Dora B. Montefiore 1920

The Devils Charter

Extracts from J. M. Keynes’ “The Economic Consequences of the Peace”
Collected by Dora B Montefiore

Source: The Call, 11 March 1920, p. 6 (901 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Page 11: “To understand the present situation, we must apprehend with vividness what an extraordinary centre of population the development of the Germanic system had enabled Central Europe to become. Before the war the population of Germany and Austria-Hungary together not only substantially exceeded that of the United States, but was equal to that of the whole of North America. In these numbers, situated within a compact territory, lay the military strength of the Central Powers. But these same numbers—for even the war has not appreciably diminished them—if deprived of the means of life, remain a hardly less danger to European order.”

Page 14: “Coal has been the key to the industrial growth of Central Europe hardly less than of England; the output of German coal grew from 30,000,000 tons in 1871 to 70,000,000 tons in 1890, 110,000,000 tons in 1900, and 190,000,000 in 1913. Round Germany, as a central support, the rest of the European economic system grouped itself, and on the prosperity and enterprise of Germany the prosperity of the rest of the Continent mainly depended.”

Page 15: “In our own case we sent more exports to Germany than to any other country in the world except India, and we bought more from her than from any other country in the world except the United States.”

Page 17: “This (capitalist) system depended for its growth on a double bluff or deception. On the one hand, the labouring class accepted from ignorance or powerlessness, or were compelled, persuaded, or cajoled by custom, convention, authority, and the well-established order of Society into accepting a situation in which they could call their own very little of the cake that they and Nature and the capitalists were cooperating to produce. And, on the other hand, the capitalist classes were allowed to call the best part of the cake theirs, and were theoretically free to consume it, on the tacit underlying condition that they consumed very little of it in practice. The duty of ‘saving’ became nine-tenths of virtue, and the growth of the cake the object of true religion.”

Page 18: “The nineteenth century was able to forget the fertility of the species in a contemplation of the dizzy virtues of compound interest.”

Page 19: “The war has disclosed the possibility of consumption to all and the vanity of abstinence to many. Thus the bluff is discovered,”

Page 51: “The future life of Europe was not their (the Four) concern; its means of livelihood was not their anxiety. Their preoccupations, good and bad alike, related to frontiers and nationalities, to the balance of power, to imperial aggrandisements, to the future enfeeblement of a strong and dangerous enemy, to revenge, and to the shifting by the victors of their unbearable financial burdens on to the shoulders of the defeated. Two rival schemes for the future polity of the world took the field—the Fourteen Points of the President and the Carthaginian Peace of M. Clemenceau. Yet only one of these was entitled to take the field, for the enemy had not surrendered unconditionally, but on agreed terms as to the general character of the peace.”

Keynes estimates that 2,120 millions would have been a reasonable reparation sum for Germany to have paid to the Allies. These Allies are claiming a very much larger, in fact, an indefinite, sum by way of indemnity, which sum includes separation allowances and compensation for the death of combatants under the terms of the Armistice. These overwhelming demands will, if not withdrawn, enslave the German worker and his children’s children; and will bleed Germany financially white, for generations.

On this point Keynes writes:
    Page 193: — “We are without experience of the psychology of a white race under conditions little short of servitude. It is, however, generally supposed that if the whole of a man’s surplus production is taken from him his efficiency and his industry are diminished. The entrepreneur and the inventor will not contrive, the shopkeeper will not save, the labourer will not toil, if the fruits of their industry are set aside, not for the benefit of their children, their old age, their pride, or their position, but for the enjoyment of a foreign conqueror.”

Page 211: “The Treaty includes no provisions for the economic rehabilitation Europe; nothing to make the defeated Central Empires into good neighbours, nothing to stabilise the new States of Europe, nothing to reclaim Russia; nor does it promote in any way a compact of economic solidarity amongst the Allies themselves; no arrangement was reached at Paris for restoring the disordered finances of France and Italy, or to adjust the systems of the Old World and the New. The Council of Four paid no attention to these issues, being preoccupied with others—Clemenceau to crush the economic life of his enemy, Lloyd George to do a deal, and bring home something which would pass muster for a week . The danger confronting us is the rapid depression of the standard of life of the European populations to a point which will mean actual starvation for some . men will not always die quietly. For starvation, which brings to some lethargy and a helpless despair, drives other temperaments to the nervous instability of hysteria and to a mad despair.”