« AnkstesnisTęsti »
not been wanting with Germany. The inhuman submarine war has brought tragic losses to Norway, losses not only in ships, but also in human lives. Almost seven hundred Norwegian sailors have found their deaths by German submarines or mines, some of them even by direct shots as they tried to save themselves in the lifeboats. The sinking of valuable tonnage means a serious menace to one of the chief trades of Norway. The shipowners may not lose their capital, for the ships are of course insured; but the shipbuilding trade not being able by far to fill the gaps, very many of them already now find themselves unable to maintain their business.
Besides, the costly freights and enormous insurance premiums have still more inflated the prices of all articles of consumption; all salaries have risen enormously. There is probably no country in the world where life is at present so expensive as in Norway, and Norwegian public opinion does not hesitate to put the chief blame on the submarine war.
Resentment against Germany has been running high, and it culminated when in June last the police discovered that a German diplomatic courier had been carrying bombs to Christiania under the seals of the German Foreign Office, and that these most dangerous objects had been stored in different places within the city for weeks and months. This discovery put an end, practically speaking, to what might still be left of pro-German sentiment in Norway.
From the middle of last century a strong anti-Russian sentiment dominated Swedish public opinion. In Swedish eyes Russia figures as the insatiable conquering power, continually on the lookout for expansion; and the
indefensible Russian policy against Finland, with which secular ties of common traditions, in part also of common language, united Sweden, furnished potent arguments for such a view. At first Sweden had looked out for, and also found, support with the Western Powers, which fought Tsardom in the Crimean War. Later, especially from the beginning of the present century, which saw the rapprochement between Russia and England, Sweden became more and more attracted into the orbit of German diplomacy.
When the world-war broke out, Sweden had just passed through a fierce conflict over problems of military preparedness, a conflict which assumed at times a pronounced political character. The Liberal government in power had been ousted in the spring of 1914 by a seemingly popular movement, engineered with great skill by the Conservatives, but whose chief force was Royalty itself. King Gustavus succeeded in forming a government of his own, whose only task should be the reorganization of the defense of the country; it was contended that these interests would have been gravely compromised had the Liberal government been maintained; and the great argument for strengthening the defenses of the country was always the Russian danger.
Such was the origin of the later so famous Hammarskjöld Ministry. Proclaimed as a 'national' government, it was in fact the King's ministry. Its duration was said to be expressly limited to the period necessary to carry out its military reform programme. Because war broke out even before the government had really set about its task, it stayed in power for three full years (February, 1914, to April, 1917).
At the general elections which took place in the autumn of 1914, the Swedes renewed their declaration of allegiance to the two democratic parties; and the
Socialists especially made very important gains at the polls. In the popular Chamber they numbered 87 members and their allies, the Liberals, 57; while the Conservatives, who had been fighting for the Hammarskjöld government, got 86 seats. It is true that in the Upper Chamber the Conservatives were possessed of a large majority; but in the joint votes of the two houses prescribed, in case of difference of views between them, for all votes of credits or of ways and means, the Liberals and Socialists among them had a narrow majority.
Everything therefore seemed to prescribe a change of government. It did not take place, because of the peculiarity of the situation in Sweden as to the world-war.
When war broke out, fear of Russia rose to its highest pitch. An attack on North Sweden was generally anticipated, especially by the higher classes. It did not take place, but the fears had been so strong that the political consequences were quite as important as if it had come. The whole of the landed aristocracy, of the court, of the higher administration, of the military and naval officers, not only declared their sympathies for Germany, but openly advocated what they called an active neutrality, active in the interest of Germany as against Russia and the democratic powers of Western Europe. The last point of view is not unimportant: as the Swedish Conservatives realized that their political power was threatened, their sympathies for Germany, and especially for Prussia as the apparently impregnable stronghold of conservatism, only became more intense. Moreover, the landed aristocracy had not a few affinities and ties of parentage with the Prussian Junkers. Finally, a cleverly led German propaganda obtained great influence in Sweden from the very beginning of the war.
It is true that this fraction was numerically an unimportant element of the Swedish nation. Socially, however, they exercised a far greater influence than their numbers and weight should entitle them to, and through their connections at court and in the royal family itself, they were able to gain political power. The crisis of February, 1914, had shown that the King might be able, eventually, to play a personal part, and even to supersede a government supported by a parliamentary majority.
This explains the uneasiness felt both by the government itself and by the Riksdag. The government, which was far from 'activist,' so little felt sure of its being able to steer a clear course of neutrality, that it concluded an arrangement with Norway, stipulating that, even if either of the countries were implicated in the war, this should, under no conditions, entail hostilities between them. Because of their geographical situation, this in fact amounts to a sort of anti-war-insurance: neither of the countries would be a useful ally to one or the other group of the belligerents when the frontier between them is considered as inviolable.
The arrangement was entered into at the request of the Swedish government, a fact which was taken by the Riksdag as a proof of the honest intention of the government to follow a neutral policy. The consequence was that the relations between the two authorities were eased to a certain extent, and the Liberal-Socialist majority of the Riksdag preferred that the Hammarskjöld government, even though conservative in complexion, should remain in power, because it would probably be better able to control the 'activists' than a government toward which the latter would feel no obligations whatever. The irresponsible agitation of the spring of 1914 had shown to what
lengths the Conservatives might go against their political antagonists.
It was generally supposed that, during the first part of the war, the Swedish people was equally divided in its sympathies. I am disposed to think that the friends of Germany have been in an actual minority from the very beginning. But they have been noisy, and, in high position, able to play a very dominant part.
The course of events during the war has steadily tended to diminish the influence of the 'Activists' on Swedish public opinion. Their chief argument, it must be remembered, was the 'Russian danger'; and the government, through extensive military preparations, showed that it shared these apprehensions. It is known that not the slightest symptom has been forthcoming, proving a disposition on the part of Russia to attack the Scandinavian kingdoms. This must be said to be a decisive proof that those circles in Scandinavia were right which maintained that the Russian danger was nothing but a bogey. For if ever the temptation was great for Russian imperialism to try and obtain access to the open sea in the northwest, it must have been during this war, when the Baltic and the Black Sea were both blockaded.
As the 'activist' sentiment had chiefly been living on the threat of Russian danger, this circumstance could not but tell heavily against it. But another cloud was constantly gathering Finland. The continual, or at any rate recurring, Russian defeats in the war inspired new hopes in the Finnish patriots of a liberation of their country. Some of them even established connections with the Germans, and several youths from Finland went to Germany to be trained for officers and leaders of the national rebellion. As these sentiments were chiefly represented in the Swedish-speaking part of Finland, Stockholm became
naturally the intermediary between the insurrectionary elements in Finland and the Germans. At certain epochs an outbreak of rebellion was expected in Finland; and I know that leading Swedes feared that a wave of generosity in favor of the Finns might carry Sweden into war against Russia at the side of Finland. Fortunately for Sweden and for the peace of Scandinavia, with the Russian revolution, which opened to Finland, as well as to Russia itself, a new vista of liberation in vista of liberation in peace and through negotiations, the last foundation for an 'activist' policy in Sweden vanished. But unfortunately, the way in which the Hammarskjöld government handled the foreign policy of the country had caused serious friction with the Entente powers.
Everything seems to indicate that the government from the beginning had had the best intention of following a sincerely neutral policy. But the circumstances were too strong for them. The geographical situation of Sweden, the intimate connections of the court with Germany, the dependence of the government on royalty, the temptations offered to Swedish exports in the form of fabulous prices paid by the Ger- all tended to give to Swedish neutrality a rather pro-German tinge. There is no doubt, however, that the Socialist leader, Hjalmar Branting, has been voicing the sentiments of the majority of Swedes when he, while stead. ily advocating neutrality, has put the blame for the war on the Central Powers. The pro-Germans were a minority, but they decided the official policy of the country.
At length this entailed such serious consequences to the country, imports. from the West practically stopping, that a change of government had to take place.
In May, 1917, the Hammarskjöld government was succeeded by the
Swartz-Lindman ministry, whose task it should be to obtain an arrangement with England as to imports. It is very characteristic of the situation that even now a Conservative government was formed, Lindman, the Foreign Minister, being the leader of the party in the Riksdag, and all of the members also Conservatives, though without any 'activist' leanings. Even in 1917 the Liberal-Socialist majority did not insist on taking office themselves, and the Conservatives were quite willing to take the risk. Perhaps the reason was that they did not wish their opponents to inquire too closely to what extent the administration had entertained relations with Germany. The recent disclosures of the cables from Argentine make this suspicion legitimate at any
The recent elections have shown the real situation in the country. The Conservatives willing to uphold the present foreign policy have dwindled from 86 to 58, while the opposition has grown from 144 to 172-a majority of three fourths in the popular Chamber. In their internal policy the Conservatives can probably count on 12 more votes, representing two small peasant groups; but even here their minority is barely one third. Everything seems to point to the definitive advent of political democracy in Sweden through the reform of the Upper Chamber.
'Thus the conditions of a united democratic front will be created in the three Scandinavian countries, and this cannot but have a beneficent reaction on their coöperation in foreign affairs.
When war broke out, considerable resentment against Norway still reigned in Sweden: the dissolution of the Union in 1905 was not yet forgotten. The common danger of the war blotted
out the last remnants of this feeling, and it was the Swedish King himself who took the initiative of Scandinavian cooperation. In November, 1914, he invited the two other sovereigns, Haakon of Norway and Christian of Denmark, to meet him at Malmoe. This has been until recently the only interview of the monarchs. But three subsequent meetings of the prime ministers and foreign secretaries have taken placesymptoms strong enough of the growing sense of solidarity between the three nations.
The practical, tangible results of this coöperation should not be exaggerated. Even as among these three countries, so proximately situated, so intimately connected by common traditions, it soon appeared that the violent storm of the war attacks them from different sides and forces them into divergent attitudes.
Therefore we also see how few and far between are the common Scandinavian declarations or protests. Perhaps this divergence is best explained by the different outlook on the war of the three governments, as I have tried to describe it in the preceding pages. This difference of views has at any rate tended to circumscribe very narrowly the field of action: only in a policy of strict neutrality has it been possible to find the common denominator. And even this policy has to some observers looked suspicious enough. The Scandinavian coöperation had been opened at the initiative of Sweden; the appearance of a certain Swedish hegemony could hardly be avoided, because Sweden alone has more inhabitants than the two other countries put together. This has created the impression in some quarters that Scandinavian coöperation had certain German affinities,—an impression, however, completely false.
On the other hand, the change of government in Sweden, through which pro
Germanism will be completely elimina- of nations on the basis of Internation
ted, will, as has just been said, prepare a still sounder basis for Scandinavian coöperation, and other fields of work may be opened. Initiatives in this direction are not wanting. Thus the chambers of commerce and similar organizations of the three countries have just discussed possibilities of closer coöperation as to currency, and even in respect of tariffs.
The calamity of the world-war, with its sufferings and losses, has certainly drawn the three nations together. Although in a lesser degree than the belligerents, they have felt very hard what war means. The military burdens laid upon them have been heavy, entailing financial liabilities under which the budgets of the future will suffer for years to come. The entire population is groaning under high prices, and the coming winter threatens to bring cruel want of the necessities of life.
The Scandinavian nations realize very clearly, however, that they do not suffer as the belligerents themselves; and their sympathies and active help have not been refused to the martyr nations. Especially the appeals in favor of Belgium have been met with a free response.
Hitherto the affairs of each nation have been considered as strictly national and not pertaining to the domain of the others. The war has shown that this principle, anarchic and destructive, can only lead to perdition; and in the Scandinavian countries this has been very clearly recognized. In all of the three countries the movement working for the formation of a league
al Law has made considerable headway during the war. Especially the common meetings of the three national groups of the Interparliamentary Union, held during the war, have educated public opinion and have been working on the governments. At their initiative the governments have been trying to organize a common work on the part of all the European neutrals, in order to discuss the means of laying the basis of a lasting peace, founded on justice and guaranteed by a common will and by common institutions.
The Scandinavian nations have no illusions as to their power to enforce such a solution on the nations now at war. Their whole-hearted support of any effort bending toward the goal of a durable peace must only be taken as a symptom of what is certainly their dominant sentiment on the war: that this terrible crisis should at any rate bring home to all nations the futility and criminality of international war.
Several of our best minds hope and believe that, if the Scandinavian countries succeed in maintaining to the end their neutrality in the war, they may perhaps in future serve as a common meeting-ground for efforts toward a wider international coöperation, perhaps as an intermediary in the exchange of scientific and industrial, of artistic and literary experiences, which, during the first years of resentment, it will perhaps not be possible to arrange through direct channels.
In this high mission of humanity Denmark, Norway, and Sweden would fain find a special field of action.