Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
I. THE THEORY AND THE FACTS
AMERICAN public opinion is naturally somewhat exercised at a movement which has been developing for some months past in favor of a European Federation. M. Aristide Briand's frequent remarks on this subject in the French Chamber have been of a striking character; and M. Theunis, President of the International Chamber of Commerce, following the convention at Amsterdam, made what amounted to an exposition of a careful program. The Belgian statesman (who has headed the government of his own country and who now plays an important economic role at Geneva) declared that he aims to bring "greater reasonableness, greater harmony, into the economic relationships existing between the peoples of Europe." "Anyone who follows the trend of events attentively," he recently remarked to a French newspaperman, "must be aware of a growing conviction that the different nations of the world are interdependent." And he added: "This solidarity in the realm of fact is a good thing: it should find its counterpart in a similar solidarity in thought and feeling." Now it is a truism to say that Europe suffered most from the war, and that she has encountered great difficulties in her efforts to recover her old position. While the United States, thanks to her immense natural resources, her highly perfected plants, her splendidly trained engineers, and her vast home market, has been enjoying great prosperity, Europe finds herself today more seriously disorganized than ever. New states have come into being. New frontiers have been drawn. Each country is striving to secure its economic independence and has been raising one customs barrier on top of another. "The hundred and twenty million people living in the United States," continued M. Theunis, "enjoy a territory eight times larger than Europe, if we exclude Russia. Fourteen countries in Europe are smaller in size than the state of Ohio." The United States, furthermore, has the advantage of a single language and a single system of commercial legislation. If, therefore, Europe is concerned about surviving, she must reorganize in harmony with England. In so doing she would be following the advice repeatedly given her by American economists.
Such is the thesis of European federalism as expounded by a man experienced in the problems both of statesmanship and of business. It is grounded, moreover, on figures that have frequently been brought to public notice. Trusting that our friends in America are eager to be accurately informed, I shall venture to explain that French public opinion -- that portion of our public opinion, at least, which is interested in the facts and looks to the facts for hints as to the laws that will obtain in the future -- has been much impressed by documents like those appearing in the May 29, 1929, issue of the Bulletin of our Societé d'Études et d'Informations Economiques. It summarized a series of articles which had been sent from New York to the Frankfurter Zeitung on the subject of American investments abroad. It is noteworthy, said the author of those articles, that foreign loans on the American market did not fall off appreciably during the year 1928: they amounted to 1592 million dollars in 1927, and were only 105 millions less in 1928. The 1928 investments were distributed as follows (in millions of dollars):
In Europe the nations which borrowed most were Germany, 292.48; Italy, 65.96; Denmark, 61.50; Norway, 14. Great Britain and Ireland subscribed to 25.46; France to only 17.25.
The Frankfurter Zeitung pushed its analysis still further, studying the use made of American loans during the period between 1914 and 1928, and showed that they were put to the following uses (in millions of dollars): railroads, 777; banks, 666; paper, 443; sugar, 349; mines, 261. And the newspaper concluded that, quite apart from war loans and strictly private credits, American foreign loans had risen, between 1914 and 1928 inclusive, to something like 13,147 millions.
These figures (the responsibility for which rests on the German economist who prepared them) required, of course, some comment. "Financial imperialism," wrote M. Lucien Romier in the Revue des Deux Mondes, "implies long extended domination only as regards young or backward peoples still lacking domestic initiative, technical training, mechanical equipment, creative genius. Everywhere else it stimulates forces which some day or other will come to compete with it and equalize things to its detriment." And I have heard M. Joseph Caillaux, speaking before a congress of the Radical Party, vigorously defend the same theory, which happens also to be my own.
But to be frank, one should add that such figures (and the prospect, besides, of new tariff restrictions) have aroused grave uneasiness in many minds, as indicated by such speeches as one delivered recently by a deputy, M. Julien Durand, during our recent debates on the French public debt. The lay-off of a considerable number of French workmen as a result of disputes over American films filled many minds with grave forebodings.
Ideas of this kind, statistics of this kind, facts of this kind, have been largely responsible for creating an atmosphere favorable to the growth of a concept which we may conveniently, however inadequately or inexactly, express as "Pan-Europe" or "The United States of Europe." This concept, of which M. Aristide Briand is now appearing as the avowed champion, has found both friends and adversaries, and has encountered both encouragement and objections.
II. THE ARGUMENT PRO
At the time when these speeches in favor of "Pan-Europe" were delivered, certain publicists, such as the Washington correspondent of the London Times, had just made known the impression produced in the United States by the protests advanced in connection with proposed American tariff legislation. We were informed that the Senate Finance Committee had decided to make public the warnings of some thirty-eight foreign nations and we were apprised of the attitude taken by Argentina and Canada, and by Cuba on the specific subject of sugar. There were hints of a coalition -- a course of action always opposed by fair-minded people, for what we want is not a conflict but an understanding; and we must strive always to keep the discussion free of everything that might inflame national vanities and raise the stupid and barbarous notion of reprisals.
But these reports gave momentum to the longstanding project of Pan-European union, for which Count Coudenhove-Kalergi has long maintained a systematic campaign of publicity. The Frankfurter Zeitung, which we have already quoted, raised a question in its issue of July 12 as to whether M. Briand had not set out to revive the historic grand dessein of Henry IV and Sully. Henry IV, in fact, dreamed of making himself the arbiter of Europe, of recasting the map of the Christian world, and driving the Turks back into Asia. In accord with this plan, which M. Pfister as long ago as 1894 expounded in the Revue Historique, Europe was to be divided into six hereditary monarchies, five elective monarchies, and five republics, and governed by a sort of Amphictyonic Council which would be the guardian of everlasting peace and arbitrate all quarrels between kings and peoples. But despite evident similarities between the old plan and the new, Henry IV's prime intention was to humble the House of Austria and establish France as a sort of permanent arbiter in the interests of religious toleration and political stability. Let us, therefore, avoid useless comparisons between M. Briand and Sully, and let us not return without proper precautions to the still older notion of the Amphictyonic Council, though the history of that institution might supply much suggestive information. That Council was devised for the purpose of uniting Greece and preventing war. If a nation condemned by one of its decisions did not submit, there was provision for calling the whole confederation to arms against the rebel. The Council indeed proclaimed several "sacred wars," and came to supply Philip with a pretext for intervening in Greek affairs. Such precedents are not without interest at a time when means are being sought for guaranteeing nations against the violence of possible aggressors. But if the League of Nations would maintain peace, it must proceed more wisely than the Amphictyonic Council did in defending the treasure of Delphi!
In spite of the allusion of the Frankfurter Zeitung, I do not believe that M. Briand is indulging in historical reminiscence. It is not his way of doing things. And Mr. Stresemann, no less, uttered favorable comment on the scheme of a Pan-Europe and seemed to endorse it. "I believe," he declared before the Reichstag, "that a time will come, born of economic stringency, when French economic policy, German economic policy, and perhaps other economic policies in Europe, will seek some common avenue of support in the face of successful competition." In the Berliner Tageblatt of July 13, Mr. Günther Stein made sympathetic if restrained comment on the idea, and in the Neue Freie Presse of July 14 a former Minister of the Reich and a member of the Reichstag, Mr. Erich Koch Weser, leader of the Democratic group, endorsed the Briand plan as indispensable, in his opinion, for the safety of Europe. Certain newspaper men remarked forthwith that a European Federation would do away with two terribly irritating problems: the problem of the Anschluss and the problem of minorities.
It seems to me that one essential idea runs through all the great variety of considerations brought out in these discussions: namely, that the efforts which have been made so successfully to bring about a certain degree of political organization in Europe will sooner or later come to naught unless the political order is supplemented and supported by an economic order. That is the kernel of the plan, something that makes it interesting to the entire world, and therefore to the United States -- quite as interesting, indeed, as it is to us.
Great Britain has herself been strongly impressed by the development of American enterprise. In the Daily News of July 20, Mr. J. A. Spender welcomed M. Briand's project, with some skepticism it is true, but none the less sympathetically. In Spain, El Sol has editorially contended that the best way to unify Europe would be to generalize the scientific methods and procedures which have so notably contributed to the prosperity of the United States; and in the Vanguardia of Barcelona, Señor Carlos Espla has given warm support to the Briand plan.
III. THE ARGUMENT CON
Such reserves as may be noted in the reception given to the Briand proposal arise from the fact that it has not been made sufficiently detailed. It is still in the stage of generalities -- it is still a tendency of thought rather than a definite platform of action. Nevertheless, Pan-Europe has already encountered numerous objections.
The first of these -- in spite of my desire to be quite impartial, I can hardly take it seriously -- was raised against the speech of M. Briand by the German Nationalists. A European Federation? they cried. Such a thing would simply enable the French to give their country hegemony over Europe! The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung shouted that it would be a resurrection of the old Continental policy of France. It would be a military machine built up against the United States, against Great Britain, against Russia. An absurd objection, surely, contradicted by everything we know of M. Briand's character and of the things he has achieved.
The second might be called the "British objection," which may be found developed in the Sunday Referee of July 14. After being compared by an Englishman to Julius Caesar and Napoleon (just as a German had compared him to Henry IV and Sully), M. Briand is then accused of imperialistic designs. The British Empire, he must understand, constitutes a real unit, a unit all by itself. The Empire reserves the right to intervene or not to intervene, at its pleasure, in European affairs. It will never be willing to unite with Europe in any final contractual fashion.
Very well -- we understand! But can one be sure that the British Empire always constitutes a real unit? And do not present-day events justify us in thinking that that unity in the economic sphere, as well as in the political sphere, may already have broken down? Has not that breakdown, indeed, been one of the great dramas of our time? A sorrowful drama, indeed, for all those who love Great Britain, as I love her.
Again, early in September, the Daily Express voiced an emphatic protest against any suggestion of a European Federation, for the reason that the British Empire should form a complete economic unit, stronger than America, and stronger than Europe. Our people, wrote that newspaper, have as little intention of becoming a part of Europe in a social sense, as they have in a political sense. We are called to a future far more exalted than that! Let us think of the British Empire, and strive to organize it as a single economic unit. Let us bear in mind the limitless capacities for production possessed by the Dominions and the Colonies, and tie them up with the manufacturing resources of Great Britain, in a mutual and particularly profitable alliance. Let both Great and Greater Britain find their first and their largest market in buying and selling the one to the other. Then their security will be perfect, their prosperity limitless; and the welfare of each part of the Empire will be the welfare of all!
Civis Britannica sum, cries a writer in the Sunday Referee, and then goes on to repeat the arguments just made. The British Empire has essential elements in each of its constituent parts. It needs all the oceans. "It cannot throw all its eggs into the European basket." "The real gold mine of the Empire resides in its immense territories, still unexploited, and in its capacity for production. The peoples of the British Empire have unequalled reserves of raw materials and labor at their disposal."
We fully appreciate the inspiring quality to be noted in such assertions of British spirit. The words just quoted are, as it were, an echo of a credo compiled and proclaimed in bygone days by Mr. Chamberlain when he met the Manchester Freetraders with his doctrine of protectionism, urged a customs union with the Colonies, and dreamed of uniting all the "Britains in the world" in a vast empire and of "weaving its still scattered ribbons into an imperial cloak for old Mother England."
We are quite familiar, I say, with this old dream of an England who would be Queen of the Universe, with the oceans for her canals. But for the very reason that we love England, because we believe her prosperity indispensable to the stability of the world, because we see in her the guardian of political liberty and democracy, we wonder whether the course of events will not incline her to some modification of her traditional program. Indeed, what do we see going on already ? At Geneva a very responsible Englishman, Mr. Graham, the President of the Board of Trade, brought forward a suggestion for a committee of producers -- European in scope, if my memory does not fail me -- to guarantee a fair distribution of coal. In a public speech delivered at Oxford on September 14, Mr. Graham went further still, and called for a rationalization of international labor. Similarly at Geneva, on September 9, Foreign Minister Henderson stressed the advantages of a European Federation for the improvement of labor conditions.
Such is the language of wisdom, and for my part I believe that Great Britain would have much to gain in favoring a European Federation which would lend powerful assistance to her and which, furthermore, would be inconceivable without her participation.
We need not concern ourselves with certain insults from Italy, vulgar denunciations of M. Briand in newspapers like the Tevere.
More serious is a third objection of an economic character, which may be found stated, among other places, in an article by Mr. Günther Stein in the Berliner Tageblatt. You will be involving yourselves, cautions M. Stein, in all the complications of economic geography. You will be unchaining earthquakes of a revolutionary character. What will happen, for instance, to impoverished regions which would be brought into competition with more productive and fertile lands?
In this objection one senses the uneasiness felt by representatives of German agriculture, who fear it will be submerged in such an organization as Pan-Europe. But Mr. Arnold Reihberg enters the fray and becomes more definite. His views have the greatest weight. He has, in fact, been among those who supported the policy of large combinations in industry, and the Cartels he sponsored have so far been giving most satisfactory results. Very fortunate contacts have been established between French industry and German industry. Shall we go farther along this line -- as regards the present, at least? No, says Mr. Reihberg, in the Berliner Boersen Courier of July 14. "No, the removal, or even the lowering, of tariff frontiers in the interior of Europe would have this consequence: that the highly developed manufacturing of some European countries would crush less well developed industries in other countries; while the agriculture of certain regions of Europe, which are specially favored by climate or by quality of soil, would at once destroy the agriculture of other regions less favored by climate and with lower fertility of soil."
Let us try, counsels Mr. Reihberg, to rest content with the results already achieved through the concentration of the great industries in Germany and France, with the Franco-German accord on iron, the Franco-German accord on chemical products. Let us strive to derive all possible benefits from the contracts of 1926 and 1927. It should be observed that Lord Melchett has brought the Imperial Chemical Industries, Ltd. -- the focus of the great English chemical factories -- into the Franco-German consortium. There, in M. Reihberg's opinion, we find indicated the best means for bringing British isolation to an end. Let us generalize agreements such as the potash combine, and the little states of Europe will of their own accord fall into line with the nations of high production.
These considerations, these arguments, are put forward in earnest and they are of such character as to suggest long and careful reflection. Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, I may add, seems to be hostile to the Pan-Europe idea as a matter of principle, and also, perhaps, as a matter of policy. This he made clear in a speech at a meeting of the Deutsche Industrie und Handelstag at Munich on June 28, 1929. He said: "We see not the slightest reason for joining in those complaints which tend to spread the fear that all Europe is on the way to becoming a colony of the United States."
A fourth objection is based on difference of languages and national cultures in Europe. Nationalists beyond the Rhine point quite properly to the deep-lying differences that separate the European states of the northwest from the Balkan peoples. German unity and Italian unity have been established, and not without difficulties, between populations speaking the same language. Since the fall of the Holy Roman Empire and the end of the universal Christianity of the Middle Ages, one vainly seeks for an idea-power capable of unifying the Western World.
There is finally another -- the Russian -- objection. The Pravda has risen impetuously against any bourgeois conception of European unity, in opposition to which it sets the theory of world revolution. And it is true, I think, that Pan-Europe cannot be solidly organized so long as Russia is left isolated. But the day is destined to come when the country at present monopolized by the Bolsheviks will enter the concert of world activity. It is a question of time -- only time.
Evidently, then, if the concept of Pan-Europe has found support of the greatest weight in the endorsements of Mr. Stresemann and of ex-Chancellor Seipel, it is still faced with serious difficulties. I have tried to analyze them in the most dispassionate spirit, taking into account such data as is available as I write. The fundamental idea can meet only with approval from all liberal spirits, and especially from our French Liberals: the idea, namely, that all nations, whether they be great or small, shall possess the same rights; an idea peculiarly dear to me, and which I defended with all my might at Geneva in 1924 when we were at work on the Protocol (a measure in which, by the way, I still have not lost trust). Anyone who raises the spectre of hegemonies is really to be suspected of bad faith, for the one point involved is to assure to the weak the same right to happiness which the strong can assure to themselves.
I believe it would be to the interest of the United States to help us who are struggling here in Europe, so badly prepared by history, in our work of putting an end to the old traditional doctrine of alliances, counter-alliances, not to mention the classic system of balance of power. In substituting for these the still new conception of federation, we must not fail to observe that the last war did away with a number of great historic institutions -- the Russian Empire, the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire -- which were open to many criticisms, but which, nevertheless, expressed a long labor of human intelligence. Never more than today has Europe been cut into pieces, broken into fragments, forced backwards toward a primitive form of cantonal organization. No amount of energy is to be judged too costly in this effort of ours to transmit to these numberless nations some current of unifying sentiment.
But would such a federation, if ever it came to pass, be a menace to the United States? It would be as childish to believe it as it would be criminal to desire it. In my opinion, Pan-Europe would become a danger to the United States only if Russia were organized. The Black Lands grow a wheat something like that of our French Beauce, and would permit the creation of formidable reserves, if once science could find its way into that hell, deal with the misdeeds of drought in certain regions, and in others with the destruction wrought by heavy rains. There would be similar future riches in rye, oats, barley, corn, potatoes, sugar-beets, flax, hemp. Russia has breeding grounds for horses of every blood, from the little Kalmyk pony to the heavy dray horse of Central Russia. There are cows everywhere, and from what one can see between Novgorod and Vologda -- or at least was once able to see in days gone by -- one may imagine the development that dairying might have under really scientific management. As regards sheep raising, nothing is to prevent a growth rivalling the achievements of the Australian squatters. There is no visible limit to the production of pork. The forests cover the land with birch and poplar, oak and maple, streams of fresh water shelter limitless resources of food for man, and the subsoil is rich in oil, coal, gold, platinum, copper, manganese, quicksilver, zinc, salt. Yes, in very truth, if a modernized Russia, equipped with adequate machinery, directed by trained engineers, supplied with good avenues of transportation, and a vast network of railroads, should become part of the European Federation, the United States might have reason to fear.
But our poor little decrepit Europe as she is today -- allow us to try our hand at organizing her! Give her a chance to live, sell her products, preserve her technical proficiency, develop her science. Give us encouragement in the work of lessening her interior barriers, her hostilities between nation and nation. Difficulties enough lie across our path, as I have striven to show. May no new obstacles be raised before us in a work by nature so complicated and, for that matter, still so vague!
For centuries past, from the fall of the Roman Empire, this Europe of ours has been vainly striving to attain a settled order. The system into which Charlemagne consolidated her lasted a bare century, and from its ruins issued the states whose names we know -- France, Germany, Italy. Gradually other nations to the north and east arose. The close of the fifteenth century gave Europe, save as regards Holland and Prussia, the general outlines she has since preserved. Later on, much later on, one might have thought that the revolutionary idea was about to give her unity in freedom. A man of genius ruined that experiment and brought back the piecemeal system that had prevailed before. Then, from war to war, from treaty to treaty, she began again to divide, tear apart, destroy. If perchance, some years hence, men of good will could find rest for her within the concept of federation, it would be a benefit not only to herself, but to the world at large; for we would then at last see extinguished our traditional torch of world discord. Then Europe, hand in hand with America, might set herself to what is to be the task of the centuries to come -- the complete utilization of this great world in which such huge numbers of human beings still live in misery.
Charting the Disastrous Choices Ahead