Case Study in Eventrics : Adolf Hitler

                “There is a tide in the affairs of men
                Which, taken in the flood, leads on to fortune”

                                                Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

In a previous post I suggested that the three most successful non-hereditary ‘power figures’ in Western history were Cromwell, Napoleon and Hitler. Since none of the three had advantages that came by birth, as, for example, Alexander the Great or Louis XIV did, the meteoric rise of these three persons suggests either very unusual abilities or very remarkable ‘luck’.
From the viewpoint of Eventrics, success depends on how well a particular person fits the situation and there is no inherent conflict between ‘luck’ and ability. Quite the reverse, the most important ‘ability’ that a successful politician, military commander or businessman can have is precisely the capacity to handle events, especially unforeseen ones. In other words success to a considerable extent depends on how well a person handles his or her ‘good luck’ if and when it occurs, or how well a person can transform ‘bad luck’ into ‘good luck’. Whether everyone gets brilliant opportunities that they fail to seize one doubts but, certainly, most of us are blind to the opportunities that do arise and, when not blind, lack the self-confidence to seize such an offered ‘chance’ and turn it to one’s advantage.
The above is hardly controversial though it does rule out the view that everything is determined in advance, or, alternatively, the exact opposite, that ‘more or less anything can happen at any time anywhere’. I take the commonsense view that there are certain tendencies that really exist in a given situation. It is, however, up to the individual to reinforce or make use of such ‘event-currents’ or, alternatively, to ignore them and, as it were, pass by on the other side like the Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The driving forces of history are not people but events and ‘event dynamics’; however, this does not reduce individuals to the status of puppets, far from it. Either through instinct or correct analysis (or a judicious mixture of the two) the successful person identifies a ‘rising’ event current, gets with it if it suits him or her, and abandons it abruptly when it ceases to be advantageous. This is easy enough to state, but supremely difficult to put into practice. Everyone who speculates on the Stock Exchange knows that the secret of success is no secret at all : it consists in buying  when the price of stock is low but just about to rise and selling when the price is high but just about to fall. For one Soros, there are a hundred thousand or maybe a hundred million ‘ordinary investors’ who either fail entirely or make very modest gains.
But why, one might ask, is it advantageous to identify and go with an ‘event trend’ rather than simply decide what you want to do and pursue your objective off your own bat? Because the trend will do a good deal of the work for you : the momentum of a rising trend is colossal, indeed for a while, seems to be unstoppable. Pit yourself against a rising trend and it will overwhelm you, identify yourself with it and it will take you along with a force equivalent to that of a million individuals. If you can spot coming trends accurately and go with them, you can succeed with only moderate intelligence, knowledge, looks, connections, what have you.

Is charisma essential for success?

It is certainly possible to succeed spectacularly without charisma since Cardinal Richelieu, the most powerful man in the France and Europe of his day, had none whereas Joan of Arc who had plenty had a pitifully short career. Colbert, finance minister of Louis XIV is another example; indeed, in the case of ministers it is probably better not to stick out too much from the mass, even to the extent of appearing a mediocrity.
Nonetheless, Richelieu and Colbert lived during an era when it was only necessary to obtain the support of one or two big players such as kings or popes, whereas, in a democratic era, it is necessary to inspire and fascinate millions of ‘ordinary people’. No successful modern dictator lacked charisma : Stalin, Mao-tse-tong, Hitler all had plenty and this made up for much else. Charisma, however, is not enough, or not enough if one wishes to remain in power : to do this, an intuitive or pragmatic grasp of the behaviour of event patterns is a sine qua non and this is something quite different from charisma.

Hitler as failure and mediocrity

 Many historians, especially British, are not just shocked but puzzled by Hitler ─ though less now than they were fifty years ago. For how could such an unprepossessing individual, with neither looks, polish, connections or higher education succeed so spectacularly? One British newspaper writer described Hitler, on the occasion of his first big meeting with Mussolini, as looking like “someone who wanted to seduce the cook”.
Although he had participated in World War I and shown himself to be a dedicated and brave ‘common soldier’, Hitler never had any experience as a commander on the battlefield even at the level of a platoon ─ he was a despatch runner who was told what to do (deliver messages) and did it. Yet this was the man who eventually got control of the greatest military machine in history and blithely disregarded the opinions of seasoned military experts, initially with complete success. Hitler also proved to be a vastly successful public speaker, but he never took elocution lessons and, when he started, even lacked the experience of handling an audience that an amateur  actor or stand-up comedian possesses.
Actually, Hitler’s apparent disadvantages proved to be more of a help than a hindrance once he had  begun to make his mark, since it gave his adversaries and rivals the erroneous impression  that he would be easy to manipulate and outwit. Hitler learned about human psychology, not by reading learned tomes written by Freud and Adler, but by eking out a precarious living in Vienna as a seller of picture postcards and sleeping in workingmen’s hostels. This was learning the hard way which, as long as you last the course (which the majority don’t), is generally the best way.
It is often said that Hitler was successful because he was ruthless. But ruthlessness is, unfortunately, not a particularly rare human trait, at any rate in the lower levels of a not very rich society. Places like Southern Italy or Colombia by all accounts have produced and continue to produce thousands or tens of thousands of exceedingly ruthless individuals, but how many ever get anywhere? At the other end of the spectrum, one could argue that it is impossible to be a successful politician without a certain degree of ruthlessness ─ though admittedly Hitler took it to virtually unheard of extremes. Even ‘good’ successful political figures such as Churchill were ruthless enough to happily envisage dragging neutral Norway into the war (before the Germans invaded), to authorise the deliberate bombing of civilian centres and even to approve in theory the use of chemical weapons. Nor did de Gaulle bother unduly about the bloody repercussions for the rural population that the activities of partisans would inevitably bring  about. Arguably, if people like Churchill and de Gaulle had not had a substantial dose of ‘ruthlessness’ (aka ‘commitment’), we would have lost the war long before the Americans ever got involved  ─ which is not, of course, to put such persons on a level with Hitler and Stalin.
To return to Hitler. Prior to the outbreak of WWI, Hitler, though by all accounts  already quite as ruthless and opinionated as he subsequently proved himself to be on a larger arena, was a complete failure. He had a certain, rather conventional, talent for pencil drawing and some vague architectural notions but that is about it. Whether Hitler would or could have made a successful architect, we shall never know since he was refused entry twice by the Viennese School of Architecture. He certainly retained a deep interest in the subject and did succeed in spotting and subsequently promoting an architect of talent, Speer. But there is no reason to think we would have heard of Hitler if he had been accepted as an architectural student and subsequently articled to a Viennese firm of Surveyors and Architects.
As for public speaking, Hitler didn’t do any in his Vienna pre-war days, only discovering his flair in Munich in the early twenties. And although Hitler enlisted voluntarily for service at the outbreak of  WWI, he was for many years actually a draft-dodger wanted for national service by Austria, his country of birth. Hardly a promising start for a future grand military strategist.

Hitler’s Decisive Moment : the Beer Hall Putsch

 Hitler did, according to the few accounts we have by people who knew him at the time, have boyhood dreams of one day becoming a ‘famous artist’ — but what adolescent has not? Certainly, Hitler did not, in  his youth and early manhood, see himself as a future famous political or military figure, far from it. Even when Hitler started his fiery speeches about Germany’s revival and the need for strong government, he did not at first cast himself in the role of ‘Leader’. On the contrary, it would seem that awareness of his own mission as saviour of the German nation came to him gradually and spasmodically. Indeed, one could argue that it was only after the abortive Munich Beer-Hall putsch that Hitler decisively took on this role : it was in a sense thrust on him.
The total failure of this rather amateurish plot to take over the government of Bavaria by holding a gun to the governor’s face and suchlike antics turned out to be the turning-point of his thinking, and of his life. In Quattrocento Italy it was possible to seize power in such a way ─ though only the Medici with big finance behind them really succeeded on a grand scale  ─ and similar coups have succeeded in modern Latin American countries. But in an advanced industrial country like Germany where everyone had the vote, such methods were clearly anachronistic. Even if Hitler and his supporters had temporarily got control of Munich, they would easily have been put down by central authority : they would have been seven day wonders and no more. It was this fiasco that decided Hitler to obtain power via the despised ballot box rather than the more glamorous but outmoded methods of an Italian condottieri.
The failed Beer-hall putsch landed Hitler in court and, subsequently in prison; and most people at the time thought this would be the end of him. However, Hitler, like Napoleon before him in Egypt after the destruction of his fleet, was a strong enough character not to be brought  down by the disaster but, on the contrary, to view it as a golden opportunity. This is an example of the ‘law’ of Eventrics that “a disadvantage, once turned into an advantage, is a greater advantage than a straightforward advantage”.
What were the advantages of the situation? Three at least. Firstly, Hitler now had a regional and soon a national audience for his views and he lost no time in making the court-room a speaker’s platform with striking success. His ability as a speaker was approaching its zenith : he had the natural flair and already some years of experience. Hitler was given an incredibly  lenient sentence and was even at one point thanked by the judge for his informative replies concerning Germany’s recent history! Secondly, while in prison, Hitler had the time to write Mein Kampf which, given his lax, bohemian life-style, he would probably have never got round to doing  otherwise. And his court-room temporary celebrity meant the book was sure to sell if written and published rapidly.
Thirdly, and perhaps most important of all, the various nascent extreme Right groups made little or no headway with the ‘leader’ in prison which confirmed them in the view that  Hitler was indispensable. Once out of prison, he found himself without serious competitors on the Right and his position stronger than ever.
But the most important outcome was simply the realization that the forces of the State were far too strong to be overthrown by strong-arm tactics. The eventual break with Röhm and the SA was an inevitable consequence of Hitler’s fateful decision to gain power within the system rather than by openly opposing it.

Combination of opposite abilities

 As a practitioner of Eventrics or ‘handler of events’, Hitler held two trump cards that are rarely dealt to the same individual. Firstly, even though his sense of calling seems to have come relatively late, by the early nineteen-thirties he was entirely convinced that he was a man of destiny. He is credited with the remarkable statement, very similar to one made by Cromwell, “I follow the path set by Providence with the precision and assurance of a sleepwalker”. It was this messianic side that appealed to the masses of ordinary people, and it was something that he retained right up to the end. Even when the Russian armies were at the gates of Berlin, Hitler could still inspire people who visited him in the Bunker. And Speer recounts how, even  at Germany’s lowest ebb, he overheard (without being recognized) German working people in a factory repeating like a mantra that “only Hitler can save us now”.
However, individuals who see themselves as chosen by the gods, usually fail because they do not pay sufficient attention to ordinary, mundane technicalities. Richelieu said that someone who aims at high power should not be ashamed to concern himself with trivial details  ─ an excellent remark. Napoleon has been called a ‘map-reader of genius’ and to prepare for the Battles of Ulm and Austerlitz, he instructed Berthier “to prepare a card-index showing every unit of the Austrian army, with its latest identified location, so that the Emperor could check the Austrian order of battle from day to day” (Note 1). Hitler had a similar capacity for attention to detail, supported by a remarkable memory for facts and figures — there are many records of him reeling off correct data about the range of guns and the populations of certain regions to his amazed generals.
This ‘combination of contraries’ also applies to Hitler as a statesman. Opponents and many subsequent historians could never quite decide whether Hitler, from the beginning, aimed for world domination, or whether he simply drifted along, waiting to see where events would take him. In reality, as Bullock rightly points out, these contradictions are only apparent : “Hitler was at once fanatical and cynical, unyielding in his assertion of will power and cunning in calculation” (Bullock, Hitler and the Origins on the Second World War). This highly unusual combination of two opposing tendencies is the key to Hitler’s success. As Bullock again states, “Hitler’s foreign policy… combined consistency of aim with complete opportunism in method and tactics. (…) Hitler frequently improvised, kept his options open to the last possible moment and was never sure until he got there which of several courses of action he would choose. But this does not alter the fact that his moves followed a logical (though not a predetermined) course ─ in contrast to Mussolini, an opportunist who snatched eagerly at any chance that was going, but never succeeded in combining even his successes into a coherent policy” (Bullock, p. 139).
Certainly, sureness of ultimate aim combined with flexibility in day to day management is a near infallible recipe for conspicuous success. Someone who merely drifts along may occasionally obtain a surprise victory but will be unable to build on it; someone who is completely rigid in aim and means will not  be able to adapt to, and take advantage of, what is unforeseen and unforeseeable. Clarity of goal and unshakeable conviction is the strategic part of Practical Eventrics while the capacity to respond rapidly to the unforeseen belongs to the tactical side.

Why did Hitler ultimately fail?

 Given the favourable political circumstances and Hitler’s unusual abilities, the wonder is, not that he lasted as long as he did, but that he eventually failed. On a personal level, there are two reasons for this. Firstly, Hitler’s racial theories, while they originally helped him to power, eventually proved much more of a drawback than an advantage. For one thing, since Hitler regarded ‘Slavs’ as inferior, this conviction unnecessarily alienated large populations in Eastern Europe, many of whom were originally favourable to German intervention since they had had enough of Stalin. Moreover, Hitler allowed ideological and personal prejudices to influence his choice of subordinates : rightly suspicious of the older Army generals but jealous of brilliant commanders like von Manstein and Guderian, he ended up with a General Staff of supine mediocrities.
Secondly, Hitler, though he had an excellent intuitive grasp of overall strategy, was a poor tactician. Not only did he have no actual experience of command on the battlefield but, contrary to popular belief, he was easily rattled and unable to keep a clear head in emergencies.
Jomini considered that “the art of war consists of six distinct parts:

  1. Statesmanship in relation to war
  2. Strategy, or the art of properly directing masses upon the theatre of war, either for defence or invasion.
  3. Grand Tactics.
  4. Logistics, or the art of moving armies.
  5. Engineering ─ the attack and defence of frotifications.
  6. Minor tactics.”
    Jomini, The Art of War p. 2

Hitler certainly ticks the first three boxes. But certainly not (4), Logistics. Hitler tended to override his highly efficient Chief of General Staff, Halder, whereas Napoleon always listened carefully to what Halder’s equivalent, Berthier, had to say. According to Liddell Hart, the invasion of Russia failed, despite the high quality of the commanders and fighting men, because of an error in logistics.
Hitler lost his chance of victory because the mobility of his army was based on wheels instead of on tracks. On Russia’s mud-roads its wheeled transport was bogged when the tanks could move on. If the panzer forces had been provided with tracked transport they could have reached Russia’s vital centres by the autumn in spite of the mud” (Liddel-Hart, History of the Second World War )  On such mundane details does the fate of empires and even of the world often depend.
As for (5), the attack on fortifications, it had little importance in World War II though the long-drawn out siege of Leningrad exhausted resources and troops and should probably have been abandoned. Finally, on (6), what Jomini calls ‘minor tactics’, Hitler was so poor as to be virtually incompetent. By ‘minor tactics’, we should understand everything relating to the actual movement of troops on the battlefield (or battle zone) ─ the area in which Napoleon and Alexander the Great were both supreme.  Hitler was frequently indecisive and vacillating as well as nervy, all fatal qualities for a military commander.
On two occasions, Hitler made monumental blunders that cost him the war. The first was the astonishing decision to hold back the victorious tank units just as they were about to sweep into Dunkirk and cut off the British forces. And the second was Hitler’s rejection of  Guderian’s plan for a headlong drive towards Moscow before winter set in; instead, following conventional Clausewitzian principles,  Hitler opted for a policy of encirclement and head-on battle. Given the enormous man-power of the Russians and their scorched earth policy, this was a fatal decision.
Jomini, as opposed to Clausewitz, recognized the importance of statesmanship in the conduct of a war, something that professional army officers and even commanders are prone to ignore. Whereas Lincoln often saw things that his generals could not, and on occasion successfully overrided them  because he had a sounder long-term view, Hitler, a political rather than a military man, introduced far too much statesmanship into the conduct of war.
It has been plausibly argued, especially by Liddel Hart, that the decision to halt the tank units before Dunkirk was a political rather than a military decision. Blumentritt, operational planner for General Rundstedt, said, at a later date, that “the ‘halt’ had been called for more than military reasons, it was part of a political scheme to make peace easier to reach. If the British Expeditionary Force had been captured at Dunkirk, the British might have felt that their honour had suffered a stain which they must wipe out. By letting it escape, Hitler hoped to conciliate them” (Liddel Hart, History of the Second World War I p. 89-90). This did make some kind of sense : a rapid peace settlement with Britain would have wound up the Western campaign and freed Hitler’s hands to advance eastwards which had seemingly always been his intention. However, if this interpretation is correct, Hitler made a serious miscalculation, underestimating Britain’s fighting spirit and inventiveness.

Hitler’s abilities and disabilities

 It would take us too far afield from the field of Eventrics proper to go into the details of Hitler’s political, economic and military policies. My overall feeling is that Hitler was a master in the political domain, time and again outwitting his internal and external rivals and enemies, and that he had an extremely good perception of Germany’s economic situation and what needed to be done about it. But he was an erratic and often incapable military commander ─ for we should not forget that, following the resignation of von Brauchitsh, Hitler personally supervised the entire conduct of the war in the East (and everywhere else eventually). This is something like the reverse of the conventional assessment of Hitler so is perhaps worth explaining.
Hitler is credited with the invention of Blitzkrieg, a new way of waging war and, in particular, with one of the most successful campaigns in military history, the invasion of France, when the tank units moved in through the Ardennes, thought to be impassible. The original idea was in reality not Hitler’s but von Manstein’s (who got little credit for it) though Hitler did have the perspicacity to see the merits of this risky and unorthodox plan of attack which the German High Command unanimously rejected. It is also true that Hitler took a special interest in the tank and does seem to have some good ideas regarding tank design.
However, Hitler never seems to have rid himself completely of the conventional Clausewitzian idea that wars are won by large-scale confrontations of armed men, i.e. by modern ‘pitched battles’. Practically all (if not all) the German successes depended on surprise, rapidity of execution and artful manoeuvre ─ that is, by precisely the avoidance of direct confrontation. Thus the invasion of France, the early stages of the invasion of Russia, Rommel in North Africa and so on. When the Germans fought it out on a level playing field, they either lost as at Al Alamein or achieved ‘victories’ that were so costly as to be more damaging than defeats as in the latter part of the Russian campaign.  Hitler was in fact only a halfway-modernist in military strategy. “The school of Fuller and Basil Liddel Hart [likewise Guderian and Rommel] moved away from using manoeuvre to bring the enemy’s army to battle and destroy it. Instead, it [the tank] should be used in such a way as to numb the enemy’s command, control, and communications and bring about victory through disintegration rather than destruction” (Messenger, Introduction to Jomini’s Art of War).
As to the principle of Bitzkrieg (Lightning War) itself, though it doubtless appealed to Hitler’s imagination, it was in point of fact forced on him by economic necessity : Germany just did not have the resources to sustain a long war. It was make or break. And much the same went for Japan.
Hitler’s duplicity and accurate reading of his opponents’ minds in the realm of politics needs no comment. But what is less readily recognized is how well he understood the general economic situation. Hitler had doubtless never read Keynes ─ though his highly capable Economics Minister, Schacht, doubtless had. But with his talent for simplification, Hitler realized early on that Germany laboured under two crippling economic disadvantages : she did not produce enough food for her growing population and, as an industrial power, lacked indispensable natural resources especially oil and quality iron-ore. So where to obtain  these and a lot more essential  items? By moving eastwards, absorbing the cereal-producing areas of the Ukraine and getting hold of the oilfields of the Caucasus. This was the policy exposed to the German High Command in the so-called ‘Hossbach Memorandum’ to justify the invasion of Russia to an unenthusiastic general staff.
The policy of finding Lebensraum in the East was based on a ruthless but shrewd and essentially correct analysis of the economic situation in Europe at the time. But precisely because Germany would need even more resources in a wartime situation, victory had to be rapid, very rapid. The gamble nearly succeeded : as a taster, Hitler’s armies  overwhelmed Greece and Yugoslavia in a mere six weeks and at first looked set to do much the same in Russia in three months. Perhaps if Hitler had followed Guderian’s plan of an immediate all-out tank attack on Moscow, instead of getting bogged down in Southern Russia and failing to take Stalingrad, the gamble would actually have paid off though fortunately for the Russians it did not.

Hitler: Summary from the point of view of Eventrics

The main points to recall from this study of Hitler as a ‘handler of events’ are the following:

  1. The methods chosen must fit the circumstances, (witness Hitler’s switch to a strategy based on the ballot box rather than the revolver after the Beer-Hall putsch).
  2. An apparent defeat can be turned into an opportunity, a disadvantage into an advantage (e.g. Hitler’s trial after the Beer-hall putsch)
  3. Combining inflexibility of ultimate aim with extreme flexibility on a day-to-day basis is a near invincible combination (Hitler’s conduct of foreign affairs during the Thirties);
  4. It is disastrous to allow ideological and personal prejudices to interfere with the conduct of a military campaign, and worse still to become obsessed with a specific objective (e.g. Hitler’s racial views, his obsession with taking Stalingrad).

 

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POWER

Power ─ what is power? In physics it is the rate of ‘doing Work’ but this meaning has little or no connection to ‘power’ in the political or social sense.
Power is the capacity to constrain other people to do your bidding whether or not they wish to do so. This sounds pretty negative and indeed power has had a bad sense ever since the Romantics from whom we have never really recovered. Hobbes spent a good deal of his life trying to persuade the ‘powers that be’ of his time, i.e. King and/or Parliament, to make themselves absolute ─ even though he himself was exactly the sort of freewheeling and freethinking individual no absolute ruler would want to have as a citizen. But Hobbes lived through the Civil War which the Romantics didn’t. Prior to the nineteenth century most people of all classes were more afraid of the breakdown or absence of power (‘chaos’, ‘anarchy’) than of ‘abuse of power’: indeed they would find modern attitudes not only misguided but scarcely comprehensible.
If you wish to live in society, there has to be some way of constraining people since otherwise everyone pulls in different directions and nothing gets done. If you don’t believe me, go and spend a few weeks or even days in a situation where no one has power. I have lived in ‘communities’ and they are intolerable for this very reason. What usually happens is that someone soon steps into the power vacuum and he (less often she) is the person who shouts loudest, pushes hardest, is the most unscrupulous and generally the most hateful ─ though sometimes also the most efficient. In more traditional communities it is not so much the more assertive as the ‘older and wiser’ who wield the power, the obvious example being the Quakers. This sounds a lot better but in my experience it isn’t that much of an improvement. People like the Quakers who forego the use of physical force tend to be highly manipulative ─ they have to be ─  and it would be quite wrong to believe that a power structure in the Quakers or the Amish does not exist for it certainly does. In fact no society can exist for more than a month without a power structure, i.e. without someone (whether one or many) holding power.

Necessity of power
So, my thesis is the unoriginal one that some form of power invested in specific  human beings (whether initially elected or not) is inevitable and not necessarily a bad thing. Lord Acton was being extremely silly when he made the endlessly repeated statement “All power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” with the implication is that it is better to keep away from power altogether. Although I don’t know much about Lord Acton’s life, I can be pretty sure that he didn’t know what it was like to be powerless. One could just as well say, “All lack of power corrupts, absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely”. It is lack of physical or financial muscle that makes people devious, treacherous, deceitful : one more or less has to be like this to survive. And it is simply not true that ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’. You can’t get much nearer to absolute power than the position of the Roman Emperor. But Rome produced one or two quite good Emperors, e.g. Augustus himself and Hadrian, also one entirely admirable, indeed saintlike (though woefully ineffective) one, Marcus Aurelius. President Obama has currently more power in his hands than anyone who has ever existed, at least in the  military sense, and although not everyone agrees with his policies not even his enemies have accused him of being corrupt or corrupted by power.

Liberty to Order
One alarming and unexpected aspect of the dynamics of power is that when an existing power structure is overthrown, the ‘order’ that emerges from the usually brief period of chaos is a good deal more restrictive than what preceded it, witness the Commonwealth under Cromwell, Russia under Stalin &c. &c. In the ‘mini-revolution’ of Paris in May 1968, I and one or two others, watched open-mouthed, hardly believing what we were witnessing,  as a single individual, in whom at one stage most of us had full confidence, concentrated all the power of an occupied University faculty into his hands exactly like Robespierre or Stalin. And he did it without striking a blow.
Actually, such a dénouement is virtually inevitable ─ or at any rate  the danger of such a development will always be there. Immediately after a revolution there is usually a counter-attack by the ousted elite, so the revolutionaries find themselves with their backs to the wall. In such a situation, it is survival that counts, not liberty ─ because if you, or the social order you represent, don’t survive, then there won’t be any more liberty either, it will just be ancien régime all over again, only worse. So the revolutionaries enact repressive legislation to protect themselves, legislation which is rarely repealed when things eventually calm down.

Power and Eventrics
Why am I writing a post about power on this site? Because, as a friend has just this very day reminded me, I must beware of giving the impression that ‘Eventrics’, the theory of events and their interactions, only deals with  invisible ‘ultimate events’, equally invisible ‘Event Capsules’ and generally is about as irrelevant to everyday life as nuclear physics. Ultimate Event Theory is the microscopic branch of Eventrics but the theory applies right across the board and it may be that its strength will be in the domain of social thinking and power politics. Just as the physics of matter in bulk is very different from the physics of quarks and electrons, that part of Eventrics that deals with macro-events, i.e. with massive repeating bundles of ultimate events that behave as if they were independent entities, has on the face of it little in common with micro-eventrics (though presumably ultimately grounded in it).
So what has the Theory of Events and their Interactions to say about power? Well, firstly that it is events and their internal dynamism that drive history, not physical forces or even persons. Mechanics, electro-magnetism and so on are completely irrelevant to human power politics and indeed up to a point the less science you know the more successful you are likely to be  as an administrator  or politician. Biology is a little more relevant than physics because of the emphasis on struggle but it is all far too crude and ridiculously reductionist to apply directly to human societies. Human individuals certainly do not strive to acquire power in order to push their genes around more extensively : Casanova pushed his around more effectively than Hitler, Mussolini and Cromwell combined. And the widespread introduction of birth-control in Western societies demonstrates that modern human beings are certainly not under the thumb of their ‘selfish genes’ (as even Dawkins belatedly admits). Nor is this the only example. Just as virtue really is its own reward, at least sometimes, so apparently is the pursuit of power, and indeed at the end of the day so are most things.

Irrelevance of Contemporary Science to Power Politics
More fashionable contemporary ‘sciences’ such as complexity theory do  have something of interest to say about human affairs but their proponents have yet to make any predictions of import that have come true as far as I know. The financial crash of 2008, only anticipated by a handful of actual investors and traders such as Nessim Taleb and Soros (the former even pinpointed where the bubble would start, Fanny Mac and Fanny Mae), makes a mockery of the application of mathematics to economics and indeed of economics in toto as an exact science.
The reason for official science’s impotence when addressing human affairs is very  easy to explain :  almost all living scientists are employed either by universities or by the State. That is, they have never fought it out in the cut-throat world of business nor even, with one or two exceptions, dirtied their hands with investment, have never been under fire on a battlefield or even played poker for money. But it is in business, warfare and gambling that you can detect the ‘laws’ of power inasmuch as there are any, i.e. how to acquire power when you don’t have it and how to keep it when you do. Hitler was an auto-didact dismissed as a buffoon by the Eton and Oxbridge brigade that staffed the Foreign Affairs Department then as now : but he ran rings around them because he had learned his power politics strategy at the bottom, in the hard school of Austrian YMCA Hostels and German beer-halls.

Qualitative ‘Laws of Power’
There are most likely no specific laws of power in the sense that there are ‘laws of motion’ but there are certain recurrent features well worth mentioning. They are ‘qualitative’ rather than ‘quantitative’ but this is as it should be. It is stupid to put numbers on things like fashions and revolutions because it is not the specifics that matter, only the general trend. Indeed, the person who is obsessed with figures is likely to miss the general trend because the actual shapes and sizes don’t look familiar. Rutherford’s much quoted remark that “Qualitative is just poor quantitative” may have its uses in his domain (nuclear physics), but in human affairs it is more a matter of “quantitative is lazy or incompetent qualitative”.

Tipping Points and Momentum
So what noticeable trends are there? One very general feature, which sticks out a mile, is the ‘tipping point’ or ‘critical mass’.  Malcolm Gladwell, a non-scientist and a qualitative rather than quantitative thinker, wrote a justly praised bestseller called The Tipping Point, which demonstrates his sound understanding of the mechanisms at work. A movement, fashion, revolution &c. must seemingly attain a certain point : if it does not attain it, the movement will fail, fade away. If it does attain this point, the movement takes off and it does not take off in a ‘linear’ fashion but in a runaway ‘exponential’ fashion, at least for a while. Anyone who has lived through a period of severe social unrest or revolution knows what I am talking about. My own experience is based on the May 1968 ‘Student Revolution’ in Paris. But much the same goes for a new style in clothes or shoes : indeed fashions have something alarming precisely because they demonstrate power, sudden, naked power which sweeps aside all opposition. The fashion industry is in its way as frightening as the armaments industry and for the same reasons.
OK. There is a ‘tipping point’ (generally only one) and, following it, a consequent sudden burst of momentum : these are the first two items worth signalling. And these two features seem to have very little to do with particular individuals. It is the events themselves that do the work : the events pull the people along, not the reverse. Companies that found they had launched a trend overnight ─ Gladwell cites the Hush Puppies craze ─ were often the first to be surprised by their own success. As for political movements, I know for a fact, since I was part of the milieu, that the French left-wing intelligentsia was staggered out of its wits when a few scuffles in the Sorbonne for some reason turned almost overnight into the longest general strike ever known in a modern industrialized country.

Key Individuals
This general point (that it is not human beings that direct history) needs some qualification, however. There are indeed individuals who unleash a vast movement by a single act but this happens much less often than historians pretend, and usually the result is not at all what was intended. Princeps, the high-school boy who shot the Archduke at Sarajevo and precipitated WWI did have a political agenda of a kind but he neither wished nor intended to cause a European war.

To recap. We already have a few features to look out for. (1) tipping point; (2) sudden, vertiginous take-off when there is a take-off; (3) lack of anyone instigating or controlling the movement but (4) certain individuals who achieve what seems to be impossible by simply ‘moving with the events’.

Machiavelli

Today we tend to trace the study of power back to Machiavelli and certainly it would be foolish to downplay his importance. Nonetheless, the historical situation in which Machiavelli worked and thought, Quattrocento Italy, is completely different from the modern world, at any rate what we call the ‘advanced’ modern world. Would-be rulers in Machiavelli’s time acquired power either by being promoted by some clique or by direct annexation and murder. But no 20th century head of an important state acquired power by a coup d’etat : he or she  generally acquired it by the ballot box — and incredibly this even applies to Hitler who obtained the votes of a third of the German population. And though Machiavelli does have some useful things to say about the importance of getting the common people on your side, he has nothing to say about the power of political oratory and the use of symbolism.
Possibly, the sort of brazenness that Machiavelli advocates actually did work in the Italian Quattrocento world of small city-states and condottieri. But even then it would certainly not have worked in any of the larger states. No one who aims at  big power admits duplicity or advocates its use; if you are ambitious, the first person you usually have to convince is yourself and this is no easy task. You have to carry out a sort of self-cheat whereby you simultaneously believe you really are acting for the general good while simultaneously  pursuing a ruthlessly egotistical policy. This is not quite hypocrisy (though perilously close to it): it is rather the Method actor temporarily ‘living the role’ ─ and running the risk of getting caught in his own noose. Indeed it is because Machiavelli has a sort of  basic honesty, and hence integrity, that no clear-sighted upstart ruler would want to give such a man high office ─ he would either be utterly useless or a serious danger because too formidable. And, interestingly, the Medicis did not employ Machiavelli although he was certainly angling to be taken on by them.

The Two Ways to Power
There seem to be two ways to achieve power which are interestingly summed up in the codeword employed by the greatest military power of all time, America, when it invaded Panama : Shock and Awe. (I think that was the codeword but if not it is very apposite.)
Shock and awe are distinct and even to some extent contradictory. By ‘shock’ we should understand showing the enemy, or anyone in fact, that you have the means to do a lot of damage and, crucially, that you are prepared to go the whole way if you have to. It can actually save lives if you make an initial almighty show of force ─ exactly what the US Army did in Panama ─ since the opposition will most likely cave in at once without risking a battle. (This doesn’t always work, however : the bombing raids on civilian targets of both the English and the Germans during WWII seem to have stiffened opposition rather than weakened it.)
Awe has a religious rather than a military sense though the great commanders of the ancient world, Alexander, Caesar, Hannibal, had the sort of aura we associate more with religious leaders. Time and again isolated figures with what we vaguely, but not inaccurately, call ‘charisma’ have suddenly attained enormous power and actually changed the course of history : the obvious example being Joan of Arc. Hitler, having failed to ‘shock’ the country, or even Munich, by holding a revolver to the Governor of Bavaria (literally) and rampaging around the streets with a handful of toughs, was sharp enough to realize that he must turn to awe instead, using his formidable gifts of oratory to obtain power via  the despised ballot-box. Mahomet did fight but no one doubts that it was his prophetic rather than strictly military abilities that returned him against all odds to Mecca.

The Paradox of Christ
What of Christ? It seems clear that there were at the time in Palestine several movements that wished to rid the country of the Romans (even though they were by the standards of the time quite tolerant masters) and to revive the splendours of the House of David. There is some hesitation and a  certain ambivalence in Christ’s answer under interrogation which suggests he had not entirely made up his mind on the crux of the matter, i.e. whether he did or did not intend to establish himself as ‘King of the Jews’. He did not deny the attribution but qualified it by adding “My kingdom is not of this world.” This is a clever answer to give since it was only Christ’s political pretensions that concerned the Romans, represented here by  Pontius Pilate. It is not an entirely satisfactory answer, however. If a ‘kingdom’ is entirely of, or in, ‘another world’, one might justifiably say, “What’s the use of it, then?” Christianity has in fact changed the everyday here-and-now world enormously, in some ways for the better, in some ways not. And Pontius Pilate’s blunt refusal to remove the inscription, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” suggests that Pilate thought the Jews could have done a lot worse than have such a man as ‘king’.
It seems probable that some of Christ’s followers, including one disciple, wanted to nudge Christ into taking up a more openly political stance which, subsequently, it would  have been difficult to draw back from. According to this interpretation, Judas did not betray Christ for money or protection : he tried to bring about an open conflict ─ and he very nearly succeeded since Peter drew his sword and struck off the servant of the High Priest’s ear in the Gethsemane stand-off. But Christ seemingly had by now (after a final moment of intercession and prayer) decided to stick entirely to ‘awe’ as a means of combat with the forces of evil (in which he clearly believed). In a sense, Christ was not so much a victim as a resolute and exceedingly skilful strategist. No one expected him to give in and actually be put to death as a common felon, and for a moment Christ himself seems to have been hoping for a miracle hence the cry “Why, oh why hast Thou forsaken me?” (a quotation from Isaiah incidentally). It has been suggested by certain commentators  that Christ was using ‘goodness’ and the respect and awe it inspires to actually take the ‘Evil One’ by surprise and, as it were, wrong-foot him. Seemingly, there are suggestions of this ‘unorthodox way of combatting evil’ in the writings of the Old Testament prophets which Christ knew off by heart, of course.           And, incredibly, the stratagem worked since Christ’s small band of followers rallied and went from strength to strength whereas the other Jewish would-be Messiahs of the time who really did take up arms against the Romans perished completely ─ and provoked the greatest disaster in Jewish history, the complete destruction of the Temple and the diaspora. Certainly there are moments when ‘awe’ without shock works. Saint  Francis, Fox, the founder of the Quakers, Gandhi and Martin Luther King have all used the ‘awe’ that a certain kind of disinterested goodness inspires to excellent effect. It is, however, a perilous strategy since you have to be prepared to ‘go the whole way’ if necessary, i.e. to die, and the public is not likely to be easily fooled on this point.

“Be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves”
The case of Christ is a very interesting case viewed from the standpoint of Eventrics. But before examining it in more detail, may I make it clear that by analysing the behaviour of figures such as Christ or Mahomet in terms of event strategy, no offence to religious people is intended. Eventrics, like all sciences is ethically neutral : it merely  studies, or purports to study what goes on. But as a matter of fact, most great religious leaders had a pretty good grasp of day to day tactics as well. Charisma by itself is not enough, and Christ himself said, “Be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves”.
The trouble with the ‘innocent’ is that they are usually completely ineffective, either because they don’t understand Realpolitik or consider it beneath them. But there is actually not a lot of point in being ‘good’ if you don’t actually do any good ─ at any rate from society’s point of view. And there is a way of getting things done which is identical whether you are good or bad. Nor need the ‘good’ person feel himself or herself to be as much at a disadvantage as he usually does. Bad people themselves have weak points : they tend to assume everyone else is as selfish and unscrupulous as they themselves are and in consequence make catastrophic errors of judgement. The really dangerous bad person is the one who understands ordinary people’s wish to be ‘good’, at least occasionally, ‘good’ in the sense of unselfish, ready to devote oneself to a higher cause and so on. Hitler was able to simultaneously play on people’s baser instincts but also on their better instincts, their desire not only to be of service to their country but to sacrifice themselves for it (Note 1).

The paradox of Christ
Christ at the zenith of his mission was swept along by what seemed a well-nigh irresistible tide of events fanned by the growing irritation with Roman rule, the preachings of holy men like John the Baptist, widespread  expectations of a sudden miraculous cataclysm that would wind up history and bring about the Jewish Golden Age, and so on. Christ was borne along by this current : it took him into the lion’s den, Jerusalem itself, where he was acclaimed by an adoring multitude.
So far, so good. The tide was strong but not quite strong enough, or so Christ judged. The most difficult thing for someone who has a string of successes behind him is to pull out at the right moment, and very few people are capable of doing this since the power of the event-train not only exerts itself on spectators but above all on the protagonist himself. He or she gets caught in his own noose, which only proves the basic law of Eventrics that it is events that drive history not the person who directs them, or thinks he does.
Over and above any moral priority which puts pacifism higher than combat, or a desire to broaden his message to reach out to the Gentiles, on the strictly tactical level Christ seemingly judged that the Jewish resistance movement was not strong enough to carry the day against the combined force of the official priesthood and Rome. So he decided to combat in a different way ─ by apparently giving in. He withdrew deliberately and voluntarily from the onward surge of events and, miraculously, this unexpected strategy worked (but only posthumously).
Napoleon made a fatal mistake when he invaded Russia, as did Hitler, and both for basically the same reasons (though the case of Hitler is more problematical) : they had swum along with a tide of events that took them to the pinnacle of worldly power but were unable, or unwilling, to see that the moment had come to pull out. In a roughly similar situation, Bismarck, a far less charismatic leader than either Napoleon or Hitler, proved he was a far better practitioner of Eventrics. Having easily overwhelmed Denmark and crushed Austria, Bismarck halted, made a very moderate peace settlement with Austria, indeed an absurdly generous one, because he had the wit to realize he required at least the future neutrality and non-intervention of Austria for his larger aims of creating a united Germany under Prussian leadership and prosecuting a successful war with France. As H.A.L. Fisher writes, “There is no more certain test of statesmanship than the capacity to resist the political intoxication of victory.”
It is the same thing with gambling. Despite all the tut-tutting of scientists and statisticians who never risk anything and know nothing about the strange twists and turns of human events, I am entirely convinced that there really is such a thing as a ‘winning streak’, since successive events can and do reinforce each other ─ indeed this is one of the most important basic assumptions of Eventrics. What makes gamblers lose is not that they believe in such chimeras as ‘runs’ or ‘winning streaks’ : they lose because they do not judge when it is the right moment to leave the table, or if they do judge rightly do not have the strength of character to act on this belief. They are caught up by the events and taken along with them, and thus become helpless victims of events. There is I believe a Chinese expression about ‘riding’ events and this is the correct metaphor. A skilful rider gives the horse its head but doesn’t let it bolt ─ and if it shows an irresistible inclination to do so,  he jumps off smartly. This gives us the double strategy of the practitioner of Eventrics : go with the tide of events when it suits you and leave it abruptly when, or better still just before, it turns against you. The ‘trend’ is certainly not “always your friend” as the Wall Street catchphrase goes. The successful investor is the person who detects a rising tide a little bit earlier than other people, goes with it, and then pulls out just before the wave peaks. Timing is everything.     SH

[This post appeared on the related site www.ultimateeventtheory.com] 

Note 1  Curiously, at least in contemporary Western society, there is not only very little desire to be ‘good’, but even to appear to be good. Bankers and industrialists in the past presented themselves to the public as benefactors, and some of them actually were (once they had made their pile): this is a million miles from the insolent cocksureness of “Greed is good”. We have thus an unprecedented situation. People who not only lack all idealism but scorn it are very difficult to manipulate because it is not clear what emotional buttons to push. Today Hitler would never get anywhere at all, not just because his racial theories don’t really hold water but, more significantly, because most people would just laugh at all this high-sounding talk about the “fatherland” and “serving your country”. This clearly is a good thing (that Hitler wouldn’t get anywhere today), but one wonders whether a rolling human cannon, a lynch mob looking for someone to lynch (anyone will do) may not turn out to be an even greater danger. In terms of Eventrics, we now have large numbers of people literally “at the mercy of events” in the sense that there are today no ringleaders, no people calling the shots, no conductors of orchestras, only a few cheerleaders making a lot of noise on the sidelines. The resulting human mass ceases to be composed of individuals and event dynamics takes over, for good or ill. The charismatic power figure has himself become outdated, irrelevant : it is Facebook and Google that control, or rather represent, the future of humanity but who controls Facebook and Google?