Archive for February 10th, 2011

The Peace Treaty of Versailles was all the more strange in the way the Allies were approaching the conference. For England and the USA settlement of peace throughout a war-torn Europe meant differently, not exactly what France had in mind by securing peace. England had her own agenda; so had the USA.
France realized at the end that her one time allies were behaving more like enemies. The French were for four years trying to fight off the Germans who had invaded their soil and bore the biggest losses. Of course what with the Germans having too many men and too many industries turning out arms she could not have won the war all alone. At the decisive moment the US entering into the war tipped the scale in her favor. The Allies had won the war.
But at the Peace Treaty friends were more like enemies and at the end France would be left with a feeling that she could not depend on others for deciding her future.
The question of reparations was their biggest hurdle.The Allies backed away from making the loser pay. France never received from Germany enough to pay more than 20% of the cost of rebuilding. The more France asked the less she received thanks to the Allies who were more for peace than doing justice to their ally who had to live with an enemy too close for comfort. England and America were safe from Germany geographically. So they could stop France from asking for a buffer state between Germany and her. France annexed Ruhr region as the talks dragged on but had to give back.
As for Reparations what the Allies at Versailles had stipulated, Germany could scale down since the Allies were fighting each other. The British were intent on restoring German markets, that had been so profitable to them before the war and what with the war was over they wanted to revive their own sluggish economy by making Germany pay less by way of reparations. The Americans had their eyes on the potential German market too. The US bankers were eager to lend loans at profitable interest rates. Neither had any real sympathy for the plight of France.
Germany deliberately wrecked their currency the mark falling to four million to a dollar by Aug 1923 and eventually to 25 billions. Germany could renege on the reparations in so many ways and of 123 billion gold marks assessed in 11921 towards reparation Germany never had to pay a single mark out of their own resources. What they borrowed from America were never repaid and in a way the naive Americans footed the German Reparations bill.
The way France was deprived of her just claims by opportunistic Allies was a timely lesson for her. This must have made Charles deGaulle not to join the American camp when the Cold War was being fought in real earnest. (Stalin’s Non-Aggression Pact with Germany must have stemmed from his distrust of the West, partly from the manner the Allies had let down France.)


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Dr.Martin Luther King (1929-1968) Civil Rights Pioneer

It fell to Lincoln to abolish slavery by a law but Luther King gave the blacks their self-respect. Civil Rights movement captured the nation’s imagination in 1957 when he led the African Americans of Montgomery,Alabama in a boycott if buses which ended seregation of blacks on buses practically every city in the South. His sit-ins in 1960 enabled them to share lunch counters, libraries,parks with whites. His ‘freedom rides’ ended segregation in inter-state travel. These and much publicized confrontation with’Bull’ Connors, the brutal Birmingham Police chief in 1963 hit the climax when they marched to the Capitol which resulted in the pushing through Congress the Civil Rights legislation. Law helped and publicizing the segregation to give Afro-Americans equal rights in their daily lives were also succeeded. But did he really clear up the nation’s prejudice against the blacks was a question that didn’t have ready answer. The non-violent methods by which Dr. King achieved a social revolution held up the precepts of Gandhi and Thoreau and also the Christian ideals that he as a minister found useful. He certainly put the Afro-Americans in the South on a plane of moral superiority in the wake of outrages that sporadically broke out. The Racial doctrines by which the extreme Right groups were unleashing violence against the Jews and the blacks sounded false and out oif step with the times. His life was threatened his home was bombed and he had certain premonitions of death and his moral courage shone through in these sombre period. He tiirelessly toured through the country preaching non violence and in his spell-binding style of his vision for future. His style of delivery and content were spontaneous to give an emotional edge in the listeners but none matched ‘I have a dream’ speech given on the steps of the Capitol Hill.

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When France sat with other Allies to hammer out a Treaty of peace she must not have fully understood what the war cost her.
134 billions gold francs worth of goods and property went up in smoke. One out of ten Frenchmen had been killed at the front and the youth on whom future of any nation depends on suffered it most. Three out of ten of them between 18 and 28 had been slaughtered for the folly of others. Intellectuals also suffered and 23 out of every 100 men belonging to the liberal professions had perished in the trenches. Of 4,266,000 men wounded, a million and a half were maimed permanently. With such a loss France was to pay dearly in the years to come. France overnight became gray and the birth-rate directly connected to the national trauma fell sharply. It is calculated that between 1915 and 1919 there were 1,400,000 fewer births than normal. There were 1,400,000fewer parents by then. Nearly a million and a half war dead, more than 2 million fewer births France found her population less at the end of than at the outset of war. Of course she gained nearly 2 million citizens with the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine. France had at the end 30 million against the population of Germany at 63 millions.
Only a massive immigration organized by the State could keep Industry, agriculture and mining going. Male workers from Italy and Poland were thus put to work. Between wars they accounted for 80% of the 2,700,000 increase in French population.After 1935 death rate exceeded the birthrate. Immigration had to be curtailed as a result of unemployment. The 1931 depression was to hit France. When the WWII came France had less than half as many men between 20 and 34 as the Germans-roughly four million to 9 million.(ack:The Collapse of the Third Republic-William L.Shirer-p.140/pub:pan)

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