Labour on Treaty of Versailles

Extract from Labour pamphlet on the Treaty of Versailles (Catalogue ref: PRO 30/69/1830 Pt. 2)




Summary of principles enunciated by Labour and the respects in which the treaty is in violation of them. Labour and President Wilson.

A summary of the demands of Labour and the underlying reasons of them might be as follows:-

  1. Completely open diplomacy and discussion; particularly where there is involved directly or indirectly economic and political reasons which bear on the efforts of the workers to establish a New Social Order throughout the world. Many decisions which are apparently purely political and territorial will, in fact, profoundly affect the fate of Socialism and Labour experiments, not alone in Germany and Hungary, but in Russia, although the last may not be directly involved in the territorial settlements of the Treaty.
  2. The peace must look mainly to the removal of the permanent causes of war with its concomitant oppressions at home and abroad. The greatest of these causes in the past has been the failure of the nations to agree upon and maintain a common law of international life, enabling all to live in security and with equality of opportunity. The absence of such law set up the desire, on the part of all great States, for (a) preponderant military power as the only dependable means of ensuring the protection of national existence, and (b) territory with raw materials, outlets to the sea, etc., as the only sure basis of national prosperity. But in such the security and prosperity of one involved the insecurity and poverty of another. Labour has therefore demanded that any peace-preserving Covenant must include arrangements by which the political security and economic rights of each shall rest upon the combined strength of the whole Society of Nations pledged to arrangements which ensure fair treatment for all, and not upon the mere preponderance of one group over another.
  3. This pledge of political security and economic rights must be extended to the enemy states, if plans of disarmament are to proceed. To deprive the enemy States, if their means of defence and then permit invasion of their territory, or fiscal and economic measures which take from millions of their populations their means of livelihood, would be a condition that obviously could not endure. The inevitable and increasing resistance, even if only by the evasion of economic undertakings, would necessarily perpetuate the armaments of the Allies.
  4. Equality of economic opportunity should be assured to all nations, not alone by the negative policy of removal of economic discrimination and refraining from economic war, but by a constructive policy of international arrangements for the allocation of necessary raw materials according to need. A colonial settlement which will assure absolute equality of access to raw materials and economic opportunity.
  5. It is in this policy, permitting Germany the most rapid recuperation, that will be found the best hope of securing the largest measure of reparation for those who have suffered at her hands.
  6. Any international or supernational authority established for the maintenance of Peace should not be a mere alliance of governments for the maintenance of a status quo, perhaps unjust and unworkable, or a mere instrument of coercion for ensuring compulsory arbitration on the basis of an old international law, which was itself inequitable, but should be mainly an instrument for changing the conditions likely to lead to war. Its function, that is to say, should not be so much coercive as legislative, operating through popular organs representing the European peoples and parties of all opinions, and not merely the Foreign Office, Cabinets or Governments.
  7. The Labour party again and again has emphasised the distinction (also repeatedly made by both Mr. Wilson and Mr. Lloyd George which must be made between the guilt and responsibilities of the German Imperialist Government and the German people that should democratise itself and repudiate its dynastic rulers. A punitive settlement imposed by the Allies has been opposed, first, because it involves the millions of children, women, and many workers who could have no responsibility for the war or its crime; secondly, because it makes the victims, to whom the wrongs have been done, also the judges, executioners and beneficiaries of the punishment; and, thirdly, because such punishment itself would do nothing to remove and would be likely to make worse the general causes which have been so productive of war in the past. The investigation of war crimes should be impartial and undertaken against whomsoever, on whichever side, they may be alleged.
  8. All adjustments of boundaries must be based upon the desire of the people concerned, assured by an international supervision of the “consultation of peoples” for self-determination. (“Peoples and provinces are not to be made part of adjustment or compromise of claims”)
  9. The Settlement must conform scrupulously to the undertakings given in Armistice—including those with reference to the operation of the blockade in so far as it affects the feeding of the enemy populations, and given also in the Declaration of Mr. Wilson, which were accepted as the basis upon which Peace should be made.

The degree to which the Terms of the treaty violate these conditions may be gathered from a comparison, seriatim [point by point], of its points, with the relevant Labour declarations. That comparison is made below. The points of difference may be summarised as follows:-

  1. In the drawing up of the Treaty the condition of “open covenants openly arrived at” which Mr. Wilson made the first of his fourteen points has not been observed. Not only have the proceedings of the Conference been marked by the suppression of all opportunity for public discussion and the information of public opinion, but the commitments of secret treaties have marked the terms of the Treaty. In the decisions with reference to the Russian Revolution and the Socialist movements in Russia and Hungary, the democracies have committed without their knowledge to support counter-revolutionary forces. Organised labour, progressive and Socialist movements, have been completely without representation in the making of decisions which deeply concern the general struggle for industrial democracy.
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