"A Note of Solemn Warning"


By JAN MASARYK, Deputy Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia

Delivered before the 26th World Conference of the International Labor Organization, Philadelphia, Pa., May 8, 1944

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 502-503.

THE Czechoslovak Delegation has read the Director General's report with interest, appreciation and approval. This document written under difficult circumstances shows clearly that the International Labor Office was, is and is going to be a very important factor in the social and economic development of the war-ridden world of ours. Czechoslovakia has been closely and intimately connected with the International Labor Office from its very conception. My chief and partner Dr. Benes, worked with the present Director General on the first draft of the Constitution of the I.L.O. in 1919. Dr. Benes presided over the I.L.O. Conference in 1925. The Governing Body met in Prague in the year 1937—just a year before the world began to pay a terrible price for pussy-footing and wishful dunking. The social legislation in Czechoslovakia, which was second to none on the Continent of Europe, was achieved and successfully carried on within the framework of the International Labor Office. Czechoslovakia was the first on the Continent of Europe to ratify the eight-hour day, and many other conventions and proposals. Our method was not only to ratify but simultaneously pass legislation through our Parliament, which was a guarantee of fulfilling the obligation which we took upon ourselves by ratifying. Before Hitler, followed by the sheeplike German citizens of all political parties, committed on their behalf the greatest series of crimes in the history of humanity the social conditions in Czechoslovakia were good and sound. We have lived up to the I.L.O. ideals and had I time I could prove to you that it paid us. The country was prosperous, the relations between government, the workmen and the employers was good, strikes were very rare, in other words, we had what I could term a social peace.

In looking back on the I.L.O., I must say that the Czechoslovak delegation and I am sure all the rest of you miss the rugged frame and the whimsical smile of my remarkable friend and compatriot Oswald Stein, whose tragic end will be felt for years to come. We were very proud of him indeed. I am happy that the second Czechoslovak government delegate is Emil Schoenbaum, the father of our social insurance, which functioned well and to which we shall revert as soon as this cataclysm is ended by the entry of the punishing United Nations armies into Prussian stronghold Czechoslovakia was glad to lend Schoenbaum to other countries, whose delegates present here in the historic city of Philadelphia praised his work in a manner, which not only pleased me, but will please my government when I will report of h upon my early return to the great war capitol of Europe-London. If I spoke a little too much about Czechoslovakia, forgive me, but at times as these, when we cannot go home yet, we like to think of the nice and useful things we did in peacetime and to long for their return. I assure the Conference that Czechoslovakia will give its loyal support to the activities of the I.L.O., at the same time expressing my hope that these activities will be enlarged, strengthened and become more universal.

May I, almost in conclusion, throw a couple of thoughts at your friendly attention? The budget of the International Labor Office is definitely insufficient. In these days when we willingly spend billions on war we should certainly be more generous with the necessary institutions which are helping to plan the peace.

Naturally, we all are vitally interested in the welfare of the manual worker. We want to make his lot better, his social security greater and his children red-cheeked, and, Believe me, there are millions of very pale children in Europe and Asia.

I would like to say a word for the white-collar worker—the teacher, the professor, the poet, the musician, the clergyman, the priest, whose lot in the occupied countries has been too horrible for words. They also must be safeguarded in the future. When we make an honest survey of Nazi beastliness in Czechoslovakia, the laborers of the mind show the highest percentage of victims.

The Czechoslovak delegation considers the close collaboration between the I.L.O. and other agencies working for the same goal as highly advisable, nay necessary. I have been a delegate to the UNRRA Conference and I know well that there are many points of contact between us here and the UNRRA. These contacts should be strengthened. The same applies to other institutions like, for instance, the Food and Agricultural Committee.

I am going to end my short and not very comprehensive speech by a note of solemn warning. Before I do that I wish to go on record in saying that the record of Czechoslovakia, and, if I may be allowed to say so, of my family, stands rather high in the humanitarian efforts in Europe. It was my father who said: "Jesus, not Caesar." But the time has come for all of us to become stern realists. After the last war we lost the peace by not persuading the German nation that she was beaten. Sometimes I feel, and indeed I hope I am wrong, that certain indications of that very dangerous softness are appearing on the horizon. I am the last person to want to exterminate the German nation; but to say that it is only Hitler and a few of his gutter-snipe partners who are guilty, is not only untrue but not especially intelligent. The other day I read in one of your great papers a proclamation by some committee in which it said —I haven't the text at hand—but the definite meaning was that the poor German nation was led into this war by Hitler. What a nauseating thought of 70 million people being led into war by one abnormal monstrosity.

I am not submitting that all Germans are guilty; but I do submit that we Czechs have been neighbors of Germany for thousands of years and there is nothing anybody can teach us about their certain bellicose and goose-stepping German qualities. I, myself, had the very doubtful pleasure of being attached to a Prussian Army Corps in the last war. I know my Prussians. Since Hitler came into power I travelled extensively all over Germany and saw the rising tide of universal enthusiasm among workmen, among employees and among the members of pre-Hitler governments. We surely must plan to help to make Germany a democratic member of the concert of Europe. But if we do it by wasting our sympathies and announcing it from the housetops at the moment when our boys are standing prepared for perhaps the greatest battle in history, I doubt whether we are serving this ultimate object. Until the last shot is fired, the fate of Germany should be exclusively in the hands of the Allied commanders—General Eisenhower, General Montgomery and their remarkable counterparts in Soviet Russia. I am sorry I have to speak thus, it is not my, or my country's nature.

I am glad that some additional attention is being paid to the people of Norway, Holland, Belgium, Soviet Russia, Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece and Czechoslovakia, of course, and France, who have gone through years of differently graded Hell. They will not understand if their cause is not given priority—definite and lasting victory before the aggressor. My responsibility is to the saintly inhabitants of concentration camps, ghettos and Gestapo torture chambers. My responsibility is to the thousands of graves of women, children and men, who died because they believed in the principles which brought the International Labor Office into being. I for one cannot let them down, and I know that the Conference agrees with me. I am looking forward to the rebirth of Goethe, Kant, Herder, Beethoven in Germany. But there is only one way for achieving that. First, by proving conclusively and once and for all to the German nation that aggression does not and never will pay. When the fact is firmly established, we can proceed with the second" chapter. What I say about the Germans naturally applies to Japan.

I wish the International Labor Office success in her future activities. I hope that the next time we meet, that Soviet Russia, conspicuous by its absence, will have joined our deliberations. Social security for all is our aim and is our prayer. Security—permanent security from aggression—is an integral part of social security. We expect the International Labor Office to have an important voice in the preparing of peace and of social peace. On behalf of the people of Czechoslovakia, I can promise you that they will do their duty once the last Nazi disappears from within the July 1938 frontier of Czechoslovakia.