Page 4, 25th January 1957

25th January 1957
Page 4
Page 4, 25th January 1957 — THE TRUE REBEL and THE FALSE REBEL

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Locations: Derby, Liverpool


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ISV,HENRY EDWARDS SOME years before the war I happened across these words of Augustine of Hippo: " If the people observe moderation and principle and carefully watch over the common good, it is right to pass laws permitting such people to appoint their own magistrates (parliamentary governors, maybe). If in the course of time those same people become corrupt and sell their votes and place criminals in office, the power of conferring offices of State is rightly taken away from the people and returns to the discretion of a few good men."

There is enough bee-bread there fur a hundred distracting arguments. But it is clear, I believe. that Augustine. a conservative if ever there was one, admits the possibility of a just revolt. Nor is It an accident on my {salt that I should select a natural conservative, a Catholic bishop and one of the greatest of the Western Fathers to open the matter. For it is certainly tendentious to open the matter by giving evidence in favour of rebellion from one who shows himself naturally inclined to it . .

AQUINAS, who might be called a prototype of the constitutional royalist and a decided moderate, seems, if he were the author of the de Revitnine Principum. to have admitted the possibility of a just revolt. At the same time he tells an anecdote that has for its moral the danger of wishing tyrants ill lest worse tyrants come after them.

Like other commentators he suggests that a just revolt depends upon certain pre-requisites, which are similar to those of a just war, but much more stringent. There must be authoritative leadership: there must be a grave cause: all peaceful means must have been thoroughly tried; and there must be a good chance of success.

In this connection the encyclical letter to the Archbishops and Bishops of Mexico given on Easter Sunday. 1937. by Pope Pius XI has special point. Indeed, I understand that it is more often quoted on this subject than any document: "You have more than once reminded your flock that the Church promotes peace and order even at the cost of sacrifices to herself and that she condemns every unjust rebellion or act of violence against the properly constituted civil power. On the other hand, you have also affirmed that if the case arose where the civil power should so trample upon justice and truth as to destroy the very foundations of authority, there would appear no reason to condemn citizens for uniting to defend the nation and themselves by lawful and appropriate means against those who make use of the power of the State to drag the nation to ruin."

Then follow the conditions, which themselves depend upon "concrete circumstances." The means must be strictly regarded as means: they must be lawful—not intrinsically evil acts; they must be proportionate to the end and must be used only in attaining that end, and they must not be regarded as falling directly within the province of Catholic Action.

FOR my part, I regard as thol bone of the contention the possibility envisaged by Pope Pius XI of the governors by wicked misuse of power becoming truly rebellious " so as to destroy the very foundations or authority." The just rebels, then, are just in attempting to re-build those foundations. Here the apparent paradox is that the true and just rebel is really the conservator. I shall dwell More upon that later.

Meanwhile it has to be said-for several of my own countrymen have already said it to me—that it does not seem quite right that one of the conditions of a just revolt should be the good chance. of success.

I have had Chesterton quoted against me in this. And there is something to be said for the view that, if the test of right is the test of success, then all kinds of evil men have proved themselves right. Children, in spite of the efforts of the Whig historians, prefer being Cavaliers to being Roundheads (if they still play that game). There is something more than sentiment about the Young Chevalier. who, incidentally, would have won had the Welsh royalists moved, as they were expected to move while Prince Charles waited at Derby. Again, those people who have a bent for supporting the rebel cause swiftly took the side of the Government of Spain against Franco. Their behaviour prompts me to ask whether we apply canons of a moral character in order to form judgments upon this or that rebellion or whether we are moved chiefly by caprice or personal, national or religious advantage. (To take an example of the last, do Catholics more readily tend to support a revolt by Catholics than a revolt by Protestants?).

AT this time there are two revolts which claim our attention.

One has been denounced by the Bishops of the rebels' homeland. The other has won the admiration if not the active support of the world outside those unhappy lands dominated by Russia. I refer, of course, to the sporadic acts of violence committed by members of the Irish Republican Army and to the revolution in Hungary.

Of the first, we must bear well in mind that the men of violence are most probably Catholics who believe they do God and their nation service. They may. indeed, wonder how their rebellion should be deemed unlawful, considering that for them it is a continuation

of a rebellion begun to win complete home rule for the entire Irish nation, a rebellion which, despite some serious misgivings by Catholics. was generally deemed lawful. For what they are worth, my own sympathies are complete4 with the Irish who want to end partition; yet I am in no difficulty in seeing this revolt as unlawful.

Rut it may be asked how Catholics and other Christians, not to mention the greater number of ordinary men of no religion. have no difficulty in regarding the Hungarian revolt as just.

Here the difficulty I should see is involved in "the good chance of success," The revolt seems to me to have been a chancy affair. What sanguine hopes had the rebels? Did they suppose a better chance than a revolt of Christians against Diocletian ? Was the revolt conducted under adequate authority ?

The grave cause existed. And it seems that no other way of removing atrocious injustices was open to the people, who seem. by the way, to have been le pays reel. rather than le pays legal (the "people" of the politicians' following).

1 here seems also to have been adequate authority.

If we are lacking in sufficient knowledge of the pros and cons affecting "the • good chance." we do know that the revolt did in fact succeed until it ceased to be a revolt and became quite clearly an invasion, so that the successful ietsels were in fact defeated by an imperialist power.

IN this tricky business of " a good chance " I believe wo are meant to rule out those for lorn acts of resistance which, however " romantic," are only too often acts of rebellion done without any real hope of success. As such. they become ends in themselves and come under that special condemnation of the encyclical referred to,

In any case, sporadic, ill-devised, partial and puny revolts lead only too often to reprisals and greater tyranny. Revolt is a much more tragic affair than any other kind of war. since kinsfolk and friends so often oppose each °the; and kill each other. There is no romantic element here.

There have. however, been revolts in recent years when the means employed are said to be "non-violent". One kind of nonviolent revolt is a passive resistance, which here and there is found to be moderately successful.

I myself saw two acts which seem to have had a slight effect upon the rulers. I believe 1 shall witness other acts in the near future if Liverpool persists in seizing Cwm Tryweryn against the growing opposition of the Welsh nation.

THE objection to passive resistance is sometimes made that it is usually not unmixed with violence. Some have thought toadescribe a species of violent but non-lethal resistance, such as the burning of Government property in Llcyn before the war by three Welsh literary men, There may be a case for such

resistance. But it would have to be a resistance that was backed by the nation as a whole.

If the Welsh people showed clearly that they were gravely opposed to Liverpool's project, there might be a case for such action as would make it difficult or impossible for Liverpool to start the work.

The resistance to Liverpool is chiefly based upon strictly conservative principles, by which I mean that the objectors are trying to conserve a society which is part of the society of the nation.

Now the commentators justly regard such a conservation as of the greatest importance. The encyclical speaks of tyrants who would drag the nation to ruin. But here I must attempt to reduce the somewhat dramatic metaphor. The tyrant who "drags a nation to ruin" presumably does so in a more or less violent manner. But it is the little foxes that steal the grapes; and one of the most successful ways of "dragging a nation

to is by some such obedience to mild innovation begun by a small precedent (see G.K.C's story of Jones who had a dog) as gradually strips a land and its people.

If I wanted to drag a nation to ruin. I thing I should plump for the strictly "constitutional" method which will always be supported by liberally minded men and by "progressives.'

MOST rebels have not been progressive, as Coleridge pointed out when he reminded the first rebels of 19th century

England that their cry, " give us back our rights." was truly a reactionary cry. It was, that is, a cry for the restoration of rights impaired by the years.

Here lies the enthusiasm for the nationalist revolt, the most understandable of revolts at least to us who revere Tone and Glyndwr, Alfred at Athelney and Joan the Maid.

Yet to understand is not necessarily to defend. It would be quite wrong, for example, were Plaid Cymru to start an armed revolt, even if its 13,000 members were the just men of whom Augustine spoke, It would be wrong because Plaid Cymru is developing quite well in a peaceful manner and is gaining ground in accordance with its own peaceful manner.

One might hesitate over some of the acts of the Scots Nationalists. who. however, won an extraordinary degree of support when they took the Stone away from Westminster Abbey. 1 am inclined to approve of their defacement of pillar boxes which quite illegally bear the name of Elizabeth II (in Scotland). Their new "freedom" radio can hardly be opposed by us who for years backed the freedom radios of nationals in Europe..

UT in the end we must always consider the end. The encyclical is intent upon just that. The tranquillity of order is the end. And any rebel who pursues a policy of revolt for its own sake -"the rebel who is right only at the moment of revolt"—and who regards revolt as Trotsky regarded it, as a necessary and perpetual act to be carried on until the withering away of the State, is a false rebel.

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