NS OF THE WEEK
Michael de la Bedoyere
The Conservatives' Opportunity THE triumph of the Labour Party at the General Election has given the Conservative Party its greatest opportunity in thirty
years. Nothing spoils a Party more than long years in office,
whether alone or as part of a coalition. The dictum that power corrupts is fully as applicable to party as to person. Now. most conveniently for the Conservatives. Labour has assumed power in the difficult post-war years and allowed the Conservatives the luxury of looking backwards and forwards so that they may fit themselves to take office again in due course, purged, refreshed and renewed.
It is not to be expected that this period of retreat should produce immediate and spectacular results, but by now there should be signs of the new life to come, if indeed it is ever to come. But to judge by the Blackpool Conference and Mr. Churchill's speech the most that has so far been accomplished is the obtaining of some sense that the Conservatives could, if they would, make a great and much needed contribution to the country's life. It is true that one cannot make war wholly accountable for the degree of apathy and selfishness that is to be found in all levels of our social life. It is tree that the idealism of democratic Socialism exists on paper rather than in fact, and that recourse to Socialism seems at present to be the result of fear, laziness. the desire to get something for nothing, the shirking of the responsibilities of personal initiative. rather than any positive faith in the ideal of co-operation and sharing in a common task. It is true that thc degree of effort commanded by the present Government and the success so far achieved by its planning are not sufficient to carry the country safely through the economic blizzards that
undoubtedly lie ahead when we have
to compete with the world on the basis
of nothing but what our brains and
our brawn can produce.
These failings which, if they continue, will become ever more painfully manifest, to the electorate arc going to give. we repeat, a magnificent opportunity to the Conservatives—so magnificent and so obvious that the latter should already be making some headway. Are they?
Their Christian Professions LET us consider a concrete point upon which we may be allowed to speak with some knowledge. Mr. Churchill has headed the " main objectives " of his Party with the phrase : " To
uphold the Christian religion and resist all attacks upon it." Splendid! But what does it really mean—positively and as a contrast with Labour?
Labour makes no such concrete claim. Perhaps it is too honest to do so. But when Mr. Bevil), whose tough early religious uple inging has recently been publicised in a book about him, stands firm before the world for the primacy of law over force and for the right of the common people everywhere to be genuinely free to have their say in the way their world is run, is he not in tact upholding a vital principle of the Christian religion and resisting a desperate attack upon it? Have we any reason—to judge by the past—to suppose that Mr. Churchill's present fear of Russia rests on an equally solid and Christian basis? Have we any reason to suppose that the gentlemanly and liberal diplomacy of an Eden is as secure a defence of Christian values?
We have said that the idealism of democratic Socialism is hardly proving tough enough or skilful enough to overcome the counter-temptation to which it gives rise ni selfishness and apathy, but is it non-existent? And is it not at ,its best and within certain limits Christian in its inspiration? At all events is it not fully as Christian as the record of Conservatism which hitherto has done little or nothing in the way of social reform, save what it has borrowed from technocracy and from Socialism itself, and nothing at all, surely, to uphold the primacy of the spiritual over the political in our public life?
A Coming Spiritual Reaction ?
WE believe that the time is
rapidly coming when there will be a great reaction against the faithlessness which has landed us and the rest of the world where we all are. In a sense the democratic Socialism which is the
political faith of the best members of the Labour Party is in itself a sign of that reaction, just as the wide public support for this marks the spread of that reaction. But it is only a partial. and in some ways a faliecious, expression of this desire to return to values higher than the wielding of absolute pagan power whether through money or a secret police. II may in fact prove too feeble and inefficient to carry us through, and, if so, it will become the instrument of corruption and selfishness.
It is important then that the coun
try shall be offered as au alternative
and as a defence the idealism that undoubtedly exists in the traditional principles of Conservatism, imaginatively applied to the conditions and demands of the present. Realism, responsibility, initiative, courage, love for human beings, our neighbours, our countrymen, our brothers in Christ everywhere, rather than love for abstract economic Man, the defence of those genuine rights and liberties that spring from the Christian tradition, all these are ideals which can and must he translated into fearless action through political and social reform so that an efficiently directed and administered land does really become a nation of property owners. Arc the Conservatives able and willing to act? Have they still the faith? That will be the test, and -certainly not any merely electoral lipservice to Christian formulae or any mere singing of " Land of Hope and Glory " (however desirable as un alternative to the Red Flag!).
General Smuts on East and West wE regret that so wise and experienced a statesman as General Smuts should have so spoken as to enable the world to headline a phrase like " There is no fundamental dividing line between East and West." Such
phrase echoes the wishful thinking of too many politicians in the West and the deliberate tactics of the highest authorities in the East.
There is a sense in which the phrase is true, and most obviously true in Christian eyes. Christians could never accept the view that differences between human beings are irreconcilable. Such a view would be an admission of despair and a denial of the teaching of Christi anity. In a common acceptance of God's truth all men can become one, and, if so, there must be many stages between practical division and complete agreement in truth at which some ,,roans vivendi can be found. For us Catholics, at any rate, the conversion of Russia and of the leaders of the Communist Party can never he a hopeless quest—it is always an immediate aim. And the conditions for realising this aim should govern all our politics.
But this is hardly the sense in which General Smuts' words will be interpreted. Rather they will be interpreted as meaning that somehow an accommodation can be reached between two parties who bold diametrically opposite views about truth and about right and wrong. This is impossible, and in fact all experience teaches that any such accommodation can only be apparent and, in the end, harmful. Sooner or later the fundamental division breaks out again and always in an even more dangerous form. Has not that been our experience with Russia itself? We compromise with our principles in order to work with her, and then we find, her as uncompromising as before, but on new ground which she has gained from us through our weakness.
Ultimately there can be only one line of Western policy in regard to Russia. We must in charity see to it that we do not hold out against her on any matter that is not one of principle or a necessary defence of principle, still less should we hold out where the wisest realise that Russia may be right and constructive ; but. having done all we can in this sense, we must uncompromisingly maintain our
stand and remain strong in our faith
that in due course the intrinsic rightness
of our course will persuade Russia to learn something from us. At present the conflict on principle is very clear and very sharp.
After Nuremberg IF serious doubts in thoughtful minds have been raised by the whole story and context of the Nuremberg trial, there is even more to be anxious about in regard to its aftermath. In the first place, it seems almost incredible that Britain and the United States should have agreed to the presence of journalists and photographers when the death sentences are carried out. Already one hardly dare seek to assess the degree of harm done by way of corrupting the minds of ordinary people through oilering to them the spectacle of human victims over whose late they can gloat and satisfy their lust of hatred to their heart's content. To add to it all this final publicity is a sign that the gap
which divides us front the criminals is narrowing. Let it be temembered that hero is a case when the overcoming of the time dimension, 4 la Dunne and Priestley, is something real. Our actions to-day are in a sense casually related to the crimes committed yesterday, for those crimes could hardly have been committed bad not the general moral tone of the world been rapidly falling. And our reactions to-day arc illustrative of that very fall.
Even more serious, in our view, is the behaviour of that section of 'German opinion which is given publicity in the Allied Press. The hounding by Germans of three compatriots acquitted by the victors' court savours of sycophancy towards the latter, sycophancy, moreover, seasoned by a feeling for the totalitarian view of justice as a mere instrument of the " people's " will. ln other words, it betrays the two worst German vices, the love of power wean strong and the readiness to crawl when weak. One can only hope and trust that this reaction is confined to a small minority, though even so it is distressing enough to realise that these, its view of the positions they occupy. must be our selection of the best German types!
Poor Outlook in France HOW little there is to be hoped
for from a country's political life when there is much moral and social unsoundness, is illustrated by the French scene. In next Sunday's referendum and subsequent
elections there is little to hope for, whatever the result. The maintenance of the coalition would prove to be the maintenance of a weak government whose pace is set by the Left extremists, Yet if the results paved the way for a renewal of Gaullism, one could bardly envisage a much better state of affairs resulting from the imposition of a rigid American constitution on no deeply divided a people. France's renewal must come from below and within before any political alignment can offer much hope.
Hiding Our Light CARDINAL Griffin's initiative in promoting the formation of an Association of Catholic Trade Unionists in the Archdiocese of Westminster gives a high and decisive blessing to those who believe
that the tactic of silent penetration on the part of Catholics into public life
can be overdone. In any case the results to date of hiding our light under a bushel and borrowing somebody else's lamp to make ourselves seen are hardly encouraging. In these matters it seems to us that the lead of Catholic Action along the Jocist lines, a lead so often blessed by the Pope, is the soundest. With the Jocists there is no hiding of their Catholic and Jocist credentials. On the contrary. Yet it is they who most fully practise the personal apostolatc by sharing the lives and responsibilities of those whom they wish to influence. A proper pride in our own corporate personality and influence gives the best encouragement to tactful and effective work " behind the scenes."