THE civil war in Spain has bared the relentless struggle being waged by the Great Powers for essential raw materials. Not oil but iron ore is now the chief issue. As part of the hugest armaments race in history an unprecedented iron and steel crisis has broken out, and the industrial nations of Europe are fighting for possession of every lump of ore, every piece of scrap. When gold is no longer at hand to secure the precious mineral, bombs or the threat of bombs are used to make the owner yield it up. This lust for iron to turn into arms may at any moment lead to a repetition elsewhere of Bilbao's tragedy.
Luckily in Sweden, the possessor of vast reserves of iron ore, there is as yet no sign of a coming "civil war." The chances that there ever will be one are small. At present the country is experiencing the "mixed feelings" of a rich man counting his treasure while a gang of desperadoes looks on. Today, iron ore is a main source of national wealth; tomorrow it may become the prime cause of national sorrow. For there are already, as a leading Swedish paper recently put it, "rumors about foreign speculation as to how to secure the iron ore one needs by means other than a contract of delivery." The tragic example of the Basques is a bad omen for Sweden -- and she knows it.
Sweden is the world's biggest exporter of iron ore. True, three other countries -- France, Russia and the United States -- each produces more iron ore; but each consumes a much larger portion of its own output than Sweden does. True, also, that France is ahead from the standpoint of the actual number of tons shipped abroad. In 1936, French iron ore exports amounted to around 18 million tons, while Swedish shipments were about 11.2 million. But this mode of reckoning is misleading for it takes no account of the different percentages of iron
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