While Ross, early in his career, was rather skeptical about the usefulness of German colonial projects, the question of colonial rule became more and more important in his geopolitical essays, travelogues, and lectures from the late 1920s on.
In the aftermath of the First World War Ross’s assessment of Germany’s colonial expansion was dominated by economic criteria. Confronted with the hardships German settlers had to face in South America colonialism appeared to him to be a doubtful enterprise. But upon his return to Europe and during his extensive journeys in the 1920s, especially in eastern Europe and Africa, he drastically reconsidered his skeptic opinion. Instead he now argued for Germany’s, even Europe’s, future leading role in global politics, for which colonial expansion was a precondition—and Germany’s glorious colonial past served as an example.
He distanced himself nevertheless from the mainstream of then current German colonial policy, i.e. from the idea of regaining the lost territories and reviving the cultural and technological mission in the colonies. Instead, he pleaded for an expansion of power based on economic and political influence in order to guarantee the supremacy of white colonists. The reason for this shift in Ross’s thinking was his conviction that, after the Great War, the world had been rearranged by combining the economic and political principles of Volk ohne Raum, Raum ohne Volk and white racial dominance.
For Ross, European domination should continue to take the form of colonization. He encourages the development of a new European colonial Weltanschauung to support this project.
For Ross, colonization is a pragmatic calculation: Europeans (or the “white race”) are in a life-or-death struggle with the other peoples of the world for control over living space and raw material supplies. It is a zero-sum game, every ‘race’ to itself, with ethical imperatives only extending to include the members of one’s own racial in-group.
Such a cold-blooded approach allows Ross to critically evaluate colonial Weltanschauung (which he variously refers to as the “colonial idea”, “colonial world-image”, and “colonial hypothesis”) to identify any compromises being made in the name of “humanitarianism”. These he identifies in all attempts to “civilize” the colonial periphery, which he finds seriously misguided, because any knowledge, technology, or training that is transferred to the colonized only serves to undermine European dominance.
The lectures Ross and/or his proxy speakers delivered at different venues exemplify how strategically Ross applied diverse elements of the colonial idea and how sensitive he met the expectations of his audience.
In the US, in 1924, during his first around-the-world journey, Ross presented himself as an active and influential promoter of new settlements by German and Central European “colonists” (see Colonists without colonies). Meanwhile, in his newspaper reports for Germany he was considerably more moderate if not skeptical of the possibilities and efficiency of new immigration to the US, in fact, colonialism proved a no-go topic in his book Mit dem Kurbelkasten um die Erde, devoted to this trip (see Colonists ignored).
The case of the presentations of Ross’s 1927 African sojourn shows a contrasting and more complex pattern of adapting colonial ideas. His appearances in Germany on the occasion of the premieres of Die erwachende Sphinx seemed to strengthen the belief in the significance and feasibility of running (new) colonial estates (see Serving colonial revisionism). Furthermore, the eponymous book contained an argumentative framework that became increasingly prominent in Ross’s later works. It is the symbolic power of possessing colonies against which no rational objection would be effective and that must be served by actual politics. Although Ross’s statements, a vague mixture consisting of the claims of Volk ohne Raum and of the image of the empowered colonized, could be marketed well in the realm of popular culture, they were critically perceived in the ‘professional’ milieus of colonial politics (see Ross’s keywords for ex-colonists).
Colin Ross regards European colonization of Asia as reaching its end and stresses the need for white racial solidarity beyond national territorial possessions.
Visiting Rabaul, the capital of the former colony of German New Guinea, Ross waxes nostalgic for Germany’s colonial know-how. (See: German lushness in New Guinea) But surprisingly for an author who is deeply involved in Germany’s geopolitical standing, Ross repeatedly expresses sympathy with British colonial rule. He refrains from openly criticizing the new British colonial administration. Even more strikingly, Colin Ross professes unease at the thought–for him a foregone conclusion 1–of India becoming independent from British rule (See: How the British tricked themselves into losing India).
Simply put, racial solidarity beats national animosity for Colin Ross at this point. He identifies himself with Britain more than with the Asian populations, whose eventual forays into Africa or even Europe he dreads. But his lecturing and filmmaking about colonial exploitation and anti-colonial struggles still proved open-ended enough to inspire some very different reactions, including socialist solidarity with the masses on the Southern hemisphere (See: The challenge of international solidarity).
1 See: Colin Ross. [Excerpt from] Kolonien? Zeitschrift für Geopolitik. 1933 May; Jg. 10, 1. Halbband(H. 5): 266–7. See Library.