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Germany’s Historic Role in Resisting

Globalising Anglo-Saxon Capitalism


Extracts from the articles of Terry Boardman

Terry Boardman’s essays are based on Rudolf Steiner vision of Social Threefolding – the understanding that the economic, political and cultural-spiritual realms of society, whilst inseparable, need to be maintained and protected as three absolutely distinct realms - thus overcoming the current domination of society’s cultural-spiritual and political life by the economic realm and by global corporate interests.

The years 1917 to 1919 were a time of the most profound social change throughout Europe. Impulses unleashed by the catastrophe of the war seemed about to transform European civilisation, and indeed, in some ways, it was transformed … The third empire, Wilhelminian Germany, which was founded in 1871 and, according to Nietzsche, signified the 'extirpation of the German spirit', became a truncated and bitterly alienated republic, divided against itself and bereft of any spiritual direction until Adolf Hitler emerged in 1920 to give it one. … The seeds of the Cold War bipolarity between Russia and America were also sown at this time … The notion of independence and full self-rule for every ethnic group came from the USA - this obviously did not make for harmonious relations between peoples of different ethnicity within multi-ethnic states. Proposed by President Woodrow Wilson and his alter ego Col. E.M. House as part of their Fourteen Points programme for a peace settlement, and eagerly embraced by leaders of nationalist causes all over the continent, the line-drawing principle of self-determination did violence to the complex patchwork quilt of ethnicity which the destinies of Central and East European peoples had sown over the centuries … Rudolf Steiner had soon recognised the dangers to Europe in the ideologies from East and West. He also saw through what he called 'the nullity' of the policies and materialistic war aims of the Central Powers and for decades had been at one with Nietzsche in believing that the German Empire had been founded with no spiritual purpose at its core. In 1917 he was asked by Count Otto Lerchenfeld, a cabinet Minister in the government of Bavaria for advice amidst the growing desperation felt in government circles. This opened the way for the next step, in July 1917, of attempting, through his personal connections, to bring influence to bear on the Austrian government to prepare for peace negotiations. He submitted a Memorandum, which contained the key sentence : When human beings become free, so will the nations become free through them. He thus met the group-based national self-determination of Wilson with the thought of individual self-determination.

Germany had "become an impossible social structure due to the confusion of its three systems" (spiritual, political, economic). The failure of the German people to rise to the spiritual challenge of the years 1917-1919 led to the victory of the perverted spirituality of the Nazi movement. After Nazism's defeat in 1945 the new Bundesrepublik became fully integrated into the political, cultural, and above all, economic community of the West. The Cold War bipolarity meant that the concept of Mitteleuropa, so common in Steiner's time, was hardly heard for forty years. Today, a reunited Germany is becoming integrated into a European Union. Powerful forces in the West regard it as having the role of 'economic motor' of the EU(4). They are not interested in it being much else. Almost fifty years after its founding, the German Empire was destroyed because it was built on no spiritual centre - only a drive to power, expressed in military and industrial terms. Fifty years after its founding, the heart of the Bundesrepublik is transplanted to the old imperial capital of Berlin - and what is now at the spiritual core of the new Germany? Is it not still seen primarily both within Germany and without as a drive towards material power in financial and industrial terms? Instead of this, Rudolf Steiner hoped the German people would be able to build upon the stream of spiritual idealism in their cultural history (which is why in 1917 he named the great building he had designed in Dornach, Switzerland, the Goetheanum) and would become a mediating centre of cultural life between East and West.

In the German Empire, spiritual and economic life were subordinated to the State - Kaiser, civil service, the military. Germany today is a country of "the West", firmly embedded in the EU, NATO, and "the Euro-Atlantic structures". As such, it shares the common western feature of the domination of the economic realm over the cultural and political realms. Eighty years ago, Rudolf Steiner's Appeal stated that "Social communities hitherto have, for the most part, been formed by human instincts. To penetrate their forces with full consciousness is a mission of the times." Have western countries been at all successful in doing this since 1919? The Appeal pointed clearly to the consequences of the failure to establish a social order with a mission that "corresponds to the inner essence of its people." People were deaf to it then. Surely, in essence the Appeal and its call for social threefolding are just as relevant today, if not more so in a world with a single superpower, in which economics and technology threaten to overwhelm all social life. Will deafness again prevail?
Terry Boardman Third Millennium: Third Way?

At the end of the last century in November 1999 we witnessed a major international protest against neoliberal, that is, predominantly "Anglo-saxon", economics in Seattle which has resulted in the collapse of the WTO talks. Even Clinton felt it necessary to make remarks in acknowledgement of the protesters' demands. It is this very "Anglo-saxon" model that is driving the kind of hard-edged globalisation which the protesters in Seattle and their sympathisers throughout the world opposed.

Is it not interesting that of the developed countries, it should be Germany that offers resistance to this Anglo-saxon model? Despite the fact that there is indeed a strongly communitarian strain in British society, a strain that has fed the development of the Labour Party in the 20th century and to which even "One Nation" conservatives like Edward Heath and Tony Blair appeal, the strain of self-centred individualism in British culture is, if anything, a good deal stronger and more tenacious. At the end of the 20th century, the atomism inherent in this strain is indeed threatening to rip the fabric of British society apart slowly, seam by seam, as adherence to traditional Christian morality has declined.

80 years ago Rudolf Steiner pointed to the historical fact that action in the material world is dominated by the principle of dualism. When a domineering principle arises, it cannot but call forth its opposite. He described how three major cultural impulses have arisen in Europe that mirror the thinking of three distinct historical epochs, namely, what he called "the hierarchical theocratic cultic" element, which stemmed ultimately from Egypt and recreated itself in the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the Middle Ages. This was followed by "the diplomatic,.political, and military element", a continuation of the impulse of the Roman Empire, which came to expression in the efforts of France to dominate Europe under Louis XIV and Napoleon, and then finally "the commerical economic element", which is truly of the modern age, and stems from Britain. Each of these three elements has sought in its time to dominate Central Europe; each has succeeded for a time, but each has ultimately failed. The Egyptian-Papal spiritual element was pushed back first by the Minnesänger, by Walther von der Vogelweide, by the German kings and then by Huss, Luther and the Reformation. One can see how an important stream in British life - that of Wycliff and the British Protestants - helped in this; Henry VIII could not have separated England from Rome if there had not already been a substantial anti-Papal tradition in English spiritual life. Protestant England, a major power, became a source of inspiration for Continental reformers and protestants. Secondly, the Roman-French military impulse was repulsed first by the Swiss and then by the Germans, assisted again of course by the British; Austria, Prussia and Britain provided most of the opposition to Napoleon, even though it may have been Russia that broke his back. The Anglo-American commercial economic element that now seeks world domination will in its turn inevitably be resisted by Central Europe as the other two domineering principles have been. German resistance to that domination played a significant part in the process that led to World War One, as it had become clear to the rulers of the British Empire that their global hegemony in industrial and commercial terms was being threatened.

Today Germany is again the main economic force in Central Europe and cannot but become the focus of attempts to resist Anglo-American dominance. Steiner went on to say that in each case the resistance to the dominant principle took on the nature of that principle. The Papacy was resisted spiritually. The French were defeated militarily. Likewise the Anglo-Americans will be resisted economically. Germany's catastrophic error in 1914 was to resist British economic imperialism by recourse to war - the means of the previous age. On the contrary, the resistance of Central Europe ought to be based on new economic ideas, and these ideas need to be drawn from the spiritual life of modern humanity. At present, this is not the case. The "softer, kinder, consensual" German capitalism referred to by Whittam-Smith is based not so much on modern spiritual impulses as on social elements within German history, some of which - the strong craft tradition, the feeling for heimat and locale, the respect for bureaucracy - go back to the Middle Ages or the 18th century. If Germany is to lead Central European resistance to Anglo-American "hard capitalism" - and it is clear that this is what the Anglo-American elite and their representatives expect - it is vital that the approach to economic life contained in the idea of social threefolding which has been nurtured within the anthroposophical movement should no longer be discussed only within anthroposophical circles but should come to the forefront of debate in wider society. It is surely Central Europe - with its patchwork quilt of nations, regions, and communities - that has the task of integrating the principle of fraternity into the world's economic system which until now has been dominated by the principles of liberty and equality so strongly espoused by the Anglo-Americans. Their self-centred approach to economic thinking has been determined by the natural insularity of the British (and also, arguably, of the Americans) and hence the atomistic idea of individual self-interest: everyone should have an equal right to exploit everyone else.

If Central Europe is able to integrate fraternity into economics without recourse to state intervention as in the discredited socialist model, it will find that, as in the past, it will receive a great measure of support from a substantial stream, even if not the majority, within Anglo-American culture itself. At the end of the twentieth century, as the representatives of Anglo-American "hard capitalism" met in triumphalist mood in Seattle, the city of Microsoft and Boeing, to map out the next phase of their global domination, they were brought up sharp by the resistance of this underground "protestant" stream from within their own culture. Yet just as the really new ideas that challenged the Papacy came from Central Europe, and just as the really new ideas that challenged French cultural domination came, not from Britain, but from Central Europe (from Goethe, Schiller, Fichte and others), so the new ideas today will also have to come from Central Europe and be taken up by those outside it. To be an organic farmer is to say "No" to chemicals and fertilisers; it is a good but essentially negative stance. A more creative step is to be a biodynamic farmer and to farm on the basis of spiritual knowledge and insight, on the basis of the fraternity of the spiritual and earthly worlds and their mutual interaction. We need "biodynamic thinking" in economics today - indeed a "softer, kinder, more consensual" economics that serves society as a whole, and that puts customers and workers at least on a par with shareholders, if not above them. The main impulse for this kind of economics is to be expected, not from the Anglo-American world, but from Central Europe.

If, in the 21st century, Central Europe is not to repeat its errors of the 19th century - when it abandoned its own spiritual culture and, mesmerised by the economic and military power of the West, embraced the the Social Darwinist ideology of 'dog eat dog' which led to the catastrophe of 1914-45 - it will need to put into practice the kind of economic thinking that Rudolf Steiner brought forward in Central Europe in response to that catastrophe, and which is still waiting to be applied. Germany neglected to apply it between 1919 and 1929, and the result was Hitler. It neglected to apply it after 1945 and after 1989, and the result has been the steady Americanisation of Europe and the globalisation of the world according to the principles of neoliberal hard capitalism. As the new millennium dawns, is it not finally time for Europe to look to its own spiritual sources for economic thinking instead of to Chicago and New York?
Terry Boardman Anglo-American ‘Hard Capitalism’ Throws Down the Gauntlet to German Capitalism: Conform or else…
First published in the German magazine Info3 in Feb. 2000

Other references:

Third Millennium: Third Way - On Rudolf Steiner’s “Appeal to the German People and the Civilised World”, published as Afterword to Rudolf Steiner, Towards Social Renewal – Rethinking the Basis of Society  Temple Lodge Publishing, London 1999

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