SALESMEN OF DEATH
The Truth About War Makers
LIEUT.-COL. GEORGE A. DREW
A plairinSpo\en denunciation of an armament industry which ma\es wars to ma\e money . . . “this Fran\enstein monster must be smashed or it will smash civilization1
ON FEBRUARY 2, 1932, representatives from sixty nations will meet at Geneva in an effort to effect substantial reductions in land armaments. Nothing like it has yet been attempted. It is the greatest international experiment of our time. Already a campaign of education is under way to impress on the minds of the people who will be represented, the transcendent importance of the success or failure of the World Disarmament Conference. On the one hand is pictured the wave of prosperity that would flow from the economic rejuvenation of nations now bowed under the crippling burden of tremendous military expenditures. On the other is raised the ghastly spectre of a war of machines and chemicals which would carry death and destruction to the civilian populations even more than to the soldiers in the field. In England, leaders of national thought are delivering educational addresses over the radio which are doing much to awaken the people of the British Isles to the necessity for some honest effort if the youth of the world is not soon to be led to meaningless slaughter.
President Hoover gave impetus to the discussion of this vexed question in the United States in his vigorous address to the International Chamber of Commerce at Washington last May when he ended his comprehensive analysis of the disarmament problem in these impressive words:
“Of all proposals for the economic rehabilitation of the world, I know of none which compares in necessity or importance with the successful result of that conference.
“It is within the power of business men of the world to insist that the problem shall be met with sincerity, courage, and constructive action.”
What is Canada’s contribution going to be?
Let any who doubt the practical consequences of this conference to us, cast their minds back to the peaceful days of July 1914 and remember how little Canadians then dreamed of even the remote possibility of war, and yet how quickly the whole of our national strength was thrown into
a conflict thousands of miles from home. Canada has no reason to regret its course. No nation ever went to war with less selfish motives or fought with higher purpose, but let us not forget that the war was very largely the result of the tension which developed from the nervous strain of ever increasing military competition, and that the murder at Sarajevo was not the cause but only the excuse employed to start a conflagration which had been smouldering for years. To those who accept this proposition which is now almost universally adopted by historians of the Great War, it is not comforting to know that the nations which signed the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact and subscribed to its soothing expressions of disbelief in the employment of war as an instrument of national policy, are now spending seventy per cent more each year on military preparation than they were in 1913.
In his address at New York on October 11, 1929, the Right Honorable J. Ramsay MacDonald, Premier of Great Britain, said:
"People fight because a train of circumstances has happened which puts their nerves on edge, which makes them feel unsafe and insecure, until by a continuation of that mentality they come to the conclusion, ‘For God’s sake, let us end it, whatever the price.’ And before we know where we are, we are at war.
“There is no better way to prevent the development of that national frame of mind than to prevent competition in armament, because by competing in armament, every nation knows that it has failed to get security. And when it has spent its national income, when it has frayed its nerves, then it knows that war
is absolutely inevitable, and that there is no cure for the condition into which it has landed itself except the conflict of arms.”
There is every evidence in Europe today, that just such a situation is again arising. Canada is vitally interested. The last war leaves no room for argument on that point. In spite of the League of Nations and the World Court, which were at least an honest expression of the hope that the Great War had taught the world that arbitration was better than annihilation as a means of settling international disputes, the danse macabre of the armament builders goes on apace, and Canada should be prepared to take some practical part in an effort to restrict this deadly competition which recent history has proved inevitably leads to war.
The Lesson of 1927
STRANGELY enough, in all the discussions which have taken place in anticipation of the Conference which is now but a few months away, the outstanding lesson of the last great conference at Geneva—the Naval Disarmament Conference of 1927—had apparently been completely ignored. That lesson, which is of the utmost practical importance in preparing for the next conference, lay in the disclosure that behind national competition in armaments and navies lies a vicious commercial competition of armament and shipbuilding companies which seek to promote international ill will for the purpose of preserving a ready market for the death-dealing equipment they produce. The lesson of that conference was perfectly clear: that private profit in the production of armament furnishes one of the most active sources of international friction, which can be removed only by some form of national ownership which would eliminate the personal advantages resulting from sales.
There is good reason, therefore, to recall the sensation which developed in 1929 when Dr. William B. Shearer sued the three largest American shipbuilding corporations, the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, and the American Brown-Boveri Corporation, for $255,655, which he claimed in his writ as the balance due to him for his services in preventing any results from the Naval Disarmament Conference at Geneva in 1927.
For years Shearer had been prominent in the United States as an able speaker and writer who was one of the most ardent ad”ccates of a greatly increased naval programme. He had employed all the time-honored invocations before the altar of national pride, and so it came as a distinct shock to that part of the American public which had been impressed by his effusions, when this “disinterested” patriot blandly admitted in his claim against these shipbuilding companies that he had already received $51,230 for sowing seeds of hatred and distrust in the minds of the delegates from the United States and Great Britain, and that he claimed a further $255,655 as the reward to a good and faithful servant whose labors had helped to reap the harvest of huge orders for battleships which had been imperilled by the possible success of the conference.
Whether Shearer’s efforts really had any effect on the delegates will probably never be known, but the fact remains that no substantial results were achieved by the conference, mainly because of the apparent lack of confidence displayed by the representatives of the two greatest naval powers. Whatever the influences were that brought about that result, it must not be forgotten that the failure of the Conference preserved for the shipbuilding and armament companies from whom Shearer claimed his reward, many, many millions of dollars w'orth of business. The picture disclosed was sordid and terrifying to those who appreciated its full significance. Here was a man unblushingly admitting that he had donned the mantle of lofty patriotism so that he might better traffic in hatred and distrust as a paid hireling of those great corporations whose aspirations were not in harmony with the hopes of an anxious world which remembered the appalling cost of the last war and dreaded the possibilities of the next.
When Shearer’s legal proceedings were brought to his attention in September, 1929, President Hoover immediately issued a public statement in which he condemned in the most unqualified terms these “propagandists of hate,” and announced that he had instructed the Attorney-General to institute an enquiry into the ominous disclosures which had been made. On September 9, 1929, a few days after the President’s statement, Eugene Grace, then president of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, wrote to President Hoover, explaining that he and Charles M. Schwab, Chair-
man of the Board of Directors of the Eethlehem Steel Corporation, of which the Shipbuilding Company was a subsidiary, understood that Shearer had been employed merely as an “observer” to attend the Naval Disarmament Conference at a fee of $25,000, but that they had no previous knowledge of his employment as a propagandist, and that as soon as this was brought to their attention, instructions had immediately been given to the official responsible that Shearer’s services were to be discontinued. The letter further stated quite frankly that they had subsequently learned of his employment in a similar capacity before. The uninitiated public was, however, left in ignorance as to what Mr. Grace and his associates understood to be the exact duties of an “observer” employed by naval construction companies at a disarmament conference, and just at what point an “observer” exceeded his authority and became a propagandist.
An investigation was duly held before the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs, at which Shearer gave evidence quite freely, explaining in detail the terms of his employment, and appearing in no way abashed by the full disclosure of the contemptible nature of his activities. It was significant that he treated his employers’ disavowal of any knowledge of the purpose of his employment with cynical facetiousness. But by far the most important disclosure before the Senate Committee, which should be imprinted in flaming letters on the minds of those who are preparing for the most ambitious programme of disarmament ever attempted in the history of the world, was the unqualified admission by officials of the three companies that men were employed and money spent to promote international ill will for the purpose of maintaining sales, just as they would spend money for advertising.
Those admissions were of world-wide importance, because it must not be supposed for a moment that the armament and shipbuilding interests of the United States alone employ such methods. Doubtless every great armament company of the world has at times employed its Shearers. For one who discloses his occupation through cupidity there must be hundreds who carry on in silence and gratefully receive the liberal remuneration which these three American
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companies admitted to be the reward for such services, and whether they be antireduction propagandists, hate-mongers, armament salesmen or the like, they would be more than human were they not constantly hopeful of the prospect of wars, and the threat of wars, which in the name of national security bring rich contracts to the armament companies. It is their business, their very bread and butter, and they will do all they can to see that their business does not languish. It is well, therefore, to remember that for the next few months they will not be idle.
The Mystery Man of Europe
pNGLAND can boast, if there is any justification for boasting in the distinction, of the super-Shearer of all time. This sinister figure has wandered through Europe during the past fifty years surrounded sometimes by romance, cloaked always in mystery, acquiring fabulous wealth and power such as have been held by few, in exchange for which he has left a trail of death and destruction wherever he has gone. This favored beneficiary of international hate, Sir Basil Zaharoff, has come to be generally known as “The Mystery Man of Europe." His story is part and parcel of those rapid years of expansion which mark the sudden growth of the armament industry from its prolonged infancy to the ghastly maturity of the World War. During the centuries in which firearms had been used prior to the third quarter of the last century, little real development had taken place, but with the introduction of rifling and new methods of using steel, the modern armament industry was born and Zaharoff became associated with the Gargantuan infant almost before it was out of its swaddling clothes.
The story of the success of this obscure Greek, born in the Province of Anatolia in Turkish Asia Minor in 1849, tells in itself practically the whole history of the expansion of the armament industry, and should be carefully studied by any who forget how new a thing this business really is, or doubt the menace that lies in the possibilities for acquiring enormous personal wealth so long as the production of war equipment is controlled by companies operated for the purpose of profit.
On October 14, 1927, the Board of Directors of Vickers Limited commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of Zaharoff’s association with the armament industry. If he is a man of imagination the presentation of a suitably engraved “loving cup” with all customary felicitations must have seemed somewhat incongruous and perhaps brought in review before his mind the hundreds of thousands of dead who could mutely testify to the efficiency of the weapons which he sold. In any event it surely stirred vivid memories of that day in Athens fifty years before when as a penniless and thoroughly discouraged youth of twenty-eight he was appointed as the Balkan representative of the armament business started in England by the young Swedish engineer, Torsten Vilhelm Nordenfeit, just a short time before.
This opportunity came through the influence of Etienne Skuludis who later became premier and already occupied a position of power in the political life of Greece, and was perhaps the only friend Zaharoff really possessed as the result of the scandal which followed his arrest for theft in London. Amazed at the good fortune which raised him suddenly from poverty to the comparative affluence of a salary of £5 a week, how much more amazed would he have been could he then have visualized that day fifty years later when his wealth would be measured in terms of hundreds of millions of dollars, acquired through the successful exploitation of the increasingly complex and expensive paraphernalia of destruction, and he would be surrounded by the smug board of directors of one of England's greatest corporations expressing their sincere appreciation of his unparalleled
services to the growth of their business.
Some incidents of Zaharoff’s career are worth remembering in discussing the question of disarmament, as they illustrate in the most forceful terms how the business came to be what it is today. Zaharoff had a good start. The recent introduction of rifled artillery weapons and machine guns which were first used by the French in the FrancoPrussian War had rendered all the old field equipment of the armies obsolete, while England’s construction of the first battleship made entirely of iron had revolutionized all theories of naval construction. Thus “national security” created a tremendous market, and none was more active than the unsettled Balkans where Zaharoff with his valuable knowledge of their many tongues, acquired in his youth at Constantinople when he worked as a guide to the visitors of all races who came to the Golden Horn, set about his business of selling to each of those impoverished nations the products of Nordenfelt’s inventive genius whether they needed them or not. That he was a successful salesman is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that he sold the first submarine constructed in England—the first practical submarine ever built—to Greece, which could not only ill afford this luxury but undoubtedly needed it less than any maritime nation in Europe.
When Hiram Maxim, the American inventor, produced a machine gun vastly superior to Nordenfelt’s, Zaharoff brought the two men together, and as a result the Maxim Nordenfeit Guns and Ammunition Company, Limited, came into existence in 1888 as one of the three great British armament companies. Zaharoff, more than either of his associates, saw the possibilities of the new company, which in fact acquired a virtual monopoly of the manufacture of machine guns over a period of many years; and he made an arrangement that if he could obtain orders from Spain within a fixed period of not less than $5,000,000 he would be placed on an equal footing with Maxim and Nordenfeit. He not only met this requirement but in a comparatively short time sold more than $25,000,000 worth of arms and armament to that country by interesting methods of persuasion in the proper quarters. When it became apparent that Nordenfelt’s inventive abilities were of no further use, Zaharoff, the financial genius of the business, combined with Maxim to buy him out. Then in 1897 Zaharoff’s desire for constant expansion reached its next step in the amalgamation of the old Vickers Company and the Maxim Company in which Zaharoff assumed control of the selling organization.
The Lure of War Profits
'“THE Boer War brought large purchases from the new company, and then the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 proved a veritable gold mine. The ensuing years of international tension were increasingly profitable, and by 1914 the Vickers Maxim Company with a share capital of $50,000,000, of which Zaharoff held a very considerable part, was a larger financial organization even than Krupps, with factories in Spain, Italy, Russia, Japan and Canada.
Those years of unrest prior to the Great War brought a constant increase in the demand for arms. Then in 1914 came the full harvest for the armament manufacturers of the world. England’s war production alone reached almost incredible figures. Its workshops turned out 25,000 guns for the artillery, ranging from the light field guns to the great 18-inch howitzers, 240,000 machine guns, 4,000,000 rifles, 258,000,000 artillery shells, and 10,000,000,000 rifle cartridges. The production of all other war material, including the building of ships, was upon an equally vast scale. It was only to be expected that a very definite limitation should be placed on the possibility of personal profit from this enormous national demand, and in 1915 all
armament factories were placed under Government control by the Munitions Act. and the public assured that the profits of the industry were strictly controlled by the newly created Ministry of Munitions which had been placed under the dynamic leadership of David Lloyd George.
It is vitally important, for the purpose of understanding the sinister possibilities of private interest in the production of arms, that the public know what an utter sham this supposed control actually amounted to. True, the profits were controlled, but only to the extent that they were not to exceed twenty per cent, which was the average profit of the English armament companies in the years prior to the war. What this profit amounted to may be appreciated by remembering that the artillery ammunition alone shipped from England to France during the war had a value of over $4,000,000,000. The profits on this one item amounted to something like $800,000,000. The story was very much the same in all the warring countries except that in the United States the percentage was even higher.
Who received the benefit of these enormous profits? Primarily, of course, it was men like Zaharoff who emerged from the war probably the wealthiest man in Europe. But this rich harvest was also shared by bishops, cabinet ministers, members of parliament, and men prominent in all walks of life. These were the financial results. What of the causes?
It is not for a moment suggested that the prospect of profits to shareholders of armament companies was the direct cause of the Great War. But let us see how far it may have contributed to the primary causes.
The War-Maker in Politics
SEVERAL years before the war, when Sir Frederick Borden, then Minister of Militia in the Laurier Government, and Hon. Louis Philippe Brodeur who was later Minister of Naval Affairs, were in London, they were lavishly entertained by officials of Vickers Limited. At dinner in the Carlton Hotel one night, Mr. Brodeur was astonished at a remark made by their host who had been complaining bitterly of Premier Campbell-Bannerman’s attitude toward disarmament. “Business is bad,” he said. “How could it be otherwise with a man like Campbell-Bannerman in office? Why, we haven’t had a war for seven years!” He made a similar comment later to Sir Frederick Borden and two of his colleagues in the Cabinet, both of whom are still living, saying that the Government were a hopeless lot, and that the Empire was going to the dogs as there had been no war for several years and there was not even one small war in prospect. These conversations made a profound impression on Sir Wilfrid Laurier to whom they were later repeated, indicating as they did with such surprising frankness the attitude of one of England’s greatest armament producers toward the disarmament proposals of CampbellBannerman.
The man who made these remarks was not Sir Basil Zaharoff. Even then he was “The Mystery Man of Europe.” It was not his practice to make statements of any kind which could be repeated. Few in England knew that he actually directed the activities of Vickers Limited, and yet that was only the beginning of his power. Through Vickers he controlled armament companies in Italy, Russia, Spain, Japan and Canada. He had substantial holdings in the Schneider-Creusot Company in France. Nor were his interests confined to the armament companies of the friendly Powers. Through associates he was a shareholder in Krupps. In Austria he had a very large share of the ownership of the Tschen Steel Company, the Bergunhutton armament factory, and, most important of all, the Skoda gun factory where Germany got the mighty howitzers which blasted away the forts of
Liege and Namur. No matter who won the war, the cards were stacked for Zaharoff. He was bound to win, but not in armaments alone. He also controlled great oil companies in Europe, and oil was almost as important as arms. To strengthen this web he had spun around the politics of Europe, he acquired many newspapers which could suitably express his views.
There can be no doubt that the views on Campbell-Bannerman expressed to Sir Frederick Borden and Hon. Louis Brodeur by a high official of Vickers Limited were entirely in harmony with those held by Zaharoff.
When the war came, Zaharoff was a mysterious figure of almost unbelievable power. He became the confidant of Lloyd George, as was perhaps not surprising when his work was so closely associated with the Ministry of Munitions. Throughout the war his power continually increased. In 1917, when there was some discussion of the advisability of peace negotiations through the United States we had the almost unbelievable paradox of Zaharoff being consulted by the small group of men in England who decided the issue. The situation was critical. Russia had collapsed. France was shaken. It seemed that peace overtures might be advisable. Lord Bertie, the British ambassador to Paris, records in his diary of June 25, 1917, that Zaharoff “is all for continuing the war jusqu’au bout; a lame peace would cause squabbles between the Entente Allies.” Why wouldn’t he be in favor of continuing the war with armament profits piling up in at least nine countries? But why, in the name of all that’s reasonable, was he ever consulted at all?
A similar illuminating paradox occurred during the South African War. After some months of indecisive fighting, during which South African mining stocks collapsed on the London Exchange, a group of English business men arranged that Hiram Maxim, Zaharoff’s American associate in VickersMaxim, should approach the Boers through their representatives in Holland, with the proposal that the Boers capitulate on the payment of £100,000. This was approved by Lord Salisbury, the Foreign Minister. It need hardly be said that the mission failed and Vickers-Maxim’s profits during the war were many times the amount offered the
These striking instances of armament producers—neither of them British—engaged in the rôle of pacific diplomacy proves it is high time that the general public which suffers from a war should take some part in this question of disarmament and not leave it to those who have so conspicuously failed to face the realities in the past. The picture of Zaharoff and Maxim in pursuit of the dove of peace would be extremely laughable, were it not so sinister.
Who will say how much the fine thread of intrigue, supported by money and publicity, in the hands of men like Zaharoff contributed to the war or, more important for us now, are contributing to the possibility of war today? While there is no doubt that the immediate cause of the Great War was the aggressive doctrine of Pan-Germanism, it is not too much to say that competition in armaments supplied the fuel which men like Von Bernhardi brought to a flame. Is there not even a possibility that Von Bernhardi belonged to the same school as Shearer?
Tentacles of a Vast Industry
VXZHAT is the position of the armament V * companies today?
Vickers Limited will serve as an example. It is fairly representative of the armament industry in the United States, France, Italy, Japan, and to a lesser extent Germany, Poland, Spain and Czechoslovakia.
Part of the enormous profits accumulated during the war, after the payment of handsome dividends, were employed in the acquisition of many allied industries during the years of expansion immediately following
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the war. The share capital was increased to nearly $130,000,000, and the company took an active part in the keen competition for business in the many new treaty states. Then the Naval Disarmament Conference in Washington in 1921, which accomplished a great deal by definitely limiting the naval construction of Great Britain, the United States and Japan, was a serious blow to the armament companies of the three countries. In England, the two great armament corporations. Vickers and Armstrong’s, were severely hit. The value of their shares tumbled overnight. Zaharoff was the first to realize the seriousness of the situation and, to save Vickers from bankruptcy, reduced its share capital by two-thirds. Armstrong’s waited a year longer until their position became extremely precarious. Finally in October, 1927, the old company of Sir W. G. Armstrong-Whitworth & Company, Limited, was absorbed by Vickers Limited in a company known as Vickers, Armstrong, Limited. The armament business of the whole Empire was now a monopoly, and, fittingly enough, it was only a few days later that the directors of Vickers Limited celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Zaharoff’s association with the industry. The ramifications of the industrial colossus which grew from this amalgamation in 1927 are fully described in an interesting pamphlet issued by Vickers Limited on October 16, 1930, under the title: "Vickers Limited and its Interests.”
After a detailed explanation of the many involved steps by w'hich forty-eight companies came under the control of Vickers Limited, we are told that “The result of these arrangements is that the following are the main products of the various groups,
Armaments; shipbuilding; plant for docks, harbors, bridges, collieries, cement works, railways, steel works, etc.; non-ferrous metals; general engineering.
English Steel Corporation
Steel ingots, castings, forgings, bars, tubes; sheets and drop stampings, special alloys; small tools, hacksaws, files, etc.; railway and tramway materials; e.g. tires, axles, wheels, etc.
MetropolitanRailway rolling stock of G’ammell various descriptions.
Vickers Aircraft and accessories for
(Aviation) Ltd. naval, military and civil purposes.
An examination of this summary shows that while the production of the forty-eight allied companies covers an extremely wide field, most of the things they produce are necessary equipment for the modem war of machines either at the front or in the complicated supporting organizations. Significantly enough, armaments and shipbuilding occupy first place. Most other armament companies throughout the world are similarly interlocked with apparently peaceful enterprises.
This presents a real difficulty that must be faced. Any suggestion of the nationalization of armament production will undoubtedly be met by the owners with the argument that these great corporations are essentially makers of peace and not war material, and that the severance of their interdependent interests would threaten the financial security of industries upon which so many thousands of workers depend for their livelihood. Probably the reorganizations necessary would entail some hardship, although it is not suggested that the armament factories be confiscated but only that they be expropriated under proper terms of compensation. But no matter what temporary inconvenience be involved, this is merely a matter of detail that should not in any way be permitted to obscure the main
issue, which is simply whether it is, or is not, advisable to permit the manufacture of arms and armament by companies whose selling policies are determined by the desire for profits and not in any way measured by actual national requirements.
Mutual Disarmament Difficulties
'“PHERE are two dangers facing the con-
ference which must not be confused. One is the danger that “propagandists of hate” will be busy creating suspicion as they have done in the past, and by repeating all the time-honored demands for great armaments on the ground of national security may make it almost impossible to reach an effective agreement on mutual disarmament.
The other is the certainty that any suggestion, which would deprive the armament companies of their rich profits, such as the nationalization of the industry, will be met by the full, force of their powerfully organized methods of publicity. From apparently disinterested sources every conceivable argument will be launched against the principle, and every effort made to demonstrate the advantages arising from the competitive nature of private ownership. Realizing this situation it is vitally important that arguments dealing with the question be carefully analyzed and that even highly patriotic demands be not accepted without question at their face value. At such times it may be well to recall that before the Great War, long before Shearer was heard of, Paris was temporarily aroused by the disclosure that a French paper which had been demanding increased armies and armament to meet the German menace was owned by Krupps.
There is no doubt whatever that armament companies throughout the world will suffer if the World Disarmament Conference of 1932 succeeds, either in limiting armaments or approving of a general policy in favor of the nationalization of the industry. Yet there has been a noticeable hesitation to point out the dangers inherent in the power for evil w’hich these great industrial organizations are all too likely to prove. For some strange reason each nation seems to take an almost fanatical pride in the excellence of the products of its own armament factories. By subtle devices a vague mantle of national loyalty has been draped over these industries, and yet there is no loyalty and never has been in the armament business. The composition of the Maxim Nordenfelt Company just before the South African W’ar should alone be sufficient to dispel such a silly shibboleth. This British company, then one of the great armament producers of the world, was controlled by Hiram Maxim, an American, Torsten Nordenfelt, a Swede, and Basil Zaharoff, a Greek bom in Turkey. They sold arms to anyone who had the money to buy them, and one of Maxim’s inventions, the onepound quick-firer—popularly known as the pompom—caused considerable annoyance to the British in the hands of the Boers, to whom they had been sold prior to the war.
A more recent example may well be recalled. The Fokker airplane, which was Germany’s most effective fighting machine during the Great War, was the product of the genius of a Dutchman, Anthony Fokker, who first offered his invention to the Allies, and they unwisely refused his services. With Fokker, as with Zaharoff, Maxim. Nordenfelt and the others, patriotism had nothing whatever to do with the matter. It was a straight question of profit. That is the lure which has led inventors on to greater and ever greater achievements in the art of destruction. Government ordnance experts, working on small salaries, do improve and sometimes invent, but the history of the armament industry in the last fifty years, as exemplified in the person of Zaharoff, proves conclusively that the enormous profits which these companies were able to make for successful inventors furnished the inspiration to the genius responsible for all the great developments in this business of scientific killing.
This Frankenstein’s monster which the industrial era has created for itself by bringing together the inventive powers of
trained engineers, the supersalesmanship of men like Zaharoff, and the instruments of propaganda through the ownership of newspapers in the vast corporations made possible by modem methods of finance, must be smashed or it will smash civilization. Its growth has been appalling. Let us take one example. At Waterloo the British artillery fired 10,000 inexpensive cannon balls. In the last war they fired 173,000,000 extremely costly rounds of ammunition in France alone, and nearly 1,000,000 in a single day during the attack on the Hindenburg Line. Where is this going to stop? It won’t stop if the armament manufacturers get their way. The directors of these companies throughout the world are responsible to their shareholders for dividends, and only the maintenance of the business of selling arms and armaments will produce dividends. It is, perhaps, not without significance that Vickers Limited were able to make the following report in April 1931 :
“In spite of the universal and abnormal depression of trade which prevailed in 1930, Vickers Limited, the famous armament, shipbuilding, heavy steel, aircraft and engineering company, was one of the few British companies which succeeded in maintaining its profits fairly close to the level of 1929.”
It possibly seems a fantastic suggestion to some that such old established companies may be maintaining an active campaign against disarmament by means of paid propagandists, the ownership of newspapers, and direct influence on men in public office. But to those artless souls who question such a possibility, the answer is that it has at least been conclusively proved in the United States. While Vickers Limited does not own newspapers in its own name, Zaharoff has for many years. True, he has been forced to relinquish active control of most of his interests through failing health, but those who now have the direction of his affairs have not been at all likely to break the strong unity of his holdings. It is therefore not difficult to imagine what the attitude of certain European newspapers will be toward disarmament.
Armed Camps of Europe
TOOK at the situation in Italy and France today. France has 650,700 men under arms, while Italy has 638,300. Their navies, too, are almost equal. In the spring of 1930, Italy set aside huge sums for the improvement of their equipment and the strengthening of their frontiers. This gesture was accompanied by a series of inflammatory speeches by Mussolini at various military reviews, of which this is an example :
“It was I, myself, who ordered this review, because words are a very fine thing, but muskets, machine guns, airplanes and guns are even better, because right, if unaccompanied by might, is a vain word.”
And on every possible occasion the Fascists sing their new national anthem with its prophetic declaration that “Mussolini has remade them for the war of tomorrow.” France’s reply came on June 26, when Premier Tardieu prevailed upon the French Chamber of Deputies to appropriate the sum of $120,000,000 to strengthen their fortifications along the Italian frontier. Only two days later, Premier Mussolini’s Council of Ministers, in spite of a heavy deficit in their budget, voted a further $26,000,000 for military purposes. This is the merry race which is going on in Europe today, and it means rich and constant business for the armament industries. Who will say how much they have contributed through the ownership of newspapers and otherwise to the animosity and suspicion which are proving so profitable to them? No one can tell, because propaganda does not declare itself as such. But the danger is that they have the money; they own newspapers and other instruments of propaganda. They have shown their readiness to use them, and that danger should be removed.
It is not suggested that national ownership of the armament industry throughout the world is a panacea which will cure all international strife. There are national prejudices and age-long suspicions which will always be difficult to overcome, but these suspicions and hatreds can be overcome by education in time if they are not constantly brought to the boiling point with insidious propaganda spread by those whose business would disappear if anything approaching an effective agreement to submit to international arbitration were ever achieved. Just so long, therefore, as these companies continue to be operated for profit will they continue to employ the methods of persuasion in high quarters which they have found so effective.
It cannot be too strongly emphasized that this is not an argument against military training. Some disciplined force, properly armed, will always be necessary to maintain law and order, but the arming of such a force can be efficiently carried out by government factories supplying their actual requirements. Adequate military protection is obviously a relative term. National security requires neither fifteen-inch guns on land nor 35,000 ton battleships at sea unless someone else is building guns and ships equally large. Such expensive luxuries which pour millions of dollars into thin air with incredible rapidity are, to a great extent, the result of skilful propaganda employed to convince each nation in turn that it must have something a little bigger and better than its neighbor. The problem is far from simple. With each nation the factors involved are bound to vary, but if faced honestly, land armaments can be reduced to the infantry weapons, light artillery and all necessary corresponding equipment required at any time to supplement the ordinary civil power. The costly and elaborate machines of war with which each nation is now burdening itself have no purpose but use in war and therefore are inconsistent with the declarations of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Yet how can they be eliminated while so many people, in possession of the instruments with which to mould public opinion, are opposed to any material reduction because of the effect on their pocket-books? The Washington Naval Conference showed what can happen to the shares of armament companies and Dr. Shearer was the answer at the Geneva Conference in 1927.
What is the next step? We do not know, and therein lies the danger. All we do know is that those arguments against reduction which appeal most to sentiments of loyalty may be the very ones which have been inspired by the propagandists of armament industries, and that possibility should be removed.
Deterrents to War Fever
'TWO broad propositions seem to find
particular favor among the many suggestions for the prevention of war. One is that, by picturing the reality of war, fear may act as a deterrent; and the other is that the activities of those who favor war from selfish motives would relax if there were definite assurance that no profits would be allowed to anyone in the event of war. Each of these ignores important elementary principles.
In the first place, fear will not prevent war if all the circumstances which usually lead to war are present, for the very simple reason that wars are not commenced by nations but by the handful of men who constitute the government for the time being, usually of an age that renders their active participation most unlikely. There is no instance in history of a great nation having been asked for a general expression of opinion prior to the declaration of war.
In the second place, the removal of profit from war entails the setting up of a vast governmental machine to impose conscription on industry. History again teaches us that this takes months even in the relatively simple problem of the conscription of men. If the machine has not been set up prior to war, it is then too late because the number
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of men required to administer such a scheme involves a non-productive withdrawal of a substantial part of the national man-power at a time when they are most needed. Each proposition is impractical. The only way to prevent war is to attack the causes.
When the suggestion is made that competition in armaments is one of the most important causes, and that back of that lies the lure of rich profits to individuals, the question is not unnaturally asked, why there were wars from the beginning of history when armaments were unknown and when the manufacture of such arms as there were could hardly have been in the hands of men who exercised the slightest influence on the probability of war.
The answer is that competition in arms and armaments as we now know it is something entirely new. This phase of the world’s military history began just over fifty years ago, about the time when Zaharoff was convincing the people of the Balkans that “national security” lay in the ownership of a sufficient number of Nordenfelt machine guns. It only reached its present intensity in the last twenty years, and the period since the war has seen the most rapid development.
This is not the place to go into a history of the causes of war, but surely a study of the last war must convince us that no matter what other causes may have existed, competition in armaments was very largely to blame. In the days of the bow and arrow, and later in the centuries during which the musket remained essentially unchanged, the
waging of war lay in the hands of a very few men. Public opinion was not then shaped by an intricate organization of publicity which is equally a power for good or evil, depending on its use and abuse. We can only gauge the present by the experiences of the very recent past when we first heard the word propaganda in common use. Now that we know its power, we must not ignore the proof of the Shearer incident that this mighty force is being employed by the armament companies to oppose reduction of armaments.
In his momentous proposal on June 21 for a year’s postponement of all payments of intergovernmental debts, President Hoover referred briefly to the Conference next February and expressed the hope that those nations which will benefit by the proposal will consider also the serious burden of competitive armaments. Great Britain and the United States as the two great creditor nations can accomplish much if they will unite together in insisting that as a condition of any further extension of the war debt moratorium,the problem of disarmament be faced honestly, but first of all their own governments must do the same thing.
It will, of course, take time and energy to accomplish very much. Perhaps we cannot hope for more than a substantial beginning in 1932, but even that will require sincere and well directed effort. The armament industry is firmly entrenched and the forces of peace are still disorganized.
One serious obstacle that must be overcome in convincing the people of the world that disarmament is everybody’s business is
the cynical attitude which is all too common that war is an inevitable evil and that the most we can do is to postpone it as long as possible and, when the time does come, hope to be just a little better armed than our enemy. Hand in hand with this attitude is the belief that we maintain peace by being better armed than our neighbor and thus preventing attack. An excellent example of this point of view is furnished in the following extract from an editorial in the Canadian Defence Quarterly of April 1931 :
“The world today has prohibited aggressive warfare but defensive wars are permitted; therefore, the nations still regard the use of armaments as the ultimate instrument of national security. So long as this condition remains, human nature decrees that each nation will strive to be armed with armament superior in quality, and if possible quantity, to that of other nations. It is doubtful, therefore, if nations would forego the abundant benefits which result from private enterprise in the armament field.”
Words like these have been repeated so often that they have acquired general acceptance without any appreciation of their full import. No one, yet, has been able to demonstrate the “abundant benefits” resulting from private enterprise in the armament field, unless they be the enormous increase in the casualties to all combatants, or the huge profits acquired by men like Zaharoff, Krupp, Schneider and Grace, The doctrine
that “each nation will strive to be armed with armament superior in quality, and if possible quantity to that of other nations” is after all only an expression of that primitive barbarism which lies at the root of the endless and hopeless competition in armaments to which historians without exception now attribute at least a large share of the blame for the Great War. That these words appeared in so responsible a journal as the Canadian Defence Quarterly such a comparatively short time before the World Disarmament Conference emphasizes the fact that much remains to be done if the Canadian delegates are to have behind them a well-informed Canadian public opinion.
Colonel George Vanier, Canada’s official military representative on the Disarmament Commission which will prepare the agenda for the Conference, is already at Geneva; others will follow. In the meantime Canadians should study the question and be prepared to make their voice heard when the time comes, as they have in other important international discussions in the past few years. But fully recognizing the delicate problems involved and the many serious difficulties which must be overcome, surely there is ample reason for demanding, as a first step, the elimination of “Propagandists of Hate” by a mutual agreement, effective throughout the world, dissolving the vicious alliance between armament production and profit-sharing corporate enterprise. Only then will we have a sane and unfettered consideration of the terms under which armaments may be reduced by international agreement.