By STANLEY B. JAMES
FOR the second time in three years this nation has .taken the world by surprise. The first time was when France collapsed and we stood alone against a Power which had already conquered a large part of the Continent and reduced us to what looked like a condition of impotence. The fateful question had then to be answered whether we should submit to the " inevitable " or fight on. The question was answered by our fighting on. In that hour the nation deemed degenerate rallied to its leader, and by an effort that even to those who made it seems incredible produced the men and munitions for continuing the struggle. Then, in succession, Russia and the United States fell into line. The war took on a more hopeful aspect. To-day the survival for which we fought seems assured and we are looking towards ultimate victory.
But as the possibility of eventual triumph grew clearer, a fresh difficulty appeared. Every lull in the conflict permitting of discussion concerning our war aims revealed dangerous social schisms. The question now was whether we should be equal to the responsibilities of a victorious peace. The freedom which we allow ourselves. even at a time like this, for fullness of discussion accentuated these differences. Where, it was asked, was the bold, imaginative and comprehensive genius v.hich could unite us in support of some constructive purpose which would plainly exhibit that for which we were fighting. The absence of any such scheme threatened to hand us over to one or other of the extremist parties—Fascist or Communist—or to end in some muddled compromise that would satisfy no one. Then came the second surprise. Suddenly we were confronted with a body of proposals which, despite minor defects, promises to win the support of all sections, to be a genuine expression of the national spirit and to avert the menace of the tragedy which followed the last war. There is now no reason why we should lose the opportunity which victory would give us. If the new order to which the Beveridge Report points the way is realised, we shall no have fought in vain.
"MADE IN BRITAIN" WHATEVER shortcomings this new order may
have, it is at least a native product that chimes with the spirit of our race.. That is seen in the way it avoids abrupt interruption in the continuity of our social evolution. Capitalism survives. but in such a form that even the Communist Party officially welcomes it and those who have hoped for a British edition of Fascism are constrained to applaud. The principle of mutual help is recognised, but in a way which reduces to a minimum the danger of undermining self-reliance and individual initiative. If the principles of the Report are observed and its provisions respected, we should be able to pass over into a new order with scarcely a jar. The mere prospect which it holds out has united us as we have not been united for many a long day. That fact justifies the wisdom of those who argued that pre-occupation with war should not prevent us from preparing for peace. The unity produced by the struggle has been usefully exploited. Had we waited till the immediate danger was over. our divisions would have reappeared with, perhaps, fatal effect.
And this national unity has promise of a still larger unity. The fifth clause of the Atlantic .Charter reads: "They desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing for all improved labour standards, economic advancement and social security." The reaction to the document throughout the British Commonwealth and in the United States suggests that this may prove to be something more than a pious wish, One can see going on through the years to come : process of unification which, with many an adaptation to local and historical circumstances, will give us the right to speak of our common civilisation.
And, if that be so. is it fantastic to conceive of this term extending, in course of time, to those whose ideologies seem irreconcilable with our own conceptions? There are elements in Russia, in Italy and in Germany which might well find their own misinterpreted idealisms represented in the new order of which the Beveridge Report is a small beginning. Had Germany not tried to impose its system by force, and Russia had not encouraged subversive propaganda and thus alienated others and rendered impossible a sympathetic approach to their respective systems, we might well have found ourselves nearer than, as a matter of fact, we have thought we are. This document has lessened the distance between us. The Capitalism it represents is not that which has antagonised the peoples mentioned. Though " made in Britain," it is capable of becoming an export. The Beveridge Report, in its way, is as British as Shakespeare, and perhaps destined to win the same universal appreciation.
SECURITY T HERE is something very characteristic of us in 11 this emphasis on social and economic security. Go through our countryside with its farms whose acres testify to centuries of cultivation, its villages topped by ancient church towers, observe tho comfortable homes and trim lawns of the well-to-do, consider our history, our institutions, our way of life, and you will find in all one predominant note. The people who have expressed themselves in these ways hate violent change. They want to feel settled on firm foundations. They love the sense of security. This, of course, has its danger and it is a danger which they have not escaped. The lazy good-nature which it indicates has made them indisposed to exert themselves even when exertion was a duty. They have put up with abuses though these abuses deprived other people of their security. But this second phase of the World War has shaken them out of their ruts. They have been compelled to alter their ways of life, to sacrifice their comfort, to think hard and act quickly. The penalty of their mental and physical laziness has been severe, but, it may be hoped. it has not been in vain. If the welcome accorded the Beveridge Report is sincere, they have learned that this security must be shared by an classes within the realm and by all other nations including even the smallest and most defenceless. Hence arises the paradox presented by the spectacle of the people who most loved peace surrendering that peace to win a truer peace for itself and others, who loved security so much that it risked its security that there might no longer be. in its cities a rootless proletariat at the mercy of all the uncertainties which hitherto have overshadowed it, or nations so placed that they were at the mercy of ambitious and aggressive adventurers. In being trite to its characteristic ideal it has embarked on an enterprise which will call for heroic and sustained effort.
THE CRITICS WE have been warned not to relax our war effort because, for the time being, we have averted the danger which threatened us. But the same warning applies to the conduct of this " British Revolution." It exists as yet only on paper. This paper is but an introduction to a larger scheme. Moreover, it has to run the gauntlet of public discussion and parliamentary controversy, and, even then, though it should be in the main approved, will be subject to the risk of maladministration. The vested interests which sense danger are already in arms. They have money to spend in the campaign against it. They can buy publicity for their objections. They can pull wires. They can exert secret influences. Money can and will fight. Listen to them! " The author of this report." says one of their spokesmen, " is an economist turned spendthrift. Having himself exchanged frugality for thriftlessness, he has no further use for either friendly or approved societies. He would push compulsorily, not a section of the community, but the whole nation back into the days of a glorified Poor Law system, destroying in the process every vestige of self-reliance and selfhelp which during the past century or more has permeated and strengthened the British character." The danger is not so much that of downright opposition as the tactics which, while offering halfhearted praise, rob proposals ot t eir real virtue and reintroduce ancient abuses under new names. And this applies rot only to the representatives of big companies but to others who view the Report as a step in the directio.i of that international Revolution for which they have so long worked and in which they so fantastically believe.
SECURE " SECURITY" AGAINST the subtle evils that can nullify the ' best legislation neither parliamentary majorities nor physical force can permanently protect us. There is that' in human nature and in the unexpected elements of history which can wreck any human scheme. It is one thing to possess a system giving security to the common man and the little nation, but it is another thing to ensure that that system shall itself be secure. "Nothing is settled until it is settled right," runs the popular adage. And by being " settled right " we mean settled on eternal foundations. That is where the Church which is founded on the Rock and which has outlasted nineteen centuries of restless history comes in. .The stability of that Divine Institution is a lesson for States, hut it also imposes obligations upon those who represent it. They more than anyone else should understane this craving for security and should be willing to give their sympathy and support to an effort of this kind to extend as far as it is possible that stability which characterises their Church to the temporal order. In other words, Catholics at such have a great part to play in securing the permanence of " security."