Page 5, 5th December 1941

5th December 1941
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Page 5, 5th December 1941 — Notes and Comments
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People: Lloyd George
Locations: York, Moscow

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Notes and Comments

THE HIGHER COURAGE

THE lighting in Libya and in Russia is

' as picturesque and gives as much evidence of personal courage as anything in the records of the past. In particular, the tank battle in the eastern desert, with its encounters between sTall detachments scouting far from their respective bases, recalls the most glowing pages in the history of war.

Mechanised warfare, it used to be asserted, would destroy the possibility of such heroism as is now common. Instead of that the contrary is the case. In pro-, portion as modern methods of warfare have made death more terrible, the courage which meets it undaunted has risen. The more man devises horrible forms of destruction, the more does he show himself capable of standing up to them when directed against himself. The human spirit on the field of battle is master of the machine.

The phenomenon is all the more surprising since, in many cases, those who have shown the qualities indicated have been culled from civil life. The former clerk or salesman has been as heroic as the trained soldier.

The process of over-civilisation has not gone so far as to destroy the qualities of the fighting animal.

But this fact, whilst encouraging, is a warning against the excessive heroworship which stories of physical exploits evoke. The very commonness of valour as thus displayed suggests that it may be overrated. The suspicion that this is so will be confirmed when we reflect on the comparative rarity of moral courage. This, too, has been made more difficult than in former times. The machinery of propaganda is formidable. Not only in countries governed by dictators but in our own country that machinery has been able to create a mass-mind, to oppose which demands .courage of the highest order. To stand out publicly against policies which, though supported by public opinion, we deem to be unchristian is a greater contribution to the sanity and spiritual welfare of our people than the type of physical heroism which we are proud to acknowledge as increasingly familiar. • German, Dutch and Belgian bishops have set us a fine example which, despite the difference of their circumstances from Our own, is not irrelevant. The sounding of the heroic note in British Catholicism would infuse into us a spirit that would give to the Church in this country a power and prestige it has not enjoyed for many centuries.

THE IDEOLOGICAL FRONT

THE Russian drive which, at the time

of writing, has driven the Germans out of Rostov is the first serious blow at the legend of Nazi militarism's invincibility. The idol before which so many millions have bowed down has cornmenced to wobble On its pedestal. And the blow which has effected this has been dealt by a power which is not primarily a military power. It is-on its propaganda and not on its armaments that Moscow has depended for its domination of the world.

This fact contains a warning. Military victory will not only leave the organisation of Communist propaganda untouched but will increase its opportunities.

Unless great changes (of which at present there is no sign) take place in Russia, it may well be that the cessation of physical conflict may be the signal for a fierce assault on the mind—an assault which in our present state of bewildered and muddled thinking we shall find it hard to resist. That is the danger of the illusion that "victory" will put an end to the menace which threatens our civilization. Such an illusion simply encourages the state of unpreparedness on the ideo logical plane which now exists. This second test may find us making precisely the same mistake of indolent credulity as to the intentions of other powers as that from which we are now suffering in the conduct of the war, A clear understanding and stout defence of the principles underlying a Christian Society is an urgent need.

PRIESTS AND FIREWATCHING IT seems to us a pity that the position

of priests, working in parishes, in regard to compulsory fire-watching should apparently be left where it is. We understand that directions have been given to allow priests to fire-watch near their churches, but this is neither fair to the essential work of a priest nor to the efficiency of fire-watching. It is patent that the time when the services of firewatchers is most essential is precisely the time when no priest could in conscience neglect his spiritual ministrations. No wonder many prieats—to our personal knowledge—are extremely worried about what will happen, and some have even asked themselves whether actual registration under an order involving injustice were compatible with their conscience.

Were the fire-watching order—whose consequences affect non-Catholics as well as Catholic clergy—the result in this respect of careful thought on the part of the Government the matter would look ugly indeed, Happily, there can be no reasonable doubt that it is merely the result of a failure to study the nature of religious claims. All the more reason then why it should quickly he put right. We cannot doubt that matters could easily be arranged if the position were formally and as a matter of urgency put before the Government by our Hierarchy and the authorities of the non-Catholic communions.

DOLLAR RESOURCES

DESPITE "Lease Lend," the need to

accumulate dollar resources has by no means disappeared. In the first place payment in U.S. dollars is needed for a certain portion of our trade with South America. But apart from this it has been found that in certain cases the process of " Lease Lend " is too slow. Moreover certain of our requirements do not fall within the provisions of " Lease Lend." An example of the latter is the installation of equipment for the expansion of oil output outside the U.S. It was transactions of this kind that the Prime Minister probably had in mind when he spoke recently of our dollar resources being nearly at an end. Actually out of 54,483,000,000 standing to our credit at the beginning of the war it is estimated that only 3150,000,000 will remain by March I. Commitments for cash payment entered into prior to " Lease Lend " appear to be covered, but the margin left will be an extremely small one, and though sales of British goods and services still continue to America, and Empire gold production still forms (fortunately for us) an acceptable form of value, it is clear that a period of not inconsiderable stringency lies ahead. Marketable U.S. securities, by the way. which were held by British nationals at the beginning of the war are competently estimated at just below S1,000 millions. Of this about $600 millions has been sold outright. while the greater part of the remainder has now been pledged.

NEGLECTED FIELDS

AFTER long waiting, farmers are ex periencing better times and paying off their overdrafts. Because the prospects of the countryside have improved, the demand for farms exceeds the supply. The opportunity, therefore, of putting into operation the power which enables the Government to take over and dispose of to suitable purchasers or tenants land which has been 'neglected is great. In the interests of national economy full use should be made use of it. The owner or cultivator of the soil on which so much depends cannot he allowed to shirk his responsibility. To say that he is free to do or leave undone the work demanded by the requirements of efficient farming is to carry the idea of freedom to absurd lengths. But in saying this, we must bear in mind two points.

First of all,it would be disastrous if the situation was exploited by Socialists anxious to see the land pass into the possession of the State. A firm distinction must be drawn between the kind of control suggested and ownership. This control may and probably will be carried to considerable lengths, including directions as to the kind of produce which the nation, at any given time, most needs, but it should not lead to the taking over of the land.

Secondly, it stied(' he remembered that " bad farming " is sometimes due to causes over which the fanner has no control, such as the lack of labour, the nature of the soil or the absence of credit. These difficulties can he removed. and it is especially to be hoped that easy credit will be made available for those who suffer in this respect.

SOCIAL CREDIT AND THE LEISURE STATE

THERE is much common sense concern

ing the possibility of avoiding, after the present conflict, the unemployment which followed the last war, in a pamphlet by Messrs T. W. Wyatt and D. Caradoc Jones, which has a foreword by Mr. Lloyd George.

In his introduction Mr. Lloyd George refers more particularly to that part of the pamphlet which supports the transference of credit-control from the Banks to the Government, and discloses the fact that in the post-war period " an effort was made by some of us to induce the Government to employ the credit of the State for supplying the crying needs of the country.'

That is all to the good, but it must not he imagined that this transference

will necessarily improve matters. We support the plea that it is the authority represehting those who create values which should have the control of credit, just as on principle we support the extension of the franchise. But, as there is no guarantee that the new voters, will display greater wisdom than the email governing class which preceded them, so is there no assurance that the control of credit by the State would be more in the true interests of the, nation than has been the r6gime of Theeadneedle Street.

In fact, this pamphlet itself affords evidence to the contrary. The authors explicitly state that they look forward to the institution, through the increasing use of machinery, of the Leisure State. This is in keeping with the fact, quoted recently by the Weekly Review, that the " Fighting Programme " of the Social Credit Party asserts that it " stands for the free association of individuals in a State that is definitely aiming at becoming a Leisure State in a Power Age." The prospective new credit-controllers appear to be as stupid as those they would replace.

TAX USURY

Fis strange how, one by one, the economic institutions of the Middle Ages are coming up for reconsideration. In the corporative system as exemplified in Portugal we have something very like a revival of the Metlittval guild. But a necessary corollary of the guild is the setting up of monopolies with regulations calculated to prevent the abuse of the privileges granted. Yet even this principle is accepted to-day and will be found advocated in a suggestive article on " Industry after the War," published in a recent issue of The Times.

In the same article a proposal is put forward which, in effect, means nothing less than the taxation of usury. The taking of usury, according to this writer, need not be prohibited. The evil can be at least decreased hy less controversial methods. The suggestion is that the income tax should be so graded that capital invested in loans shall hear a heavier burden than income invested directly in industry. The relevant passage of the article runs thus:

" The greatest service the State can render to the cause of liberating enterprise is by adjusting its system of taxation, levying less on income and more on capital. This is not, of course, an argument for reducing the burden of taxation on the wealthy (though it is often confused and prejudiced by such an appeal). It is a suggestion that different sorts of property owners should be taxed with reference to the service they perform to the community. It is not the old 'argument of' Captial versus Labour, bin the even older argument of Enterprise versus Usury."

ANOTHER MANIFESTO

AN " economic charter " is given in a pamphlet entitled " Social Justice and Economic Reconstruction " which has been issued by the Student Christian Movement Press. The programme therein detailed is issued on behalf of the Com

mission of the Churches for International Friendship and •Social Responsibility, consisting of delegates officially appointed by non-Catholic bodies in Britain, and ha.i a preface by the Archbishop of York. Among the suggestions made is one which states that " every man should be permanently entitled to a position in industry for which he is fitted." Other proposals demand the limitation of competition and the provision of means by which industry may be able to estimate the real needs which it has to meet.

These are excellent suggestions, but as expressed they give an impression of muddled thinking. This arises from the fact that they do not cohere in a single system but consist of individual ideas with no indication as to the order in which they should be placed. Were they linked together by some central, creative principle of which, in their several ways, they afforded illustrations, the effect would be far greater than that produced by seeing them stated in this haphazard manner. Socialism and Communism, like Fascism, are systems and not a mere aggregation of revolutionary measures. In that fact, they possess an advantage over programmes drawn up by committees and possessing only a mechanical unity. As things are. the multiplication of manifestos of the kind exemplified in this pamphlet only adds to the confusion. Let us try to think in an orderly and systematic fashion, basing otYr proposals on

accepted Christian principles. •




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