WHAT should prove to be the
last great battle of the war has begun, and its opening stages have proved uniformly successful. Indeed it is clear that the Allies are enjoying a superiority in numbers and equipment that virtually ensures the attaining of the prescribed objectives and often enables the time-table to be handsomely beaten. Yet these gigantic battles must still be paid for in heavy loss of life and great suffering. The cost to the enemy is far greater, not only in men but in unprecedented destruction of great areas of an advanced civilisation. And let us remember that though the Germans bear, so to speak, the initial cost of our bombardments and advances, we shall have to share in the full loss. The contrast in this respect between the Russian advances and our own has been pointed out. Our dependence on the air weapon means that we advance into a sacked and ravaged country which imposes immense administrative burdens on our forces, whereas the Russians usually move into country whose people, homes and industrial equipment pass into their service. And we may add that whereas life in that part of Europe which the Soviet will dominate remains human, great areas of Western Europe are being destroyed mile by mile to the ultimate loss of the Western way of life. Tragically, a great deal of the present devastation is in a part of Europe where the belief and practice of Catholicity has survived perhaps better than anywhere else. Whose is the responsibility for this madness of prolonging a war of such mechanised fury when there is no question at all of the inevitable issue? The German propagandists are fond of noinring to 1940 when Britain refused to give in against all impartial advice and lived to see the tables turned on the conqueror. But the parallel is inaccurate. Our country was untouched, save by an unsuccessful air assault, and the war itself was young with all kinds of future possibilities so long as the enemy failed to conquer the island by assault or through starvation. To-day it is literally true that the armed weight of the world is pressing from all sides against an exhausted country which is reeling. fn fact the war was really decided when France was liberated and the Anglo-American armies in a position to drive into a Germany already unable to stand up to the Russian assault.
A Mad Idea
nI3VIOUSLY the direct responsibility ‘--" is Hitler's, and among all his crimes there is none so terrible in its direct consequences than this determination to hold on in a fanatic hope that from the sufferings of his deluded people the legend of Cesmany's unconquerability win be built up to trouble the world for generations to come. But this is a crime to which we have greatly contributed by our stupidity and lack of imagination. The ostensible reason for " unconditional surrender " was that the Germans must at last realise their defeat and not try to wriggle out as on the last occasion. But the most elementary psychology should have made it clear that the one way of ensuring that the German legend would never die was to create the opportunity for what would be interpreted as a nation's heroic martyrdom. A gross materialism of outlook on our
part has prevented us from appreciating the truth that the spirit (even a phoney spirit) lives on the trampling of the body. And, indeed, had Germany a good cause (which she never had under Hitler) the obstinate, totalitarian resistance ordered to-day by the Nazis, who have no more to lose, would actually be a glorious episode in the long story of human self-sacrifice. That it will be so interpreted by very many Germans to-morrow is inevitable.
Occasionally we are asked by readers what alternative to unconditional surrender we have to offer. Of course, at this stage there is no practical alternative but to enter into negotiation with the Nazis, a course which we have never defended. But we maintain that Hitler and the Nazis could have been rendered impotent long since if we had maintained the true distinction between the Nazis and the masses of the German people. Even if it had been true that virtually all Germans were behind Hitler's war, the distinction would still have remained valid, since the Nazis viewed war as the right means of attaming their evil purposes whereas the masses of the people could onTy have been deceived by intensive propaganda, the false philosophy of nationalism (which we all share to a great extent) and the herd instinct-into making Hitler's cause temporarily their own. But it isn't even true, In a fascinating diary of life among German factory workers in 1942 a French priest reveals that the German worker considered the war a hateful thing and referred to it by an epithet of the most extreme vulgarity. There is only one way to end jealousy and hatred, whether among people or nations, and it is in replacing it by friendship. understanding and love. The solution of the German problem, as of any other international quarrel, lies, as the Gospels and the present Pope teach. through the removal, not the intensification, of grievance. The materialism of to-day has led us to attempt the opposite extreme of wiping out our enemy, and every day we are furnishing the material for his resurrection one day from the dead. The war has offered endless opportunities for a true liberation of the German people from their own history and their own blind leaders. as well as Isom our appalling mistakes in deal/hg with them. Instead of seizing them. we have done all we could to make sure that Germany. as Goebbels and the rest of them point out, will not after all be defeated. And if that is speculation, there is nothing speculative about the fact that the war is being prolonged long after its proper and natural ending.
feared that the Yalta settle-(
ment was unlikely to cause any notable change in Soviet policy in regard to Poland—we feared it, though we very sincerely hoped that it would. But everything that has happened since tends to show that the Soviet is determined to remain, through the LtIblin group, the suzerain of the Poland of to-morrow. It may seem incredible that Mr. Churchill and Mr. •Roosevelt could have left Yalta without a clear agreement as to the mode of interpreting the decisions reached about Poland. But they must have been content with paper formulae which could be used to stifle opposition at home. It was a very shortsighted policy. Russia makes no bones about the fact that her recognition of Lublin is the oply point that counts—. an interpretation which, we must say, is made almost excusable by our own cold-shouldering of the Polish Government before and since. Russia is prepared to see Lublin widened by the inclusion of a minority of new and impotent names, 'but Lublin is to remain. That strange group of puppets hasnot even bothered to alter its policy in regard to the treatment of Poles, conceding any sort of liberty to the country and its barbaric denunciations of its political enemies.
Meanwhile Russia is naturally pressing for the presence of a Russian Poland at San Francisco to strengthen the Russian influence.
So all our compromises have led to nothing! We should have been much better advised to admit honestly that we were not in a position to protect Our Ally, and that being so there was nothing further we could do. The trouble about that respectable, if sad, alternative was that it would have meant the end, of all the grand schemes for constructing a new world on the basis of uniting the freedom and peaceloving Powers of the world. And without that, what was the war for! The preservation and strengthening of Christendom? Good heavens, no! This is the age of progress.
DEMOCRACY AND FINANCE
IT has been long recognised that
the democratic character of a regime which, while allowing the exercise of a wide parliamentary franchise, failed to curb the money power was an illusion and a fraud. That power, it was pointed out by Lord Nathan in the Lords' debate on Monopolies and Cartels, has become more menacing than ever. Inevitable as it may be in the interests of efficiency and greater economy for the parties concerned, the combines (2,000 s of which dominate British industry and thus affect the business of no less than 250,000 firms) constitute a dangerous power which must be curbed. Lord Nathan argued that " it should. therefore, be an offence at law for supplies to be deliberately restricted, for minimum prices to be deliberately fixed, for entry into any industry or trade to he deliberately prevented, and for inventions to be deliberately suppressed or limited in their use to an organised few. Only by public permission and licence, in furtherance of public policy. should these devices be allowed."
How is the evil to be remedied? Lord Samuel in the same debate declared that four different methods were proposed, the policy of leaving things to take their own course unfettered in any way, by breaking up the trusts and re-establishing competition, by nationalising industries. and. fourthly, by establishing a system of control, and, where necessaryof some form of regulation.
The last method has the advantage of both safeguarding the small business and the public, and allowing for a large freedom in the exercise of initiative and the spirit of enterprise.. In addition, it has the still greater advantage of being in accord with those Catholic principles which, in the Middle Ages, gave the guilds a monopoly and, at the same time, controlled their activities by the law of the Just Price and by other regulations.
MACHINERY OF GOVERNMENT
suz Stafford Cripps, speaking at
Chatham, referred to the need of improving our administrative machinery in order that. to keep pace with the present rapid march of events,
it might work more smoothly. The ry
machine of Government that was suited to the quiet and slow legislative processes of the nineteenth century," he asserted. " are not applicable to the urgent requirements of the twentieth century." And he rightly argued that this was all the more so " when we have to face great economic and social changes in the post-war period." The problem is partly solved in the sphere of foreign affairs by the means of rapid transit, enabling plenipotentiaries from all quarters of the world to meet and confer. But this factor is of little importance in domestic matters.
It has been an asset on the side of totalitarian Governments that centralisation in the person of a single Dictator has made possible quick decisions and rapid action. The question is whether the same dispatch can be achieved in a democracy. A little while ago. the American Republic had to spend valuable time listening to electioneering speeches. In the near future, it would seem, we shall be doing likewise. By its very nature, democracy acts as a brake on action.
This is not a reison for parting with any of the rights of the governed to control their governors. but it does make it imperative that the machinery by which the democracy does its business should be as little cumbersome as possible. That, however, is not enough. The quitker the action of legislature and executive, the quicker also must be the democratic brain controlling them. The pedal-cyclist who takes to motoring, unless he adjusts his mental processes to this more rapid means of transport, will crash. The democracy which employs high-powered and swift machinery for effecting its purpose must learn to think qurckly, and it can do that only if it knows clearly what its purpose is. Fogginess in political thinking is the enemy of decisive action even mote than cumbersome machinery.