The German mark goes galloping down, and has now passed the point of 5,000 for a dollar. At its present rate it must soon overtake the Russian ruble hitherto the unquestioned leader in the progress toward infinite nonentity.
This continuous decline of the mark must mean the gradual disintegration of. German industry and government. Although the average worker is earning only about 300 marks a day, men's suits are priced at 40,000 marks, a pair of street-shoes at 10,000, a liter of milk 48, and other commodities in proportion. From these figures it is evident that the mass of people is swiftly losing its buying power. This means, in the long run: hunger. And the unequivocal teaching of history is that hunger is the torch of revolution.
The late Dr. Rathenau's statement last June: "We pull bodies of suicides out of the river and the canals of Berlin daily, but never one sufficiently clad", summarizes perfectly the material misery. But perhaps worse is the ever increasing moral dissolution. In addition to the impetus bodily misery always gives to moral delinquency, there is that national isolation of thought peculiar to a country which has no sound economic relations with the rest of the world. Germany today cannot afford any foreign newspapers, magazines or books; it can hardly afford to print its own. Such a situation directly affects the intellectual and conservative middle classes which are the backbone of any organized system of government or society. The picture is black; and its European setting throws only greater darkness upon it.
In the meantime the inter-allied financial conference, scheduled in Brussels for the first week of December, approaches. "The Reparations Commission", reads a despatch to the Boston Transcript, "is so thoroughly at its wits' ends over what to do with Germany that the Entente is likely to make a reduction, in addition to a moratorium". But at the same time it is declared that Poincare will never consent to a reduction of German reparations without a corresponding reduction in inter-allied debts.
Thus the problem comes finally back to us. The United States, as the largest creditor, will unquestionably be asked to cancel a part of its claims, even though our statesmen and financiers are sorely divided on the subject. Amid the maze of arguments two reasons stand out dominantly. For kindly souls, there is the consideration that a people once ruthless under the junker policy have paid a heavy penalty of suffering in their turn and under a new government need not be further ground down. But the more practical and, for business men, the more appealing argument, is that it may be better to reduce our just claims and then receive payment of the remainder, than to insist on the uttermost farthing and obtain no returns at all from a Europe badly wrecked upon economic rocks.