Part 3 out of 5
Austria-Hungary had in 1913 a total of 34,000 officers and 390,249
men; the States which have arisen from her ruins have a good many
more. Whilst German-Austria has, as a matter of fact, only 21,700 men
and Hungary has only 35,000, Czeko-Slovakia has 150,000 men, of which
10,000 are officers; Jugo-Slavia has about 120,000, of which 8,000 to
10,000 are officers.
But the two allies of France--Belgium and Poland, Belgium no longer
neutral, Poland always in disorder and in a state of continual
provocation abroad and of increasing anarchy at home--have in their
turn armies which previous to the War could have been maintained only
by a first-class power. Belgium has doubled her peace effectives,
which now amount to 113,500 men, an enormous army for a population
which is about equal to that of the city of New York or London.
Poland, whose economic conditions are completely disastrous, and may
be described as having neither money nor credit any more, but which
maintains more employees than any other country on earth, has under
arms not fewer than 430,000 men, and often many more, and possibly has
to-day many more--about 600,000. Her treaty with France imposes on her
military obligations the extension of which cannot be compatible with
the policy of a country desiring peace. Poland has, besides, vast
dreams of greatness abroad, and growing ruin in the interior. She
enslaves herself in order to enslave others, and pretends in her
disorder to control and dominate much more intelligent and cultured
Rumania has under arms 160,000 men besides 80,000 carabineers and
16,000 frontier guards. Greece has, particularly on account of her
undertakings in Asia Minor, which only the lesser intelligence of her
national exaltations can explain, more than 400,000 men under arms.
She is suffocating under the weight of heavy armaments and can move
only with difficulty.
The two pupils of the Entente, Greece and Poland, exactly like naughty
children, have a policy of greed and capriciousness. Poland was not
the outcome of her own strength, but of the strength of the Entente.
Greece never found the way to contribute heavily to the War with a
strong army, and after the War has the most numerous army which she
has ever had in her history.
Great Britain and Italy are the only two countries which have largely
demobilized; Great Britain in the much greater measure. It is
calculated that Great Britain has under arms 201,000 men, of which
15,030 are officers. In this number, however, are not included 75,896
men in India and the personnel of the Air Force.
In Italy, on July 31, 1921, there were under arms 351,076 soldiers
and 18,138 officers, in all 369,214, of which, however, 56,529 were
carabineers carrying out duties almost exclusively of public order.
Under the pressure and as a result of the example of the States which
have come through the War, those States which did not take part have
also largely augmented their armies.
So, whilst the conquered have ceased every preoccupation, the neutrals
of the War have developed their armaments, and the conquerors have
developed theirs beyond measure.
No one can say what may be the position of Bolshevik Russia; probably
she has not much less than a million of men under arms, also because
in a communist regime the vagabonds and the violent find the easiest
occupation in the army.
The conquerors, having disarmed the conquered, have imposed their
economic conditions, their absurd moralities and territorial
humiliations, as those imposed on Bulgaria, Turkey and Hungary,
conditions which are sufficiently difficult to be maintained. And as
the ferment of hate develops, the conquerors do not disarm. Above
all, the little States do not disarm, who have wanted too much, have
obtained too much, and now do not know how to maintain what they
have. In many countries for certain social reasons war has become an
industry; they live by the state of war. What would they do without a
state of war?
In general, then, Europe has considerably more men under arms than in
1913. Not only has it not disarmed, as the Entente always declared
would be the consequence of the victory of the principles of
democracy, but the victors are always leaning toward further armament.
The more difficult it becomes to maintain the conditions of the peace,
because of their severity and their absurdity, the more necessary it
is to maintain armies. The conquered have not armies; the conquerors
are, or, perhaps, up to a short time ago, were sure that the big
armies would serve to enforce the payment of the indemnities. Now, in
fact, they would not serve for anything else.
At the Conference of London, after a long discussion in February,
1920, the economic manifesto was drawn up which warned Europe of the
perils of the economic situation. Lloyd George and myself were easily
agreed in denouncing it as the gravest danger, as the principal cause
of high prices and of economic disorder, both as to the maintenance of
large armies and in the continuation of the state of war.
A Europe divided distinctly into two parts cannot be pacific even
after the conquered have yielded up their arms. The conquerors are
bound to arm themselves because of their own inquietude, from the
conviction that the only salvation is in force, which allows, if not
a true peace, at least an armed peace; if not the development of
production and exchange, at least the possibility of cutting off from
the markets the very fountains of riches.
Violence begets new violence. If the conditions of the peace cannot
be fulfilled, other heavier conditions can be imposed. In France
irresponsible people are supporting already the necessity of occupying
permanently the Ruhr, that is to say, the greatest German centre for
the production of coal, and of not respecting the plebiscite of Upper
What has been said about the armies is true also about the fleets.
There is a race towards the increase of naval armaments. If first that
was the preoccupation of the conquered, now it is the preoccupation of
the conquerors in the exchange of doubts into which they have fallen
after the War.
The state of mind which has been created between Great Britain, the
United States of America and Japan deserves to be seriously examined.
The race for naval armaments into which these three countries entered
not many months ago, and the competition between the two great
Anglo-Saxon people, cannot be other than very damaging for
The Great War which has been fought was at bottom the fight between
the Germanic race and the Slav race; it was the doubts in regard to
the last and not in regard to France which pushed Germany to war and
precipitated events. The results of the Continental War, however, are
the suppression of Germany, which lost, as well as of Russia, which
had not resisted, and France alone has gathered the fruits of the
situation, if they can be called that, from amongst the thorns which
everywhere surround the victory.
But the War was decided, above all, by the intervention of the
Anglo-Saxon people, Great Britain, her Dominions, and the United
States of America. Nothing but the small political intelligence of the
German statesmen could have united in the same group the peoples
who have the greatest contrast of interests among themselves--Great
Britain, Russia, the United States of America, Japan, France and
But now the situation of Europe and especially that of Asia is
creating fresh competitions, the expenses for the navies, according to
the figures of the various Budgets from 1914 to 1921, have risen in
the United States of America from 702 millions of lire to 2,166, in
Great Britain from 1,218 millions to 2,109, in Japan from 249 millions
to 1,250, in France from 495 millions to 1,083, in Italy from 250
millions to 402. The sums proposed for new constructions in the year
1921-22 are 450 millions in the United States of America, 475 millions
for Great Britain, 281 millions for Japan, 185 millions for France,
and 61 millions for Italy.
The United States of America and Great Britain are countries of great
resources: they can stand the effort. But can Japan, which has but
limited resources, support these for any length of time? or has she
some immediate intentions?
A comparative table of the navies in 1914 and 1921 shows that the
fleets of the conquering countries are very much more powerful than
they were before the War. Nevertheless, Russia and Austria-Hungary and
the people arisen in their territories are not naval powers; Germany
has lost all her fleet. The race for naval armaments regards
especially the two Anglo-Saxon powers and Japan; the race for land
armaments regards all the conquerors of Europe and especially the
This situation cannot but be the cause of great preoccupation; but
the greater preoccupation arises from the fact that the minor States,
especially those which took no part in the War, become every day more
exigent and display fresh aspirations.
The whole system of the Treaty of Versailles has been erected on the
error of Poland. Poland was not created as the noble manifestation
of the rights of nationality, ethnical Poland was not created, but a
great State which, as she is, cannot live long, because there are not
great foreign minorities, but a whole mass of populations which cannot
co-exist, Poland, which has already the experience of a too numerous
Israelitic population, has not the capacity to assimilate the Germans,
the Russians and the Ukranians which the Treaty of Versailles has
unjustly given to her against the very declarations of Wilson.
So that after, with the aid of the Entente, having had the strength
to resist the Bolshevik troops, Poland is now in a state of permanent
anarchy; consumes and does not produce; pays debts with a fantastic
bigness and does not know how to regulate the incomings. No country
in the world has ever more abused paper currency; her paper money is
probably the most greatly depreciated of any country on earth. She
has not succeeded in organizing her own production, and now tends to
dissolve the production of her neighbours.
The whole Treaty of Versailles is based on a vigorous and vital
Poland. A harmless Germany, unable to unite with an equally harmless
German-Austria, should be under the military control of France and
Belgium on the west, and of Poland on the east. Poland, separating
Germany from Russia, besides imposing on Germany the territorial
outrage of the Danzig corridor, cuts her off from any possibility of
expansion and development in the east. Poland has been conceived as a
great State. A Polish nation was not constituted; a Polish military
State was constituted, whose principal duty is that of disorganizing
Poland, the result of a miracle of the War (no one could foretell the
simultaneous fall of the Central Empires and of the Russian Empire),
was formed not from a tenacious endeavour, but from an unforeseen
circumstance, which was the just reward for the long martyrdom of a
people. The borders of Poland will reach in time to the Baltic Sea in
the north, the Carpathians and the Dniester in the south, in the east
the country almost as far as Smolensk, in the west to the parts of
Germany, Brandenburg and Pomerania. The new patriots dream of an
immense Poland, the old Poland of tradition, and then to descend into
the countries of the Ukraine and dominate new territories.
It is easy to see that, sooner or later, the Bolshevik degeneration
over, Russia will be recomposed; Germany, in spite of all the attempts
to break her up and crush her unity, within thirty or forty years will
be the most formidable ethnical nucleus of Continental Europe. What
will then happen to a Poland which pretends to divide two people who
represent numerically and will represent in other fields also the
greatest forces of Continental Europe of to-morrow?
Amongst many in France there is the old conception of Napoleon I, who
considered the whole of European politics from an erroneous point of
view, that of a lasting French hegemony in Europe, when the lasting
hegemony of peoples is no longer possible. In the sad solitude of his
exile at Saint Helena, Napoleon I said that not to have created a
powerful Poland keystone of the roof of the European edifice, not to
have destroyed Prussia, and to have been mistaken in regard to Russia,
were the three great errors of his life. But all his work had as an
end to put the life of Europe under the control of France, and was
necessarily wrecked by reality, which does not permit the lasting
mistake of a single nation which places herself above all the others
in a free and progressive Europe.
If the policy of the Entente towards Germany and towards the conquered
countries does not correspond either to collective declarations made
during the War, or to the promises solemnly made by Wilson, the policy
towards Russia has been a whole series of error. In fact, one cannot
talk of a policy of the Entente, in so far that with the exception of
a few errors committed in common, Great Britain, France and Italy have
each followed their own policy.
In his sixth point, among the fourteen points, no longer pure, but
violated and outraged worse than the women of a conquered race by a
tribe of Kurds, Wilson said on January 8, 1918, that the treatment
meted out to Russia by the sister nations, and therefore their loyalty
in assisting her to settle herself, should be the stern proof of
their goodwill. They should show that they did not confound their
own interests, or rather their egoism, with what should be done for
Russia. The proof was most unfortunate.
The attitude of the Entente towards Russia has had different phases.
In the first phase, the prevailing idea, especially on the part of
one of the Allies, was to send military expeditions in conjunction
especially with Rumania and Poland. This idea was immediately
abandoned on account of its very absurdity.
In the second phase, the greatest hopes were placed in the blockade;
of isolating Russia completely, cutting off from her (and for the rest
she no longer had it) every facility of trade exchange. At the same
time war on the part of Poland and Rumania was encouraged, to help the
attempt which the men of the old regime were making in the interior.
France alone reached the point of officially recognizing the Tsarist
undertaking of General Wrangel.
Lloyd George, with the exception of some initial doubts, always had
the clearest ideas in regard to Russia, and I never found myself in
disagreement with him in valuing the men and the Russian situation. It
is easy for a broad and serene mind to judge the position of the rest.
For my part I always tried to follow that policy which would best
bring about the most useful result with the least damage. After the
War the working masses in Europe had the greatest illusions about
Russian communism and the Bolshevik organization. Every military
expedition against Russia signified giving the people the conviction
that it was desired not to fight an enemy but to suffocate in blood an
attempt at a communist organization. I have always thought that the
dictatorship of the proletariat, that is the dictatorship of ignorance
and incapacity, would necessarily lead to disaster, and that hunger
and death would follow violence. There are for the peoples great
errors which must be carried out in the very effort to benefit
civilization. Our propaganda would have served nothing without the
reality of ruin. Only the death by hunger of millions of men in
communist Russia will convince the working masses in Europe and
America that the experiment of Russia is not to be followed; rather is
it to be avoided at any cost. To exterminate the communist attempt by
an unjust war, even if it were possible, would have meant ruin for
On repeated occasions I have counselled Rumania and Poland not to make
any attempt against Russia and to limit themselves to defence. Every
unjust aggression on the part of Bolshevik Russia would have found the
Entente disposed to further sacrifice to save two free nations, but
any provocation on their part could not create secure solidarity.
When I assumed the direction of the Government in June, 1919, an
Italian military expedition was under orders for Georgia. The English
troops, who were in small numbers, were withdrawing; Italy had, with
the consent of the Allies, and partly by her own desire, prepared
a big military expedition. A considerable number of divisions were
ready, as also were the ships to commence the transport. Georgia is a
country of extraordinary natural resources, and it was thought
that she would be able to furnish Italy with a great number of raw
materials which she lacked. What surprised me was that not only men of
the Government, but intelligent financiers and men of very advanced
ideas, were convinced supporters of this expedition.
However, confronted by much opposition, I immediately renounced this
undertaking, and renounced it in a definite form, limiting myself to
encouraging every commercial enterprise.
Certainly the Allies could not suggest anything unfriendly to Italy;
but the effect of the expedition was to put Italy directly at variance
with the government of Moscow, to launch her upon an adventure of
which it was impossible to tell the consequences.
In fact, not long afterwards Georgia fell into the hands of the
Bolsheviks, who sent there an army of 125,000 men, and since then
she has not been able to liberate herself. If Italy had made that
expedition she would have been engaged in a frightful military
adventure, with most difficult and costly transport in a theatre of
war of insuperable difficulty. To what end?
Georgia before the War formed part of the Russian Empire, and no
country of the Entente had considered that unjust. Further, as though
the vast empire and the dominion of the Caucasus were not enough for
Russia, the Entente with monstrous condescension had given to Russia
Constantinople and the Straits and a huge zone in Asia Minor. How
could you take away from Russia a territory which was legitimately
hers? And _vice versa_, if Georgia and the other States of the
Caucasus had sufficient strength to live autonomously, how can
you dominate Aryan people who have risen to a notable state of
To go to Georgia inevitably meant war with Russia for Italy, and one,
moreover, fraught with extraordinary difficulties. In fact, later, the
government of Moscow, as we have said, succeeded in invading as well
as Georgia almost all the republics of the Caucasus. And at San Remo,
discussing the possibility of an expedition on the part of Great
Britain, France and Italy to defend at least the oil production, after
the report of a military committee presided over by Marshal Foch, the
conclusion was quickly and easily arrived at that it was better to
leave the matter alone.
Italy had already made an expedition into Albania, the reason for
which beyond the military necessities for the period of the War has
never been understood, except that of spending a huge sum without
receiving the gratitude of the Albanians; an expedition in Georgia
would have done harm, the consequence of which cannot be readily
measured, it could, indeed, have meant ruin.
Even those minds that are most blinded by prejudice and hate recognize
the complete failure of the Russian communist system. The so-called
dictatorship of the proletariat is reduced in practice to a military
dictatorship of a communist group which represents only a fraction of
the working classes and that not the best. The Bolshevik government
is in the hands of a small minority in which fanaticism has taken the
place of character. Everything which represented the work of the past
has been destroyed and they have not known how to construct anything.
The great industries have fallen and production is paralysed. Russia
has lived for a long time on the residues of her capitalistic
production rather than on new productions. The productivity of her
agricultural and industrial work has been killed by communism, and the
force of work has been reduced to a minimum. The Russian people are in
straits which have no comparison, and entire territories are dying of
hunger. The communist regime in a short time has precipitated such
damage and such misery as no system of oppression could achieve in
centuries. It is the proof, if any were necessary, that the form of
communist production is not only harmful but not even lasting. The
economists say that it is absurd, but, given the collective madness
which has attacked some people, nothing is absurd beyond hoping in the
rapid recovery of the most excited nations.
If any country could be the scene of a communist experiment it was
Russia. Imperial Russia represented the most vast continuative
territory which a State ever occupied in all history's records of vast
empires. Under the Tsars a territory which was almost three times the
size of the United States of America was occupied by a people
who, with the exception of a few cases of individual revolt, were
accustomed to the most servile obedience. Under Nicholas II a few men
exercised rule in a most despotic form over more than 180,000,000
individuals spread over an immense territory. All obeyed blindly.
Centralization was so great, and the obedience to the central power so
absolute, that no hostile demonstration was tolerated for long. The
communist regime therefore was able to count not only on the apathy
of the Russian people but also upon the blindest obedience. To this
fundamental condition of success, to a Government which must regulate
production despotically, was joined another even greater condition
of success. Russia is one of those countries which, like the United
States of America, China and Brazil (the four greatest countries
of the earth, not counting the English dominions with much thinner
populations), possess within their own territories everything
necessary for life. Imagine a country of self-contained economy, that
lives entirely upon her own resources and trades with no one (and that
is what happened in Russia as a result of the blockade), Russia has
the possibility of realizing within herself the most prosperous
conditions of existence. She has in her territories everything: grain,
textile fibres, combustibles of every sort; Russia is one of the
greatest reserves, if not the greatest reserve, in the world.
Well, the communist organization was sufficient, the bureaucratic
centralization, which communism must necessarily carry with it, to
arrest every form of production. Russia, which before could give grain
to all, is dying of hunger; Russia, which had sufficient quantities of
coal for herself and could give petroleum to all Europe, can no longer
move her railways; Russia, which had wool, flax, linen, and could have
easily increased her cotton cultivation in the Caucasus, cannot even
clothe the soldiers and functionaries of the Bolshevik State. Ceased
is the stimulus of individual interest; few work; the peasants work
only to produce what their families need; the workers in the city are
chiefly engaged in meetings and political reunions. All wish to
live upon the State, and production, organized autocratically and
bureaucratically, every day dries up and withers a bit more.
To those who read the collection of laws issued by the Bolshevik
government many institutions appear not only reasonable, but also full
of interest and justice. Also many laws of the absolute governments
of past regimes appear intelligent and noble. But the law has not in
itself any power of creation; it regulates relations, does not create
them. It can even take away wealth from some and give it to others,
but cannot create the wealth. When the individual interest begins to
lack, work, which is sorrow and pain, lags and does not produce. To
begin with, it weakens in the short days when energy is avoided, and
then it stops through incapacity for energy. The old fundamental truth
is that in all the Aryan tongues the words which indicate work have
the same root as the words which denote pain. Among the great mass of
man work is only done by necessity or under the stimulus of individual
interest which excites the production of wealth. They work for wealth;
and therefore in the Aryan tongues wealth means dominion and power.
Two years ago I wanted, in spite of the opinion of others, to consent
to the Italian Socialists visiting Russia. I was convinced that
nothing would have served better to break in Italy the sympathy
for Russia, or rather the illusions of the revolutionaries, as the
spectacle of famine and disorder would. Never did the Press of my
country, or the greater part of it, criticize with more violence a
proposal which I considered to be both wise and prudent. I am glad to
state that I was right, and that, maybe through the uncertainties
and the lessons of those who had spread the illusions, the Italian
Socialists returned from Russia were bound to recognize that the
communist experiment was the complete ruin of the Russian people. No
conservative propaganda could have been more efficacious than the
vision of the truth.
I am convinced that the hostile attitude, and almost persecution, on
the part of the Entente rather helped the Bolshevik government, whose
claims to discredit were already so numerous that it was not necessary
to nullify it by an unjust and evident persecution.
The Bolshevik government could not be recognized: it gave no
guarantees of loyalty, and too often its representatives had violated
the rights of hospitality and intrigued through fanatics and excited
people to extend the revolution. Revolution and government are two
terms which cannot co-exist. But not to recognize the government of
the Soviet does not mean that the conditions of such recognition must
include that the War debt shall be guaranteed, and, worse still, the
pre-War debt, or that the gold resources and the metals of Russia
shall be given as a guarantee of that debt. This morality, exclusively
financial and plutocratic, cannot be the base of international
relations in a period in which humanity, after the sorrows of the War,
has the annoyance of a peace which no one foresaw and of which very
few in the early days understood the dangers.
Even when there was a tendency favourable to the recognition of the
republic of the Soviet, I was always decidedly against it. It is
impossible to recognize a State which bases all its relations on
violence, and which in its relations with foreign States seeks, or
has almost always sought, to carry out revolutionary propaganda. Even
when, yielding to an impulse which it was not possible to avoid--in
the new Italian Chamber, after the elections of 1919 not only the
Socialists, but above all the Catholic popular party and the party of
Rinnovamento, of which the ex-soldiers especially formed part, voted
unanimously an order of the day for the recognition of the actual
government of Russia--I did not think it right to give, and did not
give, effect to that vote, impulsively generous, which would have
invested Italy with the responsibility of recognizing, even if it were
_de facto_, the government of the Soviet.
I have always, however, rebelled and would never give my consent to
any military undertakings against Russia, not even to a participation
in the undertakings of men of the old regime. It was easy to foresee
that the population would not have followed them and that the
undertakings were doomed to failure. However, all the attempts at
military revolts and counter-revolutions were encouraged with supplies
of arms and material. But in 1920 all the military undertakings, in
spite of the help given, failed one after another. In February the
attempt of Admiral Koltchak failed miserably, and in March that of
General Judenic. Failed has the attempt of Denikin. All the hopes of
the restoration were centred in General Wrangel. The only Grand Duke
with any claim to military authority also sent to tell me that this
was a serious attempt with probability of success. General Wrangel, in
fact, reunited the scattered forces of the old regime and occupied a
large territory in power. France not only recognized in the government
of Wrangel the legitimate representative of Russia, but nominated her
official representatives with him. In November, 1920, even the army
of Wrangel, which appeared to be of granite, was scattered. Poland,
through alternating vicissitudes, claimed the power of resistance, but
has shown that she has no offensive power against Russia. So all the
attempts at restoration have broken, one after another.
One of the greatest errors of the Entente has been to treat Russia
on many occasions, not as a fallen friend, but as a conquered enemy.
Nothing has been more deplorable than to have considered as Russia the
men of the old regime, who have been treated for a long time as the
representatives of an existing State when the State no longer existed.
Let us suppose that the Bolshevik government transforms itself and
gives guarantees to the civilized nations not to make revolutionary
agitations in foreign countries, to maintain the pledges she assumes,
and to respect the liberty of citizens; the United States of America,
Great Britain and Italy would recognize her at once. But France has an
entirely different point of view. She will not give any recognition
unless the creditors of the old regime are guaranteed.
In June, 1920, the government of Moscow sent some gold to Sweden to
purchase indispensable goods. Millerand, President of the Council of
Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared to the Minister of
Sweden at Paris that if his Government consented to receive Russian
gold _ferait acte de receleur_. He then telegraphed to the Minister of
Finance at Stockholm regretting that the Government and public opinion
in Sweden were tending to consider the _revendications juridiques_ of
the French creditors of the ancient Russian regime to be such that
they did not stop the consignment of Swedish goods against Russian
gold. He added at the end that the syndicates of creditors could
utilize the news in telegram No. 355, in which the Swedish Government
gave notice of the trade and put a sequestration on Russian gold sent
This telegram, better than any speech, shows the diversity of
The Bolshevik government may be so immoral that we cannot recognize
it until it gives serious guarantees. But if the government of Moscow
sends a little of the gold that remains, or has remained, to buy
goods, what right have we to sequestrate the gold in the interests of
the creditors of the old regime?
The new regime, born after the revolution, can also not recognize the
debts of the old regime and annul them. It is not for that that we
have no relations with it.
We have pushed Germany by absurd demands to ruin her circulation. It
is already at about 100 milliard of marks; if to-morrow it goes to 150
or to 200, it will be necessary to annul it, nearly the same as is
done for bills of exchange. And for this should we not treat with
The new plutocratic conception, which marks the policy of a section
of the Entente, is not lasting, and the people have a justifiable
diffidence towards it.
Bolshevism, as I have repeatedly stated, cannot be judged by our
western eyes: it is not a popular and revolutionary movement; it is a
religious fanaticism of the orthodox of the East hoisted on the throne
of Tsarist despotism.
Italy is the country which suffers most from the lack of continuous
relations with Russia in so far that almost all Italian commerce, and
in consequence the prices of freight and goods, have been for almost
half a century regulated by the traffic with the Black Sea.
Ships which leave England fully laden with goods for Italy generally
continue to the Black Sea, where they fill up with grain, petroleum,
etc., and then return to England, after having taken fresh cargoes in
Italy and especially iron in Spain. It was possible in Italy for long
periods of time to obtain most favourable freights and have coal at
almost the same price as in England. The voyages of the ships were
made, both coming and going, fully laden.
The situation of Russia, therefore, hurts especially Italy. Great
Britain has Mediterranean interests; France is partly a Mediterranean
nation; Italy alone is a Mediterranean nation.
Although Italy has a particular interest in reopening relations with
Russia, the Italian Government has understood that the best and
shortest way is not to recognize the government of Moscow. But Italy
will never subordinate her recognition to plutocratic considerations.
Whatever government there may be in Italy, it will never associate
itself with actions directed to compelling Russia, in order to be
recognized, to guarantee the payment of obligations assumed previous
to the War and the revolution. Civilization has already suppressed
corporal punishment for insolvent debtors, and slavery, from which
individuals are released, should not be imposed on nations by
democracies which say they are civilized.
The fall of the communistic organization in Russia is inevitable. Very
probably from the immense revolutionary catastrophe which has hit
Russia there will spring up the diffusion of a regime of small landed
proprietors. Whatever is contrary to human nature is not lasting, and
communism can only accumulate misery, and on its ruins will arise new
forms of life which we cannot yet define. But Bolshevik Russia can
count still on two elements which we do not habitually take into
account: the apathy and indolence of the people on the one hand, and
the strength of the military organization on the other. No other
people would have resigned itself to the intense misery and to the
infinite sufferings which tens of millions of Russians endure without
complaint. But still in the midst of so much misery no other people
would have known how to maintain a powerful and disciplined army such
as is the army of revolutionary Russia.
The Russian people have never had any sympathy for the military
undertakings which the Entente has aided. During some of the meetings
of Premiers at Paris and London I had occasion, in the sittings of
the conferences, to speak with the representatives of the new
States, especially those from the Caucasus. They were all agreed
in considering that the action of the men of the old regime, and
especially Denikin, was directed at the suppression of the independent
States and to the return of the old forms, and they attributed to this
the aversion of the Russian people to them.
Certainly it is difficult to speak of Russia where there exists no
longer a free Press and the people have hardly any other preoccupation
than that of not dying of hunger. Although it is a disastrous
organization, the organization of the Soviet remains still the only
one, which it is not possible to substitute immediately with another.
Although the Russian people can re-enter slowly into international
life and take up again its thread, a long time is necessary, but also
it is necessary to change tactics.
The peasants, who form the enormous mass of the Russian people, look
with terror on the old regime. They have occupied the land and will
maintain that occupation; they do not want the return of the great
Russian princes who possessed lands covering provinces and were even
ignorant of their possessions. One of the causes which has permitted
Bolshevism to last is, as I have said, the attitude of the Entente,
which on many occasions has shown the greatest sympathy for the men of
the old regime. The Tsar of Russia was an insignificant man, all the
Grand Dukes were persons without dignity and without credit, and the
Court and Government abounded with men without scruples--violent,
thieves, and drunkards. If Bolshevik government had been ruin, no one
can deny but that a great part of the blame belongs to the old regime,
the return of which no honest man desires.
An error not less serious was to allow Poland to occupy large tracts
of purely Russian territory.
There remain in Europe, therefore, so many states of unrest which do
not only concern the conditions of the conquered countries, but also
those of the conquering countries. We have already seen how Germany
and the States which form part of her group cannot now any longer
represent a danger of war for many years to come, and that none the
less the victorious countries and the new States continue to arm
themselves in a most formidable manner. We have seen what an element
of disorder Poland has become and how the policy of the Entente
towards Russia has constituted a permanent danger.
But all Europe is still uncertain and the ground is so movable that
any new construction threatens ruin. Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria,
Turkey, cannot live under the conditions imposed on them by the
treaties. But the new States for the most part are themselves in a
sufficiently serious position.
With the exception of Finland all the other States which have arisen
on the ruins of the Russian Empire are in serious difficulty. If
Esthonia and Lithuania are in a fairly tolerable situation Lettonia is
in real ruin, and hunger and tuberculosis rule almost everywhere, as
in many districts of Poland and Russia. At Riga hunger and sickness
have caused enormous losses amongst the population. Recently 15,000
children were in an extremely serious physical and mental condition.
In a single dispensary, of 663 children who were brought for treatment
151 were under-nourished, 229 were scrofulous, 66 anaemic, and 217
suffering from rickets. The data published in England and the United
States and those of the Red Cross of Geneva are terrible.
Even with the greatest imagination it is difficult to think how
Hungary and Austria can live and carry out, even in the smallest
degree, the obligations imposed by the treaties. By a moral paradox,
besides living they must indemnify the victors, according to the
Treaties of St. Germain and the Trianon, for all the damages which the
War has brought on themselves and which the victors have suffered.
Hungary has undergone the greatest occupation of her territories and
her wealth. This poor great country, which saved both civilization and
Christianity, has been treated with a bitterness which nothing can
explain except the desire of greed of those surrounding her, and the
fact that the weaker people, seeing the stronger overcome, wish and
insist that she shall be reduced to impotence. Nothing, in fact, can
justify the measures of violence and the depredations committed in
Magyar territory. What was the Rumanian occupation of Hungary: a
systematic rapine and the systematic destruction for a long time
hidden, and the stern reproach which Lloyd George addressed in London
to the Premier of Rumania was perfectly justified. After the War
everyone wanted some sacrifice from Hungary, and no one dared to say a
word of peace or goodwill for her. When I tried it was too late.
The victors hated Hungary for her proud defence. The adherents of
Socialism do not love her because she had to resist, under more
than difficult conditions, internal and external Bolshevism. The
international financiers hate her because of the violences committed
against the Jews. So Hungary suffers all the injustices without
defence, all the miseries without help, and all the intrigues without
Before the War Hungary had an area almost equal to that of Italy,
282,870 square kilometres, with a population of 18,264,533
inhabitants. The Treaty of Trianon reduced her territory to 91,114
kilometres--that is, 32.3 per cent.--and the population to 7,481,954,
or 41 per cent. It was not sufficient to cut off from Hungary the
populations which were not ethnically Magyar. Without any reason
1,084,447 Magyars have been handed over to Czeko-Slovakia, 457,597 to
Jugo-Slavia, 1,704,851 to Rumania. Also other nuclei of population
have been detached without reason.
Amongst all the belligerents Hungary perhaps is the country which in
comparison with the population has had the greatest number of dead;
the monarchy of the Habsburgs knew that they could count on the
bravery of the Magyars, and they sent them to massacre in all the most
bloody battles. So the little people gave over 500,000 dead and an
enormous number of injured and sick.
The territories taken from Hungary represent two-thirds of her mineral
wealth; the production of three million quintali (300,000 tons) of
gold and silver is entirely lost; the great production of salt is
also lost to her (about 250,000 tons). The production of iron ore is
reduced by 19 per cent., of anthracite by 14 per cent., of lignite by
70 per cent.; of the 2,029 factories, hardly 1,241 have remained to
Hungary; more than three-quarters of the magnificent railway wealth
has been given away.
Hungary at the same time has lost her greater resources in agriculture
and cattle breeding.
The capital, henceforth, too large for a too small state, carries
on amidst the greatest difficulties, and there congregate the most
pitiable of the Transylvanian refugees and those from other lost
The demographic structure of Hungary, which up to a few years ago was
excellent, is now threatening. The mortality among the children and
the mortality from tuberculosis have become alarming. At Budapest,
even after the War, the number of deaths surpasses the number of
births. The statistics published by Dr. Ferenczi prove that the
number of children afflicted with rickets and tuberculosis reaches in
Budapest the terrific figure of 250,000 in a population of about two
millions. It is said that practically all the new-born in recent
years, partly through the privations of the mothers and partly from
the lack of milk, are tuberculous.
The conditions of life are so serious that there is no comparison;
some prices have only risen five to tenfold, but very many from thirty
to fifty and even higher. Grain, which before the War cost 31 crowns,
costs now 500 crowns; corn has passed from 17 to 220 and 250 crowns.
A kilogram of rice, which used to cost 70 centimes, can be found now
only at 80 crowns. Sugar, coffee and milk are at prices which are
Of the financial situation it is almost useless to speak. The
documents presented to the Conference of Brussels are sad evidence,
and a sure index is the course of the crown, now so reduced as to have
hardly any value in international relations. The effective income is
more than a fourth part of the effective expenses, and the rest is
covered especially by the circulation.
Such is the situation of Hungary, which has lost everything, and which
suffers the most atrocious privations and the most cruel pangs of
hunger. In this condition she should, according to the Treaty of
Trianon, not only have sufficient for herself, but pay indemnities to
The Hungarian deputies, at the sitting which approved the Treaty of
Trianon, were clad in mourning, and many were weeping. At the close
they all rose and sang the national hymn.
A people which is in the condition of mind of the Magyar people can
accept the actual state of affairs as a temporary necessity, but have
we any faith that it will not seek all occasions to retake what it has
unjustly lost, and that in a certain number of years there will not be
new and more terrible wars?
I cannot hide the profound emotion which I felt when Count Apponyi,
on January 16, 1920, before the Supreme Council at Paris, gave the
reasons of Hungary.
You, gentlemen [he said], whom victory has permitted to place
yourselves in the position of judges, you have pronounced the
culpability of your late enemies and the point of view which directs
you in your resolutions is that of making the consequences of the War
fall on those who were responsible for it.
Let us examine now with great serenity the conditions imposed on
Hungary, conditions which are inacceptable without the most serious
consequences. Taking away from Hungary the larger part of her
territory, the greater part of her population, the greater portion of
her economic resources, can this particular severity be justified by
the general principles which inspire the Entente? Hungary not having
been heard (and was not heard except to take note of the declaration
of the head of the delegation), cannot accept a verdict which destroys
her without explaining the reasons.
The figures furnished by the Hungarian delegation left no doubt
behind: they treated of the dismemberment of Hungary and the sacrifice
of three millions and a half of Magyars and of the German population
of Hungary to people certainly more ignorant and less advanced. At the
end Apponyi and the Hungarian delegation did not ask for anything more
than a plebiscite for the territories in dispute.
After he had explained in a marvellous manner the great function of
historic Hungary, that of having saved on various occasions Europe
from barbaric invasion, and of having known how to maintain its unity
for ten centuries in spite of the many differences amongst nations,
Count Apponyi showed how important it was for Europe to have a solid
Hungary against the spread of Bolshevism and violence.
You can say [added Apponyi] that against all these reasons there is
only one--victory, the right of victory. We know it, gentlemen; we are
sufficient realists in politics to count on this factor. We know what
we owe to victory and we are ready to pay the price of our defeat. But
should this be the sole principle of construction: that force alone
should be the basis of what you would build, that force alone should
be the base of the new building, that material force alone should be
the power to hold up those constructions which fall whilst you are
trying to build them? The future of Europe would then be sad, and we
cannot believe it. We do not find all that in the mentality of the
victorious nations; we do not find it in the declarations in which you
have defined the principles for which you have fought, and the objects
of the War which you have proposed to yourselves.
And after having referred to the traditions of the past, Count Apponyi
We have faith in the sincerity of the principles which you have
proclaimed: it would be doing you injustice to think otherwise. We
have faith in the moral forces with which you have wished to identify
your cause. And all that I wish to hope, gentlemen, is that the glory
of your arms may be surpassed by the glory of the peace which you will
give to the world.
The Hungarian delegation was simply heard; but the treaty, which had
been previously prepared and was the natural consequence of the Treaty
of Versailles, was in no way modified.
An examination of the Treaty of Trianon is superfluous. By a stroke
of irony the financial and economic clauses inflict the most serious
burdens on a country which had lost almost everything: which has lost
the greatest number of men proportionately in the War, which since
the War has had two revolutions, which for four months suffered the
sackings of Bolshevism--led by Bela Kun and the worst elements of
revolutionary political crime--and, finally, has suffered a Rumanian
occupation, which was worse almost than the revolutions or Bolshevism.
It is impossible to say which of the peace treaties imposed on the
conquered is lasting and which is the least supportable: after the
Treaty of Versailles, all the treaties have had the same tendency and
the same conformation.
The situation of German-Austria is now such that she can say with
Andromache: "Let it please God that I have still something more to
fear!" Austria has lost everything, and her great capital, which was
the most joyous in Europe, shelters now a population whose resources
are reduced to the minimum. The slump in her production, which is
carried on amidst all the difficulties, the fall in her credit, the
absolute lack of foreign exchanges, the difficulty of trading with the
hostile populations which surround her, put Austria in an extremely
difficult position and in progressive and continuous decadence. The
population, especially in the cities, is compelled to the hardest
privations; the increase of tuberculosis is continuous and
Bulgaria has had rather less loss, and although large tracts of
Bulgarian territory have been given without any justifiable motive to
Greece and Jugo-Slavia, and although all outlet on the Aegean has been
taken from her by assigning to Greece lands which she cannot maintain,
on the whole Bulgaria, after the Treaty of Neuilly, has less sharp
sufferings than the other conquered countries. Bulgaria had a
territorial extension of 113,809 square kilometres; she has now lost
about 9,000 square kilometres. She had a population of 4,800,000, and
has lost about 400,000.
As for Turkey, if the treaties should continue to exist, she can be
considered as disappearing from Europe and on the road to disappear
from Asia. The Turkish population has been distributed haphazard,
especially to Greece, or divided up under the form of mandates to
countries of the Entente. According to the Treaty of Sevres of August
10, 1920, Turkey abandons all her territory in Europe, withdrawing her
frontier to the Ciatalgia lines.
Turkey in Europe is limited, therefore, to the surroundings of
Constantinople, with little more than 2,000 square kilometres, and a
population which is rather hard to estimate, but which is that only of
the city and the surroundings--perhaps a million and a half men. In
Asia Minor Turkey loses the territory of the Sanjak of Smyrna,
over which, however, she retains a purely nominal sovereignty; the
territory still undefined of the Armenian Republic: Syria, Cilicia,
Palestine and Mesopotamia, which become independent under mandatory
powers; in Arabia the territory of the Hedjaz, whilst the remainder
of the peninsula will enjoy almost complete independence. Besides,
Constantinople and the Straits are subject to international control,
and the three States now the most closely interested--Great Britain,
France and Italy--assume the control of the finances and other aspects
of the Ottoman administration.
Every programme has ignored Turkey except when the Entente has had
opportunity to favour Greece. The Greece of Venezelos was the ward of
the Entente almost more than Poland itself. Having participated in the
War to a very small extent and with almost insignificant losses, she
has, after the War, almost trebled her territory and almost doubled
her population. Turkey was put entirely, or almost so, outside Europe;
Greece has taken almost everything. Rejected was the idea of fixing
the frontier on the Enos Medea line, and the frontier fixed at
Ciatalgia; Constantinople was under the fire of the Greek artillery,
and Constantinople was nominally the only city which remained to
Turkey. The Sanjak of Smyrna, in Asia Minor, was the true wealth of
Turkey; it represented forty-five per cent. of the imports of the
Turkish Empire. Although the population of the whole vilayet of Audin
and the majority of the Sanjak of Smyrna was Mussulman, Greece had the
possession. The whole of Thrace was assigned to Greece; Adrianople,
a city sacred to Islam, which contains the tombs of the Caliphs, has
passed to the Greeks.
The Entente, despite the resistance of some of the heads of
governments, always yielded to the requests of Greece. There was a
sentiment of antipathy for the Turks and there was a sympathy for
the Greeks: there was the idea to put outside Europe all Mussulman
dominion, and the remembrance of the old propaganda of Gladstone, and
there were the threats of Wilson, who in one of his proposals desired
exactly to put Turkey outside Europe. But above all there was the
personal work of Venezelos. Every request, without being even examined
thoroughly, was immediately justified by history, statistics,
ethnography. In any discussion he took care to _solliciter doucement
les textes_ as often the learned with few scruples do. I have met few
men in my career who united to an exalted patriotism such a profound
ability as Venezelos. Every time that, in a friendly way, I gave him
counsels of moderation and showed him the necessity of limiting the
requests of Greece, I never found a hard or intemperate spirit. He
knew how to ask and obtain, to profit by all the circumstances, to
utilize all the resources better even than the professional diplomats.
In asking he always had the air of offering, and, obtaining, he
appeared to be conceding something. He had at the same time a supreme
ability to obtain the maximum force with the minimum of means and a
mobility of spirit almost surprising.
He saw no difficulty, convinced as he was, of erecting a Greek Empire
on the remnants of Turkey. Every time that doubts were expressed to
him, or he was shown data which should have moderated the positions,
he denied the most evident things, he recognized no danger, and saw
no difficulty. He affirmed always with absolute calm the certainty of
success. It was his opinion that the Balkan peninsula should be, in
the north, under the action of the Serb-Croat-Slovene State and of
Rumania, and in the south of Greece. But Greece, having almost all the
islands of the Aegean, a part of the territory of Turkey and all the
ports in the Aegean, and having the Sanjak of Smyrna, should form
a littoral Empire of the East and chase the Turks into the poorer
districts of Anatolia.
In the facility with which the demands of Greece were accepted (and
in spite of everything they were accepted even after the fall of
Venezelos) there was not only a sympathy for Greece, but, above
all, the certainty that a large Greek army at Smyrna would serve
principally towards the security of those countries which have and
wished to consolidate great interests in Asia Minor, as long as the
Turks of Anatolia were thinking specially about Smyrna and could not
use her forces elsewhere. For the same motive, in the last few years,
all the blame is attributed to the Turks. If they have erred much, the
errors, even the minor ones, have been transformed into crimes. The
atrocities of the Turks have been described, illustrated, exaggerated;
all the other atrocities, often no less serious, have been forgotten
The idea of a Hellenic Empire which dominates all the coast of the
Aegean in Europe and Asia encounters one fundamental difficulty. To
dominate the coast it is necessary to have the certainty of a large
hinterland. The Romans in order to dominate Dalmatia were obliged to
go as far as the Danube. Alexander the Great, to have a Greek Empire,
had, above all, to provide for land dominion. Commercial colonies or
penetration in isolation are certainly possible, but vast political
organizations are not possible. It is not sufficient to have
territory; it is necessary to organize it and regulate the life.
Mankind does not nourish itself on what it eats, and even less on what
it digests, but on what it assimilates.
Historians of the future will be profoundly surprised to learn that in
the name of the principle of nationality the vilayet of Adrianople,
which contains the city dearest to the heart of Islam after Mecca, was
given to the Greeks. According to the very data supplied by Venezelos
there were 500,000 Turks, 365,000 Greeks, and 107,000 Bulgarians; in
truth the Turks are in much greater superiority.
The Grand Vizier of Turkey, in April, 1920, presented a note to the
ambassadors of the Entente to revindicate the rights on certain
vilayets of the Turkish Empire. According to this note, in Western
Thrace there were 522,574 inhabitants, of which 362,445 were
Mussulmans. In the vilayet of Adrianople, out of 631,000 inhabitants,
360,417 were Mussulmans. The population of the vilayet of Smyrna is
1,819,616 inhabitants, of which 1,437,983 are Mussulmans. Perhaps
these statistics are biased, but the statistics presented by the
opposing party were even more fantastic.
After having had so many territorial concessions, Greece--who during
the War had enriched herself by commerce--is obliged, even after the
return of Constantine, who did not know how to resist the pressure,
to undertake most risky undertakings in Asia Minor, and has no way of
saving herself except by an agreement with Turkey. In the illusion of
conquering the Turkish resistance, she is now obliged to maintain
an army twice as big as that of the British Empire! The dreams of
greatness increase: some little military success has given Greece the
idea also that the Treaty of Sevres is only a foundation regulating
the relationship with the Allies and with the enemy, and constituting
for Greece a title of rights, the full possession of which cannot be
modified. The War determines new rights which cannot invalidate the
concessions already given, which, on the contrary, are reinforced and
become intangible, but renders necessary new concessions.
What will happen? Whilst Greece dreams of Constantinople, and we have
disposed of Constantinople and the Straits, Turkey seems resigned to
Constantinople itself, to-day a very poor international city rather
than a Turkish city. The Treaty of Sevres says that it is true that
the contracting States are in agreement in not offending any of the
rights of the Ottoman government on Constantinople, which remains
the capital of the Turkish Empire, always under the reserve of
the dispositions of the treaty. That is equivalent to saying of a
political regime that it is a controlled "liberty," just as in
the time of the Tsars it was said that there existed a _Monarchie
constitutionnelle sous un autocrate_. Constantinople under the Treaty
of Sevres is the free capital of the Turkish Empire under the reserve
of the conditions which are contained in the treaty and limit exactly
The force of Turkey has always been in her immense power of
resistance. Win by resisting, wear out with the aid of time, which the
Turks have considered not as an economic value, but as their friend.
To conquer the resistance of Turkey, both in the new territories of
Europe and in Asia Minor, Greece will have to exhaust the greater
part of her limited resources. The Turks have always brought to a
standstill those who would dominate her, by a stubborn resistance
which is fanaticism and national dignity. On the other hand, the
Treaty of Sevres, which has systematized in part Eastern Europe, was
concluded in the absence of two personages not to be unconsidered,
Russia and Germany, the two States which have the greatest interest
there. Germany, the War won, as she could not give her explanations on
the conclusions of peace, was not able to intervene in the solutions
of the question of the Orient. Russia was absent. Worn out with the
force of a war superior to her energies, she fell into convulsions,
and is now struggling between the two misfortunes of communism and
misery, of which it is hard to say whether one, or which of the two,
is the consequence of the other.
One of the most characteristic facts concerns Armenia. The Entente
never spoke of Armenia. In his fourteen points Wilson neither
considered nor mentioned it. It was an argument difficult for the
Entente in so far that Russia was straining in reality (under the
necessity of protecting the Christians) to take Turkish Armenia
without leaving Russian Armenia.
But suddenly some religious societies and some philanthropic people
instituted a vast movement for the liberation of Armenia. Nothing
could be more just than to create a small Armenian State which would
have allowed the Armenians to group themselves around Lake Van and
to affirm their national unity in one free State. But here also
the hatred of the Turks, the agitation of the Greeks, the dimly
illuminated philanthropy, determined a large movement to form a great
State of Armenia which should have outlets on the sea and great
So that no longer did people talk of a small State, a refuge and safe
asylum for the Armenians, but of a large State. President Wilson
himself, during the Conference of San Remo, sent a message in the form
of a recalling to mind, if not a reproof, to the European States of
the Entente because they did not proceed to the constitution of a
State of Armenia. It was suggested to bring it down to Trebizond, to
include Erzeroum in the new Armenia, a vast State of Armenia in which
the Armenians would have been in the minority. And all that in homage
to historical tradition and for dislike of the Turks! A great Armenia
creates also a series of difficulties amongst which is that of the
relations between Armenia, Georgia and Azerbajan, supposing that in
the future these States cut themselves off definitely from Russia. The
great Armenia would include the vilayet of Erzeroum, which is now
the centre of Turkish nationalism, and contains more Mussulmans than
Armenians. As a matter of fact the vilayet of Erzeroum has 673,000
Mussulmans, 1,800 Greeks and 135,000 Armenians.
When it was a question of giving Greece territories in which the
Greeks were in a minority it was said that the populations were so
badly governed by the Turks that they had the right to pass under
a better regime, whatever it might be. But for a large part of the
territory of the so-called Great Armenia it is possible to commit the
error of putting large majorities of Mussulman people under a hostile
The Armenians would have to fight at the same time against the Kurds
and against Azerbajan; they are surrounded by enemies on all sides.
But the whole of the discussion of giving the vilayet of Erzeroum to
Armenia or leaving it to Turkey is entirely superfluous, for it is
not a question of attributing territory but of determining actual
situations. If it is desired to give to the Armenians the city of
Erzeroum, it is first of all necessary that they shall be able to
enter and be able to remain there. Now since the Armenians have not
shown, with a few exceptions, a great power of resistance, and are
rather a race of merchants than warriors, it would be necessary for
others to undertake the charge of defending them. None of the European
States desired a mandate for Armenia, and no one wished to assume
the serious military burden of protecting the Armenians; the United
States, after having in the message of Wilson backed a great Armenia,
wished even less than the other States to interest themselves in it.
Probably proposals of a more reasonable character and marked by less
aversion for the Turks would have permitted the Turks not only to
recognize, which is not difficult for them, but in fact to respect,
the new State of Armenia, without the dreams of a sea coast and the
madness of Erzeroum.
If the condition of the conquered is sufficiently serious
the situation of the peoples most favoured by the Entente in
Europe--Poland and Greece, who have obtained the greatest and most
unjust increases in territory, having given for a diversity of reasons
extremely little during the War--is certainly not less so. Each of
these countries are suffocating under the weight of the concessions,
and seek in vain a way of salvation from the burdens which they are
not able to support, and from the mania of conquest which are the
fruits of exaltation and error.
Having obtained much, having obtained far more than they thought or
hoped, they believe that their advantage lies in new expansion. Poland
violates treaties, offends the laws of international usage, and
is protected in everything she undertakes. But every one of her
undertakings can only throw her into greater discomfort and augment
the total of ruin.
All the violences in Upper Silesia to prevent the plebiscite going in
favour of Germany were not only tolerated but prepared far ahead.
When I was head of the Italian Government the representative of the
German Government in Rome, von Herf, gave documentary evidence on what
was being prepared, and on April 30, 1920, in an audience which I gave
him as head of the Council he furnished me with proofs of what was
the Polish organization, what were its objects and the source of its
As everyone knows, the plebiscite of March 20, 1921, in spite of the
violence and notwithstanding the officially protected brigandage,
resulted favourably to Germany. Out of 1,200,636 voters 717,122 were
for Germany and 483,514 for Poland. The 664 richest, most prosperous
and most populous communes gave a majority for the Germans, 597
communes gave a majority for Poland. The territory of Upper Silesia,
according to the treaty, according to the plebiscite, according to the
most elementary international honesty, should be immediately handed
over to Germany. But as they do not wish to give the coal of
Upper Silesia to Germany, and the big interests of the new great
metallurgical group press and trick, the Treaty of Versailles has here
also become a _chiffon de papier_.
Instead of accepting, as was the first duty, the result of the
plebiscite, people have resorted to sophism of incomparable weakness:
Article 88 of the Treaty of Versailles says only that the inhabitants
of Upper Silesia shall be called to designate by means of a plebiscite
if they desire to be united to Germany or to Poland.
It was necessary to find a sophism!
The Addendum of Section 8 establishes how the work of scrutiny shall
be carried out and all the procedure of the elections. There are six
articles of procedure. Paragraph 4 says that each one shall vote in
the commune where he is domiciled or in that where he was born if he
has not a domicile in the territory. The result of the vote shall be
determined commune by commune, according to the majority of votes in
This means then that the results of the voting, as is done in
political questions in all countries, should, be controlled commune by
commune: it is the form of the scrutiny which the appendix defines.
Instead, in order to take the coal away from Germany, it was
attempted, and is being still attempted, not to apply the treaty, but
to violate the principle of the indivisibility of the territory and to
give the mining districts to Poland.
The violation of the neutrality of Belgium was not an offence to a
treaty more serious than this attempt; the Treaty of 1839 cannot be
considered a _chiffon de papier_ more than the Treaty of Versailles.
Only the parties are inverted.
It is not France, noble and democratic, which inspires these
movements, but a plutocratic situation which has taken the same
positions, but on worse grounds, as the German metallurgists before
the War. It is the same current against which Lloyd George has several
times bitterly protested and for which he has had very bitter words
which it is not necessary to recall. It is the same movement which has
created agitations in Italy by means of its organs, and which attempt
one thing only: to ruin the German industry and, having the control of
the coal, to monopolize in Europe the iron industries and those which
are derived from it.
First of all, in order to indemnify France for the _temporary_ damages
done to the mines in the North, there was the cession _in perpetuo_ of
the mines of the Saar; then there were the repeated attempts to occupy
the territory of the Ruhr to control the coal; last of all there is
the wish not to apply the plebiscite and to violate the Treaty of
Versailles by not giving Upper Silesia to Germany, but giving it
abusively to Poland.
Germany produced before the War about 190,000,000 tons of coal; in
1913 191,500,000. The consumption of these mines themselves was about
a tenth, 19,000,000 tons, whilst for exportation were 83,500,000 tons,
and for internal consumption were 139,000,000.
Now Germany has lost, and justly, Alsace-Lorraine, 3,800,000 tons. She
has lost, and it was not just, the Saar, 13,200,000 tons. She is bound
by the obligations of the treaty to furnish France with 20,000,000
tons, and to Belgium and Italy and France again another 25,000,000
tons. If she loses the excellent coal of Upper Silesia, about
43,800,000 tons per year, she will be completely paralysed.
It is needless to lose time in demonstrating for what geographic,
ethnographic and economist reason Upper Silesia should be united with
Germany. It is a useless procedure, and also, after the plebiscites,
an insult to the reasoning powers. If the violation of treaties is not
a right of the victor, after the plebiscite, in which, notwithstanding
all the violences, three-quarters of the population voted for Germany,
then there is no reason for discussion.
The words used by Lloyd George on May 18, 1921, in the House of
Commons, are a courteous abbreviation of the truth. From the
historical point of view, he said, Poland has no rights over Silesia.
The only reason for which Poland could claim Upper Silesia is that it
possesses a numerous Polish population, arrived there in comparatively
recent times with the intention of finding work, and especially in the
mines. That is true and is more serious than would be an agitation of
the Italians in the State of San Paulo of Brazil, claiming that they
had a majority of the population.
"The Polish insurrection," said Lloyd George justly, "is a challenge
to the Treaty of Versailles, which, at the same time, constitutes the
charter of Polish Liberty." Poland is the last country in Europe which
has the right to deplore the treaty, because Poland did not conquer
the treaty. Poland did not gain her liberty, and more than any other
country should respect every comma of the treaty. She owes her liberty
to Italy, Great Britain and France.
In the future [said the English Prime Minister] force will lose its
efficiency in regard to the Treaty of Versailles, and the maintenance
of the undertakings on the part of Germany on the basis of her
signature placed to the treaty will count increasingly. We have the
right to everything which she gives us: but we have the right also to
leave everything which is left to her. It is our duty of impartiality
to act with rigorous justice, without taking into account the
advantages or the disadvantages which may accrue therefrom. Either the
Allies must demand that the treaty shall be respected, or they should
permit the Germans to make the Poles respect it. It is all very well
to disarm Germany, but to desire that even the troops which she does
possess should not participate in the re-establishment of order is a
Russia [added Lloyd George] to-day is a fallen Power, tired, a prey
to a despotism which leaves no hope, but is also a country of great
natural resources, inhabited by a people of courage, who at the
beginning of the War gave proof of its courage. Russia will not always
find herself in the position in which she is to-day. Who can say what
she will become? In a short time she may become a powerful country,
which can say its word about the future of Europe and the world. To
which part will she turn? With whom will she unite?
There is nothing more just or more true than this.
But Poland wants to take away Upper Silesia from Germany
notwithstanding the plebiscite and against the treaty, and which has
in this action the aid of the metallurgical interests and the great
interests of a large portion of the Press of all Europe. Poland, which
has large nuclei of German populations, after having been enslaved,
claims the right to enslave populations, which are more cultured,
richer and more advanced. And besides the Germans it claims the right
to enslave even Russian peoples and further to occupy entire Russian
territories, and wishes to extend into Ukraine. There is then the
political paradox of Wilna. This city, which belongs according to the
regular treaty to Lithuania, has been occupied in an arbitrary manner
by the Poles, who also claim Kowno.
In short, Poland, which obtained her unity by a miracle, is working in
the most feverish manner to create her own ruin. She has no finance,
she has no administration, she has no credit. She does not work, and
yet consumes; she occupies new territories, and ruins the old ones. Of
the 31,000,000 inhabitants, as we have seen, 7 millions are Ukranians,
2.2 Russians, 2.1 Germans, and nearly half a million of other
nationalities. But among the eighteen or nineteen million Poles there
are at least four million Jews--Polish Jews, without doubt, but
the greater portion do not love Poland, which has not known how to
assimilate them. The Treaty of Versailles has created the absurd
position that to go from one part to the other of Germany it is
necessary to traverse the Danzig corridor. In other terms, Germany is
cut in two parts, and to move in Prussia herself from Berlin to one of
the oldest German cities, the home of Emanuel Kant, Konigsberg, it is
necessary to traverse Polish territory.
So Poland separates the two most numerous people of Europe: Russia and
Germany. The Biblical legend lets us suppose that the waters of
the Red Sea opened to let the Chosen People pass: but immediately
afterwards the waters closed up again. Is it possible to suppose that
such an arbitrary arrangement as this will last for long?
If it has lasted as long as it has, it is because it was, at least
from the part of one section of the Entente, not the road to peace,
but because it was a method of crushing down Germany.
If a people had conditions for developing rapidly it was
Czeko-Slovakia. But also with the intention of hurting Germany and the
German peoples, a Czeko-Slovak State was created which has also
its own tremendous crisis of nationality. A Czeko-Slovakia with a
population of eight to nine million people represented a compact
ethnical unity. Instead, they have added five and a half million
people of different nationalities, amongst whom about 4,000,000
Germans, with cities which are the most German in the world, as
Pilsen, Karlsbad, Reichenberg, etc. What is even more serious is that
the 4,000,000 Germans are attached to Germany, and, having a superior
culture and civilization, will never resign themselves to being placed
under the Czeks.
Czeko-Slovakia had mineral riches, industrial concerns and solid
agriculture, and a culture spread among the people--all the conditions
for rising rapidly. All these advantages risk being annulled by the
grave and useless insult to the Germans and Magyars.
Not only is the situation of Europe in every way uncertain, but there
is a tendency in the groups of the victors on the Continent of Europe
to increase the military budgets. The relationships of trade are being
restored only slowly; commerce is spoken of as an aim. In Italy the
dangers and perils of reopening trade with Germany have been seriously
discussed; customs duties are raised every day; the industrial groups
find easy propaganda for protection. Any limitation of competition is
a duty, whether it be the enemy of yesterday or the enemy of to-day,
and so the greatest evils of protection are camouflaged under
None of the countries which have come out of the War on the Continent
have a financial position which helps toward a solid situation.
All the financial documents of the various countries, which I have
collected and studied with great care, contain enormous masses
of expenses which are the consequences of the War; those of the
conquering countries also contain enormous aggregations of expenses
which are or can become the cause of new wars.
The conquered countries have not actually any finance. Germany has an
increase of expenses which the fall of the mark renders more serious.
In 1920 she spent not less than ninety-two milliards, ruining her
circulation. How much has she spent in 1921?
Austria and Hungary have budgets which are simply hypotheses. The last
Austrian budget, for 1921, assigned a sum of seventy-one milliards
of crowns for expenses, and this for a poor country with 7,000,000
A detailed examination of the financial situation of Czeko-Slovakia,
of Rumania, and of the Serbo-Croat States gives results which are at
the least alarming. Even Greece, which until yesterday had a solid
structure, gallops now in a madness of expenditure which exceeds all
her resources, and if she does not find a means to make peace with
Turkey she will find her credit exhausted. The most ruinous of all
is the situation of Poland, whose finance is certainly not better
regulated than that of the Bolsheviks of Moscow, to judge from the
course of the Polish mark and the Russian rouble if anyone gets the
idea of buying them on an international market.
The situation of the exchange since the War has not sensibly bettered
even for the great countries, and it is extraordinarily worse for the
In June, 1921, France had a circulation of about thirty-eight milliard
of francs, Belgium six milliard of francs, Italy of about eighteen
milliards; Great Britain, between State notes and Bank of England
notes, had hardly L434,000,000 sterling. Actually, among the
continental countries surviving the War, Italy is the country which
has made the greatest efforts not to augment the circulation but to
increase the duties; also because she had no illusions of rebuilding
her finance and her national economy on an enemy indemnity.
But the conquered countries have so abused their circulation that
they almost live on the thought of it--as, in fact, not a few of the
conquering countries and those come out from the War do. Germany has
passed eighty-eight milliards, and is rapidly approaching one hundred
milliards. Now, when one thinks that the United States, after so many
loans and after all the expenses of the War, has only a circulation of
4,557,000,000 dollars, one understands what difficulty Germany has to
produce, to live, and to refurnish herself with raw materials.
Only Great Britain of all the countries in Europe which have issued
from the War has had a courageous financial policy. Public opinion,
instead of pushing Parliament to financial dissipation, has insisted
on economy. If the situation created by the War has transformed also
the English circulation into unconvertible paper money, this is merely
a passing fact. If the sterling loses on the dollar--that is, on
gold--given the fact that the United States of America alone now have
a money at par, almost a quarter of its value, this is also merely a
Great Britain has the good sense to curtail expenses, and the sterling
tends always to improve.
France and Italy are in an intermediate position. Their money can be
saved, but it will require energetic care and great economies,
stern finance, a greater development of production, limitation of
consumption, above all, of what is purchased from abroad. At the date
of which I am writing, expressed on a percentual basis, the French
franc is worth 47 centimes of the sterling and 36 of the dollar--that
is to say, of gold. The Italian lira is worth 28 centimes of the
sterling and 21 of the dollar.
Here are still two countries in which tenacious energy can save and
with many sacrifices they can arrive at good money. France has a good
many more resources than Italy; she has a smaller need of importations
and a greater facility for exportations. But her public debt has
reached 265 milliards, the circulation has well passed thirty-eight
milliards, and they still fear to calculate amongst the extraordinary
income of the budget the fifteen milliards a year which should come
Italy, with great difficulty of production and less concord inside the
country, has a more true vision, and does not reckon any income which
is not derived from her own resources. Her circulation does not pass
eighteen milliards, and her debt exceeds by a little one hundred
With prudence and firmness France and Italy will be able to balance
But the financial situation and the exchanges of the conquered
countries, even that of Germany, may be called desperate.
If expressed in percentages, the German mark is worth 5.11 per cent.
in comparison with the pound sterling and 3.98 per cent. of the
dollar. What possibility is there of systematizing the exchange?
Germany was compelled this year to carry her expenses to 130 milliards
of marks. As her circulation has exceeded eighty-eight milliards, how
can she straighten out her money?
As for the Austrian and Hungarian crowns, the Jugo-Slav crowns, the
Rumanian lei, and all the other depreciated moneys, their fate is not
doubtful. As their value is always descending, and the gold equivalent
becomes almost indeterminable, they will have a common fate. As for
the Polish mark, it can be said that before long it will not be worth
the paper on which it is printed.
There is, then, the fantastic position of the public debts! They have
reached now such figures that no imagination could have forecasted.
France alone has a debt which of itself exceeds by a great deal
all the debts of all the European States previous to the War: 265
milliards of francs. And Germany, the conquered country, has in her
turn a debt which exceeds 320 milliards of marks, and which is rapidly
approaching 400 milliards. The debts of many countries are only
recorded by feats of memory, because there is no practical interest in
knowing whether Austria, Hungary, and especially Poland, has one debt
or another, since the situation of the creditors is not a situation of
The whole debt of the United States of America is, after so much war,
only 23,982,000,000 dollars; but the United States are creditors of
the Entente for 9,500,000,000 dollars. Also England, against a debt of
L9,240,000,000 sterling, has a credit of L1,778,000,000.
These serious figures, whilst they increase the condition of
discomfort rendered even more serious by the scarcity of commercial
exchanges, indicate also what necessity may be superior to all in
every country to preserve internal peace: produce more, consume less,
put the finances in order, and reconquer the credits.
Instead, the conquered countries are going downwards every day and the
conquering countries are maintaining very big armies, exhausting their
resources, whilst they are spreading the conviction that the indemnity
from the enemy will compensate sufficiently, or at least partially,
for the work of restoration.
In fact, the causes of discontent and diffidence are augmenting.
Nothing is more significant than the lack of conscience with which
programmes of violence and of ruin are lightly accepted; nothing is
more deplorable than the thoughtlessness with which the germs of new
wars are cultivated. Germany has disarmed with a swiftness which has
even astonished the military circles of the Entente; but the bitter
results of the struggle are not only not finished against Germany,
not even to-day does she form part of the League of Nations (which is
rather a sign of a state of mind than an advantage), but the attitude
towards her is even more hostile.
Two years after the end of the war R. Poincare wrote that the League
of Nations would lose its best possibility of lasting if, _un jour_,
it did not reunite all the nations of Europe. But he added that of
all the conquered nations--Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey and
Germany--the last-mentioned, by her conduct during the War and
after the peace, justified least a near right of entry. It would be
_incontestablement plus naturel_ (of how many things does nature
occupy herself!) to let Austria enter first if she will disavow the
policy of reattachment--that is, being purely German, renounce
against the principle of nationality, in spite of the principle
of auto-decision, when she cannot live alone, to unite herself to
Germany; Bulgaria and Turkey as long as they had a loyal and courteous
attitude towards Greece, Rumania and Serbia. The turn of Germany
will come, but only after Turkey, when she will have given proof of
executing the treaty, which no reasonable and honest person considers
any more executable in its integrity.
The most characteristic facts of this peace which continues the War
can be recapitulated as follows:
1. Europe on the whole has more men under arms than before the War.
The conquered States are forced to disarm, but the conquering States
have increased the armaments; the new States and the countries which
have come through the War have increased their armaments.
2. Production is very tardily being taken up again because there is
everywhere, if in a different degree, a lesser desire for work on
the part of the working classes joined with a need for higher
3. The difficulties of trade, instead of decreasing in many countries
of Europe are increasing, and international commerce is very slowly
recovering. Between the States of Europe there is not a real commerce
which can compare with that under normal conditions. Considering
actual values with values before the War, the products which now form
the substance of trade between European countries do not represent
even the half of that before the War.
As the desire for consumption, if not the capacity for consumption,
has greatly increased, and the production is greatly decreased, all
the States have increased their functions. So the discredit of the
paper money and the Treasury bills which permit these heavy expenses
is in all the countries of Europe, even if in different degrees, very
The conquering countries, from the moment that they had obtained in
the treaties of peace the acknowledgment of the conquered that the War
was caused by them, held it to be legitimate that they should lose all
their disposable goods, their colonies, their ships, their credits and
their commercial organization abroad, but that the conquered should
also pay all the damages of the War. The War, therefore, should be
paid for by the conquered, who recognized (even if against their will)
that they were alone responsible. That forms henceforth a certain
canon of foreign politics, the less a thing appears true the more it
Although the treaties oblige Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey to
pay the damages of the War, it is, however, certain that they are not
able to pay anything and not even the expenses of the victors on their
territory. "_Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator_," said Juvenal
("Who has nothing can give nothing"), and Austria, for her part,
instead of giving is imploring food succour.
So the problem remains limited to Germany. Can she pay the indemnity
indicated in the treaty? Can she pay for the damages and indemnify the
victors? After having given up her colonies, her ships, her railway
material, all her disposable credits abroad, in what form can she pay?
The fundamental controversy reduces itself henceforth only to this
point, which we shall try if possible to make clear, since we desire
that this matter shall be presented in the clearest and most evident
From now on it is not the chancelleries which must impose the
solutions of great problems; but it is the mass of the public in
Europe and America.
THE ANXIETIES OF THE VICTORS
We have seen the process by which the idea of the indemnity for
damages, which was not contained either in the peace declaration of
the Entente, nor in the manifestations of the various parliaments, nor
in the first armistice proposals, nor in the armistice between Italy
and Austria, was introduced in the armistice with Germany, out of pure
regard for France, without taking heed of the consequences. Three
words, said Clemenceau, only three words need be added, words which
compromise nothing and are an act of deference to France. The entire
construction of the treaties, after all, is based on those three
And how fantastic the demands for compensation have become!
An old Italian proverb says, "In time of war there are more lies than
earth." Ancient and modern pottery reproduce the motto, which is
widespread, and whose truth was not understood until some years
ago. So many foolish things were said about the almost mysterious
manoeuvres of Germany, about her vast expansion, her great resources
and accumulated capital, that the reality tended to become lost to
These absurd legends, formed during the War, were not forgotten, and
there are even now many who believe in good faith that Germany can
pay, if not twenty or twenty-five milliards a year, at least eight or
nine without any difficulty.
France's shrewdest politicians, however, well knew that the demand
for an enormous and unlimited indemnity was only a means of putting
Germany under control and depressing her to the point of exhaustion.
But the others maintained this proposal more out of rancour and hatred
than from any actual political concept. It may be said that the
problem of the indemnity has never been seriously studied and that the
calculations, the valuations, the procedures, have all formed a series
of impulsive acts co-ordinated by a single error, the error of the
French politicians who had the one aim of holding Germany down.
The procedure was simple.
In the first phase the indemnities came into being from three words
inserted almost by chance into the armistice treaty on November 2,
1918, _reparation des dommages_. It was merely a matter of a simple
expression to content public feeling: _Je supplie le conseil de se
mettre dans l'esprit de la population francaise_.... It was a moral
concession, a moral satisfaction.
But afterwards, as things went on, all was altered when it came to
preparing the treaties.
For a while the idea, not only of a reparation of damages, but of the
payment of the cost of the War was entertained. It was maintained that
the practice of making the vanquished reimburse the cost of the War
was permitted by international law. Since Germany had provoked the War
and lost it, she must not only furnish an indemnity for the losses,
but also pay the cost.
The cost was calculated roughly at seven hundred milliards of francs
at par. Further, there was the damage to assess. In the aggregate, war
costs, damage to property, damage to persons, came to at least one
thousand milliards. But since it was impossible to demand immediate
payment and was necessary to spread the sum over fifty years, taking
into consideration sinking funds and interest the total came to three
thousand milliards. The amount was published by the illustrated papers
with the usual diagrams, drawings of golden globes, length of paper
money if stretched out, height of metal if all piled up together, etc.
These figures were discussed for the first few months by a public
accustomed to be surprised at nothing. They merely helped to
demonstrate that an indemnity of 350 milliards was a real sacrifice
for the Allies.
Thus a whole series of principles came to be established which were a
contradiction of reality.
A great share in the responsibility in this matter lies with Great
Britain, who not only followed France's error, but in certain ways
made it worse by a number of intemperate requests. Italy had no
influence on the proceedings owing to her indecisive policy. Only the
United States, notwithstanding the banality of some of her experts
(_lucus a non lucendo_), spoke an occasional word of reason.
When Lloyd George understood the mistake committed in the matter of
the indemnity it was too late.
The English public found itself face to face with the elections almost
the day after the conclusion of the War. In the existing state of
exaltation and hatred the candidates found a convenient "plank" in
promising the extermination of Germany, the trial of the Kaiser, as
well as of thousands of German officers accused of cruelty, and last,
but not least, the end of German competition.
The Prime Minister of Australia, William Morris Hughes, a
small-minded, insensitive, violent man, directed a furious campaign
in favour of a huge indemnity. Lord Northcliffe lent the aid of his
numerous papers to this campaign, which stirred up the electors.
Lloyd George, with his admirable intelligence, perceived the situation
clearly. He did not believe in the usefulness or even in the
possibility of trying the Kaiser and the German officers. He did not
believe in the possibility of an enormous indemnity or even a very
His first statements, like those of Bonar Law, a serious, honest,
well-balanced man, an idealist with the appearance of a practical
person, revealed nothing. On the eve of the dissolution of Parliament,
Lloyd George, speaking at Wolverhampton, November 24, 1918, did not
even hint at the question of the reparations or indemnity. He was
impelled along that track by the movement coming from France, by the
behaviour of the candidates, by Hughes's attitude, and by the Press
generally, especially that of Northcliffe.
A most vulgar spectacle was offered by many of the English candidates,
among whom were several members of the War Cabinet, who used language
worthy of raving dervishes before crowds hypnotized by promises of the
most impossible things.
To promise the electors that Germany should pay the cost of the War,
to announce to those who had lost their senses that the Kaiser was to
be hanged, to promise the arrest and punishment of the most guilty
German officers, to prophesy the reduction to slavery of a Germany
competing on sea and land, was certainly the easiest kind of
electoral programme. The numerous war-mutilated accepted it with much
enthusiasm, and the people listened, open-mouthed, to the endless
series of promises.
Hughes, who was at bottom in good faith, developed the thesis which he
afterwards upheld at Paris with logical precision. It was Germany's
duty to reimburse, without any limitation, the entire cost of the
War: damage to property, damage to persons, and war-cost. He who has
committed the wrong must make reparation for it to the extreme limits
of his resources, and this principle, recognized by the jurists,
requires that the total of the whole cost of the War fall upon the
enemy nations. Later on, Hughes, who was a sincere man, recognized
that it was not possible to go beyond asking for reparation of the
Lloyd George was dragged along by the necessity of not drawing away
the mass of the electors from the candidates of his party. Thus he was
obliged on December 11, in his final manifesto, to announce not only
the Kaiser's trial and that of all those responsible for atrocities,
but to promise the most extensive kind of indemnity from Germany and
the compensation of all who had suffered by the War. Speaking the
same evening at Bristol, he promised to uphold the principle of the
indemnity, and asserted the absolute right to demand from Germany
payment for the costs of the War.
In England, where the illusion soon passed away, in France, where it
has not yet been dissipated, the public has been allowed to believe
that Germany can pay the greater part, if not the entire cost, of the
War, or at least make compensation for the damage.
For many years I have studied the figures in relation to private
wealth and the wealth of nations, and I have written at length on
the subject. I know how difficult it is to obtain by means of even
approximate statistics results more or less near to the reality.
Nothing pained me more than to hear the facility with which
politicians of repute spoke of obtaining an indemnity of hundreds of
milliards. When Germany expressed her desire to pay an indemnity in
one agreed lump sum (_a forfait_) of one hundred milliards of gold
marks (an indemnity she could never pay, so enormous is it), I saw
statesmen, whom I imagined not deprived of intelligence, smile at
the paltriness of the offer. An indemnity of fifty milliards of
gold marks, such as that proposed by Keynes, appeared absurd in its
When the Peace Conference reassembled in Paris the situation
concerning the indemnity was as follows. The Entente had never during
the War spoken of indemnity as a condition of peace. Wilson, in his
proposals, had spoken only of reconstruction of invaded territories.
The request for _reparation des dommages_ had been included in the
terms of the armistice merely to afford a moral satisfaction to
France. But the campaign waged in France and during the elections
in England had exaggerated the demands so as to include not only
reparation for damage but reimbursement of the cost of the War.
Only the United States maintained that the indemnity should be limited
to the reparation of the damages: a reparation which in later phases
included not only reconstruction of destroyed territories and damage
done to private property, but even pensions to the families of those
dead in the War and the sums in grant paid during it.
When Prussia beat France in 1870 she asked for an indemnity of five
milliards. The Entente could have demanded from the vanquished an
indemnity and then have reassumed relations with them provided it were
an indemnity which they could pay in a brief period of time.
Instead, it being impossible to demand an enormous sum of 300 or 400
milliards, a difficult figure to fix definitely, recourse was had to
From the moment that the phrase _reparation des dommages_ was included
in the armistice treaty as a claim that could be urged, it became
impossible to ask for a fixed sum. What was to be asked for was
neither more nor less than the amount of the damages. Hence a special
commission was required, and the Reparations Commission appears on
the scene to decide the sum to demand from Germany and to control
its payment. Also even after Germany was disarmed a portion of her
territory must remain in the Allies' hands as a guarantee for the
execution of the treaty.
The reason why France has always been opposed to a rapid conclusion of
the indemnity question is that she may continue to have the right, in
view of the question remaining still open, to occupy the left bank of
the Rhine and to keep the bridgeheads indicated in the treaty.
The thesis supported by Clemenceau at the Conference was a simple one:
Germany must recognize the total amount of her debt; it is not enough
to say that we recognize it.
I demand in the name of the French Government, and after having
consulted my colleagues, that the Peace Treaty fixes Germany's debt
to us and indicates the nature of the damages for which reparation is
due. We will fix a period of thirty years if you so wish it, and we
will give to the Commission, after it has reduced the debt to figures,
the mandate to make Germany pay within these thirty years all she owes
us. If the whole debt cannot be paid in thirty years the Commission
will have the right to extend the time for payment.
This scheme was agreed. And the thesis of the compensation of damages,
instead of that for the payment of the cost of the War, prevailed for
a very simple reason. If they proposed to demand for all integral
reparations, and therefore the reimbursement of the cost of the War,
the figures would have been enormous. It became necessary to reduce
all the credits proportionally, as in the case of a bankruptcy. Now,
since in the matter of the indemnities France occupied the first place
(to begin with, she asked sixty-five per cent. of all sums paid by
Germany), she took the greater part of the indemnities, while on the
sums paid for reimbursement of cost of war, she would only have got
less than twenty per cent.
Germany has therefore been put under control for all the time she will
be paying the indemnities--that is, for an indefinite time.
The valuation of the expenses for the reconstruction of the ruined
territories had to be carried out according to the regulations of
the treaty, and, the prices having increased, the French Government
presented in July, 1920, a first approximate valuation: damages, 152
milliards; pensions, 58 milliards; in all, 210 milliards. In November,
1920, the damages had increased to 218 milliards.
Even these figures represent something less absurd than the first
demands and figures.
On September 5, 1919, the French Minister of Finance, speaking in the
French Chamber, calculated the total of the German indemnities arising
from the treaty at 375 milliards, whose interest would accumulate
until 1921, after which date Germany would begin to pay her debt
in thirty-four annual rates of about 25 milliards each, and 13,750
milliards a year would go to France.
Again, in November, 1920, Ogier, Minister of the liberated regions,
put before the Reparations Commission in the name of France a detailed
memorial which made the value of the territories to be reconstructed
only for the cases of private individuals come to 140 milliards, not
including the pensions, damage to railways and mercantile marine,
which totalled 218 milliards, of which 77 milliards were for pensions
and 141 milliards for damages.
Of late the sense of reality has begun to diffuse itself. The Minister
Loucheur himself has laughed at the earlier figures, and has stated
that the damages do not exceed eighty milliards.
But the French public has been accustomed for some time to take the
figures of Klotz seriously, and to discuss indemnities of 150, 200
and 250 milliards. The public, however, is not yet aware of the real
position, and will not be able to arrive at a just realization of it
without passing through a serious moral crisis which will be the first
secure element of the real peace.
Setting aside all questions of indemnities from Austria-Hungary,
Turkey and Bulgaria (they have nothing to give, can give nothing; on
the contrary, they ask and merit assistance), it is clear that all the
indemnities must be paid by Germany.
The French totals of the material damage claims in the invaded
districts have been absolutely fantastic and more exaggerated than in
the case of Belgium, whose indemnity claims would lead one to suppose
the total destruction of at least the third part of her territory,
almost as if she had undergone the submersion of, say, ten thousand
square metres of her small territory.
This problem of the indemnities, limited to the reparation of damages,
and in accordance with the costs contemplated in the Treaty of
Versailles, has never been seriously tackled. One may even say it has
not been seriously examined. And it is deplorable that there has been
created among the public, or among a large part of it, the conviction
that Germany will repair the damage of the War by her own effort. This
idea, however, finds no acceptance in England among serious persons,
and in Italy no one believes in it. But in France and Belgium the idea
is widely diffused, and the wish to spread the belief is lively in
several sections of opinion, not because intelligent people believe
in the possibility of effective payment, but with the idea of putting
Germany in the light of not maintaining the clauses of the peace, thus
extending the right to prolong the military occupation and even to
aggravate it. Germany, thereby, is kept out of the League of Nations
and her dissolution facilitated.
John Maynard Keynes, ever since the end of 1919, has shown in his
admirable book the absurdity of asking for vast indemnities, Germany's
impossibility of paying them, and the risk for all Europe of following
a road leading to ruin, thus at the same time accentuating the work
of disintegration started by the treaty. That book had awakened a
wide-sounding echo, but it ought to have had a still wider one, and
would have done but for the fact that, unfortunately, the Press in
free countries is anything but free.
The great industrial syndicates, especially in the steel-making
industry, which control so large a part of the Press among the
majority of the States of Europe, and even beyond Europe, find
easy allies in the inadequate preparation of the major part of
the journalists to discuss the most important problems, and the
indisposition on the part of the public to examine those questions
which present difficulties, and are so rendered less convenient for
I knew Keynes during the War, when he was attached to the British
Treasury and chief of the department charged to look after the foreign
exchanges and the financial relations between Great Britain and her
allies. A serious writer, a teacher of economics of considerable
value, he brought to his difficult task a scrupulousness and an
exactness that bordered on mistrust. Being at that time Chancellor of
the Exchequer in Italy, in the bitterest and most decisive period of
the War, I had frequent contact with Mr. Keynes, and I always admired
his exactness and his precision. I could not always find it in myself
to praise his friendly spirit. But he had an almost mystic force of
severity, and those enormous squanderings of wealth, that facile
assumption of liabilities that characterized this period of the War,
must have doubtless produced in him a sense of infinite disgust. This
state of mind often made him very exigent, and sometimes unjustifiably
suspicious. His word had a decisive effect on the actions of the
When the War was finished, he took part as first delegate of the
English Treasury at the Peace Conference of Paris, and was substituted
by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Supreme Economic Council.
He quitted his office when he had come to the conclusion that it was
hopeless to look for any fundamental change of the peace treaties.
His book is not only a document of political uprightness but the first
appeal to a sense of reality which, after an orgy of mistakes, menaces
a succession of catastrophes. In my opinion it merits a serious
reconsideration as the expression of a new conscience, as well as an
expression of the truth, which is only disguised by the existing state
of exasperation and violence.
After two years we must recognize that all the forecasts of Keynes
have been borne out by the facts: that the exchange question has grown
worse in all the countries who have been in the War, that the absurd
indemnities imposed on the enemies cannot be paid, that the depressed
condition of the vanquished is harmful to the victors almost in equal
measure with the vanquished themselves, that it menaces their very
existence, that, in fine, the sense of dissolution is more widespread
The moment has come to make an objective examination of the indemnity
question, and to discuss it without any hesitation.
Let us lay aside all sentiment and forget the undertakings of the
peace treaties. Let us suppose that the Entente's declarations
and Wilson's proposals never happened. Let us imagine that we are
examining a simple commercial proposition stripped of all sentiment
and moral ideas.
After a great war it is useless to invoke moral sentiments: men, while
they are blinded by hatred, recognize nothing save their passion. It
is the nature of war not only to kill or ruin a great number of men,
not only to cause considerable material damage, but also, necessarily,
to bring about states of mind full of hate which cannot be ended at
once and which are even refractory to the language of reason.
For a long time I myself have looked upon the Germans with the
profoundest hatred. When I think of all the persons of my race dead in
the War, when I look back upon the fifteen months of anguish when my
first-born son was a prisoner of war in Germany, I am quite able to
understand the state of mind of those who made the peace and the
mental condition in which it was made. What determined the atmosphere
of the peace treaties was the fact that there was a conference
presided over by Clemenceau, who remembered the Prussians in the
streets of Paris after the war of 1870, who desired but one thing: the
extermination of the Germans. What created this atmosphere, or helped
to create it, was the action of Marshal Foch, who had lost in the War
the two persons dearest to him in life, the persons who attached him
But now we must examine the question not in the light of our
sentiments or even of our hatreds. We must see quite calmly if the
treaties are possible of application without causing the ruin of the
vanquished. Then we must ask ourselves if the ruin of the vanquished
does not bring in its train the ruin of the victors. Putting aside,
then, all moral considerations, let us examine and value the economic
There is no question that the reparation problem exists solely in
the case of Germany, who has still a powerful statal framework which
allows her to maintain great efforts, capable not only of providing
her with the means of subsistence, but also of paying a large
indemnity to the victors. The other vanquished States are more in need
of succour than anything else.
What are the reparations?
Let us follow the _precis_ of them which a representative of France
made at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. They are as follows:
1. Germany is responsible for the total of the losses and damages
sustained by her victors inasmuch as she caused them.
2. Germany, in consideration of the permanent diminution of her
resources, resulting from the Peace Treaty, is only obliged (but is
obliged without restitutions or reserves) to reimburse the direct
damages and the pensions as precised in Schedule I of Clause viii of
3. Germany must pay before May 1, 1921, not less than twenty milliards
of gold marks or make equivalent payment in kind.
4. On May 1 the Reparations Commission will fix the total amount of
the German debt.
5. This debt must be liquidated by annual payments whose totals are to
be fixed by the Commission.
6. The payments will continue for a period of thirty years, or longer
if by that time the debt is not extinguished.
7. Germany will issue one hundred milliards of gold marks of bearer
bonds, and afterwards all such issues as the Reparations Commission
shall demand, until the amount of the debt be reached in order to
permit the stabilization of credit.
8. The payments will be made in money and in kind. The payments in
kind will be made in coal, live stock, chemical products, ships,
machines, furniture, etc. The payments _in specie_ consist of metal
money, of Germany's credits, public and private, abroad, and of a
first charge on all the effects and resources of the Empire and the
9. The Reparations Commission, charged with seeing to the execution of
this clause, shall have powers of control and decision. It will be
a commission for Germany's debt with wider powers. Called upon to
decide, according to equity, justice and good faith, without being
bound by any codex or special legislation, it has obtained from
Germany an irrevocable recognition of its authority. Its duty is to
supervise until the extinction of the debt Germany's situation, her
financial operations, her effects, her capacity for production, her
provisioning, her production. This commission must decide what Germany
can pay each year, and must see that her payments, added to the
budget, fall upon her taxpayers at least to the extent of the allied
country most heavily taxed. Its decisions shall be carried out
immediately and receive immediate application, without any other