When war comes in the front door, totalitarianism seeps through the walls and fills the air. The best of observers say that the French people themselves are tired of the very idea of democracy. They do not follow Petain's feudal notions; their revolutionary fervor and desire to destroy the corrupt leadership which betrayed them is evident on every hand. They want the old order of social distinctions destroyed. Events move in that same direction throughout most of Europe. It is ripe for totalitarian, although definitely not for German rule. War has disrupted normal relationships to the point where men trample over each other in a vicious, cutthroat, classless fashion in reaching for power, and the older bourgeois, liberal, and feudal groups have lost the respect of the masses, who now send their sons into the socio-political melee. Rulers and henchmen, not middle and upper classes, are destined to take over during and at the close of this war.Next Page
Ross has well stated: 34
Karl Marx's doctrine of economic determinism . . . needs to be rounded out with a doctrine of martial determinism which shall show how much the relations of classes, societies, peoples, races, and cultures have been influenced by the development of the technique of war.
Spengler strikes deep with the bitter words: 35
But how much can be destroyed or leveled down in the final stages of world anarchy! So much, indeed, that in certain white nations there will be no material left from which Caesar could create . . . his army . . . and his State.
(By anarchy Spengler means the war which, as he and Ross both predicted in dire terms, now besets the world, and by material he means effective human beings.)
Hardly any other short passage on the effect of war upon the respectable classes can rival the following remarks made by a sand hiller about a formerly rich planter shortly after the Civil War: 36
He swore he could drink all the blood as would be spilled in the war; but long befo' Sherman come his oldest gal and was a ploughin' corn with the bull, and his wife a bobbin' fur cat-fish in the cypress swamp.
Social class in militarized democracies. It has already been stated that the processes of social class disintegration are active in Britain as well as in the totalitarian states. In general, the same thing may be said of every country whose place in world affairs has placed upon it the label: "Great Power." The chief interests of these nations are not domestic social welfare but foreign war. Whether this situation is self-imposed or a consequence of outside pressures is irrelevant -- the result is seen in the difference in the management of social affairs between a non-militarized social state, as in Sweden, and a highly militarized world power, as in Japan [in 1941).
In highly centralized militaristic states power gravitates to the hands of a few, and the people are used as pawns. In a social-democratic and pacifist state the processes of consensus and amelioration, the strengthening of the lower orders and the steady but non-violent diminution of excessive exploitation by other classes go steadily forward. Under military discipline, however, all the classes feel the brunt of the military clique and must pay heavily for its ambitions. There is a vast difference, from the social class point of view, between a state which respects the life and existence of the different classes and which promotes a social organization based on custom-made associative groupings and one which seeks to break the position and influence of every autonomous grouping and to bend all groups to meet the demands of military necessity. In the latter, much as under fascism, decrees and terror are used in the place of pressure of neighbors, appeals to tradition, a sense of social honor and prestige -- in order to keep the society functioning.
A militaristic state must crush the organs of labor -- a small and non-militarized nation may use the persistent efforts of other classes to hold the demands of labor within reason but without resorting to the violent terror of disbanding them or of subjugating them completely to the will of a government which is above and outside of the free organizations of society. It is for this reason among others that social scientists hope that nationalist and militarist states will give way to a federation of peaceful cultures. Under conditions of peace, and only under these conditions, can the different levels of human society hope to find themselves and their future secure from the bitter ravages of dislocation and destruction.
The question is raised, how to prevent the government from being an instrument used against all the classes and against the class hierarchy. Where all groups may easily become pressure groups in a society and where so much is at stake for each that no consensus is possible with regard to the social welfare, the situation is dark indeed. Where labor groups, farmer lobbies, ex-soldiers' organizations, the aged, the poor, the employers and owners, and the war lords all press for their own demands, even representative government becomes paralyzed. But under a system of one-man rule the whole resources of the nation and its course of action are subject to whim. In the former case the society is torn, as was Germany, with civil dissent and conflict. In the latter case the dictator is most likely to use all the people for grandiose schemes of national expansion. The United States at this time is torn between these two dilemmas, and either road is not likely to be an easy one. Particularly true is the thought that the relationships between the various classes are likely to become less smooth and more harsh. Envy replaces deference.
The United States, with all its great wealth, has not worked out a means of maintaining modern civilization, of building up strong social relations, of balancing internal pressures, of stabilizing the social classes. Great dislocations and social reverberations are certainly in the offing. The United States is, after all, the greatest world power.
34. Edward Alsworth Ross, The Social Trend (New York, 1922) p. 214.
35. Spengler, op. cit., p. 196.
36. Taken from Arthur W. Calhoun, A Social History of the American Family, vol. II (Cleveland, 1918) p. 373.