Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Remember Belgium! (1930)

Editorial from the May 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1914, hundreds of thousands of workers were duped into enlisting by the appeal to their sympathy on behalf of “poor little Belgium!" It is interesting to learn that confirmation has now been given to the statement that the Allied Governments had themselves prepared for violating Belgian “neutrality.”

Mr. Harold Nicolson has just written a life of his father, Lord Carnock, who as Sir Arthur Nicholson was Permanent Under-secretary at the Foreign Office in the years leading up to the war (“Lord Carnock,” published by Constable, 21/-).

From a review of the book which appeared in the Daily Herald on April 3rd, 1930, we learn that in September, 1911,
“preparations for landing four or six divisions on the Continent have been worked out to the minutest detail"; and in 1913 French military authorities are reported by Sir Arthur Nicolson to be of the view that “it would be far better for France if a conflict were not too long postponed.”
In 1913 Sir Arthur Nicolson wrote to the Minister in Brussels :—
We and France might have to move troops across the Belgian frontier in order to meet the approach of German troops from the other side.
The Herald reviewer says that ‘‘The Minister's reply makes it clear that this action was contemplated before the Germans actually entered Belgium.”

These statements based on Mr. Harold Nicolson's book were promptly confirmed by the Countess of Warwick in an interview which she gave the Daily Herald on April 4th.

She reports a conversation between Lord French and M. Clemenceau which took place in 1910, she being the only other person present, and acting as interpreter. Clemenceau said:—
. . . .  The British landing would be at Dunkirk, and your troops would go through Belgium into Germany.
French was dubious, and raised the question of Belgian neutrality, to which Clemenceau replied:—
Treaties do not matter when it comes to war. 
The Countess of Warwick relates the following further facts :—
 In later conversation Clemenceau stated that while the British pushed through Belgium the French would attack through Lorraine.
 The conversation was private, but I wrote to King Edward, who was my friend, about it. 
The Countess of Warwick then explained why she had kept this secret for so many years. She had intended to publish it in her reminiscences published six months ago, but her publishers refused to include these passages because “it put our country in a bad light.”

She admits that she made no attempt to publish it earlier than 1929.
For years I bottled it up within myself, even at the time when the “poor little Belgium” talk was being used to lure thousands of poor boys to their deaths.
Then, last year, when she was publishing her own book, she “asked one or two friends what they thought, and they said that they thought it would do no harm so long after the war.”

In short, the noble Lady, one of the shining lights of the I.L.P., the Labour Party, and the Social Democratic Federation, kept her mouth shut when “poor little Belgium talk was being used to lure thousands of poor boys to their deaths,” and only disclosed the secret when she thought “it would do no harm.”

The number of British subjects who lost their lives in the Great War was nearly 1,100,000. In addition, thousands have been blinded, crippled or otherwise mutilated. This the Countess could stand. But she could not bear the thought of putting the "country" in a bad light, and therefore did not let the victims share her knowledge until "it would do no harm,” that is, 15 years too late for it to be of use to them.
We wonder what the Countess of Warwick regards as "harm.”

1 comment:

imposs1904 said...

An excerpt from this editorial appeared as the 50 Years Ago column in the May 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard.