‘Narratives’: 1914-2018: The War on Russia, Germany and ‘Hate’

This article was first published in New View magazine #89 Oct.-Dec. 2018

On 5 September the British government revealed, on the basis of what it called “exhaustive CCTV analysis”, the identities of the two men it claimed had arrived in Britain on 2 March and had been responsible for deliberate nerve agent poisonings in and near the city of Salisbury. It said that these men were Russian agents working for the Main Intelligence Directorate (GU, formerly GRU), the military intelligence agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. The BBC and other British media were soon laying the blame for the attacks directly at the door of President Putin himself. On 13 Sept. the two men appeared on Russian television to say they had simply been on a tourist trip to Salisbury; this was immediately dismissed as a fabrication and an insult by the British. This British government claim of Russian State criminality is but the latest in a stream of such claims about the Salisbury incident since the accusation was first made by the British government on 12 March, on the basis of zero actual evidence presented to the public, that it was “highly likely” that the Russian State had poisoned the former Russian agent Sergei Skripal, now resident in the UK, and his daughter Yulia, a Russian citizen,  on 4 March. But despite the fact that the British legal system has always prided itself on maintaining the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”, Theresa May’s government declared on 12 March that there were only two possibilities that accounted for the attack: either deliberate action by the Russian State or the loss of control by the Russian State of the poison and its acquisition by “others”. UK government demanded a response from the Russians within 24 hours as to which of these two possibilities was true (a similar 24 hour ultimatum had been given to Germany on 3 August 1914 before the declaration of war).

A key part of the British government’s argument was that the Russians ‘had form’ when it came to assassinations abroad and covering them up, and that is certainly true; the Czarist secret police were doing it over 100 years ago. Whether Russian agents did so in the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a  Russian who died in London in suspicious circumstances in 2006, has yet to be proven in a proper court of law. But the media and the UK government also overlooked the historical fact that the British government and secret services have also ‘had form’ in telling lies about their own heinous actions abroad over the past two centuries at least. One can cite British involvement in the murder of Rasputin in December 19161  and the transport of Leon Trotsky to Russia in 19172, the fabrication of the infamous ‘Zinoviev Letter’ in 1924 which contributed to the downfall of Britain’s first Labour government and numerous other cases, not least the provision of false information to the USA after 9/11 about Saddam Hussein’s alleged acquisition of uranium from Niger, a charge used by the US to justify the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is also documented fact that the British government clandestinely tested new bio-weapons on its own citizens3. The possibility then, that there was a third explanation for the Salisbury incident – that it was arranged by the British secret service apparatus as part of an ongoing anti-Russian campaign – was, however, not considered by the mainstream media nor, of course, by the government or even the political class; no British politician has raised his or her head above the parapet even to voice this possibility, let alone stand for it.

On 9 March the Russian government had declared it was “ready to cooperate” with the British and had requested access to the samples of the nerve-agent Novichok which the British claimed had been used in the attack. The British government refused this request. On 13 March, the British government expelled 23 Russian diplomats and took other punitive measures against Russia. On 16 March the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, again without proffering any evidence, directly accused President Vladimir Putin of having ordered the attack on the Skripals, an  accusation made numerous times since by others. The Russian authorities have repeatedly asked for access to Yulia Skripal, who is a Russian citizen, but all requests have been declined by the British. Since her release from hospital on 10 April she has only a made a brief innocuous video statement and has since disappeared from view; neither have the British media since then shown much interest in finding out where she and her father are. In the interim, the Russians hosted a very successful World Cup in the summer and in July Presidents Putin and Trump finally met for talks in Finland, which passed off well. But the British have kept up the pressure over the Salisbury incident just as, in the USA, pressure has been intensified month by month on President Trump over his alleged “collusion with Russia” in 2016. Here too no solid evidence has thus far been adduced by Special Counsel investigator Robert Mueller, yet the narrative and the accusations and allegations are kept up in the media month after month. What do these two cases have in common?

Narratives of War 1914-1919

An antipathy towards Russia has been building in western media since the Georgian war in 2008 and especially since the events in Ukraine and Crimea in 2014. But the two cases mentioned above also have in common the very close ties between the British and American elites which go back to the decades after the American Civil War, when those ties first began, a process detailed by the historian Markus Osterrieder in his magnum opus World in Upheaval: The Nationalities Question, World Order Plans and Rudolf Steiner’s Stance in the First World War (2014)4 as well as by a number of other historians5. Rudolf Steiner indicated in a notebook entry he wrote in 1918 what these ties amount to: an “anti-social group… within the Anglo-American world” that “seeks to rule the world by means of dynamic capitalist economic impulses” “is above all concealing the actual fact that a struggle for the kernel of Russian culture is going on between Anglo-American plutocrats and the people of Middle Europe. As soon as this fact is revealed to the world by Middle Europe, an untrue situation will be replaced by a true one. The war will therefore go on in some form or another until the German and Slavic cultures have found their way together to the common goal of freeing people from the yoke of the West.”6 The key strategy of the Anglo-American plutocrats and the governments they influence and control is to prevent any combination between Russia and Central Europe (notably Germany) and to keep Germany firmly under western, transatlantic control, away from Russia as much as possible. The Trump government’s recent sharp criticism of the Russo-German project to lay the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the Baltic, and even western criticism of seemingly trivial events such as Mr Putin dancing with the Austrian Foreign Minister at her recent wedding party can be seen in the light of this perspective: ‘Putin trying to seduce Austria away from the West!’. Similarly trivial events were blown out of all proportion by the paranoid British government and Press before the First World War, warning against visits by German professors and politicians or even German brass bands which were suspected of harbouring spies. Artificially induced invasion fears and spymania were rife in Britain from the mid-1890s until 1914.7 This was all part of the anti-German propaganda build-up prior to the First World War. When the elite Round Table group, led by Lord Milner, published the first issue of its journal The Round Table in Nov. 1910, its key foreign affairs article was titled ‘Foreign Affairs: Anglo-German Rivalry’. It was written anonymously by Philip Kerr, who would later draft the infamous ‘war guilt’ clause, Article 231, of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, which insisted that Germany bore sole responsibility for the war. This article portrayed Germany in the darkest possible terms and Britain in the brightest. Ignoring the recent Boer War (1899-1902) and Britain’s invasion of Tibet in 1904, Kerr described Germany as having a “relentlessly aggressive policy, recognising neither right nor justice beyond the orbit of German national existence” while “’…the [British] Empire ….is not an imperium but a system of government which gives peace to one quarter of mankind and better government to hundreds of millions of backward people than they could get in any other way….’”8 The Round Table’s founder, Lord Milner, former High Commissioner in S. Africa, is regarded by historians as the individual most responsible for bringing about the Boer War!

From 1910 until the outbreak of war in 1914, the Round Table journal painted a picture of Britain as the land of light and progressive civilisation and of Germany as the land of barbarity and backwardness: Greece vs Persia or Athens vs Sparta. The implication of the historical analogy was obvious – that conflict and war between the two countries were inevitable. Prof. Carroll Quigley, an academic expert on the Round Table group, wrote that “History for this group…presented itself as an age-long struggle between the principles of autocracy and the principles of commonwealth, between the forces of darkness and the forces of light, between Asiatic theocracy and European freedom…the one permitted diversity, growth, and freedom, while the other engendered  monotony, stultification and slavery. The struggle between the two had gone on for thousands of years… ”9 The Round Table and their allies in the British and American Establishments persuaded themselves that in the latest iteration of this struggle the English-speaking peoples were the forces of light and the Germans were the forces of darkness. It is not difficult to see that in our own time the narrative spun by the Anglo-American mainstream media in recent years is that this light/dark analogy is now being applied to the English-speaking peoples and their allies (often referred by the mainstream media as the “international community”) versus Russia respectively. This is a highly misleading and dangerous narrative, as it was in the years before the First World War. But it continued to be believed by the Round Table members between the wars, and between 1919 and  1924, the Round Tablers were a fifth of the British Cabinet, a quarter in 1931-35 and a third in 1935-4010. During that interwar period the Round Table group came close to achieving some their pre-1914 goals: foreign policy solidarity between Britain and the Dominions, alignment of US and UK foreign policy, and preferential trade within the Empire. But the perceived challenges from Germany and Russia (now the USSR) remained to be dealt with. Things had turned out well, from the Round Table perspective, in the Great War; ‘the forces of darkness’ – Germany and Russia – had gone to war with one another and ‘the forces of light’ had emerged victorious, indeed, by the end of hostilities in 1918, America and Britain were more closely aligned than ever before.

Narratives of War 1919-1940

At 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month this year (although it’s the 9th month in the old Julian calendar – and thus another kind of “9/11”) many people around the world will commemorate the moment the guns fell silent on the Western Front and what people had already for some time been calling “the Great War” ended. They did not of course call it ‘the First World War’ because they did not yet know there would be a Second World War; apart from a few very far-sighted individuals in public life, most people did not imagine it, as the past four years had been so terrible -  the very idea of another such conflict was too awful for most. 11th November 1918, or Armistice Day,  was not the actual, formal end of the war but only a cessation of hostilities. In the next few months leading up to 11th November this year there will probably be, once again, as there was  in 2014, 100 years after the outbreak of the war, a restatement of the British Establishment view of the conflict, which is that the Allies were right to enter the war, which began when Austria-Hungary took military action against Serbia that it had accused of having been responsible for terrorist actions against Austria-Hungary – most recently (28 June 1914) the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne and his wife. Similar Establishment views are likely to be produced, as they were in 2014, in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA, the so-called “Five Eyes” countries, which since the mid-1950s have been sharing military intelligence only with each other and with no other countries e.g. NATO allies.11 They will also no doubt even be produced in Germany by the likes of Establishment media there such as Die Welt, Die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Der Spiegel, the broadcasters ARD and ZDF TV and others. In Britain, Establishment historians will appear in the media, as they did in 2014, to reproduce the ‘correct’ version of the war: why it was right to fight it, and why the Treaty of Versailles (28 June 1919), which dealt with Germany, was not so terrible after all. Academics such as Professors Margaret Macmillan, Hew Strachan, Andrew Roberts, or Adam Tooze will probably appear. Perhaps some ‘reliable’ German historians such as Annika Mombauer and Holger Herwig might be called on to echo this Establishment view. Academic dissenters from this view, such as Christopher Clark and Douglas Newton, or even Niall Ferguson, are less likely to get a look-in, but as in 2014, one or two of them might be allowed a small slot here or there – to provide a show of ‘balance’.

The ‘correct’ narrative of the First World War is so important to the British Establishment because out of that ‘correct’ narrative came the narrative of the Second World War and above all of the ‘annus mirabilis’ of 1940, the apotheosis of the mythos of 20th century Britain – Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, ‘the Few’, the ‘finest hour’, Vera Lynn and ‘the Blitz spirit’. In other words, the ‘correct narrative’ of Britain’s role in the 20th century as a whole – as champion of light fighting evil. This enables many Britons to feel good about themselves and their country despite the decline in global pre-eminence that has occurred since 1945. During and after 1940, the summer of that year and the struggle against Nazi Germany became the lasting ‘icon’ of Britain’s self-image – the apotheosis of the image of St. George, alone, resisting the Dragon and becoming ultimately victorious over it. It also served as the apotheosis of the narrative of the forces of light and dark.

File:Britain Needs You at Once - WWI recruitment poster - Parliamentary Recruiting Committee Poster No. 108.jpg

But of course, as so often in war, when truth is the first victim, and propaganda lies and myth-making are seen as necessary to ‘stiffen the sinews’ and maintain morale, there was much in this narrative about 1940 that was false. Britain was never ‘alone’ in 1940; it was always supported by the considerable armed forces and resources of the Empire, as well as by the tacit support of the USA in 1939-41, which became ever more manifest in terms of money and materiel. It was supported by the Polish, Czech, French, Belgian, Norwegian and Dutch military men who had escaped to Britain’s shores and served alongside the British. In 1940 Britain’s airforce proved more than a match for the Luftwaffe in fighter planes and radar; Britain had also been developing heavy bombers since the late 1930s; the Luftwaffe never had any of these, while the Royal Navy totally outclassed the much smaller German navy. Nevertheless, 1940 was certainly a remarkable moment in historical and military terms. Britain was under pressure, and Britain did not buckle. 1940 has come to be seen as a ‘swansong’ moment in the history of the British Empire, an autumnal moment of martial achievement just a few years before the loss of the Empire. And it was the personal fate of that most martial of Prime Ministers, Winston Churchill,  the arch-champion of that Empire, to have to preside as Prime Minister twice (1940-45 and 1951-55) over the weakening and decay of the Empire with which he, throughout his life, had so much identified himself.

Poland and Belgium

But who was the damsel in distress that St. George was supposed to be rescuing in 1939? For most British people, Poland in eastern Europe in 1939 was like Czechoslovakia in central Europe in 1938 at the time of the Munich Crisis – “a faraway country” in which lived people of whom the British knew little or nothing. But Poland was no shining example of a democracy; it was a de facto dictatorship, ruled by Marshal Rydz-Śmigły; it had unilaterally seized a piece of Czechoslovakia immediately after the Munich Conference in 1938, and was a state that since its independence had been oppressing its various minorities (Germans, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, White Russians) in the name of ‘Polonisation’, as Belgium before 1914 had been savagely oppressing and exploiting its colonial subjects in the Congo). Events in September 1939 echoed those of 1914; the British government recklessly threw down a challenge in both 1914 and 1939 by promising to defend smaller countries (Belgium and Poland) that Britain was in fact incapable of defending, countries that were then rapidly overwhelmed by the enemy before the British had a chance to commit any significant major forces. In 1914 the British committed only six divisions to the ‘defence’ of Belgium (though actually they were intended for the defence of France); they were soon overrun by the German Army and had to beat a long retreat into France. In 1939 the British had no troops anywhere near Poland. On 21 April 1939 Britain committed to send only six regular divisions (again!) and 26 Territorial divisions 30 days after mobilisation (i.e. immediately prior to war) to the Continent, but to France not to Poland. By 27 September 1939, 152,000 British troops were in France, but not fighting Germans; meanwhile Warsaw fell the following day, and the Polish Army stopped fighting on 8 October.

In March 1939 the British government led by Neville Chamberlain had committed itself to the defence of Poland but then took no military steps on the Continent to realise that commitment. Furthermore, just as Sir Edward Grey had on 31 August 1914 urged the Belgian government to resist by force any German move into Belgian territory, knowing full well what this would mean for Belgium, the British government in the spring and summer of 1939 encouraged the Poles to stand firm and reject negotiations with the Germans over ownership of the 98% German Free City of Danzig (today Gdansk, in Poland) and the German request for a railway line and an autobahn across the ‘Polish Corridor’ territory that separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany – a not unreasonable request. Feeling confident that if Germany dared to attack Poland, the British and French would attack Germany from the West, as the Belgians had similarly been assured before the outbreak of war in 1914, the Poles continued to reject negotiations with the Germans from March to September 1939. In fact, however, “the British and French Governments had no intention of invading Germany; indeed their planning staffs had not even so much as discussed the possibility.”12 At the end of August, Hitler finally lost patience and invaded; two days later, Britain declared war on Germany just as it had declared war on Germany a day after German troops had marched into Belgium in 1914. The issue in 1939 was ostensibly over the city of Danzig, a railway and an autobahn. For this, it might seem, the British ruling elite were prepared to plunge Britain into another war against Germany. But they had their eyes on a far greater objective than saving Danzig for Poland; their goal was to emasculate Germany entirely, deprive it of real independence and subject it to permanent control, thus keeping it away from Russia.13 This latter aim had been the intention since before the Great War, when it was first devised by the British geopolitician Halford Mackinder in 1904; he stood close to the Round Table Group from 1909, and his career was backed financially by Lord Milner.14

Of course there were in 1939 those, and there will be those today, who said and will say that “Hitler had to be stopped at some point” and that “he would have gone on and on” – to conquer the world. This narrative usually includes the ‘Lebensraum’ thesis that Hitler had always wanted to conquer territory for German settlement in ‘the East’, as implied in his book Mein Kampf (1925 Vol. 2, ch. 14; the first full English translation of the book only appeared in Feb. 1939). But while Hitler certainly did imply in Mein Kampf that he would seize land in Russia for German Lebensraum and justified this on grounds that can only be called Social Darwinist (‘to the strongest and fittest, the right’), he said nothing in the book about his intentions for Poland. In fact, he had sought an understanding with Poland’s former ruler, Marshal Pilsudski (the de facto ruler of Poland 1926-1935) against Soviet Russia which improved relations between Germany and Poland until Pilsudski’s death in 1935, and in 1939, if Poland had responded to his offers of negotiations, he would have preferred to ally with Poland against the USSR rather than with Stalin against Poland, as he eventually did in August 1939, spurned by Poland, Britain, and France.

As for conquering the world: “if Hitler was out to conquer the world — Britain, Africa, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, South America, India, Asia, Australia — why did he spend three years [1938-1940] building that hugely expensive Siegfried Line to protect Germany from France? Why did he start the war with no surface fleet, no troop transports and only 29 oceangoing submarines? How do you conquer the world with a navy that can’t get out of the Baltic Sea? If Hitler wanted the world, why did he not build strategic bombers, instead of two-engine Dorniers and Heinkels that could not even reach Britain from Germany? Why did he let the British army go at Dunkirk? Why did he offer the British peace, twice, after Poland fell, and again after France fell? Why, when Paris fell, did Hitler not demand the French fleet, as the Allies demanded and got the Kaiser’s fleet [after World War One]? Why did he not demand bases in French-controlled Syria to attack Suez? Why did he beg Benito Mussolini not to attack Greece?” 15

This raises the question as to whether Poland was for the British elite only the excuse, the pretext to fight a war against Germany that would result in the thorough and final subjugation of Germany, which was perceived by the British elite as the latest in the line of imperial rivals to British aims (Spain, Holland, France…).  And it was indeed the case that Poland was a pretext, as the ‘defence’ of Belgium had only been a pretext in 1914, a rabbit pulled out of a hat before the British people two days before Britain’s declaration of war. There were those in the British government in the 1930s who felt that another war against Germany was necessary to finish off what had not been fully accomplished in 1919. One of these was Sir Robert Vansittart, Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs 1930-1938, and thereafter Chief Diplomatic Adviser. Winston Churchill and members of the Round Table were others. Throughout the 1930s the Round Table, unlike Churchill,  mostly advocated appeasement of Hitler but changed abruptly to a war policy in March 1939, by which time Britain’s rearmament was proceeding apace. That Poland had only been a pretext for another major war against Germany was underlined by the fact that in 1945 Churchill surrendered to Stalin the country that Britain had supposedly gone to war to protect and defend: Poland was left in the hands of Stalin by Churchill (and later Clement Attlee, who followed him as Prime Minister in July 1945) and by US President Truman. Britain (“St. George”) had suffered greatly in the war that it had ostensibly entered in order to save the Polish princess yet after the princess had been raped and abused by two dragons (Hitler and Stalin), the British St. George, having helped to defeat one dragon, agreed that the other one could keep her in chains, presumably for ever.

For six months after March 1939, Hitler had given no public indication that he wanted more from Poland than Danzig and the transport routes to Danzig and East Prussia; the Poles, he said, could keep the Corridor and the Polish port of Gdynia. The British did not go to war to stop Hitler from seizing half of Poland, as he hypocritically went on to do because of his secret deal with Stalin (23 August 1939) to divide up the country between them. It was a deal he would not have concluded before the summer of 1939, and which the Soviets only agreed to because the British, French and Poles had refused to come to an anti-German agreement with the USSR! Before August 1939 and the astonishing Nazi-Soviet Pact of that month, the British had no reason to assume that the Germans were planning to invade half of Poland. So, on the face of it, on 3 September Britain went to war because Hitler had attacked Poland ostensibly over the issue of the city of Danzig. But the men of the Round Table Group in and around the government and their allies knew that Poland was a pretext and that the final showdown with Germany was approaching. In March 1939 the Round Table Group abruptly shifted gears; until then The Round Table journal was still advocating appeasement, but its June issue was titled “From Appeasement to Grand Alliance” (i.e. Britain, France, Poland, Romania). The September issue declared Hitler’s aim was “mastery of the world”: “…any further accretion of German strength – for instance through control of Danzig, which is the key to subjection of all Poland – appears as a retreat from the ramparts of the British Commonwealth”(!) and by the December 1939 issue “the whole tone has reverted to 1911-1918” – the light vs darkness, Athens vs Persia theme of those years; the title of the issue was ‘Commonwealth or Weltreich?’”16

Woodrow Wilson

The war that ended in 1918/19 had begun  – in Britain at any rate – with a false narrative that the British government had sprung upon the people just one day before the declaration of war,  forestalling any effective protest campaign against that false narrative, which was that Britain was going to war to defend a gallant little country against invasion by a brutal bully. Not only was this narrative a gross oversimplification and deliberate distortion,  a campaign for another sort of narrative had begun in Britain long before – in 1895 – in the pages of the leading weekly journal The Saturday Review : a propaganda campaign urging war with Germany. For the sake of British trade and commerce, it declared, Britain’s latest rival must be destroyed, just as Britain had defeated all her other rivals in war and as Britain’s imperial model, Rome, had destroyed its rival, Carthage. This propaganda was maintained in various forms and media in Britain until 1914. Its success was shown in the ease with which the British people were inveigled into the war in August that year.

This autumn (2018) various articles and documentaries are likely to emerge that will put a good gloss on US President Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921), who in late 1918 was seen by the Establishment media of the time as the ‘Man of the Hour’, the ‘Saviour of Europe’. Their modern-day successors will in all probability laud the Wilsonian doctrine of the ‘14 Points’ on the basis of which Germany sued for peace in autumn 1918, and the creed of ‘liberal internationalism’ and the League of Nations which Wilson so strongly championed. But for Rudolf Steiner, this act by the German government headed by Prince Max von Baden was a spiritual capitulation paralleling the military capitulation because, he said,  Germany was not presenting to Europe and the world anything constructive that came from Middle Europe, something such as the ideas of the threefold social organism that Steiner himself had personally put to Chancellor Max von Baden on two occasions17; instead, the German leadership had chosen to make peace on the basis of the ideas of the West, of Wilson, which did not correspond to reality in the complex ethnic make-up of Central and Eastern European regions. Wilson and his advisers did not at all understand this European reality and proceeded on the basis of abstract principles to create new unitary states out of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Their actions, Steiner argued, would only create more disharmony and conflict in Europe; his prognostications turned out to be correct when the majority communities in the newly independent nation states began to oppress minorities in those states. As early as 1904, Wilson, then president of Princeton University, had declared at a dinner hosted by the elite Anglo-American Pilgrims Society (founded 1902) that “when you consider what the different nations of the world stand for, keeping in mind the specific purposes of England and America, you will see that there is but one course to choose and that is to carry forward in honesty and unselfishness that service to the world which has now been carried too far for us to turn back. Anglo-saxon peoples have undertaken to reconstruct the affairs of the world and it would be a shame upon them for them to withdraw their hand now.”18 Wilson said this two years after the end of the Boer War (1899-1902), which Britain fought in order to monopolise South African gold and diamonds in the age of the gold standard, and two years after the end of the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), which the USA fought in order to establish a base in the Pacific region from which to dominate the China trade and to contain Japan.19 Wilson argued for the principle of national self-determination and where necessary, majority rule over minorities. He was equally determined that Poland should be independent after the war and must have an outlet to the sea at Germany’s expense. In this case, he therefore set aside his principles regarding national sovereignty and majority rule and agreed to the separation of the 98% German city of Danzig from Germany and its establishment as a ‘Free City’ under the nominal political authority of the League of Nations but under the political administration and economic control of Poland. This was a time-bomb waiting to go off, which it did in 1939.

Presidents Woodrow Wilson (USA) and Raymond Poincaré (France) in Paris

What happened 100 years ago between the Armistice on 11 November 1918 and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919 was the emergence of what can be called ‘liberal internationalism’, a doctrine that was developed in Britain and America by the Round Table Group and its political allies, a doctrine intended to “reconstruct the affairs of the world” – but in the interests of the ruling elite of the English-speaking peoples. As the diplomat Charles Denby wrote after America’s defeat of Spain in 1898 : “We are coming into our own. We are stretching out our hands for what nature meant should be ours. We are taking our proper rank among the nations of the world. We are after markets, the greatest markets now existing in the world. [he was referring here to Asia and especially to China – TB] Along with these markets will go our beneficent institutions, and humanity will bless us.”20 This was the Anglo-American narrative: ‘we have the best institutions because we are the best people, and blessed by Providence, so we deserve to rule the world, which will benefit from our superior institutions, and incidentally, it will also make us very wealthy.’ This is essentially still the Anglo-American narrative, which is now framed by western media such as The Economist, The Financial Times, The New York Times, the BBC, in terms of what is often referred to as the “rules-based international order created by America in 1945” – in order to serve, primarily, the interests of Wall St. and the City of London. Any challenges to this “international order”, from the likes of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Donald Trump,  independence-minded Germans or any non-transatlanticist British Brexiteers will be met with forthright opposition, first through mainstream media propaganda, and if necessary, with repression and destruction through military conflict. For example, attempts to bypass the US dollar as the means of international economic exchange, which immensely benefits the interests of the USA, have been met with recourse to armed attack, as Iraq and Libya have discovered in recent years.21 ‘Narratives’  – often variations on the theme of St. George and the Dragon – have been concocted to mask naked economic motivations and to present the armed assaults and invasions as necessary for humanitarian reasons.

Society Is Made Of ‘Narrative’

Last month, a friend alerted me to an interesting article by the independent journalist and poet Caitlin Johnstone titled: ‘Society Is Made Of Narrative. Realizing This Is Awakening From The Matrix’.22 Reading it, I realised that she was presenting in a contemporary context something of what Rudolf Steiner wrote in his key philosophical work The Philosophy of Freedom, published in 1894. In that book he points to the supreme importance of human thinking and its two products: concepts and percepts. He shows how these two are divided by our physical organisation, which leads to a damaging dualism of thought and to the social and moral consequences of that dualism, and how they can be reunited by thinking, leading to a new basis for ethics in the modern world. Caitlin Johnstone too indicates the ultimate importance of thinking, for it is thinking that creates the narratives, the stories, that we tell ourselves to give meaning to the world. Instead of artificial intelligence (AI) which keeps people asleep in the movie trilogy The Matrix (1999 and 2003) by simulating the outside world and thus preventing them from waking up to reality, in our world, she says, it’s psychopathic  oligarchs who keep us asleep by telling us narratives through the media and education systems that they control: “Society is made of narrative like the Matrix is made of code. Identity, language, etiquette, social roles, opinions, ideology, religion, ethnicity, philosophy, agendas, rules, laws, money, economics, jobs, hierarchies, politics, government, they’re all purely mental constructs which exist nowhere outside of the mental noises in our heads. If I asked you to point to your knee you could do so instantly and wordlessly, but if I asked you to point to the economy, for example, the closest you could come is using a bunch of linguistic symbols to point to a group of concepts. To show me the economy, you’d have to tell me a story.”23 She then draws her readers’ attention to the difference between the ‘real’ percepts, or phenomena, of the physical world and the mental constructs (concepts) we use to explain those percepts, and how those concepts are combined to create stories, narrative explanations. “Almost all of our mental energy goes into those mental narratives. They dominate our lives. And, for that reason, people who are able to control those narratives are able to control us. And they do.”24

Johnstone shows how we all manipulate those around us with narratives and how those with a certain amount of power in society ‘above us’ control us through narratives, and then there are those she calls the master manipulators, society’s oligarchs who “manipulate the narratives of entire societies.” The only thing that keeps rulers in place is our acceptance of the narratives they tell us. This was essentially the same view of manipulated ‘public opinion’ expressed by the Scottish philosopher David Hume 250 years ago: the many believe the stories told them by the oligarchical few and thus it is the many who keep the few in power. Johnstone: “Control the narratives of economics and commerce, and you control economics and commerce. Control the narratives about politics and government, and you control politics and government. This control is used by the controllers to funnel power to the oligarchs, in this way effectively turning society into one giant energy farm for the elite class. But it is possible to wake up from that narrative Matrix.” She then points to how we can ‘wake up’ through patient inner work on ourselves and how, when we do, we can become “a new creature altogether. The ideas, mental habits and ways of relating to the world which were formed in the Matrix are only useful for moving around inside of it. In order to relate to life outside of the power-promulgated narratives which comprise the very fabric of society, you’ve got to create a whole new operating system for yourself in order to move through life independently of the old programming designed to keep you asleep and controlled.”25

So far so good, but then come the following sentences: “Not just in the modern world, but as far back as history stretches when the power-serving belief systems of societal structure and religion were promoted by kings and queens of old, all of society, and all of ourselves, and indeed all of the thoughts in our heads, have been shaped by those in power to their benefit. This is the reality that we were born into, and our entire personality structure has been filtered through and shaped by it”.26 Here we have Johnstone’s own narrative, which tells us that everything we humans have ever been through our thinking is the product of selfish tyrants and oligarchs. Here is faulty thinking of the kind that unites both the political Left and Right, as one can find such an idea on the revolutionary Left as well as on the libertarian Right.  This idea in effect does away with the whole of history and the evolution of consciousness and labels it all as the story of oppression and the denial of freedom; it claims that history is irrelevant to our modern needs and must all be swept away. And indeed, Johnstone now says that once we’ve got clear of the programming, we are “ready to fight” because we feel “the rage” – rage against all the manipulation that has created this insane system of exploitation and inhumanity.

And here unfortunately, she departs from thinking and indulges in feeling, the kind of passionate feeling that can lead to social and political disasters such as the atrocities of the French Terror in the 1790s, of the Cultural Revolution in China in 1966-1976 and the killing fields in Cambodia in the 1970s: feel the rage! Away with the oppressors! Don’t speak to them, deny them a platform, drive them out of the public space, and if necessary, attack and kill them! BAMN (by all means necessary) is the slogan of many left-wing radicals in the USA and throughout the English-speaking world today. Although Johnstone does not herself call for violence, her sometimes aggressive and disdainful tone in her use of language implies it: “And then all you’ll want is to tear down the Matrix from its very foundations and plunge its controllers into irrelevance. You will set to work bringing down the propaganda prison that they have built up around your fellow humans in any way you can, bolt by bolt if you have to, because you know from your own experience that we are all capable of so much more than the puny gear-turning existence they’ve got everyone churning away at. You will despise the oligarchs for the obscene sacrilege that they have inflicted upon human majesty out of greed and insecurity, and you will make a mortal enemy of the entire machine that they have used to enslave our species.”27

This kind of rhetoric fails to comprehend that human beings achieve little without resistance and that evil exists in the world not for its own sake but for us to improve ourselves in our struggle to overcome it or at least not to be defeated by it. Evil, which is not freedom but a form of mental slavery,  thus paradoxically exists for the sake of developing freedom. As Rudolf Steiner once put it in a lecture in October 1918: “the purpose of these forces of evil which pervert the social order is to enable man to break through to the life of the spirit….If he did not open himself to these tendencies [which in our time, Steiner insisted, lie in each one of us not just in some external other – TB] he would not succeed in developing consciously the impulse to receive from the universe the spirit which henceforth must fertilise the whole sphere of cultural life if it is not to perish.”28

Obviously, Steiner is not saying here that we actually become more spiritual by opening ourselves to the forces of evil; he is not advocating Satanism or the like. He means that on this physical plane of existence in which separation is an intrinsic fact, darkness and evil are inevitable as inner corollaries of separation and that we must engage with them if we are to overcome this separation from one another i.e. if we are to bring the spiritual principles of unity and interrelationship into the physical world of separation and division so as to transform them. The light must not condemn the darkness from afar, so to speak, but must enter into it and enlighten it from within. This is how forces of evil and radical separation are overcome, not through seeking to avoid or smash them. Today, many of those who call themselves ‘progressive’ seek to wage a war on ‘hate’ while they themselves are often filled with a hypocritical hatred of those they call the ‘haters’, just as the American government has sought to wage a war on ‘terror’ by means of terror, such as drone strikes on Afghan villages or by threatening other countries with bellicose language. This is doomed to failure. Instead of hating and damning those we see as opponents in life, we need to recognise that they are actually  – despite themselves – our helpers, for they help us to improve ourselves and thus to improve society. On a more trivial level, this is also the moral function that sport can fulfil: we learn from our opponent, improve our skills and thus the game as a whole; we do not hate our opponent just because he is an opponent.

Fortunately, Johnstone shows that she has some inkling of this, for she does not finish in rage. She points out that ultimately, “all they will have to fight back against you is narrative. …They’ve got one weapon, and it doesn’t work on you.” And then she emerges with a positive conclusion: “…since it’s all narrative, anything is possible. Those who see this have the ability to plunge toward health and human thriving without any regard for the made-up reasons why such a thing is impossible, and plant seeds of light which sprout in unprecedented directions that never could have been predicted by someone plugged into to establishment how-it-is stories. Together, we can determine how society will be. We can re-write the rules. We are re-writing the rules. It’s begun already.” Perhaps the word “rules” here should be replaced by “narrative”, a narrative based on a real understanding of the evolution of human consciousness and not just of human bodies. Johnstone is right to point to the great importance of narrative, which is created by our thinking. We urgently need a new narrative of the history of the last 100 years, which will include a different narrative about relations between Russia and the West, if we are to prevent this second Cold War from turning into something infinitely worse.

Terry Boardman

1. See Andrew Cook, To Kill Rasputin (2005).
2. Markus Osterrieder, Welt im Umbruch – Nationalitätenfrage, Ordnungspläne und Rudolf Steiners
    Haltung im Ersten Weltkrieg (2014) p. 1316f.
4. See n. 2 above. The English translation of the book is still awaiting publication.
5. See C. Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment (1981); A.P. Baker, The Pilgrims of Great Britain – A Centennial History (2002); D. Bell, The Idea of Greater Britain – Empire and the Future of World  Order, 1860-1900 (2007); Paul A. Kramer, ‘Empires, Exceptions, and Anglo-Saxons: Race and Rule between the British and United States Empires, 1880-1910′ in The Journal of American History, Vol. 88, No. 4 (Mar., 2002), pp. 1315- 1353; https://isgp-studies.com/pilgrims-society-us-uk;

6. Quoted in Andreas Bracher ed., Kampf um den Russischen Kulturkeim (2014), p. 344.
7. See A.J.A. Morris, The Scaremongers – the Advocacy of War and Rearmament, 1896-1914 (1984).
8. John E. Kendle, The Round Table Movement and Imperial Union (1974) p. 110.
9. See C. Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, pp.133-4.
10. Quigley, pp. 227-8.
11. “The Five Eyes” go back to the secret formal “UKUSA Agreement” (5 March 1946) which is still the basis of UK and US military intelligence collaboration today. Canada joined the system in 1948, Australia and New Zealand in 1956. Although NATO allies collaborate with the Five, key aspects of  intelligence are shared only amongst the Five, which makes the English-speaking countries de facto, one unit. This was always the goal of Cecil Rhodes, Lord Milner and the Round Table: “Anglo-saxon unity”. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UKUSA_Agreement
12. Andrew Roberts, 30 Aug 2009 Daily Telegraph https://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-
13. See G.G.Preparata, Conjuring Hitler – How Britain and America Made The Third Reich (2005),
      pp. 228-244.
14. See Osterrieder, pp. 731f, 880-883, 1349-1353.
15. See http://buchanan.org/blog/did-hitler-want-war-2068
16. See Quigley, pp. 292-295.
17. Peter Tradowsky, Kaspar Hauser – the Struggle for the Spirit (1997), pp. 230-243.
18. https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1904/01/30/101384863.pdf
19.Charles Denby, a US diplomat with a focus on China: https://startrekprof.sdsu.edu/110/denby%20on%20philippines.htm
20. See n. 19.
21. Both Iraq and Libya under Saddam Hussein and Col. Gadaffi respectively made moves to drop trading oil in US dollars before their countries were attacked by the US and its allies in 2003 and 2011.
23. See n. 22. Johnstone may appear to demean mental constructs and perhaps even thinking itself here when she says that mental constructs, the product of thinking, “exist nowhere outside of the mental noises in our heads” and are unrelated to the ‘real world’ of objects, such as one’s knee. But one’s understanding of one’s body and of bodily pleasure and pain are intimately bound up with thinking, and her own solution to our socio-economic problems involves the products of thinking i.e. more creative narratives. Rudolf Steiner would insist those those better ‘narratives’ need to be objectively related to the phenomena they describe, that is, they need to be constructed by a thinking that gives a true conceptual account of the perceptual phenomena that are being perceived. For example,the concept of the threefold social organism is not a “mental construct” that “exists nowhere outside of the mental noises in our heads”. The ideas Steiner brought forward about social threefolding in 1917-1922 are derived from the actual threefold nature of the human being and from observation of the evolution of human society and consciousness over the past 5000 years. See his book Toward Social Renewal.
24. See n. 22.
25. See n. 22.
26. See n. 22.
27. See n. 22.
28. R. Steiner lecture, 26.10.1918 (Collected Works GA 185).