Archives for category: Hitler

                             “There is a tide in the affairs of men,
                            Which taken in the flood leads on to fortune;
                            Omitted, all the voyage of their life
                            Is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

                                                         Julius Caesar, IV. 3

Eventrics, like ordinary physics, divides into two parts: macro and micro. The micro part is covered in Ultimate Event Theory while macro-Eventrics, or just Eventrics for short, deals with ‘bulk events’, the only ones we perceive directly. As in physics, it is not at all clear whether the interplay of events at the macro-level is, or is not, ultimately reducible to behaviour at the micro level. In what follows, I shall for the moment simply take for granted that there are such things as ‘individuals’, ‘society’, ‘historical forces’ and so on, without attempting to ‘explain’ them in terms of more basic entities.
Nonetheless, the focus remains firmly fixed on ‘events’ (as opposed to persons or processes). In particular, it is assumed that particular bundles of complex macro-events have an intrinsic momentum that is to a considerable extent independent of the personalities involved. This does not, however, mean that individuals or close-knit associations of individuals are powerless, quite the reverse. The successful individual  ‘goes with the current’ when it suits him and immediately abandons it when it ceases to be favourable. Moreover, depending on where one is situated, some control over the direction of the current is possible: as the 19th century diplomat, Talleyrand, put it “L’homme supérieur épouse les évènements pour les conduire” (‘The great man welcomes events in order to redirect their course’) (Note 1).
The most important question in ‘Eventrics’ is to determine   whether there exists a completely general method for dealing with whatever one is confronted with, something that can be applied,  with appropriate modifications, to the specific context right across the board. Such a life-skill is what the Chinese Taoists referred to as the ‘tao’ (tao literally means ‘way’ or ‘path’). If there really is such a method, it follows that, when examining ‘world-historical figures’, we should expect to find very similar defining circumstances, roughly similar life trajectories and, above all, similar ‘event-strategies’. Is this the case? 


We start by asking to what extent conquerors and world-historical figures foreshadow their future greatness (good or bad) at an early age? Surprisingly, the answer seems to be ‘not very much’. The early lives of  Abraham Lincoln or Hitler, even Julius Caesar, showed no particular promise; the sense that they, and people like them, were destined to be world-movers and world-shakers often only came with maturity, and even then somewhat by accident (Note 2). As we know, Hitler was twice refused entry to the Viennese School of Architecture for lack of  talent and, incredibly for a future war leader and strategist, he started his military career as an Austrian draft dodger ─ though he volunteered promptly enough when World War I broke out. Lincoln was an ungainly, self-educated man from the backwoods who, though a reasonably successful lawyer, only got the Republican Presidential nomination because the support for the other, more popular, candidates was evenly divided. At the age of forty, Oliver Cromwell was a provincial squire, holding no office, local or national, and not even possessing the land on which he grazed his cattle. As for the Duke of Wellington ─ “Until his early twenties, Arthur showed little sign of distinction and his mother grew increasingly concerned at his idleness, stating, “I don’t know what I shall do with my awkward son Arthur” ”(Wikipedia). The list can be extended endlessly.
Even Julius Caesar, the most famous Roman of all,  though he had some minor military successes, was, up to the age of forty, notorious not for his victories but for his debts and dissipated life style ─ Curio referred to him contemptuously as “every man’s woman and every woman’s man”. Even in the case of military prodigies like Alexander the Great and the 17th century Charles XII of Sweden (now somewhat forgotten but hailed at the time as ‘the second Alexander’), circumstances played at least as great a part in their future celebrity as the drumroll of destiny. Both Alexander the Great and Charles XII came unexpectedly to the throne at a very young age (20 for Alexander, 15 for Charles XII). It was ‘sink or swim’ and, as it happened, their enemies, the anti-Macedon Greek states in the case of Alexander and Denmark in the case of Charles XII, got the shock of their lives when they took them on. But it was in both cases as much ‘forced to become great’ as ‘predestined to conquer’ (Note 3). In war and politics, it is often the case that, after an early success, the only way forward is up since retreat is actually more dangerous than the attempt to scale the peak ahead (Note 4).

Summarizing so far, one might even hazard a sort of  ‘power law’ of Eventrics, namely:
       An early disadvantage overcome gives rise to a much greater advantage than an outright advantage.

Macchiavelli even makes this a sine qua non:
“Fortune, when she wants to make a new ruler powerful….makes him start off surrounded by enemies and endangered by threats, so that he can overcome the obstacles and climb higher on a ladder supplied by his enemies”   The Prince, ch. 20

Ruthlessness and Luck

 It is sometimes said that such people as Hitler and Julius Caesar only got to the top because they were extremely ruthless and extremely lucky. Certainly, they were both, but this explanation doesn’t get you very far. Ruthlessness is, unfortunately, not a particularly rare human trait ─ every incumbent mafiosi has it, but how many get to be controllers of nations? Moreover, to demonstrate cold-bloodedness too readily, or too systematically, can be a liability, as it makes it extremely difficult to form alliances which every future leader needs at some stage. Psychopaths don’t usually become conquerors: even Genghis Khan, who is the nearest to being one, spent years forging (and unforging) alliances in the complicated world of Mongolian tribal politics before he was finally accepted as the ‘Great Khan’.
As for luck, Pasteur rightly said that it comes to the prepared mind and Macchiavelli agrees:
“You will find that they [Moses and Cyrus] were only dependent on chance for their first opportunity. They seized their chance to make it what they wanted. Without that first opportunity, their strength of purpose [virtù] would never have been revealed. Without their strength of purpose [virtù], the opportunity they were offered would not have amounted to anything”    The Prince ch. 6


Future commanders and world-leaders are rarely exceptionally intelligent in the ‘normal’ sense, I mean academically speaking. Napoleon is in this respect an exception, since he was a brilliant pupil at his École Militaire and is one of the few (only?) Western rulers who was a capable mathematician. Nonetheless, it is generally accepted today that Napoleon was not a great military theorist or even innovator:  he took almost all his ideas from the Maréchal de Saxe ─ but then again why not? “Napoleon was wise enough not to tinker with his legacy; [but] he knew how to exploit it to the full” writes Marshall-Cornwall in Napoleon as Military Commander.
Oliver Cromwell, one of the greatest cavalry leaders of all time, was certainly no intellectual and, indeed, prided himself on being a man of common sense, hence his approval (doubtless with himself in mind) of “the plain russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for and loves what he knows”. Stalin was an extremely capable Bolshevik hit-man (hence the nickname ‘Stalin’ or ‘man of steel’) but, unlike Lenin and Mao, he made no important contribution to Marxist theory apart from the nebulous doctrine of “Socialism in One Country” which was forced upon him by events. Hitler, surely the most unprepossessing  of all modern leaders, turned his lack of formal education and undistinguished appearance  (“He looks like the house painter he once was”) into an advantage since it enabled him to relate effectively to ‘ordinary people’ ─ and had the immense additional benefit of making aristocrats and educated people underrate him to their cost.

Similarity of Situation  

So, if we discount intellectual brilliance, ruthlessness and an early sense of mission as essentials, what does one notice about the rise and fall of famous historical figures? The four most powerful, non-hereditary Western leaders in recent centuries are probably Oliver Cromwell, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin. Now, the first thing to note is that they all came to prominence in a fractured society near to breakdown: this gave them the chance they would never have had otherwise. Take Napoleon. Had Buonaparte been born just a few years earlier, he would never have been able to obtain a scholarship to a French École Militaire. For Corsica belonged to Genoa until 1768  and, anyway, it was well nigh impossible for someone outside the leading French families to get real advancement in the army prior to the revolution ─ as it was, the teenage Buonaparte was mocked by his fellow cadets for his dreadful accent and flimsy claim to noble birth. Moreover, the revolution came at exactly the right time for him: all but three of the cadets of Napoleon’s year offered their services to the monarchy ─ which meant the Republic desperately needed trained officers and was eager to promote them. Much the same applied to the Roundhead armies: the professional soldiers mostly fought for Charles I and, once Cromwell’s ability as an organiser of scratch troops was noticed, advancement followed.
As for Hitler, one can with difficulty see him getting anywhere at all in a different time and place, not because he had no talents but because a different environment might never have revealed them to him. He only discovered his uncanny ability as a public speaker by chance when addressing a tiny patriotic society in Munich in 1921 and, as for his military experience, he would never have had any but for the outbreak of WWI which enabled him to gain the Iron Cross and the respect of his comrades and superior officers.
But why, we must ask, did social breakdown favour these individuals? Because there was all of a sudden a power vacuum and someone had to fill it (Note 5). But this is not the only reason. A revolutionary situation drives  a society close to ‘tipping point’ and it may only require a very slight action on the part of a single individual to propel it irreversibly over a certain threshold. In normal circumstances this is almost never the case: a slight action produces a slight outcome but, when a complex system is  near to a ‘phase transition’ or ‘tipping point’, the effects of tiny actions are ‘non-linear’, i.e. can produce  disproportionately large consequences. Principe, the Serbian nationalist who shot the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 did not, as it happens, intend to bring about a European war but this is what ensued. The five great powers were locked in a tense, complex web of alliances, so much so that what was in itself a fairly trivial incident at once set off a frantic round of threat, bluff and counter bluff between Austria, Serbia, Russia and Germany which, within a couple of months,  culminated in the invasion of Belgium and we know the rest.
The 9/11 attack on the Two Towers is one of those rare historical ‘avalanche events’ that really was deliberate. Without the Two Towers there would almost certainly have been no invasion of Iraq and thus none of the sequels. Bin Laden seems to have known what he was doing, his aim being not to ‘overcome’ America militarily, which was and is impossible, but to tempt it into invading an Arab country in reprisal. The Middle East then, and even more so today, exhibits all four classic attributes of a ‘complex system’ on the brink:  the states involved are (1) diverse; (2) closely connected geographically; (3) interdependent; and (4) ceaselessly adapting to each other’s initiatives. 9/11 drew America directly into the fray (invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq) and this extra ingredient made the whole Middle East tip.

One lesson to draw from all this is that if someone, or some group, wishes to bring about really big changes, he or she must position himself at an ‘event hub’, somewhere that is extensively connected to diverse, rival, mutually interacting power groups. In such a position, minor personal initiatives really can have vast consequences ─ this is Archimedes’s “Give me a fixed point and I will move the world” translated into geopolitics. Napoleon and Hitler found themselves ‘by chance’ at such an event hub, revolutionary France at the end of the 18th century and Germany in the Twenties after her ignominious defeat in WWI  and subsequent hyper-inflation (Note 6).

Opposing Strategies

Supposing one happens to find oneself in an ‘event-hub’ of potentially momentous importance, what then? Broadly speaking, there exist two opposing strategies for the ambitious person, the first active, deliberate, calculating, the second passive, indirect, instinctive. Nineteenth century Western thinkers such as Carlyle and Nietzsche emphasized ‘will’ and ‘character’ while Clausewitz stressed the importance of sheer numbers, i.e. the active approach. Eastern philosophies generally recommend the second, indirect approach. China’s most famous military theorist, Sun Tzu (who is said to have influenced Mao), recommends systematically avoiding direct confrontation and relying instead on manoeuvre and deception. (Not that China’s history is any less bloody than Europe’s for all that.)
To employ Taoist terms, the first method is ‘Doing’, the second ‘Not-Doing’ (wu-wei), a strange concept to our ears though it is central to Taoism. The Tao Te Ching is a peculiar work because it can be (and has been) interpreted in two mutually contradictory ways. On the one hand, it purports to preach a form of quietism: it recommends retirement from the ‘world’ with all its bustle and senseless striving in order to cultivate the ‘inner self’. The Tao Te Ching specifically condemns the use of brute force in government, viewing it as both inhumane and ultimately ineffective. At the same time the title Tao Te Ching means, literally, Way Power Book and it has been interpreted as a sort of manual for an aspiring ruler. According to this view, the aim of the book is to show the future ‘philosopher king’ how to rule effectively without appearing to govern at all. At first sight this sounds all very civilised ─ but is it really? Such a ruler, according to the Tao Te Ching, gets people to do what he thinks right because they admire him for his ‘moral authority’ and ‘inner poise’ ─ but this sounds dangerously close to the ‘charisma’ that mass-murderers like Hitler and Stalin undoubtedly possessed to a high degree.
What does all this mean in practice? ‘Not-Doing’ does not necessarily mean abstaining from action, though it can mean this ─ sometimes the best plan is simply to let things take their course. Sun Tzu speaks a great deal about ‘momentum’ which he sees as an intrinsic property of certain sequences of events ─ what in Ultimate Event Theory I term ‘dominance’. “Skilful warriors” he writes, “are able to allow the force of momentum to seize victory for them without exerting their strength”. And this ‘momentum’ is impersonal, does not depend on individuals: “Good warriors seek effectiveness in battle from the force of momentum, not from individual people”.
The Tao Te Ching assumes that only a ‘good’ man or woman can possess the mysterious moral authority that makes the use of force secondary, or even unnecessary. This is too optimistic by far, not to say dangerously naive. ‘Not-Doing’ is certainly useful (and preferable to coercion) but will not take you all the way: one thinks at once of Stalin’s immortal quip, “How many battalions can the Pope put in the field?”
          The truth seems to be that both ‘Doing’ and ‘Not-Doing’ are essential for success in practically every sphere, but above all in warfare and government. If we look at famous European leaders, especially Cromwell and Hitler, we find that they practised both ‘Doing’ and ‘Not-Doing’ in more or less equal doses, were alternately ‘active’ and ‘passive’ and at ease in  both modes. It is now known that a great deal of mental and physical activity is ‘unconscious’: in a routine situation, it is often better, and even safer, to put oneself in a state of ‘auto-pilot’. However, the ‘self’ must remain ultimately in control, able to step in and overrule learned behaviour when changing circumstances make it inappropriate. Warfare is inevitably an activity that requires intense training, since the aim is to turn a warm-blooded human being into a killing machine (Note 7). But the soldier who is completely incapable of taking initiative is a liability: part of Napoleon’s success lay precisely in his ability to maintain firm overall control of strategy while encouraging his subordinates to act independently when necessary. This is one reason why he outclassed the Prussians and Austrians who tended to make war strictly by rote and were thrown into confusion by the unexpected. Similarly, the historian Grant says that Julius Caesar’s “supreme qualities as a commander were speed, timing, and adaptability to suddenly changing circumstances” (my italics).

If we consider the English Civil War and the Protectorate, we see that Cromwell and the Roundheads in general owed much of their success to their belief system. The Puritan world-view, though hardly logical, proved to be a very suitable one for men of action whether soldiers or, at a later date, pioneers of the Industrial Revolution. For, while the Puritans, and Protestants generally, firmly believed that  ‘grace’ trumped virtue (since God chose whoever He wished), they simultaneously stressed the importance of an ‘active life in the world’ ─ as opposed, for example, to retreating into a monastery to ‘watch and pray’. Cromwell’s belief in Providence is central to his character and to his conduct as a military and political leader. The moral earnestness of the Puritan obliged him not only to ‘take up arms’ for a just cause, but also to plan ahead carefully since he could not expect any miraculous intervention from above. “Duties are ours, events are the Lord’s” as Samuel Rutherford put it in a nutshell. Such a belief system protected the Puritans from the dangers of cocksureness, and induced in Cromwell a state of mind somewhere in between ‘meditation’ and ‘rational analysis’. Typically, when a categorical decision one way or the other was required, Cromwell would retire to weigh up the situation and commune with God. In ‘event’ terms, he was trying to get the feel of the mysterious ‘momentum’ of which Sun Tzu speaks ─ except that, for Cromwell, this ‘momentum’ had something to do with Providence. But if a plan did not work, it was his fault, never God’s ─ he had not been sufficiently alert to the signs pointing the way. This was clearly a very favourable mind-set for the leader of a rebellion.
Cromwell’s admirers encouraged him in the belief that he was chosen by God: “Your victories have been given you of God himself, it is himself that has raised you up amongst men, and hath called you to high enjoyments” as John Desborough put it. This sense of being a ‘man with a mission’ obviously gave Cromwell enormous self-confidence as it always does but, again, the Puritan in him stopped him from being completely carried away: he did not, as Napoleon seems to have done, conclude that he was invincible or, like Hitler, that his judgment was infallible. Cromwell, thus combined to a remarkable degree the advantages of the indirect and the direct  approaches. His ‘Not-Doing’ was making himself a passive instrument for God and Providence, his ‘Doing’ was giving full attention to meticulous military planning and logistics. One of the reasons he was such a successful cavalry leader was the seemingly mundane one that he trained his troops to advance at a trot and regroup smartly in good order once they had penetrated enemy lines, whereas the Cavaliers charged at full gallop and typically wasted precious time ransacking the supply train behind the lines.
We find much the same combination of opposites in Hitler as we find in Cromwell. “I carry out the commands that Providence has laid upon me” might well have come from Cromwell, but it is in fact Hitler speaking. As for ‘Not-Doing’, we have Hitler’s  chilling statement, “I go to my goal with the precision and security of a sleep-walker”. But this sense of mission, even combined with Hitler’s oratory, would not have ‘taken him to his goal’ if he had only been a sleep-walker. Halder, his one time Chief of General Staff, writes of Hitler’s “astonishing grasp of technical detail” ─ and, since Halder was eventually sent to a concentration camp by Hitler, he was not playing the flatterer. We are talking about data such as the range of certain guns or the tonnage of certain ships, hardly the bedside reading of a visionary.
Bullock cites the diary of an ordinary German who heard Hitler speak long before he became Chancellor and who wrote, “I have never heard an orator so fanatical or so logical”. Logical? Hitler? In fact, yes, given his premises which were to make Germany great at all costs. Hitler saw more clearly than anyone else at the time that Germany could not become a world power in post-WWI circumstances for two reasons: (1) it did not produce enough food for its burgeoning population; and (2) it was woefully deficient in raw materials for a leading industrial power. His solution was simple: invade the Soviet Union to get hold of the wheat-growing areas of the Ukraine and the oil rich Caucasus. This was clearly stated in the so-called Holbach Memorandum where Hitler outlined (to his generals) the reasons for the forthcoming invasion of Russia. An additional plus for this strategy was that it did not involve war with Britain (or so Hitler supposed); there was no point, Hitler argued in trying to recover  Germany’s lost colonies in Africa ─ let Britain rule the waves and Germany the land. Furthermore, this devastatingly rational economic analysis dictated Hitler’s basic military strategy, Blitzkrieg. Aggression suited Hitler’s temperament, of course, but the main reason for ‘lightning war’ was that Germany would never have been able to sustain a long war because it needed imported food, oil and steel amongst many other commodities.
Bullock observes that most historians writing about Hitler either stress his “fanatical will” or “insist that he relied for his success on calculation and lack of scruple”. But Bullock goes on to say, correctly, that these interpretations are not mutually exclusive. “He [Hitler] was at once fanatical and cynical, unyielding in his assertion of will power and cunning in calculation”. In particular, “His foreign policy….combined consistency of aim with complete opportunism in method and tactics”. Now, this is an extremely unusual combination and shows where Hitler differed from Mussolini, “an opportunist who snatched eagerly at any chance that was going”. In summing up, Bullock writes, “Fixity of aim by itself, or opportunism by itself, would have produced nothing like the same results”.

Application to other areas

To what extent can these precepts be applied in more congenial areas of human activity than war and government?

Firstly, there is the importance of being at a cultural ‘event-hub’. It is possible for geniuses like Nietzsche to mature in more or less complete isolation but this is hardly to be recommended ─  it doubtless contributed to his mental collapse. Writers, painters and composers tend to congregate in particular spots where they cross-fertilize each other even if, or maybe above all, if they quarrel. For reasons that are none too clear, Elizabethan London suddenly produced more great dramatists than perhaps any other place or time. And the Restoration London coffee-houses were suddenly all agog at once with sparkling comedies, Locke’s philosophizing, Defoe’s political and social broadsheets and the revolutionary physical ideas emanating from the newly created Royal Society. Edinburgh at the end of the 18th century is another notable hub since it produced James Watt, Adam Smith and Hume alongside many lesser but still significant thinkers. Vienna at the beginning of the 20th century saw the birth of psycho-analysis, Boltzmann’s statistical physics, logical-positivism and early abstract painting. I have read somewhere that post-war Paris deliberately kept its exchange rate artificially low relative to the dollar and the pound in order to attract Americans and Britons; this along with the incredible profusion of cafés and cheap hotels made Paris the cultural world-centre for half the 20th century, spewing out surrealism, cubism, modernist fiction and finally existentialism. More recently, the cultural ‘world event-hub’ seems to have shifted to California since the latter state gave rise to two utterly opposed but strangely interrelated cultural phenomena, the hippie movement with all that it entailed and Silicon Valley. Today, the awakening giant, China, has given birth to an unexpected amalgam of laissez-faire capitalism and centralized government but has, so far, not produced anything equally new and wonderful in the cultural domain. Maybe this is to come.
So, the advice to an aspiring author, artist or entrepreneur is to position yourself near the coming (not actual) cultural centre-point, or at least pass through to absorb the vibes. (However, the existence of the world-wide web has, arguably, made geography far less important.) As for luck and ruthlessness, much the same principles apply to artists as to politicians and military commanders. In a writer, ruthlessness translates as clarity, precision and economy with respect to words and lack of sentimentality with respect to one’s own early productions ─ though it is also crucial not to overdo this. In mathematics, rigour is the rule but the really great mathematicians such as Leibnitz, Newton and Euler were very far from being logic-machines and relied to a large extent on their undefinable ‘mathematical intuition’ (which is why they sometimes made mistakes). And Bullock’s ‘consistency of aim combined with opportunism of execution’ certainly sounds as much a winning formula in the arts as in foreign policy.

SH 15/2/2018

 Note 1 Talleyrand was the ultimate survivor: he not only lived through, but flourished during, (1) the French Revolution, (2) the Directorate, (3) the Napoleonic period and (4) the Bourbon Restoration, eventually dying quietly in his bed.  

Note 2 Hitler, the proto-typical modern ‘man of destiny’, only got the first intimations of his future role in the trenches in 1915 when he was twenty-six. And it was only during his brief imprisonment in 1923 after the failed ‘Beer-hall putsch’ that he finally cast himself in the role of Germany’s predestined leader. As a youth Hitler had no interest in warfare and little enough in politics: his passion was, and remained, architecture. 

Note 3 If it is true that Alexander’s mother had Philip of Macedon assassinated, as some historians think, she has a better claim than Cleopatra to being a woman who changed the course of history.

Note 4 In the case of Julius Caesar, he absolutely had to stay continuously in office once launched on his career since, like certain contemporary heads of state, this gave him immunity from prosecution.

Note 5 I had the occasion to personally witness something similar, albeit on a much smaller scale, during the May 1968 ‘student revolution’ and ensuing General Strike. For a few weeks, the Parisian faculties were occupied and even the police didn’t dare to go in. It was amazing to see, alongside genuine ‘revolutionaries’, future Robespierres and Stalins manouevering shamelessly in committees to get themselves into positions of power (see my reminiscences ‘Le Temps des Cérises, May ’68 and aftermaths’ in the anarchist quarterly The Raven No. 38).

Note 6 In Hitler’s case, it was perhaps not entirely chance that had him end up in Germany: some obscure instinct made him leave Vienna for what, as it transpired, was an even more suitable locale, Munich ─ since Germany offered far greater scope to his ambitions than Austria. Hitler, though Austrian by birth, was permitted, by special demand, to enlist in the German (not Austrian) army in WWI. 

Note 7 “The aim [of military training]… to reduce the conduct of war to a set of rules and a system of procedures ─ and thereby make orderly and rational what is essentially chaotic and instinctive” ( Keegan, The Face of Battle p. 20).


                 “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.

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).


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 occasionally 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.
And there are indeed also individuals who mark history in a big way and mean to do so, but they achieve their aims more often than not by ‘going with events’  rather than by attempting to instigate series of events themselves or, worse still, deluding themselves that they are in complete control of the course of events. In other words, they are people who have an instinctive sense of the underlying principles of Eventrics and know how to use these forces to their personal advantage. And the word ‘instinctive’, hated by all rationalists and scientists, is the key word here. Cromwell, a man who rose from being an obscure country squire to become Lord Protector is supposed to have enunciated the astounding dictum, “No man rises so high as he who does not know where he is going.” Hitler, an even more striking case of a ‘man from nowhere’, compared himself at one point to a ‘sleepwalker’ ─ “I go to my goal with the precision and assurance of a sleepwalker”.
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’.

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. VBut 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”
This has taken us some way from the original subject but my advisor told me I ought to ramble more if I want to get more readers.
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 hi8s 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 and so forth. 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


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?