-TT has been a disastrous
1. year for democracy. indeed for human freedom in all
So began the leading article of the "New Statesman" last week. The writer has obviously been prompted to utter this cry of agony by the results of the French elections; but in fairness to him he does include among the disasters of democracy the "progressive erosion of the hopeful gains" within the Communist world, citing "the ignoble persecution of Boris Pasternak" and "the emergence, in China, of a type of uniform fanaticism and spiritual intolerance for which it would be hard to find any historical parallel".
Travelling across the Commonwealth and the Middle East and South America, the writer can only look to the British Labour Party for a ray of somewhat dim light. "Some of the lost ground my be recovered if Labour is returned to power; but not unless its leadership recognises that the construction of a tidy economic democracy in Britain is only half their task, and that Labour's responsibilities as the world leader of social democracy cannot be defined within the glossy covers of a pamphlet".
WE agree that certainly the outlook is poor for the kind of democracy which the "New Statesman" • and other papers of its kind throughout the world have sought these many years to promote. Consequently, we miss in its columns today even the slightest sign of a sense of mea culpa.
A responsible and high-class paper, always entertaining the hope that the future of democracy depended on certain tactical changes of outlook in Moscow or Peking, was doomed to see, sooner or later, the blasting of its hopes. But there is no need to dwell here on the oddity of the "New Statesman" mind which for many years has always seen the future of its democratic hopes to rest in a change of heart on the part of Stalin or Khrushchev. The importance of this attitude of mind never lay in any sort of political seriousness in it; it lay simply in the fact that not long ago so many shared it — and shared it for the basic reason that they believed, consciously or subconsciously, that a progressive. humanist outlook could only emerge from a materialistic and, if possible, atheistic philosophy.
Perhaps at last they are learning that atheism and agnosticism, whether true or false as philosophies, just do not lead to the dawn of a better world.
But a much more serious problem today underlies the disappointment of the "New Statesman".
It is, in a word, democracy's own failure to understand the necessary conditions for the development and spread of democracy, as the ordinary person understands the term.
Look where we may, we shall come across the decline of democracy thanks to the patent
fallacies of those who call themselves its promoters.
Allowing for the fact — and the "New Statesman" doubtless will allow this—that the Liberal Party in Australia is not the democratic ideal, we may safely say that the smear tactics of Dr. Evatt against the D.L.P. and others who believed in conscience and country has chalked up another "democratic" ("New Statesman" sense) loss.
In France, there is doubtless a parallelism between de Gaulle and Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, but the parallelism is not the one that the "New Statesman" readily recognises. In all these instances, it was the decay of parliamentary democracy to the point where effective government, let alone any liberty, became virtually impossible that produced the authoritarian leaders. Even if de Gaulle were to follow in the footsteps of such predecessors— not that we believe this — the fault would primarily lie not on him but on those he would supplant.
In the Middle East and in Africa, the democratic slogans which lie behind the over-rapid changes of regimes — slogans cleverly spread by the Communists who now look so disappointing to the "New Statesman"—are not the temperate and balanced democratic hopes to be found in the political evolution of fairly democratic countries like Britain, America, Holland, the new West Germany, or Switzerland; they are "New Statesman" slogans.
WHEN we emphasise that religion and traditional moral values are essential to true democracy, we do so without saying that to be a true democrat you must be a Christian or even a believer in revealed truth—even more without saying the religious man is always a democrat.
Nevertheless, it is true that by and large democracy cannot work and develop unless men believe in the spiritual and moral potentialities of man in accordance with the pattern, for which in the West Christian teaching and thought have stood. This is not, of course, the end of the story. On the contrary, it is its beginning—but, alas, a beginning which papers like the "New Statesman" refuse to recognise.