Page 4, 3rd March 1944

3rd March 1944
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Page 4, 3rd March 1944 — STANDING ON OUR HEADS
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STANDING ON OUR HEADS

THERE is talk of deterioration

in the Polish situation. Obviously there has been no deterioration, for the attitude of the Poles has never substantially changed. How could it? The Poles, it is true, have gone to the extreme limits of concession, whilst safeguarding their integrity and honour, by admitting the fact that the precise Eastern frontier can be discussed for midor adjust. ments and by instructing the Underground Movement to co-operate with the advancing Russians— one may note, by the way, how abstract is the latter instruction since all the available evidence is to the effect that anything remotely approaching co-operation has so far been refused by Soviet elements brought into Poland. Rut from the beginning everything has really depended on the attitude of the Russian Government. And this Government has made it amply clear that nothing would satisfy it , eXcern a Polish surrender of territory. regime and leaders that could scarcely in decency be demanded of a crushed enemy by a conqueror in the field. It is of the first importance that we should realise the situation as it is. What is called friendly British advice, but what might more accurately be called by another name. has achieved nil. The reason for this is that it never was a question of easing a dispute between right and right: it was always 8 question of trying to find a compromise between right and wrong. It cannot be done. You can wash your hands, like Pilate; or you can frankly sacrifice the right cause because it is weak; but you cannot by goodwill or experience turn wrong into right. In the ease of the Baltic States. it looks as though we were going rather beyond Pilate; in the case of a great and gallant Ally we have been forced into attempting these moral somersaults and we do nothing but give ourselves deep moral bruises— bruises not to the body but to the soul.

The Path We Are Treading

THERE is a lesson to be learnt from all this, and its application should be made to the whole of our military and diplomatic outlook. It is perfectly evident that the course of the war is threatening the destruc. tion of vital ideals which we held— and still hold in our hearts—to be far more important than the material winning of a victory. That cannot be helped. It is by no means the first time that right has bowed to might. Those who believe in the right (those who believe in God) have learnt to be patient. Their cause is never finally defeated, however sick it may look. But what is truly appalling is that those who cherish the right should delude themselves with the notion that they can somehow promote their cause by yielding to might—still worse, by raising the mailed fist themselves. We are indeed well aware that in most day-to-day politics the moral division is not clear cut. especially do we believe that goodwill, concession in details and a thorough study of all sides of the question can cleat up the stubbornest disputes. It is what we have always advocated. and still advocate in regard to Russian claims. But those who went furthest in appreciating, for example. the Italian case over Albania or Abyssinia or the German case in Danzig and Czechoslovakia never dreamt of a solution by the blotting out or total disfiguring of those countries.

Yet to-day we are being asked in the name of our moral cduse. simply to acquiesce in the disfigurement of a gallant Ally, in the blotting out of enure and democratic countries, in the bullying of neutrals like the Argentine or Spain, and in a wholly negative policy to a Europe that must come under the shadow of an immense military Power professing e way of life totally alien to a thousand years of a Continental tradition. Much of this may be inevitable Very well. These setbacks are not eternal. But where is the use of diplotnatic, political and moral acro. batics which only result in our standing on our heads, while the world around still stands, however wrongly. on its feet? We achieve nothing to-day and destroy for tomorrow the confidence with which others have been accustomed to look to us.

The Argentine Mistake

THE United States is unfortunately A only too closely associated with us in this tragic business. Take the comparatively simple case of the Argentine. We all know that the U.S.A., like ourselves, wishes to see the Argentine fighting on our side with its sister republics. How do we set about to achieve this? For a very long time the United States has been seeking to play a dominant part in South America, It is up against what it considers alien ideas. the Latin character, the Catholic religion (in a big majority). the a u theme rian frame of Government. With smaller countries OT through accidental reasons progress can be made in overcoming such obstacles. But the Argentine is a large and proud country intensely resentment of foreign and alien influence. Instead of plying its allotted part according to American prescription. it becomes more Latin, more Catholic, more authoritarian. Possibly the might of America, resorting to economic sanctions, wilt succeed in making the Argentine behave,itself. But what sort of Ally will it acquire? A resentful and hostile Ally that will inevitably remain a nest for enemy agents. Had the United States understood the true situation and sought alliance on honourable and intelligent terms, there is not the smallest doubt that the Argentine, which shares our professed ideals and has no sort of love for Hitlerism, would be a willing partner with us. It will be objected that we can have no truck with the large landowners who fan an absurd anti-Communist policy or with juntas of authoritarian generals. Even so, ore we in fact weakening the influence of such people? And would we not in fact have moderated their influence by a wiser and more tactful line?

This sort of thing does not pay. lt does not pay to try to negotiate i

between right and wrong; t does not pay to wash one's hands when the innocent are sacrificed; it does not pay to bully and miStinderstand those whose friendship we need. We get nothing out of it in the end. and we steadily throw away the one Isset which no one can take from us except ourselves, and that is our moral position as witnesses to ideals which must triumph in the end.

TERMS TO FINLAND

nNE must record with genuine appreciation the terms of peace °tiered to Finland by Russia. These terms, though they involve the continued loss of Finnish territory taken from her after the unjust war, are much better than might have been foreseen. Commentators argue from them that Russia has no designs on smaller countries except in .so far as she feels herself to need more advantageous frontiers for self-protection. Last week we pointed out the inherent fallacy in this neW form of Maginot Line complex and noted that there is infinitely more security for Russia in her forming part of a freely agreed alliance or pact or concert than in her seizing lands the occupation of which can only raise a fresh series of frontier problems a little later on, in the case of Finland one cannot but think that the brutal tactic of bombing the Finnish capital to encourage the Finns to behave argues a Soviet outlook that will always make a country like Finland live in fear of her big neighbour and destroy any seeds of mutual trust upon which alone Finnish happiness can be built.

It is worth recording again the expressions that Finland once evoked in this country and praying that the degree of Soviet realism and statesmanship shown in the peace terms will in the end overcome the less pleasant bullying of a couhtry which is after all still an enemy so that ultimately the country for which we all once felt so deeply will be restored. In a broadcast on January 20, 1940, Mr. Churchill said: "All Scandinavia dwells brooding under Nazi and Bolshevik threats. Only Fioland, superb, nay sublime, in the jaavs of peril, shows what free men can do." Lord Halifax, broadcasting on March 24, 1940, declared: " There is no people whom I would more gladly address than the brave Finnish nation which has fought so gallantly for the ideals and aims for which we in the British Empire have taken up arms: the right of each nation, however small, to live its Own life, secure against aggression from powerful neighbours."

Circumstances have of course changed greatly. but Finland remains.

THE TWO CHURCHILLS

THE trouble which has arisen in A the political world over the distinction drawn between Mr. Ch,-rehill a, the war-leader and Mr. Chus ;ell] as the Conservative politician was, under the circumstances, scarcely avoidable. The situation in Britain is entirely different from that in Axis couptries. In the later, winning the weir was identified with the triumph of a certain ideology. The leader was identified with totalitarian conceptions of government. Any post-war programme drawn up in these cases would he of necessity no more than a development of the policy already associated with the leader. Neither Hitler nor Mussolini were accepted as dictators simply for the purpose of giving their peoples victory. They were accepted as standing for a particular conception of government and as representing a certain sncial and economic outlook. Mr. Churchill, on the other hand, came to the front because his pugnacious and inspiring personality gave the nation unity in its determinetion to defeat this totalitarian ideology and by no means carried with it agreement on other issuee. Hence, as soon as victory comes in sight and attention is turned to those " other issues,". a lack of cohesion reveals' itself.

Mr. Churchill, we believe, did his best to merge his two selves. The outline of a four-years programme (though vague) won the assent of all parties. He has given a large measure of liberty to his Labour colleagues. He has chosen as Minister for Reconstruction, as Lord Woolton himself has pointed out, an individual associated neither with Right nor Left. But he has failed to effect a synthesis which could command, for peace-time legislation, the same measure of agreement that has been given to his leadership in and for the

war.

" This we think is due to the failure of all our professional politicians to rise above Party vision and to realise that the war itself, besides being the challenge of a false religion, marks the bankruptcy of the Past Christian secularism in which we all share. A better political temper has certainly characterised M r.h urc h il I 's war leadership, but the progress made will not endure so ong as men feel in their bones that we are not striving LO break with an order that made war inevitable.

In many circles there is a growing feeling that the Prime Minister is losing the flexibility and geniality that served him so well during the early part of the war. That he also should feel the strain is not surpris ing. Rut this criticism. however justified, is only superficial. We shall never keep a unity in difference if our leaders are unable to assess the real spiritual meaning of the war. .

MONTE CASSINO

.THOUGH it is still impossible to L reach a verdict, there are serious reasons for thinking that the destruction of Monte Cassino was unnecessary. We may even prescind from the question whether the monastery was being used by the Germans and rest in the simple fact that ruined buildings of these dimensions remain an etitrally formidable obstacle in our path and an excellent cover for the enemy. In this case if the Germans in fact did not make use of the monastery the bombing can only have proved of service to them, since they must certainly occupy the ruins.

There are many morals to be drawn from this tragic business where (so it seems to us) stupidity rather than any malice prevailed. We will confine ourselves to regretting the action of those dignitaries who long before the true facts could be judged openly took one view about

them. We cannot but think that very little advantage in arty case is to be gained by such religious bolstering of military actions, while much (and lasting) harm is risked.




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