« AnteriorContinuar »
THE GREAT PROBLEMS
THE PEACE CONGRESS AND AFTER
THE Allies arrayed against Germany are practically agreed on the broad principles which will guide their action at the Peace Congress. The differences between them are rather apparent than real. The young Russian democracy has demanded a settlement without annexations and without indemnities.' That seems a purely negative programme. The other Powers have declared themselves in favour of a positive policy, which likewise has been summed up in two words. They have demanded a peace which is based on the principle of Restitution and Reparation.' Rightly considered, the two demands are identical. Men who have thrown over a Government which they detest, who have suddenly freed themselves from heavy shackles, naturally rejoice, and are apt to form in their joy vast plans which spring rather from the heart than from the head. Time is needed to awaken such men to the sober realities of this workaday world. The heady wine of democracy has had the same effect in Russia which it had in France at the end of the eighteenth century. The Russian declarations
remind one of Article VI of the French Revolutionary Constitution :
La nation française renonce à entreprendre aucune guerre dans la vue de faire des conquêtes, et n'emploiera jamais ses forces contre la liberté d'aucun peuple.
This ideal resolution was soon forgotten. The French revolutionaries embarked upon wars of conquest, the solemn declarations notwithstanding. It is to be expected that the Russian people will before long awake to the realities of the situation.
All the democracies are fighting for the principle of liberty, for the right of nationalities to govern themselves in their own way. All are strongly opposed to the principle of absolutism, of monarchical tyranny, of race subjection and of race exploitation. They are fighting for the freedom of the oppressed nationalities. They are pledged to free the exploited races and to enable them to organise and to govern themselves in their own way. By setting free the subject nationalities, the non-German parts of Germany will be enabled to rule themselves and to choose their allegiance. The territory of Germany will be slightly reduced. By setting free the subject nationalities the Austrian and Turkish Empires, where the governing race is in a small minority, will be dissolved into their component parts. However, their dissolution cannot honestly be described as partition and be compared with the partitions of Poland. No democrat can wish to thrust back the Armenians, Czechs, Poles, &c., under their ancient yoke.
The word war-indemnity 'has during the last few decades changed its meaning. Originally a war-indemnity signified adequate compensation for the cost of an unjust war which was exacted from the aggressor. It was a bill for damages wantonly done. It was unobjectionable from the highest moral point of view. Since the time when powerful military States have robbed the defeated nations, whom they had wantonly attacked, not only of territory upon which they
had no claim on racial grounds, but have in addition exacted from them outrageous sums of money merely in order to make their aggression both territorially and financially profitable to themselves, the word 'indemnity' has become synonymous with spoliation, and spoliation is detestable. The word indemnity ' has acquired a bad odour. The Allies, Belgium, Serbia, France, Russia, and the rest, are certainly entitled to claim from the Central Powers compensation for their gigantic losses caused by a war which was forced upon them, but they will scarcely make a profit out of such indemnities as they may obtain. The damage done is too large. Germany and her Allies are not rich enough ever to repay their victims. They can pay no more than a tithe of the damage, and they may have to rebuild with their own labour what they have destroyed.
The territorial settlement at the Peace Congress will be effected in accordance with the principle of nationalities. Racial and State limits will be made to coincide wherever possible. However, there may be certain exceptions to the rule. Sometimes various nationalities are inextricably mixed in certain districts, and must be disentangled. Besides, the smaller States created on a racial basis must be secured against an attack from their warlike, powerful, and possibly revengeful neighbours, and they must be able to make a living; they must be economically independent. Lastly, those nations which caused the War, and which may be inclined to renew it, must give guarantees for their good behaviour in the future. They cannot be allowed to dominate their smaller neighbours strategically or economically, and may have to lose certain vantage points. Poland and Serbia must have adequate outlets to the sea. To avoid racial injustice, men of one race who, for pressing strategical or economic reasons may have to be included in another nation, should be given the option of rejoining their brothers across the frontier and be entitled to adequate compensation for disturbance.
There are a number of instances where friction may arise
between several nations through conflicting claims to territory based on racial, strategical, or economic grounds. Where there is a conflict of claims, a settlement should as a rule be effected on the principle that the weaker claim must give way to the stronger. This should, of course, not mean that the smaller Power should be sacrificed to the greater, for the settlement should be based not on might, but on justice. Differences may, for instance, arise in arranging the claims of Italy and Serbia to certain portions of the Adriatic, the future of Macedonia may become a matter of contention, &c. Most of these questions are not of first-rate importance, and they should easily be settled, although they may call for unlimited patience on the part of the assembled
Among the greatest and most difficult problems of the Peace Congress are the problem of Constantinople, the problem of Asia Minor, the problem of Austria-Hungary, the problem of Poland, and the position of the German Empire and its Emperor. All these have been considered in the present volume.
Shortly after the revolution the representatives of the Russian democracy have waived Russia's historic claim to the possession of Constantinople on the principle of 'No Annexation and No Indemnities.' A young democracy is guided rather by the heart than by the head. It follows easily the generous impulses of the moment. By the time the Peace Congress assembles, the Russian people may have changed their representatives, and may have changed their mind as to Constantinople. It seems doubtful whether the desire of acquiring Constantinople was merely based upon the ambition of Russia's rulers. Russia's most valuable territories lie in the south, for the bleak north produces little. The Black Sea and the mighty rivers leading to it constitute Russia's principal outlet. The most precious part of Russia's foreign trade is the Black Sea trade. It is bound to increase indefinitely in value. Rather for economic than for strategical reasons Russia requires free access from