GENERAL ARTICLES

Beverley Baxter's LONDON LETTER

A Contemptible Hoax

April 1 1939
GENERAL ARTICLES

Beverley Baxter's LONDON LETTER

A Contemptible Hoax

April 1 1939

Beverley Baxter's LONDON LETTER

A Contemptible Hoax

NOTHING will ever surprise me again. Not even if the cow jumps over the moon, or the dish runs away with the spoon. Let me explain myself.

Before me I have a document which has reached me from America. It is the report of a solemn self-appointed committee of professors, jurists and other incorruptible American citizens to enquire into published news stories which may be true or may be merely propaganda.

Apparently this distinguished committee issues reports at regular intervals. The particular report before me, however, deals with only one “news story.” Briefly, the following is the news item which has apparently received very wide publication in the press of the U. S. A.:

“The crisis of last September was a fake from beginning to end. Hitler and Chamberlain had arranged all the details months before. They both agreed to the ceding of the Sudeten area to Germany, but Chamberlain knew that British and French public opinion would not concur in cold blood. Therefore he arranged the crisis, the mobilization of the Fleet, the digging of trenches in Hyde Park, and the flights to Berchtesgaden, Munich and Godesberg. Faced with this imaginary threat of war, Chamberlain was able to carry through his cherished plan of dismembering Czecho-Slovakia and strengthening Germany on behalf of his friend, Hitler.”

Solemnly the committee gives the names of American editors who believe the story to be true, the names of editors who are in doubt, and the names of those who don’t believe it at all.

The finding of the committee itself is somewhat noncommittal. I gather that, on balance, the majority think there is something in the story, but do not agree with all the details. And so they embalm their conclusions with the immortality of print.

If it were not for the evidence before my eyes, I would think that it was all a practical joke, a student’s unfunny rag, or a group of elderly gentlemen putting on a farce for charity.

Perhaps the committee will next look into the story of Santa Claus and give us the real truth, as shown by the conclusions of American newspaper editors. There is Jack and the Beanstalk too, a tale full of improbabilities and not borne out by the proved growth capacity of beans.

“Glorious Absurdities”

DUT the glorious absurdities of the New World do not end with this propaganda committee. There is a certain semi-pictorial periodical which has a definite and probably successful formula of publication, consisting of:

Pornographic photographs Violent cartoons

The “truth” about the British Government.

Apparently this magazine has quite a circulation in Canada, for a number of readers of Maclean s have sent me cuttings from it. In fact I have received at least ten copies of one article entitled, “Inside the Four-Pow-er Pact.” Some of my correspondents have urged me to reply to the article, others have intimated that its contents should silence me forever.

The author of this particular article has the interesting name of Ladislas Farago, which no doubt gives him a certain right to comment on European affairs. According to him-

self, he has been fairly recently in Russia and is on good terms with the Moscow Government.

Now Mr. Farago belongs to that quaint school of thought which always pictures Mr. Chamberlain as the cringing victim of someone whose orders he must obey. For a while the British Prime Minister carried Lady Astor’s handbag and crawled every time he saw the editor of the Times. But the Americans grew tired of this story after a time. Perhaps it was when the Times was banned from Germany for being so antagonistic to Hitler.

So they concocted the theory that Chamberlain was not under the thumb of the Astors at all, but was Hitler’s outand-out partner, urging Adolf, almost against his will, to greater and greater ambitions for Germany. This is the story, of course, which was duly investigated by the propaganda committee.

But Ladislas Farago is too good a journalist to let things rest there. He wants to show Mr. Chamberlain as the victim of his own greed as well as of other men’s wickedness. He wants to paint a portrait of a cowardly yet sinister

figure, a man anxious to wound but afraid to strike, a cheat, a hypocrite and a weakling.

In one degree, however, he keeps in touch with the established technique of the previous stories. Never by any chance is Mr. Chamberlain depicted as the master of his own destiny, but always as the helpless subordinate who is never allowed to question an order.

In case you think I am exaggerating, let me quote the exact words of my friend Ladislas. Referring to the British policy of Munich, he writes:

“In this the British Prime Minister was following not his own policy, but was acting under direct, unmistakable instructions from Montagu Norman, for eighteen years the Governor of the Bank of England.”

There is something rather touching about Mr. Farago’s

belief that never by any chance does the head of a British Government have anything to say about the policy of his own Government. In fact, the Prime Minister is nothing more than a cook who comes up from the kitchen for orders and then goes down again.

But Ladislas knows that you cannot fill up space with simple statements like that, so he enlarges the plot:

"The Four-Power Conference in Munich, a longdesired dream of Herr Hitler, was the climax of a scheme prepared four years ago by the directors of the Bank of England in co-operation with an influential Carlton Club clique and with the heads of Britain’s armament factories.”

“A Deep-Dyed Intrigue”

ÍET US just reconstruct that scene. The Directors of the * Bank of England, including our austere countryman of Canada, Sir Edward Peacock, invite the heads of the British armament factories to meet them, together with a mysterious selected assortment of members of the Carlton Club.

Montagu Norman, who has disguised himself as a governess with a beard for the occasion, opens the ball: "Gentlemen, we are here to decide a policy which must be urged upon Baldwin. But if he is stubborn, we must see that the man who succeeds him will do what we say. Now, our one unbreakable policy must be the defeat of Soviet Russia. Agreed? Good. At all costs, we must work and work until we bring Germany into a British antiSoviet alliance.”

“But isn’t Germany only too anxious to join anyone against Russia?” asks someone.

"Please don’t interrupt.” says Mr. Norman, “and don’t ask questions.” (Mr. Farago’s readers never ask questions.) “Now Hitler’s one dream is a four-power conference. He wants it, dreams of it, and some day he must have it.”

“Excuse me,” says the same dull fellow. “But since Italy and France and Britain also want a four-power conference, why don't they have it next week?”

“You are really very trying.” snaps the Governor. “How can we build up the story of a deep-dyed intrigue if you make silly suggestions like that? Now to proceed. You see we must strengthen Germany to be more and more and still more powerful. And I am proud to tell you that I have won over the British Navy, who have agreed to allow Germany to build up to one third of Britain’s naval strength. A mighty Germany is our aim and then— down with Russia!”

The stupid interrupter rises to his feet again. “I’m sure I’m a fool,” he says, “but if you want to help Germany, why do you limit her to one third of our Navy? Surely that is keeping her at the mercy of Britain on the seas, and keeping down her strength against Russia.”

Mr. Norman rings for a porter. “Throw that gentleman out,” he says. “How can we go on with a plot like this if someone with ordinary common sense keeps on interrupting?”

Absurdity Accepted As Truth

■VTDU WHO are reading this might quite well ask at this stage why I am bothering about such a ridiculous article, and even scold me for burlesquing burlesque. Believe it or not, I have had hundreds of letters from Canada and the U. S. A. repeating these statements as solemn facts. In the curious, rather mean credulity which is one of the phenomena of public opinion today, absurdity and impossibility are accepted as eighteen-carat truth.

Continued on page 52

Continued from page 13

Take this man, Farago. Among a team of recognized writers in this particular magazine, he is featured as the star.

Possibly you think I have misrepresented him by the Montagu Norman burlesque. It is not so. Every statement I put into the banker’s mouth is taken from Mr. Farago’s own prose.

However, let us deal with the remainder of Ids startling revelations with the same seriousness as the propaganda committee already described.

His treatment of the truth is skilful. For example, he says in connection with the Anglo-German Naval Agreement:

"It was agreed that the British Admiralty and the German Naval Command would work in the closest possible cooperation; secret clauses provided for an exchange of naval intelligence; exchange information and details of inventions concerning naval construction. Shortly after the Agreement was signed, an English Commission consisting of six high Admiralty officials journeyed to Berlin, set up headquarters in a boardinghouse in Berlin’s In den Zelten, and surveyed Germany’s naval strength . . . The London War Office followed suit. They agreed to a Berlin suggestion to exchange officers of the fighting forces, and in 1934 three German officers came to London, while three British officers were sent to the German War Office.”

Mr. Farago’s intentions are quite clear. He wishes to give the impression that there was a secret plot in which the AngloGerman Naval Treaty was mere dust in the eyes. In fact, the normal person, having read these amazing revelations, would be justified in muttering, ‘The dirty dogs.” And now for that tiresome thing, the truth:

1. It is quite true that the British and German Admiralties agreed to work in the closest co-operation. Otherwise, each country would have had to maintain an immense number of spies to check each other’s activities.

The result of that co-operation has been that both navies have honorably maintained their bond.

2. Secret ‘clauses provided for an exchange of naval intelligence.

Quite true—except that the clauses are public and are in the agreement.

3. Six high Admiralty officials journeyed to Berlin, set up in a boardinghouse, and surveyed Germany’s naval strength.

I don’t quite understand Mr. Farago’s insinuation here. Does he suggest that the boardinghouse was a blind in order that they should spy on the German fleet? Or who was spying on whom? What the Farago does it all mean?

The facts are that a number of Admiralty clerks had to go to Germany for the prolonged checking of details. I am glad to hear that they put up at a boardinghouse. Would that all public servants were so careful of public funds.

4. Three military officers went to London and three to Berlin.

In other words, the usual custom of military observers attending the spring manoeuvres of other armies continues.

So the article goes on mixing lies and facts in such a way that everything that is published seems to add to the sinister charge of secret conspiracy. Farago puts his trust in the ignorance of his readers, and they do not fail him.

Even so, it would be a waste of time to expose the mendacity of the whole thing if it were not that Mr. Farago at last descends to the contemptible filth of charging the British Prime Minister with pursuing 1 a policy in accordance with his holdings in I armament shares.

This attack on Mr. Chamberlain's personal honor comes in the article just after the interesting statement by Mr. Farago that it was not until Mr. Chamberlain agreed to Mr. Norman’s anti-Russian policy that he was allowed to succeed Mr. Baldwin as Prime Minister.

It is, I suppose, a waste of time to point out that Chamberlain was the acknowledged heir to the political throne for five years preceding Mr. Baldwin’s retirement.

Or need I point out that his becoming leader of the Conservative Party (without which he could not have been Premier) was purely the concern of those of us who are members of the Party? Had Mr. Montagu Norman so much as thrust his nose in. it would have been dealt with appropriately.

“It is easy.” remarks Mr. Farago, “to understand Chamberlain’s decision to adopt this policy when one considers how closely he is connected with the financial clique and the armament industry. Among his extensive financial holdings is a considerable block of Imperial Chemical Industries, 833 Preference and 5,414 Ordinary ones. His son, Francis Chamberlain, is on the staff of Imperial Chemical Industries’ sales organization at the main office in Birmingham.”

“Wipe Off the Mud”

WHAT protection has a man of honor against this kind of attack?

It is quite true that Mr. Chamberlain’s son is on the Birmingham sales staff of the Imperial Chemical Industries. He is not highly paid but, for a young man, is doing quite well.

So you have this situation, according to the arrangement of Mr. Farago’s sentences: 1. Mr. Chamberlain is a wealthy man, heavily involved in armament shares.

2. Among those holdings is a large and influential block of shares in Imperial Chemicals.

3. As the result of these holdings, Mr. Chamberlain’s son has a job with the

4. Mr. Chamberlain’s political policy is such as will enhance his personal profits.

Well, let us wipe off the mud and show the truth:

1. Mr. Chamberlain is a man of modest means and does not possess one share in an armament company.

2. Imperial Chemicals is a huge industrial combine of many millions of pounds capital. Mr. Chamberlain’s influential holding “of 833 Preference shares and 5,414 Ordinary shares” is worth less than £10,000.

Imperial Chemicals do not supply armaments in any form. There is, therefore, no need to deal with Nos. three and four.

It is right that a statesman should be criticized without mercy and his policy challenged right along the line. But when a solemn propaganda committee gives even partial credence to a story of an arranged September crisis, and a man named Ladislas Farago is allowed to impeach the Prime Minister’s personal honor, then I suggest that it is time for decent men—and decent governments—to make their voice felt in protest.