THE PRESENT CONDITION OF ENGLAND
AN ADDRESS BY DOUGLAS JERROLD, Esq., AUTHOR & PUBLISHER OF LONDON, ENGLAND
Chairman: The President, Mr. H. G. Colebrook
Thursday, October 13th, 1949
It is our great pleasure and privilege to have with us today a distinguished citizen of the British Commonwealth-Mr. Douglas Jerrold.
Some of you may be surprised to see Mr. Jerrold here in person-in as much as our notice card intimated that he had been "liquidated"-which process we have come to understand in recent years is somewhat of an ordeal.
However, we are very happy to have him with us. From your notice card you will have read of our guest's record of service in the First World War in the Royal Navy. After being wounded at Gallipoli he became the Minister of Food in Great Britain.
Since that time he has written and published numerous books and novels, amonst others "The Necessity of Freedom", 1938, "Britain and Europe", 1900-1940 and "Storm over Europe".
He is Chairman of the Board of that famous old English Publishing House-Eyre and Spottiswoode who, amongst other activities, are His Majesty's printers of the Bible.
Our guest is a great English historian. He has recently published his first volume of a historical series up to the year 1203.
It is with much pleasure that I introduce to you now Mr. Douglas Jerrold who will speak to us on THE PRESENT CONDITION OF ENGLAND!
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: First, I have to thank you for the honour you have done me in asking me to speak to you today. It is indeed a very great privilege, and for me a very great pleasure. I am afraid it is not a pleasure which I can impart to you, but I will do my best to speak on some subject which may interest you, not on the subject announced. I am actually speaking on Britain and Europe, with the emphasis on Europe.
England today is, as we know, on the verge of a General Election. It is quite true that there has been an announcement this morning that an election will not be held immediately. That comes on top of an announcement three days ago by that great and good man, Mr. Aneurin Bevan, that there would be an immediate election.
Well, we may make of these announcements what we like, but I do not want to talk party politics; I will only say there is one thing that I think all men of all parties are agreed upon about Mr. Atlee and his colleagues, and that is that they have carried to heights never before attained by any body of men the art of affirmation by contradiction.
Despite, therefore, the fact that a prophet is greatly honoured outside his own country, I am going to disclaim the role of prophet, and I am not going to prophesy either when an election will take place or what the result will be. The internal politics of Britain will be decided by the British in the democratic way, and I will not venture to guess what their decision may be. There is one point however, on which it is safe to prophesy and that is a very important one. The foreign policy of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain will continue to be the foreign policy of His Majesty's government and not of any party, or sect, or class.
We have reached securely the state of having a bipartisan foreign policy, and that foreign policy will continue to be full co-operation with the Dominions and the United States in the defense of our common Christian Western civilization against aggression, from whatever quarter, or in whatever democratic disguise.
But the defence of Europe, which is the common task of the nations of the West, is not altogether an easy matter, nor is it one which is fully understood in all its implications. I stress the word Europe, because the first point I want to make is this: That there has been in the last five or six years a dramatic change in the strategic position of my country, of Great Britain. In 1944 it was fair to say that Great Britain was the eastern outpost of the North American Continent, and the advanced base of their armies. Today Great Britain is the western outpost of the European defensive system, and instead of being the advanced base, it is the hindmost base of that defence system. The frontiers of Civilization today are the Rhine and the Danube, very historic frontiers indeed, because they are the same frontiers which defended the Roman Empire during the first three centuries of the Christian era. But the reason why the frontiers have been pushed so far forward, your frontiers as well as ours, is a fairly simple one. It is due, of course, to the invention of missile weapons. The strategy of retreat on which was based the defence of Europe against aggression from the East in the last two wars is no longer possible, and that is a very significant fact; and that of course lies behind the determination of your government and the government of the United States to take such measures as are possible for the economic recovery of Europe and its military defence. But although the facts of the new strategic situation are fully appreciated at both Ottawa and at Washington, as indeed they are also in London, it is not certain that all the implications of the new situation are fully understood. There are a number of conditions requisite to the effective defence of the West against aggression from the East that are not yet fulfilled, and I want to speak to you briefly of four of these conditions.
The first concerns THE ATLANTIC PACT. The Atlantic Pact is a great step forward on the road to the united co-operative defence of the West. But it has one fatal omission. It does not include the Iberian Peninsula. I say the "Iberian Peninsula" rather than Spain, because Dr. Salazar already made it clear that the support of Portugal is very much conditioned ultimately by the position of Spain.
Now the omission of Spain from the Atlantic Pact is a serious matter for three reasons--strategic, tactical and political.
Strategically, the seriousness is obvious. Spain must necessarily be a very dominating factor in the control of the Mediterranean, and with new modern, long range weapons, any hostile power in Spain would dominate large areas of North Africa.
Tactically--and this is a point to which I think we nay far too little attention-Spain constitutes for Western Europe the only real valuable reserve of manpower, and as I shall indicate to you later, manpower is a still vitally important question.
But the third, the political objection to the omission of Spain from the Atlantic Pact, is the most serious. It is common knowledge, and indeed has been explicitly stated, that Spain is being kept out of the Atlantic Pact because we do not approve of her present constitution. Now, it is quite true that we do not; I don't suppose there is anyone in this room who approves of the present Constitution of Spain, and I do not myself, and I do not want to go on record except as disapproving of the present constitution of Spain. But, gentlemen, we can not possibly defend Europe unless Europe is united, and we can not possibly unite Europe if the price of unity is going to be a dictation from any one Nation as to the kind of constitution any other Nation is going to employ. I can well imagine a situation arising in which there were strongly anti-socialist governments in every part of Europe except Great Britain: again I can well imagine a DeGaulle regime in France, which would be detested by a Socialist government should it be returned in England. But so long as the different nations of Europe feel they are going to be subject to political censorship, you will not get any unity in Europe, which can only be united on the basis of the things that we in Western Europe have in common. The first is our common Christian Traditions, and the second our resolute determination to oppose Communism. That is the basis on which you can unite Europe, and you can not carry that basis further without imparting a fatal element of division.
I want to pass to a totally different, but by no means less important question, and that is the question of Colonial Empires of the old European countries,--Great Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Now it may not have been right to acquire these Colonial possessions, but we have to take the world as it is in the crisis which faces us, and we have to take the consequences of what has been done in the long past. And the chief of those consequences as they derive from the old Colonial Empires is this: that Western Europe is sustaining about twice the amount of population that it could possibly sustain without her Colonial Empires. You can never restore the economy of Western Europe if the Colonial possessions of Great Britain, France, Belgium and Holland are to fall into anarchy and cease production, nor can you ever hope to close the dollar gap again without the flow of raw materials, minerals, rubber, tea, etc., from those Far Eastern and African possessions.
Now in the United States there is, as we all know, a deep and I believe quite sincere distrust and dislike of what is called "Imperialism", so much so that a great many strings have been attached both to Marshall Aid and to the assistance now being given under the latest legislation of Congress for the rearmament of Europe. A great many strings are being attached to all that generous help, and a particular string is that nothing that is supplied from the United States is to be used in the defence or the rehabilitation of the Colonial powers of the different countries.
Now you in Canada have shared in our long Colonial experiences and you know as well as we do that the British Colonial system of trusteeship, as it has been interpreted, has worked not for ill but for good. But even those who do not share that view must realize that in the present emergency, it is quite impossible to do anything but assist in the restoration of order in the Far East and also in the economic development of Central Africa. This is the prime condition of European economic recovery, and it can not be too often or too strongly emphasized. The alternative would be that the nations on the Western fringe of Europe would have to look forward to a long era of declining population, and the Far East to a long era of anarchy and disorder. Those are facts, and those facts must, if we are to be sane and adult citizens, be allowed to outweigh any doctrinaire prejudices.
The Third point I wish to make is perhaps the most important, and may be it is one of the most contentious, but it concerns the need for effective military preparations for the defence of Europe. Since I made the notes on which I am speaking today, the very same points have been occupying the headlines of every paper in the United States, because the high authorities in the United States Navy have felt that the time has come to say very much what I am going to say to you now, and that is that the Atom Bomb is not, and can not be, an effective weapon for the defence of Europe, either of its territory or its civilization. Those who imagine that it is possible, because of the terrible destructive powers of this new weapon, to dispense with adequate ground forces, forget the actual conditions under which that weapon would have to be used.
We know that if aggression takes place, it will not take place from this side of the Atlantic. If aggression takes place, it will come upon us from the East. I do not say it will, but if we are discussing military problems we must discuss them in the light of what is going to happen if armies and air forces have to be used, and if they have to be used, it will be because aggression has come from the East.
Now the aggressor is not going to announce he is about to aggress, keeping his whole armed forces in the neighborhood of the great Russian Supply bases. Why do you suppose Russia has been at pains to secure these vast outlying satellite territories, stretching right into the heart of Europe as far as Czechoslovakia and Berlin? The reason is perfectly obvious: because if they ever decide on aggression, they will be in a position, before they announce their intention, to start off from the centre of Europe, and if there are no ground forces to oppose them they will have their mobile mechanized forces across the Rhine and the Danube within 24 hours; and when this great weapon of the Atomic Bomb comes into play those enthusiastic air-minded strategists who will have to control it will find to their horror that their targets are not Stalingrad and Moscow but Rome, Athens and Paris, and possibly even London.
There is the picture of modern war. It is quite certain that if ground forces are not available, the Russians can cross the Brenner within 24 hours, and they can cross the Rhine within 24 hours, and at the moment ground forces are not available.
Do not think that I am decrying the power of the Atom Bomb. It may well be that if military operations went badly, if we suffered colossal military disaster as we did in 1940, it might well be that the Atom Bomb might have to be used to save Europe from a fate worse than death, but it could not possibly save Europe from death: the destruction which would be imposed by the use of that weapon would make impossible the economic recovery of Europe for many generations; as the only purpose of defending civilization is that civilization shall persist, it is useless to rely on a weapon which must inevitably mean its total eclipse.
"But", say the strategists, "what is the use of attempting to build up ground forces, because who knows what the next war is going to be like, and anything we do now will be out of date?" that is always the argument used in progressive circles for doing nothing. It is what the politicians call "statesmanship", but statesmen call it by a harder name. There is no record in history of a war which has been lost by preparing for the last war; on the contrary, wars are always lost by those who, failing to do this, inevitably make no preparation at all. If we take the last two great wars, 1914 and 1939, the immense initial successes of the German forces were due solely to the fact that they, and they alone had prepared for the last war. In 1914 they had prepared for the Russo-Japanese War, the war of entrenchments and massed field artillery, and in 1939 they had prepared for the new mechanized war which was used by the British in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917. Had the British and French in 1940 had even half the number of tanks that they employed at Cambrai in 1917, the battle of France would have been won and not lost.
We have got to realize that we have imperative obligations in this matter. The whole of history is one long lesson of the fatal and irrevocable consequences of not being prepared militarily, and there is no technical, financial or other reason why we should not be adequately prepared. Today it is a matter of will power and will power only, and a matter of instructing public opinion in the elements of the necessities of the case.
Now those are three of my points. I have only one more to which I wish to refer, and that is the question rather uppermost in a good many people's minds, of Currency. It is quite true that Europe can not recover without an adequate political unity, the Atlantic Pact. It can not recover unless its basic economy is sound, unless it can restore the flow of raw materials from its Colonial possessions. It is also true that neither political unity nor economic soundness will prevail without military preparations. But the whole of these conditions of effective security and ability for defence can be imperilled unless Europe, Western Europe, can develop a sound common currency system. You can not establish international trade in any form without a medium of exchange which is of permanent and fixed validity. After all, what does wealth consist of? Wealth does not consist of goods produced. It consists of goods available for exchange in the world's markets, and goods can never be so available, however well they are produced, unless and until you have a valid medium of exchange.
Some politicians say that if they surrender control of their own currencies, they have lost their national sovereignty. That is one of the most stupid remarks that even politicians have ever made. What value is national sovereignty, what content has the sovereignty of a country, which has to go cap in hand to Washington or Ottawa to ask for money and food to pay its troops and feed its people? That is not national sovereignty, that is dependency. It is in fact to the safeguarding of essential democratic rights that the peoples of Continental Europe shall accept a common currency which their politicians are not allowed to tamper with. Politicians who ask for free and unfettered control of their own currencies regardless of world conditions, are not asking the right to choose but the right to beg and that right is no part of the necessities of free men. Four centuries ago all the kings in Europe were engaged in clipping their coins, and most of the political troubles of the 16th and 17th centuries tended from the necessity of teaching the kings that if they did not leave the currency alone they would have to go and give place to people who could govern in a way which was consonant with economic development and freedom of trade. Most of the kings learned the lesson and the oligarchies who succeeded in the 19th century also learned that lesson, and as a result the 19th century experienced the greatest progress the world has ever known.
Democratic governments have had great virtues, they have raised the standard of living, and brought other benefits, but they have got to learn that they can not monkey about with currency. There is no valid reason whatever why they should not learn this, but until pressure is put upon them to stop this process of competitive devaluation--unless a stop will be put to this process, you will never get the stability and confidence in Europe which will energize its defence.
Well, Gentlemen, those are the four points I wish to put to you. In almost every case they are rather unpopular ones. As we all know, there are times and seasons when politicians can not say unpopular things, but those of us who have the good fortune not to be politicians have the obligation on us to say the unpopular things, and those of you who can influence large sections of public opinion also have the opportunity to say the unpopular things, because it is only through a healthy public opinion that the world will remain sane and we shall return to prosperity and peace.