European Political Alignments

April 12, 1933

Report Outline
European War Scare and Macdonald-Mussolini Plans
Pre-War System of Political Alliances in Europe
Developing Political Alignments Since Versailles
Europe's Post-War Network of Peace Guarantees

European War Scare and Macdonald-Mussolini Plans

The Triumph of the National Socialists in the German election of March 5, 1933, and the assumption of dictatorial powers by Chancellor Hitler, caused a momentary war scare in Europe and set in motion new moves for the preservation of peace. Prime Minister MacDonald of Great Britain, assuming a role reminiscent of that played by Sir Edward Grey in 1914. made hasty visits to Paris, Geneva, and Rome in mid-March in an effort to find means of relieving the tension. At Geneva he sponsored a new plan for limitation of land armaments and military effectives, designed to give recognition to the German demand for equality of treatment. At Rome Premier Mussolini launched a scheme to guarantee European peace through the cooperative action of France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy, While the alarmist atmosphere soon subsided, the underlying dangers in the political situation remained.

Both of the new proposals involved, directly or indirectly, revision of the peace treaties of 1919. The MacDonald arms limitation plan suggested doubling the size of the army allowed to Germany under the Treaty of Versailles. According to an unofficial text of the Mussolini proposal, the four powers would “confirm the principle of revision of the peace treaties in accordance with the League of Nations Covenant in case a situation susceptible of leading to a conflict among states should arise.” In the House of Commons, March 23, MacDonald said “the big and almost only purpose of the Rome plan was revision of treaties.”

This purpose runs directly counter to the traditional French stand for the status quo. The Paris press heatedly assailed the Mussolini project, but the government displayed a disposition to cooperate. Premier Daladier told the Chamber of Deputies, April 6, that he welcomed the proposed entente to put an end to rivalries “which too often paralyze the League of Nations.” At the same time, he declared that existing treaties must be observed. “This new pact,” he said, “must not be a break with the past but a putting to work of what has already been done. No treaty is eternal, but what we are seeking is a pacific procedure of revision.” A memorandum outlining the French position was dispatched to Rome and London on April 10.

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Regional Political Affairs: Europe