Page 8, 22nd October 1937

22nd October 1937
Page 8
Page 8, 22nd October 1937 — And Old

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Mainly About La tin Peoples


SOME time ago I read a book by a South American writer who tried to explain why there is no country on that half-continent which can be certain to avoid political revolution even for a few years. The writer accepted this inclination to make revolutions as a fact. And he argued that it came from the unwillingness of many of the people to accept a commonplace government of the sort which contents numbers of other peoples in the world. They were always experimenting with new sorts of government because they thought they could find more . perfect ones.

And he went on to point out the advantages of government by revolution. In South American disturbances hardly anybody is killed. And the possibility of an outbreak often prevents governments from trying to impose petty tyrannies on the people. The revolution in South America fulfils the function of the general election in England. In some ways it is more satisfactory because the minority—the defeated group in an election—has a better chance of making itself heard.

Of course, there is a certain flippancy in this point of view. Nevertheless, it illustrates some of the difficulties of government. Its only value may be to bid us beware of generalising about ideal governments, forms of government suited for all peoples at all times. . A further commentary on this problem is provided in the Politics of Aristotle. But to return to the South American peoples and the Latin group to which they belong.

Except Discipline

A great Italian poet, Torquato Tasso, said in his rornanesque and Catholic epic, Jerusalem Delivered: a la virtel latina,

o nulla manca 0 sot la discipline.

Translated into English: " To Latin strength and courage nothing is lacking save perhaps discipline."

'This brilliant summing up is still valid four hundred years later. Tasso was writing about the Crusaders as seen through the eyes of the sixteenth century. Yet this dislike of discipline is still strong amongst the Latin peoples. Hence a common need of strong governments in those countries and the danger of loose governments. Loose governments may lead to anarchy.

In And Out Of Step

If you compare a Latin country like Italy with a country like Germany, the point may be brought out. I have often watched soldiers on the march in both countries. In Germany it is instinctive for soldiers to fall into step. The movement of a platoon sounds like the tread of one man.

In Italy, in spite of the military system, this is not so. Italian soldiers even today seem to march almost instinctively out of step. Moreover, as they march they keep their eyes and heads roving about so as not to miss seeing anything, They still retain something of the Italian altar boy who plays " I spy" when serving Mass. Italian soldiers never get that stolid " straight ahead " look which English people expect when they think of soldiers, and still more Germans. And the French and the Spaniards are like the Italians.

Only Can A Strong Hand Succeed

A few years ago it was the fashion in England to say that the Latin peoples were effete. This is far from the truth. If strong government is necessary, it is not because the people are crushed and therefore don't mind. It is rather because unless the laws are strong they will not obey them at all. And they will not obey them precisely because they have extreme vital energy as individuals, each man likes going his own way about things, and most men dislike co-operating with others.

In Germany (and perhaps in Russia — though I can't be sure) the natural lawabiding instinct of the people creates a severe danger of over-government. And for this reason the problem of Fascism in Italy seems to me in practice different from the problem of National-Socialism in Germany. The emphasis on law and order and discipline may be theoretically the same in both cases, but the Ttalian attitude as to how law and order and discipline should be applied in practice seems to me fundamentally different from the German.

And 4`a la English

In England a government which emphasised law, order and discipline to the same extent as the Italian would certainly be very different in practice from Italian fascismo. It would be far, far more severe. This is because the English people are a spontaneously disciplined people and, as it is, have a huge respect for the arm of the law. Owing to the differences of race, character and tradition, in many respects England today is more disciplined than Mussolini's Italy.

Yet again I cannot imagine how anybody who has studied Spanish history and stayed in Spain can seriously talk of the possibility in Spain of a State like the German National-Socialist State. Spain, the most individualistic and unruly of all European countries, would need at least fifty years to be organised even as much as Italy. The danger in Spain is not over-rule but underrule. A strong government with authority is needed to bring about elementary order. I can't think that any social reforms of any value can be brought about until this essential condition is fulfilled.

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