Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Resolution for the Genoa Economic and Finance Conference, March 1922 (draft)



Writing for an international [organization] of women desirous of helping in the establishment of world-peace and freedom, we venture to put forward the following considerations based upon a coherent policy evolved out of our national work and international conferences for seven years past.

Concern with questions of international finance is now universally and deeply felt; prices risen out of all proportion to earning capacity (and still more to incomes fixed in relation to former conditions) and unemployment due to the fact that some countries cannot sell their products and others cannot buy their raw materials affect every household. Financial uncertainly has reacted with disastrous effect upon the productive capacity of labor and the famine in Russia, -- already the greatest recorded calamity of the kind, -- threatens, unless fundamental changes are speedily made, to be the prelude to further and more extensive calamities which may overwhelm the whole of Europe.

We recognize that the economic situation is complex and that post-war conditions have necessarily increased the uncertainties normally attending commercial and financial enterprise; but we suggest that these uncertainties have been further immensely increased by political action and that a determined effort on the part of the governments of all nations, great and small, to reestablish confidence, would have a far greater effect, not only in healing the European economic system, but in giving security against war, than could any number of defensive alliances or supposed strategic advantages.


By a remarkable irony, it is the very demand for "reparations" which is the chief obstacle to the recovery of Europe. Therefore to rule out of the discussion on the economic situation all reference to this demand is to make the discussion futile. If [page 2] the abstention of the United States has for its chief cause this ruling, we earnestly beg that this ruling be reversed and the United States be again invited to take part.

We think that the repairing of the injury done to the life of Europe by the war cannot be postponed any longer and that it is time all the peoples were left free to carry out their resurrection unfettered by penalties and usurious claims. War debts and pre-war debts, indemnities and fines of all kinds have, by the lapse of time and the piling up of injuries and reprisals, claims and counter-claims, become mere rubbish, entangling trade, checking enterprise and embittering the feelings of peoples, by causing incessant concentration on the thought of wrong and on the struggle to enforce penalties on the one hand and to resist oppression on the other. France and Belgium may put forward claims for devastated areas, while Germany and Austria may claim for starved populations; Russia meets the French [insistence] on the Tsarist debts with a bill for damage done by French intervention in Russia since the revolution; the indebtedness of the Allies to one another is proving a burden and a problem to both debtors and creditors. There are signs that these complications are beyond the wisdom of even the acutest financiers to resolve, provided their object in the universal reparation of the life of Europe. They can, no doubt, be manipulated to the profit of individual interests, but it is doubtful whether even one country could now profit by a continuation of the economic chaos.

We suggest, then, that the wisest step to take would be to cut losses and simplify the problem by the cancellation of war-debts and indemnities. Even after the bloodiest insurrections, it is [old?] wisdom to proclaim universal amnesty. We propose a universal [page 3] amnesty in this matter of claims and counter claims arising out of war conditions.


From the abandonment of indemnities would result a large number of collateral benefits, first among which would be the withdrawal of armies of occupation, which require the economic wasting of so many young men who ought to be doing useful work and which bring all the injuries to morals and to good feeling that are inseparable from such a relic of barbarism. It appears to be a fact that so much of the indemnities from Germany as has hitherto been collected has been largely if not wholly swallowed up by the expenses of occupation and collection, so that Germany's sacrifices go to the maintenances of militarism and the cultivation of instruments of oppression without any corresponding advantage for the Allied peoples.


There are some interferences with the sovereignty of States which are the necessary tribute to the sovereignty of International Right; there are others, less defensible, which are the result of mortgages, liens and other chains on national autonomy due to the imposition of oppressive burdens by superior external force. The abandonment of the claims to exorbitant indemnities would bring with it the liberation of the conquered peoples from galling restrictions and would make possible the growth of good feeling between victors and vanquished. Only upon such good feeling can security flourish.


We are witnessing at present the farcical situation of governments putting up tariffs to restrict the importation of goods by which alone indemnities can be paid. We suggest that a procedure more [consonant] with common sense would be to abandon tariffs with indemnities and thus enable manufacturer [page 4] merchants and financiers once more to make estimates upon which their enterprises could be soundly based. All business under existing conditions is a wild gamble and the morale of the whole business world is being destroyed.

Much of the misery that has resulted from the breaking up of old empires could have been avoided if the treaties of peace had made the safe-guarding of the succession states contingent upon their economic [cooperation] with each other and with the world at large. But obviously the great victorious Powers could make such conditions only if they themselves were prepared to lead the way in [cooperation]. We urge that, even at this late hour, a determined effort should be made to agree to a universal removal of restrictions on trade which, with a specious appearance of benefiting the countries imposing them, do, in the long run, injure those countries as well as the rest of the world.


Lastly we would urge that the notion of partial defensive alliances between a few Powers for military purposes is outworn and will, if persisted in, certainly destroy the new hope of a true League of Nations. It is a sound principle of insurance not to make the contingent disaster appear profitable to the insured person. Military alliances are commonly advocated as insurance against the disaster of war; they do, as a matter of fact, tend to precipitate wars, by making the prize of war appear profitable. The only sound insurance is one of all the nations of the earth acting together to promote developments and settle disputes by conciliation and arbitration. Every partial alliance tends to divide the world anew into camps. We appeal to the great Powers to realize that it is for them, now to begin to put into practice the principle of international [page 5] [cooperation] and that the first steps must be to make an association which shall take in all nations and to treat the claims of the smaller and weaker nations as well as those of the nations vanquished in the Great War, with as much respect and impartiality as those of the greatest and most successful.


Whether the true International Association should be a development of the existing League or should supersede it, we will not here discuss. Our last word is to declare that peace, security, economic stability and the healing of the wounds of the war can result only from an [organization] in which International Will to Peace has asserted itself successfully against Nationalist and Imperialist Will to Power.