It is reported that the Polish government intends to propose to the League of Nations at the next general session that the clauses for the protection of minority rights inserted in the treaties of some nations shall be extended so as to apply equally to all members of the League. It is understood that Hungary is prepared to support the Polish move for revision of the treaties with regard to minority rights.
This is an extremely delicate and dangerous move at this particular time. The Polish and Rumanian representatives at the peace conference in Paris, in 1919, did their utmost to prevent the inclusion of the clauses for the protection of minority rights in the treaties, on the ground that it was humiliating to these sovereign states to undertake such special obligations, but the Great Powers insisted upon these clauses. Clemenceau at that time prepared a masterful memorandum on the subject, outlining the reasons why the clauses regarding minority rights must be part of the treaties to be signed by Poland, Rumania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other nations. Premier Paderewski and Premier Bratianu, in particular, felt deeply hurt, and their joy in signing the general treaties was marred by the clauses for the protection of minority rights, which President Wilson, Clemenceau and Lloyd George practically compelled them to sign.
Most of the nations that pledged themselves to protect the rights of minorities have failed to fulfil their obligations. Only a few of the nations have lived up to their solemn promise on this point. The reported Polish proposal, backed by Hungary, to have all members of the League undertake similar obligations with regard to minority rights is sure to lead to unfortunate consequences. While the peace treaties cannot be regarded as perfect documents from any point of view, it is most unwise at this critical and chaotic time in Europe to raise the question of the revision of the treaties. Until recently Poland was opposed to the bloc that favored treaty revision. The Polish corridor constituted one of the most sensitive danger zones in Europe. For the powers that advocated treaty revision had in mind first of all the readjustment of the boundaries between Poland and Germany. Poland was definitely and justly opposed to treaty revision at that time. Recently Poland and Nazi Germany concluded a non-aggression pact, and now Poland seems to feel secure because of this arrangement with regard to her present boundaries.
The powers favoring the revision of treaties at this time by advocating the recognition of the minority clauses by the other members of the League are pursuing a very shortsighted and unwise policy. They are endangering the frail instrumentality that still holds nations together under a semblance of peace. They may release a flood of passions and animosities that could not be controlled. Though the revision of the treaties will be necessary in time, for the treaties contain “seeds of injustice and causes for discontent,” it would be foolhardy to attempt such revision just now. The unbridled spirit of vengeance let loose by the irresponsible demagogues and adventurers now in control of Germany would welcome any kind of revision of treaties as a starting point for new trouble in muddled Europe. Poland would only play into the hands of Nazi Germany by this demand for a change with respect to the minority treaties. And Poland, in the event of a new catastrophe, would undoubtedly pay dearly for rendering this indirect service to Nazi Germany.
Instead of insisting upon equality in the League of Nations demanding that all members of the League recognize the treaties for the protection of the rights of minorities, it would be far more sensible and more honorable for these powers to impress the world by their sincerity in honoring the pledges they had made with regard to the rights of the minorities.
There is dynamite in any treaty revision at this time. The voice is that of Poland just now, but the hand is the hand of Hitler. Many nations, for obvious reasons, would not agree to make any commitments with regard to minorities, and this would afford a pretext for those who had such commitments to repudiate them.