- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 17 Feb 1938, p. 245-262
- Frost, Rex, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The speaker's recent trip to Europe: anticipations and realities. The significance of the presence of German war vessels in an Italian harbour. The Mediterranean controversy which in recent years has partly formed a basis of misunderstanding between Italy and Great Britain. British strategy in the Mediterranean in the past century to assure for herself a freedom of passage for her merchant shipping with the Near and Far East. Events that have served to threaten that position. Some comparisons between the physical and the political conditions as they impressed themselves upon the speaker in Germany and Italy. Similarities and differences between the Nazi and Fascist regimes, illustrated through an examination of the branches of administration which control the production and marketing of the national food supplies. The degree to which military preparedness is apparent in Europe. The visible results which appear to have been attained in both Germany and Italy since their respective authoritarian regimes came into operation. A review of the social system in Italy and in Germany. The restlessness apparent in France. The European situation as interpreted to the speaker in London. A decided turnover of viewpoint in Great Britain towards the outlook for the immediate future of general European political events, different from the apathy which seemed to exist at the time of the speaker's visit last summer. The British public now seeming to be doing a great deal more worrying than the officials. The situation in Austria. Circumstances which encouraged a measure of acceptance of the German approach in Austria. The similarity of economic and business problems in Europe and on the American side of the Atlantic. Physically and mentally, Great Britain the one nation of Europe which under the most extenuating of circumstances has remained fundamentally sane and sober. The speaker's concurrence with that large body of students of international affairs which is firmly convinced that the one most influential factor guaranteeing the peace of Europe is the power of British rearmament.
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- 17 Feb 1938
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- Full Text
SPOTLIGHT ON EUROPE
AN ADDRESS By REX FROST
Thursday, February 17th, 1938
PRESIDENT: Our Guests, Members of the Empire Club of Canada: Of the many great inventions of our time the greatest, as far as the majority of us are concerned, is probably the radio. The next in radio will likely be television and until that time we shall keep wondering what sort of people our announcers and commentators are. There are commentators and commentators. Some are simply propagandists. Others travel, meet the heads of governments and business men in various countries and thus gain first hand knowledge of the conditions arid political situations in those countries. Our guest-speaker today is of the latter type. Last summer he spent some months in Europe, met public officials and Ministers of the Governments of Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria and Czechoslavakia, as well as other personalities in these countries, representative of national life. Since then Mr. Frost has visited Italy, where he also met Ministers of the regime and public officials and had an opportunity of securing the reaction of the man in the street. Other countries were then visited.
Mr. Frost was born in England, but has lived in Canada for 25 years, and therefore his interpretations are those of a Canadian. I have much pleasure in introducing to you Mr. Rex Frost; his subject, "Spotlight on Europe. Mr. Frost.
MR. REX FROST: Mr. President, Guests and Members of The Empire Club: It is always my own impression when speaking at a public meeting that my visible audience is in many cases a great deal more interested in seeing what I look like than in hearing what I have to say. Having occupied the ether waves with two discources a day for in the neighbourhood of five year's, I rather imagine that many of you will have become so accustomed to my commentaries that you have regarded the present largely as an opportunity to satisfy your curiosity as to my appearance and what sort of fellow I am personally. That, after all, is a perfectly natural instinct, we all form impressions as a result of hearing the various types of radio personalities, and usually the remark which greets me when I have the pleasure of making the personal acquaintance of some of those who ordinarily sit out of sight on the other side of the microphone is, "Well, Rex, you're not one bit as I thought you would be. I expected that you'd be a short, thick set fellow, probably ten years older than you are, certainly you're not a bit as I pictured you would be."
My first duty this afternoon, Gentlemen, must therefore be to apologize for the disappointment. Sometimes quite naturally the surprise is mutual, as, for instance, the occasion a short while ago when I was addressing an agricultural audience and a farmer came up to me and said, "You know, Mr. Frost, my daughter listens to every one of your broadcasts, and she'll be very disappointed when she meets you later tonight to find that you are not about 20 years younger than you are." And, may I assure you, Gentlemen, that when later that evening I did meet the young lady I felt exactly the same way about it myself.
What is true in a personal way is so very often also true when one travels to other countries, and I must immediately record that the impressions which I have formed of the countries and the peoples of Europe through the printed word did not measure up to expectations when I had the opportunity of coming face to face with the reality. In the realization a visit to Europe seems to develop into a series of surprises, surprises which, in many cases, amount almost to disappointment. I know that my own impression, from what I had read during the past year in regard to conditions in the Mediterranean, for instance, had led me to anticipate that there would be much of interest, perhaps even much of excitement in a boat trip through the Mediterranean between Gibraltar and the Italian Coast. I had conjured up visions of a Mediterranean closely patrolled by battlecraft of several nations; I had pictured that section of the Mediterranean which joins the Spanish coast as one in which I might expect to see evidences of the normal activities that might be associated with a war. From the time that the boat left Gibraltar until arrival at Naples, a distance of some Boo miles, there was not only a complete absence of any battleships, cruisers or war vessels of any description, but indeed a surprising absence of mercantile shipping as well. Not until the vessel on which I was travelling docked at Naples was there any indication of naval craft, and only then a small number of Italian submarines and destroyers moored alongside the dock without any apparent activity on board. There were also a couple of light German destroyers flying the Swastika flag moored in the harbour of Naples. They were there when I arrived and the same vessels were there when I returned to Naples a couple of weeks later, these vessels having presumably not left their moorings in the meanwhile.
As to the significance of the presence of German war vessels in an Italian harbour, for all one knows they may have been planted there purely to convey a literal significance of the solidarity of the Rome-Berlin axis. As you land at Naples, however, staring you in the face is a notice painted on the customs and immigration buildings in large letters, a phrase which freely translated from the Italian reads, "We are Mediterraneans and our destiny has always been, and always will be, on this sea." It was the first visible indication of the Mediterranean controversy which in recent years has partly formed a basis of misunderstanding between Italy and Great Britain. Physically, the western Mediterranean to all intents and purposes presents to the eye no more controversial a spectacle than would any span of delightfully peaceful, greenish-blue sunlit water. But that dominant phrase, as it were defiantly expressed on the harbour buildings of Naples, is a forcible reminder to the traveller that prominent in the mind of the Italian authorities in placing it there, was not only the provisions of a stimulant to the prestige of Italian imperialism, but an assurance that Mussolini regards the Meditermean as a sea upon which he and his country depend in providing strategical advantages from a military and naval standpoint.
British strategy in the Mediterranean in the past century has been, as we know, to assure for herself a freedom of passage for her merchant shipping with the Near and Far East. Maintaining as Britain always has done in the past a preponderance of naval power, there has never been any doubt until in recent years of the ability of Great Britain to defend her right of passage through the Mediterranean. The growing strength of Italy's naval arid air power, plus the establishment of a highly fortified base on the African coast which menaces the narrow strip of water between the tip of Italy and Africa, appears to have rather changed the outlook. Then again, the rapidly increasing range of aircraft, the proven efficacy of submarines in creating distress to mercantile and other shipping, has revolutionized the political aspects of the Mediterranean. There is the prospect that in the case of a declaration of war between the western democratic powers and a Mediterranean nation, that the confining of several powerful naval and air forces of those nations within (the narrow sea of the Mediterranean, each force with its bases interwoven, might start something that would be analogous to the shutting up of a bunch of wild cats in a small cage. It is not difficult, therefore, to understand the Mussolini strategy in this inland sea, inasmuch as it provides for him not only a material bargaining force in times of peace, but a physical threat of no mean proportions in the case of hostilities. It largely accounts too for Mussolini's actions in endeavouring to preserve for himself a favourable sphere of influence in Spain. As an Italian Minister put it to me, Italy could not countenance a Commonist Spain on her seas. And, speaking of Spain, it is surprising how the civil disturbance in that troubled country seems to have dropped out of general conversation in London and Paris during the past few months. Last June when I was in the French and British capitals diplomatic officials were just full of fear about the Spanish outlook-last month the only time when it entered into the conversation was when I raised the point myself. It may be presumed, I would say, that Spain has long since passed out of the European political picture as forming any potential source of major hostilities in Europe. True, it may constitute a continued point of irritation, a subject for small bickering and bargaining, but fundamentally I gained the impression in London that Spain has been relegated to the position of one of the minor of European issues.
This afternoon I would like to have the privilege of bringing you a few comparisons between the physical and the political conditions as they impressed themselves upon me in Germany and Italy. In the first place, until I visited these countries I had back of my own mind learned to understand that the respective Nazi and Fascist regimes were so closely associated that they might be regarded as practically similar, and thereby interchangeable. May I therefore record the impression that, while the two methods of administration in Germany and Italy have certain characteristics which might be reduced to a common denominator, they axe entirely dissimilar in a great many respects. The main character of their similarity, it is perhaps hardly necessary to suggest, lies in the authoritarian nature of their constitution. On the other hand, the practical construction of their governmental set-up varies as widely as does the distinction between the temperament of the German and Italian peoples themselves.
May I first illustrate a rather interesting branch of the administration which is rather similar, that which controls the production and marketing of the national food supplies. They infer with a certain amount of pride in Rome that in constructing his agricultural policy, Hitler, to all intents and purposes, duplicated the system which had been in force for some time in Italy. To tell you of the German system is, therefore, to remind you of the Italian. The whole approach to the question of profitable marketing of the products of agriculture in Germany is based on the national socialist belief that prices can be controlled by legislation. In Berlin they claim that the theory that demand and supply regulate prices is not really an economic maxim at a11, but rather an out-of-date capitalist maxim. The German argricultural plan, therefore recognizes price fixing from the producer to the consumer as forming its essential basis. In September, 1933 the German Government enacted as the basic law for agriculture a government body known as the National Food Corporation, and it became necessary for all parties concerned in the production, distribution and sale of the nation's essential foodstuffs to become associated in their respective capacities with that Corporation. Today the German Government claims that by its arbitrary price fixing policy, the producer is protected inasmuch as he is assured of predetermined, so-called "fair" prices, and assured sales. The middle-man or distributor is permitted only a specified mark-up, according to the class of produce. The amount which the consumer may be charged is also regulated. That ruling applies to a group of essential foods. On the face of things, it all sounds very nice, the farmer more or less gets a definite guarantee of a market for his produce, plus the assurance of a certain price, and the public has the perhaps satisfying knowledge that the middle-man is not permitted to profiteer at either their own expense or that of the producer.
The German authorities endeavour to impress you with the fact that, by such a system, they were able to control the fluctuations in prices of agricultural products to a range of as little as 3 per cent during the past year, which if the statistical figures they give you are correct, compares more than favourably with the fluctuations in price of essential foodstuffs in other countries. During the period of the past four years, however, international trade has been at a low ebb and, consequently, the influence of international markets for food commodities has been considerably less than most of us hope it will be in the years of international business expansion which we visualize in the near future. The German administration claims that it has successfully defied what it describes as the antiquated principles of economics, and believes that this price fixing system can be indefinitely sustained regardless of world wide conditions. And so we find the Nazi Administration locking horns with economic authorities the world over, who very definitely assert that in the final analysis there was never a price system yet evolved which would, in the long run, overcome the influences of supply and demand. Old Man Time will no doubt settle the point, but I recollect in that connection that the distinguished old gentlemen is usually characterized in Word and picture as a rather grim reaper.
I will say this, for the time being, however, the agricultural areas of Germany through which I drove about 700 miles last summer, have from the appearance of the premises, an orderly, well-kept atmosphere which might suggest that living conditions are reasonably satisfactory. It perhaps needs no explanation that both the German and Italian Agricultural policies have required dissociation, as far as possible, from world markets, and that the planning of the Rational economy in both countries has been a development scheme designed to bring larger areas under cultivation. The extent to which the reclaiming of marsh lands and other areas formerly unsuitable for cultivation has been carried out in Italy is rather impressive, and apart from making increased agricultural production possible has, at the same time, solved another problem by putting a large army of men to work. I spent a complete day driving around the reclaimed agricultural area some 50 miles from Rome which, until recent years, constituted the Pontine Marshes, and upon which thousands of small farm dwellings now dot the landscape. I went into one of these new farm homes, a 5-roomed affair constructed mostly of concrete. It was occupied by a family which had been moved to the locality by the government from one of the northern districts of the country, where abnormally overcrowded conditions prevailed. The interior of the farm home was pretty bleak, stone walls bare of pictures, stone floors bare of rugs or, carpets. The two downstairs rooms provided a living room and kitchen, while the three upstairs rooms consisted of a small granary and two bedrooms in each of which were the largest beds I've ever seen, but when one saw .the size of the family one realized that even this sleeping accommodation was cramped, to say the least of it. This little Italian farm home housed not only eleven children, but the parents and grandparents as well, and even at that, with fifteen people sharing two beds, it seemed to them a haven of comfort as compared with the conditions under which they had lived in the northern sections of the country. In bed it must be a case of, when father says turn, we all turn--which is a central European philosophy anyway. These people from Northern Italy are placed in these homes on the site of the Pontine Marshes and instead of rental, they contribute 25 per cent of the annual value of their crops to the government. At the end of 95 years of such contribution the house and its adjoining land becomes their own property.
Since my return from Europe I have been plied with questions concerning the degree to which military preparedness is apparent in Europe. Frankly, it is a great deal more obvious in Germany than in Italy. It almost appears that one man in three in Germany is wearing either a military or political uniform, and there are large military camps to be seen all over the country. The winged emblem signifying the wearer's association with an aviation unit is perhaps one of the most prominent. Government cars, trucks and other rolling equipment are to be seen very extensively on the highways, and they are practically all painted in the camouflage design so much associated with the Great War 1914-18.
In Italy, however, the effect of the military programme is not nearly so obvious on the streets of the cities and towns, in fact, in Rome and in the larger centres, there is virtually 116 military display whatsoever, except for official ceremonials--soldiers and men in political uniforms by comparison with Germany are few and far between. Neither in Italy is there apparent as much flag waving as in Germany. One of the most conspicuous visible factors of the German life, as I saw it last summer, was the intensive display of Swastika flags with which the main streets of many of the larger Nazi centres were lined. Conspicuous also in Germany was the extent to which pictures of Hitler were hanging in almost every store, office, hotel or public building. Italy is seemingly more modest in public display of the pictures of her national leader, and in almost every case where such pictures axe displayed, both those of the King of Italy and II Duce are shown together. One notices also as a traveller, an entirely different general atmosphere. Germany at once impresses you as a highly disciplined country. While I can speak in the highest terms of the courtesy with which I was greeted by German officials and members of the government departments, there is, on the other hand, a sense of tenseness, a feeling that you are being watched in Germany, which you do not feel in Italy. Don't misunderstand me on that point, the background of friendliness towards the visitor is equally felt in both Germany and Italy, but in Italy one does not feel that the people as a whole or the government officials are as much on their guard. In Germany practically every government department is under armed guard, in Italy the only soldiers to be seen outside government offices are the two men who stand at the shoulder arms at the entrance to Mussolini's private offices in the Palazzo Venetzia in Rome. Nor can it be presumed that the Dictators have completely lost their sense of humour. When I was in Germany the Third Reich was chuckling over an editorial which had been reprinted from an American periodical in which after making comparisons between the extraordinary similarity which existed in the physical appearance of Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler, even to the little black moustache, the comment was made, "There's one great difference between the film comedian and the German Fuhrer, however. Charlie Chaplin knows he's funny." Even Hitler is supposed to have chortled at that one . . . and when dictators smile . . . well, they say there's hope after all for the future of Europe.
Speaking of the visible results which appear to have been attained in both Germany and Italy since their respective authoritarian regimes came into operation, he would I believe, be a narrow-minded observer who could not detect some social improvement in these countries, but nothing which I have seen in Europe in either of my last two visits would in any way cause me to suggest that the dictatorial systems of government of central Europe may be in any way regarded as superior to the democracy we enjoy under the Constitution of the British Empire.
While it is difficult for the visitor to dig deep below the surface of life in these two countries in the short space of a couple of months, there is evidence that the social system is in a great many ways not quite so black as many would have us believe. Italy appears to be a great deal more settled than Germany, which I suppose is only reasonable when one remembers that Mussolini has been plugging away at national reorganization practically four times as long as Hitler. My impression, however, is that such improvement in the social status of the Italian people which has been effected since the advent of the present system of government has been made possible only by reason of the adaptability of the temperament of the Latin people to a system which involves regimentation of the national life. To transform that system, however, and endeavour to impose it upon an Anglo-Saxon community accustomed by heritage to extensive freedom of thought and action would be very doubtful indeed as to its aspects of success.
One might make a similar comment in regard to Germany where we envisage a nation which through its comprehensive military traditions has long been steeped in a sense of rigid discipline that makes possible a far greater measure of authoritarian discipline than would ever be possible under British traditions. It must be remembered too that whatever credit Hitler and Mussolini may seek to take unto themselves for having accomplished a measure of national reorganization, by comparison with the western democracies these countries are poor economically and financially, Italy obviously more so than Germany. All the creative effort of the Nazi and Fascist policies, while they may have lessened, has not overcome financial stringency. When you enter and leave Germany and Italy they appear to be a great deal more interested in what currency you have in your pocket than they are in the probably dutiable articles you have in your baggage. It is very evident that every regulation which can possibly prevent the export of wealth in any form out of the respective countries has been punt into effect. That may be of course, the result of over spending in each case in the sphere of military preparedness. Much as in both Italy and Germany one hears the most scathing remarks about France and the French democratic system, one rather' senses that these Dictators would give their eye teeth for the entree to some of the extensive gold reserves and the wealth which constitute the background of French democracy.
One cannot, however, visit Europe without being impressed by the obvious restlessness of France. "Things are bad," remarked a Frenchman to me in Paris, whose views have international weight "yet," he continued, "if my judgment confronts me with the alternative solutions, my instinct tells me somehow or other that we shall extricate ourselves without serious dislocation." And, in such a phrase, Gentlemen, I believe you have the keynote of the French temperament--compromise. Come to think of it, there seems to be no nation on the face of the globe which can stage one political climax after another as can France. The post-war, yes and the 20th century prewar period of the republic seems to be just a continuous series of crises. It may be the temperament of the public, it may be the corruptness of public life, it may be the manipulation of an autocratic capitalism, but certainly France for some reason or, other gives the impression of being perched continuously on the brink of a political, financial and economic abyss into which for some mysterious reason she never falls. The old parliamentary constitution of France has withstood shock after shock for the last 15 years. Over and over again it has been prophesied that the next French Cabinet crisis would mark the limit of resistance of the Republic to the force of the new political creeds of Europe, yet even as it develops, each crisis resolves into a solution, even if temporary, on the old orthodox lines. Neither the extreme leftist groups nor those of the extreme right seem in a position to oust that parliamentary democracy of France. On the Left, (the French Communists have sought to use the Front Populaire as a means of securing leadership and control of the entire working class movement in the Republic. So far they have not succeeded. One remembers that famous day of July 7th, 1936, when France had on her hands during that one day no less than 1171 factories occupied by sit-down strikers, and there has been an unbroken record of business dislocation in evidence ever since. A few months ago a movement of the Right, a Fascist type group, looked as though it might make an imposing impression, but it too has similarly proved incapable of grabbing the destinies of the Republic, and the French, past masters in the art of compromise, have steered a middle course which at times perilously near the edge of the political ditch, has nevertheless been able to stay on the highway of democracy. On the other hand, there is every evidence even to the visitor to France who reviews the country superficially that the class war, the clash between the capitalist and labour elements has reduced the country's business to a complete shambles. The past three years have seen in France one staggering orgy of industrial disorganization. It is an impossibility for anyone to gauge the probabilities of the situation in France without having been there and seeking to gain some understanding of the national temperament. The Frenchman is, you know, essentially an individualist, a man who has been brought up for centuries in the belief of personal liberty, the thought of the authoritarian regime, such as has been suggested as the inevitable destiny of the Republic, to me would seem a contradiction of the national character. France, at the moment and for the past several years, has passed through a political torment. There has been staged in the Republic as extended and vicious a battle as the world has ever seen against a strongly entrenched capitalism. For 136 years the Bank of France, dubbed the Second Bastille, has repelled every assault. It survived two Republics, two Empire and two royal dynasties. The Bank of France survived Waterloo, the revolution of 1848, the Franco-Prussian war and the World War. But this French Bastille of High Finance, the autocratic Bank of France, fell on the night of July r 6th, 1936, not to a blaze of musketry, not to the shrieks of human slaughter, but to the decision of a debate in a constitutionally elected democratic chamber -it was part of France's New Deal in the modern interpretation of democracy. The class struggle in France of the past few years has been more intensive than we of the American world can fully comprehend. There have been so many forecasts that the Republic will, in the almost immediate future, swing viciously to the Right or to the Left, that I feel impelled to repeat the simple remark made to me in Paris a couple of weeks ago . . . "We shall extricate ourselves without serious dislocation." The French capacity for compromise speaks for itself.
A word on the European situation as interpreted to me in London. There is quite obviously somewhat of a switch-over of viewpoint in Great Britain towards the outlook for the immediate future of general European political events. Last summer I remarked upon the extreme public apathy which seemed to exist, particularly in London, which took a disinterested negative attitude towards the probability of a general outbreak of hostilities on the Continent. On the contrary, official and diplomatic circles at that time did not seem to share quite the hopeful aspect of the general public. Last spring and summer serious incidents were happening in the Mediterranean. There was the attack on the German gunboat, Deutschland, and other vessels of the international patrol which were obviously keeping British Foreign Office officials and officials of the other branches of the diplomatic services in a bit of a whirl.
At the moment, the viewpoint in London seems to have become reversed. Today the British public seems to be doing a great deal more worrying than the officials. I put a question on he subject to a permanent staff member of one of the government departments in London and he agreed that there was a great deal of truth in such a belief. Asked if he could suggest some explanation, he put it to me this way. British rearmament has made such progress during the past few months, he explained, that the public is daily becoming more conscious of what is going on around them. The British press campaign urging preparedness against war had roused the imagination of the man in the street to the point that he had been brought face to face with what might happen. News items mentioning that millions of gas masks had already been manufactured and stored in warehouses in the larger centres has had an impressive effect in reminding the British public of the possible menace ahead. Motorists driving into public garages for service have been finding it increasingly difficult to obtain competent mechanical service, and when they asked why, were told that there was a shortage of good machine shop men-the lads were working in ammunition plants and armament works, and so on. Many garages had rented some of their space to the government as machine shops for shell and aeroplane part manufacture. The public noticed such things. These and a chain of other circumstances with which the public were coming more and more into contact daily, has had some considerable influence in creating a fear-of-war consciousness.
From official circles in London, I received the assurance, however, that the fundamentals of European relations today are very much improved over those of six months ago. I was very definitely given the impression that a more approachable basis of understanding exists between the British and Italian governments than has been seen fox' some time. Insofar as relations with Germany were concerned, there was every reason to believe that Hitler was anxious to encourage better understanding with the Chamberlain government. A couple of weeks ago in London a diplomatic official expressed the opinion to me that, while 1938 would undoubtedly find an intensive revival of the German claim for the return of her former overseas possessions, that this, on the contrary, was believed to be more or less a camouflage of the more important Hitler objective of extending his sphere of influence in Central Europe. That viewpoint appears rather to have been justified by events of the past few days in which announcements have been made of the intimidation of the Austrian Cabinet by the German Fuhrer. This was not apparently an unexpected development but rather the culmination of an aggressive effort over a period of several years to bring Vienna within the orbit of the Rome-Berlin axis.
Having spent some time in Vienna last year, and having travelled most of the length and breadth of Austria, I am under no illusion as to the circumstances which encouraged a measure of acceptance of the German approach. Austria as a country is perhaps one of the most pitiful spectres of Europe. Nowhere on the Continent have I seen such visible evidences of poverty, nowhere in Europe did I listen to such voluminous accounts of the distracting position of Austrian business and the seeming futility of the national outlook. You can hardly walk 50 yards on the streets of Vienna without being accosted by beggars, male and female. The gaiety and brilliance which once constituted Vienna as the most spectacular of European capitals has given way to a sombre depression of mind and spirit. Vienese spoke to me quite frankly in suggesting that there seemed to be but one hope for their country, some form of consolidation with Germany or Italy. And in that connection, it must still be remembered that Mussolini has a considerable finger in the Austrian pie.
As I sat on the terrace garden of an hotel which nestled on one of the hills at the back of Vienna, from which is obtained a commanding view of the River Danube, lazily wending its way into the distance, the thought came to me that the well-known appellation, the Blue Danube was more an interpretation of the mood of the people than descriptive of the muddy-coloured water in the river. It is with a knowledge of the background of Austrian conditions that the British Government has long foreseen some development along the lines announced a couple of days ago, and there is every reason to believe that the British diplomatic service was well prepared for such an announcement, and has the situation well in hand.
One point which impressed me was that, fundamentally, no matter where you travel in Europe, whether it be Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria, or Italy, irrespective of conversation in political channels, business men appear to be discussing problems which, in the main, are similar the continent wide. Basically, they have similar problems confronting them as have we on the American side of the Atlantic. Questions of unemployment, the balancing of budgets, costs of living, the application of various forms of social security insurance, the building up of the humanitarian side of the masses of the population. These are basically major questions of discussion in business circles, no matter where you go. And be it in Rome, Berlin, Paris, London, Prague or Vienna you hear men discussing such prosaic matters as advertising and merchandising plans, the stock market, business overheads, and week-end round of golf, their operations, and a dozen and one similar topics which one overhears in our own country. In countries where one might expect them to talk about nothing but armaments and war, war scares, political coups and the like, it is rather refreshing to find that there are still business men, human fellows at that, who may still have simple problems like our own, and who are still sufficiently human sometimes to take a good-looking secretary out to the supper dance.
Individually, no matter in what European country you travel, men and women talk in the sincerest spirit of hopeful co-operation, and I say hopeful co-operation, because as individuals I believe that the peoples of Europe arse praying for the solution of their misunderstandings in terms of peaceful accomplishment. The man in the street has just as much a horror of prospective war as have we Britishers. There is, however, one lacking principle, the principle which accepts the power of collective human intelligence, a principle guided largely of mind, will power and common sense. We agree privately on the necessity for world peace, we concur on the basic principles which must essentially direct the activities of mankind towards higher social standards of living and a loftier moral outlook. We agree, I say, as individuals, but by a strange psychology, individuals formed into nations for some almost unintelligible cause become strangely unreasonable. In a national sense, collective political pride seems sometimes to supplant the dictates of our personal and individual commonsense and intelligence, and almost unknowlingly we subscribe as nations to a condition amounting to mental anarchy, which we would hardly countenance as private citizens. The need of Europe, of America and of the rest of the world seems to be a more practical interpretation in world affairs to those same motives and principles for which we personally stand, but which as so-called intelligent nations we have so far apparently failed to put into practise.
In the sum and substance of European affairs, may I report two major impressions. First, that physically and mentally, Great Britain is the one nation of Europe which under the most extenuating of circumstances has remained fundamentally sane and sober. Majority British opinion still can be adapted to 20th century architecture without tearing down the original edifice. Secondly, that I concur with that large body of students of international affairs which is firmly convinced that the one most influential factor guaranteeing the peace of Europe is the power of British rearmament. There is reassurance too with the knowledge that in any conflict of diplomacy or arms, Britain, while losing many, always has won one battle-the last.
Cheerio, Gentlemen, and happy days. (Applause.)
PRESIDENTS Mr. Frost, we are indeed indebted to you for giving us this interpretation of current events. The situation, we hope, is not without a solution which will bring the world back to normal. We wish you continued success with the Arm Chair Club, sand I assure you we will listen with added interest, having met you. On behalf of The Empire Club, I thank you. (Applause.)