Sta,—To the best of my recollection the acrimony in this discussion started when Mr. Benvenisti gave a heated reply to a statement which I had not made. He has not yet apologised for it.
Before corning to the matters on which I challenged him, it seems necessary to make some protest against his curious ideas on discussion. He either evades, or restricts unduly, the main points in your correspondence columns. But he has almost weekly recourse to the bolt-hole of his Musings to advance, in more amplitude than is possible in a letter, fresh tingles of attack on the things he dislikes. In your current issue, for example, he asserts at some length that an industrial garden city of his acquaintance is " the kind of thing Rerum Novarum was aiming at."
His own shallow analysis of social evils, and his reluctance to argue from principles, have tempted him to a gross and novel overstatement. For if Gardenia is what Leo XIII was aiming at, why does Mr. Benvenisti get excited about some evils, and the rest of us about others? Surely everything in Gardenia is lovely: Leo XIII said so.
1. " The income from overseas investment," says Mr. Benvenisti, " pays for a great part of our food and raw material." I know this is what the Economist says, but it is a characteristic inversion of the truth, as he should know. Food imports are a convenient mechanism for extracting usury from abroad. As, by his hypothesis, our overseas investments will have disappeared after the war, the excuse for the mechanism will no longer exist, and the slow murder of British agriculture may cease.
2. The past receipts of food and material have been strictly usurious, That is, they have entrenched on the very substance of the lands that yielded thein. Industrialism, in all its aspects, exists by a ruthless invasion of the world's capital resources. Even the British Association is now excited about this. Therefore it cannot continue, and in any case Catholics cannot approve of its continuance,
3. Not immediately, but soon, the eroded foreign lands will no longer be able to send us food on the present scale. I do not accept Mr. Benvenisti's reference to the law of diminishing returns, but even so it would be irrelevant if we had no other source of food than our own soil.
4. Granting a short boom in industrial exports after the war, while the more clamorous of the world's needs are being met, there can be no guarantee that our
industrial products will be required over
seas thereafter. The whole trend of economic development is against it. But if overseas markets tend to disappear, and investments have disappeared. it would be extremely foolish of us not to modify very drastically our present industrialised basis.
5. These considerations are over-brief and do not cover the whole ground, but I submit that they justify me in saying that the " disastrous unrealism " is entirely on Mr. Bcnvenisti's side.
6. I answered his remaining points by anticipation some weeks ago. No one, so far as I know, has ever claimed that industrialism " necessarily destroys human responsibility and human intelligence." It is not work fit for men, and it sets up what we can term by analogy a grave occasion of mortal sin. Occasions of sin do not always lead to sin, but they are to be avoided for all that, and they are also to be pointed out when the persons concerned are unconscious of them. Working men will hardly relish Mr. Benvenisti's surprised and pleased discovery of them as a new species. Those of us who have known and admired them all our lives get heated, not because they are sub-human, but because they are men, and worthy of something better than their stunted lives.
7. Mr. Benvenisti, as I suggested, is a centre-lathe machinist. The centre lathe is already obsolete except for tool-making and experiment. The turret or capstan lathe is already obsolescent. It is being replaced by automatics. Can Mr. Benvenisti not see what a very slippery slope he is on? The worst of to-day is the normal of to-morrow, and we want to prevent the crack, not weep when it has finally destroyed our lives.
8. I hope Mr. Surrnan will not think I am paying insufficient attention to his letters, for I appreciate his good-will and courtesy. But I think my original point was valid. His treatment would be useful if, by hypothesis, we could find the type of industrialised production which fitted the nature of man. The hypothesis, however, is not that one factory suits the human person, where another does not, but that there is a quality in such production which precludes the concept of man as homo artifex and person. Mr. Surman has not proved that any of them are succeeding. In my judgment they cannot succeed, and if that be true, we are wrong to tinker any longer. We must achieve the remedy.
H. ROBBINS. Wceford Cottage, Hill, Sutton Coldfield.
Methods of Arguing
Ste,—Any acrimony in this correspondence is due to M. Benvenisti's curious methods of controversy. He did not start this discussion. 1 started it as long ago as July 4. 1 then said that hie a priest with experience in a great industrial centre, I was satisfied that the intensive machine work was the obstacle to spiritual life in the people condemned to it. That is still my opinion, and I am still waiting for Mr. Benvenisti to stand and face it.
He says that " I do not like " the phrase division of labour as applied to Industrial
ism. What I like is immaterial. What I said was that the expression did not apply, and as long ago as August 22 I showed cause why characteristic types of machining labour could not even be dignified with the title of Human Acts. Mr. Benvcnisti has not faced this either.
By default, he concedes in your issue of October 3 that the processes are sub-human, but says that they are indispensable to " a tolerable standard of life."
But this is just the point I have already made. As Catholics we cannot defend doing evil that good may come. If his proposition were true (which I do not concede), we should he constrained to tolerate the evil, hut not to accept and defend it.
Mr. Benvenisti sets his kind of experience against mine. Your readers must judge *hich is the more valid. But since he has advanced no other rejoinder than his experience, to my experience plus a statement of principle, he is arguing from the particular to the general.
He is so very severe in wanting to tic me down to two points, but as he himself closes his letter with a reminder that I have not dealt with him about something else, and as he starts .a fresh hare every week in his Musings, perhaps we need not take this too seriously.
(Rev.) D. MARSHALL.
Have We Forgotten ?
SER,—Mr. Betivenisti says that Catholics seem to interpret the Encyclical Rerum Novarion, as advocating a kind of peasant civilisatiors It is pertinent to ask what civilisation is there other than a peasant civilisation? Notice the happy picture Mr. Benvenisti paints of his fellow industrial workers, who " own their own houses and gardens, are extremely well-dressed, and sometimes own cars." I ask, does such a picture bear any relation to the truth? We have surely not already forgotten the poverty and insecurity of pre-war days, together with our two million unemployed. Mr. Benvenisti has. of course, his own remedy for these evils. It involves the collectivisation of industry through State control of all the factors of production, thus turning the nation. into one huge economic unit. It is called Socialism of the Planned Economy, and in practice it means the Totalitarian State. How such a solution is consistent with Catholic social teaching Mr. Benvenisti has so far not attempted to prove.
Furthermore, I would like to know how much longer Mr. Benvenisti thinks we can go on living on imported food, and how, apart from the question of soil erosion, we shall be able to pay for it especially now that our foreign investments are exhausted.
J. A. RILEY.
6, South Avenue, Leigh, Lancs.