- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 6 Mar 1947, p. 245-255
- Keyserlingk, R.W., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Canada today in the position of having to adjust her government machinery to the requirements of applied sovereign nationhood simultaneously with the necessity of assuming the unprecedented responsibilities of a nation facing a world in upheaval. Gigantic forces at work reshaping, re-aligning and revising the very foundations of international society. An examination of the world in which we find ourselves, in order to realize what the problems of a peace, of Canada's peace, actually mean. The immediate question of the German peace settlement. Canada and the United States forming an oasis of almost unique privilege of freedom and material prosperity for the individual. How that is so, and the fact that it is an exception. The situation in Europe, as seen through the speaker's visit there last summer. The position of the United Kingdom. Upheavals in store for Asia once the "plaster cast of white-man's rule over native empire or colonies is removed." The expectation of violence. Africa slowly emerging from the old mould into which European colonisation has fitted that vast area. The shape which South America is taking. How Canada will be affected by the German peace treaty. Gaining a clear picture of the significance of this peace; two things to be emphasized. Two ways in which Europe is still very much a factor in determining the balance in a world where two rival and opposed ideologies are competing for positions and are struggling for survival. Some of the speaker's impressions of Europe; his witness of elections in Europe. The apparent contradictions of which is understood to be the left and right in politics in Europe. What determines a political position. Some words from Premier de Gasperi of Italy and of his rival, Palmiro Togliatti, the Communist leader. The crux of today's peace problem in which Canada has such a vital interest. A quote from the Hon. Paul Martin, Minister of National Health and Welfare. The need to deal with the German problem not from the point of view of solving immediate issues on the basis of expediency, but "in a manner best calculated to benefit Europe as a whole." The two rival concepts fighting in Europe. The question resolving itself very largely on where the so-called "Iron Curtain" will be drawn. The question as to why the two ideologies cannot be taken for granted and cooperation still exist. A brief examination of the two ideologies. Seeing today a world divergent into two forces separated by the vast masses of Europe who present in many respects a social and political vacuum. Filling that vacuum with a fine balance which will maintain a power equilibrium; letting time and inevitable change do much to lessen the tension. The danger if Western influence is further narrowed. How Germany will be fitted into a general picture which will not give the other side an overwhelming advantage. The desire to reconstitute Germany so it will not again become a danger to us. National animosities in Europe; a new factor—ideological demarcations. The responsibility of Canada in her young years of holding aloft the torch of freedom and of liberty. "Europe is indeed Canada's peace problem."
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- 6 Mar 1947
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- Full Text
WHAT IS CANADA'S POSITION IN THE WORLD TODAY?
AN ADDRESS BY MR. R. W. KEYSERLINGK
Chairman: The President, Major F. L. Clouse
Thursday, March 6, 1947
MAJOR CLOUSE: Gentlemen of the Empire Club of Canada and our audience of the air.
Until a few years ago Canada's position in the British Empire was that of a country, a colony under British Colonial Authority. Today we stand clothed in Dominion status, independent insofar as the administration of our internal affairs are concerned. Canada, along with the other dominions of the Commonwealth, stands as an equal partner in working out the destiny of the Empire. And that co-operation has grown firmer and will continue as the years go by, between all the partners in the Commonwealth of Nations which form the British Empire.
But this dominion status brings to us added responsibilities. We must keep our house in order as befits a self-governing dominion, co-relating our actions with those of the British Empire at large, but transcending all is our responsibility to mankind and to the world. In relation to the world picture, Canada's position has changed--is changing--and history will record changes still to come.
What is our position today internationally? We are about to hear of this from one who has made a study of international affairs and is eminently qualified to analyze the subject.
Mr. R. W. Keyserlingk has enjoyed a brilliant and a very unique career. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, the son of Count Henry Keyserlingk, a Commander in the Russian Imperial Navy. Our guest speaker is a graduate of the University of B.C., spent 4 years in Japan, part of the time at the Can. Academy in Kobe, and later two years in China. For eight years he was foreign correspondent for the Br. United Press--an accomplished linguist, author and journalist. Mr. Keyserlingk has recently returned to Canada after making an extensive tour of the Allied occupation zones of Europe.
It is my pleasure to introduce
MR. R. W. KEYSERLINGK
Gen. Manager of the Br. United Press who will tell us "WHAT IS CANADA'S POSITION IN THE WORLD TODAY"?
MR. R. W. KEYSERLINGK: Canada finds herself today in the position of having to adjust her government machinery to the requirements of applied sovereign nationhood simultaneously with the necessity of assuming the unprecedented responsibilities of a nation facing a world in upheaval.
Whether we look East over the Atlantic or West across the Pacific, not to mention North across the Arctic, gigantic forces are at work reshaping, re-aligning and revising the very foundations of international society. Seldom has history witnessed such a rapid transition from the comparative calm and protected security which Canada enjoyed through the years of growth into nationhood, to the turbulence and uncertainties of the moment in which Canada has assumed her full responsibilities.
Let us just examine for a moment the world in which we find ourselves, in order to realize what the problems of a peace, of Canada's peace, actually mean.
The immediate question before the powers is the German peace settlement. We shall return to this particular phase of the problem later, since it is only a very partial aspect of the global picture.
It is not generally recognized as yet that Canada, with the United States, really forms an oasis not only of singularly happy opportunities but also of almost unique privilege of freedom and material prosperity for the individual.
Our political freedoms, our social institutions, our liberties of conscience and our respect for the individual are unfortunately today not the rule but the exception.
Last summer I visited Europe--that ravaged continent from which the very basis of a society as we understand it has been removed. It is true that the United Kingdom belongs to our world of thought, of custom and of ideology. But it certainly no longer belongs to our world of those privileges which we can still enjoy. It does not share the chaos of the Continent of Europe but it lives in the shadow of the fears which dominate that continent-fears engendered by the poverty, by the destitution and by the political disruption which have engulfed two hundred million Europeans on whom Great Britain has for centuries depended for so much of that which made and maintained her own way of life.
You cannot live within cannon shot of a continent over whose desolate stretches race the four horsemen of the apocalypse without hearing the beat of the hoofs of their galloping steeds.
Let us first scan the Western horizon. There on the vast continent of Asia forces have been unleashed which are far more fundamental and far' more elemental than the surface disturbances created by the gradual or more rapid weakening of the rule of Europeans over the masses of the Dutch East Indies, or the Indo-Chinese or even the announced withdrawal of British rule over India. When the plaster cast of white-man's rule over native empires or colonies in Asia is removed we can all expect that far greater upheavals will still be in store. For the festering sores of racial, religious and national animosities which plague that continent will generate tensions and, it is feared, there will be violence on an unprecedented scale until a new balance of forces, a readjustment of rivalries will have emerged to fix a new pattern of orderliness.
Africa is more slowly emerging from the old mould into which European colonisation has fitted that vast area, but both by reason of a growing native problem on the one hand and the weakening strength of the former rulers to control distant lands and foreign people, because of the situation on their domestic front, Africa is beginning to indicate vast readjustments.
While South America in many respects shares our good fortune and maintains many of the beliefs and convictions which both of us have inherited from our common European ancestors through our common Christianity and common historical roots, political progress has been different and forms have consequently been varied. Our brand of parliamentary democracy and our privileges of personal liberty cannot find universal support amongst all our South American neighbours. They have developed their own society and created or adapted their forms through their own historical development which has not always been parallel to ours.
I am not forgetting the fifth continent--Australia. But geographically it is too far and numerically the population is too small to sufficiently influence our isolation in the midst of a world of potential, latent or actually violent change.
When one scans these immense horizons of a turbulent world in which Canada finds herself emerging in the role of a country which not only is faced with the problem of assuming a positive role thrust upon her partly by the maturity of her nationhood but also in large measure by the inevitability of her geography and her immense natural wealth, the question may well be asked whether a peace with Germany, that comparatively insignificant area, only two thirds as large as our province of British Columbia, can rightly be, described as a matter of grave importance to us.
Yet the Moscow meeting of the foreign ministers of the four great powers which commences next week to discuss a German peace treaty has been described by many thoughtful observers as crucial. There are enough Germans left in the heart of Europe that their state can decide the fate of Europe. Equally, France can by a sudden change alter the political picture. Both are pivoted and either can nullify any plan of rehabilitation for the other.
To get a clear picture of the significance of this peace two things have to be emphasized. Firstly Europe still is the home of 200,000,000 people who by their ability, their intellectual level and their political experience can exert an influence which is profound in the shaping of our thoughts and our scale of values. Secondly, they are, even in their disorganization and in their destitution still a factor which can swing the balance in a world where two rival and opposed ideologies are competing for positions and are struggling for survival.
If our problems today were merely economic or political, and if the rivalries between two great, young and developing national entities, namely the United States and Soviet Russia, were merely questions of bargaining for relative advantages in delineating spheres of influences within which each could leave the other one alone -one could say that the problem is relatively simple.
But, among the strong impressions I carried away from Europe as it is today was the clear recognition that the struggle is not for an. equitable distribution of accepted values but rather for a re-definition of what are values.
I witnessed elections in Europe. I was in France during one campaign, I followed the posters and electioneering speeches in Italy, I travelled through the British and American zone of occupied Germany. In contrast I also visited the Scandinavian countries.
Outwardly the methods were the same as here. Party programmes, electioneering speeches, slogans and appeals fitted into a standard pattern. But underneath it all an entirely new phenomenon could be discerned.
"Vote communist to safeguard private property" was plastered on the walls of Paris on great signs. "Nationalisation of industry" was the placard of some anti-communist parties, just to mention two paradoxes to our accustomed way of thinking. "Let the Frenchman have private property since he insists on it" explained a communist journalist whom I had asked to clarify this sudden change of accustomed party line, "for, he said, when we are in power we will tell him what to do with his property and that is all that matters. We have not changed but we have found a more acceptable formula."
"What are political slogans today" Premier de Gasperi of Italy told me in his office at the Palazzo Chigi when I asked him to clarify for me the apparent contradictions which I was noticing in what we understand as left and right in politics on this continent and what I was witnessing in Europe. "When you have lost everything and you are merely wondering how your people can be kept alive for a week or ten days through imports of food you no longer have the luxury of several choices--as you in the New World have" he said.
"Under the stress of necessities, of desperate needs, my rival Palmiro Togliatti the Communist leader and myself cannot differ in action because there is only one way open to us if there is any. Necessity dictates to us. We do not choose. Our fight is not about the how of government or politics but about the why of existence".
Whether asking the question of de Gasperi or talking to political leaders in France or even in occupied Germany there seemed to come the same explanation. Orderly politics as we understand them presuppose the existence of a common denominator of the good for society. A common acceptance of the value of what is good and what is bad has first to be established and then political parties can divide on the method, on the means how to bring about that universally desired goal of a better life for society. But when that common denominator disappears and what seems a desirable goal for one becomes a living hell f or the other, when there are no more common values which bind all parties into what we so well describe as His Majesty's Government and His Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition, serving the same majesty whether the monarch or the sovereign people to achieve the same kind of a good life. When this no longer exists then orderly political democracy ceases to function.
"The question is not in the how of politics" de Gasperi said. "The question is the WHY. Why do I want to keep Italians alive and why does Togliatti, the Communist, want live Italians. The how of keeping them alive offers neither of us a choice. Most decisions don't even depend on Italy but on foreign outside aid, on treaties decided upon outside by other powers to which both of us would have to submit. No, why do we want people to live, not how, is the question which today divides all political parties in Europe. I want Italians to live in the hope that they can again be ranged into society as free individuals enjoying the liberties of a Western Christian society where their personal liberties are sanctioned by the dignity of a divinely created individual. Togliatti wants to range them in as functional units in a materialist concept of a collective totalitarianism. That is the real issue-not such accidents of procedure which we used to call political programmes".
And here we come to the crux of today's peace problem in which Canada has such a vital interest, an interest which has been forcibly expressed by the Canadian Government.
As the Hon. Paul Martin, Minister of National Health and Welfare, stated last Saturday at a dinner of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs in Sherbrooke, Que., "In its presentation of preliminary views on the German settlement, the Canadian Government has emphasized that the German problem must be dealt with not from the point of view of solving immediate issues on the basis of expediency, but in a manner best calculated to benefit Europe as a whole".
No thoughtful observer can fail to see that two rival concepts are fighting in Europe of what will "best benefit Europe as a whole". Europe is either to be ranged into the orbit of Western society of which we in Canada are a part, or else Europe is to be ranged, as large portions of Europe have already been ranged, into an Eastern society from which the West is excluded today not only in the realm of free access to trade but exchange of thought, of travel and of information. The question resolves itself very largely to where the so called Iron Curtain will be drawn which would reduce our kind of world in size and our individual commercial or intellectual activities in scope.
Why, many people ask, cannot the difference between the two systems and the two ideologies be taken for granted and cooperation still exist?
That is a question which cannot be answered from one side only. I tuned in to the Soviet controlled radio while in Frankfort one night last May and if I had not been aware of the passage of time, of the fact that Dr. Goebbel's charred remains had been found in the Reichs-chancellory and that Hitler's regime had collapsed, the programme would not have made me aware of that fact. I heard a very fulsome programme being broadcast to the German people about the attributes of the 'effete Western powers' and the iniquities of the Western plutocracies.
Assuming that we have a very strong conviction in the rightness of our values, in the truth of our religious and moral tenets then it would follow that there where we can exert control we would like these fundamental beliefs to be safeguarded and their practice assured. We would also feel that it is our sacred duty to extend this privilege to others.
Assuming also that very strong convictions are held in the rightness of their values, in the truth of their tenets by those who envisage a different kind of society and we are faced with the age old problem of cleavage on fundamental issues. If we then go one step further and examine the differences between "dialectic materialism" on the one hand and Christian Truth on the other, we see that the two are incapable of reconciliation. Unless therefore one side or the other is willing to give up its fundamental beliefs a conflict in the realm of the spirit, in the realm of ideology and therefore in the realm of applied social and political practice is unavoidable. Each side, each point of view, will endeavour to extend its ideas over those areas and over the minds of those people who form the still fluid social and political vacuum. A condominium over minds by two fundamentally opposed convictions becomes an absurdity.
Expediency might dictate temporizing. Wisdom and prudence might suggest sidestepping thorny issues, but sooner or later the clash of ideas breaks forth--assuming always that both sides maintain their convictions.
But clashes in the realm of ideas need not lead to violence. The danger in the situation comes rather when the plane of ideological combat is abandoned and material, physical disputes replace the clashes of ideas.
Here we must ask ourselves which side will be more inclined to rely on physical efforts to safeguard its beliefs-the side which acknowledges spiritual values or the side which denies them.
The novelty in today's situation lies in the fact that never before in the recorded history of mankind has such an overwhelming military defeat of such great numbers of people ever been followed by such fundamental cleavages in the concepts of the kind of a world which is considered desirable.
We are not seeing today a world divided between two differing kinds of social valuations but we are faced by two divergent forces separated by the vast masses of Europe who present in many respects a social and political vacuum. The physical destruction, the economic disintegration and the moral dejection not only of the Germans but of many millions in other countries has been on such an unprecedented scale that of themselves these people are not going to reconstitute themselves. They tend even today to attach themselves to one or the other concept of society, they look to either one side or the other for leadership. If that vacuum can be filled with that fine balance which will maintain a power equilibrium, then time and inevitable change can do much to lessen the tension. If the already precarious position of the Western influence is further narrowed then the balance is destroyed and the inevitable consequences of such disequilibriation must lead to a further advance of the strengthened forces.
We must not forget that when we talk of Germany--it no longer exists as a national entity. There are today some 70,000,000 Germans, a fluid mass of individuals whose formation will be moulded by one side or the other--not by both. When one watches the diplomatic manoeuvers of the peace treaty it is obvious that it is not primarily the future of Germany that interests us but how Germany can be fitted into a general picture which will not give the other side an overwhelming advantage. We want to reconstitute Germany so it will not again become a danger to us--a danger which it can only become if Germany can become part of a hostile constellation.
When we talk today of national animosities in Europe we are overlooking an important new factor which exists there. Historical national boundaries are not always the real lines of demarcation. Ideological demarcations are often far stronger divisions. The French communist feels no animosity towards the German Communist or the Austrian or the Spanish communist and in fact feels much closer to any of them than he values his fellow Frenchman of opposing political views. The same goes for the Italian or the Czechoslovak or Belgian. It also goes for people of opposite political or ideological conviction.
Yes, we are an oasis in a world where forces are abroad which bear little resemblance to our thinking and to our estimate of values. We are a singularly fortunate people with much to be thankful for and much to lose compared to the destitution and poverty which is the lot of so many millions. But with it also we are faced with the immense responsibility which this privileged position bestows. Together with the United States we stand almost alone today in a world where the clamour for material aid and political guidance, for the maintenance of the ideal of liberty which we hold can only be upheld in the safety of distance and the safety of proximity to a friendly neighbour--a privilege those countries on the periphery of two rival concepts no longer have.
Because we possess much, because our children still have a priceless heritage of vast and virgin resources, because they have the privilege of starting their lives with the advantage of bodies nourished with ample food and free minds which can benefit from unhampered education and can be taught to worship by men whose faith is not challenged by persecution, we have most to lose. To Canada has fallen in her young years a major share of the responsibility of holding aloft the torch of freedom and of liberty so it may burn brightly for our sons and daughters and their children, the torch which the older and now weakened hand of Europe no longer can hold. Not only for ourselves but for all, this torch must be held aloft. Alone we cannot survive. To save our values we, the few fortunates amongst the people of the world, must act for a peace where the tranquility of order is assured by our actions. Europe is indeed Canada's peace problem.