Page 8, 27th March 1953

27th March 1953
Page 8
Page 8, 27th March 1953 — Change in attitude to religion

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Locations: London, Bentveld


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Change in attitude to religion




Arecommendation that Socialists throughout Europe should reconsider the attitude of their movement towards Christianity was before the British Labour Party Executive Council when it met in London this


The recommendation came from the private conference on Socialism and religion, held recently in Bentveld, Holland, and called by the Socialist International, to which the British party is affiliated.

There, delegates from the Socialist Parties of 32 countries decided that, whereas in the past it has been assumed by Socialist leaders, particularly on the Continent, that the majority of their followers were anticlericals, rationalists, or atheisthumanists, post-war developments have created a new situation which calls for new approaches.

Far reaching

Should this recommendation be adopted and followed up, it will have far-reaching effects upon Continental politics and strengthen the position in the British movement too.

Those present included Catholics and Protestants, as well as representatives of the old "free-thinking" Socialist school. , It was the first time that this delicate subject had been discussed at the international level in this way because of the intensity of feeling it has always provoked in the past.

Among countries represented were Germany, France, Spain, Holland, Belgium and Austria—all with large Catholic populations—as Weir as Protestant ones like Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

A strong lead came from Christian representatives of the Dutch and German Parties.

Representing the Labour Party were Mr. Tom Driberg, M.P., and Mr. Webber, assistant secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association. Both are members of the National Executive Council.

For three generations Continental Socialists have, at the hest, officially stood aside from religion; at the worst. and not infrequently. they have attacked it, so contributing to the drift of the industrial proletariat from the Faith. a fact noted in the early days in Rerum NOVarunr,


Because of this background, the discussions were in the main exploratory. No agreement was reached on such important questions as the schools and Church-State relations, which parties are asked to "consider."

Much of the three days' discussion was taken up with the basic question of whether or no the situation. and opinion in the working class movement, have changed sufficiently to warrant "reconsideration" of the movement's basic attitude, And this much, at least, was agreed.

The outcome of future discussions would therefore seem to depend to some extent upon how far Christians in the various parties make their views known.

The international bureau, organisers of the conference, remembering the violence of past controversies. are said to have been pleasantly surprised by the more cordial nature of the discussions and to be satisfied with such decisions as were made.

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