THE WESTERN MAIL
& SOUTH WALES NEWS, August 3rd 1934
FRANCE DOES NOT
EXPECT WAR AT PRESENT
Looking to the
Friendship of Italy
By GARETH JONES
murder of Dollfuss is the most tense moment in European history since the shot
rang out at Sarajevo in July 1914.
the night express speeds along on that fateful stretch from Paris to
Berlin I reflect upon these words of a French friend of mine.
scene for these reflections is the most suitable in all Europe, for looking out
of the window I have watched the wheat stacks of Northern France just as they
were in the July days which shook the world.
of towns and places which once had little paper flags stuck into them in
thousands of maps in Britain flashed past as we sped by: “Saint Quentin!
Le Cateau! Compiège!”
train has now stopped in a city which, 20 years ago, was destined to enjoy only
three or four days of calm before hearing the thud of shell-Liege.
TWO DECADES AGO
lights of Liege and the name of the next station-Namur-bring vividly to mind my
boyhood impressions of shock and excitement at the events which occurred exactly
two decades ago, and I seek to sum up my thoughts in Paris during the last few
days of diplomatic activity.
a grim coincidence the streets of Paris have heard again the same whispers of
“C’est la guerre!” the same dread of the future has been visible as people
have read the news, and the rumblings of the approaching storm have resounded
from the same easterly direction as they did in 1914.
is one fundamental difference, however, between the Paris of 1914 and the Paris
of 1934. Whereas in 1914 the terror of the near future struck the rulers
of France as deeply as the people, to day the people are alarmed, but the
soldiers and the politicians are calm.
will be war,” say the waiters and the barbers and the shopkeepers.
will be no War soon,” say the officia1s and the diplomats. And I am convinced
that the latter are right.
will there be no war soon?
French, with their usual logic and reason reply that Hitler is in too weak, a
position internationally. He is isolated and has the armed forces of
France, Poland, and Czechoslovakia encasing him like a steel strait-jacket.
French rubbing their hands with glee see that Hitler’s foreign policy has been
a whirlwind of blunders, retreats, cajoleries, threats, flirtations, embraces
and gestures, culminating in catastrophe. They feel malicious pleasure in
the discomfiture of the little man with the Austrian accent, whose one dream-to
unite his humorous, lackadaisical, and lovable fellow-countrymen with the more
disciplined millions of the German Reich - has by the failure of the Vienna coup
been converted into a nightmare of the most terrifying order.
CRYING FOR BREAD
can Hitler make war, the French argue, when he is faced by millions of workers
crying for bread-by even potatoes going on strike and the wheat stalks refusing
to obey Goering’s orders?
their eyes twinkle at the idea that, however much the Nazi Brown-shirts may
shout their commands, and however much the Ministry of Propaganda may broadcast
inspiring orations, Mother Earth will be as recalcitrant this harvest as any
Communist, and refuse to Germany the gifts she is accustomed to bring.
in a moment of argumentative obstinacy one still pursues the question and asks:
“Will not Hitler declare war to rally the nation around him?” the
intelligent Frenchman will nod his head in negation and say, “knows that a war
means the end of his régime. He remembers that war brought Bolshevism to
Russia and that it destroyed the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He is fully
aware of the strength of Communism in his own country. Thus we French who
are in the know are calm.”
calmness is re-assuring, but it is only the calmness of the man who fears no
storm to-morrow, but dreads an earthquake in a few years’ time. The
independence of Belgium, the lights of whose towns I can see from the train
window as we leave Liege, has given way as the main cause of war to the
independence of another little land - Austria.
WOULD FRANCE MARCH
the violation of the Belgian frontier was a dangerous forerunner of a European
war fought for the independence of Austria. Will we ever hear the familiar
strain of “Gallant Little Austria?” And if Germany got control of
Austria by external force or internal revolution, would France march?
this question depends largely the peace of Europe. All countries have been
lavish in their declarations to defend the integrity of Austria, but these have
sounded very much like the promises of candidates for Parliament.
France really fight if Austria became united with Germany?
asked that question of many friends in Paris, and their replies reminded me of
Bismarck’s statement that the Balkans were not worth the bones of single
my blood for some hundreds of thousands of Viennese waltzers? Certainly
not!” cried one Parisian, almost spilling his coffee with indignation.
will fight to the death if we are attacked,” said another, “but we will not
go to war for the independence of Austria, even though it be one of the main
columns of our foreign policy.”
LET MUSSOLINI DO IT!
the third touched the crux of the matter when he said: “Let Mussolini do the
business. We’ll stay out.”
last remark, I believe, hints at the main reason for the calm of the French
Office. With what delight the French read the vituperative attacks which
the Italians are making upon the Nazis! How they chuckle when they repeat
aloud an article in the Rome “Messagero,” said to be inspired by Mussolini,
which states: “You cannot deal twice on terms of moral, equality with someone
who has broken with such cynicism the laws of honour!”
see that the spectre of a German-Italian alliance has fleeted away and that the
Nazi-Fascist honeymoon has in a short time led to separation after scenes of
violence and hate.
WILL MELT LIKE SNOW
realise that Italy will be forced to seek the friendship of France and that, hey
presto! those quarrels about battleships in the Mediterranean; those sharp words
about Italians in Tunisia, and those suspicious glances at troops massing on the
Italo-French frontier will all melt like the snow on the Alpes Maritimes.
Soft compliments between Rome and Paris will fall deep as the leaves in
grave as are the events of Austria, they have their compensations to
politically-minded Frenchmen. But these compensations-such as the
friendship of Italy-are still not enough, and France will not rest until she has
built up a collective system based on armed force which will secure her against