Gareth Jones

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The Western Mail, Cardiff, December 31st, 1930.


Familiar in Many Lands

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By Gareth Jones   

A man is slouching down a street.  The ends of his trousers are frayed and his boots want repairing.  His face reflects a medley of feelings - emptiness, boredom, fear, disgust, and, above all disillusion.  He has no name for he exists in nearly all countries.  He is the victim of 1930; the Unemployed.  In Merthyr and New York, in Cardiff and in Hamburg, in Swansea and. Rome, in Newport and Tokyo, this tragic figure curses against the world order as he hears of over-production of wheat and butter, of cloth and manufactured goods, and cannot get any himself.  He is the symbol of the world crisis which the first year of the Thirties has heralded. 

In America this man has between six and eight million fellow-sufferers, who feel the blow all the more because a year ago nearly all of them had their own Ford and were saying that American prosperity could never melt away.  Each newspaper boy as he has shouted the collapse of another bank has hit hard the national pride of the American passer-by.  Decent young fellows who used to earn £7 a week are now glad to have a chance of selling a few apples in the streets.  For they get no dole and no relief except from charity.  The gambling which had almost gone into the blood of the Americans has made the shock still worse.  Disillusion is the dominant note in the United States. 

In Germany the workless man has 3,700.000 colleagues in distress, and before the winter is over it is expected that 4 million industrious men and women will find the factory door or the mine barred to them.  Besides these there are the university students who cannot get the dole there are the clerks, the teacher, the lawyers, and the young men who want to go to the colonies, but have no colonies to go to.  No wonder that the Communists are cheered when they appeal to the working class to rise against a system that leaves them idle in the winter snow. 

In Italy, in Japan, the workless are increasing.  But nowhere is the problem of bread and work more pressing than in South Wales, where it is not a sudden apparition, but is eating into our very bones. 

What effect has this had on the affairs of the world?  It has made 1930 a year of fear, hatred, depression, and despair in the dealings of nations with one another as well as in industry.  There are but a few bright streaks to illumine the gloom.  Europe had an attack of the “jumps,” and from the peasant homes of France to the Red clubs of Soviet Russia there has been talk of WAR.  A French Reserve officer wrote in a letter: “I am now going on manoeuvres.  I shudder to think that before long our mock warfare will be real and that Germany and Italy and Russia are preparing to attack us. Poor France!  My poor children!” 

As I was travelling through Poland not long ago and looking out of the window a young Pole tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out an aerodrome.  “Do you see that?  That’s one of the finest military aerodromes in the world which we are going to fill with first-class fighting machines.  You see, the Russian have their airport across the frontier and God know how many planes have to bomb us at any moment.  Then there are the Germans, who want revenge.  They want their Polish Corridor back again and any time they may hurl their troops against us.  If I had my way I’d hang thirty million Germans.” 

In Soviet Russia everybody agreed that war was bound to come with a knowing nod people would say, “Ah, yes, the English and the Americans, the capitalists, are preparing for war on us.”  And a red Army officer said to me with a smile: “When the inevitable war comes I’ll come and visit you in London.” 

A German expressed what all Germans are thinking when he said: “The French promised to disarm and they are as powerful as ever.  We cannot stick any longer being treated as we are and kept prisoners by the French generals and politicians.  Every German would willingly die to win the Polish Corridor back.” 

The first effect of this fear and depression has been to multiply the nationalists in all countries.  Hitlerites with their hooliganistic methods and their aims of a powerful armed Germany are growing from day to day and are going to be before long a real menace. 

The second effect has to be to make the world sick of Parliaments.  Everything is going wrong, so blame the Government.  “What we want is a Mussolini.”  How often are these words heard not only in German beer gardens and Polish drawing-rooms, but even in the home of Parliaments, Great Britain!  Everywhere Liberalism and Democracy are rolled in mud, and everywhere the herd is shouting for the strong guidance of one firm leader.  Liberty, for which fighters in Britain have struggled for centuries, is now considered pre-Victorian humbug throughout the world. 

Thirdly, fear and depression have made statesmen form new alliances.  The last few months have seen Europe split into two camps as before 1914.  On the one hand France with her satellite States stands out for the treaties, as they exist.  No changes of frontiers!  Germany must not arm!  Germany must pay the reparations to the last penny!  That is what time French camp says. 

On the other hand Mussolini - and he is backed by Germany - says: - “We must change the frontiers.  Germany must have some of her territories and colonies back.  Italy must have more land in Africa.  Reparations cannot go on much longer.”  This year Mussolini has been triumphant, for he has enrolled into his camp not only Germany but also Austria, Hungary. Bulgaria, and Turkey, and he is on excellent terms with Soviet Russia. 

And France already hears the tramp of German, Italian, and Russian feet on sacred soil. 

So great is France’s fear that the League of Nations is hindered in its work and its very life is endangered.  Next year will be a critical one for the League.  If it does nothing to persuade the nations to disarm and if it leaves Germany weak amidst powerful States, then hatred of the League will become violent in Germany and might even force Germany to leave.  Is the League doomed?  We shall see in 1931 or 1932. 

That is a picture of black-threatening clouds.  But there are bright rays here and there, and perhaps before long the sun will shines through.  One hopeful ray is the work which the League of Nations is doing behind the scenes.  Modest and unspectacular as it is, it is bettering the health of the world, and it is putting the finance of many countries on its feet.  Again, there is the help which countries, formerly enemies, are giving each other in Eastern Europe and in the Balkans.  They are learning the lesson that loving one’s neighbour is practical politics.  Then the fact that the hard-headed business man is on the side of peace and is developing international cartels is a bright sign. 

But the most hopeful gleam of all is our friendship with America.  It is not long ago that people were predicting war with America.  How foolish that all sounds now!  Ever since the London Naval Conference in the spring we have been on the best of terms with the United States, and that augurs well for the future. 

Will the storm break or will the sun shine through?  That is the enigma of the Thirties.


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