Ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain Pleads for a Common Table Discussion of Shipbuilding.
RT. HON. J. RAMSAY MACDONALDApril11929
Wants U.S. Aid for Peace
REVIEW of REVIEWS
Ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain Pleads for a Common Table Discussion of Shipbuilding.
RT. HON. J. RAMSAY MACDONALD
IN AN article written for the New York Nation, the ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain, Rt. Hon. J. Ramsay MacDonald, describes the Kellogg Pact as “a mere collection of words strung upon a pious thread.” The relations between the United States and Great Britain are growing increasingly unhappy, he complains, and pleads for the strengthening hand of the United States in ensuring a peace which is more than a treaty nullified at every turn by the recommendations of naval and military experts. Mr. MacDonald says in part:
“The European war left for the United States and England times full of petty irritation. The burdens of debt, revolutions in industry and in world markets, the problems of political readjustment in a world which has undergone more change than people really imagine, and, in some respects, the even more difficult mental readjustments that are called for, are not good for an equable temper. And when we come down to actual business, we find ourselves still more immersed in the strangeness of the change which has taken place. The whole world to-day is calling for peace and security against war, and when a simple declaration against war which avoids every practical difficulty is put before the world, the world hails it with acclamation, signs it—and relapses. To those of us who believe that to bring the nations out of the war age is the divine task of this generation, the temptation to lapse into cynicism rather than continue in an energetic faith is very great when we find that armament expansion both in Europe and America has been decreed by the same hands and the same pens as signed a solemn bond to eliminate forever the consideration of war from national policies. There is something wrong somewhere. Somehow, the distinction in Christian conduct between Sunday and the rest of the week seems to be creeping into international policies.
“The first reflection which we are apt to make on such a situation is that some nation other than our own is perfidious. That has the demerit of leading us nowhere except up the dangerous way of self-appreciation and it also happens to be inadequate as an explanation. The fact is that every nation is rent between two opposing and hostile moods. Everyone wants peace, but no one will accept and pursue a policy based upon peace assumptions. The practical policy of the United States and Great Britain is exactly the same as that which preceded and prepared for the late war. Let us both get to close grips with reality. We have gone to Geneva to discuss naval armament, and we have both sent naval officers to do the negotiating. Both of us have begun with the assumption that war, involving our interests and safety, may break out. The duty of a naval officer is not to make peace, but to safeguard his nation’s interests in time of trouble, and both you and we have an admirably able and honest body of men to advise us on that matter. At Geneva, it was not our mutual desire for peace that failed; it was not the impossibility of a peace policy that was demonstrated. It was a much simpler and very obvious thing. It was that, in the event of a war which brought us into conflict with each other, or that brought us separately into the strife, the naval arm that the United States would require for security would not be the same as that which England would require for security; that, indeed, if either the United States or England thought of security in relation to the hostility of each other, both of us would have to increase rather than diminish our shipbuilding. That was all that the Geneva failure proved. Was it really worth while going to Geneva for that purpose? Admirals as naval negotiators could not do other than bring out that obvious fact, and their negotiations could only expose the obvious. Then, English papers and American started their fusillades. They missed completely the reason for the failure, and in good oldfashioned style went for the other side hammer and tongs. You patted yourselves on the back, kicked us, and we did exactly the same on our part; and the Atlantic became broader and far more stormy for both of us.
“Then came our military—not only naval—agreement with France. For that I have nothing to say except that it illustrates the bungling of so much of our present Government’s foreign policy. I do not believe that it was directed against the United States. It was simply stupid. It sacrificed our own national interests far more than it menaced yours. The country, irrespective of party, rose up and, following the lead of the Labor Party, rejected it. It would be highly improper for me to pass any opinion on the new American cruiser programme; if I did so, it would quite properly be resented. But I may be allowed, as an outsider who is greatly concerned with the moral authority which every great state must possess if we are to secure the conditions of a world’s peace, to say that the execution ofthat programme will be a great blow to the nation from which the Kellogg Pact originated. You may consider it necessary to face that, but, make no mistake, the result will be the same as though my country had not declined to countenance the Anglo-French Agreement. People will say: ‘Oh, yes, they boast of their declaration denying that war is to be a consideration in national policy, and with a simultaneous voice vote for a larger navy,’ and if men can say that, it will be a bad thing for every movement seeking to establish a world-wide peace.
“Here in Europe those of us who are devoting our lives to the elimination of war from the national records of the times to come are nearer to the frontiers from which war alarms come than you are in America, and we, therefore, see phrases and words with a meaning in realistic policy somewhat different from the meaning you see in them. But we know that with America indifferent, or neutral, or pursuing its own way, our tasks are to be heavy and our defeat is to be more possible. Therefore it is imperative that steps be taken at once to end all this foolish and mischievous feeling which is alienating the United States from Great Britain.
“The first thing to be done is to bring to a common table for discussion the reasons why ships are being built, why we both went to Geneva with the assumption we did, why we are thinking of trade routes being blocked, what there is between us that for immediate policy, newspaper writing, and political electioneering makes the Kellogg Pact a mere collection of words strung upon a pious thread. The task of the statesmen is to make impossible the conditions upon which the masters of naval strategy spend their efforts. Why do not the statesmen act? If they are acting, why do they not give us comfort by informing us that they are? Is no attempt to be made, is none being made, to clear up the confusion of ‘the freedom of the seas’? Has neither of us the courage to discuss with the other what the interests and obligations of both are in, and to, the world and each other? Have both of us failed to observe how easy it is for nations to slip into war for nothing, how ready popular imagination is to be set on fire by anyone—even an almost anonymous newspaper proprietor —who cares to light a match? This is no case for private and unofficial action and conferences. The governments must act. Both countries ought to appoint five or six of their most outstanding public men representative of the whole nation to meet and drag from the obscure corners of sulky suspicion the things which make difficulties between us. Let us know them. Mayhap fresh air would clean our minds of them. Governments are timorous, and if this be too solemn a proceeding for them to support, let them do something themselves, only we should like to be assured that they are aware of the mighty issues involved in a lack of real good will and confidence between the United States and Great Britain. No staging is too impressive for the importance of friendship between us, no pageantry too extravagant for the proclamation that difficulties have been removed. I want to involve the United States in no European escapade and no entanglements. It ought to praise its Creator night and day that that necessity is not imposed upon it, as it is, alas! upon us. But those of us whose lot is cast here, and whose fate it is to struggle against the powers of militarism which have been wounded but certainly not killed in the late war, should like to feel that an American hand will always be placed in ours for encouragement, and that the relations between your country and mine can be held up to the world as an example of what we are striving to establish.”
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