FROM 3 MAY TO 3 JUNE
RESULTS OF ARMS PARLEY
Problems Referred to Technical Committees.—The Preparatory Disarmament Conference, with representatives of twenty nations, met at Geneva on May 18 and ended ten days later, adjourning for a period of two or three months to give the technical sub-committees time to study and report on the mass of problems referred to them.
The first work of the conference was to appoint a Drafting Committee, the purpose of which was to formulate the questions for consideration and separate political questions from those of a strictly military character which by their nature could properly be referred to the technical committees. The Drafting Committee, in its report on May 25, expressed the view that it would be impossible at present to set limitations on all the potential elements of war strength of nations, and that limitation should be confined to the definite peace-time strength of land, sea, and air forces. Methods of reduction included: (1) definite reduction of units, equipment, and munitions production, (2) reduction of service, (3) reduction of expenditures, (4) regional agreements, (5) prohibition of chemical and bacteriological warfare. Representatives of France and of some of the smaller European states again insisted that the problem of disarmament could not be separated from that of security. To meet their views, a request was sent to the League Council for an elaboration and clarification of the provisions of the League Covenant regarding assistance to be given to an attacked state. It was suggested that the duties of the council in such a situation should be clearly defined, and means devised to make its action prompt and effective.
At a meeting of the technical commission, after the conference, General Dennis E. Nolan, who with Rear Admiral Hilary P. Jones and Rear Admiral Andrew T. Long, represented the United States, presented the American point of view. He included among the potential war resources of a nation: (1) geography, topography, and climate; (2) population and social conditions; (3) the political situation; (4) the economic situation; (5) the existing military and naval establishments. He expressed the view that, although the first four factors should be given careful consideration in determining the proper size of a nation’s military forces, feasible reduction must be limited to reduction of actually existing peace-time military establishments. This view had already been expressed in the general conference by the American representative, Mr. Hugh Gibson, who also spoke favorably of the possibilities of regional agreements for limitation of armaments.
The Japanese representatives proposed a separate naval conference of the United States, Great Britain, and Japan, to consider especially the extension of the ratios of the Washington Treaty to cruisers and secondary units. Great Britain was unfavorable to such a conference, especially without the inclusion of Italy and France. The government at Washington also indicated that it was not in favor of a separate naval conference at this time, feeling that it might interfere with the results sought at Geneva.
LEAGUE OF NATIONS
Reorganization of League Council.—The committee appointed by the Assembly of the League of Nations to consider and recommend measures for the reorganization of the League Council, in view of the difficulties encountered in the attempt to admit Germany, met at Geneva on May 10. The general trend of opinion was that there should be no increase of permanent seats in the Council beyond a seat for Germany, and that non-permanent seats should be increased only in proportion to this increase of permanent seats.
It was voted to recommend to the Assembly that non-permanent members of the Council should not be eligible for re-election until three years after the expiration of their terms, but that the Assembly by special resolution might declare one third re-eligible for a practically indefinite period. This would tend to meet the desires of Brazil and Spain, as well as China, without actually giving them permanent seats. It was further decided to recommend that the election of non-permanent members should take place at the beginning of the Assembly session, and that the newly-elected members should take their seats at once, instead of in January following, as at present. This would have the effect of bringing pressure on Brazil and Spain to acquiesce to the desires of other members and not use their veto power, lest they fail to secure re-election.
China announced that she would withdraw her demand for a permanent seat, in case Brazil, Spain, and Poland would do the same. The Polish representative refrained from pressing Poland’s claims. The Brazilian representative in a long speech called for two seats in the Council for representatives of Latin America. He argued that it was never intended that permanent seats should be limited to the great powers, and further that national greatness should not be measured by military strength alone.
End of General Strike.—The strike in the United Kingdom, which was begun on May 1 by nearly a million coal miners and was extended on May 4 to a general strike of nearly four million workers in other fields, was ended on May 12. The general strike was precipitated when printers refused to
set type for a London paper on account of its editorial utterances, at a time when the government, miners, and operators were making a last effort to reach a solution of the miners’ wage problem. Premier Baldwin refused to continue negotiations in the face of this action. The strike was ended by the General Council of Trade Unions, in view of the Premier’s fixed policy of taking no steps to settle the coal problem so long as the general strike continued.
Upon the conclusion of the general strike, Premier Baldwin made proposals for settlement of the coal industry problem, offering to extend the government subsidy for a limited period pending a new wage scale agreement. The offer, however, was held open only until the end of May, at which time it had not been accepted by either operators or miners. England was then on strict coal rations, and there was a general demand for government intervention, even if it should lead to nationalization of the coal mines.
England’s Coal Problem.— (From The Living Age, May 15).—As a rule British coal mines are operated on a royalty basis by companies that do not own the soil or mineral wealth beneath it. The title to the coal in situ is encumbered with a dense overgrowth of British realty and inheritance law— trusteeships, primogeniture rights, and other encumbrances that have come down from the Middle Ages. Operators are often so hampered by this patchwork of titles in laying out their underground workings that they cannot mine their coal economically. That is only one example, out of a score of others that might be cited, of the artificial and legalistic shackles upon the industry that the miners wish to have struck off before present working conditions are touched.
In respect to wages, the dispute is not only between the workers, insisting that they be maintained at the present level, and the owners, insisting that they shall be lowered, but also over the method by which they shall be determined. Payment is regulated at present on a system embodying the results of several successive agreements between the unions and the operators. After the war, when it was recognized that wages must be advanced to compensate for the rising cost of living, a national agreement was made fixing the minimum rate paid miners at 20 per cent above the standard wage of 1914. Three years later this was increased to 33 per cent. Meanwhile the standard working day was reduced from eight to seven hours.
Now the owners not only want this percentage reduced and the working day put back at eight hours, but they wish to substitute district agreements for a national agreement. They argue that in view of the great diversity in the cost of mining coal, and in the prices of coal mined, in different districts, only local boards can deal intelligently with rates of pay. As to the existence of such diversities there is no question. In some parts of the United Kingdom coal can be mined for three dollars a ton; in other parts it costs over seven dollars a ton. Some companies can sell their coal at the pit-head for eight or nine dollars a ton; others having a poorer market and producing an inferior quality must sell at three or four dollars a ton. Some have made a profit of a dollar a ton or more during the worst years since the present depression began, and others have lost money even during the best years.
But the miners insist on a uniform agreement for the whole industry throughout the nation, for two reasons. They believe that if the minimum wage is allowed to vary in different districts competition between the coal of these districts will be used to depress wages. They also believe that the owners’ effort to substitute local for national agreements is due to their desire to break up the Miners Federation, on the divide-and-rule principle.
Riff War Ended.—Upon the refusal of the Riff delegates early in May to accept the terms offered by France and Spain, the Allied forces renewed their offensive. On May 23 it was announced that Tarquist, Abd-el Krim's capital, had been occupied by the French, and that several powerful tribes had submitted. Abd-el Krim escaped northward, but later, on May 26, he entered the enemy lines with his family and placed himself under French protection. All French and Spanish prisoners were surrendered. While the end of the war was welcomed by France, in view of her difficult financial problems, it was feared that the peace settlement could do little to lessen the dangers involved in Spain’s weak control of her Moroccan zone.
Reorganized Cabinet under Marx.—Chancellor Luther and his cabinet resigned on May 12 after a defeat in the Reichstag owing to the vote of the Nationalists against a motion disapproving the proposal to fly the German merchant flag, with the old imperial colors, over German embassies and consulates along with the new flag of the republic.
Four days later, Dr. Marx, leader of the Center party and Luther’s predecessor as head of the cabinet, accepted President Von Hindenburg’s offer of the chancellorship, retaining the Luther Cabinet intact except for a new appointment to his own former place as Minister of Justice.
The date for a plebiscite on the expropriation of the property of former rulers was set for June. In the meantime efforts were made to settle by compromise the other question agitating Germany—that of a single flag for both merchant marine and general use, which should take the place of the old imperial, black, red, and white, and the republican black, red, and gold.
Pilsudski’s Coup in Poland.—On May 12 Marshal Pilsudski headed an uprising which forcibly overthrew the existing Polish Government. At the head of considerable bodies of troops Marshal Pilsudski entered Warsaw and after hostilities during which about 350 were killed and some 1200 wounded he succeeded in occupying the city, ousting the Witmos Cabinet, and forcing the resignation of the President.
The Witmos Cabinet had been in existence only since May 5, after the fall of the Ministry of Skrzynski. It was reactionary in character and had suppressed certain newspapers in which its politics had been criticised by Pilsudski. Although this action was given as a motive for the overthrow, it is probable that the real causes lay deeper, in Marshal Pilsudski’s fear that the new government would interfere with his hold on the Polish Military forces.
Following the coup, there was much talk of a king-ship or dictatorship for Pilsudski, but the Marshal decided that his aims could be accomplished by quasi-legal methods. A temporary cabinet was organized with Charles Bartel as Premier and Marshal Pilsudski as Minister of War. The Polish National Assembly was convened at the end of May and elected the Marshal as President over the candidate of the parties of the “Right.” Pilsudski, however, refused to accept the office.
Jugoslavia's Adriatic Coast.—According to press reports, the completion of the Libra railway has given Jugoslavia her own port on the Adriatic, together with a littoral of 400 miles. Two million tons of merchandise crossed the wharves of Spalato last year, which was six times the commerce of Fiume. The fall of the Pasic cabinet in Jugoslavia is said to have been due to its policy of sacrificing the Adriatic coast in favor of ambitions toward Saloniki.
Government Overthrown.—In Portugal during the last few days of May a bloodless revolutionary movement led by army and naval officers brought about the overthrow of the ministry and the establishment of a dictatorship under Commander Cabecadas, a popular naval officer. It was planned to dissolve the parliament and revoke certain laws considered damaging to national interests. In the past four years there have been eleven attempts to overthrow the Portuguese government by force.
Results of Hungarian Counterfeiting Trials.—As an outcome of the counterfeiting trials at Budapest, Prince Windisch-Graetz and Chief of Police von Nadossy were found guilty and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. In the trials it was shown that Count Bethlen, the Prime Minister, was aware of the forgery plot early in November. His defense was that he had called for an investigation by Nadossy and others, but that no report had been made up to the time of the exposure.
Feng Armies Menace Peking.—On May 30 Peking dispatches announced that the National Army north of Peking had taken the offensive and after two days’ fighting had established a line eleven miles from Peking. Marshal Wu Pei-fu’s forces were not engaged in meeting this attack.
At Peking, during May, W. W. Yen attempted to establish a new government, with Wellington Koo as one of his chief advisers. There appeared no prospect, however, that a government of any strength or stability would be established, until the three over-lords, Wu, Chang, and Feng, had either come to terms or definitely settled their struggle for supremacy. Wu was reported to have left Hankow for Peking on May 26.
At the close of May Wu’s forces began hostilities along the Kwantung border against the rule of the so-called Nationalist party in Canton. In view of the internal conflicts between communist and moderate factions of this party since the death of Sun Yat Sen, it was believed that little resistance could be offered.
Raw Materials and War.—(From a review of Dollar Diplomacy, by Scott Nearing, and Joseph Freeman, written by Prof. R. G. Tugwell of Columbia University, in Saturday Review of Literature, May 1, 1926.)
Messrs. Nearing and Freeman are Socialists, and they probably feel that imperialism is merely one other unfortunate aspect of capitalism. In this, I think, even a capitalistic apologist would have to agree with them. Under our present system it is difficult to see how the necessary rubber, hemp, sugar, vegetable oils, coffee, spices, and tropical fruits can be got without that investment of capital abroad which is the essential element in economic penetration and which may so easily lead to political domination. Where I have always felt the anti-imperialists have erred has been in their refusal to state alternatives. Either we have got to do this kind of thing or go without these indispensable raw materials. Somehow, they vaguely hope, most of them, that it can be done otherwise. Messrs. Nearing and Freeman, however, having no sentimental attachment to capitalism, are not afraid of the alternative. They think we ought not to get reluctant oil from Mexico or sugar from the Philippines. Even if it ruined our economic arrangements here at home, that would not seem to them an irreparable loss.
As a matter of fact we may as well face the situation, all of us, that we shall continue to get oil from Mexico on fairly easy terms. And the same is true of other products from other weaker states. We will not let anyone weaker than we are hold us up because we shrink from the possible consequence—the use of force. Perhaps as an economist I state this matter more baldly than most readers will like to see it stated. As a matter of fact I believe Mr. Root put the matter honestly and truly. We may not like it because of moral scruples; we may not think a single American life worth all the bananas in Central America. But if it requires some such sacrifice to keep up the flow of bananas—cheap—we stand ready now, as a nation, I am convinced, to make the sacrifice. We should not make it, if, when the time came, it were clear that the shooting was all about, perhaps; but it will not be. There will be honor involved then and bananas and profits on bananas will be conspicuously absent from public mention. Nor is it clear to an economist what can be done about it. Inevitable is a weighty word, but how else shall we name it? Unless we do what Messrs. Nearing and Freeman would like to have us do—give up the whole mess and start over—what other way out is there? And even then! Perhaps, some antiimperialist will tell us how we are to get oils, and sugars, and fruits from reluctant señors—or are socialists not fond of coffee, sweets and riding in automobiles?