Enemies of Peace
LIEUT.-COL. GEORGE A. DREW
A PARTICULARLY provocative article appeared in Liberty on December 3, 1932, under the heading, “Japan’s New Threat to the United States.” Two editorial captions convey its import. “Japan is now ready and is provoking us to a war for which, we are unready.” “Why her understanding with Soviet Russia and her ambitions in the Far East are bound to bring war with us.” Several million readers of this periodical in the United States and Canada were given the best possible argument in favor of increased armaments without this in any way appearing as a direct suggestion. A few quotations will tell the story.
“All who are interested in the Far Eastern problem must realize that a war between Japan and the United States seems to be unavoidable. Will the outburst happen in a few weeks or months, or will it come in ten years? This nobody knows: but Japan is ready for it, and is provoking it, while the United States is not prepared, and does not want to fight . . .
“There are those who say: ‘No! No war! Not now, anyhow. Don’t accept the challenge. Leave China and the whole of Asia to themselves. If necessary, give away the Philippines and Guam. We are not ready for war. We are weakened by unemployment . . . ’ “But others say: ‘Now or never. If we fail now, Japan will have the reputation of being invincible. She will invade Asia. She will take all the islands of the Pacific. And after that, with the help of a billion Asiatics, she will invade America. It is true that the United States is not yet ready for war—it is true that the war may be long and bloody—but eventually America will win, and will save her next generations from a disaster.’
“These are the two viewpoints. Which is right? is the question which America is facing now and must answer.”
The writer of the article in Liberty gives his own answer in these words:
“Can America beat Japan single-handed? My deep conviction is that she certainly can and will.”
A Campaign for Armament?
HPHAT PART of the public of the United States which forms its opinion of international affairs from the material supplied by this form of publication could only come to the conclusion that the United States is in need
of a considerably increased expenditure in preparation for a war which “seems to be unavoidable.”
It is significant that several other articles of a similar nature have appeared in the same magazine during the past few months, in which the same assumption of an inevitable war with Japan has been used as the basis for an argument in favor of greater military and naval preparation in the United States, without in any way explaining what evidence there is of Japan’s intention to commence war with the LJnited States.
It is also significant that the author of this latest article is Count Ilya Tolstoy, the grandson of the great Tolstoy, who labored so long and earnestly in the cause of peace. One can imagine the consternation of the author of War and Peace had he lived to hear his descendant express a view so diametrically opposed to everything he taught.
“Can America beat Japan single-handed? My deep conviction is that she certainly can and will.”
There is something in this statement peculiarly reminiscent of the crisp jingoistic militarism of von Bemhardi in the days prior to the Great War.
The words of Francis Delaisi written in 1913 may well be recalled.
“The campaigns for armament ordinarily occur—as this one is occurring today—when private business is entering a period of depression. In short, the manufacture of war supplies js indispensable to the metal industry.”
The evidence of the widespread existence of such a campaign accumulates on all sides, and the article referred to would appear to be symptomatic. If it is accepted at face value, it can only lead to the conclusion that greater armaments are necessary in the United States to meet the Japanese threat. It is difficult to concede the gxxi faith of such an article when it is remembered that, far from being unprepared, the United States has been and is today spending considerably more on preparation for war than any other nation in the world.
We have a very direct concern in the effect of such arguments. If the United States increases its army and navy, it is going to be extremely difficult for Great Britain, France, Italy and Russia to come to any mutual agreement to reduce their expenditures. And if some such agreement cannot be reached, there is ven' little hope for the peace of the world.
This article in J iberty offers a graphic illustration of how
easily the press may induce a frame of mind that is not conducive to effective supjxjrt of the aims of the Disarmament Conference. While it is extremely ill-timed and disregards certain very important facts, it is not suggested that Tolstoy’s article has behind it any sinister motive either on the part of Liberty or the author, but unfortunately its effect is the samç as if it had been written by a paid propagandist of the armament firms.
The great difficulty is that there is no way of distinguishing between that which is written in the utmost sincerity, no matter how ill-advised it may lx*, and that which has been written by paid “propagandists of hate.” There is reason to recall the ominous words of Aristide Briand before the Assembly at Geneva:
"Articles against peace are written with pens made of the same steel as canqpn and shells.”
There is reason also to remember, as never before, the findings of the Commission appointed by the League of Nations to enquire into the problem of the private manufacture of arms, pursuant to the express statement in the Covenant of the league of Nations that private pnxluction of war equipment is open to grave objection. Consisting of military experts and civilians from all over the world, this Commission brought in the following startling report in September, 1921.
1. That armament firms have been active in fomenting war scares, and in persuading their own countries to adopt warlike policies and to increase their armament.
2. That armament firms have attempted to bribe Government officials both at home and abroad.
3. That armament firms have disseminated false reports concerning the military and naval programmes of various countries in order to stimulate armament expenditure.
4. That armament firms have sought to influence public opinion through the control of newspapers in their own and foreign countries.
5. That armament firms have organized international armament rings, through which the armament race has been accentuated by playing off one country against another.
6. That armament firms have organized international armament trusts that have increased the price of armaments to the Governments.
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When it is remembered that this is the calculated statement of responsible representatives of many nations, and that the natural tendency would lxto couch their conclusions in moderate rather than extravagant terms, it surely calls for drastic action without further delay. The first year of failure of the Disarmament Conference should arouse the whole world to the truth of the words of Ixird Kotiert Cecil, that, “One of the most vital problems to be solved by the league is the suppression of the private manufacture of arms and the control of traffic in arms.”
The charges could not lx* more explicit. No effort has been made by the armament firms to disprove them, and yet the disquieting fact remains that nothing has been done to meet this open threat to world peace.
Behind the findings of the League Commission there must have been evidence of the most convincing nature, and the time has come for this evidence to be made public.
Private Companies Fight Disarmament
THERE is unfortunately a tendency on the part of many in positions of high authority to belittle the danger that lies in the natural desire of armament manufacturers to increase their profits by stimulating business. If this is so, a fair analysis of the evidence upon which the Commission came to its conclusion would help to clear the air. if, on the other hand, as there is every reason to expect, this evidence shows the reality of the danger, those who will suffer from the consequence of such activities should know what the evidence actually is.
"Armament firms have sought to influence public opinion through the control of newspapers in their own and foreign countries.” 1
One of tfie most important recent examples of this is the acquisition of the semi-official Paris Times by M. François de Wendel, the president of the Comité des Forges, of which all the French armament firms are members. He has also acquired control of the jxiwerful Journal des Debats and IM Journée Industrielle. M. de Wendel, in addition to Ixing head of the great steel trust, is also a deputy in the French Chamber and a director of the Bank of France. This interesting combination of circumstances makes his intimate business relationship witli M. Schneider, the head of the great Schneider-Creusot armament company, all the more significant.
When we remember that Sir Basil ZaharofT, who is the real power behind Vickers Limited, of England, has substantial interests in the Schneider Company, the next piece that fits into this sinister international jig-saw puzzle is furnished by the statement of the Banque de l'Union Parisienne, which reports that:
“In conjunction with Messrs. Schneider and Co. of Creusot. the Banque de l’Union Parisienne, founded in April, 1920, the European Industrial and Financial Union, an establishment with a great future that is assured control of the most imjxirtant Czechoslovak industries, notably, the Skoda establishment.”
It is also significant that the great Skoda company, which is controlled by Schneider through the Eurojxan Industrial and Financial Union, has as the registrar for its debentures, the British and Allied Investment Corporation, while the trustee for these securities is the Royal Exchange Assurance.
The high expectations of the Banque de l’Union Parisienne have been fully justified. When Schneider and ZaharofT obtained control of the Skoda company in 1920. the
profits were five per cent. They have risen in each succeeding year of peace, until in 1930 they were 28 J 2 per cent. This company is now one of the great armament producers of the world.
In view of this, there is cause for the gravest concern in the declaration last spring by M. Paul Faure, in the French Chamber of Deputies, that, “At the present time, Skoda is controlled by Schneider, who, in turn, pays Hitler.” This charge has been repeated throughout Europe to such an extent in the past few months that it cannot lx* ignored. The same statement has also been made in a Paris paper so little open to suspicion of prejudice as Le Journal.
Certainly there is every reason why they should support Hitler with his bellicose demands for re-armament, because his accession to power would not only result in profitable business for this international group in Germany itself, but Germany’s re-armament would in turn inevitably increase the demand for arms in other European countries.
The menace of the private manufacturer of arms was never greater than it is today. It received dramatic emphasis during the Si no-Japanese conflict, when, on the one hand, statesmen from the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy and the other great powers were urging with all the arguments at their command that Japan should recognize the Kellogg-Briand Pact which had outlawed war as an instrument of national policy; while, at the same time, the private manufacturers of arms in the countries which they represented were shipping hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the material which made war possible to both China and Japan with the utmost impartiality. It is particularly interesting to learn that while Secretary of State Stimson was urging in the strongest terms the Japanese recognition of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the Nine-Power Pact, and the Covenant of the League of Nations, American armament manufacturers were shipping to Japan nearly two hundred million dollars worth of war equipment.
War Means Profit
ARMAMENT companies operated for profit are necessarily opposed to disarmament. That simple fact must be driven home to all the millions of humanity who seek relief from the constant threat of war. It is with them a cold-hkxxled business proposition of maintaining the markets which yield their dividend returns.
Statements given at shareholders’ meetings of these great companies are selfexplanatory. Vickers Limited, of England, which is the largest armament company in the world, affords many interesting examples of the business attitude toward preparation for war. The annual report presented to the shareholders of Vickers Limited at the annual meeting in the spring of 1911. just before the Great War. contains a prophecy which came in a few months to appalling fulfillment. In presenting his report, Mr. Albert Vickers gave this ominous assurance: “An era of prosperity is about to begin, thanks to the rapid and continuous growth of our business.” In a few months time a jx-ruxi of unprecedented prosperity began for the armament manufacturers, and (Treat Britain paid in blcxxl and money to the limit of her resources.
But Vickers Limited has not suffered during the years of peace. Their 1931 statement gave the reassuring information:
“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 . Indeed, the financial position of
Vickers has never been stronger than it is today.”
The position of Vickers Limited in the first year of the Disarmament Conference was clearly placed before the shareholders by the chairman, Sir Herbert Lawrence, at the Annual Meeting on April 4, 1932:
“Considerable progress has been made with the development of our land armament, in certain branches of which until recent years we were almost unknown. To get into this market has involved the retention of special staff and considerable expenditure on research and experimental work, but as a result orders are being obtained for antiaircraft artillery, predictors and tanks, including the amphibious tanks that Vickers-Armstrong was the first to intnxiuce. Had the demand for armament been normal, there is no doubt that the expansion of the company’s business in this direction would have proved very remunerative, and even now the volume of work obtained has proved distinctly helpful . . . VickersArmstrong depends very largely on armament orders for its existence, while the capacity of its works for armament production is an important factor in the defense of the country. If, therefore, orders are not forthcoming in sufficient quantity to retain the thousands of skilled men employed, the position, in case of a national emergency arising that demanded an immediate increase in the output of munitions, would be a serious one.”
When it is remembered that Vickers Limited has 80,000 shareholders, including Cabinet Ministers, leading members of Parliament, publicists, clergymen, and people in every walk of life, the danger of this ingenious statement becomes apparent.
On the one hand, the shareholders who have their money invested in this business are informed that the company “depends very largely on armament orders for its existence.” On the other hand, they are told that orders must be maintained so that the factory may be available in the event of a national emergency.
Few, if any, of all the many shareholders of this company would consciously wish for war, but unless they believe in the possibility of war. which is the only justification for the maintenance of orders on the present scale, there would be no reason for them to continue holding shares in this company. Subtly and without their realizing it. the minds of 80.000 shareholders of Vickers Limited are induced by this statement of the Chairman of the Board to feel some opposition to substantial reduction in the purchase of arms and munitions.
Armament Firms and “Patriotism”
nPHE other argument is even more dan3gerous because it affects all British people, whether shareholders or not. No British subject wants to see the British Empire unprepared if war should come. Consequently, the argument that the maintenance of private armament factories is of the utmost importance to national defense, carries enormous weight. This is the argument perhaps most frequently met in opposition to the demand for the nationalization of the armament industry. Much confusion seems to exist as to the effect of nationalization. It does not mean the scrapping of any armament plant or the closing down of any factory until such time as there are mutual agreements reducing the demands for arms far below their present point. It merely means that the profit motive which seeks to maintain the sale of arms without any relation to national demand is eliminated. It does not in itself constitute disarmament. It is merely a step toward disarmament.
But the idea that these companies have a patriotic interest in the welfare of the British Empire should be dispelled for all time.
Apart from the fact that Vickers Limited is controlled by Sir Basil ZaharofT, we have conclusive evidence that some of the great armament companies of Great Britain were prepared to gamble with British safety during the Great War for the sole purpose of maintaining their own profits. We have this evidence from the unimpeachable authority of the Honorable Christopher Addison, who was for a while Minister of Munitions.
It will be remembered that the British armies faced a critical shortage of artillery ammunition during the summer of 1915.
At the time this was blamed on the lack of vision of British statesmen. It is nowdisclosed that in reality this shortage was due to the greed of the armament manufacturers.
Mr. Addison explains that contracts were let on the basis of the production of a certain number of rounds per week. The military authorities naturally counted on the manufacturers delivering the number of rounds they undertook to produce and made their plans accordingly. But Mr. Addison tells us that some of the larger companies madepromises they knew they could not fulfill, in order to obtain all the contracts and prevent other companies, who might afterward become competitors, getting any part of this extremely profitable business.
On June 1, 1915, the situation became serious. Two of the largest firms had promised to produce by that date 1,928,475 rounds. They had in fact produced only 543,640 rounds, or about a quarter of what they had promised. Mr. Addison, who was largely responsible for clearing up this disgraceful situation, tells us the result of his investigations:
“When we had made all the most generous allowances that we could, the conclusion was inevitable that if a statement of the arrears of some of the great armament firms had been published, and the grotesque disproportion between their undertakings and their performances revealed, their reputations would have been destroyed forever. They had no right to take immense orders which it was impossible for them to execute. It had misled the War Office and brought the country into unnecessary danger.”
These companies stand condemned in the w’ords of one of the War-time Ministers of Munitions of being traitors to the British cause in the time of greatest need, with no other motive than that of stilling competition that might have impaired their subsequent profits.
Nor was that all. Mr. Addison was not satisfied with the cost of the munitions which were being supplied by the armament companies. He organized national factories, so that he might have some basis for determining the proper costs. He explains the difficulties he had:
“Whenever the matter was discussed with representatives of the leading firms, no guidance was forthcoming. Instead, we were met with long discourses upon the charges which ought to be taken into account, and the assumption seemed to be that the terms of the existing contracts were uncommonly favorable to us. As time went on,
I became more and more sceptical about this, and determined that we would lind out for ourselves.”
He tells us that in January, 1916. for example, contracts with the largest armament firms for the eighteen-pounder shells were from twenty to twenty-three shillings each. They went into the question of costs, based on the knowledge gained in the
national factories, and he tells us that, “the total costs were then, with full allowance for sinking funds and all other appropriate charges, found to be 9s. Id.”
THUS we find that these companies in war-time, instead of being great patriotic institutions, were not only misleading the War Office as to the number of shells they could produce, but were also charging the British public more than double the fair price. On the one hand, they seriously imperilled the position of the British Expeditionary Force in France and caused unnecessary loss of life through shortage of ammunition, and, on the other, they squeezed the last possible cent out of the loyal British taxpayers for the production of munitions which unfortunately lay in their control.
The national factories eventually assumed a very large part of the production of war material, but, more important still, they furnished a basis of comparison which made it possible to force the armament firms to reduce their prices to a reasonable basis, with a consequent saving to the British public during the latter years of the war of more than 100 million dollars a year.
Mr. Addison explains that even with these prices before them, the armament companies vigorously opposed any reduction. He tells us that for some time, “negotiations were pursued without nearing an agreement, and the best that can be said is that the directors of these firms were difficult.”
Could there possibly be a worse indictment of the private manufacturer of arms, or need we find a more convincing argument in favor of the nationalization of the armament industry?
Let no company in the world which makes war equipment for profit parade its loyalty or pose as a great national institution. We have the authority of the statement of the Commission appointed by the League of Nations, that their vicious, secret, inter-
locking interests assure unreasonably high prices at all times, which only add to the economic burden that is paralyzing the business of the world. They have no loyalty. They have no nationalism. They have one creed, which is Power. They have one ideal, and one alone, and that is Money.
The enemies of peace have had their way during the first year of the Disarmament Conference. When the Conference reassembles in the near future, our civilization may have its last chance.
In spite of the universal demand for peace, preparation for war goes on apace. Inflammatory articles such as the one already referred to by Count Ilya Tolstoy only create misgivings and confuse the issue. There is no suggestion that any one nation can disarm alone, and undoubtedly Great Britain has curtailed expenditures to the lowest point possible in view of the mounting expenditures in other countries. Nor can it be expected that any one nation will undertake to nationalize armament industries unless others agree to the same course. But the world is waking to the need of some mutual undertaking to eliminate the profit interest in the production of the primary equipment of war. Delegates to the Conference should be instructed in no uncertain terms that the report of the Commission which enquired into this matter of 1921 must receive immediate attention, and that the evidence taken at that time be made public. Unless something definite is done, and done very soon, a flame will burst forth somewhere from the smoldering embers of distrust, which will ignite the mighty forces of destruction that are being built up on all sides, and destroy beyond repair the overstrained fabric of our economic structure.
We have been told that “armament firms have sought to influence public opinion through the control of newspapers in their own and foreign countries.” The only chance to achieve any effective measure of disarmament is to disarm first these enemies of peace.