THE Political news is dominated this week by the publication of the findings of the Dumbarton Oaks Conference and the surprise journey of Mr. Churchill and Mr. Eden to Moscow. It would be quite impossible to exaggerate the importance of these events in their bearing on the one thing that matters for the world to-day, ua'mely, the happiness and welfare for many years to come of the ordinary human being—or rather, it would be impossible to exaggerate their impor!once in this respect if the world's leaders could grasp what the ordinary man wants and how far from meeting those wants the present planning of a post-war world is.
The talks in Moscow are in themselves more critical than the tentative draft for a world peace and security Organisation agreed upon in Washington. For it is a simple truth that any sort of peace in the future must depend on a real agreement between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt to-day. No doubt we shall be informed as usuel that the conversations have been wofiderfully successful and that practically all points of difference have been resolved by the personal contact of the two great men. We have been told the same in the past, but time has always disclosed tbe fact that on the points that really matter any agreement could only have been formal. Russia, so far, has run her war along her own lines, and it has been anybody's guess where exactly those lines were meant to reach. To all appearances the Russian aims have been to secure by military, diplomatic and political means the virtual domination of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, and her progress has only been partially challenged in the case of part of Poland. In this case the solemnity of British pledges, together with the moral toughness of a big majority of the British people, has forced the Governments of this country and ol America to state plainly that they cannot accept the liquidation of the Polish Government. They scarcely deny, however. that they are prepared to support any arrangement into which the Polish Government can be forced for want of any more acceptable alternative. To effem such an arrangement must be one of the first purposes of the British delegation. The signs at present are that success would not involve any real or major change in the Russian plan LO be the mistress of a great part of Europe — a part, moreover, where the Christian tradition of individualism and diffused property rights has hitherto largely prevailed. The quick absorption of these lands in a Communist totalitarian society would change the face of Europe—and certainly not in the sense we hoped and fought for in 1939.
Agreement Will Be Difficult
STILL more important, however, are the undisclosed further Soviet plans: plans in regard to Germany,
Italy, France and possibly Spain. It is inconceivable that Britain and America should formally accept or passively tolerate the virtual suzerainty of Communist Russia over these vital parts of Europe, and scarcely conceivable that Russia herself should propose such an extension of her power. Unfortunately. however, we are dealing with a mixture of power-politics and social ideology The motive-power in the case of these countries need not come from Russia; it can come from social conflict within these countries. Already in France we are facing the new technique of identifying noreCommunism with Fascist collaboration. Under the guise of patriotism and justice Communist influences are able to
rid themselves of any elements which stand in the way of their progress to power. Not less important are the political and social divisions which inevitably succeed a totalitarian or authoritarian regime When such divisions are given the opportunity of feedMg on economic distress, everything plays into the hands of a firm Left leadership that looks to another strong country for direction and support. This is the case at present in Italy.
It is hardly likely that Communist Russia which has not repudiated its ideology and has everything to gain, militarily and economically, by the spread of its empire will resist the letuptation of aiding and abetting social revolution wherever the conditions seem ripe.
Thus it is no exaggeration to say that in the long run the conversations in Moscow may go far towards deciding whether the Europe of to-morrow, if not the world, is to be a balance of independent and nationalist States, each with its own tradition, or a virtual Communist unity.
The latter alternative may only be prevented if Stalin, as an individual dictator of genius, can be persuaded that the prosperity and welfare of his own people depends in the long run on honest co-operation with existing great Powers rather than on ultimate conflict with them in the attempt to conquer the world for Communism. We imagine that the biggest difficulty will lie in persuading him that he can trust London and Washington. He must also be made to see that the confidence of London and Washington depend on his own willingness to set an honest limit to his aims and to abide by it in the spirit as well as in the letter. The prospects of this cannot be said to be very good
A Realistic Agreement
A LL this fits in very well with the " proposals agreed upon at Dumbarton Oaks. Nothing could be more sketchy or tentative than what so far has been proposed. And this, of course, is its great merit. The proposals honestly envisage a world wherein peace will depend on the behaviour of the three great Powers. The inclusion of China and France is complimentary
rather than important. In this sense the United Nations Plan corresponds honestly to the reality of the League and clarifies matters by abolishing the awkwardness and opportunities for conflict which arose before the war through the League's attempt to pay some tribute to international idealism and Justice.
After the war we shall be living in a world in which three sorts of wars can break out, Small and localised international wars, civil wars which in all probability could lead to a big war, and a big war which, for economic and military reasons, can only occur if two or three of the great Powers are involved. The Dumbarton Oaks proposals should certainly prevent or at least localise any old-fashioned quarrel between small Powers. They aim, by emphasising the relevance of social and economic factors, at preventing civil wars from leading to big wars. But they have really nothing to say about the greatest of the dangers, the outbreak of war between the great Powers. Even as to the outlines of a machinery no agreement could be reached.
At any rate, it is far better honestly to recognise the truth that there exists no effective means of policing the policemen than to try to disguise the fact with empty formulae. We are thrown back on to the same basic condition of future peace: a real understanding between Moscow, London and Washington. That is the immediate and first necessity. Every other political matter. the treatment of Germany, frontiers, trade organieation, lemma] regimes, is secondary to it.
Two Factors Against Peace
BUT who tested feel content with a world whose peace and prosperity are dependent upon the will of a dictator in Moscow and the will of a modem politically-led electorate in Louden and Washington 2 We have but to think of the potential power of flying-bombs in the future. Looking back, we can see that this war resulted, not so much from any bellicosity among peoples, but because of those peoples' very fear of war. It was that fear which gave Hitler and Mussolini their tremendous power of bluffing the world and dictating to it at the pistol-point. The long-range, mechanical weapons of the future will greatly increase that same power to bluff and blackmail anyene who is not prepared to risk the disaster of war. Can we feel happy at the thought that there will be no means of policing the policemen armed with such formidable weapons ?
The truth is that unless them is a spiritual revolution, a genuine turning away by a revolted world against the ittempt to give the world peace by means of force alone, we shall live perletually under the threat of &ester. But it must be a thorough end virtually universal changing of values. Pretence is worse than facing the truth. At present two factors militate against any such reaction One is the ideology. isolation and mistrust of Moscow: the ether is the determination to think in
• he narrow terms of the German problem alone. and to think of that proteem as nothing but a concentration of Force to prevent Germany rising again. This childish approach puts out of sourt any idea of trying to rebuild a world in terms of spiritual and human values—in terms of what the ordinary man feels and wants in his personal and orivate life
mR. Eden's recent references in
the Commons to former Italian possessions have not been made more acceptable to the Italians by the suggestion that their people should join the Allies against Japan when the war in Europe is over; Italy has no interests of its own in the Far East. There is even a certain sardonic element in the suggestion. It was the indifference of the Western Powers to Japan's aggressive action in Manchuria in the early thirties which first revealed the weakness of the League of Nations and encouraged the belief that such predatory enterprises as Mussolini's invasion of Abyssinia might be regarded with the same apathy—a belief that proved correct.
Italians are right in asserting that a distinction must be made between Fascist acquisitions and possessions secured in pre-Fascist days, but the distinction is political rather than moral. This appliei to the islands of the Dodecanese and the fonder Turkish territories of Tripoli and Cyrenaica, which later became the Italian colony of Libya. It was sonie time before Mussolini appeared on the scene, even before the last war, to be precise, on September 26, 1911, that the Italian Government of those days presented Turkey with an ultimatum demanding recognition of an Italian occupation of Tripoli and Cyrenaica. War followed and Italy, in addition to seizing Libyan ports, took over the Dodecanese.
Italian imperialism, in fact, was not the creation of Mussolini, though he gave it a grandiose character it did not previously possess. The seizure from Turkey of Libya was of the same character as the later seizure of Abyssinia and Albania. Morally speaking, they belong to the same category.
Nevertheless, the suggestion that Italy should he bereft of the earlier fruits of her imperialist policy as well as of its later products raises delicate questions. And if any country needs colonies to give elbow-room to a rising and vigorous population it is Italy. If the final settlement is to be based, as regards aggressive action, on retrospective considerations, this might prove awkward for the victorious Allies themselves.
LIBYA AND PALESTINE
THE future of that strip of the North African coast formerly governed by Italy is, of' course, only one of the many delicate questions which will have to be settled at the end of the war. If the Italian claims are disallowed, the question arises as to what Power or Powers shall be held responsible for its government. The Atlantic Charter declares that the Allies desire no territorial gains, which would seem to rule out what otherwise might seem the obvious solution.
The only remaining claimant would be the native Arab population, which, no doubt, would be glad to regain its freedom after the withdrawal of the hated Italians. But, hated though they were, it is to the credit of the Italians that they did at least rescue from sterility a country which was once " the granary of Europe " and might be again a richly productive area. Is Libya, in order to honour native rights, to be allowed to sink back to its former condition? The question overlooks the fact that the Arab peoples are waking up to both the privileges and responsibilities of self-government, as is evident from the Pan-Arab talks that have been taking Place in Alexandria. At this conference are representatives of all the Arab States, including one from Palestine.
The presence of this Palestinian delegate may be taken as an indication that the problem presented by the conflicting claims of Jew and Arab will be under consideration. In the last five years Jewish settlers have brought under cultivation no less than 125.000 acres, of which 15,000 were acquired last year. They are thus adding to the productivity of the Middle East besides offering a home for sorely harassed refugees from Nazi-occupied countries. It scarcely seems to be practical politics to restore Palestine to the Arabs, but it might do something to soothe Arab susceptibilities if a measure of independence were granted to the Libyan native peoples.