The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review October, 1920
The Lesson of the Peace Treaty
The Lesson of the Peace Treaty
"We are in this war from motives of purest chivalry."
—Mr. Lloyd George, November 10, 1914.
Germany has occupied a great position in the world. It is not our wish to question or destroy that position, but rather to turn her aside from hopes and schemes of military domination and to see hop devote all her strength to the great beneficent tasks of the world.—Mr. Lloyd George, January 18, 1918.
"We will get out of her all you can squeeze out of a lemon, and a bit more. I will squeeze her until you can hear the pips squeak. .........1 would strip Germany as she has stripped Belgium."—Sir E. Geddes, after the Armistice.
"Little has been overlooked which might impoverish Germany now or obstruct her development in future."—J. M. Keynes, C.B., British Treasury Representative at the Peace Conference and Deputy Controller of the Exchequer on the Supreme Economic Council, after the Peace Treaty.
For live long years of war the people of the Allied nations listened to the altruistic aims given expression to by their statesmen, and believing, sacrificed their all in a supreme effort to lay the foundations of an enduring peace; entering on a "war to end war," they looked for a day when, the victory gained, the Allies would prove to the world that this of all wars was a war for a noble ideal. The years dragged on, and as the Angel of Death crossed the threshold of home after home, statesmen renewed their assurances that those sacrifices would find a glorious consummation in a new world spirit that would abolish for all time the cruelties of war. Over nine million lives were sacrificed on the battlefield to Gain this ideal, and in dying the men presented to their statesmen an opportunity of shaping this new world. Human history has no record of a more sacred trust, and human history has no record of a greater betrayal.
In 1914, when men were being asked to offer themselves for active service, the assurance came, "As the Lord liveth, we were not envying her territory—we sought not a yard of her colonies," and in 1919, Germany a crippled nation, the same men who voiced these sentiments snatched from their enemy over a million square miles of territory. "Peoples and promises are not to b' bartered about from Sovreignty to Sovereignty, as if they were chattels and pawns in a game"—this in the early days of 1918—in 1919 Alsace-Lorraine once again in her chequered history changes hands, the Saar Basin is to be governed by a commission of five, including only one representative of the people concerned; the commission is to control the schools and public services, and after fifteen years the inhabitants will be permitted to decide on the nation to which they shall be attached. In 1918, the Allied nations offered to Germany as the basis of peace negotiations a programme that included an undertaking that the Allied statesmen would inflict no punitive damages—but a month later, this solemn engagement forgotten, the British Prime Minister left for the Peace Conference pledged to wring from Germany the entire cost of the war, and still it was a war urged in defence of the sanctity of treaties. The history of the blockade tells a similar story—indicted in direct violation of an undertaking to provision Germany, page 53 it was relaxed ultimately only on the protest of British soldiers who themselves had seen the effects of this most brutal weapon of war. How many times did the war patriot and the recruiting officer picture in vivid language the vision of a conquering German army occupying the Homeland. To-day there is an army of occupation in Germany—its officers are occupying the best German hotels, and at the point of the bayonet the German people are compelled to pay for the upkeep of this army 65 per cent, more than they paid for the upkeep of the whole German army and navy in 1914. Is this, then, the peace that our leaders preached? — is this the spirit that will reconcile the peoples and make war impossible?
"The Nation" has spoken truly—the people have been betrayed. The record of the betrayal provides tragic reading, but it is not without its lesson, and for us it has a special significance. As the youth of England were called in 1914, so we of the younger generation in the future may again be called at the sound of the bugle to fight for purposes unknown. In the knowledge of the events of these years we owe it to the generations to come that we shall refuse to write again the story of such a tragedy—it is our sacred duty rather to repudiate that spirit of international hatred and revenge that sows broadcast the seeds of new wars and to cultivate instead a passionate emotion for peace that will provide the basis for a League of Peoples.
A Frenchman has said that the atmosphere of the Conference seemed to mark the end of an age: Let us make it the last act of the old order. The signs and portents would seem to point to a fulfilment of this prophecy. Only yesterday, when Englishmen were asked to embark on a war with Russia, there occurred an event that will be recorded in history as one of the great landmarks in the movement towards International Peace. The Council of Action, without the shedding of one drop of blood, will do more to secure "peace among men" than all the violence and bloodshed of the war.
It is significant that this step comes from the Labour Movement. Of the Peace Conference, Mr. Keynes has declared: "Two rival schemes for the future polity of the world took the field—the Fourteen Points of the President, and the Carthaginian Peace of Clemenceau." There are in world affairs to-day the same two opposing ideals—the old ideal of selfish nationalism leading to war and "still endless war," the new ideal of international co-operation and friendship making foe the reconciliation of peoples; on the one side the reactionaries and the militarists, and on the other the believers in Internationalism and the repudiation of force. The doctrinaires, the Radical Liberals, the President Wilsons, have eloquently preached the new, but in practice they have failed. There is only one force in the world with strength of purpose sufficient to win the victory for the new ideal. Says a current religious magazine: "Nothing would have been more interesting than to watch the struggle between what we may call the 'old' and the 'new' as evidenced in the Versailles deliberations. The whole Conference may be aptly regarded as a test case, and the issue has shown us fairly clearly the comparative strength of the two conflicting principles at the moment. There is, as a matter of fact, only one positive internationalism in the world to-day, and that is the rapidly developing internationalism of Labour. If, as it page 54 seems certain, internationalism to be an integral part of the new order, then it would appear more than likely that the directive influence in the world's politics will shortly pass into the hands of Labour, for in Labour alone lies the hope of future International Peace.