The Danish Peace Academy


Ellen Hørup, 1930
Ellen Horup, October 1930.
Source: Junker-Jensen.
In the files of Holger Terp

By Ellen Hørup

(Published in "Politiken" July 2Oeth [1937] two days before the Congress of the War Resisters International in Copenhagen.)

SHOULD the small nations arm or ought they to leave it to the great nations who can afford it.

"It is not a question of economics say friends of their home country. "Each country ought to do what it can; even if it is small it should not let itself be crushed without putting up resistance. He who is not prepared to give his life for his fatherland is no patriot."

The same conservative phrases are heard always and everywhere, in Lilliputian states and in Empires. In Denmark in the year of grace 1937 you even risk hearing the following phrase being added: "I have four sons, a friend of mine has four too; together we furnish a squad of soldiers."

A small state must accordingly "do its duty". The eight sons of the two conservatives must be drilled in the use of modern weapons, equipped as well as a small state is able to equip them, and sent forth against a Great Power in order to show that their fathers are patriots or because they are themselves patriots and believe they can defend their fatherland by being brave and sacrificing their lives.

As far as the small states are concerned "national defence" has as a matter of fact become irrelevant. In modern wars states fight for power and interests which the small ones can neither protect nor win by the help of arms. When the League of Nations which was meant as a protection for the small states, was put out of action, they became defenceless.

Any idea of mutual co-operation among the small states against the great is illusory. They have their place in the one or the other group of Great Powers, not of their own choosing. The matter is decided by their geographical position and their economic dependence, and day by day they grow more dependent as capitalistic influence of the big Powers, become more and more a deciding factor in world politics. In a war for power and vested interests the small countries become crushed like corn between millstones. The preparations of a small country for a war in order to preserve her independence are quixotic, conservative quixotism.

No one imagines that a small country can withstand a large one. If it sets out against a great power it will be beaten. "But we do not stand alone," say the conservatives; and so they arm relying on the help they may get. In this matter the Danish conservatives recently learnt from a friendly-disposed and neighbouring power like Sweden that it could not manage to come to the assistance of Denmark until a fortnight after she had been suddenly attacked by a Great Power. Even supposing that Sweden would enter a world war in order to help Denmark, the collection of "samples" of war material which Denmark could muster would be destroyed or captured long before the fortnight was up; and during that period the sons of the two patriotic fathers would, with several hundreds or thousands of the population of Copenhagen, be maimed, gassed, or killed.

But the particular group of Great Powers which might possibly be interested in coming to our aid, would it also fail us? If it is represented by England, both Lord Baldwin and Mr. Eden have publicly declared that "England and France have no intention of going to war if they are not attacked on their own territory."

Hence all that might have been hoped for from Collective Security, from Indivisible Peace, and all that sort of sentimentality, is definitely gone.

Thus a small state can neither defend itself nor expect help from any quarter. Its only chance is that it is in the interest of the one group of Great Powers to prevent the other group getting hold of it. A small state can neither keep out the enemy nor protect its inhabitants . Why then does it arm? The highest military authority in Switzerland, General U. Wille, in his Report on Active Service 1914-18 to the League Council, let fall words that are worth noting. In his opinion, "The Swiss fortifications were only made for show in order to prove to the belligerent powers all along how untiring we are working to strengthen our defences, against a hostile invasion. And it would be far more preferable never to use them than to have to depend on their being able to keep their ground or not."

Thus it is the great nations who demand that the small nations arm. They use the economic dependence of the small states to bring pressure to bear upon them. They grant them loans on condition that the money is used for preparing for war and that the goods necessary are bought from their armament firms: "borrow from France and buy from Creusot."

Why do the great nations want the small ones to be armed? Pardy in order to have an excuse for attacking them. Partly because even a collection of "samples" of weapons has some value to a belligerent power; in any case so much that the enemy must be prevented from getting it, as Denmark experienced in 1807 when England bombarded Copenhagen and took the fleet. Finally the small countries are to be used to detain the enemy or spread his fighting strength, as military bases or as purveyors to the belligerents. Alt this requires their being armed to the teeth.

But what will the small states: gain by their preparations for war? They buy arms in order to defend their independence and raise loans in the larger countries to pay for them and so become even more economically dependent than they were before. And yet they are not able to defend either their country or themselves. They cannot win alone and they cannot expect help. "No," admit the patriots, "but a small country that has put all its money in guns and who fights bravely to the last man, will always be sure of redress; you have only to look at Belgium in 1914."

We shut our eyes to Ethiopia, China, and the history of the whole world, and look at Belgium who, furthermore, became far more economically dependent after the war.

The country was in no doubt that its geographical situation would make it the battle ground for the armies of the Great Powers. And Belgium armed. From 1910-12 she brought her army up from 140,000 to 340,000. Officially Belgium was neutral but she had her secret agreements with both England and France. Both these countries had their plans for the entry of English and French troops into Belgium already laid by 1905-6 when England began to hem Germany in. The Belgian frontier to the East was fortified, whereas to the West it was practically unfortified. The famous London Protocol of the 19th of April 1839 not only guaranteed Belgium's continued neutrality but also bound Belgium "to maintain that neutrality towards all other states."

On the 3rd. of August 1914 the German army marched across the Belgian frontier. Belgium was involved in the Great War from the beginning to the end. Her youth were killed, her country devastated, but Belgium was on the side of the Allies and they won and so Belgium got her compensation and her re-building.

But had the French troops been the first to cross the frontier,what about Belgium's neutrality? Would the mouths of her guns then have been turned towards the west instead of to the east? If not, then would Belgium herself - long before Germany did - have treated the London Protocol as a scrap of paper. And rightly so. No small country can remain neutral longer than its neighbour wishes, no matter what that neighbour has signed, or promised, or undertaken to do. So long as people submit to war they waste their time in making treaties.

And had the Central Powers won the Great war, what about Belgium's re-building and compensation? What would the Belgians have got then for their heroic fight which "detained the Germans three weeks and saved France"? Thus the small countries must arm in order to please the great. They must let their people be killed in the hope of rising again in their independence when the great ones make peace. But whether that hope wilL be fulfilled or not nothing whatever to do with how many guns they have, how many of their people are killed, how much of their country is occupied or laid waste. The only thing it depends upon is something which the small nation cannot control, namely who will win the war. And that no one knows, neither the great nation nor the small. For war is a game. So there is nothing to do but "wait and see".

Belgium has now repudiated her agreement with France and England. In a great speech her king caused a sensation by declaring that th& country had returned to her pre-war neutrality (!). When Spaak, the Foreign Minister, moreover abandoned all sentimentality and declared "that Belgium will side with those who win," then he actually said nothing else but what they all think. But when he added "and we are very inclined to believe that next time it will be the Germans", his own Wahlverwandtschafft was so very obvious that the statement nearly overthrew both him and the whole government.

In England "The Times" expressed the same thing discreetly but clearly in an article on "Germany and the League" (6-7-36): "One can well imagine that careful diplomacy would choose the strongest as an ally A clear agreement with Germany would certainly not solve all the problems but it would however be a solid basis upon which to build; and the English people want the attempt to be made."

What conception the great nations have of their care of the interests of the small nations is perhaps best seen in the German colonial question. The English conservatives with Winston Churchill at their head are ready to recognise Germany's demand but with the additional statement "that the British Empire has no intention of giving up one inch of the land now under English influence."

Mussolini is more direct and brutal. He is ever a revisionist and through his mouthpiece, Rossoni, the Secretary of State for Agriculture, he informed the German diplomats in May 1936 that in return for some diplomatic support from Berlin he would be willing to "countenance Germany's colonial dreams at the expense of Belgium, Holland, and Portugal".

As far as Germany is concerned von Jagows statement to the French Ambassador in Berlin in March 1914 shows the view of the German di-plomats already in those days regarding the small nations. His proposal aimed at a re-distribution of the colonies in Africa between Germany, Great Britain, and France, at the expense of Belgium. That was at the time when Germany still had all the colonies she is demanding to-day.

A statement by the historian Guglielmo Ferrero shows where things are leading. "The doctrine that the small countnes in Europe are bound to be engulfed by the large ones because they are useless and dangerous anachronisms, is of long standing. Even in the 19th century we see it cropping up from time to time. It had many supporters in Germany prior to 1914. It penetrated Italy with Fascism."

What then must the small countries do in order to avoid being trampled down by the great? In reality they have only one chance: If they want to remain out of the wars of Great Powers they must disarm.

But what guarantee is there then that the enemy will not invade and occupy their country? "None," replies Aldous Huxley, "but have we any guarantee even when we are armed to the teeth?"

Huxley belongs to the International War-Resisters who are holding a Congress in Copenhagen from 2Srd.-26th July. Their president is the former Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Lord Ponsonby. In December 1927 he declared in an open letter to the Prime Minister that he had decided to refuse to perform military service of any kind if his Government had resource to arms, "seeing that in our days it was possible to settle political conflicts without war, by arbitration or other means." Lord Ponsonby was Secretary to the British Legation in Copenhagen during two years and he will speak in Danish at the Congress where he will be Chairman for the first three days.

On the fourth day the Chairman will be George Lansbury, the former leader of the English Labour Party. He staked his position in order to prevent the Labour Party agreeing to the new armaments budget and to the Sanctions against Italy in England's favour and lost it. Among the speakers is the Rev. H. R. L. Sheppard, the clergyman who started a large English society of war-resisters, the Peace Pledge Union, which has 147,000 members. Representatives are coming from France, Italy, Japan, U.S. S. R., and Spain. Olaf Kullmann is coming from Norway, and from Holland Bart de Ligt, the leader of a big movement against war and militarism. The "War Resisters' International" is not a world alliance, similar to that of Lord Cecil and Pierre Cot, which wants to preserve peace on a basis of status quo. They have indeed got limitation of armaments on their programme, but Lord Cecil however spoke for "some re-arming of England" and is moreover in agreement with Winston Churchill in arming even the League of Nations. Thus England would be able to mobilise another machine of war in defence of her Imperial interests as in l935 she mobilised sanctions against Italy. On the programme of these Imperial pacifists colonies are not even mentioned. The War Resisters' International wants the League of Nations reformed so as to be an assembly of more directly elected representatives of the people and of all peoples. They want the colonial system to be replaced by a universal international control exercised by the League of Nations in all undeveloped countries which have not their own government; all natives to be assured civil and economic rights; no country to be able to acquire trading privileges or monopolies; on the basis of equal rights for all nations, world production to be organised in conformity with the needs of mankind; and consequently disarmament and not rearmament Nither of countries nor of the League of Nations, since neither security is to be found in arming nor safety in air defence. "If a great nation led the way, disarmament could be carried through."

WRI Congress Copenhagen Townhall, 1937

If any objection should be made to this programme, it might be against the last sentence. It is a chimera. A great power cannot disarm. The 46 millions of English in the British Isles might be able to, but the British Empire cannot.

Let those who can disarm begin. There are not many. No colonial power can; neither can the British Empire nor Holland, Belgium, nor Portugal. All nations, great or small, who have colonies need arms to subjugate the natives and keep out competitors.

It is the same for those countries who have a minority of other nations within their borders; and they are not few. All those countries who were on the side of the victorious Allies in the Great War; the new states created such as Jugoslavia and Czechoslovakia; the old ones restored such as Poland. At the expense of the vanquished they got variously sized minorities. All signed that they would respect the language, culture, and traditions, of the minority. All of them broke their promises, disregarded their signatures, and instead pacified their minorities by more or less suppression, torture, and imprisonment. In these dissatisfied minorities they created yet another cause for revolt and war. Consequently neither can they disarm.

For only those countries who have no unjust power which they have to maintain by arms, can give up armaments.

Let these lead the way while there is still time. Let them disarm while they are still only economically dependent on the great states. Perhaps they will not get peace, but they themselves will be spared to use the machinery of war and the morality consequent thereto, as we saw in China, Ethiopia, and now see in Spain.

In addition they will have a place of honour in the history of the world as the first countries who had the courage to lay down arms to bring forth the only real and lasting peace: the peace founded on justice beyond the oppression of races and peoples, beyond class war and capitalism.

Ellen Hørup.

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