THE WORLD TODAY AND TOMORROW
AN ADDRESS BY
A. BEVERLEY BAXTER, ESQ., M.P.
Chairman: The President, Mr. H. G. Colebrook
Monday, September 12th, 1949
In August 1939 when the whole world was wondering if and when war was coming, our honoured guest spoke to a very large combined meeting of the Canadian and Empire Clubs.
Again in 1941, in those very dark and dreadful days of uncertainty, our honoured guest addressed a joint meeting of the two Clubs and left with us a message of encouragement and hope.
Today, after the war has been won--but certainly not the peace--we are delighted to again have our fellow Canadian back with us and we look forward to his address with keen pleasure.
Most of our members are familiar with Mr. Baxter's colourful background, so I shall only briefly touch on the highlights:
From piano salesman in Toronto to service in the First World War; to Editorial writer on the London Daily Express; later as Managing Editor of the Sunday Express; In 1935 we find him successfully contesting the Wood Green (London) constituency as a Conservative member, which Constituency re-elected him in the last British General Election-one of the very few to carry the Winston Churchill banner to victory.
About that time he commenced his semi-monthly London Letter in McLean's magazine which is perhaps one of the most widely read editorials in Canada, more popular than ever today.
In 1938 Mr. Baxter again entered British journalism, being appointed Editorial Advisor to Lord Kemsley's huge chain of Allied Publications--a position he held until 1942.
During the Battle of Britain Mr. Baxter teamed up with Lord Beaverbrook as a production expediter in the Aircraft Industry.
Since that time our guest has written-and is still writing-numerous articles under various nom de plumes, appearing in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as well as acting as dramatic critic for the London Evening Standard.
Our honoured guest has chosen as his title for today "THE WORLD TODAY AND TOMORROW"
Mr. President, Gentlemen and Fellow Torontonians I am greatly honoured that after this lapse of time so many of you are still willing to listen to me speak. I think as long as I ration my appearances, and don't come back to live here, you will still listen to me. But may I say that one can never lose the long associations of one's boyhood. It was here, muling and puking in my mother's arms, after Dr. Clouse had done his part, that I looked out upon life, and I suppose what you are when you are a boy and what your parents and heredity make of you, so you persist until the end of your days.
Therefore, I am deeply honoured at this reception in my own home town.
But now may I say that, having come back to my own home town, I think you will have to look to yourselves that you are not too modest in comparison to some of the other cities that I visited on this trip. I was in Edmonton the other day, and at various times during my visit I was informed that Edmonton was the gateway to the North, the Crossroads of the World and the world's oil capital.
At Montreal they told me Montreal was the only metropolis on the American Continent.
Vancouver, with its delightful and friendly sense of under-statement, just said their city was not more than the Paradise of the Pacific.
I therefore think you must look to it, because you and I know that there is only one place where anybody would live if they could choose, and that would be Toronto. I heard some disbelievers across Canada, so if your Publicity Relations officer is here, I suggest that he might find some slogan to equal your modest East-West neighbors.
Gentlemen, today I have chosen to appear before you as something between a prophet and a guesser. Perhaps the fact that there is to be a world tomorrow might be soothing to the nerves, because after reading some of the American columnists, I feel very much like a friend of mine from London who had been reading messages from America. I called him up and asked him to lunch. "No," he said, "I have been reading the papers, and if you don't mind, I will stay in bed and wait peacefully for the end." It is true, that people are always announcing the coming end of the world, especially megalomaniacs. Tiberius in ancient Rome said "the world will go down in flames when I die." Louis XV, said "Apres moi le deluge". Hitler thought he would bring the world down in ruins, and perhaps he did the best job of the lot. But the world will go on.
First, I want to deal with what is going to happen in that lovable island and nation of destiny, Great Britain. At the present time Britain is under much criticism, some of it deserved, some of it undeserved. There are those who dislike Britain's present government so much that they expand their dislike to the country itself. Well I want to say now that not everything that the Socialist Government has done is bad; in fact, in the course of what I have to say I am going to pay tribute to the Socialists, if I can think of anything.
But nevertheless, gentlemen, what is happening in Britain--what is really going on there is another English revolution. Every 75 or 100 years the British try a revolution, and they are nearly always bloodless. They did of course cut off the head of Charles I, but they were so sorry about that, that even today, at the anniversary of his death, loyal and faithful people go and lay wreaths on the statue of "Charles the Martyr". The British prefer revolutions without bloodshed. When King John did not give them their liberties, they turned to the barons for the Magna Carta, just as eventually I think the people will turn to the Conservatives to give them back the liberties that the Socialists have taken from them.
After the war the Conservatives had been in power for 25 years, with two 20-minute intervals of Socialist government--we were therefore in power between the two wars, and the people wanted a change. It is a very good thing indeed for any party that has been in power for a long time to go into the discard, and have a housecleaning. No party should remain in power too long in any country, except Canada. So they thought they would try a change in England, and believe me, Gentlemen, they are not unimportant, the things that have happened. If the Conservatives assume office next May, we would be utter fools to imagine for a moment that we could go back to things exactly as they were before. Under the double stress of Socialist government and the enforced austerity of life in England, many things have been changed and permanently changed. There is a greater equality in England today than in any other democratic country. When I tell you that on Saturday afternoons the dukes charge half a crown for admission to their estates in order to try to pay their way, and one duke calls up another duke and says, "By Gad, I'm 7/6 up on Saturday!" You will see that things are happening over there.
Well some of it, I repeat, is good. There is very little ostentation. That is a good thing to get rid of. With it, however, goes elegance of life as well, which is a pity. But because we are so hard pressed and because life is austere, human nature reaches out for other things, things which can not be represented in terms of money, and thus we are having a very considerable renaissance of the arts. The theatre today in London has probably the best acting of its entire and glorious career, and the public is adventurous for plays of ideas. The same applies to the other forms of art.
And also there is a realization that we must move more and more in England toward prospering of the English invention of the Middle Class in which the aristocrat may remain as one of the colorful things of life but in which the underprivileged must have a fairer share. Now those things, are good.
Then what is bad? I am sorry to say that we are seeing the creation of that Mid-European conception of the State. It is like a crow that rests upon your shoulder from morning until night. The State is becoming the one importer. The State has to do with every habit--the electric light, the gas, the transport, the postman, the telephone--now into the steel industry--the coal mine. It is beginning to permeate everything we do-from morning to night, this rising monster of the State. It is alright as long as it is directed perhaps by men who are, some of them, mild, some of them sensible, nearly all of them loyal; but they are fashioning an instrument which history shows will be grasped some day by stronger hands. That is the danger of Socialism.
One other thing it has done. The Socialists boast they have done away with the two incentives of Capitalism--that is greed and fear--greed of profits and fear of unemployment. In the Socialists' eyes profits are evil things, and to show they are sincere about that, they operate all the nationalized industries at a loss. But the Socialists admit they have not been able to find substitute incentives. We are running races with no prizes. We Conservatives did not create human nature; you would think sometimes we did to hear our Socialists friends talk. But human nature wants some prize, it may be money, it may be fame, it may even be a bit of ribbon called the Victoria Cross which my friend Thane McDowell, here, got during the war. But human nature needs some incentive. I would hate to live in a system of society where that no longer exists.
I would like to make this prediction. I believe the Conservative Party will be returned to power at the next election. Of course elections are unpredictable, even in Canada. But I will not say any more about that--I promised my grandmother I would behave myself while on this trip.
Therefore I predict that in England, which as always is the laboratory of civilization, we are probably working out in the usual haphazard British way a plan of humanist capitalism where the government of the day must have much greater power than in any former era; where capital and management must recognize responsibility to the nation and the community; where labor must have an increasing place as a partner; but where under it all, there must be unfettered leadership, individual leadership providing that that leadership accepts its communal responsibility. It sounds a little involved, but I believe something like. that will come out of it, and out of the present great experiment in England we may find a model which will be useful to you, and useful to other democratic countries.
Now may I leave Britain resting in its Socialist twilight for a moment and turn' to America? What is going on at Washington just now is very important, but I don't believe it is as important as some of them think over there. America finds herself, today, gentlemen, in practically the exact position as Britain did in the nineteenth century. Now in that hundred years,--actually ninety-nine--from the Battle of Waterloo to the declaration of war in 1914, during what is called the Pax Britannica, under the world control of the Bank of England, the currencies of the world were kept interchangeable. Britain, as the creditor power said, "As we are the supreme creditor, we must open our markets to every exporter in the world: there must be no barriers: a creditor country can not have barriers to trade." Not until the Ottawa agreements in 1932 did Britain first give a preference to a Dominion. British funds, British wealth poured out in an endless flood of investment. If somebody wanted to pay back, so much the better. But nobody cared very much. Britain had the conception that all that mattered was trade, trade, and they gambled on their trade, on their services of shipping and insurance. They knew they could only do well out of it if the others did as well.
After the Civil War Britain poured millions upon millions into the United States. The United States was stricken, impoverished, tired after her long war. And Britain poured money into the United States. I say this with some diffidence, because I have not seen the point raised before, and therefore I merely say it to you, gentlemen, as nothing more than dropping a pebble in the pool -when the war began the American Government had a perfect right to assume that this was a European war if they chose to take that attitude, and when France fell after a short period of fighting, the President said to us, in effect: "Well France has fallen, therefore her American investments must be frozen because since she has surrendered, they must be kept for her until after the war is over; but as you are going to fight on, we must take your American securities in payment of par armaments, and when you can not pay any more we will bring in Leaseland, which Churchill has rightly described as one of the "most unsordid acts of history."
But in 1941 Germany and Japan both declared war against the United States, though they had Russia against them, showing that it was their intention not only to defeat us in Europe but to drive the United States into impotent isolation. Therefore the United States must see that it was a war against them as much as it was against us. Since this they have helped us with an unstinted generosity, yet I wonder if, instead of giving us money and credit, could they not have restored those securities of ours, those investments of ours in the United States. It would not cost them any more, it would save them the embarrassment of too many imports from Britain. And if they could sell those investments during the war to their people, they could now buy them back. I think it would be a great gesture.
However, we find ourselves with a country, a creditor country that either can not or will not import. I don't know what the answer is. Certainly not the American loan. Ninety of us voted against that in the House of Commons because we did not believe it was a settlement. Even with the Marshall Plan I led a rebellion in the House of ten Tories, although we were joined by the two Communist members. The trouble with a rebellion is you never know who is going to join you.
I don't know what is going to be the answer; but it will not be found in loans or Marshall aid. Then what is the answer?
In England when a man speaks flippantly we listen to him. The English are a funny crowd. When they reveal their innermost thoughts they are apt to do it in a lighthearted way. I want to tell you of one night when Sir Samuel Hoare was talking to three or four of us. He has since gone to the House of Lords, that distant land from whose bourne no traveller returns. Sam Hoare was saying, "We are seeing the beginning of the Third British Empire." And we said to him, "What is that?"
"Oh," he said, "the First British Empire began with the loss of the American Colonies. The Second British Empire began with the inclusion of India and is ending roughly with India going out, at any rate as we knew it."
We said, "What is the Third British Empire going to be?" He said, "The Third Empire will see the return of the American Colonies."
We laughed. Then we stopped laughing, and thought. The next day the American Ambassador, Lew Douglas, who is a grand chap and one of the best ambassadors the Americans have had, called me up and said, "I hear you are going to lecture in the United States. What are you going to talk to my people about?" I said, I was going to lecture on the Third British Empire, and I told him what Sam Hoare had said. He laughed and said, "I am not so sure there isn't something in the idea but are you going to use exactly the term 'American Colonies' when you are talking to my people?"
I told him: "I am going to try it first in Boston from that on I may have to vary the phrase a bit." Oddly enough, I did so at Boston, after some tactful local utterances regarding the Boston Tea Party, of which they apparently have not heard in Boston but more or less across the United States, I used those terms and found among the thinking people quite, quite an interest and some feeling that vaguely it was going to be true. Lord Beaverbrook, who is a great man and a wise old owl, said the night before I was coming away, "Keep this in the back of your mind: the dollar crisis will come before the sterling crisis."
So I make a prediction that somehow--how it is to be done I don't know-somehow the relentless logic of events will move the United States toward the sterling block into some kind of a working partnership. I have maintained since the end of this war that the United States should never approach us in Britain as one of the dependent occupied conquered nations. We were not conquered, we were not occupied, and America should approach us as an equal, as a partner to share with her the problems of the world, not as a dependent.
Now, gentlemen, where does Canada come into all this? If my old friend, the Toronto Star, which I respect with a veneration of almost unspeakable depth--says "We don't want advice from you, because you are simply a renegade Canadian," may I say that three months ago when I was coming out here, I asked the Foreign Office for a renewal of my British passport, which I had had for thirty years, and the British office said, "You are not entitled now to a British passport, you must apply now to the Canadian High Commissioner for a Canadian passport." So, gentlemen, there is no use resenting what I am going to say because I will brandish my Canadian passport in your faces and claim the right to speak.
But may I say that coming back to Canada, from the moment you look from the ship and see a dim pencilled line against the horizon which was once Newfoundland and which is now Canada, when you travel across this country with its vibrance, its unused strength, its sense of growing before your eyes,--I have never felt that so strongly as on this trip--I have never felt so strongly that Canada is something more than just the favoured younger brother of America and the much loved oldest son of the Empire. You are a great World Power. Whether you like it or not, your country can no more deny its coming of age than my own son in England who had to pay the penalty of being eighteen by being called up for military service, to which I agree entirely.
But a country comes of age. I sometimes think Canada is going to determine this dollar-sterling block. I believe Canada alone can influence both sides. You are an equal now. I sometimes think that in the development of the sterling block, we need you more, we need your industrial genius, your organizers. Britain is tired, Britain will live again but she is tired. We need the strength of the rest of the family.
I have found on this trip much criticism of British methods of selling, I have found some impatience of what is going on in Britain, to which I make no criticism, but I wonder, gentlemen, how many people in Canada recognize this. I saw these figures published, and therefore I assume that they are true--that 1,250,000 Canadian workers depend for their work upon their exports to the sterling area; 250,000 depend on their exports to America. If we go 'bust', if we are forced--which is not impossible--if we are forced over there to lower our standard of living to the very lowest possible degree and to create in the sterling block a closed economy, which is possible, and live as if the dollar does not exist, which we may have to do--then one worker out of four is out of work in Canada.
Now it is more important, gentlemen, to think of that than to be angry with British methods of salesmanship, which badly need improvement I know: better than claiming prices are too high, for remember your prices to us are high too.
I can't help but think--and again this time I drop a bigger pebble in the pool--I can not help thinking that somehow Canada may by a dual currency, or some such system, come also into the sterling block. If she does, think what the sterling block is, the teeming markets of Britain, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Iran, Iraq,--Ireland is in on it on Saturday and out Wednesday--and all the teeming, growing colonies of Africa in one world-trading unit. And if you say "Nothing matters to us but the dollar", or if the Americans say "nothing matters but the dollar," we would reply that in the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread", could almost without blasphemy be, "Give us this day our daily work." Work is the dignity of man, work is what raises the whole status and stature of a man. When some mistake was made and Herbert Morrison encouraged the growing of apple trees in Canada, then we could not go through with it, and Canadian farmers had to tear up and uproot thousands of apple trees, then you are striking at something which is at the very basis and elemental of human nature. When a man sows the seed, watches the tree grow, plucks the fruit, and then finds nobody wants what is grown, then you unleash upon your country and people unknown dangers.
So, gentlemen, because you are so influential, you will forgive me if I still think that the answer of the dollar is to find some way, somehow, to work it in harmony with the sterling, and not on the basis of charity. We in England have experienced such generosity at your hands,--today in England there is no country stands so high--this is true, I say it to you as a Canadian-there is no country in the world stands so high in the gratitude and estimation of the British people as this country of Canada. That is absolutely true. But charity is not the answer.
Shakespeare, who foresaw nearly every human situation caused Polonius to give a lot of advice to Laertes, and you remember, he said, "Neither a Borrower nor a Lender be, for lending loses oft both loan and credit, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry." We can not solve this difficulty by loans which threaten both loan and friend, we can not solve it when loans tend to dull the edge of husbandry. Therefore I end with this prophecy. I believe that The Hundred Years War, which is now seeing its climax, a hundred years since Karl Marx wrote "DAS KAPITAL" and declared war on society, is reaching its climax. That war is not going to be decided by the Atomic Bomb, nor the Red Army; it is going to be decided by whether or not Western civilization can come together in peace, or whether it must wait for another war. If it was possible in war, because of a common enemy, to unite the output of the factories of Pittsburgh and Detroit and Chicago and Winnipeg and Leeds and Birmingham and London, if it was possible to send young men out to a common death, if it was possible to pool our resources against the enemy of that time, then now, faced with the climax of the Hundred Years War against Communism, faced with the very challenge of destiny, what will history say of us if, as the result of what is going on, Western civilization crumbles because we can not get tickets printed in the right colour to permit the flow of goods from those who have to those who need it.