25 NOVEMBER 1932, Page 21

Distress in Europe

Slump : A Study of Stricken Europe To-day. By H. If. Taman. (Jarrolds. 12s. (3d.)

Tin.: relevant facts on which our public policy should be based are not really agreed upon. Economic " depression " means very different things to different people. Some mean that, the rate of profit in trading enterprises having fallen, they have to give up their second motor-car. Others mean that the rate of interest on debentures and loans is insecure, and that therefore they must reduce their expenditure in case their incomes fall. Most economists seem to mean by " depression " a peculiar esoteric interpretation of selected statistics. But for nine out of every ten persons in Europe and in our own country, who are wage-earners and salary- earners, and their dependants, "depression" means reduction of food, clothing, amenities and, above all, of security for the immediate future. The point of view of this majority of human beings does not enter into economic textbooks ; and if it enters into public policy, it is treated as a difficulty to be overcome, not as a basis for reconstruction. But there is a slight tendency towards more " concrete " or " personal " studies of the present condition of Europe ; and Mr. Tiltman's new book is a courageous attempt to make such a study. He has studied the conditions of manual workers, especially the unemployed, in and near the capitals in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and Denmark. The conditions which lie describes are the same, except perhaps in France ; but in France, as he observes, it is very difficult to discover what is happening. The French seem to resent any investigation, especially by a foreign visitor. Elsewhere no obstacles arc put in the way of this new type of sightseer—the observer of the present world. The conditions of wage-earners in Germany, especially in Berlin and the Ruhr, are most fully treated. interesting specific instances are given—for example, that of the family of six depending for their food upon 15s. a week, assisted by a midday meal at school for three of the children, and that of the change in Hamburg, where, the church tax of 1s. a month has been made voluntary and 85 per cent. of the population declare that they belong to no religious com- munity. The effort of the middle-classes in Germany and Austria to maintain an old standard of respectability on a bare livelihood derived from public funds is pathetic enough. But the successful enterprise of the public authorities in such places as Hamburg and Vienna is all the more admirable. Behind all the distress of men, women and children lies the knowledge that goods are available but that they are owned by those who do not need them, and that distress could be reduced if those in power had the sort of conception of public policy which guided the Vienna Municipality.

. Mr. Tiltman's book is not a treatise but a traveller's story and therefore it should be more generally read than such learned disquisitions as the League's Report on the Economic Crisis. The illustrations from photographs given by Mr. Tiltman are most interesting. Indeed, if ' great numbers would read descriptions of what people in other countries are suffering, the whole character of international politics would change. But we are still primitive in these matters. We still think mythologically of Germany and Austria, and perhaps of England also ; for we do not think of actual men and women. It is not wise to be emotionally excited about them. Too much affection for poor people has always been disastrous for them. It has generally kept them• poor. The tragedy of to-day is that so few see the facts that are most relevant for -the future of civilization. Distress is only the outward symptom of the incompetence of those in control of public affairs ; but actual distress is the most urgent of all the problems for public policy. C. DELISLE BURNS.