"BRITAIN VERSUS EUROPE”
The Schuman Plan and German Revival"
An Address by LIONEL GELBER, B.A., (Tor.) B.Litt. (Oxon). Lecturer on International Affairs
Thursday, November 16th, 1950
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. Sydney Hermant.
MR. HERMANT: Members and Guests of The Empire Club of Canada: We are to hear an address today by Mr. Lionel Gelber, who has been described by The New York Times as a well-trained, hard-thinking Canadian. Born in Toronto Mr. Gelber attended Upper Canada College, continuing his studies in History at University College in the University of Toronto. Upon graduation he was awarded the Maurice Cody Scholarship in Modern History, and the most prized award of all--a Rhodes Scholarship. He then attended Balliol College, Oxford, where he received his Bachelor of Letters Degree. Leaving Oxford Mr. Gelber remained in England to write his first book, "The Rise of Anglo-American Friendship", published in 1938 by The Oxford University Press. He then returned to Canada where he taught International Relations at the University of Toronto, and worked on his second book, "Peace by Power", also published by The Oxford Press, just at the begining of the War. Of this book The London Spectator said: "Mr. Gelber can rightly claim credit as a Prophet", and The New York Times added: "If this book is neglected it will be a misfortune". Mr. Gelber served with the Royal Canadian Air Force and, following the war, was engaged in practical diplomacy within the sphere of the United Nations with his head quarters in New York. Mr. Gelber's third book, which has just been published by The Macmillan Company, is entitled "Reprieve from War--a Manual for Realists". Of this, one prominent reviewer has said: "His book might well have been written after rather than before the Korean fighting for it is specifically applicable to the problem we now face all around the Communist perimeter". Mr. Lionel Gelber is a student, Historian, and Author, and I dare to admit with lack of modesty, and even before hearing his address, my own first Cousin.
MR. GELBER: Would the unity of Europe add to the unity of the West or detract from it? To answer that question is not as easy as we might at first imagine. For there are all kinds of unity, some good, some bad. The free world has been unanimous in welcoming a political experiment such as the Council of Europe; the impetus given to European economic co-operation by the European Recovery Programme; the common action in defence which the Atlantic Alliance envisages. Yet British diffidence towards the Schuman Plan indicates that a semi-continental unity which is overdone may serve only to undo the wider unity of the Atlantic region.
Nor is that all. For Europeans themselves have toyed with ideas of neutrality and a Third Force; with the illusion of a Europe united to save itself from East-West conflict by shunning either camp. A division of the West, just when it seeks strength through unity, may not be what they want. But the stress thus laid on a separate European unity contains within itself the seeds of Atlantic disunity. And it is from such a standpoint that Mr. Schuman's project, giving flesh and bone to Third Force notions, should be examined. Discussion of the French-German coal-steel pool has, at any rate, made evident a profound divergence of opinion over how a pivotal segment of the free world should be organized. And while much of the debate revolved around the place of Germany in the economy of the West, it bore no less upon Britain's world status. To evaluate the project as a whole we must therefore scan the part played by these two Powers.
Which would be better for the West--a European union of which a Franco-German industrial combine is the economic core or a perpetuation of that Atlantic partnership which was twice an agent of victory and whose role is not yet finished? For we cannot have both; it must be the one or the other. The recalcitrance of the British, when the Schuman Plan was announced, drew more fire from the United States than from France herself; without promptings from Washington the French might never have subjected the Entente to so unexpected a strain. FrancoBritish disaccord over the Schuman Plan was thus, at bottom, an Anglo-American quarrel. Yet the friendship of the English-speaking peoples, with their many household rifts, is tested and tried. A Franco-German industrial pool, to absorb the impact of a German paramountcy which postwar Allied policy itself has fostered, would be a gamble of hope against experience.
How is it that the United States was eager, so soon after VE Day, to take that risk? Americans bicker over where they went amiss in East Asia. But that they have demonstrated less foresight in rebuilding Western Germany is nowhere a very popular thesis. Opposition and Administration assail each other about trouble in the Far East, where there was no bipartisan foreign policy; in Europe the bipartisan policy has produced over the German problem a large measure of agreement. Yet that also did harm. Elsewhere in Europe even bipartisanship has been no honeymoon. But Germany, the quarter where it was least justified, is the one where it has been most pronounced.
Little Americanism on the Taft model had, in the national interest and for the sake of world order, to be circumvented. But when an intelligent Opposition is lacking, the processes of representative government will be devoid of an essential corrective. For to combat isolationism was not to swallow holus-bolus each individual postwar phase of its participationist converse. And most issues the Congress did scrutinize with its legislative microscope. At Germany, however, it seemed to look through a telescope held, as it were, at the wrong end.
In the light of East-West antagonism an intelligent Opposition would, for example, have supported the European Recovery Programme, the North Atlantic Security Pact and mutual arms assistance. But without the most searching consideration of all possible consequences, the favourable together with the unfavourable, there would have been no blank cheque for a precipitate German rebirth nor for schemes of European union, through which a resurgent Germanism is to be curbed and held. Bismarck had brought together the various sections of the modern warrior Reich. To maintain peace, its break-up and regrouping was, with the assent of Generalissimo Stalin and the more hesitant British, championed during the war by President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself. This cardinal fact was, however, not divulged at Potsdam but only in postwar memoirs when the German revivalists of Washington and Frankfort were in full cry.
For let us not delude ourselves. Incompatibility between controlled and uncontrolled economies was not the only reason for British rejection of the Schuman Plan; on it a non-Socialist Government would also have had to turn thumbs down. Not that the Paris-Bonn project--blessed, presumably, from Washington sight unseen--is in every respect one calculated to liberalize international trade; from it all cartel features would first have to be eliminated. , Nor have Labour Ministers always slowed up the free exchange of money and goods; to the European Payments Union, which the United States herself inspired, they have now acceded. Yet the Schuman Plan, as originally enunciated, went far beyond that sort of limited economic unity; only as the industrial heart of a wholly federalized Western Europe can the coal-steel pool accomplish its Franco-German purpose. And a Europe so organized, with its supra-national authority over the entire national life of its constituents, the British could never enter. For what fundamentally Britain has had at stake is her historic position as a Great Power--not the structure of a society but the society in itself.
East-West differences are more than ideological. So, too, this Atlantic dispute over the organization of Europe goes deeper than any ideological feud between the rival doctrines of socialism and capitalism. After World War I the French statesman, Aristide Briand, suggested a United States of Europe; after World War II, another French statesman, Robert Schuman, brings forward an economic plan which is the first concrete step towards the fulfilment of his predecessor's famous aspiration. But before the first step is taken we ought to foresee where the second and third will lead. There can be no West European federation whose independent components do not merge their national sovereignty into a larger, semi-continental sovereignty. Each subordinate member-State must therefore divest itself of any exterior connections it may have; the British, the French, the Belgian, the Dutch, the Portuguese colonial dependencies can belong only to a European federal union or to the United Nations as a whole. Nor as part of a European sovereignty would there be any way for a federated Britain to retain her unique association with other sovereign countries of the Commonwealth or they with her. A Schumanized or federalized Europe may well rend the Commonwealth asunder. Yet such affiliations were an inestimable boon when, not long ago, all else seemed lost; when, as Britain resisted the German fury for an entire year alone, she did much to preserve our free world order. And they are still a mainstay of her stature as a Great Power.
That Britain will continue as a Great Power is, moreover, what the Atlantic Alliance presupposes. Yet to carry on effectually she must, as always, be an oceanic as well as a European Power. And to insist that she be the one or the other rather than both is for her Atlantic allies to impair their own pact. We cannot will the end, which is British strength in the defence of the West, and not will the means. Britain, through her gallant wartime exertions, forfeited much of her world rank. But her comeback is also impressive. It would be folly to hamper the power of our most reliable transatlantic ally while sponsoring again that Germanic power which has recurrently been so evil.
Canada, too, is an important member of the Atlantic Alliance, and other non-Asian countries of the Commonwealth will range themselves alongside it. Yet if Britain were to fuse her national sovereignty with an over-riding European federal sovereignty, her preferential trade with the Commonwealth, Occidental and Oriental, would have to be abandoned. Commonwealth countries overseas contributed heavily to the world slump of the thirties; unless a federal. Europe can provide some adequate trade substitute for Anglo-Commonwealth tariff preferences, we might witness the same cycle again. And if we do, the repercussions within the United States herself would be serious. She has larger investments in Canada than in any other foreign country; whatever is done, with American sympathy, in Europe should not be to the detriment of American interests elsewhere. There is, moreover, the service Britain renders world trade as banker of the sterling bloc--one which the United States herself will not or cannot take over. For global is as global does and to unify Western Europe at the expense of other, interrelated associations--Entente, Commonwealth, Anglo-American--may be to hinder and contract rather than facilitate and expand the unity of the West.
The bases of British power are Atlantic and world-wide. Continentalism may be no more a solution in Europe now than, for a century and a half, it was in North America. The gods on Olympus might laugh when American isolationists, past and present, chide as isolationist British efforts to reconcile European and overseas commitments. Never again will Britain be as strong as she was. But as a matter of enlightened self-interest we ourselves should want her to be as strong as she can be. When her power is misused we have a right and a duty to protest. Yet that right and that duty are in themselves a tribute to what is still a great world role. And Moscow knows this even when Washington forgets.
Why have the French, ever suspicious of Germany, adopted a contrary policy which assumes German good faith? The economic recovery and military security of France depend, as never before, on the firm support of the United States. Paris concluded no doubt that it had more to lose by holding out against Washington than, as the Americans wished, by embracing Bonn. And so we get the spectacle of the French, bled white in the first world war, and knocked out in the second, assuring us that by some mysterious federal alchemy they have discovered overnight how to transmute the base metal of a reviving German nationalism into genuine pan-European gold. Nor is it only the dread Teutonic spectre across the Rhine which they have feared; the real danger is that when fully resurrected it might consort with a still more ominous one across the Elbe. West European union to prevent a RussoGerman re-union--such was the motive which, under American pressure, goaded the French into their dramatic volte face. For theirs is a striking exemplification of the classic theory that if you can't lick em, join 'em.
Yet a Europe which is Schumanized or federalized must embarrass them both. Long champions of European unity, the French would never previously have resigned themselves to a semi-continental scheme in which, with the British absent, the Germans are bound eventually to be dominant. And even for the French, in their conciliatory new mood, Mr. Acheson went too far or too fast when, in the autumn of 1950, he urged a substantial rearmament of West Germany. The Council of Europe, as it exists, reposes on national sovereignty; it is therefore a form of political cohesion which is less tightly knit than a federal one would be. And unless it feels it can get on without British adherence, it will have to keep itself in that looser state.
Europe's need of military and economic unity is clear. But politically its outright federalization would be a leap in the dark. Against Eastern tyranny, the strength of Britain has, in two German wars, been a cornerstone of Western freedom. Do we throw over a sure thing for so unsure an experiment? Europe in combination with Britain can achieve a measure of workable unity; without her the genuinely democratic elements in a federal union would be weaker than before. The Germans will strive to extract from any federalizing project such as the Schuman Plan the maximum development of German steel--that bedrock of military power and diplomatic independence. And this might be a disaster if only from an economic point of view. For Britain may not then be able to compete. And if her heavy industry is thus handicapped, we shall have done more than retard a recovery on which we ourselves have spent a lot. The security of our Atlantic world will be in a worse rather than better shape than it was.
In East Asia, too, the maximum development of German steel might have consequences we shall yet regret. For the German steelmasters, in accordance with the strategic traditions of the German Reich, may, with their steel surplus, turn to those vast Sino-Soviet markets which Moscow alone can offer. Over the menace of a Communized Asia we are all apprehensive. Yet it is with the resources of the Ruhr-Rhineland complex that the SinoSoviet power can, in its own image, best industrialize the Far East. Responsibility for the setback to American policy in Asia may be a topic of bitter debate. But if SinoSoviet rule is fortified there with the aid of German heavy industry, the blame will be less difficult to apportion. A bipartisan American policy which reunified and rehabilitated the West German Republic may prove more self-defeating in distant Asia than anything done or left undone by the United States on the spot.
But if all the foregoing objections could be waved aside, there is still no reason to believe that the defense of the West itself would be improved by the sort of federal unity which the Schuman Plan prefigures. To establish a Third Force, to be neutral between the contending giants of Russia and America, is the desire of many Europeans. A United States of Europe, as its French and German proponents realize, would be the means of attaining that continental goal. And it is one that the Kremlin must welcome. For this would hamstring the Atlantic Alliance; the West being divided, the East might conquer.
To assess the defensive value of a federalized, Schumanized or Third Force Europe, we shall have to spell out its strategic implications. Pacifism was discredited by Axis aggression. Our uneasy atomic truce has, however, reawakened it. Could Europe, by disentangling herself from both East and West, by setting herself apart from the Atlantic Alliance, now purchase physical immunity? A neutral Third Force, rather than face the horrors of an atomic onslaught, might even prefer to surrender its liberty to a Soviet invader. But no such choice would be open to it. On its own soil, Third Force Europe, so far from debarring hostilities by others, must, by undermining our common Atlantic front, bring them nearer.
By what factors of power, then, is Europe's peace maintained? The Mutual Defense Assistance Programme has been devised to bolster up Western Europe. Acting on their own, our Atlantic allies on the European continent could not ward off a Russian attack for long; together with us there is much that they may do. Between Hitler and Stalin the balance of power has, in a strictly European sense, been demolished. But what keeps the East at bay is a world balance of which the Atlantic Alliance is the operational centre. And to this new larger, world balance a free renascent Europe must contribute--something which its neutral Third Force status would forbid. The strength that Western Europe alone can muster may be no barrier to a Soviet advance though a stouter local defense by the Atlantic allies--European and American--is now being prepared. What counts is that aggression in Western Europe will evoke the ultimately preponderant power of the entire West. But if a Third Force derogates from such power, if it diminishes thereby our joint ability to resist, aggression itself is more likely to occur.
Underpinned by a Franco-German industrial union, a European federation might thus plan for prosperity at the cost of security. Today the safety of Western Europe rests on transatlantic rather than continental power; and that transatlantic power Western Europe may supplement but could never do without. What this means our occupation armies in Germany illustrate. Assigned to impose a victor's writ, they have been discharging another, even bigger task. Once the Russian juggernaut rolls on toward the Rhine, they could not halt it. But to sweep away our occupation armies would be instantaneously to summon up on land, at sea and in the air that world balance, headed by the United States, through which an irretrievable balance of European power is slowly being replaced.
Asia is still too backward to be, in any world contest, the main zone of decision. Between Western Europe and the Russian sphere, the line is drawn by our occupation armies. Behind them in turn begins that screen of defense, meagre in actuality, massive in potentiality, which the atom bomb and American strategic air power represent; a screen of defence which permits the Atlantic allies in both Western Europe and North America itself to rearm unmolested. Peace by retaliation may not be the peace for which we long and pray. But if a federalized or Schumanized Third Force Europe stays aloof that would deprive us not only of human and strategic assets; it would rob Atlantic power of immediate, land-based, air access to some of the vitals of Russian power. To reduce a countervailing threat of air or air-atomic reprisal from the West is to make still more precarious our truce with the East. A prescription for peace, neutrality is an invitation to war. And if war does come, neutrality will not be worth much. For to neutralize by sectors is not to stabilize so universal a crisis; all that you might do is render an unstable situation still more unstable. Neutrality without power will not avert the use of power but so used it will be power without liberty and not the power of the free.
Voices in the West, such as Mr. Walter Lippmann's, which called for the withdrawal from Germany of our occupation armies, have, since the Korean struggle burst forth, grown silent. Yet at no time during the East-West cleavage would the evacuation of Allied troops have been wise. It is on their withdrawal, nevertheless, that a European Third Force must be predicated: you cannot have the protection of one side while claiming to be neutral toward both. And in any case as West Germans, under either Atlantic or pan-European auspices, cast off other Allied servitudes, their rising nationalism would find occupation armies hardest of all to stomach.
For the moment cross-currents are stronger than the stream itself. German opinion is torn between the sentiment of neutrality and the demand, which Societ aggression in Korea has aroused, that, to repel an invader from the East, the occupying forces of the West be increased. Trying to make the best of both worlds, a federalized or Schumanized Europe might even want to maintain a close liaison with our Atlantic system. But it must always be remembered that Western Germany has her eastward irredenta; only in collaboration with Moscow can she repossess land and brethren now in its grip. Neutrality, as the fetters of the vanquished are broken, would thus simply reflect a transitional stage. And meanwhile, until a recrudescent Bonn Republic is ready, it pays her to be aligned with the West rather than the East; Allied occupation armies shelter her for the interim from the sort of treatment which satellite kinsmen inflicted on the South Koreans. Reunion with other Germans more than union with other Europeans is, nevertheless, likely in the long run to be her goal.
And as we pull the Bonn Republic towards the West, we equip her to spring back to the East. In the administrative procedures of a coal-steel pool or a federal Europe there is nothing irrevocable. Beyond recall, however, is the industrial productivity which these would release and abet. For the more we restore the permanent, material foundations of German power--whether it be under a European Recovery Programme, an Atlantic rearmament scheme or a Schuman federal plan--the more we redress the inequality of Western Germany in the eyes of Moscow itself. And the more the Bonn Republic thus acquires a freedom of manoeuvre, the less improbable is it that any Schuman Plan or federal project can, when the hour strikes, be altered, misused or reversed. Whatever raises the steel output of Western Germany must add to her bargaining strength. For in the zoology of politics there is nothing to prove that by unchaining a leopard you can change its spots.
Acclaiming the Schuman Plan as the harbinger of a Third Force, Chancellor Adenauer let the cat out of the bag almost at once. And while he must vanish from the scene, those twin immortals, his Nazi steel advisers and the Ruhr steel barons, go on forever. To regain a national Germanic sovereignty and at the same time to espouse a federal European sovereignity are for them but two avenues to the same destination. For the Schuman Plan would not only prefigure a Third Force; within it may be the makings of a tug-of-war for Western Europe between our Atlantic world and that Slavonic or Teuto-Slavonic world whose advent we ourselves will have quickened.
Americans are all for a Schumanized or federalized Europe and critical of Britain for dragging her feet. Eventually, however, the United States herself will be reluctant to rebuild economically and underwrite militarily a Third Force Europe whose detached stance must augment the very hazards a more integrated Atlantic defense may yet dispel. To the sort of European unity which the British now decline, Americans also later on might object. For the world contest is not one solely between Russia and the United States from which others can disengage themselves politically at will: isolation everywhere is obsolete.
Perfect confidence in each other is more than the best of Allies can expect. But distrust of Germany among the Atlantic peoples is in a class by itself; it is not with her but against her that, on the anvil of time, our unity has twice had to be forged. And if, in spite of such deep-rooted distrust, the Bonn Republic is admitted one day into the Atlantic Alliance, the West may have cut the ground from under its own feet. For as a treaty signatory, West Germany's full rearmament would be entailed; and though she rearms with us now, she might subsequently rearm against us. What the Korean episode conveys is not the wisdom of allowing the Bonn Republic to fend for itself but the error of premature evacuation from an infinitely more important salient. If South Koreans were strategically too feeble to be left on their own, the resurgent Germans are politically too fickle.
Western Europe, unified on a federalized or Schumanized model, may, under present world circumstances, think twice about any lone, neutral tour de valse. Yet neither is the alternative to such a solo performance one to cheer about. A unified Europe which opts for the West means the entry of the Bonn Republic into the Atlantic Alliance. For by its very nature as a single federal entity that unified Europe would, in defense matters, have to proceed as one; unless it were to repudiate its own integral unity, a semi-continental union could not be half in and half out of a major coalition. During the East-West crisis the character of our occupation of Western Germany might be wholly transformed; it can jettison the maintenance of victory over Germany as its objective and devote itself to the defence of the West--and of Germany against the East. But that would be with German consent. The Bonn Republic will, however, only consent to equal partnership in a European federation when each of the federated partners are treated as equals in all its relationships. To admit Western Germany to our inmost Atlantic councils may, on the record of a century and by every sound forecast, suddenly have become a policy of prudence. But I, for one, doubt it.
British rejection of the Schuman Plan is thus not a blow at the unity of the West but a reminder of the solid political substratum on which it should rest. The Atlantic Alliance was, in the French view, aimed against the Germans as much as against the Russians. The Schuman Plan signalizes more than a decrease in Gallic targets; in making our top military dispositions, it would take for granted the identity of Germans with the West. Yet East-West peace is kept by a world and not a European balance; it is a German revival which, more than anything else, may tip the scales from West to East rather than from East to West. And to make the defense of the West hinge upon German rearmament is to misconceive the dimensions of the problem. Our Atlantic could well be safer when Allied arms on the continent are stronger. But it is through the total power of the West, and not through its European segment, that peace has been and will be maintained. And if German arms, as a buttress of that segment, are untrustworthy, the greater the restrictions upon them, the more secure we shall be.
The Schuman Plan coincides, nevertheless, with an Allied change of heart towards German rearmament. Local West German police may be necessary to counter the East German people's army; to mobilize German personnel in the general defence of Europe might, when other Atlantic priorities have been filled, ultimately be feasible. And if German heavy industry must be set going full blast it is better that, as long as possible, it serve the West and not the East.
But we live in a fool's paradise if we pretend that some federalizing or Schumanizing paper device, as fashioned in Paris and Bonn, can disguise indefinitely the iron realities. Through the uncontrollable power of a large German State, reindustrialized and politically equalized, we may yet undo with one hand what we do with the other.
How, then, should the West be consolidated? To plan in semi-continental rather than Atlantic or oceanic terms may be to narrow and not broaden its scope. Twice already in the twentieth century Western Europe has been united--most of it under William II and virtually all of it under Adolph Hitler. Federalized or Schumanized as a single politico-economic unit, its fate--and ours--will be determined by a central Germanic dynamism. Yet if it avoids intimate organic ties, it can function with less apparent logic but with more underlying regard for its own freedom and our common heritage. Atlantic unity, with bonds as loose as we have them, as tight as may be practicable, is a safer bet than European union. For only in that manner can each major portion of an interdependent West fully pull its weight.
VOTE OF THANKS, moved by M. W. Wallace, Principal Emeritus of University College, University of Toronto.