Western Mail, December 31st 1932
OF THE OLD YEAR - ONE THAT VANISHED
Two That Remain
OF WAR AND THE MACHINE
On New Year’s
Day, 1932, a young American businessman was driving rapidly from his home in the
country towards the skyscrapers of New York and telling his fellow-traveller,
who hailed from Wales, what he thought the year would bring: “I believe that
we are all doomed. The world is moving full speed towards ruin and
starvation. Nothing can save us. I’m quitting Wall Street, buying
a patch of land and a house in Connecticut, going to keep chickens and grow
vegetables with my wife and kids, so that at least I’ll have a bite to eat
when the big crash comes this
world when 1932 first dawned men felt like this American businessman.
Panic had swept from city to city, and a vague dread of some sudden collapse
preyed upon the minds of millions. Former millionaires began repeating
prophecies of the downfall of capitalism with as much sincerity as if they had
been Karl Marx himself. A fear of the unknown future gripped mankind.
The story of
1932 is the story of the overcoming of that fear, of the baselessness of the
prophecies of sudden collapse, and of the- return of a slight wave of
The panic had
been caused by three shadows which cast a gloom over the world - the shadow of
Economic Collapse, the shadow of the Machine, and the shadow of War.
The shadow of
economic collapse was particularly gloomy in America and in Germany.
Prices had tumbled down to almost unprecedented low levels. Wheat, the
unrivalled barometer of agricultural prosperity, dropped so low that students
had to search in the records of 340 years ago to find its price so calamitously
small. The railways of America stood hovering on the brink of bankruptcy.
The production of steel fell to 12 per cent. of capacity. In Germany there
reigned a spirit of impending doom. Six million unemployed tramped the
streets or lounged apathetic and weak in fireless homes. One political
murder after another pointed to a grim nervous tension among the population,
which believed that soon a breakdown of the whole system would come.
however, a feeling went round the world that all was not lost. After the
Lausanne Conference, which in that month virtually put an end to the scourge of
Reparations, prices began to rise. To businessmen and economists a rise in
prices is the best indication of recovery, and the leap upward in world prices
after Lausanne led many to believe that the tide had turned. The statesmen
hoped that once Reparations were shelved the United States would be wise enough
not to insist on a large payment of war debts.
Two events were
destined, however to dash the hopes which the late summer months has aroused.
The first was the calamitous fall in prices from September to November, which
followed on he continuous fall of the pound, and the second was the obstinate
refusal of the American Congressmen to postpone the payment of war debts.
As this article
is being read the Mauritania is three days out of Southampton carrying gold to
New York to meet the British obligation. In spite of the payment, however,
the world has not gone back to the black gloom of a year ago, and even the
darkest of pessimists entertains no longer the dread of a sudden collapse.
shadow which in 1932 hung, and still hangs, over us is the shadow of the
machine. Experts have estimated that the output of energy per man has by
machines been increased over eight million times during the past thirty years.
There arc inventions ready to be used which could change our whole mode of life
in a few years.
POTENTIALITIES OF RAMIE
According to a
group of students of the new science “technocracy,” there is a plant called
ramie which, if introduced to industry, would gravely affect the entire wood
pulp, silk, wool and cotton industries.
When made into
suits it lasts seven times longer than wool. When made into paper it
cannot be torn by human hand. Its lustre is similar to that of silk.
There is also
an invention ready which, by producing a motor-car lasting ten times the average
age of a car to-day, would satisfy within a year or two all demand for cars for
many decades. A factory is being completed in America to produce rayon
yarn which can be run twenty four hours a day without a single worker in the
plant. One man, seated many miles away in a New York office, can regulate
most of the functions of the works.
The year 1932
brought the problem of the machine nearer to the minds of man, but it failed to
convey the lesson of the machine, namely, that the world has become a small
unit. Instead of realising that the problems that confronted there were
worldwide, politicians clung to outworn ideas of narrow nationalism, built
tariff walls and put up barbed-wire entanglements of quotas and restrictions.
In 1932 Britain
became Protectionist, and in the same year at the Ottawa Conference the United
Kingdom agreed to impose tariffs upon foreign foodstuffs, in return for certain
advantages given by the Dominions to British traders.
SHADOW OF WAR
shadow which hung over the world in 1932 was the shadow of war. The
Disarmament Conference, which began in Geneva in February 1932, has failed to
dispel the blackness. After months of haggling a few minor restrictions on
weapons were decided upon. Achievements were so slight that the Germans
flared up and renewed vociferously their demand for equality of rights.
Several months passed before the justice of the Germans claim was sulkily
admitted, and the fate of the Disarmament Conference still hangs in the balance.
If the leaders
of the Great Powers were weak in their support of disarmament their weakness was
still more patent when they knuckled under to Japan in December. The
failure of the world’s statesmen to uphold the treaties which had been broken
by the Japanese in Manchuria dealt a severe blow to the League of Nations and
alienated the American leaders, who had all along upheld the sanctity of the
treaties violated by Japan. When the Assembly of the League of Nations
dispersed in December the shadow of war still hung ominously over the world,
although few feared imminent strife.
still hang over the world, but 1932 has done at least one thing – it has
dispersed the fears of a sudden world catastrophe such as expressed by the young
American businessman speeding towards New York twelve months ago.
interest is given to this article by the repeated reports in the last few days
of the ‘execution’ of ‘specialists’ on a charge of sabotaging the food
supply of Soviet Russia.