Questions of the week
Michael de la Bedoyere
THERE" is no respite for the
Church behind the Iron Curtain.
Recent events in Czechoslovakia and Poland make it amply clear that the satellite Communist Governments are only worried by the necessity of timing the dee= of persecution with the process of "reeducating" the people to passivity in the face of this step by step undermining of the authority and prestige of their traditional religious pastors.
This must be a relatively slow process, more especially as the Communist leaders appreciate perfectly well the widespread detestation of the regime by the majority of the people for political, economic as well as religious reasons. Yet so great are the power and resources within the hands of modern tyrannies that it is easy to invent accusations and stage trials which throw churchmen into disrepute and consequently gradually weaken the Church's spiritual authority.
Just because the Church can only maintain its moral influenee by remaining true to its highest standards. it will always remain vulnerable to any trickery which can plausibly present it in a bad light.
And by the time the Church's moral authority is undermined, it is far too late for the people to resist the increasingly naked tyranny of the State, for they have been tricked into losing the one spiritual and moral buttress strong enough to resist the oppressor.
All Communists realise this perfectly well. and that is why they can never give up this subtle form of persecution which opens the way towards the complete conversion ot a country into a Communist concentration camp.
THUS it is very short-sighted of
Western Governments to try. if possible, to overlook this religious persecution whenever there appears to be a chance of negotiat ing with the Communist State.
If religion remains oppressed and spiritually impotent — note that "spiritually ' in this context includes moral authority and influence over social and political matters — then We know that dictator concerned need not respect God or man in any of his future actions.
At present a big effort is being made to turn the Communist dictator Tito into a respectable gentleman. and he was certainly made to appear so by the Times correspondent who interviewed him last week and carefully refrained from raising with him
the question of religious freedom in Yugoslavia.
No question was asked about some ten vacant Sees in Tito's dominion and two Bishops in prison. including the venerable Primate of Zagreb.
Negotiations over the future of Trieste roust doubtless proceed on a so-called realist basis and without reference • to religious and moral questions, even though one of the parties is Catholic Italy; but wider questions of general settlement and friendship between Tim's Communist Yugoslavia and any free country will prove perilous for the latter and the rest of the free world, if there is a conspiracy to turn a bind eye on that best security for the pledged word of an autocratic ruler, namely the reiigious, spiritual and moral freedom of the peoples he rules.
Italy, of all countries, should realise that the otherwise highly desirable settlement with the country across the Adriatic which stands between the West and the Russiandominated East must depend on solid guarantees of Yugoslavian good faith. Internally. Italy has had sufficient experience of the value of dictators and totalitarian parties which either use religion as their tool or persecute it.
Let us not make the mistake or supposing that the Polithureau is the specific evil element in Commun ism. Its specific evil element lies in its rejection of the spiritual and moral nature of the human beings who make up a society, and consequently of basic law and freedom.
Tito finds it convenient to pose as a gentleman. now that he has quarrelled with Moscow ; but the root idea of the gentleman is the original " free-mart who enjoys the respon sibilities and benefits of a society based on law. Until Tito sees fit to recognise his people as free-men it will be wiser to keep him at arm's length.
e Sterling' News
SURPRISINGLY little import ance has been attached to Sir Stafford Cripps' recent news that for the first time since the beginning of the war, a quarter's trading has shown a surplus on gold and dollar payments, namely the surplus of 40 million dollars for the first three months of this year.
When this surplus of 40 million dollars is compared with the deficit of 1,171 million dollars for April to September last year, we have an idea of the sensational reversal of trend that has occurred in the course of a year.
No doubt, political reasons. such as the desire not to restrain American Marshall Aid just at the time when a new sum was to be voted by Congress, accounts in part for the quiet way in which this news has been publicised. Moreover, it is too early to be sure that this surplus will coni 'nu e.
Still, given the excitement with which the Government is accustomed to blazon forth far less striking good news than this. one is astonished at the restraint.
Though the immediate effects of devaluation in releasing orders for sterling goods held up because of the expectation that it would fall in value still account in part for the surplus. the fundamental causes for the reversal of trend have to he sought elsewhere, and consequently
look more permanent. One chief 'cause is economy in dollar imports, in part because of the increasing cost of dollar goods.
Increased sales to the United States resulting from the devaluation of sterling have not yet resulted in the earning of more actual dollars than before devaluation, but they are rising. Other factors include sterling's giving a better account of itself in European trading with gold countries and improvement in "invisible" exports from sterling to dollar countries.
THESE factors suggest that the upward trend has a good chance of continuing so that be
fore Marshall Aid comes to an end we shall come at least within easily measurable distance of standing again on our own feet.
Is it just possible that this objective, so desirable and necessary for the country, is not wholly to the taste of the Labour Government, and that therefore the latter sees no reason to make a great fuss about the steps taken towards this goal ?
This may sound fantastic. yet we should remember that if and wh,pn this country becomes fully solvent again, and if and when production and goods at home become sufficiently plentiful to bring prices down again, the Labour or Socialist ideal of a carefully planned and controlled society will lose its chief excuse.
The Britisher is the last person in the world to love planning and control for the sake of planning and control.
He is anything but a natural Socialist, though he admits the value of some social control. Indeed it could be argued that even the degree of socialism under which we now live would never have been supported by a majority of the British people if the experiment had not coincided with war and a post-war economic situation which made it absolutely inevitable that the Government should assume immense controlling powers and direct all the basic features of the people's lives.
Exchange control, labour control, rationing. production control, all these, quite unavoidable in the economic circumstances, have also powerfully helped the whole socialisation experiment.
When they become economically unnecessary, there may very well be an immensely powerful resistance to all socialist and planning control as well as the loss by the Government of the most effective instruments of control, namely control over money, trade and labour.
If this is the case, it would not be altogether surprising if the Labour Government looked forward with some misgiving to the final solution of the economic troubles which have beset the country for ten years.
At any rate one wonders how far it has planned the further control and development of the Welfare State when it finds itself without the economic powers it has so long enjoyed and unable to persuade a majority of the people to allow it to assume new ones.
Nehru — Ali Khan
yet, it is quite impossible to judge the success or otherwise of the greatest experiment in moving from dependent to independent status, namely the change from Indian Empire to the independent States of India and Pakistan.
Certainly the worst fears of the pessimists have not been realised. while the Indian and Pakistani leaders themselves have acknowledged the value of the powerful and equitable administrative machine which Britain created and which they have been able to take over.
One of the great questions is whether that machine can remain incorrupt, impartial and effective in the future.
The bitter rivalry between Hindu and Muslim was certainly not solved by the British, and today it remains enshrined in the existence of two antagonistic States and the grave minority problems within them. Unless there can be general "agreement to differ " peacefully throughout the sub-Continent its last state will be worse than it ever was under the firm but disinterested British rule.
Very much therefore depends on the very fine initiative taken by Pandit Nehru and Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan in agreeing to a constructive and peaceful solution of the minorities problems on the basis of human rights. dignities and freedoms.
The question is whether the people themselves can rise to idealism of their representatives and whether the Governments will possess a sufficient authority and impartiality to be able to implement the paper agreement in the infinitely difficult concrete situations to he settled.
The reel testing time for the subContine i in these and other matters lies aheai. hut it is blessed by leaders who thoroughly understand what is at stake and what has to be done.
The future depends on the people themselves—or at any rate that educated apd politically conscious section or them whose behaviour must be decisive.