Page 6, 21st May 1937

21st May 1937
Page 6
Page 6, 21st May 1937 — CHRISTIAN SOCIAL IDEALS AND COMMUNISM Eric Gill's Position

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Locations: Banff


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Two Questions

SIR,—Are not Mr. Gill and his critics alike confusing two entirely distinct issues?

Support of, and collaboration with, organised Marxist Communism are one thing; advocacy of some measure of ownership and control of the large-scale means of production by the workers and/or the State is quite another.

The first is strictly forbidden to Catholics for a multitude of reasons made abundantly clear in the encyclical Divini Redemptoris, among which the second is not included.

The second is a programme which Catholics would seem quite free (if not actually obliged) to support under existing circumstances, provided that all the requirements of justice and charity be safe

guarded. In its favour may be quoted two passages of Quadragesimo A nno: " In the present state of human society, We deem it advisable that the wagecontract should, when possible, be modified somewhat by a contract of partnership . . . In this way wage-earners and other employees participate in the ownership or the management or in some way share in the profits." (Paragraph 65). " It is rightly contended that certain forms of property must be reserved to the State, since they carry with them a power too great to be left to private individuals without injury to the community at large." (Paragraph 114).

I agree that " the point of Leo XIII's principle was that the workers should own

property as individuals." But it is not easy to see how this Papal programme of deproletarianization through the restoration of property to the workers is to be realised unless the workers are first to share in the fruits of actual industrial production (as Pius XI himself hints in Quadragesimo) (Paragraph 61), and it seems at least arguable that this in its turn presupposes a participation in ownership and control of the existing means of production, and ownership and control which of its nature must be in some way collective.

This thesis may be open to objection on several grounds, but not surely on grounds of Catholic orthodoxy. Critics may be invited to suggest an alternative. Whatever else may be said about it, it certainly is not Communism with a capital C.


Any Alternative?

STR,—I don't want to butt in on another man's discussion, but as Mr. Eric Gill is rather a long way away at the moment I may be allowed to make a remark or two on your comment on his letter.

You quote him as demanding " the transference of the ownership of industrial enterprises to the workers—whether corporatively, collectively or otherwise," and then you state that the italicised words turn a sound principle into a death-trap. But you have ignored his premise that "industrial enterprises are not of their nature amenable to individual private ownership." The fact that Mr. Gill holds this premise makes your judgment of his letter as " a regrettable revelation of the completeness with which he has succumbed to the great communist sophistry " a regrettable piece of nonsense.

The matter is discussed on pp. 99-117 of his recently published Work and Property, where he sums it up thus: " The capitalist period now in its decay . . . makes communal ownership the necessary next step, unless the industrial organisation of work be abandoned." Whether this view about the nature of industrial enterprises be right or wrong is another matter : it is certainly by no means peculiar to Mr. Gill. It would increase the effectiveness (and, I may add, the interest) of your anti-Communism activities if you could suggest how Pope Leo XIII's words about people as owners could be made operative in respect of contemporary industrial enterprises without resorting to communal ownership. 1 take it that you do not hold that the Pope's words refer only to our little houses and back-gardens and radio sets and the clothes we stand up in.

Moreover, if I am rightly informed, Catholic teaching allows in principle the comrnunisation of property as a temporary measure when circumstances require it for the good of the nation or of mankind at large: we must beware of turning the right of private property (of which most of us have no more than have the citizens of U.S.S.R.) into a juridical shibboleth.


Practicable Via Media

SIR,—After reading Mr. Eric Gill's letter and your editorial comments on it. I could not help wondering if either of you had ever studied the economic conditions of Scandinavian countries at the present time. For in Norway, Sweden and Denmark it is still possible to avoid labelling oneself either " Left or " Right wing; and to steer a via media course between Capitalism and Marxist Communism.

Take for instance the regulated individualism of Norwegian economic life, in no sphere better shown than in its magnificent fishing industry, based upon the co-operation and the collective economic interests of independent fishermen. Or the like system which is found among the farming communities of Denmark and Sweden.

In all three Scandinavian countries, also in the Faroes and Iceland, the working classes have emancipated themselves, and are not dependent on Capitalism or Cornmunism. They have been backed up and supported by their respective governments.; Of course you will hear criticisms of this co-operative system, which is practicallyo universal, but on the whole it seems to I

work out satisfactorily for those concerned, and in the long run the principle of private ownership is upheld, which is the chief thing.

Here too in Scotland we have also managed to maintain at least one big industry in which the workers still live according to the principles laid down by Leo XIII. For among the 20,000 or more fishermen in this country the greater number still own their boats and gear. They work for their own immediate needs and not for the profit of the shareholders of a company. With the exception of the engineers, stokers, and a few hired men engaged during the summer herring season, the crew are all equal and paid a share of the proceeds of their own vessel's catch. But unfortunately, unlike their brothers across the North Sea, they have never been able to organise themselves on any satisfactory basis, and at the present time it would seem to be the policy of " big business" to abolish the system of family owned boats, as being unsuited to modern life, and to reorganise the Scottish fishermen as " wage earners " like those in England, who have long since fallen victims to Capitalism.

There are many of us who feel that it is vitally important that this ownership of individual enterprise should be preserved to this body of workers " whether corporatively, collectively, or otherwise," and we wonder if it is really true that this would "turn a sound principle into a death trap" as might be supposed from your comments on Mr. Gill's letter. But we would point out that we are looking not to the U.S.S.R. but to Scandinavia for inspiration, and it is there, so we feel, that Mr. Gill might discover the actual solution of those problems which so greatly trouble him. There is another brand of " communism " which is not spelt with a capital C.

PETER F. ANSON. Banff, Scotland.

Passages of Terrible Meaning

Ste.--Why should Eric Gill lend his

genius to disunity? Divini Redemptoris has two passages of terrible meaning for him and us. In Spain " the fury of Communism has not confined itself to the slaughter of religious; it searches out above all those who have been devoting their lives to the working classes and the poor." (Paragraph 20).

And again, " For the first time in history we are witnessing a struggle, coldblooded in purpose and mapped out to The least detail between man and all that is called God." (Paragraph 22).

Many will agree with Eric Gill when he denounces the godlessness of liberalistic usury and identifies it as the parent of Communistic godlessness. But why should we be expected to go from the one to the other?

Our job is to strip the liberalism from capitalism, and we can do this by the application of justice and charity.

Capitalism does not slaughter people for worshipping God; Communism does. Let none overlook the distinction.

Meanwhile, let us have from Eric Gill and our other Catholic intellectuals, some discussion on concrete action.

Bella premunt hostilia. Let us do something.


20, Lisson Grove, N.W.1.

LiNe regret that space will not permit of the printing of a large number of lettera on this subject, for which we thank correspondents.

who is at present in Palestine. will not be able to reply for himself, at any rate in the near luture.—Editord

" Production-For-Use"

StR,—Mr. Gill's letter last week raises a question of vital importance to Catholics. Grant that one cannot reasonably at one and the same time profess the Catholic Faith and actively support Communist action; but suppose one sees how eminently reasonable it is that use and not profit should be the purpose of production, and how contrary to God is the particular conception of profit upon which our economic structure is, in the main, based, what can one do in the matter?

It appears that Communist action aims at re-making the economic structure on the foundation of production-for-use, and no other action even appears to have that as its aim. I say it " appears " so, because actually it depends on what one means by " use ": and that again depends on one's conception of man, because it is man who uses. But the Communist and Catholic conceptions of man are contrary to each other, and therefore Communist action does not aim at production-for-use in the

Catholic sense. The temptation to support Communist action is thus nullified, but the duty to learn exactly what one can do in the matter and thereupon to set about doing it remains as insistent as ever.


26, Stanhope Road, Highgate, N.6,


Sus,—Your contributor is quite mistaken in thinking that there is any danger of the Youth Hostels being used for any kind of political propaganda. Youth Hostels are entirely non-political and nonsectarian. and no countenance is given to any kind of political or religious propaganda. The times of the church services (Roman Catholic as well as other denominations) are put up in all our hostels merely for the convenience of members and not in any propagandist spirit.


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