THIS week's news has again been dominated by the tierce battle in Libya. It may be said of it that the longer it lasts the more decisive its consequences are likely to be, for both sides appear to regard it as a critical action worth winning at almost any cost. Even if it fizzles out owing to common exhaustion that will mean the stabilising of that front for a long period. The outcome will be in doubt until the last moment, for the swiftness and confusion of movement, comparable to a sea action, can bring about very sudden and unexpected turns of events. Nothing in the story is more glorious than the Free French defence of I3ir Hakeim, and one sees in this the magnificent tradition of French colonial fighting. The moral effect of that defence is, by the way, worth more to the Allied Cause in France itself than all the political propaganda in the world.
At Sevastopol the Germans are once again meeting with a degree of resistance that was unexpected by them, and ' their initial onslaughts have been checked. The view that Russia will not crack is being once again confirmed.
The news that the resources of Britain and America are to be even more closely pooled under common organisation, so that their combined production may be distributed according to strict priority of warneeds in both countries, reminds Us again of how war can point the way towards commonsense in peace. The human needs of men and women of different countries, races and colours are not less urgent than war-needs, and if nations can act in this way to meet the latter there is absolutely no valid reason why they cannot do the same in order to maintain a decent standard of life, to prevent malnutrition, to relieve the effects of unemployment, wherever they may occur, as the first charge, so to say, on all production.
THE Jewish question (about which A shrewd men who write or speak in public at present keep silent) is being debated in the columns of the New Statesman and Truth. The Editor of Truth, Mr. Collin Brooks, in a vigorous article has challenged the views of Mr. Israel Cohen, who contended in the New Statesman that a.nti-Semitism was the key, so to speak, by which one could detect those dangerous to the country's safety. Mr. Cohen, foreseeing that this argument will not prove so telling after the war, suggests that antiSemitism will then " possess an infinite capacity for generating political discord and social unrest," and he asks that " the most effective means should be adopted for its suppression."
We cannot follow Mr. Brooks the whole way, more particularly in his narrow view that only " men of our own breed and past " should be allowed to rise in this country (do we not, for example, look forward to the strengthening of the country by the incorporation of many of our present exiles from Europe who may prove as useful to British genius and action as were the Huguenots?), nor that the Jews arc "an alien race that should not be allowed to attain more than a limited amount of power, influence and economic command." It all depends upon what kind of power, influence and economic command, and how it is used.
We do think, however, that he is absolutely right to protest so vigorously against any attempt to suppress reasonable criticism of Jewish behaviour and Jewish trends on the ground that any such expression is a mark of Fascist or Nazist leanings and of bad citizenship
generally. Such a conspiracy, of which there is plenty of evidence, can only result in ultimate and poss sibly cruel injury to the Jewish community in general. The growth of anti-Semitic feelings among ordinary folk, for good or bad reasons, is evident enough, and it will only be dissipated by freedom to discuss the question in public in a dispassionate manner. There is, of course, a wide gulf between the kind of racial and religious anti-Semitism which the Popes have condemned and investigation into the special difficulties raised here and elsewhere by association between Gentile and Jew. This the most intelligent Jews realise, and they should be foremost in tackling the difficulties.
THE AGRICULTURAL FRONT
THE more hopeful aspect of the -A war at the time of writing is apt to obscure the menace which still remains of enemy interference with Atlantic shipping. There is no sign that this has diminished and, as long as it remains, it is necessary to bear in mind that, unless the stranglehold at which the U-boat campaign is aiming is rendered impossible, successes obtained elsewhere will prove ultimately futile in a drawn-out conflict.
But the direct attack on submarines and other German craft is not
the only way in which the danger
can be mitigated. The importance of the agricultural front was never
more apparent than it is at present. Two reports regarding this front augur well. In the first place, the prospects of a good harvest both as regards fruit and cereal are excel lent. The hay crop is likely to prove heavy. In the second place, the growth of the Women's Land Army and the employment on agrichltural work of war-prisoners should make more practicable the realisation of Mr. Hudson's demand for the cultivation of another 500,000 acres.
The employment of children during the long summer vacation, if properly safeguarded against abuse, suggests another source of labour. The sight of happy youngsters returning with brown faces from the hop-fields, which is an annual spectacle, is ample refutation of the idea that such a way of spending the holiday is necessarily detrimental to health. And a strong case could be made out for regarding it as having, in addition; considerable educational value. •
PRODUCER AND DISTRIBUTOR
IT is one thing to increase the acre
age under cultivation, as Mr. Hudson hopes to do, and another thing to secure the full benefit of Otis increase by efficient and equitable dis tribution. As Lord Woolton was candid enough to say in the House of Lords, " the distributive trades of
this country are one of the expensive and luxurious factors in our national life." In the earlier stages of the war we suffered heavily by maladministration in the distribution of fish and meat. The mistakes then made, however, have taught the Ministry for Food a lesson. One of Lord Woolton's schemes, dealing with carrots and onions, it was stated in the debate just quoted, "did not work out satisfactorily from the producers' point of view. It seemed to them to be run too much for the benefit of the distributive trade." and Lord Wooltnn himself confessed that " the scheme was drawn up without proper consultation with the large section of vegetable growers who have direct contacts in their own districts." The details which he gave of the measures to be taken show him to be conscious of the need for decentralisation.
It is hopeless to expect farmers and market gardeners to do their best if they find, as sometimes happens, that the cost of transport and the profit taken by the middleman result in their being out of pocket. As a matter of expediency as well as of principle, the claims of the primary producer must have prior consideration. Let us hope that among the casualties of the war will be the legend that we are " a nation of shop-keepers."
THE President of the Board of A Education, asked in the House of Commons what lead his Department has given in furtherance of a scheme for the training of boys in our schools as future workers in the building industry and whether it is the intention of the Department to give parents some guarantee as to continuity of employment. called attention to a circular issued at the request of the Minister of Works and Buildings. This circular urges the importance of greatly increased provision in junior technical schools for the training of recruits to the building industry. Special attention is given to the problem of continuity of employment.
May we take this as a sign that the time is coming when every youth launched into the world will be fitted to take his or her place in some honest industry or trade? Promises that the unemployment which followed the last war will not be repeated are numerous, but this is not enough. Work must be both continuous and of a character which can enlist the interest and stimulate the professional pride of those concerned. But, in order to ensure continuous employment of this kind. the resources of consumers must be increased. The existence of widespread means to set the wheels of industry in motion and to keep them moving is essential.
INTERNATIONAL TRADE REFORMS
COME time ago reference was made
M the House of Lords to an extremely fascinating little pamphlet entitled A Twentieth Century Economic System. The proposals contained therein bear a striking resemblance to those put forward in the American Review of Foreign Affairs by Mr. Feis, economic adviser. to the State Department in Washington. Mr. Feis wishes nations that trade together to pay for goods received by means of credits of an agreed value opened in advance, these credits to lapse and all obligations to be extinguished if after a specified period of time a corresponding quantity of goods has not been taken up. The similarity of these proposals with those in the pamphlet in question does not in any way connote plagiarism. It derives from the fact that these ideas are nothing but simple common sense. The world is tired of the preposterous problem of the creditor who refuses payment in the only medium in which his debtor can meet his obligation. Further some arrangement of this kind is indispensable if economic planning becomes a reality. National economic planning without a plan of international trade can only make existing rivalries more dynamic and dangerous.
It is cprious that when there has been so much sound thinking on this aspect of the problem another aspect has received relatively little
attention. There are certain types of goods which the poorer countries need but can only pay for over a protracted period. The existing system of international lending seems. to be effectively condemned as being at one and the same time unsafe and usurious. So inadequate Izas it proved that it has in effect broken down and the export of capital goods from a willing producer to an eager purchaser has largely' become impossible as the result of an imperfect financial tech
nique. This problem urgently re quires solution. Perhaps the only
means of solving it is by applying the accepted principle of redistribie tive taxation to the international sphere. We may in fact have to be prepared to give away a certain amount of our goods. If we are not moved to such a course by love of our fellow men, we may yet be compelled by considerations of expediency since we may otherwise be threatened with a complete shrivelling of international trade.
IN reply to a question by Mr.
Mander in the House of Cornmoos last week, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the request for dividend limitation of two years ago had been sufficiently cornplied with to make legislation un
necessary. There is no need to ascribe this compliance to patriotic altruism, nor need we suppose that it would have been so scrupulous had not the interests of the public happened to coincide with those of a large number of managements.
Dividend limitation is a policy which suits the purposes of most managements very well indeed. It enables them to build up reserves, expand ;heir businesses and so create a foundation for their personal advancement and prestige. The shareholder, of course, receives a beneficiary interest in all this, but in many cases he would much rather have had the cash. Dividend limitation as part of wider reforms is doubtless an important step in the right direction from more angles than one. But we should not be blind to the fact that, given the existing structure of business, it is part of a process which helps the continued growth of dangerous and irresponsible nuclei of economic power.