DEAR Mr. Attlee : For many
years now this paper has been from time to time reminded by its readers of the day when in Spain you smilingly gave the Communist clenched-fist salute. Sometimes, those of our readers who would like to see this fact more often publicly mentioned are kind enough to enclose a reproduced photograph of the incident.
However, this is not the kind of newspaper which takes pleasure in thus pillaring respected public figures with high responsibilities, like yourself, because of an error of judgment, the unfortunate nature of which subsequent history has made only too obvious, and you would search in vain in our files for a reproduction of that picture.
In those days, progressive men, as they thought themselves, preached to the people the gospel of a Marxism which could conveniently apply equally well to totalitarian Communism and would-be democratic Socialism, and many were swept off their feet by a hazy but alluring vision of a new religion of Socialism. Perhaps during your recent journeys you had the opportunity of studying this phase of our history in The Invisible Writing," by Arthur Koestler, who for so many years dedicated himself to the cause bf the Communist Revolution. If not, may we recommend the book to you?
Anyway, in that atmosphere, you might well have dismissed the accounts of anti-Catholic savagery in Spain as highly exaggerated propaganda and felt that it was no more than a matter of courtesy to join in the fashionable salute of the clenched fist in use among the would-be exorcists of that reactionary country, dominated by Catholic evil spirits.
If so, we cannot doubt that the passing of the years has brought you greater wisdom. Communism, having made a deal with Hitler and subsequently fought on the side of liberty because Hitler double-crossed Stalin, has since the war shown its true tyrannic, imperialistic and nationalistic—all these epithets are naturally repugnant to you as a democratic socialist—colours. You know this as well as we do, and the whole country is in your debt as the strong and responsible leader of our country in the dangerous postwar years.
May we remind you, too, for you are a person of religious conviction, that during and after the war Catholics, both those free to practise and teach their faith in democratic countries and those under the tyranny of Nazism, fought and struggled no less valiantly than others to save the world for the freedom and social justice of which you yourself have been so ardent a champion.
But now, to our amazement and to the amazement, we are sure, of many hundreds of thousands of Catholic Labour voters in this country, you have seemed to become again the victim of your impetuous and courteous heart, where the self-declared enemies of liberty, social democracy and freedom of worship are concerned.
Your journey to China has not been criticised by this paper, for, indeed, we believe that the only alternative to co-existence is, in your graphic expression, co-death. We recognise, too, that courtesy, good manners and a serious purpose to find ways of living together are essential, and, indeed, human, ways pursuing any aim of co-existence. For our part, we wish that our friends in the United States were more aware of this necessity if the whole world is not to be destroyed.
But we cannot, with all the good will in the world, understand why the pursuit of co-existence should involve either the grossest ignorance of the facts or a guilty disinterest in them.
You have declared yourself, in effect, undisturbed by the religious situation in Communist China. Would you as a Christian have been undisturbed when the Roman Emperors only demanded of Christians that purely symbolic, indeed almost petty, rite of throwing a few grains of incense before gods in whom no intelligent person believed? Would you have accepted Hitler's offer of protection to established religion, if only religion would keep out of politics? We cannot believe, in the light of your lifelong record of work for the true liberty and security of the humblest citizen, that you would have succumbed to the temptation.
You have returned from China loudly declaring that Formosa should be returned to Communist China. Is there not an echo of Hitler's threats in the idea that the return of Formosa is the positively last Communist Chinese demand?
Have you satisfied yourself personally that the 10 million people of Formosa, or even a small proportion of them, would wish to be incorporated with Cqmmunist China? What is your authority for your so very convenient belief that there is nothing to choose, from the point of view of your Christian and democratic socialist ideals, between Communist China and Free China? Because, if not, you are on record as wishing to deliver millions of innocent and happy people to the tender mercies of tyrants, of sacrificing renaissant democracy in the Far East to the Hitless of today.
Why? The Chiang-Kai-shek regime was corrupt, you say. Is it still? Even if it were, has it ever struck you that in relatively underadministered countries with little social tradition, corruption is often the one alternative to murder? It is easy for Communist China, as it was for Hitler personally, to be incorrupt. You kill your opponents instead of bribing them.
At the moment, there is a wave of appeasement in Europe, an appeasement which is the opposite of common sense and negotiation through strength. Strong forces in your own party are determined to repeat—and this time to repeat without any chance for second thoughts—the mistakes of which your clenched fist salute remains a vivid memory. On your authority, on your integrity of mind, on your courage at the present moment may well depend the future of free man, caught between slavery in peace and destruction in another war. We beg of you to rise to the crucial responsibilities which are sours at this moment.
Yours very sincerely, The Catholic Herald