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The Will to Power is an idea we usually associate with Fascism. There is a large literature devoted to tracing the origins of Fascism in general, and German National Socialism in particular to the German culture of the nineteenth century. I have brought some books and pamphlets with me published under the imprint 'Athol Books,' a publishing house based in Belfast with which I have some connection. Among the pamphlets I'd like to draw your attention to one called Union Jackery - the pre-history of Fascism in Britain.(5) It is an anthology of writings by, for example, Edmund Burke, T.B.Macauley, Thomas Carlisle, John Ruskin, Walter Bagehot, G.B.Shaw etc showing that had a self-proclaimed Fascist movement gained power in Britain it would have been quite possible to trace its intellectual origins among these eminently mainstream British writers.

(5) Brendan Clifford: Union Jackery: the prehistory of Fascism in Britain, Belfast 2005, available at

I would like to draw your attention in particular to the contribution from Sir Charles Dilke. Dilke was an MP on the radical wing of the Liberal Party, an associate of Joseph Chamberlain before Chamberlain teamed up with the Conservatives, and widely tipped as a likely successor to Gladstone before his own political career was wrecked by a divorce scandal. In 1869 he published a book called 'Greater Britain'. The argument was that 'Greater Britain' was now the whole world:

'In 1866 and 1867, I followed England around the world; everywhere I went I was in English-speaking, or English-governed lands. If that climate, soil, manners of life, that mixture with other peoples had modified the blood, I saw too that in essentials the race was always one.

'The idea which in all the length of my travels has been at once my fellow and my guide ... is a conception, however imperfect, of the grandeur of our race, already girdling the earth, which it is destined, perhaps, eventually to overspread.

'In America, the peoples are being fused together, but they are run into an English mould ... There are men who say that Britain in her age will claim the glory of having planted greater Englands across the seas. They fail to perceive that she has done more than found plantations of her own - that she has imposed her institutions upon the offshoots of Germany, of Ireland, of Scandinavia and of Spain ...

'Through California and the Sandwich Islands, through Japan, fast becoming American, and China, the coast of which is already British, our race seems marching westward to universal rule. The Russian Empire itself, with all its passive strength, cannot stand against the English horde, ever pushing with burning energy towards the setting sun.'

Greater Britain was very popular and, we are told, appreciated by Gladstone. Dilke goes on to indicate how this Greater Britain dealt with obstacles to its onward progress:

'The Anglo Saxon is the only extirpating race on earth. Up to the commencement of the now inevitable destruction of the red Indians of Central North America, of the Maoris and of the Australians by the English colonists, no numerous race had ever been blotted out by an invader ... The Spaniards not only never annihilated a people, but have themselves been all but expelled by the Indians in Mexico and South America. The Portuguese in Ceylon, the Dutch in Java, the French in Canada and Algeria, have conquered but not killed off the native peoples. Hitherto it has been nature's rule that the race that peopled a country in the earliest days should people it to the end of time ...

'Everywhere we have found that the difficulties which impede progress to universal dominion of the English people lie in the conflict with the cheaper races. The result of our survey is such as to give us reason for the belief that race distinctions will long continue, that miscegenation will go but a little way towards blending the races; that the dearer are, on the whole, likely to destroy the cheaper peoples, and that Saxondom will rise triumphant from the doubtful struggle.'  

It should be noted that Dilke isn't just arguing for the physical domination of the Anglo Saxon race. He is also claiming that the non-Anglo-Saxon world is adopting Anglo-Saxon institutions and habits of mind. So far I have been discussing this in terms of a dominant - essentially non-religious - ideology. But I began by evoking Marx and of course in Marx's view the driving force was not a body of ideas but economic necessity. The body of ideas is superstructure, economic necessity the base.

British Imperialism in India started not with a desire to conquer, a desire for 'glory' (that came later) but with the activities of a trading company. It expanded through needs that - whatever the moral qualities or the intentions, good or bad, of the individuals concerned - embodied an essentially impersonal, inhuman, yet also irresistible logic, the logic of Capitalism, needing, in order to produce, at once the cheapest possible supply of raw materials and also markets in which to sell the product. In order to produce at all you need capital but that capital can only serve if it shows a profit; to continually generate profit you need to continually expand production, and to turn that produce into profit and therefore into capital you need to continually expand the market and that in turn requires an infrastructure that favours the business of transport, buying and selling.

We talk much nowadays about 'globalisation' but this is nothing new. Here is no less a figure than George Bernard Shaw in another extract from Union Jackery, speaking as an 'international socialist' in Fabianism and the Empire: A manifesto by the Fabian Society, published probably around 1900. It has a familiar ring to it:

'China, like Turkey, maintains a civilisation which differs from European and American civilisation. Without begging the question as to whether the Chinese civilisation is a lower or higher one than ours, we have to face the fact that its effect is to prevent Europeans from trading in China, or from making railway and postal and telegraph routes against [sic-PB. across?] it for the convenience of the world in general. Now the notion that a nation has a right to do what it pleases with its own territory without reference to the rest of the world, is no more tenable from the International Socialist point of view - that is, the point of view of the twentieth century - than the notion that a landlord has a right to do what he likes with his estate without reference to the interest of his neighbours. Nearly half a century ago we made war on China and forced her to admit our ships and give us a footing in certain ports [he is referring to the wars fought to force China to permit the sale of opium - PB]. In concert with the Powers, we have just had to send an armed expedition to the Chinese capital to force them to tolerate the presence and the commercial and political activity of the Europeans. Here we are asserting and enforcing international rights of travel and trade. But the right to trade is a very comprehensive one: it involves a right to insist upon a settled government which can keep the peace and enforce agreements. When a native government of this order is impossible, the foreign trading power must set one up. This is a common historical origin of colonies and annexations; and it may, for practical purposes, be regarded as an irresistible natural force which will lead sooner or later to the imposition by the Powers of commercial civilisation on all countries which are still refractory to it ...

'If the Chinese themselves cannot establish order in our sense, the Powers must establish it for them. And in undertaking our share of that establishment, we must proceed on the principle, directly opposed to that of Non-Interference, that we have international rights of travelling, trading, efficient police protection, and communication by road, rail and telegraph in every part of the globe. Free trade enables us to claim these rights with a better countenance than any other Power; but all the powers claim them implicitly and must finally do so explicitly, if only to put themselves in an intelligible moral position ...'

And of course this imperative but nonetheless inhuman or supra-human need to generate profit is felt in competition with other enterprises and other nations who also feel the same need. One of the great British ideas of the nineteenth century was Darwinian evolution, with its corollary, the Survival of the Fittest. You will have noticed Shaw's reference to the 'irresistible force, which will lead sooner or later to the imposition by the Powers of commercial civilisation on all countries which are still refractory to it ...' But that is simply a matter of imposing 'civilisation' on what is presumably regarded as barbarism, or rather 'commercial civilisation' on an ancient civilisation that has other ideas about what makes life worthwhile. Shaw is here writing on the assumption that 'the Powers' of commercial civilisation have a common interest. But he knows perfectly well that the Powers were in competition with each other, very obviously so in the nineteenth century, the era of the 'scramble for Africa'. Here is a prophetic article published anonymously in the widely read Saturday Review in 1896, already at that early date envisaging what we might call a Darwinist war against Germany (the article was actually written by the zoologist, founder of Whipsnade Zoo, Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell):

'The world is rapidly approaching the epoch of these last wars, of wars which cannot end in peace with honour, of wars whose spectre cannot be laid by the pale ghost of arbitration. The facts are patent. Feeble races are being wiped off the face of the earth, and a few great, incipient species arm themselves against each other. England, as the greatest of these - greatest in geographical distribution, greatest in expansive force, greatest in race-pride - has avoided for centuries the only dangerous kind of war. Now, with the whole earth occupied and the movements of expansion continuing, she will have to fight to the death against successive rivals. With which first? With which second? ...

'Of European nations, Germany is most alike to England. In racial characters, in religious and scientific thought, in sentiments and aptitudes, the Germans, by their resemblances to the English, are marked out as our natural rivals. In all parts of the earth, in every pursuit, in commerce, in manufacturing, in exploiting other races, the English and the Germans jostle each other. Germany is a growing nation; expanding far beyond her territorial limits, she is bound to secure a new foothold or to perish in the attempt. It is true she has not yet succeeded in making colonies of her own. But that failure is the mere accidental result of her political system. Her own revolution is imminent, and Germany, as a democratic power, would colonise for herself, with the same aptitude she has shown for infiltrating our own colonies. Were every German to be wiped out tomorrow, there is no English trade, no English pursuit that would not immediately expand. Were every Englishman to be wiped out tomorrow, the Germans would gain in proportion. Here is the first great racial struggle of the future: here are two growing nations pressing against each other, man to man, all over the world. One or the other has to go; one or the other will go.'(6)

(6) Note that Chalmers Mitchell sees the autocratic character of the German state as an obstacle to imperial expansion. German colonisation would be greatly facilitated by a democratic revolution, which he sees as inevitable.

Of course as we know National Socialism appeared in Germany not in England, therefore the Germans were bad and the English good, but as Brendan Clifford points out in his introduction to Union Jackery:

'Supposing England had lost this Great War of its own making,(7) and had been treated as it treated Germany - losing its overseas markets and its Empire and subjected to penalties which expropriated most of its domestic products, and its monarchy abolished - it is highly improbable that its mode of Parliamentary government through party-political conflict of two essentially patriarchal parties would have continued. Its existential crisis would have been as great as that which it imposed on Germany and its economic crisis would have been even greater as its dependence on exploiting the material resources of the world was greater.

'In these circumstances it is probable that there would have been a great proliferation of parties, each reflecting some particular grievance or interest, and that the hegemonic authority which had always existed behind the display of of party conflict would have evaporated.

(7) For Britain's role in the making of the Great War see on this site the essay by Pat Walsh - How we planned the Great War -

'And supposing that ... order and a sense of national well-being was restored by an English Fascist movement, the body of literature which I outline here would form part of the literature of that movement. There would be no need to create a new body of literature for it. The intellectual inheritance of Fascism in England would consist in great part of the literature of: the 18th century aristocracy; of the war against the French revolution; of the middle class democracy of the 1832 Reform; of the globalist economic development beginning with the war to compel the Chinese state to allow its subjects to purchase English opium; and of the populist Imperialism of the 19th-early 20th centuries which was the precondition of social welfare reform.'(8)

(8) With regard to the last point, it was possible to improve the living conditions of the British working class because of the availability of cheaper raw materials from the Empire which also provided a guaranteed market for British goods. See note (6) on the relationship between democracy and Imperialism. The alternative - protectionism and substantial government control of industrial production - was being pioneered in Germany. This was why a Socialist such as James Connolly could see Germany as the more progressive society when the war broke out in 1914. See Brendan Clifford: Connolly and German Socialism, Belfast, Athol Books, 2004.