The Europe Of Today
( Originally Published 1932 )
THE Europe of tomorrow depends on the Europe of yesterday and today. There are no gaps in politics any more than in Nature, for even wars and revolutions grow out of the past, though they may seem at the moment to end one chapter or open a new one. The only question is how far back to trace the forces that are making. today and will make tomorrow in Europe. But there can be no serious doubt as to that. It was in those dark four years in the second decade of the century that the foundations of the Europe of today were laid. The war itself, in turn, was the result of trends and causes which, if time and space were of no account, might with profit be examined, with a view to discovering which of them have spent, and which retain, their force to-day. But that is far too formidable an enterprise to be embarked on here.
As it is, the war must be the starting-point, or rather the peace that followed the war.
For the war itself did nothing but enable the victors to impose their will. It is the treaties which followed—of Versailles with Germany, of St. Germain with Austria, of Trianon with Hungary, of Neuilly with Bulgaria, and, standing apart both in date and in character, of Lausanne with Turkey—that translated that will into enactments which form today, as has often been said, the public law of Europe.
To trace the provisions of the treaties in detail would be pointlessly laborious. As a whole they re-drew the political map of Europe. They increased the number of the sovereign States of the Continent from twenty-two to twenty-eight (changes in the status of Iceland and the Irish Free State have since made it 30), which means that seven new States came to birth, for one, Montenegro, had disappeared in 1919 from a map that had known it for 500 years. One effect of that was to lengthen the frontiers between European States by some 11,000 kilometres, and there is hardly one of these frontiers where goods are not required to pay a duty on passing from one side to the other. The increase in the number of European States need have mattered nothing in itself. As it is, the prevalent disease of economic nationalism makes every subdivision of greater units into smaller (the territory of the old Austria-Hungary is now shared between seven different States) a disaster on all material grounds.
With the transfer of territory marked by the shifting of frontiers went of necessity a transfer of the population living on those territories. Hungarians found themselves Rumanian, German-speaking Austrians Italian, and Bulgarians Greek. The world, seeing new minorities created and special rights accorded them by treaty, began to think and talk as though a minority problem had leaped into existence for the first time in history. Memories are short and reflection not always deep. There are, in point of fact, smaller minority populations living under alien rule to-day than there were in July 1914, but the very fact that for the first time on any general scale their rights have been recognised and guaranteed by treaty serves to focus attention on the cases, which are many, of failure to honour the guarantee.
A minority today has an international organazation to appeal to against the Government under which it lives. Chastisement administered within the household can no longer be condoned before the world as a purely domestic affair.
The article of the League of Nations Covenant dealing with the institution of the mandate system speaks of certain communities as " not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modem world." The same may be said in a slightly different sense of a good many States of contemporary Europe. Despite the existence of the League of Nations, of which all of them are members, they are perpetually conscious of the latent hostility of some menacing neighbour and convinced of the necessity of holding together for safety, and, if possible, sheltering themselves under the power and rage of one of the few greater States blocs thus formed are not completely constant in shape and content. A State will veer occasionally from one orbit to another.
But certain groups mark themselves out pretty clearly. They consist in the main of nations victorious in the war, resolved to defend not only themselves but one another against any attempt by the conquered to regain what they lost. The clearest-cut and best organised group is, of course, the Little Entente, consisting of Czechoslovakia, Jugo slavia and Rumania, whose conjunction was promoted originally by a desire for mutual protection against possible Hungarian aggression. The association has developed more positive features since. A Baltic group —Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Poland flickers a little fitfully in and out of vision, but the unhealed feud between Poland and Lithuania makes a comprehensive understanding in that region unattainable. The three Scandinavian States, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, all of them neutral in the war, are working increasingly together and for some purposes including Holland and Belgium in their circle. The Balkans are doing their best to develop a spirit of unit through an annual conference, which though unofficial is by no means ineffective. The agrarian States of Eastern Europe in 1930 established certain economic ties which cut across the boundaries of political groups.
But the dominant factor in Europe politically is still the French bloc, consisting of the Little Entente Powers, Poland, Belgium, and France herself, organised with no aggressive purpose but with the set resolve to resist, by force if need be, any attempt to rescind or revise the treaties of 1919 and 1920. Pale shadows of rival blocs exist. Italy has Albania for a protégé and Hungary for a kind of hopeful junior partner, and Signor Mussolim's unqualified declaration in favour of the revision of the treaties has disposed all the conquered themselves conquered nations to proclaim his friends, just as it disposes France and her associates to view him with hostile suspicion.
Germany's only satellite is Austria, and attempts to draw that association closer by the creation of an Austro-German Customs Union broke do, an in 1931 through the opposition of France and the French bloc. But to say all this is to begin discussing Europe before deciding what Europe really is. Is it, as Bismarck contemptuously wed, no more than a geographical expression ? Is it a mere vast peninsula thrust out westward from Asia, as India is thrust out southward ? Or is Europe really a definite and self-conscious entity, distinguished from adjacent regions--Asia on the one side, Africa on the other—by common traditions, a common history, a common culture, in which each of its several nations has some Fart or lot ? The answer to those questions is, subject to one large reservation, that Europe is in fact all that. The distinctions are real.
Syria and Palestine are not European. Egypt is not European. It makes a good enough epigram to declare that Asia begins at Vienna or Africa at the Pyrenees. There may be a grain of truth in both statements. The Englishman who improves the epigram by affirming that barbarism begins at Calais has at any rate etymology on his side. But, in fact, under any ordinary interpretation, Europe socially and culturally as well as politically runs to Seville one way and Stamboul another, and it is the future of a continent so defined that calls for discussion here.
It is on the east alone that the frontier becomes suddenly shadowy. You can travel due east from Vilna, swaying this way and that in the sand furrows of the grassy road that Napoleon's skeletons trod after Moscow, till you reach the barbed wire that divides the posts with the Polish eagle from the posts with the sickle and hammer. Is that, as the Poles would have it, the frontier of Europe ?
Is Poland the warden of the marches ? Do Asia and disorder begin with the hammer and sickle, stability and culture end at that tangle of rusting wire ?
The question is centuries old. When William Penn in 1693 was working out his personal plans for a Diet, or Parliament, or of Europe, and allotting the nations members of his Diet their varying quotas of votes, he rounded off the distribution by observing that " if the Turks and Muscovites are taken in, as seems but fit and just, they will make ten apiece more." Exactly the same decision had to be taken by M. Briand's European Commission in 193 I, and the same conclusion was reached. Muscovite and Turk were bidden to the new European conclave, and both of them, with a little conventional cavil on the part of the Muscovite, accepted and came. But the admission of Russia and Turkey to a European commission does not solve every question. Turkey has a foothold in Europe. That is clear enough. But if Constantinople is Europe, Angora certainly is not. The dividing line is marked by the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles and there is some of Turkey on either side of it. So in the case of Russia. Minsk and Kieff are Europe without much question. So, it may be agreed, are Leningrad and Moscow.
Vladivostock and Tashkent are not. Is Odessa ? Is Batum ? Is Baku ? Is Nijni? Novgorod ? These questions need no definite answer. Russia cannot be excluded from Europe, as Europe is commonly understood. But neither can Russia as a whole be brought into it. Asia claims its share, and if some authority more gifted than the writer of the present volume should commit his prophetic pen to a discussion of Asia's future he too would certainly find Russia and Turkey within his field of vision. By the working out of Russia's destiny the future of Europe and of Asia alike must be largely determined.
On the whole the old outline map familiar to the pre-war schoolboy will serve well enough today. Europe has changed her internal frontiers radically. Her external limits remains substantially the same, and the eastern boundary, running roughly along the spine of the Ural fountains and from there on southward by the Ural River to the Caspian, closes in the region most writers have in mind when they speak of the Europe of to-ay. But when all is said and done that frontier is no more than a convention, and the essential fact about Russia is that it belongs to Europe and Asia equally, and so long as it maintains cohesion itself binds the two continents inseparably together.
Assume then Europe, so defined, to be in some sense a unit though the very process of assumption immediately creates the conviction that it is no such thing. Both assumption and conviction can in fact be defended.
Europe is a unit in its separateness from any other continent with due regard to what has been said already about Russia as connecting link but a unit so split and divided up among thirty States with diverse traditions and conflicting interests that dissidence is often more conspicuous than cohesion.
Politically, indeed, the cohesion has often been much closer than it is to-day. There was a uniform colour marking the early civilisation that developed along the northern shores of the Mediterranean and spread simultaneously to the African coasts. The Roman eagles made Europe one from the Euxine to the Atlantic and as far north as the great wall which still dominates the rolling moorland between Tyne and Solway. Later, the Church of Rome succeeded in some measure to the functions of Imperial Rome as a unifying force, and the Holy Roman Empire, with its strange blend of the ecclesiastic and the secular, gave oneness to at any rate the central mass of the Continent.
Napoleon, if his work had stood not that it ever looked like standing—might have created a kind of unity by domination.
After him the Holy Alliance suggested for a moment the idea of unification in another shape.
But that was the last attempted combination making any pretence to be comprehensive. The nineteenth century was the age of nationalism —a nationalism still young enough to be divisive. So far as the twentieth is the age of internationalism the unifying effect of that new tendency is visible, naturally enough, within an individual continent, as well as across the boundaries dividing continents from one another. Europe's unity has become once more accentuated. There are, of course, marginal problems. Count Coudenhove-Kalergi, in sketching out the plan of his Pan-Europa, felt. compelled to leave out of the general European system not only Soviet Russia the obvious difficulties there have already been discussed but Great Britain, which he prefers to attach to her world-wide Commonwealth of Nations rather than to the continent of which she geo graphically forms a part. But Britain, most detached of all countries from the European continent finds in Europe a market for her products to the extent of £214,000,00O annually, as against £80,000,000 in the United States and Canada combined, £78,000,000 in India and £54,000,000 in Australia (1929 figures). Economically, therefore, as well as geographically, Europe is increasingly a unit, and transport developments are making it more so. When an Englishman can cross the Channel and take his seat at Calais in a sleeping-car which he need not leave till he descends from it at Constantinople, or at Ostend in another which carries him to Poland's eastern frontier, it is hard to feel unconscious of a kind of European citizenship. Air travel, bulking far larger in the life of the average German or Pole or Frenchman than of the inhabitants of the circumscribed British Islands, will become even more effective as a binding force.
Politically the case is different. The war, as has been observed already, has left an enduring mark. The line of division between conquerors and conquered is visible still, and we have not yet given up talking of " the European neutrals." Economic interests have at times driven countries like Bulgaria and Hungary into cooperation with members of a rival group, notably in the endeavour to force their corn by united effort into the markets of Germany and France and other European consuming countries. But Europe today is a continent still divided by war memories and war legacies.