A FTER the songs and dances of " San Francisco we get down to the darker realities of the postwar world in Potsdam. The setting should he noted. The meeting-place of the " Big Three " is turned into a fortress. Communication with the outside world, is cut off. Stalin arrives in complete secrecy, • his movements being a matter of speculation. Masses of luxuries, fitted to grace an Oriental Emperor's court, are flown to the scene. No agenda is released. The rat of the world, which so recently applauded the signing of a World Security Charter and which had been taught during the yews of blood to expect the destruction of totalitarianism, armed politics and secret diplomacy now watches a spectacle probably unprecedented in the annals of history for mystery combined with publicity. The new age has begun.
Why this extraordinary setting after victory? Clearly it is in the largest part the will of the host, Soviet Russia. Would that it were merely a curious foible of that great semi-Asiatic Power! Unfortunately it is difficult to deny that it is very reminiscent of the traditional suspiciousness and ostentatious defiance of despotism. The recourse to force and secrecy marks the tremendous regress in world history. It reverts to the condition of brute man, whether diving in the anarchy of primitive society or as the slave of a tyrant who has known how to capture and centralise power over his fellowmen. Apart from an occasional and often short-lived emergence of a civilisation based on reason and some sense of genuine religion, it is the way man must live. In contemporary conditions of scientific progress it can be staged in the trappings of, a high material civilisation, but its essence remains, and the more important part which progress plays in it is to make the despotism of man or party impregnable save through the suicidal risks of world war.
It has been the role of Christianity through two thousand chequered years to challenge the sway of brute force ill human society. We should not be surprised to discover that with a world revolt against a Christianity (at best very imperfect in its practice) we are reverting to the conditions of barbarism. The great question at issue is whether in the early stages of the diplomatic conflict the Anglo-Saxon countries, which still Want to preserve the moral inheritance of Christendom, can herd the rising power of Communism which accepts the cruel customs of brute, unregenerated man. For our part we have no doubt that unless the religion of Christ revivifies the dying soul of Western civilisation the issue cannot be in doubt. Benson's Lord of the World may be coming true.
The Corruption Of Good-will
IF the issue appeared as clearly as
we have tried to describe it there would be considerable hope. We said above that Christianity had at best been very imperfect in it practice. That is true, and yet by the mercy of God who created man in His own image the power of even a very imperfect Christianity is immense. Man in our post-Christian civilisation still seeks the good and turns away 'from evil to an extent unprecedented in history. Where the heart of the tragedy lies is in a blindness to the real nature of good and an incredible power for self-deception in the course of pursuing mistaken ends regarded as good. And this is where the loss of the Godrevealed Christian vision tells. The inherited good-will long out-lives the knowledge of the truth. But even the good-will weakens in time and pelishes. We are watching this take place. It was obvious in the case of Nazism and Fascism which began with some idealism and ended in pure evil. The same deterioration could be discerned in the rise of capitalism which began with a religious motive, developed as a convenient form of utilitarianism and sank to a scramble for unlimited wealth and power involving the slavery of millions upon millions.
To-day we are clearly reaching the stage when the social ideal of democracy and Communism is being tepidly converted into a popular lust for power and theft so that over all the world men and women are struggling to be in the van of a movement of political dictatorship which promises them a better deal at the expense of their neighbour, better fun, adventures excitement—and these things are being pun sued with a growing callous indifference to the rights of nations or individuals. This, however, is a process of degeneration which is by no means accomplished.. Were it so, we repeat, the issue would be clearer and it might be more hopeful. The present danger lies in the combination of the still important good intention of the idealist witli the increasingly evil intention of the wholly, corrupt. It lies too in the appalling powers of self-deception poss sessed by the idealists who apparently are able completely to disregard manifest crime while pursuing their ends and actually condemning their opponents for the very same crimes which they refuse to face when it is Meanvenient to do so.
Owing to the secrecy of the " Big Three " it is useless to speculate on the Conference itself. The many problems to 'be faced are well known. No paper could hope more sincerely than we do for the emergence of justice apd a new deal for the ordinary peoples of the world from this meeting between the deciding Powers. But it takes two (in this case three) to make an honest bargain. Of the essential willingness to do what they can of two of the parties we have no doubt. But what of the • third?
PRESS DEFEATS its. OWN PURPOSE A QUEER consequence of the
present wholesale disregard of truth and objectivity in news and propaganda is the degree in which the whole service of news is beginning to defeat itself Because the wish is so universally made father to the thought the public is simply prevented from remaining in touch with events.
We happen to realise this very clearly because of our own record during the last six years. Though this newspaper has no command of money or resources in any way comparable with the national press, we happen to have a record for correct foreast and interpretation of events which we believe is superior even to the greatest newspapers of the day: At the present time there are two examples. Last week we stated that King Leopold would not abdicate. That categorical statement was written on the Wednesday on the basis of reliable information from the right source in Belgium. This paper appeared on Friday side by side with national papers edited much later which were categorically stating that Leopold was abdicating and that an -"abdication council" was sitting in Salzburg. This paper was right; the others wrong. What is the explanation of the mystery ? It is very simple. The same information was obviously available to other papers, but had they bothered to obtain it they would have disregarded it. In the first place it did not suit them. Second it came from a source suspected by them because it was a royal source, whereas they were relying on the big Socialist sources, indifferent to the elementary point that it was the King who had to decide. A.nd third they had not bothered to study the character of the monarch, a character which happens to have been built up in accordance with principles vest, different indeed from those of his opponents. And the net result was that the whole world.(essels1 for the comparatively small number of people who read this paper or a similar paper) were quite simply deprived of a truth which they had a right to know and given false information. Not that the whole business was without its point. It adds of course to the idea that King Leopold is a narrow-minded, stubborn reactionary who will not listen to an almost universal enlightened advice.
The-Example of Spain
THE second example, though not
quite so clear-cut, is equally significant and interesting For months now practically the whole of the British press has been prophesying the imminent fall of Franco. And be it noted that, according to the stories, Franco was not to fall through some external action against Spain (this of course always remain possible) but because of the growing unrest ante divisions within Spain. In other words the Spanish people, despite the miseries and repressions of the Nationalist tyranny, were rising to the heiehts of democratic and Marxist idealism. Franco, moreover, seeing the triumph. of the Allied arms and the fall of Fascisril and being, like all dictators, a coward at heart must very quickly fly from the uncomfortable scene. And what with Russia getting restive, the whole business was as good as over. And that in fact is the kind of childlike argument which influences the presentation of news nowadays.
These people had never bothered to study the Spanish character or even to suppose that the Spaniards had any right to any character of their own, They had never considered that the Spaniards as a whole who happened to be present at the time had a rather different view of the character of the Civil War from the one propagated in the democracies (this false propaganda has a culminating effect, like any lying). They did not reflect that the average Spaniard having been through that terrible time had a very strong wish to avoid its early recurrence. Naturally they did not bother heads about so unimportant a detail as the religious outlook and principles of Spain, And it did not occur to them that Franco, whatever his faults, has accomplished a remarkable task in restoring to the Spaniards a national pride and tradition lost thtough years of misgovernment and foreign contacts. Though we have never pretended that there was no internal criticism of Franco (that would he equally untrue to the Spaniard) nor that the Franco regime was, from the Christian point of view, anything like an ideal one, nor that Spain could be uninfluenced by world events—though in fact our own wish has been that the monarchy might be restored—we have been guided in
out' interpretation by what we know to be true and not what we might wish were true. We have had no serious evidence to suggest the fall of Franco, though much to suggest that Franco himself, together with most responsible leading Spaniards, is desirous of internal changes that will fulfil three conditions: (1) stability, (2) the granting and protection of moral, social and political rights to the people, and (3) (and this perhaps above ail) the safeguarding of Spain against swindledemocracy. If these three aims are kept in mind we shall understand Spanish developments including the latest Charter passed by the Cones and the weakening of the Falange.
The latest news from Spain is that Franco intends to restore t the monarchical constitution, but in conditions which will safeguard the essential work of the National Revolution. This, we have always supposed, was his aim from the beginning. We trust he will be successful in spite of irresponsible hostility from beyond Spain's frontiers:
a' DIRECT ACTION"
NUMBER of relatively minor
strikes of the fashionable " unofficial " variety have been taking place. More may be expected. And a new type of " direct action " has shown itselt in the Vigilantes dealing with the housing problem as a protest against official delays We may expect that " direct action " will increase rather than decrease, whether it initially fails or succeeds, Without going so far as to suggest that unofficial strikes and the Vigilantes indicate the existence of anarchist elements beneath the crust of bureaucratic government. it is evident that bold gestures of this kind make a strong appeal for popular sympathy, and thq latter at least is likely to be augmented if and when more and more demobilised men return to find themselves and their families homeless. Perhaps we needed this reminder that together with a Socialistic, bureaucracy tightening its control over every sphere of activity, there always goes the fear of anarchy--not the ideological anarchy of Buchkarin and Kropotkin but the mobocracy which, like Cromwell sweeping away the Mace with a " Take away this bauble!" cutS its way through rod tape to its object.
The .worst of such passionate outbursts is that they defeat their own objects, anti give occasion for that tyrannical officialdom of which certain elements are only too willing to avail themselves. It is difficult to see how the evil can be combated, but if_ we may learn a lesson from a totally different circumstance, the Indian problem, we would suggest that Lord Wavell ha'S taught us all bow to speak and behave when holding trusteeship ovet the lives of others. His own sincerity and humility may have done more than any plan to earn Indian good-will. It will he the same with whatever Government wins the election and tackles domestic problems.