Wordplay

The seed planted in chapter 1 of Unser Amerika, viz. that restrictions on immigration had led to a focus on national origins, more specifically on Deutschtum, has at the end of the book ripened to a full-blown political argument.

In his summation Ross blames America for its wordplay with the terms democracy and dictatorship and points out the country’s double standards. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have been rendered ineffectual by racial discrimination on one hand and the notion of a chosen people on the other, while the concentration of mineral resources and the means of production—and  the political  power  that  comes  with  it—in the hands of a few have  reduced these venerated texts to dead letters. America has no equality, no democracy,1 it even has no American people.2

Ross argues, therefore, that the development of Deutschtum, or Volkstum in general, signals that race will become the basis of a future American society. And as, he claims, Germans were the first to realize that an encouragement of peoples’ ethnicity—rather than erasure and suppression, as in the melting pot—would make a happier world, it is German Americans’ mission to build a new order based on the inequality of people, i.e. their ethnic characteristics, in which each race has its own place.3 Following the example of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, this new order will be realized through the dictatorship of a leader appointed by the will of the people. Consequently, Ross can write that this dictatorship is a true democracy. Talk about wordplay!

In building this new order in America German Americans will realize the dream their ancestors had when they set sail. This hint to the political refugees of the 1830s and 1840s typifies Ross’s sampling method of history writing and creates an effect of continuity. However, it is hard to believe that these refugees’ idea of a true democracy was of a country whose people would turn over their franchise and their civic rights to a strong leader—that was rather redolent of the political arrangement they had escaped from. What is certain is that Ross’s contemporary German Americans, as the German ambassador to the USA reported to the Foreign Office in 1938, were massively against this world view and the order it threatened to bring.4 Ross may have been popular, but whether he was influential is questionable.

Nico de Klerk








Colin Ross. Die deutsche Wiedergeburt in Amerika. In: Unser Amerika. Der deutsche Anteil and den Vereinigten Staaten. 1. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1936; 278-287.


Topic: Auslandsdeutsche
Case: American journeys




Footnotes

1 As pointed out elsewhere, too, Ross conceives of democracy, not as representative, but only as assembly democracy, “which is only suitable for small communities”. No wonder he concludes that America is too big for democracy to work. Ross. 1936; 280.

2 Ross did point out, though, that there was an American (brown) race, but he repudiated that notion in the same book. See: Colin Ross, Amerikas Schicksalsstunde. Die Vereinigten Staaten zwischen Demokratie und Diktatur. 12. Aufl. Leizpig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1942 [1935]; 135-137. See Library.

3 This statement comes only two years after Ross acknowledged that the superiority of one race or country over another is a “Fiktion”, in Colin Ross. Amerika und das schwarze Weltproblem. In: Zeitschrift für Geopolitik. 1934 July;  11 (2. Halbband, H. 7): 399-409; see Library. It is just one, although conspicuous instance of the inconsistencies in Ross’s output. Rather than a matter of advanced insight (where one would have expected a reference to earlier beliefs), Ross’s reasoning is expedient, grabbing any available liana to swing his argument.

4 Bodo-Michael Baumunk. Colin Ross. Ein deutscher Revolutionär und Reisender 1885-1945. [unpublished master’s thesis]. rev. edn. Berlin; 2015 [1999]; 103. See Library.

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