Page 2, 11th November 1938

11th November 1938
Page 2
Page 2, 11th November 1938 — CATHOLICS AND WORLD AFFAIRS--IX

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Organisations: Labour Party, Eden's League
People: Eden


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The Problem Of The Mediterranean


The Anglo-Italian agreement is now to be ratified, and the first step towards a constructive policy of appeasement has thus been taken. It is, however, only a first step. Much remains to be done. This country destroyed all hope of an early solution of the European problem when we imposed sanctions on Italy and, in so doing, divided Europe into two armed camps.

affairs, the principle of the " open shop "

and are going back to the work of

appeasement. But, to pursue the analogy, they are going back with a feeling of grievance; the distrust they felt for the aims and methods of the non-union workers in the international field is still there.

I use this analogy with a full realisation of the attack to which I am open. Precisely, 1 shall be told, as Trade Unionism has been indispensable in securing good working conditions for industry, so League principles will, in the long run, prove essential to securing sound international arrangements. And most certainly it was because of such feeling that English public opinion was for a time behind Mr. Eden and his policy. We are beginning now to see that the analogy cannot be pushed so far, but we do not yet sec this clearly or with sufficient conviction.

MR. EDEN'S LEAGUE Three-Power Rule

If the Powers who controlled the League had said to Germany, Italy and Japan : " Come into the League in spirit as well as in name and you shall enjoy not only the same status but the same rewards as us," and if the controlling Powers had had not only the will to make such a proposal but the power to implement it, the necessary work of appeasement could have been carried out through the League.

Mr. Eden's League, however, was controlled by the three great empires of Britain, France and Russia, controlling between them three-fifths of, the territory of the world, and they saw the League as an instrument for preserving their superior status and power.

In Central Europe the League Powers had created Czechoslovakia to threaten the flank of Germany should she attempt, not to expand and conquer alien peoples, but merely to unite the German peoples. In Asia, the League stood for the territorial integrity of the anarchic and lawless Chinese state and so for the continuance of conditions fatal to the commercial progress of Japan. In Africa, the League stood for the partition of the whole continent excepting Abyssinia, Spanish Morocco and the unimportant pre-war Italian colonies, between the victors of the war of 1914-18. The door to free colonial enterprise was to he closed for ever by Powers who proposed to surrender not a yard of territory, however acquired, and however poor their title deeds.

Now it is of the essence of trade unionism that its members enjoy absolutely equal privileges. If, instead of being an instrument for the equal advancement of all men, it were an instrument for perpetuating privileged treatment for members of a certain race, political party or religious creed, it could never have succeeded in its campaign for the " closed shop." If workers of Scottish, Irish or Welsh nationality were only to receive two-thirds of the wages of Englishmen, these workers would never have joined the Unions, and could not have been forced into them without a civil war. If they had been led to join the English Unions in expectation of equal treatment, and had not got it, it would have been futile to attack them for breaking their agreement when they went on strike in defiance of Union undertakings. Technically they would have been at fault. Legally they would not have had a leg to stand on. But in equity they would have had a perfectly good case for doing what they did, provided that their grievance was a genuine one.

COLONIES Two Alternatives

The recognition of these necessary facts is the first necessary step to any genuine understanding with Italy as with Germany. We need not go to the length of agreeing that Italy was right in invading Abyssinia. But it is necessary to realise that Italy thought she was right. Of course if we consider the colonial principle wrong in itself, Italy is no more justified in remaining in Abyssinia than France in Morocco or we ourselves in the rest of Africa.

We must not, however, go on saying, on the one hand, that we shall never give up any of our own conquests and, on the other, that Italy has no right to retain her single conquest.

We must, in short, face the fact that there are only two possible solutions of the colonial problem and that either of them must be applied impartially. We can accept, on the one hand, the oldfashioned and logical principle that the lower civilisation must give way before the higher. We are justified in saying that progress in every age has depended upon the operation of this principle, and that the proof of it lies in the ability, demonstrated continually throughout history, of the conquered Power to attain independence after a period of tutelage from which it emerges in a far more civilised state. On the other hand, we can seek a new solution of the colonial question in the internationalisation of all territories at present forming part of the colonial empire of any Power, of all territories, that is, where the native population is still predominant but not selfgoverning. This solution is attractive to many, because it removes certain difficulties in the way of satisfyine the colonial ambitions of the dissatisfied Powers.

It has, however, the overwhelming objection of completely satisfying nobody, least of all the indigenous inhabi tants of the territories in question An international regime is a police regime,

and it cannot be anything else. The power will be in the hands of an inter

national gendarmerie and a body of officials who will come and go and never take root in the country. Further, it is outside the bounds of practical politics to suppose that France will relinquish her sovereignty over her north African possessions, on which she depends for so much of her man power.

It follows that our relations with Italy must be conducted on the basis that she has in her African Empire the same right— the right of conquestas France has in Morocco and which we have throughout our Empire, and no greater obligations. Appeasement must follow the line of determining what these obligations are, and what they involve for us and for her. We have this bond in common with France and Italy in the Mediterranean. All three Powers are dependent on the freedom of the Mediterranean highway. We cannot maintain our position in the near East or over the Suez canal, France cannot maintain her north African colonies, Italy cannot maintain her new Empire, without cornmend of the sea.

Any two Powers in combination can deny that command to the other one, as things stand at present. So long, therefore, as France and Great Britain stand together against Italy, affairs in Europe will be in a state of disequilibrium, and Italy will be forced to aid and abet any moves which will tend to free her from the constant threat of superior force perpetually mobilised against her. What these moves might be is obvious to all. Let Germany extend her territory to the Black Sea and make an alliance with Turkey and Italy has the counterpoise she would need against a

hostile Anglo-French combination. She would, in fact, have more, for with the Dardanelles in German hands our position as a world Power would be doomed.


Politics is a game played for high stakes. Great issues for civilisation are involved, and demand clear thinking and great foresight. The present Parliamentary Labour Party has forfeited its claim to be considered as a satisfactory alternative Government by its opposition to the AngloItalian agreement, an action which may yet have fatal consequences for this country and for the civilisation of the world. We

must hope, and I believe that we are justified in hoping, that in so acting the Parliamentary representatives of British Labour have been less wise and less just than those whom they claim to represent.

We must, in the troublous times ahead, bear in mind the sharp distinction between the economic and territorial expansion. Eastern Europe cannot but benefit from an expansion of German trade and we shall not cure our own unemployment problem until there is a far freer exchange of goods between Germany and her neighbours. We must, however, beware of encouraging the growth of any monopolies which might put

the near Eastern Powers economically at the

mercy of any one Power. History reflects

the balance of forces, and a great industrial empire like ours can only survive if we are willing to take the risks of our position. If we wish for friends in the Mediterranean we must link our prosperity with theirs and be prepared for a full and generous cooperation. Liberal and democratic societies will be judged in the coming decades not by their capacity for delivering moral lectures but by the measure of their positive contributions to peaceful progress for all.

It is only by working with the Mediterranean Powers—not in a grudging spirit of patronage but openly and cordially—that we can build up again those powerful relationships necessary to a stable balance of power in Europe. Neither a policy of surrender nor a policy of bluster will pro vide a substitute. Pacifism and jingoism alike will lead us inevitably to disaster.

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