Our Peace Pledges Defined
The Missing Foundation: A Christian Order
THE Prime Minister's broadcast speech—a model of the severe yet dignified language which becomes a Minister of the Crown in a country embarked upon a course such as ours—has at last broken the ice in regard to the controverted subject which Mr Chamberlain described as " peace aims." With some gratification we can note that the attitude we have taken up in this column turns out to be the attitude of the country's leader. Very rightly, Mr Chamberlain refused to propound detailed and concrete plans for " conditions we cannot at present foresee," but he was ready to stele " the broad principles on which we should desire to found " such plans.
While we are a hundred per cent. behind the Prime Minister in every part of his speech as far as it went, we feel that it is our duty as a Catholic paper to stiffen, as it were, the second part of his speech by relating it to the only basic principles upon which any settlement can be reached, namely the principles upon which rests Christendom, IN PLAIN LANGUAGE THESE " peace aims," though stated in terms of general principles, have a plain meaning, and they will certainly not please everybody.
They involve the following undertakings. First, not to split up Germany against the will of her people on any excuse, short of Germany proving herself incapable of becoming a good neighbour of her own will. Second, not to impose on Germany a form of Government which she does not want. Third, not to alter boundaries or create new States for the purpose of keeping Germany at bay. Fourth, to make it possible for Germany to have her due share of the wealth of the .inorld, for the increase of wealth all round through trade supposes that each country stands equal in this respect with its neighbours in proportion to its size and number of inhabitants. No full and constant flow of trade is possible between the millionaire and the pauper. Fifth, that Germany shall be a partner in the work of rebuilding Europe. Sixth, that we shall an strive to do away with armaments.
All this means j1. effect that Mr Chamberlain is resolutely opposed to the view, favoured in some circles and possibly more in France than in Britain, that Germany can never be trusted. Britain is not going to drive Germany off the map of Europe, nor insist upon our political views all round. And if we insist upon our economic views, we pledge ourselves to work them justly.
Versailles, it will be recalled, failed heneuse the peace fell between two stools. It was either not severe enough—or rather not severely enough .:arried through—er not generous enough. To-day peacemakers choose one or other of the two alternatives between which we fell after 1918. Mr Chamberlain and Great Britain are now pledged to the second alternative. We intend to try the path of fullest generosity and justice, that is, so long as Germany herself makes this possible., THE REAL GERMANY AGAINST this policy there are undoubtedly strong arguments, the chief of which is that Prussia has shown herself since the days of Frederick of Prussia incurably aggressive. Can we ever trust the Prussian Germany, it is suggested. The answer is that Germany has never had a chance of being herself, of, as it were coming of age. As Chesterton used to Ray : " Germany is not as old as I am." Only in the years between the end of the last war and the rise of Hitler did the German people have a say in the destinies of their country.
While it is true that the German people are easily regimented and strangely capable, as a mass, of action which in private relations would be repugnant to the vast majority of German individuals, it is fantastic to suppose that a country which produced leaders of the type of Stresemann and Bruening, and which produced perhaps the finest democratic party of modern days, the Catholic Centre Party, is intrinsically incapable of becoming a good neighbour in Europe. And for the failure of the German republic it is we who are responsible, for we imposed upon this virtually new country all the penalties and pains that should have fallen only upon the militarist cliques ruling Germany in 1914.
Surely Catholics need have little fear that a country, a third of whose inhabitants have proved the best of Catholics, many others of whom have been good Christians, vast numbers ardent (perhaps too ardent) social democrats, and all of whom share a good deal of our own Anglo-Saxon blood and outlook, will he unable to evolve a political and social order that can achieve this " new spirit," so long as it is treated fairly and justly. The. real danger to Germany and to Europe arises only from two possibilities: first, the imposition of a Carthaginian peace (which Mr Chamberlain has now pledged us not to attempt) and, second, her becoming Bolshevised during war or after it. The views of those who would down Germany for ever are not likely to lessen this grave danger.
THE CHRISTIAN CENTRE THAT is why we deeply regret the fact that the Prime Minister failed to rest the hopes of the future upon the building up of a Christian order. About this we have got to have very precise ideas if Europe is to be saved, let alone made new.
At the present time we are watching all the great forces that made our contemporary world clashing together, with each one proving itself incapable of fulfilling the expectations rested upon it.. Nationalism, Liberalism, Democracy, State-ism, Capitalism, Imperialism, Socialism, not one of them but has failed even to secure for its adherents the partial good (greater or less) which it promised. And now they are all thrown into the melting pot, destroying one another and creating some explosive mixture too terrible to reflect upon. Their failure, and the opportunities made by this disorder, moreover, allow every truly evil or perverted force to jockey for position so that it may take advantage of the downfall of all these aspirations. So that on the one side we have a mass of forces, good in themselves yet destroying one another as a result of their extravagant and one-sided aims in the past, and on the other the evil forces drawn up to take advantage of them. And yet, if we analyse what is left to-day after the great disillusion, in the minds of good men, of Nationalism, Liberalism end the rest, we shall find that amount as is consistent with Christian Nationalism, Christian Liberalism, Christian Socialism. Mankind is literally being thrown back to the Christian centre, from which it strayed through loss of its faith and hankering after false gods.
The only hope for Europe can therefore lie in seeking to disentangle the various good forces at work within it. from their deathly embrace, of which this war is the symbol, and to relate them again to the sole principles which can harmonise them, that Christian order from which the good in them ultimately sprang; and, having done so, to face the real forces of evil.
CHRISTENDOM OR CHAOS THAT is why it is so tragic to see even good and enlightened Catholics thinking only in teems of Hitlerism, Nazism, Prussia, military victory, Britain's tradition, the freedom of the democracies, making Europe safe by eliminating the enemy. These are only important in so far as they happen to reflect the conflict of good and evil and the confusion among the different goods that underlie them. In each of these things there is good, there is ignorance and there is evil. We cannot hope to preserve the good, to enlighten the ignorance and to control the evil without a universal and reliable standard. That standard exists in the principles of Christianity which, apart from supernatural faith in the Church, offer themselves in virtue of the history and tradition behind them, the light they throw out when interpreted by the best Christian thinkers, the energy they generate when carried into action by men of sincerity and good-will.
To any Christian, conscious of the light and force of his faith and even remotely aware of what is happening all around him, there can be aut one duty : to strive to make his fellow-men see that hope lies only in this marshalling and harmonising of the good in the movements that have made our world under e Christian order that is ruthlessly opposed to evil. In every European country there are Christians in plenty and thousands who understand the value of Christianity. Every sign indicates that to-day it. is Christendom or chaos. Are Christians too ignorant., too cowardly, too uncertain of themselves, too much the victims of the rival movements of the day, too stupid, too selfish, to face the task?
But victory will mean nothing unless it prepares the way for a peace conceived in these terms. From this war, now that it has started, there is DO getting away until the deadlock is snapped by the irrational force of arms, for Hitler has given ample proof that such considerations as these form no part of his mentality. The question . that matters ultimately, however, is whether, when we win, we can provide the leadership in Europe which shall seek a common settlement upon that spiritual and moral foundation :or which good men are ready and to prevent which bad men are. prepared to drag us all to ruin. We as Catholics know that the requisite guidance and moral strength can only come from Christianity, and Christianity at its best. Do we intend to keep the secret to ourselves? The Prime Minister has shown that he is ready to open the way, but it is doubtful if even he knows the road and the goal to which it will lead.