Why Europe Fights
by Walter Mills
Sidney J. Abelson
[Reprinted from The Freeman, August, 1940]
The New York Sunday News would have us believe that "there are
too many people in Europe." Now this esteemed daily does not
insinuate this conclusion; it asserts it, forthrightly and full-blown
from the collective editorial mind of its high command: "There
Are Too Many People in Europe." These very words captioned a
recent editorial which for lack of brilliance, wit, accuracy, good
taste, appropriateness, scholarship and logic has hardly an equal in
all the burgeoning files of newspaper opinion.
"That is the real trouble with Europe," the editorial
assures its 3,500,000 or more readers, "that there are simply too
many people in Europe for the basic plant to take care of in comfort."
Maybe there are also too many people reading the News for the good of
that paper's bright minds -- but that is another question.
The vicious dissemination of this absolutely unsubstantiated
conclusion -- that over-population is at the root of economic or
social problems -- is one of the high crimes of current journalism. In
spite of the contrary conclusions of specialists who devoted lifetimes
to research in the field, in spite of the very obvious evidence
displayed by such nations as Switzerland, Belgium and Holland, that
density of population has no inevitable relationship with poverty or
other social problems, in spite of the further evidence furnished by
Hitler and Mussolini who cynically disregard the simplest logic by
crying out at the same time that their countries are over-populated
and that they need more babies -- in spite of all this evidence and
more, supposedly mature writers continue to spread the word that
over-population is the basic evil from which we suffer.
In refreshing contrast to the intellectually negative position of the
News is this passage in Walter Millis' Why Europe Fights
(William Morrow & Co., Inc. $2.00):
"It may be said that in a sense there was no
'reason' in the spring of 1939, for another great European war.
There were no vast mechanical 'causes' driving the nations to
battle, in the same way that
drought and famine once caused
populations to migrate over the earth. There was no struggle for
'survival.' People were not starving to death in any of the great
powers; and even if they had been, there was no possibility that by
fighting a major war they could seize the food they needed. There
were no resources which even the poorest of European peoples could
hope to conquer in such a war that they could not have got the use
of much more cheaply and easily in other ways."
These indeed are the conclusions to which all must come who make a
sober study of the facts. Why then, since there was no "reason"
did war break out? Because the basic human problem is the problem of
the individual and this fact is brutally ignored by "statesmen"
who make it seem, for their own reasons, that there are "national"
and "racial" problems. If the goings-on of European "statesmen"
were offered' as fictional drama on the stage the result would be
comedy, not tragedy, so ludicrously incredible are the connivings, the
dealings and double-dealings of these men who rush from chancellery to
chancellery in tail coats and top hats seeking to outwit each other.
They write high-sounding phrases on expensive rag paper duly stamped
with seals of high authority -- and it seems most important, and is!
But the importance is that of catastrophe, not salvation. These
comedians of protocol who would be patriotic redeemers are for the
most part knaves, scoundrels or fools -- and the sooner the
intelligent mass of mankind realizes this the better.
It is this story of the diplomatic events leading up to the tragedy
which Mr. Millis tells so well in Why Europe Fights. From time
to time he does go cautiously behind the political histrionics, mostly
for quick glimpses. However, it was not his intention to be exhaustive
but rather to write "a review of ... salient features" and
in this object!' he has succeeded admirably. His book is smooth,
economically written, factual and carefully organized. It is indeed a
book which intelligent people should keep constantly at their elbows
so as to be able to look at it at all times and be reminded of the
hard historical truth it sets forth: there is no hope for mankind in
war or diplomacy; our salvation must lie somewhere else.