The provisions relating to coal and iron are more important in respect of their ultimate consequences on Germany's internal industrial economy than for the money value immediately involved. The German Empire has been built more truly on coal and iron than on blood and iron. The skilled exploitation of the great coalfields of the Ruhr, Upper Silesia, and the Saar, alone made possible the development of the steel, chemical, and electrical industries which established her as the first industrial nation of continental Europe. One-third of Germany's population lives in towns of more than 20,000 inhabitants, an industrial concentration which is only possible on a foundation of coal and iron. In striking, therefore, at her coal supply, the French politicians were not mistaking their target. It is only the extreme immoderation, and indeed technical impossibility, of the Treaty's demands which may save the situation in the long-run.
(1) The Treaty strikes at Germany's coal supply in four ways:--
(i.) "As compensation for the destruction of the coal-mines in the north of France, and as part payment towards the total reparation due from Germany for the damage resulting from the war, Germany cedes to France in full and absolute possession, with exclusive rights of exploitation, unencumbered, and free from all debts and charges of any kind, the coal-mines situated in the Saar Basin." While the administration of this district is vested for fifteen years in the League of Nations, it is to be observed that the mines are ceded to France absolutely. Fifteen years hence the population of the district will be called upon to indicate by plebiscite their desires as to the future sovereignty of the territory; and, in the event of their electing for union with Germany, Germany is to be entitled to repurchase the mines at a price payable in gold.
The judgment of the world has already recognized the transaction of the Saar as an act of spoliation and insincerity. So far as compensation for the destruction of French coal-mines is concerned, this is provided for, as we shall see in a moment, elsewhere in the Treaty. "There is no industrial region in Germany," the German representatives have said without contradiction, "the population of which is so permanent, so homogeneous, and so little complex as that of the Saar district. Among more than 650,000 inhabitants, there were in 1918 less than 100 French. The Saar district has been German for more than 1,000 years. Temporary occupation as a result of warlike operations on the part of the French always terminated in a short time in the restoration of the country upon the conclusion of peace. During a period of 1048 years France has possessed the country for not quite 68 years in all. When, on the occasion of the first Treaty of Paris in 1814, a small portion of the territory now coveted was retained for France, the population raised the most energetic opposition and demanded 'reunion with their German fatherland,' to which they were 'related by language, customs, and religion.' After an occupation of one year and a quarter, this desire was taken into account in the second Treaty of Paris in 1815. Since then the country has remained uninterruptedly attached to Germany, and owes its economic development to that connection."
The French wanted the coal for the purpose of working the ironfields of Lorraine, and in the spirit of Bismarck they have taken it. Not precedent, but the verbal professions of the Allies, have rendered it indefensible.
(ii.) Upper Silesia, a district without large towns, in which, however, lies one of the major coalfields of Germany with a production of about 23 per cent of the total German output of hard coal, is, subject to a plebiscite, to be ceded to Poland. Upper Silesia was never part of historic Poland; but its population is mixed Polish, German, and Czecho-Slovakian, the precise proportions of which are disputed. Economically it is intensely German; the industries of Eastern Germany depend upon it for their coal; and its loss would be a destructive blow at the economic structure of the German State.
With the loss of the fields of Upper Silesia and the Saar, the coal supplies of Germany are diminished by not far short of one-third.
(iii.) Out of the coal that remains to her, Germany is obliged to make good year by year the estimated loss which France has incurred by the destruction and damage of war in the coalfields of her northern Provinces. In para. 2 of Annex V. to the Reparation Chapter, "Germany undertakes to deliver to France annually, for a period not exceeding ten years, an amount of coal equal to the difference between the annual production before the war of the coal-mines of the Nord and Pas de Calais, destroyed as a result of the war, and the production of the mines of the same area during the year in question: such delivery not to exceed 20,000,000 tons in any one year of the first five years, and 8,000,000 tons in any one year of the succeeding five years."
This is a reasonable provision if it stood by itself, and one which Germany should be able to fulfil if she were left her other resources to do it with.
(iv.) The final provision relating to coal is part of the general scheme of the Reparation Chapter by which the sums due for Reparation are to be partly paid in kind instead of in cash. As a part of the payment due for Reparation, Germany is to make the following deliveries of coal or equivalent in coke (the deliveries to France being wholly additional to the amounts available by the cession of the Saar or in compensation for destruction in Northern France):--
(i.) To France 7,000,000 tons annually for ten years;
(ii.) To Belgium 8,000,000 tons annually for ten years;
(iii.) To Italy an annual quantity, rising by annual increments from 4,500,000 tons in 1919-1920 to 8,500,000 tons in each of the six years, 1923-1924 to 1928-1929;
(iv.) To Luxemburg, if required, a quantity of coal equal to the pre-war annual consumption of German coal in Luxemburg.
This amounts in all to an annual average of about 25,000,000 tons.
These figures have to be examined in relation to Germany's probable output. The maximum pre-war figure was reached in 1913 with a total of 191,500,000 tons. Of this, 19,000,000 tons were consumed at the mines, and on balance (i.e. exports less imports) 33,500,000 tons were exported, leaving 139,000,000 tons for domestic consumption. It is estimated that this total was employed as follows:--
The diminution of production due to loss of territory is:--
There would remain, therefore, on the basis of the 1913 output, 130,700,000 tons, or, deducting consumption at the mines themselves, (say) 118,000,000 tons. For some years there must be sent out of this supply upwards of 20,000,000 tons to France as compensation for damage done to French mines, and 25,000,000 tons to France, Belgium, Italy, and Luxemburg; as the former figure is a maximum, and the latter figure is to be slightly less in the earliest years, we may take the total export to Allied countries which Germany has undertaken to provide as 40,000,000 tons, leaving, on the above basis, 78,000,000 tons for her own use as against a pre-war consumption of 139,000,000 tons.
This comparison, however, requires substantial modification to make it accurate. On the one hand, it is certain that the figures of pre-war output cannot be relied on as a basis of present output. During 1918 the production was 161,500,000 tons as compared with 191,500,000 tons in 1913; and during the first half of 1919 it was less than 50,000,000 tons, exclusive of Alsace-Lorraine and the Saar but including Upper Silesia, corresponding to an annual production of about 100,000,000 tons. The causes of so low an output were in part temporary and exceptional but the German authorities agree, and have not been confuted, that some of them are bound to persist for some time to come. In part they are the same as elsewhere; the daily shift has been shortened from 8-1/2 to 7 hours, and it is improbable that the powers of the Central Government will be adequate to restore them to their former figure. But in addition, the mining plant is in bad condition (due to the lack of certain essential materials during the blockade), the physical efficiency of the men is greatly impaired by malnutrition (which cannot be cured if a tithe of the reparation demands are to be satisfied,--the standard of life will have rather to be lowered), and the casualties of the war have diminished the numbers of efficient miners. The analogy of English conditions is sufficient by itself to tell us that a pre-war level of output cannot be expected in Germany. German authorities put the loss of output at somewhat above 30 per cent, divided about equally between the shortening of the shift and the other economic influences. This figure appears on general grounds to be plausible, but I have not the knowledge to endorse or to criticize it.
The pre-war figure of 118,000,000 tons net (i.e. after allowing for loss of territory and consumption at the mines) is likely to fall, therefore, at least as low as to 100,000,000 tons, having regard to the above factors. If 40,000,000 tons of this are to be exported to the Allies, there remain 60,000,000 tons for Germany herself to meet her own domestic consumption. Demand as well as supply will be diminished by loss of territory, but at the most extravagant estimate this could not be put above 29,000,000 tons. Our hypothetical calculations, therefore, leave us with post-war German domestic requirements, on the basis of a pre-war efficiency of railways and industry, of 110,000,000 tons against an output rot exceeding 100,000,000 tons, of which 40,000,000 tons are mortgaged to the Allies.
The importance of the subject has led me into a somewhat lengthy statistical analysis. It is evident that too much significance must not be attached to the precise figures arrived at, which are hypothetical and dubious. But the general character of the facts presents itself irresistibly. Allowing for the loss of territory and the loss of efficiency, Germany cannot export coal in the near future (and will even be dependent on her Treaty rights to purchase in Upper Silesia), if she is to continue as an industrial nation. Every million tons she is forced to export must be at the expense of closing down an industry. With results to be considered later this within certain limits is possible. But it is evident that Germany cannot and will not furnish the Allies with a contribution of 40,000,000 tons annually. Those Allied Ministers, who have told their peoples that she can, have certainly deceived them for the sake of allaying for the moment the misgivings of the European peoples as to the path along which they are being led.
The presence of these illusory provisions (amongst others) in the clauses of the Treaty of Peace is especially charged with danger for the future. The more extravagant expectations as to Reparation receipts, by which Finance Ministers have deceived their publics, will be heard of no more when they have served their immediate purpose of postponing the hour of taxation and retrenchment. But the coal clauses will not be lost sight of so easily,--for the reason that it will be absolutely vital in the interests of France and Italy that these countries should do everything in their power to exact their bond. As a result of the diminished output due to German destruction in France, of the diminished output of mines in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and of many secondary causes, such as the breakdown of transport and of organization and the inefficiency of new governments, the coal position of all Europe is nearly desperate; and France and Italy, entering the scramble with certain Treaty rights, will not lightly surrender them.
As is generally the case in real dilemmas, the French and Italian case will possess great force, indeed unanswerable force from a certain point of view. The position will be truly represented as a question between German industry on the one hand and French and Italian industry on the other. It may be admitted that the surrender of the coal will destroy German industry, but it may be equally true that its non-surrender will jeopardize French and Italian industry. In such a case must not the victors with their Treaty rights prevail, especially when much of the damage has been ultimately due to the wicked acts of those who are now defeated? Yet if these feelings and these rights are allowed to prevail beyond what wisdom would recommend, the reactions on the social and economic life of Central Europe will be far too strong to be confined within their original limits.
But this is not yet the whole problem. If France and Italy are to make good their own deficiencies in coal from the output of Germany, then Northern Europe, Switzerland, and Austria, which previously drew their coal in large part from Germany's exportable surplus, must be starved of their supplies. Before the war 13,600,000 tons of Germany's coal exports went to Austria-Hungary. Inasmuch as nearly all the coalfields of the former Empire lie outside what is now German-Austria, the industrial ruin of this latter state, if she cannot obtain coal from Germany, will be complete. The case of Germany's neutral neighbors, who were formerly supplied in part from Great Britain but in large part from Germany, will be hardly less serious. They will go to great lengths in the direction of making their own supplies to Germany of materials which are essential to her, conditional on these being paid for in coal. Indeed they are already doing so. With the breakdown of money economy the practice of international barter is becoming prevalent. Nowadays money in Central and South-Eastern Europe is seldom a true measure of value in exchange, and will not necessarily buy anything, with the consequence that one country, possessing a commodity essential to the needs of another, sells it not for cash but only against a reciprocal engagement on the part of the latter country to furnish in return some article not less necessary to the former. This is an extraordinary complication as compared with the former almost perfect simplicity of international trade. But in the no less extraordinary conditions of to-day's industry it is not without advantages as a means of stimulating production. The butter-shifts of the Ruhr show how far modern Europe has retrograded in the direction of barter, and afford a picturesque illustration of the low economic organization to which the breakdown of currency and free exchange between individuals and nations is quickly leading us. But they may produce the coal where other devices would fail.
Yet if Germany can find coal for the neighboring neutrals, France and Italy may loudly claim that in this case she can and must keep her treaty obligations. In this there will be a great show of justice, and it will be difficult to weigh against such claims the possible facts that, while German miners will work for butter, there is no available means of compelling them to get coal, the sale of which will bring in nothing, and that if Germany has no coal to send to her neighbors she may fail to secure imports essential to her economic existence.
If the distribution of the European coal supplies is to be a scramble in which France is satisfied first, Italy next, and every one else takes their chance, the industrial future of Europe is black and the prospects of revolution very good. It is a case where particular interests and particular claims, however well founded in sentiment or in justice, must yield to sovereign expediency. If there is any approximate truth in Mr. Hoover's calculation that the coal output of Europe has fallen by one-third, a situation confronts us where distribution must be effected with even-handed impartiality in accordance with need, and no incentive can be neglected towards increased production and economical methods of transport. The establishment by the Supreme Council of the Allies in August, 1919, of a European Coal Commission, consisting of delegates from Great Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Poland, and Czecho-Slovakia was a wise measure which, properly employed and extended, may prove of great assistance. But I reserve constructive proposals for Chapter VII. Here I am only concerned with tracing the consequences, per impossibile, of carrying out the Treaty au pied de lettre.
(2) The provisions relating to iron-ore require less detailed attention, though their effects are destructive. They require less attention, because they are in large measure inevitable. Almost exactly 75 per cent of the iron-ore raised in Germany in 1913 came from Alsace-Lorraine. In this the chief importance of the stolen provinces lay.
There is no question but that Germany must lose these ore-fields. The only question is how far she is to be allowed facilities for purchasing their produce. The German Delegation made strong efforts to secure the inclusion of a provision by which coal and coke to be furnished by them to France should be given in exchange for minette from Lorraine. But they secured no such stipulation, and the matter remains at France's option.
The motives which will govern France's eventual policy are not entirely concordant. While Lorraine comprised 75 per cent of Germany's iron-ore, only 25 per cent of the blast furnaces lay within Lorraine and the Saar basin together, a large proportion of the ore being carried into Germany proper. Approximately the same proportion of Germany's iron and steel foundries, namely 25 per cent, were situated in Alsace-Lorraine. For the moment, therefore, the most economical and profitable course would certainly be to export to Germany, as hitherto, a considerable part of the output of the mines.
On the other hand, France, having recovered the deposits of Lorraine, may be expected to aim at replacing as far as possible the industries, which Germany had based on them, by industries situated within her own frontiers. Much time must elapse before the plant and the skilled labor could be developed within France, and even so she could hardly deal with the ore unless she could rely on receiving the coal from Germany. The uncertainty, too, as to the ultimate fate of the Saar will be disturbing to the calculations of capitalists who contemplate the establishment of new industries in France.
In fact, here, as elsewhere, political considerations cut disastrously across economic. In a régime of Free Trade and free economic intercourse it would be of little consequence that iron lay on one side of a political frontier, and labor, coal, and blast furnaces on the other. But as it is, men have devised ways to impoverish themselves and one another; and prefer collective animosities to individual happiness. It seems certain, calculating on the present passions and impulses of European capitalistic society, that the effective iron output of Europe will be diminished by a new political frontier (which sentiment and historic justice require), because nationalism and private interest are thus allowed to impose a new economic frontier along the same lines. These latter considerations are allowed, in the present governance of Europe, to prevail over the intense need of the Continent for the most sustained and efficient production to repair the destructions of war, and to satisfy the insistence of labor for a larger reward.
The same influences are likely to be seen, though on a lesser scale, in the event of the transference of Upper Silesia to Poland. While Upper Silesia contains but little iron, the presence of coal has led to the establishment of numerous blast furnaces. What is to be the fate of these? If Germany is cut off from her supplies of ore on the west, will she export beyond her frontiers on the east any part of the little which remains to her? The efficiency and output of the industry seem certain to diminish.
Thus the Treaty strikes at organization, and by the destruction of organization impairs yet further the reduced wealth of the whole community. The economic frontiers which are to be established between the coal and the iron, upon which modern industrialism is founded, will not only diminish the production of useful commodities, but may possibly occupy an immense quantity of human labor in dragging iron or coal, as the case may he, over many useless miles to satisfy the dictates of a political treaty or because obstructions have been established to the proper localization of industry.