The Reparations Report
IF the Governments of Europe and the United States are to realize amid their daily distraction and hustle what the world may owe to the work of the Committee of Experts, they should recall a little past history. If they can feel again the continuous anxiety of the last ten years, only varied by apparently desperate crises, there will be no hesitation in leaping forward to accept the Committee's Report with open arms, and publicly adopting it, as soon as may be. At the Peace Conference Germany was in the dock for the crimes of her former rulers. There seemed to be nothing else possible but to pronounce the severest possible sentence : serious people saw that it might have to be reduced, but it would be fatal to pronounce one which anybody could want to increase later on. One result was that it was impossible then to fix the total of money payments. Really they were to be all .that the Allies could get, for plainly their losses could never be repaid. We can pass by the further irony of the implication that the harder_Germany worked and the better she behaved the more she would have to pay. For ten years that total has been uncertain. Was ever such a state of things known in criminal or inter- national law ? We stand amazed at any German Governments keeping their country in order, or keeping their own place for a month under such conditions.
Then let Governments recall with a wholesome shudder the descent of the old mark with increasing momentum to the point of annihilation. The chances of any. more Reparations at all looked desperate. Hope returned with the Dawes Committee. The German Government somehow saved their country from refusing to save themselves and Europe in face of a temptation to die like Samson. The Dawes experiment succeeded. Pro- bably no one has watched its success with more wonder than its bold authors. General Dawes, whom we are welcoming here this week, Mr. Young, Sir Josiah Stamp and the rest of the Committee earned the gratitude of Europe, which had respite. But still the German debt was not fixed ; it was plain that when Europe got its breath again the struggle for a final settlement must be renewed. Even if the collection of German payments did not break down, the problem of transferring them to the creditors would become more and more difficult as Germany's ability to borrow abroad declined. Hence the Committee whose labours are just over. In the face of every conceivable difficulty it has earned the world's thanks by clinging to its grim determination to achieve its object and to produce this unanimous report.
The total liabilities are fixed and neatly tabulated, year by year, until 1988. We will leave the collection of the dues after half a century to our grandchildren with complete sang-froid and unruffled complacency, and we trust that Germany, who now acknowledges the liabilities, can look ahead down the generations with a similar, if sadder, calm. What has been secured now is ample. for us to accept thankfully. That is a decent prospect of stability upon agreed terms, of relative security and .certainty for a number of years, until, in fact, the world recognizes that it is time for the League of Nations, or a New Committee, to reconsider the terms, and possibly to revise them.
Now let us dispose of the complaints that arise against the Committee, petty though they are, when set side by side with the general settlement. It is true that Great Britain can be shown to have suffered some dis- appointment. If Mr. Snowden_ and others say " As usual, of course, we give up something and the Latin • races give up nothing," well, let them say f We are content to lose some cash to gain the stability in which we shall make real progress. We accept the assurances which we have received, that the Conference would have broken down if the British delegates had not accepted the alterations of the percentages fixed at Spa nine years ago. Great Britain will get now a little more Reparations money, but in the future rather less. As against any loss she is now practically guaranteed her payments of debt to the United States. The " Balfour Note " is vindicated, and any hopes we set upon that Note six years ago are realized. Let us emphasize here an intangible result, which we believe to promise great advantages. This is the first time that the inevitable economic connexion between Reparations and international debts has been publicly recognized, and the part that the United States has taken voluntarily (if unofficially), or has allowed to be thrust upon her in the last four months, involves a change which Mr. Hoover will not, we believe, ignore. Americans will henceforth see more clearly the facts which they now face more frankly.
Another charge brought against the Committee is that they exceeded their terms of reference by touching upon the matter of repartition among the creditors. On this charge we find them technically guilty of the trespass, but in circumstances that justified the mis- demeanour. If repartition (our readers must forgive our adoption of this useful French word) was necessary to the whole scheme, does anybody wish that it had been left to an unedifying struggle of Governments ? Does any Briton think that his country would have come off better ? We are saved a good deal by this action of the Committee, and we accept their benevolently auto- cratic insistence that their Report must be taken as an indivisible whole. The Committee resisted all pressure to trespass in the political field of the Occupied Territory, but we hope there is solid ground for the prevalent feeling that they proposed September 1st as the date for the inauguration of their plan because they had reason to expect the evacuation of the Rhineland this autumn. Great Britain will be thankful to get her little Army of the Rhine home again, and we look earnestly for more explicit statements than we have yet seen that France will fall in with the general desire.
For ten years vast and intricate financial problems and- transactions have been the sport of politics and politicians. Now the worst of all will be dealt with by proper financial methods. The International Bank will treat it as a commercial matter, and will rigidly, we trust, follow one of the first duties of a Bank, namely, to resist all political pressure. The payment of Reparations and the transfer of payments will become a commercial process carried out on the principles of sound banking, unswayed by considerations of the benefits to be gained by one country or another. We cannot believe that any of the weary creditor nations will fail to see thankfully the advantages of accepting the Report. As for the United States, it is plain that Mr. Young has had the good will of the State Department behind him throughout, quite apart from his authorization to disregard in the calculations certain sums which the States could claim from Germany. That is enough to give us confidence. Germany remains. Amid the stupendous labours of all Herr Schacht must have had the hardest part. His and his Government's task will be unfinished until they have persuaded-their people to believe that no better bargain could be struck on their behalf. One virtue at least cannot be denied to some of the rulers of the Reich since the War. They do meet their own people and face unpopularity heroically.