by SIR DESMOND MORTON
IF the primary objective of this book be to demonstrate that the Treaty of Versailles. forced upon Germany in June, 1919, was a gross international error, Mr. Watt's six-year research seems unnecessary. Even in 1919 persons of importance regarded it as an abomination—a view now generally accepted. Born of a spirit of selfish national interests, of hatred and revenge, it represented the very antithesis of Christian charity.
If its secondary objective be to suggest that. had France and Britain accepted the principles adduced by President Woodrow Wilson—and more steadfastly by General Smuts —the Western World might be living today in peace and prosperity, such a suggestion would be highly questionable, and anyhow unreal.
Difficulties also arise from the manner in which the author has elected to present the 500 pages of matter derived from his long period of study. The book is divided into four "Parts" and sixteen "Chapters" of different lengths. not in chronological order. There is no explanatory Preface, while the sometimes fanciful "Chapter"etitles in the Index offer no explanation of the contents of the "Chapter" concerned, until that has been read, If, however, each "Chapter" be looked upon as a separate "Essay" on some incident in the political history of the period, sixteen very readable stories emerge through the addition to well-known facts of the evidence of eye-witnesses among the many authors studied by Mr. Watt. These small incidents give a remark• able air of verisimilitude to the stories, even if they do not really add to the conclusions to be drawn.
Nevertheless, when all is said and done and full credit given to the brilliance of the story-teller, Mr. Watt fails to explain what he refers to as "The German Revolution." The blunt facts are that from the unwilling abdication of the Kaiser, even before the Armistice of November 1918, up to well after the acceptance of the Versailles Treaty, nothing like a collapse of law and order occurred. Several local attempts were made to upset whatever was regarded as the Government. but they failed. Feeble civil Governments were replaced by others. but the system remained. How did this seeming miracle occur?
Here was a great country, with a population embittered, on the verge of economic collapse with little apparent hope for the future; the fulcrum of their autocratic system gone and dissident political groups beginning to appear. All seemed poised for an explosion. Periods of grave anxiety indeed arose both inside and outside the country. watched by Communists in gleeful anticipation and by others with foreboding.
'The first of these was when the Army—"das unbesiegte Heer." as they called themselves, not without some justification—withdrew in perfect order across the Rhine, their erstwhile loyalty to the "AllHighest" being transferred to their own officers who remained loyal to "Germany."
Hence some writers, including Mr. Watt, regard the German Army as the saviours of their country. But following this short period, the size of the Armed Forces was greatly reduced. Unemployment and hunger spread rapidly and discontent grew. Yet the remaining organised forces of law and order continued to obey the nominal centre of Government, suppressing attempts at disruption. The rule of law was upheld.
May not the truth be concealed in the inbred psychology of the German people, whose temperament had responded gladly to autocratic government, equated in their minds with consolidation, security, success and increasing world power? Many Germans are allergic to ideas of social democracy, save in measure, and then under authoritarian guidance. True. Soviet Cornmunism is the acme of authoritarianism; but that was not so apparent in 1919.
Those theories moreover had been born in Russia, a second-rate country in German eyes, while it was not forgotten that Lenin had been used by Germany as a tool to destroy the Tsar's regime, Finally, even without the Kaiser, "Deutschland fiber alles" remained.
In reach of Rolfe
Dom SYLVESTER HOUEDARD
Stories Toto Told Me by Frederick Baron Corvo (Collins 30s.) WHAT will John Schlesinger
make of Hadrian VII? What sort of approach has he already conceived? It would be a pity if he found himself as tied to A. J. A. Symons and Sir Shane Leslie as Christopher Sykes appears to be in the thirteen gloomy pages that preface these twenty (of the original thirty-two) Toto stories.
In the "Request for Rolfe" written ten years ago for the centenary "Essays By Various Hands" (it came out later as an Ikon paperback) I tried to give reasons for the need to get behind the highly selective kerygmatic Corvo preached so effectively by Symons to the real "Raven called Rolfe"
It is possible that Mr. Sykes knows very few paranoiacs. Anyway he relies heavily on the Symons legend, imagines this fuzz age to be permissive, and from the comfort of his moral indignation supports a diluted form of the Leslie suggestion that Rolfe was possessed by evil forces.
Fortunately we still have Cecil Woolf's critical biography to look forward to.