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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 5 (November 2, 1931)

World Affairs — Statecraft and Bread—Depression Spurs Politicians—Great Inventor Passes—Will Great Criminal Escape?

page 9

World Affairs
Statecraft and Bread—Depression Spurs Politicians—Great Inventor Passes—Will Great Criminal Escape?

Statecraft and Bread—Depression Spurs Politicians—Great Inventor Passes—Will Great Criminal Escape?

Debts! Debts! Debts!

The event of the month in foreign affairs has been the mission of the French Premier to Washington, following on his mission to Berlin, and (earlier) the British Prime Minister's mission to Berlin. Germany owes huge sums, including the special reparations debt to France. Britain, France, and Italy owe huge sums. Only the United States is entirely creditor. Britain is both debtor and creditor, and long ago was willing to balance accounts. The creditor United States is asked by Europe to reduce the debts, and the question arises: “What will the United States ask in return? Will President Hoover ask the French Premier Laval merely to reduce France's reparations claim on Germany? Will he demand French disarmament also?”

A Polite Parley.

At time of writing (27th Oct.) the press communique of the Hoover-Laval conversations in Washington contains no word of disarmament, but says: “The United States is ready to do its share as a contribution to world stability; the reopening of debt questions is expected to follow immediately on any change in reparations.” Also, “Germany is expected shortly to take the initiative by asking for relief from her enormous reparations burden.” That is the interesting point at which world-politics now appear to stand. Not merely world-politics, but world-economics. As the Hoover-Laval statement puts it, co-operation of statesmen is imperative “at a time when the world looks for leadership in relief from the depression which reaches into countless homes in every land.” It is not merely politics. It is bread and butter.

The Cat in the Bag.

One would hardly think of Senator Borah and Signor Mussolini as embodying two hearts with but one single thought. Yet, both of them have just caused considerable shock by making a direct frontal attack on the Treaty of Versailles. What Senator Borah said in America, where he is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, and what Signor Mussolini said in Italy, will find a common target in France. Those American newspapers which, for the moment, do not want the disarmament cat to jump out of the diplomatic bag, and which are concerned to respect French sensibilities during the French Premier's visit, jumped on the Senator with both feet. But it is unlikely that the Italian papers will jump on the Duce, or on his criticism of the one-sided nature of disarmament.

Mechanics and the Voice.

Only a little while ago Thomas Alva Edison spoke from a talking film in New Zealand, page 10 and the modern perfection of that instrument is so great that people who had never met Edison at once felt as if they knew him. Not only a “wizard” was there, but, as one lady phrased it, “a dear old man” —perhaps the dearer in that he confessed that he did not understand the Einstein theory. A few weeks pass, and Edison, at eighty, passes to his fathers. It is characteristic of speeding progress that while Edison in the ‘eighties of last century was astonishing the world with his speaking machine, the latterday world takes for granted the wonderful speaking mechanism of the sound-sight moving pictures, which record the human voice, not with a phonograph needle but with a more wonderful contrivance still. Thus one invention inspires another, and the peoples of the world are more and more brought face to face.

Cyprus the Ancient.

Except that some of the inhabitants of Cyprus aspire to a union with Greece, which the Greek Government repudiates, the cablegrams so far have thrown little light on the motives of the Cyprus revolt. The island, one of the largest in the Mediterranean, passed under British occupation and administration when a partial re-carving of Europe occurred at the Berlin Congress of 1878. But it remained nominally a Turkish island, Britain paying the Sultan of Turkey an annual tribute of £92,800. This ended with the Great War, when Britain formally annexed Cyprus; and the defeat of Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Turkey confirmed the Turkish loss. At that time, it was recorded that British annexation was accepted by the Greek-speaking Cypriotes with enthusiasm, by the Turkish-speaking without demur. In 1925—the year, by the way, when Britain restored the gold standard, now in abeyance —Cyprus became a Crown colony. History records that the Turks took it in 1570, when 20,000 inhabitants of Nicosia were put to the sword. Cyprus was one of the earliest copper producers, dating from probably 3000 B.C.

For Bigger Business.

Slumps may come and slumps may go, but the traffic streams run on forever. To remember this has a tonic effect in times of depression, because the pessimistic will everywhere see abundant signs of vitality in transport. When the Americans spent sixty million dollars in connecting New York and New Jersey (across the Hudson) with a suspension bridge claiming the longest span (for the moment) in the world, they are not sinking this enormous sum in a gamble. They know, and every calm thinking person knows—that the wheels of commerce will continue to go round, and presently faster than before. The quest for the biggest bridge and the biggest ship has not been halted because business has temporarily sagged. Far from that, the wires of the Hudson river bridge are tuned to livelier measure than ever. Each foot of “wire” weighs nearly 30001b.

Justice on Trial.

At Al Capone's trial something more is on trial than Al Capone. By far the larger issue before the Chicago court is whether the criminal law of the United States is capable of functioning against the dollar power. The law's failures, and the law's delays, have so often proved helpful to crime and fraud that it can be said with truth that although Al Capone is answering to American justice, American justice is as much on its trial as is the gangster. So far the fight is going not badly for the law. The round ending in the sentence (eleven years) and the huge fines and penalties to the Income Tax Department, was the judge's round on points. Though not all the points in the indictment held. But what about the appeal, and appeal delays? Chicago's sceptical man in the street was astonished at the sentence. He will be astounded if it is served.

State Economic Drives.

Russia has for some time had a five-year plan, and now China is said to have a ten-year plan. Each, it seems, is a plan to manufacture and produce to the greatest economic advantage; but China, it is said, will not favour State employership as in Russia; but rather State encouragement (cheap money, for instance) to private employers. Low interest loans for the stimulation of production are no new thing. But if the money page 11 has to be borrowed abroad, who will lend on a huge scale to a Government of whose stability there are doubts? Yesterday, the Nanking Government was challenged by the Chinese. To-day, its equilibrium is threatened by the action of Japan. To-morrow—? Patriotic Chinese hope that Japanese pressure will unite China. But hope is not always a gilt-edged security.

Can China Unite?

Compared with the Chinese Government, the Russian Government seems to discipline its people incomparably better. The Soviet rulers are troubled with no interprovincial wars that one hears about. Russia, like China, comprises many millions of people. The Russian peoples, more diverse than China's, are yet very largely Asiatics, as the Chinese are; but the Soviet Government can drive a war to a conclusion, whereas in China war of a sort has seemed to be perennial. If China during the last ten years had proved to be a convincing example of Asiatic self-determination, the moral effect on the world would have been great. It would not have been lost on the India Conference. But as things are, the “India free” movement derives little eclat from events elsewhere in Asia. The case for integration in China has still to be proved.

Modern Freight Handling Equipment. (Rly. Publicity photo.) Members of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce examining one of the travelling cranes during their official inspection of Wellington's new goods shed.

Modern Freight Handling Equipment.
(Rly. Publicity photo.)
Members of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce examining one of the travelling cranes during their official inspection of Wellington's new goods shed.

Struggle for Markets.

A recent event that attracted world-wide interest was Canada's initial wheat shipment by the Hudson Bay route. That route marks the Canadian wheat-grower's effort to come nearer to Liverpool. Canada calculates that Russia can grow within 400 miles of the Black Sea as much wheat as Western Canada has been producing in its most favoured years. Therefore, Canada, for reasons which New Zealand will well appreciate, tries to reduce the length of the sea route to her market. Geographically, she will do so for a portion of the year, but whether she will reduce freights—considering the reaction of ice risks on insurance—remains to be seen. Higher insurance rates via Hudson Bay might easily cancel any freight advantage derivable on mileage compared with the route by the St. Lawrence.

Big plans for the re-signalling of the French railways have recently been approved by the Paris Ministry of Public Works. Five years is to be spent on bringing the French signalling system completely up-to-date, and some £600,000 is to be spent under this head. Standardisation of signalling on all the French railways is contemplated, and the existing mechanically-operated signals are to be replaced by new signals of the three-aspect day colour light type. —From Our London Correspondent.

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