Time for NATO to Close Its Door
The Alliance Is Too Big—and Too Provocative—for Its Own Good
THE chief aim of Germany's post-war foreign policy has been to get rid of the burden of Versailles. Whether by destroying the treaty by means of her own power; or through an alliance with Russia to combat the "western capitalistic system" and the treaty that was its symbol; or by a rapprochement with England and Italy which might make them new allies; or by means of a direct understanding with France -- whatever the form, Germany's aim has always been the destruction of the intolerable treaty. In this aim all her politicians agreed. Their differences seemed to be a matter of political temperament. But it was more than that. There were different types of politicians fighting for the upper hand. They belonged to different social worlds, or at least they thought so.
The struggle over the course to be taken by the German Republic in foreign affairs was fought out in three phases, which marked off at the same time three main periods of internal development. The first epoch ended with the liquidation of the Ruhr struggle and the stabilization of the German mark; the second ended with the Hague settlement and the collapse of the great coalition between the German People's Party and the Social Democratic Party; the third reached its culmination in the seizure of power by the National Socialists in 1933.
The first five years after the Armistice were marked, so far as internal politics went, by the effort to establish and consolidate the Republic. There can be no question that the masses generally longed for peace after the convulsions and losses of war; but from the very first day of the breakdown of 1918 there existed also the idea of a levée en masse. The warrior had not yet returned home. A part of the fighting spirit was preserved in the revolutionary spirit.
Every decision in German foreign affairs during this epoch was unstable. The internal struggle regarding the acceptance of the Treaty of Versailles remained undecided until the last minute. The reception of the London ultimatum (1921) and the development of the struggle in the Ruhr demonstrated the unsteadiness of German policy at this time. This instability was in no small degree caused by the policy of the victorious Powers, which made it difficult even for those groups which aimed to bring about a reconciliation to persist in their ideas. In this sense there was no clear distinction between Right or Left wings. The political fronts coincided only superficially with the party groups. A struggle went on daily in the soul of every German.
Nevertheless, there were distinct types confronting each other. Graf Brockdorff-Rantzau and Mathias Erzberger were characteristic opponents during this decisive time. There is no doubt that the Germany of the "policy of fulfillment" was not solely composed of types of the petty-bourgeoisie like Erzberger; but even less would it be true to say that the resistance to the proposed treaty was made up wholly of people so aristocratically minded as Brockdorff-Rantzau. Hermann Mueller, the Social Democratic leader who signed the Treaty of Versailles, showed vivid heroism in spite of his petty-bourgeois make-up. Walter Rathenau, too, later Minister of Foreign Affairs, was far from Erzberger's world, and by his appeal to the nation for a levée en masse in October 1918 (as an answer to the military's confession of collapse) showed that he was not a simple advocate of fulfilment. On the other hand, Helfferich, who shortly became the spokesman of the German nationalist opposition, was a calculating upper-middle-class type with a wide international outlook like Rathenau's. In spite of these obvious differentiations in political leadership, Brockdorff and Erzberger may be taken as representing to some extent the contrasts of this first epoch, embodying the genuine qualities and fatal limitations on both sides.
A petty-bourgeois Germany and a revolutionary-military Germany stood face to face. Erzberger's advice was: "We must admit everything and then they will forgive us." And again, "In politics you must negotiate with your opponent just as a merchant deals with his partner." These words of the former school teacher in a small Black Forest town were what would be expected in a man of busy activity and easy optimism. His policy was accepted by a people longing for rest and new hope after four years of war. But good-nature and self-satisfaction were not up to coping with great diplomats. Neither was there any bridge from the world which Erzberger represented to the fighting Germany which had not yet returned home.
At first this other side of post-war Germany -- the fighting side -- found no real representative. Its old leadership was compromised by the manner in which the war had ended, and dismayed by the sudden collapse of the German Empire. True, a band of young men in the Baltic provinces and in Upper Silesia showed that there were still soldiers always ready to fight, but on the whole it did not amount to more than a private army of a militia type. Captain Erhardt -- the real leader of the Kapp-Putsch in March 1920 -- did not become the Napoleon of the German Revolution. It did not even find its Trotsky.
Nor was Brockdorff-Rantzau the real representative of this militaristic Germany. Characteristically enough, it was not a big landowner of the German East who took the leading part in the struggle against Versailles, but the "Red Count" rooted in the pre-Prussian traditions of Schleswig-Holstein, long known for his politically Left inclinations. At bottom an aristocrat with a world perspective, very lonely in his way of life, he did not separate himself from liberal democracy until at Versailles the latter renounced what seemed to him all possibility of Germany's defending herself in foreign policy. His proud bearing at Versailles, and his unread speech prepared for the National Assembly at Weimar to prove that the treaty could not be fulfilled, made him the symbol of the resistance to Versailles. "The decision which I expect from you is the declaration of inexorable struggle against capitalism and imperialism, the document of which is the Treaty of Versailles." Weimar accepted the Treaty, and he resigned. As German Ambassador at Moscow some years later he tried to strengthen the relations between Germany and Russia and to prepare for the realization of his cherished idea: "I believe that the mischief of Weimar can be put right later on from Moscow."
The first epoch was brought to a close by the conflict in the Ruhr. This had started as a demonstration of the whole German people's united spirit of resistance; its collapse seemed to end the hope of a military solution of Germany's problems. For France it connoted the end of an epoch as well, because the occupation had not been a success. The French elections and the victory of the Left Cartel proved this. Thus the Ruhr adventure cleared the atmosphere by demonstrating the limits of direct action.
After this, politics took a fresh turn. The new era was clearly characterized by the personalities of Briand and Stresemann, and it proved to be the only post-war epoch during which there were real French-German conversations. These were possible because the meetings between Stresemann and Briand and Herriot were meetings of representatives of the European burgher class, speaking the same language and holding the same values. Upon this fact depended the whole policy of Franco-German understanding and the so-called spirit of Locarno.
Stresemann had grown up with the ideals of 1848. As a student he had opposed the changes in those ideals that overtook the majority of German students; as a minister he tried to make those ideals appeal to a new student generation. He was almost the only republican minister who awakened some response in academic circles. Meantime the ideals of 1848 had changed considerably. The German national-liberalism of the Bismarckian era had brought about a characteristic union of "property and culture." That made it the representative of the upper middle classes. Idealism and practical policy became insolubly combined; and with them, in a very strange mixture, liberty and power. This led to the stabilization of constitutional law at home and a powerful policy in foreign affairs, i.e. economic expansion and the building up of sea power. As a matter of fact, the middle classes resigned their influence upon internal affairs. What remained was only an apparent retention of the constitution. This was the compromise which the middle classes accepted after their political defeats of 1848 and the so-called conflict of the constitution between 1862 and 1866. The middle classes were deprived of all sense of political responsibility; but it was only after the war that the serious consequences of this became evident. With these developments came a decisive change in the middle classes themselves, characterized by the replacement of a politically-minded "burgher" by an economically-minded "bourgeois."
The German Republic offered the chance for a re-transformation, for the re-birth of a political middle class. Stresemann seemed to be the clear expression of this tendency -- the reawakening of the traditions of 1848 and the enlargement of those traditions by the adoption of the world-wide view of national policy which opened up early in the new century. Stresemann showed this peculiar mixture of idealism and realism. This dreamer with the eyes of Coepenick Street (the miserable district of Berlin where he was born) was a connoisseur of literature and at the same time head of an industrial association. It was by no mere chance that he became the founder and leader of the German People's Party. Even in pre-war times Stresemann, by founding and leading the industrial association of Middle-Germany, fought for small industry against the domination of the heavy industry of the Ruhr. He really represented the German people; even in outward appearance he was of a type usual in Germany. The German People's Party found election successes easy with the simple catchword: "Don't bother about the others, you vote as Stresemann will." Perhaps his brain worked faster than the average German, and he was more versatile, but he had the same conceptions. It is interesting that Prevost in his "History of France Since the War" has described Herriot in the same manner: "He is an average Frenchman -- a stronger dose but the same mixture."
Stresemann was not a revolutionary; he was at bottom uncomplicated; simple, affirmative. He was not shaken by crises in belief. He was not an insurgent by nature. He was a liberal in the fullest sense of the word, particularly in his idea of mankind. His nature was happy, impulsive, with strong tensions but reconciled contrasts. Almost automatically he achieved an inner harmony, and transferred it from his personal philosophy to the world. Thus with that naturally liberal optimism which regards the whole process of the world's history as nothing but a gradual evolution toward the good, he saw great perspectives opening up where others scarcely perceived the first feeble tendencies. It was said quite rightly that his approach to Lord D'Abernon, the British Ambassador, rested upon simply a lack of mistrust.
Here lies the basis of Stresemann's whole foreign policy. His first success rested upon his going halfway to meet his adversary. He did not claim the maximum in order to get half. But the Locarno Pact was not the result of just a tactical manœuvre. Stresemann's policy of understanding raised the dispute over Versailles to another level, and brought at least a temporary economic solution in its turning away from the Dawes Plan to the Hague Conferences. The understanding with Briand, however, was more than that. It was based upon a common human ideal, the same social standard of values. It happened that two European statesmen met. But it is not chance that the meeting was the most fruitful of the long series of German-French discussions since the war. It is a tragic fact, as Professor Toynbee has rightly pointed out, that the Stresemann-Brüning régime in Germany and the Herriot-Daladier régime in France were not only not contemporaneous, but actually did not overlap -- except in this Locarno period, which was only a beginning.
This policy of understanding -- the second period of Germany's post-war foreign policy -- was frustrated just when it had apparently triumphed with the evacuation of the Rhineland. This can be explained only superficially by Stresemann's death.
At bottom the third epoch which then began, and in which the rise of National Socialism was already foreshadowed, demonstrated how fragile was the basis of Stresemann's policy. In the economic field this became generally evident in the banking crisis of June 1931. The prosperity of 1924-29 was only a boom on credit produced by foreign loans for German finance. Thus the consolidation of the Republic in this epoch proved to be only apparent. This was true in a much deeper and non-economic sense. At the beginning came the inflation -- in many respects the price paid for stabilization. Business, freed from debts and obligations, found a new starting-point. But it was not until five years later that the social effect of the inflation, and the political consequences, became evident. It meant the beginning of the end for the middle classes. And this occurred just at the advent of an epoch which promised under Stresemann's leadership to give the middle classes predominance. From now on it was not only a middle class broken by the pre-war development in Germany and handicapped by its own lack of political consciousness; now it had been shaken to its very foundations. The year 1929 demonstrated just how far the "property and culture" of the former liberal middle classes had disappeared. From now on they were without their original power of resistance and capacity for influencing their environment. After this convulsion the king-pin of middle class values -- the idea of security -- was shattered.
The process began with the shrinking of all economic security in the period of inflation, which withdrew the guarantee which middle class people enjoyed by virtue of their training, occupation and standard of life. The authority of money was diminished. Money had been the measure of social prestige in the nineteenth century, identifying, according to Guizot's well-known formula, wealth and the moral good in middle class civilization. The hierarchy of property still existed de facto but no longer de jure. The possession of property was more and more generally condemned in the popular judgment and even among well-to-do people. In any case, with the loss of property the burgher ideals of property and saving lost ground. From this side, too, the ideal of the individual was attacked. It is no mere accident that (as Pierre Vienot rightly pointed out in his "Incertitudes Allemandes") in Germany at that time one did not ask: "How are your affairs?" or: "Do you earn much?" but: "How is the economic situation?" This tells only a little about the current practice but much about the public's opinion of the validity of the economic system. Here is the social-psychological root of socialism, even though of a vague and ambiguous variety.
The disturbance was of course not restricted to the business world. It touched all spheres of life, including foreign politics. Established orders, treaties, contracts, mutual understanding in arranging a dependable sphere of action, are no longer valid when the foundations crumble. The burgher is ready at such an hour, feeling that his internal economic security has been betrayed, to speak for an extreme revolutionary foreign policy -- even if only to gain thereby compensation for his lost security in the internal sphere. This is the more true of a younger generation grown up in wartime and revolutionary chaos, which never knew the security of a bourgeois existence and which could only hope to alter the entire uncertainty and hopelessness of its future by a bold stroke. Here the often-discussed problem of the older and younger generations was strikingly in evidence. The 1929 plebiscite of the Hitler-Hugenberg-Seldte front against the Young Plan, although a failure, brought the first organization of a new orientation in foreign politics. It was the hour when the Hitler cabinet of January 30, 1933, was really born.
In 1929 the economic world crisis began. In Germany it revealed the breakdown of a surface boom. Simultaneously Germany experienced -- as did other countries in lesser degree -- the rebirth of the war as reflected in literature. After a period of ten years there was a peculiar revival of interest in war experiences. It was at once the resurrection of the warrior and a demonstration of antagonism towards him. The soldier had never been absent in Germany during Stresemann's period. His unrest had not been overcome and subdued. He had only stepped into the background. He lived on in many military political leagues. And now he got into touch with the new social groups that were pushing toward an anti-bourgeois reaction. The social revolution massed them together and gave them a revolutionary impulse.
It has been sufficiently demonstrated in political literature that this crisis extended far beyond the economic realm. It invaded all spheres of life and affected -- maybe as an outpost's skirmish -- the whole of European thinking. No wonder it touched general European foreign policy, which was substantially the burgher policy of security. In Germany, the Stresemann effort at reconciliation seemed to be submerged. The various inconclusive moves of German foreign policy (such as the proposal of an Austro-German tariff union in 1931) pointed to a revolutionary change.
It is, however, true that the Stresemann influence extended further into this third period, which reached its culmination in Hitler's seizure of power, than the collapse of the Stresemann policies seemed to indicate. The years 1924-29 in Germany, although in retrospect they seemed to be merely a surface boom, diffused an extraordinary amount of burgher philosophy even among the proletariat classes. The economic crisis and the following enormous unemployment eventually destroyed this development. Nevertheless these years of stabilization to a certain extent brought about a social readjustment by providing a rest period in which burgher values could revive. This had a definite influence on the generation then growing up. Simultaneously the pre-war generation staged a "come-back." The war had meanwhile killed the best representatives of the wartime generation, and had destroyed the bourgeois way of life for many of those who returned home. They seemed almost forgotten. Grandfathers and grandsons now joined hands over their heads, leaving them behind as unfit for the daily struggle.
This break disturbed the inner continuity between one generation and the next. Forces accumulated, ready to burst through in a crisis. When the crisis came the forgotten generation and the youngest generation joined hands. It was this reinforcement of the warriors of 1918 by the post-war generation -- more bourgeois-minded, yearning for order and security -- and their joint success in winning over some bourgeois pre-war politicians, which laid the foundations of the victorious National Socialism of 1933. Thereby it differed from the first insurrection of 1923, which had been destined to fail because it was an incipient revolution of the warriors alone. National Socialism meanwhile turned to legal methods, not only out of tactical considerations, but because it found itself face to face with a society which had undergone Verbuergerlichung (the process of becoming bourgeois-minded) in the period of stabilization. And in spite of all its penetration by revolutionary doctrine, National Socialism itself became to a considerable extent bourgeois-minded.
The divided nature of National Socialism now that it is victorious, which renders so difficult an accurate interpretation of its future, rests in no small measure upon the mixture of social types which compose it, rooted as they are in different generations and in different experiences. This fact also gives a peculiar stamp to its foreign policy, itself a mixture of warlike and heroic attitudes and a striving for burgher security.
The widespread consternation abroad which followed the National Socialist seizure of power in Germany was quite similar to the general suspicion in which Russia and Italy were held for many years after the bolshevist and fascist revolutions. Different principles of foreign policy seemed to confront one another. Real coöperation with foreign powers was impossible because the approach to international problems was fundamentally different on each side. The world of the burgher, which evidently also included large masses of the skilled workers, was confronted by a new revolutionary world which doubted all its values. An entirely new idea of foreign policy seemed to prevail.
In the burgher's world a fixed system of security, a comprehensive organization and the legal regulation of contracts guaranteed property and stability. French post-war foreign policy was based upon such principles and determined to a large extent the whole European post-war diplomacy. The idea of the League was also to some degree based upon these principles, although overshadowed by the fact that the French system of security practically meant a guarantee for the Treaty of Versailles.
In a modern realistic view, Geneva may be defined as the chessboard on which the great game of world diplomacy is being played. For many of the League's champions, however, it means much more than that. For them, behind this institution stands the middle class idea. The world parliament took over into the sphere of international relations the internal methods and institutions of parliamentarism, the basis of which was reliance upon discussion and negotiation instead of force and violence to settle group conflicts. Discussions and publicity and their result -- generally recognized laws -- were the fundamentals of the parliamentarian state. It grew up during the period of enlightenment. There existed only one ideal state, just as there was only one way of arriving at truth, that is, by reason, which was the yardstick for every deed and attitude. This epoch of rationalism coincided with the awakening of the modern European middle class and gave clear philosophical expression to its ideals and aims in all spheres of life. Just as in economics, according to the classical theory, competition between supply and demand finally created the "just price," automatically restoring the general harmony of the community by the peaceful struggle of private interests, so in politics the open fight in parliament -- the political market place -- brought together the competitors in politics, the political parties. The "just price" in their case is composed of recognized, reasonable and calculable laws.
From this point of view the League of Nations is a recent transfer of the general ideals of the middle class into international relations. But it was organized just at the time when their fundamental belief in a universally valid truth was being shattered by the World War and the post-war difficulties. It was organized when the foundations of the European middle class had been shaken to the bottom.
It was the attempt of the champions of the League of Nations to restore confidence in the ideals of security and order. Post-war statesmen like Briand, Chamberlain, Stresemann and Herriot fought for the ideal of the burgher's foreign policy. In their hands, however, it lost its characteristic stiffness and narrowness because of the cosmopolitan ideals which they had drawn from their common European culture. Their type was the result of a long process of development; in them the burgher politician had taken on the outlook and manners of the aristocrat who had been the representative politician in pre-burgher times and who had not completely disappeared. To this aristocrat, whose habits of thought the bourgeois inherited, foreign policy meant a sphere of close relationships and personal encounters. He did not regard the representatives of other peoples as essentially strange personalities. He considered the foreigner as a relative, as to a certain degree a part of the entity to which he himself belonged. By its intimate relationships as well as by its marriages aristocracy leaps over national boundaries. No wonder that it plays an influential rôle at Geneva. Count Bernstorff and Lord Cecil are among the several striking examples of this type.
In the upper-middle-class, too, there took root something of this universalism of the aristocracy, although in this case foreign countries were regarded less as part of a common whole and more as a new sphere of economic expansion and exploitation. Nevertheless, there was a basis of approach between the old aristocracy and the new upper-middle-class, in their way of life and in their attitude towards external affairs. The basis was thus provided for a social assimilation, for the process of feudalization in Germany in the Bismarckian era just as for the development of the gentry ideal in the Victorian age. Finally, far-reaching religious bonds also created some international connections.
The real enemy of both middle-class security and the cosmopolitan system is a revolutionary foreign policy represented in European history by the Jacobin. For him international policy does not mean fixed boundaries or a discussion between the members of an international community. For him foreign countries offer the battlefield, to be overcome by his ideas and conquered by his warriors. In his psychology, military and revolutionary ideas are often closely connected. "Ideas have no boundaries." The burgher fears the Jacobin just because of his missionary power, because of his immeasurable dynamics, because of the unrest he brings into a secure and clearly circumscribed world. Every revolution which claims to be more than a mere change of governments and which pretends to create a new social order must also influence neighboring countries and awaken in them a spirit of deep unrest. This is the more true if the revolution embodies political ideas which touch upon foreign affairs. For then, finding natural confederates abroad -- perhaps a movement of social internationalism or a movement to further some pan-nationalist idea -- the revolution sets to work to bore from within by propaganda and by inciting to civil war. Nowadays this is a very efficacious method of expansion, and at the same time a substitute for military invasion. The readiness of a revolutionary country to abandon it is a visible sign that it is turning back to a burgher policy and that it is paying the price claimed for its re-admission to the family of nations.
At first every revolution means a break with the common order of the family of nations, and a danger to it. Usually it starts with the suspension of international payments. The extraordinary importance of economics in modern international affairs makes the attitude of a revolutionary country towards the debt question the touchstone of political orientation. Often it is the banking and business community which decides the foreign policy of the government. The world's reception of the Third Reich is an illuminating example. The degree of Germany's readiness to pay or not to pay was one of the main factors deciding her prestige. The moratorium of June 1934 made a deeper impression abroad than the withdrawal from the League in October 1933.
Nevertheless the causes of tension are more deeply rooted than what has just been said would indicate. The economic is only a part -- though a very important part -- of a nation's general attitude. Economic unrest is heightened so long as the inner forces of the revolutionary state remain uncertain and hence so long as the tendencies of its foreign policy are not clear. Even a leader's true wish for peace may be weakened by the inner dynamics, the revolutionary driving power, of his movement. Sometimes his revolutionary speeches which so alarm the world are only meant for home consumption. In those cases they are evidence of inner tension and represent an attempt to divert attention from domestic to foreign problems. Modern European history gives us many examples of such a relationship between internal difficulties and adventures in the foreign field.
The acute need of a dictatorship based upon "plebiscites" and popular acclaim to show successes in foreign affairs is illustrated by the policy and destiny of Napoleon III. Bismarck, his greater and more successful opponent, seems to have been right when he said: "With foreign political successes you can win over your internal opponents. Give the people glory in foreign politics and they will be ready to renounce domestic rights."
This connection between foreign affairs and internal politics is especially revealed in the so-called "totalitarian state." Its claim to totality in inner politics is generally based on a real or presumed danger from abroad. In wartime all opposition and discussion must cease; personal liberty no longer exists. The best argument for this sort of suppression is the country's peril. War is a dictatorship's beginning, its demand, its test. Therefore it centers its propaganda on building up the fighting spirit. The younger generation especially may not take the propaganda platonically, but literally. It may prefer the dangers and the power of a soldier's life to the security of the burgher's.
It is, finally, the missionary idea of every revolution, its internationalism, which stirs its neighbors. As long as there is no proof that the revolution will stop at its own boundaries, it is suspected of endangering the peace of an ordered world. Fascist Italy has gone through a period of world suspicion. Soviet Russia's foreign affairs have been even more marked by the tension arising out of such suspicion. Its recent approach to the states of Western Europe is based upon its definite adoption of an outspoken burgher policy in international relations. Litvinov's system of pacts is in one line with French policy. The Soviet Union is no longer outside the League of Nations. This change was preceded by a long inner struggle, part of the historical fight between Trotsky and Stalin. It may be that internal considerations dictated the cessation of the foreign revolutionary activity of the Third International and its diversion into efforts to make a success of repeated five-year plans. But it was more than the renunciation of aggressive policy which calmed the European Powers; it was the Soviet Union's adoption of a European policy of security through mutual pacts. Security against foreign interference had indeed become a prerequisite for the development of Soviet Russia's own internal plans. Thus she seems to have become a strong ally in the fight for the European status quo and against every revolutionary peril which might endanger her own internal development. It may be only tactics; if so, these tactics are very efficacious in the present European situation.
In its fear of a new revolutionary power, Europe makes its peace with the old revolutionary who offers at least a truce. Here is the explanation of the radical change in European politics since the rise of the Third Reich. In the end, Germany, too, may tend towards the same burgher policy as the other countries. But the mere possibility that Germany is leaving the common line of European policy threatens European security. By her geographical position Germany is the "heart of Europe." The effort of the European Powers, led by France, is to forestall the revolutionary peril by binding it by obligations and treaties and security pacts. But the real desire for security is not satisfied so long as there is no trust in the fidelity of those who pledge their faith. Trust presumes a common world in which all are partners. Doubt is sufficient to make every treaty ineffectual.
We cannot yet decide where Germany really stands in the struggle to determine Europe's future. Yet the deep causes of the violent tension pervading Europe become clearer when we consider the struggle over social principle which underlies the day-by-day development of German foreign policy. Germany has become the battlefield of the European burgher. The fight is not yet ended. Foreign affairs -- seemingly on the periphery of these social developments -- not merely reflect the course of this struggle but become in the end the historical test of the burgher order.