By Michael de la Bedoyere
To-day's Test of Statesmanship mAN'S powers of prediction are very feeble indeed, yet his actions are largely based on what he imagines he can foresee. Towards the end of a war everyone imagines that he can foresee " the shape of things to come," at least to the extent of being able to use " the things to come " for his ow. ends. In fact, of course, nothing o. the sort happens. For many months after a war, policy is the result of a crude confusion between a priori theories and desperate hand-tomouth measures necessary for dealing with urgent and unforeseen problems. This period is almost inevitably disastrous. But a time comes when the real shape of the post-war things begins to emerge, and the test of statesmanship then becomes the measure of courage and abilityto face the truth and to adapt policy to the emerging facts. It is in this sense that the adage " politics is the art of the possible " becomes a true guide.
Clearly, certain facts have now emerged, and the future depends, not so much on what was said and hoped for during and immediately after the war, but on a realistic grasp by statesmen of the present shape of the world, be it good or bad.
For example, it has become obvious that the most urgent of all needs now and for some years to come is the restoration of national economies, and that if this is not done, all hopes of a better deal for the common man are illusory. In other words, in so far as there was any reality behind the expectations of an era of social justice after the war, any real progress towards that goal depends to-day, not so much on revolutionary legislation to create a new social order, but on hard work and governmental measures whose effects will be to make that hard work profitable.
Europe's Economy THE cases of defeated Germany and Italy are the most obvious. There all war-made policies are visibly collapsing before the absolute necessity of enabling the German and Italian people to work again profitably, not only for their own good, but the good of the world. It is not necessary for the statesmen to abandon their war-made plans for the control of the defeated, but it is absolutely necessary for them to shelve them in order to make a quick recovery possible. For only if that recovery takes place will there be anything to control and any means of controlling.
In France. M. Blum has taken the first realistic and statesmanlike step since the war: the tiny step of decreeing a fractional all-round lowering of prices. Yet, small as it is, its effect, by comparison with anything else, has been magical. The tragedy is that the futile political set-up of the country, rightly de
nounced by General de Gaulle (who, however. has not disclosed any suitable alternative), is almost bound to endanger further progress, and everything remains in the air until the three presidencies are settled and a permanent government installed.
In America, an analogous trouble has been due to lack of planning rather than to too much planning in the air, and President Truman's mild speech to Congress nevertheless imposes on a prosperous country the need for stern economic controls if an economic disaster is to be averted. But there, again, a complex and unreal political situation threatens to interfere.
Labour Should Face up to Realities BUT perhaps the most interesting example is that of our own country. Here we have a reasonably sound social programme of reform coming face to face with an economic situation that can be almost mathematically shown to be disastrous unless the right measures to deal with it are taken. We are obliged within a dated period to raise our sellable producdon to a definite figure. if we are not to enter into a period of distress and collapse which will make all our hopes of social progress entirely
illusory. And the condition for attaining the right productive figure is a proportionate increase in the productivity of our labour force. Despite this stark truth, fully admitted and even preached by the Government, nothing positive is done to get the best out of our present labour force, nor to increase it, for example, by suspend'ng the operation of measures which may be excellent in themselves, but
which simply cannot be afforded at the moment. An excellent example is the Education Act, whose immediate effect can only be the apportioning of a vast quantity of available labour to ends that are, so far as the time involved is concerned, unproductive, and the removing from the labour market of fresh labour through the raising of the school-leaving age. In the same way, the Health Act is bound in the short run to absorb a great deal of labour in immediately unproductive enterprise. The same is true of much of the present legislat:on.
On another page Capt. Acworth has concluded two articles on our defence strategy whose thesis we specially recommend to our readers. if he is right, much of our manpower can be saved for product:Ye persons and the future of our people be more adequately sefeguarded. We think it would be a good thing if readers were to cut out at least the second article and forward it to their M.P. for his consideration.
The points to underline about all these measures to meet the real post-war situation are, first, that the realisation of the need to act on these truths in no way indicates a " reactionary " state of mind, but on the contrary, discloses a real desire to see the promised progress emerge in due course; and, second, that a temporary shelving of the Government programme would not be a sign of weakness or of the success of its opponents, but a sis:n of sfat-rinsn'hip and strength. The first Labour Mirffeer to confess to these truths will prove to be the best statesman in the Government.
Politics and Principles
HEN we say that " politics is the art of the possible ", it
must, of course, be made clear that I moral pinciples may not be compromised for the purpose of mere expediency, and it is a sorry reflection on the times that statesmen today tend to remain uncompromising about social ideologies and plans, which are not sacrosanct, while finding themselves perfectly ready to sell out on vital moral principles.
Thus in President Truman's speech to Congress we have a lamentable avowal of abject appeasement of evil in the case of the peaca treaties. " Whatever the defects of the peace treaties," he said, " I am convincd that those for Italy, Bulgaria, Rumania and Hungary are as good as we can hope to obtain." Rut what the President is really saying is that America is ready to sacrifice the basic freedom of mil ions, say, in Rumania, for the sake of an understanding with the tyrannic overlords of Sovietised Rumania. Those who think we may be exaggerating are referred to the article " The Bucharest Story " in the current issue of the Socialist Tribune, and also to our own article on the fate of the three million Rumanian Catholics, D12 another page.
Owing to the legal difference of status between ex-enemies and exallies, the President, like other Allied leaders, is able to avoid reference to countries like Poland and Yugoslavia, and thus to pretend that there is not the same responsibility in these cases. Unfortunately for him, even the abject agreements between the Big Three stand to-day like accusing fingers when the Poles and the Yugoslays are denied even the feeble guarantees of the past and their rulers allowed to get away with it.
The Four Freedoms Not a Fetish
AT the same time, it would be
a mistake to make a fetish of ideals like the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms. One may legitimately recognise that it is in some cases neither possible nor desirable to impose the Four Freedoms. • The world has recently been learning something of the practical difficulties in the way &Yen of liquidating an Empire. For us in Egypt. %Irma, and in India, and for the Dutch in Indonesia, for the French in Indo-China, grave problems arise when new freedoms are to be granted. For freedom can be abused and become the means of new and cruder serfdoms. In the same way. it is highly doubtful if many of the countries of Europe are ripe for the degree of freedom which we enjoy. But there is a measure of freedom which is essential to a human being, just as there is a progress towards fuller freedom which must mark any decent regime. The lack of such progress towards fuller freedom is most easily indicated by the particular nature of the tyranny imposed. IN this matter of freedom it is
most instructive to compare a country like Yugoslavia with a country like Spain. Both are dictatorships, yet one of the respective Dictators can use the following words in his New Year Message: " Atheism and materialism can hardly understand a Catholic nation which, through being Catholic, has accepted as the supreme law among its nationals that iucomparable doc
trine for which Christ cued." 'the other Dictator. on the contrary, imposes materialism and persecutes religion.
Some may say that the words of General Franco are hypocritical and even prefer the crude honesty of Tito. Those who do so sincerely will hardly have traveled recently in the two countries concerned. And we ourselves shall be the first to deplore many aspects of the Franco regime, not least the far too close relationship in Spain between Church and State. But, arowing for everything, Franco's open appeal to the supreme law of Christ as the uLtimate foundation of Spanish life creates an impassable gulf between Spain and Yugoslavia to-day. For it is precisely the recognit:on of this fundamental and universal law which marks the real difference between a country which treasures the seeds of freedom and a counts) which wants to destroy freedom. Even were it the case that General Franco behaved as a tyrant, he would, in making a statement like the one we have just quoted, be setting up the very court of spiritual appeal by which his own tyranny was being condemned. • Tito is certainly wiser in trying to destroy that
court. Nor is it credible that a Christian ruler speaking to his own Christian people should be able to make such a claim while totally denying it in practice.
It is probably the case that the political outlook which most fully expresses the ideal of the Four Freedoms, as formulated by AngloSaxon minds, is not suitable for Spaniards, any more than it is suitable for Slays or Rumanians. But if a people recognise the law of God, they already possess what is essential in human freedom and, in so far as they live by that law, they are evolving 'towards a sound political life which in its own characteristic way will express the spirit embodied in the ideal of the Four Freedoms.
The failure to recognise this, as illustrated by the appeasement of lawlessness in Russia and Russian satellites, and the attempt at any cost to overthrow Franco without any security that the spiritual law which he recognises will survive his overthrow, is the most serious criticism we can make of the unprincipled nature of international affairs to-day.