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Europe: 1936

ISSUE:  Spring 1936

The regimes which lost the first World War were destroyed. In Germany, the monarchy collapsed. In Austria-Hungary, the monarchy fell and the state disintegrated. The Sultan passed into history and took the empire with him. Czarism died of the war disease, and its democratic successor, the so-called Kerensky government, quickly followed when it attempted to prosecute the war against the wishes and interests of the nation. Russia lost the war and made a revolution.

This should be the sharpest object lesson to governments today. They gamble not only with the future of their countries; they risk their own future. Apart from the carnage and destruction of war, these considerations ought to be a powerful pacifist deterrent. They are not. Eighteen years after the end of the first mad international conflict the world seems poised for another which will be bloodier and costlier. Apparently, then, compelling irresistible forces drive nations and governments to the brink of war. If common sense dominated the chancelleries, nations would be beating their swords into ploughshares and their tanks into tractors, Something else must be dominating many of them. It has the markings of a suicidal urge. All the warnings and propaganda of the peacemakers avail but little.

This matter concerns the fate of mankind. It will determine the course of civilization. It is too serious to permit vagueness or a hypocritical respect for susceptibilities. Three major nations menace the peace of humanity. They are Japan, Germany, and Italy.

It needs no court of jurists to find that Japan and Italy are warlike. The League of Nations has officially and publicly branded them aggressors. They are engaged in wars of conquests which are visible to the naked eye. Their armies are in the field. Germany still lives in peace. But all the world watches nervously for the day on which that peace will end. “When will Germany be ready?” is Europe’s most frequent and most disturbing query.

Affirmations of peaceful intentions are untrustworthy. The road leading to the World War was paved with the peaceful declarations of the statesmen of all nations. On September 16, 1935, two weeks before Italy opened hostilities against Ethiopia, Mussolini said: “Italy, too, is a lover of peace, wishes for peace.” Governments talk peace even in the midst of fighting. It costs nothing and it may beguile the innocent. What is required is a careful search for the objective truth. The threat of war will not be removed by preaching, any more than diseases are cured by soothsayers. To prevent war the causes of militarism must be analysed and, if possible, eliminated.


Have Japan, Germany, and Italy some common features which would indicate the presence of a single cause of war? With all the world so complicated and so insane, this crucial question can unhesitatingly be answered with a simple affirmative. These three countries use the same arguments and almost the same words to justify their designs and desires.

The task of the social analyst is facilitated by the spokesmen of the aggressive powers. They are against the territorial status quo. They want to recast the map to their advantage. At present, they all contend, its demarcations choke them, make it difficult for them to live and prosper. They must, they say, expand. National Socialist leaders in Germany have put this point time without number, and one need merely draw at random from a mountain of quotations.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister for Propaganda and one of the three most outstanding political figures of Germany, asserted on January 17, 1936:

It will not do that we continue to live as a poor country while the rest of the world is rolling in wealth. We are beggars. We are confronted with difficulties which we cannot overcome by domestic measures. The others do not need the colonies they have taken from us. We wish to remain neutral, but we understand that a nation like Italy must live. It is dangerous for the world not to concede such demands, because some day the bomb will explode.

This is a plain hint that some day, perhaps soon, Germany will face the necessity of following Italy into the path of external expansion. Indeed, it is more than a hint, for Goebbels went on to say that

sometimes there are moments when one has to take the sword and cut the knot. We do not want to interfere with the conflict between Great Britain and Abyssinia on the one hand and Italy on the other. But Germany is learning a lesson from the situation. It is that a nation without power is not able to preserve peace even when she is willing to do so.

Relieved of its thin coat of diplomacy, this last sentence means that a nation which is not strong enough to frighten everybody off encounters opposition when it proceeds to occupy foreign soil. “We must be a nation of martyrs,” Goebbels concluded, “for we have certain tasks to fulfil in the world.”

Japan likewise has a mission to fulfil. Koki Hirota, the Japanese Foreign Minister, told the Japanese Parliament on January 21, 1936:

We have successfully built up our national strength and prestige, accepting and adding to our civilization the art and science of the West. Now, I believe, the time has come for us to carry our art and culture to other countries.

Japan, accordingly, is carrying her civilization to uncivilized China. As in the case of Ethiopia, the selfish motive is hidden behind a smoke screen of idealism after the manner of the first World War, when the Allied and Associated Powers were fighting for democracy. How comic—and tragic—it is to recall now the 1917-18 slogan—”The war to end wars.” Politicians will always find the necessary grandiloquent phrases.

Italy, too, is convinced that her conquest of Ethiopia was undertaken “in the cause of justice and civilization,” to use the closing words of a Fascist poster. Discussing the Ethiopian venture with me in December, 1935, Signor Edmondo Rossoni, a member of the Grand Fascist Council, said: “Italy can make a new contribution to civilization. . . . Mussolini has created a new nation which has a right to contribute towards world civilization.” This echoes Mussolini’s statement that “Italy could above all civilize Africa.”

Mussolini’s Italian, Goebbels’ German, and Hirota’s Japanese all sound like one language. They must civilize because they are overpopulated and need raw materials. “We are hungry for land,” the Duce averred during his North African visit in 1926, “because we are prolific and intend to remain so.” The German Fascists likewise refer to their excessive population. And this is the loudest argument heard in To-kio. The Italians have desperately striven to raise their birth rate by all manner of prizes, laws, and special taxation. Mussolini wants Italy to remain prolific. Germany under Hitler has followed a similar line. Apparently, they wish to aggravate a situation which is used as an excuse for expansion. Nevertheless, the rate of increase in the populations of Italy and Germany and Japan has actually fallen.


The explanation for the expansionist urge of the two great Fascist countries and of near-Fascist Japan is not civilization. Nor is it overpopulation. Nor is it pre-eminently economic. Mussolini has justly spoken of Ethiopia as “a wretched plot of ground in the African sun.” Signor Ros-soni argued that “the war perhaps has economic reasons but chiefly the reasons are moral and political.” Herr Goebbels wants colonies for Germany, yet one has only to page through Adolph Hitler’s “My Battle” to gather all the arguments against the return of Germany’s African possessions. They are not economic assets, and they did not prevent the Kaiser, who owned them, from seeking further aggrandizement. Japan took Manchuria, presumably, to solve her economic problems and to relieve her excess crowding. Before long, however, Tokio learned that the Manchurian climate was not congenial to Japanese colonization and that the three Eastern provinces could not satisfy her material requirements. Accordingly, the process of occupation in China proceeds further into the five Northern provinces and Inner Mongolia.

It has been shown that the world is not suffering from any dearth of basic raw materials. Indeed, there is a surfeit of such commodities. For years, the nations and the powerful trusts fought for new oil fields in Mosul, in the Caucasus, in Persia, et cetera. Oil imperialism is now a phase that has passed. Humanity has more petroleum than it can use. While the United States is trying to solve the problem of superfluous cotton, Japan is endeavoring to acquire cotton-growing lands in China. Italy has already spent more on her East African adventure than all the raw material sources in Ethiopia—never really charted, incidentally—could give her in the next twenty-five years. Even the propagandist maps of the Italians indicate only these possibilities in Ethiopia: cotton, gold, platinum, coffee. But cotton is being plowed under, gold is available in huge reserves which lie unused in subterranean vaults, platinum is freely sold on the world markets, and Brazil sinks her coffee beans in the sea. Why make war for things which can be cheaply acquired by peaceful means?

The roots of the international war menace must be sought elsewhere. In the first place, war, in Fascist countries, becomes an end in itself. Writing in the new Berlin “Military Scientific Review” for January, 1936, General von Seeckt, former chief of the Reichswehr, frankly states:

War is the climax of human achievement. War is the natural and last phase of development in the history of mankind. War is the father of all things, and at the same time it prepares the end of a period of time for a nation in order to be the father of a new development.

Mussolini translates this into Italian. In his book, “The Doctrine of Fascism,” published in 1934, he writes:

Only war raises all demonstrations of human energy to their highest pitch and places the stamp of nobility on nations which can meet it openly. No other test can take its place for they never confront man with himself, never confront him with the choice between life and death. For this reason, any doctrine which takes as its point of departure the postulate of peace is foreign to Fascism. . . .

The Italian “Gazetta del Popolo,” among many others, recently struck the same note.

War has a beauty of its own. War rejuvenates the masculine body. War realizes the mechanical perfection of man. . . . War serves the greatness of the great Fascist Italy.

The dossiers of any good observer contain numerous similar glorifications of war spoken by prominent Japanese. To spill one’s blood for the Mikado is not only a cult but an ambition. But the responsible statesmen in France or England or Russia or America use no such expressions about the ennobling qualities of war.

It has been suggested that warlike sentiments flourish under dictatorship. Italy and Germany are avowed dictatorships, while Japan’s foreign as well as domestic policies are often dictated by a small group of military leaders with Fascist tendencies. In his message to Congress on January 3, 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, frankly flaying “the rulers . . . who fail to subscribe to the principle of bettering the human race by peaceful means,” lashed the “twin spirits of autocracy and aggression” which direct the destinies of nations where dictatorships enjoy unbridled sway. These nations, he said, “have . . . impatiently reverted to the old belief in the law of the sword, or to the fantastic conception that they, and they alone, are chosen to fulfill a mission and that all the others among the billion and a half of human beings in the world must and shall learn from and be subject to them.” There was gnashing of teeth in Tokio, Berlin, and Rome when President Roosevelt delivered these carefully weighed words, but London, Paris, Moscow, and the capitals of smaller states experienced poorly-concealed pleasure.

Now a little arithmetic. The President referred to the world’s population as a billion and a half. “World peace and good will,” he added, “arc blocked by only ten to fifteen per cent of the world’s population.” Ten to fifteen per cent equals 150,000,000 to 225,000,000 people. The population of Germany is 69,000,000, of Italy 44,000,000, and of Japan 70,000,000. Total: 183,000,000. It is clear that without mentioning them the President meant Germany, Italy, and Japan. But the Soviet Union is also a dictatorship. He obviously did not include it, with its 170,000,000 inhabitants.

He implied that the Russian dictatorship is not aggressive. Roosevelt distinguished between two types of dictatorship. In fact, it was indicated quite directly to the Soviet government at the time of the message that the President’s words did not refer to it.


A dictatorship, then, may be aggressive or peace-loving. Does the aggressiveness of certain dictatorships arise from their Fascism or does Fascism as well as aggressiveness spring from one and the same deep source? This question is not academic; it concerns international diplomacy very intimately. Today, for instance, many persons in Europe feel that the fall of Mussolini would end the Ethiopian venture and bring peace. But is it not possible that Fascism spreads where there is a fundamental need for aggression? If the aggressive tendencies of Italy, Germany, and Japan are thwarted, may it not be that the entire social systems of those countries, and not only their present cabinets, will collapse? Behind the diplomatic battles of Europe and Asia looms this greatest of world dilemmas.

The Hoare-Laval proposals of December 8, 1935, and several recent intimations that Germany’s demand for colonies might be satisfied, have been interpreted as the reflection of imperialist intrigues and the machinations of foreign offices. In a larger sense, they also rest upon a realization that unless the urge of some nations towards expansion is at least partially gratified there could be an explosion which would also affect surrounding lands. In a conversation with me recently, the chief executive of a central European country advocated the transfer of colonies to Germany in the hope that it would serve as a “ventilator” for the escape of dangerous emotions and trends. This statesman is not alone in holding such a view. It may well be, however, that Hitler originally opposed the idea of colonies for Germany because he wanted not a valve but a solution through real economic concessions.

Since the first World War, few colonies or semi-colonial lands have been available as objects of conquest. Barren Ethiopia is the last prize left in Africa. Moreover, many backward agrarian countries have taken long strides towards industrialization and, consequently, greater self-sufficiency. Russia is the outstanding example, but in India, Jugoslavia, Turkey, and other countries, the same process is taking place. Resurgent nationalism and the fear of war have accelerated this tendency. Nations anxious to produce the largest possible quantity of war supplies at home, so as to be less dependent on the outside in case of hostilities, have expanded their industries beyond peace-time requirements and irrespective of purely economic considerations. These countries thereupon become worse customers; the great industrial states lose part of their foreign sales. At the same time, however, the progress of technology under the capitalist system has vastly increased the power to produce. This development, however, has not been accompanied by an equal growth in the consumption possibilities of nations. The world, accordingly, has witnessed the parallel phenomena of contracting imports and an expanded capacity to export. These conditions were aggravated by the economic depression of 1929 and subsequent years. The two conceivable cures are: bigger foreign markets or larger domestic consumption.

It is interesting that the National Socialist movement in Germany began by writing one of these cures on its banner and then erased it to adopt the alternative. Hitlerisin first marched under the flag of autarchy. Germany was to achieve the maximum degree of economic self-sufficiency. That has now been abandoned. “Only very few persons in Germany,” wrote Josef Winschuh in a survey of 1935 in the Berlin ‘Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung” of December 31,1935, “still dream of autarchy.” The Nazis have despaired of healing their economic maladies by domestic means alone. Autarchy, if it were possible, would be compatible with a policy of peace. The converse of autarchy is foreign expansion. It should be added that Mussolini likewise first attempted to improve economic conditions by undertaking an ambitious program of public works which, for a time, did actually accomplish appreciable results. Before long, nevertheless, the limit of achievement in this field was reached, and then the alternative of colonial aggrandizement was resorted to.

The conclusion is clear: either international diplomacy evolves some means of solving the economic problems of Fascist countries or we shall have rumors of wars and wars. This is the background of today’s diplomacy in Europe. It is the background, too, of the Ethiopian war, of the crisis in the Far East, and of the relationship between Germany and the rest of the world.

It has been submitted that if Fascist countries, by raising incomes, enabled their citizens to consume all they produced, the compulsion to find foreign markets through expansion would be checked. But statistics show that in Germany and Italy the standard of living has fallen in recent years. The best reply to this theory, however, is that to eliminate “overproduction” by increasing earnings the profits of all entrepreneurs would have to be wiped out, and no Fascist regime could attempt such an experiment. Even a dictator like Mussolini or Hitler cannot revolutionize the fundamental principles of his nation’s economy.

One need not be an apologist of Fascism, much less of aggression, to grant that, given the social framework of Germany, Italy, and Japan, they could best solve their material problems by bursting their territorial bonds. There is only one way of avoiding such a catastrophe: to present the Fascists with the things they ask. Japan is taking those things in China. Italy is endeavoring to take Ethiopia. Germany is the real difficulty. But Italy too. Ethiopia can give as little to Rome as Angola or the former German colonies in Africa would to Berlin. Even Japan, with eight Chinese provinces under her thumb, continues her forward pressure towards southern China and in the direction of the Soviet Union. There seems to be little logic and not much economic wisdom in this entire development.

Nevertheless, high tariff walls, immigration restrictions in the United States, the policy of industrialization and agrari-anization in many countries, and the troubles which certain nations consequently experience in obtaining the wherewithal for the purchase of raw materials and other commodities, are undoubtedly the factors which hastened the advent of Fascism and of the war menace. A return to the relatively normal conditions of pre-war times is not likely. If anything, Europe is more crazy than ever, and to expect it to revert to sanity is naive. The London World Economic Conference of 1931 was an attempt to halt the descent into the abyss. It failed miserably. Idealists and also bankers and statesmen still occasionally dream of peaceful redivision of markets, of raw materials, and of gold supplies. Will Great Britain surrender her colonies? Will the nations allow Japan to flood their shops with cheap textiles? Will the United States purchase much more abroad and undertake to sell less? Will England return to free trade? Will Hungary and Jugoslavia scrap expensive factories and buy finished goods in Germany and Czechoslovakia? Past efforts to achieve only the tiniest fraction of these desiderata have floundered. Yet they are all necessary to put the world back on an even keel. On the other hand, such measures, even if they solved some knotty problems, might create equally knotty problems. If the United States swelled the volume of its imports, American manufacturers and their employees would protest. Powerful vested interests bar a rational cure of the numerous national changes which must precede an international economic adjustment that would prevent war. The sole hope is that when conditions become very bad, when the war will be in plain sight, people will sink their selfish interests and act for the common good. One would be happy to harbor this faith in modern man. But recent events are no encouragement. Nevertheless, it is the duty of statesmanship to explore the possibility. It is pleasant to note that the United States Secretary of State Cordell Hull, fighting against tremendous odds, has attempted a slight beginning. The special aspect of this new task facing modern diplomacy lies in the conflict between national sovereignty and the requirements of an international settlement. I have no doubt that a brilliant economist could take pencil in hand and draft the best possible plan of world economic appeasement by non-violent means. But who would compel its execution?

That being the case, the diplomats of Europe, while paying occasional lip service to the desirability of striving towards the ultimate ideal goal, busy themselves with day-today politics. This preoccupation is in itself proof of the hopelessness of the first and larger task. Ninety-nine hundredths of the energy of diplomacy is spent not on the solution of problems but in Coping with the situation created by those problems. The situation, obviously, is the aggressiveness of Germany, Japan, and Italy.


The pre-war diplomat had to know his own country’s interests and other countries’ geography. But today sociology enters on the scene. It began on the day Woodrow Wilson drew a line between the Kaiser and the Kaiser’s subjects and proclaimed democracy as goal. When President Roosevelt criticizes aggressive autocracies he reverts to Wilsonism and takes cognizance of domestic political regimes. He thus adopts the wise course of dealing not only with war but with the causes of war. If everybody applied Roosevelt’s test of aggressiveness, the world would be divided into Fascist and anti-Fascist camps, with Germany, Italy, Japan, Hungary, and perhaps Poland in one, and England, France, Russia, Czechoslovakia, the small neutrals, and America in the second. These constellations are actually beginning to emerge, however slowly, painfully and, in part, imperceptibly. The Fascist alignment is revisionist and glorifies war; the anti-Fascist favors the status quo and is frantically seeking to avert war. Germany and Japan have left the League of Nations. Italy is in conflict with the League. Hungary is pro-Italian and anti-sanctionist, while Poland’s ministers have expressed doubts about the League’s efficacy and about collective security as well. Thus the Fascist world is anti-League, whereas the anti-Fascist world is pro-League (with America on the border line).

Much more, however, than principle and general sociological trend connects the anti-Fascist nations. France feels herself exposed to German aggression. So also Czechoslovakia. England’s interests have actually been infringed by Italy in Ethiopia and by Japan in China. Russia believes that Japan, Germany, and Poland may attack her. The United States has sided with England against Japan on naval questions; in the Far East, American interests run parallel with Britain’s, and in part with Russia’s. Like the Fascist bloc, then, the anti-Fascist bloc would be united by idea and self-interest.

Especially if America should give comfort to the anti-Fascist, anti-aggression nations, this combination would be far stronger than its potential opponents. It is richer in man power, raw materials, money, and territory. Since world peace cannot be guaranteed by a solution of problems, it can only be secured by confronting the possible aggressors with a superior coalition of forces, and thus convincing them that war would unquestionably bring them defeat and disaster. Herein lies the importance of the League of Nations’ efforts against Italy.

Japan “got away with” her conquest of Chinese provinces because the League failed to act and because England would not, and Russia then could not, follow America’s anti-Japanese lead. This, as well as Germany’s successful defiance of the Powers in announcing national conscription on March 16, 1935, encouraged Mussolini to think that he could seize Ethiopia with impunity. Should Italy also “get away with it,” the track for future aggressors would be wide open and free.

Europe is full of persons who object, on various grounds, to sanctions. But the desire to teach Italy a lesson in order to check further aggression transcends every other consideration no matter how weighty.

Sanctions that would effectively sober autocratic aggressors, or ententes of anti-Fascist states which would achieve the same result, might easily have very interesting social repercussions in Europe and Asia. Viewed historically, one of the functions of Fascist regimes is to facilitate violent territorial adjustments. But if those regimes were to meet unyielding resistance they would lose their raison d’etre and perhaps disappear. A universal realization of the impossibility of fighting would be disastrous to aggressive autocracies. Modern diplomacy must decide whether it accepts this and other social implications of pacifism. Hostility to Fascism abroad involves the same tactics at home.

The truth is, however, that the Powers whose obvious interests are anti-aggressor and anti-Fascist have not yet committed themselves to an unalterable policy of the defense of those interests. Opportunism conflicts with principle. All the ugly intrigue and crass tradition of modern diplomacy rises up to prevent a brave stand on moral issues. France, long the protagonist of the League and a frequent champion of collective security — because she needs these weapons against Germany—nevertheless wavered, when the Ethiopian issue arose, between Italy and the League and between Italy and England. M. Laval thought he could, thereby win Italy over for an anti-German combination. He believed that France, by aiding one aggressor, could stop another aggressor who concerned her more directly. This short-sighted and futile approach is typical of the attitude which hastens the coming of war in Europe. Nor is England without guilt.

London wanted French co-operation against Italy, yet it would not promise France the same kind of co-operation against Germany. The reasons are numerous and some of them, examined in the light of immediate advantage, are valid. But such action encourages the forces of war; and war is not to England’s ultimate advantage.

War may overtake Europe—and no war could be localized in Europe only—if the anti-aggression nations fail to find a common policy and a common program. Disunity and neutrality when a given nation is not immediately involved are dangerous; they inspire the aggressor with greater hopes. For the aggressors are also dictatorships. They may form a united front for simultaneous action more readily than the others because their political systems allow them to take risks and to adopt swift decisions. It is more difficult for England to strike a sudden blow than for Italy.

My recent stay in Italy convinced me that those observers were right who argued that Mussolini might have hesitated to take up arms against Ethiopia if he had known definitely that Britain would be so adamant against Italian aggrandizement in East Africa. But Mussolini believed that England was weak; part of her weakness, as he conceived it, was vacillation and indecision. If these qualities are inherent in a democracy—and they need not be—concrete advance commitments and pledges can mitigate their deleterious effects. The elasticity and freedom of action on which Britishers sometimes pride themselves may be wind in the sails of offenders. The same applies to American neutrality. The policy of aloofness may be just and wise from America’s standpoint. Indeed it is difficult to study the record of the first World War and then urge intensive American participation in European affairs. But the fact remains that if Germany was certain that neither England nor America would assist the victim of her aggression she would be much more likely to precipitate hostilities.

l This is the basic criterion of German foreign policy at present. Germany wishes to abolish collective security, reduce the League of Nations to impotence either directly or through a Four Power Pact, and then, by means of bilateral non-aggression or non-interference agreements, make sure that some nations keep hands off when she goes to war. Hitler himself has sketched the ideal war situation. “It would perhaps,” he told the Reichstag on May 21, 1935, “be more serviceable to the cause of peace if the other nations were to withdraw at once from both sides at the outbreak of such a conflict rather than to allow themselves to be involved in this conflict from the outset by treaty obligations.” To illustrate: Italy attacks Ethiopia. It would have served the cause of peace, according to Hitler, if other nations had withdrawn at once from both sides, if no one had helped Italy and no one had helped Ethiopia. How simple this makes things for the aggressor: Germany, let us assume, invades Czechoslovakia. Nobody helps Germany and nobody helps Czechoslovakia. It is not hard to guess who would win. The potential aggressors naturally do not relish collective security compacts which oblige unattacked nations to assist the attacked. For the same reason they object to Geneva. J

It is sometimes contended that collective security treaties would encircle Germany and drive her to desperate deeds. It would be wrong to encircle Germany. Germany must not be surrounded by a cordon of hostile Powers. She should be asked to adhere to mutual assistance schemes and collective security arrangements. If she refuses she isolates herself. She is then guilty of self-encirclement. Germany left the League on her own volition. She should be invited back. If she remains recalcitrant she will be excluding herself. It is noteworthy that many Germans already make National Socialism responsible for the unfriendly attitude towards Germany in numerous foreign circles.

Fear of domestic political disaffection or of the effects of a deteriorating economy may deter dictatorship from going to war. But these are double-edged factors; the autocracies may believe that the patriotism engendered by war will banish unrest and make citizens forget their material troubles. In this field, therefore, only speculation is possible, never prediction. As conditions grow worse, Fascism could easily try to persuade its followers that the cure lies only in the acquisition of foreign provinces. The Germans are already whispering that the possession of Russia’s vast prairie could alleviate their food shortage.

Internal conditions may postpone wars. They may hasten wars. Nor can the difficulty of the task undertaken be relied upon to sober the adventurous. In 1932, when Mussolini asked the Italian general staff to draft a plan for the conquest of Ethiopia, he was told that it would involve three years’ fighting and heavy expenditures which the country could hardly bear. He insisted on the plan nevertheless. Subsequently, he insisted on carrying it out. Hope springs eternal in the human breast, and the dictator will always take a chance, trusting in luck or in the superior industrial prowess of his nation or in the exceptional bravery of his troops or in the weakness of the enemy. Undoubtedly, circumstances might arise to dissuade Fascist regimes from staking their futures on successful wars, but to depend on such vague possibilities of peace would be madness. Italy and Japan have already sought the warpath, and the horizon is black with threatening storm.


The most frightening prospect is an extension of the Italo-Ethiopian conflict. If Germany were to take advantage of Italy’s weakness in order to occupy Austria, or of England’s preoccupation with Italy to occupy the Baltic states, the die could be cast and the world would be at war. The best minds of Europe sit for hours and days working out various military groupings and wondering what they might do. Italy, with her submarines and air fleet, might cut Britain off from the Eastern Mediterranean, in which case Japan could attack India and Italy Egypt. Fantastic, of course. But suppose at the same time, Germany bombed London, and England had no energy or attention to spare for the protection of her empire? While Nippon’s navy was busy with India, her army could invade the U. S. S. R., and Germany with Poland’s co-operation would invade the U. S. S. R. on the west. Hungary would fall on Czechoslovakia and Rumania. Italy would try to hamstring Jugoslavia. France would be engaged by Germany and Italy. Today, this is all a chess problem. Tomorrow it may be the embryo of reality.

That the Powers take a serious view of such seemingly mad and far-fetched combinations is witnessed by Britain’s earnest endeavors to keep Germany from joining hands with Italy and by the fact that the Soviet government has actually formulated its defense program on the assumption of a simultaneous German-Japanese offensive.

Moreover, the mere possibility that this or a similar constellation may take shape and throw humanity into the trenches again drives foreign offices off the thin and narrow path of principle into all sorts of ad hoc rapprochements which can do no real good. Thus, when Germany objects to the Franco-Soviet pact, Paris delays in its ratification. Germany’s position also interferes with the rapid evolution of Anglo-Soviet relations. If the threat of Italo-German friendship grows more serious, London will certainly feel constrained to make concessions either to Germany or to Italy in order to break up the combination, for a close collaboration between the Fascist states is the shortest road to a world war.

The diplomacy of the status quo, anti-revisionist states, accordingly, vacillates between a policy of organizing their own united front and a second policy of preventing the organization of the enemy’s united front. These are not the same thing. The second has heretofore obstructed the first. For the Fascist states have consented to refrain from uniting among themselves only on condition that the anti-Fascists do not unite. In actual fact, however, the Fascist states pursue a double and doubtful policy of drawing closer to one another—witness German-Japanese and German-Polish collaboration—yet insisting that the others remain split up. Germany’s efforts are today plainly directed to preventing France, England, and Russia from forming an entente. At the same time, the potential aggressors continue their campaign against the League of Nations, which is also a source of some danger to a belligerent. European diplomacy is so involved and opaque because all the possible objects of an attack have not yet decided to make common cause. If and when they do so the world will of course be divided into two hostile camps which will arm and arm and wait for the fateful day. That will be a horrible situation, with a whole generation demoralized by the thought that its profession will be war, that its family life will be the soldier’s tent, and that its culture will consist in killing. But soon we will have such a situation anyway. Today the statesmen merely refuse to call a spade a spade. Civilization— one is almost tempted to put it in quotation marks—is already concentrated on its own destruction. The alternative is twofold: either the Fascist states will “crack up” and undermine their own economic strength, in which case they will not be able to fight, or the nations which want tranquillity and progress will, by pooling their resources, frighten the others into keeping the peace.


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