Page 4, 17th December 1943

17th December 1943
Page 4
Page 4, 17th December 1943 — WHO ARE THE PEOPLE?
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WHO ARE THE PEOPLE?

"W m HO are the People?" Cal Brogan has. recently been asking. Some light on the difficulty of supplying an answer is to be derived from a study of the present situation in Central and Southern Europe, In Yugoslavia a provisional Government has been so up in opposition to the exiled legitimate Government of the King. This Government is said to represent some 200,000 Partisans who have risen up in arms against the occupying forces. and for this reason it has received the active support of the United Nations, as Mr. Eden explained. In neighbouring Czechoslovakia, however, we get a rather different picture. In this case there is steadfast United Nations support for the exiled Government of President Belles who has just signed a solemn treaty with Soviet Russia. the chief effect of which is to make impossible any solution of the Central European problem by the formation of a Confederation. The only way out now is for each of these smaller countries to imitate Benes' example and sign similar treaties with Soviet Russia, thus accepting the latter as the dominant Power of Eastern Europe.

That, however, is by the way. The interesting pOint for our purpose is that the people of Czechoslovakia, unlik the people of Yugoslavia, appear for the moment resigned to their fate. At any rate we hear of no active opposition to the occupying forces in any way comparable to Partisan activity, or, for that matter, to Chetnik activity in Yugoslavia. Moreover it is generally accepted that Benes in his long tenure of power has ruled with a strong hand in the interests of the Czechs with the consequence that any free plebiscite taken to-day within Czechoslovakian frontiers. as delimited at Versailles, would almost certainly unseat him.

However, in one case the active Partisans rising against a legitimate and allied Government are the people and in the other the quasidictatorship of an exiled Govern

ment represents the people. It is rather puzzling. Would it not be better to leave the "people " out altogether, since the plain truth is that the " people," whoever they may he. have nothing whatever to do with it?

Position of the Partisans

SOME of our readers may well be " puzzled at the interest which we are taking in the Yugoslavian muddle Let it he understood that we have no vested interest whatever in General Mihailovitch or even the Government of King Peter. On the contrary the pan-Serbian tendencies of the General and his supporters are hardly likely to meet with any active Catholic sympathy seeing that in the tragic war troubles the Serbs have often shown themselves very

hostile to the Croats. We would prefer to see better-founded bases for the autonomy of the Slovenes, and the Croats, though it must he admitted that these races did enjoy before the war a far better deal at the hands of royal Serbia than the Slovaks and other minorities at the hands of " democratic " Benes.

So far as all this goes our sYollpathy is also with the Partisan rank and file, the vast majority of whom are. non-political and extremely courageously engaged in making matters as difficult as possible for the Germans. And we must taks our hats off to the extreme skill of the Communists. who have been quick to seize their opportunity, as have Croat autonomists under Axis protection. The Communists have known how to cash in on the courage of the Yugoslavians. to organise and spread the resistance movement and to take complete charge of it. The Serbs have failed to anticipate the Communist tactics and to secure the leadership of the whole resistance movement. Consequently the pre sent position is that Yugoslavia is ripe for the establishment of Communist and quasi-Communist leadership,after the war. Naturally we should support the Partisans and all who maintain resistance against the enemy, but making it clear all the time that we know how to distinguish between this military resistance and the political capital that is being made out of it. Tactful representations to the Yugoslav Government at an earlier date might have been effective. Now it is very late But not too late to make clear at least that we have no greater sympathy with the political views of Tito and his friends than we have with the Communists of Great Britain who also are so active in their resistance to the enemy and in their desire to acquire a mob following, say, hi forcing Herbert Morrison out of Churchill's Cabinet. Is it so surprising that King ' Peter feels as badly about his troubles as Morrison does about the pin-pricks he hes to endure? Mr. Eden's speech suggests that the United Nations do attend to tackle the problem constructively at last. We shall see.

RUSSIA : OFFICIAL AND UNOFFICIAL

HAPPILY it is far too early to say " how matters will develop in the near future and after the war. It is widely expected that the main attack on the Axis will be delivered through the Balkans with the passive help of Turkey, now closely bourid up with the fortunes of the United Nations. Up till now it has been rumoured that Soviet Russia did not look with favour on this plan, but the imperative need to bring the war in the West to an early conclusion may have led her to accept a strategy that fits in better with the Mediterranean campaign and the invasion of Italy. Moreover there is every reason to expect that the Axis will find it particularly difficult to organise effective defence in the jumble of largely hostile countries from Greece to Hungary which guard her Southern approach. Should the war take this turn in the new year, the whole political situation in the Balkans and Central Europe will change radically. The political control of the territories will probably fall to a United Nations Commission on which Russia will naturally play an extremely important part. But there is all the difference in the world between Russia as an open and welcome partner in. an official commission and the present uncontrolled underground activities conducted by irresponsible extremists whose real relationship to the Soviet Government is a matter of speculation. Thus, we can already welcome the Russian intention to send a military mission to Yugoslavia. It is well to recall in this connection the fact that Russia has accepted a joint responsibility in the present Allied attitude towards Italy. Some of our discontented Leftists in Parliament and elsewhere who are always looking to Moscow might Trofitably remember this.

So far as we are aware. there has up till now been no officially stated act of Russian policy in regard to the war to which we could take a special exception. It is rather to the various hints put out as representing Russian intentions and, above all, to the unofficial activities of Communists and Russophil Leftists in many parts of Europe that we object.

THE WHEEL OF HISTORY

THE full text of the recent declara • tion of the American Bishops of the N.C.W.C. Administrative Board reveals it to have been a masterly document. In particular one welcomes the insistence that the Church cannot help be;ng intimately concerned with politics, both ipternafilarial and 'domestic. Strangely enough, one still comes across persons holding responsible Catholic positions who profess to be scandalised whenever they come across evidence of a Catholic concern with politics. And this scandal appears to be most easily taken by Americans. Thus we have received a number of letters from American chaplains who apparently take exception to the "political " character of this paper. Their ideal of Catholic outlook still appears to be the one which Hitler has taken such pains to enforce in Germany: a Catholicity carefully confined to the sacristy and mothers' meetings. We have got to realise the fact that the times when the world of politics and economics still rested against a moral background inherited from a Catholic order is over and done with. The world to-day is run from top to bottom in terms of one or other of the competing schools of secularism, and each of these is nothing more or less than a false religion, and an appallingly dangerous one at that. The fruits of embracing such false religions are all around us. Hence there is nothing surprising in the fact that the American Bishops, like the Holy Father, take the whole world and every nngle of domestic politics as their province. The distinction they make is not between one subject and another, but between the attitude " of pastors of souls and teachers of religion" and the attitude of politicians. Theirs is a purely spiritual and moral interest.

It is interesting to note how the wheel of history has come full circle. In the Middle Ages the Church made great claims over secular affairs sub ratione peccati. as they put it. During the long period of rigid separation between Church and State many a Christian almost blushed when he read of medieval Papal claims. But the world has made such a hash of trying to run things on a purely secularist basis that Catholics are finding themselves forced hack to a position that is far more in line with the medieval outlook than with that of the post-Reformation period.

EMPIRE AND COMMONWEALTH

THE announcement made by Mr. Mackenzie King, the Canadian Premier. that the Canadian Legations in Russia, China and Brazil are to be elevated to the rank of Embassies implies that the Dominion has achieved sovereignty. The achievement of this rank by the Dominions generally was, indeed, implied in General Smuts' references to them.

Haw far does that allow for the leadership of Britain in matters of foreign policy? Is what the General said about the necessity of leadership applicable to our own group of nations in this most crucial matter? It is obvious that conflicting interests may dictate different policies. The omission of any reference to China in his address was symptomatic of a South African conception of Asiatics which has already manifested itself in• the .laws governing the immigration to Natal of Hindoos. Such a difference, if perpetuated, is going to create a serious cleavage within the Commonwealth.

, Even more serious is the South African attitude towards the Negro.

While we are supposed to be fighting for a democratic system of Government, we have to remember that since the Representation of Natives Act in 1936 both Coloured and Native lost their right to elect nonEuropeans to the Cape Provincial Assembly. The Colour Bar Act of 1926, passed in obedience to pressure from trade unions, limits the granting of certificates. in certain skilled industries in a manner which altogether excludes the Bantu. Edueation and the administration of justice display a similar discrimination against the Native. General Smuts rightly described the Race and Colour Bar as one which is " going to test our wisdom, our farsightednds, our statesmanship, our humanity, probably for generations." But unless the Commonwealth is held together by common ideals in such affairs, under the system which he envisaged. what remains as a common bond?

THE WELLS CONTROVERSY

THE Wells controversy is now

closed, we suppose. Those who wish to study it can procure the booklet in which it has been described, adding to it the information given on the front page of this issue. It has really been a remarkable episode. A well-known writer issues a book fantastically attacking the deepest beliefs of large numbers of his own countrymen, including thousands serving ill the armed forces, and this book is so cheaply produced that it must inevitably fall into the hands of people accustomed to look upon the series in question as authoritative. When an attempt is made to reason with him, he skilfully evades the issue and when blatant errors in the book are pointed out, he can do no better than shrug his shoul ders. Apparently he is not even moved when he is furnished with evidence of the harm he is wantonly doing to his country's cause at a difficult moment in international affairs and when the similarity between his outlook and that of the enemy in its grosser propaganda is pointed out.

Wells, no doubt, is a particularly easy opponent, and one could not expect so bloodless a victory over a more skilful opponent. Still, the moral is there for all to see. These people do not relish being challenged because they are not interested in truth.

A critic, drawn from our own leading ranks, is inclined to object that neither are we Catholics interested in truth. He is found to congratulate an opponent like Coulton. for example, for making on one occasion ' a frank confession of error." But how he would throw up his .hands to high heaven if he ever detected a Catholic controversialist failing to bite the dust if he was ever caught out. It is always desirable that the truth should come out, but one might expect the same standard to be applied to one's own people and to one's common opponents. Wells has not confessed any errors, and in this he is far more typical of the opponents of the Faith than of its apologists.




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