EASTERN Europe is, in contrast with Western Europe, a disciplined unit with a plan and a will. Stalin is on top, the enslaved peoples on the bottom.

Russia has made the western borders of the satellite states a rampart. Unreliable populations have been transferred and replaced by others. The Bohemian mountains have been fortified; minefields and other defenses have been installed in the Czechoslovak countryside to a depth of six miles. The troops guarding the frontier separating Rumania and Hungary from Jugoslavia have been reinforced. The armies of the satellite nations have been unified under Russian leadership. Act I, suspect officers are purged. Act II, Russia seizes control of the military administrative services and transportation system. Act III, the army is strengthened and rearmament gets under way. In the last ten months a great effort to equip these armies with modern weapons has been made. The Czechs are using the Skoda works to the full. The Hungarian and Bulgarian armies recently received light armored vehicles, medium tanks and anti-tank weapons. It is rumored that the Russians intend to increase the military power of the satellites by 25 to 30 percent before the end of 1950 --a total of 900,000, though somewhat lacking in officer cadres, of course, because of the purges.

Finally, last November, Stalin raised the curtain on Act IV. He sent one of his Marshals to Warsaw--and what a Marshal! This was the Soviet general who had halted his troops before Warsaw near the end of the last war in order to give the Wehrmacht an opportunity to massacre the members of the Polish Resistance Movement who had started an insurrection in expectation of help from the approaching Red Army. Today, this Russian general is head of the Polish Army and Minister of National Defense of Poland, which is to say that he speaks as master at the seat of government and commands the armed forces. Anyone who knows the hatred of the Poles for the Russians can measure the scope of this stroke.

Russia herself can put 500 divisions into the field in wartime. Her Army is said to possess a large number of self-propelled guns. She will soon have a stockpile of atomic bombs, and according to a British aviation magazine now has planes capable of carrying them to America. Her munitions industry is widely scattered for protection, and many of the plants are hidden like the factories the Germans built during the last war near Berlin and in the neighborhood of the Krupp works.

The economic unification of Eastern Europe has also reached an advanced stage. At the head of this effort is the Russian Ministry of Economic Affairs, aided by a Council of Mutual Economic Assistance. Under its direction the countries of the Eastern bloc have signed trade treaties. This organization has Russia's gold at its disposal; and the Russian output of gold undoubtedly has increased while that of the rest of the world was falling from $1.3 billion in 1940 to $795,000,000 in 1948. The exchange rates of the satellite currencies are fixed in Moscow. As a result of all these measures, the index of trade among the East European countries rose from 100 in 1938 to 288 in 1948, while the index of east-west trade fell from 100 to 42.

Thus the Russian giant kneads and molds the clay of Eastern Europe with his powerful hands. His sway extends from Goethe's Weimar to the Pacific. And he cares very little if in order to maintain his grip he must sometimes strangle with the hangman's rope a satellite minister guilty of "nationalist deviation."

The picture presented by the disunited states of Western Europe is very different. Here there are no ministers hanging at the ends of ropes, no trials at which the accused begs for the death penalty with such ardor that the presiding judge of the "people's court" has to calm him by assuring him that he will get what he wants. But there is not much efficiency here, either.

Behind Western Europe stands America with her mammoth factories, modern laboratories, incomparable technicians, atomic bombs and jet planes. But between Western Europe and America lies an ocean. This is the great weakness of the democratic camp. And east of the ocean there is no army which can be compared to Russia's 210 peacetime divisions and her 500 divisions for war. Western Europe has men, but she has not the means to arm them adequately and the American aid she is receiving will not for some years enable her to stem a Red invasion. German participation in this common defense would certainly be of value; but there are wounds which have not yet been healed by time and a repugnance which has not yet been overcome. Such is, at least, the position of the French Government.

Today war has taken on an entirely new meaning for Western Europe. The stakes are higher than ever before. Formerly when a country lost a war the victor seized one or two provinces from the vanquished -- Alsace and Lorraine, for instance. This was a source of bitter grief for the conquered nation but, nonetheless, outside this territory life resumed its old course. In such wars, civilization survived. But today if the Russians invaded Western Europe they would bring the Communists to power everywhere, destroy free speech and the free press, end the independent judiciary, shoot or starve to death the educated classes, wipe out individual ownership of land -- in sum, destroy western civilization. That is what will happen if war breaks out before Western Europe has been armed.

Against this peril fifty divisions must be created. Europe cannot do this alone. If American aid continues at the present pace, many years will pass before Europe can defend herself. Will war wait? Are we not tempting the enemy? The problem of preserving the oldest, most varied, most precious and most characteristic elements of western civilization is an Atlantic problem. And where the power to solve it lies, there lies the responsibility.

Contemplating this spectacle one cannot help thinking of the I.O.U.'s, which the democracies gave each other between the two wars, those paper defenses called Locarno and the Little Entente. All Hitler had to do in order to destroy them was to blow on them. Baldwin said in the House of Commons on November 12, 1936: "A democracy is always two years behind a dictatorship." Are delay and inefficiency the law of democracy, even when the question is one of life or death? By now the democracies should be tired of playing the good fellow whose grandiloquence and naïveté make simpletons applaud while the enemy who is secretly preparing to attack and destroy him smiles satirically.


So much for security. But, at least, are not the democracies more successful in preserving the economy and social order of Western Europe? Are not the development of free enterprise and the production of wealth their specialty?

American aid to Western Europe has certainly borne fruit. Communism is losing ground, as was proved by the recent general elections in Belgium, Germany, Austria and Norway. It is losing ground because production is now 25 percent higher than before the war, making possible a relative stabilization of prices and control of inflation. These results would by themselves justify the generous aid of Americans to their far-off motherlands. But the aim of this assistance, as its authors conceived it, was to enable Europe to get along without the United States after June 30, 1952, when the Marshall Plan is scheduled to come to an end. This objective will not be achieved, nor was it ever possible.

Western Europe is now paying for her imprudence in permitting the growth of a population almost double that of the United States on a territory only half as large and lacking raw materials. Two world wars, unleashed one after the other, have destroyed the mechanisms which enabled Western Europe to exist. The gold of her banks of issue, the income on the foreign bonds held by her nationals, the financing, transporting and insuring of the raw materials produced in almost every part of the globe outside the dollar zone -- the whole delicate spider's web that the Europeans patiently wove over the surface of the earth -- all this is now dislocated or demolished. For example, Great Britain used to owe the Continent every year a sum in sterling that was the equivalent of half a billion dollars. The pound at that time could be converted into dollars. It can no longer be so converted. This means that the continental countries have lost an important means of making purchases in the dollar zone. The authors of the Marshall Plan do not seem to have realized the full scope of the damage resulting from the two world wars. The invisible injury is even more serious than the destroyed bridges, factories, mines, railroads and houses.

If she is to repair this damage, Western Europe must sell large quantities of goods to the United States; but the Americans still have their old mentality of a debtor nation, their tendency to close their doors against the articles which are Europe's only means of acquiring dollars. During the war, moreover, American industry increased both its output and its productive capacity, while Europe's factories suffered destruction and pillage. As a result, European goods are often more expensive than their American equivalents, although the wages of the European worker are only a third or a fourth as high as those of Americans in the same industry. It will be a long-term task for Europe to market in America enough exports to give her the dollars she needs to buy her raw materials from the dollar zone. It cannot be accomplished in two and a half years.

The task is made more difficult by the fact that the European masses, who suffered so cruelly during the war, now believe that they have a moral right to demand compensations; and these all result in increased production costs. In France, for example, the workers have been given generous social insurance against all risks, with the result that the total value of wages plus social security allowances is today equivalent to the volume of wages before the war. But the effects of the war must still be reckoned with, and the other social classes are far below their prewar standard of living. Moreover, the distribution of wages is different than before the war. Women workers and workers who support a family receive more than in the past, while the unmarried worker, that is to say, the most active and sometimes the most troublesome element in the trade unions, receives less. At the same time, Socialist ideology has worked havoc. Nationalizations have placed additional heavy burdens on the shoulders of a state already weakened by war and occupation. These burdens are not only financial but psychological and social; for the state, having lost its position as arbiter between the employers and workers, has in the nationalized enterprises become the most hated of bosses. The insurrectional strikes which afflicted France in the fall of 1947 and 1948 took place in the nationalized coal mines. Let it be added that excessive taxation has weakened the willingness to take risks and the taste for free enterprise which are among the main incentives of the capitalist system.

By pretending that what was desirable was also possible, the European countries have put themselves in a position where they must compete with American industry, and they cannot compete. They have thus committed an enormous blunder, for it seems most unlikely that, when June 30, 1952, comes, they will be able to secure the dollars they need for their supplies of raw materials without further American aid. This has led to the American demand for the unification of European economy. How else, indeed, can countries ranging from 8,000,000 to 49,000,000 inhabitants compete with America, which has 150,000,000 inhabitants and a purchasing power equal to that of 500,000,000 Europeans? Obviously, between the two giants, Russia and the United States, there is room for Europe -- but not for a mosaic of European states. Obviously, also, it is more difficult to federate countries each of which has a language, a literature, a long and often glorious history, than it was to federate the 13 colonies on the Atlantic coast. But Europe's need to unify herself economically, and hence politically, is nonetheless pressing. The urgency was apparent in 1948, when the beneficiaries of the Marshall Plan were asked to describe the means whereby they intended to reach solvency by 1952, for the irreconcilable plans which they outlined created nothing but confusion.

It is clear that, because of the decrease in America's national income during 1949 and the budgetary deficit due to military expenditures, Congress will make substantial reductions in Marshall Plan appropriations unless Western Europe, in return for the sacrifices demanded of American taxpayers, takes a decisive step toward unification. Many Europeans, particularly on the Continent itself, have understood the need to build a united Europe. Following my return from captivity, in 1945, I, for one, went to see Sir Alfred Duff Cooper, then British Ambassador to France, and told him that this was one of the conclusions I had reached during the years of meditation that I owed to Adolf Hitler. The 1948 Congress of Europe at The Hague, of which Winston Churchill was the moving spirit and in which nationals of all the Western European countries participated except Germany, Spain and Portugal, gave powerful expression to the desire of Europeans of every party except the Communist to build a single Europe. The Governments were obliged as a result to create a Committee of Five, in which France, Great Britain and the Benelux nations were represented, to study the question. This Committee, of which I was a member, met in Paris in December 1948 and January 1949 under the chairmanship of Mr. Herriot. The British Government instructed its representatives in such a fashion that it was impossible to reach agreement, and the Committee had to submit to the respective Governments the resolution of the British delegation on the one hand and that of all the other delegations on the other. The British resolution stipulated that the Consultative Assembly should consist of only 40 members and that each delegation should have as its chief a minister empowered to cast the vote of the whole delegation. Mr. Churchill, for example, would thus have to allow Mr. Morrison to vote in his, Mr. Churchill's, name against one of Mr. Churchill's own motions.

The Governments did reach agreement on May 5, 1949, upon a statute similar to that originally opposed by the British. With the addition of the Scandinavian countries, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Turkey, the Consultative Assembly now has 101 members belonging to 12 nations, and each member has the right to vote as he pleases. The members are appointed either by the parliaments, as is the case in France and Italy, or by the Governments, as is the case in Great Britain and Belgium. The only right enjoyed by this assembly is that of discussion. Here too it is limited. For the present it may debate only such subjects as have been accepted for the agenda by the Committee of Foreign Ministers. It may not encroach upon the functions of existing agencies such as the O.E.E.C. nor concern itself with problems related to national defense. It can merely submit recommendations to the Committee of Foreign Ministers which, in turn, submits them to the respective Governments. The latter are free to accept or reject them.

As we have seen, Great Britain agreed to the creation of the Council of Europe with extreme distrust. Under these circumstances and with these very limited powers the Assembly met at Strasbourg for a month, from August 10 to September 9, 1949. At the time, Léon Blum expressed surprise that no Mirabeau rose up in the Assembly to demand extension of its powers. Mirabeau was able to say to the Marquis de Dreux-Brézé, the Grand Master of Ceremonies who came in the name of the King, with his hat on his head, to invite the Assembly to disband: "We are here by the will of the people and we shall not leave except at the point of the bayonet." Léon Blum forgot that this was because Mirabeau had been elected by the people. If Mr. Churchill had spoken in such terms, his opponent, Mr. Morrison, would have answered: "Why no, Mr. Churchill, you are here by the will of Mr. Attlee." The weakness of this Assembly lies in the method by which its members are chosen.

At the Congress at The Hague I pointed out how difficult it would be to make the interest of Europe prevail over the selfish interests of each nation, and declared that the only chance of success was to shock public opinion in all countries. I said that we must therefore appeal to the peoples through the democratic mechanism of elections. I proposed that the Assembly should be elected by universal suffrage, with one deputy for each million inhabitants voting not as Englishmen, Frenchmen or Italians but as Europeans. This proposal was rejected by an overwhelming majority. A Conservative British M.P. objected with the old French proverb: "Make haste slowly." To which I retorted that this was strange advice to give to a drowning man trying to grasp a branch. A French Socialist, former Premier Paul Ramadier, accused me of being "ahead of the times." I accepted his criticism in good part, remembering what price my country and the world had paid for the mistakes of those who, before the war, were behind the times. Today a current of opinion is forming in favor of repairing this initial error; but it seems unlikely that the British Government will allow itself to be convinced.

On the economic level, the advantage of a united Europe is that it would make possible a great single market and, consequently, a redistribution of labor, with each country henceforth producing what it can best produce. It would also give a strong impulse to the necessary organization of Africa, Europe's prolongation to the south. This process of redistributing industry and labor would result in a lowering of European production costs. It would be a painful process because it implies the transfer of manpower from one industry to another, after a period of adaptation during which the least favored industries may be stricken by unemployment. This is the inevitable disadvantage of the plan -- the present evil for the sake of the future good. Several Labor representatives at Strasbourg expressed the view that one of them summed up in these terms: "If in creating a united Europe you create unemployment, we workers will say to you: 'Go to the devil with your Council of Europe and give us back our jobs and our wages!'" To which I answered that these workers seemed to believe that the choice lay between the status quo and the reconstruction of Europe, while the truth was that the status quo cannot last, since it is possible thanks only to American aid which must soon come to an end. I added that, as I listened to these speakers, I could not help thinking of Bismarck's phrase that Germany's unity would be forged only by blood and iron, and also of the formula of our own French historian, Jacques Bainville: "In order to build a federation there must be a federating state." There is such a state in Eastern Europe. Are we in Western Europe incapable, I asked, of achieving by an act of our own will what, in another part of the world, is imposed by a dictator?


I am afraid that the answer must be in the affirmative. Competition with countries whose production is less heavily burdened by wages, social security and taxes implies a temporary lowering of the living standards of the privileged nations. The authority of a democratic state is too weak to force the people to accept this. Only economic constraint is strong enough. When a democratic state says: "Let me first bring about a levelling of prices by levelling costs and tax burdens, then we will build Europe," it is really saying: "Let me first do something impossible." It seems unlikely that, in order to build a united Europe, the countries whose costs are now lower than others will agree to raise them, thus putting their own exports at a disadvantage and engendering a rise in living costs that might lead to social unrest. And the countries whose costs are higher will find it very difficult to lower them. The internal policy of each country is at stake -- that is to say, the electoral platform of the parliamentary majority and the government which stems from that majority. Only competition brings down prices by forcing down costs, and no government, even if made up of the best men, will open up the national borders and oblige its citizens to meet foreign competition unless outside pressure forces it to do so.

But this outside pressure does in fact exist. It is the threat of the withdrawal, or substantial reduction, of Marshall Plan credits. I am aware of the scruples which Americans feel at the thought of interfering in the internal affairs of European countries, but a purpose as lofty as this requires that this delicacy be overcome. Last October, at the meeting of the O.E.E.C. Council, Mr. Paul Hoffman stated the argument in favor of unification in terms of refined courtesy, but the argument was nonetheless compelling. It is true that the results achieved after the speech were limited. The resolution adopted by the O.E.E.C. Council was ambitious in its preamble but modest in its conclusions. To eliminate 50 percent of the quotas on imports in private trade was a wise decision, but one step only toward a return to the state of affairs that existed before the 1929 economic crisis. It represents a very slight effort on the part of the British since, because of state trading and various restrictions, it applies only to about 10 percent of Britain's total imports.

As for the rest, there was merely a promise to "study the question." True, there was talk in the lobbies of a "Fritalux," to include France, Italy and Benelux. (The latter has not yet achieved its objective, principally because of the conflict between Holland's managed economy, on the British pattern, and Belgium's liberalism.) There is no doubt that a "Fritalux" would be far superior to a Franco-Italian customs union, which is so limited that it offers the disadvantages of unification without its advantages. But is it wise to exclude Germany from such an enterprise? Is "Europe" conceivable without Germany? If we exclude her will we not goad her to turn toward the east? It would seem that a Franco-German discussion of the eventual creation of a Western European coal-and-iron-ore pool as well as the problem of dual prices (Ruhr coal costs the French manufacturer five dollars more per ton than the German manufacturer) is a necessary preliminary to the building of a continental bloc.

Furthermore, I am not one of those who accept Great Britain's present attitude. In a unified Europe, France and England together could balance Germany's economic power. And if a single Europe is to be created, it would be better to subject Germany to one effort of adaptation than to a series of crises. The British delegates to the Strasbourg Assembly seemed to favor the objective in principle when they proposed to extend to the Continent their agreements with the Commonwealth; for the Commonwealth countries would be friendly to the plan because of the influence wielded in most of them by the United States. On the other hand, the devaluation of the pound in September, which was followed by a wave of panic on the Continent, seemed a defiance of the very idea of a united Europe. Yet it is unwise to harbor resentment in politics. No matter how difficult Britain's managed economy makes European economic union, the project must be pursued with determination. There can be no "Europe" without a close understanding between France and England. America's contribution should be to help create this. If she brought the British and French together, and then encouraged them both to reach agreement with Germany for the creation of a great, single market, the other countries of Western Europe would inevitably follow the lead. Such a great and sustained effort to aid in the creation of a new Europe would be not only sound politics but a fresh claim to glory for the American people.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • PAUL REYNAUD, formerly President of the Council of Ministers of France; formerly Minister of Foreign Affairs, of Finance, and of Justice; member of the National Assembly since 1946; Chairman of the Economic Committee of the Council of Europe
  • More By Paul Reynaud