Editorial: Can Small Nations Live?

Capitalism only knows the jungle-law of “woe to the weak,” and in the fight for markets advantage is on the side of the big battalions of finance, industry and the armed forces. But the distinctive national characteristics are strong, and they survive in face of every effort to obliterate them. What is the solution to this clash of forces? The apologists for British capitalism put forward two entirely different solutions. Outside Europe they claim that subordination to British rule is the proper fate for Indians, Africans and the innumerable other national groups which make up the colonial empire. Inside Europe they proclaim their belief in small nations. The Nazi Government opposes this and demands freedom of action to bring all central and eastern Europe into the German economic sphere. Outside Europe they, too, are in favour of a colonial empire governed from Berlin.

History shows that no attempt by the big Powers to dominate the smaller ones will work satisfactorily, but it shows, equally, that small nations cannot hope to survive in a world given over to fierce capitalist rivalries. Napoleon’s carve-up of Europe had its brief day and collapsed, as also did the attempt by the Powers to re-settle Europe after 1815. In later years the uneasy rivalry between the Franco-Russian group and the German-Austrian group was only a prelude to the Great War and the break-up of the ramshackle Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Then came the Versailles settlement, which established new small Powers in central Europe. Austria, Albania, Czecho-Slovakia, have gone, and others are in a precarious position, but many people believe that if only Nazi capitalist aggression can be stopped Versailles can be patched up again. M. Jan Masaryk, former Czech minister in London, has, however, pointed to the impossibility of that solution. Speaking at the Park Lane Hotel on July 5th, 1939 (Daily Telegraph, July 6th), he proclaimed his faith in the re-establishment of ”a free nation of Czechs and Slovaks,” but added : ”Little countries were not able to live as units. There must be a federation of sorts.” What he has in mind, no doubt, is that federation would give a home market big enough and a State strong enough to resist encroachments by the big Powers of Europe. Such a settlement might be somewhat better, and could hardly be worse, than those that have failed in the past, but it will not solve the problem. Capitalism is in its nature predatory and aggressive. It will always fight for markets, and in the fight it will always aggravate and exploit the differences of language, religion and custom in order to reap some economic advantage at the expense of rivals. Capitalism cannot but breed national hatreds. Not until capitalism has been abolished will Jan Masaryk’s ideal become a reality.

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