Reviewed by LAURENCE COTTERELL ASthe Church has found, it is not easy to distinguish between the saints and the cranks. The pacifist movement as a whole has faced the same dilemma all through its history, and Vera Brittain makes no , bones about the agonising decisions that have confronted members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation during its 50 years.
Many vocal protagonists of what are ostensibly good causes nurture their own brand of quite venomous hatred, clearly manifested in their faces and their speeches, but the Fellowship of Reconciliation has nothing in common with this kind of selective Do-Goodism.
"The rebel passion" to its members has been the revolt of love and pity against the inhumanity of man to man, nation to nation and group to group—and those of us who cannot accept the pacifist attitude must nonetheless tip our caps to men pnd women who extend their love to whom they see as persecutors and persecuted alike, to aggressor and victim equally.
The beginnings and development of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, in Miss Brittain's hands, make fascinating reading and cast some illuminating sidelights on the history of the struggle between the peace-is-peace witnesses and the peace-through-strength partisons. with the great mass of us undecided and inarticulate between.
No one can fail to admire the courage and constanct of the 130 men and women, George Lansbury among them, who gathered in
THE REBEL PASSION, by Vera Brittain (Allen and Unwin, 35s.).
December, 1914, with the war already an established way of life, to reaffosin what they saw as reconciliation in a Christian idiom. Their concept went beyond the mere absence of war to become a method of waging war on war— "the art and practice of turning enemies into friends" in all departments of life.
During the second world war members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation were able to prove anew that their pacifism was not passivist. While the fighting was still going on plans were being made to relieve famine in Europe, especially among the children, and there were active protests against such democratic activities as the food blockade and obliteration bombing.
After the war. Fellowship members took up active work for the relief of hunger and misery, without regard to national frontiers or political allegiances. This was work that brought no popularity and no honours of State, but they saw it as having to be done, and they did it.
Miss Brittain gives potted biographies of the leading figures of the movement in all countries, and one might say, on balance, that the Fellowship has been mainly a Puritan organisation, although
Catholic participation has been constant and noticeable over half a century.
From the Fellowship viewpoint, obviously, the advent of the nuclear era has changed the entire situation—not only because the whole of mankind lies under the threat of extermination, but also because the renunciation of war and the refusal to fight on the part of millions of citizens would no longer prevent wars being waged by governments using a comparatively small number of technicians and scientists launching nuclear strikes.
Many people believe sincerely that with the techniques of brainwashing there will never again be declared or recognised martyrs; never again the chance of physical or mental resistance once Communism takes over. They want to be neither Red nor dead, but consider it worth while to risk their physical lives rather than submit to mental and spiritual murder.
But the end for all men of goodwill is the same: the prevention of man's inhumanity to man at any level and in any milieu. And those who would refuse to salute the Fellowship members as impartial rescuers of the helpless and keepers of our conscience would be churlish indeed.
The clear Christian concept fostered by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and brought out so admirably in this sometimes startling history, is that the meek should indeed inherit the earth. I hope that I'm around when this happens. It's going to be interesting to see how long they can hang on to it when they've got it.