The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 7 (December 1, 1932)
Twin Terrors—Air War and Chronic Debts—Europe Rings up America—Delays of Democracy—America's Way, and Germany's.
Debtors Serve Summons.
The threat of bankruptcy, and the armaments threat, were both at a peak in mid-November. Concerning the former, America's silence had to be broken. It was inevitable that when the hush-hush of the U.S. election party tactics was over, Europe would at last dare to mention debts in the hearing of the President and the President-elect; and the prompt arrival at Washington of British and French Notes requesting postponement of debt-payments was the necessary calling back of public attention to the world's paralysing indebtedness. Messrs. Hoover and Roosevelt, the two men who, for party purposes, had averted their gaze to other issues during weeks of home campaigning, were at last free, after the great election, to listen to Europe. Unfortunately the President and the President-elect are not, as sometimes happens, the same man.
Had Mr. Hoover been elected for a second term, with an obedient Congress, only Republicanism would have had to be reckoned with. But the depression avalanche buried Republicanism beyond even the best hopes of the Democrats, and left in office till March the most enormously defeated President in the world's history, with another man of another colour on the doorstep. Thus there are two men to deal with—until March. It is said that Mr. Hoover created a precedent when he asked Mr. Roosevelt to confer with him on the urgent debts question raised by the Notes. If so, it is a precedent worthy of an honest man. Where the executive authority is with one person and the moral authority with another, co-operation seems to be the best short-cut to decision. Whether it will succeed in this case is still not clear. Democratic party managers may wish to leave Republicanism alone in its embarrassments. Mr. Roosevelt may be man enough to rise above that
Is it to be taken for granted that every leap year a world-question like debts (with the spectre of bankruptcy behind it) is to be shunned for many moons while the American parties are manceuvring for the four-yearly Presidential dicethrow, and is to be postponed for additional months until the successful dicer page 10 has picked up the stake? On that assumption, a year could be easily wasted. If other Powers were similarly ruled, an international decision might become impossible. The American practice monopolises every leap year for a domestic fight within a circumscribed ring, into which the oversea debtors may not enter, even though America has become “the world's landlord.” Critics have complained that America had no interest save in interest. Yet Mr. Hoover's statements—since his defeat—are quite otherwise. He now speaks of “compensation in other forms than direct payment.”
A few months ago, when the United States Presidential election delays began, it was feared that Germany was in a state that could not wait. Both financially and politically, Germany appeared to be on the slide. It was said that Germany would not mark time till Christmas, still less until U.S. Democrats should rule in March. But Germany has marked time. She has marked time by holding two Reichstag elections—and still the Papen-Schleicher despotism, with President Hindenburg, governs without the Reichstag. In other words, Von Papen as “stop-gap Chancellor,” has already stopped a big gap. He has played chess with Von Hitler and also with foreign Governments, particularly on disarmament. Should it become desirable for Germany to take up a new position on the chess board to meet an altered economic diplomatic situation, then Papen could go, as Bruening went. A President can change a Chancellor easier than a Reichstag. Would a new Chancellor mean a new spell in which to mark time?
Democracy and Fascism.
Flexible democracy presents the anomaly that while the Americans hold a national election to discover a popular ruler, Germany holds two elections in order to keep popular rulers out. At time of writing, the Reichstag leaders are still out; and even if they get rid of a Presidentially appointed Von Papen they may find in his place another non-elective, perhaps Von Schleicher. Democracy as practised in the United States, and as practised in Germany, may well make Signor Mussolini smile. Democracy seems to be capable of almost any application. Consider the gap between a Hoover and a Hindenburg, yet both are called Presidents. The Punch and Judy show in Berlin, and the recent deaf and dumb show in the United States, might well inspire Italian Fascism to write a book. Like every book, of course, it would have an answer. Meanwhile the Northern Hemisphere marches into a winter of discontent. Europe fears, and America is sure, that it will be worse than last winter. Stock Exchange flutters sound like the fiddling of financial Neros.
Mr. Baldwin's Bomb.
If the time is coming when domestic factors require another Chancellor in Germany, it may be convenient that he should fall (ostensibly, at any rate) through the diplomatic recoil of his attitude on armaments. Britain, otherwise not averse to Papenism, is against its secession policy on that issue. Britain is earnestly seeking success at the disarmament conference—success without sacrifice of either French or German friendship. Mr. Baldwin's speech has done as much as anything to bring disarmament sentiment to a peak, and his statement that air warfare can wipe out European civilisation is perhaps the most conspicuous danger signal hoisted during the post-war period. The man who said that is a man who wants Germany to come to Geneva as a place to build in. Geneva does not admit futility. (Dares not!)
Class War in Geneva!
While golden time is being lost by the reconstructionists on the debts and disarmament issues, the anti-Governmental work of society-wreckers goes on, and Communism is blamed for disorders in both Britain and on the Continent. In all page 11 capitals this has from time to time occurred, and now in the League of Nations capital, Geneva itself, where sanguinary fights with Communists are reported. Disarmament committees found a new thrill in sitting behind armed guards. With the occasional chairmanship of Mr. de Valera, with the French plan for a League army, with Communists knocking at the gates, and with Japan disregarding the Lytton (Manchurian) report, Geneva has plenty of sensations of her own. The Germans suspect the French of planning to dump on the League old armaments otherwise scrappable. The French plan itself is obscure, though voluminous.