Secrets of Crewe House/Chapter 8
FROM WAR PROPAGANDA TO PEACE PROPAGANDA
The Co-ordination of British Policy—A representative committee—Lord Northcliffe's Article: "From War to Peace."
In addition to its success in its practical bearing and direct influence on the work of spreading the truth concerning the war in the enemy countries, the Inter-Allied Conference at Crewe House in August, 1918, was a distinctly useful act of propaganda in two other directions. First, it led to a mutual appreciation, among the influential representatives of the four countries, of the effort and determination of each nation and of their willingness to combine to achieve victory—in other words, to a better understanding of each other's will to conquer and readiness to subordinate self-interest to the larger object of Allied accomplishment of purpose.
In the second place, the Conference was an object-lesson to the British Government Departments which participated in it as to the value of concerted and co-ordinated action in propaganda matters. Shortly afterwards, a suggestion was made by an influential representative of one of these Departments that a committee should be formed to represent all British departments concerned in any way with propaganda. Moreover, it gradually became evident to all concerned that the collapse of Bulgaria was the beginning of the end, and that "war propaganda" must by a process of steady evolution become "peace-terms propaganda," by which public opinion in enemy countries as well as at home, in the Dominions, and in Allied and neutral countries, might be made accustomed to the peace which the Allies intended to make. The maintenance of British prestige demanded that our position in regard to the peace should be explained and justified by the widespread dissemination of news and views, both before and during the Peace Conference.
Thus it was more than ever imperative that all British propagandists should speak with one voice. Here then was work ready to be done by the suggested inter-departmental committee, for the formation of which invitations had already been issued to the departments concerned to send as delegates to this Committee responsible officials able to give decisions for their departments on such matters as would be discussed by such a committee. These invitations were accepted by:
The War Cabinet,
The War Office,
The Foreign Office,
The Ministry of Information,
The Air Ministry,
The Colonial Office,
The India Office,
The War Aims Committee, and
The Official Press Bureau.
Representatives of these departments and of Lord Northcliffe's department, which, for official purposes, had been renamed The British War Mission, thus formed what was known as the Policy Committee of the British War Mission.
While this Committee was in process of formation, Crewe House had been studying the problems of "peace-terms propaganda" and had, as a result of a series of conferences, prepared a memorandum outlining a basis upon which such propaganda could be developed.
The first meeting of the Policy Committee was held at Crewe House on October 4, 1918, and I presided in the absence, through indisposition, of Lord Northcliffe. After giving a summarised account of the work carried on from Crewe House, I said that whatever results it had been possible to achieve had proceeded mainly from the circumstance that it had in each case been based upon definite policies in regard to the countries concerned. These policies had all been submitted to, and had received the approval of, the British Government. The advantages of this procedure were obvious. It enabled propagandists to work on consistent lines without fear that the representations they made to the enemy would be contradicted by actual occurrences. In this way, propaganda representations had a cumulative effect. If, for instance, enemy troops were at first inclined to regard representations with scepticism, they were gradually convinced by the force of events that they had been told the truth from the outset, and that consequently subsequent representations deserved serious attention. Another advantage had proceeded from the obvious circumstance that as Allied policy must correspond to the aims which the Allies were determined to secure at the peace, the representation of that policy to propaganda was in harmony with the war-aims of the Allies, and was strengthened by every successive declaration by Allied statesmen of the objects for which they were fighting. A third advantage was that the propaganda of the enemy could not destroy the effects of our propaganda without having gained such military successes as to render the Allied war aims themselves unattainable. Consequently every Allied victory that brought the war-aims nearer attainment enhanced also the efficacy of propaganda.
At the outset, the efforts made by Crewe House were naturally tentative and experimental. Their real value could only be proved by the test of experience. This test had been applied in Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and Germany. As against Austria-Hungary, Crewe House propaganda contributed to the defeat of the Austrians on the Piave in June, and had its efforts not been thwarted by political short-sightedness and some personal intrigue on the part of various Italian authorities, it was certain that much greater headway would have been made and that the Italian armies would have been in a much more favourable position. As it was, the policy of liberating the Austro-Hungarian subject races, upon which propaganda had been based, had already had a marked effect in the interior of the Dual Monarchy, and had brought large sections of the inhabitants to the point of revolt. This would be clear when it was said that the Italo-Jugo-Slav Agreement of March, 1918, the Rome Congress of the Hapsburg Subject Races of April, with its sequel in the declarations by the Allies and the United States to the Poles, Czecho-Slovaks and Southern Slavs, as well as the actual recognition of the Czecho-Slovaks and the prospective recognition of the Jugo-Slavs as Allied and belligerent nations, had all been influenced, if not directly promoted, by the efforts of Crewe House.
As regards Bulgaria, Crewe House definitely rejected Bulgarian overtures until there should be a complete reversal of Bulgarian policy. That reversal had taken place, and had opened up further prospects of propaganda against Austria-Hungary of which speedy advantage was being taken.
The work in Germany had been positive and negative. Its aim had been to give the German people something to hope for and much to fear—in other words, to make it clear to them that the only way to escape complete ruin would be to break with the system that brought the war upon Europe, and to qualify for admission into a League of Nations on the Allied terms. In addition to these educative efforts, we had supplied the enemy armies with constant and invariably truthful information about the actual military position. The news which the German military authorities were withholding from their troops had been supplied by us. Hence their cries of alarm. Nevertheless, much remained to be done in the co-ordination of the efforts of all Government Departments so as to make the general work of propaganda as rapid and as efficient as possible. Much use had unfortunately deprived the term "propaganda" of its real meaning. In its true sense it meant the education of the enemy to a knowledge of what kind of world the Allies meant to create, and of the place reserved in it for enemy peoples according as they assisted in, or continued to resist, its creation. It implied also the dissemination of this knowledge among the Allied peoples, so that there might be full popular support for Allied policy and no tendency at the critical moment of peace to sacrifice any essential feature of the settlement because its importance might not have been explained or understood in time. Next to the actual work of fighting the enemy on land and sea, there was no more important work than this; and the joint intelligence and energy of all Departments of the Government were required to accomplish it successfully. For this reason the suggestion that this council of representatives of the Government Departments chiefly concerned should be formed had been warmly welcomed, in order that there might be less dispersion of effort, less overlapping, and greater mutual comprehension of the work which each Department was striving to do, and fuller co-ordination in the direction of all those efforts to one single end.As the war approached its end, enemy propaganda must gradually pass into peace offensives and counter-offensives. The British War Mission therefore had already in existence an organisation to collect and collate various suggestions, territorial, political, economic, and so forth, that had been made by the different sections and parties in Allied, neutral, and enemy countries. A step in this direction was the report on the Propaganda Library, issued by the War Office early in 1917, by Captain Chalmers Mitchell, who had since become the liaison officer between the British War Mission and the War Office, and who had been asked to act as Secretary of the Policy Committee. Captain Chalmers Mitchell was in charge of the aforesaid organisation at Crewe House, and although its immediate function was to collect information useful for propaganda, it was clear that it would also obtain material useful to those who had to shape peace policy. For propaganda to the enemy was in a sense a forecast of policy; it must be inspired by policy, but at the same time its varying needs also suggested policy.
It was hoped, therefore, that this Policy Committee might assist in furnishing materials for the compilation of the various peace proposals, in revising the collation of them, in drawing inferences from them and in discussing the action and reaction of peace propaganda and peace policy that the inferences suggested.
The Committee decided to undertake the following immediate activities:
Study of Peace Terms.
Study of utterances by important enemy representatives to form decisions as to what credence should be given them and what response should be made to them.
Suggestion of statements to be made by Allied representatives, and consideration of their phraseology and substance.
Special consideration of the reception to be given to German statements as to the course of democratisation in Germany.
At an emergency meeting of the Committee summoned a few days later to draft a statement of propaganda policy with reference to the German Peace Note, Lord Northcliffe said his department had prepared for submission to the Committee a draft statement, based on a consideration of President Wilson's pronouncements. After various slight modifications had been made, the statement was adopted in principle.
In its final form it read:
"In order to stop further bloodshed, the German Government requests the immediate conclusion of an armistice on land and water and in the air.
"The Note accepts the programme set forth by the President of the United States in his message to Congress of January 8th, 1918, and in his later pronouncements, especially his speech of September 27th, as a basis for peace negotiations.
"In point of fact, the pronouncements of President Wilson were a statement of attitude made before the Brest-Litovsk treaty, and enforcement of the peace of Bucharest on Rumania, and the German statement of their intentions at the outset of the Spring offensive. They cannot, therefore, be understood as a full recitation of the conditions of peace.
"The phrasing of the German acceptance of them as a 'basis for peace negotiations' covers every variety of interpretation from sincere acceptance to that mere desire for negotiations which is the inevitable consequence of the existing military situation. It is, therefore, impossible to grant any armistice to Germany which does not give the Entente full and acceptable guarantees that the terms arranged will be complied with. There must be a clear understanding that Germany accepts certain principles as indisputable, and reserves for negotiation only such details as, in the opinion of the Associated Powers, are negotiable.
"In the full conviction of the power and the will of the Associated Powers to enforce a peace that shall be just and lasting, we shall thankfully accept conclusive evidence that the peoples of our present enemies are willing to co-operate in the establishment of such a peace. With the object of making the conditions of such co-operation clear, we take the opportunity, presented by the German peace note, of exploring more fully the ground covered by President Wilson's pronouncements and of distinguishing explicitly between principles and conditions that must be accepted as indisputable, and terms and details that may be the subject of negotiation.
"The following conditions are indisputable:—
"In no sense whatever shall restoration or reparation in the case of Belgium be taken into consideration when adjusting any other claims arising from the war.
"1. The complete restoration, territorial and political, of Belgium. The assumption by Germany of the full financial burden involved in material restoration and reconstruction, including the replacement of machinery, the provision of war pensions and adequate compensation for all civilian losses and injuries, and the liquidation of all Belgian war debts. In view of the circumstances in which Germany invaded Belgium, no allegations that Belgian civilians acted against military law or imposed authority shall be taken into consideration. The future international status of Belgium shall be settled in accordance with the wishes of the Belgian nation.
"2. The freeing of French territory, reconstruction of the invaded provinces, compensation for all civilian losses and injuries.
"3. The restoration to France of Alsace-Lorraine, not as a territorial acquisition or part of a war indemnity, but as reparation for the wrong done in 1871, when the inhabitants of the two Provinces, whose ancestors voluntarily chose French allegiance, were incorporated in Germany against their will.
"4. Readjustment of the Northern frontiers of Italy as nearly as possible along the lines of nationality.
"5. The assurance to all the peoples of Austria-Hungary of their place amongst the free nations of the world and of their right to enter into union with their kindred beyond the present boundaries of Austria-Hungary.
"6. The evacuation of all Territory formerly included in the boundaries of the Russian Empire, the annulment of all treaties, contracts, or agreements made with subjects, agents, or representatives of Enemy Powers since the Revolution and affecting territory or interests formerly Russian, and co-operation of the Associated Powers in securing conditions under which the various nationalities of the former Empire of Russia shall determine their own form of Government.
"7. The formation of an independent Polish State with access to the Sea, which State shall include the territories inhabited by predominantly Polish populations, and the indemnification of Poland by the Powers responsible for the havoc wrought.
"8. The abrogation of the Treaty of Bucharest, the evacuation and restoration of Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro, the Associated Powers to aid the Balkan States in settling finally the Balkan question on an equitable basis.
"9. The removal, so far as is practicable, of Turkish dominion over all non-Turkish peoples.
"10. The people of Schleswig shall be free to determine their own allegiance.
"11. As reparation for the illegal submarine warfare waged by Germany and Austria-Hungary, these Powers shall be held liable to replace the merchant tonnage belonging to the Associated and Neutral nations illegally damaged or destroyed.
"12. The appointment of a tribunal before which there shall be brought for impartial justice individuals of any of the belligerents accused of offences against the laws of war or of humanity.
"13. The former Colonial possessions of Germany lost by her in consequence of her illegal aggression against Belgium shall in no case be returned to Germany.
"The following conditions of Peace are negotiable:
"1. The adjustment of claims for damage necessarily arising from the operations of war, and not included amongst the indisputable conditions.
"2. The establishment, constitution, and conditions of Membership of a League of Free Nations for the purpose of preventing future wars, and improving international relations.
"3. The League of Free Nations shall be inspired by the resolve of the Associated Powers to create a world in which, when the conditions of the Peace have been carried out, there shall be opportunity and security for the legitimate development of all the Peoples."
This was approved by a representative of the Government, designated ad hoc, for unofficial use as propaganda policy. Each department adapted it to its own needs. So far as Crewe House was concerned, effective use was made of it on two occasions—the first being when Lord Northcliffe, at the suggestion of the Enemy Propaganda Committee, dealt with the subject of peace terms in an address to United States officers at the "Washington Inn," London, on October 22, 1918.
At a meeting of the Policy Committee at Crewe House on October 28, the action of the various departments on the memorandum was stated and approved.
The Crewe House Committee reported first as to Lord Northcliffe's address at the Washington Inn; next that the production department of the Enemy Propaganda Committee was engaged on a series of pamphlets and leaflets dealing with different points of the terms; third, that a reasoned statement covering the whole ground, and showing what Germany had to gain in the end, was being drafted for publication, the idea being that it should appear as an article or as a speech to which wide circulation would be given; and lastly that the secretary of the permanent Inter-Allied Body for Propaganda in Enemy Countries had written to the French, Italian, and American members of that body enclosing a copy of the Peace Policy Memorandum and suggesting that they should take action similar to that of the British Policy Committee and bring the subject up for discussion at the next meeting of the Inter-Allied Body. (It may be mentioned here that the rapid course of events prevented the contemplated meeting of the Inter-Allied Body.)
That was the last meeting of the Policy Committee. There remains to be set forth the final result of its work. Crewe House, as explained above, had stated its intention of publishing an article covering the whole ground of the memorandum in such a way that the policy could be presented in the same terms to our own people, to our Allies, and to the enemy. It was found impracticable to get such an article published quickly enough in a high-class magazine, or to get an immediate occasion for making it the text of a speech. In these circumstances the Committee asked their chairman, Viscount Northcliffe, to give the Peace Policy the wide publicity possible by the use of his name and by the sources of distribution which he was able to command. Lord Northcliffe agreed, and accordingly produced the article which follows and which was a full statement of the agreed policy. He arranged for its simultaneous publication in the London Press and, at his own expense, had it cabled to the remotest parts of the world. As stated in the House of Commons by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the document was unofficial. Its purpose was to form the basis of a policy of publicity and the fact that it was proposed to elaborate it for publication was announced beforehand, and approved by the Policy Committee. This is the text of the article from The Times of November 4, 1918:
FROM WAR TO PEACE
By Lord Northcliffe
This article is appearing to-day in the leading papers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland, India, the British Dependencies, United States, South America, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Japan and elsewhere.
It will he circulated in Germany during the present week.
Now that peace is at last in sight, I hear the question being asked on all sides: "How are we to pass from war conditions to peace conditions?" This cannot be done by a sudden and dramatic declaration like the declaration which in August, 1914, changed peace into war. It must be a slow and laborious process—a process with, as it seems to me, at least three distinct and successive stages. Out of these stages will be formed the organic whole which will constitute the machinery for replacing war conditions by peace conditions.
It is important to get these three stages clearly outlined in our imaginations, and it is important also to bear in mind that each stage will smooth the path for its successor precisely in proportion to the sincerity and thoroughness with which it has been completed. There is but one goal for those who are honest and far-seeing. That goal is to create a condition of the world in which there shall be opportunity and security for the legitimate development of all Peoples. The road is long and difficult, but I believe that its course is already clear enough to be described, in the same words, to those who are our friends and to those who are now our enemies.
The first stage is the cessation of hostilities. Here, whether they cease on account of an armistice or by reason of surrender, there can be no question as to the "Honour" of the German people, or as to any adjustment of the conditions to any supposed strategical or actual strength of the Central Powers.
If they feel humiliated, they must blame those who brought humiliation upon them; and as to military strength, the semi-official organ of the German Government, the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, has admitted that our reserves are such as Germany cannot compete with.
It is clear [said this newspaper on October 12] that if we systematically continued the war in this way, fighting might go on for a long time. The annihilation of the German Army is still a long way from attainment; we still have a quantity of unspent forces at our command in the recruit depôts behind the front, in the reserve battalions, and at home. But doubtless there are certain limits to all this on our side, whereas our enemies—chiefly America—are in a position to replace men and materials on an ever-increasing scale.
Another equally important admission I found in the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten, the leading South-German organ, on October 25.
A German retreat beyond the frontier [this journal said] and especially an advance by the enemy to the frontier, would render the German situation much worse, as it would expose Germany's industrial territory to the Entente's artillery fire, and particularly their air attacks, while the danger to the enemy's industrial districts would be correspondingly removed. This condition alone would not only secure the enemy's military preponderance, but would increase it.
Thus it is clear that Germany, deprived now of the help of her allies, recognises her hopeless situation. The conditions upon which hostilities can cease must be laid down by the military and naval leaders of the Associated Powers and accepted by the Central Powers in such form that no resumption of hostilities is possible.
And this I will say: The spirit in which Germany accepts these stern and necessary conditions will do much to determine the course of future events. If she haggles over the conditions, or is sullen and obstructive in her mode of carrying them out, then our profound distrust of her spirit and motives will survive into the subsequent stages and still further delay that re-establishment of tolerable relations which must be our object. But if Germany by word and deed makes plain her abandonment of that belief in Might which her rulers, supported until recently by the majority of her people, have used as a menace to the power of Right, the greatest obstacle in the path of equal justice will have been removed.
By a stroke of the pen, in accepting the conditions of armistice, or by a mere gesture of unconditional surrender, Germany can cause fighting to cease. Naturally, the business of evacuation and of re-occupation will have to be conducted by concert between the military and naval leaders. The first governing condition in these operations and detailed arrangements will be the safety of the peace. The second condition will be the security of civilian life and property. The emotional background to all this will be a daily increasing desire on the part of all to get back to normal conditions of life. Co-operation and agreement will be required, not so much to secure that demobilisation and disarmament shall be forced sternly on those who have surrendered as to secure that each side takes its fair share in the burden of maintaining order and in facilitating the change from military to civilian organisation.
The second stage of the passage from war conditions to peace conditions will begin as soon as it is certain that security has been obtained for the permanence of the first stage. It will consist in the acceptance by Germany of certain principles as indisputable. The security provided in the first stage ought to be sufficient to enable us to pass through the second stage quickly. With sufficient guarantees there need be no waiting to see whether the transformation of the German Government from irresponsible autocracy to responsible democracy is as genuine as it is represented to be, or whether the changed professions of those who speak for the People represent a change of heart.
The indisputable principles which Germany must accept in this second stage have been stated in different forms at different times, but the consensus of opinion amongst all classes of the Associated Powers seems to me to be so clear that it is not difficult to state them objectively in a form very close to that which they are likely to assume in their final enunciation.
The first is the complete restoration, territorial, economic, and political, of Belgium. In this there can be no reservation, no bargaining, no attempt to raise counter-claims or offsets of any kind. By her initial violation of International Law, and by her subsequent treatment of Belgium, Germany has forfeited all right to discussion. Reparation is impossible, but she must undertake restoration in such form and measure as shall be indicated to her.
2. The freeing of French territory, reconstruction of the invaded provinces, compensation for all civilian losses and injuries. Here again reparation in any full sense of the word is beyond human power, but Germany must accept the full burden of material reconstruction, replacement, and compensation, again in such form and measure as shall be laid down.
3. The restoration to France of Alsace-Lorraine, not as a territorial acquisition or part of a war indemnity, but as reparation for the wrong done in 1871, when the inhabitants of the two provinces, whose ancestors voluntarily chose French allegiance, were incorporated in Germany against their will.
4. Readjustment of the Northern Frontiers of Italy as nearly as possible along the lines of nationality; the Eastern and Adriatic frontiers to be determined in accordance with the principles embodied in the Italo-Jugo-Slav Agreement and ratified by the Rome Congress of April, 1918.
5. The assurance to all the peoples of Austria-Hungary of their place amongst the free nations of the world and of their right to enter into union with their kindred beyond the present boundaries of Austria-Hungary. This involves the creation of independent Czecho-Slovak and Jugo-Slav States, the reduction of Hungary to the ethnographic limits of the Magyar race, and the union of all Rumanians with the present kingdom of Rumania. In the same way the Poles and Ukrainians of the Dual Monarchy must be free to unite with their co-nationals across existing frontiers, and it is obvious that the same right of self-determination cannot be denied to the German provinces of Austria, should they desire to enter Germany as a federal unit.
6. The evacuation of all territory formerly included in the boundaries of the Russian Empire; the annulment of all Russian treaties, contracts, or agreements made with subjects, agents, or representatives of Enemy Powers since the Revolution and affecting territory or interests formerly Russian; and the unimpeded co-operation of the Associated Powers in securing conditions under which the various nationalities of the former Empire of Russia shall determine their own forms of government.
When Russia offered a peace of reconciliation without annexations or indemnities, the Central Powers, taking advantage of the military position, rejected all considerations of justice and imposed terms that were brutal and selfish. Thus they forfeited the right to aid Russia and the various nationalities of the former Empire of Russia in their efforts to establish self-determination and their own form of government.
The seventh indisputable principle concerns (a) the formation of an independent Polish State with access to the sea, which State shall include the territories inhabited by predominantly Polish populations; and (b) the indemnification of Poland by the Powers responsible for the havoc wrought.
This condition is indispensable for the reign of justice in Europe. Germany has ruthlessly oppressed the Poles within her Empire. Justice and stability demand the restoration of the predominantly Polish parts of the present German Empire to the new Polish State.
8. The abrogation of the Treaty of Bucharest; the evacuation and restoration of Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro; the Associated Powers to aid the Balkan States in settling finally the Balkan question on an equitable basis.
The Balkan question must be settled, and it follows from that principle of self-determination to which the Associated Powers adhere that the Balkan States must be encouraged to agree among themselves and give what advice or assistance they may ask in coming to an agreement.
9. The removal, as far as is practicable, of Turkish dominion over all non-Turkish peoples.The complexity of the distribution of nationalities in the present Empire of Turkey makes the details of the problem difficult, but the failure of the Turks, in act and in intention, to rule justly has been so disastrous, and the acquiescence of the Central Powers in Turkish misdeeds so complete, that no departure from this principle can be considered.
10. The people of Schleswig to be free to determine their own allegiance.
The case of Schleswig is a fundamental instance of the fashion in which Prussia and Austria used their might to override the principle of self-determination. The wrong done must be redressed.
11. As reparation for the illegal submarine warfare waged by Germany and Austria-Hungary, these Powers shall be held liable to replace the merchant tonnage, belonging to the associated and neutral nations, illegally damaged or destroyed.
In spite of repeated warnings, and in defiance of the pledges which they had given to the Government of the United States, then a neutral Power, the Central Powers have persisted in operations which, by their nature and by the fashion in which they were conducted, outraged both International Law and common humanity. The question of punishment must be dealt with separately; that of restoring the ships or their equivalents, and of material compensation to the victims and their families, cannot be subject to discussion or negotiation.
12. The appointment of tribunals before which there shall be brought for impartial justice as soon as possible individuals of any of the belligerents accused of offences against the laws of war or of humanity.
While I regard this condition as an essential preliminary to peace, as a just concession to the outraged conscience of humanity, I admit freely that its practical application is full of difficulty. I foresee the extraordinary difficulty of assigning responsibility; I recognise that during the actual conduct of war there are reasons why belligerents should hesitate to punish adequately those whom in normal times they would unhesitatingly condemn. I offer my own solution of the difficulty. It is that the appointed tribunals should act as Courts of First Instance. They would hear the evidence brought against the accused, and, if they found a prima facie case established against them, would refer them to their own countries for ultimate trial, judgment, and sentence. I believe that more stern justice will be done if nations which desire to purge themselves condemn their own criminals than if the punishment were left to other nations which might hesitate to be severe lest they should invest the individuals punished with the halo of martyrdom.
13. The former colonial possessions of Germany, lost by her in consequence of her illegal aggression against Belgium, shall in no case be returned to Germany.
Germany's possession of her colonies would have been inviolate but for her illegal aggression against Belgium, which brought England into the war. She has proclaimed that the fate of her colonies would be decided on the Western front; it has been so decided. She has proclaimed the uses to which, if victorious, she would have put her colonies; such uses must be prevented for ever in the interest of the peace of the world. Furthermore, there is this consideration that, after what has happened, it would be as intolerable for Australasia to have New Guinea in German hands as it would be for the United States to have Germany in possession of Cuba. The colonies therefore cannot be returned to Germany, but their assignment as possessions, or in trusteeship, together with the fashion in which they shall be administered in the interests of their inhabitants and of the world generally, are matters for future decisions.
These are the indisputable conditions of peace which must be accepted in the second stage of the negotiations.
I have dealt with the first two stages as logically separate and successive. In actual fact agreement on them might be coincident in time. In any event, acceptance of the indisputable conditions would be made before the guarantees required under the terms of surrender or of armistice had become accomplished facts.
The conclusion of the first two stages, whether concurrent or consecutive, will be the end of dictation. They form the preliminary to co-operation. They will be an earnest of a complete break with the past on the part of Germany. They will go far to satisfy the natural desire of those who demand that the guilty should be punished, and yet I believe that they contain nothing that is not imperative for a just and lasting peace. And I hope that their imposition and acceptance will, in the subsequent stages, make it possible to take advantage, for the benefit of the world, of those powers of discipline and organisation which Germany has perverted to the great harm of the world.
The third stage, should I consider, consist in the appointment of a large number of Commissions to study and work out the details of the principles which I have enumerated. These will report ultimately, some of them quickly, some of them after months or years, to the Central Peace Conference. For my part I see no reason why the members of the Commissions, if the principles on which they shall act are settled beforehand, should not be selected chiefly from among those who have the greatest interest in the matters to be settled. I do not see, for instance, why a Commission consisting largely of Poles and Prussians should not be asked to work out the future frontier of Prussia and Poland. This may be thought the suggestion of an idealist. But I claim that in this instance the idealist is the realist. If our goal be lasting peace, then let us give every opportunity for arrangement and mutual accommodation before we resort to compulsion.
So far I have said nothing of the future government of Germany. The Germans assure us that the transformation of autocratic government to responsible government is taking place. I should like to believe them. I am certain that its accomplishment is necessary to Germany itself and to the final attainment of a just and lasting peace. I frankly admit that the perfect form of government does not exist, and that the genius of Germany may evolve some form as good as, or even better than, existing constitutions.
But Germany must understand that it will take time to convince the world, which has so much reason to distrust her, that this sudden change is to be a permanent reality. Fortunately the stages which I have described do not require for their accomplishment more than the hope that Germany has set out on the right path. Whilst the last stage is in progress there will be time, and more than time, to see whether Germany realises our hopes and what I believe to be now the wishes of the majority of her own people.
For the last stage will mean nothing less than reconstructing the organisation of the world, and establishing a new policy in which a League of Free Nations shall replace the old system of the balance of rival Powers.
The accomplishment of a change so gigantic as the adjusting of national organisations to fit into new super-national machinery must be difficult and slow. Fortunately the very steps necessary to make it possible are steps that will slowly make it actual. Let me select a few simple examples. The cessation of hostilities will leave the world short of food, short of transport, short of raw materials. The machinery that has regulated these during war will have to be kept in action beyond the war. Food will have to be rationed, transport will have to be rationed, raw material will have to be rationed. It is a world problem that can be settled only on a world basis, and there will be every opportunity, in the years of transition, to transform those economic relations which are forced upon us by necessity into a system which will meet with free and general acceptance.
Intimately connected with these matters will be the problem of the returned soldier, whether wounded or otherwise, the problem of pensions, the problems of wages, housing, hours and conditions of work, regulation of child labour, female labour, and so forth. The equalisation of those in different countries will be necessary to fair rationing, and from this necessity will arise international conferences of workers which may be able to settle some of the most difficult questions of super-national organisation. When the question of disarmament arises, some will demand as a fundamental necessity that their nation must have a large army or a large navy. Some will advocate, as an act of punishment or of justice, the disarmament of other nations. In the consequent negotiations it will soon be found that to insist on an unduly large army or navy is to saddle one's country with a huge expense; to insist on the disarmament of another country may be to present that country with a huge annual income that can be used in commercial rivalry. And so we may come to a condition in which, if there be international security, there will be a contest, not as to which country shall maintain the largest navy and the largest army, but as to which country shall most completely disarm.
I foresee international Commissions at work for a long time, trying to establish frontiers, conditions of Parliamentary responsibility, canons of international law, rules of international commerce, laws even of religious freedom, and a thousand other conditions of national organisation. In the very act of seeking the foundation for a League of Free Nations, and in slowly building up the fabric, we shall get rid of the passions and fears of war. By the mere endeavour to find the way to a better condition of the world, we shall bring this better condition about.
This article created the desired interest and public discussion in the enemy countries. It was widely reproduced by German newspapers and it had the effect of producing a state of mind which culminated in the complete collapse of German resistance. It was a fitting wind-up to the work of propaganda in enemy countries. The article gave rise to a great deal of comment at home and elsewhere abroad also, and did much to form a public opinion favourable to the conditions of peace which were in the minds of Allied statesmen but which they had themselves refrained from declaring in public.
Thus the Policy Committee, although it existed so short a time, had useful achievement to its credit. Had it been possible to constitute such a Committee early in the war the results might have been incalculable in the effect on British propaganda.
On November 15, 1918, Lord Northcliffe sent the following valedictory letter to each of the members of the Committee:—
"I am sending you herewith a copy of the minutes of the last meeting of the Policy Committee, and feel that it is unnecessary under the changed circumstances to call another meeting.
"May I remind you that this Committee was formed under my chairmanship by the British War Mission at a time when it seemed urgent to correlate propaganda addressed to the enemy, to Allies, and to Neutrals? In the opening remarks by the Chairman at the first meeting it was pointed out that as the war approached its end, war propaganda would change into peace propaganda. This change took place with even greater rapidity than was at the moment anticipated, and the Committee had at once to undertake the task of devising a propaganda policy with regard to peace. You are acquainted with the steps that the Committee took and with the large measure of success that their efforts achieved. All questions of policy have now, however, passed from the hands of the Committee to those of the Council of the Nations, and there seems to me no immediate sphere for our action, especially as by arrangement with the Government the British War Mission is being wound up.
"May I take this opportunity of thanking you for your co-operation, and of stating my belief that, had the war continued, the Policy Committee would have developed into an organ of ever-increasing value?
Yours very truly,