DISAPPOINTING as it is to be made so clearly aware at the turn of the year that there has been la.r too much optimism about, there is value in the undeception. The military set-back may well have taken the public by surprise. After ail, in military affairs, we are all dependent on such information and views as the authorities deign to impart. And though from time to time Mr. Churchill or some Allied spokesman will nod a head gravely. the public has been given the impression throughout the war that the military task was a good deal easier than it has turned out to be. Almost from the beginning there has been wild exaggeration in at least two respects: the effectiveness of our blockade and the value of bombing. To go by what has been constantly said or hinted Germany should to-day. be without petrol and reeling under the blows of an Allied air force which, so it was confidently hoped in some quarters, could win the war all by itself. Though of course it is possible that the counteroffensive is a final throwing of every resource into the pool. we shall all be wiser if for once we take a more sober view and conclude that Germany's military machine so far from being beaten is still able to make a very remarkable showing against an overwhelming superiority in numbers and weight of material. The plain fact is that the only really decisive blows :cored against the enemy have been straightforward defeats in actual battle: at Stalingrad, in North Africa, in Southern Italy and. above all. in France. But in each case despite appearances the enemy has shown supreme resource and skill in retreating and reforming with the advantage each time of shorter lints of communication so that a balance has been maintained.
Obviously he has been losing all the lime, and in the normal course of events such retreats must end with a final defeat. But the course of events is by no means wholly normal, and if 1945 is to see the end of it all in ;he West it is high time the attention of the Allies were drawn to the course of those events.
The " Cause " for the Germans SE ivE presume that the enemy radio
propaganda directed to this country has for its purpose the weakening of our morale. It has been singularly unsuccessful in effecting this purpose, but whether we have been clever enough to draw from it all the profit we could is another matter. In the dark hours of the war the exaggeration and sheer cheek of that propaganda had a genuine tonic effect on British listeners, and the Government was wise indeed in refusing to interfere with it. Bad as things might be, there was always comic relief in an occasional bout of Haw-Haw, and a sense that whatever we might have to put up with, we weren't going to put up with that. But in defeat German propaganda has become a more serious business, for the fatuities elicited by the early triumphs of Nazi arms have turned into an important and often not wholly inaccurate analysis of the balance of political forces in the world. It certainly does no sort of harm to British listeners who know how decisively the tide of battle has turned (indeed the characteristic British irreverence for political leaders is often tickled by what the Germans say); but it is very desirable that this propaganda should be countered in the one really effective way, and that is by our seeing to it that any basis it may have in fact be quickly changed.
The enemy military toughness cannot he unconnected with a widespread German conviction that Hitler is not only fighting the battle of Germany, but also the battle of Europe and indeed the battle of civilisation! Neither of the two pictures normally offered in respect of Germany make sense to-day. Obviously the Germans are not merely being driven into battle against their will by a gang of armed thugs; nor are a people of some eighty millions wholeheartedly devoted to Messrs.
Goebbels, Ribbentrop and Co. A people capable of such insanity would have cracked long ago. The truth is that the defence of the Fatherland against enemies represented as ruthless, a defence idealised stilt further by the belief that Germany alone stands against destniciion from the East and anarchy from the West, is a cause which to-day can move not a few Germans as keenly as we were moved in 1940. We shall be wiser to accept that as the truth and calculate on the basis of it.
The Danger leVE may be able to console ourselves with the ,thought that, whatever the dirty Huns believe. they're going to be soundly thrashed, and that's
that! Let us hope that is that! But is it quite certain that that is that ? If we have allowed matters to drift to such an extent that the enemy has now a genuine cause—at least up to a point, we must reckon with the possible effects of the moral situation. We must allow for the possibility that the present tensions between the great Allies may in part be the effect of a subconscious realisation that. morally, all is not as well with us as it was. And once we allow that, we cannot, unless we are the crudest of materialist, deny that a situation may arise in which our very victory is imperilled—not by German might, but by Allied want of faith. And without going so far as this we have to reckon with facts (already perhaps realised) which in delaying our victory imperil the lives of hundreds of thousands and add the mounting misery of the world. And, apart from the question of victory itself, we must undoubtedly have to face the truth that the materialist overcoming of German resistance in the name of nothing truly constructive—nothing indeed but what the Germans fear—is going to give the world something that may be actually worse than war.
These are all extremely unseasonable prospects, but our best chance of making certain that 1945 does not bring nearer their further realisation lies in our fairly and squarely facing up to them.
Looking to Britain WE know of course that it is not within the means of our own country to allay the danger altogether. There is little prospect of Russia altering her course of aggressive powerpolitics; and there is little chance of America giving up her traditional role of washing her hands of any European tangle and salving her conscience by blaming us who are left to carry the baby.
But we are here considering moral as well as material strength. Given the degree of commitment to the war the possibility of any actual material breach in the Allied ranks until victory is achieved is happily small. And this leaves us in Britain with all the bole, chance of giving to the world the moral lead for which it is waiting—that moral lead which will indeed counterbalance such moral strength as the course of the war and the views of the Allies have hitherto afforded Germany, America is outside Europe and certainly does not begin to understand Europe. Russia is largely non-European and contributes a philosophy that is totally alien from every European tradition. If Germany finds herself today standing, much more by accident than by design, as a champion of something European, her stand is wholly negative, and carries with it, so long as the Nazis are in the ascendant, nothing of value and much of danger. This leaves Britain as the only great European Power—the only great Power with the Christian outlook in its European setting. To Britain are looking the millions of ordinary men and women on the Continent whose one longing to-day is peace. order, security and opportunity under that conception of law and liberty which the world owes to Christianity—that conception which utterly rejects the tyranny of Right or Left totalitarianism and the anarchy of a secularise Godless struggle for the survival of the fittest under democratic and Socialist disguise.
The grandest of opportunities still lies before our own land. It is worth praying that 1945 will see our leaders and our people beginning to realise it.
ONE WAR: ONE PEACE
THE reports which have been
rife for some while concerning Nazi preparations to continue hostilities, after the formal conclusion of the war in the West. by guerrilla methods are becoming more detailed. Materials, including both food and munitions, are being collected, it is said, and it is even alleged that picked troops are being assembled and trained for this purpose. In addition, Leftwing members of the S.S. are reported to have a five-year plan for the seizing of power in Europe. Perhaps it was to these projects that Flimmler referred when, in a recent broadcast, he confidently declared that new forces were emerging which, despite present difficulties, would give the victory to Germany.
Much of this may be discounted, but General Smuts' anticipation that the war may smoulder on long after it is officially supposed to be over may be nearer the truth than we have thought.
Similar caution in accepting optimistic anticipations are no less needed in regard to the war in the East. The scale of operations required to eject the Japanese from China, it is now seen, will call for the retention of a large percentage of our fighting forces long after Germany has been defeated. And these two theatres of war are SO interlocked that to speak of a conclusion to hostilities in the West while Japan is still undefeated in China is fallacious. It should be remembered that our two greatest Allies, thc United States and Russia, are as much interested in the Orient as they are in the Occident. And the same may be said of our own Dominions, Australasia and Canada.
To suppose that we can embark on a series of revolutionary social changes while half the world, including ourselves, is still at war is to mut disillusionment. East and West are in no separate compartments. There is but one war and there can be but one, allinclusive peace. Planners anticipating putting their schemes in operation in a few months' time might take warning.
IMPORTED VERSUS HOME-GROWN FOOD
FROM time to time we have
insisted that British agriculture needs, not piecemeal reforms and adjustments, but the clear enunciation of a national policy giving priority to production for home use and legislation giving effect to that policy. Recently we referred to a forthcoming statement by the National Farmers' Union which gave us hope that this need was being realised. Since then letters have been appearing in the Timer which show that the policy which would base prosperity on exports to be paid for by foreign-produced food such as we ,ourselves L.:mad pro. vide is undergoing critical examination. Mr, Christopher York, M.P. for Ripon, for instance, concluded a letter expounding the exporters' case, by saying: " Surely a better—more certain —road to full employment in this country is to set nut consciously to maintain at a high level of agricultural output rather than to return to the laissez-faire materialist economy of the nineteenth century."
Any doubt as to our ability to produce even more than the land has yielded dining the war (and the farmers' achievement explodes the pessimistic estimates made in pre-war days as to native resources) should be modified by the report made by the New Zealand agriculturalists who have been visiting this country. These experts in colonial farming declared that British agriculture was " behind the times " and that by using more modern methods employment might be found for many more than arc now working on the land. They even went so far as to say that the provision of an adequate system of irrigation would itself engage the energies of 1,000,000 men. The effect on productivity of such a system obviously would be prodigious.