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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, March 7, 1931 [2]

29, rue d’Astorg
Paris
F Anjou 18–88
7.III.31Saturday.

Dearest Mildred—I have just dictated a letter to you,See letter of March 7, 1931 [1]. which I had to send off without reading it in order to catch the air-post, so please forgive the typing errors.

What I want to add is that the atmosphere, internationally, is clearing up. I think I wrote to you last autumn that I did not share the very pessimistic views that were being so generally held at the time.See letter of October 4, 1930: “It was a very interesting time to be in Berlin, and I am very glad to have been there just now, for if I had not been, I should probably be taking the unnecessarily gloomy view of the international position which, as it seems to me, is afflicting most people here.” It required something of an act of faith to say it then, for in many ways the position looked very bad. Now, it is another matter.

What has happened?

The recent naval agreementOn March 4, 1931, France and Italy signed a naval agreement limiting the number and size as well as the military capability of their military ships. England joined the naval disarmament, and a final agreement of the three nations was drafted the week of March 19. is of course an immense advance—I needn’t enlarge on that to you. But even before that had happened, things had decidedly started improving:

a) The French have started lending money to Germany, in partnership with American and other bankers—and they have recently (private banks but with Govt. consent) lent to the Hungarian State Rwys.
b) The success of the Round Table Conference,The three Round Table Conferences of 1930–1932 were a series of conferences organized by the British government to discuss constitutional reforms in India. The First Round Table Conference was held between November 1930 and January 1931. followed by the Truce negociated between LC Irwin and Gandhi,The Gandhi-Irwin Pact or truce was a political agreement signed by Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948), the political and spiritual leader of India, and the viceroy of India, Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, known as Lord Irwin (1881–1959), on March 5, 1931, bringing a suspension of Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement. holding out a prospect of a peaceful settlement of the whole Indian problem (you’ll remember that a little, bright-eyed grey dicky-bird, Arthur Salter, has just visited India).
c) The internal success of the Bruning Govt.Heinrich Brüning (1885–1970), a German politician who served as chancellor of Germany from 1930 to 1932. in Germany, and the Hitlerites’Followers of Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the Nazi Party. failure to turn their sensational gains in the Sept. elections to account. Negociation of a German-Polish Commercial treatyThe Polish-German commercial treaty was signed at Warsaw on March 17, 1930, and was subsequently ratified at Berlin. This ended a commercial war which had lasted since 1925. Under the new treaty, Poland gave Germany most-favored-nation status, and Germany allowed Poland to increase its exports, including coal, across German borders. and the prospect of its ratification, putting an end to long years of tariff war between the two countries.
d) Improved prospects in Spain, where both the extreme tendencies, Left and Right, are being avoided in an attempt to get back to a constitutional régime which, with all its faults, is probably the best thing for the country.

Why have these things happened?—And I mustn’t forget Briand’s plan for a ‘Closer European Union’,The French statesman and former prime minister of France, Aristide Briand (1862–1932), first proposed a union of European nations in a speech delivered at the League of Nations on September 8, 1929. He authored “Memorandum on the Organization of a Regime of European Federal Union” which was sent to twenty-six nations in May 1930. In September, the proposal was presented to the League of Nations, but when Briand was not reappointed minister of foreign affairs in early 1932, the proposal languished. which though it is laughed at as insubstantial, is leading to serious attempts at combining the interests of the Eastern European Agrarian Countries—Poland, Hungary, Roumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, in a way that happily cuts across the purely political and dangerous groupings that grew out of the Peace Treaties: Petite EntenteThe Petit Entente, the military alliance during the interwar period between Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Romania, which was later placed under the protection of France. on one side and, on the other, the Ital.-Hung.-Bulg. combination pour lui faire pièce.“To make room for it.”

In a word, opinion in Europe seems to be waking up to a realization of the supremely important fact to which most eyes were until recently blind i.e. that the war-danger obsession was fast becoming nearly as ruinous as war itself.

I think we have to thank the Soviets for this. The world has suddenly made up its mind that the Soviet experiment is not a failure—that the Five Year PlanThe first Five-Year Plan for the National Economy of the Soviet Union (1928–1933) was a nationwide centralized exercise in rapid economic development in the Soviet Union under the leadership of Joseph Stalin (1878–1953). is going to work, that the collectivization of AgricultureStalin pursued the policy of “collectivization” in agriculture to facilitate the plan of rapid industrialization. This involved the creation of collective farms in which the peasants worked cooperatively on the same land and with the same equipment. is going to work, and that we are going to be flooded with Russian food and manufactured produce, turned out at rates defying all competition. Consequently, the world has hastily stopped planning for the next war between France and the little Entente on one side, and Germany-Italy-Hung.-Bulgaria on the other, and has turned its mind to meeting the Soviet menace.

Whether the Soviet menace is as serious as we all think, I have no means of knowing. I suspect that, just as for years we underrated the possibilities of the system, we are now, out of frousse,“Out of fear.” overrating them. It is so much easier either to overrate or to underrate than it is to see clearly. But I am convinced that it is salutary, indeed essential for us, now and for a long time to come, to believe that the Soviets, unless we all get together and work hard to compose our difficulties, will wreck our capitalistic civilization and reduce us to slavery. I rejoice in every alarmist article I see in the presses of various countries, and I shake my head portentously, dans le monde,“When in the company of others.” whenever the Soviets are mentioned. Their PiatiletikaRussian (пятилетка) for Five-Year Plan. is succeeding! They are going to ruin us! C’est moins cinq!“We’re at minus five!”

I only pray that their system won’t go up in smoke—at any rate for years to come, until we have formed a generation believing in the reality of the Soviet menace as firmly as people of old used to believe in hell-fire. If, by misfortune, the Soviets were to fail, openly and patently, we would at once revert to our folly of ‘defensive alliances.’

What do you say to the Labour Govt.’s successes in the field of foreign policy? They are such that there is now a serious chance that they’ll stay in power to clear up the Indian question and take in hand the Disarmament ConferenceThe Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments (also known as the World Disarmament Conference and the Geneva Disarmament Conference) was an effort by member states of the League of Nations together with the United States and the Soviet Union to actualize the ideology of disarmament. It took place in Geneva between 1932 and 1934, although discussions continued until May 1937. next year. I hope they do, for I’m convinced that, with all their defects (which are very grave in the matter of unemployment extravagance) they are far better than the only alternative would prove. Better for peace, which is the one thing that matters.

Of course, Europe’s troubles are still enormous, and in the long run I don’t think they can be settled without the help of the U.S. Something must be done about the war-debts. But I feel encouraged, because I believe that if Europe ceases to talk about fighting again, and shows a spirit of co-operation, the U.S. is much more likely to help than it would be if it had only too good ground to fear that any relief it gave Europe would go to armaments.

Much love, dearest Mildred, bless you

Yrs
R. T.

 
Associated People: Arthur Salter
Associated Concepts: League of Nations