Page 4, 16th March 1945

16th March 1945
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Page 4, 16th March 1945 — CORRESPONDENTS' reports
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CORRESPONDENTS' reports

from the Rhineland are already .throwing more light on conditions in Germany than all the theorising and all the research of six years of warfare. And what is being discovered corresponds very' closely to what has been constantly suggested in these columns on the basis, not of specialised information, hut Christian commonsense.

It is clear that the liberated Germans —why deny the word " liberated " in an instance where everything really does correspoqd to a genuine liberation from a slave-driving regime?— are meat women and children like our-* selves and not monsters of animals. It is clear that they are desperately tired and sickened by years of war's battering and the bullying encouragement of their harsh masters who have nothing to lose. It is clear that if ever men and women were punished for the mistake of putting their hopes in a otalitarian tyranny. t yen when that yranny seemed to promise relief from 'he economic distresses consequent on -nilitary defeat. then these wretched 'outs have been long since punished. It is clear that to them the hoarse and tmpty shouts of nationalistic " no stirender " have no meaning except when ;twitted at the pistol point. It is clear that our soldiers stumbling their way teross the wastes of formerly pros-wrong towns and villages and meeting 'chow-human beings with their wives, :hildren and pitiful homely possessions -eyed from the devastation have in 'heir hearts nothing but human pity for hem.

How remote from the abstract poll;les of comfortably-placed politicians ind journalists does this glimpse of the ealities of war seem!

And arc these helpless people guilty In the meaning of the sonorous and -ightecnis phrases beloved by statesnen? Yes and no. They are guilty af the feebleness and weakness of auman nature, especially when it acts Ls a herd. They are guilty, as we are guilty, of putting their trust in princes who care little for the condition of the ordinary man and less than nothing for moral truths. They are guilty of a naive faith in the possibility of making a prosperous and stable world through nationalism, the assertion of force, hero-worship, preferring Caesar to God.

But they are not guilty of personallychosen. crafty and dark designs to murder their neighbours. to lord it over their fellow-human beings. to • destroy the beauty and order of God's creation. They are no more guilty of such criminal designs than we are. Weakness, folly, ignorance, a failure to live up to spiritual and moral principles, these are the sins of men in the herd to-day wherever they be. And their proper cure is certainly not any intention on the part of victors to deny them the trsaterial conditions within which they !Pan rise a little out of the despair of defeat and frustration.

Our Responsibility

f ET us face the position as people of " Christian commonsense. We may take it that we shall meet much the same conditions all over Germany. The exceptions will be the still disciplined German armies. acting not with a will that is really human but with the machine-like energy that discipline gives; a proportion of the members of the Nazi Party. still loyal to their fanatical faith: adventurers of every type, whether of the capitalist or the political variety, looking to the main chance of feathering their own nests from the wreckage around them: and all who believe that there can be nothing left for them to lose.

It is to be expected that out of these elements under the leadership of fanatics, adventurers and extreme patriots or ideologists, a core of protracted resistance can be formed. Ultimately they will go underground, 'there to plan for the future and probably to quarrel among themselves. But let us not for get, as we suggested many months ago, that from this fanatic group there will issue in due course appeals to the German people calculated to attack those very human weaknesses and follies to which in not such dissimilar circumstances that people succumbed after the last defeat. Every romantic deceit. every plausible slogan of false patriotism. every appeal to sentiment. loyalty, history, devotion, personal, faith will be made.

What will be the response? It all depends on us. If we stamp upon the people of Germany, if we humiliate them beyond measure. if we pronounce them guilty of what they know themselves not to be guilty, if we fail to set going the wheel of normal economic life in conditions of decency so soon as it is physically possible, then we shall be powerfully assisting in the creation of the great legend (literally fairy-tale ) which sooner or later will be converted. if not into actual war (the conditions may make that impossible for fifty years and more) then into troubles and unrest that will make anything but a totalitarian. epforced, inhuman armistice impossible in our life-times.

Christianity in these conditions is not an esoteric,. other-wordly fancy: it is a pitiless scientific law in which evil consequences inevitably follow evil or stupid deeds.

The Other Danger WHAT was written in the above two notes was written without reference to another danger to which it would be folly to close our eyes. Though time is running short, if a new and truly representative Polish Government is to be formed to take its place at the San Francisco Conference, there is no news of any progress having been made and indications at least that the test which Britain and America have risked is not likely to be very successful. Though the Lublin Committee was chosen as the basis of the new formation (a monstrous injustice thus being inflicted on the real Polish Government to which the armed forces of fighting Poland have pledged allegiance) we have heard of nothing to suggest that Lublin is prepared to work with the leaders of the established Polish parties and the representatives of the masses of the Poles in Poland. The accusations against and threats to a man like M. Mikolajczyk continue, and in these conditions it is hard to see how any invitations to the present Polish Ministers (required by any democratic standard) could even be made.

No less sinister are the recent events in Rumania, where there appears to be a deliberate provocation of political, social and economic trouble which is always the classical prelude to a solution by the Communist salvation. in Bulgaria, as well as in Rumania. there is the threat. as well as the actuality, of the liquidation by process of antiFascist • trial of anyone who might get in the way of a full-blooded Communist revolution. Tito's latest pronouncement leads the Observer to %peak of " no specifical guarantee" and of " guarded and somewhat equivocal language," while in Italy the Communists hold up political progress through their refusal to commit themselves to a democratic future in any Western sense of the word.

There have been persistent attempts to write up Stalin and the Russians as having no further interest in foreign adventures or the spread of Communism, but the facts continue to suggest that the Communists are not only ready to fish in troubled waters, but are intent on troubling them so as to make .the fishing easier. In the very best conditions that are thinkable the waters of Germany are bound to be troubled for a long time. Any intensive Soviet fishing cannot but have disastrous consequences for anyone who believes in freedom and the survival of the Western way of life. We wish matters were otherwise. '

FAMILY ALLOWANCES

DEEP satisfaction will surely be felt by all Catholics at the unopposed second reading of the Family Allowances Bill. This measure crowns with success a campaign which Catholics instinctiaely supported all the way. Indeed the proposed allowances fall short of what most of us think necessary.

Our prejudice would be in favour of the allowances being wholly in cash. By and large we trust the parents rather than the State to use the money wisely and in thc best interests of the children. Far too much is made of the occasional had or weak parent who gets written up where the thousands of good ones are forgotten because they never make news. We do not entirely agree with those who hold that the allowances should be exempted from income tax. Income tax is a much needed deflationary measure and it serves to correct the unequal distribution of wealth. We would prefer to see higher allowances subject to income tax than lower ones exempt from it. If people once get into the habit of thinking of income apart from the tax, they increase the inflation danger by setting up standards of income that are plainly false. It is like employees or writers arguing that the £20 they receive in payment for work done is really only £10 and blaming the employer for underpayment. When tax takes off half, it wbuld of course be pleasant if all payments weredoubled, but naiionally it is a" ruinous suggestion.

On the other hand there is an obvious failure on the part of the State to appreciate the fact that allowances, gratuities. pensions. etc., arc a means of increasing purchasing power when the time comes for commercially exploiting the vast increase of real capital which the war has made possible. We are in danger of falling between two stools: inflating still further. through. allowances and gratuities, now or immediately after the war before industry has been restored; and then deflating through insufficient purchasing power to take up the expansion of trade and industry a few years after the war.

GENERAL ELECTION

THE progress made by the Allies

on the two chief fronts has revived anticipations of a General Election and of an end to the party truce. We have argued on several occasions in favour of maintaining that truce, but if it should be ended. there would be still a way of preserving at least a measure of the co-operation that has worked so well during the

VW.

Left-wing critics of the present Government are constantly asserting that virtually it is controlled by Conservative interests. 4ccepting this view as correct for the sake of argument, it would be possible (if politicians put country before party) for Government confessedly and officially Conservative to establish itself on a similarly broad basis, issuing a cornprehensive programme and co-opting members from other Parties. • Mr. Churchill's address to the Party Conference this week will possibly outline the programme on which he wishes to go to the country. and it will then be seen whether Conseivatives are prepared to broaden their basis as suggested in a manner which would allow then"' to utilise the services of, say, Mr. Morrison and Mr. Attlee. Supposing that. in the forthcoming election, a majority is secured by the Labour Party, it would be equally open to it to act in a similar manner and to find places in the Cabinet formed for a proportion of representatives from the ranks of the other two Parties. For our part we think there is a good deal to he said for Lady Astor's 15oint, made in Parliament last week. that the best Government would be one comprised of the Left-wing of the Tories and the Right-wing of Labour.

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

MR. Bernard Shaw's letter to the

, Times pleading for what he regards as more humane methods of administering the death penalty has been followed by other letters urging the abolition of capital punishment altogether. Taking as an instance " the case of a girl whose mental condiaion unfits her to live in a civilised community," G.B.S. argued for the anplication of euthanasia "for all idiots and intolerable nuisances, not punitively, but as a necessary stroke of social economy." Further correspondence on the subject supported capital punishment as a deterrent or else denied that it served as such.

What emerged from the letters in question, whether they came from those who would abolish the death penalty or from those who would maintain it, was the absence of any clear idea as to the grounds on which the State kills the killer. Whether the motive is purely punitive on the principle of " an eye for an eyg and a tooth for a tooth," or that of ridding society of a dangerous person is left in uncertainty. If it is the former, it is obvious that the "liquidation " of idiots and intolerable nuisances would be unjustifiable, if the latter, life-bug imprisonment would serve the same Purpose.

The problem is wider than that of the individual who has murdered another individual. At the present time those described as " collaborators" are being shot on a large scale and in many countries. Press and platform ring with demands for the punishment of a whole nation on the ground that it is an international criminal. The general public argues on this side or that according to its feelings or sentiments. never on a carefully considered and fundamentally based ethic. The controversy is one which must contintie until some definite standard of conduct in such matter* is accepted, and, strange as it may seem to people, the answers will be found hi any standard Catholic text book on ethics,




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