Year XXX, 1988, Number 2, Page 129

 

 

 

LUDWIG DEHIO
 
 
Though forty years have already passed since the Second World War, there is still a widespread conviction that Germans are a very special race. It was on their land that extermination camps were built and it was there that the satanic genius of Hitler incarnated the demon of total hegemonic war and it was also there that the nihilistic will of power drew up the plan to destroy the ethical system of the West. All this should not be forgotten. We should, however, discuss whether these forms of brutality are the natural manifestation of what has been called Deutschtum.
Obviously, this is not true. We need merely recall that Germans have included Beethoven and Bach, Hoelderlin and Goethe, Kant and Marx, Holbein and Cranach and that since the times of the renovatio imperii German territory has witnessed the most grandiose supranational legal and political experience that Europe has ever known since the fall of the Roman Empire. It should also be added that among the great sovereign states, Germany arrived last, together with Italy, and that, together with Italy, Germany has had — for better or for worse — to follow models which have already been used by other nation states to set up their legal and political institutions.
It is a fact, however, that when we speak of Germany, these facts tend to get overlooked, in just the same way that when we speak of English-speaking countries as the great countries of freedom and the “rule of law”, we tend to gloss over the pressgang in 18th century England, the slave trade, children working in mines, the massacre of the redskins, Chicago in the 1920’s, let alone Dresden and Hiroshima. Clearly, in these cases, we are faced with genuine “repression” of historical facts. In truth, when Renan argued, not without justification, that the idea of nation (as a representation of the natural and not historical unity of a group with a common language, tradition, religion and so on) is due to an ignorance of history, we could retort with equal justification that ignorance of history is largely due to the idea of nation, an idea that predetermines the framework for selecting facts and the criterion for their interpretation.[1] The crude falsifications rife in national histories are ample evidence of this.
It goes without saying that the most direct means by which mankind could learn about the poverty and wretchedness of its own nation’s past and thereby face up to it squarely, coincides with what Kant suggested in his Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View, a point of view which in fact sees mankind as the subject of history, the entire world as the field of mankind’s action, its march down the road to self-realization and perpetual peace as a thread in matters which would otherwise be meaningless.
If this point of view surfaces only with great difficulty, this depends not just on the obvious explanation that ideas never succeed by themselves, but also on the fact that refusing to accept the nation as a category of historical knowledge implies a refusal to accept the nation as a category of political action. It is not a question of opposing attitudes. Apart from any consideration on the by no means marginal question of the links between theoretical reason and practical reason, it is difficult not to agree with Lord Acton when he mentioned that “universal history is distinct from the history of various countries”[2] and above all, when he argued that the historian is only “a politician with his face turned backward”,[3] almost as if research on things of the past cannot be separated from attitudes expressed vis-à-vis things of the present. From this standpoint, then, any serious historical innovation in the sense indicated by Kant implies a sharp break with national behaviour.[4]
Ludwig Dehio’ s historical analysis is proof of this.[5] Dehio was not a federalist militant. But he broke with Germany. When in 1955 he wrote the essay German Politics at the Crossroads, he had no doubts about the fact that when faced with a choice between the value of unity or the value of freedom, which in turn implied a rigorous and firm choice in favour of European and Western solidarity, it was necessary to plump for freedom without any second thoughts.[6] But this aspect of the German problem as it appeared in the postwar period was no more than a secondary aspect as compared with the question that was the focal point in his historical and political reflection, a reflection which led him to a decisive break with national historiography. The issue which led him after the end of the Second World War, when he was already middle-aged, to deal with “great history” was “Germany’s guilt”. Although Dehio was never compromised by Nazism, he categorically refused to recognize this guilt. The tragedy of Germany may certainly be ascribed to peculiar traits of Germany’s past, to that society or that culture etc. But Germany, like the others states belonging to the European system of states, was never an exclusive framework for the historical process, not even for the political and social process. This concept had already been dealt with by Leopold von Ranke who stressed how the external ties between states give rise to the basic aspects of the internal constitution rather than the latter causing the former. It follows that the lesser or greater concentration of power, the greater or lesser militarization of society, the more autocratic or liberal nature of the political institutions and law and even the conditions of the class struggle are decided by the greater or lesser tension in international relationships. This principle is based on the theory of raison d’état, i.e. the primacy that every state must attribute to security, and overthrows the Aristotelian principle that states that government (and hence foreign policy) is nothing more than a mirror of society, a principle that has substantially been accepted by liberal, democratic and socialist ideologies when they have, in the final instance, attributed the aggressive or peaceful attitudes adopted by states in their international relationships to the various regimes. If German policy did continue Prussian policy and was authoritarian internally and aggressive externally to the point of all-out war, this is due primarily to the fact that, like Prussia, from its birth the Second Reich had to operate in an area surrounded by the Great Powers (France to the West, the Habsburg Empire to the South and Russia to the East) and therefore just to survive it was forced to implement Frederick William I’s principles about the “barrack state” to the full. This was even truer of the Third Reich. Conversely, the United Kingdom and, to a certain extent, the USA were able to implement a liberal regime with constitutionalism, the “rule of law”, a system of local autonomies, voluntary conscription and so on, simply because, as political islands, they could entrust their security entirely to the navy and its primacy on the seas.
The history of Germany is thus nothing more for Dehio than one aspect of the history of the European system of states. The life of this system, which grew up from the ashes of the Italian system of states after the Turkish advance and the discovery of America had shifted the political baricentre from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, is not governed by chance. The ftrst and fundamental law is that of equilibrium and hegemony. “The free and sovereign states competing within the European system have in fact always agreed on one point only, the prevention of the unification of the West under one of themselves, to which the others would lose their sovereignty. Whether this state was Spain, France or Germany — that is, at different times the most powerful nation on the continent — grand coalitions were always formed to compass its defeat. What is the most important reason why, for four centuries, these coalitions were always successful? It was that the grand coalitions always got invincible support from the powers on the western and eastern wings of Europe, first and foremost in the maritime powers in the west, and secondly in the great peripheral continental powers in the east. These were powers which made the growing resources of the territories outside Europe available for the fight against a supreme power within Europe in the first case, the resources of overseas territories and, in the second, those of the Eurasian continent. The secret of the modern history of our nations is that new weights, taken from the fringes of Europe and from the world beyond, could always be thrown into the scales on the side of the coalitions, until the critical attack had been overcome and the tottering balance restored once more to equilibrium.”[7]
The first major revision of history deriving from this observation is that Germany’s hegemonic thirst was no greater than that of Charles V, Philip II, Louis XIV or Napoleon. Its demoniac nature depended entirely on two, absolutely new factors. The first related to the development of productive forces which, with the growth in the extension of the social process, detached the historical process from the increasingly narrow confines of Western Europe to the much wider surface of the seas and the Euroasiatic offshoots of the Old Continent and which gave German might far more destructive power. The second related to the Titanic nature of the struggle that the growth of forces external to the system placed on those who wanted to undertake hegemonic adventures, adventures which, precisely because of that growth, no longer concerned only the European Continent. These are not marginal factors: but factors which marked the passage from the European system to the world system of states. As regards the first factor, Dehio comparing the strong character of the order instituted in Vienna with the transient one emerging from Versailles, after noting that “the treaties could more easily be made to last in the age of the stage-coach, and even of the steam-engine, than in the age ofthe internal combustion engine” observed that what “we encounter is the dynamism of modern civilization, trying with explosive force to wreck the delicate network of Europe’s old political frontiers”.[8] But of even greater significance is the second factor, a factor which certainly depends on the first but which is also autonomous. Dehio describes the process of its maturation in succinct and precise terms. We have already spoken of the two typical figures of the European system of states: on the one hand, the drive to hegemony, which was manifested by states which in turn became stronger than the others, the counterbalancing drive to equilibrium that was re-established thanks to coalitions and in particular the contribution of powers with lateral positions in the system. But this contribution of the lateral powers was not without a price. It was in fact in the nature of things that they exploited the situation and expanded increasingly powerfully in the outside world, without, that is, Europe losing its predominant position. The growth of the United Kingdom to a world power, and in its wake the USA, and the significant development of Russia were indeed the price paid by the Continent for preserving the freedom of its individual sovereign states and the freedom of the whole system. This did not emerge clearly in the first two centuries of the life of the system, when, that is, external forces, fed by European disagreement, appeared exclusively as guarantors of the system itself. Around that time, the struggle against hegemony was the high point in European history. “From the beginning of the eighteenth century, however, when Russia began to grow in power, a second main factor began slowly to emerge in the troughs between the waves representing the wars for hegemony, and from time to time to oust the first. This factor was the rivalry of the powers on the wings among themselves, both outside and within Europe. In general both these powers were primarily concerned to prevent any of the old continental European powers from achieving hegemony, so that they might meanwhile expand in the world outside; but Russia was simultaneously trying to expand in Europe too. By nature alien to the West, although forming part of its political system, she broke piece after piece off the eastern edge of western Europe and grafted them on to herself. Compressed into a few sentences, these were the basic outlines of European development from the sixteenth century to 1945. Even these bare outlines, however, are enough to identify the moment when this development was bound to come to an end. The inevitable end came when the Russians and the Anglo-American world had grown so powerful in the world that the European powers, still to all intents and purposes, and despite the most appalling struggles, confined within their old frontiers, were by comparison exhausted and dwarfed. As the world powers absorbed the spirit of modern expansionist civilization more and more quickly, this moment approached faster and faster. It was reached in 1945. The turning-point came suddenly, although it had long been in preparation. The European side of the scales became too light and shot upwards, while that of the world powers fell. The relative positions of the two were completely reversed. Events in Europe ceased to be the centre of world events: on the contrary, the latter began to determine the former. The first main factor in modern European history lost its force: the struggle for hegemony waged by the old continental powers had quite obviously been fought to a finish. The second main factor, the conflict between the Anglo-American world and the Russians, has undeniably become the most important, both in Europe and in the world beyond. In the process, part of the house of Europe has been reduced to a heap of rubble; the rest stands in ruins, more or less shattered. Neither part has any need at all of the common roof provided by the old system of the balance of power.”[9]
In all fairness, we ought to mention in passing that Dehio, as the essay reproduced here in extenso clearly shows, correctly noted the nature — which was completely new in certain brutal ways and corresponded to the new character of the political system in which it was created — of the second German attempt at hegemony. This nature had already been announced with Kaiser Wilhelm’s innovations (e.g. the law of the Navy in 1900), had already appeared very clearly in the course of the First World War with the American intervention in 1917, and had been grasped with no ambiguity, in the course of peace negotiations, by Wilson when he formulated the plan for the League of Nations. And, in truth, if the paradox was not, as often happens, on the side of facts, the solution to a conflict of world extension should have consisted in the creation of a new order of world extension as well. This is not what happened and, on the one hand, the lack of American commitment vis-à-vis the League of Nations and on the other hand Russia’s inability, involved as she was in a revolution, to carry out the world function that she should have carried out, generated the mad illusion in Europeans that matters could still be decided in Europe. And we should not forget that this mad illusion first affected France which — almost as if it was merely a question of changing the terms of the 1870 “match” — thought she could guarantee the order of Versailles with exclusively military measures (firstly heavy war reparations and secondly the Maginot line); then it contaminated Italy, the first to set out on the road to Caesarism; and finally it affected Germany in the person of Hitler, the most suitable person to interpret it down to its most hidden depths. It was not thus the folly of Hitler that led Germany to folly, nor the folly of Germany that led Europe to its self-destruction. The order of cause and effect was simply the reverse. It was the folly of the European system — which reproposed old situations as well as old ideas to understand and cope with them in a world that had completely changed — which led Germany to a folly whose demoniac characteristics are ruthlessly denounced in the essay published below. And Germany did no more than put the right man in the right place. The reference to old situations and old ideas is also certainly valid for Germany too, even though here awareness of the new (the world dimension of the political system) and antiquated replies (the mechanical application of Ranke’s model of equilibrium and hegemony to this situation) combined tragically. This combination is found over and over again with fairly sharp outlines in German historiography which in the first two decades of the twentieth century, ended up by giving power strong ideological justifications to the Kaiser’ policy and subsequently Hitler’s. Precisely in this analogical use of Ranke’s scheme lies the root of a fatal error. Once the role of the United Kingdom had been shaped as a hegemonic role and hence as such no different from Napoleon’s France in the European system, the problem of freedom of states within the world system simply implied the struggle to create the balance at that level. This struggle was thought up as the mission of Germany and in this light historians interpreted the experience of Frederick the Great at the time of the Seven Years’ War. Otto Hintze wrote in this respect that “we need to see whether we will manage now to impose ourselves as one of the world powers, as it was then a question of becoming a European power”. It was a shared hope that whoever took the leadership of this struggle would have had the solidarity of all oppressed countries in the most disparate parts of the world. The clearest expression of this hallucination is found in Hintze’s writings when he stated: “We hope that before or after other peoples who are now under the yoke of British supremacy on the seas, will decide to shake off this yoke. In addition to the equilibrium on dry land, we need to add a balance on the seas.” Or alternatively, “The effects on German naval armament are found first on the edges of the Pacific. Japan is developing its power and shortly we may hear the cry ‘Asia for the Asians’. The revolt of Islam goes in the same direction. The dream of world domination of the white race is about to end.” These judgements regarding the mission of Germany were generally common to those like Hans Delbrück, Max Lenz, Hermann Oncken, Erich Marcks, and even Admiral Von Tirpitz and Friedrich Meinecke.
It is clear that what made the analogy with the European system of states inefficient and the use of Ranke’s model deviant was underestimating the decisive role that lateral powers have had in re-establishing the equilibrium in the sphere of the European system. The proof of this was not slow to arise. The II Reich, in its attempt to challenge Great Britain, was forced once more to seek Continental Unity, a unity which was indispensable if land forces were to be entirely shifted to the seas. The result was that the first steps in this liberating mission were the opening of hostilities with France and the invasion of Belgium! But neither these facts, which crudely reproposed a tragically well-known script in the history of the European system of states, nor the persistent isolation in the course of the conflict, nor finally military defeat were enough to impose a profound revision of the basic terms of the German problem within the European and by now World problem. Rather, this conception of the mission of Germany survived Versailles precisely because German historians refused to identify the deep causes of its defeat preferring, with the theory of repairable and unrepeatable errors, the persistence in their function of legitimation of German nationalism and its hegemonic and imperialist aspirations.[10] It should also be noticed that, if on the one hand, these tragic errors in German history are the seedbeds of such “sinister” statements as those of Max Weber and 0tto Hintze which are reported in Dehio’s essay reproduced here, on the other hand, Germany, together with Wilson, was able to express an awareness of the new world dimension of the political system and the consequently world dimension of the solutions that had to be given to tackling these new problems. The German solution was an illusion and Wilson’s was inadequate. But it is a fact that federalists from Luigi Einaudi to Lord Lothian and Lionel Robbins, all alone in the inter-war period, argued that a European Federation was the only objective capable of pacifying Europe, creating an articulated equilibrium and opening the road to the establishment of a world government and, in so doing, referred precisely to these two solutions. The rest was no more than gossip, tragic hot air of yesterday’s men.
Germany is thus the centre of the European tragedy. It made mistakes and was defeated. But a similar fate has been experienced by other European states, even by those which though formally victors were effectively equally losers.[11] And Dehio remarks perspicaciously “A loser is far too prone to thrust all his responsibilities upon the shoulders of the victors”.[12] And again: “He tends too easily to an arrogant, indolent nihilism, to a combination of defiant pride and crippling scepticism. He is tempted to stand aside passively while his own fate is being decided.”[13] Finally, with words that proved to be sadly only too prophetic: “…sheltered by American power, European policy is beginning to follow positively parasitical lines. Exploiting the cover offered by American efforts, it is either avoiding efforts of its own, or else directing any efforts it might make towards a purely egocentric particularism — in the vague hope that these puny particularisms may together amount to a third force in the world, between two giants.”[14]
“All these complex phenomena can be included within a single concept: the concept of the dying European system. That system is lying in ruins, but its spirit live son… It is like the pieces of a damaged bridge lying in a river, which obstruct traffic on the water without assisting traffic from one bank to the other.”[15]
The conclusions Dehio reaches are very precise. The first regards Europe which must not delay the creation of a political unity which corresponds to the cultural unity forged by the common imprint of classical and Christian inheritance. Only in this way can we definitively free ourselves from “the concept of a dying system of states whose spirit survives and whose obsolete conditions threaten to poison the creation of new ones”.[16] The second concerns historians: “Our opening statement that political history still has an important function in the old continent of Europe meant simply this: its function is no longer to demonstrate the continuity of history, but rather to show the break that has occurred — to knock down what must fall”.[17] The third concerns the world. When this last reflection was made the Cold War was at its height, the phase that characterized the birth of the new — bipolar — world system of states. Dehio warned that it was necessary to be very careful not to deduce from the results of the past struggle between two principles (hegemony and equilibrium), what will be the outcome of a possible future struggle and above all not to prolong into the future those lines which stand out at the moment. This means that Dehio’s task ends here and leaves the field to hope, faith and, possibly, political commitment: “It would be daunting to predict in what direct and indirect ways the tendency to unite the globe, which every day becomes smaller, could reach its goal; only one thing is certain: that this tendency will not cease to function unless mankind miraculously experiences everywhere and at the same time a change in the way of thinking and abandons the road to civilization and the struggle for power, on which, whipped on by the unleashed demon of the will to live, it advances furiously despite the horror by which in doing so it is agitated.”[18]
 
 
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GERMANY AND THE PERIOD OF THE TWO WORLD WARS*
 
After years of political passivity, Germany is now returning to a position of independent responsibility.a More than ever before she now needs a clear understanding of the period preceding her exclusion from responsibility — that is, the period of the two World Wars. If we are to discuss this period in the limited space available here, we must do so with the brevity of aphorism. I shall merely emphasize a number of points which, if linked together, may give us a rough outline of events.
Let us begin by advancing a guiding concept — one which seems to me well-suited to serve as the central point of this discussion, or indeed of any discussion that tries to be something more than a mere indictment or defence of events and become an integrated historical account. The concept I have in mind is that of the struggle for hegemony: for the two World Wars, like two consecutive acts of the same drama, both display in their most exaggerated form the familiar generic traits of the great European wars associated with the names of Charles V, Philip II, Louis XIV and Napoleon I.
It would take too much time to support this thesis by a comparative analysis of external events over the whole field of relations between the great European powers. Let us none the less try to turn this method to advantage in considering the history of Germany, and her internal affairs in particular, in our own age. Here we may profitably advance another concept whose connection with the first can easily be demonstrated — that of the daemonic nature of power. It was no coincidence that this concept impressed itself so forcibly upon our consciousness during the
Second World War — the last struggle for European hegemony.
In attaching such overwhelming importance to my guiding concept,
I depart at the outset from other interpretations which reject that concept, especially those which regard the history of Germany in this period as growing, like a tree, out of purely German roots and which overlook the extent to which German history has been entangled with the history of other nations. I am also departing from those interpretations that take a broader view of events and emphasize contemporary analogies. There is some truth in both these views, but both require amplification. This is especially true of the interpretation (more popular abroad) that isolates Germany. This view tends to over-emphasize Germany’s peculiar characteristics, whereas the second view tends to disregard them. Those who acknowledge that Germany has in our time exercised supreme power will avoid both these errors. They will see that, in her role of supremacy, Germany was essentially different from her fellows in the family of nations, but they will not regard this as proof that Germany has always possessed this distinct personality. A consideration of events from a broader point of view will make us cautious in passing judgement; and we can gain that broader point of view by looking back over the history of older powers that have exercised hegemony over Europe. We shall then realize that many of the characteristics of modern Germany which, seen in terms of the twentieth century, impress us as specifically German, have appeared, to some extent at least, among earlier supreme powers. Seen in terms of earlier centuries, these characteristics emerge as typical of all supreme powers, and this comparison with the past also makes us realize how far Germany’s two wars have unique significance within the whole series of the wars for hegemony. In the last analysis any comparison, whether with past or present phenomena, only makes this unique significance emerge even more clearly and objectively.
The daemonic nature of power, which drives its victim to an exaggerated desire for self-assertion and to an amoral lust for battle, inevitably appears in its most violent form in the most comprehensive and embittered of all European struggles — the struggles for hegemony. Moreover, since the supreme power stands in the solitude of its supremacy, it must face daemonic temptations of a special kind.
These introductory considerations should suffice. Let us now briefly describe how Germany entered the select circle of European supreme powers. We find that the central factor in all the struggles for European hegemony (which are our sole concern) is the conflict which develops each time between the strongest power on the Old Continent (excluding its eastern fringes) and the reigning maritime power. Before the beginning of German naval armament there was never any trace of a conflict of this nature in the history of Prussia and Germany. Both of them displayed all the most distinctive characteristics of the purely continental type of power — though enhanced perhaps by a vehemence and a youthful vigour equalled by no other power at the time. The westward expansion of Prussia thoroughly reinvigorated the flagging nation, while from her eastern fringes, so poor in history and culture, she gained the violent and infectious intensity that evoked and moulded a new vitality — biological, spiritual, economic and, above all, political. At this point we observe that trinity — exceptionally bold leadership, systematic arming and disciplined manpower — which was to make an indelible mark on the thinking of the young German nation. The tradition of the Prussian power state, more attractive than anything which Western civilization had to offer, taught the triumph of the will and the lesson that will-power could carry one with giant strides from the smallest beginnings into the circle of the Great Powers.
The period during which German history was purely continental ended abruptly at the beginning of the present century. We suddenly entered the arena where the most important European and global decisions are made — decisions which, no matter how tremendous the struggle on the Continent, are always made at sea, not on land. Let us ask ourselves not what caused the First World War, but what made it possible. The answer is that, as a World War, it was undoubtedly the expansionist pressure of the rejuvenated German nation that made it possible, for Russian expansionist ambitions alone could not at that time have provoked it. But the fact that the war assumed the classic form of a struggle for European hegemony was due to the reactions of Britain.
Just as Prussia had once broken into the ranks of the great European powers, so did we Germans hope to break out the narrow confines of Europe and join the ranks of the world powers, and we tried to do so by typically Prussian methods; that is, by systematic arming — in this case naval arming. But this was impossible without, as it were, forcing the European system into retirement. Nor was it possible without forcing Britain into retirement — without forcing her out of her role of guarantor of the existing balance of power in Europe and out of her position of maritime supremacy in the world beyond. What was the inevitable result of our efforts? We found ourselves embarked upon the road to World War. We, and we only, threatened the vital nerve centres of British world power. Though otherwise true to type, our imperialism was unique in this respect — despite the fact that the imperialism of other nations produced much more extensive friction with Britain in colonial areas than did our own.
We turned our uncertain gaze on to the wide world, but instead of keeping our eyes firmly on the acquisition of particular territories, we gambled on general changes in the entire status quo at the expense of our rival. Meanwhile England sought to maintain herself by defending the traditional European balance of power, which we regarded as almost obsolete because of the position of semi-supremacy occupied on the Continent by Bismarck’s Reich. By her policy of encirclement England gradually forced us into the isolated position of a potential aspirant for European hegemony in the full sense of the term. At the same time, the aim of German imperialism was still to become one of a circle of world powers, without necessarily destroying English maritime supremacy. Thus each of the rivals was fighting against the position of hegemony occupied by the other and appealing for a balance of power; but each attached a totally different sense to the term “hegemony” and “balance of power”.
Even before 1914 the pressure of encirclement made us doubt whether the optimistic calculations we had made at the turn of the century would prove right. We had thought that England would be held in check by our naval armament and would allow herself to be peacefully manœuvred out of her key positions. But the decisive fact was that, in our youthful exuberance, we failed to draw the logical conclusions from our own ideas. In 1915 Plehn could write: “It is an almost universal belief throughout the country that we shall only win our freedom to participate in world politics through a major European war”.b
So this major European war, which was to become a World War, took place. Now our transformation, hitherto only an impending danger, became a terrible reality. We assumed the role of a power in pursuit of European hegemony. Any attempt by the strongest state on the continent to discard the old balance of power must logically involve an attempt to win European hegemony, however much we might try to disguise the fact from ourselves and others. Now, under the impact of the changed situation, certain entirely new traits appeared in our character. These traits cannot be said to date from an earlier period, though they naturally pre-suppose our earlier history — a storey added to a house pre-supposes the lower storeys.
We shall understand the course of events more easily if we stand aside for a moment and try to consider the typical fate of earlier supreme powers. Each of them played a lonely role of a tragic grandeur. Their efforts, deliberate or otherwise, to establish their own predominance touched off all the momentous happenings of the great European wars. In every case these efforts inevitably assumed extreme forms as the other imperilled states united in grand coalitions under the leadership of the island power on the wing. Every time the supreme power was finally forced to fight alone against all the rest. But it dared to fight such a battle, for it was inflated with the self-confidence born of the knowledge that it had reached the supreme moment of its destiny, that it stood head and shoulders above all its neighbours. No care or danger could restrain it; these only stimulated its exuberant sense of power into seizing the hour of greatness before it passed. It was lured onto win the prize o fa new level of self-fulfilment and power far higher than that of all its enemies, who at first simply struggled to maintain the positions that they already held. But as soon as the supreme power reached the point where it came into conflict with the island power and faced a grand coalition, the solid ground of its continental experience and its raison d’état disappeared from under its feet. At this point the first characteristic feature — power — is joined by a second — blindness in the use of power. The combination of the two characteristics finally produces the daemonic nature to which, as we have noted, any supreme power is prone. Not that the intensity of the struggle does not also unleash among the other powers daemonic forces varying according to their different traditions and situations. In them, however, these daemonic forces are to some extent mere reactions; they lack the two characteristic factors which would intensify them to their ultimate degree. This is especially clear in the case of the island power. Its raison d’état has specially strong foundations in wars for hegemony, and its resources, carefully controlled by its traditional wisdom, only grow to full strength in the course of the conflict. Its adversary across the channel always has the characteristics of a newcomer, neither inheriting the experience of a predecessor nor passing on his own to succeeding generations. In spite of well-planned military preparations, his giant strength is sapped by hurried improvisation, because he lacks any well-prepared political plans wherewith to control it. Naturally his aim is complete and final victory in order to give his achievements all possible permanence; but as this victory slips from his grasp, he sees his work reduced to ruins before it is even finished.
Thus, in spite of variations, a single pattern of events has been repeated more and more clearly over the centuries. At the beginning of the struggle the supreme power reaches the culmination of its previous history, and its initial successes form a magnificent, triumphant, clear-cut crystallization of its nature. But as the struggle drags wearily on intense euphoria turns into daemonic excess. The screws are turned too tight. Finally, the rulers, like gamblers with no real understanding of the game they are playing, stake their fundamental material and moral values. Their hopes flare up until the last moment, only to lure them on to their ultimate fall.
This typical course, which each supreme power altered and exaggerated in its own peculiar fashion, characterized Germany’s development during the First World War — with this difference that, threatening and threatened by all and sundry, the essentially unprepared Central Powers played their role on a contracting and sinking continent and in the explosive atmosphere of a more advanced civilization; and that the whole development was thus swifter, more violent and more destructive than ever before. This time, all the heights and all the depths were touched, not in the course of decades but in a matter of years. In 1914, confronted with the hatred of “a whole world of enemies”, we experienced an intoxicating intensification of our whole being; but this sudden spiritual isolation, which was the result of our political isolation, contained the seeds of excess. This development, foreseen only by a few thoughtful men, was hastened by the accumulated emotions of the majority. It shattered the spiritual balance of the nation. Encircled by hatred, the people replied with its own hatred. Society and the machinery of state were overstrained by the lonely and glorious, but ill-fated struggle, and traditions were distorted. Extremist and monomaniac ideas, which might have remained mere marginal phenomena in a calmer context, began to spread.
It is arresting to observe how the more clear-sighted tried to break this vicious circle by consulting the oracle of the raison d’état governing our internal policies; but the oracle’s obscure replies only increased the confusion. The Seven Years War had not been a war for hegemony, and the strategy of attrition on land lost its meaning as soon as our opponent began to gain the upper hand with his policy of attrition at sea. In spite of their admirable restraint, even those who favoured a negotiated peace could not tear one last veil from their eyes. Even they underestimated their island foe. Moreover, they occasionally let slip some extremely sinister ideas: for example, Max Weber’s words: “Let them hate us, as long as they fear us”; or Otto Hintze’s threat: “If the worst comes to the worst, we shall let ourselves be buried beneath the ruins of European civilization”.
Words like these pointed to the future; but on the whole it is true to say that the daemonic nature of German aspirations to supremacy only reached its first stage in the First World War. Although it had begun to undermine the whole structure of existing society, of morality, and of the historic state and its traditions, it had not as yet shattered that structure; but the normal forces of civilization were eroding its foundations in any case. These daemonic forces were still loyalist, not revolutionary; and to that extent they recalled the struggles of the Spanish and French monarchs, rather than those of the French Revolution and Napoleon.
There was a complete change in the first years of the peace. The daemonic nature of German aspirations to hegemony reached its second stage. How could this unexpected development come about? Why did the catastrophe of 1918 not, on the contrary, have a sedative effect? To answer these questions we must consider both what happened to Germany as a nation, and what happened inside Germany.
The end of every earlier war for hegemony had established peace for generations. But how could the victors of 1919 possibly establish a lasting peace with the old prescriptions? This had still been possible in 1815 when a peace was made that was severe yet reconciliatory. This time, however, the very foundation underlying earlier peace treaties — the European system — had been severely damaged. On the one hand, Russia had been forced out of the system, becoming at the same time a graver danger to the West than ever; on the other hand, America had been drawn in, for Europe had, for the first time, proved unable to master the threat of hegemony by its own efforts. How could anything lasting be created in so confused situation? To start with, a solution might only be possible in the West; and even then not without the participation of America, the decisive military power of the West, nor without some new creative idea. Wilson was the bearer of such an idea. What he proposed was not a renewal of the European system with its wars for hegemony, nor the establishment of a world system with its corresponding dangers. Instead he proposed the total abolition of foreign policy in the old sense of the term: that is, the total abolition of a multitude of sovereign states, each ready to wage war; and he proposed in their place the peaceful unification of the nations into a worldwide commonwealth under Anglo-Saxon leadership. What a fantastic transformation! Or was it to remain in the realm of fantasy? Hitherto the insular way of life, represented by England, had been the traditional opponent of any new-comer on the Continent. This insular attitude was now represented by America, herself a new-comer. At the time, her ideas seemed almost absurdly simpleminded to European statesmen; but to the people they seemed like a new gospel, and to the German people, in particular, they meant a release from their constriction by means of the peaceful neutralization of the old suffocating system, and so a miraculous solution of the whole German problem.
But the danger to our shattered spiritual balance became even greater, for the miracle remained a dream. On the heels of the catastrophe of the war came the catastrophe of the peace. Old Europe had its way against the new-comer America, and the obsolete European system was roughly patched up. Europe stood on the threshold of a new age, but it stepped back, not forward. This in itself is the most significant explanation of the disaster to come. Within the narrow framework of the weakened European system, the great German problem could be solved neither by severity nor by kindness. There were no powers on the Continent to provide the kind of natural counter-balance to the defeated supreme power that had been the basis of the great peace settlements of the past. Instead, even severer conditions were to be imposed, far exceeding any made before, and Germany was to be artificially shackled. But the political and psychological situation underwent a rapid change. The solid front of the Western victors crumbled away. Public opinion in the world shamefacedly turned its back on the hard conditions that it had only just demanded, and now condemned France, who found herself isolated and tried in vain to make up for the Anglo-Saxon guarantee, out of which she had been cheated by the withdrawal of America, by violently exploiting the terms of the Treaty. France was dominated by an instinctive fear of a German counter-attack as strong as Bismarck’s fear of a French counter-attack after 1871.
The peace treaty was a strange and contradictory concoction of idealistic principles and highly realistic clauses. It did not conciliate the defeated nations by the opportunities it offered or at least permitted, nor, for lack of a united front among the victors, was it really severe. If Germany retained any will to resist, how could such a treaty have anything but a provocative effect on her? By reverting to the obsolete European system, the victors were bound to create at least a danger that the defeated power might revert to the obsolete spirit of the struggle for hegemony.
Whether or not Germany were to revert depended on the interplay of all the external influences upon the domestic life of our nation. If we recall the condition of previous supreme powers during the humiliation that followed their defeat, we find that they remained relatively calm for some time, partly because of their exhaustion after decades of war and partly because they appreciated and developed the considerable opportunities still available to them. The delusions that are part of the daemonic desire for hegemony remained and bred pretensions, resentments and dreams of revenge; but a society that survives defeat has no energy left for a serious resumption of the great struggle, nor any need to make daring leaps in the dark. None of this, however, was true of Germany after 1918. In her case both elements in the daemonic desire for supremacy remained effective — both the delusions and the sense of power. Resentment and dreams of revenge therefore found fruitful soil in Germany; and in addition there was the notable stimulus of misery and the resulting progressive dissolution of traditional social conditions.
Delusions kept us from any sober recognition of the true causes of our failure, exactly as they had kept France in 1815. In spite of the flood of criticism of details, no critical analysis was made during the postwar years of our limited possibilities in the realm of power politics, just as none had been made during the war or in the period of encirclement before the war. We refused to tear the last bandage from our eyes. We refused to allow the glorious memory of the heroic climax of our modern history to be dulled, or to abandon our hopes of re-establishing our position. It was felt that the catastrophe must have had some unnatural cause. The defeat was ascribed to the seductions and deceits of our enemies, and to errors and treason at home. Public opinion still did not appreciate the illuminating analogies with earlier wars for hegemony, nor the role of sea power, nor the peculiar resources of our island foe. The intervention of America was completely misunderstood; and no wonder, for before long the Americans themselves treated their entry into the war as the effect of mere propaganda and a scramble for gain. Few people realized that a genuine raison d’état — America’s interest in preventing the unification of Europe under a single power because of the possible threat to areas overseas — contributed to this development. So, paradoxically, when we thought back on the war, our main reaction was a greater, not a lessened, self-confidence. We became increasingly aware of our strength as a nation and we found, almost as much to our own surprise as to the world’s, that we had preserved this strength. What could not have been achieved under leaders certain of their aims? We brooded over our defeat, but in order to prove to ourselves that it was undeserved, not to understand why it was deserved. Our aim was to prove that it was the result of a number of avoidable errors, not of fundamental ideas that had been exaggerated.
Meanwhile the postwar years proved that, in spite of all that had happened, our strength as a nation was still much greater than that of the other nations of the Old Continent of Europe. A glance at previous centuries shows quite clearly that French power had been far more profoundly shattered at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and Spanish power at the beginning of the seventeenth, than had ours at the beginning of the twentieth. Although this fact was a measure of the opportunities open to us despite the magnitude of our disaster, the speed of our recovery to the point where we could start a new struggle for hegemony would nevertheless be incomprehensible in the absence of the stimulus of our economic misery.
At first the people’s real determination to fight inevitably gave way to total exhaustion; but small, scattered, illegal groups rekindled the spirit in preparation for infiltration and counter-attack. In our nation of soldiers it found support in the memory of the heroic tragedy of the war, as it had in France after 1815. Now, as then, the disillusioned heroism of “the despised” and of the uprooted turned into burning hatred not only of enemies abroad, but also of those at home. It has been said that after 1815 France was split into two nations looking up to two flags — the victors and the vanquished of Waterloo — and one could maintain that Germany was in a similar state after 1919. The only difference was that, in our case, and because of the different rhythm of our history, our national vitality tended towards Restoration, not Revolution. Not that this made us reject revolutionary methods, or indeed any other methods. Idealism and crime joined forces and the nihilistic will to power prepared the way for the ruthless destruction of the ethical system of the West.
At first the full consequences of this trend were grasped only by small bands of pioneers. But given the chaotic instability of the masses, even small groups of fanatics could achieve a great deal. The pendulum of public opinion began to swing back with a vengeance. The origins of the German Republic were quite different from those of the Third Republic in France and the new Russian Republic. The German Republic was born of the momentary exhaustion of old energies, not from an upsurge of new ones; not of resistance to the foreigner, but of surrender to him. In this it resembled the Bourbon restoration of 1815, with its lack of any contemporary nationalist aura, even though — unlike the Bourbons — it could not point proudly to a great past. Moreover, while the Bourbon regime had been supported by the victors’ moderation, the Weimar regime was hampered by the inhumanity of Versailles and clearly displayed the impurity of its birth. Soon a third, extremely dangerous factor — the social disintegration that resulted from misery in its many forms — was added to the two already mentioned. With the loss of national status went a loss of social status. In their competition with Communism, the nationalist activists profited from the influx of desperate men and, like the Communists, gambled on the collapse of the entire Western order established in 1919. Their ideas were a blend between the attractive Prussian (and then German) tradition of power, torn out of its native sociological soil, and formless, revolutionary violence. Thus the new dynamism of Fascism came into being. A further factor, reinforcing this dynamism, was the racial irredentism which now flowed in from beyond the frontiers of Germany — a great flood of popular passions, and one which could never have occurred under the authoritarian Prussian, and later German, state.
Might the final disaster have been averted by splitting up heavy industry and the great landed estates into smaller units, as so many present-day critics of the Germany of that time believe? Whatever the answer, the result would have been an increase in the number of déclassés and even greater economic instability. Property tends to act as a sedative, while those without property have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Furthermore, the nationalist spirit had long since ceased to be a prerogative of the propertied class. Nationalism can inflame a disorganized society more dangerously than it can a solid, settled one; indeed it may be that nationalism cannot really grip the middle and lower classes until the moment when it begins to lose its hold on the upper class. Even the abolition of the monarchy had been a two-edged measure, for it had resulted in a loss of focus. So the rise of the new Caesarism in Italy, which oscillated between Restoration and Revolution and undertook to fill the vacuum with a new authority, stirred up even greater turmoil in Germany. But in Germany its hour had not yet come. Nevertheless, our activists could console themselves with the knowledge that in the long run they had greater opportunities to spread their ideas in Germany than in any other country. In Germany everyone, especially the ex-soldiers, longed to see the stain of the catastrophe expunged — a catastrophe such as our nation with its aspirations to hegemony, and no other, had ever experienced.
Of course, it was no longer any use seeking revenge at sea. However, in the balkanization of some of our neighbours, in the isolation of France, and especially in the bolshevization of that fateful and enigmatic land, Russia, the catastrophe itself had opened up promising prospects close at hand on the continent. Russia could serve Germany’s recovery either as a friend (as Seeckt believed) or (as Ludendorff thought) as an enemy.
This programme of recovery was supported almost unanimously by all the parties. Its points were the restoration of our Eastern frontiers and the Anschluss with Austria. Its aims were not merely to re-establish what had existed before, but to follow the failure of kleindeutsch maritime expansion with grossdeutsch expansion on the Continent; to complete the national unification of which the youthful nation had dreamed in 1813 and 1848, when it was still on the threshold of its terrible destiny; to meet a mortal threat by vigorous expansion, and, finally, to rise to a degree of greatness such as no other nation in Europe, least of all France in her senility, could achieve. In other words, the aim was to achieve the firm continental basis that, according to the critics of the time, Wilhelm II should somehow have secured before launching into world politics.
How could this programme be realized? With England’s help against France? With the help of the East against the West? Or by wavering between East and West? In any case, it could hardly be realized except through the complete destruction of the order established in 1919.
Within the restricted framework of the moribund system of Versailles, the largest and most vigorous people in Europe could only be temporarily shackled, never permanently pacified.
Yet Europe was still granted the ray of sunshine of Locarno. But she owed this to the return of America more than to her own insight or strength. America’s comings and goings had already begun to exercise enormous influence on the ebb and flow of events in Europe. The happy interlude of these years seemed like an antithesis to the years after 1919, when America had left Europe. Then there had followed five years of disorganization: now there was a promising basis for reorganization, even though the return of the United States was perhaps due to economic rather than political reasons. Stresemann’s successes must be understood in terms of the solid gold foundations of American loans. But the effect of these loans was strictly limited. The German daemons only retreated a little way. They had no thanks for the liberator of the Rhineland. Moreover, the Americans for their part were careful not to opt clearly for the West, for this would have lent support to the irredentist programme. Instead, they sought freedom of movement between East and West. All the wonderful plans for a European union remained a beautiful dream. The nations of Europe have been brought up to mutual mistrust and violence by their modern system — and this is what was restored in 1919. They seem able to hold together only in one event: when a member of their own circle tries to achieve hegemony.
This one event was soon to occur again. For the French it was a terrible confirmation of their prophecies, but to most Anglo-Saxons it was unexpected. As late as the time of Locarno, T.E. Lawrence, an observer who knew the world so well, had ventured the prediction that, after Spain, France and Germany, it might now be Russia’s turn to try to dominate the world from the Continent. He could not know that Germany would once more summon up the strength and determination to move into the centre of the stage of world affairs in her old role of a power seeking European hegemony, before Russia stepped on to the same stage to create the new role of a power seeking world hegemony.
Characteristically, the great turning-point in Germany was the result of a new turn of events in America. During the world economic crisis, America withdrew across the sea a second time and thus left the entire Western world in even profounder disorganization than after her first withdrawal. This was the signal that started Germany on her impatient race for revenge. In the confusion Germany saw that the road was clear, as though an earthquake had broken down all barriers. The first German war for hegemony had grown organically out of a period of wealth and prosperity. The second was born of misery and fear. The first had been a mere opening skirmish: the second came to be a well-directed counterattack from deep in the rear. The great gamble on the disintegration of the Western bourgeois world — the secret aim of both the Fascist and the Communist storm troops — now paid magnificent dividends, both in international and national politics. In international politics Germany’s warders, the large and small powers of the shrunken European system, turned out to be cowardly or irresponsible, helpless or short-sighted, France, eager for peace, seemed crippled in the face of the very real danger — one which had long occupied her imagination and which had been accelerated by her own earlier policy. At the same time she was inhibited by her awful experience in the Ruhr and by the attitude of her English ally. Should she have used the rifle in her hand to avoid disaster by resorting to force — in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty which, by now, had been criticized so much? The effects of intervention in national troubles are incalculable. Alternatively, would Churchill’s proposal to maintain the unilateral disarmament of Germany as a precautionary measure have created a really healthy situation? Even to raise the question is to show that the answer is not necessarily affirmative. But it was in national politics that the gamble really paid. Even the phenomena of social dissolution that had appeared ten years before had strengthened the activists. This dissolution now drove millions from every class into their arms. If the international guarantees and alliances of the democratic world failed, then only a return to the old, well-worn path of national success could bring salvation — the path to a policy of authority at home and power abroad. Under this magical sign the miraculous transformation of fear into confidence, of social dissonance into social harmony, was successfully achieved. The fact that Germany’s recovery took the form of Caesarism rather than legitimism was due to the general atmosphere. Outside Germany, Caesarism had already proved its capacity to rally national feelings in times of crisis and provide a third form of government between predatory Communism and the confused bourgeoisie.
Let us be quite clear at this point that, just as imperialism had acquired the additional character of a movement for hegemony when adopted by Germany before 1914, so Caesarism was now deliberately and logically transformed. The German dictator, for whose charismatic leadership the imperialists had themselves secretly hoped, grew into an infinitely larger figure than his peers in other European countries (except Russia). His methods, though possibly modelled on methods practised elsewhere in the West, reached unprecedented heights of horror. The “movement” of those infused with daemonic aspirations to hegemony won every position of power and authority; but the seizure of power did not sober it, as had been expected by so many of those who cheered it on. On the contrary, success raised this daemonic nature to a still higher pitch and forced it violently through the fevered nation’s bloodstream. The daemonic was concentrated in Hitler, and through him it spread as it had never done before. He was the very incarnation of the daemon of the total struggle for hegemony. Indeed, so far as can be judged, he was the essential prerequisite for the final outbreak of that struggle. Germany could not conceivably have raised herself to such dizzy heights yet again without the aid of some Satanic genius. Hitler felt himself carried along by the dark wave of the crisis and by the expanding forces of civilization, which threatened to shatter the narrow, obsolete system of states. Moreover, he was continually spurred on by the world-wide aspirations of the Bolsheviks, his much admired rivals. His almost Jacobin reliance on his totalitarian power at home led him to believe that there was nothing he could not achieve outside Germany too. Like a sleep-walker, he clambered between chasms along paths that nobody else could have found, using the conflict between East and West as cover until the moment when he emerged as a third force endangering both, and so united them against him. Thus the same abyss opened that had swallowed both the French Emperor and the German Kaiser. The events of earlier wars for hegemony were repeated, but on a higher level. Once again, victories on the Old Continent were followed by collapse when Germany was faced with the moral and material resources of the islanders, which she could not understand. Moreover this time, by subordinating their differences to the struggle for survival, the islanders were able to keep the Russian sword in the battle. In 1945 the daemon of the wars for European hegemony claimed its final victim. Germany suffered a catastrophe as total and as terrible as the extent and exercise of her power had been until the very last moment; for, anticipating his own downfall, the nihilistic daemon sent as many into the abyss before him as his last reserves of strength allowed.
This is a brief and hurried survey, but we must not stop here. We must add some closing thoughts and so complete the train of ideas that we foreshadowed in our introductory remarks.
We have seen how Germany’s vitality has always driven her beyond the typical in any situation — first in the age of imperialism and then in the age of Caesarism — and how, both times, she met the isolated fate of a supreme power. We have also observed how her role, though unique in terms of the present, displayed certain typical traits when seen within the broader framework of the past. It remains for us to ask what special significance the two links of Germany’s wars for supremacy had in the whole chain of the wars for European hegemony. The answer can be reduced to a single sentence. The German struggle was the last of the series. We cannot imagine that it will ever be resumed from the territory of the Old Continent of Europe. For those who accept this prognosis, the special significance of the two World Wars emerges with absolute precision and compelling logic, even if they are examined within the broader framework of the recent history of Europe. When they are seen in this light, it becomes impossible to classify them as mere individual variations of the previous wars, though they are this too. This is because they also served as the catalyst for a new alignment of forces in the world, and although this situation had been developing gradually since the eighteenth century, it was new for all that. Indeed, the rivalry between the Russians and the Anglo-Saxons in the struggle for world hegemony could not become a reality until 1945, when the final struggle for European hegemony had been decided. Then it was as if their rivalry was given the right of way. The unification of Europe under German hegemony threatened the world powers in their territories overseas and forced them to shelve their differences and unite to defeat Germany (and, for related reasons, Japan). Once they had successfully achieved this end, the modern history of Europe in its old form was finished and the old continent ceased to be the all-important centre of world events. The road was clear for a new phase in history — world history.
The significance of the German struggle for hegemony may be expressed in the following terms. It developed both the material and the spiritual forces of destruction to a higher degree than had any of its predecessors. In the final stages of the struggle, these forces not only turned against the supreme power, the sinking aggressor, as they had always done before; to an unprecedented extent their effects were also felt in every corner of the world. Thanks to the technological powers of our civilization, they wrought unparalleled destruction in human life and achievement, and thanks to terrorism and propaganda, which our civilization has made ubiquitous, they corroded and poisoned the soul of Western man. In this way these forces so weakened the resources of the Old Continent that, since then, the world powers have completely overshadowed it. The European system, like the power that had pitted itself against it, split in two. The fall of Germany liberated the peoples of Western Europe from the danger of totalitarianism; but, on the other hand, the peoples of Eastern Europe were now exposed to it with a vengeance. This, too, was ultimately a result of the German urge to achieve power, whatever the more specific reasons may have been. Furthermore, it undid the results of the First World War. In 1918 Max Weber had tried to console himself with the outcome of that war by remarking that, in spite of everything, Germany could boast that she had saved Europe from the Russian knout. Even this boast was robbed of all force by the events of 1939. Finally, the Second World War accelerated the fall of the West from its tottering position of mastery over the coloured peoples — with unpredictable consequences.
But we must press on. The great wars of the past had all had a fruitful as well as a frightful aspect. They were fought in periods of vigorous civilizations. The supreme powers developed positive intellectual missions — as champions of the Counter-Reformation, as living examples of the aristocratic way of life, or as heralds of the achievements of the Revolution. Even the fight against them produced a spiritual revival. But can we find any trace of this redeeming feature in the German struggle, especially in its last phase? Our exaggerated daemonic drive for power — our desperate protest against the course of events in the world outside, which we did not understand — could not evolve any mission with which to win over other nations. Our ideology of national Caesarism could not be exported. It began to lose its appeal as it became increasingly obvious that the freedom of other nations was being threatened in its name, and as it began increasingly to use Bolshevik methods. When it reached agreement with Bolshevism in 1939, it finally lost all its appeal: that was suicide.
But — to ask a further question — did we not lack any idea capable of winning others over to our side, even in the First World War? No argument can alter the fact that in the youthful German nation the spread of Prussianism resulted in a profounder split between the sphere of power and the sphere of the spirit than existed in the older nations. Even our imperialists had been embarrassed when they had tried to provide some spiritual justification for the expansion of German power. They turned for help to our age of spiritual fulfilment and to its glorification of the individual. They declared that our real mission was to protect the individuality and diversity of the nations against the uniformity of Anglo-Saxon society and Russian bureaucracy. However, this mission automatically ceased to be convincing when in the First World War we were obviously forced into Napoleon’s footsteps, whereas the ideals that we were invoking were the ideals of Napoleon’s adversaries. Our attempts to use these ideas to justify our expansion towards European hegemony involved an inner contradiction.
On two occasions, Germany has produced ideas that have spread: the Reformation and Marxism. But neither contributed anything to German politics.
To sum up, these two wars were not only infinitely more destructive than previous wars; they were also without their beneficent redeeming features. At least, that is how we see them today. But what will be the verdict of future generations? One day they will perhaps be able to find redeeming feature in a renaissance of the spirit of the West and in the establishment of a new political order in the greater West. Will our nation too play a part in such a creative resistance to the corrosive forces of destruction? Many Germans will not cease to hope so. But even though others may have different hopes for the future, the prerequisite for any really creative German response after the period of the two World Wars is the unconditional recognition of the terrible role that we have played in this period. We were the last, and the most daemonic, power to exercise hegemony over the declining Old Continent of Europe.
 
(Prefaced and edited by Luigi V. Majocchi)


[1] “L’oubli et je dirai même l’erreur historique sont un facteur essentiel de la création d’une nation, et c’est ainsi que le progrès des études historiques est souvent pour la nationalité un danger”. Cfr. Ernest Renan, “Qu’est-ce-qu’une nation?”, in Discours et conférences, Calmann Levy, Paris, 1887, p. 284.
[2] Cfr. Lord Acton, Cambridge Modern History: its Origin, Authorship and Production, Cambridge, 1907, p. 14.
[3] Cfr. Lord Acton, “Inaugural Lecture on the Study of History”, in Essays on Freedom and Power, New York, N.Y., 1960, p. 25.
[4] Cfr. Mario Albertini, “Per un uso controllato della terminologia nazionale e sovrannazionale”, in Il Federalista, Yeari III, p. 18; and “Il mito della Nazione”, in Il Federalista, Year I, pp. 21-38.
[5] Ludwig Dehio was born in Königsberg in 1888. In the period between the two world wars he worked in the archives of the Prussian state in Berlin and Charlottenburg. After 1945 he directed the Marburg State Archive and the related archive school, and was honorary professor of Modern and Medieval History in the University of Marburg and director of the Historische Zeitschrift, the most authoritative German historical review. He died in Marburg in 1963. His greatest work was Gleichgewicht oder Hegemonie, Scherpe-Verlag, Krefeld 1948. On the basic issues of this work, Dehio returned in a series of essays published between 1950 and 1955 and collected in the volume Deutschland und die Weltpolitik im 20. Jahrhundert, Verlag R. Oldembourg, München, 1955. English edition: Germany and World Politics in the Twentieth Century, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, N.Y., 1960. The Federalist judgement on this volume was formulated by Alessandro Cavalli in his review which appeared in Il Federalista, Year III, pp. 175-177. Among the essays in this volume, we find “The Agony of the European System of States”, which this review reproduced in full in the Italian edition (cfr. Year III, pp. 152-163). This review also published a full version in its French edition of the essay “La continuité de l’histoire germano-prussienne de 1640 à 1945” (cfr. Year IV, pp. 162-179) and the review of Hans Kohn’s volume of Wege und lrrwege (cfr. Year V, pp. 72-74). Our review has widely dealt with Ludwig Dehio’s contribution in an essay by Sergio Pistone, Les classiques du fédéralisme: Ludwig Dehio (cfr. Year VI, pp. 171-205). Sergio Pistone is without a shadow of a doubt the person who has most deeply dealt with Dehio. See his monograph, Ludwig Dehio, Guida, Naples, 1977.
[6] Cfr. “German History at the Crossroads”, in Germany and World Politics in the Twentieth Century, op. cit., passim.
[7] Cfr. “The Agony of the European System of States”, in Germany and World Politics in the Twentieth Century, op. cit., pp. 127-128.
[8] Cfr. “Versailles 35 years after”, in Germany and World Politics in the Twentieth Century, op. cit., pp. 110 and 112.
[9] Cfr. “The Agony of the European System of States”, in Germany and World Politics in the Twentieth Century, op. cit., pp. 127-128.
[10] These opinions were expressed very crudely and peremptorily by Dehio in two essays “Ranke and German Imperialism” and “Thoughts on Germany’s Mission: 1900-1918”, in Germany and World Politics in the Twentieth Century, op. cit., pp. 38-108.
[11] Cfr. “The Agony of the European System of States”, in Germany and the World Politics in the Twentieth century, op. cit., p. 140.
[12] Cfr. ibid., p. 138.
[13] Cfr. ibid., pp. 138-140.
[14] Cfr. ibid. ,p. 140.
[15] Cfr. ibid. , pp. 140-141.
[16] Cfr. ibid. , p. 142.
[17] Cfr. ibid., p. 142.
[18] Cfr. Gleichgewicht oder Hegemonie, op. cit., p. 232.
* This essay is the first in the volume Germany and World Politics in the Twentieth Century, New York, N.Y., Alfred A. Knopf,1960, pp. 11-37.
a This essay is a slightly expanded version of a lecture delivered at the Twenty-first Congress of German Historians in September 1951.
b In Deutsche Weltpolitik und kein Krieg, p. 1.

 

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