A New And Misunderstood Factor
It Is Not Fascist Or Obscurantist
IBy Michael de la Bedoyere THE " Union of Democratic Control " has published a sixpenny pamphlet called Why France Fell. It is a most interesting production, and well worth a careful analysis by Christian
readers. In its account of the causes of France's fall it is not quite as unfair and biased as many Socialist accounts—it clearly acknowledges, for example, the degree of the Communist and Popular Front responsibility—and there are passages up and down the book with which the Christian reformer would be in the heartiest
agreement. But for all its attempt to be fair, one feels that the writer is throughout labouring under a tremendous handicap which makes him incapable of getting the story into its right perspective and to draw therefrom the right lessons. That handicap is quite simply an inability to understand two vital factors: the first is the meaning of Christianity—or indeed of religion itself; and the second—which is closely bound up with the first—is his inability to understand what may roughly be called " conservatism."
We do not propose to review the pamphlet itself, but rather to take it as a convenient example of the lamentable failure. especially on the part of even the sincerest socialists, to grasp the true meaning of the contribution which Catholics are trying to make to the solution of the great problems facing us all equally.
FRENCH CATHOLIC STATESMEN IT is interesting to note that in a pamphlet on France the idea of
religion or Christianity is only alluded to once or twice. The phrase " pluto-Catholic-Fascism " is once used in reference to the so-called " Latin bloc." And we find the writer referring to General de Gaulle as " a romantic Medievalist, with a pre-capitalist, almost Chestertonian outlook." (In passing one may note with amusement how delighted Chesterton would have been to find the Middle Ages and pre-capitalism referred to as " almost Chestertonian.") The writer of course refers time and again to men like Petain and Weygand, but the reader is given nothing but very indirect indications which might lead him to suppose that these men happen not only to be Catholics, but the kind of Catholics whose whole outlook has been largely governed by their religious faith. It is as though someone tried to explain the working of a compass without any reference to the North Pole. No one denies that these men, in addition to being Catholics, are generals, citizens with certain political views, possibly men of means, and that their behaviour is subject to legitimate criticism in these respects. No one except an enclosed religious could possibly be called Catholic and nothing else. But equally it is impossible to understand the military, political, social, etc., views of a good Catholic, without reference to the religious faith by which he lives, as it would be to understand the military, political and social views of a Fascist or Communist without reference to Fascism or Communism. Yet, just because the author of this pamphlet appears completely unaware of Catholic Christianity we find him constantly seeking to explain Main wholly in terms of " Fascism," the " military mind," " reaction and plutocracy." and so on.
YEARNING FOR ORDER WE, have insisted on this example of Petain, because it comes " conveniently to hand, but the same mistake is constantly being made, especially by writers of the Left. They are unable to appreciate the truth that a convinced and Christian outlook can add a totally new factor in the whole situation, and one that cannot be reduced either to Fascism or reaction or Socialism. This perhaps is not surprising, especially in this country where Christianity is either considered a private devotional affair or a synonym for the already established social order. Yet it is quite impossible to understand the character of the achievements of Salazar or de Valera without appreciating the meaning of the Christian outlook. And, without going so far as the specifically Catholic Christian work of Catholic statesmen like Salazar, de Valera or Main, the Left writer finds himself totally at sea when faced with what we have called above "conservatism." We need hardly say that we do not use this word in its party political or economic sense. We understand by it what is hardly more than an instinctive preference for a peaceful social order wherein the traditional moral values of Christianity are respected and safeguarded. We all know by now how easily and how selfishly this widespread instinctive preference can be abused and utilised as a cover for a thoroughly unjust economic order; we know that religion itself can be used to conceal dishonesty, cheating, cruelty crying to Heaven
for vengeance. But it does not f011ow that either religion or the yearning for a stable and morally ordered society are evil or rarely to be found among decent folk of all classes and peoples. And the Britisher is particularly at a loss when dealing with Continental countries because he forgets that there does not exist in those countries for the Most part an established religious and moral social order comparable with the one we have hitherto enjoyed in this island. We do not yearn for what we already possess and take for granted (though we may wake up one day to find that it has disappeared, and then we shall wish that we had protected it more carefully and kept it much purer).
DIFFICULTIES OF CONTINENTAL CATHOLICS
THE Continental Catholic mind (to which must be added the
millions who yearn for a stable order in which they, their families. their possessions, their simple convictions about what is right and what is wrong will be protected) has long been up against two difficulties of which we in this country know little or nothing. On the one side it has watched the triumph of secularism, anti-religious Masonry, violent revolutions, constant threats to peace and order, political jobbery carried to lengths of which we do not dream, and it has seen this era of instability, immorality, anarchy ushered in under the guise of progress, liberalism, rationalism. On the other hand it has too often seen officers or leading lights of the Church in apparently close association with political reaction, economic injustice, sheer obscurantism of thought and habit. (Needless to say, the enemies of the Church have not failed grossly to exaggerate the faults of the national Church with the result that many men of good will have believed matters to have been much worse than they really were.) In any case the result of the disorder caused by secularist and anticlerical views, on the one side. and of the apparent reaction of too many high-placed members of the Church, on the other, has been to stultify the growth of an enlightened and reformist Christian outlook and to render impotent in public life the religious and moral conservatism of the ordinary person. We must not he surprised therefore to find, first. that the post-war Catholic revival on the Continent has been a slow and painful process, more particularly where it impinges on political, social and economic affairs, and, second, that where sudden political changes unexpectedly open out what seems like a broad avenue to a new era of order, stability and sanity, the Catholic and conservative elements should crowd into it with more sincerity than perspicacity.
THE NEW FACTOR
THE British observer is apt, like the author of Why France Fell, to overlook this Catholic and conservative factor altogether and interpret events solely in terms of the evils or blindnesses of the past, or, like W. Horsfall Carter, writing on " The Catholic-Latin Myth " in the current New Statesman, to mock at what he calls " a sort of Counter-Reformation," while expressing his resentment at the antiBritish views of Continental Catholic writers who consider this country to be " the cradle of the Reformation and, therefore, source of all the evils of parliamentary democracy and a disintegrating
liberalism ' that have flowed from it."
What we Catholics have got to understand and try to make clear to our countrymen is that a big and vital movement is being born on the Continent which is not Fascist or reactionary or capitalist, but positively Christian. This movement in its early and difficult stages ---and what movement in the world of to-day can escape deformations?—may take all sorts of queer shapes, and it may very well be overcome by forces materially far stronger than itself, so that it will turn out in the end to be Fascist or purely political in the shape for example of a political Latin Bloc; but the fact remains that today there is behind it a strong flow of genuine Christian inspiration violently reacting against the disorder of the past. If this element in it, this new factor, can be helped, rather than hindered and mocked at. Europe may yet be saved and saved for a civilised order that will correspond to the civilised order whie..h we have so far enjoyed in this island.
WHY IT LOOKS LIKE FASCISM
Q0 far this Christian element is largely negative. It consists of a
determined opposition to the forces, some apparently good, like liberalism and the emancipation from reactionary authority or blind discipline, and some certainly bad, like Bolshevism and freedom from all moral religious restraint, which have landed Europe where it is. (And Mr. Horsfall Carter, when he sneers at the new Counter-Reformation, might remember to cast back a glance at the consequences of secularism, stimulating his mind, if he cares to do so, by a re-reading of Shaw's Back to Methuselah.) On the positive side this Christian element necessarily suffers from an apparent resemblance to what in this country is called Fascism. This is inevitable since Fascism has in fact. for motives of its own, introduced numerous political, social and economic reforms designed to break down the old secularist-liberal and capitalist order. When Salazar or Franco or Main or Catholic writers advocate a corporative order or measures to restore the dignity of work or the national control of money and credit or stringent educational reforms, they are inevitably doing things that look like Fascism. Fur Britishers this alone condemns them as reactionaries and obscurantist, for even revolutionary Fascism is here considered, as Why France Fell shows, to be a desperate attempt to save the order of capitalism and privilege. though the author of this pamphlet is in the end obliged to admit that Fascism " has been forced to turn collectivist " and institute a world in which there can be " no return to the pre-war world." The difference, however, between the motives and aims of Fascist reform and those of Christian reform are as wide as the difference between matter and spirit. Continental Catholics are aiming at restoring the true freedom of the human person in a morally ordered society where spiritual and religious values are secured the primacy which is their rightful claim. We freely admit the difficulties and dangers. For example many opportunities are being presented to mere politicians and selfseekers, often mainly recruited, as among the Spanish Phalangists, from the Communists and Socialists of the past. But, if we wish Europe well rather than ill, we shall sympathise with this new Christian factor seeking to establish order amidst chaos while there is still time. And Catholics at least in this country will consider how far the principles of this great movement of Christian reform contains lessons for ourselves. It may not look as though we need them today; but it is very certain that we shall need them in the troublous times that are coming.