Page 8, 10th February 1939

10th February 1939
Page 8
Page 8, 10th February 1939 — THE ITALIAN "CLAIMS" ON FRANCE Statesmanship Vould Have Prevented Them

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THE ITALIAN "CLAIMS" ON FRANCE Statesmanship Vould Have Prevented Them

Revolutionary Minority in Spain Beaten

THE event of the week has been an event which has not taken place. No statement of Italian " claims " on France has been made. Europe, the Press tells us, is still waiting. That much is true, but what Europe clearly waits for is an outbreak of commonsense, not an outbreak of war. The Italian " claims " are not new, or ill-conceived. Further, they have already been the subject of discussions between France and Italy, and but for the failure of France to ratify the provisional agreement arrived at by M. Laval, they might quite possibly be regarded as settled.


As it is, why are the democracies, who claim to be the champions of peace by negotiation and of open discussion, " waiting " with hands folded for a peremptory summons to action from the dictators?

• And why are they busy preparing the worst possible atmosphere for negotiation by provocative pronouncements couched in the traditional language of power politics? They will concede nothing.

Have we already forgotten that most of what Italy and Germany are asking for has already been offered them by the British and French Governments in a memorable speech by Sir Samuel Hoare at Geneva on the eve of the Abyssinian war?

We offered Ytaly (and, by implication, Germany) free access to raw materials and a pooling of colonial resources in the interests of all. Italy asked for an assurance to this effect to be inserted in the original Covenant of the League, and repeatedly raised the question at Geneva in the early post-war years.

We were not inactive on these occasions. We coldly and systematically blocked all discussion of the proposal, until, on the eve of a crisis, we produced it as our own. Still, we produced it. It stands on the record, and the only questions now arising are whether we meant what we said, and, if so, whether we have the resolution and the ability to turn our good words into deeds.

As for Italy's demands, her grievances in Tunis, which is not French territory, and in Djibuti, which is in French territory but is also the point of exit of the railway from Addis Ababa, have already been recognised by France.

What does France propose to do? The French are far less to blame in these particular matters than we are over the colonial question. Still, they had the opportunity of settling them when Italy was weaker and France herself relatively stronger than to-day. They neglected that opportunity and cannot now pretend that Italy's official action in calling for a settlement is provocative, however fantastic the unofficial newspaper demand may be. Before France and England, side by side, will firmly resist aggression, there is no reason for relapsing into diplomatic slumber. Statesmanship consists not in resisting aggression but preventing its beginning.


The democracies have got so used to praising themselves that they have lost all power of self-criticism. The true fact about Europe is that the democracies are far stronger militarily and fa-. weaker morally than they pretend to be. Their lack of diplomatic initiative contrasts very oddly with their new-found energy in the military sphere. We see ourselves threatened and are therefore strengthened in our resolve to resist aggression. The dictator States see us backing away from our fine premises and piling up arms.

There is a lot to be said for our view of the matter, but it is not a view which is likely to be accepted by Italy or Germany, who, after all, are in a position to calculate how much we conceded to them when they were still unarmed, and how much they extracted from us when they were armed and we were unprepared.

In the first case, nothing.

In the second case, everything.

These facts do not bear out our contention that the policies of democracies, by contrast with those of the dictators, are motivated exclusively by the principles of abstract justice. They have got to be so motivated, if they are to triumph.

In the circumstances, it is folly for us to adopt the policy of waiting for " demands " to be made on us. Our long experience in the technique of negotiation ought to tell us that such demands must inevitably be put not only higher than the minimum which justice demands but higher than the maximum which expediency would allow us to grant..

In disputes about rates of wages among men of the same race, engaged in the same industry and passably friendly towards each other, this fact is appreciated. It is part of an established technique which we understand. It is far different when these demands have to be put forward, before the eyes of the arhole world, by the heads of sovereign nations, stil. smarting under the injustices (some very real, some wholly imaginary) received at our hands.

These men are intensely proud, and they are backed by an overwhelming and arrogant public opinion. To force the dictators to take up publicly a position from which it may well be impossible for them to recede is a desperate and an unjustifiable gamble. It has succeeded so far. The Millar_ demands have not yet been presented. But it will not succeed indefinitely. Italy is committed in principle to the effort to extract substantial concessions. She can no more drop her demands than we could give back the German colonies. In both cases public opinion ties the hands of government.

Our gamble, of course, is that, by the mere weight of armaments, we shall be able to reject the demands when they are made without provoking war, and thus score a belated diplomatic victory to provide a background for the real negotiations, which would then begin.

This policy is too subtle and too slim for our liking.

France and ourselves have given public undertakings to Italy and Germany on the waters at 'nue. The straightforward course is to proceed by the normal methods of diplomacy, without fuss or sensation, to formulate and to try to secure the assent of the other Powers to concrete proposals. Germany and Italy are both ready for war, but desirous of peace. So are we. To allow passions to be excited and national prestige to be put to the issue is neither prudent nor Christian.

LIMITATION OF ARMAMENTS Mr Neville Chamberlain has asked for some assurance as a preliminary to the negotiations that limitation of armaments shall figure in the final settlement. Economic pressure will bring about limitation of armaments or war within measurable time. The rising figure of unemployment (a rise which I prophesied months ago in the CATHOLIC HERALD as the inevitable consequence of rearmament) shows that clearly enough. We should therefore concentrate on removing the causes of war here and now. Armaments should depend on policy, not policy on armaments.

The Spanish war moves swiftly to its predestined end. It is tragic to a journalist to see the 4-isistence with which a false picture is still presented the British public. As recently as last Sunday a leading Sunday newspaper, in its news columns, referred to the Catalan army of 200,000 men being pressed back on the French frontier.

The Barcelona Government --ever had at any time an army of 200,000. For the past three weeks it has had no army at all. It is important to realise this, because the English public are being deluded if they think that General Franco's advance on Barcelona, brilliantly planned and executed as it was, was a military victory. From the military point of view it was a procession. Throughout the war the Madrid and Barcelona Governments have had to draw on no more than 170,000 determined troops, at least a quarter of them foreigners, and the remainder the hard core of the real Spanish revolutionaries, most of whom were armed at the beginning of the struggle. For the rest, the Government armies were a raw and unenthusiastic militia of whom much more than a quarter of a million have surrendered in the course of the war. The effective fighting troops were still powerful until the Teruel offensive. From that time they have been steadily reduced in strength, and the last effective fighting fcrmations were hammered into fragments on the Ebro. To-day there is nothing left.

BRITISH GOVERNMENT AND NEW SPAIN So-called " Government Spain " has been beaten because it failed to form a citizen army. Spain to-day is a nation in arms, but the nation is all on one side. The tiny revolutionary minority, powerfully assisted by foreigners, and repeatedly and powerfully armed by Russia and France, have fought with desperate gallantry, but they have never secured the spiritual allegiance even of that minority of the Spanish people over whom they usurped authority at the point of the revolver. They have now gone the way of the Jacobin minority in the French revolution.

A new nnited Spain has entered on the stage of history. It is a Christian Spain, a Spain dedicated to Catholic social doctrines : a Spain which will play a leading part in Europe for the first time for two centuries.

Here, too, is the need urgent for a positive diplomacy on the part of the British Foreign Office. Great causes are at issue in Europe.

We cannot in any way afford to do without the friendship of a Power dedicated to their solution along Christian lines.

We have no right to go on insulting a great people by the impudent pretence that the ruffians responsible for the Barcelona atrocities, continued to the very eve of General Franco's entry, so that the last victims were not even buried, are the appropriate government of a Catholic: nation.

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