Page 4, 18th April 1947

18th April 1947
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Page 4, 18th April 1947 — QUESTIONS OF THE WEE
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QUESTIONS OF THE WEE

By Miehael de la Iliedoyerc

Do You Recognise Yourselves)

ETE,R a few days . .

I began to see in my

mind's eye millions of pairs of hands, especially women's hands, clutching and greedily opening those wretched and often greasy little wrappings of food, some of them containing no more than perhaps four sausages (red, inferior beef sausages at that), or a couple of pounds of blackish meat, or a tin of spam, sonic oddment anyhow which is an addition to that allowed on points. Or another impression is that of a vast lunatic asylum in which all the inmates have the same type of mental alienation : food-famine, famine-food."

Or again : " The faces begin to haunt the stranger after a few days among them : battered, tired faces, gray, lined, prematurely aged, stamped with endurance, sorrowfully expectant, apprehensive. 1 happened to be burdened that week with a heavy cold and a cough which night after night made sleep impossible. One morning, looking sourly in the glass at my haggard visage and redrimmed eyes, I was suddenly inspired to be glad to the damaged appearance. At any rate,' I told myself. • in looking like one of them 1 am artistically correct.' " Or again : "Suddenly I knew that I had been permitted for an instant to take part in a terrific drama, a cataclysm of empire."

Is this Germany or Austria or Poland? No, fellow Londoners, it is you. food lunatics, ugly, dissolving dramatically! Of all the utter nonsense! Yet the writer is that gifted and wellloved Catholic author, Miss Alice Curtayne, reporting for the readers of the American Catholic weekly, Commonweal, a recent visit to London.

We have had to laugh at a good many troubles, these last eight years, and we can laugh once more at our patronising Irish visitor who tells us she had some difficulty in holding back her real thoughts when her London hostess was gracious enough to offer her two Danish eggs, the only ones she had seen " for the past few years "; but ludicrously exaggerated accounts like these, published abroad, can do much harm. When people cry " stinking fish " they come to be believed.

Miss Curtayne has doubtless had a very good war, and now that London has played its part in pulling off victory. she is doubtless enjoying a very good peace too, but her stamina is poor. A few days in London seems to have unbalanced her considerably more than eight years of dangers and difficulties have succeeded in unbalancing the still well-fed, smiling and pretty Cockney girls.

THE realism of Mr. Dalton's Budget speech lies not so much in the accounting and taxation changes, as in the frank admission of the danger of inflation at home and a disastrous trade balance with the rest of the world. It has long been clear that apart from the fantastic war expenditure, it is possible in a law-abiding and well-governed country to balance over the years any degree of expenditure by some degree of taxa

tion. This is largely a matter of figures, but it involves sharp rises or falls in general prices. Unfortunately, all prices are not equally vari able. Thus, while costs may rise steeply, and with them certain kind of profits, wages and salaries, pensions and most dividends move slowly or remain fixed. Sonic of this loss is balanced by free gifts in the way of social services or food and other subsidies, which in their turn increase prices. Such inequalities inevitably strain the morale of a people and promote all kinds gig evasions and measures designed tg" maintain control.

The question then becomes: how long can controls and measures of taxation keep pace with rising prices? Mr. Dalton is optimistic about the prospects of maintaining stiff cient control in this country, and he can even foresee an early need to stimulate inflation in order to prevent deflation. We hope he is right. But entirely separate from internal financial juggling is the prob'em of financing a sufficient volume of imports to keep the people fed and the wheels of industry turning. It is really an extraordinary thing that, despite the Chancellor's awareness of this most grave and urgent problem. he has (lone nothing visible about it except to impose an unexnectedly heavy. but timely, tax on tobseco. He has faced the question of food subsidies, but he has not met it, though here is in fact a steadily increasing financing of imports. It is no use saying that we cannot do with less imports, for we shall soon have to do with far less imports. Is it beyond the in"enuity of the Chancellor to control our internal finance in such a way as to stimulate home production and decrease imports? If so, what are we going to do in a year or two? held by a top of the column letter on " Conditions of Peace" and " Treatment of the Vanquished." The further he read, the more he felt that here at last was commonsense and practical Christianity—the sort of thing one had tried again and again to say in this paper, only far less effectively. It was only when he reached the end that he found that the three signatories represented (if we libel them not) the "good pagan," a free-thinker and a Jew. The names were Gilbert Murray, Bertrand Russell and Victor Gollance.

Before commenting further, we list the eight points, " neglect of which can only perpetuate the cycle of uneasy peace and ever more frightful war."

(i) Annexations of almost any kind are always dangerous. They inflame the passion of nationalism. encourage agitators, and lead to wars of recovery and revenge. If they are accompanied by wholesale expti'sions of the population. and if these expulsions are effected without regard for the minimum dictates of humanity. the danger is correspondingly increased (2) Any attempt to fix an upper limit — any upper limit. no matter what it may be—to the living standards of a numerous and hard-working European people must react adversely on the total prosperity of Europe and the world. . . . (3) Nowadays. it is foolish to expect that reparations, however large, can repair the damage done by war. Excessive reparations, even when justly exacted, defeat their own object. Sooner or later, therefore, they will always be abandoned; but the hatred they occasion will outlive them. (4) A constitution imposed from without is unlikely to endure. To impose one, moreover, is inconsistent with democratic professions. (5) While safeguards must be taken against an initial possibility of domination by Fascists. a free and law-abiding society cannot be fostered by ticketing millions of people on the score of what they have done, said, or even thought in the past, and penalising them accordingly. 'These are totalitarian methods. . . . (6) You render a man aggressive by harping on his wickedness. You ruin a man's character by depriving him of hope. Pariahs, whether individuals or nations, make bad neighbours. (7) The re-education of a people must be that people's own work. . . (8) When a nation has been defeated, the problem is not to make it impossible for her to do it again. Such an aim can never be achieved in a world that is constantly changing. The problem is twofold: first, so to settle with the defeated that they will not be driven by despair or seduced by the prospect of easy success to risk another attempt; and secondly, to devise means of dealing, not with particular aggressors, for aggressors conic and go, but with aggression and the fear of it, which are secular. To concentrate on the most recent aggressor is to run away, often half deliberately, from the larger issue.

The Christian's Job TN the morning Press of the same ` day there were reports of the Albert Hall rally of the so-called " Christian Commandos," and we happened to read in a Sunday paper a sermon-article by an Anglican clergyman. The theme of these Christian initiatives, so far as we could gather, was the decline of religion and of a sense of moral decency among the people of this country.

We shall not in this paper complain of campaigns and sermons directed to the raising of the spiritual and moral standards of the people of this country. It is the job of the true Christian, both by precept and example. to do all in his power to work towards this end. but we do wonder how far the contemporary lack of response of the people to the message of Christianity is due to too exclusive concentration on preaching to the people. Private morality, we suggest, is in practice largely determined by the prevailing standard of public morality, and public morality depends very much on the principles of conduct which obtain in international affairs, politics and economics. In the article by the clergyman, to which we have just referred, the decline in standards of truth and honesty since "our finest hour " during the war was under lined. What is the cause of that decline? Is it something in the people themselves, or is it the absence of any national idealism, together with the reliance by statesmen on hopelessly complex laws and regulations with which to try to bind up what is falling to pieces through lack of a clear and elevating purpose? And when we think of the abject level of principle and morality in international affairs (by no means only because of Russia. since we have freely abused defeated enemies and betrayed friends) how can we expect ordinary men and women to maintain a moral idealism which in fact has come down to them from a time when Christianity trained civilisation to believe in and accept a high standard of behaviour, even if it could not ensure that weak men always lived up to it. That is why we think this letter in the Times by three leading nonChristian men is peculiarly interesting and significant. Are they not doing our job? Is it not, above all, necessary for Christianity to speak out decisively and authoritatively about the true immediate causes of this terrible decline in moral standards? Unless we can come to grips with the contemporary world at the top level, can we hope, wheth by preaching or rallies, to make a reat difference at the lower levels?

This is surely how the Holy Father has spoken both during and after the war. Alas, more than half our people do not even know what the Pope has said.

Amnesties in France

were delighted to read in Figaro an Easter leading article by Francois Mauriac, called " Victory Over Death," which pleaded for the reconciliation of Frenchmen and for amnesty in very much the same terms as this paper used in its last. Christmas editorial.

" Each of us hides within him a spirit of partisanship which it is his duty to minimise or overcome," he writes. " Many Frenchmen are worthy of such a victory over themselves, whether they believed in the orders of Vichy, whether they listened to the voice of De Gaulle, or whether they adhered to Marxism." Again: "A country where judgments and political executions have lasted three years and where three years have not been enough to

regularise the position of those who obeyed the orders of a legal government, recognised by the embassies of the entire world, including America and the U.S.S.R., such a country carries a terrible wound in its side which had indeed first to be disinfected, but which to-day needs to be closed and healed."

The French mind. proverbially considered to be so logical, is in fact deeply emotional over its fixed ideas. satisfactorily clarified for itself by exceptional reasoning powers. Thus the French mind is still largely closed to the need for reconciliation with the Germans, but we can be thankful that France's best minds have come to appreciate the urgency of reconciliation at least among themselves. The rest may come later.

Unfortunately, it is the old spirit which is at work in the Fourth Republic's Amnesty Bill, which is drawn up in such a way as to exclude from its provisions any honest, but mistaken, man. and to forgive many common criminals so Iong as they can show some proof of having played a part in the Resistance. Needless to say, the manufacture of proofs of having " resisted" is a well-established French business by now, and the new Bill will carry on the good work. A Socialist Christian Group THE formation, announced in another column of this issue, of a Parliamentary Socialist Christian Group within the Labour representation in the Lords and Commons is a most interesting departure, and it is another sign of the increasing importance now being attached in so many quarters to the spiritual nature of man and of society. The fact that this Group has taken the famous five points of the 1940 letter to the Times, signed by Cardinal Hinstey and the heads of the other Christian Communions, as a basic declaration of its own outlook is sufficient guarantee that it is starting on the right lines. The use of this letter is also a timely reminder of the value, certainly not less to-day than during the war, of co-operation in social and political questions of different Christian bodies.

It should be made clear that this departure does not represent any early move towards a Christian or Confessional Party, but is simply designed to group together such members'bf the Labour Party as realise the necessity of giving priority to Christian spiritual values if the material aims of the Party are to be realised, and to enah'e them to work together for this end. We do not doubt that there are very important members of the Cabinet who are heart and soul with their followers who understand the importance of this point.

We pointed out in an earlier note how important it is that Christians to-day should be working at the highest level of restoring principle to politics and economics, and here is an example of an approach which should lead to good results.

At the same time, let us not be deceived or expect too much. This is a group within a political party whose philosophy is by no means free from non-Christian, if not antiChristian Marxism, and the Catholic, for example, however loyal a member. is obliged, as are Catholics in other parties, to maintain a spiritual and moral independence within the party allegiance, The Group, moreover, comprises very different types of people and outlooks. and there are only a handful of Catholics. Such facts must constitute a grave handicap in any attempt (which we believe now to be absolutely necessary) to bring a full and uncompromised Christian teaching to hear on political life. For this reason we have always thought that it is best to keep the political line officially separate from the religious, but with hundred per cent. Christians, separately grouped on a non-party basis, influencing the parties from a religiously and spirttuaNfloyneindiehpe less, independent s

recall the truth that " Christian

er will side-line. ChristianSocialism " was to a large extent the true inspiration of British Labour, and that Marxism was but a Continental importation at a later date, it can set itself the high task of inspiring the Labour Party to return to its earlier and best tradition. But it will be a big job--big, even to conceive, let alone to carry out. Treatment of Vanquished READING the correspondence columns of Tuesday's Times, the present writer's attention was




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