CONFERENCES AND AGREEMENTS
Arms Meeting Postponed.—It was decided on June 29 that the next meeting of the general committee, disarmament conference, instead of being held on July 3 as originally planned, should be postponed until October 10, after the League Assembly in September. As a matter of fact, the chief problem of the conference in recent months has been to resist Germany’s demand to rearm. With responsibility in this matter more or less removed by the four power treaty, with Japan demanding increased naval allowances, and with no solutions reached in the world economic conference, it was indeed quite evident that there was no immediate prospect of progress in arms limitation. The chief comment of Ambassador Norman H. Davis upon his return to America from the conference was that European nations had now come to realize that “blank checks” for security would not be signed, and were more ready to adopt the idea of general arms reduction and international supervision.
Four Power Treaty Adopted.—Amid loud cheers Premier Mussolini on June 7 announced in the Italian Senate that the four power treaty was at last ready for approval, and a half-hour later it was initialed by the British, French, German, and Italian ambassadors. The treaty consists of a preamble and six articles, of which the third, referring vaguely to Germany’s demand for equal armament, is the one which caused all the delay in accepting the treaty. The first four articles follow:
Art. I. The high contracting parties will consult together as regards all questions which appertain to them. They undertake to make every effort to pursue within the framework of the League of Nations a policy of effective co-operation between all powers, with a view to the maintenance of peace.
Art. II. In respect to the covenant of the League of Nations, and particularly art. X, XVI, and XIX, the high contracting parties decided to examine between themselves and without prejudice to the decisions which can only be taken by the regular organs of the League of Nations all proposals relating to the methods and the procedure calculated to give due effect to these articles.
Art. III. The high contracting parties undertake to make every effort to insure the success of the disarmament conference, and should questions which particularly concern them remain in suspense on the conclusion of that conference they reserve the right to re-examine these questions between themselves under the present agreement, with a view to insuring their solution through the appropriate channels.
Art. IV. The high contracting parties affirm their desire to consult together as regards all economic questions which have a common interest for Europe and particularly for its economic restoration, with a view to seeking a settlement within the framework of the League of Nations.
The fifth article fixes the term of the treaty at 10 years and provides for its continuance thereafter unless renounced upon 2 years’ notice. The sixth article provides that it will go into effect as soon as ratified, and be registered with the League Secretariat. While Premier Mussolini spoke highly of the treaty as guaranteeing the peace of Europe for the next 10 years, German commentators saw in it chiefly a face-saving line of retreat from their demand for immediate rearmament. In the smaller organization, Germany feels that she may push her aims more effectively. The Soviet press saw in the treaty only a device for concealing the breakdown of the disarmament conference and for presenting a united front against America in the matter of debts.
London Economic Conference.—Despite the innumerable pages in the press devoted to the world economic conference in London, its first three weeks’ labor in June ended with little that could be set down as concrete progress. There was much “clarification of issues,” and it may be remembered that conferences and congresses have a way of reserving important decisions for the last moments.
The first drive for a general stabilization of currencies was effectively checked when it was discovered that the American government, fearful of jeopardizing economic recovery in this country, was not ready to fix the value of the dollar. In the view of the French, this almost sank the conference. It placed a handicap on the work for lower tariffs and removal of trade barriers. In the matter of lower tariffs, moreover, there was some lack of harmony in the American delegation. A proposal for a horizontal 10 per cent cut presented as coming from this delegation was later declared “unofficial.” Subsequently the Americans agreed on a resolution of four clauses which declared against a policy of “extreme nationalism”; resolved on removal of “embargoes, import quotas, and other arbitrary restrictions”; and proposed reduction of tariff barriers as quickly as possible by reciprocal bilateral or multilateral agreements to a point where trade could move once more in a free and natural manner.
Altogether, 66 of the 67 ordinarily recognized nations of the world were in attendance, the absentee being Panama. The non-League countries represented were the United States, the Soviet Republic, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, Iceland, the Hejaz, and Afghanistan. While it has been said that the economic life of the world hinges on the outcome of the conference, and that its failure would plunge the world into an era of intensified economic nationalism, there are experts who would view such a movement toward greater national self-sufficiency as not the worst possible result.
DEBT PAYMENTS TO AMERICA
“Token” Payments.—Aside from a single reference by Premier MacDonald, the economic conference in London duly observed the American taboo on debt discussions, and the date for semi-annual payments, June 15, was reached with no further steps toward revision. On this date seven nations, Belgium, Esthonia, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, and Yugoslavia, made no payments. Great Britain after considerable correspondence made a “token” payment in silver of $10,000,000 on her total amount due of $75,950,000. Following this example, several other nations including Italy, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and Latvia made partial payments. Finland alone met in full her obligation of $148,592. Thus of a total of $144,000,000 due, the United States received only $11,334,540.
Whether payments were made or not, each debtor nation sent notes referring to the indebtedness and in various ways requesting a revision of terms. Of these acknowledgment was made, and it was understood that the American State Department was arranging a schedule of dates for negotiations which would give preference to those nations which had even partially met their obligations. Prior to the British payment and in response to the offer of a $10,000,000 installment, President Roosevelt on June 4 issued a general statement, the gist of which was contained in these paragraphs:
In a spirit of co-operation, I have, as Executive, noted the representations of the British government with respect to the payment of the June 15 installments, inasmuch as the payment made is accompanied by a clear acknowledgement of the debt itself.
In view of those representations and of the payment I have no personal hesitation in saying that I do not characterize the resultant situation as a default.
Beyond this, the law and the Constitution do not permit me to go. The American public understands clearly that the settlement under which these debts are now being paid was made under the authority of Congress and that Congress alone has the right to alter the amount and method of payment of this debt. Further than this, the Congress, in December, 1931, in approving the moratorium in June of that year, specifically set forth that the debt should not be canceled or reduced.
Under my constitutional power, and in accordance with the terms of the policy which I have set forth, I can entertain representations of the British government concerning the entire debt settlement, and the British government has requested that such opportunity be afforded. I have, therefore, suggested to them that such representations be made in Washington as soon as convenient,
The debts, the President added, should be considered on their merits, separate from other international economic questions. Suggestions for revision would be submitted to Congress at its next session.
Nazis Eliminate Opposition.—By a series of decrees in June, the National Socialist government in Germany abolished both the Socialist and the Nationalist parties. This, with the Communists already eliminated, leaves the weak Catholic Center as the only surviving party organization in Germany aside from the Nazis. The order of June 22 dissolving the Socialist party declared its leaders guilty of treasonable activity, forbade party propaganda or assemblies, removed all Socialist officeholders throughout the Reich, and deprived the 121 Socialist Reichstag members of their seats and pay. The Socialist party polled about 7,000,000 votes out of the 39,000,000 cast in the elections last March, and prior to the elections of last year they were the largest single party in Germany.
A few days later, after a conference with Chancellor Hitler, Dr. Alfred Hugenberg, leader of the Nationalists, resigned as Minister of Agriculture and Economics in the Hitler Cabinet, and the party itself was dissolved under an “amicable agreement” by which the Nationalist deputies became affiliated with the Nazis. Along with the party went its semi-military Battle Ring organization of 10,000 “Green Shirts.” Nothing short of a combination of three or four foreign powers, declared Chancellor Hitler’s supporters, could “now crush the new Germany.” Germany’s industry is to be reorganized under a new Reich corporation which will do away with the old employers’ Federation of Industry, and in which both employers and labor will be represented.
Austria Curbs Nazis.—Chancellor Dollfuss at the economic conference in London took occasion to voice his hot resentment at Nazi political activities in Austria, and a few days later Austrian governmental decrees put a ban on all National Socialist propaganda and organizations in the country. Nazi deputies were subsequently ousted by other parties from the Vienna and other provincial assemblies. These moves aroused a storm of criticism in Germany, and the Dollfuss government was stigmatized as a creature of the foreign powers bent on stopping an Austro-German Anschluss. Premier Dollfuss, however, returned to Vienna re-enforced by a $30,000,000 international loan.
League Commission at Leticia.—The League Commission for settlement of the warfare between Peru and Colombia arrived at the disputed port of Letitia on June 23 and on the next day took formal possession of the territory. Colombian troops were put in charge, acting for the time being as an international force under orders from the commission. The latter consists of Colonel A. W. Brown, U. S. Army, Captain Francesco Iglesias of the Spanish aviation forces, and a Brazilian civil official, together with representatives of Colombia and Peru.
League to Act in Chaco.—On June 27 the commission of American neutrals, which has long sat in Washington in vain efforts to settle the Chaco war between Bolivia and Paraguay, decided to withdraw from the field to avoid confusion, and surrendered the task to the special League Committee which has been created to deal with the problem. This is notable as the first instance in which the American nations have surrendered jurisdiction to the League in an affair of the Western Hemisphere. It is understood that the United States, Cuba, and Mexico favored this new move, whereas Uruguay and Colombia desired the American committee to continue.
Bolivia in a note to the League on June 13 insisted that direct negotiations with Paraguay should be an essential condition to any cessation of warfare, and required also that before negotiations were undertaken there should be prospects of a permanent peace rather than mere postponement of warfare.
Mediation in Cuba.—In the month of June the new American ambassador to Cuba, former State Department attaché Sumner Welles, was given formal assurances by both the Machado government and the so-called ABC revolutionary organization in Cuba that they would accept his mediation in their civil strife. The promise of the revolutionaries was agreed upon at a secret meeting of 70 leaders in Havana on June 15. The University of Havana, long closed by President Machado, appointed a committee of 9 to represent their interests.
First promise of favorable results from this intercession was seen in a suspension of violence on both sides, the departure of President Machado’s chief executioner, Major Arsenio Ortez, on an extended trip abroad, and governmental promises of reform, including the early election of a vice-president. On June 23, however, military rule throughout Cuba, which expired on that date, was extended for another year. Revolutionary juntas at Miami, Florida, and elsewhere in the United States had already declared that they could not accept American mediation, which would involve a compromise with the Machado regime.
Chinese Eastern Railway Parley.— On June 26, a conference of Russia, Japan, and Manchukuo was opened at Tokyo for sale of the Soviet control of the Chinese Eastern Railway across Manchuria. The Japanese Cabinet had previously agreed to consider the purchase on the conditions: (1) that Manchukuo should negotiate under Japanese guidance as to the amount and terms of payment; (2) in view of Russia’s dubious title, only the existing Soviet control was to be a matter of purchase; (3) the sale would include Soviet mining and lumber concessions, thus completely eliminating Russia from her former sphere of influence. There was a wide discrepancy between Russia’s asking price of $154,000,000 gold and Japan’s offer of $19,000,000, but a settlement is always possible if, as seems the case, the Soviet government is ready to accept the fact of Japanese predominance in Manchuria. The Japanese nationalist newspaper Kokumin even went so far as to suggest that Russia might sell Vladivostok.
American Policy in East.—The League Advisory Committee on Manchuria in a report of June 7 set forth drastic measures which may be employed by the powers in putting into effect their policy of non-recognition of Manchukuo. According to the report, Manchukuo may be excluded from international conventions such as those relating to mails, aviation, sanitation, opium, and the Red Cross. It is problematical, however, how far this policy is to be pushed by the League nations and the United States as an associated power. In his interviews in Washington with Viscount Ishii, President Roosevelt was quoted (in Japanese newspapers) as saying that while he recognized “Japan’s special position in Manchuria,” her actions were generally considered in violation of treaties. Recognition of Japan’s special position might mean a return to the policy of the Lansing-Ishii agreement of 1917. On leaving for London, Viscount Ishii described the President’s attitude as one of “deep sympathy and genuine friendliness.” After viewing these developments, Professor Tyler Dennett' in the July Current History remarks,
There is more prospect than there has been at any time in the past that the world will in the not distant future acquiesce in the Monroe Doctrine for Asia for which Japan has been preparing so industriously for the last twenty months.
North China Independence Move.— Further evidence that the neutralized area in Northern China might, under Japanese guidance, be separated completely from the rest of China was seen in the declaration of independence issued on June 23 by a group of Chinese military leaders with forces still in the area. This group, led by General Ho Yu-peng, denounced the Nanking government and declared the existence of a separate state with a capital at Tangshan about 70 miles north of Tientsin. At last reports the province of Chahar, lying north and west of Jehol, was still controlled by General Feng Yuhsiang.
India Excludes Japanese Cloth.— Great resentment has been aroused in Japan by the recent 50 per cent increase in the duty on non-British cotton cloth entering India, the latest of six increases in this tariff since 1930. Most of Japan’s raw cotton has hitherto come from India, but on June 13 the Japanese Cotton Spinners’ Federation approved a retaliatory boycott which would exclude the Indian product. This would mean increased purchases of raw cotton from the United States.