by Christie, Stuart
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This penultimate volume of The New Age under the editorship of A. R. Orage continues the transition from the concern that crystallized over event-specific issues after the First World War, including the Versailles treaty and the founding of the Free Irish State, towards an abiding, and increasingly shrill, advocacy of Major C. H. Douglas' social credit theory for economic reform. The continuing refusal of English financial institutions, government officials, and other representative bodies within the workers' movement to engage in serious public debate about the social credit alternative resulted in considerable frustration through this long spring and summer of labor unrest. Frustration no doubt contributed to Orage's decision to leave The New Age the following year (and ultimately to disengage from England altogether) in pursuit of the mystical alternatives Gurdjieff's spiritualism afforded.
The emergence of Orage's disillusionment, however, seems to have had no impact on on the range and variety of contributions, which may be characterized as having entered a remarkable phase of witness. In this volume, The New Age contributors offer prescient, at times pernicious, and always striking insights about English, British, European, and world affairs. If Orage's editorial demesne remained intact, his sense of the mission of The New Age as a whole nevertheless seems occluded by too strict a focus on the social credit debate, thereby giving his contributors what appears to have been too free a hand in other areas. That we find not only hallmark insights but also anti-Semitism in these pages, in light of Orage's full editorial consent, presents unique challenges for students and scholars.
The price of the journal itself remained unchanged in this volume, holding steady at seven pence, with domestic and foreign subscriptions also remaining equivalent across three-, six-, and twelve-month (or annual) periods. In the concluding number (29.26), a significant change in subtitle for the journal appears, with those former highly charged terms (there are three: "socialist," "religion," and "science") being jettisoned, with new substitutions made as follows:
The New Age: A Socialist Weekly Review of Religion, Science, Politics, Literature, and Art
Orage would keep this title until his departure from the journal in September 1922 and his reinstatement of specific focus areas in the revised title, alongside the abandonment of others, is telling: How, and in what ways, did the journal cease to be "socialist," "religious" or "scientific" in its broader aims? Or if its aims remained unchanged, how did its marketing objectives to a wider audience evolve or adapt?
In the concluding number, Edwin Muir (“Edward Moore”) also renamed his regular column, replacing “Our Generation” with the title “New Values.”
Political Change: Radicalism and Reform
If the current volume alternates between hyper focus (upon the social credit debate) and drifting commentary (upon everything else), it remains consistently contrarian. On both supply and demand sides of cultural critique—substantial proposals and mere venting appear alike—Orage and his contributors continued their radical project of redefining socialist culture using a potent blend of populist politics, anti-Communist polemic, and at times elitist (avant-garde) approaches. This blend makes The New Age difficult to label politically, as Steele has noted (qtd. in Ardis 145).
Above and beyond mere delivery of news content, however, Orage and his writers remained keenly and consistently aware of the role of “The Press” as a crucial player in shaping and molding public opinion. News, as much as coal or oil, was a commodity that could be used effectively to leverage debates on specific issues (05:50). The rights of individual Britons to write, express views and publish unpopular views, moreover, would help to offset the corporatization of the Press: “the most influential pulpit … is thoroughly tuned … by our real rulers, the financial plutocrats” (16:183).
Beyond the narrow confines of the social credit debate, Orage and his contributors offered effective propaganda on issues ranging from German war reparations and an inherently bellicose Anglo-American relationship (blinkered by “pacifostriches” [01:03]), to the “failure” of Bolshevism (Leninism) and the duplicitous nature of the Anglo-Japanese ship building trade (03:27). The very comprehensiveness of its commentary ensured that The New Age agenda for political change would be, at best, kaleidoscopic and, at worst, scattershot. Yet, as often as not, The New Age commentaries ring true with benefit of historical hindsight. Orage, or his contributors, observed cogently (if occasionally archly) upon the following historically significant events or tendencies:
- the failure of the Versailles pact, adverse impacts of war reparations on the next German generation, and the “unwise” policy of France antagonizing Germany with further re-armament (04:39); if plutocratic capitalism continues, “wars will be fought out with the most efficient, that is the most limitlessly destructive, instruments that can be discovered” (21:241) by nations “devoting … concentrated energies, by fair means or foul … to destroy another nation, men, women, and children without distinction” (19:217);
- the civil war in Ireland and problems inherent in the imminent political solution: “Lloyd George's assertion that posterity will honor the Black and Tans [pro-British paramilitary force]”, a solution akin to social Darwinism and entirely at the Irish expense (02:23);
- the problem of “popular imperialism [with] not a glimmer of responsibility” (05:53): reform within a newly international (but still imperial) culture as a prerequisite to meaningful political and economic reform at home (among the English working class) and abroad (the proletarianized subaltern in the colonies);
- the globalization of competition (particularly among Britain, America, and Japan) and “the constantly diminishing margin of foreign markets” (13:145) as providing a justification for conflict: “the steady degradation of the nation to the point of desperation that demands war” (05:49); note also the journal's consistent warnings up through the Washington Conference (November 1921-February 1922) of an arms race in the Pacific between Japan and America (22:255);
- the debt to Lenin's political thought within contemporary British socialist thought in the context of revolution (Edwin Muir's position that “violent periodical action” is “justifiable and necessary by sections [of society]” to effect social change [04:42]), was in tension with Orage's generally anti-Bolshevik stance (“if they were to get into power, one of their first acts would be to raid The New Age office” [08:86]); Huntly Carter ("The New Russia" in three parts, nos. 21; 23-24) describes post-Revolution Russia as a “ruins,”“a wilderness” created by “two amazing men” (21:247), Lenin and Trotsky. Huntly gives the latter certain praise in social credit terms: “[Trotsky] is nearer to realizing Credit Power than is suspected…. [He] vitally sees Russia as a land of Real Credit, but it is with Russia as a land of political credit he is devitally [sic] concerned” (21:248; see also 24:284);
- uncertainty concerning the implementation of the first national census (09:100);
- the emergence of state-sponsored welfare: “we abhor the idea of handing over the hospitals to State management” (12:134); The New Age proposes social credit for public health and housing instead;
- strong position against restoration of the gold standard, characterizing this as a “gold confidence trick” with financial and industry plutocrats pocketing margins in the currency speculation game (21:242); in favor of credit-, rather than currency-, based market adjustments (15:172);
- rejection of the League of Nations because of its “lack of economic realism [which] was the whole secret of the tragedy of President Wilson” (19:217), as well as rhetoric which would “fight plagues by means of processional litanies” (20:241).
Social Credit and “The Road Forward”
Across the spring and summer of 1921, England experienced a time of troubled becoming. As The New Age sent the first number of this volume to press (5 May), unemployment reached historic highs; by the time ink dried on the sixth number (9 June), the total jobless figure had crested at over 2.2 million. It was a time of social and political crisis. Orage's task, and that of The New Age as he saw it, was to harness the turbulent energies of the time—before they faded—in the service of a newer social and economic vision addressing glaring economic problems: Why, when British industrial capacity was at its greatest (after the war), should factories stand idle? Why should poverty and hunger exist when the warehouses were full and stockpiles were huge? If, ultimately, questions were raised about the feasibility and soundness of Orage's economic theory, he dared time and time again to ask important questions when many others, from the standpoint of political expediency, failed to do so.
Reformist rather than revolutionary, communitarian rather than collectivist, distributive rather than nationalizing, The New Age“Social Credit” alternative dared to promulgate the unthinkable—the state drawing from an unlimited supply of “national credit” rather than taxing citizens or borrowing from banks (22:253)—in response to labor unrest and “wagery,” the latter described as labor's “despairing acquiescence in a general reduction of wages” (13:146). The journal consistently targets the Fabian platform of nationalization as corrupt in principle, and further corrupted by implicit collusion with big government. Orage's description of his vision for social credit reform is clear and succinct:
Here invoking modernist rhetoric proper, as a radical who would make socialism “something new,” Orage directly acknowledges that the “Douglas-New Age Scheme” (01:02) had the aim and explosiveness of a “strange” and “even unintelligible” silver bullet ideology. But what did “the simple common sense of credit creation” (02:14) amount to, as the “practical” alternative to existing financial practices (04:41)?
Briefly put, social credit proposed the issuing of community credit, pegged to an absolute (rather idealized) value called “Real Credit” (01:01). Real credit was invested by the community's labor might as an “untapped” and implicitly illimitable “reservoir of Wages, Salaries, Dividends and Prices” (02:13). Imagine a credit issued to each industry collective by virtue of the individual's (or group of individuals') birthright into a specific craft or guild inheritance (e.g. miners, colliers, or weavers). An important, and at the time revolutionary, implication of the “real” credit model was that there was no benefit to society from a balanced budget whose main source of revenue was taxation. The New Age rejected the notion “that public expenditure should be balanced by revenue” (21:242). The editor put it clearly: “We do not desire to see the budget balanced.”
Abandoning the revenue-taxation model necessarily involved establishing a market of exchange for real credit, which would be transferable, either in form of tokens or script, and “paid back” to the same community or guild in form of a “Treasury credit” (03:26), or goods and services. Orage and Douglas argued that even a modest level of productivity—lower than current levels, for example—if properly credited to the community credit account, would cover all initial costs of production, stimulate growth, and remove the specter of unemployment or even emigration for want of work. (For example, several contributors noted, with alarm, that some English workers had enlisted in the Spanish army for an “irrelevant” war in Africa [21:246]). In contrast to the bleak alternative of emigration, Orage and Douglas promised, by their own admission, a “utopian” alternative: “our potentialities of production are sufficient to supply our needs … in our Utopia the great majority would be permanently 'unemployed'” (17:193; see also 26:301), hence free to pursue happiness in a world unmarred by work as a strict requirement of existence. Frances Prewett added her voice to the chorus on this theme: “Since 'work' is … made a condition of living, the wheels of industry are clogged by the unfit and inefficient” (25:293).
Guilds and Guild-Banks
If social credit was the economic policy The New Age promoted, then guilds were its preferred response to unfairly centralized control of money. Communal rather than collectivist (or “Communist,” the latter viewed by Orage and his contributors as the unfair abridgement of legitimate property rights), guilds might ensure workers' “rights of communal inheritance,” kept within the community and not transferred to the centralized state. Workers, and not “individual producers” alone, would reap the rewards of pooled labor power (04:44). Crucially, Orage and the social credit theorists also faulted under-utilization of existing industrial capacity, which linked “unused land, plant, and materials, unemployed workers, and people in dire need of the possible products” in “a tragic Triangle of Impotence” (23:266). Releasing collective productive power would further guarantee community credit and enable individuals (via their local guild) to redeem this inexhaustible supply of credit in form of purchasing power and enable the “securing [of] the control of Consumption [and] the distribution of purchasing power” (24:283).
This restoration of domestic consumption, the argument continues, would act to guarantee the issuance, as necessary, of further social credit using the guild bank (sometimes called “Producers' Bank” [24:283]) as intermediary. Guild-issued and administered credit shares (rather than traditional banking issues or notes) would be used to secure home markets and industries first, thereby preventing unnecessary reliance on overseas (imperial) consumption driven by “the dark forces of cosmopolitan finance” (19:217). These latter, as Orage saw it, held the average British worker hostage to minority banking and manufacturing (export or re-export) interests. “Why is it always assumed that consumption must begin on the other side of the water?” (23:265), a refrain often repeated here, gives the entire social credit theory a populist intensity.
The value of real credit would be regulated (via the guild banks) through the instrument of another abstraction called the “Just Price.” Orage attempts to define just price in the third number as “that fraction of Cost that Consumption is of Production” (03:27), elsewhere more generally (but always “scientifically”) as a given “ratio” of production relative to consumption (02:18-19). The “just price” had, in fact, a much older history; the notion was a revival of the “foundation-stone” and “central plank” of medieval (Catholic) church policy (21:241) used by Orage and Douglas to justify their “scientific” reform of pricing policy.
While the “just price” may not seem scientific at all—many viewed it as anachronistic at the time—it did have the signal advantage of removing an easily manipulated tool from the hands of what Orage perceived to be a cabal (existing in the financial-capitalist class) that enjoyed monopoly control and regulation of credit and money and penalized workers unfairly (often citing unemployment as necessary to cover costs charged to “falling prices”). If prices and “revenues” were limited through the “Just Price,” and an abundance of potentially limitless social credit issued, as needed, to all sectors of working society, the purchasing power of individuals would restore consumption.
Greater purchasing power for the average consumer would also divert existing profits (achieved by minority interests through price control and manipulation) back into the wider pool of potential purchasing credit enjoyed by everyone. If less affluent individuals spent less money financing industry pricing margins, in addition to covering the costs (plus inflation) of initial capital outlays, they would be able to save more for the future and purchase more in the present, and thus “reinvest” back into society without requiring demoralizing “subsidies” or inefficient welfare-style programs (the “dole”) from big government (19:218).
For social credit theorists, then, the notion that pricing policy was “innocent” (in terms of Adam Smith, the “invisible hand,” or the prevailing “law” of supply and demand sense) was ludicrous. What Orage called “the old laissez faire” (21:243), dictated that the burdens of unfair pricing controls operating primarily to cover initial cost outlays and subsequent factory costs (including capital improvements, overhead, and labour costs and maintenance), coupled with self-interested adjustments in prices (whether rising or falling) by the finance and industrial magnates, were borne solely by the working classes. Again, even if the “just price” mechanism was fiscally unsound (and it remains untested, at least in the capitalist world, into our own time), the social ills it sought to target were legitimately pressing. Equally as dogmatic, after his own fashion, as the Communists, Orage maintained a remarkably consistent (albeit unpopular) position on social credit in this volume.
Challenging Economic Orthodoxy
Conceived well before the establishment of Keynesian “supply-side” orthodoxy, and differing from it in important considerations, Orage's social credit theory nevertheless was visionary in its grasp of a centrally important economic principle that continues to bolster markets in our own day: timely credit infusions in capital markets can, especially in the shorter-term, effectively keep industries going until either the fundamentals (balance sheets) of specific companies improve, or the macro-economic conditions (cycles) of the overall industry improve, or both.
The “real credit” and “just price” concepts were designed to challenge other problems The New Age perceived within existing economic doctrine including:
- monopoly of credit: “the simple nonsense of subsidies” (02:14) issued by central bankers (probably “Jewish,” or Jewish-inspired; see “Cosmoi” and Anti-Semitism below) to their own cronies;
- currency control: the “plutocracy” regulated money-flow primarily to siphon profit away from community credit (with paper currency or demand notes merely reified “ticket[s] of admission” [02:14] to the real credit arena);
- centralized banking: monopolistic practices (or syndicalism) benefited a “superbank” under the “control of world conspirators … either consciously or unconsciously” (5:51);
- miner-owner conspiracy: of “wire-pullers” (01:02) resulting in “dead formulae” (04:37) that obstructed effective reform;
- compulsory arbitration to settle labor disputes: “compulsory arbitration is slavery” … [alternatively, The New Age asserts] “the right to strike or slavery …If we deliberately will the Servile State, well and good; but to admit [compulsory arbitration] is the Servile State” (15:171). Or again: “we are no enthusiasts for strikes … a last and desperate resort … the strike weapon is most successful when it succeeds through its mere existence in reserve. But the Right to Strike [original emphasis] is quite another matter” (21:243).
Otherwise, Orage is generally self-serving in his treatment of economic news, constantly reading contemporary events into the social credit paradigm, as when describing the growing pains of the Ford Motor Company: Henry Ford's fight against corporate finance “as incredibly romantic as any 'crook' melodrama on the films … . We should imagine that such an experience would give Mr. Ford furiously to think; after it even he might welcome a socially controlled system of credit” (14:159). He also attributes Germany's post-Versailles recovery to the social credit “policy of drawing on the communal credit in aid of the home consumer” (13:146).
Other historically significant economic issues and arguments addressed by Orage and The New Age in this volume include:
- the postal tax: rejected, not on grounds of impinging on state profits, but for the resulting negative impact on the “national value” (or Real credit) derived through commerce generated by postal transactions (05:51);
- rejection of universal “right to work” arguments on grounds that it [enables] Finance “to maintain its control over the nations. The banks, in issuing credit, are concerned mainly in getting back that credit with interest, and not at all in the quantity or quality of the goods produced” (07:79);
- endorsement of the minimum wage: government attempts to cut the minimum wage in the agricultural sector are a “wanton outrage” (07:74), even as short-sighted leaders among the workers have driven them to despair. The call for a general strike, Orage writes, is “the most lamentable of fizzles” (08:85).
1921: The New Age and its Audience
The nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first numbers open with a shock. A bracketed and italicized sub-header captures the attention of the reader before the beginning of the first column declaring:
It is interesting to speculate that even as interest in Major C. H. Douglas and his social credit theory advanced in England and elsewhere, subscription to The New Age—the journal that had done more than any other to propagandize social credit reform—declined. How does one account for this seeming discrepancy? If global interest in the social credit theory was on the rise, as indicated by the emergence of an “Honours Economics Course at Sydney University, Australia” and other interested parties in “Sweden, in Tcheko-Slovakia, in Yugo-Slavia and in Japan … and everywhere, not even excluding England, interest is growing” (19:221), then why was the journal on the verge of shutting down?
In attempting to answer these questions, it is important to emphasize that while Orage's embrace of economic reform was avowedly radical, his constant press for change was not strictly revolutionary (in the prevailing, specifically Leninist, context). As such, Orage could neither draw upon the militancy of the workers' movements emboldened by Communism (what Orage dismissed as "collectivism") nor derive ancillary benefits from the advent of the Russian revolution (although, as above, he did ask Huntly to file reports upon developments there).
Conspiracies aside, nor is it entirely clear to what extent establishment, liberal-parliamentarians took notice. Not surprisingly, charges of active neglect ring loudest when applied to the Labour Party, which bore the brunt of The New Age criticism and competition (C. H. Douglas decries their “psychology of failure” [26:303]) and whose star with the trade unions was on the rise after the war (Hinton). Even (or especially) Hilaire Belloc (http://www.modjourn.brown.edu/mjp/Bios/Belloc.htm) defines the “difficulty of circulation” as that of a “very limited body of [educated] readers” able to fathom (he supposes) the substance of The New Age, let alone to purchase it regularly (25:291-92). With Belloc manning the ramparts of a “Free Press,” charges of elitism were certain to follow; indeed, he viewed such an aristocracy of readership as laudable for its own sake. Unfortunately for him and The New Age, such views were not conducive to developing a wider circulation. Apparently few outside The New Age circles proper, or the exceptionally young and nonconformist, viewed the Douglas-New Age Scheme as even remotely feasible.
Among those young and nonconformist in tendency, several subsequently notable names emerge. Within the very heart of the Fabian stronghold at the London School of Economics, for example, a young Basil Bunting (then twenty-one) wrote a letter on 12 May expressing interest in the scheme on behalf of himself and other students, current and former (02:24). The Paris-based correspondent of the New York Herald reported only one week later (19 May) that Ezra Pound (then thirty-five) had already been converted to the Douglas-New Age scheme and departed England in disgust (“Press Cuttings,”03:36). Herbert Read, Orage's literary contributor to the “Readers and Writers” (ex-drama) column commencing this volume, found the literary atmosphere of The New Age welcoming; one wonders, however, how Read's supervisors at the Treasury, where he (then twenty-eight) had worked as undersecretary since the end of the war, might have viewed their talented charge's night-time work on behalf of a journal committed to economic radicalism.
Noting the interested iconoclasm (and even prescience) of such eventually celebrated “modernists” like Bunting, Pound, and Read is important when we consider the interest The New Age generated. However, it is also important to remember that Orage and The New Age did not argue for the violent overthrow of the capitalist system as such; social credit attempted to renovate capitalism wholesale, rather than destroy it. In this light, rather than accepting general premises of the social credit theory as such, scholars may choose to find in Orage's radical eclecticism—including his rejection of capitalist plutocracy, unnecessary dependence on foreign material resources, the systematization of unfair labor practices, wage deterioration, and reckless defense spending in order to capture foreign export markets—insights of a more local relevance that still capture attention today (e.g. “we shall naturally go wherever there is oil—if we can get there” [08:86]).
Beyond iconoclasm, efforts to propagate the message for the benefit of a wider audience were undertaken, as indicated by an announcement appearing in the pages of The New Age on 11 August of C. H. Douglas' forthcoming lectures to be held at Rotary clubs in Liverpool and London on 18 August and 24 August respectively (15:180). That open competition existed among different elements within the guild socialist movement, so as to brand the best alternative theory, is likewise suggested by a terse exchange of letters between Orage and one of his former contributors, S. H. Hobson, another guild theorist, at the end of August (see 15:180; 17:204).
Critique of Globalization
Two generations before Wallerstein, Orage here propounds a “world-system” (20:229) economic theory based on “dynamic flows” of international, credit-induced supply, rather than a “static” system (primarily nation-based) dependent upon capital demand (lower wages and cost-cutting) [15:169]. For Orage and the other writers of The New Age, the stakes of such economic globalization in the late-imperial era were very high. Within the existing liberal parliamentary system there was available, as contributor Edwin Muir saw it, only a wealth of poor options: “there is something humiliating in the spectacle of two men [Lloyd George and Lord Northcliffe], for the character of neither of whom we have any respect, quarreling in public, uttering reams of moral indignation, and each expecting public sympathy where public reprobation is all that is accorded” (14:149).
With the aid of historical hindsight, the urgency of the moment they identified through the spring and summer of 1921 was justified. A lack of creativity with regard to resolving chronic domestic labor disputes resulted in a wearied cynicism across all ranks of British society. Unfair management practices and work stoppages at home produced disastrous ripple effects in macroeconomic terms, in an age when advances in technology and transport caused the accelerated convergence of structurally uneven import-export market relationships (sustained by imperialism) with inefficient and largely class-bound worker-management conflict (Barrow and Bullock).
In the social credit interest, The New Age did effectively expose the extent to which the British Labour Party was working deftly to exploit fractures within the uneasy workers' “Triple Alliance” of mine, railway, and transport unions (see, in two parts, “The Defeat of the Working Class” [12:139; 13:149-151]). The workers' movement was also facing Communist militancy within its own ranks (Hinton). Supporting neither the establishment Labour Party nor the militancy of the Soviet-inspired Communists, Orage and his contributors noted with particular alarm specific events as symptoms of the wider global malaise:
- the Royal Navy's conversion of all of its ships of the line from coal to oil burning engines (05:49), the government seeking thereby to marginalize labor's influence by weaning the nation from dependence on the domestic coal supply;
- imperial contestations as the dire inevitability of corrupted nationally-based economic systems: “The picking up is going on now. We may find ourselves on the side of Japan or we may find ourselves on the side of America. In either case, the war will be an appalling disaster to civilization” (08:85);
- the founding of the first Soviet central bank (05:51), viewed by The New Age as vitiation of the Bolshevik experiment and its ultimate collusion with the global-capitalist plutocracy. That Communists would willingly participate in the money and credit-issuing game was proof enough, for Orage at least, of the moral bankruptcy of the Russian revolution, including his correct assessment of Lenin's New Economic Policy as a watering down of the Russian revolution's initial ideological claims (09:98). Of the meeting of the Third International in July, Orage wrote, “[The Soviets] having made a hideous mess of their own home affairs, are now carefully canalizing the Revolution back into capitalism” (13:147);
- writing against the exportation of capitalist practices to Kenya: “We should detest the diffusion among the African tribes of “the benefits of modern civilization” … at present enjoyed by our industrial proletariat—the more so, in that it would be in the interest solely of profiteers of another race and colour” (16:182); or again, the journal reviews favorably a book critical of the legal claims made by the British South Africa Company upon settler and indigenous land rights in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe): “a chapter of history that should make us ashamed” (24:288). For Orage, the prospect of no or little “modernization” in the colonies was better than untrammeled capitalism at the expense of the colonized.
“Cosmoi” and Anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism appears most virulently in the “World Affairs” column of this volume, replete with racist caricature and period conspiracy theories. This column demonstrates amply that contemporary anti-Semitism, like the journal itself, was cross-disciplinary. Orage relied extensively on the supranationalist Serbian thinker, Dimitri Mitrinovic—known by the aliases “M. M. Cosmoi,”“Volker” and/or “D.”—as weekly contributor to “World Affairs” or to the concluding poetry section (“Pastiche”); more often than not, Mitrinovic contributed to both. There is evidence, moreover, that Orage may have himself contributed, in both letter and spirit, to the “Cosmoi” column. Under his own name, Orage repeatedly uses the language of “conspiracy” (05:51), “conspiracy of silence” (26:301), “sinister plot” and “secret conclave” (25:289) to describe influences inhibiting credit and banking reform.
Cosmoi's incoherent and at times rabid platform, much like that particular outlook on the world held by Razumov in Conrad's Under Western Eyes (1908), betrays a period fascination with the spiritualization of otherwise irrenconcilable absolutes—linking “race” consciousness (white supremacy) to organicist (almost anarchical) fantasies of the anterior. Thus “England is China” (09:100); these empires are paired as twin effeminacies to be contrasted with the rising (and more virile) Columbia (the American continents), whose promise of a “supra-Aryandom” will be fulfilled in a greater “EUROPA” (09:100) through the incorporation of the overseas (presumedly virginal) British empire based on Christian ideals not yet “destroyed by Judaic finance” (01:05). Offering a tonic for English decadence, “America is the evolutionary transcendence of England” (09:99). That a nominal social credit platform on the Douglas-New Age model was established in the Canadian province of Alberta after 1935 (and a later ideologically deviant form, in British Columbia, characterized by conservative populism), including the “homegrown” anti-Semitism of a millennial-fundamentalist Christianity, seemed to vindicate Mitrinovic's hope of a truly global basis for the pan-European future (Stingel). See also “Press Cuttings” (01:12) and (22:255).
All told, “Cosmoi's” is a jumbled assortment, wherein we find bizarre references to specific historical figures (e.g. Madame Blavatsky as a “Superman in the vehicle of femininity … the first woman genius known to history” [08:87]) alongside references to selected favorite texts or influences, ranging from a general preference for Nietzsche as a “scriptural” authority on “the [Christian] Seraphimic … dispensation of the world,” (08:87) or to Walt Whitman and Dostoevsky (08:88) or again to Wordsworth. Notably, the part of France in the unfolding evolution of races, nations and peoples is “satanic and rationalist” (10:112). Or again, Bergson's vitalism represents, for Cosmoi, “Jewish apocalypse” (08:88). That one of Mitrinovic's personal friends and preferred philosophers, Erich Gutkind, was a distinguished (if nonconforming) Jewish thinker (whose writing serves as “a sign of the great ripeness and height to which our age, and Europe especially, has ascended” [12:136]) seems not to have merited mention, let alone ruffled the prevailing perspective.
Under the aegis of The New Age, the Jewish translator of Nietzsche and proponent of an “international aristocracy,” Oscar Levy, could likewise find like-minded company in form of the extremist, proto-fascist George Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers. The two met together to forge what Levy (mistakenly, as Stone points out) called a shared interest in “honest anti-Semitism” (Stone 20-22). Extraordinary, and yet also timely (given the advent of what would subsequently, and rather crudely, be called “modernist” cultural thought), sinister combinations coupled and replicated under the eaves at 38 Cursitor Street.
It is not enough to say that Mitrinovic's essays and poems are bad, although they are, or that they are typically poisonous. That Orage did not find them toxic, and may even have welcomed specific aspects of the views they espouse, signals more than any latter-day criticism could the extent of the homology between nascent (pre-canonical) modernist discourses (across emergent disciplines of literature, economy and social science) and “race” hatred.
Orage's Defense of Anti-Semitism
If the extent to which Orage actually co-authored the weekly publication of anti-Jewish hatred in the “World Affairs” column is debatable, he did defend it. By doing so, Orage sought to indemnify social credit theory and guild socialist movements from the contemporary charges of anti-Semitism brought by those of his readers whose letters occasioned editorial notice and required response.
In one instance, Orage found it necessary to rebut one pro-Douglas-New Age scheme reader's objections to Cosmoi's anti-Semitism as a danger to the movement. Instead of arguing, as the correspondent had done, on behalf of a “humanity composed of individuals,” Orage proposes “groups or blocks [Latin, Slav, Anglo-Teutonic (04:39)] of individuals, functionally differing from each other, and specialized by race and history for their particular work” (03:32). Jews have a different “function” within the organic world order, Orage's argument runs, than do Aryans. Acknowledging the “high misdemeanor” of the anti-Semitism charge (03:33), Orage nevertheless goes on to argue that weighing this charge against The New Age necessarily involves his readers in taking a firm stand against Jewish “cosmopolitanism,” (03:33) against the “strange” collusion (purportedly Jewish) preventing economic reform (03:34), and finally supporting the British-led creation of a “national home” in Palestine (Israel) as a solution to the “Jewish problem” quoted at length below:
Scholars should likewise note, as below, repeated linkages presupposed between anti-Semitism, racialism (as well as racism), the Christian proselytizing basis of the guild movement, and the Douglas-New Age scheme proper:
Overall, the editorial position of The New Age carefully (and problematically) hedged the issue, typically by giving with one hand, and taking with the other, as in one particularly chilling “warning” below:
As the above passage makes abundantly clear, Orage's journal “goes hard” on Jewish peoples everywhere as one hallmark feature of its stentorian call for economic reform. This decision, of course, is not merely a question of economy. From whatever historical telos one can responsibly imagine, The New Age produces anti-Semitic knowledge at a sinister historical crossroads: looking back to the pre-1917 pogroms of tsarist Russia; laterally, to the spread of European fascism (in France, England, and Italy) within the purportedly more liberal nation-state; or ahead to the run-up to the Munich putsch of 1923, and beyond, to the rise of Hitler's National Socialism (Nazism) in Weimar Germany.
To sanitize the issue here, or to downplay it, is not an option. We cannot simply cut away (as if to localize) the anti-Semitism of specific individuals, amid a swirling array of noms de plume and witty aliases. The array of anti-Semitism exists and, like the corruption Orage so often decries in other contexts, it facilitates the rotting of the entire structure girding The New Age. Local outbreaks of anti-Semitism cannot be separated from the wider, more diffuse social, cultural, and economic virulence that infected this first “new age” of modernist discourse, defined by Orage categorically, and otherwise, as Jewish.
It is perhaps also important to note that while toxic, the anti-Semitism nurtured in the pages of The New Age was not uniform. From a platform of populist critique, Orage criticizes, for example, the anti-worker policies of the German industrial magnate Hugo Stinnes (13:146), whose corporate militarism effectively contributed, even after the latter's death in 1924, to the rise of German fascism.
In the end, however, Orage's attempt to deflect “race” hatred away from the wider project of finance reform fails. The former is intrinsic to the latter, either as founding necessity or woeful by-product; in both cases, the pages of The New Age—and as late as 1931, after Orage's decision to return to England to co-found the New English Review and to renew his friendship with Mitrinovic—bear the burden of defending the indefensible. Acknowledging anti-Semitism as an important crux of Orage's vision—as in the passages above, firmly buttressing other normatively racist and nationalist viewpoints—is necessary if one is to disseminate (via the internet or any other medium) the journal's various different projects (economic, literary, social) considered on other (e.g. “socialist”) grounds.
Arts & Sciences
The journal's unique brand of antiglobalizing populism, including work by the otherwise vanguardist “men of 1914” (Ardis 2), produced a wide variety of interesting (and often contradictory) responses to issues of the day across period arts and media, as well as within emerging social-scientific discourses:
- J. A. M. Alcock, psychologist, reviewing the early and significant post-war collection of psychological studies of “the problem of war neuroses” by “orthodox” Freudians including Ferenczi and Simmel (22:261); note the increasing prominence, as in Alcock's analysis, of Jungian challenges to the Freudian mainstream of psychological thought;
- Arthur E. Baines, scientist, on emergent polygraph ("lie detector") technology: “the skin plays no part in bringing the blush of modesty to a maiden cheek, the culprit is the nervous system” (22:260);
- Hilaire Belloc, historian and pundit, on behalf of the “broad divergence between the international money interests and the national interest. A drifting of our center of gravity from that of the International Usurer” (21:244). In form of an aristocratic apology for anti-Semitism—a stance that effectively accommodated, if it did not actively encourage, the rise of European fascism—Belloc takes care, where Cosmoi does not, to distinguish the “great mass” of Jewish people who “distrust, dislike, and react against” the “greed of a handful of millionaires” and notes that the Zionist policy, recently supported by the British government, has divided the Jewish culture and is “far from being a general policy” among them (21:244); see “On Foreign Affairs” in six parts (nos. 20-25);
- Henry Bishop, artist, on the physical fatigue of painting (05:56);
- Edward Clark, music critic, on Francis Poulenc's musical adaptation of Jean Cocteau's poetry: Poulenc has “led us to a worked out quarry … with a number of angular pebbles lying about, over which holiday trippers had wastefully splashed much highly colored paint [and already departed] taking the best building material with them” (04:45); on Schönberg's Kammersinfonie: “Even if the clash of sound may be bewildering, it is a clash of clear cut things” (04:45);
- T. E. Hulme, posthumously published “Fragments: From the notebook of T. E. Hulme, who was killed in the war” (23:275-76); Hulme's notebooks are given careful treatment by Herbert Read in Vol. 30.12;
- Edwin Muir (a.k.a. “Edward Moore”), culture critic, favorable toward Prokofieff's score for the ballet “Chout” (08:89); on Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan: “It is, apparently, the custom of this popular hero to bay at the moon … We are solving with indubitable success the possible problem of a future conflict with the lower races; for we are becoming them” (03:29). On cinema generally: “the most empty form of amusement existing … [and rejects] accursed determinism of the mechanism … half a century of the cinema and people will either be idiots or determinists” (05:53);
- A. R. Orage (a.k.a. “R. H. C.,” culture critic) praising The Dial as “by far and away the best literary journal in the world,” and “an affection for” (02:20) The Little Review (including the work of Mr. Ford Madox Hueffer [Ford]); on the new atomic science (including applications both destructive and helpful) of “positive and negative particles … This opens out bewildering vistas of both hope and terror … we would not seem to be far from Mr. Wells' atomic bombs … on the other hand, if we can free the stored-up energy of the atoms, how easily and how richly could all man's material needs be supplied!” (20:229-30); critical of Anthony Ludovici's What Woman Wishes: “Those who have read Mr. Ludovici's book on Aristocracy must regret his rather persistent efforts to express his conclusions in fiction” (25:299). For detailed information on Ludovici's relationship to the “Aristorcracy,” see Stone, Chapter 2.
- A. E. Randall (a.k.a. “John Francis Hope,” drama critic), on “the first performance in England” of Eugene O'Neill's In the Zone as “not a work that shows any special ability for dramatic writing” (09:103); on seeing Ibsen's A Doll's House at the Everyman's Theatre: “One praised god for the outside of the theatre where no one talked Ibsen, but where one could watch the flappers (Nora's descendants) climbing the hill to the monkey parade on the Heath” (12:141); on theatre generally: “A revolution may be needed in the theatre, but a political revolution cannot be made by the theatre” (03:31);
- Randall, writing as “A.E.R.,” the culture critic, on Bertrand Russell's The Analysis of Mind and the latter's reworking of Freudian psychoanalysis (“mnemic causation”): “a finely destructive work” (09:107); on Edward Carpenter's “Defense of Criminals” as “otiose” (02:23); packages anti-Malthus viewpoints (“The Answer to Malthus” in seven parts, see nos. 10-16) in a uniquely British version of eugenics and degeneration theory (“poverty and fertility are allies”) and flirts dangerously with outright endorsement of sterilization for workers and their families as a response to the low birth rates of the ruling classes (10:119); dissects Nesta Webster's conspiracy theories, originating with freemasonry (or other “secret” societies) and its medieval (“Illuminati”) precursors, as groundless (21:251), and disparages the notion of historical events manipulated by puppeteers (including the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion [20:237]), a fact suggested by his long series, in seven parts, entitled “Grand Guignol History” (nos. 20-26);
- Herbert Read, literary critic of the “Readers and Writers” column after 1921, on D. H. Lawrence's criticism of Whitman: “as near perfect criticism as we can expect” (17:200); goes on to praise Muhammad Iqbal's writing as, by encapsulating the best of Whitman, “crystal[lizing] in its beauty the most essential phases of modern philosophy, making a unity of faith out of a multiplicity of ideas”; and cites an early encounter, secondhand via the Times, with the work of Georg Lukács (23:273);
- Francis Sedlak's rejection of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity wholesale as the “dilemma” wrought by “a fixed idea making [Einstein] insensible to the dictates of sound common sense and pure Reason” (11:127); prior announcement of the latter's lecture on the relativity theory held at Kings' College, Cambridge (05:60);
- Edith Sitwell, writer, rhapsodic on Stravinsky: “the most important living artist of any kind whatsoever” (08:92; 10:118);
- “W. H. A.,” on T. S. Eliot who, as a critic “denies himself the hazard of a generalization,” and as an artist, “distrust[s] his values … or, perhaps more fatally from a distrust of all values. By virtue of his very caution, however … [he] shows more reason … than any other critic in England today” (02:21).
- Ardis, Ann. Modernism and Cultural Conflict, 1880-1922. New York: Cambridge UP, 2002.
- Barrow, Logie and Ian Bullock. Democratic Ideas and the British Labour Movement, 1880-1914. New York: Cambridge UP, 1996.
- Coyle, Michael. “A Profounder Didacticism: Ruskin, Orage and Pound's Reception of Social Credit.”Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship. 17.1 (Spring 1988): 7-28.
- DeBoer-Langworthy, Carol. “Distributism.”http://www.modjourn.brown.edu/Essays/Essays.htm
- Hinton, James. Labour and Socialism: A History of the British Labour Movement, 1867-1974. Brighton, Sussex: Wheatsheaf, 1983.
- Stingel, Janine. Social Discredit: Anti-Semitism, Social Credit and the Jewish Response. Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP, 2000.
- Stone, Dan. Breeding Superman: Nietzsche, Race, and Eugenics in Edwardian and Interwar Britain. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2002.