The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 8 (April 1, 1932.)
War That is Not War—What is a Government?—Boycotts and Gold-corners— “The Greatest European”—Manchu Anti-Climax.
A Fact That Isn't.
Rapid changes in the moving picture of world events mark the year 1932. The economic ferment has become, in Asia, a military ferment. The arguments of trade and currency, and the arguments of gunpowder, have become strangely intermixed. It was war that put the pinnacle on the overload of debt, and thus squeezed world-trade down into its present misery. And yet we have more war. Another paradox is that they don't call it war. If it was called war it would become a breach of the peace covenants. Breach of the peace covenants must not be. Therefore it is not war.
Not War but it Cuts.
Because of work done by the League of Nations and the covenanting Powers, war de jure has so far been prevented. It has been prevented by not legally declaring war. But war de facto draws blood just as effectively as does war that is legal. The shells do not burst any worse or any better because neither side has declared. The bayonets are not less keen because a Japanese Minister remains in China and a Chinese Minister at Tokio. In terms of diplomacy. China and Japan remain friendly powers, and their friendship is filling the cemeteries (or the field graves) of Manchuria and Shanghai. It will go down in history as friendly blood-letting.
League Still Needed.
Though the League of Nations has been humiliated, that is no reason for scrapping the League. A conciliator is often humiliated. But conciliation must still proceed. Viscount Grey's plea that after allowing for debits, the League system still represents a huge credit balance in internationalism may be allowed. The referee may yet regain control of the game; and it is not helpful to jeer when he blows his whistle unavailingly. But the League of Nations must tread shrewdly on the delicate ground. On 7th March Lord Robert Cecil (“the soul of the League”) said that Japan had taken the law into her own hands and had resorted to violence; and if the League Assembly did not exert its powers its members would be regarded as accomplices of the aggressor. On 9th March the British Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, stated at Geneva that Britain would not join in any coercive step against Japan.
Duties of a State.
Like doctors of medicine, the doctors of peace must inevitably come up against the issue of prevention or cure. From page 10 cure of war-disputes they will march towards prevention of causes. Many questions will be asked. Is a nation-wide boycott of another nation's goods a cause of war? If there is a Government that is too weak in its internal control to prevent boycotts, and even destruction of foreigners' property and lives, shall it be permissible for the foreign Government concerned to wage punitive war, undeclared? A League of Nations must consider whether it is keeping the peace between effective Governments, or merely bolstering up a sham Government. It is even possible that a sham Government may be made a real Government by foreign guns. The real Chinese unity visioned by Sun-Yat-Sen may yet date its birth from this year's events.
Briand's Half-done Work.
Elections of extreme importance to the world take place in 1932 in Europe and America, By the time these notes are published the reader will probably know whether Hindenburg remains the compromise President of Germany or whether Hitler has displaced him with a policy of repudiating the reparations debt to France. In May there are elections in France, and it seems that the Socialist Radical policy is definitely to cancel German reparations; so there is just a chance that Hitler's grievance (and therefore his power) will be removed, and that the way may be opened for debt cancellation from America downwards. But the old spirit among the French dies hard. One might have thought it would be silent by the coffin of Briand, “author of Locarno,” architect of Franco-German co-operation; planner of the United States of Europe. Yet Paris press opponents threw insults at his cold ashes, even while Sir Austen Chamberlain acclaimed “The Greatest European of us all!”
Presidential Leap Year.
Beside the German and the French elections, there is the United States Presidential election. It comes every four years. It is a leap-year event that the world always waits for. The Great War started in August 1914, but it was not till 1917 (after the Presidential election of 1916) that President Woodrow Wilson felt safe to lead his country into war. Once more the world awaits a Presidential election with war in the air, but with the hope that war will have ceased, even in Asia, long before the people of the United States have re-elected Hoover (should the Republicans nominate him) or elected a Democrat (perhaps Roosevelt). If a Democrat wins, he will be the first since Woodrow Wilson. Hoover's domestic policy is credit extensions (variously viewed as “inflation” and as “a brake on deflation”). No American cure for unemployment is in sight. A wheat “dole” has been declared out of Farm Board surplus grain.
Sterling and Gold.
It is stated now that France has more gold than has the United States. On 9th March the President of the British Board of Trade, Mr. W. Runciman, said that “those countries which had succeeded in getting immense stores of gold were now paying the penalty.” Referring to the rise in sterling, he added: “We are able to show them that we are able to carry on without the gold basis.” All the same, London does not wish to see sterling rise too quickly, fearing a gamble and a set-back. What is wanted is a strong sterling, not something that fluctuates like war and peace in China, or the reports of the location of the lost American baby, or the date of the end of the world. Mr Runciman was one of the Liberal shipowners in the old Asquith Liberal Cabinet. Another Minister in that Cabinet was the banker, Mr. Reginald McKenna. He, too, has just, said that no metallic standard for currency is possible if great creditor nations corner the metal. This, from Liberalism, is notable.
While many people are forecasting “a new epoch” in government and in world affairs generally, it yet seems that the page 11 new epoch is marvellously clever at readapting the old materials. The old Liberalism was staunch against tariffs, and Government interference in business, yet here are these two old Liberals well in the swim in a new tariff and State-action tide. Some critics say that Democracy is doomed, yet British democracy is green enough to attempt the revolution of decreeing that Cabinet's collective voice can be switched off in emergency, and that Ministers can oppose the Cabinet's 10 per cent, tariff if they please. And while the Samuels and the Snowdens, as Commoner or as Lord, make peaceful protest, the chariot of Empire advances on its fiscal wheels to the great Imperial Olympiad at Ottawa.
Romance of Pu Yi.
It was Henry Ford who wrote, a few years ago, “there is something sacred in wages.” It was Henry Ford who composed chapters on the need of maintaining the worker's home standards and his purchasing power. And no evidence is discoverable that Ford is anything else than a good employer. Yet somehow a deputation fell foul of the Jaw outside the Ford works near Detroit, and became involved in a sanguinary encounter that has caused universal regret. This incident, and the crime of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby, are American sensations of the month. For parents and baby, “the child of America,” every true man and woman must feel the deepest sympathy. But meanwhile Phar Lap has displaced it as front page news.