"How is politics done? The born statesman is above all a valuer - a valuer of men, situations, and things. He has the `eye' which unhesitatingly and inflexibly embraces the round of possibilities. The judge of horses takes in an animal with one glance and knows what prospects it will have in a race. To do the correct thing without `knowing' it, to have the hands that imperceptibly tighten or ease the bit - his talent is the very opposite to that of the man of theory. . . . He does not believe in the big words. . . . The born statesman stands beyond true and false. He does not confuse the logic of events with the logic of systems. . . . He surveys their potency, durability, and direction, and duly books them in his calculations for the destiny of the power that he directs. He has convictions, certainly, that are dear to him, but he has them as a private person; no real politician ever felt himself tied to them when in action.55 . . . It is life, not the individual, that [has no conscience].56
". . . There are times, like our own present and the Gracchan age, in which there are two most deadly kinds of idealism, the reactionary and the democratic. The one believes in the reversibility of history, the other in a teleology of history[, which is to say: a purpose].57 But it makes no difference to the inevitable failure with which both burden a nation over whose destiny they have power, whether it is to a memory or to a concept that they sacrifice [their own nation]. The genuine statesman is incarnate history, its directedness expressed as individual will and its organic logic as character.
"But the true statesman must also be, in a large sense of the word, an educator - not the representative of a moral or a doctrine, but an exemplar in doing. . . . The genuine statesman is distinguished from the `mere politician' - . . . - as also from the schoolmaster of an ideal, by the fact that he dares to demand sacrifices - and obtains them, because his feeling that he is necessary to the time and the nation is shared by thousands, transforms them to the core, and renders them capable of deeds to which otherwise they could never have risen.
"Highest of all, however, is not action, but the ability to command. It is this that takes the individual up out of himself and makes him the center of a world of action. There is one kind of commanding that makes obedience a proud, free, and noble habit. . . . [It leads to] moments - and they indicate the maxima of cosmic flowings - when the individual feels himself to be identical with Destiny, the center of the world, and his own personality seems to him almost as a covering in which the history of the future is about to clothe itself.
"The first problem is to make oneself somebody; the second - less obvious, but harder and greater in its ultimate effects - [is] to create a tradition, to bring on others so that one's work may be continued with one's own pulse and spirit, to release a current of like activity that does not need the original leader to maintain it in form. And here the statesman rises to something that in the Classical world would doubtless have been called divinity. He becomes the creator of a new life, the spirit-ancestor of a young [people]. He himself . . . vanishes from the stream after a few years. But a minority called into being by him takes up his course and maintains it indefinitely. This cosmic something, this soul of a ruling stratum, an individual can generate and leave as a heritage, and throughout history it is this that has produced the durable effects. The great statesman is rare. . . . A strong tradition attracts talents from all quarters, and out of small gifts produces great results. . . . If this creation of a tradition does not come off, then instead of a homogeneous ruling stratum we have [bickering leaders who] are helpless when confronted by the unforeseen. If it does, we have a Sovereign People in the . . . sense [meaning] a highly trained, self-replenishing minority with sure and slowly ripened traditions, which attracts every talent into the charmed circle and uses it to the full, and . . . keeps itself in harmony with the remainder of the nation that it rules. Such a minority slowly develops into a true `breed,' even when it had begun merely as a party, and the sureness of its decisions comes to be that of blood, not of reason. But this means that what happens in it happens `of itself' and does not need the Genius. Great politics, so to put it, takes the place of the great politician.
"What, then, is politics? It is the art of the possible - an old saying, and almost an all-inclusive saying.58 The gardener can obtain a plant from the seed, or he can improve its stock. He can bring to bloom, or let languish, the dispositions hidden in it, its growths and color, its flower and fruit. On his eye for possibilities - and, therefore, necessities - depends its fulfillment, its strength, its whole Destiny. But the basic form and direction of its being, the stages and tempo and direction thereof, are not in his power. It must accomplish them or it decays,59 and the same is true of the immense plant that we call a `Culture' and the being-streams of human families that are bound up in its form-world. The great statesman is the gardener of a people.
"Every doer is born in a time and for a time, and thereby the ambit of his attainable achievement is fixed. For his grandfather, for his grandson, the data, and therefore the task and the object, are not the same. The circle is further narrowed by the limits of his personality, the properties of his people, the situation, and the men with whom he has to work. It is the hall-mark of the high politician that he is rarely caught [misunderstanding] this limit, and equally rarely overlooks anything realizable within it. With this - one cannot too often repeat, especially to Germans60 - goes a sure discrimination between what `ought' to be and what will be.61 . . . The art of the statesman consists not only in a clear idea of the main lines drawn undeviably before him, but also in the sure handling of the single occurrences and the single persons, encountered along these lines, which can turn an impending disaster into a decisive success. The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious. An adept in the game can, like Talleyrand, go to Vienna as the ambassador of the vanquished party and make himself master of the victor.62 . . . Every situation has its elastic limit, and in the estimation of that limit not the smallest error is permissible. A revolution that reaches explosion-point is always proof of lack of the political pulse in the governors and in their opponents.
"Further, the necessary must be done opportunely - namely, while it is a [gift with which] the governing power can buy confidence in itself, whereas if it has to be conceded as a sacrifice, it discloses a weakness and excites contempt. Political forms are living forms whose changes inexorably follow a definite direction, and to attempt to prevent this course or to divert it towards some ideal is to confess oneself `out of condition.' . . . In the period of mounting democracy we find again and again . . . the arrival of a fatal moment when it is too late for the necessary reform to be given as a free gift; then that which should be refused with the sternest energy is given as a sacrifice, and so becomes the sign of dissolution. . . . repeats the same error of trying to hold what was the ideal of yesterday.63 This is the danger of our twentieth century. On the path towards Cęsarism there is ever a Cato to be found.64
55 It is little wonder that intellectuals in any late Civilization period tend to develop fatalistic or stoic philosophies. They clearly see their position as the object of their own government, and their own inability to in any meaningful way alter the course of that government. The clarity of this view would create a morose attitude in the most optimistic of students. Closely linked with this fatalistic attitude is a belief in the corruptness of Politics as an institution. As intellect spreads to the masses, the people feel that the politician has no values which he would not willingly sacrifice for political gain, and they count him all the less for this lack of conviction. In Spengler's diagnosis, then, this becomes the seeds of the destruction of the Civilization as a whole, because this pervasive belief in the overall corruption of Politics leads to the very lack of confidence which is the great killer of the State.
56 This is merely an expression of a concept of fate. Fate cares not who is killed, maimed, or injured in some way. If you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, tough luck. Any person who takes the fate of nations into their hands must be prepared to suppress their conscience. How can any truly great leader send troops into battle, knowing many will be killed, if that leader does not have the ability to suppress his or her own feelings of guilt at the necessity of sending so many innocent lives to their most certain ending? The answer, of course, is that a lack of conscience is one of the prerequisites of any "great" leader. The key, of course, is to never let the masses know this.
57 In a way, the so-called "Republican Revolution" of 1994 can be seen as the coming into power of a group which is both reactionary and wedded to a concept of what they believe to be right, as opposed to what is actually necessary for our nation at this particular point in our own history.
58 The saying is usually attributed to Otto von Bismarck, and it would be from roughly 1885, if that is true, because his speech with the quote "Politics is not a science . . . but an art" is from 1884.
59 I need hardly point out that this analogy is no longer as strong as it was when Spengler wrote this. Modern science can preserve seeds for very long times, and engineer totally new capabilities into them. Still, gardening remains another "art of the possible."
60 Remember, Spengler is writing this no later than 1922! He then turns around and makes the error of forgetting the proposition which he is about to assert by trying to build up Hitler through the assertion that Hitler is the culmination of what Western Civilization is destined to be. This attempt destroyed Spengler, and it all traces back to him forgetting his own lesson, which follows.
61 There is a strong sense of fatalism in this concept, which derives from Spengler's overall belief (which still is basically true as this is written) that the Destiny of a Civilization is foreordained, a belief Spengler draws from his studies and which is the essential thought of this entire work. The essential thesis of my own work would be that "the art of the possible" is not always strictly limited to the bright path laid out by prior human experience. As will be explained in Part III of this book, there is a strong reason to believe that Western Civilization is perfectly positioned to deviate from the usual course.
62 This reference would appear to be to the events described by the following sentence in the Encyclopędia Britannica (1975), Volume IX, page 788: "As France's representative at the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815), Talleyrand exhibited his diplomatic skill to the fullest by dividing the four allies and winning for France an effective voice in the settlement of Europe." A consummate politician, Talleyrand was Foreign Minister of France under both Napoleon and his successor, king Louis XVIII, who he was representing as the victors of the Napoleonic wars divided their "spoils."
63 There are clearly aspects of the Republican Revolution which demonstrate this point. These are particularly exemplified by the Christian Coalition, which is trying to excite a return to "traditional family values" in our political culture. As Spengler would assert, they are "out of condition."
64 Marcus Porcius Cato (the Younger) was the great-grandson of Cato the Censor, and was a leader of the ultra-conservative aristocracy in the Roman Senate. During the Roman Civil War of 49 b. c. to 46 b. c., Cato sided with Pompey (who had been his enemy) in order to oppose Julius Cęsar. (see the Encyclopędia Britannica (1975), Volume II, page 645.) It remains to be seen whether Newt Gingrich and/or one of his followers is cast in the role of Cato or Cęsar.
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