Page 1, 29th November 1940

29th November 1940
Page 1
Page 1, 29th November 1940 — BRITISH OFFER TO U.S.S.R.

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Catholic M.P.s will press for defining propaganda issue

Catholic M.P.s, we understand, are to press the Government for a clarification of the precise nature of the offers made to Russia recently. In particular they are disturbed by the possibility, emphasised in last week's issue of the Catholic Herald, that Britain is ready to undertake to prohibit Anti-Soviet criticism in this country, a prohibition that would cut across the religious right of Christians to denounce a false religion and brutally immoral principles.

In order to obtain a representative view of Catholic feeling the Catholic Herald has approached a number of leading laymen and clergy.

We give below their views, together with that of a nonCatholic Liberal M.P., who may be said to be representative of a sincere contrary view, widespread in this country. (It should be noted that the Catholic herald made it clear last week that it did not object to recognising the position and power of the Soviet in any European settlement, nor in admitting frontier changes that may be in the common good.) ALFRED DEN VILLE, M.P.

I certainly think we ought to have some clarification of this point, and T don't think Catholics in this country

should find themselves alone in demanding it. Unless a question has already been put down, I intend to raise the matter.

1 have the gravest fears about all these moves, lest we find ourselves vis-a-vis American and Canadian Catholics in a wholly false position. The only difference for us Catholics between Nazi paganism and Soviet communism is that we are not fighting the one which is the worst.

For some time now the seeming indifference of the Government to Communists and communist propaganda in this country has been a source of real embarrassment. to Christians who sincerely believe not only that Great Britain is fighting, from her own point of view, a just war, but the whole civilized world's just war against Nazi tyranny and neopaganism.

How can our diplomacy even with men of the highest calibre directing it in Catholic Spain and Portugal be successful if we truckle with the avowed open enemy of all forms of Christianity and all religions?

Nearer home there arc many Catholics and non-Catholics who have fought for Ireland's freedom. Home Rule. and in these days a United Ireland, who feel they have been stabbed in the back, and that the elements in English political life that have been responsible for these latest moves on our part are also responsible for the obstinately neutral attitude of Catholic Ireland.

While making every allowance for distinctions between politics and ideologies, the U.S.S.R. and the Comintern, and allowing the pressure of political events upon our diplomacy I think that if we really did make the offer—we did something that in time may prove very embarrassing.


Making every possible allowance for the exigencies of the present world political situation, questions of good and evil far transcend such problems which are after all problems of the day only, however large they may loom at the present.

Catholics and indeed all Christians have to regard such high moral questions from the point of view, not of the present time but of eternity,

Though Nazism is the more present danger which we have to face, Communism, though at the moment less active, is no less a danger in the long run, and I confess that I regard the present moves with considerable alarm.

A group of Catholic M.P.s is meeting to discuss the questions. Catholics and, I hope, others too will certainly demand a clarification.


No one will ever stop me speaking against the anti-Christianity and immorality of Russian Communism, or talking about the doctrines of the Encyclical Divini Redemptoris. If they put me in prison I'd talk about these things to my warders.

Nevertheless we cannot blame the Government for trying to come to some understanding with the Soviet in respect to propaganda. It is probable that they had in mind Soviet anti-British propaganda in India, the West Indies, Palestine, much more than Communist propaganda in the British Isles.

There is in the present political state of affairs much to commend a reciprocal understanding on the matter of Russian and anti-British and British and antiRussian propaganda understood in those terms.

The difficulty is of course to distinguish between the political and ideological propaganda particularly in the case of Russia. For this reason 1 agree that some clarification of the subject is necessary.

I can assure you that Catholic members of parliament on both sides of the House will insist that the propaganda to which the terms referred will not be allowed to cover the teaching that the doctrine of Russian Communism is unmoral and anti-Christian, nor the moves as a whole be allowed to have the effect of putting the Papal Encyclicals like Divini Redemptoris on a British Government Index.


It seems to me that we ought to bend our best endeavour to the concluding of an alliance with Russia for our mutual benefit a_part from the present military utility of such a step. We both have something that is right. Britain has a political and a religious democratic freedom, but we are not an economic democracy. Russia on the other hand has neither political nor religious democracy but she does enjoy an economic democracy. Under the circumstances it seems odd that either should ask the other to restrain its nationals from propagating ideas which ought to work for the greater good of both.

It seems to me that two nations each of whom have one part of what humanity undoubtedly requires ought to be able to work together to prevent the victory of a third nation which would destroy the whole.


We should concern ourselves more with the removal of the causes of Communism than with propaganda against or for, in accordance with the counsel given to us by our late Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, If we Catholics, clergy, nuns and laity made sure that our own lives and our own dealings with others were based on the teachings of the Encyclicals of the Popes we could afford to snap our fingers at any moves by the Government which seemed to make Communistic propaganda easy or difficult.

Be honest. get rid of the causes of Communism, unemployment, undernourishment, starvation wages, insecurity, slums—don't bother about the frills. Even though it cost some sacrifice.


It may be necessary, for reasons of a military order, to obtain the help of Satan in conquering Beelzebub, by an alliance with Russia. Of that we cannot judge. One cannot, however, believe that part of the price we are prepared to pay would be prohibition of anti-Soviet propaganda in our own country. One hopes that this idea can only arise from a false interpretation of our Government's assurance. For our resistance as Christians to Nazism springs not only from our patriotism, but also from loathing and fear of a vile and sub-human political system.

What we must avoid, is the stupidity

of distinguishing between a Totalitarism of the Right and that of the Left. it is high time we understood that National Socialism and Bolshevism differ only in the colour of their shirt and in their relative efficiency. Whatever pedantic terminology they bleat, whether the absurdities of Marx from Russia, of the extravagances of Gobineau and Chamberlain from Germany, fundamentally it is the same vile Thing at work.

Christians, therefore, hoist retain the liberty to defend against all totalitarisms, the dignity of the human person.

'The more so since after the war social life will undergo profound changes. It is likely that the State will be forced to dominate more and more activities ; industry. economics, education, and in the case of youth, probably leisure will be "directed" and less free. Labour-camps. state youth-organisations. the communal meal and the factory creche—all these and many other innovations will, under the guise of welfare, efficiency, planning and so forth, find powerful hacking. The area of personal responsibility and selfexpression may become much restricted. Indeed, it is possible that some form of Communism or National Socialism may be introduced.

Poor substitutes for the association and co-operation of free men, representing a diminution of human personality and a modified servile status, if they are a temporary necessity, then it will be our business as Christians to baptise them so far as they are susceptible of " grace."

Otherwise we shall see the tragic irony of pouring out blood and money to drive the enemy from our gates, only to find him in through the back-door, and ensconced in the kitchen!

A woman was dying and by way of preparing her to meet her God the priest exhorted her to renounce the Devil, the world and the flesh. She seemed to have no objection to the two last items, but firmly refused to include the Devil in her imprecations. Pressed by the priest for this extraordinary reluctance, she at last explained that she knew she was dying, but what she did not know was where she was going: so to remain on the safe side, she didn't want " to make no enemies," or invite reprisals. Better be polite pro tem.

Is this not the attitude of our Government to Russia? Haven't we enough enemies?

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