The revolution is dead! Long live the revolution! As the world swaps revolutions and imperialisms, those of capitalism for those of socialism, it is time for Americans to take new bearings. For doing this they will find little guidance in Herbert Spencer or Karl Marx. Heraclitus and Machiavelli are much more up to date. Change and power are today’s facts. To cope with them we must think in terms of social dynamics and not of social statics. The latter-day liberals hoped to stabilize the dynamism of the industrial revolution and the frontier which are now over. The Marxists caught the equally chimerical vision of a classless society of workers from which the state would have withered away, leaving the ideals of laissez-faire to flourish in the garden of liberty completely rid of the noxious weeds of private capitalism.
The realist of today dreams no such dreams. He seeks to ride, not to stop, the mounting wave of revolutionary change and power politics. His main hope is to succeed in doing this without going under. In his more sanguine moments he may also hope to some extent to shape the pattern of change. Thinking patriotically he cherishes these aspirations for his nation and kind. The intellectual problem is to understand, not contradict; the emotional problem, to feel with and not resent the rising tide of change and power. The practical problem is how personally and nationally to survive. The order of the day for us should be the preservation of the American people. It should not be the preservation of institutions and customs at the expense of human lives or welfare. We must save ourselves amid the processes of war and revolution. We cannot save ourselves by trying to save everybody else or by seeking to preserve doomed institutions.
Much of our present confusion is due to a failure or refusal to recognize the social necessity of dynamism. Democracy, since the end of its revolution, has developed a conservatism that hopes to render the dynamic static and the status quo perpetual. The system now in peril is private capitalism on its economic side and parliamentary democracy or government by the play of minority-group pressures on its political side. In both phases it was formerly dynamic, expansive and revolutionary. It is no longer. The end of growth is the beginning of death. The war phase of 1914-1919 has been reopened.
This, more truly than the last, is a war to make the world safe for democracy, or for the economic system on the continued functioning of which the British Isles and the capitalistic plutocracy everywhere abjectly depend for survival. The worldwide collapse of international capitalism would reduce the British Isles and those who live mainly on the fruits of ownership the world over to a situation fully as painful as that of today’s Jewish refugees. America, therefore, is being groomed for another war to save this system. Such a war, to succeed for the democracies, would have to roll back the rising tide of socialist change and restore the dynamism of a revolutionary nineteenth century capitalism. The real question is not whether the new revolution of the Have-nots ought to be stopped and the old revolution of the Haves revived but whether these accomplishments are possible under present circumstances.
In grappling with this problem of the hour the first fact to be considered is that continuous and revolutionary social change is the prime requisite of a highly organized industrial society. By revolutionary is not meant revolutionary of any particular sort but, quite simply, social change of any kind that is rapid, drastic and widespread and, most important of all, that involves expansion and growth.
Liberal critics of the Nazi-Soviet alliance make a great deal of the current deviations of these two revolutions from their original lines of doctrine and direction. No reproach of a revolution could be sillier than that it had been guilty of change. The fact that so many liberals and radicals are shocked by the change of direction manifested by Russian socialism merely shows them ignorant of the nature and function of revolution. Their idea of social revolution has been essentially pietistic and static. The American liberal and radical idea of the Russian Revolution was essentially like the pietist’s idea of heaven, something sweet and static. Some liberals were actually saying with unconcealed relief in early 1938 that the Russian Revolution was about over, meaning that the socialist status quo in Russia had been about established. How absurd! The Russian Revolution, of course, though started in 1917, did not touch eighty percent of the population of Russia, the peasants, until the collectivization of the farms beginning in the early thirties. And its expansive imperialism has just begun with the conquests of Poland and Finland.
Actually, there is just one thing a revolution has consistently to maintain in order to survive, and that is change. The nature of the change does not matter. The appropriate accompanying rationalizations will naturally change along with everything else. The deviations of German socialism from Mein Kampf or of Russian socialism from Das Kapital are as natural as the deviations of modern capitalism from the theory of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. The only consistent feature of the capitalist revolution of the past hundred and fifty years has been continuous change, which is the only law of any and every social revolution.
The function of revolution is not to get people anywhere in particular and especially not to keep them anywhere once it has got them there. The function of revolution is simply to keep them moving on with a purpose and a hope which will change as they move. Not to understand this is not to know history. Capitalism and democracy ran on the dynamism of the commercial and industrial revolution, frontier settlement, exploitation of virgin natural resources, rapid population growth, easy capitalist-imperialist wars of conquest and the continuous broadening of public instruction and the suffrage. In all these processes the one element of consistency is—change. The only important fact about them for us today is that, as processes of change, they are now about over. Capitalism has entered upon transition from dynamism to legend. This process is one of stagnation which is being broken by war and the new revolution of socialism.
The statement that the dynamic function of change is neither good nor bad but just to keep things moving may shock many who like to think of social change as improvement or progress. Whether any given pattern or phase of social change is improvement and progress must, in the very nature of things, always be wholly a matter of a value judgment, and, consequently, the subject of wide divergence of opinion. The leaders of every revolution or phase of social change, naturally, call it good, improvement, progress, etc. Their followers, participating in such change will, of course, agree, while a great many others immediately affected by such change or observing it from a distance, either in time or space, will disagree. Thus, today, the majority of people in the democracies are emphatically of the conviction that both the Russian and German revolutions are mainly bad. With such value judgments we have, in this discussion, no concern.
We are concerned here merely with the following broad generalizations about revolutionary change: First, that continuous revolution is a permanent social necessity to avert stagnation. It is not said that stagnation is good or bad or that stagnation is worse than change. It is merely said that revolutionary change is the only alternative to stagnation. So, to any one who might say that he would prefer any degree of stagnation to the Nazi, communist or any other revolution, I have nothing to say in contradiction. The second generalization is that any revolution of sufficient quantitative degree will avert stagnation; or that, for this purpose, one revolution is as good as another, provided it is revolutionary enough. In making this statement I do not say that, so far as my preferences go—which are not involved here—one revolution is as good as another. Nor do I say that the reader should not mind what kind of revolution the country has so long as it has enough of one to get out of stagnation. I merely say that, for the purpose of ending stagnation, any revolution that is big enough will do.
It is important to establish the foregoing points clearly in one’s thinking for the purpose of realistic analysis of the present situation, the essence of which is stagnation, except as modified by war. Let me try briefly to explain. In the first place, human nature or human behavior in large groups tends to social inertia or stagnation rather than to social dynamism. This is confirmed by history and current observation of savage or primitive communities. Society since the beginning of recorded history, has needed war and the prophecy and creative urges of the abnormal, the social deviates, the unbalanced or the crazy men of destiny to take it out and keep it out of stagnation. Peter the Hermit started the end of the Dark Ages by inciting the people of Europe to go off to the wars of the crusades. The fifteenth and sixteenth century reformers and discoverers, another crazy lot, continued the revolution. The merchants and inventors of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought it down to our day. Now a new crop of Caesars is leading us out of stagnation along the path of revolution. Society does not tend to dynamism but to stagnation. The wise men and social scientists of the democracies have not understood this. Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler have understood it.
In the second place, ethical and rational idea patterns in the democracies tend to be utopian and static rather than dynamic. The average American believes that the American Revolution in 1776-1785 was to be our last revolution. His idea of revolution is that, if it is of the right sort, it will end a bad situation and create a good situation which will thenceforth become stabilized and permanent. Thereafter, something he calls “normal” becomes permanently established. To this “normal,” a sound society is supposed always to be getting back. I have never seen this happen, of course, and have only seen the country get into new and worse messes one after the other. But, even in the midst of this most explosive and revolutionary phase of modern history, people still talk about getting back to normal as the country shoots down the rapids to the precipice of a second world war in this generation.
The American who talks of getting back to normal will usually tell you that he believes in evolution rather than revolution. This bromidic preference he owes largely to the influence of the befuddled sociological thinking of Herbert Spencer and a long line of liberals of the nineteenth century who decided to apply Darwin’s law of the survival of the fittest or natural selection to social change. To say that, in natural history, the fittest survive is a tautology. It merely amounts to saying that what is fittest to survive survives. You don’t know what is fit to survive until it has survived. Then you know it was fit to survive because it survived. But Spencer and his school transmuted this blinding flash of the obvious into moral law by wishful thinking. Social change, according to them, was a process in which the best survived. Fittest and best, of course, were synonyms. Best, in liberal discourse, always means what the person using the term likes best. Now the liberals understood that in revolutionary change what they liked best might not always happen. So they decided they preferred evolutionary change, à la Darwin, for in such slow and long-drawn-out change, they figured they couldn’t lose. Since what they liked was best or fittest, it was bound to survive. They had Darwin’s discovery for that. Their idea of Darwin’s thesis was that it meant the inevitability of progress in the sense of improvement or betterment. Under evolution things just had to grow bigger and better in every way. Obviously, there is nothing in Darwin to support such wishful thinking. There is no more ethics, morals or aesthetics in natural selection or the survival of the fittest than there is in the jungle, where the principle can be seen at work in its most fundamental form.
Another error of the people who think they prefer evolution to revolution is that they usually don’t stop to consider how slow evolution in natural history really is and how much faster social change has to be in any society of which they would care to be members. The evolutionary change Darwin observed and wrote about in natural history occurs with a slowness that, in social change, would be total stagnation. As a matter of fact, considered relatively to social dynamics, evolution in the jungle is dismal stagnation. Some reader may remark that there would appear to be nothing stagnant about a bee hive, an anthill or a tiger chasing, catching and eating a deer. Yet from any social viewpoint all that is utter stagnation. For tens or hundreds of thousands of years the same species of ants or bees have been doing identically the same things, and with the same instruments and in the same way; the same species of tigers have been chasing, catching and eating with the same biological equipment and the same technique the same species of deer. Over a million years or more the tigers have no doubt grown a little longer and sharper teeth, a little broader jaws and a little stronger paws while the deer have grown a little lighter and fleeter legs. But for tens of thousands of years, they have been doing the same things in the same ways. That is evolution.
The difference between evolutionary and revolutionary change is mainly one of speed. People who think they would like an evolutionary rate of change simply do not understand the meaning of the terms they use or the dynamic requisites of the society they know and prefer.
The importance of clearly understanding the dynamic and purely unmoral function of change cannot be exaggerated at a time like this when the major problem is stagnation. America’s problem of unemployment could be solved by rebuilding America or going to war with Japan. The war with Japan is the more likely. Why? The answer is that our social philosophy recognizes a need for national defense but not for social dynamism. We do not need to fight Japan for national security. Such a war would not serve our national interests. But the people are conditioned to react in certain ways to the mystic words “national defense” etc. like Pavlov’s dog in the experiment. So all that is necessary to get us into war with Japan is to tinkle day in and day out in the people’s ears the sound of certain symbolic words to which they respond by wanting to fight and to identify Japan always with the sound of those words.
One can drone daily in the people’s ears the fact that we have ten million unemployed and they feel no emotional response because they have not been conditioned to regard stagnation as something bad or to consider revolutionary change, its alternative, as something good. There are thirty-five million Americans who need government assistance and billions of dollars of un-utilized American productive plant capacity. There are not ten thousand Americans in the entire Far East or a billion dollars of American money invested there. But it is impossible to stimulate Americans to action over the thirty-five million Americans needing relief or the billions of wasting American capital in this country, while it will be the easiest thing in the world to launch Americans into a futile five or ten year war which will cost billions over negligible American interests in the Orient. A good part of the explanation is that our folklore contains no recognition of the continuous necessity of revolutionary social change but does make national honor and national defense verbal symbols with which the people can be moved like puppets into any wild adventure.
Rauschning, in his Revolution of Nihilism, has made a best seller of the discovery that the essence of German and Russian socialism is dynamism, meaning chiefly the will to power and the use of power for social expansion and change of a revolutionary nature. To most readers, the mere statement of these creative characteristics comes as a terrible indictment. It is not strange that democracies which shudder at virility and power have declining birth rates. By failing to see that liberal democracy and capitalism, as well as all other great systems, religious, political, dynastic or republican of the past were great revolutions while they flourished or until they declined, Dr. Rauschning falls short of being the profound philosopher needed to carry off his essay in current social prophecy. His failure to see that any complex society requires the dynamism of continuous revolutionary expansion and change invalidates many of his conclusions.
At heart, Rauschning is a pious, Protestant monarchist and landed Junker. He is attached to three major hierarchies of God’s anointed: the court, the church and the army. This faith is no ground for reproach. But it is a reproach to his knowledge that he does not recognize that Christianity, every monarchy, every landed aristocracy and every military caste arose out of revolution and that no one of them ever flourished as a static institution. The Roman Catholic church, for instance, has always insisted on its destiny as the Church Militant until it becomes the Church Triumphant. It has accordingly remained evangelical, ever carrying on the propaganda of the faith and maintaining foreign missions to revolutionize the heathen from the faiths and ways of their fathers to those of the Church. The Protestant sects have followed the same philosophy. Both in origin and early development, they were dynamic agencies of political and economic revolution. The Protestant Reformation, after all, was just one big political revolution which gave birth to modern nationalism and the types of wars it has made inevitable. As for the monarchs and their landed retainers throughout Europe, they never kept the peace or left their neighbors tranquil over any lengthy period during the past two thousand years.
Stalin and Hitler have created few revolutionary or military precedents not to be found in the annals of Europe’s great monarchs like Charlemagne, Henry the Eighth, Elizabeth, Peter the Great, Louis the Fourteenth, Charles the Fifth, Frederick the Great or Napoleon. Henry the Eighth attacked the Roman church by nationalizing the English church and Elizabeth attacked the institution of property by commissioning English pirates to prey on Spanish shipping though she brazenly denied it in official replies to Spanish protests. The idea is now being advanced in polite British and French circles that a restoration of the monarchy in the several states of a dismembered Germany might usher in a welcome era of relief from the assaults on established institutions and the wars of the new socialist, Have-not dictators.
Rauschning has plenty of ground for criticizing the Nazi and Soviet dynamics which he miscalls nihilism. But he fails to offer a substitute dynamism or to recognize that a lack of dynamism was the reason for the collapse of the Weimar Republic or that revolutionary dynamism is the only alternative to stagnation.
Only a primitive people such as a community of savages, shepherds or nomads can be comparatively static. Possibly men would be happier living in more static and less dynamic societies. Be that as it may, let it be clearly understood that the industrialized millions of our great urbanized states today must either live on a new dynamism or die either in stagnation or in some adventure of desperation brought on by hunger. The present world is not ripe for the simple life. It could be made so only by the decimation of two thirds of the present population.
A new life of Woodrow Wilson, on the title page, fittingly calls him “the disciple of revolution” But his revolution, unlike that of Lenin, never came off, largely because, unlike Lenin’s revolution, it sought to reverse the dynamic current of social change, ever flowing towards closer economic integration. Wilson’s revolutionary ideology called for atomization in Europe under the glittering formula of self-determination. For a revolution today, and probably for a revolution in any period, that was wrong. Great revolutions are epics of social unification and never of social atomization. Capitalism was an attempt to unify the world under the rule of the British fleet and the Bank of England. The political and economic disintegration of Europe may well come as a sequel of a prolonged war. But if it does, it will come as a part of a return to the Dark Ages, and not as a revolution. The British and French, in fighting for the dismemberment of Germany and the Balkanization of Europe, are not fighting for a revolutionary idealism, in 1940 any more than in 1914-1918. Their prior wars revolutionized, created and unified.
The first practical result of Wilson’s attempt at an internationalist world revolution was, as already remarked, the Balkanization of Europe, which Stalin and Hitler are now undoing. The next result was to commit the League of Nations to the maintenance of an impossible status quo. Out of this commitment grew a whole series of international misadventures, culminating in the Anglo-French war declaration of September 3, 1939 all aimed at the prevention of social unification by Japan, Italy and Germany. This policy amounts to an undertaking to reverse the historical and revolutionary processes of imperial expansion, thus far the only formula of large-scale social unification that has ever worked.
The Wilsonian revolution of international idealism was one of destruction, not creation. Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler have all made creative revolutions in their own countries. A creative revolution in one of the democracies in this century remains to be made. The Wilsonian revolution of destruction liquidated such workable social integrations as the Austro-Hungarian empire and the German empire, the first of which was decrepit when dissolved by the international idealists. But the internationalists could destroy better than they could build. They replaced these nineteenth century political integrations, having an obvious economic raison d’être, with no workable twentieth century substitute. Since the war, all that democracy has created of historic importance has been a sterile and suicidal internationalism, the dying gasp of the commercial and industrial revolutions which were democracy and capitalism in flower. Since the war, capitalism’s only enduring creation has been unemployment.
Because the dynamic function of revolutionary change is so little understood nowadays, we hear on every side unrealistic comparisons between the democracies and dictatorships. Thus we are told that the difference between the two is that democracy is traditional and peaceful while dictatorship is revolutionary and warlike, as well as most unnatural. These dichotomies remind one of the classical example of the textbooks on formal logic: “The difference between a horse and a cow is that a horse has a head and a cow has a tail.” Democracy or capitalism, as a matter of fact and not of definition, was never anything but the commercial and industrial revolution, with its accompaniments of extremely rapid population growth, frontier settlement and easy imperialist wars. These historical processes have been transmuted into a lot of abstract concepts, mostly now contrary to fact, which go under such names as ethics, law, political and social science, economics or just plain common sense. The characteristic fallacy of all liberal ideology is the assumption that a brief pattern of expansion and change was able to establish norms, ethical and aesthetic, for all time and that these norms constitute a body of truth wholly divorced from the limitations of time and space.
The simple historical fact, as will be shown more amply in succeeding chapters, is that capitalism or democracy was essentially one big, long revolution which is now over for the same reason that the offspring of one pair of breeders never proliferate until they cover the face of the globe. The liberal ideologists would have us believe that the new revolution of socialism is an orgy of blood and anarchy bursting upon the idyll of democratic peace, traditionalism and stability. The tradition of democracy is revolution; its essence, change and expansion; its characteristic incidents, territorial aggrandizement and easy wars. Democracy, when it flourished, i.e., when it was revolutionary, militant and successfully imperialistic, never respected the rights of the weak except as it suited capitalist or nationalist interests. Examples: the British conquest and the two and a half century long oppression of the Irish, the African slave trade, the extinction of the Indians in North America to make it safe for white democracy, the opium war on China, the conquest of India, the conquest of the Boer Republic etc., etc. What we are now witnessing is just the end of one revolution and the beginning of another, the new revolution being one of a non-commercial elite and the old revolution having been one of a merchant class elite.
Britain, the World’s Premier Revolutionist Since the Fall of Rome
We affect horror over the thought that certain foreigners are spreading a new sort of world revolution. We forget that for centuries—the process can be dated back to the sinking of the Spanish Armada in 1588—England spread the world revolution of commercialism and industrialism. Beneficent or maleficent, as one’s point of view may cause one to regard it, the transition from a world of economically self-contained communities to a world organized on the principle of the international division of labor was always revolutionary and intermittently bloody.
First came in England the enclosure of land, following the early successes of British piracy and foreign trade. In this way a self-respecting and self-sufficient British peasantry was converted into the submerged proletariat of the British slums. In the rising factory system the new wage slaves worked twelve and fourteen hours a day, while children of ten were driven to Work twelve hours a day six days a week. This English industrial revolution was forced upon its victims by means of the constable’s arms and the landlord’s economic pressure, which drove commercial settlers on the land to urban squalor and factory jobs to earn the rent money there to exist. It was not a matter of consent but coercion, a historical fact which wholly invalidates one of the most popular rationalizations of democracy, that of economic freedom. This rationalization is based on the fiction of freedom of contract, according to which the worker only a few days from starvation bargains freely with the employer having the means to employ or shut down and live comfortably for an indefinite period.
The British world revolution was imposed by coercion with the aid of a world monopoly of sea power, maritime shipping, banking and industry. Thus Clive conquered India to force upon its teeming millions the British commercial revolution. Thus our Commodore Perry, with diplomacy and without violence but with men of war at hand in Yeddo Bay forced on Japan the same revolution. The simple fact is that the Anglo-Saxons, during the past three and a half centuries since Elizabeth, have been the greatest propagandists and militant protagonists of world revolution since the Moslems and the Romans.
Revolution, in the light of history though not of liberal doctrine, has to be thought of as an instrument as well as an incident of imperialism. Marxism erroneously made socialist revolution the antithesis of imperialism. Stalin is effectively correcting this error. To subjugate another people you must first revolutionize them. That, in the imperial process, is far more important than defeating any number of times their armed forces in pitched battle. Subject peoples are never fully conquered until revolutionized to the ways of the conqueror. This may mean learning Latin or English, making the sign of the cross or turning one’s face toward Mecca, adopting Roman law or the English law merchant, using the sterling bill of exchange instead of rational barter as people have done for thousands of years, or wearing Manchester prints instead of far more beautiful homespun.
Stalin cannot be a successful Pan-Slav imperialist, or Hitler a successful Pan-German imperialist, without using some brand of world revolution, exactly as did the British, the Moslems or the Romans, as an instrument of imperial policy. The Japanese failure in China is due to their incomprehension of the necessity for the use of a new formula of imperialism. Their industrial and British-aping liberal intelligentsia, industrial plutocracy and naval apprentices of the English imagined that they could imitate what had been the British technique of conquest in India, little realizing that the revolution is rapidly driving Britain out of India. With equal obtuseness the Japanese sought, by selling exports below cost at a reasonable wage for labor, to emulate British foreign-trade success, won along much sounder lines. This temporary success won on a falling Japanese standard of living cannot last.
Stalin and Hitler, whether they personally succeed and survive, or not, are both using, with local adaptations, the twentieth century formula of socialism for imperialist and industrial expansion. This formula the Japanese may readily adopt, using it in alliance with China exactly as Germany will use it in alliance with Russia. The capitalist formula of imperialism will no longer work in large countries like China or India, nor will it pay in many lesser colonies. Imperialism, however, is not dead. Germany, Russia and Japan are aggressively imperialistic and must so continue. But the new formula cannot be that of Cobden and Pitt.
Revolution, expansion and imperialism make up a social behavior pattern essential for highly integrated industrial civilizations. The chief reasons are what Stuart Chase has called technological imperatives. Our principal social need is not adjustments and lubricants but drive. Our enemy is not friction but stagnation. The unemployment and public deficit figures are eloquent in proof of this.
The necessary drive for a complex society such as ours must be generated by a combination of an expansive ideology and technology. Call it a combination of faith and economic planning if you will. These essential dynamisms are a scheme of values people are willing to die for and a pattern of change and expansion they are able to make work. Just now everyone professes an eagerness to die for dear old democracy but nobody demonstrates an ability to make it work, i.e., to create full employment without war. The values of democracy and capitalism are no longer credible because their mechanics are no longer workable. Material values must be materialized. Dying for impossible ideals or vain hopes is an old human custom and one of Mother Nature’s most efficient means of population control.
The collapse of the industrial revolution as a capitalistic dynamism—it is, of course, an animating force for socialism—leaves democracy and capitalism with only the temporary and final dynamism of suicidal war. As we shall have occasion to point out, the type of easy and lucrative warfare—guns versus tomahawks or superior versus inferior technology—of imperialist and frontier conquest on which alone democracy and capitalism can flourish, ended with the Boer and Spanish-American wars. Those were the last wars to be won by democracy. The World War was democracy’s first attempt at suicide. It was not entirely successful, producing at first only Soviet Russia, then later the great depression; and out of the latter German national socialism. The present attempt of the democracies at self-destruction has every chance of being one hundred per cent successful. The Haves can win from the Have-nots only during a certain and now departed phase of world trade, industrial change, population growth and frontier settlement in which the victorious Haves can exploit the labor and markets of the defeated or submerged Have-nots. Today that is no longer possible. If the American and British Haves, the world’s premier capitalists and democracy lovers, cannot exploit profitably the
labor and markets of their Have-nots at home but must support them in idleness out of the surplus of the Haves, how can these same Haves expect to derive benefit from a victory over the proletarian nations of Germany, Japan and Russia? Today any major war fought by democracy and capitalism must be suicidal for the system and good for either socialism or chaos or both.
The need of a modern industrialized society for an ideology and a technology which are both extremely revolutionary, like those of democracy and capitalism in the nineteenth century, grows more acute every hour. During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries capitalism ran on the revolutionary idea of free trade and on the revolutionary technology of the new inventions of steam, electricity and the transition to power production and railway transportation. The ideology justified and motivated expansion. The technological changes facilitated it.
Yesterday the ideology of capitalism called for booms. Today it calls for retrenchment in order to balance the budget. The doctrinary imperatives of the system now demand public economy at a time when there is no likelihood of a compensatory expansion in private investment. The profit incentives growing out of nineteenth century expansion are lacking in present-day stagnation. Therefore, sound liberal principles are anachronisms, the following of which under present conditions would be nationally suicidal.
The only formula now feasible for a necessary amount of activity, other than that of war, which the democracies cannot hope to win, must consist in a raising of living standards and pyramid building. By pyramid building, which will be discussed more fully in Chapter XVI, is meant housing and public-works construction which cannot be financed or paid for in a capitalistically sound manner. But more luxuries and leisure for the working classes or more non-reproductive public works would be downright waste and immorality in terms of the ethics of our American system. Our ideology could rationalize the building of the railways in the nineteenth century and the building of highways for the automobiles of the middle classes in the twentieth century. It could even, as late as 1929, rationalize the building of now half empty office buildings. All this could be justified on the basis of profit expectancy. But industrial expansion and economic acceleration along the only lines now physically possible must be pronounced morally wrong and prove institutionally impractical under our present American system.
The problem now confronting us, then, is essentially spiritual and technical. It is one of why (ideology) and how (technology) shall we keep busy. Our democracy can no longer find moral reasons or an institutional setup for full employment, as it did in the nineteenth century. This is not a matter of opinion but of fact. It can be contradicted only by deeds, not words. No amount of explanation of what might be done if only a great many other things were done first is relevant to the statements just made. Democracy is pronounced the favorite of the overwhelming majority of the people. It is in power. It is not being obstructed by foreign foes. If it fails, there can be only one verdict: it cannot deliver the goods. That must be the verdict of the past ten years and must remain the verdict until it is changed by the employment figures.
This failure of democracy and capitalism really antedates 1929. It goes back of 1913 and may be considered as one of the causes of the World War. Thus came the World War which provided the dynamic formula for five years. Next came the phony private credit inflation of the twenties to finance consumer expenditures not warranted by the prevailing level of consumer incomes and to permit capital investments which had no possibility of ever yielding a profit, as subsequent experience demonstrated. This second phase of capitalist breakdown ended in the collapse of 1929. The formula of the third phase, or that of the thirties, has been equally phony. It has consisted of an inflation of public credit to finance more consumption and public investment than can be permanently sustained in this manner or eventually liquidated along sound capitalistic lines. The fourth and final formula of the forties is to be that of a grand fling of public credit inflation to fight a war against the consequences of our failures and follies. But war will not end these consequences. It will only intensify the causes.
An industrialized, urbanized and highly integrated modern society cannot tolerate indefinitely large-scale unemployment such as is now chronic in democratic America under peace. Nor can it effectuate without revolution and anarchy the relapse of a third of the population into subsistence peasanthood or workhouse urban concentrations on permanent relief. In the depressed areas in England there are men of forty who have never known steady employment during their entire lifetimes, the basic industries of their communities, textiles, coal or shipbuilding, having gone into chronic decline right after the war. There can be no security for property without security of employment. Democracy has no remedy for the farmer and the unemployed except deficits and doles. It has no alternative to stagnation except suicidal war. These statements can be refuted only by performances, not by explanations of what would happen if only certain things were done which are not done.
One great trouble with the leaders in the democracies is that because they, themselves, find it so easy and comfortable to survive under stagnation, they somehow feel that the underprivileged will be able to do likewise, especially with a little assistance from the privileged. The leaders of the privileged, obviously, do not like this situation. But they lose no weight over it. And they definitely consider it preferable to any sort of revolutionary change which might disturb their present comfort. Democratic and capitalist leadership in America, Britain and France today has just one real peacetime concern, to stabilize stagnation. Thus they hope to avert revolution. Meanwhile most of our leaders are cherishing the idea of a temporary take-out war. History, however, proves that action is easier to sell than stagnation. That, of course, is precisely why the take-out war for democracy is so popular in high political, financial and intellectual quarters.
From another war we stand to gain much in disillusionment and reeducation if, as seems practically certain, we suffer enough in consequence. The last world war, though it created Soviet Russia and the great depression of the thirties, still failed to teach the democracies very much. Thanks to the American military and economic rescue, they did not suffer enough. In the anger and bitterness of our next postwar frustration we shall finally be able to liquidate the present leadership and ideology responsible for sending in 1917 and in the forties the flower of American youth to die on European battlefields for unworthy interests and unattainable ideals. Out of this holocaust of American blood and suffering should arise a new American ideology and leadership.
The social Frankenstein created by the nineteenth century capitalism and democracy has to go on at an ever accelerating speed of revolutionary change or else collapse. An urban industrialized population cannot turn pastoral or nomadic to save relief taxes on the wealthy and survive. Now the necessary industrial acceleration can be kept up only in war or pyramid building. The necessary dynamism is no longer to be found in the expansive processes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. So, for the solvent of our illusions and the source of a new faith we turn, in the tradition of the ages, to war, to holy war abroad to be followed by class war at home. Thus will disappear our ideological and institutional anachronisms and thus may arise new patterns of thought and ways appropriate to a world which has changed since the foundations of our present culture were laid.
Generalizing broadly and summarizing briefly, it may be said that the more highly organized the society, the more dynamism it needs; and the greater the necessary dynamism for minimum operating velocity, the more revolutionary and expansive that dynamism must be.