Geoffrey Field
Evangelist of Race

France was in an advanced state of decline; Russia was degenerate and, but for its German dynasty, 'nothing would remain but a decaying matiere brute;' England offered no hope for the future, while the United States was a mere 'Dollar dynasty':
From dollars only dollars can come, nothing else; spiritually America will live only so long as the stream of European spiritual power flows there, not a moment longer. That part of the world, it may be proven, creates sterility; it has as little of a future as it has a past.
Already employed as a synonym for modernity and materialism in the 1880s, 'Americanization' entered the vocabulary of a wide range of cultural critics in the 1890s. Chamberlain, who turned down invitations to lecture at Yale and Johns Hopkins, had no grasp of American industrial power or military potential; for him 'Anglo-Americanism' was more of a symbolic, moral entity—an antithesis to German Kultur.

'The future progress of mankind,' Chamberlain insisted, 'depends on a powerful Germany extending far across the earth.' This involved expansion in Europe and overseas; it required a battle fleet capable of shattering British control of the high seas; but, most importantly, it meant a restructuring of German politics and society. The twentieth century would demand a more systematic organization of society and state planning, for which Germans were well equipped, as their achievements in industry and science had proven; but this could only come about if the existing apparatus of parties and parliament were dismantled and if bourgeois liberalism gave way to greater state power and centralized authority:
Germany—of this I am quite convinced—can within two centuries succeed in dominating the whole globe (partly through direct political methods and in part indirectly through language, culture, techniques etc.) if only it enters upon the 'New Course' and that means bringing the nation to a final break with Anglo-American governmental (Regierungs-) ideals.
This theme increasingly preoccupied Chamberlain after 1902, as he grew more and more pessimistic about the possibility of containing the forces of social and political change within the existing Wilhelminian system. Germans, he complained, lacked a natural instinct for politics. He was deeply troubled by the rising strength of socialism, the reliance of successive Chancellors on the support of the Catholic Center, the virtual deadlock between the political parties produced by the 1912 elections, and the damage done to the Emperor's authority by the Daily Telegraph affair and the Eulenburg scandal. Never very specific or systematic in his political theorizing, Chamberlain convinced himself that only radical change could attain the hierarchical and fundamentally conservative society he envisioned; in this regard, as in others, he echoed the mood and conclusions of the Pan-Germans and other elements of the far right. In perpetual motion between an heroic Parsifal world and an advanced, scientific civilization, he groped for a framework which could encompass both. The result was a strange blend of romantic conservatism and a more programmatic vision of a disciplined, cohesive society on corporatist lines.

After two decades of national confrontations, crises, and talk of impending hostilities, the outbreak of war in 1914 did not come as a surprise to Chamberlain. Nor did it cause him any dilemma of allegiance, for his ties to England had already worn very thin. Admittedly, to Kaiser Wilhelm, Rudolf Kassner, and other friends, he seemed quintessentially English in style and manner. Hermann Keyserling, for example, regarded him as 'an extremely charming English individualist,' a kind of Rudyard Kipling in German idealist vestments. But despite these general impressions, Chamberlain's knowledge and experience of Britain was very slight. His visits were seldom and brief: four in the forty years between 1874 and the war, a total of twenty weeks. Also, his closest personal links were severed by the death of his favorite relatives (Aunt Harriet in 1899, Uncle Neville in 1902, and Aunt Anne Guthrie in 1912). He largely gave up reading British papers, and his last occasions there were unhappy ones, overshadowed by the deep distaste he felt for the Edwardian ethos and by the rather demeaning task of keeping in the good graces of his Aunt Anne, a vigorous and sometimes cantankerous nonagenarian with a great deal of money to dispose of. As for his brothers, Basil lived only intermittently in England even after his return from the Far East, while Chamberlain was never close to Harry. Though Lord Redesdale expressed the view early in 1914 that Englishmen 'may well be proud of a fellow countryman' who was recognized as 'one of the most brilliant writers and profound thinkers of the day,' Chamberlain was scarcely English, except in name, and his image of his birthplace owed more to the German nationalist press than first-hand experience.

On July 22, 1914, less than a month after the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo, the Bayreuth festival opened; it was to be the last international gathering of Wagnerites for more than a decade. Tension mounted with every performance and conversation rapidly turned from art and music to politics as the European crisis deepened. As Gotterdammerung was being performed on July 29, the Austrian army mobilized against Serbia; two days later, when the performers began their new production of Fliegende Hollander, a bugler and military escort went through the streets of Bayreuth publicizing Germany's ultimatum to Russia. By now many seats in the Festspielhaus were empty as foreign visitors made haste to leave. For the last performance of the summer, Parsifal on August 1, only a few devotees remained: on that evening Germany declared war.

  The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Through Eden took their solitary way.