Punishment Must Fit The Crime, Says German Christian In Important New Book
NEW and really important book calling for a ** punitive"
peace for Germany has just appeared. It has little or no
resemblance to the largely superficial and wholly political works on the same subject which war inevitably evokes. It demands the most careful study and thought. For in Europe and the German Question* the author (who is a German and, one deduces, a Catholic) argues thrbughout on extremely serious lines. As it happens his general analysis of Western history, in particular in regard to the relations between politics and Christianity. largely coincides with the views the present writer has maintained in this paper and elsewhere. But the practical conclusions drawn by the author (F. W. Foerster) as regards what is to be done after the war are totally opposed to what
has been advocated in these columns. Herr Foerster's far greater knowledge of Germany must command respect and cause one to modify some of one's views, but, in the present instance at any rate, the author has not succeeded in altering the persuasion that a " punitive " peace will prove a disaster for the world.
(I) PRUSSIA AND GERMANY
170ERSTER'S central argument is the perfectly simple one that
Germany has sinned against the light and that therefore she cannot recover her soul except through a long period of suffering and atonement, the conditions of which must this time be imposed by victors who neglected their moral duty in this respect after the last war. Foerster does not, of course, echo the profoundly unhistorical arguments of certain anti-German tracts. On the contrary he has the deepest admiration for the tradition, vocation and worth of his own people. It is rather a case of corruptio optimi pessima. He eloquently describes the Teutonic Knights who founded Prussia and explains the religious nature of their mission as well as the religious
asceticism of their life. The Prussian ideal is not just one of aggressiveness and cruelty; it is one of authority, simplicity, discipline, order. The Prussian is a man dedicated to an ideal and disciplined to carry it out. .0n the other side is the dreaming, sentimental, philosophic German called by history and geography to be the flexible link between the Latin and the Slav, .the German who in the Holy Roman Empire expressed Christian values and Christian morality in a loosely articulated federation which could have solved the political problem of Europe by causing the submission of nationalistic and self-seeking ends to the universal and unchanging moral outlook of the Church. Foerster honestly admits that the fatal break away from this super-national ideal was made by the French kingdom rather than by Germany, but he explains that once the break had been effected the Germans were uprooted and shorn of a natural destiny. It was because of this that their ineffective sentimentality was drawn towards the rigorism and hardness of the Prussian with the narrow and practical vision. " As the soft and sensitive snail builds her house out of her own secretion, so the sentimental German has built his hard dwelling out of an isolated Prussia. In the legend. Siegfried clad himself with the dragon's skin. He is the German who has clad himself with the Prussian hide. But it is not difficult to see that the manliness is rather in the skin than in the inner man . . . That is why a real Prussian is more genuine and more tolerable than a Prussianizecl Saxon or a Pnissianized native of Baden."
ON THE EVE OF AN IRON AGE
TN other words, the loss of a universal rooted Christian outlook, A upon which the loosely knit lands that speak German depend for a mission suited to their constructive genius, had the double effect of turning the good German towards Prussian asceticism and of robbing Prussia itself of the only ideal commensurate with its almost monastic dedication. The perversion of such asceticism (always a danger when the tolerant and gentle guiding hand of the universal Church is removed and already clearly marked in the ruthlessness of the Teutonic Knights) led gradually to the cult of force. to the complete disregard of the claims and feelings of others, to rigorism and one-mindedness becoming ends in themselves rather than means. Hence when nationalism, commercialism, materialism swept over Europe the Germans encased in the hard Prussian shell dedicated themselves completely to the doctrine that might is right.
How this has worked out in practice is argued at length in chapters wherein the war guilt of Germany in regard to the last war and the set determination of Germans of all schools to work for a new opportunity after their defeat are described.
Herr Foerster (whose courage in advocating this thesis in his country throughout his life must have been remarkable) does not lay down any very definite plans for the future, but his general insistence is that a perversion and guilt of this order cannot possibly be wiped away in a night or through any international peace emotionalism. It must, on the sheer basis of Christian realism in regard to sin and evil, take many years of penance and retreat. " We are on the threshold not of a golden era but of an iron age. Only when we have passed through it will new spiritual forces come to birth and displace the unsatisfying powers that bear sway in a period of militarism." In practice he advocates a Danubian federation (on this point there appears to be a real consensus of opinion today) and he wisely rejects the worship of undisciplined democracy that has caused such harm : " Nothing is more essential than to erect a powerful bulwark against the unleashed passions of the mob, the dictatorship of particular interests, the worship of efficiency and the unprincipled intrigue of parties. This bulwark must consist in strengthening the authority of the political leader and of his executive competence. If the selfstyled democracies leave to the totalitarian States this urgently needed reform they will bar the door against those who would otherwise be attracted by the genuine advantages they possess." And again : " Undoubtedly the future of the civilised world will lie with monarchy, in a new context and under new conditions." CAUSES SPIRITUAL: REMEDIES PHYSICAL THE essential difficulty of Herr Foerster's argument seems to us to lie in the contrary nature of the causes of the world's troubles and of the remedies which he advocates. He insists throughout on the spiritual nature of the causes and on the fact that we are all guilty, including the Church. " Place me somewhere east of Suez, where there ain't no ten commandments,' sang Tommy Atkins. The whole of modern politics," writes Foerster, " has been practised ' East of Suez, where there ain't no Ten Commandments.' " And again : " Christianity had almost completely abandoned the attempt to Christianise political conceptions and institutions and had retired into a religion of the sacristy which, however, in consequence of this restriction, must lose the power to spiritualise and to permeate even private life . . . Whenever Christ disappears, Caesar takes his place and will infallibly close the sacristy in grim disproof of the private Christian's belief that the political world may be safely left in his hands."
It is because we so completely believe Foerster to be right in this analysis of causes—the wholesale turning to nationalism, the abandonment of the life of the spirit for sheer commercialism (a practice actually encouraged by the asceticism of the Protestant Calvinist tradition), and the consequent grasping of material socialism as the only alternative to class nationalism—that we can see absolutely no hope in one half of the secularist world setting itself up in judgment against the other half and helping it to atone for its sins by the imposition of sanctions Which are likely to prove so highly convenient and profitable.
Foerster, for all his thorough-going indictment of Germany, does not conceal the virtues of the Germans—on the contrary!—and he leaves one with the conviction that if the Germans have carried further than other Western nations the logic of contemporary secularism and, in doing so, smashed the false appearance of order, it is largely through accident and even because of the quality of German virtue " in the service of vice, but virtue none the less, with the hope it brings that hereafter it will devote itself to the service of genuine good."
What then? If we accept the essential truth of Foerster's indictment and admit, as Mr. Arnold Lunn would have us admit, the delusion of ever imagining that one could have done business with a Hitler, and yet at the same time believe that London-New YorkMoscow are very poor champions of the ideals put forward by Herr Foerstcr, seeing that he includes them in his indictment, where does any hope for the future lie?
ARE PEOPLE GUILTY OF NATIONS' CRIMES?
IT will scarcely prove satisfying to say: " In the Church, in a Church A which has transcended the shortcomings of the sacristy period and which stands before the world 'the fearless champion of spiritual and moral values in societies as well as among ,individuals." This will prove scarcely satisfying because-no one can expect even a revivified Christianity to exert its full influence in the immediate future when the foundations of a better world will have to be constructed. Yet we should remember that there may in fact be no solution short of this one. Christ never promised that the gates of hell should not prevail against the world, and it seems to us very possible that the long period of suffering and atonement which Foerster demands for Germany may in fact be awaiting us all. In other words, it may be that there is no practical solution, and that Europe will have to enter a new Dark Age of anarchy and unrest, of blood and iron until the sins of five hundred years are indeed purged away thropgh a bitter and universal experience. This frankly seems to us a much more logical and a much more Christian conclusion from Herr Foerster's premises.
But in fact we do see a way of escape, and one which Foerster wholly overlooks. We think he exaggerates very considerably the imputability of this guilt. He writes wholly in terms of nations and peoples, and his suggestion throughout is that the individual is as responsible as the nation. This we think is wholly untrue and it implies a false application of the Christian theology of sin. " You
cannot indict a whole people " has remained one of the wisest of political sayings. Neither the mass of the Germans nor the mass of the people of the other great nations of the West can be held responsible for the effects of false and evil national policies and philosophies. As far as public life and general philosophic outlook the vast majority of individuals, especially today, are much more sinned against than sinning. Nine-tenths of the life of most of them are inevitably concerned with the often hard process of earning a livelihood and seeking economic security for themselves and their families. It is very significant that in nearly five hundred pages of writing Herr Foerster never deals with this aspect of the problem and scarcely ever mentions economics.
The real problem of peace, as we see it, is in this sense social and economic. We must cease concentrating so hard on nations, national policies, national crimes, and remember instead that the millions of ordinary people will tend to cease to be militarist, nationalistic, socialist, commercialist, in so far as wise leadership, national and international, can solve the problem of economic security for the individual, whether German or British, creating the real common life on which religion can be rebuilt. This, we hold, can prove to be the solvent that will dissipate the grosser results of national and international infidelity to Christian truth and open at length the way to a soundly based Christian renaissance. We do not underestimate the difficulties, but the clue, we believe, lies there. And it is a clue that must apply equally all round.
(* Europe and the German Question; F. W. Foerster; Allen and Unwin, 16s.)