An Alliance That Should Be Understood
Its Meaning In Terms Of Europe's History
WE wrote last week about the unhainey relations between France and this country. A much more cheering subject for treatment this week is the growth of friendship and interdependence between Britain and the United States which has now reached the point of an alliance in all but name and a joint effort to overcome what the peoples on both sides of the Atlantic recognise as a common enemy.
None the less this alliance gives cause in certain respects for anxieties which should be squarely faced in good time.
NOT THE RESAILT OF PROPAGANDA an article in the New York Herald Tribune Walter Lippman has
pointed out that it is a mistake to look upon American intervention in British and European affairs during the last war and the present one as exceptional events. breaches in the American tradition of isolation. He argues from history that the British-American connection has been a continual development since the defeat of the Spanish Armada. " What we see today is what the British and the Americans have always in the end been compelled to see—that both must survive and be strong or neither can be truly secure and independent. When the British and the Americans have seen this truth clearly, both have profited immensely; when they have lost sight of it temporarily, they have suffered seriously."
Another way of putting it is that America and Britain have between them had the guarding of the commercial international civilleation whose ultimate triumph was assured by the Reformation. But, as Christopher Dawson has shown, there were two conflicting principles within the Reformation itself. the Calvinist and the Lutheran. Without going into details here, we may roughly say that the Lutheran principle of passive obediente led to the Germanic exaltation of the State as the instrument of Divine Power. while the Calvinist individualism (conviction of individual election to co-operate with the law of God) led to the Anglo-Saxon democratic revolution in terms of a moral law superior to the historic order of society which Luther tended to accept as God's will.
As has been time and again demonstrated, capitalism and democracy are the logical evolution of Calvinistic individualism, and it is for these that Britain and America have consistently fought and continue to fight today.
TWO EXAGGERATIONS CATHOLICITY, from which, after all, both sides of the Reforma%1 non derived, sees in both an exaggeration of the truth for which
it stands. On the one hand it respects the continuity of historic events, teaches submission to the constituted power, and attaches great importance to the existing order of society; on the other it is adamant in holding to the priority of the individual's moral rights over the arbitrary authority of the State and of the Natural Law over the will of the Sovereign. The great danger of the Calvinist tradition is, of course, subjectivism. An inner convicition of personal election can in course of time result in a conviction that anything which happens to suit one's temperament or one's passions is the will of God. And it requires very little ingenuity to twist and turn what one accepts of Divine Revelation and the universal moral law into a justification of whatever one wants to do. And since the justification remains in terms of basic moral principles, it is violent, convinced, strongly emotional and extremely narrow. We have seen it strongly at work during the two wars when Anglo-Saxon civilization has seen nothing strange in a sweeping moral crusade in favour of a social and economic culture that is very far indeed from being Christian. Moreover, since this subjectivism is likely to follow the line of least resistance, it can come gradually to justify the very opposite of the values for which it originally revolted. Thus we find that since the technique of modern economic life has automatically led to socialism and State-omnipotence the successors of Calvin have tended to come round full-circle and champion the absolutism of the Socialist or even the Communist State which in fact developed from the extremist interpretation of passive obedience in Eastern Christianity. The Lutheran error, on the other side, made it impossible for the individual. the person, to defend himself and the truth of the Faith that was in him against the more and more arbitrary and irrational will of a State whose actions were necessarily determined by, at best, utilitarian considerations and, at worst, the ambitions and prejudices of rulers who claimed to stand in the place of God, if not to be gods. And here too the logical development was in the direction of Socialism and Communism,
GREAT BRITAIN'S CENTRAL POSITION
THIS attempt to see things in their historic and philosophic signi ficance has, of course, its very practical counterpart. Great Britain and the British Empire have for a long time stood at the centre, as it were, of all these cross-currents. They offer a curious kind of parallelism with Rome, as the capital of Christendom. The Reformation deprived Rome of its power of injecting Christian truth direct into the secular life of the Western world. The current of history turned towards the Atlantic, and away from the lands which preserved the Faith. And Great Britain, set geographically at the centre of the new civilization, took over to some extent the secular influence of the capital of Christianity. And there is a good deal to be said for the view that in its own unconscious way it preserved something of the moral balance which it was Rome's function to give. True, it was strongly Protestant. True, it became more and more secularist and cut off from the spiritual nourishment that the Church alone could give. But, as Protestant, it maintained both the Calvinist and the Lutheran traditions, thus, as it were, hanging on to both aspects of the truth which were fused in Catholic Christianity; and, as secularist, it none the less maintained in its people and its social
structure social and public morals inherited from Christianity. In some ways the Anglo-Saxon character found a means of applying to changing conditions the old moral truths and pioneered humanitarian and social reforms whose inspiration was certainly Christian. Unfortunately. cut off from the source of spiritual nourishment, it has gradually and in recent years very rapidly drifted with the prevailing tides and become the victim of an amalgam of utilitarianism, scientific progress, commercial capitalism, all of which were in agreement in rejecting that established social order of human persons which springs from the Catholic understanding of the relations between the creature and the Creator. And by the time the dangers of this drift were being recognised all that was left to counter it were the individualist. liberal, subjective principles derived from Calvinism. And these, as we have seen, could only serve as a means of rationalising and trying to humanise the very currents that should have been opposed. Hence the continuous drift towards arbitrary State control and Socialism.
AFTER THE WAR THE real danger of this war and of the upsurge of moral emotions to which it has given rise (moral emotions which at first sight are indistinguishable from Christian and Papal ones) lies in the fact that they are unconnected with any convinced belief in an objective moral order founded on a right understanding of the relations that link man and the world to God. And being thus unconnected, subjective and emotional—linked at best with some vague remembrance of a Christian order that meant something in the past—they must inevitably become applied, once the war is over, to the support of whatever technical. economic and social forces may be in the ascendant. Exactly the same thing happened after the last war, when a magnificent show of international morality was put up, only to dissolve away as the real forces behind it came to the surface. But this time matters may be even worse, for we shall be faced with the virtual collapse of social order in Europe and the virtual domination of America—and perhaps Russia—in world affairs. And Great Britain which, as we have said, has acted in modern times as a sort of secular capital of what was left of the Christian tradition, will be in a position of extreme economic weakness. Its moral and military ascendancy will, no doubt, be great—great enough perhaps to cope at first with the disorder presented by a defeated Europe, but in fact the country that paid the piper will be in the best position to call the tune. And America today, we suggest, is the real home of that liberalisticcapitalism turning itself into materialistic-socialism which is the logical end of Calvinism.
BALANCING THE AMERICAN ALLIANCE 'TN a sense there is nothing we can do about it. The only big alter.'" native is worse, for it is defeat by Nazism or a negotiation which will be tantamount to defeat. And Nazism, from the Christian point of view, is but one of the extremes towards which modern infidelity is drifting. To embrace one extreme in order to avoid something which may lead to another extreme is poor sense. And under this alternative Britain will count for considerably less than it will count after a victory that entails our economic subjection to America.
But despite our unfortunate position there remains a good deal that we can do to prevent matters from becoming worse. Obviously in America there is a strong demand that her help should be conditioned by our willingness to go to extreme lengths of economic subjection. The sale of every foreign asset is demanded, as well as the sale of every item of property in the United States. This demand has only been stopped at the point of handing over parcels of the
British Empire. We cannot but think that this expression of worship of financial rectitude on both sides of the Atlantic has gone too far. America has associated herself with us for precisely the same reasons as we entered the war, and there is no reason why we should not tactfully negotiate for more equal sacrifices that will prove in the long run advantageous to both countries.
Again, now is the time to make clearer the fundamental principles for which we are fighting so as to strengthen our hands later by definite pledges today. The fact that we are holding the fort today makes us now the dominant partner. We shall no longer be that when we have shed our blood and spent our substance and won the victory for both. But even more important is it that we should make all efforts to balance on our dependence on America by preparing the work of forging better relations with the Continent. For the moment Spain, Portugal and Ireland are the only countries with which we can freely work. But just because of this they are, as it were, a bridge-head upon which much will depend. For the same reason we must endeavour to establish an understanding with France and, above all, work on the peoples—as opposed to the present governments—of Germany and Italy. Lastly we shall be wise if we remember that the spiritual source of the civilization of which we are a part and to which we must cling if we are not to be swept away into paganism.
materialism and communism still exists. It is in the Church of which the representative on earth is the Pope. Britain may yet be saved, in a far deeper sense than any salvation achieved solely by physical victory, through taking account betimes of the Vatican and the spiritual, moral and cultural forces that are guarded there.