REVIEW of REVIEWS

Is Europe Crumbling?

A Startling Summary of Conditions in the Defeated and Newly Created Countries — If Small European Countries Collapse a General Breakdown of Civilization May Ensue.

FRENCH STROTHER August 15 1920
REVIEW of REVIEWS

Is Europe Crumbling?

A Startling Summary of Conditions in the Defeated and Newly Created Countries — If Small European Countries Collapse a General Breakdown of Civilization May Ensue.

FRENCH STROTHER August 15 1920

Is Europe Crumbling?

REVIEW of REVIEWS

A Startling Summary of Conditions in the Defeated and Newly Created Countries — If Small European Countries Collapse a General Breakdown of Civilization May Ensue.

FRENCH STROTHER

RECENTLY Henry P. Davison, the prominent American financier and head of the Red Cross, made the statement that it would be a good investment for the United States to spend half a billion dollars in the rehabilitation of the small countries of Europe. He reasoned it out that, without help, the small European countries would collapse and that their fall might involve a general breakdown of civilization.

In view of this statement, attention must be paid to the serious conditions depicted by French Strother in the course of an article in World’s Work. He writes:

Imagine first the condition which exists in that shifting zone of new republics and altered monarchies which lies eastward from the solid civilizations of Italy, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Holland,stretching to the fluctuating boundary line of that chaos which was Russia.Here is a corridor of new nations—the boiling metal of old nationalistic aspirations poured into new moulds from the caldron of war, seething with the released inter-racial hatreds of a thousand years, still too freshly turned from the molten mass of old empires to have fixed their new forms either geographically or politically. From the Baltic to the Black Sea there are nearly a dozen of these new nations, beginning with the tiny republics of Esthonia and Latvia on the north, through restored Poland, defeated Germany, freshly created Czechoslovakia, and diminished Hungary and Austria to the swollen kingdoms of Rumania and Greater Serbia. Taken at their face value, these are pretentious political structures. The reality, of course, is far otherwise. In none of these countries is there a government in power which knows what fortune tomorrow will bring forth. Several of them have not even a fundamental law, such as our Constitution. Some of them, small as they are, are still rent by inter-racial hatreds. In all of them, including the largest, there is a bitter division, politically expressed, between the rich and poor. We may guess something of their political situation by imagining that the United States were without a Constitution, that it were governed by a President and a Congress chosen feverishly in the midst of war, and that one-third of our population were made up of Germans who had been active German sympathizers, another one-third of violently anti-British Irish, and the remainder of ordinary American stock; that these divisions “perpendicularly” by race were bisected “horizontally” into equally antagonistic groups of Socialists and Conservatives—and some idea is given of the merely political difficulties confronting these new peoples.

This, however, is far from the worst of the facts. Add to the foregoing that for 100 miles in either direction from the

cordon sanitaire (roughly the 28th degree of olngitude, east) typhus fever is raging in a population undernourished, with practically no medical supplies, and woefully lacking in physicians.

But the most terrible aspect of the situation in its permanent results—the thing which brings in its train all the other woes, physical and political—is the utter breakdown of that productive industry which makes possible the continuance of life itself. Here again the imagination must be spurred to reproduce a picture in the mind which is adequate to suggest the facts, and here again an analogy may be drawn in the United States.

Picture first the territory extending from Boston to Washington, D.C., and from New York to Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Imagine the states comprised within this region—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and the rest—to be each a separate nation, with its own government, and each hostile to its neighbors. Imagine that each state, upon the signing of the Armistice, had seized all the railroad cars and locomotives then within its boundaries, and now refused to permit any one of them to pass beyond these boundaries. Imagine a custom-house on either side of every boundary line, and that every carload of freight shipped, let us say from Boston to New York, was actually stopped at every custom-house, the goods actually removed from the freight car, appraised by the revenue officers of the new state and loaded afresh on to another freight car operated by that state and carried across it only to the boundary of the state next to the south, where this entire operation would have to be repeated. This particular car-load, traveling over the tracks of the present New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad would, soon after leaving Boston, be halted

at, let us say, Adamsdale, at the easterly boundary of Rhode Island, where it would be unloaded and passed through the Rhode Island custom-house, reloaded on a freight car belonging to the Rhode Island Government and carried on to the next custom-house in the vicinity of Stonington, Conn., where the operation would be repeated, traveling thence in a third car to Greenwich, Conn., or Portchester, N Y., where it would be loaded on to a fourth car for its final destination in New York City.

But this is only the first of the difficulties which would confront the shipper. Instead of the dozens of freight trains which now daily traverse this road unimpeded and at fair speed, imagine perhaps one freight train and at most not more than two a week from Boston to New York. If only this were the evil confronting that region, imagine what would become of the complex, highly organized, delicately inter-related, inter-state trade, which is the very life blood of that manufacturing and trading community.

The situation in mid-eastern Europe is infinitely worse than this. Let us carry our picture of the Pennsylvania-New York-New Englandregion further. Imagine that none of these states had a coal supply more than 85 per cent, of the normal, and that some of them had only 30 per cent. What would happen this winter? The first allotment of the scanty coal supply would have to go to householders—the demand for the continuance of life itself would make it imperative that the people be not allowed to freeze. The next allotment of coal would go to the gas and electric lighting companies—houses must be lit or household functions must cease; and streets must be lit, or crime will become an intolerable peril. The next allotment of coal would go to the rail-

roads—people and food and goods must be carried from place to place, or civilization must revert to the passive agricultural state of three centuries ago. The last allotment of all would go to the factories— and in Pennsylvania-New York-New England the factories are the livelihood of 60 per cent, of the people. How soon would that region regain its normal livelihood upon such a supply of coal?

.. Jut, are not yet at the end of our

difficulties. Imagine further that a large percentage of the able-bodied workmen of that region had been engaged in four years of war, that many of them were buried in northern France, that many more were permanently disabled, that many more were wandering about the country, far from the particular factories that had utilized their particular kind of skill. How would the manufacturer of sewing machines in Bridgeport, whose factory had been closed for four years, set about to resume the production of these machines, in a plant constructed to correlate the complex operations of 25,000 skilled laborers, every one of whose usefulness depends upon the simultaneous work of the other 24,999?

Still another problem. Imagine that Pennsylvania-New York-New England had been shut off from trade with the rest of the United States and the rest of the world for about four years. Imagine that during those four years manufacturers in Chicago had learned to make sewing machines as good as the Bridgeport manufacturer used to make, and had made steady customers of all the old customers of the Bridgeport man. What is the Bridgeport manufacturer going to do with his sewing machines, even if he can find the coal and the labor he needs to make them?

Transpose this fanciful picture of northeastern United States to northeastern Europe, and it becomes the grim reality of the present day. It is not alone thats the Viennese are starving, that the Poles are dying of typhus, that the red spectre of Bolshevism hovers over the half-crazed crowds of Lodz and Budapest. It is that the very organism of society is so wracked and dismembered that these peoples are helpless to reorganize it and to put in process those functions of productive labor by which they may earn to-morrow’s bread—to say nothing of replacing that accumulated store of wealth which is the capital to finance the labor of the day after. It is not only that individual life is threatened—civilization is at stake— that structure of society which makes the individual life worth living, and for which mankind has toiled and built for sixty centuries.

What, we may ask, is this to us? Grant its truth. Grant its horror. But we are doing our duty of charity; that done, what have we left, except pity, and thanksgiving that we have escaped so terrible a fate?

But have we escaped it? Can a hundred million people starve, and we continue to have plenty? Can industry over one-third of a continent go to pieces, and our factories go unscathed? Can civiliza, tion disappear over a wide area of the earth’s surface, and survive in these United States? a