What Are We To Do To Win This War?
At the opening of a year which must be fateful in the history not only of our own country, but the whole of Western civilisation. Britain’s Primeminister delivered a speech at the Mansion House, London on January 9th, a speech which was at once a warning of the grim things which may be in store and an encouragement in the path that must be followed to victory.
Mr Chamberlain opened his speech by saying that since war broke, his sole thought and actions had been directed to doing all he could, in the closest collaboration with France to bring the war to a successful conclusion. He went on:
“Once again, as twenty-five yeas ago, the historic buildings and the ancient streets of Britain are looking upon the faces of the King’s subjects who have come here from all parts of the world of their own free will, far away from their homes and their families, to take their part side by side with us in the great struggle that is before us.
Their presence here and the profound conviction of the necessity of putting an end to the German policy of constant aggression, which alone could have induced them to undertake such sacrifices, has brought to the aid of the Allies not only almost welcome addition to their fighting strength, but what is perhaps even more valuable, the moral support of their unanimous approval of our cause.
This New Year, which will probably be a fateful one in the history of the world, has opened quietly, but it is the quiet of the calm before the storm. We are at war.
It is only on the sea that the war may be said to be in full operation, and it is on the sea that we can discern most clearly the trend of hostilities in the fist fours months of war.”
After surveying the respective gains and losses of the belligerents at sea, Mr Chamberlain said that inexorable pressure of sea power acting upon the enemy was producing ever-increasing difficulties of her whole economy and for her ability to carry on the war.
Germany (he went on) used her brute force upon unhappy Poland, and today we can see how she is treating the Poles and the Czechs – exploiting their resources, carrying off their food, staring and shooting the people, tearing and uprooting them from their homes to make way for Germans who, in their turn, have been forced to leave the lands where they and their families have been settled for generations.
And now it is the turn of Finland to be attacked by that Power with whom Germany made an unholy pact and to whom she set the example of aggression.
Finland today, amidst her snows and her frozen lakes, is fighting against the forces of unscrupulous violence, just as we are ourselves.
Mr Chamberlain then referred to the assistance given by the British and French governments tot he victims of the Turkish earthquakes, and continued:
This collaboration between France and ourselves for humanitarian purposes is only just another instance of that close, that even intimate, association between us which now covers every aspect of the war – military, political, financial and economic.
“I cannot help thinking that our experiences of this association during the war will prove it to be so valuable that when the war is over neither of us will want to give it up.”
It might even develop into smoothing wider and deeper, because there is nothing which would do more to facilitate the task of peaceful reconstruction which has got to be undertaken at some time-there is nothing which would contribute more towards the permanence of its results-than the extension of Anglo-French collaboration in finance and economics to other nations in Europe and, indeed, perhaps to the whole world.
Mr Chamberlain spoke of our mobilisation as prodigious and, dealing with the civil defence, said:
“Whilst we have already reviewed all our different precautions and modified and amended them where we thought that we could do so without disregarding the important factor of safety. I do not consider that the risk of air raids is over or even that is has diminished.
And as long as that is so I am certain that we should make a capital mistake if we were to reverse the policy that we have hitherto followed – the policy which I may sum up by saying that it is the evacuation, while the evacuation can be carried out free from bombs and machine guns, of all who can be evacuated without the serious loss of efficiency.”
Paying a tribute to the British people’s willingness to make sacrifices to win the war, Mr. Chamberlain said:
“What I am not quite sure of is that they understand what they are up against or that we shall have to face a phase of this war much grimmer than anything we have seen yet.
We have got to do without a lot of things that we shall miss very much, and I am going to try to show you why. Although we are not yet actually fighting on land, we are making preparations to enable us to do so with the greatest effect whenever the right moment comes.
For that purpose, we are devoting more and more of our man-power to the production of armaments. That must mean that there is less and less of our man-power available to produce civilian goods.
Even supposing we had ample supplies of labour we should still have to curtail our imports of goods which are not necessary for the prosecution of the war, so as to leave available our resources of foreign exchange and of sipping to purchase and to bring home in ships imports of those things which we cannot do without.”
Saying that he did not think anyone at home would complain of the necessary sacrifices, the Premier continued:
“Nearly a year ago, speaking in the House of Commons, I warned the county that it was the intention of the Government, on the outbreak of a major war, that direct taxes, already so heavy as to constitute conscription of wealth would be still further increased.
That prediction was fulfilled when my heavy-handed friend and colleague [Sir John Simon] last September placed his little finger upon the shoulder of the income-tax payer.
Already, the wealthier classes have suffered a very heavy reduction on their income, and we have left them mighty little prospect of being able to increase it again.
I don’t say that we have come to the end of our demands upon them, but……it is not possible for them along to solve the problem of how to reduce consumption of unnecessary articles, because two-thirds of the consumption of the people of this country is b those who only have small incomes; and, therefore, I say that it is necessary that they too should make their sacrifice as is done, not only in totalitarian Germany, but also in the great democracy of France.”
“What are we to do to win, and, if possible, to shorten this war?
We must save, we must control imports, we must do without commodities that are not necessary, we must, if required, ration them so that all may share and share alike.
If you find that you cannot buy woollen goods that you have been accustomed to, remember that wool is wanted for clothing the army. If you are asked to lessen your consumption of bacon and sugar, remember that you are making available space in ships which can be used for iron ore or machine tools. If you are asked to put your savings into savings Certificates, instead of spending them, remember that you are giving help to the Chancellor in his Herculean task in finding the where withal for our unprecedented expenditure.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the German Government has long-planned the successive stages of a programme of conquest, and that its appetite grows by what is feeds upon. Today, the members of that Government do not hesitate to say that they desire to achieve the ruin of the British Empire, and no doubt they would rejoice if they could treat us as they are treating the victims already within their grip. We on our side have no such vindictive designs.
But, on the other hand, the German people must realise that the responsibility for the prolongation of this war, and all the suffering as well as that of the tyrants who stand over them. They must realise that the desire of the Allies for a social human, just, Christian settlement cannot be satisfied by assurances which experience has proved to be worthless.
In his recent message to the Pope by President of the United States declared that only by the friendly association of the seekers of light and the seekers of peace everywhere can the forces of evil be overcome.
Against such a combination as that, the powers of wickedness will fight in vain, and we, at the beginning of this New Year, can await the future with unshaken confidence in the strength of our arms and in the righteousness of our cause.”