GENERAL ARTICLES

The Munitions Traffic as a Menace to Peace

FRANCESCO NITTI March 1 1933
GENERAL ARTICLES

The Munitions Traffic as a Menace to Peace

FRANCESCO NITTI March 1 1933

The Munitions Traffic as a Menace to Peace

FRANCESCO NITTI

AT THE CONFERENCE of San Remo, in the spring of 1920, certain post-war problems were intended to be settled, especially certain questions relating to Eastern Europe. I myself was president of the conference. The spokesmen for Britain were Lloyd George and Lord Curzon; for France, Millerand, Berthelot and others. Japan was represented by her ambassador. Since there were under discussion not only Eastern European problems but the Russian situation and various major economic issues, a large number of financial and military experts were also in attendance, among them Marshal Foch. Admiral Beatty and Marshal Badoglio.

During the course of the conference, and particularly in directing the debates in my capacity of president. I observed frequent clashes between the French and British points of view. Immediately after the war people were still talking of the entente cordiale, and everywhere an effort was made to avoid, at least overtly, causes of dissension. In reality, however, these causes of dissension continued to exist.

Britain and France were in accord on the idea of giving to Greece the province of Smyrna, and M. Venizelos, who, without actually participating in the conference, had arrived on the scene with a large Greek delegation, was assured of obtaining it. I, on the other hand, was not at all in favor of giving Smyrna to Greece. Driven out of Europe, the Turks had no recourse but to reorganize in Asia Minor. I believed that we should limit ourselves to protecting the 1 urkish minorities in Europe and the Greek minorities in Asia Minor, and that if we wished to avoid a fresh war, Smyrna should be left with Turkey. A friend of Greece, I attempted to speak my mind frankly to M. Venizelos, advising him to renounce an annexation which would surely precipitate a war fatal and dangerous for Greece. Everyone, however, did not share my opinion. Although I was persuaded that it was ill-advised, I could not avert the eventual decision - and the results which I had foreseen have unhappily been realized.

According to the San Remo agreements, Britain, in exchange for a mandate over the Mosul oil regions, recognized the French mandate over Damascus—which she had promised to the Emir Faycal. The Emir, and after him the Druses, continued, however, to make war on France. What is particularly surprising is that they were equipped with English firearms and munitions.

The Greek Government, which had also received arms and artillery from Vickers, at first inflicted serious losses on the Turks.^ After the Angora accord between France and Mustafa Kemal, however, the Turkish army was reorganized. It was armed with French guns, opportunely “junked” say. guns which had been declared obsolete but which functioned very well nevertheless -and with heavy

artillery which had certainly not been manufactured in Anatolia.

An American newspaper correspondent who was in Asia Minor at the time wrote with a certain irony:

“I first saw the retreat of the Greeks: they abandoned cannons and machine guns which all bore the Vickers mark. Then I was on hand for the triumphant entry of the Turks into Smyrna; they brought with them magnificent Creusot cannons. At last I understcxid what the entente cordiale really meant.”

After the Great War, however, France and Britain were still allies. Neither in the French nor the British budget is there any record of expenditures for the Greek and Turkish armies. The parliaments of the two countries were given no information that might have any bearing on such matters.

Munition Interests Bribe Press

IN RECENT MONTHS we have seen an outbreak of I hostile relations between China and Japan, bringing in its train a very singular press campaign in Europe. The papers which are allied with the big munitions interests have reproached the League of Nations for meddling in the controversy. Some have even maintained that Japan should be given a clear field. At the same time. China and Japan were being armed, largely by munitions which came from the large munitions plants centred in Europe and America.

In July. 1932, at the International Workers’ Conference in Zurich, M. Jouhaux made a very grave declaration. Its gravity lay in the fact that M. Jouhaux is not only the head of the General Confederation of French Labor, but is also noted for his moderation.

The French communists hate Jouhaux much more than they hate the conservatives.

M. Jouhaux has often represented, and still represents, France at the League of Nations.

He is a calm and responsible jierson who plays an important rôle in French politics.

In discussing the question of armaments,

M. Jouhaux said:

“I do not want to embark on any lengthy observations at this time; in a question of this kind it would be possible to talk

indefinitely, so closely is the munitions industry linked with all the problems of humanity.”

So long as there are still countries functioning under dictatorships, any agreement for the control of armaments will be difficult. M. Jouhaux added the following analysis of the situation:

“Today the unrestricted production of armaments everywhere not only represents a danger to jx-ace itself but also which adds greatly to the seriousness and anxiety of the times -a danger to the fret' functioning of democracy. Fascism and dictatorship are cropping up everywhere, and wherever the process of their development is under way. one can trace the hand of the munitions manufacturers at work. At the present moment the press is subsidized by them (applause); it is no longer free. We have seen this phenomenon, and we are still seeing it where the SinoJapanese affair is concerned. It is evident that if one could search the registry offices of the various nations, in all the maritime ports, for the contracts which have been signed for the export of munitions, whether to China or to Japan, there is not a country which would be entirely exempt from responsibility. The press as a whole, however, has attempted to conceal this situation. It has misled public opinion; it has allowed the people to believe that its policy is not actuated by a desire to prevent protests, and one must have courage to make such a charge, since the press is controlled by these same munitions interests.”

The venerable Belgian minister. Vandervelde, and Broukère, the senator, who has represented Belgium at the League of Nations, confirmed the serious charges of M. Jouhaux.

From all this the following conclusions are clearly indicated :

(1) The press of Eurojx;, even in the most dissimilar countries, is often bribed or subsidized by the big interests concerned in the production of munitions.

(2) This press, which so often is affiliated with the aforementioned interests, encourages. whatever the political situation, all nationalist agitations, arouses distrust, and does everything possible to create that anxious state of mind which is the chief pretext for armaments.

(3) The reactionary movements in Europe particularly Italian Fascism and the

Hitler movement in Germany—have been subsidized by the munitions interests.

One must also add that the munitions industries everywhere have interests in common. A movement which inflames public opinion in one country necessarily encourages the production of armaments. t only in that country but in the enemy nation also, lí it is said that Germany is arming herself and the mysterious increase of German armaments is exaggerated. French munitions also benefit from the rumor. The big munitions interests thus have a common interest in maintaining belligerent sentiments and in spreading sinister news through the medium of the press. If an armaments campaign is desired in France, means must be found to circulate alarming rumors in the German press.

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After the speech of M. Jouhaux, the Belgian minister, Vandervelde, was quite justified in adding:

"Rigorous international control is necessary if we are to have disarmament. Without such control, especially in non-democratic countries, violations of international obligations will inevitably occur, thus creating a jjermanent international menace.”

The big munitions industries, then, are united in their interests, particularly if they are situated in hostile countries. The growth of one implies at the same time the growth and prosjierity of the others. By their very nature these industries are obliged to make mutual agreements and to act in accord preserving always, however, the appearance of enmity. It is not only a question of patents, but of great fortunes involved in the same type of production. Frequently, competing and hostile munitions groups come to an understanding upon a common programme.

Commercial Deals Prolong War

BEFORE THE WAR, since the war, and worst of all during the war, the big munitions industries have often made compacts of which the public was ignorant. We have seen the great English and French houses making deals with the German firms for the furtherance of trade in Switzerland or in Holland and Denmark. We have even witnessed the spectacle of the German houses furnishing the British and French with certain motors and basic supplies which they lacked; and, on the other hand, of the French and English firms replenishing Germany with copper, nickel and cyanamide for the manufacture of special types of arms. The great Swiss company. Ronza, specialized in these exchanges between Ijelligerents.

Immediately after the war the British Admiral, W. P. Consett. published a book which made a profound impression, although the pajxTs which were linked with the war industries did their best to keep its revelations dark. He declared that all efforts during the war to establish control over certain operations were fruitless, and that certain commercial deals had the effect of prolonging the war considerably. Revelations no less serious, however, came to light in certain lawsuits which cropped up in Germany after the war, and in the Journal Officiel of France, which published in full, particularly on January 25 and 3R 1919, reports of parliamentary discussions.

Even M. Yiviani, who was president of the Council of Ministers at the outbreak of the war. was obliged to intervene in the discussion, and to make the following statement in regard to certain transactions with the German house of Krupp:

"The letters which have been confiscated from the homes of the accused and which are now in my possession, raise the question of whether the accused did not maintain connections with Germany right up to 1914, if my memory is not at faultwhich had the following results:

(1) That they delivered ferro-silicium.

(2) That, at the request of Krupp, they kept this stock of ferro-silicium at the gates of their factory so that in case of mobilization it would be almost immediately at Krupp’s disposal.

(3) That they prevented the French agents of the company who were in Germany from consigning this ferro-silicium to

Russian agents which is to say that they deprived our allitis of war supplies which they might have needed.

(3) That they foresaw that they might have to annul the contract in deference to superior pressure, as in the classic case of a strike, but they did not consider it necessary to do so in the case of a war between two countries only -so much so that, if the war had been merely between Germany and France or Germany and Russia, the contract would have remained in force.”

M. Viviani likewise denounced the culprits; but their position and their influence easily produced their acquittal which the former Prime Minister deplored publicly.

The great munitions industries usually deal with one client only, the State. They must, therefore, rouse public opinion to emotions and fears which will justify large expenditures. It is this which impels the munitions industries to work on the press for the purpose of maintaining a state of anxiety in the nation.

Whether they are actually inimical, or whether they merely give the appearance of being so, the big munitions industries have the same interests at stake. If the French press, truthfully or otherwise, talks of secret armaments in Germany, the legitimate anxiety which is awakened causes France to increase its own armaments and also induces Germany to arm. Frequently fantastic tales are launched, and believed, solely for industrial ends.

In order to have the best types of arms and the best models, the countries which buy armaments do not fail to encourage competition between the countries that are producing them. This causes a solidarity of interest through the very fact of competition. Until 1914 one could find Creusot’s French workmen and Krupp’s German ones working side by side in Russian plants.

By military reckoning, a war without victory is a useless war. This explains the traffic in certain commodities, during the war, between France and Germany and Britain and Germany; and if the revelations of Admiral Consett were a surprise to the general public, they hardly had the same effect on statesmen.

According to the statistics of the League of Nations, the countries which export arms are, in order of importance: Great Britain, which commands about a third of the world traffic; the United States, Germany, France, Italy, and, in lesser proportions, Switzerland and Belgium. The principal importing nations if one ignores the British dominions are Japan, China, Mexico, Roumania and Poland. The League statistics, however, are often incomplete or inexact, because the Customs figures do not tell the full truth. It is difficult to determine precisely what should be counted as armaments. One does not know whether guns sent into a given country are destined for hunting or for war, nor whether such a product as cyanamide is to be used for military or agricultural purposes. Everyone is interested in concealing the truth, the importing as well as the exporting nation.

The most efficient method of promoting armaments is to create a panic. One stresses the warlike preparations of a neighboring country simply with the object of agitating for an increase in armaments which would not otherwise be justified. Press campaigns against foreigners are frequently launched for the sole purpose of building up armaments within one’s ow n country. Before the war, the famous interpellations of the German deputy, Schmidt, in the Reichstag, concerning the supposed superiority of French machine guns had no other aim than to induce Germany to arm herself more thoroughly.

Gunmakers Dictate Treaties

“THE SITUATION in America is well I known. In Europe the great munitions trusts are the Vickers-Armstrong group in

England and the Schneider-Creusot group in I'rance. The Vickers-Armstrong combine controls other large companies in Holland, Spain and Poland, as well as the Mitsui interests in Japan. The Schneider group controls almost all the European countries which are politically dominated by France. In Poland, Vickers figures side by side with Schneider in the Polish war-supplies situation. Everyone knows the achievements of that mysterious figure. Sir Basil Zaharoff, in promoting the great munitions industries before and after the war. Numerous txx)ks have been written about him, none of which have ever really explained the strange rôle which this Levantine has played in European politics.

By their very character, the big munitions industries are obliged to reckon with the trend of public opinion. We know what influence Krupp had on the German press before the war; today we are familiar with the tremendous influence which Creusot and the Comité des Forges exert on the French press.

During the reign of Wilhelm II the influence of Krupp in Germany was all powerful. Excellent relations with the Kaiser assured Krupp of an actual monopoly which no one dared dispute. The attempts of the Ehrardt firm in Dusseldorf to undermine Krupp by means of the quality of their cannons combined with very low prices, were as fruitless as the later attempts of Thyssen. And the press, controlled directly or indirectly by Krupp, continued to agitate for increased armaments.

If one makes a careful study of the 1919 and 1920 peace treaties one will see that all the great, irreparable mistakes which now menace the peace of Europe, and which constitute the true obstacle to peace of any kind, were committed under pressure from the iron industry allied with th.e munitions industry. I have proved this assertion in several of rry bs.

While these external policies were being pursued, the big financial powers in control of munitions aided, almost everywhere, reactionary nationalist and fascist movements within th.e various states. As president of the Italian Council of Ministers, I was able to observe that the munitions industries not only incited public opinion to dangerous military adventures, through the medium of their hired press, but that they also subsidized reactionary movements within the State.

In 1919 plans had been made for an Italian military expedition into Georgia. It was a flhardy scheme which would have precipitated a war between Italy and Russia, and which would have brought us no possible advantage. The expedition, however, was all ready to set out when I became head of the Government and, on the very next day, disbanded it. As a result I was attacked with great violence, and it was said that I was a defeatist, ready to renounce my country’s interests. The war industries then subsidized the Fiume adventure, and later still financed, or partly subsidized, the Fascist movement.

The same situation has now" arisen in Germany. The centre of German reaction has, for some time, been Adolf Hugfenberg. whose whole career has been spent with Krupp. Before the war he was the real head of the house of Krupp, and even after he resigned he continued his connection as the prime mover in a consortium linking the interests of the iron industry with those of the munitions group.

The Hitler movement in, Germany was produced primarily through the influence of Fritz Thyssen, Hugenberg, and their associates. The recent revelations of the Dortmund General Anzeiger surprised no one. If events have outrun intentions and if Hitler has outstripped Hugenberg, it is merely because one never knows what may happen when trends of opinion and political agitation are involved. Hitler no longer

represents a programme. He is merely a symbol of discontent. Germany has had to endure unjust and humiliating conditions imposed ujxm her by the terms and application of the peace treaties, and she is disturbed and dissatisfied. Hitler is opposed to all the world; he is against the treaties, against France, against Parliament, against the Constitution. He is anti-parliamentarian, anti-democratic, anti-French, antiJewish. He is, quite simply, merely anti; that is to say, against everything. In a country where everyone is discontented it is easy to rally an army of discontent.

At every international conference I have seen, side by side with the military elements, experts who were merely directors or agents of the iron and munitions industries. I was not at all surprised to observe that frequently the military folk, doubtless in perfect gd faith, were merely mouthpieces for the ideas of the experts.

Maintenance of Anxiety

ALL INDUSTRIES tend to develop by^ products. It is essential for the munitions industry to arouse emotions and promote conditions productive of war. If it tends to tamjx*r with the press, it is simply because, with the help of the press, it can work upon public opinion and create fears which will result in the growth of armaments. In the past, up to the opening of the previous century, war was limited in intensity and scope because it was conducted by small professional armies. Kings had no need to take any one’s opinion into account, and they set their armies on the march whenever they pleased. Modern war, however, is general and hyperbolic. It is constantly becoming more and more destructive and more and more specialized. It no longer calls for millions, but for billions. It is a form of war in which every one mobilizes, a war of populations against populations. In democracies, and with the spread of popular education, one must, if one is to force jxxiple to take up arms, publicize the idea of danger, propagate anxiety, and inflame emotions. To menace a lx:ople with danger, to make them believe in the existence of danger, is at the same time to promote armaments.

This fact, even if they are unaware of it, solidifies the interests of the military elements with those of the munitions industries. Often secret diplomacy —which is more than ever secret just now does the rest. It seems as if one were doing a service to the industry of one’s own country if one can secure a commission for armaments. Often the diplomats, when ignorance is indicated, give the impression of not knowing what is going on.

No one can say that the extent of the armaments traffic and the figures given by the League of Nations are remote from reality. But what is really easy is to see in certain news which circulates through the press and the news agencies, in the activities of all the parties of reaction, the influence of an industry whose very existence depends on the maintenance of a spirit of anxiety and distrust.

What is the remedy, and is there, in fact, any remedy?

The various parliaments often have a limited sphere of influence and are unaware of what is happening. Formidable forces, free of any control, are at work. They disturb public opinion and are shaping events which may disturb the peace. Is it possible to regulate the munitions traffic through the agency of international industrial agreements? Is it possible to control, in all nations, the expenditures of the munitions industries, particularly where their subsidies to the press are concerned? Without some such action, distrust and agitation will increase. We shall never arrive at a genuine reduction of armaments, and we shall even, without willing it, be preparing for future wars.—The End.