What he says,
basically, is that it has proved that the League of Nations
might have been able to sort out little problems, but that it
clearly was unable to stop major crises - the nations would
have to find another way to do that.
In this document,
Chamberlain is publicly abandoning 'collective security' (and
the League) as a way to maintain peace, and from this moment
on he tried the different policy of 'appeasement'.
I would like to make a few observations
upon events of the last twelve months and their effect upon the League
of Nations and the policy of collective security to which we have given
so whole-hearted support with such disappointing results. The
policy of collective security seemed to us, and I think it seemed to the
people of the country as a whole, an attractive alternative to the old
system of alliances and balance of power which nevertheless was
unsuccessful in preventing the greatest war in history.
The circumstances in which the dispute
between Italy and Abyssinian began appeared to offer an opportunity for
the exercise of that policy which could hardly be more favorable for its
success. The aggression was patent and flagrant, and there was
hardly any country to which it appeared that a policy of sanctions could
be exercised with a greater chance of success than upon Italy.
There is no use for us to shut our eyes to
realities ... That policy has been tried out and it has failed to
prevent war, failed to stop war, failed to save the victim of the
aggression. I am not blaming anyone for the failure. I
merely record it now because I think it is time that we reviewed the
history of these events and sought to draw what lessons and conclusions
we can from those events.
There is no reason why, because the policy
of collective security in the circumstances in which it was tried has
failed, we should therefore abandon the idea of the League and give up
the ideals for which the League stands. But if we have retained
any vestige of common sense, surely we must admit that we have tried to
impose upon the League a task which it was beyond its powers to fulfil.
Surely it is time that the nations who
compose the League should review the situation and if should decide so
to limit the functions of the League in future that they may accord with
its real powers. If that policy were to be pursued and were to be
courageously carried out, I believe that it might go far to restore the
prestige of the League and the moral influence which it ought to exert
in the world. But if the League be, limited in that sort of way it must
be admitted that it could no longer be relied upon by itself to secure
the peace of the world.
a speech by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to the 1900 Club
(10 June 1936), reported in The Times (11 June 1936)
The 1900 Club is a very prestigious
London Club for wealthy and influential people; after the speech, they
cheered Chamberlain 'to the echo'.