THE Prime Minister threw into
his defensive speech on Crimea the whole weight of his personality, his oratorical gifts and that supreme belief in himself and his case which is the mark of great rulers of men. But it was all to little effect. It was like trying to inflate with powerful lungs a balloon riddled with holes. Even the more generous and understanding decisions, such 'as the welcome invitation to the fighting Poles to share British citizenship if they wished, only made the case worse, for why should they wish to remain exiles from their homeland if its future prospects have been made so rosy by the Big Three? The attempt to divide the frontier question from the freedom question was ctever but, on reflection, unconvincing. It was but a new version of the conqueror's old trick of dividing to eunquer. It is the same Russia which insists on the Curzon Line and threatens any genuine Polish liberty. and because the question of the Curzon Line has been unjustly handled there is every reason to fear that injustice will govern the future settlement. The Prime Minister asserted his own conviction of the fairness of the Cursem Line, but he failed to refer to the fact that Russia had insisted on a settlement before the Peace Treaty and after having unilaterally denounced the Polish Government with which any negotiations should have been made. When Mr. Churchill denied that he was bowing to force, was he implying that this mode of settling by force a disputed question was in his own view absolutely fair? If so, ho has accepted on behalf of Great Britain power-politics in their most naked and unashamed form. ff not, be hasassented to Britain's bowing to superior force. Nor did Mr. Churchill indicate why the territories cast of the Curzon Line, if they are not properly Polish, should be Russian. If the Polish claim is weak, the Russian is far weaker, unless indeed we accept the third partition (one of the great crimes of history) as constituting an eternally valid claim. Dr. Goebbels no doubt will note this and put in his claim on behalf of Prussia. And what should we make of the fact that Mr, Churchill in judging of Polish frontiers allows no weight whatever to the fact that millions of Christians will be forced under the rule of an avowedly anti-Christian Power?
Russia's Word 1',1 regard to the future freedom of • Poland, the Prime Minister failed again to give the vital guarantees. Pressed by Lord Dunglass, he made the extremely weak plea that guarantees about the freedom of elections (which of course involve guarantees of full political freedom long before any elections are held) must wait until the new Polish Government is constituted. it is putting the cart before the horse. No self-respecting Polish leader is going to commit himself to a Government constituted as an extension of Lublin and in Soviet-occupied territory until he is satisfied about the precise guarantees which Britain and America are prepared to give—and even then such a leader would have to take a very grave risk in that he would know that neither Britain nor America are in a position to defend their guarantees against Russian force. Nor would he be comforted by the assurance that Mr. Churchill " knows of no Government which stands to its obligations even in its own despite more solidly than the Russian Soviet Government." So far as Poland is concerned the Soviet action his been one series of gross betrayals of its word. First, there was the invasion of Poland and agreement with Mani Germany ; then in the dark days there was the treaty with Sikorski; then in rather fairer days there was the repudiation of the treaty and the breach with the Polish Government; and in the days of victory there was the seizure of Eastern Poland, the recognition of Lublin, the attacks on Polish patriots, and the imprisonment and deportations of Polish resisters. Mr. Churchill can decline absolutely to embark on a discussion on Russian good faith—but Russian good faith must be the vital point at issue for every Pole. So far it has been the usual melancholy story of conceding one point after another to obtain an understanding with the result that every concession leads to a more intolerable demand. Mr. Churchill should he well aware of the technique, seeing how eloquently he has denounced when practised by the Nazis. And the poor Poles will scarcely have their minds relieved by the disclosure made by Mr. McEwen, who stated that the British Ambassador in Moscow (destined to play a vita! rola in protecting Polish interests) believes that Lublin should he recognised by Britain.
M. BIDAULT'S VISIT M. BIDAULT'S visit to London
has been very welcome. He represents a new type of French politician—a type that is free from the careerism, jobbery and more or less secret allegiances which too often characterised the politicians of pre-war France. And though we ourselves may consider that M. Bidault's general reading of international forces during the last fifteen years has been too uncritical and too one-sided, we gladly recognise that his liberal-social views, as a prominent figure of what has been called the Catholic Left, make him all the more likely to meet with a real understanding from Mr. Eden and British political leaders generally.
This is a critical moment for Europe, and there could be no better assufancc for some degree of stability after the war than the creation of a real under!Wending between this country and France. The personalities of Mr. Eden and M. Bidault will make a very practical foundation on which to rest such a renewed entente. Neither is likely to expect too much of the modern world, but both, we believe, hold to some limits beyond which they arc not prepared to go.
How far M. Bidault can speak for the France of the home is another question. But the latest reports from France and the state of public opinion there, in so far as it can be judged from the press and the congresses of the four resistance parties (Communist, Movement of National Liberation, Radicals and National Front), strongly suggest a desire to settle down to the humdrum business of recovery and adjustment to new economic and social (rends as the indispensable condition of France resuming her natural leadership of the Continent in the West. There is suspicion of the remarkable degree of Communist conformity to moderate leadership (though it may be hazarded that if Thorez is playing a double game he is in danger of missing his bus), and there is increasing, criticism of the theatrical foreign policy pursued by de Gaulle. At the same time ardour for Russia seems to ho cooling and realisation of the mutual need of Britain and France strengthening.
All these are excellent signs, and it only remains for Britain to show real understanding and ro give practical help, for a rapid rapprochement to take place. In this matter at any rate we have much greater confidence in Mr. Eden than in the Prime Minister, and it is good to know that the Foreign Minister who carries his own considerable weight with the Conservative Party is strong enough to bold his own against Mr. Churchill in the field of foreign affairs.
SPHERES OF INFLUENCE A NUMBER of Socialist papers — welcomed therevidence in the report on Yalta of more sustained and widespread co-operation between the big Powers. These papers had become increasingly critical of the division into spheres of influence which appeared to emerge from Teheran. We suspect, however, that a good deal of this promise of co-operation is little more than window-dressing. Mr. Churchill is temperamentally disinclined to working on a wide front. President Roosevelt, even if he would personally welcome it, is too suspicious and he has to remember the strength of American isolationism (strongly defended again, by the way, by the antiBritish Fr. Gillis in the .January Catholic World). As for Stalin, everyone knows that he prefers to play a Ionic hand.
Our guess is that Yalta considerably hardened the division of the world into three parts. The conversations in Cairo may indicate that Stalin has expressed disinterest in the Mediterranean and the Near East. If so it is doubtless because there is more convenience and scarcely less advantage in the opening south to the Arabian Sea. The' Communist troubles in Rumania and the delayed agreement over the Regency in Yugoslavia may also be reflections of the strengthened Russian position in a defined area of the East. If all this is the case it would go some way towards explaining, though not excusing, the selling of Poland and the Baltic States.
However, the future of Europe as a whole must remain highly uncertain until the post-war fate of Germany is determined. In the end we may find that Anglo-French-American plans for occupation and exploitation will prove to be barriers against the spread of German Communism rather thaussafeguards against German aggression. A curious picture will emerge if that proves to be the case. Not must one forget the key position of Austria, still the natural leader of the countries .of the Danubian Basin and still a bastion of Catholicism. We fear that in any division of the spoils Austria and Hungary are grouped with Czechoslovakia and the Balkans (except Greece) as part of the Soviet share.
PRINCIPLES AND PROMISES THE Atlantic Charter lays down certain principles, and principles are not contingent upon circumstances. They are the sheetanchors of national policy, and to violate them .is to drift helplessly on the uncertain , sea of expediency, subject, as Lord Templewocxl pointed out in the Manchester Luncheon Club, to the vicissitudes of party government. The change in the Government's housing programme, announced with admirable frankness by Mr. Sandys, Minister of Works, is in a somewhat different category.
The promise of 200,000 temporary houses in the next two years was obviously conditional upon the course of the war, and, as Lord Wootton remarked, the war has not gone quite as expected ; the hopes of its speedy ending have been belied by the. unexpected severity of the winter and the German rally. As a result, factories and workers now in the Forces cannot be released for building purposes as soon as was expected. However disappoints ing, that is at least understandable; the fortunes of war are proverbially uncertain. The working out of military plans, this being dependent on matters over which we have no control, must be given a large margin for unforeseen circumstances.
Unfortunately the drawing up of paper plans encourages the habit of overlooking these uncertain factors. It is all too readily assumed that, given good-will, what has been planned can and will be carried out. Human prescience is very limited, and it would he well if the schemes which are being formulated with such prodigality were announced with clearer reference to contingencies. But this dependence on unforeseen and unpreventahle circumstances makes all the more necessary fidelity to principles that arc by nature unconditional. III fortune will be easier to bear if, in spite of it, we can find firm footing on " the things that abide."