THE bombing of Barcelona has raised again a storm of indignation against National Spain and her leader. The Catholic Herald commented wisely on this issue in its leading article last week. The Catholic Herald is entitled to criticise, and I share their doubts as to the wisdom of General France's refusal to discuss the limitation of air bombardment.
I deny altogether the justice or even the accuracy of the attitude of the English Press and of English public opinion on this issue.
For eighteen months the press of Valencia and of this country has recorded frankly and regularly the bombing of open towns in General Franco's territory. So far from this bombing having been concealed, cases have occurred in which claims have been made of casualties and damage inflicted at such places as Salamanca and Granada lashen in fact no raids had taken place. No one in England bothered about these raids or gave them any publicity because they were not directed against anything held sacred by the apostles of economic materialism. It is not a question of the number of the casualties or the physical nature of the objective.
It Would be Stupid to Suppose No English journalist is such a fool as to suppose that there is any moral difference in killing thirty women and children in ten separate raids over 10 separate villages (and such things have been done not ten times but a hundred times, according to Valencia's own reports) and in killing three hundred people in one air raid at Barcelona. Nor is it even accurate that air raids on large towns do more damage than raids on small towns. The proportion of open spaces to buildings is greater in large towns, and in most of the bombed Spanish villages the proportion of casualties was actually far higher. Inone small village which I passed through on my last visit to Spain, twenty-five miles from the lines and containing less than 500 inhabitants, there had been 70 casualties the day before from an air raid, Like. Drowning Millionaires
The reason why Barcelona rouses British indignation is because Barcelona is a modern town, the kind of place which we understand. It represents, in an almost mystical sense, the things that we respect, commerce, industry, and, above all, wealth.
It takes rank with the drowning of millionaires on t he Titanic or the Lusitania.
We have, of course, no passionate fondness for millionaires, but we have a pas sionate hatred for logic. A bomb which, will kill a millionaire is a bomb which will stick at nothing, and that is the kind of bomb that we dislike. We have a respect for riches and comfort which is divorced wholly from any respect for those who enjoy these things. We respect them as symbols of our conquest of nature and of God, as the outward and visible signs of the immunity of our civilisation from the storms of passion and the agonies of mind which, in less sophisticated ages, lay beneath the surface of men's lives, and surged up again and again to strip them bare of all earthly possessions and consolations, and left them face to face with their God.
If we shudder at Barcelona and not at Salamanca; if the ruin and death of a great industrial city move us while the calculated murder of two million Russian peasants leaves us glibly indifferent, it is not conscious selfishness. It is not merely that distance lends enchantment even to massacre. It is merely that in our unbelievable pride we sec in Salamanca and in the " liquidated " Russian peasants merely
die, but because they have forgotten how to live.
The hatreds, the lusts and the ambitions which are threatening Western Europe with destruction are not bred in the cloisters of Salamanca nor in the poor villages where men wrest a living from the soil, but in those same mean streets of our cornplex industrial civilisation, from which, all over the world today, men and women are streaming out early in the morning to work feverishly at the manufacture of instruments of war. Do we pause to think who is going to wield them, and to what end?
We are arming in self-defence, we proudly claim, as if that were enough, as if we were the end of our own existence. press. It is the air bomb, the peculiar weapon of materialistic and scientific civilisation which, in the hands of people other than ourselves, excites our blind hatred and horror.
What we feel instinctively is that our highly centralised industrial civilisation knows how to deal with banditry and murder—our policemen are wonderful—but the air menace is the concrete proof of the grim and terrible fact that our complicated urban civilisation has invented weapons which ii is unable to control or to monopolise. Preaching daily that all creeds are equally true, it now finds all creeds, as a consequence, equally armed. In despair, we fall back on muddled moralising. The instinct is sound: instincts born of fear usually are. The safety of no civilisation can be secured by material means. But it cannot, alas, be any better secured by preaching what we do not believe, or by believing only when it suits us.
If it is wrong to bomb Spaniards in Barcelona it is equally wrong to bomb Indians on the North-West Frontier; if it is right to kill men with high explosive launched from a field-gun it cannot be wrong to do the same thing when the high explosive is launched from an aeroplane.
The demand that towns shall be immune from the horror of war is nothing more honourable than the demand that those who make war shall be immune from its consequences that war shall not be the last desperate remedy of outraged and suffering humanity, but an organised function of wealth and political power.
This horror of war waged otherwise than by legally constituted governments in accordance with legalistic conventions is only the polite expression of a conception funda
menially immoral and anti-Christian. The moral justification of the use of force depends solely on its necessity and its efficacy in righting manifest injustice, never on the credentials of the people who employ it.
Justification of Rebellion
A national 1,var, a revolution, a rebellion, or the taking of life by police action, all these methods of employing force may be justifiable in certain circumstances and wholly unjustifiable in others.
Of all the moral questions the justific..alion of rebellion is the most difficult in practice, but in theory the matter is easy enough.
The authority of government derives not from man but from God, and no government majority determined to oppose the ends of salvation is entitled to the allegiance of Christian men. What such a government seeks to do, however, must be within its powers and, when accomplished, irrevocable in its effects before a rebellion or counter-rebellion can be justified. And, if this be established, the movement must yet he, on a reasonable estimate of the probabilities, a sure and effective instrument for replacing a bad government by a good one, and there must be no other instrument available for the purpose.
Are these conditions fulfilled in the case of the Spanish National Movement?
If so, those who oppose it must suffer the consequences. It is they, not General Franco, tvho first appealed to force, who destroyed the liberties of conscience and public order, and made assassination their political weapon. The lesson of Barcelona for English Catholics is grim but clear. Neither our wealth, our organisation nor DOUGLAS JERROLD our pride will save our much-vaunted civilisation from the consequences of false and
disruptive doctrines. The spectacle of economic materialism crying out to be saved from the consequences of its own. irresponsible scepticism is not a sign of a change of heart, but merely a sign of fear. Too late has the language of Chiistian humanitarianism found its way to the lips of its leader.
These sentiments should have been heard when China was in agony; when the Russian bourgeoisie and, later, the Russian peasantry were being killed not in hundreds, but in hundreds of thousands: when in Madrid and Barcelona from August, 1936, for twelve months without a break the murder-gangs were busy every night.
We need to make an end of this cant, which is ruining the credit of our nation and dishonouring us in the eyes of the world.
If we wish to win credit for our humanity we must be humane for Christ's sake, and not for the sake of the Stock Exchange.