THE war, we know, is virtually won. A more intelligent 'policy could probably have ensured a German request for an armistice in the present year, thereby saving many thousands of lives and preserving many of the monuments, homes and capital resources of Europe. Even so, our belief is that Germany as a whole will collapse fairly rapidly. There is a desperate and theatrical note about the present German propaganda which beokens an awareness that the end cannot be tar off. Even the amaeing toughness ot the present resistance on four fronts can well be construed as a final effort into the making of which every resource has been thrown. Indeed it is hard to understand it in any other way.
Thus, while the military fronts are everything to the armed forces battling on them and while all the resources of the Allies are still necessarily geared up to the actual achieving of victory, the centre of gravity of the world situation is rapidly veering towards the far more critical events taking place behind the fronts. And here, it must be confessed, there is far less cause for self-congratulation.
The spectacular crisis still remains centred round the fate of Poland. But further comment is hardly necessary. It is enough to juxtapose three points. First, we read that the liberation of Breda was effected by the Polish troops of the First Canadian Army Second, we read (in the Observer) that Marshal Stalin felt himself to be unable to give up the Polish city of Lwow " because he had to reward the Ukrainians for their contribution to Russia's struggle and victory." Third, we read that Mr. Churchill admonished the Poles for refusing to fall in with the British suggestions (namely, to yield half Poland to the Russians) and saddling themselves in consequence with the Lublin problem (i.e., the Russian-sponsored Polish Quislings). We are content to invite the reader to meditate quietly on those three points, and then to try to find any place for them together in the crusade for liberation, freedom and justice which is stated to be the character of the war aims of the United Nations. The only decent thing one can do is to try to feel with the gallant men of Poland failing in the Lowlands and to pray to God with them that their almost quixotic sacrifices will purge away some at least of the effects of Europe and the world of the evil deeds committed against Poland since September. 1939.
The Russian Liberation
TN the case of Southern and Central Europe we arc still at the stage when some hope remains — as hope against hope remained in the earlier stages of the Polish question. For our part we frankly confess that we do not view With any sort of equanimity the liberation of the Balkans, Czechoslovakia. Hungary and Austria by the Russian arms. Those who have spoken to citizens of such countries, even the most anti-Communist and the most Catholic, are of course in no doubt that the liberation from German occupation with Its many unspeakable cruelties is a thou. sand times welcome. This is especially true of Yugoslavia and, of course, Greece. For those who have suffered. as we have not, any deliverance is a heaven-sent blessing. But the fullest realisation of this fact cannot blind one to the truth that the whole Soviet outlook, spiritual, political and economic, is fundamentally alien from the trashdons of the people. Russia wants to defeat Germany, as we wish to defeat Germany. That supreme need rightly binds us together, just as it rightly unites the oppressed in their relief from deliverance. But is there any reasonable expectation that Russia is willing to allow to the liberated countries then own way of life, their sovereignty and their freedom ? And is there any reasonable expectation that we shall seek to prevent policies whose final purpose is the Soviet domination of Southern Europe—except, maybe. where we have vital interests. such as is the case in Greece ? It was instructive, for example, to read a lengthy despatch from the Times COTrespondent in Moscow about Czechoslovakia. The gentleman who represents our chief newspaper in Moscow has apparently given up any pretence at objectivity, and is content to telegraph the Soviet hand-outs. This at least is convenient. We know the worst. From his despatch it would appear that all Slovakia is burning with eagerness to welcome back Dr. Belles and the Czech overlordship for which he stands ! And that particular Czech rule, as we know, has long been in the closest touch with Soviet Russia.
While realising the paramount necessity for alliance with Russia in order
, bring the war to a conclusion and realising, too, that peace depends upon further understanding with that Empire, we see no reason whatever to deny the truth that Soviet ideas and interests conflict very sharply indeed with all that we at least mean by Europe. Shutting one's eyes to this truth will most certainly not advance the cause of peace by an inch.
In Western Europe
IN Western Europe the problem is different at first sight. It may even seem that there Soviet influence is, if anything, a moderating one. The position is not clear in France, Belgium and Italy, but we shall be surprised if the official Communist influence does not turn out in the end to be in support of law and order. (It is interesting to note the moderation of the British Communist Congress.) It is a great mistake to suppose that the modern Communists are democrats or revolutionaries or anarchists of the old type. They seek, on the contrary, to establish totalitarian power In the less advanced countries of Europe the nature of that power can be disclosed at an earl? stage. In the West it is very likely to be disguised. It might well be that the above-mentioned countries would be most quickly restored to what would look like their former selves if in fact the Communists were able to establish themselves as the Government. The disruptive forces, such as armed guerillas, separatism, claims to popular rule. private revenge and class hatred disguised as justice and purge, all these would very soon be reptessed if the Communists achieved their aims. Nor is it by any means certain that the Communists of these highly-cultured lands of a comparatively high standard of living would not know how to preserve for a time much of what we all value.
And yet it is precisely the level of Westent culture and its standard of hfc which creates the present problem. These have been built up through a Jong tradition of order and respect for law —through, in fact, a high civilisation. Yet the kind of anarchy which threatens to rear its head in Europe and with which a de Gaulle is trying to contend can well mean the quick destruction of the work of generations.
If we believe that even :he most intelligent Communist rule must be radically anti-Christian and anti-European—indistinguishable in fact from the basic values of the Fascism against which we arc fighting—we have to undestand that within a comparatively short period means must he found of re-establishing the respect for law. The more truly popular and democratic the feeling and the regime, the more essential this fundamental becomes. Frankly we know of no means of ensuring but the rapid reassertion of the a
of Christianity which for the Continent means in practice the values of Catholicity. Is there any evidence at present that this is realised ?
In Persia, Too!
TEHERAN. we learn, may soon a become the scene of a violent coup rretat by which Saed, the Prime Minister, will be turned out of his office and "replaced by a rival who will accept more readily the Russian scheme
of oil concessions." The course of events leading up to this anticipated " palace revolution " follows the technique made familiar by employment in other States bordering on Russia.
First, we have the assertion that the Persian Gowernment has refused to grant oil concessions to Russia, Great Britain and the U.S. Moscow has also accused the Teheran authorities of hindering the operation of Lend-Lease supplies from America to Russia. This being the case, it is argued, the Soviet may feel free to ignore treaty obligations incurred by the Anglo-SovietIran Treaty signed in Teheran in January, 1942. These obligations indude an undertaking not to interfere in Persia's domestic affairs. The quarrel is developing, it is said, within Persia. About twenty Teheran papers are identified with the anti-Saed movement and some of these are demanding a new Government more favourable to Russia. A " Freedom Front " in support of this has been formed and is spreading from the capital to the provinces.
Persia's version of the affair has yet to be heard and also the view taken by London and Washington.
ITALIAN PRISONERS AND BOMB-DAMAGED HOUSES
THE facts brought to light in the debate on' the repair to house property damaged by the flying
bomb reveal both the extent of the damage done and the amount of labour and material made available to meet the situation. It is estimated that 800,000 houses were affected. In making these tolerable for habitation, we were informed, there will be engaged shortly no less than 140,000 workers. Those brought to London specially for this job constitute about 40 per cent. of the building trade throughout the country. As a result of the measures taken, in the four weeks following September 22. about 120,000 of the 800,000 houses involved had been dealt with.
That dissatisfaction with the Government departments concerned existed was made abundantly clear. Even if everything possible had been done that would not have been surprising. People suddenly finding themselves homeless and billeted in already overcrowded houses with winter rapidly approaching and, as a consequence of the insanitary conditions created, threatened with epidemics, are not likely to be in a philosophical mood. As usual a certain section of the press has been ready to exploit the popular grievance. These papers seem to have thought it a clever device to utilise the occasion to intensify the prejudice against Italian prisoners by protesting against their employment in the work of repair, " stirring up hatred against these strangers who had come to London " to assist in the work, as Mr. Drihurg said. Captain Duncan told the House that "Londoners must be made to understand that Italian builders were good workmen and were anxious to co-operate." If they could do decent work in rehousing then, Mr. W. Astor declared, " hon. members must lead and educate public opinion, and not bow to some temporary clamour in the public press." It is difficult to understand the virulence which, at such a time, can poison the minds of the public against its would-be helpers.