Page 4, 4th December 1942

4th December 1942
Page 4
Page 4, 4th December 1942 — FRENCH FLEET

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THERE is still a pathetic attempt to maintain the legend of a feeble, collaborationist Vichy in face of the emergence of united French spirit of resistance to Germany consequent on the Mediterranean resistance. It was to be found in Mr. Churchill's birthday speech as well as in the press. But in the light of the story of the French fleet the legend wears very thin indeed. There seems to be no doubt that that fleet had standing orders to destroy itself rather than allow itself to be seized at any time by a hostile Power. Those orders were undoubtedly Vichy orders, and they express Perfectly the spirit and purpose of post-Armistice France. There is no question of a sudden renewal of courage or a sudden resolve to blot out the shame of the past, as our publicists would have it. Defeated France, as Hitler very well knew, had only one intention and that was to hold the enemy at bay until better times and in the most effective method possible to a country in her tragic position. The story of the French fleet, so gallantly and sadly vindicated, reflects credit least of all on ourselves. The action at Oran (Mers-elKebir) was a mistake, even though one may agree that the Prime Minister's decision was excusable under the circumstances. The fact remains that it was unnecessary. and that it may well have cost us the use of that great fleet. There is no doubt that it instilled a deep dislike of this country among the mass of French sailors, and' it has meant in the end that the order to scuttle the ships in the face of German aggression was taken advantage of when there was an opportunity to loin in the active French resistance in Africa. If Oran had been a purely military decision, it could be dismissed as just a tragic miscalculation... Unfortunately it was also part and parcel of a policy towards a defeated Ally which was permeated by a distrest. due partly to contempt for weakness, partly to an inability to appreciate other people's troubles and partly to suspicion of any " authoritarian " ideology and any attempt at a spiritual' renaissance of a radical nature. The distrust remains, and it will prove a factor making for disastrous mistakes when the time comes for re-moulding Europe.

THE FALL FROM 'GRACE nUT the lessons of this last chap" ter in the first and tragic part of France's participation in the war go very much deeper than this. The fate of France must always stand out as one of the great object-lessons

of history She has suffered in a way no other country has suffered. it is true that the fate of other lands has been materially far harsher, but the reduction of that great centre of Europe's culture (only a century and a half ago the conqueror of a whole Continent, as Germany is to-day) to its present status of utter defeat and impotence has a poignancy all its own. The causes have been many. For us. however, the phrase " a fall from grace " must go to the root of them. The " eldest daughter of the Church " was too greatly endowed with spiritual, intellectual and moral qualities ever to fall for that brute worship of forte which might temporarily have rehabilitated her. Deprived of that quack remedy, she allowed het wonderful qualities to be corrupted into a sterile intellectualism, a study of luxury and comfort, a narrow self-culture, an indifference to the laws and traditions, Divine and human, in which alone a true national life can he rooted. She declined into a mural and physical weakness, for which she sought, with increasing lack of success, to compensate by tricks and mere words.

All this has been realised by her best sons, and it was for this reason that they instinctively looked first to a moral rather than a physical renaissance. These two years, with all their miseries and disappointments, have been precious to France, and one may hope and pray that they will give meaning and strength to the second part of the story that is now opening. But it is, we believe, the duty of America and ourselves to understand, sympathise and help towards that moral revival as well as towards the material. If our interest in France is solely of a military nature, it is fundamentally worth no more than Germany's and it must prove as fatal as hers. And if our further interest is only to set up again the pre-war France. then we shall be condemning that country to years of the deepest suffering for no purpose whatsoever.0 ITALY'S SETTLEMENT SOMEWHAT • similar reflections have • their application to the critical case of Italy, now the direct object of our growing strength. In this case Mr. Churchill did right to lay the blame on Mussolini for dragging his country into a war which

his people never desired. On the other hand the Prime Minister oversimplified the issue when he said he suggested that the Italians were happy until the days of Mussolini. The Italians were much less suited than the French to political and philosophical liberalism. This does not mean that they were less suited to freedom, for freedom has many forms. Political freedom is essential to the Anglo-Saxon; economic and intellectual freedom to the Frenchman; cultural and spiritual

freedom to the Italian. This last freedom certainly demands a degree of political and economic order and discipline, and Fascism could have proved as great a blessing to Italy as Salazar's regime has been to Portugal. It was the Duce's'syndicalist background and fundamental lack of Christianity which proved his country's undoing. Though it may seem the easier way to appeal to the Italian people in the name " of the rights and liberties of free men," as Sir Archibald Sinclair has put it, there is more realism and much more sense in the Daily Worker's fear that Fascism will continue in Italy without Mussolini. A telegram from Montevideo, published on Saturday. runs. " Reliably reported that formation of emergency government in Italy in the event of Mussolini becoming incapacitated has been discussed." We have no doubt that eventual negotiations with Italy will prove far better for the Italians and the world in general if they are conducted in good time and therefore with responsible leaders. Our press will. of course, shriek about Quislings and Fascists—as it has in the case of Darian—but, while it is perfectly natural and right that we should be cautious about the men with whom we deal and the principles they may invoke, our primary concerns should be rapid pacification and the creation of conditions under which the best elements can 'take charge until the genius and feelings of the people concerned have a chance of soberly expressing themselves. Psychologically, even, there is a better chance of reaction against the evils of the past from those who played moderating parts in that past than from untried and embittered demagogues who are likely to create a counter-dictatorship.

INTERLOCKING ALLIED MOVES BY design rather than by accident (for the scale is too great for unified control to any great degree) the military efforts of the United Nations are at present interlocking in a remarkable manner. The Mediterranean offensive and the victory ot the Eighth Army have enabled the Russians to relieve the pressure on Stalingrad and to open an important offensive west of Moscow. On the other side the Japanese preoccupation with New Guinea and the Solomon Islands has diminished Russian anxiety about the Siberian front and may well have' enabled Stalin to draw some reinforcements from the forces that guard the Eastern gateway to his vast territories. Again the unlikelihood of any immediate threat to India and the Caucasus must enable the Ninth Army in the Middle East to give any help needed in the wake of the advancing Eighth Army. The position as a whole cannot be it comfortable one for Hitler and the German General Staff to study. At the same time. undue optimism is still out of place. We should not forget the extreme ease with which the Germans in Tunisia can be reinforced from Sicily, the air journey taking only twenty minutes, Looking back. one is surprised that Tunisia was not made the Immediate object of a strong American force, for with Gibraltar and Alexandria it is one of the key-points of the Mediterranean. We shall breathe more freely when the Axis hold on the narrow waters half-way along the Mediterranean has been removed. But it may not prove an easy business.

BIRCH AND BATHOS A NEWS item in one of the " nationals last week, which was very sensibly allowed to speak for itself, said that a boy had appeared before the juvenile court on a further Charge one month after he had been convicted—and birched.

Birched is the key word. Obviously the boy in question had not benefited by State administered corporal punishment. The fear of physical hurt did not act as a deterrent the next time he was tempted to steal and the only logical conclusion to draw is that birching is no solution in the treatment of juvenile offences. On the other hand, the indulgent type of magistrate who adopts the " Now, you're a very naughty boy " attitude to hefty lads who are practised burglars is just as futile as the magistrate who orders birching. As anyone who watches the juvenile courts day by day will tell you, boys appreciate clean, rough justice far more than people think. They come to the courts knowing well thby have done wrong and they respect the magistrate vi ho makes no hones about it. Children are practical beings, and they can sense a " sloppy " attitude at once. Who can blame them if they get away scot free after being pleaded with " not to do it again "? Somewhere between these two methods lies the solution of what should be done with boys who appear in the coerts. The average retired business man, or even the average business man who is still active, is not qualified to deal with the complicated workings of the young or adolescent mind that has led its owner to commit anti-social acts. The first thing that should be altered in any approach to juvenile delinquency is the philosophical acceptance of the offence,as part and parcel of ordinary behaviour. A little over-dramatised horror on the part of the magistrate would have far more effect than weak pleading. The child should feel that he has done something shacking Not s.omething big and spectacular but something mean and shoddy. To convey this requires graphic language, a vigorous personality and an assumption that the boy sees eye to eye with the law.

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