ITALY LEAVES THE LEAGUE Principles By Which To Judge Fascism
A Christian Analysis
By The Editor
asserted her mastery over the heart of China, but in the very hour of her success she has blundered to the extent of uniting Britain, America and, to some extent, even Germany against her behaviour. There seems little doubt that for the moment Japan is out of the picture. Having aroused the united resentment of the great Powers by her mistakes, she is likely to take every measure to protect for the moment their trade interests so as to have time during which to digest China and to secure her conquest. It will be some years before she will count again for much in the AntiKomintern Pact, and when that time comes it will be as the mistress of the East, not as an ally of Western Powers, that she will deliver her challenge.
Russia, on the other hand, has strengthened her internal position as a result of her elections. Stalin has undoubtedly achieved a brilliant coup. The elections mark the apparent end of even the idea of Communism in Russia. Every active Communist has been killed or imprisoned and the socalled alliance of the Bolshevist Party and non-party people has established a pure Stalin dictatorship enthusiastically endorsed by the Russian people in the kind of election which the totalitarian States have devised. Such an election is the exact counterpart of the old referendum in democratic countries, according to which all vote for or against a single person and policy, both having been previously decided upon without reference to the people. With modern methods of propaganda it is possible for any established and ruthless tyranny to secure virtual unanimity in its own support by this device.
It is extremely likely that Stalin will isolate himself more and more from the rest of the world, strengthening himself meanwhile against the eventual challenge of Japan. But this will not be a serious menace to him for some years, and meanwhile he, like Japan, will be more out of the picture than he has been.
There is only left the theatrical gesture of Mussolini who, in leaving the League of Nations, has made certain that Germany will never return to any Geneva system.
Though this may, at first sight, seem to he a heavy blow to the hopes of the statesmen who have been conferring together, it is more likely to weaken than strengthen Italy and Germany, while it removes the dangerous temptation to rely any longer on the Russo-French-British alliance in the disguise of an international morality.
France and Britain, together with their allies, will have to look forward instead of backwards. This is the real significance of the conversations which, if still very far from being conversions, are, by comparison with what has been, the first steps towards conversions, simply because they are looking to the future and not resting on a dead past. It also account's for their healthily vague and uncertain nature.
Quite possibly we shall enjoy an interlude of comparative settlement for some months, during which the opportunity to settle Europe without much reference to Russia or the Far East will be given.
Success will depend upon the ability of French and British statesmen to see two truths that mark the break with the past. The first is that Russia's attempt to play a European part has been disastrous to Europe, but not sufficiently disastrous for Russia's purpose. Stalin will be only too thankful if we help him to leave the European scene and to break with the disruptive extreme Left elements in European countries which the receding Russian tide has left high and dry. Secondly, our statesmen must realise that the best, indeed the only way, to come to a satisfactory understanding with Germany and Italy will be to convince those powers that these disruptive elements count for nothing and that the danger of Communism in Western Europe is over. But they will not be convinced unless the break with Russia is definite and the Left elements, deserted by Russia, are helped to die of inanition.
ITALY'S leaving the League makes little practical difference to the political situation, but it is an important gesture which demonstrates the strength of Fascism, confirms the new alignment of the great Powers and points towards an adventurous future the nature of which, as Mussolini said, " cannot yet be completely forecast."
Writing last week, only a few days before Signor Mussolini snapped out to the Roman crowds his denunciation of the League, our Rome correspondent said : " The Italian Government is entirely opportunist with regard to the Church and completely indifferent to the Catholic Faith. In fact, there has been very noticeable recently what would appear to be an influence of German neo-paganism on the Italian Government."
The attitude of the Catholic Press in this country towards Italy and her present allies has been misunderstood among both Catholics and non-Catholics.
Yet no other Press, national, provincial or religious, has been able to approach the difficult political puzzles of our day with clearer ideas and a greater objectivity. In our judgment, we have based ourselves on three main principles: (i) that in the long run the values of our civilisation can only be preserved if the teaching of Christianity is preserved; (ii) that the ideal of liberty divorced from reason, revelation, and a rightly instructed conscience is a snare; and (iii) that every human being, made in the image and likeness of God and destined for an immortality the nature of which depends upon the use he freely makes of his life, has a right, equal to that of anybody else's, to the conditions of Life in which he can grow to full manhood, spiritually, socially and physically, and continue thus to live a full human life.
It is not surprising if, in applying these principles quite rigidly, we have not been biassed in favour of the secularist democracies or the League, all of which divorce civilisation from Christianity, seek licence to do evil as well as liberty to do good, and make the happiness of .the individual dependent on the hazards of the international money market. Does this absence of bias in favour of one side involve a bias in favour of the other, the side we call the " aggressor " side?
In the light of the above principles we have seen certain values in Fascist Italy which have been hidden by feeling and prejudice from most of our fellow-citizens, but we have seen equally clearly certain grave faults.
In the first place, Italy is a country where full Christian worship exists and where the moral teaching of Christianity is safeguarded by the State. Further, under the Fascist regime, there has been, whether by coincidence or, to some extent, by consequence, a notable religious revival. if it is true that the preservation of the values of our civilisation in the long run must depend upon the preservation of Christian dogma and morals, then the presumption must be that where that dogma and morals are safeguarded, the future is, other things being equal, fairly hopeful. This is all the more likely to be the case when the regime succeeds to an era of disintegration and unbelief.
Secondly, there is a chance that where a regime of stern order and authority with some Christian inspiration follows disorder and laxity, and where it contrasts with licence and anarchy in other countries populated by people of similar temperament. there will reign a truer ideal of human liberty, which means liberty to see and live by ordered truth rather than by individualist delusions.
And, thirdly, as far as can be ascertained, a real attempt in Italy is being made to order public and social life in such a way as to ensure for every inhabitant that education and those material conditions of life which will enable him to found a family, to earn a decent living by the sweat of his brow, and thus to exercise certain essential human powers in this life and to save his soul in the next. These same conditions are by no means assured in some countries that may seem more prosperous and more free.
THE OTHER SIDE
But this is very far from being the whole story. There is another side to the question. It is good that Christian dogma and morals should be safeguarded by the State, but, just because of the vital necessity to mankind of that dogma and moral teaching, the Church can never be satisfied to become wholly dependent upon the goodwill and protection of the State. There is evidently the gravest danger when the State claims to be all-powerful, and where the life and will of that all-powerful State is concentrated into the hands of one man whose will can be made effective by his command of the highly centralised technique of modern social organisation. However much that man-State may today see the necessity of protecting religion, there is nothing to prevent it changing its mind tomorrow. Should it do so, the power it has acquired and the machinery of men, propaganda and arms which it controls can be turned upon the Church to crush her. All this is evil, as compared even with the more subtle forms of persecution in democratic States where at least the fundamental law of the land and the traditional rights of groups and peoples tend to prevent or at least delay any success in crushing Christianity.
On the other hand, one has to remember two things: (1) The soundest democracies are far more totalitarian than they seem, and they are growing more so, not so much because of the will of their leaders, but because of the centralisation and socialisation of all modern life. (2) A long period of genuine, even though arbitrary, protection of religion by a totalitarian State does mean a thorough religious training of individual Christians. Should the dictator change his mind, he will not find it so easy to stamp upon the plant that has grown strong under his care. If Mussolini were really to go Hitler's way—and our Roman correspondent already sees signs of this— he might well find, even with all the help at his disposal, that it will be he and not the Pope who will have to vacate Rome permanently.