FRANCE AT THE CROSSROADS LAVAL'S pathetic appeal on Tuesday night to the French workers to volunteer for work in Germany illustrates the power of the blackmail imposed by Germany. Either the volunteers must he forthcoming or they will be commandeered by Germany under conditions that virtually cancel the armistice. Of the two evils, Laval prefers the first. His policy rests urion the conviction that the involvement of France in war again would complete her ruin. He believes this to be equally true if France threw in her lot again .with the United Nations, for an Allied victory would, he believes, cost France more blood and sacrifices than she can bear.
This view is in contrast with that of the French General Staff and a good many of those nearest Petain. Their view is that the frail independence left to France must be maintained at any cost because its loss would make France unable to play an active part again when, in due course, German strength begins to waver. It is hard, however, for them to make much of this view, partly because it is intolerable to the Germans and partly because the United Nations will not express any sympathy with them. It is not realised sufficiently in London that France has in fact afforded us notable help in maintaining its fleet and its North African Empire out of the fray. It is moreover a fact, whatever publicists may say, that not a single German submarine has been allowed in Dakar. This contribution is fully as important to us as, let us say, Turkish neutrality.
DAKAR THE occupation of Liberia is • rumoured to be the prelude to the occupation of Dakar, and though these are Axis rumours it is considered that there may he something in them. Such an occupation will certainly be violently resented even by many very strongly anti-German French, and Dakar will be defended by Governor Boisson, a man who in spite of his violent anti-German feelings is sworn to maintain full French authority over the immense territory he rules.
If on the other hand the French General Staff and the anti-Laval leaders could be assured of the sympathy of the United Nations with their anxious position; if there could be signs of a rapprochement between the Petainistes and the Fighting French on the basis of a common fight under totally different conditions; and if Rommel were decisively beaten, it would be possible to initiate again a genuine understanding between France and the United Nations in which the problem of the French African Empire would more easily be solved. Evidently there are big difficulties in the way of such a solution—not from the Allied side
only. But a genuine attempt in London to try to see things as Main sees them should convince us that the long way round may be the shortest and safest in the end.
CONTRASTS IN EUROPE
THOSE who take the trouble to
look beyond propaganda and counter-propaganda are aware of a curious conflict at work in Europe to-day. On the one hand you have the evidence of deep unrest throughout the Continent, an unrest that would express itself in open rebellion, if it were given a chance— an unrest moreover which has strong religious support because of the irreligious conceptions and brutish behaviour of the conqueror. On the other hand there is less publicised evidence of a renewed attempt on the part of the Axis to offer Europe a new order in which the different nations can play a full part. Nazi publicists have recently been concentrating on this and seeking to contrast the ideal of a Europe returning to its own traditions with what they call the democratic-Bolshevik imposition of a money-controlled uni formity. Perhaps symptomatic of this attitude was the apparent degree of success in the Youth Congress held last month in Vienna, to which Belgium (Flemish and Walloon), Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Holland, Hungary,Italy, Norway, Rumania, Slovakia and Spain sent youth delegations, however unrepresentative some of them may have been. France was significantly absent and Portugal only sent an observer. The Germans were particulatly insistent on this occasion on the fact that the European Youth Association, founded on the occasion, harboured no pan-German intentions. The Italians who were closely associated with the German leadership on this occasion, insisted on the importance of the family and relAignioonth.er strange contrast with the degree of unrest in Europe is furnished by the very substantial amnesty, benefiting 42,000 political and other prisoners, granted by the King of Italy on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of Fascism. Likewise from Spain comes the news of the granting of conditional liberty to political prisoners serving terms up to 14 years, instead of the previous 12 years—a measure estimated to affect about 20,000 people.
Whether all this connects up with the rumours that Germany would now like to stabilise her conquests and pass to the defensive, with or without a peace offer to the United Nations, is of course uncertain; but it would he imprudent on our part to jump ton readily to the conclusion that Europe is on the verge of general rebellion because of the difficult economic situation and the German pressure for the man-power she so greatly needs.
THE HESS DEMAND IT is often claimed that the Bol• sheviks are in this war solely for the purpose of national defence. Certainly no one would dispute the great change that has comc over Soviet Russia in its passage from class internationalism to popular nationalism, a change that in its beginnings antedates the war itself. But the transition is still very far from complete—least of all is it complete in the Communists outside Russia, for these still openly assert that the purpose of victory is the international establishment of class revolution according to the Marxist prescription. Nor is it difficult to discern in Russia itself the expression of a like point of view. The present demand Wet Hess should be exposed and brought to immediate trial is avowedly linked up with the suggestion that Hess is being protected by an influential group of people who want to see Russia defeated. And it is naturally concluded that these people arc holding up the opening of the Second Front.
We think that this nonsense should be properly exposed. No one in this country—outside a lunatic asylum—wants to see the defeat of Russia, least of all that " aristocratic, military and financial " class which the Bolsheviks have in mind. It is the class, for example, from which Mr. Churchill springs. There are indeed people who would like to see the war brought to an end by some form of negotiation, but these as a whole are to be found in very different circles and their motives for the most part are philosophic, moral and religious.
FIELD MARSHAL SMUTS
;MELD Marshal Smuts' visit to this
country has a highly symbolic value. Not only as one representing an important member of the British Commonwealth, but also as a soldier once in arms against us who has shown a distinguished loyalty to that Commonwealth, his presence among us at the present time makes a strong appeal to the imagination. In him is personified the policy that characterises the Empire for which we are fighting. To have won the service of such a man is a tribute of which we may be justly proud, South Africa, as is testified by the names of Cecil,Rhodes and our present visitor, is associated with big men. They belong to the type which can find adequate setting only on an imperial stage. Africa has played no great part in modern history as yet, but the character of the men on whom it has left its mark indicates that it will play a much bigger part in the future. The present war will see " the Dark Continent " emerge from its present comparative obscurity and it would not be strange if, in the historic role it seems destined to play, representatives of the native races as well as those of its conquerors will have a share. Cardinal Hinsley, who knows Africa intimately, judged by a fine survey of the Atlantic Charter as it affects Africa in the Tablet, would certainly subscribe to this view. His Eminence once again insisted on the vital importance of religion as the foundation of the civilisation to which the native races will be invited as partners, not subjects. It is through the leadership and personality of a man like General Smuts that this transition can be successfully made.
U.S.A. AND RUBBER THE seriousness of some of the problems facing the United Nations is not fully appreciated in this country, The United States, for example, is the world's greatest consumer of rubber. Early this year she lost to Japan rapidly and unexpectedly no less than 90 per cent. of her supplies of natural rubber. The result was, in the words of the Baruch report lately published, a situation " so dangerous that unless corrective measures are taken immediately this country will face both a military and civilian collapse." It was estimated in the report that the total amount of crude rubber to be available in the United States between July 1, 1942, and January 1, 1944, would be 631,000 tons, and that military and other essential demands during that period would be 842,000 tons, leaving a deficit of 211,000.tons to be met by synthetic rubber before January 1, 1944. The United States did in fact without delay embark on a gigantic programme for the rapid production of synthetic rubber, but there were delays due to commercial jealousies and manoeuvring for post-war position. Another line of defence was the existing stocks of rubber that could be reclaimed and conserved. But this involved still more directly political, economic and human factors. The largest single reserve of rubber in the country, for example, was the 1,000,000 tons in the tyres of motor vehicles. Its conservation involved a nation-wide petrol rationing scheme, not to save petrol, but to save tyres. This met with such opposition that the rationing has had to be postponed until after the November elections. A depressing picture!