Ch01: A Relativistic World
Ch02: The First Despotic Utopias (Russia & Italy)
Ch03: Waiting for Hitler (Germany)
Ch04: Legitimacy in Decadence (Britain & France)
Ch05: An Infernal Theocracy, a Celestial Chaos (Japan & China)
Ch06: The Last Arcadia (America)
Ch07: Degringolade (The Great Depression)
Ch08: The Devils (Stalin & Hitler)
Ch09: The High Noon of Aggression (1930s)
Ch10: The End of Old Europe (1940)
Ch11: The Watershed Year (1941)
Ch12: Superpower and Genocide (1942-5)
Ch13: Peace By Terror (The Cold War Starts)
Ch14: The Bandung Generation (Decolonization)
Ch15: Caliban's Kindgoms (The Third World)
Ch16: Experimenting with Half Mankind (Totalitarianism)
Ch17: The European Lazarus
Ch18: America's Suicide Attempt
Ch19: The Collectivist Seventies
Ch20: The Recovery of Freedom
Beyond The Book


The modern world began on 29 May 1919 when photographs of a solar eclipse, taken on the island of Principe off West Africa and at Sobral in Brazil, confirmed the truth of a new theory of the universe. It had been apparent for half a century than the Newtonian cosmology, based upon the straight lines of Euclidean geometry and Galileo's notions of absolute time, was in need of serious modifications. It had stood for more than 200 years. It was the framework within which the European Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and the vast expansion of human knowledge, freedom and prosperity which characterized the 19th century, had taken place. But increasingly powerful telescopes were revealing anomalies. Why?

In 1905, a 26-year-old German Jew, Albert Einstein, had published a paper which became known as the Special Theory of Relativity. Einstein's observations on the way in which, in certain circumstances, lengths appear to contract and clocks to slow down, are analagous to the effects of perspective in painting. In fact the discovery that space and time are relative rather than absolute terms of measurement is comparable, in its effect on our perception of the world, to the first use of perspective in art, which occured in Greece c.500 BC.
The originality of Einstein, amounting to a form of genius, and the curious elegance of his lines of argument, which colleagues compared to a kind of art, aroused growing, worldwide interest. In 1907 he published a demonstration that all mass has energy, encapsulated in the equation E=mc2, which a later age saw as the starting point in the race for the atomic bomb.
Einstein's theory, and Eddington's much publicized expediton to test it, aroused enormous interest throughout the world in 1919. No exercise in scientific verification, before or since, has ever attracted so many headlines or become a topic of universal conversation. The tension mounted steadily between June and the actual announcement at a packed meeting of the Royal Society in London in September that the theory had been confirmed. To A. N. Whitehead, who was present, it was like a Greek drama.
From that moment onward, Einstein was a global hero, in demand at every great university in the world, mobbed wherever he went, his wistful features familiar to hundreds of millions, the archetype of the absracted natural philosopher. The impact of his theory was immediate, and cumulatively immeasurable.
At the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate, for the first time at a popular level, that there were no longer any absolutes: of time and space, of good and evil, of knowledge, above all of value. Mistakenly but perhaps inevitably, relativity became confused with relativism.
No one was more distressed than Einstein by this public misapprehension. He was bewildered by the relentless publicity and error which his work seemed to promote. He wrote to his colleague Max Born on 9 September 1920: 'Like the man in the fairy-tale who turned everything he touched into gold, so with me everything turns into a fuss in the newspapers.' Einstein was not a practicing Jew, but he acknowledged a God. He believed passionately in absolute standards of right and wrong.
He lived to see moral relativism, to him a disease, become a social pandemic, just as he lived to see his fatal equation bring into existence nuclear warfare. There were times, he said at the end of his life, when he wished he had been a simple watchmaker.
The public response to relativity was one of the principal formative influences on the course of twentieth-century history. It formed a knife, inadvertently wielded by its author, to help cut society adrift from its traditional moorings in the faith and morals of Judeo-Christian culture.

"All the horrors of the age were brought together, and not only armies but whole populations were thrust into the midst of them. The mighty educated States involved conceived - not without reason - that their very existence was at stake. Neither peoples nor rules drew the line at any deed which they thought could help them to win. Germany, having let Hell loose, kept well in the van in terror; but she was followed step by step by the desperate and ultimately avenging nations she has assailed. Every outrage against humanity or international law was repaid by reprisals - often of a greater scale and of longer duration... When all was over, Torture and Cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civlized, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves; and they were of doubtful utility."
        - Winston Churchill, on the horrors of WW1

As Churchill correctly noted, the horrors he listed were perpetrated by the 'mighty educated States'. Indeed, they were quite beyond the power of individuals, however evil. It is a commonplace that men are excessively ruthless and cruel not as a rule out of avowed malice but from outraged righteousness. How much more is this true of legally constitued states... The destructive capacity of the individual, however vicious, is small; of the state, however well-intentioned, almost limitless. Expand the state and that destructive capacity necessarily expands too.

It is a myth that European youth was ruthlessly sacrificed in 1914 by a selfish and cynical age, The speeches of pre-war politicians were crammed with appeals to youth... All over Europe, sociologists were assidiously studying youth to find out what it thought and wanted. And of course what youth wanted was war.

By 1919 virtually all European intellectuals of the younger generation, not to speak of their elders, subscribed to the proposition that the right to national self-determination was a fundamental moral principle. There were few exceptions, Karl Popper being one. These few argued that self-determination was a self-defeating principle since 'liberating' people and minorities simply created more minorities.

At a stroke, the dissolution of these dynastic and proprietary empires opened up packages of heterogenous peoples which had been lovingly assembled and carefully tied together over centuries. The monarchies were the only unifying principle of these multi-racial societies, the sole guarantee (albeit often only a slender one) that all would be equal before the law. Once that principle was removed, what could be substitued for it? The only one available was nationalism, and its fashionable by-product irredentism.

It must not be supposed that already, in 1919, the progressive disintegration of the British Empire was inevitable, indeed forseeable. The British Empire, to most people, appeared to be not only the most extensive but also the most solid on earth. Britain was a superpower by any standards. She had by far the largest navy. She also had the largest air force and, surprisingly in view of her history, the world's third largest army. In theory at least the British Empire had gained immeasurably by the war.
Britain's spoils, which carried the Empire to its greatest extent - more than a quarter of the surface of the earth - were also thought to consolidate it economically and strategically.

Nietzsche saw God not as an invention but as a casualty, and his demise was in some important sense an historical event, which would have dramatic consequences. He wrote in 1886: "The greatest event of recent times - that 'God is dead', that the belief in the Christian God is no longer tenable - is beginning to cast its first shadows over Europe." Among the advanced races, the decline and ultimately the collapse of the religious impulse would leave a huge vacuum. The history of modern times is in great part the history of how that vacuum has been filled.
Nietzsche rightly perceived that the most likely candidate would be what he called the 'Will to Power', which offered a far more comprehensive and in the end more plausible explanation of human behavior than either Marx or Freud. In place of religious belief, there would be secular ideology. Those who had once filled the ranks of the totalitarian clergy would become totalitarian politicians. And, above all, the Will to Power would produce a new kind of messiah, uninhibited by any religious sanctions whatever, and with an unappeasable appetite for controlling mankind. The end of the old order, with an unguided world adrift in a relativistic universe, was a summons to such gangster-statesmen to emerge. They were not slow to make their appearance.


War breeds revolutions. Amd breeding revolutions is a very old form of warfare. The Germans called it 'Revolutionieurungspolitik'. If the Allies could incite the Poles, the Czechs, the Croats, the Arabs and the Jews to rise against the Central Powers and their partners, then the Germans, in turn, could and did incite the Irish and the Russians.

Once Lenin had abolished the idea of personal guilt, and had started to 'exterminate' (a word he frequently employed) whole classes, merely on account of occupation or parentage, there was no limit to which this deadly princple might be carried. Might not entire categories of people be classified as 'enemies' and condemned to imprisonment or slaughter merely on account of the colour of their skin, or their racial origins or, indeed, their nationality? There is no essential moral difference between class-warfare and race-warfare, between destroying a class and destroying a race. Thus the modern practice of genocide was born.

With one exception none of the Allied statesmen involved even began to grasp the enormous significance of the establishment of this new type of totalitarian dictatorship, or the long-term effect of its implantation in the heart of the greatest land power on earth. The exception was Winston Churchill. With his strong sense of history, he realized some kind of fatal watershed had been reached.
To Churchill it seemed that a new kind of barbarism had arisen, indifferent to any standards of law, custom, diplomacy or honour which had hitherto been observed by civilized states.

Lenin had systematically constructed, in all its essentials, the most carefully engineered apparatus of state tyranny the world had yet seen. In the old world, personal autocracies, except perhaps for brief periods, had been limited by other forces in society: a church, and aristocracy, an urban bourgeoise, ancient charters and courts and assemblies. And there was too, the notion of an external, restraining force, in the idea of a Deity, or Natural Law, or some absolute system of morality. Lenin's new despotic utopia had no such counterweights or inhibitions - all had been swept away. Everything that was left was owned or controlled by the state. All rights whatsoever were vested in the state.

The Great War saw the bifurcation of Leninism and Mussolini's proto-fascism. It was a question not merely of intellect and situation but of character. Mussolini had the humanity, including the vanity and the longing to be loved, which Lenin so conspicuously lacked. He was exceptionally sensitive and responsive to mass opinion. When the war came and the armies marched, he sniffed the nationalism in the air and drew down great lungfuls of it. It was intoxicating: and he moved sharply in a new direction. Lenin, on the other hand, was impervious to such aromas.

As Marxist heretics and violent revolutionary activists, Lenin and Mussolini had six salient features in common. Both were totally opposed to bourgeois parliaments and any type of 'reformism'. Both saw the party as a highly centralized, strictly hierarchical and ferociously disciplined agency for furthering socialist objectives. Both wanted a leadership of professional revolutionaries. Neither had any confidence in the capacity of the proletariat to organize itself. Both thought revolutionary consciousness could be brought to the masses from without by a revolutionary, self-appointed elite. Finally, both believed that, in the coming struggle between the classes, organized violence would be the final arbiter.

In a very characteristic mixture of arrogance and fatalistic despair, Mussolini announced the beginning of fascism in a notorious speech delivered on 3 January 1925. Opposition newspapers were banned. Opposition leaders were placed in confinment on an island. As Mussolini put it, opposition to the monolithic nation was superfluous - he could find any that was needed within himself and in the resistance of objective forces - a bit of verbal legerdemain that even Lenin might have envied. He produced a resounding totalitarian formula, much quoted, admired and excoriated then and since: 'Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.'
But there was always something nebulous about Italian fascism. Its institutions, like the Labour Charter, the National Council of Corporations and the Chamber of Fasces and Corporations, never seemed to get much purchase on the real Italy. Mussolini boasted, 'We control the political forces, we control the moral forces, we control the economic forces. Thus we are in the midst of the corporative fascist state.' But it was a state built of words rather than deeds.
But if Mussolini did not practise fascism, and could not even define it with any precision, it was equally mystifying to its opponents, especially the Marxists. Sophisticated Anglo-Saxon liberals could dismiss it as a new kind of mountebank dictatorship, less bloodthirsty than Leninism and much less dangerous to property. But to the Marxists it was much more serious. By the mid-1920s there were fascist movements all over Europe. One thing they all had in common was anti-Communism of the most active kind. They fought revolution with revolutionary means and met the Communists on the streets with their own weapons.
It had to be squared with Marxist-Leninist historiography and therefore shown to be not a portent of the future but a vicious flare-up of the dying bourgeois era. It was unthinkable to recognize it for what it actually was - a Marxist heresy, indeed a modification of the Leninist heresy itself. Hence after much lucubration an official Soviet definition was produced in 1933: fascism was 'the unconcealed terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, chauvinistic and imperialistic elements of finance capital'. This manifest nonsense was made necessary by the failure of 'scientific' Marxism to predict what was the most striking political development of the inter-war years.

In the meantime, Mussolini's Italy was now an empirical fact, just like Lenin's Russia, inviting the world to study it, with a view to imitation, perhaps, or avoidance. The historian of modern times is made constantly aware of the increasingly rapid interaction of political events over wide distances. It was as though the development of radio, the international telephone system, mass-circulation newspapers and rapid forms of travel was producing a new conception of social and political holism corresponding to new scientific perceptions of the universe and matter.
According to Mach's Principle, formulated first at the turn of the century and then reformulated as part of Einstein's cosmology, not only does the universe as a whole influence local, terrestrial events but local events have an influence, however small, on the universe as a whole. Quantum mechanics, developed in the 1920s, indicated that the same principle applied at the level of micro-quantities. There were no independent units, flourishing apart from the rest of the universe. 'Splendid isolation' was no longer a practicable state policy, as even the United States had implicitly acimitted in 1917.
The influenza virus of 1918 had enveloped the world in weeks and penetrated almost everywhere. The virus of force, terror and totalitarianism might prove equally swift and ubiquitous. It had firmly implanted itself in Russia. It was now in Italy.

Mussolini could not or would not conjure a new fascist civilization out of his cloudy verbal formulae. But what he liked doing and felt able to do, and indeed was gifted at doing, was big construction projects. He tackled malaria, then the great, debilitating scourge of central and southern Italy.
In Sicily, the Mafia was not destroyed, but it was effectively driven underground. Above all, there was no more violence on the streets. Some of these accomplishments were meretricious, others harmful in the long run. But taken together they looked impressive, to foreigners, to tourists, to many Italians too. No Utopia was emerging in Italy, but the contrast with hungry, terrorized Russia was striking. To those north of the Alps, who rejected alike the Bolshevism of the East and the liberalism of the West, the Italian renaissance seemed offer a third way.


The object of the 1914 war was to create a new European order in which Germany would be dominant.

The shock of defeat to most Germans, especially the soldiers, was enormous. It was something no one in the West understood. The Germans knew they were retreating on the Western Front. But the withdrawal was orderly; the army was intact.

The truth was finally brought home to Germany only when the terms of the Versailles Treaty were published in May 1919.

Germany's defeat in 1918 was bound to unleash a quest for scapegoats, alien treachery in the midst of the Volk.

Christianity was content with a solitary hate-figure to explain evil: Satan. But modern secular faiths needed human devils, and whole categories of them. The enemy, to be plausible, had to be an entire class or race.

The Jews tried everything to combat the poison. Some brought up their children to be artisans or farmers. They enlisted in the army. They attempted ultra-assimilation.
But each policy raised more difficulties than it removed, for anti-Semitism was protean, hydra-headed and imprevious to logic or evidence.

The syphillis of anti-Semitism was not the only weakness of the German body politic. The German state was a huge creature with a small and limited brain. The state was nursemaid as well as sergeant-major. It was a towering shadow over the lives of ordinary people and their relationship towards it was one of dependence and docility. The philosophy was Platonic; the result corporatist.

Hitler's artistic approach was absolutely central to his success. Lenin's religious-type fanaticism would never have worked in Germany. The Germans were the best-educated nation in the world. To conquer their minds was very difficult. Their hearts, their sensibilities, were easier targets. Hitler's strength was that he shared with so many other Germans the devotion to national images new and old: misty forests breeding blond giants; smiling peasant villages under the shadow of ancestral castles; garden cities emerging from ghetto-like slums; riding Valkyries, burning Valhallas, new births and dawns in which shining, millennian structures would rise from the ashes of the past and stand for centuries. Hitler had in common with average German taste precisely those revered images which nearly a century of nationalist propaganda had implanted...
In a rare moment of frankness, Lenin once said that only a country like Russia could have captured so easily a country as he took it. Germany was a different proposition. It could not be raped. It had to be seduced.

In 1923 the German currency, long teetering on the brink of chaos, finally fell into it. The German financial authorities blamed the fall on the reparation clauses of the Versaillies Treaty. In fact reparations had nothing directly to do with it.
The crisis was due entirely to the reckless manner in which the Ministry of Finance, abetted by the Reichsbank, allowed credit and the money supply to expand.


The notion that industrialization, as opposed to primary production, is the sole road to high living standards is belied by the experience of former colonies like Australia, New Zealand, much of Canada and the US Midwest, where exports of meat, wool, wheat , dairy products and minerals have produced the most prosperous countries in the world.

Colonialism was a highly visual phenomenon. It abounded in flags, exotic uniforms, splendid ceremonies, Durbars, sunset-guns, trade exhibitions, postage stamps, and above all, coloured maps. Seen from maps, colonialism appeared to have changed the world. Seen on the ground, it appeared a more metriculous phenomenon, which could and did change little. It came easily; it went easily. Few died either to make it or break it. It both accelerated and retarded, though marginally in both cases, the emergance of a world economic system.

History shows us the truly amazing extent to which intelligent, well-informed and resolute men, in the pursuit of economy or in an altruistic passion for disarmament, will delude themselves about realities.

America and Japan viewed each other with increasing hostility. As a result, America put the sharp question to Britain: whom do you want as your friends, us or the Japanese?


"Well-organized nations count votes out of ballot boxes. Badly organized nations count bodies, dead ones, on the battlefield." (Sun Yat-sen)

As long as Britain was Japan's ally, the latter had a prime interest in preserving her own internal respectability, constitutional propriety and the rule of law, all of which Britain had taught her.
That was why the destruction of the Anglo-Japanese alliance by the USA and Canada in 1922 was so fatal to peace in the Far East.

In two decades the pursuit of radical reform by force had led to the deaths of millions of innocents and reduced large parts of China to the misery and lawlessness that Germany had known in the Wars of Religion or Frances in the Hundred Years' War.

The tragedy of inter-war China illustrates the principle that when legitimacy yields to force, and moral absolutes to relativism, a great darkness descends and angels become indistinguishable from devils.


"Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business." (President Calvin Coolidge)

Who was an American? What was America for? Many, perhaps most, Americans thought of their country, almost wistfully, as the last Arcadia, an innocent and quasi-Utopian refuge from the cumulative follies and wickedness of the corrupt world beyond her coean-girded shores. But how to preserve Arcadia?

America's proclaimed indifference to events in North China was a bluff, an elaborate self-deceit. A nation which numbered 106 'ethnic groups', which was already a substansial microcosm of world society, could not be genuinely blind to major events anywhere.

The Utopianism inherent in Prohibition, though strongly rooted in American society, came up against the equally strong rooted and active American principle of unrestricted freedom of enterprise. America was one of the least totalitarian societies on earth; it possessed virtually none of the apparatus to keep market forces in check once an unfulfilled need appeared.

Prohibition was the 'take off point' for big crime in America.

The trouble with the Twenties expansion was not that it was philistine or socially immoral. The trouble was that it was transient. Had it endured, carrying with it in its train the less robust but still (at that time) striving  economies of Europe, a global political transformation must have followed which would have rolled back the new forces of totalitarian compulsion, with their ruinous belief in social engineering.


The 1929 crash exposed the naivety and ignorance of bankers, businessmen, Wall Street experts and academic economists high and low; it showed that they did not understand the system they had been to confidently manipulating. They had tried to substitute their own well-meaning policies for what Adam Smith called 'the invisble hand' of the market and they had wrought disaster. Far from demonstrating, as Keynes and his school later argued, the dangers of a self-regulating economy, the 'deringolade' indicated the opposite: the risks of ill-informed meddling.

If the recession had been allowed to adjust itself, as it would have done by the end of 1930 on any earlier analogy, confidence would have returned and the world slump need never have occured. Instead, the market went on down, slowly but inexorably, ceasing to reflect economic realities - its true function - and instead becoming an engine of doom, carrying to destruction the entire nation and, in its wake, the world.

The first fallacy to be dispelled is that America pursued an isolationist foreign policy in the 1920s... instead they sought to keep the world prosperous by deliberate inflation of the money supply.

This deliberate interference in the supply and cost of money was used in the 1920s not merely to promote its original aim, the expansion of US business, but to pursue a supposedly benevolent international policy.

Hoover's corporatism - the notion that the state, business, and other Big Brothers should work together in gentle, but persistent and continuous manipulation to make life better - was the received wisdom of the day, among enlightened capitalists, left-wing Republicans and non-socialist intellectuals. Yankee-style corporatism was the American response to the new forms in Europe, especially Mussolini's fascism.

In all essentials, Hoover's actions embodied what would later be called a 'Keynesian' policy. He cut taxes heavily and pushed up government spending, deliberately running up a huge government deficit of $2.2 billion in 1931.

By 1933 Hoover's interventionism had prolonged the Depression into its fourth year. The cumulative banking crisis had, in all probability, the deflationary effect which Hoover had struggled so hard and so foolishly to prevent, so that by the end of 1932 the very worst of the Depression was over. But the cataclysmic depth to which the economy had sunk in the meantime meant that recovery would be slow and feeble.

It was only in 1932 that the Republicans finally lost the progressive image they had enjoyed since Lincoln's day and saw it triumphantly seized by their enemies, with all that such a transfer involves in the support of the media, and approval of academia, the patronage of the intelligentsia and, not least, the manufacture of historical orthodoxy.

If the Interventionism of Roosevelt's New Deal worked, it took nine years and a world war to demonstrate the fact.


At the very moment the American intelligentsia turned to totalitarian Europe for spiritual sustenance and guidance in orderly planning, it was in fact embarking on two decades of unprecedented ferocity and desolation — moral relativism in monstrous incarnation... For Americans, then it was a case of moving from a stricken Arcadia to an active pandaemonium. The devils had taken over.

On 21 December 1929 Stalin had celebrated his 50th birthday, as absolute master of an autocracy for which, in concentrated savagery, no parallel in history could be found. A few weeks earlier, while the New York Stock Exchange was collapsing, he had given orders for the forced collectivization of the Russian peasants, an operation involving far greater material loss than anything within the scope of Wall Street, and a human slaughter on a scale no earlier tyranny had possessed the physical means, let alone the wish, to bring about... 5 million peasants were dead; twice as many in forced labour camps... the devils had taken over.

The result was what the great Marxist scholar Leszek Kolakowski has called 'probably the most massive warlike operation ever conducted by a state against its own citizens'.

Under Stalin the system of political slaves expanded, first slowly, then with terrifying speed. Once forced collectivization got under way, in 1930-33, the concentration camp population rose to 10 million.

In the outside world, the magnitude of the Stalin tyranny - or indeed its very existence - was scarcely grasped at all.

Totalitarianism of the Left bred totalitarianism of the Right; Communism and fascism were the hammer and the anvil on which liberalism was broken to pieces. The emergence of Stalin's autocracy changed the dynamic of corruption not in kind but in degree. For Stalin "was but old Lenin writ large." The change is degree nonetheless was important because of its sheer scale. The arrests, the prisons, the camps, the scope, the brutality and violence of the social engineering - nothing like it had ever been seen or even imagined before. So the counter-model became more monstrously ambitious; and the fear which energized its construction more intense. If Leninism begot the fascism of Mussolini, it was Stalinism which made possible the Nazi Leviathan.

It had taken Hitler less than 5 months to destroy German democracy completely.

Hitler's state was not corporatist because corporatism implies a distribution of power between different bodies, and Hitler would share power with no one... he had no economic policy. But he had a very specific national policy. He wanted to rearm as fast as possible consistent with avoiding an Allied pre-emptive strike. He simply gave German industry his orders, and let its managers get on with it.

By the mid-1930s Hitler was running a brutal, secure, conscienceless, successful and, for most Germans, popular regime. The German workers, on the whole, preferred secure jobs to civil rights which had meant little to them.

By early 1933, therefore, the two largest and strongest states of Europe were firmly in the grip of totalitarian regimes which preached and practiced, and indeed embodied, moral relativism, with all its horrifying potentialities. Each system acted as a spur to the most reprehensible characteristics of the other... they were animated by a Gresham's law of political morality: frightfulness drove out humanitarian instincts and each corrupted the other into ever-deeper profundities of evil.

In social engineering, mass murder on an industrial scale is always the ultimate weapon: Hitler's 'final solution' for the Jews had its origins not only in his own fevered mind but in the collectivization of the Soviet peasantry.

If the decline of Christianity created the modern political zealot - and his crimes - so the evaporation of religious faith among the educated left a vacuum in the minds of Western intellectuals easily filled by secular superstition.

The attempt by Western intellectuals to defend Stalinism involved them in a process of self-corruption which transferred to them, and so to their countries, which their writings helped to shape, some of the moral decay inherent in totalitarianism itself, especially its denial of individual responsibility for good or ill.

The advent of Stalin and Hitler to absolute dealt a decisive blow to a world structure which was already unstable and fragile... hence the arrival of these two men on the scene introduced what may be termed the high noon of aggression.


During the 1920s, the civilized Western democracies had maintained some kind of shaky world order, through the League of Nations on the one hand, and through Anglo-American financial diplomacy on the other. At the beginning of the 1930s, the system - if it could be called that - broke down completely, opening an era of international banditry in which the totalitarian states behaved simply in accordance with their military means. The law-abiding powers were economically ruined and unilaterally disarmed. France retreated into isolation and began to build her Maginot Line, itself a symbol of defeatism. The Americans and British were obsessed by economy. In the early 1930s, the American army was only the 16th largest in world, behind Romania. The Americans persuaded the semi-pacifist Labour government to sign the London Naval Treaty, which reduced the Royal Navy to a state of impotence it had not known since the 17th century.

In the 1920s the world had been run by the power of money. In the 1930s it was subject to the arbitration of the sword. A careful study of the chronology of the period reveals the extent to which the totalitarian powers, though acting independently and sometimes in avowed hostility towards each other, took advantage of their numbers and their growing strength to challenge and outface the pitifully stretched resources of dmeocratic order. Italy, Japan, Russia and Germany played a geopolitical game together, whose whole object was to replace international law and treaties by a new Realpolitik in which, each believed, its own millennarian vision was destined to be realized.
The process by whereby one totalitarian state corrupted another internally now spread to foreign dealings, so that a Gresham's Law operated here, too, driving out diplomacy and replacing it by force.

Even with their existing forces, Britain and America could have deterred and contained Japan... a strong  line with Japan would then (1932) have been feasible. But such joint planning was ruled out by America's growing isolationism - a feature of the 1930s much more than the 1920s. America was moving towards the 1935 Neutrality Act.

The 1932 murders of the Japanese prime minister, finance minister and leading industrialists marked the end of government by parliamentary means.

Here again we see the process of mutual corruption at work. Mussolini's putsch had been inspired by Lenin's. From his earliest days as a political activist, Hitler had cited Mussolini as a precedent.

The handling of the Abyssinian crisis, in which Britain was effectively in charge, is a striking example of how to get the worst of all possible worlds. Abyssinia was a primitive African monarchy which practiced slavery; not a modern state at all. It should not have been in the League. The notion that the League had to guarantee its frontiers was an excellent illustration of the absurdity of the covenant which led Senator Lodge and his friends to reject it. The League should have been scrapped after the 1931 Manchurian fiasco. However, if it was felt worth preserving, and if the integrity of Abyssinia was a make-or-break issue, then Britain and France should have been prepared to go to war; in which case Italy would have backed down. The two Western powers would have lost her friendship, aroused her enmity indeed; but the League would have shown it had teeth, and could use them; and the effects might have been felt elsewhere, in central Europe particularly. But to impose sanctions was folly. Sanctions rarely work: they damage, infuriate and embitter but they do not deter or frustrate an act of aggression. In this case they made no sense because France would not agree to oil sanctions (the only type likely to have any impact on events) and America, the world's greatest oil producer, would not impose sanctions at all. Britain would not agree to close the Suez Canal or impose a naval quarantine: the First Sea Lord, Chatfield, reported only seven capital-ships were available. While the cabinet argued about whether or not to try and impose oil! sanctions, Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland on 7 March, making nonsense of both Versailles and the Locarno pact. On this date Britain had only three battleships in home waters, scarcely sufficient to neutralize Germany's 'pocket battleships'. Mussolini took Addis Ababa on 5 May and annexed the country four days later. On 10 June the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Neville ChamberIain, described the sanctions policy as 'the very midsummer of madness', and a week later the cabinet scrapped them.

The only effect of the sanctions policy was to turn Mussolini into an enemy. From mid-1936 the Germans began to court him. There were visits to Rome by Frank, Goering, HimmIer and Baldar von Shirach. On 1 November Mussolini spoke of the Rome-Berlin Axis'. By 22 February 1937, a review by the British Chiefs of Staff noted, 'The days are past when we could count automatically on a friendly and submissive Italy.' That meant existing plans to reinforce the Far East fleet in the event of a crisis with Japan by sending ships through the Mediterranean and Suez were impractical. Britain now had three major potential naval enemies: in home waters, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific-Indian Ocean theatre. There was also the possibility that they might operate in concert. Three weeks after Mussolini spoke of the Axis, Japan and Germany signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, aimed at Russia but signaling the possibility of groups of totalitarian powers acting in predatory wolf-packs. On 27 September 1937, Mussolini was in Berlin. He found Hitler's admiration irresistible... and the process of corruption culminated the next month (22 May) when he signed the 'Pact of Steel' with the man he had considered a potential 'enemy of civilization' only five years before.

By this time Mussolini and Hitler had collaborated together in the first of the ideological proxy-wars. Their 'opponent' in this cynical ritual was Stalin. The theatre selected for their devastating performance was Spain, which had been virtually outside the European power-system since the early nineteenth century and which now became its agonized focus. This was itself extraordinary: Spain was aloof, self-contained, xenophobic, the European country most resistant to the holistic principle, the least vulnerable to the foreign viruses of totalitarianism, of Left or Right, social engineering, relative morality. That is what makes the Spanish Civil War so peculiarly tragic. The infection entered through the Socialist Party (PSOE) and then spread.

Franco's philosophy is worth examining briefly because it was so remote from all the prevailing currents of the age, both liberal and totalitarian. His own motivation he invariably described as 'duty, love of country'. For Franco, the army was the only truly national institution, ancient, classless, non-regional, apolitical, incorrupt, disinterested.
He was in no sense a clericalist and never took the slightest notice of ecclesiastical advice on nonspiritual matters. He hated politics in any shape. The Conservatives were reactionary and selfish landowners. The Liberals were corrupt and selfish businessmen. The Socialists were deluded, or worse. He exploited the two insurrectionary movements, the Falange and the Carlists, amalgamating them under his leadership, but their role was subservient, indeed servile. Franco was never a fascist or had the smallest belief in any kind of Utopia or system.
Franco said: 'Spaniards are tired of politics and of politicians.' Again: 'Only those who live off politics should fear our movement.' He spent his entire political career seeking to exterminate politics.

Franco determined to end the destructive process of corruption by amputating the agonized limb of Spanish collectivism. His feelings towards the Left anticipated those of the wartime Allies towards Nazism: he got unconditional surrender first, then de-Communized, but in a manner closer to the drumhead purges of liberated France than the systematic trials in Germany. It was not a Lenin-style totalitarian massacre by classes: the Law of Political Responsibilities of 9 February 1939 dealt with responsibility for crimes on an individual basis (the only exception was Freemasons of the eighteenth degree or higher).

Thus ancient and traditional Spain, led by a man who regretted every second that had passed since the old world ended in 1914, sought to immunize herself from the present. The attempt did not succeed in the long run; but it gave Spain some protection from the pandemic which now overwhelmed Europe.


"We have succeeded in leaving the enemy in the dark concerning Germany’s real goals, just as before 1932 our domestic foes never saw where we were going or that our oath of legality was just a trick. We wanted to come to power legally, but we did not want to use power legally. They could have suppressed us. They could have arrested a couple of us in 1925 and that would have been that, the end. No, they let us through the danger zone. That’s exactly how it was in foreign policy, too…
In 1933 a French premier ought to have said (and if I had been the French premier I would have said it): 'The new Reich Chancellor is the man who wrote Mein Kampf, which says this and that. This man cannot be tolerated in our vicinity. Either he disappears or we march!' But they didn’t do it. They left us alone and let us slip through the risky zone. … And when we were done, and well armed, better than they, then they started the war!"
        - Joseph Goebbels (1940)

The age of aggression was bound to end in a world war. Nevertheless, it is vital to understand precisely how and why this climax came about, for what happened in the 1930s determined the contours of our age in the 1980s.

Hitler was always pragmatic. Like Lenin he was a superb opportunist, always ready to seize openings and modify his theory accordingly. This has led some historians to conclude he had no master-programme. In fact, while always adjusting the tactics to suit the moment, he pursued his long-term strategy with a brutal determination which has seldom been equalled in the history of human ambition.

It is the essence of geopolitics to be able to distinguish between different degrees of evil. This was a gift Anthony Eden, now foreign secretary, did not possess. He could not differentiate between Mussolini, who was corruptible but open to civilized influences too, and Hitler, a man who had already murdered hundreds and placed scores of thousands in concentration camps.

Would the Allies have been better advised to fight in autumn 1938 over Czechoslovakia, than in autumn 1939 over Poland? This too is in dispute, but the answer is surely 'Yes'. It is true that the pace of Allied rearmament, especially of British air-power, was overtaking Germany's. But in this sense alone was the strategic equation better in 1939 than in 1938.

In the closing weeks of 1938 Hitler, without firing a shot, appeared to have restored all the splendour of Wilhelmine Germany. Was he not the most successful German statesman since Bismarck? So it appeared.

During the winter of 1938-39, the mood in Britain changed to accept war as inevitable... fear gave place to a resigned despair, and the sort of craven, if misjudged, calculation which led to Munich yielded to a reckless and irrational determination to resist Hitler at the next opportunity, irrespective of its merits.

Perhaps Hitler's biggest single misjudgment was his failure to appreciate the depth of hostility he had aroused in Britain.

The adoption of terror-bombing was also a measure of Britain's desperation... the policy, initiated by Churchill, approved in cabinet, endored in parliament and, so far as can be judged, enthusiastically backed by the bulk of the British people - thus fulfilling all the conditions of the process of consent in a democracy under law - marked a critical stage in the moral declension of humanity in our times.

Lend-Lease was important to Churchill simply because he believed it might tempt Hitler into conflict with the United States. Indeed, by the beginning of 1941, he recognized that the old European system of legitimacy had disappeared and that the only hope of restoring some system of law lay in Hitler's own miscalculations. Churchill was not to be disappointed.


"Russia is never as strong as she looks. Russia is never as weak as she looks."
    - Old diplomatic proverb

Surveying this watershed year of 1941, from which makind has descended into its present predicament, the historian cannot but be astounded by the decisive role of individual will. Hitler and Stalin played chess with humanity.
It was Hitler, no one else, who determined on a war of annihilation with Russia, cancelled then postponed it, and resinstated it as the centrepiece of his strategy, as, how, and when he chose. Neither man represented irresistible or even potent historical forces.
We have here the very opposite of historical determinism - the apotheosis of the single autocrat. Thus it is, when the moral restraints of religion and tradition, hierarchy and precedent are removed, the power to suspend or unleash catastrophic events does not devolve on the impersonal benevolence of the masses but falls into the hands of men who are isolated by the very totality of their evil natures.

Western assistence to the USSR... included 200 modern fighter aircraft, intended originally for Britain's highly vulnerable base in Singapore, which had virtually no modern fighters at all. The diversion of these aircraft (plus tanks) to Russia sealed the fate of Singapore. Thus, by one of the great ironies of history, Churchill, the last major British imperialist, may have sacrificed a liberal empire in order to preserve a totalitarian one.

(On Pearl Harbor) All this was a meagre military return for the political risk of treacherously attacking a huge, intensely moralistic nation like the United States before a formal declaration of war.

In 1945 General Jodl claimed that, 'from the start of 1942 on', Hitler knew 'victory was no longer attainable'. What he did not then grasp, but what 1942 made painfully clear, was that the huge coalition he had ranged against himself and his two allies had a decisive superiority not merely in men and material but in technology. The real significance of the Battle of Midway was that it was won primarily by the Allied success in code-breaking. In launching war, the Germans and Japanese had pushed the world over the watershed into a new age, outside their or anyone's control, full of marvels and unspeakable horrors.


The skill with which Britain and America used advanced technology to illuminate global war was one of the principal reasons why the Germans and Japanese, with all their courage and energy, were fightin an unsynchronized struggle from 1942 on. Like Bronze Age warriors facing an Iron Age power, they appeared increasingly to be survivors from a slightly earlier epoch.

The British had been leading code-breakers for half a century... the breaking of the German 'Triton' code by Bletchley park in March 1943 clinched the Battle of the Atlantic... as a result victory in the Atlantic came quite quickly in 1943 and this was important, for the U-boat was perhaps Hitler's most dangerous weapon.

From early 1942, the marriage of British and American technology and intelligence led to the early breakthrough in the Pacific war. Midwat in June 1942 was an intelligence success. Thereafter, the Allies knew the positions of all Japanese capital ships nearly all the time.

The real engine of Allied victory was the American economy... the essential dynamism and flexibility of the American system, wedded to a national purpose which served the same galvanizing role as the optimism of the Twenties.
America won the war essentaially by harnessing capitalist methods of production to the unlimited production of firepower and mechanical manpower.

Bombing used up 7% of Britain's total military manpower and as much as 25% of Britain's war production. The entire strategy may have been, even in military terms, mistaken. Bombing, which killed 600,000 Germans altogether, reduced but could not prevent the expansion in German war-production up to the second half of 1944...
True, from the end of 1944 bombing effectively destroyed the German war-economy. Even before that, the need to defend German cities by night and day had prevented the Luftwaffe from keeping its air superiority on the Russian front.

There were no means whereby public opinion could bring pressure on an inaccessible, isolated and paranoid Hitler to negotiate surrender.

Hitler's only prospect of achieving stalemate by a decisive technical advance lay in marrying the A10 rocket to a nuclear payload. There was never much prospect of him achieving this within the timescale of the war. Yet there was continuing fear on the Allied side that Hitler would come into possession of atomic bombs.

The concept of the bomb was born among the mainly Jewish refugee scientific community, who were terrified that Hitler might get it first. Fear was the primary motive.
Hence the real father of the atomic bomb was Hitler and the spectres his horrifying will conjured up.

The Americans wre compressing perhaps three decades of scientific engineering progress into four years. There was no other way of being sure to get the bomb. There was no other country or system which could have produced this certainty.

There was a huge overlap between the slave system and German industry. It might be recalled that the Germans had used slave-labour and working-to-exhaustion in 1916-18; it was a national response to war, a salient part of the 'war socialism' Lenin so much admired. Race paranoia was deeply rooted in German culture and had been fostered by generations of intellectuals. It antedated Hitler; dwarfed him. Forty years later it is difficult to conceive of the power and ubiquity of inter-white racism, especially anti-Semitism (and not in Germany alone). In a sense, then, it was the German people ho willed the end; Hitler who willed the means.

The Japanese fought desperately throughout, but technology and productivity allowed the Americans to establish and maintain a colonial-era casualty rate. The pattern was set in the 'hinge' battle of Guadalcanal, November 1942, when the Japanese lost 25,000 against only 1,592 American casualties... on Leyte, the Japanese lost all but 5,000 of their 70,000 men; the Americans only 3,500.
Most Japanese were killed by sea or air bombardment, or cut off and starved. They never set eyes of an American foot-soldier or got within bayonet-range of him.

The Allied commanders assumed that their own forces must expect up to a million casualties if an invasion of Japan became necessary. How many Japanese lives would be lost? Assuming comparable ratios to those already experienced, it would be in the range of 10-20 million.
The Allied aim was to break Japanese resistance before an invasion became unavoidable.

The evidence does not suggest that the surrender could have been obtained without the A-bombs being used. The use of nuclear weapons thus saved Japanese, as well as Allied, lives. Those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the victims not so much of Anglo-American technology as of a paralyzed (Japanese) system of government made possible by an evil ideology which had expelled not only absolute moral values but reason itself.

The true nature of Japan's form of totalitarianism only became apparent when the POW camps were opened up... they were run on the same economic principles as Nazi and Soviet slave-camps... the Japanese killed more British troops in prison camps than on the battlefield. Of the 132,000 POWs in Japanese custody 27% died.


On 10 January 1946 the Tory MP and diarist 'Chips' Channon attended a society wedding in London and remarked to another guest, Lady Cunard, "how quickly normal life had been resumed. After all", I said, pointing to the crowded room, "this is what we have been fighting for." "What," said Lady Cunard, "are they all Poles?"
It was indeed, all too easy to forget Poland. Yet Poland was the cause of the war in the sense that, if Poland had not existed, the war would have taken a radically different course. And Poland terminated the war too in the sense that it provoked the collapse of the wartime Alliance and the beginning of the democratic-Communist confrontation. The tale was resumed wherte it had left off when Stalin and Hitler signed the pact of August 1939, and Soviet Russia now represented the acquisitive totalitarian principle on the world stafe. Poland was the awkward piece on the global chessboard, a reminder that the war had not been so much a conflict between right and wrong as a struggle for survival.

Roosevelt did not believe Stalin wanted territory... Roosevelt wanted to bypass Churchill, whom he thought an incorrigible old imperialist, incapable of understanding ideological idealism. He wrote to him, 18 March 1942: "I know you will not mind my being brutally frank when I tell you that I think that I can personally handle Stalin better than either your Foreign Secretary or my State Department. Stalin hates the guts of all your top people. He thinks he likes me better, and I hope he will continue to do so." This vanity, so reminiscent of Chamberlain's belief that he alone could 'handle' Hitler, was compounded by an astonishing naivety... The menace Roosevelt's blindness contituted to the post-war stability of Europe first became apparent at the Tehran Conference which Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin attended in November 1943.

After the Allied breakout of July-August 1944, the pace of advance slowed down. General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander, refused to accept the salient point that the degree to which his troops penetrated into Central Europe would in fact determine the post-war map: "I would be loath to hazard American lives for purely political purposes," he insisted... The American generals wanted to preserve the maximum co-operation with the Soviet armed forces so that, at the earliest possible moment, they could transfer troops to the East and finish Japan (with, they hoped, massive Soviet support), and then all go home. As Churchill saw it, that would leave the British, with 12 divisions (about 820,000 men), facing 13000 Soviet tanks, 16000 front-line aircraft, and 525 divisions totalling over 5 million... Churchill decided to pursue a two-fold policy: to bargain realistically with Stalin when he could, and to seek to screw Roosevelt up to the sticking-point at the same time.

Churchill calculated that Greece was the only brand to be saved from the burning, for British troops were already in place there... Although stability in the Mediterranean was not assured until the Communists lost the Italian elections in April 1948, Churchill effectively, and almost single-handedly, kept totalitarianism out of the Mediterranean for a generation by his vigorous policy in late 1944 — his last great contribution to human freedom. But Churchill was powerless to save Eastern Europe.

When Poland came up (at Yalta), Roosevelt settled for a Russian agreement to elections in which 'all democratic and anti-Nazi parties shall have the right to take part', but he did not back the British demand for international supervision of the poll.

The Cold War may be said to date from the immediate aftermath of the Yalta Conference, to be precise from March 1945. Of course in a sense Soviet Russia had waged Cold War since October 1917: it was inherent in the historical determinism of Leninism. The pragmatic alliance from June 1941 onwards was a mere interruption. It was inevitable that Stalin would resume his hostile predation sooner or later. His mistake was to do soo too quickly. It was not that he was impatient, like Hitler... but he was greedy... His sensible tactic was to hold his hand until the Americans had vanished to the other side of the Atlantic. Instead, seeing the Polish fruit was ripe, he could not resist taking it... Once the commission set up by Yalta to fulfil the free election pledge met on 23 February, it became clear Stalin intended to ignore his pledges. The critical moment came on 23 March, when Moscow announced the elections would be held Soviet-style.

The new President, Harry Truman, was not a member of the wealthy, guilt-ridden East Coast establishment and had none of Roosevelt's fashionable progressive fancies. He was ignorant, but he learnt fast; his instincts were democratic and straightforward.

On 5 March 1946, Churchill made the Cold War a public when he delivered a speech, under Truman's sponsorship, at the university of Fulton... Since the Russians respected military strength, America and Britain must continue their joint defence agreements, so that there would be 'no quivering, precarious balance of power to offer its temptation to ambition and adventure', but 'an overwhelming assurance of security'... By speaking precisely at the right time — by May US polls showed that 83% of the nation favoured his idea of a permanent military alliance — Churchill had averted any possibility of a repetition of the tragic American withdrawl from Europe in 1919.

Stalin continued to draw the Americans deeper into the Cold War. In March 1946, he missed the deadline for the withdrawl of his troops from Iran, and finally did so only after an angry confrontation at the new UN Security Council.. In August the Yugoslavs shot down two American transport planes and the same month Stalin began putting pressure on Turkey. The Americans responded accordingly... American and Canada formed a joint air and submarine defence system. The British and US air forces began exchanging war plans; their intelligence agencies resumed contact. By midsummer the Anglo-American alliance was in unofficial existence again. Truman undertook a purge of his Administration to eliminate the pro-Soviet elements... Truman sacked the last of the New Dealers in the cabinet, Henry Wallace, Agriculture Secretary, a profound admirer of Stalin, Anglophobic, anti-Churchill.

In 1947-49 America undertook a series of formal commitments to Europe which became the basis of Western global policy for the next generation. The process began with a desperate signal from Britain that she could no longer support the posture of a world power. The war had cost her $30 billion, a quarter of her net wealth. She had sold $5 billion of foreign assets and accumulated $12 billion of foreign debts. America had given her a post-war loan, but this did not cover the gap in her trade — exports in 1945 were less than a third of the 1938 figure — nor her outgoings as a slender pillar of stability of Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East. In 1946 Britain spent 19% of her GNP on defence (against 10% in the USA). By the beginning of 1947 she had spend $3 billion on international relief programs, $320 million feeding Germany in 1946, $330 million keeping the peace in Palestine, and cumulative totals of $540 million on Greece and $375 on Turkey... On 21 February the British informed Truman they would have to cut the Greek-Turkey commitment. Three days later Truman decided he would have to take it on... Truman asked Congress for money for Greece and Turkey, plus civil and military experts, for a start: and got it with two-to-one minorities in both houses. Thus isolationism died, by act of Joseph Stalin. Two months later, on 5 June, the Secretary of State unvelived the Marshall Plan at the Harvard Commencement... The program began in July 1948, continued for three years, and eventually cost the American government $10 billion... Eventually 22 European nations responded. The Czechs and Poles wished to do the same, Staling vetoed it... Marshall Aid laid the foundation for a self-reliant Western and Southern Europe. By 1950 it was manifestly a success. It began the process of eliminating the gap between North American and European living standards and in the process opened an equally cataclysmic one between Western and Eastern Europe: the Iron Curtain became the frontier between plenty and shortage.

But as yet America had no definite military commitment to defend Europe. With successive blows, Stalin made it unavoidable... On 24 June Stalin blocked access to the Western zones of Berlin, and cut off their electricity... The inadequacy of US military power was clear enough. The Joint Chiefs calculated that the Red Army had now stabilized at 2.5 million plus 400,000 security forces. To balance this the Americans had a nuclear monopoly. But it was a theoretical rather than an actual one. On 3 April 1947 Truman had been told, to his horror, that though materials for 12 A-bombs existed, none at all was assembled state... The decision was taken to mount a technical demonstration of US air-power and to supply Berlin by plane. It worked... On 12 May 1949 the Russians climbed down. It was a victory of a sort. But the Americans had missed the opportunity to meet the equivalent of the 1936 Rhineland crisis and force a major surrender by the Russians.
The Berlin blockade was nevertheless a decisive event because it obliged the Western Allies to sort out their ideas and take long-term decisions. It led them to rationalize the fait accompli of a divided Germany and set about the creation of a West German state... Such a Germany would have to be rearmed, and that meant embedding it in a formal Western defence structure. Hence on 4 April 1949 the North Atlantic Treaty was signed in Washington by 11 democratic powers. The assumption behind American policy was that there were only 5 regions on earth where the sources of modern military strength were found: the USA itself, the UK, the Rhine-Ruhr industrial area, Japan and the USSR. The object of American policy must be to ensure that the Soviet Union was limited to the one they already had — 'containment'... Gradually it produced American military commitments to 47 nations and led American forces to build or occupy 675 overseas bases and station 1 million troops overseas.

While the Americans, with some success, were laying down the foundations of West European militaty and economic stability in 1948-49, their roseate vision of the Far East, conjured up in the light of their stupendous victory of 1945, was dissolving. Here again they were made to pay dearly for Roosevelt's illusions and frivolity.

By October 1949 Mao controlled all of mainland China and had restored, after a fashion, the precarious unity of imperial days. Thus, after forty years of ferocious civil conflict, in which millions had died, none of Sun Yat-sen's original aims, which included parliamentary democracy, freedom of the press, and habeas corpus, had been secured, and China was back where it had started, with a despotism — albeit a more much confident and oppressive one. Mao's first act was to extend his 'land reform', already begun in the North, to the entire country. It was aimed at 'local bullies and evil gentry' and he urged peasants to kill 'not one or two but a goodly number' of each. At least 2 million people peroshed, half of them tyrannical owners of less than 30 acres. Mao, the revolutionary romantic, launched the largest nation on earth into a frenzy of violent activism which was to rival the social engineering of Hitler and Stalin.
The American policy-makers watched in bewilderment the distintegration of Roosevelt's great pillar of stability. It left behind a gigantic vacuum. How to fill it? Though they rated Japan as one of the four key areas they had to hold, they had never hitherto conceived it as the focus of their position in the Far East, as Britain was in Europe. By miraculous dispensation of providence, the Russians had entered the war against Japan too late to make any claim to share in the occupation. So the Americans had a free hand there, under the Potsdam declaration.

'Containment' implied precise lines, which the Russians would cross at their peril. In Europe they were now clear enough. In Asia, by 1949, Japan was firmly under the American umbrella. But where did the lines run elsewhere?

The Korean War was a characteristic 20th-century tragedy. It was launched for ideological reasons, without a scintilla of moral justification or any evidence of popular support. It killed 34,000 Americans, a million Koreans, and a quarter of a million Chinese. It achieved no purpose. All its consequences were unintended. Its course was a succession of blunders. Kim and Stalin underestimated America's response. Truman judged the invasion to be a prelude to an attack on Japan and a direct challenge to America's willingness to uphold international law through the UN. Hitherto that body had been designed to reflect great power agreement and its Security Council, with its veto system, underpinned the principle... But Truman wanted the UN's "moral authority". So he bypassed the Security Council and got authorization by the UN's General Asssemnly, which America then dominated... The reason why Truman wanted UN backing was that he took America into the war without getting Congressional approval first. This was the second unintended consequence: the elevation of the Presidency into a supra-constitutional, war-making executive, especially in a Far Eastern contect. A third consequence was, indeed, to place a sword between an American-Chinese rapprochement, as Stalin had wished, but in a manner he could not possibly have foreseen.

The agonies of Stalin's Russia, where about 500,000 people were judicially murdered (or just murdered) by the state in the post-war period up to March 1953, formed a gruesome contrast to the America against which it was pitted. While, in the immediate post-war, Stalin was piling fresh burdens on his frightened subjects, the Americans, contrary to the predictions of government economists, who had prophesied heavy unemployment in the conversion, were engaging in the longest and most intense consumer spending spree in the nation's history... It was the start of the longest cycle of capitalist expansion in history, spreading to Europe (as the Marshall Plan took efect) in the 1950s and to Japan and the Pacific in the 1960s; lasting, with the occasional dips, to the mid-1970s. For Americans, the taste of uninhibited prosperity was especially poignant, bringing back memories of the 1920s lost Arcadia.

There was an air of patriotic tension, as Americans braced themselves to the magnitude of the global responsibility they were undertaking. Here again, the contrast with Russia is marked and instructiev. America was an astonishingly open society and in some ways a vulnerable onbe. It had possessed few defences against the systematic penetration of its organs which Stalinism practised on a huge scale in the 1930s... Such legislation (as there was) was useless to prevent active Communists and fellow-travellers (including Soviet agents) from joining the government, which they did in large numbers during the New Deal and still more during the war.

In November 1946 Truman appointed a Temporary Commission on Employee Loyalty, and in the following March he acted on its recommendations with Executive Order 9835, which authorized inquiries into political beliefs and associations of all federal employees. Once this procedure got going, in 1947, it was reasonably effective.

No evidence so far uncovered suggests that Soviet agents brought about any major decision in US policy, except in the Treasury, or delivered any vital classified nuclear information, except in the nuclear weapons field. But these were major exceptions.

The fact that Soviet Russia took onlt four years to make an A-bomb (1945-9), no longer than the Manhattan Project itself, was a stunning shock to the Truman Administration and its Defence chiefs. It was badly received by the American public. It coincided with the KMT collapse in China. It came at a period when the problem of Soviet penetration of government had in fact been overcome but when the offenders were still being brought to trial. Not until 25 January 1950 was Alger Hiss found guilty of perjury in concealing his membership of the Communist Party... A fornight later Senator Joe McCarthy made his notorious speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, claiming that 205 known Communists were working in the State Department. That began the full-scale witch-hunt: in short, the phenomenon occured after the realities which provoked it had been dealt with. McCarthy was a radical Republican; not a right-winger... McCarthy would have been of little account had not the Korean War broken out that summer... He took advantage of the Congressional committee-system which empowers investigations. For the legislature to conduct quasi-judicial inquiries is legitimate. It was an old English parliamentary procedure, which proved invaluable in establishing constitutional liberties in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was grievouslt abused, particularly in the conduct of political and religious witch-hunts... Congress inherited both the virtues and the vices of the system, which were inseparable. In the 1930s, the Congressional liberals had hounded the Wall Street community; now it was the turn of the liberals. In the 1960s and later it would be the turn of business; and in the mid-1970s the Nixon Administration. On the whole the advantages outweighs the defects, and therefore the system is kept. Besides, it contains its own self-correcting mechanism, which worked in this case, albeit slowly. McCarthy was repudiated, censured and, in effect, extinguished by his own colleagues, the Senate. The damage inflicted by McCarthy on individual lives was due to two special factors. The first was the inadequacy of American libel laws, which permitted the press to publish his unsupported allegations with impunity, even when they were unprivileged... Second was the moral cowardice shown by some institutions, notably in Hollywood and Washington, in bowing to the prevailing unreason. Again, this is a recurrent phenomenon, to be repeated in the decade 1965-75, when many universities surrendered to student violence. Without these two factors 'McCarthyism' was nothing. The contrast with Russia is instructive. McCarthy had no police. He had no executive authority at all. He had not court. Both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations did all in their power to impede him... In the last resort, McCarthy's weapon was publicity; and in a free society publicity is a two-edged weapon. McCarthy was destroyed by publicity, and the man who orchestrated this destruction from behind the scenes was the new President, Dwight Eisenhower.

In November 1952, Eisenhower had been elected to end the Korean war. Peace has always been a vote-winning issue in the United States. Yet there is an instructive contrast in Democrat and Republican records. Wilson won in 1916 on a promise to keep American out of the war; next year America was a belligerent. Roosevelt won in 1940  on the same promise and with the same result. Lyndon Johnson won in 1964 on a peace platform and promptly turned Vietnam into a major war. Eisenhower in 1952 and Nixon in 1972 are the only two presidents in this century who have carried out their peace promises.

Eisenhower was the most successful of America's 20th century presidents, and the decade when he ruled (1953-61) the most prosperous in American, and indeed world, history. His presidency was surrounded by mythology, much of which he deliberately contrived himself. He sought to give the impression that he was a mere constitutional monarch, who delegated decisions to his colleagues and indeed to Congress, and who was anxious to spend the maximum amount of time playing golf... The reality was quite different.

With considerable cunning and in great secrecy, Eisenhower directed his friends in the Senate to censure McCarthy, while using his press chief to orchestrate the publicity. The process culminated in December 1954 and is perhaps the best example of the 'hidden hand' style of leadership which Eisenhower delighted to employ and which research brought to light many years after his death... Churchill was one of the few men who appreciated him at his correct worth.

Eisenhower used gobbledygook, especially at press conferences, to avoid giving answers which plain English could not conceal... He was Machiavellian enough to pretend to misunderstand his own translator when dealing with difficult foreigners... Eisenhower concealed his gifts and activities because he thought it essential that autocratic leadership, which he recognized both America and the world needed, should be exercised by stealth.

He had three quite clear principles. The first was to avoid war. Of course if Soviet Russia was bent on destroying the West, resistance must be made, and America must be strong enough to make it. But the occasions of unnecessary war (as he judged Korea) must be avoided by clarity, firmness, caution and wisdom. In this limited aim he was successful... His second and related principle was the necessity for constitutional control over military endeavour. He used the CIA a great deal and was the only American president to control it effectively. He skilfully presided over the CIA operations in Iran and Guatemala without any damage to his reputation... Eisenhower was always aware of his need to steer a difficult path between isolationism and over-activism in world affairs... Eisenhower's chief fear, in the tense atmosphere engendered by the Cold War, was that the government would fall into the groip of a combination of bellicose senators, over-eager brass-hats and greedy arms-suppliers — what he termed the 'military-industrial complex'. For his third principle was that the security of freedom throughout the world ultimately rested in the health of the American economy... Eisenhower was equally fearful of reckless spending in the domestic field. He was not opposed to Kenyesian measures to fight incipient recession. In 1958, to overcome such a dip, he ran up a $9.4 billion deficit, the largest ever acquired by a US government in peacetime. But that was an emergency. What Eisenhower strove mightily to avoid was a huge, permanent increase in federal commitments. He put holding down inflation before social security because he thought it was ultimately the only reliable form of social security.

Eisenhower's real nightmare was a combination of excessive defence spending combined with a runaway welfare machine — a destructice conjunction that became reality in the late 1960s. While he was in charge, federal spending as a percentage of GNP, and with it inflation, was held to a manageable figure, despite all the pressures. It was a notable achievement and explains why the Eisenhower decade was the most prosperous of modern times. And that prosperity was radiating through an ever-increasing portion of the world. The world was more secure too. In 1950-52, the risk of a major war was very considerable. By the end of the decade, a sort of stability had been reached, lines drawn, rules worked out, alliances and commitments settled across the globe.

But no sooner was the system of containment complete than it ceased to be the whole answer. For the collapse of the old liberal empires of Europe brought into existence a new category of states which rasied fresh and intractable dangers.


The same historical process which created the superpowers placed traditional powers in a dilemma. What was their role? The defeated nations, France, Germany, and Japan, were driven by necessity to a fundamental reappraisal. But Britain had not been defeated. She had stood alone and emerged victorious? Could she not carry on as before? Churchill had fought desperately for British interests. He rejected utterly Roosevelt's notion of America and Russia as the two 'idealist' powers and Britian as the greedy old imperialist. He knew of the bottomless cynicism reflected in Ambassador Maisky's remark that he always added up Allied and Nazi losses in the same column. He pointed out to the British ambassador in Moscow that Russia had 'never been actuated by anything but cold-blooded self-interest and total didsain for our lives and fortunes'. He was sombrely aware that Russia was anxious to tear the British Empire to pieces and feast on its members, and that America too, aided by the Dominions and especially Australia and New Zealand, favoued 'deconolization'. HV Evatt, Australia's cantankerous Foreign Minister, got such notions written into the UN charter. Churchill snarled at Yalta: 'While there is life in my body no transfer of British sovereignty will be permitted.'
Six months later Churchill had been thrown out by the electorate. His Labour successors planned to disarm, decolonize, make friends with Russia and build a welfare state. In practice they found themselves at the mercy of events. In August 1945 Lord Keynes presented them with a paper showing the country was bankrupt... Ernest Bevin, the trades union leader turned Foreign Secretary, began with the slogan 'Left can talk to Left' and hoped to share atomic secrets with Russia... But gradually Bevin came to embody Britain's determination to organize collective security. He told Molotov in 1949, 'Do you want to get Austria behind your Iron Curtain? You can't do that. Do you want Turkey and the Straits? You can't have them. Do you want Korea? You can't have that. You are putting your neck out and one day you will have it chopped off.'
Bevin's foreign policy meant Britain had to stay in the strategic arms race. Exactly a year after Keynes delivered his bankruptcy report, the Chief of Air Staff indented with the government for nuclear bombs... The chief scientific adviser, Sir Henry Tizard, was against an independent nuclear force: 'We are not a great power and never will be again. We are a great nation but if we continue to behave like a Great power we shall soon cease to behave like a great nation'... At all events the decision to make the bomb was taken in January 1947, at the height of the desperate fuel crisis and just before Britain handed over the burden of Greece and Turkey to Truman. Only Attlee, Bevin and four other ministers were present. The £100 million expenditure was 'lost' in the estimates and concealed from parliament.
The decision to make the bomb, and the brilliant success with which it was developed and deployed, undoubtedly kept Britain in the top club for another 30 years.

In 1945-6 then, it became an axion of British policy to engage, in conjunction with the Americans, in collective security arrangements to contain Soviet expansion, and to contribute towards them a British nuclear force. Through all the changes of mood and government that consistent thread ran through British policy right into the 1980s. But it was the only stable element. All else was confusion and irresolution. There was a failure of vision, a collapse of will. In the late summer of 1945 the British Empire and Commonwealth seemed to have returned to the meridian of 1919. British power was stretched over nearly a third of the globe... No nation had ever carried such wide-ranged responsibilities. 25 years later, everything had gone. History had never before witnessed a transformation of such extent and rapidity.

Nor was there any evidence of a collapse of loyalty towards the British empire among the subject peoples... The Japanese were never able to persuade or force more than 30,000 Indians, civil and military, to serve against Britain. Many thousands of Indian POWs preferred torture and death to changing allegiance... Opposition to the war by part of India's 'political nation' had no effect on the 'military nation'. Whereas 1,457,000 Indians served in the army in 1914-18, during the Second World War the number passed the 2,500,000 mark.
Who spoke for India? The 'political nation'? The 'military nation'? Could anyone speak for India? In 1945 India was over 400 million people: 250 million Hindus, 90 million Muslims, 6 millions Sikhs, millions of sectarians, Buddhists, Christians; 23 main languages, 200 dialects; 3000 castes, with 60 million 'untouchables' at the bottom of the heap; 80% of the nation lived in 500,000 villages, most of them inaccessible even by a surfaced road. Yet for all practical purposes the decision had been taken in 1917, under the Montagu reforms, to begin the process of handing powe over this vast and disparate nation not to its traditional or its religious or racial or economic or military leaders — or all combined — but to a tiny elite who had acquired the ideology and techniques and, above all, the vernacular of Western politics. The decision had been confirmed by the reaction to Amristar. That indicated the British Raj was no longer determined to enforce the rule of law at all costs. The 1935 Act set the process of abdication in motion. The British establishment, whatever public noises it might make, knew exactly what was happening.

"The British government, the Viceroy and to a certain extent the states have been bounced by Gandhi into believing that a few half-baked, semi-educated urban agitators represent the views of 365 million hard-working and comparitively contented cultivators. It seems to me that the elephant has been stampeded by the flea."
        - JCC Davidson

India illustrates the process whereby the full-time professional politician inherited the earth in the 20th century... Lenin's Bolsheviks of 1917, Mao's CCo cadres of 1949 and the Congressmen of India came to power by different routes. But they had this in common. All three new ruling groups were men who had never engaged in any other occupation except politics and had devoted their lives to the exploitation of a flexible concept called 'democracy'. Lenin had asserted his mandate to rule by the methods of a caudillo; Mao by those of a war-lord. Gandhi and Nehru stepped into a vacuum created by the collapse of the will to rule.

Gandhi was not a liberator but a political exotic, who could have flourished only in the protected environment provided by British liberalism... All Gandhi's career demonstrated was the unrepressive nature of British rule and its willingness to abdicate.

"It is difficult to see how Gandhi's methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion but to bring a mass-movement into being... Is there a Gandhi in Russia at the moment?"
        - George Orwell

The post-war Indian elections, in which the Muslim League captured virtually all the seats reserved for Muslims with its program of partition, indicated that division was inevitable and large-scale violence probable. The transfer of power has been presented as a skilful exercise in Anglo-Indian statesmanship. The reality is that the British government simply lost control... All the real difficulties — the Punjab, Bengal, Kashmir, the North-West Frontier, Sind, British Baluchistan — were left to resolve themselves. Viceroy Mountbatten had a genius for public relations and kept up a brave face. But the transfer and partition were catastrophic shambles, an ignominious end to two centuries of highly successful rule based on bluff. Some 5 to 6 million people ran for their lives in each direction... The boundary force of 23,000 was too weak and some of its troops may have joined the killing themselves... Gandhi was among the victims, murdered in January 1948 by one of the fanatics whose hour had come. How many went with him will never be known.. Modern calculations are in the 200,000 to 600,000 range.

Kashmir, the most beautiful province of India, was itself partitioned and remains so more than 30 years later; and the ground was prepared for two wars between India and Pakistan.

Up to the mid-1950s, however, Nehru was the cynosure of a new entity which progressive French journalists were already terming 'le tiers monde'. The concept was based upon verbal prestidigitation, the supposition that by inventing new words and phrases one could change (and improve) unwelcome and intractable facts. There was the first world of the West, with its rapacious capitalism; the second world of totalitarian socialism, with its slave-camps; both with their hideous arsenals of mass-destruction. Why should there not come into existence a third world, arising like a phoenix from the ashes of empire, free, pacific, non-aligned, industrious, purged of capitalist and Stalinist vice, radiant with public virtue, today saving itself by its exertions, tomorrow the world by its example? Just as, in the nineteenth century, idealists had seen the oppressed proletariat as the repository of moral excellence — and a prospective proletarian state as Utopia — so now the very fact of a colonial past, and a non-white skin, were seen as title-deeds to international esteem. An ex-colonial state was righteous by definition. A gathering of such states would be a senate of wisdom.

The concept was made flesh at the Afro-Asian Conference held 18-24 April 1955 in Bandung, at the instigation of Indonesia's President Sukarno. Some 23 independent states from Asia and four from Africa were present, plus the Gold Coast and the Sudan, both soon to be free... At this time the Third World had not yet besmirched itself by invasions, annexations, masscares and dictatorial cruelty. It was still in the age of innocence... Among those overwhelmed by it all was the black American writer Richard Wright: 'This is the human race speaking,' he wrote.

It is likely, indeed, that is the Palestine crisis had come a year later, after the Cold War had really got into its stride, the anti-Zionist pressures on Truman would have been too strong. American backing for Israel in 1947-48 was the last idealistic luxury the Americans permitted themselves before the Realpolitik of global confrontation descended. The same-time scale influenced Russia. It backed Zionism in order to break up Britain's position in the Middle East. It not only recognized Israel, but, in order to intensify the fighting and the resultant chaos, it instructed the Czechs to sell it arms. These considerations would not have prevailed a year later, when the rush for Cold War allies was on. Israel slipped into existence through a crack in the time continuum. Hence the notion that Israel was created by imperialism is not only wrong, but the reverse of the truth. Everywhere in the West, the foreign offices, defence ministries and big business were against the Zionists. Even the French only sent them arms to annoy the British, who had 'lost' them Syria. The Haganah had 21,000 men but, to begin with, virtually no guns, armour or aircraft. It was the Communist Czechs, on Soviet instructions, who made Israel's survival possible, by turning over an entire military airfield to shuttle arms to Tel Aviv. Virtually everyone expected the Jews to lose. There were 10,000 Egyptian troops, 4500 in Jordan's Arab League, 7000 Syrians, 3000 Iraqis, 3000 Lebanese, plus the 'Arab Liberation Army' of Palestinians. That was why the Arabs rejected the UN partition scheme, which gave the Jews only 5500 square miles, chiefly in the Negev Desert. By accepting it, despite its disadvantages (it would have created a state with 538,000 Jews and 397,000 Arabs), the Zionists showed they were willing to abide by the arbitration of international law. The Arabs chose force.

Suez is often saud to have dealt the final blow to Britain's status as a great world power. That is not true. The status had been lost in 1947. Suez simply made it plain for all the world to see. The underlying cause was a failure of will, not of strength, and the Suex fiasco merely reflected that failure, of which Eden was a pathetic sacrificial victim. MAcmillan, who succeeded him, drew the moral that in a world of superpowers, a medium-sized power survives by virtue of good public relations rather than battleships. The real loser in the long term was the United States. Eisenhower appeared to act decisively, and he his way fast enough. Britain came to heel. He preserved his reputation as a man of peace. But in the process he helped to prepare a mighty scourge for America's own back, in the shape of the tendentious concept of 'world opinion' first articulated at Bandung and now, by Eisenhower's own act, transferred to the UN.

It was Secretary General Hammarskjold's manifest intention to cut the umbilical cord which linked the UN to the old wartime Western alliance, and to align the organization with what he regarded as the new emergent force of righteousness in the world: the 'uncommitted' nations. In short he too was a member of the Bandung generation... More important still, was his demonstration of the way in which the UN could be used to marshal and express hatred of the West. In 1956 it was the turn of Britain and France. Soon it would be America's own.

At this point the Western democracies should have dropped the UN and concentrated instead on expanding NATO into a world-wide security system of free nations.

Algeria was the greatest and in many ways the archetype of all the anti-colonial wars. In the 19th century the Europeans won colonial wars because the indigenous peoples had lost the will to resist. In the 20th century the roles were reversed, and it was Europe which lost the will to hang onto its gains. But behind this relativity of wills there are demographic facts. A colony is lost once the level of settlement is exceeded by the growth-rate of the indigenous peoples. 19th century colonialism reflected the huge upsurge in European numbers. 20th century decolonization reflected European demographic stability and the violent expansion of native populations.


In the late 1940s, the Asian half of the human race had been told that there was direct, immediate and essentially political solution to their plight. Experience exposed this belief as a fallacy. There were strong grounds for concluding, indeed, that politics, and especially ideological politics, was a primary contributor to human misery... Calcutta became the realized anti-Utopia of modern times, the city of shattered illusions, the dark not the light of Asia. It constituted an impressive warning that attempts to experiment on half the human race were more likely to produce Frankenstein monsters than social miracles. (p573-4)

The scheme (by the Communist Khmer Rouge in Cambodia) was an attempt to telescope, in one terrifying coup, the social changes brought about over twenty-five years in Mao’s China. There was to be a "total social revolution." Everything about the past was "anathema and must be destroyed." It was necessary to "psychologically reconstruct individual members of society." It entailed "stripping away, through terror and other means, the traditional bases, structures and forces which have shaped and guided an individual’s life" and then "rebuilding him according to party doctrines by substituting a series of new values." (p654)

In due course the term "Third World" began to seem a little threadbare from overuse. The Paris intellectual fashion-factory promptly supplied a new one: "North-South." ... The idea was to link guilt to "the North" and innocence to "the South." This involved a good deal of violence to simple geography, as well as to economic facts... In short the concept was meaningless, except for purposes of political abuse. But for this it served very well. (p692)

The notion that Israel was created by imperialism is not only wrong but the reverse of the truth. Everywhere in the West, the foreign offices, defense ministries and big business were against the Zionists.

The argument that the West was somehow to blame for world poverty was itself a Western invention. Like decolonization, it was a product of guilt, the prime dissolvent of order and justice.


Reality cannot for long be banished from history. Facts have a way of making their presence felt.

From the initial tragedy of the First World War, 1914-18, the 20th century had appeared to many a relentless succession of moral and physical disasters. These had occured despite the rapid increase in wealth, notably in the advanced countries, and the steady forward march of scientific discovery.

Yet with the 1980s, there came a great wind of change in the affairs of mankind which, gathering momentum throughout the decade and beyond into the 1990s, swept all before it and left the global landscape transformed beyond recognition. The 1980s formed one of the watersheds of modern history. The spirit of democracy recovered its self-confidence and spread. The rule of law was re-established in large parts of the globe and international predation was checked and punished. Capitalist economies flourished mightily and, almost everywhere, there was growing recognition that the market system was not merely the surest but the only way to increase wealth and raise living standards.

What is important in history is not only the events that occur but the events that obstinately do not occur.

The success of the free enterprise economies of the Pacific undoubtedly helped to rekindle belief in the market system both in North America and Europe... towards the end of the 1970s, as high-quality, low-priced Japanese (and South Korean and Taiwanese) goods began increasingly to penetrate Western markets, there was a growing demand for changes which would bring about Japanese-style efficiency.
The watershed year was 1979, and the battlefield was Britain.

The Falklands action served to reinvigorate the Western sense of the proprieties of international behaviour and to remind the United States of her responsibilities as the leading democracy and defender of the rule of law.

It was Jean-Jacques Rousseau who had first announced that human beings could be transformed for the better by the political process, and that the agency of change, the creator of what he termed the 'new man', would be the state... in the 20th century his theory was finally put to the test, on a colossal scale, and tested to destruction.

By the 1990s state action had been responsible for the violent or unnatural deaths of some 125 million people during the century.

By the last decade of the century, some lessons had plainly been learned. But it was not yet clear whether the underlying evils which had made possible its catastrophic failures and tragedies — the rise of moral relativism, the decline of personal responsibility, the repudiation of Judeo-Christian values, not least the arrogant belief that men and women could solve all the mysteries of the universe by their own unaided intellects — were in the process of being eradicated. On that would depend the chances of the 21st century becoming, by contrast, an age of hope for mankind.


I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.
        - Viktor Frankl, "The Doctor and the Soul"

The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike.
        - CS Lewis, "The Poison of Subjectivism"


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