by Michael de la Bedoyere
THE first practical point 1 would make about Reeurn Nowartim is that we should agree to change its name. 1 know that nothing pleases
the Marxist heart better than incomprehensible, and, if possiblt, foreign
terminolOgy by which the ordinary man can be impressed. What fun you can have with mystic words like " bourgeoisie," " proletarianisation," " struggle on the ideological plane," " syndicalism," " communist manifesto ''; butt somehow, even if you wanted to imitate this style. you cannot give a swing to mouthfuls like REFL417I Novarurn or Qiwdragesirrio Anna.
A much better name has beer, given in this country to these documents: " The Workers' Charter." I do not think it is the best name, because it falsifies an essential feature of these writings. I should prefer " The Social Charter," or even better, " The Christian Social Charter," " The Social Charter " avoids the class Conflict sound of " The Workers Charter," and, while some people may feel that to add the word " Christian " is going to cause prejudice against it from the start, my own view is that we are approaching an epoch when it will become a public honour to be able to stand openly for the Christian view of life. If things go wrong, it may of course lead to being shot in the back by a revolver of a new order Gestapo Or Ogpu, but even so, it will still remain a public honour.
Compromise is Dead
We are now rapidly znoving away from the liberal era when it was considered in the worst taste to profess in public any positive, let alone religious, ideal, and into an era of essentially religious warfare wherein men will be distinguished and honoured for publicly proclaiming their allegiance to Gad or the latest incarnation of the Devil.
The period of negation and compromise is dead, and men must live and the working and fighting for those values, for that poshive order which, as they sincerely' believe, can alone re-make a civilisation that has caved-in through lack of rigid principles and firm supporting standards.
Marty of us, however, have been making a foolish mistake in trying to give a socialist, sometimes almost a Marxist, flavour to these Encyclicals, a mistake indicated, perhaps, by this title, " The Workers' Charter." (It is possible to make a series of extracts from' Rerum N 0 varum which, read alone, sound almost indistinguishable from a piece of Socialist writhes),
Makes Encyclical Out of Date
It is a mistake, not only because it is unfair falsification of a delicately balanced document; it is a mistake because it deli berately makes it out-of-date. To try and give it a socialist or Marxist meaning is to attach it to a nineteenth-century teaching which is already dead, The extraordinary . thing about this Encyclical is that while it proclaimed in terms no less strong than those of the social revolutionaries of the times the injustices and iniquities of the reigning economic order, it proposes a solution which belongs not to yesterday, but to to-day and totenorrow.
Take, for example, the Christian condem
nation of class-warfare. Fifty -years ago this must have read to any advanced social reformer or revolutionary as a hopelessly reactionary view, medieval obscurantism, the worst example of capitalist dope. To-day it is the advanced thinkers, the critics of effete liberal democracy, who maintain that the idea of class-warfare must he transcended and that any effective new and juster order must be in terms of society harmonising and regulating the different ekments of production.
Weakness of the Liberal State To-day we can see clearly that the weakness of ' the liberal democratic State consisted precisely in its inability to control the really important forces that were at work, the forces of organised labour on the one side and the forces of organised capital on the other. In other words. the State was squashed between two great economic powers, fighting one another and both desperately trying to obtain control of the legal and administrative machinery of the State for their own purposes.
Between the workers' international and
the capitalist international the liberal State fought a losing battle and lost its power of pi oteeting the essential rights and liberties of its citizens. Both rival powers were essentially dictatorships, trying to get their way by pressure of force, by bludgeoning, by blackmail, by cunning.
If the Encyclical had been up-to-date in Ill91 it would have sided with the workers' international, and it would have committed itself to a one-sided and essentially evil cause that was soon destined to reveal its true self. For it is of the prolonged conflict between labour and capital within the democratic State that Halerism and Fascism have been born.
What Bolshevism Did Some people would say that Fascism ond Hulerism mark the triumph of capitalism, while Bolshevism maiks the triumph of lahoui. I personully do not think that is the case with Fascism and Hitlerism, for these, I think, have been unsuccessful attempts to solve this conflict, but I do think that Bolshevism expresses the inevitable character of a State built on the triumph of the labour or socialist principles behind the class-war.
Notice what Lenin attempted. He attempted to build a modern society in terms of the 'machine. Marxism essentialty involves the idea that the workers must possess the instruments of production, that the workers, instead ot being the staves of economic laws operating in favour of the capitalists, must become part and parcel of a collective will which can dominate these laws and use them in the workers' interests. In order to do this it is necessary to promote certain workers to represent their fellows in order to run the machine and to run the new State which supervises the running of the machine. But the moment you do this you are in danger of setting tip a new capitalist class and starting the old struggle again.
Machine as Master The only way to avoid this is the way which Lenin tried: it is, to make the machine itself the master and all men its servants. .
And that is exactly what was done in Russia. The aim of the Bolsheviks was to run a vast economic machine in terms of abstract calculation and economic laws put into operation by men and women divested of all personal qualities and merged into an impersonal mass.
That is why Bolshevism had to destroy religion, the family, the private home, personal education, marriage, individuality, sentiment. romance in art, in music, in the
theatre. But this inhuman purpose, this depersonalising of man could never succeed, not even in fanatical, nihilist Russia, and the Soviet to-day has been forced back into a State, not essentially distinguished from that National-Socialist experiment wherein the conflict between capital and labour is temporarily solved by the strong hand of the Dictator, the party be represents and the secret police.
In Contradiction to Socialist Experiment
" The Workers' Charter " is no milkand-water version of the Communist Manifesto. It glories in being in clean contradiction with the out-of-date and vain socialist experiment. It looks not to the past, but to the future.
But if it is in clean contradiction with the irnpersonalism, the mass-mindedness of Socialism, it is equally in contradiction with the two modern versions of Capitalism, irresponsible individualist Capitalism and impersonal State-Capitalism.
We know what irresponsible individualist Capitalism is. It is simply the power of money in the hands of individuals acting through the fog of great companies, great trusts, great banks, all linked together in mutual defence. Money and the power of creating money or controlling the money of others enable an irresponsible person first to control the economic conditions of the lives of millions anywhere on the globe, and secondly, to control the minds and characters of millions by setting up agencies. such as the Press, instruments of propaganda, ,forms of recreation, advertisements, the fostering of certain kinds of products, which, taken together, go far to condition the tastes and interests of our 'generation. In one way or another they can come near controlling the State itself.
Treaty with Money Such power is so inhuman that the modern world has rarely allowed it full play. The people have, on the whole, always tried to curb and control it. But the only method they have been able to use has been the method of maaing a treaty with the money power. If the money power will allow itself to be curbed in order to propitiate the hostile elements in the State and if it will share its power with the State, then it can maintain its essential privileges in a social order that lies somewhere between irresponsible individualist Capitalism and impersonal State Capitalism.
That is roughly what the Nazis and Fascists call Pluto-democracy. It is roughly the order under which we art Notice that we are still living largely under the irresponsible private empire of money power and under the impersonal State empire of money power, Even under the terrific pressure of national war neces sity, money power holds sway. Compare the running of the military forces with the running of the inausttial and economic war
production. The military forces are contrailed and disciplined by tradition in terms of a definite concrete end, and money subserves that end instead of controlling it. The military forces as such can get what they need, and individuals are paid in accordance with their needs and in accordance with national necessity.
Economic Scramble I do not say the pay is good or bad. 1 am talking of the principle. But the moment you get outside the military forces, there is comparative chaos. Even national necessity becomes the victim of wholesale bargainings. deals, promises, the State tugging away at the great industrialists, the industrialists bargaining with the Trade Unions. the Trade Unions tugging away at the State. all eager to have a hand in the pie, so that even in a desperate state of war the economic fate of the individual iscontrolled as much by money power masquerading under democratic liberties am by national necessity.
No one doubts in England to-day what is at stake, and at stake in the immediate future. What are we then to think of an economic and .social condition which is forced to allow this scramble—albeit greatly moderated compared with times of peace—to continue. while the enemy is at our gates?
This perhaps will serve to give some kind of idea of the revolutionary implications of the principles and the order for which Rerun, Novarunt stands, for this doctiment really conies to this.
It Demands an Order • . .
It demands a social order, so well conceived, so disciplined, so practical, tbat under it the human person as such may be assured of those basic human and economic rights which are essential if he is to have a chance of living a full life, personal, family and social, and of fully co-operating in the co-operative work of society, national and international, it demands an order at once so fre.c and flexible as well as so disciplined and ruthless as to allow and enforce all that is needed for the full development of the human person in terms of God's unchanging moral law. Obvious and sensible as these demands arc, what chance have they of exerting pressure on our present ordei of society, when even the imperative demands of a critical war can only partiany influence that weak State, fighting its long battle against the forces of labour arid the forces of capitalism?
Here, again, how wise and up-to-date it is ! It was written at a time when men still thought that it was essential to plan the future, to work out a priori some perfectly rational or perfectly just State. The influence of a rationalist like Benthatn, who thought nothing of sitting in his London study and working out perfect constitutions
ler countries all over the world, was not dead. Karl Marx, who thought out every detail of socialism in his head, belonged to the same school.
The Real Revolutionaries
But we now realise that real changes and revolutions come from men who are appalled by the &feels of the social order in which they have been brought up, who um derstand whet is going on at the back of people s minds, who are thoroughly realist in appreciating the social and economic forces at work and who, above all. will with a fanatical intensity certainly master points.
They have no detailed plans, no blueprints, or, if they have, they are perfectly ready to change and alter them according to the teaching of experience.
We need not deplore the lack of a detailed social programme. Not to have one li actually an advantage because it enables the social principles, the basic demands so clearly set out in the Papal pronouncements, to be realised in terms of any political order and any national traditions and any concrete economic circumstances.
" The One Thing Necessary" What is needed is a burning will to see that, whatever the conditions, these basic principles of co-operation between capital and Labour, of human economic rights of the just wage, of the primacy of the family, of the basic human liberty of the individual, of the limits of State power, of the even narrower limits of money power are made the centre of the picture, the " one thing necessary." Political and economic machinery, whatever its history and Whatever its nature, must be adapted td these demands and changed, as circumstances suggest, so that it subserves these ends.
In this country. at present to talk of a political revolution is foolish, and our ends will be best attained by hastening the peaceful evolution of the democratic State in the Christian direction. What changes the future will bring no man knows. But whatever they may be, we must be ready to adapt ourselves and our demands to them, always acting as seems best in the given conditions, There is an absoletely sufficient programme in the social encyclicals for our purpose, and I belie* there is rapidly growing a sufficiently marked return to the basic moral teaching of the Ciospeis and Christianity to furnish the atmosphere in which this social programme can be made of the first political importance in the country, What is needed is the spread of the knowledge of this programme and these principles. What is needed is the organisation that can back the will. What is needed is the prayer and discipline which shall make us—and above all, our leaders— fanatics for the cause. And in our case there can be only one sort of fanaticism: it is the fanaticism or the saint. The world to-day would lie at the feet of a new St. Francis.
[The above is a shortened version of a speech made at a Rerum Novarum Jubilee celebration in Slough last Sunday].