THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Macdonald must choose between ‘the roles of the lion and the lamb’

From the News Letter, June 20, 1929

British PM Ramsay Macdonald, pictured, second from left
British PM Ramsay Macdonald, pictured, second from left
British PM Ramsay Macdonald, pictured, second from left

The Morning Post, discussing Mr Ramsay Macdonald’s (the British Prime Minister) article on ‘Minority Populations’ which had appeared in the German and British Press, remarked on this day in 1929: “Not the truculent statesman the old regime ever wrote anything so effective in rousing the lions of Europe. Indeed, since the article was published last Sunday they have have never stopped roaring. It has irritated and inflamed every national animosity to such an extent that we begin to congratulate ourselves there is still such thing as a Royal Navy to protect us from its possible effects.”

The article began with an attack the peace treaties, which, suggested, erroneously, gave protection to national minorities.

It went on to alarm France arguing that “Alsace and the Saar” must not be left of account in a survey the minority problem.

It the proceeded to stir up all the racial animosities it the Balkans “by a few well-chosen words”.

Then it denounced Italy for using “every repressive power it can command” against the Germans and Slavs, and it excited the ambitions Germany by backing Dr [Gustav] Stresseman’s demand for a Permanent Minorities Commission thereby alarmed Poland.

The Morning Post’s commentary continued: “Now, we hope we may be allowed to assure these nations that Mr Macdonald - as usual - did not mean what he said and was talking at large after the irresponsible manner of the Socialist politician.

“Yet the same time we do venture to suggest both to the Prime Minister and to Mr Snowden - whose recent attack on France still complicates the situation - that they must really choose between the two roles of the lion and the lamb.

“If we are to disarm, then we must be meek, we must be civil, we must be careful never to offend anybody.

“Then possibly although not certainly, we may be allowed to live, But if we disarm and are at the same time rude, rash, interfering, meddlesome, impulsive, then our destruction is certain. Civility is corollary of disarmament.

“No statesman can afford the luxury of offending our neighbours if he proposes to live by their permission. If the Socialists combine the harmlessness of the lamb with the truculence the lion their manners will bring upon us dangers which their methods will be unable to avert.”