Direct Ways Are Wrong And Useless
We Must Fight On, But— T HE I.L.P. last week did poor service ao the large sections of the population who feel that the Government's attitude is not the last word on the war by forcing a debate and a vote on an extremely confused amendment This amendment included a criticism of the Government for not stating its peace terms, a demand for a peace conference, a complaint that the war is destroying civilization and an insistence on a new social 'order " which would mean the end of German. British, and other imperialism and provide a decent home and standard of life for each family in every country in the world." Inevitably so comprehensive and utopian a programme was dismissed by the House as unmeaning to the tune of 341 votes to 4. though there were a good many voluntary abstentions. The inference was that the vote also measured the degree of confidence in the Government both within the House and in the country. The I.L.P. could scarcely have. done Mr. Churchill a better turn.
THE REAL PACIFIST THOUGH there are, no doidat, a number of people up and down the country—Northampton in a recent by-election discovered rather more than a thousand—who 'believe that an immediate peace. at any rate more satisfactory than the continuation of the war, is to be had for the asking. it is plain to the overwhelming majority of the country that this is a childish outlook. A case for an immediate peace can indeed be argued. but only in the hard light of the cost of such a peace. There are sincere pacifists about who are prepared to pay that cost. They believe that war is wrong in itself and that it can only bring disaster in the material and moral order. They are prepared to stand by their faith that the world will in the long run become a better place if we throw up our weapons and yield to force. This view, where it has been fully thought out and is sincerely held, denotes a far more heroic disposition than the common disposition of those who believe that the war must continue until force is overthrown by force, for it presupposes that a man prefers a lifetime of serfdom, the virtual destruction of his country, the loss of his own rights and the rights of his class, even continued persecution of his own moral standpoint to the temporary discomforts and sufferings of war. There arc few today, we susmt, who have tealised all the implications of pacifism and yet continue to hold it. There is really nothing in common between this attitude and the feelings of those who, so to say, cannot stand the war any longer and persuade themselves into the belief that anything would be better. In such a state Of mind, there is really no logic. It is simply a case.pf the demoralisation which the enemy wishes to achieve.
There is a third class of people—and the I.L.P. would seem on the whole to belong to it—who do believe that an early peace on tolerable terms could he achieved if our efforts were bent on this purpose rather than on continuing the war to the bitter end.
TYPES OF PEACE-MAKERS VARIOUS ways have been suggested. The Communists, for example, are preaching throughout the length and breadth of the country (by no means excluding the Armed Forces) that the workers have nothing to gain by the war, but that on the contrary the overthrow of the Government by a " People's " Government would enable negotiations with Germany to be opened on terms that would secure a better status forthe workers, whatever losses imperialist Britain might suffer in respect of her prestige, her power, and that portion of her national wealth that at present tines the pockets of the rich. They no doubt also hope that somehow the same revolution will take place in Germany so that with the help of the Soviet all that is going in the world will ultimately fall into the laps of the workers of the world. As regards this point of view, the outsider can only suggest that something of the sort is far more likely to happen if the Communists, so far from trying to stop the war, keep it going as long as possible. Indeed, one suspects that they themselves only intend for the moment to exploit their nuisance value and that they would be extremely disappointed if the revolution they hope for were to break out before all Europe is thoroughly crushed by war.
Another type argues—we think, more plausibly—that we could still do a deal with Hitler. Let Hitler have his way on the Continent. so long as we can keep our Empire,. and, with the connivance of the United States and Russia, let us sign a satisfactory economic and financial arrangement which will give Hitler what he needs and re-establish our prosperity on the basis of a controlled international trade. Putting aside the moral aspects of such a deal, we think that some such arrangement could have been reached in the first six months of the war, but it is doubtful whether Hitler would be prepared to negotiate on any such terms now, unless he is far weaker than he appears to be or could safely admit.
NO PRACTICAL MEANS PI UT when we examine the I.L.P. peace plan we find it hard to " understand exactly what they have in mind. They are not moral pacifists prepared to go to the lengths outlined above. They do not go so far as the Communists—and along that line it is all or nothing. And they would scarcely consider a " deal " whose chief advocates would undoubtedly be the imprisoned Fascists. And yet their amendment 'contains much good sense. They are right in criticising the Government for not clarifying its peace aims, and in this matter they represent a good portion of the people. They are right in stating that the war " threatens chaos and annihilation of all that is good in modern civilization, offering only years of pain and poverty, sacrifices and misery for the workers in all lands." They are right in believing that the old imperialist-capitalist order must be exchanged for a new social order whose sole aim is to build up civilization on a decent economic status for each family in every country of the world. But they have utterly failed to show how a peace conference held under present conditions and with the present leaders in power could possibly, on the one side, save us from the disasters they foresee and, on the other, initiate the new social order they desire.
That in fact is the problem. The ends we understand and appreciate. But what about the means? II. is just thinkable that the efforts of a third. party—let us suppose the Pope working with President Roosevelt—could make some sort of progress in making possible a peace conference whose end would be a radical and revolutionary overhaul of the present national, social and economic values accepted by statesmen, but there is really no ground for supposing that Hitler, flushed with victory and commanding the armed might of Europe, would listen to any proposals involving the destruction cf German nationalism even if they also involved the destruction of ours, nor, we fear, is there any ground for supposing that Mr. Churchill would be any more amenable. In fact this is all wishful thinking, as indeed the attitude of the Pope makes clear.
CONTINUING THE FIGHT WHAT then? Are we simply forced th acquiesce in the practical dictatorship of modern Governments even if we are convinced that civilization is being destroyed under our eyes and that the future social order will be very far from being based on principles tolerable to the genuine Christian or the honest social reformer?
Frankly, we cannot see any immediate practical alternative to continuing the war against Hitler. Whatever we may think of the imperial, social and economic values for which Mr. Churchill stands, we must at least honestly admit that all this is not comparable to the philosophy of force, both at home and abroad, and to the actual behaviour of a person like Hitler. Moreover, apart altogether from personal views and motives, we are by our position committed to certain principles which are far nearer to the heart's desire, both of Christians and the I.L.P.. than anything for which Nazi Germany stands. Such principles are 'the emancipation of enserfed peoples and the defence of certain elementary human rights, through the use of which, after all, the I.L.P. itself is in a position to state its views—as we are to state ours. The I.L.P. would have no voice, nor should we. in Germany at war. and neither of us has any good reason for supposing that our voice would be restored to us in a peace settlement dictated by Hitler. It is well to remember that those of us who are most dissatisfied with Churchillisrn are the very people who would suffer most under Hitlerism.
In continuing the fight, then, and in continuing it with all the energy at our disposal we are doing the right, and, given the impracticability of any alternative, we are doing the only thing we can do.
But this is by no means inconsistent with continual propaganda and continual pressure for the creation of a public opinion here and the freeing of a public opinion across the seas in the directions advocated in parts of the I.L.P. amendment and in the direction dictated by our Christian faith. Indeed, we can proudly say that the very nature of the cause for which we are fighting gives us the right to do this, while the very nature of the cause which Hitler has imposed on his people deprives them of that right and makes them call to us to help them.
WHAT WE CAN DO UNFORTLTNATELY, Hitler's might stands between us and the peoples of the Continent, and for this reason whatever plans we may entertain in regard to helping these peoples towards a better future can for the present only be extremely indirect. (In view, as we think, of the complete misunderstanding of Continental conditions and Continental peoples by the Professional Left elements in this country, we ourselves are not altogether depressed by this reflection.) I3ut at least it is true that so long as our Navy and our Air Force hold out there is nothing to prevent us from working directly towards social and economic changes in our own country, changes which are. in our view, the most likely means, not only of influencing peoples abroad, but also of bringing the war to an early and yet satisfactory conclusion and thus saving us all from the consequences only too clearly foreseen in the I.L.P. amendment.
We believe that the mass of our people are either already convinced that there must be a revolutionary social and economic change in this country or can easily be so convinced in the light of the war situation and the consequences of the war. We believe that the Bolshevik solution—which is in effect the exercise of an utterly immoral totalitarian tyranny by an irresponsible group of political adventurers—is detested by the vast majority, though clever propaganda exercised in a field where there are no serious competitors is likely to deceive more and more in accepting that solution, for want of a better one. We also believe that dissatisfaction with the whole outlook and values of our politicians and our political parties, all of whom are wedded to irresponsible financial and vested interests and determined to maintain the old social and economic order, is rapidly growing and will become dangerous before the war is over unless it can be wisely _and morally led. Lastly, we believe that in the Gospels and in the social teaching of Christianity. taken at their real value and not with the glosses too easily inserted into them, there are to be found radical and yet constructive principles that, properly put forward and propagated, would reveal themselves to millions of our people as the true solution.
If this is the case, there is no need to complain that, even though this disastrous war must continue for • the present, there exists no real hope for the future and no more important work to be done. No generation was born to a greater opportunity or to a sterner struggle, the struggle behind the war.