WE are now living in one of the decisive moments in history. .
Soviet Russia's Fifth Column has gained its most spectacular victory. With a mastery of revolutionary and imperialistic technique that makes Hitler seem by comparison a clumsy amateur, Stalin has conquered the key country of Central Europe, whose people have cherished for centuries a passion for the liberation of their homeland and in modern times. have been trained to a high ideal of Parliamentary democracy. In addition to these qualities. they are a people boasting a strong Cathohe majority. All to no avail I Within a few days this ancient and free people has tamely surrendered to the conqueror's instruments. The names of Benes and Masaryle, which once sounded so sweetly in the ears of good secularist liberals, have proved to be no finer than those of too many of their followers. for, with their signatures, they have sold Czechoslovakia to the tyranny of the East. They claim that they had no option. but there are moments in the fates of nations and men when the only deeds worthy of nations and men are the deeds that are impossible. We could take this opportunity of analysing the fundamental causes of this catastrophe—causes rooted in the rejection of spiritual principle which has characterised modern democracy and has been particularly clearly illustrated in the political evolution of a people whose Catholicity should have preserved them from these errors. But there is no time for this.
The long series of fallacies and errors has been fully exploited by those whose avowed business it is to feed on spiritual infidelity and weakness. The enemy is at the gates.
THE question now is :‘ What next? What precisely must be done to safeguard the independence and liberties of the peoples of Western Europe from these evil things ?
It is a desperately hard question to answer—and especially for the Christian.
The classical reaction to the present situation is the threat to have recourse to that last human sanction in temporal affairs,: war. Let another similar coup be staged, and, as in 1939, the might of Western Europe and America will be thrown against the aggressor. So far as measurable chances are concerned, there is every expectation that in such a war our arms would in the end triumph, thanks largely to' the atom bomb But who could feel anything but a sense of the tragic collapse of civilisation in having even to think of such a thing, let alone recommend it? Who can fail to-day to realise that the very desperateness of the situation which we are facing is the legacy of the war decisions of 1939 ? What ultimate hOpe is there in so' terrible an answer ?
Nor is it altogether so simple as this. ft is true that we must found our last hope on this sanction of even modern warfare, but the first, and happier, answer to our difficulties will be found if we pause to ask ourselves the secret of the Soviet triumph. That secret is not to be found in the armed might of the Soviet, as perhaps it was in the case of Nazi Germany. It is to be found in the Soviet mastery of its new weapon : the Fifth Column now perfected to its highest degree.
THE Soviet has conquered half Europe by seducing the people of half Europe. By offering power to the most cunning and forceful rascals; by threatening a sufficiency of others if they fail betimes to side with the coming masters ; by false promises to the masses of envious and gullibles ; by working on the spiritual corruption (already far advanced through the so-called theories of secularist progress) of so many of the rest, the men of the Kremlin have known how to get their dirty work perfectly done for them by the so often good people destined to become their slaves.
It had been hoped that such tactics could only succeed in relatively backward lands. The events of last week prove that hardly any land can at present be considered proof against the new tactics of the Fifth Column.
There are only two remedies--a short term remedy and a longer term remedy.
The short term remedy is the banning of Communism (which should now be called the Soviet Fifth Column) in all countries which still value their traditions and their freedoms, and the prohibition of all traitorous work in the interests of Communism.
The longer term remedy is a positive return to the true ideals of the free nations, ideals which experience now amply shows to be incapable of survival without a positive spiritual and moral basis. We are not thinking of what is labelled " reaction," though we should be on our guard against accepting the Fifth Column's use of that word : we are thinking di a fully democratic, a fully socially just and timely order, but anchored in the older virtues of truth. honesty, decency, patriotism, love—in a word the civic virtues that once flowed automatically from a common belief in God and His Providence.
We do not doubt that the first of these remedies may prove drastic in some countries, and that there is little time indeed for the development of the second. But this is our fault. It is very late in the day, and risk attends whatever may be done.
The greatest risk of all is to do nothing but talk, only to be shocked one day into the necessary action (perhaps by then too late) of precipitating the war which every man of sincerity and feeling must labour to avoid.
[In the leading article last week a misprint caused us to state that Pr. Dominic landed in England in 1891. The date should have read 18401