Page 4, 30th June 1944

30th June 1944
Page 4
Page 4, 30th June 1944 — THE TRAGEDY'S LAST ACT
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THE TRAGEDY'S LAST ACT

pEW occupations are more bracing just now than to listen to the German radio propaganda to this country. The average person has a natural prejudice against lying. At least he is inclined to look for the grain of truth behind the lie. The average person, too, tends to believe that there are two sides to every question, even though one side is more obvious and important. And it is on these elements of human reasonableness that propaganda is built. But there may come a time when lying has to become so patent and argument so weak that propaganda completely defeats itself. This is what is now happening, and what one used occasionally to listen to out of a somewhat morbid curiosity can now be resorted to as a tonic. This is evidently the case for the accounts of the flying bombs, ludicrously exaggerated accounts, which seem for some mysterious reason to be persisted in. But it is even more striking when a speaker, reporting the German failures on three fronts, is forced to argue, first, that the German command wished to allow a sufficiently large Allied force to land in France to enable " a crisis " of the magnitude required to develop; and, second, that Hitler himself has planned the three-front war which admirably suits his defensive dispositions.

Such were the arguments solemnly and seriously put out on Monday evening as suitable counter-balance for lite Cherbourg and Vitebsk victories! It is no wonder if the Allies in their exultant mood foresee final triumph perhaps this year, and if the Germans lose any real hope of anything better than to cause delaying nuisances, whether through flying bombs or their attempts to create friction between Britain and her Allies, Wc can indeed afford at last to pay less attention to the details of any of the campaigns and rest instead in a study of the massive encircling movements which so clearly point to Germany's doom. The great tragedy has been slow in unfolding itself and reaching its climax, but that slowness only further heightens the significance of the last act. Three great forces, each abundantly equipped and enjoying overwhelming air and sea superiority, arc relentlessly tightening their embrace like the arms of an octopus. All that is in doubt is the toughness of the German carapace and the strength of the poison which the victim can exude in its hopeless struggle.

The Triumph of Force

ivE do not believe that it is .right Tv for anyone to exult in the situation. Given the war and its deadly dangers for so many values we cherish, we cannot indeed but rejoice and humbly thank God that the world tragedy is being enacted in our favour, but it would be utterly um-Christian not to concentrate the greater part of owattention on the price of victory and the use of victory.

It may well be that history will record its verdict that wiser statesmanship would have sought peace by negotiation or at any rate made it easier for a losing side to yield without all loss of hope and honour. As it is, the war will end (possibly after an internal revolution in Germany) with an open and overwhelming triumph of force, a force which remains force even though it has served the better cause. The peace is likely to give to that force a ...permanent place in an attempted new order. But can force retain its own strength? Can it continue to serve a good end? Can it remain undivided? All we can say perhaps is that all past history is against the positive answer. And this, too, is surely the teaching of Christianity. If we are sincere with ourselves we cannot really get away from the truth that peace is only possible on a foundation of love and understanding between human beings who are all equally sons of God and intended for the same spiritual and temporal development. This is not mere pulpit talk: it is the

lesson of history and of a study of the human character, It seems to us that as victory becomes more certain and as the apparent dangers of any so-called weakening recede, so should Christians become more and more firm in their stand for a peace of understanding between man and man, nation and nation. As we have said before, the, other way has been tried again and again and has failed as often as it has been tried. We could not do worse the Christian way—if we may so put it. It is surely the first job of those who claim to stand witness for the spirit of Our Lord to express their thanks for being on the winning side by compensating for the so obvious dangers of a peace coecluded in the atmosphere of triumphant force.

THE FINNISH TEST

AS illuminating a comment as any on the Finnish war was to be found in Iris Morley's despatch from Russia in last Sunday's Observer. " It cannot be doubted," she says, " that the Russians feel nothing resembling tolerance for the Finns. All the Russian officers to whom I talked spoke of them with peculiar bitterness as a small nation mad with vanity, whose grotesque ambitions had cost the Russians thousands of lives." How often have we been asked to react with indignation at the expression of like sentiments towards small nations (and put no more crudely), when' they crenated from the German nation whose education (or, alternatively, destruction) we have tel.:en on? And the British Press generally is full of a mixture of resentment and pity for the idiocy of the rulers and people of Finland standing firm for their country and their homes in a way that perhaps was only paralleled by ourselves in 1940. Apparently in this case it is far better to choose a shameful peace to dying for one's country.

It can scarcely be denied that the Russian threat to Finland makes a poor introduction to the liberation of the small nations of Europe. Finland was certainly not the aggressor in the first Finnish war, and it appears now to be established that elle was not even the aggressor in the second when she might have been forgiven for wishing to take the opportunity of righting her wrongs. Russia is, of course, entitled to defeat Finland, but not a little of the status of the moral cause of the United Nations will depend upon the sort of treaty that Russia will impose. It is to be hoped that Britain and America will at least make it clear to their partner that Finnish freedom and independence form part of the general picture of the new world which they envisage. Even if the Atlantic Charter has been changed In the extent of involving no moral obligations to Germany, it must surely be allowed to apply to a coufageous race whose cause moved this country even during the war and whose behaviour throughout closely parallels on the moral plane our own.

RESPONSIBILITY FOR SHOOTINGS

THE truth about the shootings of the R.A.F. officers of Stalag Luft III is ‘rather worse than had been suggested in earlier reports, but there is this much to be borne in mind. It is pretty well inconceivable that any responsible German authority should have initiated or consented to the business. The reason is that prisoners of war on both sides are protected by a strongly-established and smoothly-working international convention which it is in nobody's interests to break. German authorities know perfectly well that any incident of the kind would have to be reported and accounted for. In fact, the German note is clearly an attempt to put the best possible face on a very ugly business, and it inevitably makes a poor business of this.

The escaped officers themselves have

clearly given the correct explanation. It is that the Gestapo forced themselves into a business which should not have concerned them because there was some fear that the mass escapes were having a serious effect on internal security in Germany—another way of saying that they threatened some danger to the regime. The Gestapo. recruited and trained loam the "tough" elements, present to a greater or lesser extent in every country but always plentiful under dictatorships, would not bother their heads about international repercussions. That would be someone else's headache.

The German nation's responsibility is not, we think, for the actual murder of these officers, but for tolerating the growth to quasi-absolute power of a disciplined army of thugs, called a secret police. And the same is true for the S.S. formations so largely responsible for the atrocities. In such affairs it is important to go to the root of the evil: it is not Germany, it is the system of absolute and irresponsible dictatorship that can only be maintained in power by the organisation of the worst elements among the people to defend it without any shadow of legality.

BIRTH-PREVENTION AND NATIONAL MORALE

REPORTING on the progress

made by the Royal Commission on Population, the Times informs its readers that inquiry is now being made into the motives for the limitation of families, and that the Commission has received a large num

ber of letters on the subject. The motives most frequently alleged include, we are told, " the fear of unemployment, fear of war, had housing, difficulties in obtaining domestic help, the rising costs of parenthood—particularly education costs—the rising standards of living, and the social pressure to maintain standards." Blame is placed on our social and economic arrangements as a whole for favouring the childless couple or the family of one or two children.

The list of reasons given suggest that these are not the real cause but that this lies much deeper. It is in fact a case of morale. The recurrence of the word " fear " and the reference to " social pressure" indicate a lack of moral courage. The rearing of a large family under present conditions is confessedly a difficult task demanding on the part of parents in many cases a

measure of heroic self-sacrifice. But so is beating the Germans a difficult task, an undertaking in which the national morale is in no doubt, The reason for the difference is twofold. The conduct of the war calls for the exercise of the destructive rather than the creative instinct. And it is a corporate enterprise enlisting the forces of the nation as a whole, whereas parentage is the responsibility only of those immediately concerned. The remedy is obvious: if the same courage was shown in multiplying our population as is exercised in diminishing that of Germany, this problem would not arise. It cannot be pleaded that the result of failure in the two cases is different; the issue at stake is, in fact, the same—that of national silo vival, There is no indication, however, that the Commission regards the spiritual factor as lying within its terms of reference. Its enquiries, therefore, must be largely fruitless,

COMPROMISE AND PLANNING

POLITICIANS and publicists are always tempted to reject in WO Government compromises in favour of their own preconceived views. And indeed anyone can make a pretty good case for a scheme based on his particular tastes and outlook. Many Catholics, for example, could sit down and work out an education plan in very many respects superior to Butler's Bill. But such a plan would not square with the tastes and outlook of the public and the special interests of the day. Rightly therefore we accept the Butler Bill and seek to amend it where it clashes with what we believe to be justice in our own regard. It is the same with the Government's full employment plans, its White Paper on the Land and its Town and Country Planning Bill. Critics will call for Beveridge, full nationalisation of the land, more radical monetary reform, the State's assumption of all costs of planning and so on. It is right that they should do so, for it is from such pressure from all sides that a useful compromise is finally evolved. In fact, the present attempts to plan our economy mark an immense step forward from the stagnation taken for granted before the war, and the step has only been made possible because of extremist pressures.

It is right, however, that we should pause occasionally to remember that our pct views are in themselves probably impracticable in this year of grace and to be content with appreciating the fact that we have made our contribution to the accepled standard of the day. W.hen, for example, Mr. Bevin explained in the Employment Policy Debate that 60 per cent. of the strikes between 1922 and 1939 were the result of a defective monetary policy and outside the control of industry altogether, he was in fact conceding a point' of the first magnitude to the monetary reformers who a few years ago were considered pure cranks. On the other hand when Sir John Anderson explained in the same debate that you can do anything, even make Scotland into a wine-growing country, if you are prepared to bear the cost, he was warning many people of the crankiness of their pet views that we can live on our agricultural or other home industries alone without bothering about imports to be paid for by exports.

We should not make the mistake of supposing that in a " regulated " State there is no room for debate, reformers and even cranks. There is more room than ever. But it is important also to realise that the good and practical plan can only be a sifting of what we have to offer.




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