IT will be generally conceded that
the Franco-Russian Pact will tend to strengthen the internal position of the French Government. We don't know of any other advantage that is to be gained from it, and that single advantage may not endure. All depends on the course of political events in France. If the de Gaulle regime can overcome the formidable obstacles in its way, notably in gaining control over the dissident elements in the country and in surmounting the immense difficulties in the way of economic and social recovery, then the Russian alliance will afford it a degree of external strength otherwise lacking. For it seems clear that at the moment Soviet Russia really prefers the stability of a legal Government in France to the civil war and anarchy that might well result from any attempt openly to challenge its authority. France is certainty not in a position (as America and Britain are) to interfere with any Russian designs, whereas open disorder in France might well involve a British and American intervention which could ultimately strengthen the European position of these great Powers should it come to sa showing of hands.
On the other hand it is far from certain that the French Government will be able to weather the political and economic storms that must be expected in a period of transition from the sufferings of peace to whatever new order may emerge. If it cannot, the value of the Russian alliance will be transferred to a Communist or quasi-Communist regime that is likely to take over. Even as things are the prestige accruing from the alliance is, from the internal point of view, as likely to strengthen the Communist and the dissident F.F.I. as to strengthen the Government. In the end everything in France depends on the Government's ability to make itself recognised and obeyed through its giving real evidence of getting down to work and giving the people of France what they long for : constructive leadership and efficient Government. There is a great danger that the Russian alliance. while adding little that is concrete to the Government's position, will, together with the victories and the purges, help to distract Frenchmen from the real job they must tackle: the job of recovery from long years of political corruption and social abuse and from the defeat to which they lcd. And any such sclfdeluding distractions will lead to disaster again. At least Vichy was not guilty of that mistake!
A Deeper View ONE analyses the Franco-Russian alliance from the short-sighted view of the secularist political game— and even from that angle it does not seem to be worth so very much. From another and far deeper point of view we believe it to be a profoundly mistaken policy. Russia is a country which avowedly puts its trust in pagan force, whether internally in its dealings with its own citizens or externally in its relations with other nations. There is nothing surprising or, in these days, scandalising in that. It has been the effective behaviour of the great Powers since the Reformation, and Russia to-day only differs from other great Powers in the past in not pretending otherwise. (To be quite fair one must admit that the outward tribute paid to the relics of the Faith by the Western Powers did sometimes serve as a check to their ambitions and did to some extent guide them in a humanitarian and reformist direction.) Moreover no one in his senses supposes that power politics will not remain for many generations a factor of the utmost importance in history. The trouble to-day, howevei, is that the money and the big guns and the natural wealth no longer are at the exclusive disposal of the Powers of Western Europe To-day they are monopolised by Russia and America. Oddly enough we have reached the stage when the chief real wealth of Western Europe is to be found in its spiritual traditions, so long neglected, and its cultural inheritage. The Nash were clever enough to realise this, and that is why they honestly attempted to strengthen the German Empire by incorporating
into it French culture and intelligence. This tradition and culture which naturally aims at a rational and democratic order of society, based upon the spiritual personality of every citizen, should be opposed to compromise with a more primitive regime which appeals to force as the only arbiter of human behaviour. And this is only another facet of the Christian teaching that you have no right to lend your aid to what is evil and unjust.
The Asset of the West BUT to these considerations there is added to-day the more obvious one that unless the weakened Western Powers come together to protect their heritage and to strengthen it by mutual relations of friendship and understanding, they must be swamped by their more aggressive and primitive rivals, Britain and France arc relatively weak Powers, but they have an immense mutual interest in becoming common leaders in the work of protecting and defending the spiritual and cultural heritage of Europe, not only because or its intrinsic worth, but because it is their greatest remaining asset. It links them with Italy, Spain, much of Central Europe, Poland, the; Scandinavian and Low Countries and with immense tracts of Western and Southern Germany. Britain has been obliged to work closely with Russia and has been rightly glad to feel that in the sharing of sacrifice against a common enemy something of a new spiritual link has been forged with Russia. But it is a grave mistake to overestimate the strength and value of the link. France owes much less. And it is in the vital interest of both Powers to subordinate the wider and more superficial understandings with Soviet Russia to the far more serious work of preserving the great asset of Western Europe: faith in the moral vocation of the human being, member of a society ordered towards spiritual and cultural values. And. in preserving these, Britain and France take the only possible step towards strengthening themselves to meet the dangers of the future.
And it we are told that good Catholic statesmen are the architects of the Franco-Russian alliance, we shall retort by reminding our critic that once upon a time a Cardinal was the chief architect of an alliance between France and the Protestant Powers which ultimately resulted in the rise of modern Germany!
VERNON BARTLETT IN SPAIN REAL friends of Spain may well be grateful to Vernon Bartlett for his comments on the country in the News Chronicle this week. Those who sec no good at all in the Spanish regime may, by the way, ponder over the tact that Vernon Bartlett, well-known Liberal of a strongly anti-Franco tendency, was accorded a Spanish visa and allowed to see for himself. And Vernon Bartlett has played fair. The picture he brings back is something very different from the caricature that is current in the pink press, and not least in the News Chronicle itself.
He describes a tired and dissatisfied people who for the most part would be glad to be rid of the present dictatorial and inquisitorial regime, but who nevertheless prefer it to a second bout of civil war. And a good many, it is clear, wonder whether it may not even be preferable to the kind of liberation achieved by the Allied arms. But he also makes it evident that there is no sympathy in Spain with the exiled Republican leaders and indeed no serious popular movement against the Government. He makes the interesting point that General Franco's recent reference to an " organic democracy " (thought such a joke in Britain) was greeted as a criticism of the Falangists. Movrehists, army groups and Catalans, these have ideas abgiut making a change, but it does not amount to very much more. The subject of the famous Franco prisons only inspires Bartlett to writing up the mistaken merits of a good Falangist Governor!
All this responds in fundamentals to the views we have taken in this column. Franco did a necessary piece of work in challenging the revolutionary coup (as we to-day are challenging ELAS in Greece). But the price was heavy. Challenge in the name of force usually establishes another reign of force, and Franco, fine general as he is, has not proved great enough to steer Spain from the rocks of the crisis-regime into the calmer waters of constitutional government. And it must be said that the times did not help him. Yet the transition sooner or later must be made. It would be infinitely more helpful to the people of Spain and of Europe generally if our " liberal " columnists would help the Spaniards to evolve a moderate regime, whether monarchist or republican, but in harmony with their religious convictions, instead of inciting the unwanted " Reds " to promote a civil strife from without which will bring increased misery to the Spanish people and inevitably bring another dictatorship. We hope that Mr. Bartlett • will give the right lead.
THE CHINESE SITUATION AT a time when wintry weather is slowing up the Allies' advance in Europe and Greece has presented them with problems of both a political and military kind, it is discouraging to find that, after seven years' fighting, the Chinese armies seem LO have exhausted their strength. The Japanese threat to Chungking, the nerve-centre of our ally's war-effort, has been checked by the advance of forces from the north-west, the quarter of China between which and Chungking there has been friction owing to the former's leanings towards Communism. But, in spite of this check, the threat that the enemy may be able to cut the route from Burma remains grave. it is undoubtedly the Japanese hope, now that she has been beaten at sea and sees the prospect of Japan itself being invaded, to divert America's military strength to China, and, at the same time, obtain so firm a hold on Chinese territory that it may be necessaes, for the Allies, at the peace settlemeut, to concede her some portion of it.
References are being made constantly in the press and by the B.B.C. to the
lighting qualities of the Japanese soldier, his tenacity and reckless sacrifices. These qualities, no doubt, are inborn, but they arc strongly reinforced by the problem of overcrowding which the Japanese Empire with a population, according to the 1935 census, of 97,000,000, had to solve. The struggle to obtain a foothold in China has been going on since 1894. In 1931 Japan invaded Manchuria, and then, six years later, launched a full-scale attack on China itself. To account for this persistent effort, it is not enough to refer to Japanese aggressiveness. As her statesmen see it, an outlet, either in the direction of Australia or China, is a matter of life or death. It is that belief which gives so determined a character to Japanese resistance, and in reckoning the probable length of the war in the Far East, we must reckon with this factor.
MACHINERY OF HEALTH SERVICE
THERE is instructive matter in the report of the meetings just held of the British Medical
Association, but particularly in the discussions which took place concerning the administrative aspects of the National Health Service. 1of for the first time, strong protest as made against that section of the scheme which gives large controlling powers to local bodies, the Association demanding categorically that " the profession should not be controlled by the local authority." The same professional suspicion of public authorities was expressed in the declaration that the central administrative body responsible to the Ministry should be " predominantly medical." A different point of view governs the Report presented to the Labour Party for discussion at its annual Conference. Here we find it laid down that " all &actors in the new scheme, general practitioners and specialists as well, should be appointed and paid by representatives of the people—the new joint authorities." The question at issue is not on all fours with that concerning the State's control of industry. In the medical profession we have a body whose interest in maintaining the national health is scientific rather than financial. The British Medical Association has already shown its willingness and ability to set its own house in order without help from outside. Its plan of regional organisation, which is working efficiently, and its acceptance of the scheme for grouping practitioners indicate that it is fully alive to the need of bringing its professional machinery up to date. On the other hand, the comparative inefficiency of institutions over which the local authority exercises a dominating control is notorious. Particularly is this the case in regard to nursing staff and expenditure on necessary medical equipment.
Nevertheless, it has to be recognised that the expert out of touch with public opinion and owing no allegiance to public authorities may be only a little less dangerous than the capitalism whose profiteering motive meets with no check. Especially to-day is there need to co-ordinate the work of the medical profession with that of other sections of the community. The conception of a health service as mainly preventive increases greatly the number of agencies with which those mainly responsible come in contact. The Ministry for Food legislating regarding the composition of our bread and the Minister for Education providing school meals are only two instances of the waS, in which the question of national health is bound up with problems arising in other departments.