nineteenth century was the counting-house of the world, is no longer rich enough to keep the lead in the present pace of fleet-constriction, and her power is no longer sufficient to prevent others by force from outdoing her. The premonition of this epochal point in her history was one of the reasons for the war against Germany, and November 1918 probably the last, all-too-short period during which this power of yesterday could indulge in the illusion of a great victory. But, apart from England’s increasing inferiority in warship-construction, the very conception of the command of the seas has changed fundamentally. Airplanes now rank with submarines as a superior weapon, and the hinterland has thus become more important than coasts and harbours. V is a` vis French bombing squadrons, England has ceased strategically to be an island, and England as mistress of the seas sinks into the past along with the heavy battleship.

But neither is the English nation strong, young, or healthy enough, spiritually and racially, to combat this terrible crisis with confidence. Too much of its precious blood was spent in the nineteenth century for its possessions, was lost by the exodus to the white dominions and by the devastating effects of climate in the coloured colonies. Above all, it lacks the racial foundation of a tough peasantry. The ruling upper class of Germanic or Celtic race – there is no difference between them – which dates from the conquest, has been used up. The mass of the original population, erroneously called Celts,21 has forced its way up to a dominant position by its radically different "French" life-feeling.

It has, for instance, exchanged the old oligarchic form of parliamentary government in the grand manner for the Continental and anarchic form of unclean party struggles. Galsworthy has described the tragedy of this transition with painful penetration in his Forsyte Saga. It is the economic victory of the rentier ideal over capitalist imperialism. There remain considerable fragments of former wealth, but impulse to fight for fresh stocks of it is lacking. The methods of trade and commerce are falling slowly out of date, and no one has the creative energy to reform them on American and German models. The thirst for adventure is dying and the young generation has fallen so precipitously in mind, morals, and world outlook from the qualitative level to which English society had been educated in the previous century as to present a phenomenon without parallel in the world. The old trumpet-call: "England expects every man to do his duty," which every young Englishman of good family at Eton and Oxford before the War felt as directed to him personally, now falls on deaf ears. Youth amuses itself with Bolshevik problems, goes in for eroticism as a sport, and sport as a profession and object in life. Men of the older generation who were active in high positions before the War now ask themselves in dismay who is to defend the ideal of a Greater Britain when they are gone. Shaw hinted in The Apple-Cart that "some" people would rather fight out the hopeless struggle against America’s pre-ponderance to the end than lay down their arms – but how many of these will there be in ten or twenty years? In 1931 England granted by statute complete equality of status to the white Dominions in the Commonwealth of Nations, thereby relinquishing her priority and allying herself with these states on the ground of common interests, particularly that of protection by the British navy. But there is nothing to prevent Canada and Australia from throwing sentiment to the winds and turning to the United States if they see a chance of better protection there – for instance, from Japan, as white nations. England’s former position on the farther side of Singapore is already abandoned, and if India is lost, there will be no real sense in retaining it in Egypt and the Mediterranean either. In vain does English diplomacy of the old style try in the old way to mobilize the Continent for English ends: against America as the debtor front and against Russia as the front against Bolshevism. All that is diplomacy from the day before yesterday. It had its last fateful success in 1914. And how if Russia and America came to an agreement as a result of England’s tradition-ridden pride? That is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

In face of such phenomena, in which the world’s destiny may be involved for centuries of darkness and confusion, the Latin countries have no more than a provincial significance. This applies even to France, whose capital is in process of becoming a historic sight, like Vienna and Florence, and like Athens in Roman times. As long as the old mobility of Celtic and Germanic blood, whose ancestry reached back to the period between the Great Migration and the Crusades, controlled world policy, as it did practically until Louis XIV, there were grandiose aims, like the Crusades even, and the seventeenth-century foundations of colonies. The French people, however, has always concentrated its hatred on powerful neighbours whose successes wounded its jealousy: the Spaniards, the English, and, above all, the Germans – in both the Habsburg and the Hohenzollern states – against whom the deep underlying hatred grew, after the unsuccessful "revenge for Sadowa," into a mania. It has never been able to think in long-range terms of space and time, in politics any more than in philosophy; its passion for "la gloire" has always been satisfied by annexation or devastation of strips of land on its frontiers. What true Frenchman feels any real enthusiasm for the immense colony in West Africa, except indeed soldiers of high rank and Parisian financiers? Or even for Farther India? And what do they care about Alsace-Lorraine, once they have "reconquered" it? It has lost all its charm through that conquest.

The French nation is becoming ever more clearly separated into two fundamentally differing spiritual ingredients. By far the more predominant is the "Girondist" element, embracing the provincial Frenchman, the enthusiast for the rentier ideal, the peasant, and the bourgeois. These desire nothing more than the peace of a people that has become weary and unfruitful through uncleanness, avarice, and stolidity: a little money, wine, and "amour", but no more world politics, economic ambition, struggles for vital aims. Above this lies, however, the gradually diminishing Jacobin class, which has determined the fate of the country since 1872 and has given to nationalism of the French stamp the name of Chauvin, after a character in an old comedy of 1831. It is composed of officers, industrialists, high officials of the strictly centralized Napoleonic administration, Parisian pressmen, deputies without difference of party or program – in Paris a deputy represents private business – and a few powerful organizations like the Masonic and the ex-soldier unions. Discreetly this element has been led and exploited for a century past by international Parisian high finance, which subsidizes the press and the elections. Chauvinism has long been to a large extent a business.

The supremacy of this ruling class depends upon the fear, nameless but genuine, which prevails in the provinces of any dangerous developments in foreign politics and of a new depreciation in the value of their savings – a fear which is kept alive by the Parisian press and the clever manner in which elections are handled. But this feeling is a danger which threatens and will threaten all the neighbouring countries for years to come – England and Italy as well as Germany. It allowed itself to be exploited before 1914 both by England and by Russia, and it would still be a useful tool in the hands of a skilful foreign statesman. The figure of Chauvin is growing slowly into the counterpart of the Spanish Don Quixote, grandiosely farcical, at which half the world already laughs. It is the figure of a one-time thruster and hero of valorous deeds, now become old, who – with the biggest gold-heap in the world behind him, armed to the teeth, hung about with every description of armour, surrounded by armed servants – calls to all his friends of yesterday for help, looks out in fear and trembling from the window of his fortified house, and shivers at the sight of every armed neighbour. And this is the end of la grande nation. Its heir in the domain of the Mediterranean and North Africa may perhaps be Mussolini’s creation, if this remains long enough under his rule to acquire the necessary spiritual firmness and durability.

No one can say today whether any of these powers will still be in existence in their present form by the middle of the century. England may have become limited to her island and fallen into America’s clutches. Japan and France, who at this time alone know what a strong army is worth, may have fallen into the hands of Communistic dictators. Russia’s future possibilities can in some respects not even be imagined. But the situation at the moment is dominated by the conflict of interests between England and Russia in the East, and England and America in the West. In both cases England is retreating – economically, diplomatically, militarily, and morally – and part at least of her lost positions are not to be regained even by a war. Does that signify the inevitable choice between war and capitulation? Or has the failing country no longer even the choice? Most Anglo-Saxons on both side of the Atlantic believe the tie of blood and tradition to be so strong that they cannot be faced with such a decision. But the belief that blood is thicker than water has not survived the test very well in the case of England and Germany. Hatred between brothers has always been stronger in the human race than hatred of an enemy. It is peculiarly apt to grow suddenly from small beginnings into a passion from which there is no retreat.

Such is the look of the world that surround Germany. So situated, a nation without leaders or weapons, impoverished and torn, cannot count even upon bare existence. We have seen millions slaughtered in Russia and starved in China, and for the rest of the world it was but a newspaper report to be forgotten the next day. Not a human being abroad would lose his sleep is something still worse happened anywhere in Western Europe. It is threats that alarm us; accomplished facts we can put up with. Individuals or nations may die – and leave no gap. Situated as we are, we Germans have so far arrived at nothing beyond shouting for party ideals and general quarreling for professional and parochial advantages. But standing out of world politics does not give protection from the consequences of them. In the years when Columbus discovered America, and Vasco da Gama the East Indian trade route, when the West-European world began to spread its power and riches over the globe, the steelyard in London was closed at the request of English merchants, and with it German merchantmen vanished from the oceans, because there was no German flag to be flown from their masts. And with that Germany became too poor a country to have an international policy at all. It had to carry on its wars with foreign money and in the service of that money, and it waged wars over miserable scraps of its own country that one diminutive state took from another. The great decisions in distant lands were neither remarked nor understood. Politics were something so miserable and insignificant that only people of insignificant character cared to be concerned in them. Will it be so again, now, in the decades of decision> Are we as dreamers, enthusiasts, and squabblers to be swallowed up by events, leaving behind us nothing to lend a certain grandeur to our historical close? The throwing of the dice for world-mastery has only just begun. They will be strong players who finish the game. Are there not to be Germans as well as others among them?


1 See The Decline of the West, II, English translation, pp. 391 et seq.

2 Politische Schriften, pp. 112 et seq.

3 The Decline Of The West, II, English translation, pp. 428 et seq.

4The Decline Of The West, II, English translation, pp. 407 et seq.

5 In the sense in which the term is used in sport; see The Decline of the West, II, English translation, pp. 361 et seq.

6The church of the National Assembly of 1848 at Frankfurt. – Tr.

7 To Hartig, March 30. See also Bismarck: Gedanken und Erinnerungen, I, p. 63.

8 See p. 16.

9 See The Decline Of The West, II, English translation, p. 428; Politische Schriften, p. 132.

10Politische Schriften, pp. 329, et seq.

11 Politische Schriften, p. 330.

12The Decline Of The West, II, English translation, p. 421; Politische Schriften, pp. 134 et seq., 173 et seq.

13 As well as to war chariots, which were used only in the battle and not on the march. They came in about a thousand years earlier in the same region and proved, wherever they appeared, to be immensely superior to the existing mode of fighting in the field. They were adopted in China and India from about 1500, in the Near East somewhat earlier, and in the Hellenic world from about 1600 B.C They soon came into general use, but disappeared when cavalry (even though as auxiliary to infantry) became a permanent arm.

14 Poltische Schriften, pp. 179 et seq.

15 The Decline Of The West, II, English translation, pp. 401 et seq., 431 et seq.

16 The Decline Of The West, II, English translation, pp. 98-9.

17 Politische Schriften, pp. 110 et seq.

18 Dostoievsky wrote in 1878: "All men must become Russian, first and foremost Russian. If general humanity is the Russian national idea, then everyone must first of all become a Russian."

19 It has been tripled by mass immigration and already amounts to over thirty million.

20 The Decline Of The West, II, English translation, pp. 105, 185.

21 It is the same race to which the French peasant and bourgeois and the majority of Spaniards have belonged from the time when the Nordic element in those countries also became exhausted through war and emigration. The true Celtic races came in only in the middle of the first century B.C from Northern Central Europe. It is questionable whether they differ from the Germanic in anything but language. They formed in Caesar’s time the Gallic and Britannic nobility, ruling over a far more numerous subject population, in the same way as did later the Franks, Saxons, and Normans.


The Oswald Spengler Collection