BY DOUGLAS JERROLD
THIS Austrian affair is the climax to a long series of diplomatic defeats unparalleled in English history. All of them were avoidable; none of them came even near to being avoided. We have been for eighteen years driving straight for the rocks. We have consistently allowed "intolerable situations" to continue to the point where they provided an irresistible opportunity to determined men with a positive policy and a belief in their mission.
We saw China pillaged for decades by
bandit warlords. When Russia entered Chinese Turkestan and Outer Mongolia we pretended that nothing had happened. When Japan entered Manchuria we propounded a "solution" of a problem which we had ignored until the Japanese had not merely determined to settle it for themselves but had already done so.
In the case of Abyssinia, we were technically more prescient. The basic cause of that war was not, however, the shameful disorder in Africa (although the British Anti-Slavery League had repeatedly drawn the attention of Geneva to the iniquities of the Abyssinian slave trade long before Mussolini moved a man or a gun), but the persistent refusal to consider Italy's demands either for colonial territory or for free access to raw materials.
When Italy raised the issue of raw , materials at Geneva in 1926 her proposal was side-tracked at the instance of the British delegation. When Sir Samuel Hoare made his offer regarding raw materials at the time of the Abyssinian crisis, English public opinion was quite unaware that it was the very same proposal which Italy had made many years before, and which England had refused to consider.
The history of German disarmament and re-armament is too well known to need retelling. It was the same story, but it was a story plainly told at the time (because at that period our policy was opposed to that of France and we made no secret of our disgust at the failure of the disarmament conferences).
No Defence of Force We can understand the causes of these events without sympathising with their consequences.
Because we condemn the cynical inaction of the Great Powers in the face of the Chinese anarchy we must not be taken to applaud Japan. Because we condemn the selfish folly of the great colonial powers in their attitude to Italian colonial claims, because we condemn the cynical indifference of the League to the slave traffic in Abyssinia, we must not be taken to defend Italy's action.
Still less can any sane man regard the present rate of expenditure on armaments in Germany as anything but a danger to peace.
What we have to face is the clear and damning fact that in each of these three affairs intolerable situations were allowed to grow up amid what was (except in regard to the fiasco of the disarmanieni conferences) a conspiracy of silence, and without the slightest sign of determination on the part of the British government to bring to an end a situation visibly and obviously destined to end in a breach of international agreements.
In the case of Spain we have gone even further, because by our policy of refusing belligerent rights, we have gone out of our Way, by an action admittedly contrary to precedent, to create a situation in which breaches of international law at sea are inevitable.
We have not been content even with the folly of pretending that a bad government was a good one, or that anarchy was order. We have deliberately attempted to base our policy on the fiction that the Nationalist Government of Spain, with which we are in'official consular relations and with which we do an immense trade, does not exist and is therefore not at war.
Austria: Who Responsible?
Nov, while we are still unable to compose our relations with the Mediterranean powers because we persist in regarding fictions as facts, we are faced with the Austrian crisis, as the 'result of yet another intolerable situation persistently ignored.
In a long experience of English journalism, I have never seen more rubbish written than has appeared on this subject. Who is responsible for the conditions in Austria? We are asked to believe that, till a few
days ago, Austria was a happy, peaceful and sunny little democracy, living in conditions of idyllic calm and prosperity. Now it is being trampled underfoot by a brutal militarism.
The truth is that historic Austria, that ancient Christian bulwark, was dismembered by England and France, and Vienna was left to starve, cut off from the districts from which she drew her livelihood by the tariff walls of the Succession States.
She was denied, at the instance of Czechoslovakia and Jugoslavia, the form of government which she wanted. She was denied by the Great Powers a Customs Union with Germany, which, in the ab sence of territorial re-adjustments, was the manifest condition of her economic life.
For years past, a minority government not even claiming to represent the Austrian people has been kept in office by English and French financial and diplomatic support. No general election has been held, or could be beld. The gaols have been full of political prisoners and the country has been under a dictatorship, benevolent perhaps, but neither representative nor popular.
English Basis for Belief English policy has been based on the belief that nothing need be done to remedy the manifest and flagrant denial of natural, political and economic rights to Austria. We believed that the Italian fear of a Germanised Austria on her borders would be sufficient to ensure against German penetration. That calculation, as long as Italy was our ally, was shrewd, though never honourable. When Italy was forced into a German alliance, it became foolish as well as dishonourable.
Once again, for lack of either courage or cancicatr, we have lost control of a situation of importance to the whole fabric of Christian civilisation. What. under the new regime, is to be the fate of Catholics in Austria?
Are we 'to see the hand of the persecutor all-powerful in what was the very centre of the Catholic world, the traditional bastion of Christendom against false gods, corrupting ideals and Oriental invasion? There is no remedy immediately ready to our hands. A European war in which our allies were Russia, Red Spain and the Popular Front Government of France would mean not the salvation but the ruin of Christendom. Are we then to acquiesce in the Nazification of Austria against the wishes of certainly 40 per cent. and possibly half the inhabitants of that unhappy geographical expression, the limbless trunk of an Empire which we deliberately dismembered, deliberately ruined and have now failed even to preserve?
Indifference to Morals What we have to realise is that such results follow inevitably upon policies which are based on a supreme indifference to moral considerations. Law is no possible foundation for a foreign policy. We can if we wish to be cynical and selfish, offer diplomatic. support to a minority dictatorship while calling ourselves the champions of popular government, and deny the right to economic self-determination and the removal of customs barriers while proclaiming the right to self-determination as our creed and the lowering of tariff walls as
our policy. If, however, we do these things, we have no moral purpose to energise us in their defence. The consequences will be what they will be : we can only stand by and look on. That is the lesson which Austria is teaching us today.
Nothing is more foolish, moreover, than to suppose that these consequences would have been avoided had we been more powerfully armed. You cannot maintain an inherently unjust, and therefore inherently unstable situation in Central Europe by threats, or make it stable by spreading the ruin of war over two continents.
We could not even .maintain our own authority in Southern Ireland by force.
How futile to suppose that we can or could maintain for ever the anomalies and injustices of the regime and the status which we imposed on Austria. If we declared war on Germany today over Austria, or on Germany tomorrow over Czechoslovakia, we might be defeated, or we might not, but the two things which would certainly not emerge unscathed from the calamity would be the Versailles frontiers of Austria and Czechoslovakia.
Armaments, by Comparison, Unimportant A situation inherently unstable as was that of Austria, or as that of Czechoslovakia, will inevitably produce an ex
plosion at the first occasion when the surrounding powers are in disequilibrium.
Such states of disequilibrium are constantly recurring, as the result of political, economic or religious disputes and disorders.
The relative weight of armaments is only one factor, and not a very important factor, in the equilibrium of nations; the strength of armaments depends on the policy behind them, and never vice versa, and the virtue of armaments depends upon the virtue of that policy. That is the lesson for Englishmen who are also Christians. It is, above all, the lesson for Catholics,
whose faith is in danger all over Europe today for lack of moral purpose behind the policy of the governments to whom they owe allegiance.
Liberty of Conscience The important thing for us to remember Is not that some men somewhere have not got a vote but that all men everywhere have got an immortal soul.
If we wish to see the essentials of Christian liberty preserved, we must energise our civilisation in the defence of (Continued on Page 12.)