25 OCTOBER 1930, Page 18


[To the Editor of the Semc-raxort.]

SIR,—The comment on the Imperial Conference in certain newspapers is of a piece with the remarks of Lord Hailsham in a speech at Amersham last July, when he recommended the States of the British Empire to " regard home interests first, Imperial interests next, and the foreigner to take what is left when we are satisfied ! "

This attitude of mind, in some quarters miscalled patriotism, betrays that incapacity to discern the signs of the times which is always the curse of the traditionalist.

Surely, if there is one lesson that the present age teaches, it is the interdependence of the nations. For good or evil modern economic conditions have bound the countries of the world together in an inextricable web. There is no escape from the strands of international trade and finance. The idea of any European State with its economic resources so organized as to be independent of its neighbeffirs can no longer exist as a practical possibility in the minds of informed persons.

Sentimental nationalism is reluctant to face facts. It

clings to the idea of a nation strong and prosperous at the expense of others. Because its eyes are fixed on the past it is blind to the hard realities of the present. It has never glimpsed the fact that ultimately no nation can prosper at the expense of others any more than in the primitive life of the tribe one individual can enrich himself at the expense of another, who by his labour supplies a want of the com- munity, and not himself suffer it. Whether we like it or not, the nations are co-labourers in the work of production and exchange and the policy of grab is merely suicidal.

The idea of an economically organized Empire presenting an impassable barrier of tariffs to the rest of the world is an attempt to attain on an Imperial scale what is impossible on a national basis. The root idea is identical, and were the scheme found to be workable the consequences in the long run would be equally disastrous. Tariffs are like armaments—they provoke retaliation. Of this the recent Wall Street panic is unquestionable proof.

A policy alien to the spirit of the age is foredoomed to failure. To-day the tendency towards unity and co-operation in social and economic life is more and more apparent. Even industrial disputes seem to be losing something of their ancient bitterness. Barriers are melting as the result of the closer scrutiny, of essentials. Rationalization means to a large extent amalgamation and the elimination of wasteful, because divided, effort.

Though less conspicuous, the same tendency is apparent in international life. The disruptive forces of the early nineteenth century are spent.• It is the backward nations such as India (if the term " nation " can be applied to that tragic and divided land) that feel the urge to separatism to-day.

It is not the legitimate aspirations of a sane nationalism that arc at fault. True patriotism teaches respect for the rights of other nationalities. The mischief lies in the delusion that a nation's greatness is proportionate to its independence. Autonomy does not involve independence but it does enable the cultivation of the particular genius of a country's life. The greatness of a nation lies in her power of developing that genius to its _highest capacity. It will never accomplish this by a disregard for the rights of others. Egomania is no more tolerable in a community than in an