EUROPE IS DYING
AN ADDRESS BY
MARCUS LONG, M.A., Ph.D. VICE-PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL STUDENT SERVICE
Chairman: The President, Mr. H. G. Colebrook
Thursday, February 23rd, 1950
Our Guest Speaker today is a philosopher, who is going to speak to us on his statement that "EUROPE IS DYING", which is the title of his address.
Your notice cards have given you the details of Doctor Long's interesting background. I shall, therefore, refrain from mentioning it further and at once call upon--Doctor Marcus Long, M.A., Ph.D., Vice-President of the International Student Service and Executive of the Canadian Council for Reconstructiton through UNESCO.
Mr. Chairman. It is reported that when Rita Hayworth went to the altar with the Aly Khan she said, "Unaccustomed as I am to doing this I am very happy to be here." This reported statement expresses my own feelings on this occasion. Do not misunderstand me, I am not expecting a baby for Christmas. I only mean that it is nice, on occasions, to get away from the classroom with its audience of poor but very critical students to a gathering such as this where the audience is first put into an indulgent mood by a good meal. And I am always happy when I have a chance to discuss the work of the International Student Service with which I have been identified since 1945. My happiness, however, is somewhat modified by the things I must report. The title of my address may have seemed to you a little sombre for a luncheon speech but these are dark days and we must be prepared to face facts which are often unpleasant if we are to conduct ourselves properly.
The most prominent fact is the importance of the doctrine of Karl Marx and the apparent success of the political imperialism associated with it. It is true that the predictions of Marx have been falsified by events. He predicted, on the basis of his reading of history, that the middle class would disappear, the lot of the worker grow steadily worse and the exploited people be forced to rise and destroy their capitalist masters. All of this to occur in the leading industrial countries. In fact the revolution has come only in backward agricultural countries like Russia and China. In the industrial countries the middle class has refused to perish and the workers, with their strong Unions, do not seem to be at the mercy of the Capitalists. Moreover, the recent developments in science and philosophy have made it impossible for informed and intelligent men to accept the naive materialism that is fundamental for the Marxist philosophy. Nevertheless the Marxian philosophy, which was scarcely noticed in the Nineteenth century can no longer be ignored and there is no doubt about the success of Communism. Communism has received a setback in Western Europe and, except for espionage, has little power in North America, but the subjugation of Eastern Europe is now complete and advances are being made in Asia. Whether it will ultimately triumph I do not know; I am not a prophet. I remember that Hitler predicted his system would triumph and that he would impose his brand of peace on the world for a thousand years. His ambitions were shattered against the indomitable will of free men. This is our real defence. Free men are always reluctant to engage in war but, because they identify their cause with history and humanity, when the need to strike arises they prove superior to the forces aligned against them. Conscious of the meaning of freedom they refuse to submit to slavery. It is my conviction that no system based on oppression can be maintained over a long period of time. Even if freedom should perish for a time and vanish from the earth it must rise again to be enshrined in the hearts of men and form the basis of just government. It is this conviction that gives strength to free men and makes them invincible.
You are familiar with the methods and progress of Communism on the larger theatre of events; I limit myself to a phase of their activities in the Universities.
I am an officer of the International Student Service, an organisation devoted to the maintenance of intellectual freedom and the development of international understanding among the members of the University community throughout the world. Non-discrimination in matters of race or belief is a cardinal principle of the organisation. We try to remind students and professors that beyond the differences of race, language and political and religious belief they share a common membership in the Commonwealth of the Mind and ought to share a common interest in the pursuit of Truth and the maintenance of intellectual freedom.
The organisation was formed, at the end of the First World War, to meet the urgent need for relief in the European Universities. When the need for relief was ended in the middle twenties it was decided to retain the organisation to facilitate contacts between students of different countries. Much excellent work was done in this direction until the beginning of the last war when operations had to be suspended. After this war the need for relief and reconstruction in Europe and Asia was so great that all our energies had to be devoted to this work of mercy. The larger work of international contacts had to be neglected and it is only now that we can begin to give it our attention again.
The Communists are not interested in organisations which insist on political neutrality and intellectual freedom. While we were devoting our efforts to relief a group of Communists, meeting in England in 1945, suggested a new organisation. This was formed in Prague in 1946 and called the International Union of Students. I am not sure if the title was purposely chosen to conflict with the title International Student Service but the confusion between ISS and IUS seems to be more than a casual coincidence.
The first organisational meeting of the IUS was a travesty on Democratic procedures. Delegates were invited from all countries but by political gerrymandering that would have done credit to a Chicago political machine the voting power was so juggled that the Communists were assured of a majority. The Chairman, a Communist, acknowledged only such speakers from the floor as suited his purpose so that the majority of speakers represented the party line. The Russian and satellite groups voted like well-drilled automata while the delegates from the Democratic countries split on almost every issue. But why continue the familiar and sordid story. The elected executive was predominantly Communist. They managed to insert into the constitution a clause requiring all member organisations to accept the programme and policy of the central committee. This was intended to give the Communists control over all the student organisations in the world. The Spider smacked his lips as he prepared to pounce on the innocent and trusting fly.
Here their enthusiasm misled them; they had moved too fast. The Dutch delegates withdrew and soon most of the Western delegates joined them. At the present time determined efforts are being made to woo them back again. While there is some division of opinion among our students the majority want nothing to do with it. Some of the more idealistic ones believe they ought to join in order to maintain international contacts and, perhaps, by discussion convert some of the Communists and change the nature of the organisation. This is an idle dream. Communists have shown that when they are a minority, as in our Trades-unions, they are capable of controlling the organisation; it is unlikely they will lose power when they are a majority.
The only organisation capable of offering significant opposition to the IUS is the ISS. But we are very limited. The IUS is heavily subsidised by the Russian and satellite governments. We must depend on voluntary gifts. That means we are never in a position to do the job we should like to do or the job that ought to be done. Perhaps an illustration will make the point clearer. When the IUS was formed they were given a building which a Canadian observer considered to be worth a million dollars. Last year the IUS got 18,000 dollars from its campaign in Canada. The difference between the Communistic and Democratic student groups is very apparent at conferences arranged by the IUS. Here the Communists come like a well-trained army with banners. They put on pageants which show long training and unlimited funds. The Democratic students, say from Canada and the United States, attend without financial support and without any definite programme and put on hastily prepared shows that seem silly beside the wellproduced shows of the Communists. The propaganda value of this is immense.
In a recent issue of the Saturday Evening Post there is an article on the World Youth and Student Festival sponsored by the IUS in Budapest last summer. The article describes the pageantry I have mentioned. I am most interested in the closing comments. "We ought not to underestimate the effect on the young people of the world of such carefully slanted affairs as this World Youth Festival. The Communists are paying a great deal of attention to the younger generation. If that younger generation doesn't get to hear or see the other side of the picture about the United States and soon, it will be next to impossible to change their minds about us." Apply this statement to North America in general and I should subscribe to this reading of events. There is the situation and there is the challenge. Last year we had 18,000 dollars with which to combat it. The Government of Canada, like that of many Western countries, is reluctant to support international student activities. If my information on the situation is correct, and I believe it is, they must change this policy--and soon.
I have been referring to Western Europe and North America so far. There is another area and, in terms of long-range programmes, it is the most important area, South-east Asia. Here we have unlimited opportunities at the present time. The IUS claims the adherence of the student-bodies in this region but I have official and dependable information that this is not so. These students do not want to identify themselves with this Communist organisation but are in a dilemma because they feel the need for some international contacts. They are afraid of Western organisations because they expect either discrimination or an attitude of superiority. We must get in there and show them that we are prepared to meet them as equals and show that our belief in the principles of Democracy is a live and vital thing. Mr. Sigward Wolontis, the general secretary of ISS, has just completed a tour of South-east Asia. He was in Toronto last week-end after visiting in the United States. He gave us a clear picture of the situation, the needs and the opportunities. He reported that the American students have planned a seminar for India next Fall where students from the United States can meet with Indians to discuss their mutual problems under the guidance of American and Indian professors. We ought to be doing something similar. The ISS is holding its annual international conference in India next August. We ought to have some delegates from Canada to show the students in Asia that we are interested in them and encourage them to share with us devotion to Democratic principles. This is a strategic and critical moment but we do not have the money to send anyone.
Within the limits of our budget we are doing what we can. Perhaps more than our budget would seem to justify. I have already pointed out that we only received 18,000 dollars last year. With this money we maintained an administrative staff in Canada, handpicked 25 D.P. students who had fled from Communist dominated countries to the D.P. camps of Germany and Austria and brought them to Canada where they are studying in our Universities, provided the machinery for sending 25,000 dollars worth of medical supplies to hospitals caring for students, contributed to material relief in various parts of the world, contributed to the administrative staff of our International organisation in Geneva and organised and conducted an International seminar in Europe where 47 Canadian students met with 90 European students to discuss their mutual problems. Altogether we parlayed our 18,000 dollar budget into services worth at least 130,000 dollars.
The most significant of these enterprises from the standpoint of combatting the Communist threat was the International seminar. The Canadian Council for Reconstruction through UNESCO gave us the money to run the seminar in Europe and the Provincial Governments contributed to the transportation expenses of the Canadian students. This enabled us to take some of the best of our students from coast to coast, including French-Canadians.
The seminar, this summer, was our second venture. The first was held in Germany in 1948 in co-operation with the British authorities as part of their programme for the re-education of German youth. It was so successful we felt justified in organising the second which was held this past summer in Holland. The Dutch Government gave us the use of Castle Bouvigne, a small castle nestled in the woods at a town named Breda on the Belgian border. Here 130 students from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Holland, Dutch Guiana, Indonesia and Canada lived together for five weeks discussing the general problem of the Individual and Society, or Order and Freedom, under the guidance of distinguished Canadian professors. Dean de Koninck (Laval), Professor Baudoin (McGill), Dean Douglas, Professor Brady, Professor Lynch (Toronto) Mr. Macdonald (Ontario College of Art) and Mr. Shea (Manitoba) were the Canadian staff. It is a matter of sincere delight for me to announce that these men were so impressed with what we are doing they worked without any remuneration and in some cases paid all or a substantial part of their own transportation expenses. They believed in the work and each of them made a significant contribution to clearer thinking on the part of the Students about the meaning, history and practice of Democracy. Time will not permit me to discuss the details of the programme, nor to read excerpts from the appreciative letters received from the students, nor to attempt an estimate of the ultimate value of such meetings on the mind of outstanding students. We are quite aware that this contribution was small, we do not suppose that the world will be saved for democracy by this small effort. We do know that if we do nothing we shall lose everything and that it is impossible to determine the returns to an investment in young people some of whom are destined by their ability and training to be leaders in their own countries in the not very distant future. We do know from our first gathering that the impact of such meetings on the minds of these young people is very great. And we are very conscious, from the activities of the Communists, that we shall neglect this field at our peril. I do not hesitate to say that both of these seminars were a success by any standard we can use and that they deserve to be continued. The Canadian Council for Reconstruction through UNESCO has been so impressed with the work done that they have provided enough money for a third seminar to be held this summer in France. It is unfortunate for us that this excellent organisation is passing out of existence this year since it will make it necessary, if we are to continue, to look elsewhere for support.
It seems to me that the necessity for these seminars might be best illustrated against the present situation and problems of Western Europe. The title of my address Europe is Dying suggests a rather pessimistic view. To avoid the suggestion that this represents a merely personal point of view I shall base my remarks on statements made by distinguished Europeans who came to the seminar to deliver special lectures.
The first speaker was Professor Siegfried, well-known to most of you as the author of several excellent books on North America. He discussed the similarities and differences between Europe and North America and stressed the fact that the major problem of Europe is that of over-population. A casual glance at the European scene confirms his diagnosis. Holland has a population of 10,000,000 in an area that could possibly support 5,000,000. This population increases by 200,000 per annum which means that new sources of employment must be found for 45,000 workers every year. This is completely impossible. Canadians won the affection of the Dutch for the part we played in the liberation of their country; that affection is being increased by our present policy of admitting Dutch immigrants to Canada. The number we can accept does not make an appreciable difference to their problem but it is something.
The problem cannot be solved within Holland because, like so many other European problems, it is tied up with religious and political issues. Professor Siegfried advocated birth-control as the only sensible solution. This is not feasible in Holland. At the present time the population is 60% Protestant and 40% Catholic. The political issues represent this religious division. The Catholics will not practice birth-control because it is contrary to their convictions; the Protestants will not practice it because this would be equivalent to surrendering political power to the Catholics.
This same problem of over-population is to be seen in Italy. Those of you who have visited Italy will recall the houses perched precariously on the sides of mountains as the peasants seek to eke out a living from the last inch of soil. There is not nearly enough to go around. The Evening Telegram put it succinctly this week when it said of Italy that it has the worst over-population, the greatest unemployment and the lowest average income in western Europe. I recall one trip I made from Naples to Rome. We stopped by the side of the road for lunch in what we considered a secluded spot but it was only a matter of minutes until we were surrounded by a crowd of hungry urchins. We had brought along a loaf of bread and a tin of salmon to make sandwiches. After emptying the tin we casually threw it out the window. I shall never forget the sight of those dirty, ragged urchins almost killing each other to get hold of the empty tin to scrape out the few remaining flakes of salmon.
It is perhaps not proper to discuss conditions in England on the day of the election but surely the basic problem of England is also that of over-population. England is not capable of supporting a population of 50,000,000 people from her own resources. She is forced to import not only luxuries but necessities thus exposing herself to all the vagaries of international trade.
The problem is bound to become more intense as time goes on. At the beginning of this century North America welcomed immigrants from Europe and these countries were able to get rid of a large part of their surplus. Today Canada and the United States admit only a trickle. At the beginning of the century there were colonies in Africa and Asia where the more adventurous or more desperate could go. The rising nationalism in Asia has shut off that avenue of escape. More and more these countries will be forced to retain their surplus populations and with that will come a steadily depressed standard of living, increasing unemployment and widespread poverty, the conditions out of which Communism arises and flourishes.
The full impact of the problem has not yet been felt because of Marshall aid. It was astonishing to see the difference this summer from last as the countries of Western Europe began to reestablish themselves with American assistance. Holland, France, Germany and Austria, which I visited, were changed more than seemed possible. One American official estimated that the German economy was back to 80% of its pre-war level and one could feel again something of the prewar gaiety and love of life in the streets of Paris. The only country that had not made a significant improvement was England. It was possible this summer to eat better in Western Germany than in England, a trite commentary on the expression that to the victors belong the spoils. I say this problem must become more intense and with it the threat of Communism. No understanding of modern Europe is possible if it is ignored.
The second important factor is the move towards the United States of Europe. Dr. Nord who, with Mr. Duncan Sandys, the son-in-law of Winston Churchill, is one of the leading exponents of the movement spoke to us about the history and development of the movement one month before the Council met at Strasbourg. It was he who said Europe is Dying. He saw Europe caught between two great powers which threatened her existence. On the one hand Russia is threatening to overthrow the present political systems and introduce a political system which is contrary to their traditions and contrary to their ideas of how free people ought to be governed. On the other hand the United States is threatening the culture of Europe by cheap Hollywood films and cheap music. We shall not grasp the significance of this point unless we remember that the European considers his culture and his civilisation as inseparable. Any attack on the one is a threat to the existence of the other. I have not mentioned the fear of economic domination which is also a factor.
Faced with these dangers the European can only find salvation in union. There are serious obstacles to the realisation of union and it may very well be doubted if it will ever be achieved. It is obvious that any union would involve a free exchange of populations. A citizen of Michigan can move to California without securing a passport or permission from some central agency. In the same way in the United States of Europe a citizen of Belgium would have free access to Holland and other countries. One can imagine the reluctance of the French to enter a system which would lower their barriers and allow a few million Italians to cross their border freely. This is a minor point. There are serious question of economic arrangements and commitments in war that are difficult to face. And there is the problem of Germany. Germany because of her location, industrial potential, scientific skill and economic ties must be admitted to the Union. The governments of the formerly occupied countries are justly afraid that this would mean the rise of a new and threatening Germany. Add to these the traditional divisions and antagonisms between these different peoples and you see how impossible the scheme is. Weigh well the obstacles and then see how far the movement has advanced and you will have a fairly accurate measure of how seriously the Europeans consider their problems. Dr. Nord, an exponent of the idea, was anxious to see it developing slowly; his great fear, when he was speaking to us, was that things were moving too rapidly. He must have been convinced of this when he found the French prepared to risk the dangers of admitting Germany into the Council. The European is impressed with the impending doom of his civilisation and way of life and is prepared to try harsh remedies to avoid the threatened fate.
The only real opposition to the Federation of Europe comes from the British government. I am not sure of all the reasons for their attitude. The most prominent argument is that close tie with the continent of Europe might destroy the bonds of Commonwealth and they consider the Commonwealth more important than a close alliance with Europe. If these are the issues then we can hardly quarrel with them. Unfortunately we remember that Winston Churchill who affirmed that he would not be present at the liquidation of the Empire is one of the prime movers and most enthusiastice supporters of the movement. It is certain that no Union can be achieved without the support of Great Britain and it is beyond my powers to predict what may happen. I merely use this movement as an illustration of my general theme that the Europeans are alarmed about their present and future state.
There remains only the problem of Germany, that most complicated and perplexing of all European problems. It would be easy here to indulge in generalisations but I venture to affirm that no generalisations can meet the German situation. The Germans having sown the wind are now reaping the whirlwind. The country which hoped to straddle the world is now beaten and bewildered.
If one crosses the German border from Arnhem in Holland the first German city is Emmerick. Looking from the station there is not a house to be seen, not even the shell of a house, only piles of brick and rubble. The German guards, in their gray uniforms, move through this desolation like ghosts through a city of the dead. Over everything is the pallor of death and destruction. The same situation is repeated, in different degrees, in all the great cities that we have identified with German greatness. Everywhere there are ruins. Only wisps of smoke creeping up through the rubble are there to remind you that these people are now finding shelter in cellars and living under the ruins of their former homes.
It is impossible to understand the German problem unless some psychological characteristics are kept in mind. In the first place, the Germans lack a sense of realism about their own past. They cannot understand why non-Germans consider them a militaristic people since they look on themselves as lovers of peace who have only engaged in war when it was forced on them. The stories about atrocities carry no conviction. They affirm that the pictures of thousands of corpses dug from the pits of concentration camps are merely propaganda pictures. They insist that trucks went to the cemeteries and dug up bodies to put together for pictures. In any case they insist that no atrocities charged against the Germans could equal the atrocities committed by the Allied airmen and they point, for confirmation, to the ruins in their cities and speak of the thousands of German civilians buried underneath them whose bodies have not yet been recovered. In the second place they suffer from political apathy. The large number of voters turning out to the last election proves nothing other than a desire to protest against the Russians and the Allied governments. They cannot be enticed into party affiliations. Even the Communists complain that they cannot attract the young people into their party. Perhaps it is because they suffered so much from recent political events that they are scared to take part. Whatever the, reason it is a poor omen for the day when the government of their country is restored to the German people. In the third place they are completely inept in Democratic procedures. We must not forget that the Germans have only experienced Democracy twice and on both occasions it was imposed by a conquering enemy and maintained by the unsheathed bayonet. Democracy cannot be transplanted from one country to another; it must grow out of the struggles and traditions of a people. It is only necessary to read the comments of Nietzsche about the German people in the nineteenth century to realise that they are incapable of grasping and practising this system of government. It means a change in the character of the people and this can only be achieved through education.
It is here our occupying powers have failed most tragically. It seems to me the major source of the failure lay in the denazification policy as applied to centres of learning. It is easy to be wise after the event. I am quite sure I should have supported the policy of denazification when it was first suggested for it would seem improper to retain teachers who had been associated with the Nazi system. However, to dismiss all suspects meant wiping out a whole generation of teachers, leaving education in the hands of the very old and the very young. It soon became apparent this would not work. Unfortunately in rehiring teachers many of the real Nazis were brought back. The younger liberals saw their chances for promotion cancelled by the appointment of these senior men whose history they knew. These people, on whom so much depends, felt that the West had let them down. There are other factors involved which are beyond my competence to discuss and time would not permit. It is enough to say that not enough attention has been paid to this phase of the German problem. A prominent -American statesman upbraided the American authorities in 1948 because he said they were talking about educating the German people without doing anything concrete about it. We have failed here and it was the one place where we needed to succeed.
Do not assume from what I have said that I believe the Germans are going to restore the Nazi regime. It is necessary here to distinguish between nationalism and Naziism. That there is a rising tide of Nationalism is unquestionable but that is not unexpected. The German people have always loved their country; they are proud of its culture, its achievements in science and industry. We cannot expect any people to give up their devotion to their country because they have been defeated in a war. The danger is that ardent nationalists, untrained in the meaning of democracy and bewildered as the German people are today may f eel the need to align themselves with a leader who promises to take them out of the wilderness into the promised land. At the present time their sympathies and interests are with the West. Perhaps I can express the confusion best by a statement made to me by a German student. "The German people," he said, "are looking for a democratic leader," without realising the contradiction.
It is this need to re-educate the German people that has played a large part in the selection of European students for our seminars. Always we have invited more participants from Germany than from any other country. And I am pleased to say that the impact upon them has been most impressive and, I believe, lasting. In all cases they have returned to their Universities and organised clubs for the discussion of democratic ideas and practices.
I suggested that my presentation of the situation might seem somewhat pessimistic and gloomy. I have not tried to paint the picture in glowing terms that would falsify the reality. Unfortunately it has not been possible to present the brighter side as well and there are bright sides also. But we shall not become aware of our real obligations until we remove all the veneer and see the problem in all its ugliness. That there is a problem is obvious.
What may be done about it is not so clear. I think that part of the job must be done through such seminars as we are conducting.
We in Canada must assure the people of Western Europe that we are interested in their survival and the restoration of their great culture from which we have borrowed so much. We must assure them that we consider freedom the most precious of man's possessions; a heritage rich with the blood of those who sacrificed themselves that their children might live in the true dignity of man.
We shall delude ourselves if we think economic assistance is the full discharge of our duty. Canada is a world-power, a highly respected world-power and it becomes our responsibility to nourish and maintain democratic ideas and ideals in a Continent where they are all challenged and threatened with extinction. We shall fool ourselves if we believe our destiny is not affected by what happens in Europe; two world-wars should have taught us better. It is a matter of simple self-preservation that we should assume the responsibility of maintaining Western Europe and encouraging the Europeans to maintain the institutions of a free people without which their Continent will pass into the shadows of eternal night. Europe is dying. So say the Europeans. It is up to us who are young and strong and aware of the vitality of institutions to save them from that death and by preserving Europe put an end to the tyrannies that would engulf us and turn free men into slaves.