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On Nov. 25, in London, South Africa’s sage, 73-year-old Prime Minister and Field Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts addressed himself to two related world problems: 1) Britain’s position in the postwar world; and 2) Britain’s Empire. As a member of the British community, he bespoke a rising unease about the new Europe. A digest of his speech:

We are facing today probably the most perplexing, complicated human situation that has confronted the world for many generations. I simply want to suggest certain lines of thought, and you must not hold me responsible for them hereafter.

It may be that we shall be faced with questions so vast, so complicated, so difficult and intractable, that in the end we shall have to be satisfied with making a pretty comprehensive armistice dealing with the general military question of ending the war, and leaving the rest of the problems to a long series of conferences without coming to any general peace conference at all. [Such] an armistice [as] will open the door to a long series of investigations and researches which may take a long number of years before finality is reached.

We are fighting the battle of democracy, we are fighting for freedom, of course we are. Our opponents fight for the leadership principle, the Führer principle. With them the objective has also become a catchword, a cliché. It must be quite clear that you will only get to practical solutions, in the end, if you have a good mixture of both democracy and freedom on the one hand and of leadership on the other.

The Dream. Before and during the last war, we were very much concerned with the danger of what was called “the balance of power.” We were determined to avoid the balance of power and so went in for another formula. We wanted a universal, all-in system of security, a system of universality and of idealism, and we followed it in the League of Nations. But we fell into the opposite danger. This war has taught us not only that idealism is not enough and that universality is not the solution for our security problem, but it has also taught us that we cannot get away from the problem of power. Peace not backed by power remains a dream.

Strange New World. We have moved into a strange world, a world such as has not been seen for hundreds of years, perhaps not for 1,000 years. Europe is completely changing. We shall have to do a great deal of fundamental thinking and scrapping of old points of view before we find our way through that new Continent which now opens up before us.

Three of the five great powers will have disappeared. France has gone, and if ever she returns it will be a hard and a long upward pull for her to emerge again. Italy has completely disappeared and may never be a great power again. Germany will disappear. Germany, at the end of this war, will have disappeared perhaps never to emerge again in the old form. Nobody knows.

We are, therefore, left with Great Britain and with Russia. Russia is the new colossus in Europe, the new colossus that bestrides this continent. With the others down and out and herself the mistress of the Continent, her power will not only be great on that account, but it will be still greater because the Japanese Empire will also have gone. Therefore any check or balance that might have arisen in the East will have disappeared. You will have Russia in a position which no country has ever occupied in the history of Europe. Then you will have this country of Great Britain, with a glory and an honor and a prestige such as perhaps no nation has ever enjoyed in history. But from a material economic point of view she will be a poor country. She has put her body and soul and everything into it to win the battle of mankind. She will have won it, but she will come out of it poor in substance.

Then, outside Europe, you have the United States, the other great world power. The question is, how are you going to deal with that world situation?

Troubling Trinity. Many people look to a union, or closer union, between the United States of America and Great Britain with her Commonwealth and Empire as the new path to be followed in the future. I myself am doubtful about that. I attach the greatest importance to Anglo-American collaboration for the future. But I do not think that as what I might call a political axis it will do. If you were to pit the British Commonwealth plus the United States against the rest of the world, it would be a very lopsided world. So we come back to where we started: namely, the trinity.

In that trinity you will have two partners of immense power and resources—Russia and America—and you will have this island, the heart of the Empire and of the Commonwealth, weak in her European resources in comparison with the vast resources of the other two. An unequal partnership, I am afraid.

Hope in the West? The idea has repeatedly floated before my mind whether Great Britain should not Strengthen her European position by working closely together with those smaller democracies in Western Europe. Should there not be closer union between us ? Surely they must feel that their place is with this member of the trinity, their way of life is with Great Britain, their outlook.and their future is with Great Britain and the next worldwide British system.

Commonwealth & Empire. The Commonwealth and Empire remain a very great world community. What is the present setup in our group? We are a dual system. In that dual system we follow two different principles. In the Commonwealth, we follow to the limit the principle of decentralization. The members of the group maintain the unbreakable spiritual bonds which are stronger than steel, but in all matters of government and their internal and external concerns, they are sovereign states.

In the Colonial Empire, on the other hand, we follow the opposite principle of centralization, focused in London. The question that arises in my own mind, looking at the situation objectively, is whether such a situation can endure.

You know how this great show has grown up—historically, by bits of history here and there—without any planning. The time may be coming now, when it is necessary to tidy up the show, to reduce the number of independent colonial units. It might be safe and wise and the proper course to give authority and to decentralize administrative power in larger units grouped under a better arrangement.

It is quite possible to bring these new groups closer to a neighboring Dominion and thereby interest the Dominion in the colonial group. In this way, instead of the Dominions being a show apart, so to say, having little or nothing to do with the Empire and taking very little interest in it, these regional Dominions will become sharers and partners in the Empire.

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