The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 1 (May 1, 1933)
Mr. MacDonald again in America—U.S. Tariff Repentance — German Anti-Semitism — Soviet Third Degree—Four Powers Pact
Explosives Lying About.
When before has the world experienced so many national and international disturbances as crowd the young path of the year 1933? The crash of aircraft and banks in the United States blends with the roar of the Hitler campaign in Germany, and together they almost put the Japan-China undeclared war into a back seat. While the Jews indict German justice, Britain challenges the justice of the Soviet, as displayed in one of the most extraordinary espionage-sabotage trials ever staged. The character of the Moscow trial compares sharply with that of Lieutenant N. Baillie Stewart (Seaforth Highlanders) who has just been sentenced to five years penal servitude, and cashiered, for communicating to Germans information that might be useful to an enemy. Russia has not only talked to the British Ambassador in such a way as to send him home, but has also a dispute with Manchukuo concerning railway rolling stock. In short, dynamite lies about everywhere. As a preventive measure, Europe is considering a Four Powers Pact.
For the second time, the British Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, has made a pilgrimage across the Atlantic. Many storms have come and gone since he visited President Hoover. The closing of the banks in the United States testified to the failure of Mr. Hoover's war against depression, and it now seems to be admitted in the United States that the new President will have to restore the U.S. farmer's export market. That means a departure by the Democratic Administration from the Republican high tariffism and from the idea that the United States can be self-contained and also prosperous. How can a country that exports 55 per cent, of its cotton, 41 per cent, of its tobacco, and 33 per cent, of its lard be indifferent to the advantages of reciprocity in tariff matters? And how can such a country, after ceasing its foreign lending, hope to collect interest on war debts, except by receiving goods?
Reserved About Debts.
Even when the Republicans were in office, it was realised that foreign trade contained the key to foreign debts. Mr. Mellon, who was Mr. Hoover's Secretary to the Treasury and later Ambassador to London, declared that “trade was better than debts.” Mr. Roosevelt has not said so much as that yet, but he has said— equally important—that trade is better than tariffs. Put the Mellon attitude and the Roosevelt attitude together, and it would seem that U.S. opinion is working towards a recognition that neither debts nor tariffs must be allowed to strangle trade. But internal politics still prevent Mr. Roosevelt from talking as liberally about debts as he does about high tariffism. Uncle Sam as mortgagee seems to be a more sensitive person than Uncle Sam as protectionist.
And this remark recalls to mind the fact that British Empire tariff policy is being rapidly built up—an event which is in itself an epoch, but which in sensation (though not in importance) is overshadowed by German sabres and Moscow chains. Following on Ottawa, Britain has tariff negotiations with Argentina, Denmark, and many other foreign countries. Intra-Empire and extra-Empire trade is to be placed under a new charter built up of commercial conventions and treaties. An American departure from high tariffs and a British departure from free trade combine to make an economic revolution, but there are so many more melodramatic revolutions in being that the tariff-makers are hardly noticed. Among them are the Governments of New Zealand and Australia, anxious to escape from mutual embargoes in the prosaic field of vegetables and fruits.
More Light Needed.
There are two subjects concerning which more light is required. When one remembers how much light the Lytton Commission's report threw on the facts of Manchukuo, the thought arises that a Lytton report on the character and extent and authorship of Jew baiting in Germany would be a great help to judgment. Hitlerism is hardly understood outside Germany (if there!). The other subject is the Soviet charges against British engineers. At time of writing, the vacillation of some of the prisoners, and of one in particular, veils the facts in mystery. Rapidly recurring self-contradictions may convey to the impartial hearer a strong impression concerning a witness's mental condition, page 59 but may completely defeat any attempt to ascertain what actually occurred.
Is it Evidence?
Some of the people who are indicting the Soviet system are not seeking to weigh the evidence. They say that there is no evidence. Admissions of guilt secured from persons held in captivity and subjected to pressure are, they hold, valueless. Before the trial began at Moscow, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, speaking officially (and drawing on his legal experience and study of the systems of many countries) raised the question whether evidence obtained by pressure from imprisoned suspects had evidential value. And herein seems to reside the major point. Governments will leave their nationals to the justice of foreign courts so long as the process stands for justice. But how much longer? Always a national scandal, third degreeism now shows that it can be dangerous internationally, and possibly a cause of war.
Kiss—Less We Fight!
The Four Powers Pact is another proposition the character of which is as yet only half disclosed. Long before 1914, it was said that the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria, Italy) was necessary to prevent war between Italy and Austria. At the time, that remark was considered to be cynical. An alliance between two States, as an alternative to war between them, was, said someone, unthinkable. How thinkable such a thing can be was sufficiently demonstrated when the Great War recorded Italy's participation against her former allies—a deferred entry, it is true, and yet not nearly so deferred as was America's. It is therefore not cynical to say that one of the main purposes of the Four Powers Pact must be to insure against war between two or more of its signatories.
Ballast Within League.
Hitherto, the insurance against such a war has been the participation of all the Powers in certain treaties and in the League of Nations (except the League's architect, America). Evidently that participation is insufficient—if it is not insufficient, why the Pact? At the same time, it seems that every effort will be made to keep the new machine (the Four Powers Pact) within the framework of the League. It may be that the Four Powers Pact will bring about Pact agreements that the League can register without upsetting the non-Pact countries represented in the League. But all speculation on the point is premature until the Mussolini idea emerges from the French crucible. Friends of the Pact think that it could prevent a European Manchukuo. If Manchukuo and Japan's exit have damaged the League, how much deadlier the effect of an armed coup in the Dantzig corridor!